City rebuilt by Darius I — SUNDAY, Nov. 15 2009 — Lyricist born 11/18/1909 / Beachgoer's hair lightener / Curvy-horned animals

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: JOHNNY MERCER (115A: Lyricist born 11/18/1909 who wrote the words to the 10 songs with asterisked clues) — Note on the puzzle: "When this puzzle has been completed, connect the circled letters in order from A to N to get an appropriate image" — image = TREBLE CLEF

Word of the Day: SUSA (103D: City rebuilt by Darius I) — was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran, located about 250 km (150 miles) east of the Tigris River. [...] Susa is one of the oldest-known settlements of the region and indeed the world, possibly founded about 4200 BC; although the first traces of an inhabited village have been dated to ca. 7000 BC. Evidence of a painted-pottery civilization has been dated to ca. 5000 BC. [...] Susa is also mentioned in the Ketuvim of the Hebrew Bible, mainly in Esther, but also once each in Nehemiah and Daniel. Both Daniel and Nehemiah lived in Susa during the Babylonian captivity of Judah of the 6th century BC. Esther became queen there, and saved the Jews from genocide. A tomb presumed to be that of Daniel is located in the area, known as Shush-Daniel. The tomb is marked by an unusual white, stone cone, which is neither regular nor symmetric. Many scholars believe it was at one point a Star of David.


JOHNNY MERCER is way, Way out of my wheelhouse ... *except* that I happened to catch the tail end of a JOHNNY MERCER documentary the other day on TCM completely by accident. Since I know nothing about show tunes, and since show tunes come up in the puzzle not infrequently, I thought maybe I'd better watch. Today, payoff! When I got ONE FOR at the front end of 21A: *Tony Parsons novel [1943 song] I tried ONE FOR THE ROAD (didn't fit) and then immediately recalled the song "ONE FOR MY BABY" from the documentary I'd just seen. Then thought, nah, that's probably not it and started in on a different, nearby part of the puzzle, only to look up and realized I had crosses in place now and, in fact, "ONE FOR MY BABY" was right. Still, though, for all I knew there were just going to be songs in the puzzle ... wasn't til I hit "MOON RIVER" that the "ding ding ding" sound went off in my head (nice that (probably) his most famous song is dead center). Looked around for the theme-revealing answer, and there it was: JOHNNY MERCER.

Theme answers:

  • 21A: *Tony Parsons novel [1943 song] ("One for My Baby")
  • 26A: *Mandarin variety [1942] ("Tangerine")
  • 67A: *It flows into Ontario's Georgian Bay [1961] ("Moon River")
  • 108A: *Laurel and Hardy flick [1949] ("Great Guns")
  • 3D: *"Omigosh!" [1938] ("Jeepers Creepers")
  • 11D: *Rural jaunt [1945] ("Hayride")
  • 46D: *Total sham [1963] ("Charade")
  • 48D: *Former first lady [1945] ("Laura") — wanted "MAMIE" !?
  • 59D: *One of the Brontes [1964] ("Emily")
  • 90D: *Toro's target [1956] ("Matador")

Never mind that I've only ever heard of three of these songs — the non-MERCER cluing made them easy to get, or to infer with a few crosses. As for drawing the treble clef on my puzzle, I haven't done that. Not a big post-solve drawer — but I can see that it's a pretty damned good approximation of a treble clef. Good enough for me to see it w/o having to draw it.

Had trouble around all around OSLER (47A: William _____, the Father of Modern Medicine), whom I wanted to call a whole lot of things before I settled on OSLER. Not knowing LAURA hurt me here, as did not knowing (or not remembering) Rachel MCADAMS (17D: Rachel of "Mean Girls"). MCADAMS led into COALYARD, which also gave me trouble — well, the YARD part did at any rate. I had MINE (23A: Source of black diamonds). Switching minerals, I completely forgot what the hell ORMOLU was (98A: Faux gold) and had to piece that together almost completely from crosses, even though the terminal "U" was the first thing in place (should have jogged the word loose from my brain, but no). Otherwise, there was just stray odd stuff like NYE (68D: Nevada's largest county) and FAHD (53A: Late Saudi king) and the above-mentioned SUSA to slow me down.

Did anyone get killed by the SUN-IN/SUSA crossing? I'd heard of SUN-IN (103A: Beachgoer's hair lightener), but if I hadn't, I'd have been a dead man (though I could have inferred "SUN" from the clue, I suppose).


  • 11A: "_____ Nagila (song title that means "Let us rejoice") ("Hava") — even though I knew it was right, it looked (still looks) really wrong in isolation. Want it to be HORA or JAVA.
  • 51A: Greek god of the north wind (Boreas) — Greek god of sports agents = Scott BORAS.
  • 58A: "Mad Men" extra (steno) — best clue for STENO ever.
  • 61A: Stylish filmmaker (auteur) — great (if arty/pretentious) word, one I'm surprised I don't see in grids more often given the avalanche of vowels involved.
  • 85A: Curvy-horned animals (elands) — crossword antelope I learned in the olden days of Eugene Maleska. The ELAND, ORIBI, and ORYX are all very handy to know.
  • 56D: Hungarian half sister? (Zsa) — OK, I don't really like ZSA in isolation, but that's a pretty good clue.
  • 71D: Ham radio catchword (Wilco) — indicating agreement or compliance: WIL(L) CO(MPLY)
  • 99D: Indiana/Michigan natives (Miamis) — love that the location of the MIAMIS in this case has Zero to do with with the Florida city of the same name.
  • 113D: Janis's comic strip hubby (Arlo) — I've decided that in order for the comics page to get some level of interest or zing back, these two crossword stalwarts, ARLO and JANIS, should start beating the hell out of each other on a regular basis, a la ANDY CAPP and FLO

And now some Tweets of the Week — puzzle talk from the Twitterverse

  • @JonFrmMaplewood: Only answer I've gotten so far in the NYT crossword puzzle is A-P-U.
  • @TylerGreenDC That NYT xword was so boring that I literally fell asleep in the middle
  • @e1en0r Drinking tea and reading a book. If I'd done a crossword and had better social skills then my transformation into my mom would be complete.
  • @raford3 Also, if you're going to structure a crossword around "Take The Money And Run," shouldn't it refer to the Steve Miller Band song?
  • @ninoskasua Had fun at @LA_Live.... Except for the part when some drunk guy tried to finish my crossword puzzle..
  • @cgbridges Wow, I'm about two weeks too late on this, but I think my current goal in life is to make it into @rexparker's NYT crossword blog. [good to dream big]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


John 8:52 AM  

That 103A/D cross! Why ruin a perfectly good/enjoyable puzzle with a Natick like that?! And who the hell is GEN JOT????? Otherwise an enjopyable sunday romp.

Ben 8:53 AM  

Does the fact that I am, at least as I type this, the first commenter over 90 minutes after Rex posted, mean the world shared my "ho hum" reaction to this puzzle? Or is everyone else sleeping it off and/or en route to church?

Happy century birthday to Johnny Mercer, and like Rex I learned about his songs. And nice work to Ms. Gorski on the elegant treble clef. But as solving experiences go, this was somewhat pro forma.

"Arlo and Janis" is an example of the waves of pop culture bouncing back from the far shore and referencing people from decades before. See also the WB television show "Jack and Bobby."

Kevin Youkilis = Greek god of walks.

Yelberton Abraham Tittle 9:02 AM  

Matthew 5:18
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one JOT or one TITTLE shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Jeffrey 9:04 AM  
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Jeffrey 9:04 AM  

Another fun Sunday from Elizabeth Gorski. Just an easy, accessible theme heavy puzzle with a little extra at the end.

joho 9:05 AM  

Wow, yet another amazing contruction feat by Ms. Gorski. Since I love drawing on my completed puzzles I was especially pleased with the perfectly executed treble clef. And there are ten songs in the grid. Plus JOHNNY MERCER and BROADWAY MUSICAL.

All I can say is Elizabeth Gorski, JEEPER CREEPERS where'd you get those IDEAS? Brava!

Joe 9:07 AM  

I thought it was spelled ORMULU and JUT seemed as reasonable as JOT for some reason. Boo.

@Rex - I'd never heard of SUN-IN or SUSA, but the S just seemed right. So that didn't kill me. But it was my last letter.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:10 AM  

Great puzzle from Liz Gorski!

I had to guess at SUNIN/SUSA, but it wasn't too wild a guess.

@Ben - I have noticed that the time given for Rex's posting does not always match the time his blog actually shows up on my computer.

retired_chemist 9:12 AM  

Basically an easy puzzle.

Got SUN-IN/SUSA only because SUN seemed to connect to the clue. Never heard of either.

Had OSTER @ 47A until I checked the puzzle. No, that's a blender. TAURA sounds like Latin for a cow, which it probably isn't. What it is is a really nasty virus.

I do not see amino as a noun, which means its intended plural in the clue for 29A is not sensible. Had Wizard OF OZ at 6D, which slowed OSMIC's appearance. No, I do not know the atomic numbers of all the elements. Nice to see some chemistry anyway.

Another quibble: COAL YARD, AFAIK, is not a source of coal but a storage location. Hand up for MINE at first.

The -RI---- in 53A turned into ORIOLES, which slowed me down in the mid-Atlantic.

poc 9:13 AM  

OK puzzle. I laughed at ZSA. Great clue. But I also agree about the Natick at 103A/D.

I'm really only commenting because once again the Second Sunday puzzle is missing from the NYT online page. That's twice in just a few weeks. They fixed it last time. Let's hope they fix it this time.

retired_chemist 9:26 AM  

@ John 8:52 - GEN JOT is, possibly, a one star general assigned by Eisenhower in WW II to record his every word for posterity.

But if you are referring to the 110D/69D paired clue, JOT is 94D, right below 69D.

typo in ret_chem 9:12 - 76D not 6D.

Ulrich 9:34 AM  

Well, for me, the END of sun-in was the problem and the last letter I filled in--knew Susa, but had never heard of sun-in, or un-cola, for that matter--had to do the old run-through-the-alphabet routine to select the most plausible letter. Saw the clef half-way through, when I came across the clue for 115A, and wrote the letters into the circles, which really helped in the bottom half, given how little I know about that Mercer guy.

All in all, a really great EG puzzle, reminding me of the James-Bond-themed one a while ago with the Martini glass outlined by circles. A bonus: the 2 theme answers forming a cross in dead center. Approved!

The Corgi of Mystery 9:34 AM  

Killed by SUN-IN/SUSA. For some reason, I didn't parse the 'IN' as a separate word, and wanted some kind of biochemical instead, ala MELANIN. Alas. Otherwise, I thought this was more easy-medium, especially the western half.

The Bard 9:36 AM  

IAGO: I see this hath a little dash'd your spirits.

OTHELLO: Not a JOT, not a JOT.

Othello > Act III, scene III

Unknown 9:37 AM  

I had no trouble with the SUNIN/SUSA clues, but it was the nearby 97D "7-Up, with 'the'" that really tripped me up. I confidently wrote UNSODA, not UNCOLA, which prevented me from getting what would have been an obvious answer for 111A (CANOLA). I had SANOL_, and could not wrest an answer from this. Ugh!

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

It is amazing how often Orange and Rex just happen to have recently crossed paths with an item in the crosswords -- even more amazing is their intuitive powers with regard to trivia no one in the world knows or cares to know!

PS -- I get the puzzle the day before it is published also.

Newbie 9:43 AM  

No problem for me with SUNIN/SUSA, but tripped over ORMOLU/JOT. Both those words (not Jot but Tittle - could only come up with Y.A.) are new to me.

Had fun with this puzzle.

@Rex: Loved the Tweets!

CoolPapaD 9:44 AM  

OK - Big props to EG for her amazing construction effort, and, like her her recent museum puzzle, for cramming in so many themed answers. I'll never fathom how she can do this.

I finished with two wrong letters. The O, where JOT and ORMOLU cross, could have been any vowel, and indeed, I made it an E. Never heard of JOT used that way, and the only ORMOLU I know was an offensive lineman for the Browns 1977 - 1984 (this last fact I just made up, completely). I also had BARONIC for 10D (as in, like a baron), since ONE FOR MA BABY seemed somewhat plausible. I still don't understand BYRONIC.

I didn't like OSMIC a few weeks ago, and still don't, but at least I'm retaining something - I filled it in with only the M crossing!

Rex - if that is an undoctored photo of who I think it is (I read the reports last week), I have one thing to say to him - "Please stay away from the propofol!"

Leslie 9:49 AM  

Hmm. Elizabeth Gorski and I must be exactly the same age, because I knew 103-A immediately. SUN-IN was a hugely popular spray-on hair lightener introduced when I was in my teens. Everyone I knew tried it, because the implication was that we weren't actually "cheating" and really bleaching our hair; we were just helping the sun a little bit. Heh.

Also loved the clue for ZSA; it completely justifies the answer.

My most embarrassing moment: I was certain 73D was going to be "TN something," so I put in the N. That, in turn, made me sure the nanny's admonition in 79A was going to start with the word "No." So NO HAVE--apparent baby talk from the nanny to the child--stayed in place until the whole GEN. LEE thing needed figuring out.

ArtLvr 9:58 AM  

Really stunning puzzle! All those song titles both long and short, across and down, tied up neatly with BROADWAY MUSICAL intersecting with the legendary JOHNNY MERCER and a ghost-bow on the package in the the form of the Treble Clef!

@ John, first commenter -- Your eye jumped so that you misread GEN. Robt. E. LEE as Gen Jot, as r_c already noted...

As to JOT -- this derives from Latin "iota", the letter, which we also use in the the phrase "not one iota" or not a teensy bit.. Also, the "tittle" used with with "jot" is derived from the Latin "titulus" in which one meaning is a tiddly bit, and we find it in our old phrase "tittle-tattle" too. One further note: the Spanish diacritical mark "tilde" is said to be a quaint corruption of the same Latin word -- and some have pointed to early computerese referring to it as a "squiggle" or a "twiddle".

All of the above from recent puzzle honoree, the late William Safire, in the 1997 collection of his columns "Watching My Language".


retired_chemist 10:04 AM  

In a hark-back, the sports pages today note that the UTES lost to TCU and UTEP lost to SMU yesterday. The 2010 Sugar Bowl ain't. gonna. see. either. of them.

Rex Parker 10:05 AM  

I am now considering changing my title from "King of CrossWorld" to "General Jot"

Dough 10:11 AM  
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miriam b 10:17 AM  

Didn't know SUNIN. Did know SUSA. Assued that SUNIN was something like a sit-in or lie-in.

I guess it's citrus time in puzzleland. Yesterday we had "Pomelo relatives": MANDARINORANGES, and today "Mandarin variety"; TANGERINE. FWIW, I believe the pomelo is a cross between the shaddock (a New World fruit
mentioned, BTW, in Capt. Bligh's logbook) and the tangerine. I have a beautiful pomelo just now the rind of which I intend to candy and maybe even dip in chocolate.

Dough 10:20 AM  

Wonderful puzzle. Elizabeth Gorski keeps the bar high! The last letter for me was the S of SUNIN/SUSA. I turned to my wife for the letter. She knew it right off. Nice to work as a team!

One nit to pick: Johnny Mercer was not a Broadway musical guy. Yeah, he dabbled a little, but his big hits were written for movies and as pop tunes.

For those who aren't familiar with his extensive output, here is a small sampling of his more famous work, not cited in the puzzle:

• "Goody Goody"
• "I'm an Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande"
• "Hooray for Hollywood"
• "Too Marvelous for Words"
• "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby"
• "Fools Rush In"
• "Blues In The Night"
• "That Old Black Magic"
• "Skylark"
• "Dream"
• "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive"
• "Come Rain Or Come Shine"
• "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home"
• "Autumn Leaves"
• "Glow Worm"
• "Satin Doll"
• "Days of Wine and Roses"
• "Summer Wind"

imsdave 10:34 AM  

Thanks for the list Dough - talk about prolific!

For the first time I can remember, drawing on the puzzle actually helped me solve it. I had WIT for JOT and didn't see the problem until I was connecting the dots.

Great stuff.

nanpilla 10:39 AM  

@Leslie : Me, too. UNCOLA and SUN IN were both gimmes. I actually circled both clues and laughed, thinking that Ms. Gorski must be about the same age as me, and wondering how many of the younger crowd would ever have heard of either.

ArtLvr 10:42 AM  

p.s. Wikipedia says that Knopf has just published "The Complete Lyrics of Johnny Mercer" -- 1500 plus -- including several numbers never before in print! A born Wordsmith...


Leslie 10:42 AM  

Love it, Rex! "General Jot" could be the King of CrossWorld's minion.

Meg 10:43 AM  

Some days it just pays to be old. SUN IN reminded me of PSSSSST, which was a dry spray shampoo. Spray it on and brush out the dirt.

I'm having a bit of trouble with AS SOON AS meaning "Whenever", but that's my only complaint.

And look! ASTA made it in again!

Overall this was a nice, pretty easy puzzle.

chefbea 10:47 AM  

A fun easy sunday puzzle I knew uncola but not sun in or susa.

I think we have had our fill of citrus for a while - pomelo, manderin orange, tangerine. But of course our Orange is fine.

Leslie 10:47 AM  

SUN IN reminded me of PSSSSST, which was a dry spray shampoo. Spray it on and brush out the dirt.

Oh, Meg!!! Ew ew ew!! Why did you have to remind me?? When I was in junior high, with hair/skin oil content that would have had Exxon plotting to purchase mineral rights to my body, I actually used that stuff. It did Not Work Well.

Three and out.

Van55 10:47 AM  

Wonderful puzzle for me. Plenty of theme answers. Very little crosswordese. I knew Sun-In, but not Susa.

Loved the GO EAST and HEAD WEST dichotomy.

What does it say about me that I couldn't remember Dr. Alzheimer's first name?

Breadbox as the ATM clue was punny.

First rate fun!

Meg 10:51 AM  


I didn't say it worked! In fact I remember that kind of greasy feel.

These are the wonderful memories of our youth, back when you could only write a research paper on what you could find in the library because WE DIDN'T HAVE THE INTERNET....

nanpilla 10:52 AM  

@Meg : Or even worse, remember Minipoo?!? Another dry shampoo with an incredibly bad name. Who could possibly have thought that was a good name for something to put on your hair?

JenCT 10:52 AM  

Same for me on SUN IN - total gimme. Remember the jingle: "Sun In and sunlight, and you will be blonder tonight."

Really liked the puzzle - didn't get ZSA, but it was a great clue for that answer. Agree on COALYARD - wanted COALMINE. Had MAG at first for fancy wheels, then switched to JAG.

Ben 10:53 AM  

@Bob Kerfuffle: You're right. The blogger in me should have remembered that the time stamp on each of Rex's entries represents the time he created it, not the time he posted it.

SethG 10:55 AM  

I call foul having 7-UP and 7D in the clues.

I don't remember hearing of Mercer, and I've heard of I think just one of the songs clued, (and maybe just two on Dough's list,) but still finished the puzzle relatively quickly. That's a well-made puzzle.

ONE BC and ON CD are ugly, having them together is awesome. As is Wilco, but having them cross WILL YA, not so much.

A bit surprised not to have any errors after the S, the O, the other stuff. Didn't read the note until after, but I used the theme to put the B and the G. I never bothered to draw.

JannieB 10:57 AM  

Really nice puzzle - the sort of thing I'm sure Greene was looking for after the Klahn massacre last Saturday.

Only thing missing was an inclusion of Mancini, a frequent collaborator with Mr. Mercer. Both were extremely talented and prolific.

@HudsonHawk - re yesterday: Should have been more specific in my devotion to the SEC - I'm a Gator so I only really care about whom they are beating and when - Bama won't cross my horizon until the Champsionship game next month. And yeah, the BCS = a 7% solution.

Noam D. Elkies 10:58 AM  

Yeah, a fun tribute puzzle, even if I didn't recognize most of the theme entries as Mercer song titles. The treble clef came into view early enough to give a bit of help with the solving. No guessing at 103, since I knew Susa [though I wouldn't at first have guessed that it's the same as the familiar שושן (Shushan) of the Purim story] or 98A:ORMOLU (possibly learned from crosswords, though the initial "OR" helps — yes, I too started with the terminal U). It was the 115D/121A crossing I had to guess at, since Kaye is also a singer and neither 115D: JAG nor "Jak" rang a bell.

Liked the clues for otherwise ho-hum fill as 40A:ATM, 91A:MUD, 56D:ZSA, and especially 70A:SEPT (shades of an ACPT final-puzzle clue "1." for JAN!), and also the longer 79A:BEHAVE, 12D:ATAIL, 44D:OBOIST.

Not sure about the clue for 33D:OLDE — "Ye olde shoppe" is usually not a vintage sign but merely an olde-looking patina. It looked clear what the clue for 29A:ACIDS was getting at, but it did feel wrong, even if I can imagine a context like "you can't etch with these acids: they're aminos". The nearby plural 28A:FIDOS is hard to justify with whatever clue.

Cute to cross 7A:DEBS with 7D:DEBTS. Not so nice to cross the abbrevs 28D:FTS with 37A:ISLS.

Not sure I like 104A:ACEIT — can we now add "it" to any verb and put it in the grid? As for 39D: BEFOOL me once, shame on Will ;-) First time, according to xwordinfo; let's hope there won't be a second any time soon. Still probably better than any alternative at that spot; 38 could be S instead of L (MODEST/SIBS) but that wouldn't help, and would sever the link with 86D:NEOCONS.

Re 14D:ADDER — sss ;-)

@ArtLvr: yes, but I thought "iota" was Greek. The corresponding Hebrew letter Yod is also tiny, and there's a Hebrew expression "the tip of the Yod" for "the tiniest detail", which is similar to the original jot/tittle reference. Anyway, glad to see this "tittle" rather than Y.A. :-)


P.S. What's with the square shadow font for the puzzle title (in the paper edition)?

Greene 10:59 AM  

First off, I loved this puzzle. I can't tell you how pleased I was to see a tribute to one of the greatest American pop lyricists of the twentieth century. And then to find ten of his songs and a treble clef? Awesome.

I do have to agree with @Dough about the inclusion of BROADWAY MUSICAL as an entry in a Mercer puzzle. It's not wrong per se -- Johnny wrote six original musicals and his songs were featured in many others (there was even a revue in 2003 called Never Gonna Dance which was built solely around his work) -- it's just that Johnny's songs for Broadway are not his best work. The exception, of course, is St. Louis Woman which has a magnificent score ("Come Rain Or Come Shine"), but flopped nonetheless. L'il Abner was his only hit musical for the stage, but I don't think anybody would point to that score as an example of Mercer's best work.

No, Johnny made his mark as a writer of pop songs and lyrics for Hollywood films (not really Hollywood musicals [although he did some of those too], but mostly straight films with featured songs). The form of the Broadway musical seemed to restrict him in a way that his contributions to individual scenes in movies did not. Thus, he shines best in songs which are not tightly linked to a plot, but are in some dimension autobiographical (think "One For My Baby" or "Something's Gotta Give"). He seems most at home when he deals with themes of time and lost youth, as in "Laura" and "The Summer Wind," or with the desire to go home, as in "Moon River."

I missed the Mercer television documentary that Rex cites, but I recently read Gene Lees' authoritative Mercer biography: "Portrait of Johnny" so I guess I've had Mercer on my mind lately.

Johnny once said that the fastest lyric he ever wrote was the one for "Days of Wine and Roses": it spilled out of him in just nine minutes (slightly less time than it took Rex to complete this puzzle).

The days of wine and roses
laugh and run away,
like a child at play,
through the meadowland
toward a closing door,
a door marked "Nevermore"
that wasn't there before.

The lonely night discloses
just a passing breeze
filled with memories
of the golden smile
that introduced me to
the days of wine and roses
and you.

When questioned about this magnificent lyric later, it was pointed out to Mercer that the entire song only contains two sentences. His response? "Well, I didn't do it on purpose. I mean, it wasn't like a crossword puzzle or anything..."

Unknown 11:01 AM  

I think Rex meant to say that his new tittle is General Jot.

Martin 11:17 AM  


That unreadable font is used throughout today's Magazine, the "Screens Issue." It seems to represent a screen.

A Capriote 11:20 AM  

My father, an oboist, graduated from Julliard.

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

When I can do almost half the puzzle without 'googling' anything it is an easy fill. Flowerlady9

archaeoprof 11:34 AM  

The S in SUNIN/SUSA was the last letter for me, too.

Wasn't General Jot in Star Wars?

slypett 11:36 AM  

Yes, yes, breezy but brilliant, but there's an outright error: CANOLA is not a plant or substance, but a designation--CANadian Oil Low Acid. The oil itself is pressed from rapeseed.

Adrian 11:41 AM  

Why are SUSA and SUNIN (which I got first pass) considered harder than GREATGUNS and ASSOONAS?

The former is a movie that no one would have a reason to remember, and has the wrong year in the clue, besides - so I couldn't figure it out even looking up Laurel and Hardy. The latter doesn't really mean "whenever"...

Not a Canolaian 12:07 PM  

@darkman - I was going to raise the same objection to CANOLA that you do, but I would have been wrong, as you are. Here's what Wikipedia has to say.

Martin 12:17 PM  

Common noun "canola," the plant, is also in the dictionary.

Unknown 12:18 PM  

Tremendously accessible puzzle even without knowledge of Johnny Mercer or his songs, so props to Ms. Gorski. I enjoyed the circle letters/treble clef addition to the puzzle. While it barely added to the tightness of the theme, it provided an extra tool for filling in letters.

Yay the tweets are back

Stan 12:24 PM  

Welcome @cgbridges to the world of crossword fantasy wish-fulfillment! You're in good company.

E. Gorski is always fun and innovative. Was this one of my favorite E. Gorski puzzles? Not so much, but I can see that for others it was.

Full disclosure: Needed my wife's help on: SUN IN and both directions of JOT/ORMOLU.

PlantieBea 12:25 PM  

Enjoyed this dense tribute puzzle even without knowing most of Mercer's work. Thank you for another fine puzzle Elizabeth Gorski.

We used to put LEMON juice in our hair to lighten it, but I did remember SUN IN. Do ladies of the SUN IN age remember perfuming their hair with the highly fragrant "Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific"? The things we were sold.

I see that I ended with an error at DAVA and DAY RIDE. Sigh. JOT and ORMOLU were new for me but got them on a guess. The treble clef was easy to see not too long after the start and once I located all of the circles, the A to N pattern helped me fill in a few blanks.

jeff in chicago 12:37 PM  

Now how did I know that Greene would love this puzzle? Curious...

I liked it, too. Didn't know ORMOLU, and can pretty much guarantee I won't know it next time either. ASSOONAS looks odd with the words jammed together.

And that IS a darn good treble clef, which makes the construction even more impressive!

mac 12:42 PM  

Enjoyable Sunday puzzle, typical good Liz Gorski work, with the added bonus of a beautifully executed clef!

It was fun to read Rex's write-up with the nice music...

My last letter also was that S, and I had coal mine at first. For the faux gold I started with pyrite (memories of Popeye and his fool's gold), and I struggled with auteur. Too much information can be a problem; I thought the auteur was the writer, the cineaste the film maker.

@Doug and @Green: I knew you would come through with some info on Johnny! Thanks a lot.

Those tweets were funny.

Ruth 12:47 PM  

I can see using "as soon as" as a substitute in a sentence like "We'll start WHENEVER he gets here" but they're still not really synonymous.

ArtLvr 1:31 PM  

@ Greene -- Many thanks for more on Mercer! Also note that out of eight nominations, he did win four Oscars for Best Song:

1946, "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" music by Harry Warren, sung by Judy Garland in the film "The Harvey Girls"
1951, "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening", music by Hoagy Carmichael, sung by Bing Crosby in the film "Here Comes the Groom"
1961, "Moon River", music by Henry Mancini, sung by Audrey Hepburn in the film "Breakfast at Tiffanys"
1962, "Days of Wine and Roses" in the film of the same name, music again by Mancini, sung by Andy Williams on the soundtrack, (also won Grammy Song of the Year)

Other Mercer collaborations included such musicians as:
Richard Whiting ("Too Marvelous for Words")
Duke Ellington ("Satin Doll")
Paul Francis Webster ("The Shadow of Your Smile")
Harold Arlen ("Blues in the Night", "That Old Black Magic")
Barry Manilow ("When October Goes", with the music written after Mercer' death)
Ziggy Elman, trumpeter ("And the Angels Sing", from whence the phrase used on Mercer's tombstone)

He preferred writing lyrics, but many of his songs had music composed by himself as well, like a favorite of singer Tony Bennett, "I Wanna Be Around". Mercer in later years especially singled out "I Remember You" as one with great personal meaning for him because it was inspired by his on-and-off affair with Judy Garland.

@ Noam -- yes, iota was Greek, but it was taken over into Latin and would you believe my old Webster's even has a separate entry for English word "iotacism" meaning "Excessive use of the letter iota or I or of its sound", (derived from LL "iotacismus", from Greek "iotakismos")! The J crept in gradually for "y as in yet" sound, Iulius to Julius, etc., though not fully distinct as a consonant sound as in "gem" until the 17th century. As for "excessive use of", I can only guess that there was a lesson intended for egocentric speakers and writers through the ages to avoid using the first person to a boring extent! This is now 3 and out.

Denise Ann 2:03 PM  

Thanks, Rex for the music, and Greene for the story, and Liz G. for the great puzzle.

Greene 2:05 PM  

@Artlvr: great info! Thanks for filling in some additional data on Mercer. I would add Jerome Kern to your list of composers with whom Johnny collaborated; some of his best early work has tunes by Kern ("I'm Old Fashioned" and "Dearly Beloved"). I'm not certain why Mercer had so many different collaborators throughout his career. Perhaps he was a bit difficult to work with?

@Jeff in Chicago: your predicting I would love this puzzle would be akin to my predicting you would love a tribute puzzle to the Marx Brothers :) By the way, that sounds like a fun idea for a theme puzzle. Perhaps Ms. Gorski can fashion Groucho's signature spectacles, eyebrows, and mustache from the black squares in the grid.

All this reminiscing about Mercer made me forget to comment on Rex's excellent writeup. I especially love the idea of restyling the comics page with some knock down, drag out fights between Arlo and Janis. That's priceless! Then when they're finished, they can go wail on Cathy and Irving for a while. Somebody really needs to kick the tar out of her.

retired_chemist 2:45 PM  

@ Greene - the Groucho grid (or that of any human face) would need a vertical plane of symmetry without the rotational symmetry which is customary in puzzles. EG is the one to do it IMO.

But wouldn't it be COOL!

Anonymous 3:20 PM  

Did anyone notice that "Great Guns" actually dates from 1941, not 1949?

jae 3:28 PM  

Fun puzzle! Thanks to Greene et. al. for the additional info on Mercer. I knew most of the theme entries so this was pretty easy for me. The S was also my last fill.

Babe 3:46 PM  

The clue for 108a is consistent with all the other Mercer song clues. It is the year the song was written.

joho 4:08 PM  

@nanpilla ... seems like "washing" your hair with Minipoo would leave you smelling like wet dog ... or worse!

General Jot's middle name is Lancelot.

The Bengals just won: YAY!

Have a nice Sunday everybody.

bluebell 4:15 PM  

I enjoy musicals and thought this puzzle was great. At 115a my first thought was Gershwin, but crosses made Mercer obvious. I now connect the lyricist to the lyrics, thanks to the puzzle and all these comments.

I think I was in a time warp during the Sunin era--had to guess, though got it right, against all logic.

Moon River, and Days of Wine and Roses will now be in my head for the rest of the day. I could do worse.

Stan 4:36 PM  

Auteur theory basics: here.

barryevans 4:41 PM  

Might have been my favorite puzzle ever. Knew most of the songs (my parents' era, if not mine), love the treble clef appearing at the end. Finished in the hot tub, i.e. no access to dictionary etc. Fun!!!

Teddie 4:45 PM  

Coincidentally, SUN-IN is mentioned in the Megan Fox interview in today's NYT Sunday Magazine (p.61) ". . . my mom wouldn't let me dye my hair blond, but I used Sun-In, and I had orange hair for two years." Same magazine, two references to SUN-IN.

I'm a surfer and Sun-In was a gimme. It's standard issue in surf shops.

PIX 4:47 PM  

Fun puzzle even though I know nothing and care nothing about Johnny Mercer (heard of Moon River but what the heck is a huckleberry friend???). A tribute more to Ms. Gorski's excellence than to Mr. Mercer.

Retired Chemist said: "I do not see amino as a noun, which means its intended plural in the clue for 29A is not sensible". I totally agree; I have never ever seen a textbook refer to "Aminos"; it is always used as an adjective (to describe molecules that have both an amine and carboxylic group). Seems like a non-science person tried to use a science word and did it incorrectly.

But the other science words were well done and appreciated: aortic valve, TID, Osmic, William Osler etc.

Fun puzzle...i did it during my daughter's concert today-she plays bass-but at least I wasn't making any noise,like the guy behind me that was snoring...

Leslie 5:01 PM  

I know nothing and care nothing about Johnny Mercer (heard of Moon River but what the heck is a huckleberry friend???). A tribute more to Ms. Gorski's excellence than to Mr. Mercer.

Gaping at this. Wow, PIX! Did you even see Dough at 10:20 a.m. or ArtLvr at 1:31 p.m.? The man had an absolutely astonishing lifetime's worth of musical output.


chefwen 5:20 PM  

While I was solving this yesterday I could see Greene's Cheshire cat grin all the way out here in the middle of the Pacific, even through the 15 inches of rain we received.

I loved this puzzle and I loved drawing on it too. My trouble area and last to fill was with the BYRONIC/AORTIC crossing.

Thanks Ms. Gorski for a most enjoyable puzzle.

Martin 6:17 PM  

@RetChem and PIX,

As a test solver, I had the same reaction to AMINOS. It's not valid scientific usage.

However, a little poking around found lots of relevant usage in the world of nutritional supplements. For example. And bottles of "aminos" up the wazoo. And even a company called

The Times guidelines for constructors make it clear that current usage is encouraged, even if such usage hasn't yet made it into the dictionary. And annoying us science types with common usage that "we" consider wrong seems to be one of Will Shortz's special pleasures.

I didn't even give him the satisfaction of commenting on the clue, 'cause I knew he had me.

PIX 6:28 PM  

@Leslie: Yes, the rules of the blog say read all posted blogs before posting any comments; I dutifully read all the comments you cited.

Hey, even Rex said: "JOHNNY MERCER is way, Way out of my wheelhouse" and Rex is into music. I am not totally impressed by " "Jeepers Creepers, where'd you get those peepers?
Jeepers Creepers, where'd you get those eyes?" Not sure long and succesful equates with "astonishing lifetime's output". Many people are not necessarily astonished by what he wrote.Not really sure that millions of folks are listening to Johnny Mercer's tunes before going to bed tonight. (For the record, i did say i liked the puzzle.) Also, i still don't know don't what a "huckleberry friend" is.

Greene 6:37 PM  

@PIX: In my first post, I talked about how Mercer shines best in songs which are not tightly linked to a plot, but are in some dimension autobiographical. The phrase "huckleberry friend" is a great example of this as it references his childhood in Georgia and summer days spent hunting for the wild berries with his cousin and boyhood pals. Images of Georgia haunt nearly all of Mercer's lyrics in one form or another.

In the film Breakfast at Tiffany's Holly is desperately trying to escape her poverty stricken, rural southern heritage in Texas to create a glamorous, urbane persona in Manhattan. The song "Moon River" is a mood piece (not really meant to be taken literally) which captures the character's intense feelings of isolation and loneliness by evoking imagery of her childhood. Mercer captures this mood quite handily in this simple lyric and the phrase "huckleberry friend" is something of an allegorical masterstroke IMO. Real artistry masquerading as a simple pop song. How can you not love this?

retired_chemist 7:34 PM  

@ martin and PIX - can we think of an art/literature analogy to aminos? A word which sets the teeth of an English professor on edge?

Anonymous 8:37 PM  

Superb construction. Finished with no mistakes, and the treble clef was icing on the cake.

@ GreeneI didn't know that Johnny Mercer wrote Li'l Abner, which is a fun, but not a great show. Remember, what's good for Gen. Bullmoose, is good for the USA

PIX 8:54 PM  

@Greene: thanks for your ask, "How can you not love this?"...well, i always did love it (Once in a while I will play it-very very poorly-on the piano) only now I sort of understand what he is trying to say in the lyrics and i will love it that much more because you helped me understand it....thank to go and try and play it on the daughter will scream, but maybe some day she will thank me...

@retired always, your questions are insightful, interesting and difficult...i am sure i will come up with a great answer but it won't be until next thursday when no one, including you, will remember the it goes.

SethG 9:06 PM  


PIX 9:20 PM  

so i go and find the lyric sheet to play the song on my piano...and it says "words by Johnny Mercer...Music by Henry Mancini"...he didn't even write the music???...three, and way out...

ArtLvr 9:49 PM  

@ r_c -- Wm Safire is full of examples which grate on the nerves of a Wordnerd. One example is what he calls the incendiary phrase "politically correct", described as an adverbial premodifier fused with an adjective to form a compound which then modifies a noun, usually embedding a bias, e.g. political orthodoxy....and he says all stem from Chairman Mao's "Correct Thinking" of 1963. (Sounds badly passé in this year of Birthers, etc.!)

We were talking about "hem and haw" recently -- has anyone noticed the latest annoying "filler' like "like" and "you know"? This is a pre-filler; "So..", rather reminiscent of the French "Alors" or "Well then". All of a sudden I've noticed a whole raft of people starting a talk with a meaningless So. "So there's this topic we're going to talk about today..."

@ greene again -- I'm glad you underlined the significance of the poignant "huckleberry friend", a landmark in lyrics even if inaccessible to the poetically impaired.


edith b 9:58 PM  

The "UNCOLA" was an ad campaign 20 years or so ago contrasting 7UP to Coke and Pepsi and it was distinguished by the voice of Geoffrey Holder, a famed dancer and choreographer whose voice was very deep with a Calypso cadence to it.

James Bond movie fans may remember him as the tall lanky dancer in "Live and Let Die" named Baron Samedi who played a voodoo-like character who was heavily made up.

Yaphet Kotto was the principal villian in the movie.

Your Huckleberry InLaw 11:20 PM  

easy peasy for the most part. If you are an American lets say ovr 45years old these songs are standards and should come easy. Was stuck at SUNIN but, yes @Teddy, the article on the quite lovely Ms Megan Fox provided all the info I needed to out this baby to bed. PS Had WALDO in for WILCO for a nonosecond

michael 11:54 PM  

well, now I know what a lot of you think about baseball clues. I know almost zero about musicals, though of course I had heard of some of these songs. But it was a fair puzzle and E. Gorski's skill at construction is always remarkable. Count me among those whose last letter was the s in sun-in/susa and I only got it right by guessing at "sun." "Ormolu" is news to me, but the crosses were easy enough.

Blackhawk 1:11 AM  

I usually like EG puzzles but this one left me cold. Even though I do like Johnny Mercer songs. I think it was because the fill was so mercilessly ordinary, filled with the crosswordese that seems to always surface when a constructor tries to jam in so many theme clues. Also the clues were so ordinary. It was just a joyless, ho-hum solve for me. In summary, it lacked the playful imagination that a Mercer tribute deserved. More creepers than jeepers, I'm afraid.

Oscar 7:16 AM  

Interesting idea, but BROADWAYMUSICAL is pretty clearly arbitrary, used only to balance JEEPERSCREEPERS, and a treble clef would make a lot more sense for a composer than a lyricist.

Still, I had fun.

Randi 9:52 AM  


william e emba 12:31 PM  

Like Noam, I was aware of Shushan from the Book of Esther and the holiday "Shushan Purim" (the day after Purim). Unlike Noam, I was aware that it is known as SUSA. Almost a gimme, but...

But I have never heard of SUN-IN, so I wasted lots of time thinking of other possibilities, like PUNIN/PUSA or CUNIN/CUSA. After all, I don't know my ancient Persian cities that well.

But I certainly remember the UNCOLA. My father was a metrization enthusiast, so in the 70s when 7-Up announced they were going metric, we happened to be in Florida that summer not too far from their plant, and overstocked ourselves on 2-liter bottles. I think we stayed on 7-Up until the other sodas also switched!

Citizen Mundane 9:17 PM  

@Rex - thanks for the Billie Holiday video - liked the Boras comment too...
Yanni = Greek God of the foul wind

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