Oenone's peak — FRIDAY, Sep. 25 2009 — Birthplace of Parmenides / Musical featuring Nubians / Tent erector's tool

Friday, September 25, 2009

Constuctor: Robert A. Doll

Relative difficulty: Easy/Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ALBAS (52A: Serenades for lovers parting at dawn) noun a Provençal troubadour poem or love song, typically about the parting of lovers at dawn.


The lacklusterness continues. Loved "IT'S A ZOO OUT THERE" (16A: Frazzled commuter's comment) and "I BEEN HAD!" (34D: Gull's cry), but most of the rest feels like it was written with a heavy assist from Autofill. Why am I looking at so much crap short fill on a Friday? A couple of the following would be OK, but more than a couple just looks lazy:

ALBAS (!?!?)
MTST (!!!!!!!!!)
ELEA (27D: Birthplace of Parmenides)
ENNA (51A: Province between Palermo and Catania)

Few things say "I just don't care" like that set of words — and in a themeless? Maybe in a grid with an intricate theme ... maybe. But not in a themeless, where you are duty-bound to keep crap to a minimum (since you aren't restricted by anything but your own sensibilities). Even longish stuff like DEAD SPOT and OPEN AREA and NO, DEAR (60A: Domestic denial) and EASE INTO (59A: Take on gingerly) feels limp, like not much care or thought went into fill choices. And "DON'T TASE ME BRO" (14D: Memorable catchphrase of 2007) might have been great if it had appeared in a puzzle in 2007 ... or even 2008. The phrase appeared in an Onion puzzle almost two years ago, where it was a theme answer about rivers ("Don't tase m EBRO!"). *That* was genius. *This* just feels belated (as internet-driven "catchphrases" go). All in all, the puzzle looks like four somewhat interesting long answers (and "I BEEN HAD!") held together with wads of old duct tape. Honestly, it feels like (for the most part) the wheels have come off the NYT puzzle over the past month or so (even excluding the controversial "Half-Century" stunt week). I'm hoping autumn sees it back on track.


  • 10A: Chances, briefly (ops) — for "opportunities?" Really? Who says that? [oh, right, "Photo OPS" — thanks, Sandy]
  • 25A: Tent erector's tool (maul) — wanted it right away, off the "M," but couldn't remember if it was MAUL or MAWL. To my credit, I knew it wasn't MALL.
  • 4D: Oenone's peak (Ida) — Mt. IDA = crosswordese, but it's nicely hidden here. I know "Oenone" only as the nymph that Paris abandoned when he went off with Helen.
  • 29A: _____ ammoniac (mineral found around volcanic vents) (sal) — guessed it off the "S"; not likely to remember it.
  • 30A: Musical featuring Nubians ("Aida") — I learned the word "nubian" from rap music of the early 90s.

  • 5D: Part of a French face (nez) — part of a twofer with OEIL. We get a somewhat more interesting twofer in the AFC matchup of CHIEFS (1D: A.F.C. team that has won one Super Bowl) and STEELERS (12D: A.F.C. team that has won six Super Bowls).
  • 3D: "The Little Mermaid" villain (Ursula) — commonest clue for URSULA, in my experience.
  • 7D: Prozac might treat it (neurosis) — seems ... off.
  • 11D: Ancient Lusitania, now (Portugal) — did not know that. I know "Lusitania" only as the ship.
  • 15D: Big name in aquatic tricks (Shamu) — took me longer than it should have. I think I was looking for a brand of jet-ski.
  • 37D: Grp. famous for its send-ups? (NASA) — cute.
  • 47D: Playground troublemakers (darers) — icky -ER plural. Don't blame the DARER. The DOER actually "makes" the trouble.

Happy third birthday to this blog, and thanks to all its loyal (and traitorous, and fairweather) readers. Despite the recent spate of negative reviews, it's still my pleasure to write this thing every day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Jeffrey 8:40 AM  

Happy birthday blog. The volume of work you have produced is remarkable and the quality of the blogs is consistently insightful, witty and fun. Too bad about your taste in music.

A toast to Rex, Sandy and the others I have met either virtually or in person through this blog. I look forward to the next 3 years.

Today's puzzle: B-
3 years of blogging: A+++++++

HudsonHawk 8:53 AM  

Agree on the rating and some of the tired fill, but I still liked it more than Rex and Crosscan. Solid B.

I started to put N.Y. JETS for 1D, but remembered the CHIEFS were also in that category. Incidentally, both teams were actually part of the A.F.L. when they won the Super Bowl.

I really wanted 55A to also have the three consecutive letter gimick going, after the OOO and SSS in 16A and 33A, respectively.

Not a fan of the SAL/ELEA crossing.

Happy birthday, blog. I have to say I've liked everyone I've met from this forum. Except Crosscan. ;)

John 8:53 AM  

Didn't know a GULL was another word for MARK or DUPE. Pictured the scene in The Bird's trying to hear what the gulls were saying!

Bob Kerfuffle 8:54 AM  

Happy Birthday Rex Blog!

We had an almost-theme today: ITSAZOOOUTTHERE (triple Os) and DISTRESSSIGNALS (triple Ss), but alas, it fell apart it the last long answer (although, working from E to W on that, I really wondered what word could end in TBE.)

Slowed down a bit by my one write-over, 39 A, Insurance shopper's concern, had RISK before RATE.

And now, off for ten computer-free days in Mallorca. See ya.

Unknown 9:01 AM  

Happy Birthday! Thanks for all your help getting through the tricky puzzles. I wouldn't have thought it possible, but you make crosswords even more enjoyable!

Hobbyist 9:09 AM  

I loved this one, mostly because I could finish it but I must say that peas are not a necessary ingredient of sheperd's pie. Oh well, the ampersand kinda makes up for the peas, I guess.
Oh! Happy birthday. A couple of years ago, solving Friday and Sat. puzzles was well nigh impossible for me but with your guidance, I'm improving. So thank you.
If there were no criticism, this would be too dull and pepless!!

nanpilla 9:12 AM  

@Rex, Happy birthday to your blog!

(A donation to the site makes a perfect birthday gift.)

@Bob Kerfuffle: Bon Voyage and say hi to Rafa.

Definitely ho-hum for a Friday puzzle, hope Saturday gives more of a fight. Thanks, Rex, for giving us a place to gather.

joho 9:12 AM  

@Rex ... brilliant write-up today regarding a so-so Friday puzzle. You are consistently lucid and entertaining even when I don't agree with you. I love what you've created and wish your baby a happy birthday!

I thought the term is "It's a jungle out there." I like zoo, though, and it makes sense.

I do agree with Rex, maybe we need to start sending DISTRESS SIGNALS to Will.

joho 9:13 AM  

Oh, and @Bob K ... hope you have a wonderful trip!

Ruth 9:19 AM  

You're right, Prozac doesn't "treat neurosis", it treats depression. Depression has a fairly specific definition, neurosis does not. In fact I don't think anybody uses that as a diagnosis anymore, and hasn't in, oh I don't know--forever. (but what the hell do I know--I'm a surgeon).

John From CT 9:22 AM  

I have never, never, never, used a maul to put up a tent. I understand that the intended tents are large event tents, but still. Yeccchh. Maul? Really?

I'm going back to work.

Frank Price 9:42 AM  

"Don't tase me bro" -- WTF? Pretty sure I was on the internets in 2007 and I've never crossed paths, swords, or tasers with that phrase.

When I saw "maul," I thought Darth, but maybe that would be too easy for a Friday. Surely there must be a few Star Wars theme xwords, somewhere.

OTOH I did like portugal and ampersand.

Elaine 9:47 AM  

Since I started with CLUING I had the false impression that I would zip through this one. But DEADZONE slowed me down more than a little, as did "Lay ___DOWN" and ALARM instead of ALBAS (new word!) I knew my entry did not agree in number, but since my first run-through had produced so little, I left ALARM in place far too long.

Once I realized that the simple answers were going to be correct, things went much more quickly. But DON'T TASE ME, BRO? Huh? Was I asleep all through 2007?

I did kind of laugh when I put in AIDA. Don't often hear operas referred to as "musicals."

As Ruth points out, you don't see the dx of "neurosis" often. The adjective form, neurotic, is in general use in the language, but professional terminology has moved beyond that. Once NEU-- was in place, though, it was a gimme that solved my LAY DOWN error.

Got the puzzle, learned a new word, enjoyed the Blog. Nice start to the day!

Happy Birthday, Blog!

william e emba 9:48 AM  

TAWNY is one of my favorite words, perhaps because it's part of the name of "Talky Tawny" fka "Tawky Tawny", the talking tiger who fights crime with Captain Marvel. See their first meeting.

I'm surprised that Rex doesn't explain what "Correo AEREO" means (hint: name of a band does not count), or its crossing with "L'ETAPE du Tour". At least I remembered ETAPE from reading about Lance Armstrong, otherwise it would have been an impossible Natick where it crossed ENNA. (Well, maybe not. I have vague memories of seeing ETAPE in military usages.)

I did not like "I BEEN HAD". I resisted filling in the ungrammatical phrase for the longest time, even with the IBO gimme (at least, for those old enough to remember Biafra) giving me the B.

imsdave 9:51 AM  

I hate it when I finish the NYT and the LAT in less then 15 minutes on a Friday.

Three years! Besides entertaining me on a daily basis, this blog has introduced me to an amazing group of people and inspired me to try my hand at the craft.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

retired_chemist 9:54 AM  

A good challenge for me. Especially liked AMPERSAND, the football and French connections, and the long answers. Agree that NEUROSIS isn't quite right. Had NO DICE for 60A at first - let's not go there.

Happy birthday to this blog - I have enjoyed the cyberfriendship and hope to meet some/all of you in person.

Van55 9:59 AM  

Happy blogday!

On the whole, I found this puzzle to be an enjoyable challenge. Never heard of "albas." "Pagers" as meeting interrupters is a bit of an anachronism. But the long answers were good and the fill gettable.

Ruth 10:00 AM  

Yes, let me add, as sort of a "fair weather" reader: I don't know how you do it, blogging every day, all year round, and manage to keep it snappy and interesting. Even things one does with a passion can seem like grinding chores when you "have to" do them every day. Cheers to you!
And believe it or not, Van, a lot of doctors still use pagers.

I have way to much time on my hands 10:06 AM  

I still haven't decided if it's fair to judge a Friday puzzles legitimacy by whether or not I feel I should have been able to complete it correctly, whether or not I did. Saturdays are clear, a fair Saturday puzzle can easily be beyond my abilities as a solver, calling upon knowledge outside my ken. Fridays I'm not so sure.
Today's puzzle crossed the line.

I've never heard of an ALBA, as I suspect very, very few have - It's 12th century poetry from a small corner of France, not in my wheelhouse. However the crossings were fair here.

Where the puzzle failed is in California. I didn't know the definition of Gull used here, but that's fair - it's a legitimate second definition. I didn't know Correo AEREO, but looking it up I guess that's fair (if any reference to "World Music" can be fair. ENNA (population 177k) was unknown to me, but apparently it's a real place, so fine. These three bits of arcana are each, individually, ok, but having them cross an nonsense version of a Gull's cry just plain sucked. I BEEN HAD? It's just not a sentence or phrase. IVE BEEN HAD would have been fine, but crossing three highly obscure words/phrases and then adulterating one to the point of nonsense was just awful.

On the otherhand, antidepressents are used to treat a number of anxiety disorders, which are what used to be diagnosed, and are still called colloquially, neurosis. If you had to drive a tent spike that was 3 feet long, 1 inch in diameter into the ground you would use a MAUL.

Happy third birthday Rex (I'm assuming you don't use your nome d blog outside the blog). You mentioned one day last week that the comments hadn't been so much fun in decades that I began to wonder exactly how long you've been doing this. Now I know. Thanks for all the hard work.

retired_chemist 10:14 AM  

@ I have way....

Take heart. I think more than one of us find Friday and Saturday puzzles more or less equally difficult, in line with your experience with today's. FWIW I got blown out by BEQ's Thursday one this week.

abby 10:15 AM  

I, too, found this puzzle both contrived and irritating. Neurosis? Don't tase me, bro! Did like the ampersand, and always enjoy the chance to use my crossword-puzzle French. However, it does appear that someone is asleep at the wheel.

JC66 10:15 AM  

HAPPY BIRTHDAY rexwordpuzzle.blogspot.com!!!

Keep up the great work, Rex.

Anonymous 10:20 AM  

To my chagrin I couldn't solve this without googling Correo and the cycling clue, and even then I finished with a letter wrong. The triple letter thing in 2 of the 3 themed acrosses didn't help.

34-down was driving me nuts since I had ETNA instead of ENNA and RTS instead of RDS (which kind of works as a football clue; quarterbacks sort of pass on -- or at least over -- right tackles). That left me with I BEE THAT.

Also, per the Prozac discussion, antidepressants are often prescribed as a treatment for insomnia, which fits and has the I in the right place.

hazel 10:21 AM  

Happy birthday blog!! Don't be down. We like it when you're negative.

While I did not think the puzzle was an easy-medium, I did find it to be a wretched mess - a DISTRESSINGLY asymmetric pile of geographic obscurities and abbreviations (agree with BOBK on the ooo sss ???) - really, the horror the horror)

I’ll put my former commuting credentials against anyone’s and I have never ever heard anyone say ITS A ZOO OUT THERE. Atlanta traffic is notoriously horrendous, but our zoo, on the other hand, is kind of cool - we have baby pandas. A more common expression is "What a zoo!", but I've still never heard it applied to traffic.

P.S. Excellent analysis @WAY TOO MUCH TIME. I completely agree.

Anne 10:23 AM  

Happy Birthday Rex Blog! It is a pleasure for me to read.

Near the end of last year, I stumbled upon this blog, about the time Rex asked for more people to comment. I had never blogged anywhere before and I thought it sounded like a good idea. SO I made a New Year's Resolution to blog every day. Of course, I didn't do it as life intervened (vacations, famly emergencies, etc.), but I've been pretty consistent. It has not been easy -which is why I am so amazed Rex can do this every day. At some point, he is probably going to burn out so I try to appreciate this in the hear and now.

As for the puzzle, I still slog through Friday and Saturday and don't feel I should judge them. I finished this one and I liked it and I took way to long to do it.

william e emba 10:28 AM  

I'll give away the game: the "Correo AEREO" that everybody (not just international music listeners) is supposed to know is Spanish for Airmail.

Rex, you would know LUSITANIA if you kept up with your Asterix comic books like a good modern day professor of English is supposed to do. See Asterix and Obelix All At Sea, page 4, panel 3. Oh, wait, Asterix is really French literature. Never mind.

Anonymous 10:31 AM  

The Lusitano is the national horse of PORTUGAL, which is the only way PORTUGAL came to mind for me.

Smitty 10:33 AM  

@John from CT, I use the spelling mall (original malle)
also mall (môl)
A heavy, long-handled hammer used especially to drive stakes, piles, or wedges
@fhp, I must have been tased for all of 2007, never heard of it either
@ruth, agree prozac treats depression not neurosis.
@rex "the lacklusterness continues" - amen.
Happy Blogday

JannieB 10:34 AM  

Happy Blogday - Hope we can celebrate many more. I love that you've taken what used to be (for me, at least) a solitary pastime and created a whole community of kindred spirits with whom I can share it.

As for this puzzle - it's not worthy of such an auspicious occasion! My instinct was to put a "b' in ALBA, but I looked it up quickly and only saw it defined as a white rose. Made no sense, but nothing else would fit. Likewise, "I been had", had me. I immediately wrote in ETNA instead of Enna, and never questioned it, especially given all the other short fill. And I never did parse "Don't tase me"; a real WTF for me. And I thought Correo Aereo meant "air mail". Guess I need to study more musicology.

Again - thanks for all you do and have done to make puzzling so much more fun!

PlantieBea 10:38 AM  

Happy birthday blog and thanks again to Rex! Raising my coffee cup in celebration. I've enjoyed my time here and my day isn't the same without reading what RP and the rest of you have said on the blog.

I had a horrible time with the SW corner of this puzzle. The only gull call I could think of was this, from Disney's Nemo:


So, since "mine" didn't fit, I figured that maybe a gull's cry was IDLE CHAT which did fit nicely, except that my Nigerian native became an IDO and my Italian province became ECNA. And, hey, you can pass on RTS just as easily as RDS. I think I like idle chat better than I BEEN HAD. I detest the TASE phrase. Let it go already--not funny.

I really wanted a triple letter run in 55 across, too. Overall, an okay Friday.

dk 10:38 AM  

Happy Blogday.


1. Rex, I did make the mall mistake.

2. I thought it was a DEADzone (also a King novel)

3. ditto on Tawny @william e.

Back in the day I had a client who was, and perhaps still is, stunningly beautiful and a very sweet woman. She was a model who used the alias Tawny Kitten and when she told me she laughed and said isn't that purrrfact. Every time I see the word Tawny I smile.

I would make some comment about ALBAS and Acme but discretion is the better part of valor ;0

What I liked about this puzzle is AMPERSAND and reading nubians at 7AM.

One more week of vacation ahead. I had accrued 7 weeks and had to :):) take 3 or lose them said Gus gloatingly as he prepared to EASEINTO another day.

Two Ponies 10:49 AM  

Not much good to say about this puzzle. As Rex said, it was held together with wads of old duct tape. I loved that comment.
Hazel pretty much said it for me.
On a much more pleasant note... this blog. I cannot understate how much I value coming here every day. I love Rex's daily input and everyone else's insights as well. My solving skills have taken a quantum leap beyond what they once were and it is all because of what I have learned here. Somehow Rex has drawn and retained a loyal (and sometimes traitorous) group of some of the nicest smartest bloggers imaginable. Amazing work. I am grateful that you still enjoy doing this Rex.

Stan 10:55 AM  

Voting negative on today's puzzle (it's all been said).

I'd like to thank Rex and the blog for being so engaging, civil, funny, and informative for the year or so I've been reading.

Big Happy Birthday!

slypett 11:05 AM  

When I finished the solve, I was so proud of myself for persevering and thought, "Rex, he's going to rate this Easy." At least there was Medium tacked onto it.

Still don't like DONTTASEMEBRO, though this time it's mitigated by DISTRESSSIGNALS.

Happy birthday Rex's blog! You have provided me with many hours of thought and pleasure.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 11:06 AM  

FWIW: I was the one who put IT's A ZOO OUT THERE in the autofill database.

Put me in the same category as NY JETS instead of CHIEFS. I'm still stinging from my beloved Pats losing to the over-poised Mark "Hype Machine" Sanchez-led Jets. Bleargh.

Belated thanks to all who enjoyed my puzzle yesterday. Please come to my blog.

Happy B-Day to Rex's blog as well.

michael 11:06 AM  

This was an odd puzzle for me. Although a lot of the clues/answers were out of my comfortable knowledge zone, I nonetheless found this relatively easy for a Friday. Don't tase me bro was completely new for me, but gettable and understandable. I wrote in neurosis, but even as a doctor of anthropology, this seemed wrong to me.

fiddleneck 11:08 AM  

Thanks for all the good writing.

Jim in Chicago 11:20 AM  

Can someone explain why straw is OATEN? I finally decided that it is EATEN, but that left me with NED for what Santa gives.

I beieve that SBARRO is an AMERICAN fast food chain that happens to serve up ersatz Italian chow, the chain itself is NOT Italian.

I hated the use of the word LEAVING for what happens in the Spring. Don't trees LEAF out?

Anonymous 11:24 AM  

@Jim - Most straw is the dried stalks of oats, hence OATEN. There is also wheat & barley straw.
Straw bedding is also frequently eaten by horses, much to the chagrin (and horror) of the owner.

bko 11:24 AM  

That being sung, I think trees go about "leafing" out in the spring, not "leaving".
"Don't tase me, bro" was heartwrenching, and greatly darkened security-type's already tarnished image (not to mention Kerry's, as well). Here in MN, I've been trying to get tasers declared LETHAL weapons.
I don't just like this blog, I NEED this blog. Thanks!

Jim in Chicago 11:33 AM  

I forgot about the tase me clue.

I was still puzzling over this as I walked into my office, and turned to a colleague saying "I've got this odd clue about a phrase from 2007 that seems to begin 'don't tase me....'" He instantly popped out with the entire phrase.

fikink 11:45 AM  

Let's all send Rex some money!

(btw, Rex did NOT put me up to that.)

I had the same reaction to the puzzle as Rex. dull, dull, dull...SORENESS? DIAMETER? on a Friday?

I did appreciate knowing the person could be called a gull, though - I only knew the word in that sense as a verb, like "gulling" someone into doing something (i.e., Mr. Fikink)

Rex, you are still KING.
The pleasure you have brought us with this very special community is more priceless than Mastercard, which I assume you accept? ;)

Sandy 11:49 AM  

So, gulls have bad grammar? Not knowing ENNA, I was wondering if Jonathan Livingston Seagull ever went on a rant about shad.

I guess photographers have OPS

I witness daily the amount of work that Rex puts into this, and I can't believe it has been 3 years of very disciplined getting out of bed.

Plus his critical and personal analysis has opened my eyes to the puzzle as an artform, as a statement about culture and society and knowledge, and the important role it plays in individual lives.

Rex Parker 11:52 AM  

Thanks, honey — both for pointing out the obvious and making me feel stupid (photo OPS, duh), and for making me LOL with talk of shad rants.


AV 12:05 PM  

RP - Congratulations on the third year anniversary! And many more to come.

Enjoy your rants and insights - and the readers' feedback is precious and funny.

Isabella di Pesto 12:14 PM  

Happy Birthday to you.

I should have known "alba." Alba in Italian mean dawn.

Q&A was a meanie.

Again. Thanks for a great blog.

George NYC 12:36 PM  

Three years and nary a missed day. That generosity of time and effort is impressive. Three cheers. GH

Elaine 12:44 PM  

I see that most of the objections/obscurities/odd-ball clues have been covered by now.

I once had a South American pen pal, so Correo Aereo finally clicked for me, but now I need to ask about the "musicology" reference. Huh???

I agree that trees "leaf out," but I thought "leaving" was acceptable as a gotcha clue. (I thought several of the clues were sly and entertaining, including this one.)

I had marked a number of clues for possible Googling, but in the end did not need the help. This makes me feel happy! Maybe taking a vacation is a good idea....

til tomorrow,
Elaine in Mosquito-ridden Arkansas

ArtLvr 12:45 PM  

Rex, your blog has been uniquely stimulating and I hope you can keep up the pace! Where else would we learn all the nuggets (ore-ful and otherwise) that you attract? Who'd know that a Lusitano is the national horse of PORTUGAL?

Happy anniversary!


Erik T. 12:53 PM  

"Negative reviews"? Huh? What? Screw 'em. Your blog is brilliant and wonderful and a gift to all of us. Thank you!

Joe 12:57 PM  

How can you not be depressed after this puzzle? Agree with Rex about the dulled down puzzles. Don't expect a change if THE POWERS THAT BE at the NY Times remain unchanged and lacking in diversity.

Happy Anniv., Rex, and many more!!!!

Daryl 1:00 PM  

cue strains of Jay-Z

D.O.A (Death of Autofill)...

This is anti-autofill, death of the cheap clue
This ain't on small towns or weird names you never knew
This is Will Shortz at his height, bring in BEQ

Happy birthday rexword!

ArtLvr 1:02 PM  

p.s. @ Elaine -- AIDA by Verdi is indeed Opera, but the puzzle refers to the hit Broadway Musical by Elton John and Tim Rice.

Bill from NJ 1:14 PM  

I came on board a year and a half ago but was forced to stop posting 8 months ago due to my health problems. But I still occasionally post when I can because this blog put together an incredible group of people that I can only call a Salon and who mean a great deal to me.

The idea that what was once a solitary pursuit could produce such a thing is, as Jannie B and fikink and the inimitable Hazel said, a joyous thing with which I am proud to be associated.

Thank you, Rex.

Martin 1:25 PM  


My desktop dictionary (MWC11) has an entry for "leave," an intransitive verb = LEAF.

Glitch 1:25 PM  

FWIW, "Don't ____ me, bro" was 51A on 7/29/09. Generated a fair amount of discussion on a 108 comment day.

Sbarro ws also much discussed when it last appeared (slow day). I took the cluing as an attempt at misdirection, Italian modifying FOOD, not CHAIN --- awkward tho.

It great to have a place to meet, greet, and sometimes annoy, (usually inadvertently) such a diverse group of people, but learning from them is the best part.

Congrats on the 3rd, Rex!


ArtLvr 1:26 PM  

p.p.s. Oddly, a friend did use the phrase "IT'S A ZOO OUT THERE" on the phone last night, talking about her increasing dislike of driving. She's a realtor in College Station TX, home to Texas A & M, which she says has 48,000 students and of those 47,000 have pick-up trucks...

Clark 1:32 PM  

Rex, thanks for the three years. And Sandy, thanks for letting him do it, as well as, for your contributions, asides, advice to the reader . . .

Hard to imagine missing the "Don't tase me Bro" thing. I found videos on YouTube, but I didn't link. There's too much complicated stuff mixed in with the bit of humor that is also there. Too dark for me to want to offer it up here.

Commandant Lassard 1:50 PM  

LUSITANIA finally enlightens me on why the Portuguese community center here in Brooklyn is called the Luso-American Cultural Center. along with the discussion on demonyms from a while back, i think there is fodder for a puzzle theme on localities with demonyms that don't derive directly from their place names.

also, AEREO is kind of an interesting word to spanish linguistic nerds (i imagine we are a small category) in that it contains two broken diphthongs (hiatos). normally spanish vowels combine sounds, but in the cases of a/e and e/o, they stay separate, giving this relatively brief word four syllables. i can't imagine that's interesting to anyone but me, but it's a slow day.

thanks for your continued efforts, rex, and happy birthday to your blog.

andrea ado michaels 1:52 PM  

Happy Anniversary!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I can't give you anything but love, baby...

These past two years since discovering you have been transformative in my life.
The wit, the wisdom, the fights, the flirting, the friendships, have become such a part of my life, I can barely breathe. Thank you.

Speaking of not being able to breathe, I practically LIVE on air,
so I try and give in other ways...
but it's my 50th in a couple of weeks, so if anyone wants to donate that amount, (or anything with a 5 in it) to Rex in my honor feel free to do so!)


mac 1:59 PM  

I think I've been coming to this blog for about as long as Bill from NJ, and it has added so much to the enjoyment of puzzles. Happy Anniversary, Rex, and PLEASE keep on blogging!

I didn't dislike the puzzle as much as so many of you. Some of the clues were inventive and funny, even if not perfectly correct. Learned about the other meaning of gull and Lusitania/Portugal. I absolutely hear the "It's a zoo out there" around here and in NY. Also like "The powers that be"; I used it a few days ago, and Orange did as well. Have to fess up, I had mall for maul, and that entire clue/answer reminded me of the spat with Gaddafi's people the last few days in Westchester.

I had a nice chat with Phil Donahue this morning, about crossword puzzles. I told him about the Rex Parker blog, maybe he will visit!

Radar 2:00 PM  

He blogged. It was a thing within him, bequeathed to him, perhaps an indebtedness forsaken from the old primordial spirit that marched within the bones across landscapes too sullied by theses and dissertations and dispositions and impositions for him (no, not him, never him, only the thought of him, a memory too distant and evoking not the old words and clues, not the etui and the Enid and the Mt.St., such as might a themeless exhibiting stacks of 15-letter entries might evoke out of the old past, which is not dead and is not even past, since we had a bunch of old farts here just last week), and so on. . . .

It's Faulkner's birthday, too. Happy birthday, Bill and Rex.

andrea notbad michaels 2:00 PM  

Now for the puzzle:
With the OOO and the SSS I feel like this started out as a themed puzzle, couldn't sustain it and petered out. SOS!
And Fridays get so much more respect than Mondays...Bah!

Why is that? So let me look at it constructively for a moment...
LOTS of DEADSPOTs but those stacks of eight must have been hard and the DONTTASEMEBRO crossing three fifteen letter entries...

It was weird not to enjoy it at all yet I learned so much today: ALBAS, MAUL, GULL, SAL ammoniac, Lusitania/Portugal connection, how many times CHIEFS/STEELERS have won things...

I always like to learn but it's weird, I didn't care about ANY of those facts, so weird weird weird.

(On a positive note, I knew AEREO and ENNA...it pays to have foreign loves!)

What else to love/hate?

And if you DID put in ETNA, then you would get I BEET HAD...which might have been a secret shout out...

Two Ponies 2:05 PM  

P.S. Thanks to JannieB and others for making me realize the appeal here on the blog. Besides all of you, I don't know anyone who even tries to do the NYT puzzles.
Solitary no more! That's it!

chefwen 2:08 PM  

@Twangster - I did the same thing with etna and rts, pretty sure that IBO was right but changed it to iso and ended up with I SEE THAT, like a seagull eyeballing a kid on the beach with food. DOH! Managed to get the rest almost right which for me on a Friday is nothing short of a miracle.

Happy Birthday Blog, I love it!
Happy Birthday Sandy and Rex's daughter AND Happy Anniversary to Sandy and Rex.

George NYC 2:08 PM  


jae 2:21 PM  

Yes, this blog is truly a daily delight. Thanks again! I thought this was pretty easy but like "I have way...," twangster, and others I screwed up the SW with RTS, and ETNA. Maybe next time I'll remember IBO which I know I've seen at least three or four times in the past.

bluebell 2:30 PM  

My children gave me a subscription to the NYT just so I would have the daily challenge of the puzzle. (Sorry--I'm not yet into computer solving.) Once I found this blog, I, like others of you, learned that I wasn't alone in pursuing this peculiar pastime. Thanks, Rex, for making the community a learning place for newbies along with the acers.

On the word leaving, I think of "Margaret are you grieving/over goldengrove unleaving."

SethG 2:43 PM  

Happy birthday to your blog! Happy other birthdays and anniversaries!

ITS A ZOO, a jungle, and a little OUT THERE. I started with yields for SCOLDS and ods (var.?) for OPS.

I've eaten in an Italian restaurant that was not owned in Italy. I learned about ENNA from the puzzle. It's its third appearance this year--one on a Tuesday, then earlier this month on a Wednesday. The Yale Book of Quotations named "Don't Tase Me Bro" the most memorable quote of 2007.

ONE FOR THE THUMB is 15 letters, but we already have one for the other thumb....luckily, the STAIRWAY TO SEVEN is the same. My early pick for most memorable quote of 2010. Go STEELERS!

Anonymous 2:50 PM  

NODEAR sitting atop SCOLDS was eerily reminscent of my first marr.. No, way too much info.

Anonymous 3:13 PM  

lower left was pretty lame.
i'm off to the moon for 11 computer free days! arrivederci, ciao.

mac 3:15 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle: have a wonderful trip!

Stan 3:29 PM  

@Bob K: Mallorca sounds great. Don't even think about Ennas and MtSts!

bookmark 3:43 PM  

Thanks, Rex, for your love of the game, and your obvious dedication and hard work for all of us. This blog has become an important part of my day. I LOVE reading the comments, and I learn something every day. My crossword skills have definitely improved, thanks to all of you.

@Andrea. I,too, was looking for the third triple letter. When it failed to appear, I felt betrayed!

@Radar... I love your Faulkner! Give us more on his next birthday, if not sooner.

edith b 4:04 PM  

There was a certain looseness in the cluing (They may be leaving, _Helens) and despite Rex's problems with it, I enjoyed this one. I did find the Triple Os and Triple Ss in two of the three 15s to be confusing.

Three years is a long time to blog every day and I congratulate you, Rex.


I fully expected to see inexorable in your Bulwer-Lytton-esque Faulkner-stylings.

joho 4:48 PM  

@Bill in NJ ... you said it so beautifully ... hear! hear!

In fact, all the comments today warm my heart. What a fantastic group of people. Thank you again, Rex! And Happy Birthday to Sahra and Happy Anniversary to Sandy and you.

@mac ... one of my favorite people in the world lives across the street from Phil Donahue. I wonder if you and she are neighbors?

Anonymous 5:08 PM  

What y'all said and then some.
Thanks to our tireless Rex.
Whoever did that Faulkner thing.. very cool.
Maul made a lot more sense if you thought of a circus tent rather than your dinky backpacking tent with the wires stakes.
mac knows Phil D.?? What's the story behind that?
Squeek the anonymouse

mac 5:13 PM  

@joho and Squeek: He lives in my general area (or the other way around), but I met him foodshopping at Balducci's. We saw him at the Westport Library CWP tournament last January (a bunch of us from the blog) and he seems to know Will quite well.

schmidtenor 5:25 PM  

Waytoomuchtime said it perfectly for me:

"These three bits of arcana are each, individually, ok, but having them cross an nonsense version of a Gull's cry just plain sucked."

Ulrich 5:25 PM  

I was the fourth commenter today and I swear, I saw my post published after preview, but it disappeared into the big black blog hole nevertheless. I sent Rex my best wishes by e-mail b/c I couldn't muster the energy to retype everything AFTER reading everything that has been said since.

I'm one month shy of completing my second year of commenting on this blog (the initial trigger was my unhappiness with a clue concerning a certain language--surprise, surprise), and for me, too, this blog and the community it created added much to my (almost) daily life--non-puzzle wife is enormously busy writing books, and the cats, in spite of my best efforts, have yet to show any interest in anagrams that go beyond SCAT and the finer points of German grammar and usage, and their sense of humor does not go beyond ambushing each other...these are the only people I meet face-to-face on a daily basis. So, I very much welcome meeting other people with a broader sense of humor and broader interests on this blog and, increasingly, in real life...

...and if my solving skills would show some improvement, I would be really happy--but that remains to be accomplished in the next 3 years

Meg 6:21 PM  

Happy Anniversary! I used to only read the NYT forum (which is a nice blog), but this one has so much more character, and people don't correct your punctuation.

I got "DON'T TASE ME BRO" with just 2 letters. What does this say about me? I live in Florida! I think at Sea World you can still experience a kiss from SHAMU, which is actually a lick. Very big, pink tongue.

I thought "Attempts to get help" was a verb for far too long. So gullible.

Hopefully tomorrow's puzzle will be HARD!!

Mikem 6:39 PM  

Had LAMB instead of PEAS, noticed the plural then changed. I always mayke my shepherds pie w/ peas. Didnt get the gull reference at all. Loved AMPERSAND... finally it my right betwwen the eyes. SW quadrant was tough for me.... damn gulls. Cheers

Unknown 6:43 PM  

Happy Blogaversary Rex. Been here two years and it changed my life and represents what the Internet can and should do for its citizens. Some of my best friends are avatars.

My Free Mason friend once talked about the symbolism of the Setting Maul (or Mallet as they are related words) which was used as a Gavel.

I heard Bob Dylan's first crack at it was, "If I had Maul..."

MikeM 6:43 PM  

PS @Hazel I have been commuting into NYC from North Jersey for the past 27 years. at least an hour and a half each way. Can you top that? :)

Leon 6:47 PM  

Thank you Mr. Doll.

Thank you RP for the site. Your analysis and the comments section have given this solver the ability to tackle Friday and Saturday puzzles and to appreciate them.

MikeM 6:51 PM  

@Philly Solver... you mean Pete Seeger, not Bobby D I think

Sfingi 6:54 PM  

Here and at the LA Confidential, in less than a year, I've learned muchly. The latter is more my speed, but I hope someday to catch up with you'all. The sidebars have been brilliant. And, to think, no one can tell we're all dogs! A salon, indeed,@BillfromNJ.

@Ulrich - that happened to me this week - losing my comment, though I saw the preview; but I did rewrite.

Today's as yesterday's was too difficult for me. And, topsy-turvy, I got NEUROSIS as my first answer. I've studied Sicily for many years and got (Greek) Enna, since it is on a high plain in the middle of the triangle, unlike Etna. Some day I'll get to see it. Completely new words to me, not just "doh," were alba, Lys, ancient Lusitania and rowdydow. Still dislike too much accent on sports and French.

"Don't tase me Bro," was a very disturbing episode. Many people have been hurt and even died (36?), some quite young. Bless anyone who tries to rid us of tasers, @BKO.

Buon'compleano, Rex, and now I need to take my Prozac.

slypett 6:57 PM  

I want to scuttle my previous statement about this blog. Instead: Rex, your work has had an enormous positive influence on a lonely life. The accidental discovery of your blog and my subsequent decision to dive right into it have been proven lucky time and again.

Ulrich 7:12 PM  

@Sfingi: If you don't hit Publish and leave the window, all is lost--I learned that the hard way. What happened today was that I did hit Publish and saw my comment on the blog, not in preview, and when I came back hrs latter, it had disappeared. But then again, I may not remember this correctly...

treedweller 7:46 PM  

It took me a long time to get MAUL, since, like others, I was thinking of camping tents. Nobody who backpacks carries a MAUL. If you really need help driving a stake, a rock is generally nearby. Finally I accepted it, and then the actual application appeared (my thought was circus tents, but I'm sure any number of large tents need some extra help driving their stakes). I've never used a MAUL for anything but firewood.

I also wanted LETDIE to be "Let lie", which generated no possibilities for "dot follower", so I was spinning my wheels there for too long.

In the end, I just found this to be another Friday I couldn't quite finish (though I probably didn't try hard enough).

Finally, I will echo the thoughts of others in celebrating this blog. As someone who is more surprised when people get my jokes than when they don't, finding a crowd that "gets" the puzzle was a godsend. Thanks, RP, and fellow commentors, for creating a community of kindred spirits. Hard to come by and well appreciated by me.

hazel 7:58 PM  

@MikeM - I think you may have me, but I need more information. First, I'm definitely not going to top the 27 years - but are you driving or riding? And if you're driving, what's your average speed?

Also, how many times when you've gotten home or to work have you said "It's a zoo out there!"?

fergus 8:15 PM  

Correo AEREO brought a pang of nostalgia to those of us who used to communicate with far-flung friends, using the stylish technology of pen and paper, envelope and stamp. Par Avion! Putting on those little stickers added a dash of panache to trans-Atlantic letters, painstakingly written in one's own inimitable hand. And while I've sent a number of hand-written notes in this century, it has been so long since I really sat down to pen a proper letter. The more I think about it, the more I miss everything about this bygone practice. But not so much as to fail to recognize that e-mail makes so much more pragmatic sense.

Susan 8:36 PM  

Happy Blogiversary, Rex. Your blog and your readers' comments have really enhanced my enjoyment of crosswords. Merci!

fergus 8:49 PM  

Since I got stuck with NO DEAL on the Domestic denial Clue, it made me realize how effective this blog has been for me in diffusing and diverting the chatter I have with non-crosswording intimates, domestic or otherwise. How much tedium they've been spared since I've had a forum to listen to and participate in, concerning the daily arcana or creative flourish that they either don't have time for, or to which they aren't yet Clued-in ...

So, thanks Rex, for your efforts in the now legitimate art of crossword criticism and for maintaining the temper among obviously highly opinionated observers.

fergus 8:54 PM  

(Hi Susan -- I'm teaching French all next week, so I may have a couple of peculiar grammatical questions for you, which we probably ought to discuss dans un autre endroit.)

Two Ponies 8:55 PM  

@ fergus, I have a dear friend in England who does not have a computer. Through her I keep my stationary and favorite pen from gathering dust. It is a true pleasure.
Have you read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society"? Rather silly title aside it is a delightful book comprised entirely of correspondence.
I recommend it to WWII enthusiasts.
Three and out.

Anonymous 9:08 PM  

Negative reviews?? What's the alternative it's compared to?

I started coming here, incidentally, about the same time I started doing xwords seriously; I've always enjoyed Rex's aesthetic sensibility and I've gone from barely finishing a Wednesday to regularly completing Fridays, even the occasional Saturday. Many thanks, Rex.

Doug 9:09 PM  

@RP: Many thanks for the daily effort in doing the blog--UBERhuman and much appreciated!

I've been so glad to meet the many interesting folks here in cyberspace. Thanks to all for taking the time to make this a good return on RP's time investment.

misstrish 9:17 PM  

Happy Birthday Blog. Rex, thanks much for all you do. I love coming here for info, insights, laughs and the occasional explanation. I may not post often but I do lurk a lot.
@Bill from NJ - Its nice to see you post. I miss your comments and send you white light thoughts.

Greene 9:50 PM  

Late to the show tonight, but couldn't let the day pass without a word to Rex on his third birthday.

Mr. Parker you are one hellavu good teacher and I feel fortunate to have been one of your long-distance pupils over the past year and a half. You have not only taught me the nuts and bolts of crossword solving, but more importantly opened my eyes to the aesthetics and beauty of the genre. I admire your impeccable standards, marvel at your insights, laugh at your jokes, and accept your daily challenge to not only be a better solver, but a more open-minded, humane, and tolerant person. I have alternately loved you and hated you, wanted to slap you on the back and slap you across the face. Well, maybe not literally, but your passionate views do elicit equally powerful responses from your readers. I think it is the teacher in you that sees beyond the puzzle as an idle entertainment and as more of a mirror in which to examine our culture and the role we each share in shaping it. Who knew a humble crossword puzzle could have such lofty aspirations? You did.

I hope you will never tire of this blog and your motley crew of commentators. I offer you my heartfelt thanks for enriching my life and on this, your third blogoversary, I raise my glass and shout...PROSIT!

Vega 10:51 PM  

As a loyal (as in, every day, no matter what) reader but traitorous (or maybe fairweather) commenter, I'm also wishing Rex and this blog a happy happy happy third birthday and deep gratitude.


MikeM 10:57 PM  

@ Hazel, well I do not drive into the city. Combination of walking/bus/subway. And invariably it IS a zoo at some point. But I do some of my best crossword puzzle on the bus... which allows me to forget about traffic for awhile.

I have a good friend who lives in the Bronx near the Bronx Zoo. His patented line is,
"I live near the zoo. It's a jungle out there!"

Anonymous 11:03 PM  

@ Greene well said my friend!

fergus 11:25 PM  

Two Ponies,

That letter writing correspondence might not touch the soul of people who are only just younger than I am.

Arbitary cutt-off date is now 1975 for DOB.

Mechanical typewriters were de riguer in college for my generation; writing letters was standard practice well into the 1990s.

If you had anything serious to say, in my youth it was done ink.

Looking over carefully opened and much anticipated envelopes, for letters that may include little whiffs of perfume, pictures (chemical compositions), and the feel of your friend or your love-girl's handwriting is something worth remembering.

Puzzle Mom 11:42 PM  

Congratulations, Rex, and many more -- by which I mean both years to come, and people who help.

I got cluing, chiefs, steelers and darers immediately -- not to mention, it's a zoo out there, no dear and ampersand. That's when I knew this was a bad puzzle. I figured there had to be something wrong when I knew, right off the bat, so many of the long answers. That just doesn't happen on Fridays. I'm not that good.

Anonymous 1:38 AM  


liquid el lay 2:51 AM  

I have used a maul to put up a tent… not! (I used it to put up a stage truss. I spelt it sledge ‘cause that’s what I called it- otherwise I would have spelled it MAWL. Looks Old English, looks right.)

I’m glad I gave up on this one because I don’t think it was possible for me to complete if I took any amount of time. So I think it’s kind of an unfair puzzle.

What I dig about the NYT puzzle is that no matter your experience level, if you are inventive and persistent you should be able to solve it, given enough time. This ITSAZOOOUTTHERE puzzle, though, seems to have a lot of weird animals you only meet in crosswordland. I don’t know these creatures and I could never figure them out. So bunk.

Also, AMPERSAND is part of the question, and, isn’t it cryptic bending back on itself? Cluing to the text of the clue sucks, incestuously- or am I just sore for not getting this puzzle?

REX- Always enjoy your work, only occasionally am I irked, and then only by your minions. Also, when the puzzle becomes savage, you bring civility. Or an avenging sword, or something, appropriate.

hazel 3:50 PM  

@Mike - I concede. I'm sure after 27 years of your commute you have felt like you were in a zoo from time to time.

On the other hand, sitting in slow and go traffic for an AVERAGE of an hour and half was my commute, and it didn't feel zoo-like at all, just really tedious ...

Anonymous 10:57 PM  

Rex, My boyfriend and I are cruciverbalist newbies and found your blog refreshing and insightful...you just got yourself two more subscribers..yee haw :)

chris 11:34 PM  

Congrats on the blog birthday. Too bad the puzzle was so craptastic. I been reading (apparently that's a valid construction these days) off and on since the beginning.

Anonymous 4:13 PM  

Happy Birthday.

My syndicated clue for the last across had not apostrophe. Shouldn't it have had one? Made me look for combinations of LET in the puzzle. Gave up on that.

Singer 5:20 PM  

Happy birthday five weeks late from syndication land.

Agree puzzle was pretty crappy, but did learn a couple of things (gull - I wanted mine, mine also). Chiefs and Steelers were gimmes, which made dead zone fall apart. Don't really hear DEAD SPOT as a phrase.

Don't tase me bro is you tube pop culture that even this old fart has heard, thought it was pretty solid.

Had the most trouble in the bottom three rows. STNS , RDS, LYS are bad news, as was ALBAS. I wanted a triple letter in the long answer, and it really took a long time to get THE POWERS THAT BE. I BEEN HAD just didnt seem right. I wanted an apostrophe in let's have have it, and that made SCOLDS not make sense. I got it when I finally realized that there was no apostrophe.

Puzzle took too long, and had too many weird abbreviations and arcana to be enjoyable.

Anonymous 7:05 PM  

I posted the apostrophe comment at 4:13 and immediately wanted to take it back. I finally got it. Geesh.

Anonymous 9:04 PM  

I had "Star pets" for "They're groomed in Hollywood" for quite a while. "Apbas" struck me as an odd word, "Albas" is new to me.

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