1897 novel subtitled grotesque romance —THUR, 11/5/09— Pacific port where Amelia Earhart was last seen / Headwear banned by NFL 2001

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Constructor: Patrick Blindauer

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "THE INVISIBLE MAN" (Note on puzzle reads: "When this puzzle is completed, one letter of the alphabet will appear 22 times. Shade in its square everywhere it appears. The result will be an image suggested by 36-Across.") — shade in the letter "S" to reveal THE (formerly) INVISIBLE stick figure MAN

Word of the Day: "SSSSSSS" (25D: 1973 horror flick about a doctor who turns his assistant into a cobra) SSSSSSS (released as Ssssnake in the UK) is a 1973 horror film starring Dirk Benedict, Heather Menzies, Reb Brown, and Strother Martin. It was directed by Bernard L. Kowalski and written by Hal Dresner and Daniel C. Striepeke. The chilling makeup effects were created by John Chambers and Nick Marcellino. The film has developed a small cult reputation and is acclaimed by many horror fans as one of the better man-becomes-creature films out there. (wikipedia)


Had a decent enough time wrestling with this one, but when I finished I had no idea what the theme was supposed to be (didn't see that there was a "Note" at first, obviously). Knew that Thursday *had* to have a theme ... but what. Figured snakes were involved, what with "SSSSSSS" and SNAKING (22A: Not straight, in a way). "THE INVISIBLE MAN" suggested maybe a belated Halloween-esque / horror movie something-or-other. ROSES ARE RED (18A: Start of a lover's quatrain) even sounds kind of like a 70s horror flick, now that I think of it: "Roses Are Red ... Coeds Are Dead!"). Finally noticed the note — I've been solving in Black Ink and there is no bright notepad indicator as in AcrossLite — and then started doing what I normally don't care for. Drawing a picture on my grid after I've already finished it. Don't like themes that aren't intrinsic to the solving process. But I do like that the shading in of the squares actually relates to the single theme answer, i.e. that man *was* pretty damned INVISIBLE until I shaded him in. Gives new meaning to the idea of a "theme-revealer."

Had a hell of a time starting in the NW. After the easy CRI (1A: _____ de coeur), I couldn't get much besides the CLEAR in CLEAR CUT (1D: Plain as day). Went ORC instead of ENT at 17A: Tolkien creaturestupid mistake. If you're going to make an initial guess on that clue, always go ENT, if only bec. it's got the more common letters. I think I finally got some kind of rhythm going somewhere in or around SNAKING, and washed back over the top of the grid. Middle was tough at first because I'd never heard of and could hardly believe "SSSSSSS," and OSTIA wasn't any more forthcoming (34A: Port of ancient Rome). I just bought a new HOLST album, though, though even if I hadn't he would have been a gimme (42A: Composer of "The Planets"). That helped bring the middle into view, and the second half was on the whole much easier by comparison far easier than the first.

Main disappointment here is that SE corner, with the never-welcome INANER (49A: comparatively cockamamie) and his spiritual home base, LAE (65A: Pacific port where Amelia Earhart was last seen). When Caleb Madison and I wrote a puzzle this summer for Kevin Der's birthday, I constructed a corner that was really quite lovely ... except it had LAE in it. LAE was the three-letter word holding the corner together. It felt so icky, so crosswordesey, that I eventually begged Caleb to tear the whole thing out and rebuild it. Couldn't stand the sight of LAE. Had no idea LAE had anything to do with Earhart, so at least the clue taught me something today. Not that thrilled that this wide-open, do-what-you-want, knock-yourself-out section has INANER, LAE, and TERR. (54A: The Dakotas, once: Abbr.), though I have to give props to that clue. Nice misdirection with the apparent plural indicated by "The Dakotas."


  • 14A: Computer system acronym (LAN) — took way too long to get. Had NES at one point (wrong in So many ways).
  • 55A: #1 album for 13 weeks in 1966-67, with "The" ("Monkees") — had the -EES and wrote in BEEGEES! (yes, they were active that long before "Saturday Night Fever").

  • 2D: Air Force base near San Antonio (Randolph) — no clue. Big part of why the NW was slowish for me.
  • 21D: Hindu sage (rishi) — where have all the SWAMIs gone ... ?
  • 35D: Mathematician Turing (Alan) — chemically castrated for being gay. Recently issued an apology by the British government.

  • 46D: Like some algebra (linear) — helped me get started in SW. I know this term only because of having a mathematician best friend for so long.
  • 47D: 1987 Suzanne Vega hit ("Luka") — flashing ... back ... year before ... college. Completely inprobably, this song makes me think of another song that was a hit at the same time (the time right before pop music went into its deepest darkest pit of despair: 1987-91):

  • 51D: Indicator of brightness (MENSA) — I don't like "indicator." It's a group, not a sticker or a light bulb or a gauge or thing that might "indicate" something.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. check out the "stamp" that one of my readers made for me yesterday ... can't wait to use it. It's apparently transparent, so I have to figure out how to actually stamp it *on* something ...


JannieB 8:11 AM  

One of the easier PB2 outings for me. Didn't read the notepad so when I saw the quatrain clue at 18A I feared another quote puzzle. No real problems for me, and a couple of lucky guesses and I was done in less than 10 minutes. That's a pretty quick Thursday for me.

treedweller 8:21 AM  

Oh, lord, please let's not go on a MENSA-bashing binge again.

Had to google RANDOLPH to finish the NW. In addition to orc and ENT, I was on the lookout for elf. Never heard of RISHI, and my first attempt at CLASPS was clamps. I wouldn't have guessed INTONATE was a word, but it became clear enough once the AFB fell.

The rest was pretty standard Thursday fare--not autofill, but very gettable and fairly quick to finish.


Anonymous 8:23 AM  

Don't like thingumbob as even my on line dictionary corrects it to thingamubob.Sugar ending ose, sugar doesn't end in ose fruct and sucr end in ose. Nit picky yes. But really a good solve. Golfballman.

mac 8:23 AM  

This was quick for me, too. I like cajoled, cleans house, step-ins (?!) and minerale. I saw "the invisible man" just off the "isi" in the middle.

I also put in BeeGees first, and mare for lass. Oh, and dime for sect, until I took a better look at the clue for 19d.

Nice Thursday, Patrick!

treedweller 8:27 AM  

Oh, yeah, STEPINS reminds me of a story I've been looking for an excuse to tell.

My friends' daughter was three and went to the park with my wife, who complimented her on how strong she was. "Have you been doing pull-ups?" "No, I wear panties now."

beekeeper 8:28 AM  

I was pretty quick with it and (therefore?) I enjoyed it.

I also liked CAJOLED, and INANER is kind of wacky and fun.

For 43A I had _N_MA before looking at the clue, and thought, is this the first time I am going to encounter ENEMA in a crossword puzzle?? How on earth will that be clued? So ANIMA was saved me from having to contemplate that.

nanpilla 8:30 AM  

Fun puzzle that helped take my mind off the Phillies.
I've never heard of STEP INS, or LAE, and my hand is up for BEEGEES, so this one was a good Thursday workout for me. Impressive that there are no esses along the right side or bottom of the grid. Had to keep from using plurals in those usual places. Lots of medium length meaty fill in there, and very little crosswordese.

@mac : Also had mare for LASS

DF Wallace 8:36 AM  

INANER is so POMO, meta-self referential that it's hip!

PlantieBea 9:16 AM  

Enjoyed this Thursday puzzle, although I didn't see the note until I had finished. Once again, I wanted to spell HOLST as HOLTZ, making A TIZ instead of AT IT. My favorite crossing was CAJOLED with JESSE where I really wanted HENRY. No trouble with the MONKEES, but it's hard to believe their record was tops for 13 weeks. Sad story about Alan Turing.

Thanks Patrick Blindauer.

retired_chemist 9:25 AM  

@ Anon golfballman - all chemical names for sugars contain the suffix -ose.

Nice puzzle. Thanks PB2. Hand up or ORC, although ENT was at the ready.

Had 24A AES and 29A SAS, then erased them; what starts with a double S? Being sure of 34A OSTIA got me to put them back and get 25D even though I had never heard of it.

LAE is plain ugly. 53D is a delayed mapapop - I had G SUIT for ZERO G a couple of days ago.

Leslie 9:25 AM  

Okay, I didn't even put BeeGees--I put Beatles instead, and was really depressed to realize the proper answer was that faux-Beatles group, the Monkees.

Really, really wanted "SSSSSSSS" (or however many S's it is) to be "Slither," which I do think was an actual movie title.

Anyway, liked the puzzle.

Shafty 9:44 AM  

The NW actually fell quite quickly for me ONLY because I knew of Randolph AFB. (My father was born there.) Alas, the middle confounded me because I didn't want to think the cobra movie was SSSSSSS. (I wanted "Sir Hiss," which may be an even INANER movie title.)

All in all, I really enjoyed this little Thursday puzzle, although I'm not able to enjoy the stick-man drawing because I did the puzzle on my iPhone during my morning bus commute.

Thanks PB2!

dk 9:46 AM  

I would retell my MENSA story but that would be ssssssstupid. Lumen would have been brighter fill.

ALA @leslie I had Beatles, given my background I struggled with ANIMA or animus and had clamps for CLASPS. Resulted in a sssssssslow solve.

Note: In the paper an ad for The Beatles is next to the puzzle.

Did not do the picture as my artistic skills equal are equivalent to my solving ability: I cannot connect the dots.


Solid Thursday. Thank you Mr. Pat.

ps: Speaking of the Yankees. Does it seem to any of you that pitchers are not as consistent as they were AGESAGO? I do not remember Whitey F. pitching as many balls as Andrew P. Lovely wife thinks the strategy of the game has changed. Me I just don't know (should not have said that the MENSA folks are here for my member card). Any ideas?

Rex, be quiet Yank is in the puzzle:)

Anonymous 9:49 AM  

@Rex, or whoever--

Could we have a deconstruction of OOXTERPLERNON....please!

Elaine 10:05 AM  

CAJOLED went in last, as I had LABORED to start--just enough right to make other things wrong...so then I had CABOLED for a moment, til the nickel dropped.

I did not mind LAE as much since it had a current tie-in and was news to me (despite reading a bio some yrs ago.)

Vocab not as lively as yesterday's, but liked the puzzle more. Go figure.

Anonymous 10:11 AM  

When I got to the last step, at first I incorrectly guessed the letter in question was A, since there was a lot of them ... actually there are more As than Ss. This left me with a picture of ... not much.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:12 AM  

Really good puzzle (except for INTONATE, which I consider to be like "Orientate", which I hate), but it b ecame a quagmire for me, especially in the SW.

Had LONGAGO before AGESAGO, then FATCAT before TOMCAT, stand FAST instead of stand TALL, SCALAR algebra before LINEAR, really wanted BEATLES instead of MONKEES, and never heard of LUKA!

joho 10:20 AM  

Hand up for BEATLES.

Last corner to fall was the NW, but the solve was smooth and fun.

Loved the theme and drawing my stick figure man on the puzzle.

Thanks, Patrick, for a SSSSSSSmashing Thursday puzzle.

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

A great job by Patrick - I thought it was dead on Thursday for difficulty and theme/gimmick. Also Rex, thanks for your BEEGEES misstep as it was wonderful to see one of my guilty pleasures come to life on the blog! This vintage of the group - "You Don't Know What it's Like", "Massachusetts" etc. - was great pop and it's too rarely dredged up, imo.

Tony O.

Anonymous 10:26 AM  

I liked this puzzle a lot. I bought a set of HG Wells paperbacks about 30 years ago, and picked up the title right off the bat. I wanted HENRY for JESSE, which kept me confused for a while. My only disappointment was that SSSSSSS didn't cross with SNAKING.

Glitch 10:28 AM  

I don't think Astronauts wear GSUITS, at least not on spaceflights.

Anyway, if you miscount and shade all the A's, you get a semi-profile of the IM's bandaged head.

Nice puzzle today, seems like it's been a while.


slypett 10:36 AM  

Frances: OOX is the Aztec term for fertile field. TEPLERNON is a string of modifiers: TEP=hand; LER=bad; NON=bad, thus the god of bad sowing. (Of course Rex, whose name is contained in OOXTEPLERNON, would know more about this than I.) The doubling of 'bad', is an instance of The Aztec language using two suffixes meaning the same thing, but with different roots, as an intensifier. How OOXTEPLERON came to be known as the 'god of bad fill' was by way of the first German settlers in Oaxaca. When something, say, a schnitzel, got goofed up, the hausfrau would say, "OOXTEPLERNON made me do it." By degrees, the use of the god's name became limited to typos, then to weak or lazy crossword fill.

I hope this answers your question.

HudsonHawk 10:38 AM  

In addition to the 22 Ss, we had 26 As and 25 Es, but still a great puzzle, PB.

There used to be three AFBs near San Antone: RANDOLPH, Lackland and Kelly. Kelly has since been closed. I recall staying at the Randolph BOQ many, many years ago.

We went to see Shawn Colvin Tuesday night at the City Winery, and she opened by covering "Words", the Bee Gees classic. So good.

Two Ponies 10:41 AM  

Very nice puzzle. I figured out the stick man early on and the symmetry of the S's helped me some.
You can't wear a do rag under your football helmet? Why is that and how were they able to get away with that rule?
One error, had clamps for clasps. Not knowing my rishi from my rimhi and not caring too much I left it in.
The more I think about this one the more I like it. Plurals are such standard stuff but were very restricted by the theme so I say Well Done Mr. Blindauer.
Andrea just mentioned him yesterday when we were talking about A Beautiful Mind and here he is. Cool.
@ nanpilla, Of course we had to try mare :)

Anonymous 10:46 AM  

@Frances - A week or so ago, Rex was riffing on the sequence of crap 3 letter fills in a puzzle - OOX, TEP, LER, NON. He put them all together and decreed that OOXTEPLERNON was the god of Bad Fill. I spent all of 3 seconds trying to dig up that post, but failed. My apologies for not spending 5 seconds, and yes, I realize that I've just spent 5 seconds apologizing for not spending an additional 2 seconds trying to help. Make that 10 seconds. No, 11.

archaeoprof 10:46 AM  

For travelers to Rome, the archaeological park at OSTIA is not to be missed. The combination of ancient ruins with natural beauty makes it a quiet, thought-provoking place.

Jeffrey 11:12 AM  

"When Smokey Sings" has my favorite misheard lyric. I thought it was "When Smokey Sings...I fear violence."

I feared violence when I entered MENSA.

INANER may be bad but cockamamie is a great word so this clue/answer nets to zero.

Odd little puzzle but I like it.

Stan 11:15 AM  

Impressive construction, and the shaded-in little guy looks cool.

To quote Mike Nelson on Sssssss:
"pronounced 'Ssssss.' The last 's' is silent."

CoolPapaD 11:47 AM  

One errror - had CLAMP for CLASP - RIMHI didn't seem too bad!

Had LABORED for 4A for a very long time, and was wondering if BESSE was the matriarch of the James clan.

I remember seeing SSSSSSSS in a puzzle in the past year or so - anyone else? I distinctly remember watching this movie with extended family on TV as a kid (?Thanksgiving time) and being so scared, I nearly soiled my STEPINS!

Ulrich 12:04 PM  

My only regret in this lovely Thursday puzzle is the note: I made the mistake of reading it beforehand (non-puzzle wife always marvels at me for starting a book by reading the preface!). I was thus deprived of the joy of figuring out the theme from the stickman pattern and the hint at 36A alone. But then again, I may not have gotten it...

@XMAN: You got the gist of the story right, but let me add this detail: What the Hausfrau really said was "Och, der Hermann..." (made me do it--Hermann being the German form of Hernando, as in Cortez). The natives didn't understand the German phrase and mistook it as an invocation of the local god, and the rest, as they say, is history...

Van55 12:09 PM  

Hand up for RIMHI.

There's some pretty arcane stuff in this puzzle. For example, I have never heard of STEPINS, and I have never seen an INANER word than INANER.

Leslie 12:15 PM  

"pronounced 'Ssssss.' The last 's' is silent."

HA!! Thanks so much for sharing this!

You know, I also had CLAMP and RIMHI and didn't even notice until I read the comments. Oh, well.

william e emba 12:35 PM  

I'm surprised that Rex did not single out the word ENATE for comment. Does everyone else really know this word? I only learned it from dictionary skimming so many years ago.

I got LAE off the E. Perhaps the fact we saw it recently (6/13/2009) helped.

It was absolutely great seeing the Rum Tum Tigger in the clues. I've been a fan of Old Possum since high school. I overthought the clue though. Curious? Practical? Boring? The unsophisticated just didn't occur to me.

Yet again, I could not remember HOLST. Yet again the "canine" tooth gag fooled me, even with the question mark.

On the other hand, I just recently read Theodore Sturgeon "The [Widget], the [Wadget], and Boff", so I filled in WADGET for "Thingumbob" instantly. Only one wrong letter!

Here's an ALAN Turing story, which contains a hint on how to Really Solve Crossword Puzzles. As part of cracking German codes, he was much better at figuring out German text from partials than the various German scholars who were at it. As he explained to them, they know ten to twenty possible fills, whereas he only knew one!

I find it amusing that Rex criticized "Indicator of brightness" for "Indicator". After Monday, I'd have expected "brightness" getting the ding. Aside to dk: your Monday MENSA story might be true!

CLASPS vs Clamps? I'd like to say I decided this by realizing the "S"s were the 22-count letter, and the picture demanded CLASPS, but I'd be lying. RISHI was so much better than RIMHI, besides, we saw it 2/16/2008.

And a shout out to my ADORERS: thanks, but I prefer sticking to Rex's CLEARCUT admonitions in re blog comments. I also hate beets. And no, you won't find me at any conventions or contests. I'm way too busy not watching "American Idol".

Karen from the Cape 12:43 PM  

I feel alone in my dislike for this puzzle. I guess I'm expecting more oddness in my Thursday puzzles, the stick man just didn't do it for me. Or I'm grumpy that my team lost last night (curling, not baseball). I solved it faster than average Thursday. I did like seeing Suzanne Vega's name pop up, she does good concerts.

Emba, I think ENATE has shown up enough in the puzzle it's standard crosswordese, like ogee and adit. And I love the Sturgeon stories.

retired_chemist 1:09 PM  

I know ENATE. From crosswords, yes, but it is now entrenched among the cobwebs of my mind.

RIMHI is actually the Hindu sage of basketball.

chefwen 1:17 PM  

Got off to a bad start when I entered labored in for 4 across and penny ante instead of UP THE ante. Had a couple of other mistakes right off the git go and it took me quite a while to sort the whole mess out. Finally did and finished successfully.

My printed out version said to (see notepad) but there wasn't one to see, so I didn't know what was going on; now I'll go back and find my little stick man.

Anonymous 1:24 PM  

I have never heard of step-ins? I wanted bloomers. Cultural thing?

@treedweller cute three-year old story.

I thought the puzzle was a little more difficult than medium. Do not like "intonate" at all. Had no trouble with Monkees as I had the "m" in tomcat

Doc John 1:26 PM  

I thought it was a fun puzzle. Who knew that Meg Ryan was in Top Gun? Kelly McGillis seems to have overshadowed her in that one.

I actually saw "Sssssss" when it aired on TV. I remember that even the announcer kind of made fun of it during the commercial breaks: "We now return you to Sssssss..." That movie actually re-paired Nicholas Hammond and Heather Menzies, two of the Von Trapp kids. Mr. Hammond went on to play Spider Man in a short-lived TV series and Ms. Menzies went on to play the Jenny Agutter role in the short-lived Logan's Run TV series (which also starred Gregory Harrison from the Trapper John, M.D. TV show). Six Degrees of Separation, anyone?

No Mensan I 1:28 PM  

Ever the fan of WEE, I looked at his Mensa link. I was particularly interested in the one which claimed to shoot for the 1 in 10,000 elite, which utilized the Skyscraper test (whatever that is).

To be able to differentiate at that level of precision, one needs at least 5,000 questions. To verify the validity of the test, one would clealy have to have a sample size in multiples of the inverse of your precision. Hence, this clown is expecting us to believe that he had tens (hundreds) of thousands of people taking a test of five thousand or more questions.

What, does he think we're stupid?

retired_chemist 1:37 PM  

@ No Mensan - doesn't it just mean the the test is not well validated statistically? What combination(s) of # of questions, # of testees, and scores would let one make such an assertion at the (say) 75% confidence level?

Shamik 2:31 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle: My ears also ache at hearing ORIENTATE. Then one day I looked it up in the dictionary and it actually exists as synonym with ORIENT. Yet even now, my ears ache.

Must have been channeling PB today because this puzzle fell for me very easily in 6:54 without a lot of the misstarts already stated. But like Rex, was looking for the theme: snakes? a quote? commentary on marriage: THE INVSIBLE MAN CLEANS HOUSE?

Then I saw the note and mentally drew the stick man and didn't care so much for that.

Glitch 2:37 PM  
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Glitch 2:41 PM  
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No Mensan I 2:54 PM  

@RC - My point was that it's all bullshit. I figure if you can tie you own shoes in the morning 99.9% of the time, you're one up on me. If you go and get a laminated card attesting to this fact, you're a bigger DB than I.

chefbea 3:05 PM  

So So puzzle Had to google a few times So I now know that its the 40th anniversary of Sesame street. Good them for a puzzle

andrea don't rag michaels 3:28 PM  

Rimhi! Basketball! Good one!!!!!!

I knew RISHI bec my hippie cousin changed his name from Adam years ago... That didn't stop me from trying SADHI first! (Is that even something?)

Genius Patrick strikes again!!!!!!!
I mean, look at those corner stacks of eights and sixes with NO S's!!!!!!
Do you know how hard that would be to do????

My version had no note. I did the puzzle very quickly and realized the SSSSSSS must be something about something but didn't know what.

what you pointed out should be reiterated...no extraneous S's...
that is SO hard to do and then to have the ones you have make something??? WOW!

(Lest Patrick's head explodes, I would like to say that if we had collaborated, I would've nagged him to death about not having UPTHE over THEINVISIBLE)

Still hoping he will be CAJOLED (what a fab word!!!) into posting his scene from "A Beautiful Mind" from his thespian days of yore.

acme 3:31 PM  

Foodie hopes to be back in a week or so, really misses the blog, and is dealing with getting her father proper care.

sillygoose 3:46 PM  

----> sending positive thoughts to Foodie

I had to Google HOLST before I finally made the commitment to SSSSSSS. I had the same trouble in the NW as others but eventually it worked itself out. I am more impressed by this puzzle now than when I solved it. At that time I thought I was doing a themeless. Ultimately it was a very enjoyable Thursday puzzle.
(And, sooner or later a rebus puzzle is going to take me by total surprise.)

sanfranman59 3:53 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)

Thu 17:11, 17:51, 0.89, 22%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 7:50, 8:53, 0.88, 17%, Easy

Clark 5:21 PM  

I don't remember seeing ENATE before, though I'm sure I have. It seemed likely though, as e(x) - natus or natalis (born out of?) or even e(x) - nato (swim out of?). Got MONKEES with no crosses (after a brief moment thinking 'Beatles'? no that came later).

mac 5:39 PM  

@william e emba: I'm sorry not to meet you in Brooklyn, but that fact that you don't participate will definitely improve my score.

Holst was a gimme, with his ubiquitous but lovely "the Planets", related to our favorite CWP computer Hal.

We talked about this before, but there is a wonderful film about Alan Turing called "The Enigma" or "Breaking the Code" with Derek Jacobi.

dk 6:22 PM  

@william e, as my much younger sister would post OMG. Another instance of life imitating art. If I knew where our grad school nemesis was I would send him that article and cheese him off all over again. I did send it to Linda (from my story) and the sound of laughter from LA is her. The midwest chortle is me. Thank-you

@retired c and nomensan, as I recall you need about 100 respondents for each cell to get to .005 . The cell being the factors your items are loading. That said I once did a fascinating study on the use and validity of small samples. ssssssssssssssssnnnnnnnnnoooooooozzzzzzeeeee

As I used to say to my students with time and t-tests one can prove anything.

Back to work on cyber-ethnographics: woo woo!

chefbea 6:40 PM  

In the puzzle we have air force base in Texas. And now on the news an army base in Texas!!! What a tragedy!!

william e emba 6:42 PM  

The theory of t-tests and small samples was developed by William Sealy Gosset under the pseudonym "Student". The best part of the history lesson (and the reason he did not use his real name) is the "small samples" that interested Gosset were Guinness beers!

Well mac, I'm glad to improve your score. And if they serve beets, you can have my share.

Mary 6:53 PM  

Knew STEPINS immediately because it brought back lovely memories of my grandmother who was born in 1891. Thank you, PB.

slypett 7:08 PM  

Ulrich: That's a topper! LOL.

A. Don't Rag M.: As so often, you get me where I laugh.

Foodie<----more positive thoughts at you.

sanfranman59 7:37 PM  

I didn't realize that The MONKEES debuted as early as '66. Like others, I first entered Beatles but was quite sure it was wrong since the only album I knew with the name The Beatles was the so-called "White Album" and I correctly thought it was released in '67 or '68 (it was November of '68 per Wikipedia). Considering the Beatles Revolver came out in August of '66, it's impressive that The Monkees debut did so well. Amazingly (at least to me), the MONKEES second album--imaginatively titled More of the Monkees--spent 18 weeks at number one on the Billboard 200 chart.

More trivia (courtesy of Wikipedia): From July 30, 1966 through February 24, 1968, either The Beatles (Yesterday and Today, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's, Magical Mystery Tour) or The Monkees (debut; More of the Monkees; Headquarters; Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.) topped the Billboard album chart for 70 of 82 weeks. The Monkees held the top spot for 31 consecutive weeks since More of the Monkees succeeded The Monkees at #1. At the end of The Beatles/Monkees domination of the charts, Magical Mystery Tour was supplanted March 2, 1968 by elevator music king, Paul Mauriat and His Orchestra's Blooming Hits, which remained #1 for 5 weeks with such standards as Somethin' Stupid, (ironically) Penny Lane and There's a Kind of Hush. Aaah ... the 60s.

PIX 7:57 PM  

The Monkees' success on the charts was probably helped by the popularity of their TV show. Given the limits on budgets, time etc. some of the shows were quit imaginative; an early version of MTV.

Perfect puzzle for a Thursday.

ArtLvr 8:26 PM  

@ chefbea -- re nightmare at Fort Hood, horrible. One can only ask "Quis custodiet custodies?" or Who will watch over the guardians? Care-givers need regular support and screening for fitness too.


Anonymous 8:32 PM  

@ william e. emba, I love you and want to have your baby.

pauer 8:34 PM  

Thanks for all the kind words about my latest word baby, which Jim Horne's database tells me is my 20th solo puzzle for the NYT. What a long, strange trip it's been.

For the morbidly curious, this was submitted on 11/25/08 and accepted on 3/29/9; I wrote it as a Halloween puzzle, tho LAE is about the scariest thing in it. As you might have guessed, keeping the S's at bay was the biggest challenge with this one. An early draft of the grid in which the man had spaced-out S's along his torso, but the discovery of the fantastically ridiculous "SSSSSSS!" demanded a rewrite. Since there was so little visible theme material, I tried to get the word count down to 72. Missed it by *that* much (74 was the best I could do). Lesson learned: when trying to wrangle a letter of the alphabet, don't pick such a common one.

FWIW, some of my clues that didn't make the cut were ["___ Down Staircase" (1965 Bel Kaufman novel)], [Davy Jones and crew, with "The"], [Rocky rival], and [The brainy bunch].


Two Ponies 8:53 PM  

Thanks so much for dropping by Patrick!
I truly appreciate the restriction of "S" placement.
Well done!

Glitch 9:17 PM  


Refreshingly well done.

Just wonder why Will took 7 months to release it --- not like there was a backlog of better stuff (from what I've seen) ;)


andrea non-linear mchaels 9:20 PM  

I like "The Brainy Bunch"! Did you see dk's story yesterday?! Hilarious.
Hey! Why are you only counting your solo efforts??? Without my last however-many collaborations I'd never even reach 20!

sanfranman59 11:35 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 5:48, 6:57, 0.83, 14%, Easy
Tue 9:38, 8:39, 1.11, 77%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 12:16, 11:47, 1.04, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 16:33, 18:26, 0.90, 24%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:07, 3:42, 0.84, 15%, Easy
Tue 4:56, 4:26, 1.11, 80%, Challenging
Wed 5:55, 5:46, 1.02, 63%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 7:40, 8:53, 0.86, 16%, Easy

My midday post had the wrong times for the all solvers group.

Sfingi 11:48 PM  

I made every mistake mentioned here, and Googled 12 times. Won't bother again until Monday.

Beyond that, I misread thingumbob as Thin Gumbo. This reminded me that my father called my mother's chicken soup Chicken Shadow Soup. (I would have spelled the clue thingamabob.)

Bill from NJ 11:50 PM  

I follow this young man's blog called 101 DIVERSIONS. He is a collector of hobbies, a devotee of an urban game called PANKOUR, a creator of Rubik's cubes with magnets and dice. His description of stereo viewing is priceless as is his re-telling of how he got the nickname Gumby.

His blog can be found HERE and is truly unique.

slypett 12:57 AM  

Hey, Bill from NJ! I looked up Xan's blog. He is the gentlest maniac-genius I've ever come across. He is so playful that even Peter Pan might stand in awe. I cannot place him nor erase him.

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Singer 2:03 PM  

From syndication:
I didn't like the puzzle as much as most, I guess. I didn't see the note until I came to the blog, and so it seemed to be themeless, which is weird for Thursday. I didn't like LAE or OPP. I held off on SNAKING for a long time as I didn't think a clue about cobras and and separate answer with snake in it would be Kosher, plus I originally had SSSNAKES instead of SSSSSSS.

I agonized over ENT and orc, and finally chose to put in ENT. The AFB was a problem - there are so many in and around San Antonio. I wanted Lackland at first, because it fit, but it is actually in San Antonio, so doesn't qualify as near. I knew the last letter was 'h' from THE INVISIBLE MAN, but had a hard time getting RANDOLPH out of the recesses of ancient history (I lived in Austin for 5 months and had a major project in San Antonio about 25 years ago - my memories are pretty dusty.

Had Ossia instead of OSTIA, swami instead of RISHI, old cat instead of TOM CAT (then thought about bad cat for a while after I thought about rum tum tugger's character). TOM CAT should have been more obvious to me. Also had mare instead of LASS.

I do have proper admiration for the incredible difficulty of constructing this puzzle with all of the letter S's located only within the stick figure and nowhere else. Only a massive genius could pull this off (not to give in on the concept that MENSA is a measure of brightness).

Anonymous 2:16 PM  

Doc John Meg Ryan was Brad's wife (Goose) Anthony Edwards (Dr. Greene from ER)

47 D 1987 Suzanne Vega hit LUKA

It's about child abuse and domestic violence.


Gentex 10:10 PM  

Stepins might be a cultural thing--Southern, mostly old-fashioned term young ones wouldn't be familiar with; I remember the term used when I was a child by my elderly aunt.

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