Ancient city whose name means rock —FRI Sep. 18 2009— Satirist Freberg / Literary character played film Charles Laughton Anthony Perkins Geoffrey Rush

Friday, September 18, 2009

Constructor: Charles E. Gersch

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: TYRE (5D: Ancient city whose name means "rock") — Tyre is an ancient Phoenician city and the legendary birthplace of Europa and Elissa (Dido). Today it is the fourth largest city in Lebanon and houses one of the nation's major ports. Tourism is a major industry. The city has a number of ancient sites, including its Roman Hippodrome which was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1979 (wikipedia)

Puzzle Note:


All the daily crosswords this week, Monday through Saturday, are by puzzlemakers who have been contributing to The Times for more than 50 years. Charles Gersch, of New York City, had his first crossword published on February 21, 1944, when he was 13, in the New York Herald Tribune. He made his Times debut in 1951.


Not much to say about this one. Felt a bit staid, and not as wide open as most late-week grids, but it was an enjoyable romp nonetheless. Hardest part was the NW corner, where "HAPPY TALK" was completely unknown to me (14A: "South Pacific" song that asks "If you don't have a dream, / How you gonna have a dream come true?"). Just now I wrote in "HAPPY FEET," which something I have heard of, Steve Martin stand-up being much more familiar to me than the soundtrack of "South Pacific."

[Honestly not sure which is sillier]

Seems like there's been a slight uptick in musical theater + opera clues this week (today, see "FIDELIO" — 22A: Opera that includes the "Prisoners' Chorus"), but I could easily be imagining that. Tweak a clue or two and this entire puzzle could have come straight out of 1979 (even the ESPN part, as that network — or SportsCenter at least — just turned 30). You'd have to tweak the (lovely) clue for DIANE (52A: Chambers in a bar — a "Cheers" reference, in case you somehow didn't know), take Geoffrey Rush out of the clue for INSPECTOR JAVERT (55A: Literary character played in film by Charles Laughton, Anthony Perkins and Geoffrey Rush), and make GOV a simple abbrev. (33A: E-mail address ender). But the puzzle is very fair to solvers of all ages. Actually, hmmm, not sure about TEENAGE solvers. I'll see what Caleb says. But in general, right over the plate for a Friday.


  • 18A: West African currency (Leone) — part of my minor troubles in the NW. Learned this term from xwords and still need crosses to pick it up, apparently. Not sure what I would have done with this corner if INSURANCE POLICY hadn't come crashing in (16A: Something that may cover a house).
  • 24A: Satirist Freberg (Stan) — My big "???" of the day. Actually, INSPECTOR JAVERT was a big "???" as well. Never seen any production of "Les Misérables." Never read it either.

[This dude has awesome hair and glasses and makes Dick Cavett look like a pixie when he stands next to him]

  • 34A: Its maiden flight carried its country's president home (El Al) — what else? That airline has become the Random Trivia Generator answer. If you want to win a trivia contest about Israeli airlines, just read the previous clue list for EL AL. It's endless.
  • 35A: Pitcher's ploy (intentional walk) — Barry Bonds got a lot of these. Manny and Pujols get their fair share as well. Some hitters are just too scary. That, or first base is open and you want to increase the opportunities for a force out in a late-game situation where you absolutely can't allow the lead runner to score.
  • 61A: One seriously into Civil War history, maybe (re-enactor) — will never understand the desire to recreate this war. "Hey, it's an incredibly bloody war that tore the country apart ... let's do it again! It's fun! The uniforms are neat!" But then again I get up and write about crossword puzzles every morning, so ... maybe not one to disparage other people's weird hobbies.
  • 1D: 1962 World Cup host (Chile) — wanted ITALY at first.
  • 15D: "Cracklin' _____" (Neil Diamond hit) — the LAT puzzle today also features the work of Mr. Diamond. Grew up on his songs. Big fan.

["Had me a time with a poor man's lady..."?! Well that's not nice]

  • 27D: Bygone spray (alar) — always ALAR. If you don't like that answer, ask yourself how much you like AL'ER. Then be grateful and move on.
  • 28D: Ayn Rand hero (Galt) — In college I would see bumper stickers that read "Who Is John Galt?" and I always wanted to reply, to the bumper stickers directly, "He's a Scottish author who wrote Annals of the Parish. Now stop bothering me."
  • 32D: Alphabet quartet (stuv) — the four-letter alphabet quartet is, without a doubt, the laziest constructing ploy. That "V" is not worth it.
  • 46D: Colgate rival (Crest) — once I got colleges out of my head, this was easy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


dk 8:00 AM  

Again growing up listening to musicals (thanks dad) saves the day. The only delay was running through the South Pacific Song list ("I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right out of My Hair" will be with me all day and now you have it as well.

This one was easy for me. Felt like an INTENTIONALWALK. Ran amuck instead of a FEVER and had Dey (as in Susan) instead of JAN but otherwise smooth sailing.

Never did like the Brady Bunch, above mentioned dad thought the show was a good excuse to read a book: The wag.

Been thinking of watching Casablanca and I will add Les Miserables to the list. One more week of vacation so I know I can fit both in.

Leslie 8:01 AM  

Oh, my. Weirdly, I'm both disagreeing with Rex AND dissing a puzzle. I rarely do the first and have never done the second. To me, it's like shouting, "Hey, Baryshnikov--sloppy plié there!" when I can barely walk without stumbling into the furniture.

But this puzzle was just way too easy for a Friday. (Although thanks, Rex, for explaining the DIANE thing. I got the answer, but I'd completely forgotten about "Cheers.") Maybe, in some perverse way, it's precisely because it could have come straight out of 1979. You could put me in the time machine, send me back to 1979, and I'd be right at home--thus my "too easy for a Friday" rating.

Dough 8:09 AM  

I agree with @Leslie. I found this very Tuesday-ish. I walked through the puzzle without a hitch. I don't think there is anything wrong with the puzzle, however; just that it wasn't a Friday puzzle for me. I've never been much of a Rodgers & Hammerstein fan, nor Brady Bunch, nor Neil Diamond, but I knew enough about them all to get these. Mention should be made of the Fidelio reference. I am familiar enough with the Overture, but has anyone actually seen the full opera enough to know this reference?

I have an old Stan Freberg record downstairs somewhere. I'm inspired to pull it out and give me a fresh listen.

dk 8:21 AM  

Apropos of nothing, Ray Walsten (My Favorite Martian) was in the London (West End) Production of South Pacific as Luther the seabee.

Steve in NYC 8:27 AM  

Ray Walston is also in the movie version. And "Damn Yankees," too.

This was an easy and unobjectionable puzzle. Is there a theme: "in" answers for the 15s? Is that enough to qualify?

Parshutr 8:31 AM  

About those Civil War reenactors. I think it's almost totally a Southern phenomenon, and my guess is they didn't like the way it came out the first time, so...

Kurt 8:38 AM  

I'm with Dough and Leslie. I enjoyed the puzzle. But it felt more like a Tuesday/Wednesday than a Friday. That's not a complaint. Just an observation.

Parshutr 8:38 AM  

Most recent Javert was John Malkovich.

edith b 8:53 AM  

This was the first puzzle of this week that did not skew particularly anything. I agree that this didn't represent a typical Friday but I don't think it was a Tuesday either. I guess trying to pigeonhole a puzzle this week was a fruitless enterprise.

Suffice it to say, I did not enjoy this one very much but am unsure as to the reason. Maybe Saturday will be different.

Karen from the Cape 8:57 AM  

Ouch, for me this was a challenging Friday. Not too many toeholds for me there. On the other hand, it was a fun solve for me.

Parshutr, I'll point out that in the northeast we have a lot of Revolutionary War re-enactors, and they seem to be happy with the original outcome...Out west I ran into a lot of medieval war re-enactors (ie the SCA). I think it's more men (and some women) who like play-acting with guns (or swords) combined with folks who get off on historical nitpickery. Hand-sewn costumes seem to be de rigeur. I've asked some of the Minutemen here about Civil War re-enactions, apparently none of them want to be Rebs.

I have read Les Miserables. Thank heavens they cut out all the ramblings about Napoleon from the musical.

HudsonHawk 9:00 AM  

If we'd followed Crosscan's suggestion, this would have been Thursday, and yesterday would be Friday. Enjoyable, nonetheless.

I got it right, but LEONE crossing TYRE comes close to Natick. Also found the cluing for KILOS a bit odd, given the UK was very late to the metric system party...

PlantieBea 9:12 AM  

Thank goodness for this Friday after yesterday's slaughter. It felt a bit easy for a Friday but at least it was doable. Confidence returns.

I had to write-over ONE DAY ticket, DO A U turn, OUTLAST, have AN EYE for, but no major problems with the fixes. We have friends/know people in the North and South who are re-enactors. They enjoy the costuming and camraderie of these re-enactments. Favorite answers were FANTASTIC and CHASTISES.

Greene 9:14 AM  

Thoroughly enjoyable puzzle for me (and a pleasure to be able to finish again after getting kicked around by yesterday's puzzle).

Obviously "Happy Talk" was a gimmie for me and really opened up the NE quadrant. South Pacific is currently back on Broadway in a magnificent revival that surprised even me with its beauty and power. I had supposed that this was just another tired old Rodgers and Hammerstein revival. Not so. This production stuns with its rough edges and blunt confrontation of racism and American jingoism. I was completely reminded why the original production won the Pulitzer Prize for drama back in 1949. Highly recommended if you're in the city.

Ulrich 9:15 AM  

@Rex: Great comment re.61A, and the J in Javert/Jan was my only trouble spot, too--never saw the Brady Bunch, nor Lez Miz, nor read the book. Aside from that, way easier than yesterday's puzzle...

An observation: I could do all of this week's puzzles w/o outside help, except for one isolated trouble spot in yesterday's puzzle, where I guessed wrong, and 4 of the 5 actually seemed easy. But I could not do Rex's and Caleb's birthday puzzle for Kevin der Große w/o help--the NW corner gave me fits. Can we talk about solvers' age for a change?

joho 9:16 AM  

Any puzzle would have a hard time measuring up to me after yesterday's gem. I might have liked this better if I didn't have the comparison.

@Steve in NYC ... I, too, saw the "IN" but if that's supposed to be theme it's not a very good one.

@dk ... AMUCK!

I wouldn't say I had an ADVERSE reaction to this puzzle, just not an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:32 AM  
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Bob Kerfuffle 9:34 AM  

Bit too easy for a Friday. But all is right with the world, that is, normal conditions prevail, when Rex's ??? is my gimme - putting in HAPPYTALK instantly got the whole puzzle off to a quick start.

For those who live within 50 miles of New York City, Les Miz was almost unavoidable, tho none of the listed film actors was in the stage version as far as I know.

Also, found 48 A, Place name in Manhattan, ASTOR, brought a smile. Do folks outside the metro area know that there is an Astor Place?

And of course, one knows that the Prisoners' Chorus is by Beethoven, but to get the answer for the grid one must search through that entire list of Beethoven operas . . . . . .

Norm 9:53 AM  

"27D: Bygone spray (alar) — always ALAR. If you don't like that answer, ask yourself how much you like AL'ER. Then be grateful and move on." Actually, AL'ER would give you INTENTIONAL WELK and I claim credit if Merl ever uses it in one of his horribly punny/funny creations.

Stan 9:57 AM  

Just about the perfect level of difficulty for me: some easy stuff to start with, then lots of brain-racking required -- enjoyable throughout.

Thanks, Mr. Gersch!

Plus, loved the STAN Freberg clip.

PurpleGuy 10:00 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle. One of my best Friday times, though I agree with all that it was on the easy side.
I was of the same mind-set as Mr. Gersch.

A chuckle for me was having GOV and FIFE in the same puzzle. Ex-GOVernor FIFE Symington is considering running for GOVernor again, even though he had been forced to resign due to financial scandals.
Do these people never learn ????????

Liked all the musical clues. Brought back many memories.

Yes,I am familiar with the entire opera of Beethoven's "FIDELIO." He only wrote the one !

Thank you Mr.Gersch. Great puzzle.

Glitch 10:01 AM  
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Anonymous 10:04 AM  

I totally agree this was just a Tuesday puzzle.
And for lots of wonderful laughs, check out Stan Freberg's CD: The United States of America, The Early Years. It's given me years of pleasure and still does.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 10:05 AM  

I knew HAPPY TALK immediately. Why? No, I've never seen "South Pacific." I knew it because Dizzee Rascal sampled that song. Specifically, the very lyrics in question. Why? I have no idea. Watch it here.

Van55 10:07 AM  

"the four-letter alphabet quartet is, without a doubt, the laziest constructing ploy."

Right behind the random compass direction (Fresno to Bakersfield dir." and the odd Roman numeral arithmetic problem, IMO.

I found this puzzle a bit snarky at places. Porto-Novo didn't come to me, and I guessed Tyra rather than Tyre. Also not familiar enough with the characters in Les Miserables and the Brady Bunch to get the J in Javert and Jan.

Jim in Chicago 10:15 AM  

Aside from repeating the sentiment that they must have dropped the puzzles on the floor and then picked them up in the wrong order (this was NOT a Friday - I know, since I finished it before my coffee) the puzzle just fell a bit flat.

I twitched at equating Kilos with Pounds, since the two have nothing to do with each other, and the Brits still USE pounds for many things.

The alphabet quartet was indeed just plain lazy - a four letter string, on Friday? Really, I'd be embarrased.

I chuckled, since I wanted the "restaurant freebie" to be "amuse buche" something I doubt more that 4 Americans had heard of when Mr. Gersch wrote his first puzzle. And, in some parts of the country Ice Water no longer automatically comes to your table.

Had several writeovers in the SE, starting with "an eye" for instead of "a nose" and putting in TACO for the Spanish treat.

Really wanted the last long answer to be Inspector Gadget, and the only song I know from South Pacific in Bali Hai, but got both answers from the crosses.

Funny to see the full "Ayn Rand" as a clue, since you usually have to supply one of the other as the answer. I fished Galt out of my random memory, since I haven't read Rand since I was about 19, and don't intend to ever again. Does every 19 year old pick it up in search of the meaning of life?

Jeffrey 10:23 AM  
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Jeffrey 10:24 AM  

Following my own advice, I will never again review a puzzle in reference to the day of the week. (no prize will be awarded to the first person who points out my first violation of this rule).

Only HAPPY TALK from me on this puzzle. My experience was similar to Rex except HAPPY TALK was a gimme. Well, I guess my experience was nothing like Rex, then.

"Chambers in a bar" is the clue of the week.

Anyway, enjoyable, if quick for a Friday.


poc 10:25 AM  

Enjoyable on the whole, but what's with the cluing for KILOS? I filled it in at the end because there was no alternative, but it grates. It's as if "METRES" were clued as "British yards". I suspect the constructor was trying some indirection (pounds = currency) and came unstuck.

Stephen 10:26 AM  

Is Stan Freberg the inspiration for (at least the look of) Dr. Steve Brule on "Tim and Eric Awesome Show"?

Susan 10:34 AM  

Did not understand "Chambers in a bar," although I got it from crosses. Do not find it clever, since I always considered "Cheers" overrated.

Am not from NY. Did not know about Astor Place. Got it from crosses.

NATICK for me at Ugarte/Galte. And I've even seen Casablanca like seventeen times...

I'm teaching a Hugo play right now, but I didn't know Javert. Kudos to those having read or reading Les Misérables. I am not among you. It's my Yeats, if you know what I mean. Oh, no, Ayn Rand is my Yeats.

retired_chemist 10:36 AM  

Like most, I found this too easy for Friday. That said, I had three difficult spots, all dual proper name crossings: GALT/UGARTE, PORTO/JAVERT, and JAN/JAVERT. Guessed right on two and asked non-puzzle wife about NAN/DAN/JAN. She knew.

HAPPY TALK was my first entry. Easy for many other geezers too I would bet.

{pedantry}Did not like 19A British "pounds." Cute phrase but wrong, wrong, wrong. one Kg is 2.2046 of them.{/pedantry}

Enjoyable solve, regardless of the minor stuff mentioned by others.

Two Ponies 10:44 AM  

Rather easy for a Friday but not exactly a cake walk esp. the NW and SE corners.
Somehow got Happy Talk but it somehow sounds mockingly oriental to me and not particularly Polynesian.
The three "In"s of the theme answers caught my eye as well.
I saw Les Miz and the only merit was the scenery. All of that strife and misery over a loaf of bread? Ridiculous.
Loved the Diane clue. Yesterday on Fresh Air Terry Gross was interviewing Ted Danson and he very graciously gave Shelley Long all the credit for the show's success. Very classy.

SethG 10:50 AM  

I grew up hating Neil D--so much that I used to leave my grandmother's room in the nursing home when he came on. Ah, the follies of youth. But who is Alex Galt?

I can't think of the skit, but Dan Aykroyd was definitely channeling STAN during a talk show skit.

Not sure why, but I had tons of trouble with this--took me more than twice as long as yesterday's or last Friday's. But I appreciated that it seemed like a normal, ungimicky Friday puzzle.

Part of the problem is that I, normally no language prescriptivist, wasn't sure about the verbing of RSVP. And "ploy" seems off--doesn't that denote an element of trickery? I started with STONE for KILOS, L'EGGS for HANES, AN Exx for A NOSE, and PORTO for PORTO.

Happy New Year, fellow Jews!

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

Was about to complain about the cluing for CHASTISE, but figured I would actually check the dictionary, only to find the first definition of CHASTISE is to discipline, esp. by corporal punishment. News to me! Never heard it used with the intent beyond a moderate correction.

bookmark 11:13 AM  

I liked this puzzle, though I had problems with a few clues at first. I saw Les Miz in London years ago but it took me a long time to remember JAVERT.

Loved "Chambers in a bar." Couldn't bring up UGARTE even though we've seen it recently. Only got it through crosses and then said, AHA!

Charles Gersch had his first puzzle published during WWII, a month after I was born, and he's still doing it. That is impressive and gives me hope for my old age. Thanks, Mr. Gersch.

Wade 11:13 AM  

I'm with Seth on Neil D. I don't get him. He was, he said, and his furniture didn't listen to him. Fail to see tragedy.

I wish I had a little Dick Cavett. They're so cute. I'd take my Dick Cavett with me everywhere and maybe the pretty bank tellers would all crowd around when it was my turn at the window.

Easy Friday. I know John Galt only because of the reference in Tobias Wolff's novel "Old School," which is a funny and touching book. I recommend it, and anything else Tobias Wolff has written.

Deb Amlen 11:14 AM  

One of my favorite new quotes ever, David Frost to Stan Freberg: "It's a great honor in England to be put out in the audience."

Doug 11:15 AM  

Finally, a Peter Lorre character -- and the first fill for me. My favorite quote from Casablanca:

"You despite me, don't you, Rick?
"I never gave it any thought...but if I did I probably would."

retired_chemist 11:24 AM  

@ Two Ponies - my take.

Happy Talk doesn't sound mocking to me. It was Bloody Mary singing in dialect, not unexpected for someone who lived near a US Naval station and thus spoke pidgin English.

South Pacific was decrying racial prejudice, and was ahead of its time for major productions in that regard. It tried to make the point that Polynesian and Euro-American cultures can be bridged by love. In 1949, dialect was still around in US theater, and Bloody Mary's dialect would have been expected. It served IMO as a theatric device to point out the cultural difference that needed to be bridged.

Any of you serious theater folks have a comment on the above?

Also,re Les Misérables, you react exactly as Hugo would have wanted. Ridiculous indeed. I didn't see the show, but from Wikipedia it apparently does not play up the redemption of Valjean as much as the book.

jae 11:33 AM  

Yep, easy. HAPPYTALK, DIANE (great clue), and JAN were gimmes. Tried ANEYE and (like SethG) LEGGS but not for long. Not as interesting as yesterday's, but an OK Fri.

Clark 11:37 AM  

@Dough -- Saw the whole opera (at the Met with John Vickers in the 80s). That was enough to get the reference.

hazel 11:41 AM  

When he's not on the DL, Chipper Jones gets a lot of INTENTIONAL WALKS too.

Very much liked the puzzle - have really liked all of them this week as I think they have all offered some sort of tribute to the ghost of crosswords past.

Too easy. Too hard. So what.

Alice in SF 11:57 AM  

Hi Dough--I have seen Fidelio--not one of the highlights of my opera going life. The prisoners and their singing were a major part in the opera. What put me into a fit of giggles was when the soprano who was disguised as a man reveals herself at the end by whipping off her hat and trillling that she was Leonore. Unfortunately she was built like a football tackle.

This puzzle didn't seem like a Friday one for me as it was so easy. I often don't have an answer to put in after the first run through. The cry of "Am I supposed to know this" is usually heard in this household on both Fridays and Saturdays

foodie 12:16 PM  

This relates to our Word of the Day:

When I was a student at the American U. of Beirut, I lived in a dorm called Murex Hall. Murex is a kind of sea snail that produces a purple dye, which is sometimes called Royal Purple, Imperial Purple or... Tyrian Purple. This is because it represented one of the major exports of the ancient city of Tyre. It was worth its weight in silver and was highly prized by other civilizations, including the Romans, with whom the Pheonecians had trading relationships.

re the puzzle: What Edith b said...

fikink 12:17 PM  

@BEQ, thanks for the Dizzee Rascal link.

@Seth, Wade - I second you on Neil Diamond. My little brother was/is a huge fan...ach! the arguments we had about him!

Pretty straightforward Friday puzzle. I'm afraid yesterday's set me up for disappointment today.

Two Ponies 12:18 PM  

@ r_c, Thanks for the info. I've never seen the entire work. Perhaps it was making me think of "Tea House of the August Moon"? But I'm in way over my head in regards to musicals.
Glad Mr. Hugo would have approved of my reaction.

Ulrich 12:23 PM  

@all showing off for knowing all of Beethoven's operas: Nabucco (7 letters like "Fidelio") also has a famous prisoners' chorus, one with a more catching melody, actually. So, I briefly considered it as my first entry, but the crosses pointed me to Fidelio instead--so there!

Greene 12:26 PM  

Not that Oscar Hammerstein needs any assist from me, but I'm posting a sample of the lyrics from "Happy Talk." There is nothing mocking here, nor is this lyric written in pidgin English (unless you consider the omission of hard "g" sounds at the ends of words pidgin). The lyric expresses a desire to use talk of pleasant things (love, nature) as a diversion from the unhappy circumstances of the present (i.e. a raging war which will soon claim the life of one of the characters in the number). This could be sung by any person, of any race, exactly as written. The poetry is simple, the imagery evocative, and the sentiment genuine. It sings as beautifully now as it did 50 years ago and requires no justification or apology.

Happy talk, keep talkin' happy talk,
Talk about things you'd like to do.
You got to have a dream,
If you don't have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?

Talk about the moon floatin' in the sky
Lookin' at a lily on the lake;
Talk about a bird learnin' how to fly.
Makin' all the music he can make.

Happy talk, keep talkin' happy talk,
Talk about things you'd like to do.
You got to have a dream,
If you don't have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?

Talk about a star lookin' like a toy
Peekin' through the branches of a tree;
Talk about the girl, talk about the boy
Countin' all the ripples on the sea.

Happy talk, keep talkin' happy talk,
Talk about things you'd like to do.
You got to have a dream,
If you don't have a dream
How you gonna have a dream come true?

SethG 12:51 PM  

To be clear, I no longer hate Neil Diamond. (Though his version of UB-40's version of his Red Red Wine is the worst thing ever recorded.)

I kinda miss the Martin Zellar cover show ("Neil!"), but he's stopped doing it for reasonable reasons.

I will say that Neilism's a bit hipster~ish, but I just drink my PBR and don't worry about it.

Parsan 12:56 PM  

@retired--- Agree with your comments about South Pacific. The new production in NY makes a stronger point about racism but after all, this is 2009. Sometimes it is forgotten that what is now generally accepted was once verboten, unlawful (civil rights, interracial marriage). The musical in '49 and the movie that followed presented ideas rare in musical theatre. (aside: also in Huntington, WV in the '50's)

The Albany Times Union (NY) has a picture on the front page today of Civil War re-enactors at the Saratoga National Cemetery, and two more pictures and article on the first page of section D. Last year, a hiker at the Antietam National Battlefield found remains of a NY unknown soldier (determined to be 17-19 years old) killed in battle. He was given a full military burial in keeping with that time, with Union clad soldiers and the casket in a glass enclosed horse drawn carriage. The minister, in referring to the reason over 200 people were there said, "Some of us because he was our brother, not born of the same family but of the same commitment the sons of our nation rise to still." As a great-grand-daughter of grand-fathers who fought in the war (one for the North and one for the South) I found it very moving.

chefbea 1:05 PM  

Easy Friday puzzle. Love Happy Talk. I remember Stan Freeberg. Neil Diamond is my most favorite.

Elke made it into the puzzle again.

Blanche 1:33 PM  

Goodness, what day is this? I had thought it was Friday, not Monday. "Happy Talk" was my first answer, and from there it was nonstop. Good puzzle, just a little too easy.

Spencer 1:49 PM  

No problem here with JAVERT, except memories of reading Les Miserables in French class (high school -- I think we read an abridged version).

For 5D, I wanted PETRA (beautiful coffee table book borrowed from library: and briefly contemplated a rebus puzzle, but none of the other words fit that idea, so I gave it up.

slypett 1:56 PM  

My day has been kind of strung out; I dont remember anymore if this was hard or easy.

Oh, yeah, it started out hard but turned easy.

"Happy Talk" is one of the six most irritating songs in the entire universe, in my HUMBLE opinion.

It ranks with "Tip-toe Through the Tulips," which is third most.

The impression of pidgin comes from the fact that Bloody Mary sings it with a hokey oriental-like inflection.

Happy New Year, SethG and the rest of the tribe.

mac 2:01 PM  

I had a good time with this puzzle, and I've enjoyed this whole week. Didn't know Happy Talk, but it wasn't tough to figure out if you weren't speed-solving. I was only really stopped at the SW, couldn't get past "to" and "from", wasn't sure about ESPN and "fever", on its own without A,
took a while to show up. The fife saved me. I also had "stone" for the English pounds for a bit.

There have been a lot of Civil War books and DVDs around this house recently, but absolutely no re-enactments!

@Rex: Thanks for the Happy Feet clip, it couldn't be more timely! I'm finishing "Born Standing Up" by Steve Martin.

@PurpleGuy: the voters never seem to learn....

Harley 2:02 PM  

This is bad editing by Shortz. The puzzle was a simple walk-thru, far too easy for Friday. It belongs on Wednesday. And lord knows yesterday's brain-breaker would've worked just fine today.

The downs should've given you 'Happy' easily. 'Skeleton' should have given you 'Talk'.

Just for the record, Inspector Javert is a major figure in lit. Like Ebenezer Scrooge or Jay Gatsby or Hester Prynne. I'm sorta surprised he's as much a mystery to you as Stan Freberg. (The latter is simply a function of your age.)

Harley 2:02 PM  
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retired_chemist 2:16 PM  

@ Greene- agreed the lyrics are beautiful and not pidgin - I used the wrong word to try to describe her dialect. Pidgin refers to vocabulary alteration, especially simplification, in conversation between those who speak different languages. I knew that. My bad.

ArtLvr 2:19 PM  

@ Parshuter -- The REENACTORS aren't just southern history buffs, but are found in great form in the North too, especially at Revolutionary War sites. They're part of the honored ancient tradition of mummers and mystery players. Shakespeare is said to have been inspired by such troupes in his youth, may even had his start as an actor in one.

We had a beautifully solemn burial ceremony in Saratoga yesterday, conducted according to Civil War protocols with horse-drawn hearse and all, for the remains of an Unknown Soldier. He was found recently near Antietam and identified as a New Yorker by the buttons of his regimental jacket.

The celebration at Fort Ticonderoga a week ago was even more elaborate, with many Indian tribes participating along with the actors in battle dress of the Revolutionary War.

@ Greene -- thnks for the update on the current revival of "South Pacific". It's a perfect reminder of why we must not forget the tragedies of past wars.

@ foodie -- I thought of the purple dye of Tyre too!


retired_chemist 2:25 PM  

@ parsan - would we have known each other in Huntington in the 50s? Check my web page (has my e-mail address), and if you choose identify yourself in an e-mail.

Schmidtenor 2:38 PM  

I had pretty good luck with this one, probably because it did seem easy for a Friday. I'll just make my usual complaint about UGARTE/GALT/ELKE. I figured ELK* had to end in a vowel, but UGAR** and GAL*? I don't mind learning a few new proper names when working a puzzle, but when two or three (or more!) converge... It makes me cranky when I can't fill in those last two squares without going to Google.

FIDELIO is probably the sort of answer I'd complain about, except that I sing opera for a living, so bring on the opera clues! Fidelio was Beethoven's only opera, and the only one that I know of with a "Prisoners' Chorus". Nabucco has the "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves" (Va, pensiero) but was written by Verdi.

fikink 2:50 PM  

@Artlvr, thanks for standing up for the REENACTORs. I wanted to say something, but don't know enough about them except by virtue of Brother Dit (my older brother) who used what he learned from them to help me build a forge for metal sculpting.

foodie 3:06 PM  

@wade, I dunno, if even your furniture rebels, it would be the last straw... You must not have teenage furniture.

@Schmidttenor, your statement "it makes me cranky" made me smile. It's a better reason to complain about a crossing than most. No need to tell the world how familiar the words should or shouldn't be...

Two Ponies 3:15 PM  

@ XMAN, Thank you. "Hokey oriental-like inflection" was what I meant by mockingly oriental.
I'll stop beating this dead horse.
In Nevada we have cowboy reenactors who chase trains on horseback to rob them and black-powder riflers dressed as mountain men. All good fun for the hobby shooters.

HudsonHawk 3:22 PM  

PONCA! sighting at 2:02

sanfranman59 3:27 PM  

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)

Fri 17:15, 25:12, 0.68, 1%, Easy (so far, this is the easiest puzzle relative to the day of the week in the 15 weeks I've been tracking solve times)

Top 100 solvers

Fri 9:04, 11:48, 0.77, 12%, Easy

It would appear that WS misjudged the difficulty of yesterday's and today's puzzles. Based solely on online solve times, yesterday's wasn't quite a Friday puzzle, but it was more of a challenge than today's (which would slot in as a relatively easy Thursday).

Ulrich 3:31 PM  

@Schmidtenor: This is how the Free Online Dictionary defines "tongue-in-cheek": "Meant or expressed ironically or facetiously". Before you came on, people had fun pretending not to know that Beethoven wrote only one opera. And in German, the numbers from Fidelio and Nabucco are both called "prisoner's chorus"--who says the English terminology is the only correct one, especially as neither opera is written in English? So, give me a break...

babslesley 4:06 PM  

Yes, not a Friday puzzle but a good puzzle nevertheless. Got Happy Talk right away and it flowed from there. I now have to get that man out of my hair!

Sfingi 4:36 PM  

Up North, Yankees re-enact the Revolution. Around here, it's the Battle of Oriskany, with Steuben being carried off with his leg bleeding; and Fort Stanwyx, a total recreation run by the Feds. In their (other) spare time, the re-ens make their own clothes and lead bullets and go out for front loader season, which comes between bow and rifle seasons.

We also have train-robber re-enactors based on a local Adirondack gang.

I recommend the Anthony Perkins version. He's a really nasty Javert, playacting. It threw me that Gersch was looking for PLAY at 43 to precede ACT at 39. As a matter of fact there was some nice trickiness going on. I had intentional balk. 18A KILOS could have been "euros."

@Foodie - great info on purple dye.
Also enjoy opera trivia.
Sorry, do not like Happy Talk. It's a Disneyish song w/o being a Disney song.

Schmidtenor 4:40 PM  

@Ulrich: I apologize, I didn't mean to ruin the joke. No disrespect intended. I was having a little "I know something!" moment. That's usually when my wife kicks me under the table, but she wasn't here.

I certainly agree with you that the English terminology should not be the standard. I've never seen a German publishing of the Nabucco score, (Bärenreiter perhaps?), so I didn't know the chorus was named in that way. However, I would submit that "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves" is a more literal translation of "Coro di schiavi ebrei" than is "Gefangenenchor". Would "Chor des hebräischen Sklavin" be closer?

Hals und Beinbruck!

Noam D. Elkies 4:53 PM  

...and anyway it's not Beethoven's "operas", because he wrote only one (though that's still more than Bach and Brahms combined)... Good point re Nabucco, though.


Ulrich 4:59 PM  

@Schmidtenor: You are very gracious--thank you very much.

And yes, to lump both pieces together under the rubric Gefangenenchor appears to be sloppy, but that's what I knew. The literal German translation of Coro di schiavi ebrei would be Chor der hebräischen Sklaven--you were close-- I think, but my Italian is shaky at best...

Anonymous 5:37 PM  

This must be the most civilized blog on the face of the earth.
How refreshing.

Schmidtenor 5:37 PM  

Darn, I always get my merhzahl genetiv mixed up! Cheers.

Anonymous 5:54 PM  

this one did seem relatively easy for a Friday, but I got stuck on a few things. Somehow, China hosting the World Cup in 1962 didn't seem right--and it wasn't. And, a tip of the hat to the convention center here, I had "Inspector Javits" instead of Javert. D'oh.

This may be a dumb question, but can anyone tell me why each Rexword puzzle has one word that is darker gray with a blue letter? What does it mean?

retired_chemist 6:01 PM  

@ anon 5:54 - it is an Across Lite grid. The gray is the current word and the blue is the current letter in that word. No other significance AFAIK.

Anonymous 6:04 PM  

I'm not sure what you mean. That is the last thing he filled in, hence the last "live" word and letter?

treedweller 6:08 PM  

I had to google CHILE to get the NW. Despite my mother's love of "South Pacific," which led to my seeing/hearing it many times (or so I thought), I didn't know HAPPYTALK. LEONE finally came to me after a few crosses. CHASTISES was obvious after teh fact, but totally opaque before. ALl this is fine--my knowledge gaps in action. What really bothered me, even though I got it fairly early, was Lhasa APSOS. Really? We should just intuit that plural? Icky!

Then I had an error, since I didn't know Les Miz. I thought PORTO seemed most likely, but JAVERT seemed so wrong that I tried Javett/Potto. Potto sounds like an adjective for someone who smoked too much weed, but that's what I went with. My knowledge gaps etc.

On the upside, I finally remembered UGARTE for a puzzle. Despite multiple viewings of the movie, this is the first time I've remembered that name. I might not have if I hadn't had a few crosses by the time I got there.

But I agree that this seemed easy for Friday overall.

@Rex it's not just you--there were lots of opera/musical clues this week.

retired_chemist 6:12 PM  

@ anon 6:04 - probably, but you can still move the cursor after you solve the puzzle, so not guaranteed.

slypett 6:16 PM  

Sfingi: The Brits aren't in the Eurozone, so there was no chance for confusion.

Anonymous 5:37: You gotta be here when the pots and pans start to fly, but, in general, yes, this is where the triumph of civilization has not led to mass warfare.

Orange 6:34 PM  

There are Civil War reenactors outside Chicago. My cousin's married to one. Apparently they prefer to portray the North but have to take turns being the South so nobody has to be on the pro-slavery side all the time. I truly do not understand the appeal of the hobby.

Luther Billis 6:52 PM  

From Tales of the South Pacific: "Bloody Mary of course was different. She was old and repulsive with her parched skin and her jagged teeth. But finer than any dog or any book, she was a sentient being with a mind, a personality, a history, a human memory, and --- Lt. Cable winced at the idea --- a soul. Unlike the restless tropical sea, she grew tired and slept. Unlike the impenetrable jungle, she could be perceived. Unlike the papaya and the road vines, she lived a generation, grew old and died. She was subject to human laws, to a human rate of living, to a human world, And by heavens, she was an interesting old woman.”

Michener interview

andrea el al michaels 7:15 PM  

What if Neil Diamond sang "Happy Talk"? Would that cancel everything out?
I think "South Pacific" is here (or about to open) in SF too...have never seen it and enjoyed the clip...was that a super-young William Holden? And didn't we just have him dancing around in "Picnic" or "Two for the Seesaw" or something?

@BEQ loved that Dizzee clip. How bizarre. That's what this whole week on the blog has felt like for me, caught somewhere between an older generation's references and the new generation's.

No one has been Happy Talkin' about my g-g-g-generation.

I love Cracklin' Rosie...but I think it was written in pidgin!

Oh, I had one mistake AGAIN... I misspelled ENACTER/PORTE, the E was the last letter I filled in.

Scrabble note: monetary units of Africa are often legal in I put in ZAIRE at first. But just looked it up, LEONE is also good in Scrabble as the monetary unit of SIERRA LEONE.

I wonder how many other currencies are the same as the country's name. Seems like a good trivia question. ZAIRE, you count BOLIVAR for BOLIVIA?

"Casablanca" my all time favorite movie and used to run around grabbing people's collars doing an exact Peter Lorre/Ugarte imitation of "Rick, you've got to hide me"
(Well, as exact as a thirteen year old jewess from Minnesota could muster...
which brings me to:

Happy talk, Happy Feet, Happy New Year!)

poc 7:47 PM  

@andrea el al michaels: the Bolívar is the currency of Venezuela, not Bolivia. Simón Bolívar was born in Caracas and led liberation movements against the Spanish in several countries. Bolivia is named after him. Its currency is the Boliviano.

sanfranman59 8:03 PM  

Today's puzzle took me back to my 60s childhood in so many ways ... My mother being a HUGE fan of his, Neil Diamond was almost always playing on the gigantic console stereo in our living room. But when he wasn't, it was often a Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe or West Side Story soundtrack. I also heard my share of Stan Freberg (John and Marsha being a favorite). And what boy of the 60s doesn't have fond memories of the über-sexy Elke Sommer?

Sfingi 8:10 PM  

@Xman - Oh yes, you're right, I forgot. The Brits were afraid of the Chunnel, too, for a bit - that French dogs would bring rabies.

@Orange - The Civil War enactment thing reminds me of an episode of Everyone Loves Raymond, wherein no one wanted to be the South or be a dead body, or wear a too-tight outfit, etc.

Great comments all around!

joho 8:15 PM  

Speaking of REENACTORS ... I was just in Williamsburg among many. They are really good at their jobs and their clothing is hand-stitched and authenic. It was fascinating. It's like stepping back in time with them, but, on the other hand, you are surrounded by people in shorts and Nikes.

I did enjoy the history lessons and loved walking about the area with no cars, just horses.

Maybe there should be some kind of dress code that everybody entering is required to wear the old-fashioned clothes.

That would be a hoot but we'd hate it ... too hot, too constricted ... just too, well, colonial!

But I have say, going there really got me to thinking about our beginnings and where we now are.

Leslie 8:20 PM  

Andrea, I love your constantly-changing handle--I check every day to see what your new identity is going to be.

edith b 8:21 PM  

@Anonymous 5:37-

Sparks do often fly around here but there is truly a SALON aspect about this group of diverse souls that have clustered around this . . . thing that Rex has created and nurtured.

Our thing.

sanfranman59 8:49 PM  

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

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

Mon 8:16, 7:00, 1.18, 92%, Challenging
Tue 8:11, 8:25, 0.97, 46%, Medium
Wed 8:39, 12:00, 0.72, 4%, Easy
Thu 21:17, 18:52, 1.13, 81%, Challenging
Fri 17:21, 25:12, 0.69, 1%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:14, 3:43, 1.14, 83%, Challenging
Tue 4:20, 4:21, 0.99, 53%, Medium
Wed 4:21, 5:53, 0.74, 5%, Easy
Thu 9:45, 9:13, 1.06, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 8:39, 11:46, 0.74, 5%, Easy

For all solvers, this was the easiest puzzle relative to the day of the week in the 15 weeks I've been tracking solve times. For the top 100 solvers, it was the 4th easiest.

You'll have a respite from the numbers for a week while I'm offline at the North Carolina shore. Happy puzzling to all in my absence.

fergus 8:51 PM  

Hey Rex,

I finally got around to doing your (and Caleb's) puzzle from Wednesday. Didn't you say that you were setting up a separate page for commentary thereupon? If so I can't find it, or maybe you just left it to Orange's site?

Oh, I genuinely liked the mostly well-crafted puzzle despite knowing very little about its connection to Mr. Der.

fergus 9:15 PM  

Whenever I time myself I always seem to fall just slightly below (as in slower than) the median for all solvers. And after stumbling to 36th place at Alameda, I pretty much now know where I stand. Below average. While I don't care to embrace mediocrity, I don't really mind being so ordinary in this arcane realm. Even if I'm often quite competitive, there's a time to recognize when you're just run-of-the-mill.

retired_chemist 9:35 PM  

@ SanFranMan59 - I keep meaning to thank you for the statistics you provide but haven't - until now. Herewith a big thank you.

fergus 10:19 PM  

Re: Rex and Caleb puzzle

ON THE DL is a very inside baseball enthusiast answer to the Clue. I get it but you have to read between the lines of so much vapidity when it comes to sports journalism.

Back to today's main feature, SANK IN was my last entry, appropriately enough. This was such a clean puzzle, yet I bristled slightly with Adolescent and TEENAGE, sensing a lapse in adjectival form. From the noun point of view, that pairing grates a bit as well.

slypett 11:44 PM  

andrea el al michaels: That is the most bizarre combinatination of artist and song I can possibly imagine! You've reached the limit!

Happy New Year from one of your own.

retired_chemist 12:02 AM  

@ fergus - ON THE DL is not just a baseball term. Defs in the link connect better to the clue. There is apparently also a sexual reference which does not relate to the clue.

fergus 1:03 AM  

RC - I was way too late to the game on this one.

fikink 1:06 AM  

Funny, ON THE DL was my hands down favorite part of that puzzle. Why does the expression always make me think of Amy Winehouse?

@Orange, maybe you could understand the REENACTORs more if you thought of them as re-creators...ya know, kind of like model-building in vivo.

fergus 1:18 AM  

Still somewhat obtuse -- and oddly I'm not too concerned why I'm not getting it.

Just dreaming about the trip up to San Francisco tomorrow.

Bill from NJ 11:45 AM  

My cousin was a Civil War re- enactor and his interest, aside from being a history buff, was in the trappings of it all. He researched the unifoms and his was impeccable. When he was in full regalia, he looked for all the world like he had just stepped out of the 1860s. He took pride in appearing as gritty as a fighting man would look.

TaylorSwift 5:36 AM  

As many of theatre lovers I LOVE the musical South Pacific ! It is my favourite ever...I've seen it in New York and next week I’m going to visit my sister and I just got some pretty good tickets.So I'll be analyzing as well as enjoying the show.

TaylorSwift 5:41 AM  

As many of theatre lovers I LOVE the musical South Pacific ! It is my favourite ever...I've seen it in New York and next week I’m going to visit my sister and I just got some pretty good tickets via:
So I'll be analyzing as well as enjoying the show.

Singer 12:19 PM  

Comments from syndication land:

1. This was one of the most enjoyable blog reads ever. Bob Kerfuffle's great tongue in cheek poke at the vast number of opera's that Beethoven wrote and the ensuing give in take between Ulrich and Schmidtenor (hey, I am a tenor too, but don't make a living in opera)

2. The give and take over South Pacific. This was a great musical IMHO - it confronted racism straight up, something you just didn't expect in 1949, and further dealt with the horrors of war very close to the end of WWII. It still speaks to us today.

3. All the discussions about Les Miserables, which is another great work dealing with injustice, cruelty and blind loyalty. I have read the book, and have seen a movie version and the musical. All of them get to the essence of the story regarding the absurdity of years behind bars for the crime of poverty, redemption, obsession.

4. Casablanca - another great flick. I didn't know GALT, and UGARTE was pretty far down in my memory, but saved that corner for me.

I enjoyed the puzzle, though agreed that it was too easy for a Friday - took me about 11 minutes, which is pretty normal for a Thursday. I put in stone for British "pounds", an eye instead of A NOSE and outlast for OUTWAIT. All of these errors slowed me up a bit, but it worked out in the end.

I question the part of speech matching for adolescent and TEENAGE, and for truly and VERY (wouldn't verily match the clue better and true match the answer better?)

Waxy in Montreal 8:01 PM  

Also from synd city, thought it was quite straight-forward for a Friday tho' loved the grid ne'ertheless. Luckily my good wife had been a Brady Bunch fan and was familiar with Les Miz or my Inspector was likely to have been DIVERT. Also, while I really enjoy Casablanca, never knew Peter Lorre's role was UGARTE tho' 'twas readily available from the crosses. And I confidently started the puzzle with QUIDS for the British pounds!

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