Ernest Borgnine title role — WEDNESDAY, Aug. 26 2009 — Wearer triple tiara / Malodorous critter / Old salt's direction

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Constructor: Gary Cee

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "_____, please" — theme answers all complete this phrase

Word of the Day: LAR (35A: Roman household god) n. Roman Mythology., pl. Lar·es (lâr'ēz, lär'-).

A tutelary deity or spirit of an ancient Roman household.

[Latin Lār, probably of Etruscan origin.]


Slow Fast Slow. Had a little trouble getting started in the NW, but once I did I tore through the puzzle until I hit the SW, where not knowing the relative smelliness of a POLECAT (43A: Malodorous critter) kept me from dusting that corner off as fast as I'd have liked. Finished the grid with an error — an error that, based on this household's sampling, a lot of people are going to make today. I don't know my Chicago radio stations by heart, so just about any bunch of letters was going to be fine with me, and 69A: Dada, to many seemed to want the answer NOT ART, so that's what I wrote in. A radio station you don't know, after the "K" or (in this case) "W," is just a random conglomeration of letters, as far as I can tell. WGN sounds better, and now rings a bell, and NONART is closer to a valid crossword answer than NOT ART. But there wasn't enough iffiness there to make me question my "T" (clearly).

Hated the theme at CHOPSTICKS but warmed up to it midway and ended up liking it just fine by the end. CHOPSTICKS was the worst of the bunch, so it was all happy surprises from then on. The NE is the section most in need of a makeover, with the yucky RETABLE (31A: Postpone yet again) and the godawful (or awful god) LAR gunking up the grid there at the bottom of those long Downs (35A: Roman household god). LAR is like LAE in that you might (*might*) keep it in your grid if it were holding something Really Beautiful in place. Otherwise, it's kind of INEDIBLE (11D: Like poisonous mushrooms). What is LAE, you ask? Exactly.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: "_____, please" (diner's request) (CHOPSTICKS)
  • 27A: "_____, please" (announcer's request) (ATTENTION) — "Your ..."
  • 36A: "_____, please" (awards show presenter's request) (THE ENVELOPE) — "May I have ..."
  • 51A: "_____, please" (operator's request) (ONE MOMENT)
  • 60A: "_____, please" (Henny Youngman's request) (TAKE MY WIFE) — I like that this is the punch line. Fitting.


  • 7A: 3, 4 or 5, typically, in golf (par) — my wife's first answer in the grid. My first answer: HEM (I did not say first "right" answer) (4D: Job for a tailor => RIP).
  • 14A: When Hamlet says "To be or not be" (Act III) — wife wanted ACT TWO or ACT ONE. I already had some of those "I"s in place, so no problem. Can someone make a geography/literature pun puzzle with the answer T'BILISI OR NOT T'BILISI? Maybe a Sunday? I'd enjoy that.
  • 40A: G.I.'s mail drop (APO) — I often screw up abbrevs. like this, but this one actually got me rebooted in the SW after I tripped over the damned POLECAT.
  • 47A: Mexican revolutionary played by Brando (Zapata) — if you're like me, you already had the "Z" in place when you saw this clue (from LIZ, 37D: Taylor who said "I do" eight times). Easy.
  • 59A: Old salt's direction (thar) — that's a "direction?" Wife had AHOY, which is making me laugh. ALEE, yes. AVAST, not really, AHOY, uh uh. ASTERN and ABAFT, sure why not.
  • 2D: Ernest Borgnine title role (McHale) — he had a Navy:

  • 3D: _____ FireBall (hot candy) (Atomic) — wanted RED HOT ... but "hot" was in the clue.
  • 18D: 401(k) alternative (IRA) — just had a long, complicated talk with our financial adviser yesterday, so IRAs are on my mind.
  • 25D: Jedi enemy (Sith) — I just wrote SITH onto my list of "Modern Staples" (I keep an actual list of answers I think of as the New Guard of crosswordese — stuff that's EMERGEd as a common answer in the past decade or so, or stuff that has *just* come into prominence that I'm betting will be common. Besides ANIME, most of the answers on the list are names).
  • 39D: Wearer of a triple tiara (pope) — I keep reading this as "Winner of the Triple Crown."
  • 52D: Microwaved, slangily (nuked) — interesting how a word associated with a horrific act of war has come to describe a common household occurrence.
  • 53D: "The Waste Land" monogram (TSE) — "monogram" makes me think of sweaters and luggage. Somehow I doubt Eliot went in for stitching his name into his possessions.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

[P.S. from the future ... for SYNDICATION SOLVERS (yes, you, reading this on Wed., 9/30/09): Celebrity crossword enthusiast and breast cancer survivor Christina Applegate is the 2009 Ambassador for Lee National Denim Day (this Friday, Oct. 2, 2009), a day to raise awareness about breast cancer issues as well as raise money for the Women's Cancer Programs of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), including Christina's own foundation, Right Action For Women. They're asking for $5 donations. I'm giving a little more. Go here to donate. Thanks. Back to your original programming ...]

P.S. Please check out my promotion of Eric Berlin's special crossword event, "Game Night Crosswords" — here's a link, or you can just scroll down this page to the next entry.

P.P.S. Happy Birthday, Will Shortz. Andrea Carla Michaels has made a special birthday puzzle for Will. Here is a version in AcrossLite. Find a pdf version here.


chefbea 8:40 AM  

Didn't like chopsticks either. Thought it was going to be food related - I'll take vegetables, please.

Happy birthday Will. Look forward to doing the puzzle

Anonymous 8:41 AM  

I believe WGN refers to the Chicago "superstation" channel that is included with many cable TV packages ("Cable television home of the Chicago Cubs, White Sox and Bulls," as per Obviously, that's no help if you don't actually get the channel, but I think it makes the answer a bit less obscure than if it referred to a local Chicago radio station.

Michele 8:41 AM  

Well, I was doing this late at night and briefly had in "chop steaks" for "chopsticks," surely inspired by the abysmal chopped steak I ate this Sunday at some kind of hellish diner in the middle of New Jersey.

Victor in Rochester 8:45 AM  

Lovely, tight, easy Wednesday.

I thought the word of the day would be either PICOT, new to me (I don't own any lace) or the NENE Hawaiian goose.

"THAR she blows" seems like a direction to me, assuming it's associated with an outstretched arm and a pointy finger.

Thanks, Gary Cee.

Ulrich 8:55 AM  

Morning already spoiled--had the T where Rex suspected it to be and never looked back! That's the one drawback of doing this with pencil on paper: There's no computer program to tell you that you have a mistake, when you have one. Well, I'm over it now, looking into the bright morning sun--Gloria (follows the Kyrie in a Mass)!!!

Jim in Chicago 8:55 AM  

Can we split scores? 95% Easy and 5% Impossible for me.

There were not one, but three "Natick" spots for me today, two of them combined into a cluster.

Not knowing ORSINO or ZAPATA, I guessed at ORSINE and ZALATA, which gave me a sort of plausible PEPE for the triple tiara wearer - at least it was a name!

The second one was in the SE, where I guessed ATTICA for the "Scourge of God". This combined with not knowing the Hoopster, left me with E_GCES for the 1975 band, at which point I just left the square blank and turned to Rex.

I think WGN is completely fair as a clue, and the station is far from random. Anyone growing up anywhere in the greater midwest (and into Canada, I'm told) listened to the Cubs on WGN, which had one of those billion-watt licenses that they blasted most of the country with. More recently, WGN has become a nation-wide cable TV channel, still broadcasting the Cubs along with a bunch of old sitcoms. They're more recently in the news as the now bankrupt Chicago Tribune empire breaks up its assets. At one point they owned the Tribune, WGN and the Cubs along with media outlets around the country and they were a real powerhouse nationwide.

HudsonHawk 8:57 AM  

Yeah, CHOPSTICKS seems to be the weakest link. May as well have been piano teacher's request.

Elaine 9:00 AM  

This was a very fast puzzle--at 4 a.m.--and when I checked Rex's blog, only the Eric Berlin advert was up. (Gee, I kind of miss the red WARNING screen and decorative bar....)

Of course I wanted more ordinary "Check, please" and "Number, please"--and CHOPSTICKS went in last, but in short order. wink.

I know PICOT well-- I once tatted six yards of lace edging for some pillow shams. I do not consider it an embroidery stitch, myself, but someone can check that and upbraid me for ignorance on that point.

Agree about THAR and RETABLE, which made me groan. Both too awkward. But WGN--watch it all the time!

(ASIDE: Remember, a few days ago someone pointed out that K is mostly Eastern US vs W in West, when one comes to call letters. However, I submit that the older stations, like WSB in Atlanta and WGN in Chicago, have only three letters, all starting with W. Fave stations from my past--WGUC and WKSU, both in Ohio.
I think the K has to do with newer vs older.)

Looking forward to something a little meatier ThFS....

Vincent Lima 9:00 AM  

Hmm, TAKE MY WIFE, please is funnier than TAKE MY LIFE, please, which is what I had, since I was ignoring the Chicago station. I'd normally expect a W or K for a radio station, of course, but since it was three letters long, not four, I figured we weren't looking for call letters.

Regarding, ACT III, it helped to remember that Hamlet doesn't get around to contemplating the unknown risks of not being until somewhere midway in the play, so ACT ONE and ACT TWO were out.

I enjoyed the theme answers.

Elaine 9:07 AM  

@Jim in Chicago
I see we have similar takes re WGN. Like the big Boston station, commonly seen and heard!

Viva Zapata!....I saw this as a first run movie. (I think Butch Cassidy/Sundance Kid got their ending from it.) Your confusion on this clue plus Orsino...I am guessing you are another one of these Young Whippersnappers like Rex. No worries--time will take care of that...

Anonymous 9:12 AM  

Really liked this puzzle and Andrea's! No Naticks for me. Happy birthday, Will!

Kates Dad 9:13 AM  

As I understand it, K denotes west of the Mississippi, W east (awkwardly). Today's felt like it could have been a Tuesday, relatively smooth sailing. Glad I've finally learned APO. Liked Attila and Zapata. And I ended with Take my wife, which made me smile, compensation for chopsticks (sushi diner's request?).

retired_chemist 9:13 AM  

A good Wednesday. I liked the theme. Non-puzzle wife thinks I need to say please more – so I’m taking the puzzle as a personal reminder.

Had ACT TWO first for 14A – haven’t read Hamlet in many years, but now I know: ACT III. Then a lot of white space until ZAPATA (47A), confirmed by LIZ @37D. That brought the SE in quickly.

Wouldn’t believe the POPE (39D) wore a triple tiara until all four crosses were certain. But it is so. APOSTLE (40D) was my last fill, and I needed five crosses. My religious inertia is apparent.

MCHALE, EDIE Falco, Hamlet ACT III, ORSINO, LIZ, ZAPATA, Henny Youngman’s most famous line, the EAGLES, and more! The arts are eclectically and fully represented. Where’s my token science answer? You gonna tell me take 3D ATOMIC and be happy? It’s a candy!

Checked by tabbing through all the answers in Across Lite – got to 38D ONAN and didn’t remember it as a Biblical reference. It wasn’t. Don’t go there.

@Elaine – other way around. W is east, K is west.

Humorlesstwit 9:15 AM  

I found this to be a slog, with much cluing that seemed off. RAM is a thing, not a capacity, capacity would be measured in meg, gig, etc. Poisionous mushrooms aren't INEDIBLE, its just that you shouldn't eat them. Ernest Borgnine cluing anything but MARTY seems wrong. And that's just the North.
Felt no love anywhere for this one.

SethG 9:16 AM  

Jim in Chicago, you' Chicago. So it makes perfect sense that you're more familiar with WGN than with, say, EAGLES. But EAGLES have the best selling US album of all time, so that's unlikely to be everyone's experience.

I had more trouble than Rex. For Borgnine, all I could think of was Dominic Santini. It took me a while to get the glonous cultual CHCOSTICKS.

Tuk under thurnb and held firmly.

Rex Parker 9:22 AM  

@humorless INEDIBLE is correctly clued. By your definition, the only things that would be INEDIBLE are those you couldn't manage to fit in your mouth and swallow. Legos? Edible? Batteries? Edible.

INEDIBLE means "not FIT to be eaten."


Elaine 9:23 AM  

@ Chemist and SethG

Oh, those darn LEFT_RIGHT and EAST-WEST directions!
Still...I thought WGN was a gimme, along with Attila and Amen. That's how I got EAGLES ...

For Borgnine I had Marty in mind...McHale came to mind only belatedly, after ACT III and ELISE. I never saw the TV show.

Humorlesstwit 9:25 AM  

Ok, so I just didn't feel the love and was being an ass. I do that sometimes. Don't know why I had to verbalize it today.

dk 9:30 AM  

WGN: Worlds Greatest Network or Waded Gum News as per wags from days of yore.

ONERINGYDINGY for the operator would have been funnier.

Dada as NONART? Mr. Cee a Mr. Duchamp will be coming back from the dead to see you soon.

@elaine, I got a merit page for ham radio stuff (insert huge picture of a tween geek about here) and the rule of thumb is: the first letter generally is K for stations west of the Mississippi River and W for those east of the Mississippi.

Ok puzzle with a unique theme.

Timothy Leary 9:41 AM  

Hey, I used to eat "Poisonous" mushrooms!

joho 9:48 AM  

I'd give this puzzle a Cee.

I did like that ZAPATA wears PONCHOS and, when golfing, if your shoot goes LONG you might not make PAR.

I've got to go so I can RETABLE my dentist appointment.

Susan 9:50 AM  

I would call Dada "anti art" but I wouldn't call anything "non art" because that just sounds stupid. I also had NOT ART and stuck with it because I just blanked on WGN, although we get it here. So I had a DNF today. Boo.

Thanks for the Thomas the Tank Engine chopsticks, Rex. Don't get me started on what I really think of Thomas, but my toddler LOOOOOOOVES him...

wsrhodes 9:54 AM  

WGN actually stands for World's Greatest Newspaper...aka The Tribune. Maybe at some pint it was, but it is now pretty trashy.

Glitch 10:00 AM  

Call sign trivia alert:

In the 1920's WJAZ added regular news programs, supplied by the Chicago Tribune (which eventually bought the station) and the call letters were changed to WGN (World's Greatest News(paper?)).

Originally (1920s) call signs were issued sequentially by the Maritime Board (first stations were on ships), hence KDKA in Pittsburgh PA).

Eventually, international agreements gave K and W (for West) to the USA, but the FCC got it backwards, and from the late '30s, W went to east of the Mississipi, K to the west.

Originally call signs were 3 letters, went to 4 when they ran out, and for some, 6 with -TV, -AM, -FM added.

So, all in all, they're not just random letters :)


PlantieBea 10:05 AM  

Had NOT ART on my puzzle and WGT sounded okay. My sea direction was PORT for a while. I also tried Take my life until I remembered the recent radio call letter discussion and WLS from Chicago. PICOT is a new word for me, and CHOPSTICKS was a surprise. Like ChefBea, I was expecting a food answer. Skunks are called Polecats--remembered that somehow.

Interesting Wednesday that woke my brain up this morning Gary Cee. Happy birthday to Will Shortz.

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

Chopsticks ... please!

joho 10:06 AM  

@Andrea Carla Michaels ... your puZZle was tonZ of funZ!

Happy Birthday, Mr. ShortZ!!

Elaine2 10:19 AM  

I got WGN immediately, and I live in CA. (But we have it on cable...)

I liked all of this except the "chopsticks" (which I accepted reluctantly as the downs led me there...) although I have asked for them many times in restaurants!

Loved Andrea's Shortz puzzle--Happy Birthday, Will!

PurpleGuy 10:28 AM  

No Naticks or stumbles or writeovers. Really easy, fun puzzle.
Nice memories from MINEOLA. I was born and raised there. Lived there for 27 years before moving to Phoenix with retired parents. Can't believe I've lived here 35 years.
My parents had the MINEOLA house built in 1932.I still have the blueprints.
I bring my own CHOPSTICKS when I dine at my favorite Japanese restaurant.
I think for PICOT as a type of thread.

Happy Birthday Will !

Looking forward to Andrea's puzzle,now.

Anne 10:36 AM  

Three errors on a Wednesday - I am hanging my head in shame. Lor for Lar. Odsino for orsino. Nonart for notart. That smarts. And I don't understand why this theme doesn't warrant a "so what" response. Grrr. I'm not having a good week thus far.

fikink 10:42 AM  

Must be me - found this puzzle highly irritating, death by a thousand cuts...or three-letter words.

@Retired Chemist, a RETABLE is also part of ecclesiastical art, to go along with
(there's a beat you can dance to!)

Also, Mark Twin once said, "SACRED COWS make the best hamburger."

Viva la revolucion!

Goodbye, Teddy.

PGubanc 10:46 AM  

...and *I* had "newart" for Dada. [sigh] WGW and YAE..... oh well...

archaeoprof 10:52 AM  

Back from Germany last night, and still jetlagged, but I liked this puzzle. Except for CHOPSTICKS.

LARes were very common in ancient Roman religion. Shrines to the LARes are preserved in many of the houses at Pompeii.

Thanks, Rex, for the Combat/McHale's Navy link. Took me way back.

BTW, while in Germany I tried a German newspaper crossword puzzle (or Kreuzwortraetsel). Ulrich, I could have used your help!

ArtLvr 10:57 AM  

I liked the puzzle's theme, including CHOPSTICKS, and found a lot of the fill fun and fresh too, with AMSTEL, SACRED COW and others already noted: no TIRADE inspired in me!

@ Purple Guy -- Maybe you were thinking of tricot rather than PICOT?

RIP, Ted Kennedy...


PhillySolver 10:57 AM  

My favorite Italian restaurant in London is ORSINO. For the sailor's direction, I filled in an A waiting for the other letters and wondered if the resulting AHAR was a long way off or if it was said when you wanted to let someone know they should laugh. "Ahar there matey" might be used watching the Love Guru.

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

Chopsticks Please is a pretty well known company appealing to the Asian community.


Anonymous 11:03 AM  

I see no reason to change my fill, It is NOT ART.


Stan 11:09 AM  

WGN was guessable, but I hope it doesn't signal a trend.

Puzzle was AOK.

ArtLvr 11:11 AM  

@ Andrea -- Delightful puz for Shortz' B-Day! Thx

DanaJ 11:41 AM  

Nice puzzle, liked all the "please" phrases. Laughed 'cause ZAPATA reminded me of living in New Haven in the late 1980s. The only Mexican restaurant in town was mysteriously named "Viva Zapatas", which we thought translated as "long live the shoes".

XMAN 11:54 AM  

First order of the day: Pace, Ted. I'll miss you.

Second: Happy birthday, Will!

Third: Andrea, I printed out your puzzle and will do it later.

Fourth: This was a breeze--till I found myself in the NW, where I stalled and almost perseverated going round and round the same squares, when I finally went into real puzzle-solving mode (logic and tests), finally finishing. Phew!

mac 12:08 PM  

I liked the theme, but thought it was a little easy for a Wednesday. The only real problem area for me was the wife-WGN crossing. I had life, and I was actually thinking of a station on the train in Chicago....

I didn't like "retable", but thought "thar" both clue and answer was cute. No problem with "chopsticks", but I usually ask for "hot sauce". Like it spicy.

I wonder if I would still know how to crochet a picot edge.

RIP, Edward, and happy birthday, Will. Now on to Andrea's puzzle.

Shamik 12:30 PM  

Generally I liked this easy puzzle, but RETABLE is just ucky.

Happy Birthday Will Shortz! And thank you for all you've done for the puzzle world.

@PurpleGuy: I knew we both lived in the Phoenix area. I didn't know you were from Long Island where my husband is from (I grew up in Stamford, CT). Smaller world all the time.

still_learnin 12:32 PM  

WGN was a gimme. I didn't have the SMARTS to think of that answer until the very end. Same with MCHALE. I had a mental image of him, just couldn't recall the name. Loved the Henny Youngman quote.

All in all, a solid Wednesday puzzle. Good work, Gary.

RIP, Teddy.

Z.J. Mugildny 12:33 PM  

Like Rex, I hated the theme at CHOPSTICKS. Unlike Rex, I never really warmed to it -- not terrible, but not great.

poc 12:48 PM  

I found the NW tough and the rest trivial. I though some of the clueing was off, e.g. why SITS?. Also, as a computer scientist I stuck on RAM because the clue is meaningless; I literally groaned when I saw the fill.

Elaine 12:59 PM  


No, a picot is a tiny loop--a decorative embellishment--made in handcrafts such as crochet/knit/tat. It does not in any way describe the thread/wool/ribbon/etc.

Tricot is a slinky (nylon?) fabric (often found in lingerie)...I've never heard of tricot thread.

But it's great that this is "new word" for some solvers.
I still object to its being called an embroidery stitch/loop.

Elaine 1:02 PM  

Can you say why RAM was badly clued? As a non-techie, I got it right away (tsk tsk)... but I have the sad attitude that I don't even want to know about my computer, I just want it to work.

On the other hand, I throw words like PICOT around all the time.

retired_chemist 1:04 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
mexgirl 1:08 PM  

"Chopsticks, please" seems really arbitrary. Especially since they already put them on the table on Asian restaurants. Or, are we suppose to ask for chopsticks when ordering, say, an oriental salad in McDonald's?

Andrea's puzzle is really lovely! I enjoyed it a lot (and did it quite fast!)

Happy Birthday Will!

chefbea 1:13 PM  

@Andrea your puzzle was great!!!

Living in St. louis I remember KSD and KMOX rdio stations

retired_chemist 1:24 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Kerfuffle 1:24 PM  

No write-overs, but two things that slowed me down were the thought that 17 A had something to do with "the check, please", and a hang-up at 10 A that the answer was SYMS, a local clothing discounter!

To add a little story to @Glitch's explanation of call letters: As I understand it, the law is that when a broadcaster changes ownership, they must change the call letters of their stations. One of the very old outlets in the NY area was television station WOR, just three letters, and when it changed hands, very cleverly the new call letters became WWOR.

@retired_chemist - For a bad science answer, how about NUKED for microwaved. That has always bugged me since there is nothing nuclear about microwaves.

All we Latin students are glad we remembered our Lars and Penates today.

retired_chemist 1:31 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
fergus 1:38 PM  

Well, it's right there in the first scene of ACT III. Might have wagered a considerable sum that it came earlier. As a 10 year-old, I remember my stern father being annoyed that I could memorize Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, and not Hamlet's soliloquies.

Glad that there was at least some minor qualification for Dada, which I find as art-worthy as Futurism or Symbolism.

That comment about the chain of Asian restaurants salvaged Chopsticks.

ATOMIC FireBall really had that Proust thing going on.

retired_chemist 1:42 PM  

Apparently I suffered the same problem as @Aviatrix had a few days ago- multiple repetitive posts. Every time I would try to delete one, it would stay!

The solution: I cleared my browser cache, the problem went away, and the repeats became deletable, and they are now gone. Scusi.

@Fikink - RETABLE a religious reference too! Who woulda thunk?

XMAN 1:52 PM  

Hey, Andrea: Nice Wednesday puzzle! Lots of fun.

retired_chemist 2:00 PM  

what @XMAN just said.

PlantieBea 2:06 PM  

Liked the puzzle, Andrea! Thanks for the link Rex.

Clark 2:06 PM  

Rex, Thanks for the McHale link. Just before my first law school exam (Civil Prodedure) was handed out by the proctors (many years ago) a kid in the class who was a real joker asked if anyone could remember the theme to McHale's Navy. I spent the next three hours trying not to think about the thing that I couldn't remember. (But I did ok. No harm, no foul.) I've been trying to remember it ever since.

fergus 2:12 PM  

Very amusing Andrea. I should probably refrain from any further commentary just now.

chefwen 2:17 PM  

Is it O.K. to criticize a sacred cow if it stands on your foot?

Other than the NW this puzzle fell very quickly. Thought it was super easy.

Didn't know PICOT but crosses were easy.

WGN a gimme for me as I grew up in the midwest.

Never ask for CHOPSTICKS, we ask for hashi.

Happy Birthday Will!!

chefbea 2:17 PM  

@Eileen - haven't heard from you yet. Click on chefbea then click on e-mail

Just got back from the farmer's market. Guess what we are having for dinner!!!

andrea please michaels 2:40 PM  

When I couldn't decide between NOTART and NONART, I briefly considered NONARP!

But yes, how heavy and philosophical to decide what is Art! Much bigger question than for crosswords, no? Dare I say even too big a question for Rex's blog!

It was a good object lesson in construction, like, could you really put NOT +(something) as an answer, other than clued as some sort of partial?
You could have NOTI (said the (Sacred) cow to Chicken Little)
or perhaps as a phrase: NOTIN (out)
It's tricky bec then conceivably you could put in NOT + ANYTHING.
But it is a bit weird to call something NONART, who is to decide that? Very heavy.

@dk, @sethg, @jeff in chicago @elaine, chefwen, et al
The WGN thing was unknown to this Midwesterner. The whole K/W thing is confusing to those of us who grew up in Mpls where you had BOTH WDGY and KROQ, for example. I guess bec the dividing line must be the Mississippi.

thanks for all those explanations! Fascinating that the FCC got a simple mnemonic wrong (W for WEST!)

@Xman, @joho, et al
As for Will's bday puzzle,
thanks for the compliments. I had this inspiration a couple of nights ago, and it was the fastest I've ever made a puzzle!

Technically, you can't put the same word over and over again in a grid (unless it's a rebus) but it was originally intended just for Will's eyes...but since it could never be published, it seemed like fun to share with everyone and to surprise him!
Thanks Orange and Rex!
(He has pronounced himself "tickled") :)

(Btw, made quickly, but lots of help from friends in the end...
Michael Blake put it into a form you could do on line; Orange was willing to edit, including fixing something that could be a shout out to Mein Ulrich...she found small commas off here and there and was totally willing to host it on her site; Rex and all were willing to jump right in with a link so we could all toast Will today; and in the eleventh hour (literally) Patrick Blindauer caught that I had put the same word in one of the theme answers into another part of the grid!
(It was defined totally differently so it escaped notice from about 5 folks who had solved it. When I balked on a correction that would have resulted in a dread EIO, Patrick totally reworked that corner for me in about 23 seconds! Damn, he's good!)

LOVE being part of this community, and where WOULD we be without Will?

R.I.P. Teddy, Viva Will!

John 2:40 PM  

Re: Chicago Cubs Station, Thought " Is Wrigley Field a stop on the EL?"

Thought the puzzle was fairly easy today. No real problems.

jae 2:43 PM  

I thought this was on the easy side for a Wed. although, knowing stuff like POLECAT, SIMS, and WGN helped. The only answers new to me were PICOT and LAR. Ok puzzle, not great but not awful.

I remember station KYW in Cleveland, OH as an exception to the W=East, K=West rule.

Time to print out Andrea's.

PurpleGuy 2:48 PM  

@Elaine- thank you for the clarification. With @ArtLvr I really have no idea what my brain was thinking of with PICOT as thread. I blame it on the Phoenix heat !!!!!!!!

@Shamik - small world is right. My brother and family moved here from Suffolk County on L.I.

Funny puzzle, Andrea ! Thanks !

Thanks, too, for the link Rex !

sanfranman59 2:57 PM  

Wednesday midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Wed 10:28, 12:26, 0.84, 16%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:26, 6:05, 0.89, 22%, Easy-Medium

Aviatrix 3:02 PM  

I 'finished' the puzzle in record (for me) time and then had to find the error. I had NEWART for Dada, in the sense that one's grandad considers everything since the big band era to be "that new music the kids are listening to these days." I was quite happy with YAE for a Chinese guy, and any old three letters starting with K or W for a radio station. After I corrected YAO I changed it to NOTART, thinking "That's a really intolerant art critic." But now I see that Dada practitioners considered it "anti-art" so it's a pretty solid clue.

Chopsticks is definitely the weakest of the theme answers. By the time filled it in from crosses I had forgot it was one. In my experience a city Chinese restaurant will provide chopsticks on the table, and diners have to ask for a fork. In small towns its the other way around.

Thanks for the writeup Rex.

poc 3:07 PM  

@Elaine: You ask why RAM is badly clued. Let me put it this way: what answer would you give to "Car capacity"? Size of the gas tank? Number of passengers? Range? Top speed? Number of gears? Number of doors? If someone asked the "capacity" of my computer, I'd ask them what they meant, but by default I'd assume they were talking about how much hard disk it had, or failing that, how fast was its cpu.

william e emba 3:22 PM  

Well, this was my second fastest Wednesday (the fastest was that freak easy one a month ago that was too easy for Monday even). But I got one mistake. I had NON-ART--NOT ART did not even occur to me. I of course had TAKE MY WIFE. But crossing the unknown station W?N with the unknown band EA?LES, I guessed R and did not look back. Somewhere in the back of my memory the existence of a band named EAGLES does ring a bell. But nowhere does a station WGN mean anything to me.

I think POLECAT = SKUNK is a Southern dialect thing.

Clark 3:23 PM  

@Andrea -- I thoroughly enjoyed the Happy Birthday Will puzzle. (Happy Birthday Will.) BUT, I feel compelled to say (we ALUMS take an oath to defend this point before we go out into the world) that there is no University of Indiana. It's Indiana University.

Aviatrix 3:26 PM  

P.S. You guys know that POLECAT is just a regional word for skunk, right? I think goats are smellier. Skunks smell fine as long as they keep their scent on themselves.

Elaine 3:33 PM  

Thanks, poc.
I think.
I hate even to mention that I don't know enough to quite get your answer, which I am sure is correct. does illustrate that sometimes a bad clue elicits the desired answer in a lg segment of the puzzling population.

The car question-- I would assume mpg, which is everyone's obsession these days. But I keep CARS in the same drawer with COMPUTERS...things my husband is supposed to keep running and not bother me about.
Except if there is a decision about color.

Elaine 3:37 PM  

If I knew how to (a) find a film clip and (b) link to it, I would send you guys to "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," a Fifties musical in which the seven brothers sing, "I'm a Lonesome Polecat."

Howard Keel, Jane Powell, Julie Newmar (of all people), and Russ Tamblyn.

Like Cherry Mash, polecat is not necessarily Southern...though I've known a few.

Jim in Chicago 3:53 PM  


Wrigley Field IS indeed a stop on the EL, although the station is named Addison after the street. you can see the park and certainly hear the crowd roar from the station. The Sox fare a little better since the stop is actually called Sox/35th. If the Cubs ever field a decent team, Chicago would be perfect for an EL series, since both stops are even on the same line (red).

For a bit of Chicago trivia, the line which is now call the Red line used to have A stops and B stops, with all trains not stopping at all stops. Addison was either A or B (can't remember which) but on game days all trains stopped there, managing to confuse everyone.

In addition to WGN - for World's Greatest Newspaper, Chicago also had WLS which broadcast from Marshall Field's (RIP - a moment of silence please) and WLS stood for World's Largest Store.

william e emba 4:05 PM  

Speaking of "Lonesome POLECAT", well, that just reminded me, he was a character in Al Capp's Li'l Abner. He and Hairless Joe were the makers of Kickapoo Joy Juice.

chefbea 4:20 PM  

@Elaine Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was the first movie my parents took me to see. I still remember it.
I'll have to look it up to see what year it was.

Anonymous 4:30 PM  

I was surprised to see that the dislike of "CHOPSTICKS, please" was virtually unanimous. It is a request I often make at Asian restaurants where chopsticks are optional. And I do add, "please".

For food that comes in bite-size chunks, as much Asian food does, chopsticks feel appropriate as an extension of one's fingers.

Ulrich 4:40 PM  

@Andrea: Thanks--and I'm sooooo glad that you resisted the temptation to clue German "dance" via Düsseldorf, that poor excuse for a city 30 mi. down the river from us--it would have marred an otherwise charming puzzle

@archaeoprof: I really, really don't like German xword puzzles when they have the clues written into the neighboring black squares. Even if the puzzle occupies a whole page to make the squares larger, the clues have to be as short as possible--you couldn't do the play with words we love to see, especially later in the week.

Polecat = skunk--who would've known? The things one learns here...

treedweller 4:41 PM  

When I entered CHOPSTICKS, I already had Für ELISE and SONATA and thought an elaborate TWOFER theme would EMERGE, but the only other link I can find to pianos is the tenuous SACRED (hymns). And perhaps TOLERANT to describe millions of piano teachers who have listened to millions of painful renditions of the above.

I didn't make the NOtART mistake, but did carelessly put in DVD, giving me OdSINO. Should have known DVR, but ORSINO is still a mystery. If I'd checked, I'm pretty sure Odsino still would have looked wrong.

Another TREES disappointingly clued as the "family" type. Otherwise, a fine Wed. puzzle for me.

Crosscan 4:59 PM  

I am stunned that some people don't seem to know the EAGLES.

@andrea - great puzzle. It's my birthday tomorrow. hint.hint.

Gotta run. Waiter, the CHOPSTICKS, please!


archaeoprof 5:05 PM  

@Ulrich: the puzzle I worked (in the Mannheimer Morgen) was just like you describe. And with the clues printed in the black squares, it didn't really seem to have a shape of its own. But it was fun to try, and to get some answers right.

@Crosscan: I guess the EAGLES must never have been on the Simpsons...

Ulrich 5:07 PM  

I keep on forgetting to mention why I remember Orsino: His opening lines in Twelfth Night are my favorite opening lines in all of Shakespeare:

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:

Anonymous 5:07 PM  

I notice the NYT blog ripped off the birthday puzzle without even crediting Rex. Shameless.

andrea iou michaels 5:18 PM  

@anonymous 5:07pm
no, no, no! I sent it there first to make sure Will saw! I did it so last minute I wasn't sure I could bother/presume Rex to also link to it!!!

Yikes!!! Great catch! THANK YOU!
(I had just assumed folks who graduated from Indiana University would be too polite to mention that!)
(I will correct it for the hard card version)

It was Orange who brilliantly pointed out that I could change TAIZ/IOTA to TANZ/NOTA!!!
TAIZ was my one Yeeech fill that was actually in the database as a city in Southwestern Yemen
(I'm sure I don't need to tell YOU that, meine schoen klein stunkheitlich polekatz!)


william e emba 5:19 PM  

I am stunned that some people don't seem to know the EAGLES.

Well, some people are aware of The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Grateful Dead, Chicago Transit Authority, the Archies, and Josie and the Pussycats. After that it gets a little fuzzy.

Glitch 5:34 PM  


I agree with @poc re RAM (Random Access Memory).

It's almost like SEATS being the answer to "Car's Capacity?" --- if that helps.

Perhaps "PC Component" would have been better cluing.


George NYC 5:47 PM  

Specs for a computer typically focus on CPU speed, hard drive capacity, and amount of RAM, e.g. "4 gigs RAM." A customer will ask "how much RAM does that laptop come with?" Taken in that context, I feel the clue is OK. It's less than perfect, but so are a lot of crossword clues.

edith b 6:02 PM  

WGN is one of those pieces of information I accumulated over the years under the general heading "Did you know that...?" that used to drive my parents crazy. I read an article about radio stations that explained that WGN stood for World's Greatest Newspaper and WLS, also a 50000 Watt radio station, also in Chicago, stood for Worlds Largest Store (Sears). I thought it odd that 2 radio stations in Chicago had call letter that stood for something as most other stations name their station after the call letters.

Curious. To me,anyway. Knocked the NONART/NOTART dilemma into a cocked hat.

foodie 7:12 PM  

THAR reminded me that my father-in-law, an old fashioned southern gentleman, says "yonder". My son when he was 3 would say: I left my ball out yonder. Cracked me up.

@Elaine: Tricot comes from French and means "knit". Tricoter is to knit and it starts from yarn, and so there is tricot thread. I think that the nylon part of it is a relatively knew twist.

@Andrea, that was so much fun! It was like you had been saving all these cool words with this rare letter and uzed them as a perfect gift for the occasion. Will should feel warm and fuzzzy all over.

chefwen 7:18 PM  

@Andrea - Thanks for the great "Wills Birthday Party Puzzle"
It was a lot of fun to do, and I am amazed at how all y'all banded together to get it done in such a shortz amount of time, KUDOS!

jae 7:57 PM  

@Andrea -- Very cute and fun/funny!

Elaine 8:37 PM  

Fun to round out one's knowledge--Tricot (of course, it sounds French! but I recall having to break it to my daughter than Juliet's name was not pronounced "Cap-u-LAY"... which would have been right, except it was not.
I doubt anyone thinks of tricot as anything but the knit-fabric product.

Crosswords are interesting in that in one sense they call for "convergent thinking"--what most people would think of-- and on the other hand, "divergent thinking" is necessary if one is to solve for the tricky, unusual, or original answers.
Since TRICOT could not have fit, that was out of the question from the first, so no way thinking of "thread" would have made any difference.
And the clue was still wrong-headed, IMHO.

mac 9:18 PM  

@Andrea: you may have to embroider that endearment for Ulrich and send it to him!
Got the pics and liked the wrapping paper!

dk 9:24 PM  

@jae, Andrea is very cute and funny.

Glitch 9:31 PM  

@George nyc

"PC capacity" is not RAM, it's, as you indicate "4 gigs OF RAM".

RAM by itself is no indication of "capacity".


Actually you will find that most call letters are like car vanity plates, they do mean something.

@Bob K (as long as I'm here):

While it's not legally required that call letters change with sales, they generally are for the reason above.

Call signs are like internet domain names, they are independent of the site (station) itself, and you can "buy" either one or both.

WOR held out and lost as WWOR
was available.

Now, back to the party.


Glitch 9:52 PM  

@George in nyc

After thinking about it some more, if posed as a question, I don't disagree with your comment.


fergus 10:37 PM  

Didn't want to spoil Andrea's puzzle for those who hadn't done it earlier, but I did want to say how much I enjoyed the inappropriateness of all those repeated letter entries. I realize why I found them so amusing, but it would be hard to explain fully.

Whipping up a Crosscan puzzle on 12 hours' notice would be a tall order, but theme ideas must be apopping nevertheless.

JannieB 10:54 PM  

Just so we pass the century mark, enjoyed today's entry, and especially Andrea's lagniappe. Best wishes to Will and Crosscan - hope there's a Expo themed puzzle in your gift bag.

sanfranman59 11:27 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:18, 6:58, 0.90, 26%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:22, 8:31, 0.98, 50%, Medium
Wed 10:46, 12:27, 0.86, 16%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:25, 3:42, 0.92, 29%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:13, 4:23, 0.96, 46%, Medium
Wed 5:11, 6:04, 0.86, 18%, Easy

Stan 11:32 PM  

@andrea: Loved the Short(z) puzzle, which I printed out and did on the beach. Seemed appropriate to both of you.

@william e emba: I'm so pleased that your list of significant bands included the Archies. Have you been doing BEQ puzzles lately?

william e emba 11:45 AM  

I'm so pleased that your list of significant bands included the Archies. Have you been doing BEQ puzzles lately?

Only in the NYT. Really, I know of them more from the comics, and if I had forgotten them, well, Archie has just this month proposed to Veronica, breaking Betty's heart and all (and apparently Jughead isn't too thrilled either), so I'm up to speed on them. (In a testudinal sense, of course.)

Anonymous 10:43 AM  

my first thought on chopsticks was cold drinks!

Singer 12:18 PM  

Rex, thanks for the added paragraph for those of us in syndication land. I will check out the charity and make a contribution.

I had the same difficulties as Rex getting going in the NW. I knew the Hamlet reference was Act something. Couldn't make one or two work, so waited until later. I wanted Marty for Ernest Borgnine, and so had to wait there also. It did eventually shake together.

I had no trouble at all with WGN. It is in our basic cable package even here in remote Portland, Oregon.

My biggest complaint was with the LAR / MINEOLA cross. For a NON New Yorker, MINEOLA is just an obscure small town somewhere. I wanted Lir for the god - hey Lir is a god, just not Roman, so ended up with Mineoli, which sounded plausible. I guess if I had done it on the computer, I would have known there was an error, but didn't know the mistake until I read the blog.

The Eagles controversy brings up a memory for me. I never was into rock music, so only know the most famous or infamous rockers and groups. But I do know the Eagles because about 10 years ago they came to Portland to do a concert. The thing that bugged the heck out of me was that tickets started at $150 and went up, and they sold out an arena. My choral group sells tickets for $10 - $30 and we have a venue that is much smaller, and yet people would say "but you are so expensive". Dang, how can $10 be expensive for a world class chorus when $150 is not expensive for a second tier rock band?

Rant over.

Whitney 2:59 PM  

Seems like a few of us syndicated puzzlers are in Portland (or near Portland)! I have a theory that it's because the Oregonian also has the Chicago Tribune's (I believe) Wayne Robert Williams's puzzle as well - which is pretty OK compared to, say, the LA Times. So we get two puzzles to do every day in the paper that we already pay for :)

I was pleased as punch at having POLECAT in the puzzle. Just a few weeks ago my boyfriend's parents were visiting from Houston, TX and explained that in the South skunks are POLECATS. Fascinating.

Also, I am excited for today! It's raining which means business will be slow and I now have three puzzles to work on; Andrea's, BEQ's and the Jonesin' crossword from Monday. Plus, I always get excited when there's a note to us in syndication. I am totally signing up for Berlin's Game Night Crosswords. Thanks for thinking of us, Rex!

Whitney 2:59 PM  

Oh, snap. Just realized the Game Night Crosswords was back in August. Oh, well. Next time :)

rivalsan 5:08 PM  

I'm not the only one who went 'Huh?' at the chopsticks one I'm glad to see. I've never had to ask for chopsticks.. I got really stuck on 'polecat' because for 'Sacred Cow' I had 'Sacred Vow'.. Which seemed to fit more to me.. Until I realized that
'po l v t' wasn't getting me anywhere. I'm SURE its been said somewhere already, but thats another word for 'skunk', which made me then go 'Sacred cow'? Whut?

Anonymous 2:08 AM  

RAM (random access memory) and ROM (read-only memory) are certainly hardware components. So many megabytes or gigabytes of RAM are a meqasure of its capacity so the 20A clue is wrong even tho the answer is readily discernible.

35 years in IT

Marcie 5:38 PM  

In Southern California we don't wear ponchos in rainy season. We wear panchos. It has been that way since back in the day when the LA majority became the minority. I don't mind wearing a pancho, however. It beats wearing a slicker and galoshes!

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