Shield border — WEDNESDAY, Aug. 12 2009 — Novel of 1851 / Warhol associate Sedgwick / Eponymous French physicist / Onetime Asiatic nomads

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Constructors: Peter A. Collins and Joe Krozel

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: MOBY-DICK (9A: With 59-Across, novel of 1851) — with appearances by GREAT WHITE WHALE (6D: 9- & 59-Across), CAPTAIN AHAB (31A: Character in 9- & 59-Across) and the first line of "MOBY-DICK" ("Call me Ishmael"), appearing on a SLANT from the NW to the SE corner (54A: Incline (and a hint to the location in this completed puzzle of the first line of 9- & 59- Across))

Word of the Day: ORLE (15A: Shield border)1.(Her.) A bearing, in the form of a fillet, round the shield, within, but at some distance from, the border. (

It's 1:24 a.m. and I'm jetlagged, having traveled all day back from Colorado. I should be wiped out — passed out, face down, on my bed with my wounded by recovering nicely dog. But wrestling with my internet connection for half an hour (it's back now, clearly) has me well and truly awake, and so I'm writing. I won't write much, for fear of utter incoherence and/or offensiveness I might regret in the morning.

And now, an epistolary interlude:

Dear NYT puzzle website person,

Get the @#$#ing AcrossLite version up by 10pm. I was traveling all day today, so maybe there was a memo I missed explaining this lateness, but this is the second night in a row when the puzzle was not available for download when it was supposed to be (10pm). I tried at 1 am. No dice. I pay for my puzzle to be there at 10pm. Get it there at 10pm. (I ended up downloading a bootleg copy from crosswordfiend.)

Signed, RP

This puzzle must have begun with the rather serendipitous discovery that GREAT WHITE WHALE, CAPTAIN AHAB, and "Call me Ishmael" are all phrases the have "I" as their central letter. Was that enough to build a puzzle around? I guess. Wish there was something SLANT-related to make the prominence of the word SLANT in the cluing make sense. Wish I hadn't MOIRES (9D: Shimmery fabrics) and ORLE (15A: Shield border) and YESSED (12D: Assented) (!?) at all, let alone all crammed in the same corner. No HATRED for this one (44A: "_____ is gained as much by good works as by evil"). Just a shrug and a yawn — but keep in mind, I am vERY vERY tired (22A: Fish tail?).


  • 18A: Head of the Egyptian god Thoth (ibis) — part of the NE corner, which was for me, by far, the thorniest.
  • 21A: Sig Ep and others (frats) — puzzle seems to be really enjoying the Greek life of late. That, and TETR (33D: Numerical prefix with oxide).
  • 25A: Stylize anew, as a car seat (retrim) — another unfortunate entry. "Car seat" means only "child seat" to me, and I wondered (possibly aloud) by anyone would trick out a child seat.
  • 29A: Warhol associate _____ Sedgwick (Edie) — see also Brickell and Falco. I always think this Warholian EDIE is an EVIE.
  • 30A: Israel's Barak and Olmert (Ehuds) — that's right, plural.
  • 50A: Simon Says players, say (apers) — I like to imagine that the game went horribly wrong, inspiring 4A: Playground shout ("Fight!").
  • 57A: Lumberjack competition (roleo) — Roleo, roleo, wherefore art thou roleo? Seriously, wherefore? It's a stupid name.
  • 5D: They're served with spoon-straws (icees) — SPOON-STRAW would make a good answer.
  • 13D: Eponymous French physicist (Ampère) — up there in the advanced math/science portion of the puzzle along with ANALYTIC Geometry (2D: _____ Geometry (college course)).
  • 21D: High-school class, informally (frosh) — tricky cluing there, with class referring to a grade level, not a course.
  • 28D: Onetime Asiatic nomads (Huns) — I like the sound of this clue. You don't see the phrase "Asiatic nomads" too often these days.
  • 45D: Rambler maker, once: Abbr. (AMC) — get GMC and AMC confused.
  • 52D: Start of an incantation (abra) — weird that this can stand alone. It's not a separate word. Can I clue MASSACHU as [Start of an eastern state]?

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. hey syndicated solvers: Today (9/16) is the birthday of a certain crossword constructor friend of mine. Caleb Madison and I made him a puzzle as a gift. I wanted to let you all have it now, while it's still actually Kevin's birthday.

Here it is, enjoy.

[AcrossLite and .pdf version available here.

You can also print it out very easily, below (just click on "More" and then "Print")]

Across Lite - Happy Birthday, Kevin


pednsg 2:52 AM  

Welcome back! I hope your pooch is on the mend, and I hope you get some sleep.

I thought this was hard for a Wednesday, but I loved it just the same. Never read the book on which it's based, but I thought the construction was wonderful. I also thought the NE was a booger, and managed correct guesses (rhymes with YESSES) on the few blanks in MOIRES, ORLE, and IBIS, some of which I may have seen in puzzles past, but not recently. Also guessed the first letter in IRENIC, figuring that the cross must have something to do with anise. And I've never heard of CRECHE, but sometimes, it's better to be lucky!

I'm going to fall asleep listening to St. Stephen, one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands. Night, all.

qv 4:28 AM  

Moiré has an acute, crèche has a grave, so they don't really cross on the same letter, do they. Pedantic, moi?

Greene 6:02 AM  

Well, at least I had the sense to just proceed straight to the applet last night instead of waiting around for the stupid Across-Lite version to appear. Of course, when you're a pokey solver like me, you have to try to ignore all those names which keep appearing to the right of the applet as the speed solvers WHOOSH by.

At the end of the day, this was a very straightforward puzzle which had me in fits. I had SCANNED instead of SCOURED and ANOMERIC instead of ANALYTIC and...well, lots of stupid errors like that. I resolve to learn how to spell MOIRES and ANISETTE and remember ROLEO the next time it appears.

Here's a little something from Broadway song and dance man Jerry ORBACH. I feel better now.

Anonymous 6:53 AM  

Sorry Rex. I am in awe of the construction.

Oscar 7:28 AM  

Had every theme answer in place within 30 seconds, with no crossings. Went ahead with the rest of the puzzle anyway, and it had *way* too much junk in it. Guess working around diagonal theme entries is harder than it looks.

Crosscan 7:30 AM  

Not much funnier than a tired Rex.

I did this puzzle tired.

So I decided it was GREAT WHITE SHARK (only 3 letters off) but then it would have to be MOBY Jaws and CALL ME IDIOTIC. And does what a good dog does becomes BIKES. See, you can make a puzzle out of all that.

Took a while to figure out AHAB's first name - oh, CAPTAIN.

Maybe I was drunk, not tired.

joho 8:31 AM  

I really like this puzzle. I look for Wednesdays to have something special going on just like CALLMEISHMAEL on a slant. Lovely.

My toughest part of the puzzle was the NW. I was surprised to see ORLE. That is an old standby from way back when. And it's the word of the day! See, what's old is new again.

Once I got MOBY DICK I WHOOSHED through the puzzle and enjoyed it very much. I should mention I wasn't tired or drunk while solving, which has to be a plus.

Thank you Peter & Joe!

Blue Stater 8:37 AM  

I still don't get the SLANT business, although I got the answer from the crosses. Where are the letters supposed to be located?

This was typical of the puzzles I've really come to dislike in the WS era -- the emphasis was on tricks and marginal words and definitions, rather than substance. Oh well. I've had my Manny puzzle for this month (or year).

JJAudubon 8:37 AM  

Agreed about the general ugliness of the NE, took me way to long to back away from EDENIC instead of IRENIC, but what mostly irked me most was that swallows don't eat BIRDSEED. They don't, they eat bugs and maybe fruit. Ok, some orithologic sites mention that some African swallows may have been seen eating Acacia seeds, possibly, but swallows do not swallow birdseeds.

bluebird7 8:37 AM  

You must know this by now -- the "slant" feature refers to the fact that first line in book,"Call me Ishmael", reads on a SLANT from NW to SE in the puzzle. Pretty darn clever puzzle construction,eh what?

Bob S.

nanpilla 9:07 AM  

I have a HATRED for doing a puzzle on the computer, but I refused to stay up late once again waiting to be able to print it out. Very clever construction which led to unfortunate fill in places. In my book, it was worth the FIGHT, but not stellar. ROLEO was new to me, and I'd forgotten ORLE.

fikink 9:09 AM  

Wow! A puzzle like this is precisely why I do not attempt to speed-solve. To me, the fill was so far from rote, and getting the theme took me all over the grid that my experience was more of mosaicist than someone filling out a job application.
@foodie, you would appreciate this - I discovered today that knowing the increasing difficulty of the puzzle as we go from Monday to Saturday, my awareness that it was Wednesday became a factor - a hindrance, really - in completing the puzzle. Thing began to emerge and I would reject them because it was ONLY Wednesday, after all; things like, CRECHE, ORLE, MOIRES, IRENIC...IRENIC???!

A truly lovely puzzle, so nice on a Wednesday.
Thank you Peter Collins and Joe Krozel!

Brendan Emmett Quigley 9:16 AM  

I think Steve Miller is on my top 5 worst ever musicians list. Just sayin'.


JannieB 9:28 AM  

@joho - you and I had similar experiences today. NW was more trouble than the NE, and once I got the book title, the rest was easy - but getting that title took a bit longer than usual for a Wednesday.

Liked a lot of the fill - really enjoyed this one - an above-average puzzle for a Wednesday.

Adam 9:38 AM  

Doesn't creativity in the theme and "getting everything to fit" count for something? This puzzle is a "wow" in my book. Maybe some of the fill was so-so, but c'mon, they got the two long theme answers and the upwards diagonal slant to fit, and even fit the moby and dick in there. Kudos to the constructors! Reminds me of the Merle Reagle Sunday "Simpsons" puzzle, but on a smaller scale. I call is a great Wednesday puzzle.

XMAN 9:41 AM  

I'm with BEQ on that one. I'd never heard Steve Miller before, but 35" into the cut I was overtaken by a wave of disbelief that any song could be so trite. Oooh, that was way too much about nothing.

I enjoyed this puzzle. It gave me, at first, a giddy feeling, as of disconnection, then led me on to a triumphal rush through the grid.

PIX 9:50 AM  

Impressive puzzle.

It's a myth that Moby Dick begins with "Call me Ishmael". It really begins with 20 or so pages of really really boring details about whales. This is one of those classic books, that few people have actually slogged their way through...(my advice, don't bother...boring)

@Retired Chemist: concerning 33D...Tetroxide vs. Tetraoxide? is there a difference? tetraoxide sure sounds better to me.

des 9:52 AM  

Like many, the NE took a while, but once I got the book title the puzzle became a Wednesday puzzle, with lots of easy fill. Any comments about the clue for the book (from 1851)? Does this mean written in 1851? Takes place in 1851? For me, a non-English major, 1851 was no help and I had to get the title from the crosses.

I was sure the word of day would be ROLEO - never heard of it. Or how about RELO? ORLE is just old crosswordese.

As usual, I didn't even understand the theme or see "CALL ME ISMAEL" until I came here. Very impressive that Rex got that on so little sleep.

Ulrich 9:58 AM  

Count me among those who really loved the puzzle--very tightly constructed, interesting theme, executed competently. Count me also among those for WHOM the NW corner was the toughest--the NE was the first to fall, after I had guessed the novel w/o crosses.

Quibble: I have never seen any self-respecting swallow eating bird seed.

@qv: You should have read my numerous rants against crossing a vowel with an umlaut with one that has no umlaut (i.e. a German word with an English word AT the umlaut)--same goes for Spanish words with tildes etc

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

@BEQ....utterly, shamelessly, unconditionally agree in re: the awfulness of Steve Miller. Try instead (for 45D - "Rambler maker") Shellac's "Rambler Song"

Glitch 10:15 AM  


Until R_C shows up,

TETRAOXIDE: Alternative spelling of tetroxide


Anonymous 10:17 AM  

@ Ulrich... I agree a swallow wouldn't be caught dead eating birdseed. The Gold medal winner in 1960 was Clay. Clue should have read gold medalist now. Just a nit or two. Golfballman.

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

@ Ulrich... I agree a swallow wouldn't be caught dead eating birdseed. The Gold medal winner in 1960 was Clay. Clue should have read gold medalist now. Just a nit or two. Golfballman.

PlantieBea 10:22 AM  

Glad I didn't wait up to print this puzzle from AL--I am irked. I liked this puzzle although after trying without success to find the hidden line on the wide SW to NE diagonal, I came here.

That darned car seat was thorny. I tried RETOOL and DETAIL before the correct answer filled in through the crosses.

Favorite answers include ACRID, ANISETTE, FATHOM, MARTYR, ANALYTICAL and the whole CAPTAIN AHAB grouping. Did not know ROLEO, ORLE, EHUD or IRENIC offhand, but was able to figure them out easily enough.

Terrible Steve Miller earworm. I think I only ever liked Children of the Future and Space Cowboy--and that was in junior high.

edith b 10:24 AM  

I would bet that the discrepancy between the number of people who have heard of MOBYDICK to those who have actually READ it is large indeed.

I had SWOOSHED at 27A which gave me SH*T in the middle of the puzzle which I stared at for ever so long and prevented me from seeing the obvious. I'm not sure if it was the puzzle or just me but I had a hard time with what was essentially an easy puzzle.

On the other hand, I don't play Wordsearch so I had to come here to get to the bottom of what turned out to be a typical Krozel creation.

hazel 10:28 AM  

Unbelievable puzzle!! And serendipity indeed!!

Love the *I* at the center of the puzzle where Ishmael, Captain Ahab, and Moby Dick cross. The concept of *I* is, of course, one of the great themes of Moby Dick - so the fact that its the hub in the big wheel of Captain Ahab, Moby, and Ishmael is astounding to me.

So what if there are a couple of minor words that sort of suck, good grief just skip over of them and revel in all the other ones that just rock - especially those intersecting theme words. Unbelievable.

@Rex - I would have preferred a little Moby over the Steve Miller Band, who sucks, so I did just skip over him!

Ulrich 10:28 AM  

About Moby Dick: The narrative is straightforward (and, to me, very compelling, with memorable set pieces) until Ishmael and Queequeg hire on on the Pequod, and then it breaks, as digression is piled upon digression, only to resume in the last chapters describing the hunt and the sinking of the ship. This is what I read (can't remember where): It started out as a novella, whose plot still can be gleaned in the beginning and last chapters, and then grew into what we have now--an unstructured, formless mess for the detractors and a rich, complex tapestry woven around the theme of whaling for the defenders. I belong actually more to the second group b/c I find it addictive reading, like the works of other "plotless" authors like W.E. Sebald or Barbara Pym (who have nothing in common than being addictive for me).

Be this as it may, I always wondered why nobody has tried to dig out the original novella from underneath the pile--it seems that this would require not much more than eliminating the digressions. It would be interesting to see how this would read...

@Rex: I'm also glad that your dog is recuperating--you're the third person I know whose dog has been attacked that way.

JJAudubon!!!!!! 10:28 AM  

Hey! I'm John James Friggin Audubon, I made a definitive post about swallows not eating BIRDSEED, and Ulrich gets the credit? I'm John James Friggin Audubon!!!!

foodie 10:43 AM  

I greatly admired the construction without loving the puzzle. Did great on the NW and slowed down considerably in the NE. Note that the theme answers themselves are on a SLANT...Once you figure out MOBY DICK, it unfolds much more easily, but I still hesitated in a number of places which I found awkward, noted by Rex.

@finkink, I agree that knowing the day sets a context that may either help or hinder. When I'm solving in one of the NYTimes books, I find myself wishing that Will would indicate the day of the week and even the year. But it's also interesting to solve "blind" and see how much that affects the experience.

@Rex, we're on a short visit to Chicago and ate at a really wonderful, (mostly) vegetarian restaurant. I thought of you. I highly recommend it: "The Green Zebra".

Two Ponies 10:54 AM  

Quite a feat of construction.
I got the theme answers WAY before some of that ugly &/or obscure fill.
I did like roleo even though I have never heard of it. I'm assuming it is a play on the word rodeo and involves rolling floating logs.
Fight is much more lively than the usual playground fills : am too, are not, etc.
Chris Rea was a new twist over the same old Stephen clues.
I don't think a swallow has a beak capable of cracking seeds but I understand the fun of the clue so it is forgiven.
The movie Moby Dick with Gregory Peck is a great classic film.
Despite some of the painful moments I give this one a thumbs up.
I can't stand Steve Miller.

mccoll 10:59 AM  

What a great puzzle! I didn't post Monday and Tuesday because they seemed so dull, but this was wonderfully constructed. I BLITHEly whipped through the NE with the help of MOBY and ORBACH and the rest was actually easy even for a Wednesday.I didn't catch on to the SLANTed reference until I had finished, mind you. Great job Joe and Peter.
Pix is right about the introduction to the novel. It's just a huge list wherein Melville displays his erudition about whaling and the south seas. The first line of the narrative is "Call me Ishmael", however. Melville falls into the erudition thing quite often during the book, interrupting the flow of the narrative, but it is worth it IMO. Moby Dick is a lot more than the story of Ahab and the Whale. Melville made a major contribution to the development of the novel form.

fikink 11:16 AM  

Quite coincidentally, my word-of-the-day today is "birl"which is a verb meaning: To rotate (a floating log) by running on it in place.

hmmm...BIRL - good crossword fill.

@TwoPonies, I bet you are right about the derivation of ROLEO.

HudsonHawk 11:18 AM  

I hit on the theme right away and this one still took awhile. Impressive construction, OK fill.

I agree with all that's been said about swallows, and loved Mr. Audubon's rant. I also second golfballman--Cassius Clay won the gold medal in 1960 long before he was ALI.

I had F_G_T for the "Playground shout" and momentarily thought of something completely inappropriate.

Steve Miller's having a tough day here in Rexworld. I like a lot of his music. As for ABRAcadabra--egads, it's horrendous.

Anne 11:22 AM  

@Rex, I am so glad to hear your dog is recovering. I hear this kind of story way too often.

As for the puzzle, it was harder than usual and I really liked it. I didn't get the theme until I made my way to Ahab, right about the time I was thinking that swallows don't eat birdseed.

It seems to me that the mystique surrounding Moby Dick is greater than the actual book. I love that line - Call me Ishmael - and the character's names and the idea of fighting a whale. But the tale loses something as the story proceeds with all those details as was noted in an earlier post.

And I love the word roleo.

jae still in ipswich 11:24 AM  

Add me to those who liked/were impressed with this one. No problems with NE but NW was a little tricky. Like JJAu..I also had EDENIC for a while. That said, there is a nice symmetry between IRENIC and BLITHE. Oh, and thanks JJ for telling me something I didn't know about swallows long before Ulrich did.

retired_chemist 11:32 AM  

@ Glitch and Pix - yup. Either TETROXIDE or TETRAOXIDE works, depending more or less on history.

The former is more common in actual compound names, and the latter is what you are more likely to say when referring in general to species with four oxygens. We had ruthenium day a few months ago - RuO4 is ruthenium tetroxide.

More later after I have digested all the blog comments. The Across Lite debacle and the need for a decent night's sleep has me checking in late.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 11:44 AM  

@COIXT RECORDS: Love Shellac. Saw them a couple times when they had just put out "The Bird is the Most Popular Finger."

retired_chemist 11:47 AM  

I liked this puzzle but was not enamored. The "theme" was a feat of construction which, because of its obscurity, was largely irrelevant to the solving experience (as Rex said more charitably). Medium here too.

Thought of IBIS @ 18A bit didn't put it in before a couple of crosses. Had GULE tentatively @ 15A - must review things medieval at some point. Or not. MOIRES and ORBACH set me straight easily. FRATS reminded me of that notorious recent Sunday puzzle.

40A was AMARETTO with the correct ANISETTE at the ready if called for by the crosses. And so it was.

A pleasant blend of gimmes and words I needed crosses for, which makes a fun solve.

Denise 11:47 AM  

I actually read (a lot of) the book, as an English major in the late 60s -- but it took me way too long to figure this all out.

Part of the problem is that my biorhythm now requires that I do the puzzle BEFORE I sleep, not after . . .

Blanche 11:53 AM  

I love this puzzle. It's amazingly constructed, and the idea of building an entire puzzle around the ego is a stroke of genius. I feel a bit sorry for those speed-solvers who don't sit back and relish every little revelation as they go along. You don't know what you're missing, guys!

Henry Shapiro 12:04 PM  

35D "What a swallow may swallow" -- somebody needs to consult a good bird book. Swallows don't eat birdseed. They catch bugs on the fly.

Peter 12:14 PM  

This just goes to show that no matter how clever you think you are, there is always a bit of cleverness on the table left to be had. After finishing the puzzle, one of my colleagues, after picking up on the SLANT thing, started searching diagonals. She found SEAS going from the S in OBEYS up and to the left to the initial S in SHOWCASES. If Joe or I had seen that, we really could've had some fun writing a convoluted clue.

Pete Collins

chefbea 12:22 PM  

Good puzzle but I agree it took longer than the usual Wednesday. Couldn't find Call me Ishmael til I came here

Love anisette. Don't like baklava and of course everyone knows that when you make a cake you have to beet the ingredients.

charlie 12:23 PM  

diagonal entries are not new, and i'm not convinced, why is the diagongal there (except that the letters intersected..?) the best puzzle of this genre was made by Nancy Salomon and Bill Zais (NYT, 12/1/99). it's brilliant. if you've not solved it, don't miss it! double *wow* from Salomon/Zais

Whitestag 12:32 PM  

For whatever reason, I got NW almost immediately and SW last. BIRDSEED bothered me -- swallows swallow insects, not seeds.

Anonymous 12:39 PM  

OK everybody, we get it about the swallows already.

still_learnin 12:43 PM  

For me, most of the fill was easy... except for the theme-related items. I had DICK, but not MOBY for the longest time and just couldn't get the right synapses to fire. How many famous 1851 novels have DICK in the title, after all? <== (he he, he just said DICK!).

ROLEO was a new one for me. Wouldn't want to wear a ROLEX while competing in a ROLEO.

Finally, Steve Miller is an excellent musician... but the only material of his that seems to sell is the bad stuff, IMHO.

still_learnin 12:43 PM  
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still_learnin 12:43 PM  
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ArtLvr 12:44 PM  

Excellent puzzle today, IMHO! I began in NAPOLI and the SW corner, so with DICK at the bottom the rest was a snap. FATHOM was a great bonus in the historic sense of a measure of ocean depth, and SCOURED too hints of obsessive watery search...

I agree with Two Ponies that "What a swallow may swallow" should have the ornithologic inaccuracy noted but then overlooked as the word-play intent was obvious. Over-picky constraints on constructors would dampen their pleasure, to our loss as well.

In the same vein, I would urge a let-up in berating our authors for ignoring diacritical marks: xwords obviously are all spelled in capital letters anyway, and French at least allows for the omission of the marks in the upper case. It's the exercise of the Expired Equine... though we've enjoyed comments of Ulrich and others on the inadvertent changes of meaning.

I'd also plead for a moratorium on the word in the clue for 13A, "eponymous". Will??? The crossing of MOAN with AMPERE says it all, (see expired equine example above).

p.s. The demise of the GREAT WHITE WHALE might have been the Ultimate ROLEO, cinematically...


Orange 12:45 PM  

MASSACHU, Rex? Now I want to see a puzzle built around PIKACHUSETTS.

Mike 12:58 PM  

I got the MOBY DICK/CAPTAIN AHAB/GREAT WHITE WHALE easy enough. Didnt really understand what the incline was all about until I got here, thanks Rex. RETRIM was awful. In the middle of Dublin there is St Stephens Green... tried hard to work with that to no avail. Hey, I always liked Jungle Love and Swingtown (1977 highschool grad here).

Doc John 1:03 PM  

I thought for sure that IRENIC would be the word of the day. ORLE is much more common to crosswords.

Howard B 1:49 PM  

When it comes to Steve Miller, I have to side with columnist Dave Barry. He once noted "Take the Money and Run", where Steve tries mightily to rhyme "Texas", "facts is", "justice", and "taxes" in the same verse.
I believe that sort of offense gets your poetic license revoked in most countries.

aonetwothree 1:53 PM  

I went with FISHERS for 22A and then pondered what in the world "ANALSTIC geometry" was and which department it would be offered in for longer than I care to admit.

Robert 1:59 PM  

I think that the argument regarding creche and moire is beyond picky. Both are english words and were clued as such. They have no accent in english, so no foul.

Laurie 2:01 PM  

Loved the Moby Dick theme, made it easier for a relative newbie... actually figured it out by having "HAB" filled in at the end of 31 across (how many characters end with that?). Re:54 across, as soon as I got the title, I looked at all the c's for "call", luckily found right off with C in ACNE, laid the rest in corner to corner, and then went for the filler. I'm with others, irenic is my word of the day (with roleo a distant second).

Barbara 2:02 PM  

can someone explain ERY (fish tail)?

archaeoprof 2:03 PM  

Loved it! Fun solve, impressive construction. Big-time WOW factor for a Wednesday.

But those of us who wear our shirttails out are not SLOBs.

We're just relaxed.

Glitch 2:05 PM  
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Glitch 2:08 PM  

@Doc John

Actually, IRENIC has been in 14 times to ORLE's 16.

ROLEO (4) seems to crop up every 4 to 5 years, at least in the database I consulted.

All were in my "words I learned from xwords" pile. Interesting which ones stick given I'm not sure what I had for breakfast.


The ship sank at the end !?!?!?

You should have given this a entry a "spoiler alert" ;-)


@Barbara --- fishERY, "tail" being another cutesy for suffix.

Anonymous 2:08 PM  

REX, I agree with your being urinated off at the puzzle not being up on time. I wrote the Times yesterday about this, but received no reply.

JCousteau 2:09 PM  

@Barbara - ERY is the tail end of FISHERY.

pednsg 2:13 PM  

@Barbara - The word fishery is fish + a "tail" at the end of it. Not my favorite clue either!

eliselzer 2:13 PM  

I don't have much to say about the puzzle, Rex, but I love that you included a picture of the Great Outdoor Fight book. Are you an Achewood fan, or is it just a random Google image search pull?

PIX 2:14 PM  

@Retired-chemist: thanks for the explanation; nevertheless, if I ever name a compound (extremely unlikely) I will use tetra.

@Ulrich: fully agree with idea of
digging out the original novella from the novel as written. Seems like it would be a fast,fun, fascinating read. Since Moby Dick is in the public domain maybe we should do it! We could call it something like: Moby Dick: the short version where "Call Me Ishmael" really is the opening line.

Doc John 2:15 PM  

@ glitch- well, it was new to me!

Forgot to mention IBIS- Go Canes! (my alma mater)

SethG 2:33 PM  

My musical conclusion was magical for a while, and TADA slowed me down.

The Sea Captain said "Call me back, Ishmael." When I tried to find a clip of the episode, I came across Bart saying "No fuss, no muss." So wrong.

And I can't stand playground clues.

Joe 2:34 PM  

This was a fantastic puzzle, though I agree with just about everyone about the NE and SW. Perhaps the authors were compensating for "call me ishmael," which made the NW and SE pretty easy (and fun, for that matter, to have a single letter for each clue before any full crosses). All the themes came quickly - I am working on Nantucket for the summer, so maybe I just have whales on the mind.

retired_chemist 3:08 PM  

@ Joe - Nantucket-based limericks come to mind....

edmcan 3:19 PM  

@SethG-loved that episode of the Simpsons, after Krusty's 'death'.

Anonymous 3:38 PM  

Om the first page of the Moby-Dick narrative, Melville writes that "meditation and water are wedded for ever." In my view, the book should be read in a meditative mood.

The rhythms of Melville's prose require us to proceed at a leisurely pace if we are to enjoy it. The phrase "moody stricken Ahab" comes to mind. Or again, "the Pequod thrust her vindictive bows into the cold malicious waves."

I find virtually every detail of the book worth savoring.


treedweller 3:53 PM  

I had fun with this one, despite some notable clunkers already mentioned above.

True confessions for today:

I am an English major who never even attempted to read MOBY DICK, so I was happy to accept CALLMEISHMAEL as the first line. But I couldn't remember it until I saw it.

I like some Steve Miller (but not "ABRAcadabra").

I am mentioning that I noticed the swallows-don-t-eat-seeds thing just to rile up a certain subset of readers here.

(and I had to chuckle @Crosscan re: AHAB's first name, though that's not really meant to be a confession).

dk 3:59 PM  

Given the death of God theme (Iconoclasm) in the literature of the late 1800's and MOBY DICK as the quintessential novel (once novella) of that genre: I found the crossing of GREATWHITEWHALE and CAPTAINAHAB with the slant of CALLMEISHMAEL a stunning feat of construction. Of course I sometimes read to much into these puzzles.

CHI/Vegetarian - Charlie Trotters Raw Food Menu with wine (not MOAN) pairings. Heck it may be 350 per/person but you will remember it forever.

Given the theme and construction of this puzzle we should forgive some less than ideal ORLE work.

Great job Mr Collins.

sanfranman59 4:16 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 13:34, 12:38, 1.07, 74%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 7:07, 6:13, 1.15, 84%, Challenging

Anonymous 4:54 PM  

Amazing construction.
Moby Dick - slowish book but great movie. The scene near the end with Ahab tangled in his own ropes on the side of the whale, his only free arm flopping back and forth as if beckoning his crew to join him had me riveted as a child.
Making the word play using swallow as a verb was fun. Other bird verbs that come to mind...

Squeek the Anonymouse

Ulrich 5:05 PM  

@JJ %^&*$ Audobon: My bad--since I hate it when people don't read what has been written before, I have been hating myself (and everybody who made the same point after me) all day already, and there are still hrs to go...

@Glitch: My bad again--didn't realize that nobody here except for me had read the damned thing from beginning to end--well, we now have a second brave soul, namely...

...@Charles: You really put into words why I find the book so addictive

and @PIX: Given the above, I'm having second thoughts--maybe the short version would be too short?:-)

Two Ponies 5:34 PM  

@ Rex, I am so sorry to hear about your dog. I couldn't imagine that I would miss it in your write-ups being the animal lover I am. I finally hit your Twitter link and read the news. I truly hope for a quick recovery. What a frightening experience. I have had a few close calls with those nasty beasts. Now I carry bear spray when we walk or go to the dog park.
Again, sorry for you all.

bookmark 6:28 PM  

@Ulrich: I, too, love Barbara Pym and W.E.Sebald. Years ago a fellow English teacher and I swapped and read all her books. My favorite Sebalds are Vertigo Austerlitz. Hated he died so early.

My most difficult section was the NW. I could not come up with FIGHT for a long time. Also did not see the significance of the slant: CALL ME ISHMAEL. If I had done it on paper, I might have seen it. I'm at the beach and had to use my Mac, which is not my favorite solving mode.

edith b 7:22 PM  


I seem to remember BIRL referring to log-rolling in a puzzle a couple of years ago. I'm not sure it was a NYT puzzle or not.

My husband was addicted to "Wide World of Sports" on Sunday afternoons twenty-five years ago and they used to highlight so-called "trash sports" like log-rolling and demolition derby.

All those "trash sports" have been rolled into one and called XGames now.

mexgirl 8:11 PM  

Great, lovely puzzle. Fun and interesting to solve.
Great also to be back in the US and checking out the ever-interesting comments in the fabulous world of Rex Parker.

Love you always Rex!

Cea 8:41 PM  

Am I the only one out there who hated this puzzle. Got the theeme relatively quickly, but didn't know ORBACH, disliked YESSED, grumbled at IRENIC (for a Wednesday) and never saw what that damn SLANT was all about before coming here.

A painful experience in my book.

Glitch 8:44 PM  

@edith b

Your comment on "Wide World of Sports" brought back memories of my days (early '70's) at a TV station in upstate NY.

My assignment was to find "new sporting events" for local coverage.

Turned out that WWS had taken out an option for virtually every event I contacted, right down to the "Schenectady Curling Club".

Wound up covering the "Jack Shea Memorial Bowling Tournament" that year.


JannieB 9:19 PM  

@Greene - thanks so much for the Jerry Orbach clip. I actually got to see him in that production - what a wonderful performer. Sorely missed!

Bill from NJ 9:38 PM  

I had to laugh at edith b's comment about Wide World of Sports and how the X Games seems to be a conflation of all those trash sports the WWS used to broadcast.

Brava, edith!

Crosscan 9:52 PM  

74-40 was the Expos record on Aug 12, 1994. Best in baseball. Then the strike. 15 years later, Youppi remembers.

sanfranman59 10:01 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. 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 6:30, 6:59, 0.93, 32%, Easy-Medium
Tue 9:34, 8:35, 1.11, 82%, Challenging
Wed 14:01, 12:41, 1.10, 79%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:43, 0.95, 42%, Medium
Tue 4:49, 4:25, 1.09, 77%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:54, 6:11, 1.12, 84%, Challenging

Noam D. Elkies 10:18 PM  

Yes, nice to find that central I in all three phrases — and with convenient letters nearby for a triple-cross.

Nice to span two of those words with 2D:ANALYTIC, and to give the "____ geometry" connection, but is that really a college course these days? Used to be pre-calculus... BTW, does the clue violate the obscure taboo against >5 letter partials or does that only forbid multi-word entries? There are certainly other ways to clue "analytic".

Speaking about obscure partials, not sure how I feel about 52D:ABRA. It certainly looks terrible, but I can imagine a magician saying "ABRA... Cadabra!"; "ABRAC" and "ABRACADAB" wouldn't be as credible (though "ABRAC" can be obtained as another partial, "bric-_____"). In some alternate universe "MASSA... Chusetts!" works the same way. MASSACHU, no way (Gesundheit!).

Yes, Barak and Olmert (30A) are plural, but the plural should be EHUDIM ! :-)


Anonymous 12:03 AM  

@Anon @ 4:54 PM


Making the word play using swallow as a verb was fun. Other bird verbs that come to mind...

Squeek the Anonymouse


Gosh, Squeek, you left out the best one: Goose. (Blush...)


Perhaps Exacerbating an Expired Equine again (sorry I can't do better at augmenting the alliteration), in this case what seems to be my pet hobby-horse:

How much is it expected that an abbreviation be hinted at within the clue? Is this documented anywhere? If it is to be taken seriously, how can "54D Sign of success = SRO" (Standing Room Only, not Single Room Occupancy as of last week) not be indicated as an an abbreviation? It can't even be pronounced as a word; how can it be clued as one?

Not Just Askin' -- hopin' someone will answer.

Larry the less-and-less Lurker

XMAN 12:06 AM  

@NDE: Hurrah for cheder!

Stan 12:22 AM  

Tired. Very happy about the dog. Not that happy about the puzzle, which seemed way too much work for a Wed. (but that might just be me).

Have read -- and admire -- the book in question. Strangely enough, also like the film adaptation. Since Gregory Peck is also in "To Kill a Mockingbird," maybe we can draw the conclusion: All good Hollywood adaptations of novels star Gregory Peck.

william e emba 1:52 PM  

I originally had "OR THE WHITE WHALE" down the middle. Well, foolish me, the full title is actually "MOBY DICK, or the Whale".

Noam: The NYT 5 letter limit is for multiword partials only. You did notice the fill-ins for HATRED and NAPOLI? Over the years, there have been some badly contorted clues to get past the 5 letter limit. I'd prefer if WILLz simply allowed the rare exception (say, one a month). In some sense, I don't believe the metaclue (this fill-in is one word) belongs in the puzzle.

There was a time ANALYTIC geometry was taught as part of a regular calculus class, but I think that has mostly disappeared. It's not even pre-calculus anymore. A few years ago I made the mistake of assuming second year Ivy League Calculus IV students would of course recognize the equation of an ellipse and hyperbola. That didn't go well.

Anonymous 10:01 AM  

From the land of syndication. Thanks for the bonus puzzle. I'll try it later on a break. I'm always happy when I solve a puzzle. I had many of the same problems and had to guess a lot in the NE corner. Never read the book, but knew enough to get the theme answers pretty quickly and the slant helped me this time. Had to laugh at last comment post. Way back when, I took analytic geometry in high school but I couldn't remember the name. I wanted to cram the word, algebraic, in there.

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

JJAudubon, those seed eating swallows ired me too. I thought of every flying insect I could to no avail. So swallows swallo insects and uh...water! The only thing that even fit was birdspit! Granted folks that like bird's nest soup swallow swallow spiti, I still dunno what a bpat,rilo, or a ats iz. Ruined a good puzzle, kinda makes me wanta...wanta.. makes me wanta spit!

Anonymous 12:29 PM  

Swallows? Birdseed? Shame on the wordsmiths. My 11 year old son caught this one.

Waxy in Montreal 1:25 PM  

Also from the syndic:
Thanks very much for the bonus coverage, Rex. Fun puzzle to do, (der I say it?) even though I had to Google the 9A, 9D intersection.

Anonymous 1:36 PM  

Okay, the bonus is done. Suspected there would be insider references that only the dedicatee(s) would get, but that wasn't the case. Some references a little obscure for me, but that's no surprise. Really got stuck at 53A, 36D, and 54D. Had no idea about Chaz and elf minus acht threw me for a long loop. Should have gotten 53A sooner. Thanks.

Anonymous 2:21 PM  

Got an education today when I looked to find Mr. Der. Remarkable.

Mrs Captain Ahab 3:45 PM  

OMG. I haven't finished the bonus puzzle yet (thank you!!!) but seriously..."Sonny of Cher"?!? ROTF. Love it.

As for the NYT today (buried in the Living, excuse me, How We Live section of the Oregonian today) I was only mildly impressed. Learned lots of new words, like IRENIC (my personal word of the day), ROLEO and and ORLE. And like many others got CAPTAIN AHAB from just the AB at the end. Stupidly, it took me like ten minutes to come up with the book title he was in. Derp.

XMAN 3:58 PM  

Mrs. Captain Ahab: Love the word "derp."

Nullifidian 5:01 AM  

All things considered, I really liked this puzzle. I liked the Moby Dick theme and was very impressed by how Collins and Krozel managed to work in "Call me Ishmael" on the diagonal.

You and other readers rightly point to certain clumsy aspects of the puzzle. It's true that swallows are insectivores, but I usually assume that creators of NYT crosswords tend to be humanities types, so I'm not insistent on total scientific accuracy.

I also didn't like the fact that SRO was not clued as an abbreviation. If they had wanted to skip the notice of an abbreviation, they could have said something like "Tijuana Brass album". I think that would be an appropriate clue for a Wednesday puzzle. Even though I figured it out from the crosses, I was still left wondering why getting slapped with a statutory restraining order was a "sign of success".

Like another poster, I originally guessed EDENIC for IRENIC, but that wasn't too bad to write over.

Despite your reservations about the use of "eponymous", it really helped me with 13-D. I had written in ACNE, and I was stumped as to the name of a French physicist starting with "A". Then I considered the word "eponymous" and realized that it was a physicist who had something important named after him, and then it hit me that it must be Ampère.

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