The Charioteer constellation — SUNDAY, Sep. 6 2009 — Fictional village visited by Major Joppolo / Superman villainess / Word signed for deaf toreador

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Constructor: Robert H. Wolfe

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: "The Argonne"
— pronounced American-style, the word (I guess) sounds like "R GONE"; turns out that in the theme answers, phrases with a last word starting with "R" lose that "R" to become wacky phrases, clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: BRACTS (122A: Leaves at the base of a flower)n.

A leaflike or scalelike plant part, usually small, sometimes showy or brightly colored, and located just below a flower, a flower stalk, or an inflorescence.

[From Latin bractea, gold leaf, perhaps from Greek brakhein, to rattle.]


A mess. A mess with some fascinating, entertaining elements (MAGOG, HOUDINI, k.d. lang), but a mess nonetheless. Allow me to offer some TUTORAGE (whatever that is). We have Yet Another "drop-a-letter" theme. This one is "drop-an-r," only not all Rs, just the ones that begin the final word of the phrase. So the title, right away, is kind of a lie, although it does suggest R-gone and not Rs-gone, so maybe it's still on solid ground. Crappy ground, but solid ground. Several of the theme answers are from outer space, only less interesting. RIGHT FULL (R)UDDER? Had to look up afterward to see that it was real (unlike SCOTTISH (R)EEL, which I knew was (r)eal). BECOMING THE (R)AGE??? It's a phrase one might say, I guess, but so is CLIMBING THE TREE, which would not hold up as a theme answer. Further, like my "THE RAGE" to be preceded by "ALL." I was a big General Public fan as a 14-yr-old.

CAROLINA (R)ICE ... is a thing? I see it's a brand. Ne-eh-ehver heard of it. I'm not going to be alone here: at least two theme answers that are marginal at best, and another (BECOMING ...) that's forced. Then there's the ickiness in the non-theme fill. The ICTUSness (13D: Metrical accent). Never seen the word, despite its apparent poetic meaning. TUTORAGE barely qualifies as a word. BRACTS is brand new to me, though it seems quite legit so I'll leave it be (122A: Leaves at the base of a flower). ICEL is a much detested (by me) abbrev. A SOB is a very unpleasant partial (27A: Tell _____ story). Maybe if you could have swung "A S.O.B.," but that would probably have required "AN" not "A." "My opponent keeps ASPERSING me ..." No. IN A COMA has a clever but kind of inappropriate clue (38A: Far out?). "Whoa, your husband's in a coma? Far out ... get it, 'far out,' as in he's 'out of it' ... you know, unconscious ... 'cause he's IN A COMA ... heh heh ... why aren't you laughing? OK, uh, I gotta go. PEACE, man." Ugh. There's just a lot of FAIL today.

Theme answers:

  • 24A: Some skiing stars? (cross-country r aces)
  • 114A: Departure call from a Spanish vessel? (ship-to-shore r adios)
  • 3D: Word signed for a deaf toreador? (non-speaking r ole) — yet another Spanish word as the punchline. And this one is super-weak, as the "word" that is "signed" is presumably "OLE." Clue asks for "word." Word=OLE.
  • 7D: Fish in a firth? (Scottish r eel)
  • 28D: Reaching 21? (becoming the r age) — "the age"? Is that a phrase meaning "21" now. "The drinking age," yes.
  • 40D: Camouflage? (commando r aid)
  • 51D: Mythical twin's bird tale? (Romulus and r emus) — far and away my favorite theme answer.
  • 71D: What the N.H.L.'s Hurricanes skate on? (Carolina r ice)

I love that the grid is tough, and clued in a tougher-than-usual fashion. Easy Sundays often don't feel worth finishing. My wife often abandons Sunday's half-way through. Just can't be bothered to go on if the theme is bland and the difficulty level is just moderate. So thumbs up for the roughness. I got plowed under by AURIGA in the olden days, so I was happy to handle it with relative ease today (97A: The Charioteer constellation). Liked the twin "Wagon Train" pillars up top in 5D: "Wagon Train" network, 1957-62 (NBC) and 10D: "Wagon Train" network, 1962-65 (ABC). CABAL had a nice misleading clue, with its apparent plural: 63D: Power seekers, maybe. So the puzzle had its moments. But there just weren't enough of them.


  • 5A: Site of Daniel Webster College (Nashua) — New Hampshire. Did not know this.
  • 29A: Bluesy James (Etta) — crossword equivalent of stock footage.
  • 54A: William Tell's canton (Uri) — thanks to Joon Pahk for reminding me a few days ago that this is one of URI's meanings (in addition to Mr. Geller and the U. of Rhode Island).
  • 67A: One of a pair of biblical nations (Magog) — also the title of a new comic from D.C.
  • 96A: "Shadowland" singer, 1988 (k.d. lang) — she's got some kind of voice:

  • 103A: Fictional village visited by Major Joppolo (Adano) — from (I'm guessing) Hersey's "A Bell for ADANO." That's a wicked clue.
  • 123A: Long-tailed moth (luna) — like the LUNA / LANA crossing, if only for the joy of saying those words quickly in succession.
  • 9D: Superman villainess (Ursa) — dang. I know it's familiar, but I always guess wrong. Today's guess: ILSA.
  • 25D: River into which the Big Sandy flows (Ohio) — do not call my wife "the Big Sandy." She would probably not like that.
  • 36D: Dentiform : tooth :: pyriform : _____ (pear) — why are teeth being compared to PEARs? I'm confused.
  • 53A: Goodman of "Splash" and "Grease" (Dody) — was she "Beauty School Dropout" in "Grease?" Oh, no, she was the ditzier of the two secretaries. She also, apparently, sang this:

  • 61D: One of the Cyclades (Ios) — see also NAXOS, maybe, some day.
  • 81D: Year the mathematician Pierre de Fermat was born (MDCI) — :(
  • 117A: Onetime boom maker (SST) — wanted CHARO. Wait, she said "Cuchi Cuchi"; why did I think she said or did something BOOM BOOM. Maybe it's her hip-shaking. Who cares — watch this. It's pure late 70s TV gold:

And now time for your Puzzle Tweets of the Week — chatter on Twitter about "crosswords"

  • vegan_ryan Why does every one i know get to do crossword puzzles at work.
  • Vixoen My pussy is doing the NY Times crossword puzzle. Bitch is smarter than I am.
  • whereislena Do not deprive me of my Saturday crossword puzzle. I'm working on 3 hours of sleep and no morning coffee here. Don't. Push. Me.
  • TylishaSierra Tryna keep my mind off of this certain subject.... I done did like 10 crossword puzzles...
  • Barbara36 Imagine replacing common words in conversation with crossword clues - "look! there's a conical abode" (5 letters down)
  • sarahrosehurt @benmcallister I cheat with Rex Parker when I can't get it. This one made no sense to me.
  • benmcallister @sarahrosehurt Rex Parker is a nerd hero!
  • ericaricardo Me: "29 Across... 'Endorse on a Web site, maybe...'" @danvdk: "It's 'ERATE'. You know it's 'ERATE'. Write it down. Write. it. down."

I got tweeted by actress Téa Leoni this week, only it turns out it was not Téa Leoni but a Téa Leoni impostor — her Twitter page was unverified and she had only 25 followers and when I went back to retrieve the tweet, I was told the account didn't exist any more. What kind of celebrity impostor tweets about a crossword blogger? Further, what kind of crossword fan (which you'd have to be to know who I am) decides "you know what? Today, I'm going to pretend to be Téa Leoni on Twitter. That'll add some spice to my Saturday." So weird ...

Anyway, if you are on Twitter, and see anything good and crossword-related, pass it on @rexparker.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Eric Berlin 8:58 AM  

I guessed the theme from the title, which is disappointing enough. Then the first theme entry I got was BECOMING THE (R)AGE. Then I put the puzzle down and picked up a book.

PuzzleGirl 9:09 AM  

I didn't understand the theme and I couldn't finish the puzzle. Fortunately, by the time I (finally) got IN A COMA I didn't care any more.

Orange 9:15 AM  

I love that ERATE in the last tweet. E-words that aren't in wide use crack me up.

I loved DODY Goodman as Mary's mother on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman in the '70s.

Hey, Rex, I went the ILSA route too and was planning to blog about the IL women, ILKA and ILSA. And then I remembered that the Superman villain was a Latin bear.

Jeffrey 9:18 AM  

Starting at 54A, here are the actual 8 consecutive across answers:


I finished, but had lost interest.

imsdave 9:41 AM  

Found it a medium, but did not enjoy it. I think Rex and Crosscan summed it up brilliantly.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:43 AM  

Hey! I heard Noam D. Elkies mentioned on Weekend Edition Sunday this morning. But it was about music, not crosswords.

Oh, yeah, the puzzle. Did it at the beach yesterday. See from Rex's write-up that I had 30 A wrong, had HITON instead of HITUP, which meant I also had ICTOS instead of ICTUS (who knew?) and TARN instead of TARP. Clearly didn't care enough to check.

fikink 9:47 AM  

Not half as put off with this puzzle as Rex; I would not rate it challenging, either.
I imagine it is an age thing.

After the puzzle, I read about ADANO on Wikipedia. Came across this:
"Some of the changes Joppolo brings in to the town include:
▪ Democracy"

Ah, the good ole days!

retired_chemist 9:53 AM  

OMG, this blog is getting spammed. One yesterday, one just above me today. :-(

While I agree with the criticisms Rex raised, I still enjoyed the puzzle. For some reason, NASHUA (5A) was a gimme. Got 1D and 2D immediately and that gave Jesus away. Maybe the clue needed a question mark, but I liked it.

The West was my big slowdown. Again. PEACE (36A) didn't appear to me for a long time, and Neptune as an example of a sea god wasn't easy. Neptune is the sea god, isn't he? Still shaking my head over TUTORAGE, which I had as TUTORIAL to the bitter end. Didn't help that I had ULM for URI @ 54A. Wrong country even.....

The fill was harder than the usual Sunday fare IMO. But fair enough.

Thumbs up for Mr. Wolfe's creation.

Anonymous 9:56 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle! Had a good chuckle or two doing it. What a downer to read such gloomy reviews.

joho 9:57 AM  

The term is "Coming of age."

I agree with Rex today. And everybody who agrees with him.


PEACE be with you.

archaeoprof 10:03 AM  

Great write-up today, Rex. Helped me understand why I lost interest in this puzzle. Didn't finish, and didn't care.

Raul 10:06 AM  

S'up with all the UP answers.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

Just a big ugh all the way around. Dull as can be. And I'm with Rex...what's with the teeth/pear comparison?

HudsonHawk 10:49 AM  

My first long answer was CAROLINA ICE and I couldn't figure out what the heck the theme could possibly be. Didn't help that ICED TEA was already in the grid.

I loved Crosscan's consecutive acrosses. Further down, we have AURIGA HOUDINI ADANO. Lovely.

Lpkatzen 10:53 AM  

I actually enjoyed this puzzle and did finish it. As for Rex's question, there is no connection between pears and teeth--but the "iform" means "shaped" so teeth is to tooth-shaped as pear is to pear-shaped. Ictus by the way is a musical term as well.

Sara 11:06 AM  

The theme was on the lame side, but I didn't think the rest of the puzzle was so bad or so hard.

I guess CAROLINArICE is regional. In the NYC area it's the one you see the most.

ArtLvr 11:09 AM  

My take: so-so, with some smiles here and there. I liked SHIP-TO-SHORE ADIOS and ROMULUS AND EMUS (red meat!)

BRACTS are probably best known as the colorful parts of poinsettia plants seen at Christmas, red or white or a variety having both. The actual flowers are the tiny central part one hardly notices, yellow as I recall.

The green LUNA moth reminded me of another fact of Nature I learned recently -- that the beautiful adult forms are not equipped to eat or drink. They just fly and get on with their reproductive assignment and then expire. So sad, somehow.

Happy long Labor Day weekend, all.


Joe 11:10 AM  

OK. It wasn't the greatest puzzle in the world, but I actually laughed out loud at SHIP TO SHORE ADIOS.

chefbea 11:14 AM  

Did not like the puzzle. Took forever to figure out the theme. Isn't there an Argonne forest some where? Thought maybe answers would have names of trees or woods.

Don't think I have ever bought Carolina rice. I opt for Uncle Bens

CoolPapaD 11:15 AM  

I'm not as down on this puzzle as Rex, but I didn't smile much as I was doing it, and that is rare for me. I've NEVER heard of threnody, nor have I known pyraform to refer to pears, though it is a common enough medical term. AURIGO and ADESTE were somewhat Naticky, and I totally guessed the "A." Never heard of BRACT, and TUTORAGE is just horrendo!

TRUISM crossing ISM is weird.

This should make a great clue in a puzzle someday: 5 letters - María Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Moquiere de les Esperades Santa Ana Romanguera y de la Najosa Rasten. Yes, that's right, it's CHARO's real name. Why is she famous? It may have to do with her marriage, as a 15 year old, to Xavier Cugat, the 66 year-old band leader. I don't know if that's more disturbing than than Rex's clip!

Norm 11:15 AM  

Cute puzzle. Medium challenging. Made me chuckle a couple of times. Decent start to a Sunday morning.

ArtLvr 11:15 AM  

p.s. another amusing line across was:

PEACE/ IN A COMA/ PIGPEN with DIRGE just below.


Anonymous 11:21 AM  

Did. Not. Like. It. At. All.

I got, like, four theme answers before I understood the theme, and then I was nonplussed.

Can't win 'em all, eh?

slypett 11:23 AM  

It was a medium for me till--ta-da--the great NW, which has been the ecene of many a downfall for me, of late.

Had URANID (he was a son of Uranus, wasn't he?) for SEAGOD (what a mess), along with TUTORING for TUTORAGE.

I have to get on ugh-wagon.

Noam D. Elkies 11:37 AM  

Yeah, a few bright moments but not enough to fill a 21x21 puzzle that barely 50A:COHERED. 83D:ILKA Chase (who she?) crossing both 96A:KDLANG (who dat?) and 103A:ADANO (whaa?) — ugh².

Apropos “²”, better to clue 81A:MDCI via Fermat than to take the usual "early 17th century year" route. As it happens MDCI=1601 is a prime that's just over the nearest multiple of 4; thus it's uniquely a sum of two squares, as Fermat proved some years after being born in 1601=40²+1². (Don't worry, this kind of thing doesn't show up in the grid often... retired_chemist got three entries today, the tough-clued 20A:BICARB plus 80A:ATOM and 120A:TIN. BTW "stannary" in the 120A clue is as in stannum, the Latin source for tin's unexpected chemical symbol Sn.)

What's with the early-September Xmas carols? 90D:TENTHDAY (cf. the recent SEVENTHDAY), 97D:ADESTE. Plus 73A:APOSTLE (two days after I mentioned the Bartholomew/Ptolemy connection here), and maybe the Jesus clue for 19A:ALOU and a CROSS in the first Across theme entry (24A). It's enough to make a 42A:SEAGOD jealous. (Anybody try PLANET first for 42A? I left it blank until I got enough of the incident Down entries to choose between them.)

Never knew Hampshire was a breed of pig (see 41A). I wonder if that has anything to do with Yellow Pigs at HCSSiM.


[@Bob K. 9:43 — yes, it turns out that about half the measures in Bach's remarkably chromatic A-minor prelude (WTC II) contain a fragment that goes through all 12 pitch-classes without repetition. It's not quite a "tone row", because some pairs of notes sound at once so we don't get a complete ordering; but the way that Bach parititions the 12 notes into cells of 1, 2, 3, or 6 is more interesting and musically meaningful than standard Serialism anyway. Yes, I realize that this is even further afield than Fermat's two-square theorem... ADIÓS.]

Anonymous 11:47 AM  

Did anybody else try SODOM for 67A? I got stuck there until I was able to MAGOG it.

Rex Parker 11:53 AM  

You got stuck? In SODOM? I think you're not the first.

There's a bumper sticker / t-shirt slogan waiting to happen there: "I got stuck in Sodom and all I got was this lousy T-shirt" etc.


jae 11:55 AM  

What a slog! Best part of this was finishing it. Tried TUTELAGE at first which is actually in my dictionary.

John 12:06 PM  

I call foul on Linda Eder. Anybody that doesnt Google unless you have their ENTIRE name spelled out is WAY TOO obscure!!!!!!!

John 12:10 PM  

I was raised on Carolina Rice. I like it sticky, so Uncle Bens is not my cup of tea. Mixed Metaphor??

Anonymous 12:10 PM  

I fail to see the humor in the clue "Far out" for IN A COMA.

fikink 12:11 PM  

@Rex, LOL! Glad you are back.
You are still king!

Karen from the Cape 12:11 PM  

I knew the pyriformis muscle is in the 'gluteal region' (per wikipedia) so I had REAR there and couldn't kick it out. In a similar note, I had ASSES for TWITS in the top row. My favorite clue was one for HOUDINI (big name in escapism?).

Stan 12:15 PM  

Good write-up from Rex detailing the strengths and weaknesses of this one.

bookmark 12:25 PM  

Liked this one OK, though it took me awhile to finish.

CAROLINA RICE was a gimme; there are several working rice plantations near Charleston. I taught John Hersey's A BELL FOR ADANO many, many years ago. And I got HOLMES from the clue word HOUND in the quote, as in HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES.

I didn't know AURIGA. Hope I remember it next time. I also didn't understand tooth/pear connection.

I'm listening on my I-Pod to THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, a Swedish mystery by Stieg Larsson. The main character is reading a book on Fermat's theorems. Thanks to NDE for his info on 1601. The things you learn on this blog. Thanks to all!

Brendan Emmett Quigley 12:40 PM  

Push the ejector seat button with the whole NE still left to go. Puzzle seemed old, and the fill/cluing/gimmick reflected that.

Do love SHOWHOW, TENTH DAY and PLAIN FACT. Dem's some nice fill.

poc 12:46 PM  

Had TUTELAGE (which actually *is* a word), so that was the NW banjaxed for me. The rest of it was doable but I agree with Rex that some of the theme fills are pretty awful.

I don't get 36D. PEACE. Why? Something about death perhaps?

Anonymous 12:56 PM  

I agree with Rex et al on the sapphires-in-the-mud aspects of this one. I gave up on the NW when I saw "BECOMING THE AGE" coming on. Wish I'd kept with it so I could have had "NON SPEAKING OLE" as my reward (one of the 3 good theme clues).
Allow me to express my particular disgust with "Simple writing" as the clue for "PROSE" (41D). At the very least that should have had a question mark.

Loved "internal settler" for an antacid, though "BICARB" was an awkward abbreviation. (I had BISMOL for a while...)


jeff in chicago 1:17 PM  

No. Not even a little bit. This is the first puzzle I can recall that I just walked away from. It started when TRUISM crossed ISMS. It got worse with TUTORAGE. And by ICEL I was done. About 3/4 full but I just wasn't interested.

Anonymous 1:27 PM  

Worst clue for a lame Roman numeral answer ever!

I too was struck by the truism/isms crossing.

Why is Eng. a high school sub.? I majored in it in college.

I thought the theme was OK, even though the fill was tortured.

retired_chemist 1:28 PM  

@ NDE - LOL. I'll take BICARB, ATOM, and TIN, but from my days as an administrator I will lay claim to MEMOS too. :-)

hazel 2:06 PM  

Strong hate component so far. by my count its:
5 say good
4 say good qualities
15 say sucks - some subset of which say it sucks so bad I couldn't finish (this is very rare).

Those are the PLAINFACTS.

Even though dropped letters don't usually wow me, I thought some of these answers were pretty good. But the crimes against crosswords in the fill sort of negate all that - some ridiculous words, an actual foul (TRUISM/ISM cross), and the usual random irritating ese. Anyway, all that tips the balance to 16 sucks SOFAR.

And I'm from the region, and have never heard of Carolina Rice. Huh?

A big fat whatever.

Anonymous 2:08 PM  

Below is the shy NDE's web site. He has more music floating out there, but the NPR site no longer has the audio from his music from just a few years ago. He has more talents than just solving puzzles and setting us straight on Fermat. His variations on Bach are often sublime.


rpl 2:16 PM  

I don't understand why people are looking for a relationship between tooth and pear.

The clue certainly does not imply one. The clue should be read "A is to B as C is to D". A common enough format for SAT and IQ test questions.

There is not any implication in the clue that B has a relationship to D.

Why look so hard for something completely phony to complain about. There was plenty else to mention if you disliked the puzzle.

AV 2:17 PM  

Did anyone worry about ICEL, ICED TEA and CAROLINA ICE? I had trouble with just two of the ICEs and now I noticed the third!

Greene 2:22 PM  

Well, it wasn't that bad. Still and all, another drop-a-letter puzzle? Again? I got the theme almost instantly from the title, but it didn't help me much because the theme answers were so weird. It gelled at CROSS COUNTRY ACES, but RIGHT FULL UDDER? NONSPEAKING OLE? ROMULUS AND EMUS? Not much snap here, although SHIP TO SHORE ADIOS is kinda fun.

Wow, I haven't thought about ILKA Chase in a very long time. I wasn't sure her name would be used in a puzzle any longer, but the K.D. LANG cross made me suspicious and the ADANO cross cinched it. ILKA and ADANO crossing. That's some very old-timey crosswordese there. Ms. Chase had a very distinguished Broadway career, but I mostly remember her for playing Julie Andrew's not-so-evil step-mother in the 1958 telecast of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. Watch for her entrance right behind the extremely young and lovely Julie Andrews at the 4:26 mark.

Anne 2:31 PM  

It's interesting to read a review in which the writer is aggressively confident, as in the case of Rex's write-up. I come at it from a very different perspective - I am simply trying to make it through and find it hard to critique. I finished this one in respectable time and only one error and was very happy.

And I really liked Barbara36's idea of speaking in clues. That might make a great game.

Orange reminded me of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. I loved that show.

But I did not love Icel. I became very aware of Iceland when the plane I was on was diverted there because someone had a heart attack. It looked like a huge rock from the air - not a plant in sight.

Clark 2:44 PM  

I liked this puzzle just fine. Did everyone celebrate the weekend a little too hard last night?

RIGHT FULL (R)UDDER. That was my dad's way of saying make a hard right. I probably heard it, oh, 1601 times during my childhood.

Rex Parker 5/23/2009: “ICTUS is a word I knew and forgot, or never knew.”

Loved ASPERSE. Interesting how difficult it can be to get a familiar old word (aspersion) up off its butt to mix with the rules that allow for transformations from one part of speech to another.

@retired_chemist -- Neptune is not the only SEA GOD. Even the Greeks had others, and no doubt other cultures had their own. Or are you thinking that Neptune is the name for the God of the Sea whatever else he or she might be called and that there can only be one such? (That is, are you making some kind of point about reference combined with one about monotheism within categories of Gods or something?)

The Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima is the piece that made Krzystof Penderecki famous.

Orange 3:20 PM  

@Clark, you noticed that Rex previously didn't know ICTUS and yet had no memory of it this time around. I blogged the same thing, and Joon recalled that I too had previously blogged about not knowing it. I think it's just that some words are so out-there, I don't expect to ever need them again in a crossword or in life, so they don't settle into memory. It's possible that's a sign of fairly obscure fill.

retired_chemist 3:28 PM  

@ Clark - I should have saved you the trouble of writing re Neptune by going to Wikipedia before I wrote. Neptune was the only one I remembered this morning, but as you say there are indeed more. Many more, if you count other cultures.

SethG 4:00 PM  

The last time ILKA appeared in a puzzle was the last time Robert H. Wolfe wrote the puzzle.

I knew the theme from the title, and I generally like add/subtract-a-letter themes more than others, at least if the resulting phrases are fun. ROMULUS AND EMUS was the first theme entry I got, and I had high hopes. Dashed.

Still don't know or care what a Scottish reel is. (Or a firth...) UPs, but also INs, with NIN, TIN, and LUGS and URCH IN. And I want HINT to rhyme with PINT, so maybe I'll start pronouncing them as if they do.

Anyone wanna tell me (again) how to remember which is standard time and which is daylight? I have those problems with other calendar stuff, too. Happy Memorial Day!

Rex Parker 4:15 PM  


I deleted your comment. Please don't give away answers to other puzzles, esp. ones pub'd in the past few days. I hadn't gotten around to doing my Saturday Newsday yet.


Rex Parker 4:16 PM  

... or my Sunday Newsday, for that matter (which appears to be the puzzle you were discussing).


still_learnin 4:25 PM  

Liked the puzzle for the most part, including THRENODY, BRACTS, SHIP TO SHORE ADIOS, and even BICARB which I once heard a customer ask for at a diner. Needless to say, I didn't eat there! ICEL, OTOH, sucks.

@bookmark, "The Girl Who Played With Fire" is a great read. Enjoy!

Michael 4:44 PM  

I'm with the majority here. Usually I'm uncritical of the construction (I have no idea how to make these things) but this one had odd clues, cliched fill, strange answers ("becoming in age"?)....

mac 4:55 PM  

I also got the theme from the title, which helped a lot. Why, I filled in "udder" right away when the cow was mentioned. What a clue!

Is Fay a man? Or where these people enlightened enough to have a woman commissioner?

I thought the theme so-so, but I loved the tougher-for-a-Sunday fill and clues. This one had some meat. Just was a little big.

I had "up a tree" for cohered for a while, and tutelage messed me up in the NW. I know Carolina Rice, it's that dark red and white

Look at k.d. lang, she is wearing a bolero! What a voice is right.

Shamik 5:06 PM  

For finishing this successfully in a medium-challenging time for me, I disliked the puzzle and was in complete agreement with Rex with the write-up.

As for Charo, Cugat discovered her and she is a brilliant Spanish guitar musician. A couple of years ago while visiting in Laughlin, NV (poor man's Vegas an hour closer to Phoenix), Charo was the entertainment at the casino where we were staying.

As a hoot and throw-back to an earlier time (although around our age, she was an entertainer geared toward the parents' generation), we went to see the show. We were delighted to find in her a funny, intelligent and talented entertainer. Her dancing was better than that dreadful "Love Boat" video. Her musicianship is splendid.

She spent some time on stage talking about her life history, being discoverd and marrying Cugat, etc. She talked of how she wasn't taken seriously because of her big breasts, revealing costumes and the CUCHI-CUCHI persona. She gave a sly grin and said, "Well...dju know wot? Thet CUCHI-CUCHI took me all thee way to thee bahnk!"

Good for her!

HudsonHawk 5:26 PM  

@mac, FAY Vincent is male. His given name is Francis. Not sure how the nickname came about.

retired_chemist 6:11 PM  

He was born Francis Thomas Vincent Jr. in Waterbury, Connecticut, on May 29, 1938. Known almost from birth as "Fay," the Irish nickname for Francis, Vincent received his bachelor's degree..........

mac 6:43 PM  

He was practically a neighbor!

Thank you HudsonHawk and retired-chemist.

Herschel 6:48 PM  

There are some obviously bogus things in this puzzle, but CAROLINA (R)ICE isn't one of them, although it's also not funny like some of the other theme answers. Carolina rice is a historical artifact, an example of what's known as the Columbian Transfer, which resulted in rice being transplanted from Africa to the Carolinas, and potatoes from South America to much of the world. While the term "Carolina Rice" has been appropriated as a brand name, it's also a category and refers to the long-grain variety of rice that remains the most popular in the US, although it's mostly grown in California now (a hideously bad idea).

BECOMING THE (R)AGE, now that was bogus. TUTORAGE. Bah.

Water Cartel CEO 7:05 PM  

@Herschel - You have something against raising crops which require tremendous amounts of water in a desert? What, are you a commie or something? :)

foodie 7:32 PM  

Yeah, I too was stuck in Sodom, trying to Come of Age and looking for Sepals in lieu of BRACTS.

I fixed it all but like BEQ, quit without completing the NE. Life is too short.

@NDE, I'm fascinated by the apparent linkage between talent in math and music, at least in some people.

I like this quote from Leibnitz: "Music is a hidden exercise in arithmetic, of a mind unconscious of dealing with numbers"

Lili 7:45 PM  

Sorry, Rex, but I found this puzzle to be very easy. After worrying about whether it would involve World War II or high-tech physics (I'm often told that I overthink and that problems are always much simpler than I anticipate), I got the "missing R" issue quickly.

My only real argument involves "tutorage," which I originally entered as "tutoring." I do object to that. Carolina Rice? I don't use it, but I'm certainly aware of it.

Gog and Magog? What educated person (even an atheist like me) hasn't heard of them? I'm amazed.

bookmark 8:32 PM  

@NDE. "Bravo" to your "2.5-Part Invention." I loved it!
Am forwarding to my musician son. I always enjoy your music and math comments.

@Anonymous 2:08. Thanks for the NDE site information.

SethG 8:57 PM  

Who said they'd never heard of Gog or Magog? And if people haven't, why would that make them uneducated? I'm no NDE, but I had me some schooling, including bunches of years of Hebrew School, and I'm pretty sure I (re-?)learned about MAGOG from a puzzle.

As for Carolina, were you familiar with the category or the brand name? If it's the latter, do you live in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic, where Carolina is actually sold, or are you in one of the broader regions where the same stuff is sold as Mahatma or S&W but know of Carolina anyway? Not that there's anything wrong with knowing it, but not knowing it doesn't necessarily make one unobservant or something...

Finally, why should you be sorry about finding the puzzle very easy? Congrats!

andrea wryest michaels 9:38 PM  

I'm so sad. I sat and did the puzzle (usually take Sunday I remember why!) just so I could join the conversation today.
I didn't understand any of the theme answers, bec even the ones I got, the sound changes if you try and say them (role to Ole, Remus to emus) so there is no joy in Magog.
(Got stuck in Sodom too)

Actually, I'm not THAT sad, as I have enjoyed folks comments, esp yours. Altho I think if I had heard the expression "Right full udder" 1601 times (even once for that matter) I would be a very very very different person today.

fikink 9:48 PM  

Is this the House of 1,000 Obsessions?
Who cares who knows what? The whole point is to play against yourself, isn't it? (Note, Rex, I said AGAINST, not WITH.)
@foodie, I am bemused by your finding music and math talent in the same person surprising. They are similar languages. Just ask Bach.

OHT 10:21 PM  

I'm just really tired of the "omit a letter & make a wacky phrase" themes. This must be 3 or 4 in a row.

foodie 10:57 PM  

@fikink, I'm not surprised, I'm fascinated : ) I just wonder about it in terms of brain circuits. It's clear that some people are great musicians and not mathematically talented, and vice versa. But what's going on when you're off scale talented at both? Some unique wiring is going on there...

@SethG Donna Shalala as your avatar! How original! I actually know her. Good lady.

fikink 11:04 PM  

yeah, foodie, ya know, I thought AFTER I posted that - "She didn't say surprised!"- Sorry, too much Cabernet, I think. I'm getting sloppy.
I love the idea that music and math are so connected - kind of Einstein-ish music of the spheres.

Anyway, Rex, sorry to be so chatty here. And Foodie, keep on looking at those is fascinating!

Noam D. Elkies 11:39 PM  

@anonymous 2:08, bookmark 8:32: *blush* and thanks!

@foodie, fikink: yes, the math/music connection is a persistent meme; I'm afraid it's rather too late in the day (not to mention not an appropriate forum) for me to speculate about it here and now...

@Lpkatzen: indeed I recognized 13D:ICTUS from music, but only because I learned it from J.Marvin (Harvard's Director of Choral Activities, also the source of "an OOM from which to PAH") in the context of conducting.

@Rex: thanks for the "Tranquilizer" link (belatedly) and for the "stuck in Sodom" gag [sic] :-)

NDE [who should also blush at placing MDCI at 81A (it's actually 81D) and misspelling "partitions" (re the A minor prelude)]

Doc John 1:22 AM  

Finally finished with a K instead of an R for the analogous pyriform. Hey, the Pyrenees are peaks, aren't they?

Interesting write-up, Rex. I guess I wasn't thrilled with the theme, either, but the puzzle was difficult enough to pass the time with so I give it a B minus.

I'm surprised that I didn't see a clip from Devo's "Through Being Cool." The song includes the line, "Eliminate the NINNIES and the TWITS."

Anonymous 12:18 PM  

I got ictus from being a classical musician. It describes the precise point at which a conductor's baton reaches the bottom of his/her downbeat stroke.

Anonymous 6:15 PM  

lousy stupid puzzle, no fun at all. Much preferred the "Six Degrees of Trivia" or "Circular Thinking' puzzle in Week in Review. Google it. One of the final answers was very easy, the other one I still haven't got.

Jeffrey Winer 9:30 PM  

Rex, I think this week over all was THE hardest I've ever done (and completed with the help of my fiance. do you keep track of anything like that, and what did you think of this week as a whole.

Also, I'm trying to write my first crossword as our save the date... just started, but may need help eventually!

Love the blog! Thanks!

andrea r michaels 12:26 AM  

I know this is day's later...but it occurred to me today that maybe the missing R in this puzzle was some sort of tribute to Teddy Kennedy

Anonymous 11:26 PM  

"peace, out" is actually a common phrase of leave taking among under 30s. not really sure where it came from.

Old Al 4:19 PM  

As Artlvr said, "BRACTS are probably best known as the colorful parts of poinsettia plants seen at Christmas," but also, if you live in southern California, the colorful parts of Bougainvillea. Which, given the right conditions, can be our equivalent of Zudzu.

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