945-liter units — FRIDAY, Dec. 11 2009 — Petra's population / Pfizer rival / Winner seven Tonys 1980 / Old lampshade material

Friday, December 11, 2009

Constructor: Mike Nothnagel

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: LYDIA (31D: Ancient Anatolian kingdom where coins are said to have been invented)

Lydia (Assyrian: Luddu; Greek: Λυδία) was an Iron Age kingdom of western Asia Minor located generally east of ancient Ionia in the modern Turkish provinces of Manisa and inland İzmir. Its population spoke an Anatolian language known as Lydian. // At its greatest extent, the Kingdom of Lydia covered all of western Anatolia. Lydia was later the name for a Roman province. Coins were invented in Lydia around 610 BC. // Aside from a legend related by Herodotus,[1] who states that the name Lydia came from king Lydus at the time of the fall of Troy (the Bronze Age), and that Lydus' brother Tyrrhenus led the Tyrrhenians (Etruscans) to Italy, the name Lydia is limited to Greek and Assyrian records and Biblical passages no earlier than the 8th century BC. It seems to be associated with Guggu of Luddu (Gyges) in Assyrian records,[2] who acceded to the throne about 680 BC as the first of the Mermnad Dynasty. (wikipedia)


Solid! Solid as ... something possessed of STONINESS (5A: Lack of pity). Doesn't Petra (and its population of EDOMITES — 34D: Petra population) have something to do with stone? Yes, petra is the Greek word for "rock," hence the word "petrify" (turn to stone).

I made measured but steady progress through this one, with the tough spots being, oddly, the thinnest parts of the stacks in the NE and SW corners. Usually those thin parts (3-ltr words) are where I get my footing, allowing me to tear the corner up from the inside, but today I had to converge on those sections, trapping them from either end such that they were forced to quit their SIEGE (15D: Long period, as of illness) and surrender or die in a hail of gunfire. Thankfully, it didn't come to that.

NO CHEESE ON ME in the NW, as ON ME came to me instantly and I somehow remembered that ELSA went with Wagner (4D: Wagner's _____ of Brabant). The double dose of remedial biblicality up there (ACTS, IS IT I?) helped bring that corner down pretty easily, as did the somewhat-less-than-biblical MOTEL SIX (though people know each other biblically there all the time, I'm guessing) (3D: Chain whose name derives from its original room rate). Threw DAVID SEDARIS down with no crosses (19D: "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" essayist), and then stalked the NE. Slow going at first. Couldn't enter from the west so went looking for something on the interior to give me help. NOME! Hey, I can see Russia from here. Sweet. That "M" was all I needed to get IAN FLEMING (17A: "The Diamond Smugglers" author, 1957) (the initial "I" was already in place). "Diamond" was a big help there because it recalled FLEMING's "Diamonds Are Forever," but turns out "The Diamond Smugglers" is actually a non- (pre-) Bond book. Anyhoo, with FLEMING in place, the NE was engulfed in flames. Of note: SNUFF BOXES (15A: Pinch sources). Good stuff.

Had trouble coming through LYDIA (!). First mistake was putting -ED on the *end* of 39A: Entangled by. Left me LYDEA and LADED and ended up making 39A end in -EDED (unlikely). Decided that first "ED" must be the end of the first word in a two-word phrase, and settled into MIRED IN. Then I set to work on the SW just as I had in the NE. Had it framed but couldn't get in right away. Put in MOVE ON and then EVITA, but really didn't trust the latter (46A: Winner of seven Tonys in 1980). Thought 40D was ICE something, but somehow didn't know what to do with ICI---? Made me doubt the second "I" rather than make me see the (obvious) ICICLE (40D: Danger during a thaw). My mama did not done TOLE me about TOLE (47D: Old lampshade material), British awards are random letter COLLISIONS to me (51D: Award instituted by Queen Victoria: Abbr.), and in my world BIC makes only lighters and pens (52D: Glue stick brand) — so that 10/10/9 stack stayed mostly hollow for a bit until I hacked away at the (mercifully gettable) Acrosses. Done and done, in a slightly (but not appreciably) lower-than-avg time.


  • 6D: 945-liter units (tuns) — another of those dastardly shorties. I don't think in liters, let alone 945-liter units. I know a TUN as a wine cask, and apparently wine was the liquid being measured when the TUN (as a unit of measurement) got its name.
  • 29D: "Around the World in 80 Days" star, 1956 (Niven) — I think it's kind of criminal on my part that the only David NIVEN film I can recall seeing off the top of my head is ... none. I wanted to say "Star Wars," but that was Alec Guinness. I will have to Netflix some NIVEN later today.
  • 35D: Suze Orman recommendations (Roth IRAs) — Oprah meets Dr. Laura meets your money.
  • 42D: Pfizer rival (Merck) — they make a Manual that is grrrreat for hypochondriacs.
  • 49D: Complain (yawp) — the one part of the grid that nearly made me YAWP. YAWP! Yikes. That "W" gave me fits because WEAN didn't feel like it needed the OFF I was being told went with it, and I don't know a damn thing about ANT types (54D: Leaf cutter, e.g.). Finally, on the eventual undeniability of WEAN, I went with YAWP and ANT. Good move. Might have YAWPed about YNEZ, but it was weirdly inferrable for me (36D: California's Santa _____ Valley).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Leslie 7:30 AM  

Rex, if you're going to show the streaker, you should definitely insert Niven's wonderful quote directly after the streaker left the stage!

Really liked this puzzle, although the SW gave me fits for a while. I was coming in from the east, and wanted the "athlete's foot" thing to have something to do with "kicks," since I had the K from HOOK.

Walt Whitman 7:48 AM  


Vincent Lima 7:55 AM  

I reread "Diamonds are Forever" in September (on CD, to stay awake on a long solo drive), so when I saw the clue, "The Diamond Smugglers," my first thought was, "With all his research for the novel, IAN FLEMING could have written that book; oh well." Imagine my surprise when the crosses suggested that he did write it.

MOTELSIX was a gimme, and with the X in place, NEXTDAYsomething seemed obvious. That gave me the Y in LYDIA, which to my surprise came to me without any thought. For some reason, Lydia, Phrygia, Media, Assyria, etc., are stored in some mental file with the keyword Asia Minor.

TUNS was hard to accept. The crosses said it must be right, but how could it be?

I don't get the LADY DI clue. Oh, I didn't get the LADY DI clue until I just looked at it again! I thought some mag or person called "Celeb" once called her Her Royal Highness. In other words, I read a "her" where there wasn't one.

All in all, an enjoyable puzzle. And thanks, Rex, for the biblical play on words.

Anonymous 8:06 AM  

A chuckle at the expense of hackneyed fill: To Be Fair, 70% Of the Time, That's the Correct Answer

Unknown 8:13 AM  

Rex: Try "Pink Panther" for a great-late-David Niven.You'll get the added bonus of Peter Sellers.

JannieB 8:24 AM  

I second both Leslie's and v.'s recommendations re David Niven. His autobiography is a good read, too.

Been too long since we saw the Nothnagel by-line. Always a treat. Was blasting my way down the west coast until mid-California. Then had to stop and regroup. That SW corner was the last to fall - an appropriate lumber/logger reference - which is what caused my dilemma. Well done, sir!

nanpilla 8:31 AM  

Was flying through this one, feeling smug, then hit that SW corner. I *knew* the logging thing would end in hOOK, and I thought ICedam was the winter hazard, but I was pretty sure it had to be EVITA. I finally had to resort to just erasing the whole corner and starting over again. Eventually worked itself out, ending on a medium time for me. Great puzzle!

Thanks for the Groucho Marx - wonderful way to start the day, Rex!

Oh, and who knew eleanor and HENRY II had the same number of letters? Good misdirection! Highly recommend the Sharon Kay Penman books about their stormy lives.

Leslie 8:40 AM  

For you, JannieB, from Wikipedia:

Recovering quickly, the bemused host David Niven quipped, "Isn't it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?"

Ben 8:43 AM  

Not the toughest Friday puzzle we've ever seen, but it's always nice to get some Nothnagel-y goodness: the fresh fill, the smarts, the pop culture sensibility. The David Sedaris!

One more note on PETRA and its stony, imPEneTRAble variants. The well-known hedge fund Blackstone Group was founded by financial gurus Stephen Schwarzman and Peter Peterson. They would have liked to name their new company after themselves, but knew if they did so, every major new recruit would try to become a "name partner" by adding his name to the list as at a law firm. So they used the linguistic roots of their names -- SCHWARZ is German for black, PETROS is Greek for stone -- to come up with Blackstone Group, a name whose STONINESS resists changes like, e.g., "Blackstone Group and Jones."

You got your TULLE, you got your TOILE... so TOLE was probably inevitable. It's best known for its opposite, ANATOLE.

Stay warm out there!

Glitch 9:01 AM  

Actually wiki defines a TUN as "about" 954 liters, not 945 (transposition in the clue?).

In either case, it converts to "about" 1000 quarts, or 25 gallons (US) which is how I know it.

Just don't quite know WHY I know it ;)


Judith 9:06 AM  

I didn't know Bic made glue sticks.

OldCarFudd 9:06 AM  

Wonderful puzzle! No tired fill. Liked the misdirection of logging tool. I had to get David Sedaris entirely from crosses, since I'd never heard of him. Since I'm clueless on pop music, urban or other, would someone please explain HOOK in 48D?

Unknown 9:09 AM  

About two years ago I posted about the old British shipping measurements I had to learn in studying English maritime history. A tun has two different equivalents depending on whether the cask held Beer or Wine.

Beer Containers:
Gallon, Firkin, Kilderkin, Barrel, Hogshead, Butt, Tun
Wine Containers:
Gallon, Rundlit, Barrel,Tierce, Hogshead, Firkin, Pipe, Tun

There was a scale behind both (a base eight and a base seven). In a bit or arcana, the gallon was slightly different for the two measures and the contents match at two points on both scales...the Gallon and the Tun. What it is equal to in today's measurements is debatable because of the differences in measurements from country to country and era to era. The system was far too complicated and by the time steam ships were sailing during Queen Victoria's reign, the Imperial Gallon was adopted for all liquids and a weight was lifted of the shoulders of the empire (so to speak).

JannieB 9:15 AM  

@Leslie - Thanks! It still makes me laugh.

PlantieBea 9:18 AM  

I enjoyed the misdirection and cluing in this fine Friday. Had several writeovers including ICICLE on ICE DAM, TUNS on kegs, YAWP on yelp. After I completed the whole thing, I had to stare at RECORD BOOK before I realized the logging tool wasn't used to cut down trees. I had also written in SHOES in the SOCKS place. The whole SW was problematic until EVITA came to the rescue.

Didn't know which HENRY 48 A would be, but because I'm reading Wolf Hall (Henry VIII), I at least had the correct name in mind. FED ON evokes zombies or vampires.

Thanks Mike Nothnagel for this fresh and doable Friday.

dk 9:18 AM  

Slowed up by staring at NOC_EES_ for far to long and trying to remember the name of the powder one puts on athlete's foot, as I thought it began with a K as well.

STONINESS came with the crosses and along with YAWP represent my WTF moments.

I am far too mature to comment on the streaker stuff :)... short comings-- Get thee to a nunnery!

Solid Friday: *** (3 Stars)

Elaine 9:20 AM  

Hand up for ELEANOR (followed by RICHARD) before HENRY II; then I *knew* ICE DAM at once as I lived in NE Ohio for decades; then some kind of HOOK! I had filled NW all the way down to the SE so well and so quickly! ...and then it all came to an end. I was MIRED IN errors, knowing neither DAVID SEDARIS nor IAN FLEMING (who also wrote about real spies pre-Bond.)

"The Swan" is a nice little Niven/Grace Kelly movie. Saw "Around the World in 80 Days" in San Francisco in Todd-AO, on our way to The Territory of Hawaii by ship....in the Fifties. It is still worth the viewing!

I will enjoy the write-up and Comments more than the puzzle today, as I have to give myself FAIL for that pesky SW stack. Wasn't on Nothnagel's wavelength! On to Saturday!

Jim H 9:23 AM  

Re David Niven: Also check out "Murder by Death". As a bonus, it also includes a performance by Alec Guinness. Also Truman Capote, Peter Sellers, Peter Falk, etc. I am leaving out quite a few stars, from a total cast of about a dozen. Very funny spoof of the mystery NOVEL.

retired_chemist 9:25 AM  

Guggu of Luddu - love it! Want to see it in a puzzle someday - NOT!

Hand up for ELEANOR @ 48A, until ROTH IRAS gave me the I and made me rethink how I could fit HENRY (I) in.

@ Fudd et al. - Hand up also for not understanding HOOK @ 48D. Ditto for not knowing DAVID SEDARIS, at least well enough to put him in with any confidence.

EATEN @ 38A lasted until NIVEN came on stage and never EXITED.

RESAVE was clued the best way it could have been IMO. Cheesy in any case. NO CHEESE.

A lot of work (for me) but rewarding - my typical Nothnagel experience. Thanks, Mike.

Ben 9:25 AM  

@OldCarFudd, the HOOK is the catchy part of a song, the little thing you remember and keep humming all day after the song is over. Also called an "earworm" in old Europe.

Calling a catchy song "hooky" is #2 on the top ten list of rock critic cliches. #1, of course, is overrating Bob Dylan.

ArtLvr 9:37 AM  

The UK award OBE is more common in xwords, so I had to give that up for DSO before the SW fell... Great puzzle and super clues from HRH, LADY DI, to the RECORD BOOK as Logging tool. I loved the other Brit appearances too, The Lion in Winter and the NIVEN film. LYDIA was a gimme from the LADY.

Thank goodness I knew 28A LE MONDE to open up the eastern midsection, since RESAVE to the west on the same line seemed iffy at first. Is the latter a sports term?

I don't BEG TO DIFFER from the plaudits above -- Mike N provided a fresh enjoyable start for Friday!


Ruth 9:45 AM  

YNES with an "S" was my downfall. Couldn't find the error for the longest time. Looked more Spanish to me that way. And MHS for megahertz seemed reasonable. . .
Liked the poem:
Is it I
Lady Di?

Ruth 10:00 AM  

Also re: David Niven--the original "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" with him and Marlon Brando was great. It certainly was a "different" role for Brando, not sure if you'd call it "good," but Niven was wonderful.

CoolPapaD 10:03 AM  

A very pleasant, not too difficult puzzle, and as usual, an entertaining write-up. Most of the long downs (I BEG TO DIFFER, MOTEL 6, ROTH IRAS, and DAVID SEDARIS) were relatively straight-forward, and provided a lot of early traction. My biggest problem was YAWP, which was my last word to fill – looked so so wrong, and I stared at it until I had no alternatives, and then checked to find out it was correct. Never saw TOLE , and I’m glad – never heard of it. Absolutely loved the clue for KNEE SOCKS!

I guess ICICLES are a problem if one is standing directly underneath during a thaw (not a big worry here).

Alex – I’ll take Slow Learners for $200. “Who was able to plod his way through this puzzle without Googling, a rarity for a Friday? IS IT I?

The Corgi of Mystery 10:12 AM  

I think I like the Friday and Saturday write-ups here the best of all. They read like war history.

Found this to be an exceptionally easy Friday, with gimmes all over the place. Still a lot of fun though.

Funny story: the lab I work for was doing a big presentation for MERCK about a year ago. I was only casually involved, but everyone else was putting in 12+ hour days for a few weeks running up to the thing. Anyway, the day before the presentation, they printed the handouts for the meeting (giant glossy stack of them, supposedly proofread by dozens of eyes), and I just happened to glance at the cover page of one of them as I was going about some other business. Right there, front and center, was the company logo, and in big, bold print: MERK. You should have seen the seizures when I pointed that one out.

william e emba 10:20 AM  

Ooh, I liked starting off this puzzle with IAN FLEMING as a gimme. (I've read his complete published works, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Thrilling Cities.)

And the multiple classical references! Wow. I even got the two New Testament references immediately.

I really like this kind of Friday, where the good kind of trivia comes out in force. Inventing coinage, for example, is presumed to be part of the source of the fabulous wealth of LYDIA's King Croesus (as in, "as rich as").

I haven't read DAVID SEDARIS, but his titles keep begging me to buy them in the bookstores.

As an in-puzzle trivia note, David NIVEN was a role model for 007, had been considered for the role before Dr No, and eventually played the original 007 in the original Casino Royale.

On the down side, I was cruising to a record Friday, when I got MIRED IN the S/SW. I was too chicken to fill in MERCK, I blanked on EVITA, took forever to get the meeting joke, and I wanted some kind of shoes for the athletic feet. Eventually I realized athletes usually wear SOCKS, but then I wanted KNIT. So I only ended up with a fast medium time.

Overall, it was a great puzzle.

Regarding HOOK in pop music, I assume it has the same meaning as it does regarding fiction: something meant to grab the potential listener/reader from the very beginning and SNARE them in.

Van55 10:23 AM  

Very solid and an enjoyable chalenge.

mccoll 10:27 AM  

Good Friday morning workout!I couldn't remember Davis Sedaris but ground it out with the crosses. Loved RECORDBOOK, KNEESOCKS,and NEXTDAYDELIVERY.

Niven's "Bring on the Empty Horses" is wonderfully well written. Borrow it. Thanks Mike Nothnagel and all,

PurpleGuy 10:27 AM  

@Elaine - Alec Guinness is in
The Swan," not David Niven. Still a good movie though.

@Rex - My favorite David Niven movie is "The Bishop's Wife." It also has Cary Grant, Loretta Young and Monty Wooley. How could you go wrong.

Fun puzzle, and great write up. I,too, appreciated the Groucho clip. Always a riot.

JannieB 10:33 AM  

@ArtLvr - I took "resave" to be computer reference - like making a backup copy of your backup disk "just in case"

Two Ponies 10:40 AM  

Cool easy Friday.
My only yawp was ... YAWP?
New to me but I knew wean had to be correct.
Reading the clues I saw the banana oil and wondered if r_c would know this without crosses. I certainly needed some.
Nice misdirection, my favorites.
I also threw in Sedaris right off the bat but I must say that the mentioned title is his weakest effort. His earlier stuff is much better IMO.
Niven is a great example of British gentlemanly poise. He always looks great in a tux.
Sailing through this week probably means a wicked Saturday.

mac 10:45 AM  

Good morning! Have to run to the Guggenheim and the Met, but just wanted you to know that the Westport, CT Crossword Puzzle Tournament at the Westport Library will be held on Feb. 6, 2010 at 1 p.m.
Online registration opens Monday, December 21. This tournament is organized by Will Shortz and fills up fast. Last January Joon won! Afterward we will have a little Rex gang party, followed by dinner.

Oh, the puzzle. Later!

retired_chemist 10:49 AM  

@ Two Ponies - AMYL was a gimme indeed. Would have got it without a cross except LE MONDE was in place first.

With LADEN and NIVEN to boot, I should have made rapid progress building from the center outward. But LYDIA stumped me, replacing EATEN @ 38A was a problem, and the cleverly clued A SIDES and CAT just wouldn't come. All my bad, but those gimmes in the center didn't help me much.

Martin 10:56 AM  


You mean about 250 gallons, of course. 250 gallons of water weigh exactly 1 ton. That's the origin of "ton" (from shipping, where a ship registered to carry x tuns of wine converted to carry x tons of other cargo) and is a good way to remember the volume of a tun.

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

For me this was another one where Friday was leaps and bounds easier than Thursday. I did have WEAR and ART ... which left me guessing that leaf cutting had to be some kind of art.

slypett 11:03 AM  

IMAO, this is a great puzzle. Why? Because I did it in super-record time for me for a Friday. And Auntie Google had the day off. All's well with my world!

Dr Mark 11:16 AM  

Having just returned from Petra, I can tell you that there is little connection between Petra and the Edomites. Petra is generally considered to be a Nabatean city. A better clue might have been "descendants of Esau"

Putrid in Petra 11:27 AM  

Do you all know that EDOMITES like VEGOMITE?

joho 11:29 AM  

Love Nothnagel and loved this puzzle.

I so wanted TIGHT SHOES for 15A, but SNUFF BOXES is briliant.

The ICICLE clue is clever and so true ... those things can stab you death if you don't look out!

A friend of mine told me to buy "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" as it had her laughing out loud once on a plane trip ... so I knew that answer right off the bat. I have yet to get it, anybody recommend? (I know, not @Two Ponies).

@mac ... I was hoping to be able to make it to the tournament in CT, but that's when I have to be in CA for my national show. I can't believe it! Sounds like so much fun ... and getting to meet everybody at the afterparty sounds like a blast. Maybe next year.

Fun, fun Friday ... thank you Mike!

Ulrich 11:32 AM  

@Dr Mark: And neither the Edomites nor the Nabateans live there anymore--I tried to get "tourists" to work initially. When I visited the site in 1963, a friend and I were the only visitors--we bought hot tea every morning from a Bedouin in front of the great facade right at the entrance. So, my second guess was "Bedouins". Got the Edomites only through crosses.

My favorite part of the puzzle: To learn about those amazing leaf cutter ants--worth the prize of admission. Least favorite: OF A at 1D, of all places! Sheesh...

Steve Chasey 11:50 AM  

Holy cow. What an amazing blog! Happy to become a follower!

HudsonHawk 11:56 AM  

Solid Friday, MN. I would have loved to see DAVID SEDARIS clued via an earlier book, "Me Talk Pretty One Day". Numerous laugh out loud moments and a favorite passage that ends:

"...I’m now told that this is not called 'going to sleep' but rather 'passing out,' a phrase that carries a distinct hint of judgment."

Nick 12:01 PM  

This is the easiest Friday I can remember in a long time. Interesting that Rex gave it the same difficulty rating as yesterday, since that one took me quite a while and this one I dispensed with in a few minutes. Maybe it was just a good match to my particular brand of geek (I knew "Diamond Smugglers" right off; it's even on my bookshelf).

Glitch 12:01 PM  


250 gal is indeed what I meant, my "0" key is the latest casualty on this keyboard.

Also, from my winemaking class, a Tun of wine is just over 100 cases ;)


imsdave 12:08 PM  

Nice stuff. I'm certainly not going to complain about a puzzle with only one YAWP in it.

Re:David Niven - "The Dawn Patrol". Errol Flynn, David Niven, and Basil Rathbone as WWI pilots.

Re:Westport - did it last year, and it will be a fixture on my calendar for years to come. Anybody who can make it will have a blast.

Badir 12:10 PM  

I did all right, except in the SW, which took me forever. I figured 47D was TILE, knew 51D was random, and am bad with names, so "RECIPE BOOK" seemed reasonable for 50A. That's where you log the family culinary secrets, yes? :( Otherwise, a good, solid solving experience.

foodie 12:11 PM  

Great Puzzle!

I love that LADY DI is LYDIA with an extra D. Like a hybrid of crossword tricks- Scramble and add a letter!

LE MONDE opened it up for me. I read it daily on my Kindle. Makes me feel Parisian :)

@Dr. Mark I believe that both the Edomites an the Nabateans lived in Petra, no? @Ulrich, I agree that the cluing was almost a misdirection, and almost not.

Never heard of YAWP... Had CARP for the longest time until I had to be WEANed away from it.

@Walt Whitman: Thank you for the link. What a fantastic scene! Now I will never forget YAWP.

Doug 12:16 PM  

Would like to one day make one of these tournaments....alas.

It was an average difficulty Friday for me, so relatively speaking would call it a Medium. Lots of spcific knowledge that left big Nunavuts, and some early mistakes like FERGIE for LADYDI, STAGE for SIEGE, GLOVE for SNARE, KINGxxxx for HENRYII, ROCHE for MERCK, OBE for DSO, etc.

Great puzzle though, and I enjoyed the battle!

SethG 12:44 PM  

The hook brings you back, on that you can rely.

I tried BBLS for TUNS, proud that I finally remembered the abbreviation but off by a bunch. I learned YAWP here, earlier this week, bought my snuff boxes in Bagombo, and think See 'n Say is awesome, too.

Sorry, I do not have another David Niven recommendation for you. Apparently he played Bertie Wooster once--I must track that down.

Anonymous 12:50 PM  

This was a tough one for me, particularly SW, where I was totally misdirected by the clues for the longest time.But I managed to finish, which, for a Friday, is a good thing.

@Dr. Mark- I'm going to Petra next week, and looking forward to it.

Parshutr 1:08 PM  

Wean Off belongs in the Department of Redundancy Department. I doubt that anyone could wean someone/something on, onto, up or down.
David Niven was, in the same time frame, the Brit equivalent of Jimmy Stuart, not the Hero but the Hero's Best Friend. He was a genuine patriot, leaving Hollywood to fight in WWII. A good man who was adept at being himself onscreen, as opposed to acting (in otherwords, well suited for film, not so much for the stage.
And I really hate "not so much"...and yet...

Campesite 1:09 PM  

Petra is amazing--be prepared to walk, it is massive site.

Another Nothnagel gem.

Parshutr 1:10 PM  

Ooops...I beg to differ from my post. You can (according to Merriam) wean on.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

william e emba 1:11 PM  

One of my all-time favorite books is Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson The ANTs. It's a book you can get lost in forever.

Sonya 1:19 PM  

If family (and general) dysfunction is your genre and you like Sedaris then you must try Augusten Burroughs. Start with Sellevision and Running with Scissors.
@ billy emba, You're a myrmecologist besides all the other stuff you do? I love you even more.

mexgirl 1:24 PM  

I am so proud of myself! I almost finished this all on my own! (with only two hints from Google and a couple more from Rex)
it might be an easy Friday for most of you, but man!, don't I feel great!

don't be such a YAWP 1:28 PM  

Well everybody seems pleased today. Mike N. on the by-line always is a good sign.
Yawp looks like an acronym.


bluebell 1:35 PM  

Niven came easily because we just watched "Around the World in 80 Days." I won't watch it again; too many creaky places for me, although Niven is superb.

I enjoyed this, even though I crashed and burned in the south. It was frustrating to get so many things right, then not be able to come up with crucial answers. Ah well, tomorrow is another day.

Greene 1:59 PM  

I imagine DAVID SEDARIS was pleased to see himself in the Friday NYT crossword (he's a big fan and regular solver) and I imagine he'll write a story about it someday. My only question for him would be "How long did it take you to figure out 19D?"

Mr. Sedaris has written several amusing essays about solving the NYT puzzle and When You Are Engulfed in Flames has a dandy entitled "Solution to Saturday's Puzzle" which has been discussed previously on this blog. The book, as a whole, is amusing and well worth a read, although IMHO it's not quite as funny as his earlier stuff like Barrel Fever, Naked, and Me Talk Pretty One Day. The latter has another funny take on the NYT crossword called "21 Down." Here's a small excerpt:

"The New York Times puzzles frow progressively harder as the week advances, with Monday being the easiest and Saturday requiring the sort of mind that can bend spoons. It took me several days to complete my first Monday puzzle, and after I'd finished, I carried it around in my wallet, hoping that someone might stop me on the street and ask to see it. 'No!' I imagined the speaker saying, 'You mean to say you're only forty years old and you completed this puzzle all by yourself? Why that's practically unheard of!' It's taken me several years to advance to the level of a Thursday, but still my seven hours of work can be undone by a single question pertaining to sports or opera..."

The real pleasure in a Sedaris essay is listening to him read one. I think one of his funniest stories is "Six to Eight Black Men" which describes his take on Christmas as practiced in the Netherlands. I read this in his collection Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and found it amusing, but it was absolutely hilarious when I later saw him read it live in concert. Take a listen if you have a few minutes to spare. It's spread over three You Tube videos, but it's well worth the listen.

David Niven movie recommendation: Separate Tables starring Niven, Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth, and Wendy Hiller. Niven and Hiller both won acting Oscars for this one. I love The Pink Panther, but Niven was so old (film was released one year before his death) and in such ill health that his lines had to be dubbed by Rich Little. It's sad and not at all the way I like to remember this excellent performer.

Oops, the puzzle. An excellent outing that provided little resistance for me, which is unusual for a Friday. Hand up for Eleanor at 48A instead of HENRY II. Thank heavens we've had EDOMITES in a previous puzzle or I'd have been stuck there for some time. See, there's something to making flash cards after all.

Clark 2:14 PM  

@Walt Whitman -- I didn’t know what a GAWP was (though I guessed it right). Now I do. Thanks for that moving link!

On my way to guessing YAWP right I tried PEEL OFF, then TEAR OFF, finally settling on WEAR OFF. That left me with ART(ist) for 'Leaf cutter, e.g.', which seemed reasonable to me.

sanfranman59 3:20 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Fri 22:18, 25:51, 0.86, 15%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Fri 10:41, 12:21, 0.86, 16%, Easy

Glitch 3:25 PM  


I initially had similar thoughts on WEAN OFF, but rereading the clue, the added "from" implies "off [of something]", at least to me.

As in "I need someone to help wean me off xword blogs"


archaeoprof 3:36 PM  

@Dr Mark, Ulrich, Foodie, et al: I agree that Edomites is off.

One of the charms of Petra today is that the Jordanian government lets Bedouin run everything inside. As a result, going into Petra is like going to another time.

nanpilla 3:49 PM  

@greene : That David Sedaris reading was priceless! Thank you!

Mary 3:50 PM  

In the very early days of computers, programmers used the terms "save" and RESAVE instead of today's "save as" and "save", respectively. In those days, RESAVE was a common word that simply meant "overwrite the previously saved material." I haven't heard the word for about 25 years, but it brought back great memories!

Sarah 3:56 PM  

For some reason the SW box was really hard for me. First mistake: ANNIE instead of EVITA; second was UHU instead of BIC; third was OBE instead of DSO. I hate those 3-letter clues -- you get thrown off so easily. The rest was pretty easy for a Friday.

Steve J 4:27 PM  

@Rex, one minor correction: While "The Diamond Smugglers" was indeed non-Bond, it wasn't pre-Bond. "Casino Royale", the first novel, was released in 1953.

And, as @william e emba noted, David Niven appeared as James Bond in the 1967 film "Casino Royale" (which was not an official Bond movie, and was in fact a spoof).

@foodie: I had CARP for a long time, too, until I finally gave up on it because the C and R made no sense.

Elaine 4:35 PM  

@Purple guy
D'oh. I guess it's been too long since I viewed "The Swan." It was on the TV schedule the other day, but I didn't have time to watch it; too bad! Then I would not have goofed.

Niven with Barbara Stanwyck in one of the Titanic movies-- now, that WAS Niven and it was a well-done movie.

I am amazed how well people did with this puzzle; maybe if I had had time to come back to it....but not lately!

mac 4:46 PM  

A great Nothnagel puzzle, and excellent write-up and comments! Thank you @Greene for the essay on Sedaris. I happened to hear the story about the Dutch Sinterklaas on NPR. He is basically correct! I have to start reading some earlier books.

My last section to fall was the yawp/wean area. Had carp and earlier ease, but the edomites and the IRA's saved the day.

@joho: sorry you can't make it... We had a lot of fun last year. I'm starting the planning of the party right after New Year's Eve!

@mexgirl: will you be there?

I figured the logging would not be tree-related, but tried "link", thinking it had something to do with computers.

Nothnagel 4:55 PM  

Hey folks.

Thanks for the kind words. Mr. Sedaris was the seed entry for this grid (as some of you have guessed). I met him after a reading last year and introduced myself as a NYT constructor. He said I was the first crossword constructor he had met.

"Me Talk Pretty One Day" was part of the original clue, referenced as the book for which Sedaris won the 2001 Thurber Prize. That book contains one of my favorite of his essays, "Jesus Shaves," in which he tries to explain Easter to his French class...in French. Good stuff.

Until next time --

SueRohr 5:00 PM  

I do the puzzle in the dead tree edition and don't get to it until late, so never have too much creative to add here, although I enjoy reading everyone else's contributions. This has been an awesome week for me as I've gotten all the puzzles done with no googling in record time. I agree with what you all said about yawp but other that it was smooth going.

lit.doc 5:02 PM  

@ CoolPapaD, I'll take your Slow Learners and raise you. Like many others, SW was MOST uncooperative. My addition to the High Quality Wrong Answers for 40D was ICE RUN.

But I was able to wallow thru this puppy with, for me, minimal googling. Only checked answers I had tentatively and, I confess, I actually went online and shopped for glue sticks. Found everything but BIC.

Was saved from that gotta-be-for-logging HOOK, with which I began, by the HOOK at 48D and the No Duplicate Words Rule. But am still wondering WTF record books have specifically to do with logging. Google got me nada.

Best do-it-(to)yourself speedbump was my very low-class P.E. 101 at 44D. Best If I Were The Editor clue opportunity was 24D, which ought to have been a reference to Menotti's famous opera, Amyl and the Nitrate Visitors...

andrea asides michaels 5:09 PM  

To think, had Rex been able to name a David Niven film, the blog responses would have been about 33% shorter today!

I felt this great puzzle seemed like a cross between the bible and James Bond with a dash of Sedaris absurdity.

Always love a good naming story and that is a perfect example!

I had my inevitable mistake: ELIA/ACTI (I was thrown off by Henry II so thought the bible book was ACT I ACT II, etc.)

If you liked LYDIA/LADYDI you must have loved ONME/NOME and ASIDES/SEDARIS

Tons more to say, but running late today. Just spent an hour with a CBS news crew using my apartment as poster child for improper heat due to negligent landlord (The Evil Mr. Fong) ignoring city minimums...More at 11...Literally!

Favorite Sedaris book: "Me Talk Pretty One Day". Sat in front of a guy on an overnight plane ride who laughed hysterically for 7 hours.
I kept "peeking" over the seat to see what was going on.
As he was deplaning, he tossed the book into my lap :)

Steve J 5:26 PM  

@lit.doc: Think of the various things you may log that you may want records of later. You can log time, log incidents, log events, log reports, etc. When I worked security eons ago in college, I routinely logged, erm, routine activity reports in the log book. Which could also be called a record book.

Rex Parker 5:40 PM  

If you enjoy geeking out on xword stats, you might enjoy this.

retired_chemist 5:49 PM  

@ lit.doc - LOL re Amyl and the Nitrate Visitors!

Hand up for ICE RUN too.

Ben 6:33 PM  

@Andrea Tenant Uprising Michaels:

If you like a good naming story, you'll enjoy this.

Ben 6:45 PM  

p.s. In a meta moment, I liked how an H in this puzzle starts both HENRY and HOOK. He's not only a great crossword constructor, but a contributor of NPR Sunday puzzles to Will Shortz.

I love when Will uses Henry's puzzles, not just because they're challenging and original, but also because the last two times Will used one of Henry's, he used one of mine a week or two later!

andrea psst michaels 7:02 PM  

By coincidence, on an "Office" rerun last night (half-watched while I was doing the puzzle), Dwight went on a riff about Michael probably having been killed by an ICICLE (when he failed to show up for work after a humiliating roast)and it was apropos to nothing!
(insert that "Twilight Zone" dodododo music)

My little dutch treat...don't think I'm not trying to figure out how to swing a trip East just to have dinner at your place! Would that be insane or what? I'm PSST that I can't afford it and it would be freezing and it's thousands of miles away! Maybe I'll come with Joho next year!

Two Ponies 8:59 PM  

@ andrea
I can't go either for many of the same reasons. I'm trying not to think about it.

joho 9:27 PM  

@andrea and @Two Ponies ... who knows? Maybe we will be able to get there in 2010!

PurpleGuy 9:53 PM  

@Elaine - I am so sorry to tell you, but it was Clifton Webb with Barbara Stanwyck in the movie "Titanic" 1953. Trust me on this. I'm a member of the Titanic Historical Society, as well as a movie buff.

PurpleGuy 10:01 PM  

@Andre, Joho and two ponies - don't forget that it's pleasant here in Phoenix. Pot-luck or not,you're always welcome. I promise you a great meal.

foodie 10:32 PM  

@Greene, I have tears in my eyes from laughing at Six to Eight Black Men!

Is it only me or does Sedaris have the same delivery rhythm as Andrea's buddy, Paula Poundstone? Something about pacing and when the voice drops.

The weird thing is that I do a similar thing when I travel to a new country-- I get into cabs and ask cabbies odd questions, and request that they take me to places where tourists never go-- and you never know what they pick. One Stockholm cab driver took my husband and me to his parents house, way out in the country! His father was a minister, his mother fed us some amazing cookies, they had a little chapel nearby, and we had a wonderful chat.

Another time in Prague, the cabbie took me to the top of a hill with great views. As we approached the top, we were stopped by some very formal looking officers. I started to get nervous, and I have no idea what the cab driver said to them, but one of them stuck his head into the window and stared at me. I happened to be coming from a reception and was dressed formally, and the officer seemed to take note of that, nodded and we got waived on. Suddenly, I found myself in the courtyard of a very fancy building and as I steeped out, I looked into this huge, well lit window, and saw... Prince Charles! Right there, with a drink in hand! And then this jeep filled with military people came barreling towards us, and the cabbie yelled at me to get into the car, said something incomprehensible to them, and we tore out of there! I kept thinking: no one has any idea where I am, and I'm going to rot in a Prague prison for the rest of my life!

I've gotten a bit more cautious since then, but the way Sedaris developed his tale totally rang true to me!

Doc John 10:36 PM  

Interesting write-up, Rex. I liked your characterization of Suze Ortman except for the fact that since she's gay there's no way she'd have any of the biblical-spouting nonsense of Dr. Laura!

As you threw in DAVID SEDARIS, I threw in IAN FLEMING. Did you know that he also wrote "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"?

sanfranman59 10:59 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 7:00, 6:57, 1.01, 55%, Medium
Tue 8:13, 8:37, 0.95, 39%, Easy-Medium
Wed 12:21, 11:50, 1.04, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 20:37, 19:01, 1.08, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 22:27, 25:52, 0.87, 16%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:42, 3:41, 1.00, 55%, Medium
Tue 4:07, 4:25, 0.93, 35%, Easy-Medium
Wed 6:08, 5:50, 1.05, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 8:53, 9:06, 0.98, 49%, Medium
Fri 9:56, 12:20, 0.81, 11%, Easy

This was one of the easier puzzles relative to the day of the week in the 28 weeks I've been tracking solve times. It was the 7th fastest Friday median time for all solvers and the 6th fastest for the top 100. It was personally satisfying for me since it was one of those rare Fridays when I didn't need to consult Drs. Google or Wikipedia. The RECORDBOOK/BIC crossing was the last square for me, made more difficult by the fact that I had TuLE for TOLE for a long time (apparently I get my lampshade materials confused with my bulrushes). I wasn't aware that BIC made glue sticks and like many others, the clue for RECORDBOOK threw me.

mac 11:06 PM  

@Foodie: I also have tears in my eyes from laughing at the 6 to 8 black men story..... I'll have you know that I have never heard of the kicking, but everything else is correct!

@Joho: do you have a plan???

edith b 12:59 AM  

I too am not a bit tamed

Boy, would my father ever agree with that sentiment as it pertained to me! YAWP was a neon for me and prevented my from stepping into the Eleanor/Lion in winter trap.

I worked diagonally into the NW thru NEXTDAYDELVERY, slid easily into the NE and IANFLEMING was also a neon as Walt Whitman and James Bond were an Odd Couple in what I read as a freshman in college. My parents were really concerned with what I read as a young girl. War fiction and spy novels were not their idea of what a well-brought up girl should be reading.

I had 3/4 of this one done before I came to a halt in the SW corner like a lot of people and I had to finish up this morning when MERCK crossing EVITA finally let me piece this one together at last. I always struggle with Mike Nothnagel and today was no exception but this puzzle is a perfect example of why I love crossword puzzles so much.

Anonymous 11:12 AM  

I kept staring at "Lets go" and seeing "let's go", and trying to fit vamos in. Been hanging around latinos too much. Even after staring at cedes, I was mistified. The brain is a funny thing.

Anonymous 11:12 AM  

Mystified, I mean.

Jeffrey 3:49 PM  

Nothnagel rocks.

Singer 3:00 PM  

Things I tried that didn't work:

Knit Socks
Ice Cap
? Hook
Sor (sorority)

Not sure I would categorize as easy, but sfman never lies.

Love David Sedaris essays - didn't get him easily, though.

Struggled the most in the NE and the SW.

Fun Friday puzzle.

Waxy in Montreal 6:54 PM  

Great puzzle. Thank you, MN.

David Niven's autobiography, The Moon's a Balloon, and its sequel, Bring On the Empty Horses, were both excellent reads. When demand for him in a starring role flagged in Hollywood in the early '50's, Niven seemlessly made the transition to TV starring on many episodes of Four-Star Playhouse (along with Charles Boyer, Dick Powell and NYT Crossword mainstay IDA LUPINO) between 1952 and 1956. I recall Niven's acting in many of those half-hour dramas being the equal of his far better known film roles.

Late Guy 9:29 AM  

Is it just me, or does "The Diamond Smugglers" sound like a Hardy Boys title? Also, I wanted tube SOCKS rather than KNEE SOCKS -- knee socks makes me think of school girls... not that that's bad...

B. Jeffrey Reid 12:38 PM  

I fairly quickly came up with "is it I" as the oft asked question, but something rang false....

In Matthew, Judas asked 'is it I?' just once,

It was in the Gospel of Mark that each of the twelve asked the same thing.

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