Howard the Duck prop — THURSDAY, Dec. 3 2009 — Big brand in basketballs / UN observer since '74 / Hare follower / Polish capital 1038-1596

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Constructors: Matt Ginsberg and Pete Muller

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: "All ROADS lead to Rome" (7D: There are four hidden in this puzzle, which together suggest a familiar five-word saying (3, 5, 4, 2, 4)) — roads (LOGGING, PRIVATE, WINDING, UNPAVED) can be found by reading diagonally from the corners inward, where they all meet at a single rebus square that contains the word ROME [represented by that "R" in the center of the grid]

Word of the Day: EOHIPPUS (40D: Ancestor of the modern horse) Hyracotherium ("Hyrax-like beast") (also known as Eohippus) was a genus of very small (averaging about 60 cm in length) perissodactyl ungulates that lived in the Northern Hemisphere, with species ranging throughout Asia, Europe, and North America during the Early to Mid Eocene, about 60 to 45 million years ago.[1] It was once considered to be the earliest known member of the Equidae[2] before the type species was reclassified as a palaeothere, of a perissodactyl family related to both horses and brontotheres.


An admirably ambitious puzzle with a complicated theme: four hidden ROADS, a central ROME square, and a theme-revealer that I had to read many, many times before I had any understanding of what it might be asking me to look for. My main problem was with the word "together" in the ROADS clue. "Together" sounds like they all need to be said together (no) or that they share some inherent characteristic. The latter is true, but it relates to physical placement in the grid alone, not any other thing the words might do "together." Yargh. Once I hit the ROME square and knew there was a rebus involved, I started questioning the top half of the grid — I didn't see any rebus squares. Did I miss some? That "T" in VOIT (22A: Big brand in basketballs) was suspicious (never heard of VOIT), so I started trying to imagine words, cities, roads, etc. that might go in that last square. No AVAIL(S) (55A: Uses). Got a little further on in the puzzle and then espied my first "road" (PRIVATE), and realized there would be no more rebus squares. So, just finish up ... right? No problem. Except the SE. Total Problem.

Extremely inaptly clued URBAN POP (64A: Michael Jackson genre) kept me paralyzed for an astonishing amount of time. Michael Jackson made POP music. He was the King of Pop (self-described). Just because he was (born) black does not mean his pop was "urban." I keep searching and searching for how this answer is valid, and not finding anything. If you google (in quotation marks) "Michael Jackson" and "urban pop," you get a paltry 15K returns, most of them (on first page) from websites that happened to have "urban pop" in their names. I had -AN POP and just sat there. EAR what? BOB (49D: Bit of jewelry)? Never heard of that. Asked a crossword-proficient lady friend, she hadn't heard of it. I know it's a real word, but yikes. Had ST- and A- where STUNG (54D: Scammed) and ARCO (60D: Not pizzicato) were supposed to go. Which is all to say there was a blank 3x3 section at the bottom of my grid that wouldn't budge for what felt like a long time. Finally figured out STUNG and the rest fell into place. I should add that by this point I had already figured out EOHIPPUS (40D: Ancestor of the modern horse), but just assumed it was wrong. I mean ... look at it. It looks wrong. But it wasn't.

ROME answers:

  • 37A: Dish with ham (DENVE [ROME] LETTE)
  • 36D: Cry from Juliet ("O [ROME] O!") — spent many seconds wondering if Juliet ever said "OHO" or "O, NO!" and if so, how that would be recognizable as a particularly Julietesque quote.

All the infelicities in this grid are (likely) a byproduct of the restrictive grid, with its multiple diagonal theme answers. Abutting parallel answers of ACHT, HETH, EOHIPPUS are pretty scary-looking but despite a glut of crosswordese (LPN, ILER, AGIO), the NW looks pretty good (though I've never heard of a NO GO AREA — 17A: Restricted zone — it was easy enough to infer); the NE looks a little better, and the SW looks very nice indeed. ETTE crossing ETTE wasn't pretty, and ES SU ... is pardoned because of that corner "U." All in all, a bumpy but impressive ride.


  • 8A: "_____ for you!" ("Seinfeld" refusal) ("NO SOUP") — never liked "Seinfeld," but know most of the catchphrases because most everyone I know insists it's genius.
  • 15A: U.N. observer since '74 (PLO) — It's like "U.N." is a holiday. "Observer" = formal status. You may speak. You may not vote.
  • 23A: English monarch who shared the throne (Mary II) — better known as the "MARY" in "William and MARY"
  • 41A: Trident wielder, typically (sea god) — pick a SEA GOD, any SEA GOD ...
  • 45A: Hare follower (Krishna) — great clue. I was like "... Alice?"
  • 4D: Howard the Duck prop (stogy) — I remember my mom's getting me a "Howard the Duck" comic when I was very young. I remember thinking "the talking duck says it's for kids, but ... this duck's kind of scaring me."
  • 13D: Attentive dog owner (petter) — true enough, though not a word I'd ever use.
  • 45D: Polish capital, 1038-1596 (Krakow) — Gives SW a nice saucy flavor with those delicious "K"s. "K" in KONICA (61A: Classic camera) somehow looked wrong to me, but wasn't.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Greene 7:24 AM  

Quite possibly the hardest Thursday puzzle I can ever remember. I knew at once from looking at the shape of the grid that there would be a rebus and it didn't take long to figure out that there would be a rebus inside DENVER OMELETTE, but what confusion in trying to determine where it might go! After much struggle, I finally saw the O ROMEO line and realized that ROME was dead center in the puzzle. Had no idea what that meant.

Since NO GO AREA and LAGGARDS were slow to come, it took a great deal of time to figure out ROADS. Once I got that, well I realized that "all roads lead to Rome," but where are the roads? Another rebus? This completely vexed me as I pieced the rest of the grid together. No more rebus squares...where are the freaking roads? I swear I even looked at the first letters of the clues to see if that spelled anything. By chance, I finally saw the diagonal LOGGING and it all fell into place.

Between solving the grid and figuring out the gimmick I spent about an hour on this last night. My brain hurt at the end of it all, but it was pretty satisfying. A real tour de force of a puzzle.

New word for me: EOHIPPUS. Absolutely never heard of this and I needed every painful cross to get it. Even then I had to google to make sure it was a real word.

Best cluing: KRISHNA. Totally threw me and I was delighted when I got the answer.

I'm so ignorant of pop music that the phrase URBAN POP didn't phase me at all. Does that mean there's Country Pop too? Isn't it all just pop music?

Thanks to Matt and Pete for a real workout. I loved it!

nanpilla 8:06 AM  

Challenging here, too. I needed to wipe the sweat off my brow when I was done. EOHIPPUS was a gimme for me. I knew reading all that horse literature would pay off at some point in my life!
Confidently filled in "brained" for hare follower, but had to take it out when absolutely nothing else would fit in.
Kept trying to put an R in GOETHE, because I know how it's pronounced but not how it's spelled. I don't know any German, so the ACHT was painful, too.
Then at the end, my crossword turned into a word search, and I circled the four ROADS.
Much more entertainment than usual for a Thursday! Thanks, Matt and Pete.

Jeffrey 8:14 AM  

Never liked Seinfeld??!! NO SOUP for you!!!

Challenging but fun Thursday puzzle. Yada-yada-yada.

Alex S. 8:17 AM  

NE, middle, deep SE, and SW were pretty easy. NW was thornier but fell pretty quickly.

That same 9-square box was my downfall. Never heard of URBAN POP, ARCO (other than gas stations), or EARBOB (had EARBUD for a while thinking it was a word predating small headphones).

Never read the Howard the Duck comic book, but the movie was one of the few instances of censorship I recall my mom ever engaging in. The interspecies love affair was a problem for her (the other instance was, oddly enough, The A-Team which she regarded as too violent).

Meg 8:42 AM  

I don't know why, but I knew EARBOB, maybe from "Little Women" or something like it.

Before starting, I went over to Orange's site and saw her time of 7:10. This alone terrified me. Then it was off to the races!

My toughest corner was NE, mostly because I kept reading 16A as "Look up" instead of "Lock up". Also thought 11D should have "vrai" in it.

ROME in the middle had me looking for RDS at first and then I saw a diagonal! Very clever!!

I no longer get stumped by A AND E having seen it now many times and I loved the KRISHNA clue. I was thinking Aesop. NOGO AREA sounds made-up, but I don't really care. It was a great puzzle! Thanks Matt and Pete!

Brendan Emmett Quigley 8:42 AM  

Loved it. Got beaten but good in the SE. Even with the correctly guessed UNPAVED, it was a beast. Still, A+ for theme and another curtain call for the pretty fill to go along with it. Approved.

Leslie 8:43 AM  

Wow. This is the first time in a long, long time that I simply gave up and thought, "You know, I've got lots to do today. I'll just check in with Rex and see what the answers are."

I actually got ROME in the middle, and knew the saying was "All roads lead to Rome," but after not finding R-O-A-D rebuses in the four corners, I folded my hand and cashed in what few chips I had.

You win, Matt Ginsberg and Pete Muller!

Elaine 8:49 AM  

I see I have lots of company! Hand up for BRAINED....finally KRAKOW helped me, but I would have sworn it was HARI KRISHNA. Like Alex, I found the SE impenetrable--first I had SOU, then PIU (from music) and I never did solve URBAN, though I had POP.

When I finally got DENV...I had my wee small AHA moment and put in ROME and ROADS, and wrote "All roads lead to ROME" at the top of the page....but looked for AVE, ST, and so forth. Silly rabbit.

NO SOUP for me today, but at least I know I was in a fight! Thanks, Matt and Pete...(a pox on thy heads)

Elaine 9:00 AM  

By the way

EARBOB would just be a more common term in the Fifties (and before and after.) Then pierced ears became more of the rage, and now you only seem to hear "earring." In a recent e-mail my brother used the word "earbobs" and I did do a little double take. I wonder if it has to do with the fastening--older jewelry has clip-on backs, and I shop for these in flea markets, since our daughter can't have pierced ears.

EOHIPPUS.... I am betting more female solvers got this one than male. Girls and horses....

joho 9:07 AM  

Fantastic puzzle! These come along so few and far between, I cherished the time it took to solve. The SE was definitely the most difficult for me. URBANPOP finally allowed me to see STUNG.

Love the one rebus square in the middle as it really threw me off looking for others. The first diagonal I saw was WINDING. It's so cool that we have SIR Paul McCartney in the grid singing "The Long And WINDING Road."

Thanks so much Matt and Pete for a most enjoyable puzzle!

joho 9:09 AM  

Oh, @Rex, your Simspons is my Seinfeld. I echo @Crosscan: No soup for you!

bookmark 9:11 AM  

Never did get the theme until I came here. The SE was my tough spot; I had many squares missing.

EAR BOB was a gimme. When one of our teenage sons came home with an earring, my husband said, "I like your ear bob." He took it off-- never to be worn again. Ear bob connotes an old lady's earring. Think Aunt Bea or your grandmother (or great grandmother, as the case may be).

Anonymous 9:14 AM  

I had a lot of trouble getting traction early on, but things eventually began to fall one at a time. Why, why have we had WAWA and OUI OUI in the same week?

Parshutr 9:30 AM  

This was not challenging. Impossible. But then, I'm rebuschallenged.

Unknown 9:53 AM  

Lets away on my Eohippus along this UNPAVED ROAD. Put on this EARBOB and listen to my URBANPOP, Juliet. What a Thriller.

Double my usual Thursday time and only part of it spent looking for rebus squares(William and Mary fill being a prime suspect). Tried various Kodaks and went through the entire USS Enterprise weapons arsenal. Impressive, hard and for me, the road not taken.

Vincent Lima 9:57 AM  

Wow! Like Leslie, I got ROME and quickly, "All roads lead to Rome." Then I refused to put the obvious "ROADS" into 7D because, well, it was going to be a rebus somewhere so it could not be in 7D. But it was unavoidable. So "all," "roads," etc., were not going to be rebuses. I stopped looking for rebuses but, uncreatively, looked for words that meant "road" across and down, never diagonally. Finished without figuring out the theme. Thanks Rex.

dk 9:57 AM  

Ya know lentil soup can have ham in it, Pentax is a classic camera, six could be the start of night and what about galaxies....

I need a drink.

Pete and Matt, my WRYEST thank you, GOBs of fun.

**** (4 Stars)

Frank Price 10:12 AM  

This beat the holy beejeezus out of me, and I'm so glad to learn I'm not alone. The SW and SE corners both gave me fits, and I kept trying to fit rebuses into them. Because I knew they HAD to contain rebuses. Good grief.

And agreed, @dk, I tried to make Pentax work for a long time. I love those cameras.

ArtLvr 10:13 AM  

This was a super-rich confection, and I wish I'd gone at it last night -- I didn't have time for the last bit of tussle this morning, fixing that STUNG and BOB on the EAR, to nail the URBAN part of POP. I was glad that funny NEHI for Radar's fave drink was something I'd learned here...

My happiest moments were in the SW and SE, changing Gdansk to KRAKOW to reveal KRISHNA, and remembering little EOHIPPUS to get DUNE buggy and NELSONS on the mat. And a good memory arose -- a precious KONICA 3-C a friend loaned me many years ago for photos abroad.

Kudos to Rex for full explanations, to the constructors for this tour de force, and all who followed the ROADS to their ultimate destination!


Bob Kerfuffle 10:45 AM  

Great fun puzzle! Cheers for Matt and Pete.

Killed me, of course.

NOSOUP, EOHIPPUS, and SHIELDS were gimmes.

Did anyone else notice that the letter string/word "GO" is hidden four times in the puzzle? Threw me off, and I never did find the diagonal roads.

Finished with one write-over, carelessly put 62 D as RUS before CIS.

Totally missed 36 D, OROMEO, thought Juliet might at some point have said, "O, LO!" (Never quite sure how to spell omelet anyway. Sometimes it uses so many extra letters!)

I did catch on to "All roads lead to Rome," but had to have Rex point out those roads to me.

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

i liked the puzzle -- a challenge but fun. again, i relied on rex to explain the theme to me -- i don't much care about finding cute themes in puzzles. But I was wondering for a long time what a Denver Lette is.

Two Ponies 10:58 AM  

Ah, the taste of humble pie with my coffee.
Very clever work of art.
Too bad I never was able to appreciate the total experience until I limped over here. Despite getting the rebus and the phrase I was lost. My star map didn't even help me find my way.
Congratulations to all of you who were successful. Great work by Matt and Pete.
My experience was so similar to many of you as far as guesses and misdirection were concerned. I was even looking for some sort of hound to follow that Hare. Krishna was terrific.
Can you have two TV's in one puzzle? If that's what it took to pull this off I'm OK with bending the rules.
Can't fool me with eohippus!

retired_chemist 11:05 AM  

Finished slllooooowwwllly. More than twice my usual Thursday time. Partly the puzzle was seriously tough, partly I was having puppy related distractions.

Hand up for O NO for Juliet's saying until I got into the theme. Then the theme was useful to me for two of the diagonal answers, the more notable being the SW -> NE WINDING, which got me off ODDEST @ 69A. That was the key to an otherwise intransigent SW.

Hand up also for disliking NO GO AREA. Agree it sounds contrived. Also hand up a third ime for reading Hare as a rabbit. When KRISHNA was forced upon me I was astounded at my own tunnel vision. An outstanding clue, definitely my favorite.

One error: spelled it KRACOW, and CONICA seemed correct. Oh well. STRAIN for 5D made me wonder what TLO was. Fixed it, but it was almost error #2.

AG_O got me nowhere - I did not know the word. Figured there were NOT VI or XI Marys (and LI etc. was silly), so I it was. Bingo.

All told I liked it. Felt like a Saturday with a theme.

Shamik 11:11 AM  


slypett 11:22 AM  

I was intimidated from the start; then I had everything but the NE and the deep S; very frustrated, about to complain to my favorite auntie, when I "accidentally" hit some sort of "go away" button and lost the puzzle to the net-vapor that encompasses us all.

I guess it was a great puzzle gone awry.

edith b 11:39 AM  

@joho said it for me about Seinfeld so NOSOUP was a neon for me. I fought long and hard in the NW as I thought 17A: Restricted zone was some variation of No Fly Zone and got NO, then NOGO*RE* and finally NOGOAREA and figured there had to be a rebus somewhere.

Like @Greene I puzzled out the Juliet line thru DENVE(ROME)LETTE and having ROADS in place and realizing what the numbers represented in 7D, I saw LOGGING on the diagonal leading to ROME in the Midlands.

Unfortunately, I had a real problem in the SE. I had EOHIPPUS in place, which was a mainstay of either Will Wang or Maleska, I don't remember which, but I had TVPG that prevented me from seeing what kind of POP the Michael Jakckson clue was referring to. I finally took everything out of the SE except for EOHIPPUS and rethought the whole thing.

I saw WINDING on the diagonal leading . . . to ROME and the light came on all of a sudden and I realized URBANPOP was what the Michael Jackson clue was all about, as wrongheaded as that might be. My granddaughter is a fan of what is described as "urban" music and never fails to remind me how misleading that label is in describing Hip-Hop music in general and Soul music in particular.

Again, like @Greene, this was quite possibly the most challenging Thursday puzzle I ever encountered.

OldCarFudd 11:40 AM  

For the first time in forever, I couldn't finish a Thursday. Didn't know urban pop or earbob, and the stuff below them in Texas/Louisiana never hove into view. Despite that, I loved this puzzle! Eohippus was a gimme, even though I'm male. (My wife has a horse. I think Henry Ford had a better idea.) Krishna was bloody brilliant! Saw the rebus, saw three of the diagonals and ----ate in the upper right, and figured out the otherwise blank NE corner from there. Many thanks to Matt and Pete, and to Rex and the bloggers for today's write-ups.

Guy Trying to Figure Out How to Impress Jody Foster 11:40 AM  

Know what has a bunch of stupid squares and stinks? No, not the Rotary Club's monthly luncheon. This puzzle! That's what! This puzzle!

Yeah, yeah, the rebus or gimmick or whatever is all real clever and all, but dang! This puzzle stinks!

LTRS/LPN? That stinks! From square one, literally, that one stinks.

URBAN POP? That stinks ghetto-style!

OUI OUI! What's that smell?

SW portion of puzzle? Absolutely no smell. Couldn't do it at all. Came here, checked answers . . . it stinks!

(Oh, it probably wasn't all that bad. But dang!)

George NYC 11:53 AM  

I saved a lot of time on this one by reading the blog first.

John from CT 12:02 PM  

Very tough puzzle for me. I did not like EARBOB or URBAN POP. No one uses them. I'm sorry, but have you ever heard anyone say, "Excuse me miss, but I just love your earbobs!"? I can answer that for you. No. Ok then, ask someone what genre Michael Jacson's music falls into, and I'm sure you will get "pop", but I really doubt almost anyone would say "urban pop." Never heard the prase before.

As a biology teacher, I actually knew Eohippus. Funny what falls into your zone somedays...

Hindi_Xworder 12:19 PM  

बहुत अछे भाइ! कमाल कि चीज़ बनाइ है आज! रेक्स पारकर ज़िंदाबद !

miriam b 12:29 PM  

Eohippus = dawn horse.

I LOVED this puzzle. I'd solved the easiest 2/3 of it when I realized that it was time to catch the wily Iris (torbie cat) and take her to the vet for a shot. A funny thing happened when I returned to the puzzle. The remaining clues, previously read in passing, suddenly made sense and enabled me to complete the puzzle without a hitch. This felt like the sort of process by which one solves problems while asleep.

Tomorrow Iris's brother Dewey (orange cat) goes for his shot. Maybe the same scenario will obtain.

Meg 12:32 PM  

It turns out that "earbob" was used more than a few times in "Gone With The Wind", at least in the book.

"She could see so clearly now that he was only a childish fancy, no more important really than her spoiled desire for the aquamarine earbobs she had coaxed out of Gerald. For, once she owned the earbobs, they had lost their value, as everything except money lost its value once it was hers. "
— Margaret Mitchell (Gone With The Wind)

Who the hell was Gerald?

PlantieBea 12:38 PM  

Oh boy. I am so happy to see that I'm not the only one who fought with this one. I got most of it, including the gimmicks, but crashed in the SE with URBAN POP, ARCO, and EAR BOB. I couldn't see past the incorrectly spelled EARING and STOLE. Raising hand for entering BRAINED and GDANSK. My favorites were LAGGARD, KRAKOW, and of course KRISHNA. I didn't care so much for ITCHIER and NO GO AREA.

Thanks for the workout Matt and Pete. And as always, thanks to Rex for the writeup.

miriam b 12:39 PM  

@Meg: Wasn't Gerald her daddy?

Syd's Dad 12:48 PM  

I thought an EARBOB was want one did to Doberman pups.

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

What did the H in Hanukkah have to do with heth? Golfballman

Rex Parker 12:59 PM  

I really want "Syd's Dad" to be Mike Farrell.


Anonymous 1:14 PM  

This is the first Thursday I couldn't crack in over a year.

About URBANPOP: I work at a music service that, among other things, organizes music into genres. We recognize almost 800 separate genres. Urban Pop is not one of them.

mccoll 1:18 PM  

Heth is the Hebrew letter "H".
Couldn't finish the damned thing!
This is the second puzzle ever that I couldn't do even with some googling.

WOW! I think I am rebus challenged as well. I missed it entirely so I need to work on that. Starting it at midnight after winning 98K in funny money chips a on-line Texas Hold'em poker game was not a good idea.
A doff of the tam to those who got this thing finished. Great job Matt and Pete.
Thanks Rex and all.

Bob Kerfuffle 1:21 PM  

@Hindi_Xworder -

OK, I'll play your game. When I put your comment into Google Translate I get "A brother Ace! Bnai amazing thing is that today! Parkar Jindabd Rex! "

Can you tell us what you intended as an English translation?

Nick 1:23 PM  

Jesus. First Thursday in a long time that I haven't been able to finish. EOHIPPUS crossing URBAN POP? Crazy. I agree, "urban pop" isn't even a genre. "Urban" itself is sometimes called a genre, but never heard of urban pop. Besides, at his peak Michael Jackson was arguably the most popular human being in the world; it doesn't make sense to categorize his music based on perceived minority appeal.

Anonymous 1:31 PM  

@Bob K - I'll guess Jindabd is the Hindi translation of zindabad, which is Persian for Long Live

Syd's Dad 1:35 PM  

@Rex - Sorry, no Mike Farrell here. Just some poor schmuck who got so totally whooped by this puzzle that the best he could do was make a snide comment about EARBOB, then follow up with a vague reference to yesterday. On the other hand, your having picked up on the reference may well be the highlight of my day. See poor schmuck comment above.

miguel 1:47 PM  

Bokb K

"You are an Ace, brother. You provided an amazing work today! Long live Rex Parker!"

or, "This one hard effing puzzle, Rex Parker."

you choose.

obertb 1:57 PM  

I somehow never questioned the crossing of DENVERLETTE and ORO. Neither really made any sense, but I figured DENVERLETTE for some obscure shortening of Denver Omelette, like they might do at, say, Dennys' or The Village Idiot (OK, The Village Inn). ORO just made no sense at all, but it clearly had to be right.

By the time all this was done, I had totally forgotten about the ROADS thing and would probably never have figured it out anyway had I not come here.

Now that I see it, it all seems quite brilliant. All roads lead to Rome--cool. Not so much bad fill either, so a very good Thurs puzzle, even if it felt more like a Saturday.

Did anyone else have the R in place for [45A Hare follower] and enter BRAINED. I did. A wrong answer which describes itself.

chefbea 2:20 PM  

I'm with most of you. Very hard puzzle. I googled and then came here to see the finished puzzle. Wanted tortoise to follow hare.

What is a logging road??? where you go to cut down trees ????

Clark 2:34 PM  

For the first time ever I had an easier time with the puzzle than all y'all. I filled in the whole NE with no difficulty, I mean everything NE of the center. So, I was pretty sure there were no rebus squares out there anywhere (unless there was something asym going on). Getting ROME in the center brought down the 'All roads' quote, and PRIVATE was just standing there staring at me, which led to yada yada yada. No doubt my passionate discipleship of Seinfeld is what carried me through this -- NO SOUP being my first entry.

@chefbea - a logging road is a road cut through the woods in order for logging equipment to get in and for cut logs to get out. It is often the case that logging roads just kind of wind around and then stop. I tried once to drive from L'anse to Marquette Michigan through the Huron mountains on the back roads. There is a way through, but I couldn't find it cause I kept ending up on logging roads which just lead you on and then stop.

Jeffrey 2:40 PM  

Lots of logging roads in BC. You drive them at your own risk and they are narrow so if a full logging truck is coming the other way you better pray you have room to move aside because they won't stop for you.

hazel 2:44 PM  

I'm with you Clark! and I've got that smarty pants feeling going again. I didn't whip through it, but I did finish it, got the gimmick, and was completely awestruck by it all. Felt like I totally channeled my inner crossworder for this one.

Only quibble - didn't like the clue "The Sopranos" actor = ILER. Technically correct, of course, but to me violates the "spirit" of the Clue gods without an appropriate modifier. "The Sopranos" actor = Gandolfini. Period. An actor on "The Sopranos" = ILER. One of TV's Soprano's = ILER. etc. etc.

Awesome puzzle. Logging roads are good for mountain biking too.

Anonymous 3:00 PM  

Nice original theme and center rebus gimmick. My only criticism is
that Logging, Private, etc; are not roads. They are kinds of roads...nowhere does the puzzle mention "type" or "kind."
You can't say Logging, e.g. and expect the answer to be Road.
Other than that, excellent theme.

andrea only soup michaels 3:19 PM  

oh wow, one of those word for word experiences that Rex had!!!!!!!
Except a) it took me over an hour I think and b) i never saw UN...just PAVED road and thought that was odd that it wasn't the same length.

I also put in CHAI for HETH initially and thought that would be a bitch for non-Jews out there
(I guess I was thinking CHanukah, which is the first of 800 spellings I usually think about)

Very challenging in a great way. And with everyone on the whole URBAN EARBOB thing.

Bravo Matt and Pete!

Plus I commend Seinfeld fans for not going apeshit at the gauntlet thrown down.

Karen from the Cape 3:32 PM  

I agree with Rex, EOPHIPPUS looks wrong somehow :)

Cool puzzle, props to the constructors today.

william e emba 3:36 PM  

Oh wow what a great puzzle. I toughed my way through most of it like it was a challenging Saturday. And worse, I managed to choke one way or another on just about every gimme. What a MESS!

I mean, shared English monarch, why, that's William or Mary! Oops, six letters. It never occurred to me she's MARY II until way too late. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking JAMES I, after all, he "shared" the English and Scottish thrones, right?

Was the Hebrew letter HETH or CHET or KHET? That was unfun. For those not in the know, the letter is pronounced kh-e-t, where the "kh" is the harsh sound somewhat like ch in Scottish loch or German ach.

HETH, by the way, is frequently used to mean "eight" in Hebrew, so seeing it run parallel with ACHT was quite cute. On the other hand, seeing the Hanukkah clue cross the ham dish clue was quite uncute. NO matzoh ball SOUP for you, Matt and Pete.

I had Prenups instead of AGE GAPS. I wanted Gloomy for "Bearish". I thought STOGY was spelled Stogie (of course it's both) so I kept trying to fit something else in.

I never even saw the clue for the gimme EOHIPPUS as I struggled to get something in the SE. How on earth did that happen? Sheesh, was I choking.

On the other hand, I was glad to get NEHI off the Radar reference. That eventually helped me get the DENVE[ROME]LETTE, which made me realize my incomplete 7D was ROADS and what the 35424 saying was, so I looked and there in the NE I saw the diagonal PRIVATE. I finished LOGGING and UNPAVED, and took a little bit longer to get WINDING, but at that point the puzzle finally burst open.

Until I hit that infamous 3x3 in Texas. I was thinking Stole, not STUNG, Loo, not NCO, End, not GOB, but that just wasn't working out. Way way way too long later, I got STUNG, and finished up pretty quickly. Luckily, I know nothing about women's jewelry. (I once won a $50 certificate for a local jewelry store from some employee prize program, and gave it to the woman in our research group.) So while I didn't really believe EARBOB, I didn't really disbelieve it either. I was borderline about GOB, so I wondered if maybe that could be something else. Then it occurred to me: the opposite of pizzicatO has to end in ---O! Done.

As a proud owner of a complete Howard the Duck run, plus the original Man-Thing issues where he first appeared, let me share with you one important lesson about life: don't ever judge a duck by its movie! Steve Gerber, the creator/writer of Howard, was in his own highly nonlinear mental universe, as oddly unique and different as the TV Batman had been ten years before. Heck, I also own his complete Destroyer Duck run, along with both versions of the classic Spider-Man, Savage Dragon, Destroyer Duck, Howard the Duck crossover. Ducky rules!

Waaagh! (As HtD would say.) Last week's Thursday, I quoted Schulz from the 8-14-1960 cartoon. I wrote duckie, but the actual cartoon had ducky.

Steve J 3:41 PM  

This was like two different puzzles to me. Started off pretty well, picking up a lot of scattered clues but filling in probably 75% of the grid quickly. Loved some of the clever cluing going on ("Hare follower," "Holds on a mat"). Even picked up the rebus (although I had the same bit of staring and wondering if Julie set "ONO"), although I never picked up where the hidden roads were and went on a diversion looking for other rebuses.

Like everyone else, the SE killed me. No question, URBANPOP is just a crappy answer that, if it has any actual reference or applicability to Michael Jackson, it's frightfully obscure. I somehow managed to piece together EOHIPPUS, even though I was convinced it was wrong.

My final hurdle took what seemed like forever. One square left, just taunting me: the B crossing GOB and EARBOB. Finally put it in because it was the only thing that phonetically made any sense. (GOB still isn't clicking for me, although I guess it's unlodging a faint memory in the back of my mind of that being used as slang for a lot.)

As I expected, I ended up over my Thursday average, but surprisingly I was nowhere near my Thursday max. Nice challenge, overall.

Hindi_Xworder 3:44 PM  

@BobK: miguel is Hindi_Xworder?

@miguel: Good job! (especially your second translation)

@all: I was just messing around when I saw the first Mandarin message which was not spam and decided Hindi needed to get into the game. (Surely there are as many solvers of Indian origina as Chinese?)

@Constructors: What a fantastic puzzle! Loved it. (and that's what I said earlier .. in my broken Hindi)

sanfranman59 3:47 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 32:32, 18:53, 1.72, 100%, (Super-Duper) Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 16:09, 9:09, 1.77, 100%, (Super-Duper) Challenging

I think Will greatly underestimated the difficulty of today's puzzle. The solve times for this puzzle are so far beyond the norm for a Thursday puzzle that I'm tempted to exclude it from my calculations as an outlier. These solve times slot this puzzle in the Saturday Medium-Challenging range. The next highest ratio for all solvers is 1.47 (the puzzle of Wednesday, June 24) and that for the top 100 solvers is 1.55 (Saturday, November 7). The next highest Thursday median solve times are 27:34 for all solvers and 13:09 for the top 100.

Jeffrey 4:18 PM  

So why was this puzzle an average Thursday for me and Saturday-mongously hard to everyone else? I need to look at this in more detail.

What do I know? Seinfeld (NO SOUP), Canada (SCTV), french (OUI OUI, PEU),comic books (STOGY).

Gimme 3-lettter words - SIR, PLO, ITD, ONA SET, HEM, NCO, LPN, MID, EMS.

Sneaky clues that no longer fool me - NEHI, EMS, OIL RIG, NELSONS.

SEAGOD, check. STAR MAPS, check.

Cry from Juliet screamed rebus. Gave me ROME, gave me the saying, led me to search for ROADS leading to the centre. That gave me WINDING to fill in my toughest area, the SW.

All crossings gave me EOHIPPUS.
Finished in 8:28. Maybe blogging for Orange once a week means I can solve like her once a week?

SueRohr 4:38 PM  

Wow! What you all said. Way too hard for a Thursday. I got the saying right away but never figured out the diagonals and don't think I ever would have. No go area was a no go for me. Spent lots of time trying to put tortoise after hare till I finally got it. Also had Juliet saying ono. Also never got urban pop.And I thought the Hebrew letter H was Hay!? Congratulations to those who finished. This one did me in.
Elaine - Thanks for the tip about the blog on "Father Knows Best." I really enjoyed it.

Anonymous 4:41 PM  

NEHI is country pop.

jae 5:05 PM  

Wonderful puzzle. Clever tricky cluing and an amazing theme. Doable for me but had the same problems in the South as many of you. Nice work Matt and Pete.

lit.doc 5:16 PM  

Busy with students much of the day so got to it late, hope there's still someone out there more clever than me. Can't figure out the parenthetical 3,5,4,2,4, and see no commentary. Help?

As to the puzz, wow. I love themed ones, and this one is a knockout. But...the only thing that came fast and easy for me was the realization that I was hosed. Got enough on my own to feel not-quite-Saturday humiliation, though. "AGIO" wasn't in my brain, saved by the crosses. Had French, so "en PEU" not a problem.

Slow, painful death resulted from SHIVAH at 41A, abetted by BREVITY crossing from 30D. And 64A was POP MUSIC, crosses be damned.

As was noted by an earlier post, DENVER OMLETTE came willingly, which gave me the rebus, but I still never saw the diag's till I checked in with RP. Pleasure and pain today--is "autoschadenfreude" a word?

retired_chemist 5:24 PM  

@ lit.doc - 3,5,4,2,4 = # of letters in each word in "all roads lead to Rome."

SethG 5:25 PM  

SueRohr, there are two Hs in Hanukkah. The one at the end is a hay, the one at the beginning a heth. (Or, if you spell it like I tried to forever, a chet.)

Since I knew that, I had trouble getting A NOD. I had trouble getting the other four letter A-words, AGIO, ACHT, and ARCO, for a different reason. The reason was that I do not know them.

william e emba 5:33 PM  

And I thought the Hebrew letter H was Hay!?

The hey and the khet are both transliterated into English. The hey goes to H or is left out, the khet goes to KH or CH or H. In fact, the "h" in "Hanukkah" is a hay. In modern Hebrew, the khet is voiced just a little harshly compared with an "h", while the khoph is voiced much more harshly. So the transliteration of chet to H is not too unreasonable.

In Hebrew, it's either חנכה or חנוכה. Reading right to left, you are looking at a chet, nun, optional vav, caph, hay. The font I used when typing the comment made the khet look like a Greek Pi. The northeast corner serif shouldn't be there. The font I saw on the preview was sort of adequate.

Sorry, I don't know how to explain this in Hindi.

Doc John 5:35 PM  

Very interesting puzzle- a rebus and yet so much more. Very difficult but finally slogged my way through.
Not much more to add to what's already been said other than it must be synchronicity to have Radar in the puzzle after having recognized (M*A*S*H peripheral character) Igor as an extra in Young Frankenstein the night before.
I only knew ACHT because the German word for "rollercoaster" is "achterbahn", literally "figure-8 road". Many coasters in the early years had the layout of stacked figure-8s.

Elaine 5:48 PM  

First the puzzle, and now these explanations about Hebrew. Please, please! Stop! Haven't we suffered enough??
Now, how about a puzzle based on the saying, "Misery loves company?"

Just came home; was just at the lake and saw a kingfisher and several COOTS. Please add COOT to the list of Old CODGER terms. Plus, of course, GEEZER. This theme list is really shaping up quite well, eh? All roads may lead to Rome, but the paths of glory lead but to codgerhood!

Three and out,

Matt Ginsberg 5:50 PM  

This puzzle seems to have been much harder than Pete and I intended or realized; I'm sorry! A little bit of history on some of the trouble spots:

You can blame EARBOB on me. My word, my fault. I originally tried to clue it as [Southern stud?] but don't know if that clue is better or worse than what Will eventually used.

You can blame URBANPOP on both of us. Neither Pete nor I had heard of it (makes sense for me, since I'm musically challenged, but not for Pete, who is a musician). Pete did some research and decided he liked it.

Finally, I should probably mention that I tried to clue GOB as [Spitball?] but Will prudently changed it. :b

Bill from NJ 6:10 PM  


ILER is a brand-new piece of crosswordese that should be committed to memory as it will continue to "pop up", divorced from its meaning.

Ironically, we had one piece of old school crosswordese - AGIO - to balance the new today.

Anonymous 6:23 PM  

i had cruise (as in tom) instead of artist for 19A: Temperamantel one, supposedly for the longest time. laughing at that one...

lit.doc 6:32 PM  

@ retired_chemist, thanks. Geez. File under "Top Ten Things You Wish You Hadn't Asked In Public".

hazel 6:36 PM  

@Bill - you nailed precisely what irritated me about that clue - "divorced from its meaning." I feel like I am witnessing real-time a baby ESE taking its first step onto a slippery slope. And I can only watch.

By no means overshadows the awesomeness of the rest of the puzzle....

Steve J 6:39 PM  

@Matt: Love the "spitball" cluing for GOB. I, for one, would have gotten that much quicker than I did with "lot."

And nice job on stumping so many people on a Thursday. :)

jeff in chicago 7:12 PM  

Quite the struggle, but what a payoff. I had figured out the ROMEO part, but could not see the rest of the theme. I (we) all knew they were there! 7D tells us they are. I was moving my cursor up and to the right to minimize the puzzle and go to the blog, and the cursor went right over the letters of PRIVATE. Saw it at the last second! But really, I wasn't even sure then. "Private road" didn't stand out as a phrase, but there was a diagonal word! I looked at the other diagonals and all was revealed. Excellent job Matt and Pete.

This is the second day in a row with what I thought were outstanding, original themes. (The other one was not yesterday's NYT!)

retired_chemist 7:53 PM  

@ lit.doc - You're welcome. The question would not even make my top 500 list of questions I wish I hadn't asked in public.

joho 8:00 PM  

@Matt ... I've already said, I loved your puzzle. But, I have to admit your clue "Southern stud?" for EARBOB ... just doesn't work. I get it, but it's obtuse. "Bit of jewelry" was more forgiving, but not a lot easier.

mac 8:07 PM  

Well, thank you Matt and Pete for slaying me, and thank you Rex for a very thorough explanation of this puzzle that went right by me. (Not your explanation).

I filled in the boxes, most of them at least, but I was looking for "all, lead and to" either in rebus form or straight somewhere in this puzzle. I also had problems with LPN LTRS NSA SCTV ISPS TVMA AND GOB. Or gob. Eohippus,URBANpop. everything else was just fine, even got Voit, how ugly is that. Like ursine and laggards, love Krishna.

Earbob?? I'm in the jewelry business and I have never heard this word. Maybe I didn't get to this country early enough.

I actually had roads and figured out Rome in the middle very early, but I never thought to look diagonally.
My fault.

Hi PG, a Nelson!

William E. Emba: you are loosening up so rapidly, it's startling. Lots of fun, though.

Sarah 8:24 PM  

EARBOB really got me -- for a lo-o-ong time I thought it was BAUBLE. Had to check in with this website to see what it actually was. Oddly, I got ROME in the middle, and ROADS, and the saying, but didn't at all guess the different kinds of roads leading to the word ROME. Some cool clues: I felt very clever getting EOHIPPUS off the bat!

Ulrich 8:31 PM  

I'm so late b/c I could not decide what to put into the 3x3 in the south center and am sooo glad to see I'm not the only one who struggled there. I did get the theme, after a while, and actually completed all the diagonals, piecing together "unpaved" from just 3 crosses. Still, I agree, a themed Saturday masquerading as a Thursday.

I had ancient Greek for 6 years and know that "horse" means "hippos" (and Philippos, aka Philip, is a lover of horses), while in Latin, it's "equus"--so where the hell does "hippus" come from? I'm just asking b/c that's another spot that held me up forever.

And in conclusion, I can't believe that any human could solve this in under 8 min--must be some space invader!

Two Ponies 8:48 PM  

@ Matt, Thanks so much for the insight. I was OK with the entire thing. A true feat of construction. Gob for lots is fine.The whole thing was gobs of fun. Earbob is right up this near-geezerette's alley. I can hear my grandma's voice saying that.

nancy 9:09 PM  

9:08 and I'm only now finishing after taking it out and putting it away and taking it out all day. My husband knew eohippus.

edith b 9:37 PM  

When my husband was going shopping for jewelry for me and wished to be funny, he always said he was looking at "fancy earbobs" for me.

He told me it was something his grandmother used to say when he was young. She was from rural Alabama before she relocated North after the Great Depression.

CoolPapaD 9:43 PM  

Hardest (with a HETH) Thursday in memory. Glad you all knew eohippus-I'll use ILEA in casual conversation before I'll ever utter EOHIPPUS. Also had to Google ARCO to get that, and then the three remaining crosses fell into place. Now I must look up AGIO.

All that said, I loved this, and has no trouble with the rebus or the four roads!

sanfranman59 10:01 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 7:41, 6:57, 1.11, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 7:43, 8:38, 0.89, 23%, Easy-Medium
Wed 14:43, 11:49, 1.25, 94%, Challenging
Thu 34:05, 18:57, 1.80, 100%, (Super-Duper) Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:48, 3:41, 1.03, 66%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:06, 4:26, 0.93, 29%, Easy-Medium
Wed 7:08, 5:49, 1.23, 91%, Challenging
Thu 15:26, 9:07, 1.69, 100%, (Super-Duper) Challenging

More evidence that this one was much tougher than the average Thursday puzzle: There were only 340 online solvers. The mean number of Thursday solvers in the past 27 weeks is 541.

fergus 10:37 PM  

When I got stuck I started looking for four more ROMEs. That didn't help. Weren't Juliet's first words on the balcony A ME?

ArtLvr 11:22 PM  

Soo much fun to come back late in the evening and relive the morning's struggles in later comments. I laughed out loud at the mention of the misstep Hare BRAINED -- wish I'd thought of that, even though wrong!

Also thanks to those traced the EARBOB to roots in the South, and those who dug into the HETH vs Chet! Like Andrea, I felt that Chanukkah or some variation thereof was more familiar...

Loved the dizzying Achtbahn idea too. On to Friday, with trepidation.


Bill from NJ 12:15 AM  


Gerald O'Hara was Scarlett's father in "Gone with the Wind." He was Irish and her mother was French but she inherited most of her fire from her father.

Elaine 4:57 AM  

In case you come back later, Matt-- no need to apologize! I think all of us rather enjoyed the struggle. After personally finding the puzzles Easy this week, I found it humbling in a salutary way to meet up with this bruising grid. I was born in Atlanta (long ago,) and EARBOB was an instant gimme off the EA__; only whippersnappers found that one obscure (plus mac, who is not native to the US.) EOPHIPPUS was equally easy....but taken in whole this puzzle will be memorable. Next time I see your names, Matt and Pete, I will gird my loins before joining battle!
Thanks. (I was just teasing about the pox.)

PIX 7:26 AM  

I worked on the puzzle on the train home last night; i worked on the puzzle last night in bed; i worked on the puzzle this(Friday) morning and finally got it (more or less). It was worth it. This is one of the best i ever remember doing. Thanks guys.

Arnie Perlstein 2:47 PM  

I loved this puzzle, and thought it one of the ten best NY Times puzzles of the past 3-4 years. To have only one rebus in the entire puzzle, and have it in the middle square--wonderful!

To have those four diagonals all leading to the center--breathtaking!

Little problems with some of the clueing was not an issue, given the beauty of the overall concept!

jon 12:46 PM  

Alathough I was unable to solve, I did get arco because I played violyn and viola during my school days. I too went from hare-brained to hare krishna without too much trouble and loved the clue. Nogo area? Urban pop? Gimme a break.And since when does lot=gob? Too many arcane though legitimate answers- e.g. Konika, eohippus. I didn't even get the rhebus- where's my dunce cap?

Yancy 4:13 PM  

Best puzzle ever.

Hope to remember Urban Pop for future reference.

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