TUESDAY, Jul. 28 2009 — Insect monster of Japanese film / Banjoist Scruggs / Cheech or Chong persona / Gitmo mil branch

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Constructor: Tony Orbach

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Possibilities — five theme answers express various degrees of certainty about some unnamed, hypothetical event's happening.

Word of the Day: MOTHRA (3D: Insect monster of Japanese film)

Mothra (モスラ Mosura) is a kaiju, a type of fictional monster who first appeared in the novel The Luminous Fairies and Mothra by Takehiko Fukunaga. Since her film début in the 1961 film Mothra, she has appeared in several Toho tokusatsu films.

Generally regarded as female by English-speaking audiences, she is a giant lepidopteran with characteristics both of butterflies and of moths. The name "Mothra" is the suffixation of "-ra" (a common last syllable in kaiju names, viz. Hedo-rah, Ghido-rah, Ebi-rah, Godzi-rah) to "moth"; since the Japanese language does not have dental fricatives, it is approximated "Mosura" in Japanese. In the American dubbing of Mothra vs. Godzilla, Mothra is also referred to as the Thing. She is occasionally an ally to Godzilla but more often than not engages in conflict with the King of Monsters due to his anger toward the human race.


This is undoubtedly an inventive puzzle, and the grid architecture is impressive, in that the theme answers are arranged in a way the perfectly expresses diminishing certainty. As you move down the grid, certainty diminishes, and each step down is figurative (though not literally) equidistant from the previous step. But despite this thematic inventiveness, I didn't find the solving experience very enjoyable. There are two main reasons for this. First, many of the expressions could have been lots of things, and often alternate expressions came to mind more readily: WITHOUT A DOUBT, MAYBE SO MAYBE NO, NOT LOOKING (SO) GOOD ... all kinds of annoying variants came to mind, and finding out the actual answer was more chore than joy. Second, there is a massive variation in degree of colloquialism, from the rather formal WITHOUT QUESTION to the brokedown AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN. Throw in the clues, all of which are roughly equivalent expressions, and the whole thing's a mess, tone-wise. Am I supposed to imagine the same person saying all these phrases? That's hard to do. With tons of black squares, there are a ton of little 3- and 4-worders and no long Downs, which means there's little of interest outside the theme. I know this is a reasonably well built puzzle; I just didn't like it. More a matter of taste, likely, than anything indisputably defective in the puzzle itself.

Difficulty level today reflects my slightly longer than average solving time, which was likely a result of the theme phrase confusion I mentioned above. In the end, there's nothing very tough about the puzzle (though if you got slowed down anywhere, I'm guessing it was in the SE — more on that below).

Theme answers:

  • 17A: "Sure thing" ("Without question")
  • 28A: "Chances are good" ("In all likelihood")
  • 35A: "It could go either way" ("Maybe yes, maybe no")
  • 43A: "Doubtful" (Not looking so hot")
  • 56A: "Forget it!" ("Ain't gonna happen")

Most embarrassing moment for me, solving-wise, came in the NW, where I had UNISO- at 2D: Oneness and couldn't figure out the answer. The *only* word my brain could churn out was UNISOM, a sleeping aid. At one point I thought the cross was going to be IT ALL LOOKS GOOD, so I had UNISOT. That is officially insane. I finally got the "N" for UNISON and couldn't believe that so common a word had eluded me entirely. Main trouble spot was the SE, where, first, I couldn't finish off the fourth theme phrase very easily (i.e. HOT didn't come quickly). I also never though of Cheech or Chong as a hippie. To me, they have always been just guys who really like to get high. Apparently their comedy did directly deal with "hippie" issues more broadly at one point. Nothing about their post-1980 life suggested anything but STONER to me. Then there's THE NET (49D: Where one might see "OMG" or "TTYL"). Ugh, that "THE." It's valid, but still feels awkward. As an answer, it seems Way too broad for the clue. THE NET is massive. OMG and TTYL belong to the realms of chat rooms and texting and email, which are subsets of the Gigantic Entity known as THE NET. Analogous clue/answer pairing might be: [Where to find Oslo] => EARTH. True, but come on.


  • 54A: Counselor's clients, perhaps (couple) — the final nail of difficulty down there in the SE. Clue cleverly suggests a plural when the answer is a singular word.
  • 40D: Bailed-out co. in the news (AIG) — in case this answer didn't depress you enough, there's also a Gitmo reference for you: 53A: Gitmo mil. branch (USN).
  • 19D: Banjoist Scruggs (Earl) — I've posted videos of Flatt & Scruggs before, so let's do something slightly different today.

  • 32D: God, in Roma (Dio) — why this doesn't come easily to me, I don't know. Wanted DEO, DEI, DIA ...
  • 65A: Apt to pout (moody) — had MOPEY until I was rescued by NEO (58D: Keanu's "The Matrix" role)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 8:08 AM  

As a theme how about alternate answers on a Magic 8 Ball? I kept looking for a clue referring to the Magic 8 Ball but never found one. Good puzzle tho. Golfballman

DanaJ 8:22 AM  

@Anonymous - Me too, I kept thinking of the Magic 8 Ball! I thought GAMES in the NE might be a reference.

RP, thanks for the informative blurb on Mothra!

nanpilla 8:23 AM  

Rex, your write-up made me laugh out loud. The oslo to earth was priceless. The SE definitely was what slowed me down, and AINT LOOKING SO HOT was the last theme answer to fall. The theme answers do seem to become more and more slangy, but maybe the tone is getting more and more desperate as things look worse and worse?
Liked the three stat clues. We are a nation in a hurry, and have a lot of ways to say NOW. Using borscht as the clue for SOUP just has to be a nod to this group!
Finished my triathlon 7 minutes faster than last year. Highly recommend the sport to anyone who is only moderately good at several things, but not great at anything!
The only one you compete against is yourself - unless you are at the top of the game. Actually, it's a lot like the ACPT - I know I'm never going to finish at the top, but I love to see how well I can do, and I can always improve.

chefbea 8:30 AM  

Southeast was the worst. I had near for nigh and that screwed up everything.

Love Neil Diamond so that was a gimme..and of course osso bucco.

Glad we got borscht in there

Jeffrey 8:38 AM  

Went smoothly for me, including the SE. Very good puzzle.

Let's play invent your own subtheme:

Disney World parks:

27D Magic Kingdom - Haunted (Mansion) house sound
37D Animal Kingdom - (YETI at Everest ride)
10D Disney Hollywood Studios - MOI - Miss Piggy at MuppetVision3D
32D - Epcot - Italy pavillion - Roma

ArtLvr 8:42 AM  

Congrats to nanpilla on the triathlon time! Agree with the idea that the theme gets more slangy as things look more hopeless, too. I really enjoyed this descent from smug to MOODY YOYOS, WEPT, as if SET for the CHOP.

I also liked the odd assortment of characters in the fill from MOTHRA to YETI, and MOWGLI to HIPPIE and DALAI Lama. Didn't know KENNY, but it came easily from crosses. Yes, NIGH started as near, but the COUPLE cleared that corner nicely.

As Crosscan says, Smooooth... Hard to beet, (sic), for a Tuesday!


Laura 8:43 AM  

Definitely felt like a magic-8 ball type puzzle for me. The first two in particular. I like how the likelihood of a positive outcome decreases as you go down the puzzle.

Denise 8:49 AM  

I vote for the Magic 8 ball.

fikink 8:49 AM  

How come my Magic 8 Ball only ever said, "Ask again later"?
Thanks for the Banjo Duel, Rex. That is the only part of that disturbing film that is easy to watch and then it is still unsettling.

Enjoyed this puzzle for the varied theme and the beat you can dance to:

joho 8:59 AM  

I really liked this for all the positive reasons stated by those before me. I, too, felt like I was turning the Magic 8 Ball in my hands as I was solving.

I loved the progression from WITHOUTQUESTION to AINTGONNAHAPPEN.

Great Tuesday puzzle, Tony Orbach!

@nanpilla, congratulations!


retired_chemist 9:00 AM  

Good one. Thank you, Mr. Orbach. Impressive grid. Five 15 letter theme answers placed from top to bottom in decreasing order of certainty and of formality. Wow.

How far I have come - KENNY of South Park @ 41D and LORI Loughlin @ 22A were gimmes. Two years ago, no way.

Like others, had a brain freeze @ 43A NOT LOOKING SO ???, partly because I had erroneously locked in NEAR @ 52A from 46D Movin’ ON UP and was looking for downs that couldn’t be. Finally erased the EAR and got it all fixed in 10-15 seconds.

More crosswordese (AHAB, NEO, AURAE, OAST) than I like crossing the theme answers, but it’s a fair tradeoff for the theme, which I enjoyed.

Doug 9:22 AM  

Agree with Chefbea. SE had me flummoxed due to NEAR instead of NIGH. NOTLOOKINGSOHOT did not seem like the cliches of the other three theme answers, either. I kept thinking of a ballpark fig. as an ERA or RBI or baseball stat. And THENET just sucked, already pointed out. A better clue for Tues. would have been, "Aerialists aid, usually."

Mono-Athelon Failure 9:24 AM  

@Nanpilla - "only moderately good at several things, but not great at anything"????? WTF???
How about great at not drowning, or having multiple heart-attacks on the same day. Hell, I wouldn't have lasted long enough to have had a heart attack.

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

Great Tuesday puzzle! Loved the trite expressions!

eric 9:40 AM  

Rex, spot on with your commentary. SE was a bear for me as I had NEAR instead of NIGH. This made the end of the across SOHOT impossible for me to get until I reworked the whole section.

Elaine 9:42 AM  

I'm glad to hear even Rex, the 44th Greatest Puzzle Solver in the WORLD, had trouble in the SE. I had NEAR, and then ERA or RBI for 67A...so I took COUPLE out! That didn't help... And Cheech and Chong? Even though I am Really Old, "hippie" did not come to mind at all. Druggie, yes--but that did not fit with "_EPPIR"....

It's no fun to start the day feeling dimwitted.
I also had SURLY for "apt to pout," though as soon as I did Down clues I saw the error of my ways.

Still have not mastered AcrossLite...still using a pen and paper.....

Bryan 9:54 AM  

I liked this puzzle. I don't mind the "annoying" variations -- as long as someone might actually say it, it doesn't bother me. Unlike, say, OFTENER. Yes, I'm still on that. Sue me.

Anonymous 9:58 AM  

Calling Cheech/Chong a STONER sabotaged the Southeast for quite a while.

The middle-Atlantic/West Virginia section was a huge problem because I couldn't reconcile the plural in "pastoral poems" with my conviction that there had to be 2 L's in IDYLL. I finally bowed to the inevitable and dropped one L. A "var." notation would have helped the clue!

Timmy 10:00 AM  

I am sorry but for once I don't agree with the RP. Loved the theme - five 15 letter answers on a clean Tuesday, with Mowgli and Mothra! Nice transition from positive to no way. Great job, Mr. Orbach

PlantieBea 10:02 AM  

I enjoyed doing this puzzle, so thanks, Tony Orbach. I had to be out early this AM so I was able to do it outside at a cafe.

@ Crosscan--don't forget about WDW's Magic Kingdom and Mowgli. He has to be in there somewhere. MOWGLI was the name of our beloved Burmese cat.

@Nanpilla--touring France on horseback, competing in triathlons. Congrats to both!

More favorite answers were soup for BORSCHT, MOTHRA (thanks Rex for the description and another spot on write-up), YOYOS, and YETI. I too started with NEAR for NIGH, and thought that Cheech and Chong were HEADIEs.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:06 AM  

Every Tuesday should be this good! (Ain't gonna happen?)

slypett 10:07 AM  

Not really important, but I had a very good time and would have done it in good time, if I hadn't misread 31d as being singular and spelled out IDYL(l), which, along with 'near' for NIGH, made a little mess in the SE. Ooof, what a goof!

And, we've had IDI so often in the last week or so that I automa- tically filled in 'amin' at 23a instead of TSAR.

nanpilla 10:16 AM  

Don't be too impressed, I only do the sprint distance. One half mile swim, 12 mile bike, 3 mile run. Most annoying was being put in thje 55-59 age group, just because I turn 55 in this calendar year. I was hoping to be able to run with my 50 year old friend. Three thousand women competed, so all levels of ability are represented and encouraged. Danskin does a great job of running these throughout the country.
End of commercial!

Elaine2 10:20 AM  

I also LOVED this puzzle (although, like many, I stumbled briefly in the SE with first STONER and then NEAR.)

Didn't think of the Magic 8 Ball! I just liked the increasing "desperation" of the theme answers -- don't know about you, but I sometimes get a LOT less formal in speech when stressed!

(since there's another Elaine -- I'm now Elaine2!)

Anne 10:28 AM  

@Nanpilla - That can't be easy and I congratulate you. Good job.

Thought the puzzle was easy today for the first time in many days and ran right through it. I didn't see the theme until I was done and thought it was funny. I've seen that scenario many times - a confident strong "we can't fail" sliding down the scale to "well, maybe next time." Of course, it isn't so funny when it's something that really matters.

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

Here are all if the Eight Ball Answers:
● As I see it, yes
● It is certain
● It is decidedly so
● Most likely
● Outlook good
● Signs point to yes
● Without a doubt
● Yes
● Yes - definitely
● You may rely on it
● Reply hazy, try again
● Ask again later
● Better not tell you now
● Cannot predict now
● Concentrate and ask again
● Don't count on it
● My reply is no
● My sources say no
● Outlook not so good
● Very doubtful

Is the theme Magic Eight Ball...ask again later.


Two Ponies 10:35 AM  

Count me in the "thumbs up" crowd.
Thanks Rex for the Mothra info. I always thought it was crazy that a moth was turned into a monster. Am I really supposed to be afraid of a moth/butterfly? I don't care how big it is it Ain't Gonna Happen.
Besides falling mementarily for the near/nigh trap I also had BTUs for range units for awhile.
@ andrea, I believe we have AWOL as our bleed-over today, right?
Congrats nanpilla!
Also hope your "pony" is feeling better.

Jeffrey 10:41 AM  

@PlantieBea - MOWGLI. Interesting. "Journey into the Jungle Book" was a stage show starring MOWGLI which ran when Animal Kingdom opened in 1998. Disney then went the current movie tie-in route and replaced it with "Tarzan Rocks" in 1999, which in turn was replaced by the excellent "Finding Nemo - The Musical" in 2006.

Can you currently find MOWGLI at Disney World? WITHOUT QUESTION. At the Pop Century Resort .

PurpleGuy 10:44 AM  

@Rex- did we get upon the wrong side of the bed today ? I have to disagree with your rating and writeup. Although I did find it amusing.
LikeCrosscan, thought this was smooth. Pretty much sailed through this one,with my fastest time ever for a Tuesday.
Had no trouble with the names.Pretty good for an old geezer.
Liked the progression of the theme answers.

Thank you,Mr.Orbach for a fun solving experience.

Now on to buy beets for my BORSCHT, wich I will serve with pomegranate ARILS in a salad, along with OSSO BUCO.
Something with chocolate for dessert.

Sorry Rex,no fish tacos today !

Karen from the Cape 10:53 AM  

I'm surprised that none of the answers are actual M8B answers, they sound so similar. I was impressed with the construction and the fill. Except I had STONER for Cheech and Chong, and ran into the same problems as Rex in the SE. But I really love this puzzle because I am at top of the game, for only the second time ever!

Stan 11:17 AM  

Solidly in the "loved it" column, especially for the NW corner.

As a boomer who remembers (or doesn't remember) early Cheech/Chong, I think that HIPPIE was correctly clued. 'Stoner' seems to come from a later period (c.f., 'slacker').

Yay @nanpilla!

Ruth 11:20 AM  

If "Predicting Rex's Reaction to a Puzzle" were a sport, I'd be forever consigned to the bush leagues. I thought this one was very clever and smooth,did not foresee the objections at all. Oh, it's that will-o-the-wisp quality that keeps us coming back, day after day! (and the camaraderie--that's a draw, too)

Ulrich 11:23 AM  

I, too, started with NEAR and then erased it to put in ONLINE at 49D, then erased that to put NEAR back in until I finally gave up in frustration and got back to working on the last 2 long answers, which finally fell into place and with them, NIGH and THE NET.

My problem with MOTHRA was that I know that there are no two consecutive consonants in Japanese, and since I had forgotten about LORI, the crossing square remained unfilled. Thx Rex for the explanation, even if it shows that the clue for MOTHRA is too misleading for a Tuesday IMHO.

In the end I felt too exhausted to experience joy, unlike Nanpilla, who probably felt both--congrats anyway!

JannieB 11:27 AM  

@Ruth, well said. I am also in the two thumbs way up category. Tuesday puzzles continue to improve. My time was average for the day, so never imagined a med/challenging rating from RP.

I was also expecting that second L in idyl, and briefly had near for nigh. I first tried hepcat for C&C, and thought, no way was that going to be right. Wrong era, as is stoner, IMO.

I thought the theme answers were nice and tight, and the whole puzzle was very well done. Nice!

still_learnin 11:28 AM  

IMHO Tommy Chong may have been a hippie, but Cheech Marin was not. I mostly enjoyed this puzzle. Fell into the same traps as everyone else (NEAR/NIGH, e.g). Still, it felt like I was always moving in the (mostly) right direction.

Add my thanks to Rex for the Mothra info. I still think Rodan good beat both Mothra and Godzilla together, though.

PlantieBea 11:36 AM  

@Crosscan: Apparently the Mowgli character still makes the rounds for photographs and autographs at the parks. I'm sure he has a pin and lots of other merchandise representing him there too. Mowgli (and his Jungle Book family) was too good of a character to be relegated to Pop Century :-(

des 11:38 AM  

two complaints about names for which I had no way of solving without knowing the answer:

NE - since I don't know anything about the Jungle Book (MOWGLI 1D), there was no way how to decide on the 20A answer. It could have been C# (my original answer), D#, F# or G#.

S: I had KENMY rather than KENNY for 45D (my thinking was that, since I have never seen "South Park" and it is known to be 'edgy' - maybe they use unusal names). I did this because I had USM for 53A referring to the US Marines at Gitmo (as in "A Few Good Men").

Blanche 11:48 AM  

Good puzzle, and super-easy.

CoolPapaD 12:01 PM  

Count me among those who loved this. Had a ton of trouble for a Tuesday in the northwest. Didn't remember MOWGLI (my kids are too young for Jungle Book), and didn't know MOTHRA, and though I've seen LORI clued similarly in the recent past (either in the paper or in one of Will's books), I blanked on it. Otherwise, I thought the 8-ball theme was great.

Re yesterday's puzzle: Growing up in Cleveland, we called OSAGE oranges monkey balls, and we used to have monkey ball fights when they were in season. They hurt like hell, but what a blast!!

Greene 12:05 PM  

Place me in the camp which gives thumbs up to this puzzle. 75 theme squares in a 15x15 puzzle is pretty cool and could not have been easy to construct. It's true that all the black squares give it a cramped feel during solving, but for once that didn't bother me.

Other random things I liked: MOTHRA right next to FONDA (who is clued for Monster-in-Law). The doctor in me enjoyed the three "stat" clues: ASAP, PDQ, and NOW. Oh, and KENNY crossing with NOT LOOKING SO HOT, especially after he has been eaten by rats.

You can also place me in the camp that struggled in the SE. Made the NEAR for NIGH error which gave me GAPERS for 48D which gave me...nothing (except fits and chaos, maybe). Rex is dead on in his criticism of THE NET cluing. Too broad. How about cluing it via the 1995 Sandra Bullock movie of the same name?

While in NYC this past week, I had the luxury of free time, so I actually read the NYT every day and solved the crossword with ink and paper. While a wonderful solving experience, I learned that I'm way faster with Across Lite since it's so easy to try things out and remove errors. If I come to Brooklyn next year, I'm going to need to learn to solve on paper. Great. One more skill set to acquire.

Mike Lewis 12:06 PM  

Loved this puzzle, and yep, it was the SE that stopped me from having a record Tuesday.

Is AGOGO really disco-era? I think of it as more beatnik, along with Daddy-O.

fikink 12:15 PM  

@pednsg, that's interesting. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, "monkey balls" came on sycamore trees. (guess we had tinier monkeys)

@Mike, AGOGO - I think of girls in the cages, a la early Goldie Hawn.

Susan 12:38 PM  

@fikink and Mike, I'm with Mike. Girls in a cage à la Goldie Hawn = A-GO-GO but that was NOT disco. Disco was later. Flaired trousers, open shirts with gold jewelry on the men and shiny wrap dresses that were clingy on top but swingy from the hips for the women, that's disco. (Of course I'm not old enough to have participated in either, so I'll defer, but MOODILY.)

@JannieB and Frances -- YES! I cry foul on "idyl." It's a var. I'm a terrible speller, so I resent this in particular (because, you know, finally I KNOW how to spell something and they give a variant without marking it as such...).

chefwen 12:46 PM  

@Purple Guy - Making mahi mahi fish tacos for dinner tonight, although I would much rather have osso buco, one of my favorites.

@Nanpilla - I don't care how much you downplay it, I for one am super impressed.

Loved the puzzle, thought it was much easier than yesterdays. Only write over was AURAE over auras.
Did not fall into the near trap as I already had three of my downs in place. Oh yeah, TSAR over csar, other than that, smooth sailing.

fikink 12:56 PM  

@Susan - You are correct, as is Mike. AGOGO was in the 60s; Disco, in the late 70s, early 80s; and Beats in the 50s, to which Daddy-O applies.

Susan 1:06 PM  

Sorry, fikink. I misunderstood your comment earlier. I see that we're all on the same page now!

mac 1:09 PM  

I liked this puzzle a lot - only write-over was AINT for isn't.
I remember stopping short with the change of tone by "not looking so hot" but everything came easily because of crosses. I didn't know Mothra (felt comfortable with it because of Amen Ra, go figure) and Lori, but was glad to remember how to spell Mowgli. Very good, Mr. Orbach!

@Greene: I seem to remember Rex mentioning last winter that he solves on paper the last weeks before the tournament.

mac 1:12 PM  

@nanpilla: to you too: "You go, girl"!

Clark 1:14 PM  

@PlantieBea -- MOWGLI is a most excellent name for a cat!

@des -- LOL on KENMY for KENNY due to edginess. What brings edginess to the KENNY character is that he dies during every episode. “Oh, no! They killed Kenny!”

Smooth solve, except for MOTH_A/LO_I. It could have been N (for all I know, or don’t know), but I lucked out with R.

poc 1:18 PM  

So yesterday's puzzle and today's get the same rating? Not in my book. Monday's was much harder, whereas I ran through this in about 5 minutes. Perahps a TAD harder than a normal Tuesday, but not by much. The theme was clever and well-executed.

My fading memory tells me that AGOGO is a term from much earlier than the disco era. In fact http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whisky_a_Go_Go tells us that the first club using the term dates from 1958, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was already in general use by then.

Also, AFOR effort? Shouldn't that be E?

ArtLvr 1:20 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gnat Birnbaum 1:24 PM  

I have an issue with Mothra Vs Godzilla. In that movie Godzilla is defeated by Mothra, which just never rang true to me, even when I was 8. Godzilla breathes fire, you're telling me that Mothra wouldn't go up in flames by Godzilla's mere sneeze? I have more issues with that than this puzzle. If you were talking King Kong vs. Godzilla that plot is pretty seamless.

joho 1:26 PM  

A GO GO is definitely from the 60's the same era as Go-Go boots.

ArtLvr 1:30 PM  

I learned the IDYL spelling from the paintings of Colette Pope Heldner (1902-1990), who was married to the noted Swedish-born artist Knute Heldner (1877-1952). They settled in the French Quarter in New Orleans in 1923... She was known for her impressionist style, painting scenes of the city's picturesque courtyards and favorite haunts -- including a large series of works with the title "Swamp Idyl", which are still very much in demand. Her record auction high was $15,600 in '06.


Rube 1:37 PM  

As a a tyro here, I feel strange asking why no one has commented about the spelling of likely or idyl(l). Unless they are crosswordese variations, likeli or ydyl just seem wrong to me.

chefbea 1:39 PM  

@Nanpilla way to go. I will look for you in the New York marathon this November

nanpilla 1:39 PM  

@two ponies: Just got back from the farm - he is doing much better. Got his feet trimmed to compensate for the coffin bone rotation and is back on turn-out. We are both happy campers.
Thanks for all of the good wishes, everyone!
Three and out.

Joseph 1:58 PM  

A few quibbles, coupled with my own ineptitude, made this a difficult puzzle for me.

Musical quibble: Clue for 20A *should* have been "Note in an A major scale," not "E major." As the major scales progress, a sharp or flat is added each time. Thus, sharps are added to the scales in the following order: C major (no sharps); G major (one sharp, F#); D major (2 sharps, F# plus C#); A major (three sharps, F#, C# plus G#). Would have made more sense to clue A scale, since G sharp first shows up in that scale. E major, on the other hand, has 4 sharps (adding the D#), so I was originally 100% SURE that 20A was "DSHARP," giving me MOWDLI (With a "D") for 1D.

This is the same problem Rex described with his Oslo and EARTH example. G sharp shows up in five scales, only one of which is E major. Differentiating by cluing with "A major" (where G sharp FIRST shows up) would have made more sense.

IRE quibble: Is IRE really a synonym of "ill temper"? IRE is a pretty harsh word, connoting "deep hatred" or "wrath," rather than mere "ill temper."

Final quibble: 2 answers for "Stat" were abbreviations (ASAP and PDQ), while third was a word (NOW). "Stat" is a shortened version of the latin "statim," so all answers should have been abbreviated.

Now for my own stupidity: had the same problems with the SE:

(1) had NEAR for NIGH for a good 10 minutes, even though I was almost positive that HOT completed theme answer 43A.

(2) Cheech and Chong were hippies? Who knew? Stoners are not necessarily hippies, as any San Franciscan knows. :)

(3) COUPLE fooled me big time; I couldn't stop thinking that "Counselor" referred to a lawyer (rather than a marriage counselor), so kept thinking along lines of "GUILTY" or "CROOKS" for 54A.

(4) Kept rejecting "OGLERS" because I foolishly thought it had two G's (OGGLERS).

That, combined with my objection to IRE, lead to the SE taking more time than the rest of the puzzle combined.

Other than that, an enjoyable puzzle.

Doc John 2:04 PM  

Add me to the "hung up in the SE" list. I also tried many Cheech/Chong variations like hep cat and hoppie before finally looking at the cross and settling on HIPPIE. Hey, at least I got TSAR on the first try!

@ two ponies- so what about the Sta Puf Marshmallow Man?

@ rube- the word "likelihood" is correctly spelled.

Clark 3:11 PM  

@Joseph -- You rightly point out that 20A could be any of F, C, G or D - SHARP. Your quibble seems to me to be based on wishful thinking. The clue was not 'Note in an E major scale that is not in an A major scale'. Four choices does not OSLO/'Earth' make. FWIW

Robin 3:14 PM  

Flew gleefully through the top half last night, then confidently threw down STONER, then tried for EMAILS, then TWEETS, then gave up and went to bed. This morning, Determined Not to be Defeated by a Tuesday puzzle, I stared at Cheech/Chong for a whole cup of coffee, finally wrote in HOT, in ink, stared some more, and then felt like a complete idiot when HIPPIE appeared. Thanks all for the staring technique!

Chris 3:29 PM  

LLLiked the tripLLLe L's in the second theme answer (IN ALL LIKELIHOOD), as well as MOWGLI and AGOGO. Impressive construction. Went fairly smoothly.

SE was a bit of a bear. I tripped up on the NEAR/NIGH, as many of you have mentioned. THE NET was a groaner, I'll admit. Despite that, though, nicely done Mr. Orbach, and great commentary RP.

PuzzleGirl 3:53 PM  

I liked this one. Pretty sure the side of the bed I got up on this morning is not a factor.

I'm reading an awesome novel right now that's not about crossword puzzles, but has a little theme running through part of it where one person asks another for answers while working on crossword puzzles. The very first one he asks is "a twelve-letter word meaning 'butterfly-like.' Starts with L." That's the first time I've ever seen the word lepidopteral. The second time was just now reading Rex's Word of the Day. Weird.

PlantieBea 4:02 PM  

@puzzlegirl: So? What's the title of this wonderful book with the mini crossword theme?

Two Ponies 4:06 PM  

@ Doc John, Good one! Luckily my trusty Zippo is always nearby (or nigh). Perfect for toasting moths and marshmallows.
@ Joseph, As someone who does not make a living writing or playing music the clue gave me an answer that made sense so I was happy. I guess remembering some Kipling cinched the deal.

Rube 4:23 PM  

I'm embarrased.

imsdave 4:31 PM  

I really enjoyed this one. Nice original theme, good fill considering all the theme answers.

Excellent puzzle Mr.Orbach.

@nanpilla - congrats on your performance, and I am shocked that you are my age - I would have pegged you ten years younger (at least). I guess excercise works, but I'm not about to try out that theory.

fergus 4:55 PM  

I really liked the creepy, plaintive song the woman sang to summon Mothra. My son had a Japanese monster phase when he was around six or seven, and since I had to have a favorite monster, Mothra was the one.

PIX 4:55 PM  

Fun puzzle, but for the record: "STAT" does not mean ASAP or PDQ. If you are a doctor in a hospital and you get paged "stat" it means you should drop what you are doing ("sorry Mrs. Jones got to go, right now...I'll be back") and immediately go deal with whoever paged you (someone is dying in the next 5 minutes type situation). ASAP or PDQ mean something like: get it done without delay but does not mean you should tell the patient you are with "sorry, but got to go, NOW". "Stat" pages are always subject to abuse(the nurse is tired of waiting for you to answer your page), but that's what they are supposed to mean.

foodie 5:08 PM  

I too loved this puzzle!

And it made me laugh because it reminded me of a recent exercise that the whole biomedical research community went through because of the Stimulus Package given to the NIH. Everyone and his brother wrote a proposal, and the likelihood of funding went from seeming almost assured to "NOT LOOKING SO HOT" and then "AINT GONNA HAPPEN", as they are funding something like 1% of the proposals. The process certainly stimulated a lot of work that led to nothing... Some of us MOANed, WEPT or got MOODY, but we all need to tighten our BELT and move on with our lives...

I love the DALAI lama. I met him and told him I work on emotions and he told me: "Ah the little troublemakers!". And then in a larger context I asked him a question that came from a large neuroscience audience about whether he believed in using drugs to treat negative emotions and mood disorders. He surprised me and many others, because he said: "If you can help people with their troublemakers, then why not? As long as you can do it without diminishing awareness". What a challenge!

PhillySolver 5:40 PM  

Foodie...great Dalai Lama story. I think Crosswords are bringing me enlightenment as I am certainly entering diminishing awareness.

mac 6:51 PM  

@Foodie: what a wonderful story about the Dalai Lama. I have even more respect for him now.

@PlantieBea: just in case PG can't come back to the blog, I think it is The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. I just put it on my list, too.

andreagogo michaels 7:12 PM  


FIVE theme answers ALL fifteen letters and not a strained even slightly one in the bunch???!!!!!!!

This is like the perfect puzzle!!!!!
Theme answers with a Q! WIth a triple LLL! Perfect downward progression (digression?)
FUN phrases to say!!!!!!!!!!!
Crazy words like MOWGLI!!!!!!!!!

Only quibbles are with definitions
(re @PIX on stat, but gotta love that there were THREE and all fun!)

Disco off, but I suspect that was not the fault of the ever hip Tony who would certainly know it predated disco!

AGOGO made a comeback in the early-mid 80s for the comedy club I started at here in SF which had been the illustrious Holy City Zoo, but became (choke)
HA-HA-A-GO-A-GO in an industrial-sized naming accident (not caused by me).

And the whole NIGH/HIPPIE (count me in for NEAR/STONER) thing seemed again to be one of not- great clue editing, but separate from the puzzle itself which I feel is one of the best ever in its construction + theme.
LOVED it. SO much to like about it!
FIVE! all 15s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(altho god forbid Five is the new three...)

Bravo TOny-O you a-go-go!!!!!!!!!

Everyone knows the Dalai (hello?) one-l Lama is a total hippie stoner...talk about little troublemakers! Great story! Did he fix your watch?

I await your mahi mahi tacos!

acme hippie michaels 7:27 PM  

ps one piece of synchronicity from yesterday...
I was answering @glitch's question about how often OSAGE has appeared in the NYT (38, but only 5 in ref to Orange, different days of the week TU-Sat)...
right after I hit send there was a commercial for "August Osage County" (the incredibly difficult to remember) play which is here in town. I predict "August ____ County" will one day become a clue since the play won the 2008 Tony AND a Pulitzer...

I had NO idea there were so many responses on an 8 ball...I think I assumed somehow there were just six
(or 8!) NOW there's a theme waiting to happen, tho in my bones I think it HAS been done, but thanks for the great list!

PlantieBea 7:31 PM  

@mac: Thanks for the book title. I did not remember the crossword references because the main theme of relationships, dogs/people is so strong. I actually read Edgar Sawtelle before it made the big time as an Oprah book. One of my sons was president of his National English Honor Society last year. They hosted a book discussion attended by the author David Wroblewski. It was one of their very best events.

Two Ponies 7:51 PM  

@ PlantieBea and mac, I can't resist chiming in about Edgar Sawtelle. I still think about it. I was very touched. Would have loved to have been at the book discussion.

fergus 7:52 PM  

Andrea -- I wasn't quite as enthusiastic when I was sitting on my porch with the puzzle, but knowing your stated preferences I can see why you gushed.

I liked the cross line at the middle, I AM I, DALAI.

What does really define a true HIPPIE? I have lots of ideas from my formative youth in the 1960s. A definitive exemplar might be Arlo Guthrie? Joni Mitchell or Neil Young -- yet they're all too accomplished to be true to the IDEAL.

Anonymous 7:59 PM  

Wow! Thanks for all the kind words and interesting threads regarding this puzzle - I didn't solve it but got my entertainment reading all these great comments!

ACME may not remember (and maybe this is a subliminal reason for her liking it so much) but she came up with the INALLLIKELIHOOD phrase! I was showing this idea to a table of people and, I think at that point I had what would become 1, 3 and 5, and she said that out loud and unwittingly put me in search of a 5th shade of meaning to complete the cycle.

HIPPIE - I submitted something like [Counter-culture type] - not as exciting as [Cheech or Chong], however diverting that may have been!
AGOGO - I'm hip enough (thanks for the extra support there, ACME!) But I'm to blame for the disco thing - I think there's enough overlap between newer (80s places/things with AGOGO) and old (60s places called DISCOS) that it was fair enough.
NIGH - What can I say? It's one of those words that could go either way and happens to start with same letter as another possibility - on your toes, solvers!

Until we meet again - depending on Will's outlook...


joho 8:25 PM  

It's so great to hear from you, Tony. This puzzle really is a gem. And I'm especially impressed that you give Andrea credit where credit is due. What a stand up guy you are!

Can't wait to solve your next effort.

edith b 8:54 PM  

Cheech and Chong were two different types of drug users, Cheech more of a Stoner type and Chong more of a HIPPIE and since I had NEAR ar 52A, giving me HEP*** going down, a wholly different idea. Very confusing to me.

I liked MOWGLI and MOTHRA in the NW, a nice balance there.

Stan 9:19 PM  


fergus 9:35 PM  

Best constructor feedback ever.

mac 9:41 PM  

I agree with Fergus. Thank you Tony!

Two Ponies 10:06 PM  

@ Tony,
Thanks so much for stopping by. Hope to see more from you soon. Tell Will we said so! Ha!

foodie 10:23 PM  

@Andrea, you're right, the Dalai Lama is a hippie! In fact, he might capture the very essence of it all, including some very cool and colorful flowing garb (I have some of that from my hippie days! It's been used by my kids' friends for costume parties!). But as you note, a hippie who loves to repair watches! Something Zen about that, may be... Actually, one of my favorite books of his is "The Universe in a Single Atom", where he talks about his interest in science, and its relation to reason and faith.

Yes, the feedback from Tony Orbach is terrific. It's wonderful to see where the constructors get their inspiration!

PuzzleGirl 10:58 PM  

I'm so glad to hear so many of you either have read or are interested in reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I just finished it this afternoon and I'm still a little numb. Highly recommended!

I think the disco clue refers to a disco(theque), not disco dancing. According to Wikipedia, Whisky a Go-Go first opened in Chicago in 1958 and has been called "the first real American discotheque." So, yeah, "a-go-go," 1960s, disco — works for me!

Anonymous 10:59 PM  

@Joseph, Dont understand your reasoning why the clue should have referenced A Major instead of E Major just because it comes first, big deal. I had MOW_LI and deduced it must be G Sharp because that seemed to fit best. I was right...

mac 10:59 PM  

@Foodie: I thought Andrea meant he magically repaired broken or stopped watches! I'm relieved to hear he just likes to tinker with them.

Clark 1:47 AM  

I once encountered the Dalai Lama. I was going to hear him speak in Central Park. I had a pass to the area just in front of the stage where I was supposed to meet Semi-Puzzle Partner. I couldn't get there because of the press of the crowd. I decided to exit the Park, go up Fifth Avenue, reenter the Park and come back around again. I was upset that I was going to be late or miss it. Then I thought, how absurd to be upset on the way to hear the Dalai Lama. There was not a soul on Fifth Avenue (they were all in the Park) and there was no traffic. I was walking up the East Side of the Street. Then, as I was about to cross one of the side streets, a couple of limos came toward Fifth Avenue. I stood on the curb and there paasing directly in front of me was the Dalai Lama in the back seat of a limo. Our heads were no more than about 5 feet from each other. I gave him a big smile and bowed my head a little, he turned toward me and looked right into my eyes with that huge grin of his and bowed his head to me. That meeting felt as substantial as if I had shaken his hand and had a conversation with him.

foodie 10:05 AM  

@Clark, I really liked your description of this encounter. Because I was struck by the same thing myself: the way the Dalai Lama looks you right in the eye and sustains it is incredibly powerful. It really stayed with me, as well. In many cultures, humans are taught not to stare, to avoid direct gaze. It can be seen as aggressive, unless it's in a sexual context. But whatever that is that he has mastered is truly remarkable. You feel a direct connection that lasts way beyond that moment. Thanks for describing it!

Jesse 6:14 PM  

@chefbea, that's hilarious... the two you thought were the easiest were two that stumped me until the end. I've never heard of Osso Bucco, and I couldn't name a single Neil Diamond song.

Sounds like others had the same problems as me in the southeast. Cheech and Chong were not "hippies," they were STONERs, which destroyed the corner. Also, I wrote in ONLINE because I haven't heard anyone use the term "the net" since 1996.

@Joseph, your musical quibble is the most baseless thing I've ever heard. There's no such thing as a "Mowdli."

Singer 7:14 PM  

I have to admit that I read the 20A clue as note in an E-major chord, giving three choices: E, G-sharp and B. This made the answer obvious even if you didn't know MOWGLI. I did know MOWGLI, so that is moot. In any case, G-sharp is unquestionably one of the notes in an E-major scale, and there are only four possible answers to the clue.

I also started with Near in stead of NIGH, but and that was my only writeover.

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