Old fast-food chain — WEDNESDAY, Jul. 1 2009 — Riksdag locale / Popeye creator Elzie / Moviegoer's chocolate bite

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Constructor: David J. Kahn

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: MICHAEL JACKSON (10D: With 25-Down, this puzzle honoree)

Word of the Day: NEDICK'S (22D: Old fast-food chain) —

Nedick's was an American chain of fast-food restaurants that originated in New York City in either 1913 or the early 1920s, per differing sources, and expanded in the 1950s to Newark, New Jersey, Albany, New York, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Originally known for making and selling an orange drink, it added coffee and donuts to its simple menu, and later hot dogs. The name was formed from the last names of Robert T. Neely and Orville A. Dickinson, who founded the chain with the original stand in a hotel storefront of the Bartholdi Hotel at 23rd Street and Broadway. The chain was known for its orange and white decor and its slogan, "Good food is never expensive at Nedick's".

Following intense competition in the 1970s from such national chains as McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts, and much criticism in 1981 for the quality of its concession at the Central Park Zoo, Nedick's ceased operations. (wikipedia)

Two things are impressive about this puzzle — how fast it was constructed/edited/published, and how many damned theme answers there are. I count FOURTEEN (14), though that's including 38A: Dir. from Gary, Ind., to Sault Ste. Marie (NNE) — Gary, IN was Michael Jackson's home town. But despite the impressive turnaround time and impressive density of theme answers, I didn't enjoy this puzzle much at all. It REEKs of rush-job (70A: Stink up the joint). How in the world are you "honoring" MICHAEL JACKSON if leave out "Off the Wall" and "Bad" but give *four* answers over to the manifestly crappier "DANGEROUS?" I understand that "GONE TOO SOON" has a nice tributey sound to it, but it was not what you'd call a memorable hit. Stuffing the partial "ASK ME" into the middle of the puzzle is a pretty ugly move — again, that's not even close to a memorable or significant MJ lyric. I mean, if you Google "Don't you ask me for no favors dangerous" you get — crossword blogs. As a feat of construction, this puzzle is indeed something else, but it does not feel like it was constructed by someone who had any sense of MICHAEL JACKSON's musical significance at all. I didn't even know there *was* an album called "FOREVER, MICHAEL." What the hell is on that?

At least you could've taken out BYE (69A: "Farewell") and put in the MJ album "BAD" — that would have taken no effort at all. Again, I see that "BYE" expresses an attitude toward one who has just died, but I'd rather the puzzle honor him by cracking out the Good Stuff. If you cared about him at all, you'd have left "DANGEROUS" off the table, not built half the puzzle around it, is what I'm saying. I'm imagining that a lot of NYT solvers are going to be annoyed at this puzzle for reasons very different from my own: namely, the puzzle's perpetuation of celebritymania. NPR got hate mail just for running a single segment discussing the cultural significance of Michael Jackson ("With so many truly important things going on in the world..." etc.). I'm sure those same people are gnashing their teeth at this puzzle this morning. "No! Not my puzzle! Is nothing sacred!?"

Theme answers:

  • 11A: First word of 10-/25-Down's "Billie Jean" ("She")
  • 14A: Richie who wrote "We Are the World" with 10-/25-Down (Lionel)
  • 15A: 1982 blockbuster by 10-/25-Down ("Thriller")
  • 32A: 1991 hit album by 10-/25-Down ("Dangerous")
  • 38A: Dir. from Gary, Ind., to Sault Ste. Marie (NNE)
  • 40A: "Don't you _____ for no favors" (42-Down lyric on 32-Across) ("ask me")
  • 47A: Nickname for 10-/25-Down (King of Pop)
  • 67A: Vocal style of 10-/25-Down, at times (falsetto)
  • 68A: First record label of 10-/25-Down (Motown)
  • 3D: Classic part of a 10-/25-Down stage act (moonwalking)
  • 27D: Song on 32-Across ("Gone Too Soon")
  • 42D: First song on 32-Across ("Jam")
  • 44D: With 10-Down, 1975 album by 10-/25-Down ("Forever Michael")

This puzzle was tough in parts. Though I live just an hour from ELMIRA and teach there on occasion, I wrote in ITHACA for 1A: City SW of Syracuse. Told wife, who thought my mistake was funny ... until she neared the end of her solve and realized that she, too, had the wrong answer there. Hers was far more inventive, I think: ERIE, PA. Never ever heard of NEDICK'S (22D: Old fast-food chain), which seems to have been an NYC institution of sorts. Not big on NYC provincialism, but you gotta give the natives red meat from time to time, I guess. I have heard of a LAPTOP, and I've heard of PALM as a company, and I've heard of a handheld device or PDA, but PALMTOP is not that familiar to me (46D: Handheld device), though it's very inferrable. The non-theme fill is generally very solid, especially considering theme density.


  • 17A: Moviegoer's chocolate bite (Sno-Cap) — I've seen these on the candy rack at movie theaters since I was a kid, but I don't think I've ever tried them.
  • 21A: Its symbol is omega (ohm) — OHMEGA!
  • 24A: Trek to Mecca (hadj) — like the rhyming quality of the clue.
  • 51A: Popeye creator Elzie _____ (Segar) — also known as E.C. SEGAR. He's in crosswords a lot.
  • 57A: Juan's uncle? ("no mas!") — maybe this clue is old hat, I don't know, but I loved it.
  • 16D: Ring-tailed primate (lemur) — daughter used to be obsessed with movie "Madagascar," which is full of LEMURs. Thankfully, she has moved on to superheroes and wizards and whatever Betty & Veronica are.
  • 56D: Rose family member (Pete) — that GAPES / PEP / PETE nexus was the very last thing to fall, and had me temporarily baffled. PETE Rose is, of course, the baseball player. He had a tribute puzzle of his own (of sorts) not long ago.
  • 65D: Riksdag locale: Abbr. (Swe.) — "Riksdag" is the unicameral Swedish Parliament. I probably should have known that.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS at noon today, I will start running a contest on my paperback blog, "Pop Sensation" (contest now up and running, here!) Grand prize = three pretty choice books from my vintage paperback collection. Contest should be amusing. I got a panel of guest judges and everything.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Hobbyist 8:38 AM  

Must give a bit of slack as so little time to have come up with the theme. I'm not a Jackson fan owing to age and taste but I guess he deserves a puzzle at least. no harm in that.

Jeri 8:44 AM  

Rex, Is it possible that you posted the wrong puzzle? What you posted is not what was published in today's edition of the TimesDigest. The puzzle I have was by Patrick Blindauer and its first clue is "It's found in chambers."

Rex Parker 8:55 AM  

My puzzle is labeled Wed, Jul 01, 2009, so no, it's the right puzzle. Wow, it's going to be annoying as @#$# if the NYT botched this and didn't get the tribute puzzle into all its editions (another hazard of a rush-job).


Anonymous 9:03 AM  

I have REALLY had enough of the King of Krap.

PIX 9:04 AM  

Sorry, but don't approve of the puzzle. MJ (in addition to standing trial for child sexual abuse) went on public television and defended his right to sleep with underaged boys. But that's OK because he sold a lot of records. Does not pass my breakfast test and I don't even eat breakfast.

joho 9:04 AM  

I appreciated this puzzle a lot more than Rex. I don't usually count squares, but did this time and found that almost half the puzzle consists of theme squares. That's amazing to me. And I don't mind that the constructor leaned in sentiment towards the "goodbye" aspect as that's what this puzzle is ... it's not a critique of his best music, it's a farewell tribute to MICHAEL JACKSON.

I also wondered if this puzzle was created after death or had been created before, just like people write obituaries years before someone dies. So, maybe this wasn't put together hastily at all. I'd love to know.

I thought it was TOO COOL, just like the clip Rex posted of "Smooth Crimial." That made me want to see Michael dancing side-by-side with Fred Astaire.

mac 9:07 AM  

I guess I got the right puzzle. I have to admit, I turned off two tv stations this morning because all they talked about was MJ...

I thought it was a decent Wednesday puzzle with a little bite here and there (LOOOVED the No Mas and Pete Rose clues), and cudos for getting it done so fast.

I don't know Michael Jackson's music well, probably just the major hits, but I also thought, after I finished, that David Kahn probably is not a great fan and used Google to get convenient titles. On the other hand, maybe he is an incredible follower and knows all the obscure numbers!

For a moment I thought the 22D fast-food chain might be "Red Roof".

Crosscan 9:10 AM  

Timely, I guess. Not sure how to judge this. I do agree the choices were odd. All Thriller puzzle would have made moe sense.

Thougt NEDICKS might be NATICKS for a bit.

Glitch 9:10 AM  

I too feel the extended coverage of MJ is a bit much, but inclusion in puzzledom was probably inevitable.

I appreciate MJ's talent and popularity as a performer, but put him in the same catagory as Judy Garland and Janis Joplin (sad, untimely end).

As for "influence" on the music scene, I have to go with Elvis and the Beatles, both of which had far more effect on "life" beyond music.

Just my opinion.


humorlesstwit 9:12 AM  

I didn't finish the puzzle once the theme became obvious. My best friend was the victim of childhood sexual abuse, and her comment upon hearing of MJ's death was 'I bet a lot of people are going to sleep better tonight'. Was PEDOPHILE an answer anywhere?

gberg 9:13 AM  

I also found this puzzle annoying on many levels. Might have been vastly more interesting if they'd managed to incorporate some of the early Jackson 5 materials (ABC, anybody?)

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

Include DIS (31D. Bad-mouth) as a "theme" thing.

DirtPile 9:26 AM  

I consider ELZIE SEGAR the KINGOFPOPeye.

Wanted VITAMINE for 59A.

treedweller 9:27 AM  

Forgot ODD as a theme answer, too.

If this had been a contest puzzle (not that it would have been), I'd have spent whatever I had left of the minute I finished staring at that NEDICKS area. As it was, I just shrugged and submitted. I was somewhat surprised not to have an error.

I never heard of MICHAEL, FOREVER, or the obscurish songs referenced by Rex, but I agree with joho that it's good as a sendoff and needn't include all the hits. It did have a whiff of "thrown together" about it, but I thought it was fine for what it was.

Norm 9:35 AM  

Debated not even bothering with the puzzle.

Dough 9:36 AM  

The Clinton-Bob Dole puzzle was written well in advance, though it, of course, was intended to feel like a rush-job. This one, whether it was written on deadline or in advance, was slotted in quickly. I wonder if this is the shortest time-to-live in NYT xword history. Anyone know?

dk 9:41 AM  

Rex, I had Ithaca as well, small minds pen alike :)

MJ's diagnosis, popularly known as Peter Pan Syndrome explains a great deal of his behavior. One unique characteristic of the syndrome is the lack of sexual interaction and/or attraction to ones "playmates". Not defending the attempt to recreate the slumber parties/idealized childhood one never had, just suggesting a closer look at a disorder before condemning the diseased.

What I know about MJ's music does not fill a matchbox. I do know he has a patent on the dance shoes and corresponding floor used in some of the gravity defying dance moves.

Timely puzzle and underrating MJ influence on pop music and video is well... DANGEROUS.

Just hope I do not stumble as I climb off this soapbox.

XMAN 10:05 AM  

Not being an MJ fan--and not knowing why, though I do like many of his tunes but detest his smarmy brand of pedophilia (his acquittal nearly as inexplicable as OJ's)--I was annoyed by today's puzzle.

Had some trouble in the East (who doesn't these days) but nothing to write home about. Though I just have.

Sandy 10:06 AM  

So, it is that same issue raised again and again by the crossword as to what constitutes shared culture. One's sense of musical "influence" is shaped by age, and, well, culture, but it would be hard to downplay MJ's central role in late C20th American music.

Now, not to make any comparisons of behavior or importance, but many people complained of a puzzle featuring Pete Rose. Should the puzzle shy away from people who have been accused of bad things? Do we want a sanitized puzzle. That's not a rhetorical question but a genuine query about how the puzzle should reflect culture.

Ruth 10:09 AM  

. . clue should have been "city SW of Ithaca" for greater clarity and real Upstate New York obscurity.

Does there exist a skilled crossword constructor in the pipeline who has a comprehensive knowledge of MJ's oeuvre and could crank something like this out on a deadline? Does there need to be? Wonder what BEQ thinks. . .

matt 10:15 AM  

A random (and non-MJ related) clue quibble: Shouldn't the clue for CHI-town (8-down) have indicated the answer was a nickname? I LIVE in Chicago, and it took me forever to think of something that made sense.

archaeoprof 10:19 AM  

Darn. No country music in the puzzle today.

PlantieBea 10:31 AM  

Okay puzzle. I've never been a big MJ music fan, but the man could dance. How did he do that moonwalk? I'm not surprised to see a tribute puzzle now; what was surprising to me was how much press he received at his death. After the trials and financial mess, I thought his star had fallen permanently. The whole story is just sad.

I too would liked to have seen some early material from Jackson 5 days featured in the puzzle. ABC, Never Can Say Goodbye, even Ben.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

@PIX - I agree with you 100% The man was a pedophile who paid millions to a family of a boy he abused for their silence. Now we have people like Al Sharpton canonizing him. Sorry, he was a talented guy but a dirtbag in my book. Next.

mac 10:37 AM  

@Plantiebea: "Ben" is one of my favorites, too, and I think Orange might agree.

JC66 10:38 AM  

I remember Marty Glickman (Marv Albert's mentor) doing the NY Knicks games on radio from Madison Square Garden during the 1950's and when a hometown player made a critical shot, his signature line was: "Good, like Nedicks!" I think Nedicks was a sponsor. They definitely were a NYC institution.

He also coined the term "swish" for a shot that went in without touching the rim.

mccoll 10:40 AM  

With the cult of celebrity which has developed, not just in America, but world wide, why be surprised at an MJ theme just after his death? Unfortunately, there was no "wow" factor to the puzzle at all.(Unlike Michael Jackson's dance moves.)
I'm surprised he didn't feel he had the qualifications to run for office like Fred, Arnie and Jesse. Sorry, Jesse, you did pretty well! Michael for Governor wouldn't do though. He'd leave the state broke. Oops! That's already been done.

retired_chemist 10:40 AM  

Amazing that we could have a Michael Jackson puzzle only 5 or so days after he died.

Enjoyable solve. Liked all the theme answers, loved AMORE @ 50A, PETE Rose (56D), and NO MAS @ 57A (as mac said). Had ITHACA (lived there for 6 years), as did others, @ 1A first instead of ELMIRA – both are correct but TIN Yutang (2D) wasn’t going to cut it. Also started with ELUDE @ 30A, VIM @ 55A.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

This was a tabloid-style rush to publish. His funeral hasn't even been held yet. Perhaps I'm wrong, but it appears more opportunistic than a sincere tribute.

HudsonHawk 10:48 AM  

OK with this puzzle. Although I'm not a big fan, MJ was a tremendous talent and a huge influence on the music scene. And the entirety of the Off The Wall album was absolutely a must at every dorm party in my freshman year of college (gulp, nearly 30 years ago). As for the man, meh.

CrossCan beat me to NATICKS.

Regarding yesterday's discussion about figuring out what could fit based on partials, I had this gem:

_AL__OP for 46D. MALAPOP! Wow, this blog is messing with my brain.

Alex 10:49 AM  

My only complaint is that the explicitness of the Billy Jean clue immediately exposed the theme and made things extremely easy after that.

I barely know Michael Jackson's music first hand but have picked up enough from the incessant coverage that have have been very difficult clues a week ago were gimmes.

As a result it may well have been my fastest Wednesday ever and the only real pause was at the ELMIRA/LIN crossing. Considered a couple other letters as possible. NEDICKS could have been a problem but every cross was straightforward.

Glitch 10:50 AM  

MJ was never convicted of being a pediphile.

See @dk on Peter Pan Syndrome.

MJ admitted "sleeping" with children, but this is not unusual in many cultures, see also the "Family Bed".

If a parent was convinced their child was molested, and accepted money to "forget about it", which is the bigger outrage?

Pete Rose admitted his "crime" as such.


oh yeah, the puzzle was just OK, as a puzzle.

Blue Stater 10:53 AM  

Thanks to JC66 for remembering the source of "Good like Nedick's!" I remember the line but not where I heard it.

Way too much popcult for this geezer; OTOH, Nedick's is a golden oldie, so I suppose things balance out. I share the general unease about MJ....

Z.J. Mugildny 10:58 AM  

The moonwalk is the single coolest dance I've ever seen. I was glad to see it make the puzzle, although I'm with Rex et al. that this puzzle failed as a tribute.

Victor in Rochester 11:00 AM  

No fan of MJ, but enjoyed the puzzle and the pretty amazing density of theme answers.

@Sandy: You hint at the bigger question, that is does your knowledge of the failings of the artist influence your experience of the art? Can you isolate the music/dance of MJ and enjoy that in a vacuum while ignoring the life of the artist? Wagnerian opera similarly? There are lots of examples of wonderful artists whose personal lives were more or less abhorrent. If you don't know is that better? If you do know can you enjoy the art and ignore the rest?

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

er... what's a "palmtop"?

XMAN 11:13 AM  

@Victor in Rochester: Not that your comment was directed at me, but I hate to miss an opportunity to dis Wagner, who I detest along with his plush, lush, masturbatory creations. They are marshmallows for the soul--unhealthful and cloying.

I think I might say the same about MJ, except my emotional reaction to him is less visceral.

humorlesstwit 11:15 AM  

MJ was never convicted, that is true. Neither were Robert Blake or OJ, but they were both guilty of murder.
In certain times and in certain places, sharing the "Family Bed" is common, but not in this time nor in this place. In ancient Sparta, young boys were routinely "given" to warriors, but not here, not now.

As for the "Peter Pan" syndrome, from Medicine.net:

Definition of Peter Pan syndrome
Peter Pan syndrome: Term coined by pop psychology author Dan Kiley in his book "Peter Pan syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up."

The Peter Pan syndrome is not at this time a medically accepted syndrome. he Peter Pan syndrome is not at this time a medically accepted syndrome.

End of reference.

Abuse doesn't have to be, euphamistically, "complete", for irreparable damage to have occurred. Nor does subsequent parental decisions, no matter how irresponsible, obviate the damage done, nor excuse the abuser.

About this you can see I am in fact totally humorless

retired_chemist 11:18 AM  

@ anon 11:11 glad you asked. I wondered too and then forgot to check.



apparently a palmtop is a computer that is tinier than a laptop. Doesn't seem to have anything to do with PalmPilot.

Anonymous 11:22 AM  

Great to see Lionel Richie in the puzzle!

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

I, too, have the TimesDigest puzzle that is by Blindauer, not the MJ theme. I miss what you might have said about sloppy joes.

PIX 11:35 AM  

Suppose you found out it was your son that MJ was sleeping with? Other cultures, Peter Pan Syndrome etc etc notwithstanding, if an ordinary male citizen announced they were sleeping with underaged boys, they would end up in jail. The issue is not pop culture in the puzzle. The issue is the Times is honoring someone who publicly boasted of sleeping with underage boys and got away with it because he sold a lot of records.

Crosscan 11:46 AM  

The trouble with tribute puzzles is that they turn crossword blogs into discussions about the subject, rather than the puzzle.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

He was found NOT GUILTY.

Clark 12:00 PM  

@joho -- I also wonder if this puzzle wasn’t already in preparation before his death. My thought, though, was that it might have been timed to coincide with the opening of MJ’s new tour, which was originally scheduled to begin next week.

Anonymous 12:03 PM  

OJ was found NOT GUILTY too. MJ paid a reported $23M because he was innocent? Doesnt make any sense

Anne 12:06 PM  

I simply don't understand the amount of press and air time that MJ has received over the last few days. Even if he was the greatest entertainer of all time, this is overkill.

That said, and in response to Sandy's question, I don't want our puzzles to be totally dictated by what the constructor thinks is acceptable to us. Imagine how dull that would be.

And if you look at the puzzle without considering the subject, it was a very good Wednesday puzzle, which I guess is what some people do in terms of MJ's music.

Doug 12:42 PM  

Forgive me, but is Michael Jackson still dead?

Jim in Chicago 12:51 PM  

I got whalloped by this puzzle, but only since I'm hopeless at anything to do with popular culture, and even more so with pop music.

I got the Michael Jackson right off the bat, and the moonwalk was no probably (although I first put in moonDANCING), but everything else was only solved by filling in other letters and then guessing.

I agree that NEDICKS should be the new NATICK.

obertb 12:52 PM  

At about 30 seconds into this puzzle I saw that it was a tribute to somebody, and immediately wrote in MICHAEL JACKSON. But I know very little about his music, so I thought the puzzle might be difficult to finish, but everything fell with the crosses.

The larger issue (bad person/good artist) raised by Sandy is one I struggle with constantly, not only with historical figures, but with my contemporaries. I know some really contemptible people who are fabulous artists. What to make of that? There seems, in fact, to be very little correlation between character and artistic sensibility.

Don't want to go into all of that here, but it is an interesting question.

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

Why wasn't a person of color asked to construct this tribute puzzle?
One at least familiar with MJ's music?

Anonymous 1:21 PM  

For NO MAS, wouldn't "Roberto's uncle?" be a better clue?

still_learnin 1:24 PM  

I'm not a Jackson fan so I thought I'd be in trouble when I figured out the theme, but I managed to finish in what for me is a pretty good Wednesday time.

The good: aught, nomas, atcost and amore.

The bad: sincerer, palmtop

I never heard "lay" used as a type of a song.

The only reason Nedicks isn't a Natick is because it can be solved with crosses. Still, it qualifies as a WTF.

fikink 1:26 PM  

@obertb, an interesting question, indeed, to me as well, as I have had the same experience of being blown away by someone's creations and knowing him to be a real rotter.

So today is the day I decided to try my hand at speed-solving. Did not get 1A, ELMIRA immediately, so started with the downs.
Ah! ELS: being a CHI-town girl, the downs were beginning well.
Didn't know 2D so skipped to 3D: "classic part of a ... stage act" and confidently filled in WHOSONFIRST.

and that was the end of my speed-solving.

My "veil-of-tears" mother is spinning in her grave knowing that in a NYT crossword puzzle, the farewell to someone upon his death is "BYE"

See ya,

IKnewNedick's 1:28 PM  

@joho: Funny you should mention Astaire in the context of “Smooth Criminal”. The video itself seems to be an homage to Astaire with themes and moves and even Jackson’s clothes borrowed from Fred, specifically from the famous “girl hunt ballet” in the 1953 film “The Band Wagon”.

Here's a tribute someone did
combining Astaire clips with Jackson's song.

@dk: You are quite right about Jackson’s shoes.

mac 1:29 PM  

@Sandy/obertb/Victor in Rochester:
That's such a difficult question. I dislike Picasso because of things he has done and said, but I can't deny the beauty of his lines and his importance to the arts. What you know about an artist definitely colours your opinion.

JC66 1:38 PM  

If you've had enough of MJ, check out Marty Glickman.

Denise 1:39 PM  

Much said about this puzzle already. I believe that "The Onion" had it right: "Michael Jackson died Thursday at the age of 12."

As a victim of childhood sexual abuse, I loathe the web of secrecy and lunacy that was Neverland. I hope that every child who ever spent time there is given access to therapy (perhaps there could be a foundation if there is ever any $$ made there). But, my heart also goes out to the child who was Michael. What a terrible mess.

As for the puzzle, I didn't mind that there was a tribute, but I didn't know those songs.

Nedicks was an NYC not a New York State institution. Very good orangeade.

SnoCaps are nonpariels -- have you had those?

Figuring out how to be kind to one another is my life's work.

Bob Kerfuffle 1:47 PM  

Just one write-over today, but it was that rare double-write-over: At 48 D, Goggles, had the G, threw in GAWKS. Fit SEGAR and FALSETTO, but when I got ALOEVERA I had to change to GAPES. Finally couldn't get 55A until changed to GAZES.

Happy Canada Day to Crosscan and compatriots!

mac 1:48 PM  

@Crosscan and all other Northern neighbors: Happy Canada Day!

mac 1:48 PM  

Just beat me, Bob!

Bob Kerfuffle 1:58 PM  

@mac - Sorry.

I was in such a rush to get my Canada Day greetings in that I mixed up my write-over account - GAPES was the correct final answer, not GAZES.

I was in a rush because I always approach posting the same way: I do the puzzle, of course, then read what Rex has to say, and then read all previous comments. Along the way I have my mental list of things I might say, and almost always most of them get crossed off because someone else has already said them. So by the time I get to my turn, I am frantic to post a comment before someone else says the same thing. And once in awhile, I step on someone's toes, or vice versa. To which we say, "great minds think alike". (Which someone has already paraphrased today - sorry.)

treedweller 2:02 PM  

this talk of separating the art from the artist could go on forever. Did gambling by Pete Rose spoil the game at all? Some would say yes, but I find it highly questionable. Did gambling as a manager change his accomplishments as a player? I'd say no, others disagree.

Does marital infidelity reflect on the work of a politician? Some say if his(her) wife(husband) can't trust him, we can't either. Others say if he does his job, his personal life is irrelevant.

Then there's this absolute certainty on the part of some (@humorlesstwit) that people are guilty despite jury verdicts to the contrary. I wasn't there when OJ's wife died, I wasn't there when Blake's [whoever] got shot, and I wasn't at MJ's slumber parties. Nor did I sit through their trials and hear all the evidence. So I'm not prepared to call them guilty.

But there are those Picassos and Wagners whose history is pretty well known, and yet some of us admire their art anyway (though maybe twinged with a bit of icky). Is it less problematic after a few decades have passed? Is it possible that we should not appreciate or admire certain famous anonymous works because the anonymice were bad people? Will we suffer in hell for not knowing this and liking their art anyway? Is there a limit to how many rhetorical questions I can cram into one post?

I'm just going to say, MJ clearly had a significant impact on popular culture and as such is noteworthy (maybe not hours-of-uninterrupted-coverage-on-CNN-worthy, but still). I wasn't much of a fan, but he could sure dance. If he did improper things with boys, that's highly unfortunate, but it's not really any of my business.

Clark 2:03 PM  

Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
"This is my own, my native land!"
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd
As home his footsteps he hath turn'd
From wandering on a foreign strand?
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonor'd, and unsung.

from The Lay of the Last Minstrel by Sir Walter Scott

XMAN 2:11 PM  

Don't forget, OJ got whacked in a wrongful death suit! Innoccent? Pah!

edith b 2:15 PM  

As a native New Yawkah, I managed to sidedstep the NEDICKS trap and as a non-MJ fan, had to piece together this one via crosses. I usually go to my granddaughter for help on contemporary music but she let me know that MJ was not all that contemporary. No help there.

I made peace with Brilliant Artist/Bad Person long ago and take the artist on his or her own terms it I like the artist and reject the artist if I don't. I never said I was consistent.

Judith 2:19 PM  

I agree with Rex in that the MJ songs here are not his legacy. Off the Wall was a great album, as was Thriller and all the great songs off the Jackson 5. Yes, he was weird and it's a tragedy how messed up his life became. I hope that he becomes like Elvis in that when the years pass, he's remembered more for his great music than the rest of this nonsense.

Big Guy 2:22 PM  

Sorry to say my overarching reaction to this = high ick factor. Tribute to a pedophile (not convicted). A constructing feat for the amount of theme material, but the quality of that material is dubious. A rush job, obviously, that may have been better considered or even reconsidered if it had been subject to the usual vetting. Not worthy of a spot in the NY Times.

Nit: NACHO = kind of cheese. Like cheddar?

retired_chemist 2:34 PM  

Agree with Big Guy. Nacho Cheese is explained in Wikipedia FYI - bad terminology. It's really Longhorn cheddar, or supposed to be. Sometimes it's probably Velveeta.

archaeoprof 2:45 PM  

@edithb: I see the same reaction as your granddaughter among the college students I work with. To them, MJ was old.

BTW, they think of the Simpsons as old, too.

Pop culture is cruel that way.

Anonymous 3:10 PM  

Juan's uncle? = No mas... I don't get it. Can someone explain?

Glitch 3:15 PM  


You said:

"MJ was never convicted, that is true. Neither were Robert Blake or OJ, but they were both guilty of murder".

Not convicted = not guilty in the USA. It doesn't = innocent, so perhaps you should have added IMHO, unless you have additional evidence.

Also quoting you:

"In certain times and in certain places, sharing the "Family Bed" is common, but not in this time nor in this place".

It's much alive today, in the US and the World. If you doubt, check with Prof. Google.


Criminal = Murder
Civil = wrongful death
Former = Beyond a doubt
Latter = "probably".


If every time I "slept" with my wife it meant "sexual encounter", I'd --- oh, never mind.

@Anne & @Treedweller --- amen


3 and out (whew, what a day)

foodie 3:15 PM  

It's interesting to read this debate about honoring MJ. In general, I agree with the way @denise put it.

MJ's life was tragic. In turn, he is likely to have wreaked havoc in the lives of many. Even if his interactions with those kids were not sexual (see @DK for one possible scenario), based on his own descriptions the set up must have been highly confusing to the children (at the very least). What were those parents (not) thinking? Who was looking after the wellbeing of these children? It makes me sick to imagine.

Some people with personality disorders may have odd impulses and notions. Being hugely rich allows such a person to indulge them, get away with them, and build a world apart from the normal societal feedback that would limit the damage. In the end, the price is huge for all concerned.

Given the business I’m in, I strive to understand what drives our behavior and do my best not to be judgmental. People don’t choose to be odd or crazy. At the same time, though, we all have wired emotional reactions that make us cringe when behavior is too far off the norm. More than likely, there is evolutionary value to such a reaction.

Noam D. Elkies 3:40 PM  

Rex is taking the late Michael Jackson way too seriously if he's complaining on the grounds of *which* MJ hits were chosen to stuff this grid...

--NDE (still in UT)

humorlesstwit 3:52 PM  

Guilty people are found not guilty daily in our courts, as are innocent people found guilty, though much less frequently I hope. I personally have sat on a jury where we found the defendants not guilty, but where each of the 12 of us were convinced one of the defendants was in fact guilty. We reached the verdict we did because of the strictures given to us by the judge, and we all felt badly about it. We reached the correct verdict given the legalities, but one that was not an accurate assessment of guilt in the larger sense. Information we received after the trial confirmed that the one defendant was in fact guilty.
Guilty people are found not guilty daily in our courts, as are innocent people found guilty, though much less frequently I hope. I personally have sat on a jury where we found the defendants not guilty, but each of the 12 was convinced that one of the defendants was in fact guilty. We reached the verdict we did because of the strictures given to us by the judge, and we all felt badly about it. We reached what we felt was the correct verdict given the legalities, but one that was not an accurate assessment of guilt in the larger sense. Information we received after the trial confirmed that the one defendant was in fact guilty.
The phrase "Innocent until proven guilty" exists within a trial, not necessarily in a larger sense. People are either guilty or innocent in an absolute sense, and no one can reasonably deny that our legal system doesn't always get this right. Limiting our understanding of guilt or innocence to what happens within a trial makes no sense to me, beyond whether we send them to jail or not.
I have no doubt that MJ's childhood damaged him irreparably, and on that level felt sympathy for him. That may explain his actions, but in no way excuses them.
As to including IM(not so)HO, pretty much everything I say is my opinion, when it is a statement of opinion and not fact.

Doug 4:07 PM  

If the answers were super easy because they were all related to his most popular songs, wouldn't that be more like a Monday? In future, can mega celebrities please expire mid-week so that Monday constructors can properly pay tribute.

Thanks for the Canada Day wishes, being happily r3eceived under the blue sky of British Columbia.

Glitch 4:31 PM  


Just curious, was:

"Information we received after the trial confirmed that the one defendant was in fact guilty"

presented under the same scrutiny as evidence within the tial?

and re:

"Limiting our understanding of guilt or innocence to what happens within a trial makes no sense to me, beyond whether we send them to jail or not."

May you always be a juror and never a defendant, preferably neither.


Denise 4:37 PM  

My son-in-law has a theory that MJ was a castrati which explains the high voice -- he never went through puberty?

crosscan 4:38 PM  

Happy Canada Day!

3 and outside.

ileen 4:41 PM  

@Juan's uncle? = No mas... I don't get it. Can someone explain?

Spanish for someone crying uncle, in other words saying they can't take it anymore. See the scene in A Christmas Story when Ralphie is terrorized by the bully (Scott Farkus).

joho 5:03 PM  

no mas means no more!

Bill from NJ 5:15 PM  

It can also refer to fighter Roberto Duran's retort to Sugar Ray Leonard in their famous welterweight title fight in November 1980: near the end of the 8th round, he waved to the referee and said, "no mas, no mas."
(no more, no more) and quit.

Stan 5:35 PM  

What Rex said about the choice of albums / songs / lyrics. But fun enough, and timely as a puzzle.

I will be happy to put up with an all-opera theme later in the week to make up for it.

treedweller 6:05 PM  

Don't give WS any ideas. I appreciate the sentiment, but am fully opposed to an all-opera puzzle.

Stan 6:13 PM  

@Treedweller (and Will)
Just kidding :-)

Ladel 7:38 PM  


What does .../ mean?

Inquisitive in NY


Leon 7:49 PM  

Thanks Mr. Kahn.

Nedick's Orange drink along with Orange Julius were favorites of NY Junkies who needed a sugar fix.

Thanks JC66 for the Marty Glickman memories.

dk 8:34 PM  

Hi Kids,

Back from a day of teaching MBA students and Lawyers how to place a monetary value on innovation and creativity. Guess what, because of this blog and the puzzle we talked about - Guess who?

And guess what direction the conversation took? Please read the guilt/innocent pedophile/just plan weird comments above in case the obvious escapes you.

Back in the day (sorry @glitch) I was a forensic psychologist working in LA and San Berdo County courts. I cited some cases to demonstrate the vast differences between the weird and people who choose to be very very very bad. After one of my students got sick we agreed that all the facts are important when judging the guilt of an individual.

And, when the facts consist of a couple of botched extortion attempts and trial by media more than 1 grain of salt is warranted.

Yes I may have insider knowledge of evidence that was suppressed regarding one or more alleged acts of extortion and in a certain hypothetical case where the alleged extortion was attempted by the same individual(s) on other deep pocket "personalities."

Thus, don't believe all you think you know or look for justice in the courtroom.

I am burning this soapbox and support the idea of an all opera puzzle

Craig 8:52 PM  

These predictable NYT 'tribute' puzzles are creepy. As soon as a famous 'somebody' dies, the NYT puzzle compilers don their dark suits. How about honoring people's accomplishments while they're still..........alive??

joho 9:00 PM  

Definitely ... an all opera puzzle is in order and overdue.

3 & out.

andrea carla michaels 9:08 PM  

10A um....

maybe if BUBBLES had been in the puzzle it could have been both an MJ tribute AND a Beverly Sills one.

I put in 4D WIT making NILL and TOMAS
(TOMAS made as much sense to me as the unparsed NOMAS) and it was like one of those ladders, had to change to PIT, then PUT, then PUN.

Oh, and two KINGs crossed...

rush job, yet 14 refs to MJ...
lesser hits, yet ones that cried out with poignancy (GONETOOSOON)
I think it perfectly reflected the mixed bag of reactions to Michael himself...pedophile or peter pan?
Genius musician/dancer or wacko jacko?

When I heard he died, I cried, but was surprised I cried. It all seemed so sad, yet within days, was able to think a trivia team calling themselves "The Jackson 4" was hilarious.

it's all so complicated...but I'm pretty sure Billy Jean was not his lover.

wsrhodes 9:13 PM  

We thought this one was pretty easy for a Wednesday puzzle. My wife is a native New Yorker so came up with Nedick's right away (never heard of it either!). And snowcaps are our favorite...though they're not even offered in Chicago area theatres anymore. Elmira was a business travel destination so that one came pretty easily too. All in all, not bad for a Wednesday.

Denise 9:16 PM  

I forgot to mention earlier that lemurs are in vogue again, thanks to a PBS show for kids called something like ZAMBOOMAFOO. Lemurs only live in Madagascar (and in zoos).

My grandsons are my teachers.

Glitch 9:38 PM  


"...we agreed that all the facts are important when judging the guilt of an individual."

I agree.

"And, when the facts consist of a couple of botched extortion attempts and trial by media more than 1 grain of salt is warranted."

I agree.

"Thus, don't believe all you think you know or look for justice in the courtroom".

I agree with the first part, as to the second, I'll continue to look as I don't like the alternative.

[Glitch has left the soapbox and is heading for the wine cellar, corkscrew in hand]


Ulrich 9:48 PM  

I'm late to the debate, but since I have a take on the character issue when it comes to great artists that no one has made yet, let me put my two cents in: My first-hand observations are with architects, but what I know from the other arts, I'm pretty sure the same thing applies--so, here goes;

Great artists are, as rule, rotters. In order to make it at that level, you have to be absolutely obsessive about your art. You have to stay convinced that the world is ready for your productions through possibly decades of hardship that would induce less-driven people to quit. And you can't let go--it's not a 9-5 job--I always ask people: What do you expect Michelangelo to do after a day at the Sixtine Chapel? Play with the kids and do the dishes? So, to me, a great artist being a rotter is no news--the news would be one who is actually nice!!!

Just to give you some examples to think about: Gaudi was aligned with the most reactionary segment of the Catholic Church in Barcelona--does that make his architecture less compelling? Or, if you admired him, are you now going to change your judgment? Or take the European Baroque: It's the style of the counterreformation, a movement that I, a former catholic, despise--should that make me not appreciate the glorious churches in Bavaria, Austria, and the Czech Republic? Or Brecht--truly a despicable human being--does that mean I hate the Threepenny Opera now?

I hope you get my drift..

sanfranman59 9:51 PM  

This week's numbers ... the number in parentheses is the number of solvers.

Mon (all) 7:07 (857) prev 3 week avg: 6:44 (907)
Mon (Top 100) 4:01 prev 3 week avg: 3:37

Tue (all) 8:40 (776) prev 3 week avg: 8:30 (878)
Tue (Top 100) 4:26 prev 3 week avg: 4:20

Wed (all) 11:56 (685) prev 3 week avg: 14:38 (641)
Wed (Top 100) 6:14 prev 3 week avg: 6:58

Faster solve times today compared to the previous 3 Wednesday puzzle. My personal time was a tad behind the curve. Not surprising, given my lack of knowledge of Jackson. I enjoyed a fair amount of his pre-1990 music, but I tend to have an aversion to pop culture hype. I was saddened to learn of his death. IMHO, his is a very sad story ... and probably even more so than most people know.

chefwen 9:53 PM  

@Andrea - I'm going with Wacko Jacko, veeerry funny!

Ulrich 9:57 PM  

...in case I did not make myself sufficiently clear: If you cannot separate an artist's personality from the quality of his/her work, you have to be ready to revise your judgment whenever new information comes in-- Villon was a murderer after all? Shucks, now I don't like his poems any more! Do you see how absurd this is?

mac 10:53 PM  

@Ulrich: yes, I get it. That was my point, even when we don't like the person, we have to admire the artist for his work. I think I judge art, any kind of art, viscerally, especially when I have to live with it. In some cases I don't know about the artist until after.

foodie 11:02 PM  

@ulrich, I know what you mean. I have even met one such brilliant and still living architect, and I can see how it would be hard to separate the personality from the genius-- it's all cut from one cloth. It makes you think about the basis of this degree of creativity.

This evening I was telling my daughter about the debate on this blog, and how some people were wondering about the amount of coverage MJ was receiving in the media. She's in her mid 20's and was a kid when MJ was all the rage. I thought her perspective on it was interesting. She feels that MJ exemplifies something about our national journey during the last quarter of a century or so, taken to an extreme. For a while, he/we could do no wrong, everything we touched turned to gold. It was an amazing ride, but it was not sustainable because it was not based in reality, and it turned sour. His death is sad not only because of his great talent and his unprecedented impact on pop culture, but because it reminds us of the sad journey that did not turn out well for many of us. She feels that this is in part why people have taken the high road in the coverage of his death... We have all been recently humbled and have had to rethink our priorities...

@ sanfranman--Re the discussion last night: thank you for your willingness to post the data! I agree with @Lisa that since you are already on blogger, you can use that site so that when we click on your name we could see your "blog", which could simply consist of this info (unless you want to tell us some other stuff : )

mac 11:09 PM  

@foodie: there was one line in your comment that struck me: for a while, he could do no wrong. Maybe the let-down of the last 6 months will make all people, even the very young, realize that we are all responsible for all our actions, no excuses allowed.

william e emba 12:35 PM  

The comparisons of MJ with OJ and Blake are beyond ridiculous. In the latter two cases, there were dead bodies. There is no question that the victims were murdered, and the only question was whodunit.

In the MJ case, the question is whether anything actually happened. Everyone involved had an incredibly strong motive to lie.

And I'm speaking as someone who could not actually care less about MJ. For example, THRILLER to me has always meant that way-ahead-of-its-time DC comic book. I only learned about 15 years later that there was a MJ hit of the same name that doubtlessly inspired the comic's title in the first place.

You can guess that this was the most boring NYT crossword puzzle I've done in the ten-or-so years I've been doing the puzzle. I as might as well have been doing the TV Guide crossword puzzle.

As for wanting crossword tributes for someone still alive, Merl Reagle had a tribute to Liz Taylor, I recall for her 75th birthday, with an asymmetric grid, the better to have giant black Ls all over the place.

william e emba 6:37 PM  

A very late comment.

There was a question about how fast a memorial puzzle has been done in the NYT. I came across Will Shortz' comments on the Al Hirschfeld memorial puzzle, in his book on 50 favorite Sunday NYT puzzles.

Hirschfeld died Thursday, 1/30/2003. The memorial puzzle appeared ten days later, on Sunday, 2/9/2003. According to Shortz, that puzzle went from idea to final acceptance in the then-record time of five days, which was the following Tuesday.

This isn't directly comparable, since Sunday puzzles occur just one day a week, and this can't be tweaked. A 15x15 puzzle can often float from one day to another.

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