Like Nash's lama — TUESDAY, Oct. 13 2009 — Cramped spot slangily / Woad and anil for two / Prince Charles beginning in 1952

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Constructor: Sharon Delorme

Relative difficulty: Medium THEME: words for "toilet" show up on the tail end of four theme answers; theme-revealing answer is ROYAL FLUSH (58A: Poker player's dream ... and a hint to the tends of 17-, 25-, 35- and 50-Across)

Word of the Day: DIDOS (51D: Pranks) — n., pl., -dos, or -does.

A mischievous prank or antic; a caper.

[Origin unknown.]

Not a fan of cutesy toilet humor, or toilet humor generally, so this was more "ick" than "ha ha" for me. Further, it was my understanding that "what do the last/first words of the theme answers have in common?" puzzles were too ordinary / common / passé for the NYT these days. I guess not. Not if they are about toilets. The theme is tight and it's executed just fine. Still didn't care for it much. Some days are like that.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Member of Sherwood Forest's "merry band" (Little JOHN)
  • 25A: Company stationery (letterHEAD) — "LETTERHEAD" is one word, so this answer kind of sucks, in that HEAD is not freestanding, as the other "toilet" synonyms are.
  • 35A: Prince Charles, beginning in 1952 (heir to the THRONE)
  • 50A: Cramped spot, slangily (sardine CAN)

The opposite of everything is NOTHING. Further, NOT A BIT (28D: Opposite of everything) feels more adverbial ("Are you angry?" "NOT A BIT") in colloquial speech than it does nominal. EVERYTHING has the THING in it. NOT A BIT has me wondering NOT A BIT of what? Don't like ASHY (23A: Pale as a ghost) crossing ASCH (23D: "The Apostle" author Sholem). 36D: Just for _____ is a weird, not very Tuesday clue for OPENERS.

DIDOS (51D: Pranks) is a Saturday word. It is not a Tuesday word. Not even close. In fact, last time it appeared, it was in a Saturday puzzle, as a clue. Here's what I said then:

  • 31D: Dido (escapade) - whoa. What? I think she meant more to Aeneas than that.

I was being facetious, as I knew (the real, capital-D) Dido was not intended. But raise your hand if you use, or know someone who uses, DIDO to mean "antic." "You kids and your crazy DIDOS." You are one letter away from serious sexual hilarity (which is way better than toilet hilarity, by the way). In fact, if you Google [dido prank], the second hit is titled "Dildo prank." I'm afraid to click on that particular link.


  • 20A: First pro team to play on artificial turf (Astros) — didn't see this clue at all. The Astrodome was an iconic stadium of my baseball-loving youth.
  • 21A: Calif. barrio area (East L.A.) — I wonder if this answer would be thought to have any crossword currency at all if it weren't for the Cheech & Chong "hit" "Born in EAST L.A."?

  • 42A: Heavenly hunter (Orion) — I know an ORION. He lives down the street a ways. He's 6.
  • 43A: One signatory to NAFTA (USA) — "American" and "America" ... NAFTA and USA basically share an "A"
  • 65A: Woad and anil, for two (dyes) — knew it because of anil, which is crosswordese. Did not know "woad" was a DYE. Actually, not really sure what "woad" is at all.
  • 9D: Cattail's locale (marsh) — I was thinking "whip" or "lash," then realized I was thinking "Cat o' nine tails."
  • 38D: Auto dashboard indicator (oil gauge) — had OIL LIGHT.
  • 47D: One who sings to the cops (canary) — really like this clue/answer combo.
  • 48D: Like Nash's lama (one L) — when you tire of the Scott Turow title, there's always Nash to help you out.
  • 67A: Snacks often eaten inside out (Oreos) — good clue on common answer.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


matt 7:42 AM  

I didn't mind the theme (though I did the puzzle last night and not in the morning). However, I had some problems in the NE. First, I have never ever heard of Salada. Second, I always thought the term was "iced tea", not "ice tea".

Otherwise, I found this to be an easy Tuesday save for a couple really hard clues.

joho 7:51 AM  

@Rex ... great write-up! Very funny and much more amusing that the bathroom humor theme, to me. I'm not much for that and when finished wished SUER had been SEWER.

ileen 8:13 AM  

I was convinced ACTA was ACES & lost tremendous time in that corner. Wrong type of court, I guess.

Elaine 8:25 AM  

YES! Someone else who objects to the ubiquitous but erroneous ICETEA. It is, indeed, ICED. It's like seeing "CAN FRUIT" in the grocery store. At first I had SHOWER, so I had a write-over right off the bat. (OOPS! Baseball strikes again!)

I didn't think this one passed the Breakfast Test...and I was only as far as a cup of coffee. The best part of this puzzle was the write-up!

And the clue that took me the longest? "Four-baggers." ARGHH Will there be any relief once the World Series is finally played? (assuming it stops raining....)

nanpilla 8:30 AM  

@Matt: I also hate ice tea instead of iced tea. It's not like you are making tea by steeping ice cubes.

Didn't mind this one as much as Rex. I actually liked it a lot more than yesterday's. Had the same reaction to DIDOS - wha??

I am reading a book about Enzo Ferrari right now, called Go Like Hell. It's the story of the rivalry with Ford in the early sixties for supremacy at LeMans. At least now I can remember what his first name is!

Anonymous 8:33 AM  

SW corner kicked my butt. On a Tuesday. Hopefully the day will only get better.


Orange 8:38 AM  

Woad's a blue dye. In Braveheart, the warriors painted blue were supposedly wearing woad. Apparently Scotsmen of that era did no such thing, but woad's one of those Old English words I'm a sucker for.

Did you know that some people write "dido" when they mean "ditto"? Sad but true. Not sure if anyone calls Rush Limbaugh followers "didoheads" but it wouldn't surprise me."

Call me a 10-year-old, but I really enjoyed this theme.

Kurt 8:41 AM  

Put me in the "ICE TEA is incorrect" camp!

The puzzle was okay. Rex was better.

chefbea 8:48 AM  

I was sure the last long clue and answer would be

Women's cologne = eau de toilette

Thought the word of they day might be woad

And we have Elzie again

Parshutr 8:59 AM  

Never even saw the ASTRO thing, but it reminded me of the reason they developed Astroturf. The field was originally natural grass, but since the sunlight came through glass, the blades were white, not green...

Greene 9:01 AM  
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Greene 9:03 AM  

It's official: @Orange, you're a 10 year old. :)

I did not like the theme of this puzzle at all, but had to admit it was well constructed and well executed. I guess if one is going to have a crude subject for a puzzle theme, at least the construction should be elegant. I kept waiting for a theme answer like WATERLOO. OK, so I'm a 10 year old too.

I was kind of surprised to see a female constructor for this puzzle. I guess potty humor is no longer the sole province of guys. Any thoughts on this from the Crosschix?

I see we're going to have the ICE TEA versus ICED TEA discussion again. Put me in the "I really don't care which phrase we use" category. I see it used both ways frequently (in puzzles too) and it just doesn't bother me.

Parshutr 9:05 AM  

ICETEA is so Redneck!

Bob Kerfuffle 9:08 AM  

The breakfast test has met its Waterloo! (Although Waterloo would not meet Rex's stand-alone-synonym test.)

Just one write-over: I fell into the NOTHING/NOTABIT trap.

@matt - Old ad: "Salada - Thats' a lotta tea!" (Say it aloud.)

Newbie 9:10 AM  

Can see from the Comments that Elzie is not new to crosswords - but Elzie crossed with Four-baggers was a Natick for me. And I'm woefully ignorant of sports abbreviations.

dk 9:20 AM  

I am with @Orange. Both in emotional age and enjoyment of this theme. And, as Cheech and Chong are infamous for bathroom humor (aka pottie jokes) EASTLA was a fit as well. Only wish the ONEL could have been your-an-l and DIDO doodoo.

I needed a laugh this AM and this puzzle provided it.

Thank you Sharon.

Stan 9:22 AM  

Adding my thumbs-up for 10-year-old potty humor. Suggestions of a British history theme made for nice misdirection.

HudsonHawk 9:26 AM  

I initially thought we had two consecutive days of a "change the vowel" theme with LITTLE JOHN and LETTERHEAD. Figured LATTER DAY SAINTS and LOTTERY WINNER were in the offing, but couldn't come up with a LUTT word. I was relieved it was just about toilets.

I'm with Greene on the ICE TEA thing. It's been commonly used both ways for as long as I can remember.

PlantieBea 9:29 AM  

Because of the theme, I give this one a meh raiting. Rex's blog was once again more entertaining than the puzzle itself. I like my tea ICED. My favorite answer was probably SARDINE CAN, but I wish it wasn't linked to the theme.

Back to my HOT tea--Twinings.

Elaine 9:42 AM  

If you "don't mind" ICE TEA, then you won't mind YOUR/YOU'RE misuse either, right?

It's just a short hop from careless writing, dropped syllables, and sloppy spelling to Anarchy, you know! Redneck
Do you mean the incorrect phrase, or the drink ICED TEA itself? Because ICED Tea is a gracious and refreshing beverage; SWEET TEA is Redneck.

Heather 9:46 AM  

Tough one for a Tuesday with a lot of wrong answers for me. Count me in on the ICE TEA hate. I also had ACES until I figured out SALADA and fell into the OIL LIGHT trap. Had to resort to Google for SEGAR, which is almost unheard of for me this early in the week, and I still don't understand the "Four Bagger" clue.

Susan 9:48 AM  

ICE TEA, CAN FRUIT, WHIP CREAM (my personal favorite)... They all kinda bug/amuse me. But since we aren't having ICED CREAM for dessert, maybe we should all accept that language evolves, whether we like it or not.

Here on the Gulf Coast they call it "Sweet Tea." And if it's not sweetened, they call it, "Unsweet Tea." Really. You see it on menus and everything.

I'm in the 10-year old boy potty humor loving camp!

PurpleGuy 9:49 AM  

My hand is raised for the NOTHING/NOTABIT trap, also.
The tea phrase doesn't bother me either. I'm old enough to have heard it used both ways. There are plenty of other things to fret over.

This puzzle was easy, but just obnoxious.
The write up was so much better !
Thanks, Rex !

Susan 9:50 AM  

Hey, you know what's not gracious and refreshing? Calling people "rednecks" because they have a different accent from you!

Michael Leddy 9:53 AM  

Tonally, this puzzle is all over the place. There's something odd about ICETEA showing up in a puzzle with Pinot NOIR.

Denise 10:04 AM  

As always, I never saw the theme -- when I put in RYAL FLUSH, I thought it was maybe something about cards.

I do the ONION puzzle (Wednesdays), and it tests the limits of decency. Maybe the NYT is competing in that contest??

NEVER heard of DIDO for antic. Sometimes when a word is unusual, once I see it there is a "hit" in my memory bank. No.

ArtLvr 10:16 AM  
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ArtLvr 10:19 AM  

The puzzle is a CURIO: couldn't be COYER, but at least it's livelier than the usual Tues.

I'm with DK -- doodoo would have been a hoot too...


retired_chemist 10:22 AM  

Hand up for this enjoyable puzzle revealing my inner 10 year old. Actually, he is generally on display.

Perhaps someone can relate the "Widow Dido" badinage in The Tempest, Axt II Scene 1 to the clued usage of dido. The rest of the scene has some sexual humor, so I imagine there is some sort of humor in this phrase too. But I am sure some of you will know....

Doug 10:22 AM  

I kind of look down at puzzles where I get the theme answers right away and then have trouble with the fill -- such as this one. Just me? Nothing - NOTABIT had me stumped till the end. I still don't like ACTA and lots of other answers/clues.

fikink 10:27 AM  

Got to four-baggers and all I could think of was iced tea!
Agree with others who found Rex's comments the takeaway for the day.

slypett 10:30 AM  

If you go to an icecream shop, you will be asked if you want 'whipcream' (sic) on your sundae. Growing up in the Bronx, it was always ICETEA. In fact, grammar vultures notwithstanding (I'm oft among them), I'll bet that's the more common usage.

I thought IFSO for "In that case" was weak, but what really got me is NES for "Scraps for Spot." Is there a rational explanation? Help! (Unless, of couse, NE stands for Not Eaten, in which case I'm a goat (and will eat anything).

PlantieBea 10:34 AM  

@XMAN: The scrap for Spot was and ORT. The NES was the game console. You have just shifted the clue over one spot. I had to go back and look; I never even saw the ort.

Glitch 10:38 AM  

Salada, the folks that brought you tea bags in the 1930's, refers to it as ICED TEA, so although both terms are in common usage, technically, the puzzle's "pairing" is in error ;)


JannieB 10:39 AM  

@RogueKnits - a 4-bagger is a Home Run (bases being referred to as "bags").

As for tea, here in the foothills of Appalachia, it's also Sweet or Unsweet, avoiding the controversy.

I got a chuckle from the theme and appreciated the clue for Oreo. Nice.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:39 AM  

@RogueKnits - A Four Bagger is a Home Run.

Two Ponies 10:43 AM  

As soon as I saw Ice Tea I groaned to myself "here we go again..."
On 63A I had the terminal R, read the clue and wanted Liar.
Learned dido and woad today so it can't be all that bad for a Tuesday.
So Astroturf was named for that team?
Nice write-up today.
I couldn't write East LA without thinking of C&C either.

joho 10:46 AM  

@RogueKnits ... Four-baggers = homeruns i.e. HRS

retired_chemist 10:57 AM  

Woad should be the last half of Elmer Fudd's favowite fwavow of ice cream.

Frances SC 10:57 AM  

Salada tea has been around for ages, late 1800s in Canada and the first to sell it premeasured in foil packets. They used to have a catchy jingle "It's Sa-la-da *tea* time."

My sweet little old Granny from Atlanta drank "sweet tea" and she was about as far removed from "redneck" as one can get.

And finally, even the MacDonald's on the corner in my town can spell "iced tea" correctly on their outside sign board. (Actually I think it says "iced coffee" but same rule applies.)

Pottie humor always seems a last resort for an attempt at being clever and creative. Count me in the don't like it column.

PS 11:06 AM  

Toilets are toilets, sometimes called JOHN, HEAD, THRONE, and CAN. Nothing smutty in that. Just a fact of life. We all can think of off-color and funnier words on the subject. It's all in the mind. Yep, I may be only 8.

Like many words that have morphed into everyday speech, ICE TEA is easy to say while saying iced tea, "dt" together is awkward. Personal observation = sweet tea is blah!

Marie NYC 11:15 AM  

Salada tea has taglines printed on the tea-bag tags: sayings, puns, fortune-cookie stuff, etc., designed to give the brewer something to read to pass the time while the tea bag steeped.

The founder of the company, I think his name was Larkin, liked word play, and if alive today would probably be doing the NYT crossword and reading this blog for the pure pleasure of using words in alternate contexts. He may have even have liked pottie humor, but I doubt if he would have called his product "ice" tea. I just isn't done...

Ulrich 11:17 AM  

Here's another hand by a geezer with the mind of a 10-year-old! Plus, as I was doing the puzzle, I was sitting on my own private throne, so it was pure delight and went down w/o a hitch last night.

I'm glad I never saw DIDOS...

Charles Bogle 11:19 AM  

I'm w @orange and @dk...emotional age and theme were fine w me. For a change, I caught onto the theme fairly early and it helped...shows where my head is. Did not like ASHY. Don't know what ORT is for Spot--any help? As a 30 year litigator, NEVER heard a litigant referred to as a "SUER"! DIDOS went down w fingers crossed; thanks for explaining RP. We had Popeye's SEGAR very recently fortunately...don't understand answer for 8D- cry accompanying a head slap...any help? Liked: MATAHARI, CURIO, ABASE, ARCADE. I found it challenging esp for a Tuesday but overall on the "Iliked it" side

Anonymous 11:21 AM  

Simply living in the South doesn't make you a red neck.
It's not a state, it's a state of mind.
I like it when I see sweet tea on a menu. It's nostalgic and I know exactly what I'm ordering.
@ r_c, Wocky Woad, good one!

jeff in chicago 11:29 AM  

Fun, funny puzzle. I guess my inner 7-year-old came out as well. It did have two of my least favorite xword words - ORT and SUER - but everything else was OK.

By the way, if you Google "dido prank" now the second entry is Rex Parker! (I couldn't resist Googling it, but once I read the sentence and a half description of what is now the third entry, I did NOT proceed to see what that prank was....)

Jeffrey 11:32 AM  


Anonymous 11:35 AM  

@ Charles Bogle, If you are serious about Ort and Doh then you haven't been playing this game long enough. No offense intended but ort is crossword 101 for a table scrap and Doh! is Simpsons 101. Remember them along with Sao Paulo and oreos, they appear all of the time as common tired old fill. Keep playing though, you'll get them all soon enough.

slypett 11:43 AM  

PlantieBea: Gulp! Ulp! I dunno! Didn't do it! (But I must have!) Thanks!

Feeble 11:58 AM  

I still don't understand ACTA and never heard of SALADA. I'm getting addicted to this site!!

Charles Bogle 12:09 PM  

@anonymous11:35am thanks for the enlightenment on ORT and DOH. Have been at this now for five months and should have been taking better notes. @ps--agree totally-- @r_c: loved your wocky woad

MikeM 12:34 PM  

Finished the puzzle, but I don't get "Just for OPENERS". Is that supposed to be a common phrase? Doesnt seem common enough for me. Just for laughs... Just for kicks... Can someone enlighten me.. thanks

AuntHattie 12:36 PM  

The compulsive proofreader in me groaned at ice tea, as it does at mistakes with its/it's, then/than, your/you're--"the language evolves" is NOT an excuse for bad grammar!!

Noam D. Elkies 12:41 PM  

I enjoyed this, though I solved it well past breakfast time, and yes, it's rather tricky in spots for a Tuesday.

At 36D:OPENERS, though, there's good reason for the unusually tricky clue: one can't use "can openers" given the theme entry 50D:SARDINECAN (which even happens to cross 36D).

Neat pairing in the 1D clue of the somewhat bookish MALcontent and the modern MALware.


Unknown 12:52 PM  

@charles bogle - i've been at this consistently for a little over 6 months and ORT was new to me.

IRT? is this also crosswordese? seems a bit tough for a tuesday. i had to google it to find out there was such a thing as Interborough Rapid Transit. i keep having the audacity to not be from new york city. maybe someday i'll learn.

Karen from the Cape 12:56 PM  

I had NOTHING and NOTAONE before NOTABIT. Also I put in ODOMETER. My favorite answer was HEIR TO THE THRONE, not sure why except for its sheer length. My favorite clue would be 1D, for all of us MALcontents.
I quickly rechecked all the crossings for DIDOS, don't remember seeing that one before. I've seen WOAD much more often in books (whenever the Celts start to warring) than ANIL that I have the exact opposite reaction to them that Rex has.
Feeble, think court=legal, the ACTA definition is "official records, as of acts, deeds, proceedings, transactions, or the like."
I thought the theme was just fine, didn't really impinge upon me at all. Our swine flu vaccine just came in today, so I'm off to have my shot.

Sam Donaldson 12:57 PM  

I'm in the group of snickering 10 year-olds who found this puzzle's theme to be scatogorically refreshing. Agree too with others who found some entries (notably SALADA for me) to be a real loo-loo.

I suppose you can't overestimate the maturity of your readers, Rex ... some of us, anyway.

Doc John 1:03 PM  

Interesting write up, Rex. You're turning into the Andy Rooney of the crossword world. I'm wondering if anyone has done stats as to how many puzzles Rex has liked/disliked in the past year.

When I saw ASTROS I went "D'OH!"

Hated COYER.

bluebell 1:19 PM  

I wonder if Salada is available only in the East? I don't remember ever seeing it.

I liked the clue for Oreos--we've seen them described a lot of different ways but I thought this was new.

Thanks for explaining Acta. I stuck with acts, but could see that Sslada made no sense.

CoolPapaD 1:32 PM  

Loved the puzzle, and did think it was a bit harder than a typical Tuesday. Loved the write-up even more, and I agree that DIDO is terrible.

An informal poll of non-crossword-loving co-workers was split 50:50 between ice tea and iced tea. I don't care either way - I hate the stuff!

Alex S. 1:41 PM  

I'll switch sides on the ice tea/iced tea blood war if everybody will agree to stop saying "shaved ice."

It is shave ice.

edith b 1:41 PM  

Whenever there is a Clash of Consonants as in ICED TEA, proper grammar will lose every time. I have made my peace with it. What I haven't made my peace with is being ganged up on by the language purists whenever I make this point. I realize I am wrong in the technical sense but reality trumps technical correctness every time.

As Louis XV said in a wholly different context: Apres moi, le deluge

ArtLvr 2:00 PM  

p.s. re DIDO -- As I remember it, it was more of a silly team performance by kids meant for an older audience, as opposed to a surreptitious prank planned to keep the perpetrator(s) from being discovered. Brash but harmless, i.e. slightly offensive to the stodgy; an "in your face" one-off...


andi rooney michaels 2:07 PM  


My inner ten year old must have died 40 years ago. :(
Actually had to reread for the theme about 6 times before I got it!
Thought ok, throne=royal. John is a king? Head of state? Isn't there an oil-can Harry? So is that referring to Charles'son?

When it FINALLY dawned on me, I actually said "ick" out loud. Then checked to see who wrote it, registered mild shock that it was a grown woman, and went to bed.

call me when you're 19!

slypett 2:14 PM  

MikeM: In poker play it is fairly common for someone to make the first bet while saying "Just for openers, I'll bet a buck (or whatever)."

Alex: I was taught by a Hawai'ian lady never, but never to say "shaved ice." It's like saying "fried bread" on an Indian reservation.

mac 2:24 PM  

I didn't mind the theme and I didn't pay much attention because I didn't need to. I did have "nothing", of course, and had some trouble in the SW because of "ignite" for 54A and "blue" for 65A.

I in the unsweetened iced tea camp, and also love the combo malcontent and malware.

I have a small gargoyle by the frontdoor called Dido. After this wet summer he is completely green.

@fikink: your "takeaway" puts me right back in the UK: we're leaving for the airport in 20 minutes!

miriam b 2:58 PM  

@edith b: At diffeent times I have bought both WAX PAPER and WAXED PAPER. There's another clash of consonants. WAXED is so clearly correct (technically) that I hate to see it squashed by the juggernaut of reality. WAX PAPER puts me in mind of the thin layer of paraffin that my grandmother used to seal jars of preserves which were intended for relatively prompt consumption.

andrea coyer michaels 3:00 PM  

Thanks! I'd rather picture you on a plane to London than Ulrich on a toilet...

In searching for something positive to say, I liked SAXONY.

Btw, WOAD, DIDO are essential in know-your-four-letter Scrabble words!
Reason #378 to play!
(Isn't there a singer named DIDO?)

Also loved the definition for OREOS...and am surprised some of the inner-14-yr-old crowd hasn't made some innuendo jokes about that!

Anonymous 3:24 PM  

Sorry @Alex, no shave ice here, it's a snow cone

mexgirl 3:25 PM  

I don't understand the sensibility toward the different terms for toilet. It's fun, it's informative (at least for me) and it's clever, regardless of the time of day we're doing the puzzle. Not close to an Onion puzzle at all; now, if they're talking of the "contents" of said toilets, then I can understand the reaction (and maybe not even the Onion will publish it).

Anyway, I didn't particularly like a lot of the fill, mostly because it was far from being a Tuesday fare: ASCH, DIDOS, IRT, just for OPENERS and the four-baggers clue, just to mention a few.

On the other hand, I loved the clue for OREOS!

fikink 3:28 PM  

Andrea, early on, I believe Nabisco's jingle for Oreos read, "Girls are nice but oh, what icing comes with Oreos."

Martin 3:33 PM  

Would one of the anti-ice tea partisans please explain why "ice water" is okay? I don't think I've ever heard "iced water," but nothing would surprise me.

Clark 3:48 PM  

I’m with @PS on the toilet thing. If snickering about toilets is for 8 year olds, being embarrassed about the various words for toilet seems to me to be for 12 year olds. Nothing smutty about JOHN, HEAD, THRONE, CAN. You want smutty? I can do smutty. But I won't.

“‘the language evolves’ is NOT an excuse for bad grammar” -- well, until the language evolves and then it isn't bad grammar any more. As pointed out by various folks above we say ‘ice cream’ rather than ‘iced cream,’ or do you not? Is your point just that we haven't quite reached the tipping point yet, or that you aren't going to concede the tipping point has been reached until hell freezes over?

sanfranman59 3:52 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)

Tue 9:26, 8:36, 1.10, 73%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:49, 4:26, 1.09, 78%, Medium-Challenging

I was sailing along to one of my better Tuesday solve times until I was stymied trying to parse NOTABIT, which I don't think of as the "opposite of everything". I shot myself in the foot again with a typo in EXCITE (I typed exciSe ... arghhh!), so I was left with _OTABIS and since I don't know home entertainment game systems from Adam, the first letter of NES could have been anything.

My only other stumbling block was the SEGAR/ADLER crossing (embarrassing since I read all of Doyle's Holmes mysteries years ago and was a huge fan of Jeremy Brett's Sherlock on PBS), but the rest of that section fell easily.

John Hoffman 3:59 PM  

I didn't know what Ort was. Looked it up; it was my word of the day.

For "One signatory to NAFTA" I first wrote in Vicente FOX.

Anonymous 4:11 PM  


Brilliant, thoughtful comment on the evolution of language. I'll save it for future reference.

Thank you.


chefwen 4:24 PM  

Pottie humor is alive and well in this household, husband has been a Mfg. Rep. in the plumbing industry for about 35 years. He figured that no one else wanted to sell them and everybody needs one, so he could be the best at what he does. The toilet was invented by John Crapper, which brings another term into play, but that really wouldn't pass the breakfast test.

Denise 4:24 PM  

Once, in Milan, I saw a door on which was written: SALA DA TE

Salada Tea!!

David from CA 4:38 PM  

Tis a wonderful song about Woad. Amazingly only 1 instance on YouTube it seems:

Or you can find one version of the words on wikipedia. A great ode to the joy of painting oneself blue in lieu of wearing clothes.

Ice-T 4:42 PM  

The self-nominated, self-congratulatory grammarians should first learn the difference between what is grammar and what is usage (and what is merely spelling and/or pronunciation.) Iced tea ain't got nothing to do with grammar.

Elaine 4:49 PM  

Woof! How did referring to Sweet Tea as Redneck (largely in jest, replying to Parshutr, as I trust most people would realize)--get interpreted as "calling someone a Redneck because they have a different accent from you?"

Being of "Granny" age, I recall putting plenty of sugar in my tea (along with lemon and mint) and stirring it with a long iced tea spoon (note proper name of utensil.) In retrospect, I can't believe our parents let us add sugar like that; weren't the fillings getting expensive? But tea itself was brewed plain/ unsweetened.

Alas, Sweet Tea is made by pouring boiling water over a LOT of sugar and tea bags. You have no choice about the (enormous) amount of sugar that's included. People might use less if they were still adding their own sugar and stirring it.

Since I am a native of Georgia, living in Arkansas, I don't have any room to call anybody a Redneck or make fun of accents-- and I don't think I did so. Sweet tea, on the other hand-- that's Redneck.

RE evolution of language:

Someone called phrases like, "It's me," this: sturdy indefensibles. It's not correct, but it's not going away. However--we can still spell things like ICED TEA correctly even if we aren't enunciating all the consonants, eh?

Glitch 5:00 PM  

As I've said before, "The Puzzle", (especially one based on "cutesy toilet humor") is not my first choice for accuracy in spelling, grammar, or facts --- actually, it's not even on the list.

But we do have fun --- don't we?

(Thought I'd get this in before today's snark index rises too high)

.../Glitch (Militant middle of the roader)

MikeM 5:05 PM  

@XMAN.. thanks for the OPENER explanation.

joho 5:07 PM  

@Andrea ... regarding Ulrich on the throne, I was going to say something but you just plain-out said it for me: LOL

@Ulrich ... not be talking behind your back: TMI! Although you did look very nice in your robe on your deck.

@Andrea and @fikink ... I worked at the agency that handled Nabisco and thus Oreo cookies (which I got free and ate tons of)and can tell you that one copywriter wrote a jingle that talked about how with an Oreo you can "diddle the middle." I am not kidding.

Mike Lewis 5:19 PM  

Knew ICE TEA would be a topic of conversation here when I hit it - I'm in the "iced" camp myself, but whatever. I actually *say* "ice tea," but I'd write "iced tea."

The Clash of Consonants (love that phrase, BTW) is called "dissimilation," and is why the normal pronunciations of words like "Wednesday" or "February" are acceptable, even though they're at odds with the correct spellings. Notice though, that "Wensday" and "Febuary" have not become acceptable spellings. To my mind, "ice tea" may be acceptable to say, but not to write.

Ulrich 5:31 PM  

@Ice-T: ...and the difference between usage and spelling. A former Dept. Head drove me crazy when I pointed out to him that the word he should be using in a letter was "principle", not "principal" and he said "I was always a bad speller". To which I always replied: Your spelling is correct--you used the wrong word! Same with "ice tea"--it's not an incorrectly spelled "iced tea", it's a correctly spelled phrase in common use.

Which brings me to a more general point: There are basically two reasons for insisting on "correct" grammar and spelling:

(a) To distinguish a better-educated elite from the riff-raff--rules against split infinitives or prepositions at the end of phrases belong to this category, and I have no patience with this.

(b) to clarify meaning, and that's what I insist on.

For example, when a comment starts like this: "As an English Professor, I cannot believe that Rex..." This means that the commenter is an English Professor, which I do not believe is the intent of the comment.

Another example: "As a historian, the clue posed no problem for me." In other words, we are presented with the amazing sight of a clue who is also a historian!

That's where grammar comes in in a legitimate way (in this case, misplaced modifiers).

fikink 5:56 PM  

@joho, man oh man, that is vintage Don Draper world!

It brings to mind the rather sophisticated 70-something female juror in the William Kennedy Smith trial who told the DA, during voir dire, that she "didn't much follow who was diddling whom."

@ulrich, let's hear it for dangling participles!

HudsonHawk 6:10 PM  

@Ulrich, thanks. You captured why I'm okay with ICE TEA, but I do get annoyed with the it's/its, then/than, your/you're examples that AuntHattie mentioned (may as well throw in there/their/they're, too).

PIX 6:18 PM  

A bit off the subject but: 43A is clued as "One signatory to Nafta"...when I was a lad, many years ago, all letters of an acronynm were capitalized, e.g. NATO...(at least in America)...when did we adapt the British system of just capitalizing the first letter?...just asking...thanks

Martin 6:43 PM  

The New York Times Style Guide mandates initial cap only for acronyms used as proper names if they have five letters or more: NATO, Nafta, Unicef. Longer names in all-caps are considered tiring to the eye. Crossword clues are bound by the Style Guide.

Ulrich 6:49 PM  

@HudsonHawk: All of these are, to me, not examples of bad spelling, but of incorrect usage (the wrong word, given the intended meaning, and therefore misleading), and that should be avoided--I'm with you there.

Headline in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette years ago: "Steeler line is missing crucial principles"--if you read the article, you would have realized that that was not what the author meant--he wanted to say that 4 guys were injured.

This is totally different from seeing "ice tea" on a menu IMO.

@fikink: I don't think I can oblige you--those dangling participles are often in desperate need of a referent that the author didn't provide (BTW said Dept. Head was extremely fond of them--he didn't consider a sentence complete if it didn't have a dangling participle).

3 and out

Susan 8:55 PM  

@Elaine, the term redneck is just offensive, even in jest. My earlier comment was flippant, for which I apologize. I am sure you are a very nice person and I understand that it was innocently done. And I know Parshutr did it first. And I know Jeff Foxworthy made a career out of it. But I don't care. "Redneck" is an ugly slur that always shocks me coming from educated, enlightened people. Defend it if you want; I won't respond (this is my third). But I have a test for whether an expression describing someone (or a group of people) is okay. Ask yourself, "Would I say it to the face of the person or people it's meant to describe?"

andrea mamas michaels 9:08 PM  

Also, has no one discussed 1A MAMAS and the fact that Michelle is the wife/stepmother of John/Mackenzie Phillips?
(She was a teenager when she first met John...becoming the second of his four wives... and at one point was fired from the group for sleeping with the other Papa, Denny Doherty.
Ah, California Dreamin' on such a winter's day).

PIX 9:15 PM  

@Martin...thanks for the info...never realized my eyes would get tired seeing 5 letters in a row that are caps, but who am I to argue with The Times...again, thanks

Elaine 9:28 PM  

Hi, Susan,

YUP. We all kind of enjoy the jokes.

You might could use a nice glass of iced tea with some Jack Daniels in it. Andrea IceTea Michaels ought to have a recipe.

Brighter skies soon!
three and out,

Orange 9:53 PM  

@Susan, good point. I should tell my kid that one—the "would you say it to their face?" test.

Almost nothing gets into the crossword without dictionary or other reference support. (There must be some dictionary somewhere that says IRED is kosher.) In the first one I checked (New Oxford American on my Mac), ICE TEA is there with iced tea as an "also" spelling. (Language changes all the time. Does anyone think that 100 years from now, purists will get cranky at "ice tea"? I bet not. Ice water, ice cream, ice milk—can "ice coffee" be far behind?) As for "redneck," the dictionary tags it as "informal derogatory."

The 10-year-olds among us might also get a kick out of a "euphemisms for poop" theme, but I don't expect to see that in the NYT any time soon.

sanfranman59 10:05 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 8:10, 7:03, 1.16, 83%, Challenging
Tue 9:49, 8:38, 1.14, 79%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:30, 3:45, 1.20, 88%, Challenging
Tue 4:45, 4:25, 1.07, 75%, Medium-Challenging

Shaw 10:50 PM  

As a logician I think it's important to point out that the opposite of "everything" is neither "nothing" nor "not a bit." There's no neat tie-up for saying it, but it is "not everything." If you disagree, think about how the opposite of "nothing" is "something."

I would not have a problem with this if the word "the" had been absent. I think of "nothing" as *an* opposite of "everything" in a certain sense. But if we restrict to allowing just one definition of "opposite" by putting *the* in front of it, as far as I'm concerned, that means logical negation.

coyote 11:04 PM  

Rex, I am raising my hand to tell you that my mother used to refer to my silly antics as didos. Liked the puzzle, Sharon.

Michael G. Benoit 11:20 PM  


I remember a "That's Salada Tea!" campaign in the 80s that played on the phrase "That's a lotta".

slypett 12:19 AM  

Ulrich: As I said to Alex (it seems ages ago), the correct way to say "shaved ice" is "shave ice" (in agreement with him) and the correct way to say "fried bread" is "fry bread." Or, as someone pointed out, no one says "iced water," or "iced cream." The entire kerfuffle (hi, Bob!) is between the grammar vultures and the usage nuts.

Perhaps we should agree to be disagreeable (though I do throw my inconsiderable weight [this time] behind the usage maniacs).

slypett 12:26 AM  

Susan: Oh, piffle! If we constrained ourselves to that, 99% of conversation would cease. Okay, maybe that would be a good thing, but you know what I mean: It's similar to hypocrisy greasing the wheels of social interaction--stop it at your peril!

I've gotten the fourth strike. I'm more than out--I'm done for. (Oops! Ulrich, is that an acceptable dangler?)

Sfingi 12:27 AM  

Not only am I not a fan of toilet humor, but I totally repressed it. I thought the Royal Flush was the nicknames of the cards in a Royal Flush. Of course, I don't know thing one about poker. Actually, no humor is off limits to me, just not my type. Includes sports. I've known people who are rednecks from playing too much golf, not being farmers.

Check out this unusual Mata Hari site put together by a Dutchwoman (MH was Dutch):

or Google "Mata Hari in Miniature."

Unfortunately you need all this or you get into the Dutch stuff.

INDO was on the LAT today also.

@Retired - I don't understand how dido could be a prank. The Dido I know,the Queen of Carthage, was patient and fey and waited for Aeneas and eventually was a suicide.

Agree with @Elaine and @Shaw on all. @Pix, let's face it. The language is on its way to Hell in a handbasket. Again.

As per Mama Michelle, Papa pervert wouldacoulda gone to jail for courting her as well as doing his daughter if it happened today.

Salada was weak American bag tea. Not that any tea can please like coffee.

fergus 12:42 AM  

"No, teas, Salada teas," or so said the judge in one of their ancient TV ads, distinguishing the brand as a distinctive blend of many fine teas.

retired_chemist 2:06 AM  

@ Sfingi - For just the reasons you mention, I suspect a play on words in the passage I referred to.* The mention of Dido makes no sense to the play otherwise. It is in a scene with a bunch of wisecracking - but I need a hint or two at least to understand it.

*or, which I referred. Ending a sentence with a preposition, remember, is something up with which Winston Churchill would not put.

Anonymous 5:16 AM  



F.O.G. 1:02 PM  

Enjoyable puzzle, tho at 33D when it was partially filled as "_ID_" I hastily concluded the answer was "AIDA" instead of "DIDO." When I finally figured that out online last night, I was too tired to figure out the theme, so thanks for clearing that up for me, Rex.

Nullifidian 10:41 AM  

In from syndication-land:

I must be too caught up in the breakfast table mentality, because I didn't get the theme at all until I checked in here. Ironically, however, I was just watching Yes Prime Minister, "The Diplomatic Incident", where Bernard Wooley gives a little bit of toilet humor that might have provided me with a clue. They're working on the previous prime minister's state funeral, working out all the different issues with various heads of state, and Wooley says, "If the Papal envoy says, 'We desire to wash our hands,' it means he wants to have a pee. Yes, a royal 'we'. Followed by a royal flush."

Count me as another who fell into the NOTHING trap, but not into the OIL LIGHT trap, as I already knew AGRO- was a prefix that meant "soil".

I didn't care for "NOT A BIT", which is too colloquial for my taste, given the clue.

I've also never heard "Just for OPENERS", instead of "Just for an opener".

I was also completely unaware of SALADA brand ICED TEA (group me with the "ice tea" haters). It's a northeastern brand, and I've spent my life on the west coast or midwest.

Singer 11:46 AM  

I understand the argument for ICE TEA as usage, not grammar, but I prefer grammar and even though it is pronounced as ICE, in writing it should be ICED.

I didn't know of SALADA or DIDO but both were easily gettable from crosses. Didn't like NES, and still don't know what it means. Went with nothing before NOT A BIT. Don't think that is really the opposite of everything. Entered oil level before seeing the AGRO clue.

Mostly I am surprised that no one commented on the cross of SEGAR and ADLER, both somewhat obscure names IMHO. I think that cross counts as a Natick.

Singer 11:48 AM  

While reading my post I realized I should have said "when written" instead of "in writing".

Nullifidian 3:24 PM  


Nintendo released an 8-bit video game console in 1983 called the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES for short. That was one of this puzzle's gimmes for me, since I used to have a NES. That was back in the era of Donkey Kong, the original Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, 1942, Knight Rider, etc.

ADLER was easy for me too. It was among the first answers I filled in because Irene ADLER was the main antagonist of Holmes in "A Scandal in Bohemia" and someone for whom he came to have great respect. She only appears in one story, but is mentioned in three others (arguably four) and thus has an enormous profile to devoted Sherlockians.

Also, I think Elzie SEGAR is such a common piece of crosswordese by now that few people here paid attention to it. Like EWER and ETUI, both of which threw me completely when I first saw them.

Singer 5:15 PM  

Nullifidian, thanks for the info on NES. I obviously have heard of the Nintendo, but never owned one. In the mid 80s we had an Atari game console that we and the kids enjoyed. Never have been much into gaming.

I do like Sherlock Holmes, but have never been a devotee to that level, and I have been doing crosswords pretty faithfully for about 10 years now, and have never come across Elzie SEGAR before that I can remember. Ewer is a pretty common term that I was familiar with pre-crossword, but etui is a word I learned from doing them.

If SEGAR is that common in the crossword lexicon, then my cry of Natick is perhaps off base, but the Natick Principal is defined as follows by RP, and I still think the cross of these two names comes pretty close to qualifying:

The NATICK Principle: If you include a proper noun in your grid that you cannot reasonably expect more than 1/4 of the solving public to have heard of, you must cross that noun with reasonably common words and phrases or very common names.

paleolith 9:38 PM  

DIDOS: while most dictionaries say origin unknown, Collins says "from the story that Dido, on purchasing as much land as might be covered with the hide of a bull, ordered the hide cut into thin strips, with which she surrounded a large area". Which actually makes a lot of sense.


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