Das Rheingold goddess — WEDNESDAY, Oct 28 2009 — Number of dwarfs with Blanche Neige / Torre Pendente city / Theta preceder / Brit's oath

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Constructor: Mike Torch

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "KN" puns — "K" is added to beginning of "N" words in familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: OSMIC (50D: Of element #76) — adj.

Of, relating to, or containing osmium, especially in a compound with a valence of 4 or a valence higher than that in a comparable osmous compound. (answers.com)

This theme seems pretty sub-NYT to me. The name of my prom was "A Knight To Remember." At least I think it was, or it could have been — I didn't go because I was a social misfit (shocker!). But we were the Bullard Knights, and my point is "KN" puns are old, cliché, and kinda groan-worthy. Also limitless. The ones here are fine, I guess, as "KN" puns go, but bah and humbug. I like that the central answer puns off a phrase meaning "hooker" (in a puzzle w/ a reference to "American Gigolo" in it!) and KNIT PICK is pretty clever, but in general, no sale. OLD NICK is the devil, is that right? I thought maybe Santa, but that's SAINT NICK, which would have made a good theme answer — again, there's really no restrictive element to the theme. We could invent "N"-to-"KN" puns all day long. As for the rest of the fill, not hot. ERDA!? (19A: "Das Rheingold" goddess)? I would exclaim "GOR blimey!" (20A: Brit's oath) only it's "COR blimey!," dammit (always check your crosses — DINCE is not a word (11D: Griminess => DINGE)). Lots and lots and lots of three-letter crap in this one: LPN, IOS, ANI, COR, CKS, STS, CKS (WHA????), CTA ... and more, probably. 40 black squares (pretty high) should enable clean fill even with five theme answers. NW and SE corners are mostly good, but the rest is ENO KENO, i.e. not a game I'd willingly (re)play (46A: Roxy Music co-founder + 40D: Numbers game).

[Speaking of my prom ... 49D: "_____ Is to Blame" (1986 hit) ("NO ONE!")]

Theme answers:

  • 15A: Retired Big Apple basketball player? (Old Knick)
  • 21A: Was well-versed in a will? (Knew Testament)
  • 38A: Guinevere, to Lancelot? (Lady of the Knight)
  • 48A: Macramé company's goal (Knot for profit)
  • 64A: Select a sweater? (Knit pick)

Started out remarkably quickly in the NW with PITCHY as my first guess for 1A: Slightly sharp or flat, as a voice. Years of watching "American Idol" made that one easy to come up with — it's a standard judge criticism. Didn't write it in right away, because I thought there might be something more technical there, but PISA (1D: Torre Pendente city) seemed right and then INROAD (14A: Encroachment) worked with all the Downs and I was off and running. Got stuck at ERDA, and had to return at the end to conquer the NE, which was the hardest part of the grid for me, though ultimately not that hard. My favorite mistakes (aside from COR for GOR, which I wouldn't call "favorite," grrr) were Jane WYMAN for whatever her name is WYATT (30D: Jane of "Father Knows Best") and HUIT for SEPT (59D: Number of dwarfs with Blanche Neige). I think the "Jane" in the WYATT clue prompted my WYMAN answer, which was the only "WY" name I could come up with on the spot (weird, since I taught Thomas WYATT's poetry yesterday). As for HUIT dwarfs ... absolutely no explanation for why I thought there were eight of them. Maybe there *is* as eighth dwarf who went bad and had to be killed or exiled and someday he'll come back to exact revenge. I would pay to see a slasher film in which all the dwarfs get it, one by one.


  • 53: Less healthy (iller) — the ILLER I am, the less I IDEATE (8D: Think up). Can you tell I hate both words?
  • 47D: Like things said after cutting to a commercial (off air) — great answer. You should have heard the #@!# Jane WYATT said OFF AIR. Notorious for her profanity-laden tirades.
  • 48D: Fun (kicks) — especially good clue/answer pairing. I thought "fun" was an adjective and nearly went for KICKY.
  • 52D: Look through half-closed blinds, e.g. (peek) — Jack Nicholson's character does some window-peeking in "Chinatown," which I just rewatched last night. I'd forgotten how horrrrrrribly abrupt and downbeat and unresolved the ending is. Yikes.
  • 61D: Theta preceder (eta) — How's this for KNITPICKy? — Don't know that I like that ETA is embedded in the clue here, though [Zeta follower] has the same problem...

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


MikeM 8:13 AM  

Iller? A bit of a stretch. Had OFFKEY instead of PITCHY for a bit there that made the NW the last to fall. At the risk of sounding like Andy Rooney - ever notice how PEER, PEEK, and PEEP can all be clued the same?
Nice puzzle, liked the theme.

JannieB 8:18 AM  

Today was yesterday in reverse - liked the theme and its answers; found the fill to be sub-par.

I was offkey at first too, but colon told me that was wrong. NW was last for me too. Made a wild (and incorrect) guess at Osmic/Ios -- IOL/Olmic looked just fine to me.

I also tried peer ahead of peek and KOOKY ahead of Kicks.

It's an odd day when Rex isn't happy about all the K's in the puzzle.

OffKey 8:30 AM  

Went to look up PITCHY after I finished last night. The only on-line dictionary that had an entry which fit this clue was the UrbanDictionary, which normally would, in my opinion, make the word ok.
Here's the definition:

It means black or covered in pitch. Really, thats it. If you are a fan of a certain reality TV show in the good old US of A, you may think it is some cool insider term of the music biz that means something like "singing off key".

But not really. It is a made up word coined by a couple of doofuses that couldn't think of a more professional-sounding way to say, "You didn't sound particularly good to me when you sang that song."
Yo dog...blah blah blah...not my favorite song selection...blah blah blah...kinda pitchy, but it was a'right.

When even the UrbanDictionary says it's not a word, for Christ's sake, it's not a word!

treedweller 8:55 AM  

I guess this one was for "Idol" fans. I'm with OffKey, PITCHY means black and sticky. Had to google PISA to get the NW.

I never would have noticed this before BEQ brought it up awhile back, but that's a lot of cheater squares. For . . . well, Rex covered it. Meh.

joho 8:56 AM  

@OffKey ... PITCHY was my favorite answer because it's so new. I think you're jealous because we had to boot you from the puzzle.

I raise my hand that the NW was the last to fall.

I did this last night and enjoyed it thoroughly. I expect Wednesdays to be punnish or something with a twist and this puzzle delivered.

I did not like ILLER however. Makes me sick!

@Rex ... the crankiness continues, ETC ETC.

Kudos to Torch and Schortz!

dk 9:06 AM  

I hate ILLER.
EMU given the spate of emo fill was a relief


The term "Knickerbockers" traces its origin back to the Dutch settlers who came to the New World -- and especially to what is now New York -- in the 1600s. Specifically, it refers to the style of pants the settlers wore ... pants that rolled up just below the knee, which became known as "Knickerbockers," or "knickers".

Through history, the Dutch settler "Knickerbocker" character became synonymous with New York City. The city's most popular symbol of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was "Father Knickerbocker," complete with cotton wig, three-cornered hat, buckled shoes, and, of course, knickered pants.

@JOHO - HOHO, booted off the puzzle LOL.

I liked the puzzle except for the fill that will not be named.


OffKey 9:22 AM  

@Joho Jealous? Jealous? Righteously indignant would be more accurate! To have been replaced by a neologism coined by (documented) doofeses does indeed give me righteous indignation. I've been definitive for over 80 years, and now am rendered moot because Paula Abdul had one too many of whatever she takes prior to taping, then made up a word in the two seconds between when she fell off her seat and they cut taping? Damned right I'm indignant!

Oh, screw it, I'm jealous as hell! Kicked off 1A!

tedequity 9:34 AM  

57A Bloopers and flies. Don't see the connection.

JannieB 9:38 AM  

@tedquity - think baseball

Brendan Emmett Quigley 9:43 AM  

Didn't have much of a problem solving-wise (kind of agree that this one theme-wise seems played out), but man, put me down for another person who could not reject OFFKEY at 1A.

PIX 9:45 AM  

@Offkey: I agree...if one goes to Google and types in "Define: pitchy" there is no definition having to do with singing slightly sharp or flat. (I also admire your courage in discussing American Idol...a bit less than tactful, but certainly on target.)

Bob Kerfuffle 9:46 AM  

When is "Olaf" not "an Olaf"? At 39 D.

Like others, wanted OFFKEY, held up the NW a long time. Three write-overs I did put in: SKIRT for SKORT, ROUE for WOLF, and like Rex, WYMAN for WYATT.

Definitely not on the constructor's wavelenghth today, but overall I did enjoy the puzzle.

Ben Hassenger 9:49 AM  

I had OFFKEY at first too, but then I remembered about PITCHY. Perhaps it's because I used to be a music major in college, but I've heard the word PITCHY for years without problem. It just slipped my mind when I was doing this crossword, perhaps it's more jargon than anything.

nanpilla 9:50 AM  

My hand is up for OFFKEY, which I am capitalizing, because it should be in there! Of course, I also thought kinky before kicks, so that may explain my mood today.
Not my favorite puzzle, but liked KNOT FOR PROFIT.

Unknown 9:58 AM  

also had OFFKEY.

had never heard of IOS or OSMIC, so i missed the S. i knew never taking a chemistry course would haunt me until the end of days.

too many abbrevs. in this pzle.

Smitty 10:00 AM  

Not as many Aha's as there were Huh? Oh well...I guess's....
Still don't understand FLIES
or how TRICK is what a king may win
And count me in with the thumbs down votes for PITCHY

poc 10:04 AM  

Here's another vote for OFFKEY. PITCHY is ridiculous, redundant and reprehensible.

@Rex; yes, it's "Cor Blimey", but GOR (without the Blimey) is just barely acceptable as British slang. I don't think either is much heard nowadays.

"Even" is TIED. TIEDUP is something completely different. Wrong wrong wrong.

And again with the WHA? Puleeeeeze.

Stan 10:10 AM  

Hmm, trying to figure out why I enjoyed this theme so much.

I guess my inner ten-year-old responds best to 'sound-alike' puns (I was going to say 'homonyms', but a quick check of Wikipedia shows that today's are 'heterographic homophones'). So yes, add-a-letter has been done, and K is the easiest silent letter to add, but phrases like KNOT FOR PROFIT and KNIT PICK still crack me up.

Thanks Mike!

PatrickEwing 10:11 AM  

As an old Knick I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle. There is no doubt that pitchy is a word even if it enters the language thru AI -- that is how language evolves. ... Even if KN puns are old hat this was still created in a fresh way and made for a fun solve.

Anonymous 10:24 AM  

For bloopers=FLIES, think baseball. A blooper is a pop-up fly ball.
For king winning TRICK, think the game of bridge.

I enjoyed KNOT FOR PROFIT, KNEW TESTAMENT, and KNIT PICK,but the other two theme answers have too many miles on them.

Wade 10:25 AM  

Medium?! If by "medium" you mean "something a lot harder than medium" then yes, I agree this is medium (but I guess you don't mean "something a lot harder than medium" when you say "medium.") I couldn't finish--the NW is blank. I also wanted OFFKEY or maybe ATONAL, but everything stayed blank up there.

Speaking of themes that could just go on forever, that Howard Jones song is apropos. It's another one of the many songs I've heard dozens or probably hundreds of times and never knew quite what the lyrics were. Now we have the internet, and I looked them up. God, they're stupider even than I'd always thought they were. It's just a list of ironic things (in the Alanis Morissette sense of the word), then the puny line "But you want her" (which I had always heard as "But you want to," which I like better, because it makes the list of all the stuff he can't have or do make more sense) and then the shoulder shrug. There's no bridge, no variation, no chorus, that's it. You just set your egg-timer for 3 minutes, start singing a list of bummers, and when the timer goes off you got yourself a Howard Jones song.

Jeffrey 10:29 AM  

The eighth dwarf is PITCHY. Got cut from the movie because he couldn't whistle on key.

NO ONE is To Blame has one of my favorite lyrics: Aspirations in the clouds but your hopes go down the drain. Which describes my prom night at home alone as well.

OSMIC? Can we add IC to any word now? This pudding is bananic.

Spent as long in the NE as the rest of the puzzle. Didn't know ERDA, put GETS INTO and forgot CICADAS. And don't get me started on DINGE.

I think the bottom is the sequel to American Gigolo:


Sir Thomas Wyatt 10:43 AM  

They flee from me that Sometime did me Seek

They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.

Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise
Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small;
Therewithall sweetly did me kiss
And softly said, "dear heart, how like you this?"

It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
But all is turned thorough my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
And I have leave to go of her goodness,
And she also, to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindly am served
I would fain know what she hath deserved.

Two Ponies 10:47 AM  

You rant on Offkey! I'm with you all the way. I'd rather have an error in my puzzle than watch AI. In fact, I'd like a lot of things better ... like a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
Crosscan you are on your game today!
Cicadas might emerge at the same time but in my mind locusts swarm.
Secants was new to me and I nearly left kicky or kinky in place but yecants didn't seem right in any language.
Except for knit pick a pretty boring puzzle I'm sure to forget.

Glitch 10:47 AM  

Started off with OFFKEY too, in my case INKS showed me the errors of my way.

As to PITCHY, from my well worn copy of the NYT specs:

Constructions should emphasize lively words and names and fresh phrases. We especially encourage the use of phrases from everyday writing and speech, whether or not they're in the dictionary.

At least the author got the last part right.

Oh, and I believe Randy coined the word, not Paula. She was guilty of "... made it your own".


Chorister 10:53 AM  

I thought pitchy was Randy's word. Dunno, haven't watched since the first season. Never heard it pre-AI, but agree it is entering the language and that it is not necessarily a bad thing.

Is dinge a word? Now, that, I've never heard.

edith b 10:55 AM  

Ah yes. Language evolves and there is always someone who wishes to stand in the door to bar whatever change occurs.

I never cared for American Idol myself but do I detect a whiff of hate for AI? Seems like overkill to me.

I like puns and use the word delicious to describe the best (or worst) ones. This puzzle was a real mixed bag for me as I liked the basic theme structure but the fill . . . made me ILLER to IDEATE. And all the three letter dross Yuck

As lots of others, the NW was the last to fall as I was caught between PISA and OFFKEY. Finally went with PISA and let crosses fill IA for me.

PIX 10:56 AM  

Osmium is the densest natural element; twice as dense as lead (Wikipedia).

OK...now back to the in-depth discussion of American Idol...

Smitty 11:00 AM  

@Frances Thanks...I think I've seen FLIES before (in cw puzzles) but I don't play bridge, so I didn't know TRICK

Now if you can only get NO ONE IS TO BLAME to stop playing in my head all day, I'd be much obliged...

ArtLvr 11:03 AM  

I thought it was Kinda cute, and we did have the Greek isle of IOS recently, so OSMIC was gettable. I didn't care for PITCHY or ILLER, but did get KICKS from the theme puns...

My one mistake was in having GO WAIT as in "it's not your turn yet", with TAG crossing GO's top as you'd find on an item in a sales booth. TANning in a booth never arose. Call me a COME LATEly Lady.


Ben Hassenger 11:03 AM  

American Idol is a pretty terrible show for sure, but I'm telling you, the word didn't originate there.

Anonymous 11:05 AM  

I found OSMIC interesting in that it invites the addition of an initial K, making KOSMIC -- which is bound to be in usage in some cultural niche. Like PITCHY, which made me feel all ITCHY.


Ben Hassenger 11:06 AM  

Besides, I'm sure most of the crybabies here are complaining because of the word's apparent connection to American Idol. Pretty sure there's been plenty of "less real" words in the crossword before (last year's use of "truthiness" leaps immediately to mind) with less hubbub. Calm down.

dk 11:11 AM  

@pix, my son would like to point out that I, dk, am the densest natural element.

For all of you who actually watch American Idol and take the time to blog about it may I suggest 1 900 GET LIFE!

Ignore me I am upset because Acme threw me over last night (on this blog for god sake) for a bit of fluff she found on the street.

Off to look for somebody did somebody wrong songs or follow @wades advice and write my own. Let's see what rhymes with bitter........


deerfencer 11:35 AM  

I'm with Stan and Patrick Ewing on this one--fun, witty puzzle and just a hair difficult for a Wednesday, which is good.
KNEWTESTAMENT and KNOTFORPROFIT are both great puns. Nice job, Mike.

P.S. No problem at all with "pitchy" and I'm a bit surprised at the level of whining here given it's a long-used word amongst musicians.

thornibus 11:41 AM  

There should be an ETA blocker. Seems every other day it's "LAX stat." or "the H in Athens"

Wade 11:48 AM  

I've tried watching AI--not in a few years, but back when it first came on--and there was never anything happening. It was just people standing or sitting around. I'd wait and wait, and nothing would happen, nobody would sing a note, and eventually I'd turn it off, and the next day everybody would be talking about last night's show like it was the Super Bowl. It was along about then that I determined that I had become estranged from my fellow man in a way not theretofore suspected. Or there was something different about my TV.

@dk, if you can make your own pasta and roll your own smokes, you can write your own songs. It's insane that people are still relying on other people to write songs for them and using up valuable resources in transportation and ozone holes, etc., when it's something you can do for yourself with nothing more than a ukelele or a glockenspiel.

william e emba 11:52 AM  

Does anyone actually abbreviate "check" as "ck"? The only CKS I know of are Calvin Klein underwear.

I thought the puzzle was medium except for the NW, which took me longer than the rest of the puzzle altogher. I of course had OFFKEY instead of PITCHY, having never watched American Idol in my life. And when I got to it, I just knew Rex would rip into OFFAIR sharing the OFF.

The extra time I have from not watching AI is used productively. For example, I've familiarized myself with Aegean Sea geography, like IOS, or interesting corners of the periodic table, like OSMIum, which, lordy, lordy, sometimes cross. (To the people who missed IOS, memorize it. It's Crossword Ese 101.)

But back in the NW, I couldn't think of any British race other than Epsom Downs. Remembering ASCOT, for a while I was thinking of a king "winning" over his FLOCK. That was too stupid to actually write in, and then I had the bright idea the king was the king from a game, like chess. From there there I thought of the king in checkers. Long eventually later the K--ON made me think of COLON, which gave me INROAD, which gave me INKS, which gave me SKILLS, which gave me TRICK, aha!!!! the "king" from a deck of cards!!!! Plan B, folks, Plan B: that's the secret to doing crossword puzzles.

And I was left staring at PITCHY??? I've got to admit, that's one funny neologism. What next, "rangy"? For singers who show an unexpected "range" to their notes? "Timy"? For comedians whose timing is pitchy?

Anonymous 12:03 PM  

@ dk, I always read the tail end of the previous day's comments before coming here in the morning. Reading about Acme's new-found friend I could hear this squishing sound in the background. I think it was a stiletto heel piercing someone's heart. (There's your song lyric.)
Ain't it a bitch when someone's reality deflates your fantasy? Sorry dude.

Onan 12:03 PM  

@Wade - What you say about writing songs is true, but never forget that there are things which, while you can do them for yourself, are much more satisfying when done for you by others.

Anonymous 12:18 PM  

PITCHY existed long before American Idol. Hating AI is no excuse for not knowing that word.

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

@edith b, 10:55 AM

It's not just any and every innovation to language that we resist. It's the ones we find illogical or downright ugly. PITCHY could just as well mean ONKEY as OFFKEY.

As a lifelong musician, I had never heard of the word until today.

If "pitchy" enters the language and becomes widely used, this is one old gray lady who will not have been to blame.

Jeffrey 12:24 PM  

If Peter King becomes an American Idol judge this blog may explode.

Rex Parker 12:25 PM  

As with the PETER KING puzzle, people seem to have a lot of misplaced ire for PITCHY. Congratulating yourself on being superior to "A.I." doesn't constitute a valid criticism of PITCHY.


Rex Parker 12:25 PM  

Dammit, Crosscan, stepping all over my points...

Elaine 12:45 PM  

I got KNIT PICK early, which gave me the theme, but it still took a while to get KNEW TESTAMENT. Some of the fill was clever enough to have multiple choices--CLODS might have been DOLTS, for instance, or WOLF might have been ROUE.

I did indeed think, "Thanks, Randy Jackson," when I wrote in PITCHY.

Entomologists, please chime in: I say cicadas do NOT swarm; there are a lot of them, but they are not swarming in the sense that honeybees do. They are all just out there hollering for sex. And then they die.

AND, Hand up for: it's "COR, blimey," not GOR. I learned that term long, long ago, in a children's book entitled "A Roundabout Turn," circa 1950, British, (orange cover, pen and ink illustrations) featuring Toad, who decides to see the world, gets stuck on a carousel, and returns to report that the world is round. Oh, and I think it was in verse, too.

I wrote in 27A first, so thought we had a Halloween puzzle going.....but this one was a fun solve, if still fairly easy.

I left the house at 6 a.m., so posted first on Amy Reynaldo's blog... I also confess-- American Idol is a guilty pleasure, and it's fun to see some of the real talent that is out there. PLUS, I live in Conway, Arkansas--which is sporting a lot of Kris Allen stuff nowadays....

Anonymous 12:50 PM  

I'll place my ire whever I please.
Following a low-brow fake contest show is an insane waste of one's time. Does that sound superior?
Excuse me, I must return to composing a pitchy little ditty on my kazoo.

Campesite 12:59 PM  

Down with pitchy, up with (offkey) people. That damn corner wouldn't fall--can't really remember that happening on a Wednesday.

Karen from the Cape 1:04 PM  

I rather liked the punny theme. It's a low form of wordplay but still entertaining.

And I like to watch (and discuss) AI. For instance, I don't like the new cover for Adam Lambert's album that was in the blogs yesterday--rather goofy looking, I think. I would personally prefer slightly PITCHY performances to overuse of autotuner.

Bringing up the GOR novels by John Norman is always good for laughs among the sf crowd...a reprehensible series with misogyny, sex and violence, and just plain bad writing that's rather popular with a certain crowd.

np 1:09 PM  

I've been a professional musician for close to 50 years in most phases of the business. I've seen and heard all manner of terms come and go in pop, rock and jazz over time. I have NEVER heard the term "pitchy".
As for American Idol: true talent is NOT a contest! Let's get away from reality tv altogether, as it is just a manufactured situation that bears little resemblence to actual life. However, I applaud the show as a venue for real talent that would in many, if not most cases, lie dormant and fade into obscurity.

Anonymous 1:14 PM  

@np, see your problem is that you are professional and as a professional rarely encounter "pitchiness", to coin another word

poc 1:16 PM  

@Elaine: I refer you to http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gorblimey

As I said earlier, both COR and GOR are used. I suspect GOR is older (the phrase is a contraction of "God Blind Me").

np 1:33 PM  

Maybe I'll start using "pitchy" on the gig and in the studio. It could catch on.

Clark 1:35 PM  

Tough for a Wednesday. There is nothing wrong with a puzzle having a stupid word. But PITCHY is definitely a stupid word. @wee is right to call it "one funny neologism." Oh, man, I sang that note with too much pitch!

Put me down with the lifelong musicians who have never heard the word used this way. Not that there is anything wrong with putting it in the puzzle. Really.

Steve J 1:35 PM  

I haven't had this much trouble with a Wednesday puzzle in ages. I lost count of how many incorrect answers I had lingering for ages. All the ususal suspects listed so far: OFFKEY/PITCHY, COR/GOR, plus a few others, like LOCUSTS/CICADAS and PEER/PEEK. And a lot of other things just didn't come to me like they should. I don't know if it was the extra glass of wine I had last night before starting the puzzle or what.

The theme was pretty lame, to the point that for quite a while I thought it was themeless. Once I finally got the "kn" thing going on, I first thought "that's weak" and then the rest of the theme fill fell quickly and I finally started making some headway.

That said, "pitchy" took all six crosses to fill. Never heard of it. I'm all in favor of getting new words into the puzzle, but I'm not sure something used by 1-2 people really counts as a new word. I guess that's what I get for ignoring this particular piece of pop culture.

OneDown 1:36 PM  

Hi gang, been following the discussion for months now, first post.

I was wondering, does anyone know where a newbie constructor might submit THEMELESS puzzles that are more than 72 entries? I generally only follow the times and The Onion xwords and I know that for 72 or more entries they require themes.

Thanks for any direction/advice!

Two Ponies 1:43 PM  

@ Elaine, I made the same "swarm" protest a couple of hours ago but a quick search shows that plenty of articles refer to the cicada appearance as a swarm. That's what I get for shooting from the hip.

joho 1:43 PM  

@Elaine... I suffered through the every-seventeen-year-cicada-invasion here in Ohio a few years back. They are EVERYWHERE. But, you're right, they don't swarm. They're loud in the trees, piled dead in the street and they do "attack" you, they fly right at you and try to get in your car and they attach themselves to your shirt:UGH!!!! But they don't attack in swarms. Maybe they swarmed on somebody else, but not on me (Thank God.)

I LOVE American Idol!

bluebell 1:59 PM  

I once had to call a bee man to rescue a swarm of honey bees from a tree in my front yard, so I had bees/hornets in my head for the swarm. Crosses were a problem, starting with ideate which is a word I know only in the NY Times crossword. Don't play golf so didn't associate skort with golfers (my 11 year old granddaughter, on the other hand, has a wardrobe infused with skorts). Dinge? Dinge? Only knew cor blimey. In a lifetime of singing have never seen/heard the p word. I will not, repeat not, watch AI just to get words for this crossword puzzle.

You will by now have gathered that this was not my best morning.

Elaine 2:00 PM  

I lived in Cincinnati for the Great Seventeen Year Cicada Invasion in...hmm '74?...and damned if I wasn't BACK in Ohio seventeen years later and got to enjoy another round! There are varieties that emerge annually (especially here in the South) so in August I can count on the other-worldly experience of cicadas shrieking from the trees. The jays and some hawks actually pursue and eat them. ick.

I skimmed the comment and probably missed yours-- but as I said, I had posted this comment elsewhere around 4:30 a.m. or thereabouts... Sorry. GOR still makes me say GRRR. Oops, no, that was an old Gorski puzzle I took to the hospital with me. (Title: V Formation--fun!)

Sometimes it just won't click. When that happens, just take a break! (I am not shooting for fast times, so if one takes me all day I'm not bothered. Too old a bunny to race the whippersnappers!)

imsdave 2:10 PM  

DINGE? NIMBY. I too, with the Y confidently in place, went with offkey. Easy Wednesday, except for the NW. Stopped after ten minutes, popped it back open at work, ditched EPSOM for ASCOT and all was good.

Challenged in CT.

Elaine 2:19 PM  

I used to help my grand-dad when a call would come in to collect a swarm. The bees are very peaceful when swarming, and emit a delightful pheromone; we would get the queen into a super, put it in the back seat of his old Dodge, and drive slowly back with the windows open, followed by a long tail of bees.

Oh, SKORTS were a very big pre-teen clothing fad in 1957-8. I assure you I was not playing golf in those days (or now)...

Over and out,

Anonymous 2:21 PM  

I too had locusts, not cicadas, but in New Orleans it's termites that swarm - turn out the lights! They also get everywhere inside your clothes and are nasty, nasty, nasty.

Also had offkey, damn! Not a good puzzle for me

Van55 2:22 PM  

INKS was my first entry into the grid, so OFFKEY was out of the question.

Like others, I first heard the word "pitchy," meaning "off pitch" from Randy Jackson at AI. That doesn't rule it out for me as a legitimate cross-word term.

The pun theme was OK by me, and the puzzle was generally on the easy side of medium with the exception of the OSMIC/IOS cross, which stumped me for a bit.

Jackie 2:37 PM  

Dear Puzzle Constructors,

EGO is not an adjective describing BOOST. Thus it cannot be defined as a "kind of boost." A boost of the ego can be massive, modest, solicited, or unwitting -- those would be the kind of boost one's ego received. But the boost itself is not of the ego-variety.

(Likewise, ARP is not a variety of sculpture, but that's the subject for another rant.)

Thank you for keeping this in mind.
Love, Me

Anonymous 3:00 PM  

@Jackie -
If someone said to you; "You sang that beautifully, it wasn't pitchy at all".. wouldn't that be an ego boost?

Clark 3:12 PM  

@Jackie --
I love to go to the BEACH.
I love to sit on my BEACH towel and watch the waves.
The BEACH is far away.
My mom likes to sit on a chair under a big BEACH umbrella.
. . . (http://www.swsd.k12.pa.us/~marilee_carlson/HP%20Nouns-Adj/Noun-Adj1.htm or Click Here.)

andrea wha??? michaels 3:19 PM  

May I say something about the Greek alphabet? That little run of Zeta, Eta, Theta is fun to say...and you remember it by ZIT.
It's like the first five letters are all parallel to ours:
Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon
(ABCDE) then you have ZETA, ETA, THETA (ZIT) and then resume (pretend there is no FGH...)
Iota, Kappa, Lamda, Mu, Nu, (KSI)
Omicron, Pi, Rho, Sigma, Tau, Upsilon, Phi, Xi,Psi, Omega
just like I (j) KLMN (Weird letter)

See how easy it is? Anyone can learn the Greek alphabet in 5 minutes...

Honey, I's just kidding, you Know you're the one...Wait a week...and I'm sure I'll be the one writing the song...or worse, talking about him BY NAME in some routine.
(Never get involved with a female comic, even a recovering one.)

Eighth dwarf: Pitchy! ha ha ha ha

Aleman 3:21 PM  

Erda = Rhinegold

Anonymous 3:22 PM  

So, Rex, you feel superior to people who feel superior to A.I.?

Meg 3:38 PM  

Well, with just a few letters, all I came up with for 1A was "BITCHY", which didn't fit the clue, but made me smile to think it might appear in the NYT puzzle. Didn't like DINGE, but thought SHY for "short" was nice.

Thoughts of Eliza at Ascot in my head now. Great songs. Great hats!

Rex Parker 4:04 PM  

Message from foodie:

"Dear friends, some of you have written me directly and I hear that
many of you have given me support on Rex’s blog. Unfortunately, I
don’t have access to it while I’m here. So, I’m asking Andrea to let
you know how deeply grateful I am. Beyond my biological family, it
turns out I have another wonderful family and it means the world to
me. Thank you Rex for making it happen, and thanks to everyone who is
part of it. I’ll think of you all debating a nuance or setting each
other straight or being clever or witty, and it will make me smile...“

CoolPapaD 4:12 PM  

Don't mean to be be bitchy,
but I hated PITCHY.

I really don't like American Idol either, but even if I did, it wouldn't matter. Pitchy is just not a word. Period. I'm in the OFFKEY club.

Loved the rest of the puzzle, however, and I thought the theme was kinda cute. Sorry - kinda is not a word. Period.

Dan 4:25 PM  

Just as another data point, I'd heard and used the word PITCHY long before "Pop Idol" was a twinkle in Nigel Lythgoe's eye. The clue today was so perfect that I knew it had to be right.

To me, "off-key" implies a consistently bad performance, while "pitchy" means sometimes on the pitch, sometimes not. It's a great word!

CKS would like to thank PITCHY for drawing its much-deserved flak today...

Anonymous 4:50 PM  

I was pretty sure the eighth dwarf was "Sleazy"--but this new theory about Pitchy sounds solid.
And why must you go disrespecting Jane Wyatt? Lady's barely cold in her grave and all her many fans are having a hard enough time, let alone having her good name dragged through the mud on a crossword blog. I mean really.

chefwen 5:09 PM  

Like Van55 my first fill was INKS, second was YDS and being an American Idol junkie PITCHY fell right into place. Ooh, I see my spell check doesn't like PITCHY either. Had boil in for 27A first as in boil, boil, toil and trouble, or something like that. Really hated ILLER, but thought the puzzle was fun and fast.

PIX 5:35 PM  

Time for a commercial break:...A secant is hypotenuse divided by adjacent, which means its the reciprocal of the COS...ok, back to the in-depth analysis of American Idol...

Ellen DeGeneres 5:42 PM  

Oh crap. I thought people liked American Idol.

dk 6:48 PM  

@wade, et al, My song is coming along, tentative title: Bitter, table for one.

@anon/Squeak, thank you for the kind words in my era of need.

@Acme, I am defibrillated but remain in shock.

@Ellen D, what I like is when Prince is on your show:


Bill from NJ 6:49 PM  

I have a Not-Watched list of TV shows. On the FOREVER side of the ledger are The Beverly Hillbillies, Gilligan's Island and American Idol. Which is not to say I hate those shows - just that I don't watch them.

It never ceases to amaze me that the more intelligent the people involved, the more likely that they will express a rabid kind of hatred for things they don't like.

Today we have gone all Glenn Beck on American Idol and the word PITCHY. @Ben Hassenger mentioned that when the word Truthiness reared its head several months ago there was not nearly the kind of uproar we have seen today. I guess Steven Coulbert is a little more PC then Randy Jackson.

Anonymous 6:50 PM  

very disappointed that "pitchy" makes the puzzle. how depressing.

Glitch 7:23 PM  


I actually find the AI “mentions” interesting.

Through lots of “me too-ing”, seems it was the first exposure of PITCHY to many.

On the other hand, I wonder how many AI detractors waste their weekend watching football on the “boob tube”. Not that I want to impose my taste on them.

Diversity, is the key here.

…/Glitch (Now where did I put that flack jacket…)

Elaine 7:56 PM  

TOTALLY breaking The Rule:

Maybe we should just enjoy what we enjoy? I generally enjoy "American Idol." I don't fall asleep on all the shows-- a fair gauge. I love "Top Chef" and even "Iron Chef." Creativity is always interesting. LOVE "Project Runway." On the other hand, a lot of the time, I am just looking for a little company while I piece and quilt; I may not even look up. I think if you can't see beyond the show, you may have limited conception of the uses of Bad TV!

I occasionally help out my hubby w/ a Penn State game, horrified to find myself yelling, "GET him!" What have I become????

I kinda agree with you. (wink)
Hey....I lived in Chagrin Falls for 14 yrs. Did I know you?

I loved, loved, loved Trig. My math teacher in college had opened the door to The Queen of Sciences ( as he called it) and I awoke from my long nightmare of confusion! I know the words still, but the math....well....

Can't wait for Thursday!

Two Ponies 8:05 PM  

@ Rex, Thanks for passing on the message from foodie. Good wishes to her.
@ Glitch, Well put. I'm not guilty of football but I'm sure I have enjoyed some guilty pleasure in someone's eyes.
It's fun to let off a little steam sometimes, yes?

mac 9:12 PM  

I may be the only person here who has never seen American Idol. And one of the few who didn't have off-key, although I had to get some of "pitchy" from the crosses, especially the y.

Those knickerbockers were bad, but not as bad as the "sans-culottes".

@Wade: LOL! Love that you are commenting again!

My last section to fall was the SW: Ios was somewhat familiar, osmic, secants and LPN (lpn?) were a lot of work, but I did get it without help.

I always hear the cicadas around here in the summer, but I only saw them when we had some miner bees who caught them and dragged them to their nests underneath our little flagstone terrace.

mac 9:39 PM  

Sorry, the puzzle? I liked the theme, and didn't have great problems with the fill, either. I didn't have a lot of time to get into the details, though, except for iller and cks. Definitely Calvin Kleins, or as Brooke said, Calvins.

mac 9:42 PM  

I need to go to bed, totally messed up that comment. It should be:
I liked the theme, and didn't have great problems with the fill, either, except for iller and cks.

mac 9:43 PM  

Has anyone ever dared do 4 comments in a row?
Good night.

Ben 9:47 PM  

Rex -- long time listener, first time caller. Or something like that.

I love your blog, which serves as an important stop for me, hopefully AFTER I've completed the puzzle.

But I take issue with your comment that the ending of Chinatown is unresolved. It ties up PERFECTLY.

The key is to understand the very last line muttered by Jack Nicholson, under his breath. And I am lucky enough to have a cynical and seditious dad, now gone, who told me the line even before there were DVDs with easy to get subtitles. You have to figure it out from context.

Find me at benaustin AT yahoo DOT come some day and I'll explain the ending if you care to.

slypett 9:55 PM  

Kerfuffle: OLAF was an olaf at Norwegian.

I, too, sang "OFFKEY" and would not let go, which is one reason the NW gave me fits. At the same time had "EPSON" for ASCOT. What a wonderful mess that was. It was a moment of truth when I let both go at the same time.

Stan 10:00 PM  

@mac: I've also never seen American Idol and I believe william e emba said that he hasn't either.

Sfingi 10:11 PM  

Pitchy? Dinge? this is English?
@Pdnsg - LOL - see, I can learn.

This was hopeless for me, whereas yesterday was a breeze. I think it was too "young pop." Never saw American Gigolo or American Idol. Or heard Roxy Music. Should have guessed it was good ol' ENO.
@Bill from NJ - Colbert is funny. I wasn't going to watch when my son suggested it. Thought it would be too much butt humor like South Park, but it was smart. Heaven knows, I've been attacked here for being non-PC. No humor is off-limits to me, just tedious. Who's Randy Jackson?

On the brainy side, did not know osmium by number, and couldn't get the trig function w/o crosses, since many have 7 letters. Which leads me to the assertion that too many crosses depended on one another. Like "I" instead of "s" in Mississippi. (I always sing that in my head.)

Strangely, I knew the French, but not this German Erda (earth) broad.

A personal sports Natick for me SKORT KNICK. Sports should be crossed by non-sports - Call it the Sfingi rule. For instance, didn't know FLIES (still don't) but it fell in with non-sport crosses.

Went to Google eight (8) times. a knightmare.

@Andrea - yesterday - homograph.
@Elaine, Pix - when I was in HS, trig was a 3-credit subject. Now it's an asterisk. SOH CAH TOA Rah rah rah.
Prayers to @Foodie

Bill from NJ 12:03 AM  


Randy Jackson is a judge on American Idol who uses the word Pitchy to describe the way the performers tend to wander from the key. Early in the Comments today it was defined for me as it took all the crosees for me to see the word.

Clark 12:17 AM  

@mac, @stan -- I've also never seen AI, but not because I have a policy against it. I've just never found myself in front of the tube with it on.

Schmidtenor 1:18 AM  

I was a vocal music major in college, and have sung oratorio and opera professionally for almost 20 years, and I have never, not once, anywhere in my work or travels, heard PITCHY.

Orange 8:47 AM  

Jackie's point that EGO is not a [Kind of boost] is exactly right. There's a faction that hates these "kind of ___" clues because they're just trying to avoid being fill-in-the-blank clues. [___ boost] = EGO, sure. But EGO is many things—a type of boost is not one of them. These are sometimes called "sea anemone" clues. [Kind of anemone] = SEA? No. The SEA is not an anemone at all.

PITCHY! Love it. I'll bet far more people have watched "American Idol" than have been engaged in music/voice professionally. We millions enjoyed PITCHY and the technical experts loathed it. Same thing happens for me when medical terminology is clued poorly—it seems glaringly unacceptable to me and hardly anyone else cares.

Paul 4:16 PM  

First, I could kick myself for not getting CTA, Chicago Transit Authority, the former name for the rock band Chicago and the title of their first album. I expected video. This took me three sessions to complete, usually a Thursday for me. Same problem with pitchy. Left that corner blank for a long time. Tried to work in offkey and even tin ear.

Singer 5:26 PM  

I see that the comment I wrote a couple hours ago went into the ether, so I'll try again.

As a musician, I have never heard the term PITCHY to describe being slightly off pitch - in fact what I hear is "off pitch". Off key describes being a lot further away from reality. I have never watched American Idol, but have seen some of the winners and near winners perform, and have noted that they, as well as a lot of other pop performers, only have a passing acquaintance with the pitch. Nevertheless, I agree with Orange that if a term has entered the world in a way that many people would be aware of it, like those who watch AI, it is fair game for a puzzle, even if professionals don't know the term, or it is an inaccurate term. In the same way, actual jargon from a profession, such as "mosso" from music, which has gotten a lot of lip from commentary on this blog, is also fair game, as long as it doesn't cross with another obscure word that only a limited few would know.

I didn't have the same trouble with the theme that some had - I used it to solve the puzzle, despite my predilection to not pay attention to themes until I am done.

I knew that offkey wouldn't work in the NW, but that was the corner I had the most trouble with. I never heard the term PITCHY and was slow to realize that the clue for 1D was "leaning tower" in Italian, leading to PISA. Once I had PISA, the corner fell easily. Other problems were roue for WOLF, serif for TILDE and Eos for IOS (I have been there, and my memory was that it was spelled Eos).

BassManPDX 10:13 PM  

I'm always happy to see that the same parts of the puzzle that I had trouble with were problematic for plenty of other folks. I get to the party a little late; I work the syndicated version of the NYT Crossword, which ironically appears in the Classified Ads section of my paper, right next to the "Cathy" and "Judge Parker" comic strips (which have been banished from the regular comics page). The official crossword of our paper is a non-attributed syndicated puzzle that's a five-minute yawner every day.

Today, I got totally hung up in the NW like so many of us did, because I could not give up on OFFKEY. I've heard PITCHY for years, but only because I'm a recording musician, it's in common use in recording studios as a euphemism for "off-key" "sour" or "can't carry a tune in a bucket." It is easier to tell a big-ego singer that "the chorus was PITCHY," rather than saying "Man, you hit some real clunkers in the last chorus." This is a term that has really come about because of the recording studio technology of electronic pitch correction. "Pitchiness" can be corrected with a click of the mouse. OFFKEY divas depend on it.

slypett 11:30 PM  

BassManPDX: Wowowwowowow! You've knocked the cover right off the baseball! And thanks for THE definitive take on pitchy.

Anonymous 9:13 AM  

Ditto to above... I would have liked ILLER to be clued something slangy, like "hipper, in hip-hop" ...

Anonymous 6:55 PM  

Me too on the syndicated version. So I'm a bit late. Still, I can rant.

The problem with the NW was that there weren't any "gimme" clues, other than OFFKEY and INKS, which clashed, obviously. 16A is blatantly false - maybe "some" tests do test skills, but final exams test knowledge - not skills - and blood tests do something else entirely. The PISA clue which could have helped was only good for those who speak Italian. I bet we could brainstorm and come up with a dozen five letter words that a king *could* win ("chess" for example, using an extended concept that seems to be fine in these contexts). Ditto with something that could theoretically precede a list.

The whole NW was blank until I got PITCHY, and then the rest fell pretty easily. American Idol or not, I don't think a puzzle is well-done if it hangs on a word that maybe 80% of us have never heard uttered.

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