WEDNESDAY, Oct. 14 2009 — Gallows-shaped letter / Univac's predecessor / Perle who inspired Call me Madam / Scepter toppers / Wise old Greek

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Constructor: Richard Silvestri

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: PUBLIC EDUCATION (36A: What this puzzle's four missing clues spell, in order)

  • 20A: - (BRITISH ALE HOUSE) => i.e. PUB
  • 25A: - (COOTIES) => i.e. LICE
  • 46A: - (OLD COIN) => i.e. DUCAT
  • 52A: - (CHARGED PARTICLE) => i.e. ION


Word of the Day: ONAGER (46D: Wild ass)n.
  1. A fast-running wild ass (Equus hemionus subsp. onager) of central Asia, having an erect mane and a broad black stripe along its back.
  2. An ancient and medieval stone-propelling siege engine.

[Middle English, from Late Latin, from Latin, wild ass, from Greek onagros : onos, ass + agrios, wild.]


This one was crazy and odd enough that I actually liked it despite the fact that it didn't really feel like a crossword. More like a hybrid of crossword and loopy word game. Made for a weird solving experience where theme answers in top half required many, many crosses (essentially clueless answers will do that), while theme answers in bottom half were effectively clued, as PUBLIC EDUCATION was already in place and I could infer the two clue words (DUCAT and ION) from the letters that remained after PUB and LICE were taken. Could have been a very hard puzzle, but the Downs were clued So easily that picking up the long, unclued answers up top didn't take too much time. The crucial part of the puzzle — the tipping point — it seems to me, is the far west. If you could get in there, and had any success up top, you could bring the puzzle down, but it's a Little hard to get in there as two of the four Acrosses are unclued. Thankfully, most of those short Downs in that section went down quickly, the most important being CAPE (25D: Massachusetts getaway, with "the"), which gave first letters to the unclued answers. From there I got out as far as PUBLIC E ... and then made a guess as to the rest of it, which was quickly confirmed off Downs.

Didn't know that COOTIES were LICE. Thought they were imaginary thing that boys / girls had around age 6. Not thrilled that both PUBLIC and HOUSE are in puzzle, since PUB (the first part of our main theme answer) is, by definition, short for PUBLIC HOUSE. Other than that, no complaints. Nice to see Rex (19A: Alternative to Rover or Rex => SPORT) and PARKER (44D: Sarah Jessica of "Sex and the City") in the puzzle together again today (as they were on Sunday)


  • 1A: Gallows-shaped letter (gamma) — had No idea. I've clearly never looked at the letter gamma before. Someone should tell gamma it looks like a plain old lowercase "r."
  • 24A: Wise old Greek (Nestor) — he's the dude in the Iliad that no one wants to listen to at first.
  • 51A: Atom _____, 1960s cartoon superhero (Ant) — never seen it. How is that possible? Guess it didn't get rerun in the '70s.

  • 22D: Univac's predecessor (Eniac) — once again, I have to say that "Univac" sounds like a word that should be clued [Dustbuster competitor]. How is it *not* a small vacuum?
  • 9A: Perle who inspired "Call Me Madam" (Mesta) — Perle MESTA has one of the crosswordesiest names of all time, in that first and last names appear in puzzles AND (like the finest crosswordese) her currency / popularity in the general culture has nearly completely faded, and yet she haunts the grid for eternity.
  • 27D: Scepter toppers (orbs) — "toppers" is pretty informal for something so ... regal.
  • 33D: Founder and first queen of Carthage (Dido) — oh, the antics and capers and escapades she would have. Why, one time, she and Aeneas went into this cave during a rain storm ...

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to bake a cake. Today is my wife's birthday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


dk 8:11 AM  

Happy Birthday Rex-mate. Our favorite birthday cake, chocolate, used coffee instead of water.

Just found an old COOTIES game at my in-laws as they begin the process of winnowing down their collection of stuff. Knew COOTIES were lice as "She's got COOTIES" was a term of affliction in my sordid youth.

ENIAC and MESTA are old school, balanced I guess by ROZ and INTEL.

On the puzzle, did not get the "theme" but the fill was fun.

Jeffrey 8:17 AM  

Now this is a cool puzzle in a "how did he think of that" kind of way. Crossings were kind, as they need to be.

Yay for hidden EXPOS(e). DIDO/DIDTO crossing. The "unknown" stack of NOT I/ANON. Rhyme time at IDEAL/ZEAL. 80% anagram crossing of TORSO/SPORT.

Good thing ONAGER wasn't in yesterday's puzzle which really didn't need a wild ass.

Greene 8:41 AM  

Happy birthday Sandy!

I agree with Crosscan -- totally cool puzzle, although I probably found it harder than most. I was slow to catch on to the gimmick, but when I had my AHA moment I was completely delighted.

Got stuck in the NE for a time. Knew MESTA immediately, but could not remember NESTOR for the longest time. Guess it's time to pull out the Iliad for a reread.

Low and behold, there's DIDO. Seems like we just...

Lots of showbizzy goodness in this puzzle to keep me happy. What to post between The Wiz, Call Me Madam, and Into the Woods? No contest, Sondheim wins every time. Here's Ben Wright as Jack (of "and the Beanstalk" fame) with the Giants In the Sky sequence. Bruno Bettelheim would be proud.

joho 8:52 AM  

I really liked this puzzle because it was so different from the norm. I did this late last night and went to sleep with most of it done, I but didn't get the theme until this morning. I read 32A as Wool-smoothing tool which didn't help. Blurry vision as I should have been wool gathering. Once I saw what was going on I was really impressed with the construction.

Fun, interesting puzzle, Richard Silvestri!

Oh, for some reason I just love DUCAT.

Happy Birthday, Sandy ... maybe you'll get a Jack Russell Terrier today!

Elaine 9:01 AM  

I did this puzzle pretty rapidly around 1 a.m., having been rudely awakened by the LACK of the aound of RAINFALL (for a change.)

I agree that the puzzle had a clever bit...only I spent a bit of time laboriously writing down PUB___ION and then actually thought of DUCAT on my own...was trying out PEST, BUGS...when the nickel finally dropped and D'oh! I already had PUBLICEDUCATION in place but had somehow failed to process the 36A clue. There are drawbacks to midnight solving!

39D What summers do= ADD.
HUH? I am still puzzled there.

Actually, our kids' schools in California had periodic infestations of "pediculosis," and no one ever said COOTIES instead of "lice." I don't know that I would have made the connection quickly, either.

I knew there would be some fun over DIDO's appearance. Nice write-up, and enjoy the celebration! Chocolate?

Orange 9:02 AM  

Happy b-day, Sandy!

Not only are Rex and PARKER in this puzzle, so is an anagram of Orange—and it's the word of the day.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 9:12 AM  

Enjoyed it. Rich's puzzles tend to be just so workmanlike yet subtly entertaining. Good stuff.

Greene 9:17 AM  

@Elaine: Think of summer as "one who sums" and you'll get the idea. Classic misdirection.

HudsonHawk 9:19 AM  

Rex and Amy's influence is clearly growing, as there seems to be some blatant pandering by constructors.

Happy b-day, Sandy!

@Elaine, think math. Or, what do adders do? Sum.

Sam 9:20 AM  

@Elaine, If you add up some numbers you get a sum.
So you are the summer.

treedweller 9:25 AM  

Whew, for a second I thought we had a throwdown going. At first, I read BEQ's comment as saying Rich is "womanlike." Considering our discussions here about the male bias of the puzzle, that wouldn't have to be an insult, but still . . .

Anyway, I found this one a little harder than others, I think. The ass was an unknown, and a few early mistakes threw me off awhile (myth, then books in the SW; rat out in the NE; togs in the NW). All worked out in the end. Fine Wednesday.

johnpag 9:25 AM  

ENIAC was the first general-purpose digital computer, built at U. of PA Moore School of Engineering and unveiled in 1946 It was conceived and designed by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, who then founded the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation (EMCC).

The first machine called UNIVAC was developed by EMCC.

The UNIVAC corporation was formed when Remington Rand bought EMCC in 1950. They developed and released a series of machines, the first of which was UNIVAC I

Stan 9:30 AM  

Interesting, acrostic-like puzzle that MESHED nicely at the end.

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Rex!

Doug 9:36 AM  

I interviewed Eckert for a book way back. He thought the notion of a personal computer was okay, but not something he'd use! Today's cell phones have chips with more computing power than the old ENIAC, still in the basement of Moore. My son just graduated from Penn and I finally got to see the machine. I finished the puzzle but was still stumped by the theme. Oh well. ENIAC goes well with INTEL, the first two answers for me.

Susan 9:42 AM  

I had no problem with the puzzle but I didn't get the theme at all until you explained it, Rex! Also, didn't get "summer." Thanks for the explanation there, Greene and HH.

Happy Birthday, Madame Rex!

PIX 9:43 AM  

I found puzzle to be at least a medium and did not understand the theme until Rex explained it to me.

I dislike dogs and avoid them at all costs, but is Sport really a common name for a dog?...never met a dog named Sport...(on the other hand, on Scrubs, Dr. Kelso the Chief of Medicine always calls people he does not like "Sport" he really calling them all dogs?)

slypett 9:45 AM  

Everything but the E, SE and S fell like a tree to Paul Bunyan's axe, but all's well. Didn't get the theme till Jim Horne took me by the hand and led me through it. (Also there, a fine clip of Katie Melua singing "Blues in the Night.")

A fine puzzle: no abbrevs., fill-ins or much crosswordese in this olio.

Best birthday wishes to you, Sandy!

MikeM 9:54 AM  

I had BRITISHAL_____ and I had PUB filled in from crosses; but for the life of me kept thinking something like ALCOHOL and finally ALEHOUSE dawned on me. Didnt know the Univac thing.
I liked the puzzle alot.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:05 AM  

Loved it! Thank you, Richard Silvestri, for a fun puzzle.

When I saw that one part of the theme answer had to be DUCAT, I was hoping the cluing (blank) answer would be something like "theater ticket."

Elaine 10:11 AM  

@Greene, HudsonHawk, Sam

Thanks; another D'OH for me! although I must say: noun sum, verb summed-- yes; summer, summing--no. As with COYER the other day, a bit of a stretch. Would have preferred an attention-deficit clue ("Working the..oh, look! There's a chicken!") or something like that.

Geezer 10:13 AM  

Recalling that birds are not math experts, this may explain the old proverb that
"One swallow does not make a summer."

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

Thought of the gallows in Breughel paintings which are closer to an omega than a gamma and I was doomed.

PlantieBea 10:32 AM  

Happy b-day Mrs. Rex.

I struggled with the E part of the puzzle and found the whole thing to be on the difficult side for Wednesday. I got the public education pretty quickly so I was working backwards on the mystery clues. The chemist in me read the CHARGED PARTICLE as a CATION, leaving me to struggle over what a DU was. On the top, I first plugged in REHEM for ALTER, and BUTCH for SPORT. Finially EXTOL and EXPOSE put me back on track.

Fun concept and puzzle Richard Silverstri!

Two Ponies 10:36 AM  

What a fun and unusual puzzle.
I had public education and then charged particle with no clue what the connection would be. Very enjoyable when it all became clear.
I cannot believe Dido showed up for a repeat appearance!
I hope your cake turns out well and makes Sandy happy.
Birthdays are the best. Your very own holiday that doesn't have to be shared with Santa, Easter Bunny, etc.

ArtLvr 10:42 AM  

Good one, Geezer!

The "vac" of Univac wasn't a vacuum cleaner but vacuum tube -- Those early computers were room-sized and had to be kept very cold! College faculty had precedence when it came to working there at convenient times, while students had to sign up for the wee hours, warmly dressed...

Loved the puzzle, with DIDO again. NESTOR got listened to more than poor Cassandra... And Mrs. Rex should be Regina -- Many happy returns!


CoolPapaD 10:57 AM  

Though I was humbled in the NE (I'll never remember old PERLE, and I don't believe I've ever known Nestor), I thought this was a brilliant puzzle. The planning that must have gone into conceptualizing amd constructing this is amazing!

Loved Summers as a clue - it nailed me once before, but not today.

Does anyone here remember another "Call me Madam" from about 30 or so years ago???

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

"I dislike dogs and avoid them at all costs."
Funny because I distrust people who don't like dogs and avoid them at all costs.

Martin 11:14 AM  

Lots of tubes notwithstanding, Univac came from UNIVersal Automatic Computer.

My dad worked on a predecessor, the Harvard Mark I (the first automatic computer). It was electro-mechanical and much more reliable than the vacuum-tube designs that followed.

He's a mathematician and was unconvinced there was a market for fancy adding machines in peacetime. It wasn't the last bad bet he made.

Glitch 11:15 AM  


Call Me Madam, the film 1953

Call Me Madam, the musical, circa 1950


Rex 11:42 AM  

What Sport said.


Charles Bogle 11:43 AM  

Well I for one learned a bunch of new worda today and alas I couldn't figure out how to make the theme words spell PUBLICEDUCATION. For whatever reason, it just never occurred to me that synonyms were needed like PUB. So, I respectfully divberhe from the characterization of easy-medium; I thought it was challenging for a Wed. And in my five months here and in these puzzles I don't recall coming across blank clues before. So now I know! Happy birthday Mrs. Rex! (Did you get your own puzzle?)

Anonymous 11:52 AM  

The Across lite version had hyphens "-" for the theme clues. Hard copy NY Times version they were actually blank. I initially was led astray when I thought CHARGEDPARTICLE had something to do with the negative sign, "-".

Unknown 11:57 AM  

Happy Birthday to Mrs. Rex. I relate much more to your struggles with the puzzle than with Rex's. Today's NW was hardest, and DUCAT had me completely stumped.

HudsonHawk 12:08 PM  

@Greene, I'm guessing pednsg was referring to Xaviera Hollander, which is also the first name I thought of when I saw the clue for Call Me Madam.

Clark 12:35 PM  

Calvin Trillin today in the NYT used the word ‘gut’ in the phrase ‘gut course.’ Now I believe y'all. "I could picture the future titans of Wall Street dozing in the back rows of some gut course like Geology 101, popularly known as Rocks for Jocks."

Semi-puzzle partner’s Grandmother was Perle MESTA's 'Oklahoma Friend.' I'm not sure what that means, but without his help I would not have gotten this one (except from crosses).

@Sandy, you share a birthday with Gracie, our ragdoll kitty, who is three today. Happy birthday to you.

Judge Roy Bean 12:38 PM  

Actually, if one looks up gallows, it states that a gallows is a beam on two uprights, and not a cantilevered beam. No one would ever design a cantilevered beam to hang some one, way too much engineering going on there. So PI, rather than GAMMA, would be the correct answer. Except for the whole 2 vs 5 letter thing.

Steve J 12:39 PM  

Count me in the distinct minority of not enjoying this one. I found it tough for a Wednesday, with a few words that seemed a bit beyond typical Wednesdays, and the whole clueless clue thing (once I figured out pub-lice-ducat-ion, however, at least things started to fill quickly.

Of course, it didn't help that I drew a complete blank on everything in the NE. Makes solving a lot tougher.

Also not a big fan of "Dido" two days in a row, and "summer" actually made me groan.

Anonymous 1:06 PM  

medium at least!

CoolPapaD 1:07 PM  

@Glitch - I'm afraid that HudsonHawk was more on my wavelength today! I remember going to the barbershop as a kid, thumbing through the literature there, and seeing the advice column. I never really had a problem getting hair cuts after that. HH - I never would have remembered XH's name - thanks!

Greene 1:08 PM  

@HudsonHawk: Ah yes, Xaviara. That would be "Call Me a Very Different Kind of Madam." I got quite a chuckle from your thought though. Come to think of it, that would be a great way to clue Xaviara if she ever gets worked into a grid. Constructors take note!

Karen from the Cape 1:09 PM  

As a child of the seventies, I do remember Atom Ant, just not very well. I was thinking that he was in the LaffOlympics, but checking wikipedia tells me no. So I must have seen him in reruns with Secret Squirrel (who had an awesome trenchcoat).

Exactly average Wednesday time for me. Hurrah for having Cape Cod featured instead of Cape Ann for a change. I think I wanted TRASH for WASTE and CLEANS for WASHES. I didn't see the theme until I was done. Good puzzle for me.

Happy birthday, Mrs. Parker!

Van55 1:16 PM  

I am another who doesn't much care for the clueless theme. It's pretty much a staple of the LA Times Crossword -- "Part 1 of Quote," "Part 2 of Quote" etc.

"Onager" as word of the day surprises me. I learned the word from doing crosswords long ago -- vintage crosswordese.

bookmark 1:35 PM  

I liked this puzzle a lot. Very clever, Mr Silvestri.

For Simpsons fans: The Daily Beast has a article by John Ortved on how Fox lawyers tried to suppress his unauthorized biography of The Simpsons.

Doc John 1:46 PM  

Fun puzzle. Interesting concept.
Nice to see DIDO clued in a more befitting way.
See what regularity will do- I got MESTA without any crosses.
Wanted to put in ego for DNA and toque for APRON.
Happy Birthday to Mrs. Rex!

bluebell 1:49 PM  

When I first began doing the Times puzzles, I'd have taken one look at the blank lines and given up. Thanks so much to this blog for helping me to learn.

Re ducats: I immediately think of Shylock "My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter!/Fled with a Christian! O my Christian ducats!/Justice! the law! my ducats, and my daughter!"

Rex Parker 1:56 PM  

Notice it's called "Word of the Day," not "Unknown Word of the Day" or "Mystery Word of the Day" or "Word I Didn't Know of the Day." In this grid, only DUCAT is anywhere near as interesting a word as ONAGER. And I knew both, as I assume most of you did. So, in a futile attempt to head off future criticism of the 'Word of the Day,' let me just say that your knowing / not knowing the word is not part of the criteria for inclusion. Chosen word might be obscure, but really it just has to be interesting. Some puzzles just don't have real stumpers. And I assure you, Plenty of people out there have not heard of ONAGER. We aren't all longtime solvers.


fikink 2:10 PM  

I know Richard Silvestri more from his cryptics than his crossword puzzles and found this one nicely convoluted in the journey from clue to fill.

loved the "Stand buy" wordplay!

@judge roy bean, maybe Richard was thinking of the gallows you draw when playing Hangman.

@Doc John, TOQUE! great crossword fill, never noticed it has the same number of letters as APRON.

Happy Birthday, Sandy.
Rex, nice labor of love!

Anonymous 2:19 PM  

H Bday Sandy... for you

Sandy - Bruce Springsteen
Sandy the fireworks are hailin' over Little Eden tonight
Forcin' a light into all those stony faces left stranded on this warm July
Down in town the circuit's full with switchblade lovers so fast, so shiny, so sharp
As the wizards play down on Pinball Way on the boardwalk way past dark
And the boys from the casino dance with their shirts open like Latin lovers on the shore
Chasin' all them silly New York virgins by the score

Sandy the aurora is risin' behind us
This pier lights our carnival life forever
Oh love me tonight for I may never see you again
Hey Sandy girl
Now now baby

Now the greasers, ahh they tramp the streets or get busted for sleeping on the beach all night
Them boys in their high heels, ah Sandy their skins are so white
And me I just got tired of hangin' in them dusty arcades, bangin' them pleasure machines
Chasin' the factory girls underneath the boardwalk where they all promise to unsnap their jeans
And you know that tilt-a-whirl down on the south beach drag
I got on her last night and my shirt got caught
And they kept me spinnin' baby, they didn't think I'd ever get off

Oh Sandy, the aurora is risin' behind us
This pier lights our carnival life on the water
Runnin', laughin' 'neath the boardwalk with the boss's daughter
I remember Sandy girl
Now now now now now baby

Sandy, that waitress I was seeing lost her desire for me
I spoke with her last night, she said she won't set herself on fire for me anymore
She worked that joint under the boardwalk, she was always the girl you saw boppin' down on the beach with the radio
The kids say last night she was dressed like a star in one of them cheap little seaside bars, and I saw her parked with Loverboy out on the Kokomo
Did you hear the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin' fortunes better than they do
For me this boardwalk life is through baby
You ought to quit this scene too

Sandy, the aurora is rising behind us
This pier lights our carnival life forever
Oh love me tonight and I promise I'll love you forever
Oh me and Sandy girl
Now now now now now baby
Yeah promise Sandy girl
Shala la la la baby

chefwen 2:26 PM  

Fun, enjoyable puzzle, only hang- ups were MESTA and NESTOR. I had ROZ in place and originally had arson in for CRIME, but all were figured with a little time invested. Never did quite grasp the theme (head was a little thick after a couple of glasses of wine last night) so thanks for putting it together for me. DOH!

Happy Birthday Sandy, I'm sure the cake and your day will be wonderful.

Judge Roy Bean 2:47 PM  

Actually, after posting, I, Judge Roy Bean - Tje Hanging Judge, looked myself up in Wikipedia and found out that I never really hanged anyone (well, once) in my life. Turns out that my take on Crime and Punishment was more like Crime and Payment. With the exception of the one person I hanged, everyone else got off with a fine of exactly the same amount - How much money they had. Payable to me.
Frontier Justice!

fergus 3:07 PM  

Got crossed up by having LAMDA, confidently entered yet with that little voice saying someting's not quite right. The shape of the letter seemed good enough, but there's that little issue of correct spelling. LARB and DEAT didn't look so good coming down.

I don't recall seeing this implicit Clue concept before, so I thought it was rather cool.

sanfranman59 3:28 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)

Wed 12:10, 11:48, 1.03, 60%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:54, 5:48, 1.02, 62%, Medium-Challenging

Like Rex, I found this puzzle to be in the Easy-Medium category. So I'm pleasantly surprised that the solve times place it in a more challenging category. If the typical pattern holds, the Top 100 ratio will probably wind up in the Medium range by day's end, but the All Solvers category will probably remain in the Medium-Challenging range.

@Anon (2:19pm) ... Hearing Bruce do that song never fails to send chills up and down my spine. Great idea to post the lyrics on Rex-mate's bday! I just hope that Rex hasn't been cruisin' the boardwalk like the protagonist in the song.

Elaine 3:29 PM  


Am I the ONLy person who learned about the onager from reading _The Swiss Family Robinson_ as a child? Either the intrepid Robinsons catch and train one, or rescue the onager from a constrictor, or they witness its demise....that part is fuzzy (after 50 or so years)...but
mainly I wanted to point out that NOT ALL unusual words enter our brains through the Crossword Portal.

Barber shops must have more interesting magazines than beauty salons. Mayhap said X.Hollander would seem tame nowadays?

We get it. YOU will choose The Word, Lord Vader, I mean Parker.

Anonymous 3:42 PM  

Yes, Sandy is a very emotional tune, even more so after Danny Federici, who played accordian/organ for the E Street Band for eons,died. Was lucky enough to catch Bruce in concert this past Friday; the final concert at Giants stadium before they tear it down. Great show.


mac 3:47 PM  

I had a great time with this one. Had no trouble filling the whole thing in with my jetlagged brain, made worse by the hotel not having a room ready which we had reserved starting LAST night, but it took getting into bed and ruminating to figure out the clue! Had to wake husband to let him know and he was amazed I did it in my head.

Happy birthday Madame R, and how lucky you are with a baking (hot?) husband! And then the lovely serenade!

@Clark: I hear ragdoll cats are the sweetest...

London is beautiful but a little grey, and we've been told the people are out and about spending money again.

Bob Kerfuffle 3:55 PM  

@Elaine - If you would like to refresh your memories, try this: Go to the Google home page. The line of choices at the upper left which includes "news', "maps", etc., ends with "more". Click on "more", scroll down to "books", and click on that. Enter "Swiss Family onager" into the search box, click on search, and you will be transported to page 147 of SFR to read all about the onager. But apparently you can't select and copy the text, or at least I couldn't.

chefbea 4:06 PM  

Good fun puzzle. Once I got ale house the rest was easy.

Couldn't believe Dido 2 days in a row

Happy birthday to Sandy. What kind of cake did Rex bake??

mac 4:08 PM  

I almost forgot: when I had a tea at a cafe this afternoon, the pitcher said: "skimmed milk". Go to it!

CoolPapaD 4:23 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle - Thanks for the tip re Google. I have NEVER clicked the "more" button before, and I've just spent the last 15 minutes playing around with the books section!

MikeM 4:29 PM  

@pednsg - Me too!

Two Ponies 4:30 PM  

@ mac, I thought about skimmed/skim just this morning after the iced/ice debate.
Green with envy that you are in London. Belsize Park was my old neighborhood (alas not for long enough).

Noam D. Elkies 4:55 PM  

I enjoyed this one too — nice to see a Thursday-like theme on Wednesday. Yes, the "charade" PUB/LICE/DUCAT/ION is imperfect at PUB; as it happens DUCAT and EDUCATION have the same origin too (a Latin verb for "to lead"), though that's far enough in the past that it's hard to call it a flaw.

xwordinfo remembers four previous instances of 48A:ASWARM, all clued as "teeming" or "teeming, as with bees"; I still await a clue for "as warm".


chefbea 5:22 PM  

Just heard on the news that snow is predicted for Binghamton tomorrow. Rex, Sandy and daughter can build a snowman.

Elaine 6:12 PM  

Aw, heck. gotta do it:

@ Bob Kerfuffle
That was wonderful! Gosh, thanks! a new toy!
If only my SHORT term memory was this good!

Four and out,

bookmark 6:20 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle: Many thanks! It sure pays to hang around with smart people.

andrea cooties michaels 6:44 PM  

es, having REX PARKER as well as an anagram of ORANGE is way cool and synchronicitous and (almost) offsets the bleedover of DIDO.

Clearly a subconscious attempt for an Oryx nomination!

Do I admit to putting in ONEGIN
(as in the Pushkin novel) for (WORDOFTHEDAY)??? I knew it was some word

Feel your pain for "summers"...
had the same problem in my OWN Sunday puzzle with PatrickB (who has today's CrossSynergy as well if you are looking for another puzzle to do today) last August for ABACI being defined as "Summers". Had to ask Will/PatrickB what it meant...AND I fell for it again today!!!!!

Plus, I SO didn't get the theme...I kept forgetting that PUBLICEDUCATION was a final theme answer and not one of the blanks/hyphens.
I don't know the phrase PUBLICEDUCATION...I thought he meant Public SCHOOL education so I thought somehow SCHOOL was a missing word to go with SCHOOL House, Public SCHOOL, etc. and thought maybe British SCHOOL was something.

Second day in a row that took me looking back at it after completion about 6 times till I could understand the theme, and then not liking it. Except that I sort of do.

Shocked TOL is acceptable (same puzzle as EXTOL no less!) Iplan to take full advantage of that at some point, regardless of what mama tol' me...

And, of course, Happy Birthday to Sandy! The only person I have ever lived with/almost married, etc. is also Oct 14th...Libras make great loves!

@anon 2:19
Love the Springsteen Sandy is only a nom de blog, I'll bet it's the first time she was serenaded by this.

Glitch 6:54 PM  

@Charles Bogle (11:43)

"divberhe" ???

(Even if typo, can't figure from context.)


... and then there were three, been one of those days.

Anyone want to start a service that provides a summary of posts more than 15 - 20 lines long?

Reading much more makes my lips tired.

... as I said, been one of those days.


SethG 6:56 PM  

The ass might be vintage crosswordese, but it's not in there much any more. I've been waiting for the TAKIN, a Himalayan goat antelope, to appear. Was that erst common as well?

Rex/SPORT crossed STOUT. I still have Phil's birthday cupcakes, which I'm gonna bring to Krissy tonight. Happy Birthday, Sandy!

andrea tol michaels 7:03 PM  

As queen of the typos (my own post I see I meant "yes" for "es" and I accidentally erased the part where I meant to say both ONEGIN/ONAGER are just words to me that I learned from puzzles but don't "know"...)
so I will take a stab at Charles Bogle's 11:23 am comment and guess he mistyped DIVERGE: the V slipped to include the B and he didn't reach past the H to the DIVBERHE=DIVERGE...
Think of it not so much as a typo but as a bonus puzzle of the day!

chefwen 7:26 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle - How much fun was that? Thanks for sharing!

Martin 7:53 PM  

BTW, much of the NYT Style Guide is searchable with Google Books. The rule about NATO but Nafta that I quoted yesterday was found with a similar search. It is a wonderful resource.

PIX 8:09 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle...i had no idea that Google let you do that...Thanks for sharing the information!!!!

sanfranman59 10:09 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
Wed 12:30, 11:49, 1.06, 64%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:30, 3:45, 1.20, 88%, Challenging
Tue 4:45, 4:25, 1.07, 75%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 5:50, 5:48, 1.01, 57%, Medium

sfingi 10:54 PM  

For me, it was hard, and I didn't finish. I had COOTIES, PUBLICEDUCATION, OLDCOIN, ?PARTICLE
and saw no connection among them. That, coupled with the far out clues for 17A RANAT and 9D MESHED, threw me. This is despite knowing onager,Eniac, Nestor and Dido (which was on LAT with a stupid clue). The gimmick that one needed a third set of ideas is not one I've run into until now.
@Bluebell - so true. I wouldn't even have bought the Wed. NYT if I saw blanks a few months ago.

At first, I had "end" for what summers do, but hee-haw, I got it.

FYI 28D INI - Italian masculine plural diminutive.

In the 60s, Univac 490 was headquartered in Utica and took up a whole building. In the 50s the Univac 1 actually had vacuum tubes and needed gigantic cooling fans. The computers we use have more power. Oldsters actually pronounced vacuum w1th three syllables. Va Cu Um

@Clark - OMG I have a 3-yr old cat named Gracie who is a Gray-C(at) - or had her- I had to send her to Baltimore because my hubby couldn't be near her. WAH

hazel 11:17 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle - WOW and thank you.

and Happy Birthday Sandy - tell us about the cake tomorrow. My last b'day cake for my husband did not turn out as envisioned - I took it to a party and our host said "wow, that looks.... homemade."

Liked the puzzle. Original concept that seemed to me well executed.

slypett 12:03 AM  

andrea tol michaels: Whatever happenned to proofreading? Great detective work!

fergus 1:22 AM  

Just got back from celebration of October 14th birthday -- in this case Irina, my Italian friend who knows how to throw a party. Also there were a half-dozen of us others who have birthdays this week. Would have loved to have stayed later, since in Rome a Wednesday could be a late night -- so had to slip out early in order to teach sort of soberly tomorrow morn.

Unknown 2:48 AM  

This is my first time among the land of the wordophiles- come from a long line of them, but am only recently getting into the NYT puzzle.

I had BRITISHALE, COOTIES, PUBLICEDUCATION, OLDCOIN, and CHARGEDPARTICLE and had no idea what whats going on... I think I thought it was going to be a spelled out phrase related to public education? Yikes.

Thanks for the heads-up about MESTA...will keep my eyes open for more Perles of wisdom.

Also, I got it from crosses, but did "ENROL" not throw anyone off? Could have sworn it was E-N-R-O-L-L... hmph.

Thanks for the help!

Anonymous 6:30 PM  

About Adam Ant. He was always one of my favorites. I think his show was on the Banana Splits. I think I'm around the same age as Rex and am from Boston so I would have thought he'd have known Adam Ant!!

Singer 12:00 PM  

It was an interesting puzzle. The downs had to be generally easy to allow you to get the unclued acrosses. I thought that the W was pretty easy, but had trouble with the E. I guess I need to brush up on my classics - didn't know who DIDO was, and yesterday's DIDO didn't help (not even Rex's reference to today's DIDO in yesterday's blog). But I should have figured out DNA and didn't, so that last D was a non-fill for me. Other than that, the puzzle was pretty darn easy. I was impressed with the parsing of PUBLIC EDUCATION to refer back to the theme answers, and actually got DUCAT from the theme. I usually ignore themes as aids to solving the puzzle, and often forget to even try to figure out what the theme was when I am done.

Paul 1:45 PM  

I had a very hard time with the northern part. Bottom two-thirds fell fairly easily. Got cooties and old coin first, then public education fell, but tried to CRAM English Ale in. Vaguely remembered Atom Ant, but memory so vague I thought I was projecting Adam Ant even though it had to be right. Summers tripped me up for a while. I thought what they did was END.

Waxy in Montreal 6:25 PM  

From syndiland: as late as the 1970's, Sperry's UNIVAC still used 90-column cards with its systems totally incompatible with IBM and the rest of the computer world's 80-column variety. Eventually Sperry & Burroughs merged, creating UNISYS Corp. and, as best I can recall, the iconic UNIVAC name was used no more.

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