FRIDAY, Oct. 2 2009 — Bygone radio friend / Boyhood nickname in Phantom Menace / Shrek's voicer / Petal-like poinsettia part

Friday, October 2, 2009

Constructor: Brad Wilber

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Word of the Day: TREPAN (48A: Mine shaft drill)

  1. A rock-boring tool used in mining for sinking shafts.
  2. Medicine. A trephine. [no idea what a "trephine" is — I'll look it up when I see it in a puzzle]


Nice, easy, name-heavy Friday puzzle. The corners are pretty fun, the rest just so-so, but perfectly adequate. I was surprised, actually, at how many damn names are in this puzzle. I love names — they can make the grid interesting and colorful and contemporary. But SEVENTEEN NAMES? And that's not including MARIA ELENA (28D: 1941 Jimmy Dorsey chart-topper). Even to a name-lover like me, that seems like overkill.

  • SID (12A: Luckman of Chicago Bears fame) — had a brief moment of Natick panic as I had No idea who Luckman was and No idea who 12D: Actress Katherine Ross's actor-husband was. Even when I had -AM ELLIO-. I started running letters of the alphabet through my head and then the "S" — and SAM ELLIOTT's face — popped right into my head.
  • SAM ELLIOTT — see above
  • ANI (16A: Boyhood nickname in "The Phantom Menace") — this combines two things I don't like — the answer ANI and the movie "The Phantom Menace." More "Star Wars" action at ...
  • OOLA (51A: "Return of the Jedi" dancing girl) — weirdly, she has become a species of crosswordese.
  • WYLER (26A: Recipient of a record 12 Best Director nominations) — all between '37 and '66. He won three times, the last time for "Ben-Hur" (1959).
  • MYERS (21D: Shrek's voicer) — I remembered Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz before I remembered MYERS.
  • LIANE (25D: NPR host Hansen)
  • CAPP (1D: Sadie Hawkins Day creator) — I learned this when I put HAWKINS in a puzzle once ...
  • AUEL (2D: "The Valley of Horses" novelist)
  • AVA (7D: "Nip/Tuck" character Moore) — I see that you're going for tough/obscure clue for Monday answer here, but there's such a thing as going too far. See also the clue on TSE (42A: Japanese market inits.).
  • UTNE (3D: Magazine founder Eric)
  • J.M. BARRIE (27A: Best-selling children's author who became a baronet) — thought a "baronet" was a type of horn. Upon reflection, I was thinking of a "cornet."
  • IRMA (24D: Bygone radio "friend") — no idea. Just none. Another Monday answer turned insane.
  • ELIAN (40A: First name in 2000 headlines)
  • ODIE (52D: Tongue-lolling comics character)
  • ORY (57D: Kid _____ (old bandleader)) — there's lots of "old" in this puzzle. ORY, like OOLA, is another unfortunate bit of name-crosswordese.
  • ELLERBEE (49A: Multiple Emmy winner for "Nick News") — Linda.

See. A lot. TREPAN and BRACT (23D: Petal-like poinsettia part) were my "know it 'cause I saw it in a crossword once but can't remember it" answers for the day. I already mentioned I didn't know who IRMA was supposed to be. Further, I still, right now, have no idea why SONATA is the right answer for (4D: "Tempest," for one). Well, I should have guessed it was one of Beethoven's. Just not one I happen to own:

Had CAT SCAN for MRI SCAN (35A: Diagnosis facilitator) 'til BLIND ALLEY (29D: It leads nowhere) took care of that. Love BLIND ALLEY, btw. Also JUMP THE GUN (27D: Be too hasty). I only just now got how HEAVE is a 46A: Cry made with great effort. Is the HEAVEr always the "HEAVE" crier?


  • 15A: Tape deck convenience (auto-reverse) — more "old." Fine answer.
  • 17A: Its clock was featured in the 1945 film "The Clock" (Penn Station) — more "old." Also fine.
  • 18A: Perps' preferences (MOs) — If I ever have occasion to put MOS in a puzzle, I will always clue it via this guy:

  • 61A: Dress style that appears to lengthen the body (empire waist) — another nice answer. Sadly, when I was retyping it into the grid just now, I spelled it EMPIRE WASTE. "Your puzzle is incorrect." Really?
  • 63A: Modern retelling of the Faust legend ("Damn Yankees") — I have a feeling I will be exclaiming "DAMN YANKEES" a lot this month.
  • 10D: A couple of words after the race (is on) — probably my favorite clue of the day. Made me forget this was just a stupid partial. That's some good cluing.
  • 11D: People may ask you to do this (renew) — The old "start your clue with a magazine title" trick.
  • 45D: Preventer of northern exposure (anorak) — cool (!) word that somehow manages to be in TWO puzzles I solved back-to-back last night.
  • 50D: Bart Starr's alma mater, briefly ('Bama) — as in "Ala"
  • 59D: Be undefeated against, in sports lingo (own) — yay for contemporary cluing. Good counterbalance to the WWII era stuff that's dominating much of the rest of the grid.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. Two new cool crossword projects to announce / support this morning.

1. Patrick Blindauer has just launched his 2009 Holiday Puzzlefest. He's going to make a suite of 10-12 Holiday-themed puzzles, which will be tied to a contest, the grand prize of which will be either your registration fee for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament or the equivalent in cash ($290). Patrick is one of the very best constructors in the country, and you can get in on this Puzzlefest for a mere $5. You must do this. Ridiculously cheap for what will undoubtedly be superior, thoughtful, entertaining puzzle craftsmanship. Go here now to sign up. Right now. Seriously.

2. Matt Gaffney wrote me this morning with the following message:

October is "Hell Month" at MGWCC [Matt Gaffney's Weekly Crossword Contest] -- five spooky Fridays with haunted themes that get progressively tougher as the days get shorter. And unlike other months, *every* Hell Month entrant who sends in the correct contest answer to all five October puzzles will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set.

Naturally the crosswords and metapuzzles will be cruel and unusual in difficulty...
As always, MGWCC can be found here. One of the great independent puzzle sites out there.


Elaine 7:50 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elaine 8:08 AM  

I found this easy for a Friday, despite major ignorance of many of the names; once a few letters were in, however (as with __BEE) I found that they came to mind in most cases (BARRIE, PENNSTATION, DAMNYANKEES.)

However, I do cry Natick re the NE corner. Should we know or care to whom K.Ross is wed? and sports clues....(have a feeling this guy has not played in a long time...)

Crossword Fiend's site had folks complaining about BRACT --a gimme-- and AUTOREVERSE. See? It pays to be old, sometimes.

I am unaware of TREPAN as a mining drill, but since Egyptian times, drilling a small hole in the head (in nonmedical terms) can relieve pressure...or just let out the demons....

It helped keep the immense effort in rhythm and maximize effect.

Anonymous 8:18 AM  

My Friend Irma was a radio show (that was on even before my time, when dinosaurs roamed the earth)and also a TV sitcom starring Elena Verdugo.
I wanted I Won for the words after the race but the W just wouldn't work. Took a few seconds to see that it was Is On and not I Son which made no sense at all.
Very pleasant, easy Friday puzzle. A good way to start the day.

Jeffrey 8:23 AM  

More medium for me. Don't know BRACT and won't know it next time. Got caught in IRMA/ERMA lke I always do. That led to TCELLS instead of TBILLS. Embarrassing mistake for the accountant.

I'm still sleepy, because I see more names in mis-parse-land.


nanpilla 8:39 AM  

I also wondered why someone would cry "I son!" after a race - then I said DOH!

Had soothes for SETTLES. Also had catSCAN instead of MRI SCAN. MRIs are usually just referred to as MRIs. But noone ever says they just got a CAT.(Unless they just got a new pet - and no, I don't mean PET scan!)

Never saw UTNE or OWN, because the long acrosses were so easy.

I'm off on vacation for the next nine days - au revoir!

Denise 8:55 AM  

I spent almost twenty enjoyable minutes on this puzzle, so I can't say that it was "easy." On the other hand, I want to spend twenty -- and not six -- minutes on the puzzle. So, thank you.

I "knew" so little, and only finished because I finally asked my husband for "SID" which gave me the rest.

Elaine 9:04 AM  

My husband is supposed to stand at the ready to assist me with clues involving sports, car models, and sometimes tools, Big Band musicians and titles, and such. He was MIA this morning, so I was left to struggle with SID and SAM all, all alone.
With tragic results: I had to Google.
Salved my ego with LATimes, BEQ, and now I am upstairs to print another couple of puzzles....

edith b 9:10 AM  

The Dorsey Brothers were my fathers favorites and Big Band music was always on the "phonograph" during dinner, Maria Elena and I'm Getting Sentimental Over You were particular favorites. I agree with Rex about this puzzle being name-heavy even though I always do well with names. This was a bit much though.

I don't think Ive ever done a late week puzzle like this, Monday style, entering answer after answer with no crosses in place. I really agree with Rex's Easy rating today and his overall aassesment of this puzzle skewing old as I have the Dorseys music running through my head.

joho 9:41 AM  

@Rex ... yes, as opposed to the SHOVE crier.


Fun Friday, thanks Brad Wilbur!

@nanpilla ... enjoy your vacation!

twangster 9:44 AM  

I found 3/4 of this easy but then the bottom left was superchallenging and I could not get it. What killed me was that I had PAN for NAY. I couldn't imagine this being wrong and was trying to come up with something ending in UP for 27-down. I don't know much about wine or Tommy Dorsey, and I guessed IWIN and CATSCAN, so that whole area was a disaster.

CoolPapaD 9:44 AM  

I have mixed feelings about this one - OK, I really liked it, but...I was staring at a patchy grid for an eternity, in particular, at LeAnn Hansen, who I adore. I knew something had to be wrong with this, and had to call Sergey and Larry, who informed me that it was LIANE! After that, it all fell into place nicely and rather fast for a Friday.

Don't know why there is a question mark after Entertainment partner? at 54D - doesn't seem like a play on words to me.

I still don't get LESE Majesty.

Rex - great write write-up, as usual, but you passed up a great chance for a Grateful Dead (or Marty Robbins) video for THE RACE IS ON!

Wayne Rhodes 10:15 AM  

This is true: Today is my 57th birthday. I opened my presents (from my wife) first thing in the morning. A new winter coat! AKA: Anorak! Then, as we always do in the a.m., we did the Chicago Tribune puzzle and then the NYT puzzle. BOTH HAD ANSWERS OF ANORAK!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What are the odds?

ArtLvr 10:18 AM  

OO LA - lah. Rex likes all the names, but not me! However, I won't commit LESE majesté, i.e. I'll avoid offending our ruler... (Middle French lese majesté, from Latin laesa majestas, literally, injured majesty)

The first line of the Russian "Volga Boatsong" is usually translated "Yo ho HEAVE ho"... though I think the original means "Again, one more time...

Happy B-day, wsrhodes! I love ANORAKs.


Unknown 10:22 AM  

Happy Anorak Day.

Beyond easy for me due to music before my time that has no currency that I can find in Maria Elena, which I had to build one cross at a time. I also have not used a TREPAN and wonder if there are unipan and bipans. I did note the New York centric fill. BTW does OOLA do the Hula?

Jeffrey 10:39 AM  

@PhillySolver - Only for Moolah.

retired_chemist 10:44 AM  

I found this medium. Few gimmes but all doable.

Count me in the I WON group. Parsed IS ON correctly but still had to think a moment.

JMBARRIE, ELLERBEE and DAMN YANKEES were easy with a cross or two, SAM ELLIOTT and PENN STATION gettable with several crosses, and for some reason AUTOREVERSE only after many.

We have OOLA today, we might someday have OOOLA, but I doubt that the four-O OOOOLA will appear.* Actually OOLA should be a town in Louisiana (OOLA, LA). Thank you thank you. I am here every day too.

*The one-L lama, he's a priest,....

Rex Parker 10:51 AM  

To quote myself: "Even to a name-lover like me, that seems like overkill."

How the hell do you get from that to "Rex likes all the names"?

Some days I just want to bang my head on the keyboard.


slypett 11:03 AM  

I faced a sea of white after the first pass. Nearly drowned. It took a long time to find a boat and navigate what were, for me, treacherous waters.

Fresh fish to Mr. Wilber for a fine puzzle!

Two Ponies 11:10 AM  

Way too many proper names and abbrev's for this solver. Is UAL supposed to be United Airlines? Three letters for a two word name? Obviously I is tu stupud for ths.
Rather than Google I just tossed it. No fun in Puzzleworld for me today.
However, the more I think about yesterday's push-the-envelope puzzle the more I like it.

dk 11:27 AM  

@wsrhodes, buy a lottery ticket.

@Rex you often bang your head against the key board and that is why your little picture has a big forehead and no hair. And, that Lost Girl cover may get you shut down.... again.

This puzzle is an oreo: Soft center with a cookie crust (bad metaphor I know -- suck it up and deal). 13 and 14 down were my last fill right after 27 and 28 down. Outside of having tcells for TBILLS the middle was smooth and creamy.

Don't mid the random name-crosswordese as, well, it is a puzzle after all..

Completed avalanche rescue training last week, word to the wise keep those ANORAKS tight when skiing/boarding off piste.

Yesterdays paper is dry and now I can see the COMPASS ROSE -- cool.

Speaking for the boring tool contingent and Mr. Ed - fine job Wilber.

jae 11:46 AM  

Easy for me except for holding on to CAUSEDARIOT longer than I should have. Once I fixed that it was pretty breezy. Oh, and instead of TCELLS I tried TNOTES. Good Fri.!

Alice in SF 11:48 AM  

Does the answer to 56A refer to shuffling cards to get random order? Help!

I groused about needing to know so many names and only figured out Ellerbee, Damn Yankees and Sam Elliott by throwing them in. Being an old football fan, Sid (12A) was my only gimme. Sigh.

Ulrich 11:58 AM  

All those names made this definitely NOT easy for me. The only one I could drag out from long-time memory was SAM ELLIOTT b/c it was clued exactly as I remember him, not for any role he played, but as the husband of whom I consider the most beautiful actress of her generation. The miracle is that I could finish w/o googling...but then being sick in bed gave me all the time in the world.

@crosscan: I'm glad you're not out of the picture!

Brendan Emmett Quigley 12:26 PM  

Go figure, I had a tough tough time with this one. Can't figure out why, though. A slow slog corner to corner to corner with just enough gimmes to get footholds. I like Brad. Love his stuff. This one's no different. 11 out of 12 winners in the long entries. More please!

Peter Falk, Sicilian Crooner 12:31 PM  

What I like about Sam Elliott is he'll kill you, but only if you need killing.

This t'weren't easy for me. It wasn't a problem with the names, Percy (how I used to pronounce "per se.") It was lots of stuff, most of it already mentioned. I never did get ISON and never could parse AUTOREVERSE because of the stupid W I left throguhout the puzzle. I'm doing these things on paper these days, when I do them at all, and making a mess of them.

Anonymous 12:33 PM  


Anonymous 12:34 PM  

I felt good that I got through this Friday puzzle so easily, and then you rated it as "easy" and burst my bubble!!
BTW, when you thought baronet was a type of horn, and then were thinking coronet -- a coronet is a type of crown, a CORNET is the horn similar to a trumpet and in the same key.

MikeM 12:51 PM  

Not that bad for a Friday. I knew CAPP; but all that came to mind for a minute or so were Mort Walker and Chic Young. Finally it clicked and I was off.

PS The clock at Grand Central is much nicer than the one at Penn Station.

PlantieBea 12:56 PM  

A medium puzzle for me. I also held on to CAUSED A RIOT, UNSPOKEN, and CAT SCAN for way too long, preventing me from JUMPing the GUN with the correct answers in the corners. All fixable in good (long) staring time. In the end, I messed up with OONA/NESE.

It's nice to see the correct word for the poinsettia's colorful parts (BRACT). The same applies to the showy bougainvillea which actually has tiny white flowers.

I appreciate the WOTD (TREPAN) definition, Rex; it's new for me.

Clark 1:16 PM  

I had to pick away at this one. Started with 'Leia' instead of OOLA. Ended up with AELA there. (Anarak anyone? Those darn schwas.)

Beethoven is supposed to have answered a question about the meaning of the D minor sonata (O. 31, No. 2) by saying "Read Shakespeare's Tempest." The name stuck. But there is endless debate about how seriously he meant this.

@MikeM -- The clock in the old Penn Station was pretty cool. Eisenstadt, Clock at Penn Station.

Tony from Charm City 1:36 PM  

Probably the easiest Friday I've seen in a long while, but still fun to solve. I had no idea Mrs. C. is married to SAMELLIOTT. I guessed on Jean AUEL since it sounded like something she'd write, having only knew of "Clan of the Cave Bear." That allowed me to finish off the NW in (for me) record time.

Anonymous 1:37 PM  


A trephine is a hollow drill used to take out a core of bone. Think of an apple corer.

Stan 1:43 PM  

It's always amusing / humbling when one of your supposed areas of expertise (movie actors and directors, in my case) is where you get hopelessly Naticked. But eventually I figured out RENEW and broke the NE logjam.

Remembered BRACT from an earlier puzzle. Maybe next time I'll recall TREPAN.

Good one, Brad Wilber!

andrea oola-la michaels 1:59 PM  

Shoot, put in TWILLS/WRACT was thrilled to do the puzzle in, like, 15 minutes and went to sleep.
Drat. Will I never not be one letter off on a Fri/Sat?!

Too name heavy for me and I'm an, um, namer! Oh wait! I cheated and googled Shrek when I got stuck.



Wow! You DO need to buy a lottery ticket, win, and then move somewhere where you don't NEED an ANORAK!

Shamik 2:06 PM  

This was one CRACT puzzle for me. On the same wavelength as Crosscan with the TCELLS, ERMA and CRACT. Otherwise, good puzzle in a medium Friday time.

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

Was there a clock in Penn Station? I remember the clock at the Astor Hotel.

chefwen 2:45 PM  

Don't know how I knew TREPAN but I did, must have been from my years in the tool steel industry.

As others, got messed up with pan for NAY, cat for MRI, and i won for IS ON. After a quick Google for K. Ross's husband and fixing my errors it all fell neatly into place.

Being built rather close to the ground EMPIRE WAIST dresses were always a favorite in my teens.

Great puzzle Mr. Wilbur

Anonymous 2:48 PM  

@aliceinsf - I think he means CD player random shuffling.

I'm surprised that I recalled Maria Elena without trouble since I was age 4 in NZ at the time

retired_chemist 2:53 PM  

had a brief problem with MRI SCAN. Had MR IMAGE which is correct. Magnetic resonance image scan sounds a bit redundant. OK, it could be magnetic resonance imaging scan I suppose. And it is gettable anyway.

OK, health professionals, don't you just say MRI instead of MRI SCAN?

Meg 3:14 PM  

@Tony, by "Mrs. C" are you thinking about Marion Ross? Katherine Ross was in "The Graduate".

Fun and pretty easy for a Friday, though I thought the cluing was imaginative.

On to Matt's puzzle, and now we aren't allowed to cheat. Truly going to be a Hell Month.

The Corgi of Mystery 3:31 PM  

@retired_chemist: I do MRI SCANs regularly as part of my research, and we do call them that a fair amount of the time.

Stan 3:34 PM  

Was there a "criminal intent" theme here, with MOS, PLEA, PRISONS, STIR, the PEN, the Godfather, and a GUN? Could someone have been LURED IN to a BLIND ALLEY and gotten CAPPed?

CoolPapaD 3:46 PM  

@ retired_chemist: I usually say "Let's get an MRI," but I usually say "Let's get a CT" as well. "MRI scan" is probably the more correct way of referring to the study - either is fine in my mind. We routinely drill burr holes in skulls, but only the old-timers call it trephining!

sanfranman59 3:50 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 27:11, 25:20, 1.07, 72%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Fri 13:00, 11:51, 1.10, 78%, Medium-Challenging

I was dismayed when I saw Rex's easy rating for today's puzzle since it was a bit of a slog for me. I feel a little better now that I see the numbers for online solvers. It felt medium-challenging to me and so far, the numbers bear that out.

Michele Humes 4:07 PM  

Dude, I struggled with this one. Got a lot of it very quickly and then just stared and stared at patchy bits from TBILLS down and to the left of ELIAN.

I didn't like it. There was no dam bursting followed by beautiful, smooth fill. It felt perfunctory, and it was not, as you insist, easy. You do so many of these, I contend, that you can no longer accurately assess difficulty :]

Anonymous 4:34 PM  

bract, liane, oola. Whatever. Nice to see Kid Ory get some props tho.

Anonymous 5:21 PM  

Has mosso entered the vernacular here yet?
This puzzle was full of them.
Squeek the anonymouse

Greene 6:49 PM  

Late to the show tonight. Unlike most solvers, I had a hard time with this puzzle. My only gimmie really was DAMN YANKEES; everything else I had to tease out cross by cross.

While doing this puzzle, I was reminded of @EdithB's comment about the Kevin Der puzzle from Wednesday (which was also somewhat name heavy). These puzzles can indeed be a chore if the names don't happen to fall into your wheelhouse. I'm not being critical, mind you -- I liked this puzzle -- I just wasn't on the same name page as the constructor.

Speaking of construction, I really liked the grid design of this one. All those triple stacks of 11s that seem to rotate around that one black square at the center. It was kind of like a giant pinwheel. This couldn't have been easy to construct so hats off to Brad Wilber.

And of course, we can't have a puzzle featuring DAMN YANKEES without a little tip of the hat to the divine Gwen Verdon as Lola. That's Ray Walston in the first clip and a sadly miscast Tab Hunter in the second. And before anybody gets offended by Miss Verdon's gyrations, please remember these musical numbers were intended as satire. Just sayin'.

Orange 7:01 PM  

I must like names even more than Rex does—I didn't notice there were so many.

I thought IS ON, both answer and clue, stunk. Chacun a son gout, y'all.

If you're ever bored in Chicago, stop by the International Museum of Surgical Science a few blocks north of the Magnificent Mile to check out the trephines, bone saws, and other horrifying bits of old medical technology. We've come a long way, baby.

Unknown 7:08 PM  

I had to laugh at seeing Liane Hansen in the puzzle today. My husband and I always think she has a crush on Will Shortz when he's on her show Sun mornings. She always acts a little flirtatious. Anyone else pick up on that?

Glitch 7:34 PM  

Bulk reply to a couple of the comments above:

The spelling of Hansen's first name came from that of Liane de Pougy (1869–1950). Hansen was born in 1951.

She is married to fellow NPR host Neal Conan with whom she has a son and daughter.


PS: You'll have to look up "L de P" for the rest of the story ;)

alice in SF 7:40 PM  

Thanks, Anonymous at 2:48P. My husband thought one could only do that on an IPod,

sanfranman59 9:44 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 6:18, 6:58, 0.90, 28%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:43, 8:26, 1.03, 64%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 9:14, 12:00, 0.77, 9%, Easy
Thu 19:44, 18:55, 1.04, 68%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 27:58, 25:23, 1.10, 76%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:42, 0.95, 37%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:33, 4:22, 1.04, 67%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 4:54, 5:53, 0.83, 14%, Easy
Thu 8:52, 9:11, 0.97, 44%, Medium
Fri 12:33, 11:49, 1.06, 74%, Medium-Challenging

andrea leaves nothing UNSTATED michaels 1:50 AM  

If you watch the crossword crisis "Dinner Impossible" you can see Liane in full flirt mode!
She came into the kitchen and threw some curveballs at the not to be the only one yelled at!

@Two Ponies
I took a tour of some murals in the Mission tonight and on the last one, the guide said "This looks like a Compass ROSE but it's not!"
I had one of those ohmygodionlylearnedthatowrdyesterdayandnowi'llprobablyheariteverydayfortherestofmylife moments

Feel better! Totally concur about Katherine Ross...I always think about her shyly undressing with Robert Redford (or was it Paul Newman?) in "Butch Cassidy..." and of course "The Graduate" is one of my favorite movies of all time.
You have impeccable taste in women!

liquid el lay 3:32 AM  

I thought SAM ELLIOTT sort of a strange creature to turn up in a crossword puzzle. Thought it was going to be TOM SELLECK for a while, but Sam's a comfortable presence.

CAUSED A STIR is fun and PENN STATION very atmospheric. Like the dynamic JUMP THE GUN, and the game IS ON.

Puzzle started weirdly easy, then got sticky before it was through. It didn't really do much for me.. maybe I'm getting tired of puzzles or maybe the names- which don't mean much to me- just aren't as interesting as words.

Unknown 11:28 AM  

I hated this puzzle, but maybe that was because I didn't have time on Friday and did it Saturday morning. Also, after I looked at the NYT puzzle and got a sense of dread, I did the LAT first and it totally stunk. So maybe I went into this puzzle in a bad state of mind.

If it weren't for 15A (Auto-reverse) I'm not sure I would have started, much less finished.

17A - WHICH Penn Station? There are dozens.

31A - UAL is the stock ticker, not an abbreviation. They are United Airlines aka UA.

45A (and 8D in LAT) - what's "north" have to do with anoraks? When I was growing up I wore them in 50D, and I bet Bart Starr did too!

Pleasant surprise:
12D - I had no idea Mrs C. from "Happy Days" fancied that type - though she was partial to The Fonz.

CFG 9:57 AM  

Probably no one reads the comments this late, but I feel strongly about this one. It was more like a trivia quiz than a crossword puzzle, IMO. I finished it, but not without a lot of internet help. Not my cup of tea.

Unknown 3:53 PM  

Marie Wilson was the star of My Friend Irma, which I vaguely remember listening to when I was a child.
And George Jones recorded "The Race Is On", not Marty Robbins, although Robbins did race cars when he wasn't recording hits...

Singer 4:51 PM  

Late comments from syndication land:

1. Yesterday's puzzle was really fun, and the layout of the grid looks like a compass rose. I liked the mis-direction of the clue for compass. Comment today because I forgot to bring my paper with me yesterday, so didn't do the puzzle until last night.

2. Today's puzzle, not as fun. Lot's of names, some of which I knew, some were gettable from crosses. Asked my movie buff wife about Katherine Ross' husband, and she didn't know. She knows everything about movies! Eventually made it work and got Sam Elliott. I had Elliot for a long time, and it was Sid Luckman that finally broke the log jam there. I cry Natick at Oola/Anorak, although it is probably not really a Natick because I did know Anorak, just didn't know how to spell it, and I have no memory of a dancing girl named Oola in the Return of the Jedi.

I would rate the puzzle as medium challenging, same as sanfranman's rating. It had a lot of easy places, but too many just plane WTFs to qualify as easy.

Waded Boggs 5:11 PM  

Commenting on a puzzle 5 weeks later seems moot, but that's the way it goes for a 1-billionth best crossword puzzle solver in the world.

Got Jump The Gun instantly then increasingly lagged behind. Hey, since when is the race on after the race? The race "Is On" while the race is on. Period.

And the clock WAS under the Astor Hotel, not in Penn Station. How do you 44th best crossword puzzle solvers put up with such inaccuracies?

Still mourning the Damn Yankees winning. Wade might have been pleased (or not) but this gal is in completely bogged down

Singer 7:45 PM  

@Wade Boggs, there is a crosswordy trick that is often used, particularly on late in the week puzzles, where they say something like "after the race". The twist is that you add something after the word or words - it can be a suffix, or in this case additional words. So instead of being after the race is actually run, you instead add something after the words "the race", making a new phrase, "the race is on".

Inaccuracies are the meat of this blog - and is what makes reading it fun. Not everyone knows where the clock really was - I certainly don't - but there is always someone who does and says so. My big thing has been errors in musical terms, or the general lack of knowledge among a lot of great crossword solvers in knowing about classical music. Rap music or pop music on the other hand is a handicap for me.

I know a fair amount of sports trivia (and share your dismay at the Yankees winning last night), but there are many who loudly complain about sports trivia. In fact, I did just that sort of complaining recently because the constructor actually thought solvers should know Gil Hodges uniform number. Yikes, I know a lot of sport trivia, but that is really arcane to me.

But there are so many crazy things you learn from doing these things, and that keeps it lively. And when the puzzle has an error in logic or facts, that makes the blog all the more fun to read.

I agree it almost seems pointless to enter comments 5 weeks later, and often the subject is beaten to death already, but it still is satisfying to do so.

Waxy in Montreal 9:23 PM  

@Singer, solving for Gil Hodges was actually doable without his uniform number cuz the Mets have really had so few numbers to retire in almost half a century now! Only 1 player (Tom Seaver) plus Jackie Robinson (along with all MLB) and original manager Casey Stengal as well as Hodges have been so honored.

And @Rex, how prescient you were 5 weeks ago with "63A: Modern retelling of the Faust legend ("Damn Yankees") — I have a feeling I will be exclaiming "DAMN YANKEES" a lot this month." Drats!

Stan 9:25 PM  

@Singer: Nice comment! A very clear explanation of a certain kind of clue ("After the race").

And see? Some people do read the late posts...

Nullifidian 5:27 AM  

Writing from syndication-land:

I'm not pleased with today's puzzle. I don't mind accurate clues that I don't know, but I hate it when the clues are wrong.

Joe Allen met Alice Mayberry at PENN STATION, but the clock was at the Astor Hotel. This is where they meet for their first date and where they reunite after becoming separated on the subway. Since it plays such a central role in the plot, there really is no reason why this clue couldn't have been checked prior to publication.

Because Astor Hotel and PENN STATION have the same number of letters, I wrote in the factually correct answer and then had to cross out and write over a significant part of the NW quadrant when nothing else worked.

Aside from that, there was smooth fill all the way. Perhaps it was just my degree of annoyance with that inaccuracy that made me look kindly on the rest of the puzzle, but I don't think anything else was clunky or poorly clued. Nevertheless, I cannot say that I enjoyed it.

Waded Bogs 8:07 PM  

Thanks Singer. So in another context, words after "the race" could be:

"was won by those damn Yankees"


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