Mother of Peer Gynt — WEDNESDAY, Dec. 2 2009 — Back to the Future bully / Banshees boast / Irish-themed Vegas casino

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Constructor: Jack McInturff

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: HASTE MAKES WASTE (62A: Advice to the rash, and a hint to this puzzle's theme) — three theme answers are familiar phrases where "H" has been changed to "W" in the first letter of the final word.

Word of the Day: Ken WAHL (40D: "Wiseguy" actor Ken)Ken Wahl (born October 31, 1954) is an award winning American film and television actor popular in the 80’s and 90's. In addition to co-starring with such greats as Paul Newman and Brad Pitt, Ken's accolades include a critically hailed television show, two-time recipient of the title of Sexiest Man on TV, an Emmy nod for best actor, and winning a Golden Globe. He was in high demand for lead roles until an unfortunate accident forced him to retire from acting and rendered him completely reclusive. (wikipedia)


Wow, where to begin? HASTE MAKES WASTE isn't a good "hint" — HASTE turns into WASTE, HASTE becomes WASTE, OK. But MAKES? I see that that phrase is the basis for this puzzle, but as a theme cue, it's really, really awkward. Further, the answers are in two cases really boring, and in the case of SO PROUDLY WE WAIL ... not based on a self-standing phrase. "O say can you see by the dawn's early light what so proudly we hail at the twilight's last gleaming?" You can just pick out parts of familiar phrases now? And use them as your base phrase in a theme answer? I'd give you DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT or TWILIGHT'S LAST GLEAMING, as they are noun phrases and don't mind standing alone so much. But SO PROUDLY WE HAIL is completely dependent on the "what." It's not a declaration. The basic meaning = "Can you see WHAT we hail so proudly?" Bah. [update — "SO PROUDLY WE HAIL" is apparently a WWII-era movie starring Claudette Colbert. That helps, some. Thx, knowledgeable readers] And yet SO PROUDLY WE WAIL is light years more interesting than PICTURE OF WEALTH or HEAD FOR THE WILLS, so I am ambivalent about criticizing it, since it at least shows imagination. BASE WIT is the clear winner of the day. Then there's the issue of changing "H" to "W" but still having "H"s in your phrases that you *don't* change. Never been a fan of that. WEAD FOR TWE WILLS, I say.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Bill Gates snapshot? (picture of wealth)
  • 28A: Banshees' boast? (so proudly we wail)
  • 39A: Comedic soldier during training? (base wit)
  • 47A: Words to estate attorneys? (head for the wills)

But beyond the busted theme, this puzzle has even bigger problems. It is an enormous sacrificial pyre of bad short fill. And such a pyre can appeal to only one deity:

[For the origins of the God OOXTEPLERNON ... see the central Across line in this puzzle and the discussion it provoked in Comments]

The God of Bad Short Fill is glutting himself today. Don't believe me? (Deep breath ...)

  1. ENOS
  2. IDA
  3. ODIE
  4. AKA
  5. AGHA
  6. ISLE
  7. HARI
  8. ENO
  9. NTEST
  10. ADES
  11. LEI
  12. UAL
  13. ILEA (yuck)
  14. LIEUT
  15. OBI
  16. TERI
  17. ESSO
  18. OSHA
  19. OAKIE
  20. ARLENE
  21. SYD
  22. OSHEAS
  23. ASE (the hurtiest of all)
  24. STE
  25. RAJA
  26. ENE
  27. TIARA
The longest Crosswordese Parade I've seen in a long, long time. And that's not including the mildly unpleasant LADES (34D: Does dock work), the only-when-backed-into-a-corner WAHL and PLAN A (30D: Primary strategy), and sad little OF LA. Even OOXTEPLERNON gets full. You can get away with maybe 6-8 answers on the above list, and no one's going to bat any eye. If you've ever tried to construct, you know that you don't get to have Every answer be gold. You need your RTEs and your OOOs from time to time to make the good stuff work. But 27 certified repeaters!? To get ... what, BASE WIT? I'm kind of stunned.

I had to hack my way through this grid with a machete. Progress felt very labored and slow. Checked the NYT site when I finished and found I would have been in second place at that point (!?!). So lots of people must have been finding this a slog, for whatever reason. I honestly can't say where the difficulty lies. I think there's just a cumulative sloggy effect. Inexact theme might be contributing as well.

  • 1A: Whole bunch (ton) — once again, the NW was my main stumbling point. Yesterday it was KOUFAX for ALOMAR, today a far smaller, stupider LOT for TON. Dumb dumb dumb.
  • 4D: In an ark, say (safe) — but ... ARKs can be raided.
  • 42A: Lead role on "Providence" (Syd) — are you kidding me? People watch(ed) this? This show has been dead for seven years, and didn't last four to begin with. And her name (I see) was technically "Syndney." So ... "for short," maybe?
  • 45A: Carrier with a hub at LAX (UAL) — always looks like some bygone Arab republic (e.g. UAR) to me.
  • 12D: Heavy metal band with the triple-platinum album "Out of the Cellar" (Ratt) — I featured their "Round and Round" video here very recently. It has Milton Berle in it, in several roles (and in drag). Encore:

  • 32D: Adams who co-founded Group f/64 (Ansel) — great clue on a very common answer.
  • 39D: "Back to the Future" bully (Biff) — along with SLUGGO (4D: Nancy's friend in the funnies), my favorite thing about the puzzle.
  • 48D: Codgers (old men) — seems kind of mean to OLD MEN everywhere. "Codger" has at least a mildly pejorative connotation, doesn't it?
  • 59D: Old Sinclair rival (Esso) — maybe you could do a puzzle theme based on crosswordese? [Kiss from a señorita at an old gas station?]=> ESSO BESO. On second thought ...

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Greene 7:42 AM  

Gotta say I didn't care for this puzzle at all. If Sunday's puzzle was an example of a great add-a-letter/change-a-letter type puzzle, well...this is the other extreme. Uninspired theme answers plus icky fill to boot. Yuck. There was so much awful short fill that I imagined OOXTEPLERNON gorging, heading for the vomitorium, and then returning to feast anew on this puzzle.

Aside from these trifling cavils, a really delightful start to my day.

Elaine 7:51 AM  

Add that the line is actually, "So proudly we HAILED," and you have an additional basis for FAIL.

I would rate this no more than Easy-Medium, even though it had a casino, an actor, a band, and a TV show I'd never heard of. Perhaps the other answers came easily since I am an old CODGER (as opposed to a whippersnapper.)
I don't think CODGER really has pejorative connotations, but for fun, why not a puzzle with all of the terms for old crocks, duffers, fogies, and has-beens? (Oh, now: that last one would hurt!)

On to Thursday!

VaBeach puzzler 7:52 AM  

Rex, you're so right, this puzzle gets the TIARA for crosswordese. I'd throw in IDYLL, TEEN, SINAI, ANTI and even PLAN A while you're at it. But I have to admit that, while I was solving it (my usual tortoise speed of 10+ minutes) I enjoyed the puzzle.

Jeffrey 8:10 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle too. The theme answers are cute and that's was it's all about.

And I am people and I watched Providence and everyone called the lead character Syd.

nanpilla 8:39 AM  

I didn't mind this one. I was impressed by four 15 letter theme answers that all seemed enough in the language that they were easy to figure out. I like crossing HULA with LEI. (thought of you, Chefwen!) TIED ON reminded me of tie one on from yesterday.

treedweller 8:39 AM  

OF LA gets to be only mildly unpleasant? LALA gets a pass? Even though they are in the same puzzle? Wow, those other 27 crosswordy entries must have really bugged you.

I think that pretty much sums up this one.

Canadian people don't count--you should know that.

PlantieBea 8:47 AM  

Is anyone else having trouble viewing videos from Dailymotion? They just don't play on my computer.

The puzzle. Well, I agree with the medium-challenging rating. Cumulative slogging sums this solving experience up. I wasn't expecting the short themed answer in the center of the puzzle, and never heard of WAHL, so the W there was my last letter. My favorite entries of the day had to be HASTE MAKES WASTE or SHADOWY.

Going back to another puzzle discussion...I heard a piece on the radio last night that the owners of the rights to the Kookaburra folk song discussed last week have taken legal action against the group Men at Work for use of a song fragment in the 1980 hit Down Under. The old gumdrop song is protected.

Dough 8:48 AM  

I agree with @Rex, this was a slog. Not hard, but with little joy. I'll throw another log on the fire by hating ANSEL not clued as the shutterbug, but as Group f/64!? Bleh. Loved Sluggo and Win-Win and kinda liked the clue for Adopted (Steve Jobs and Moses). Oh, and I still don't know what UAL is, but I don't care. This puzzle feels like it was autogenerated from a tired database.

Orange 8:52 AM  

Apparently, Rex, you are unfamiliar with the 1943 movie, So Proudly We Hail! When I Googled the phrase, I got a page of hits referring to this movie. Claudette Colbert and Veronica Lake star; alas, Jack OAKIE did not.

Without the exclamation point, it was also a 1990 TV movie starring David Soul (Hutch!) as a white supremacist and Chad Lowe as a teen who joins his group, and there's an academia aspect.

Someday, I will write a script by the same name about taxi passengers.

Orange 8:54 AM  

@Dough, I was thinking UAL was one of those crosswordese foreign airline names until I realized it's the abbreviation for United Airlines. Not common crossword fill, though.

Rex Parker 8:56 AM  

@Orange, I was -26 and 21, respectively, when those movies came out. I plead "unborn" and "in college."

And UAL is no UAR or EEL or OBI, but it's certainly not uncommon. Only reason I know it is bec. of xwords.

Alex S. 8:57 AM  

If it helps with not hating the phrase (or makes it worse, I don't know), So Proudly We Hail! is a pretty good WWII movie starring Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard, and Veronica Lake that was nominated for several Academy Awards.

Agree on lots of crappy short fill. Also didn't like the remaining H's.

Also don't like mention of O'Shea's, the grimiest casino on the strip (now that the Boardwalk is gone). They actually have permanent installations for playing beer pong in their food court.

Bob Kerfuffle 8:59 AM  

Poor eyesight - I got confused at 63 D and 64 D: ENO/ENE.

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

I'm neutral on the puozzle today. Didn't love it, but didn't hate it either. I wasn't offended by the crosswordese, but I didn't realize how much there was until I saw the write-up.
I was surprised to see PLAN A for the second or third time in the last couple of weeks. It's too bad FOGY and OLD MEN didn't cross- they bring to mind Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men.

My beef is with GOGO. Does it really mean full of energy? I've always heard it used to describe a dance or dancer.

deerfencer 9:21 AM  

Rex is spot on on this one--a real dog of a slog. Thursday difficulty IMO combined with some very borderline cluing, horrible fill, and, as Alex points out, a key reference to some bygone fleabag Vegas casino, made for a fairly annoying exercise in non-fulfillment. SLUGGO was the one bright spot.

dk 9:25 AM  

@Bob, Brian ENO is from the ENE (AKA Suffolk UK) -- no doubt the source of your confusion.

I do not have the same reaction to the short fill as some. I look at them as old relatives that show up every once and a while. Sometimes they are great fun and other times-- not so fun. But on average I like them. I would add PELE to Rex's gang of 27.

Was WAHL the character Big on Sienfeld, Sex in the City or some other sicom?

I don't quite side with the Canadians on this one, but living in Minnesota I am close.

** (2 Stars)

Update on my ongoing study of this blog. The recent spate of data visualization tools (e.g. IBM's Many Eyes) may result in some pretty pictures (data wise) of our leader's posts and our responses. Stay tuned and as Dave Garroway, Muggs the chimp, and the UNIVAC used to say: More to Come.

retired_chemist 9:26 AM  

OK puzzle - I had to work some, about the usual for a Wednesday. Enjoyed the theme answers. Did anyone else note the challenge of finding three exact 15s that fit? Agree the short fill isn't great.

Had HORA momentarily for 24D, AMOS ditto for 7D.

Most interesting error was PARKER for 8A "Monopoly maker." HASBRO is a Johnny-come-lately-after-several-takeovers. If you made the same "mistake" you pass the geezer test.

joho 9:27 AM  

@tptsteve ... I totally agree with you that GOGO should have been clued "Disco dancer."

Anybody else think "That's a joke, SON!" is just a random sentence, or am I missing something here?

I got RATT from Rex.

Weird puzzle and also strange that in the end I sort of liked the theme answers. Not great, not terrible to me.

Meg 9:29 AM  

I didn't like GOGO so much I looked it up. 2 noun definitions: a vine and Bantu people of Tanganyika. A am gogo(go-go?) doesn't work for me at all. Maybe someone else can use it in a better sentence.

Despite the question mark, I didn't recognize BASE_ _ _ as a theme answer and struggled for quite a bit.

Wanted ASEA for SAFE.

I did enjoy trying to figure out what Steve Jobs and Moses have in common. Great clue!

And who doesn't love Foghorn Leghorn (That's a joke, son)?

I didn't hate the puzzle, but after reading the comments so far I'm thinking that I need to be more discriminating.

ArtLvr 9:43 AM  

Medium for me, with guessable odd clues to make this Wednesdayish, like PELE's being a FIFA player. The clue for LAIN bothered me, as it's not a good substitute -- "She reclined on the sofa" yes, but "She LAIN on the sofa", no.

I did like the double-entendre in BASE WIT. The other punny stuff also appeals to me more than to our Rex...


Campesite 9:46 AM  

This should be a puzzle in UAL's in-flight magazine.

PIX 9:48 AM  

Have not disliked a puzzle so much in a very long time. Endless TV/ movie stuff that I just don’t care about (Lynda Carter; Ida Lupino; Arlene Francis or is it Francis Arlene?; Syd; Teri Hatcher; Ken Wahl; Jack Oakie; Biff; etc.) Who stole my Times and slipped me a copy of People’s Magazine? Should have done something else with my time this morning.

Also, ilea may indeed be the pleural of ilium but I’ll buy a beer for the first person that tells me they have seen or used the word recently.

toothdoc 9:58 AM  

I'm with PlantieBea and Meg, the "W" in 39A was the last letter I put in. Before that the puzzle was just drudgery, after seeing that it was a short thematic entry with no relation to the other phrases, the puzzle went from meh to awful. Good thing I get to pull teeth on the next patient ;)

Joe 10:02 AM  

With all that being said about the sludge in this one, I gotta say that the STEVE JOBS/MOSES clue was the best one I've seen in weeks.
Not obvious but attainable wit a little thought and some cross-work.

The Corgi of Mystery 10:04 AM  

My first thought for BASEWIT was actually WISEGIS (which I still like). Obviously that wasn't it, and the center became an almighty struggle (LIEUT??). Ended up finishing in one of my slowest Wednesday times of the year.

OF LA was by far the most offensive thing about this grid to me -- that's one truly awful partial.

CoolPapaD 10:24 AM  

Kind of liked this! Like some others, the crosswordese didn't bug me so much.

@tptsteve - I agree with the poor cluing of GOGO. It is also used to describe eras of unbridled enthusiasm in the stock market.


slypett 10:53 AM  

I feel sorry for the constructor. To get accepted by Wil and rejected by Rex (and the majority of Rexians) cannot be pleasant. That said, I, too, was disgruntled by the plethora of obscure (to me) names but was drawn along my the possiblity of getting them through crosses. At the end, I had BASERAT for BASEWIT, because I didn't see it as part of the theme. I wound up by googling for WAHL. So, I would rate me "disappointed".

HudsonHawk 10:56 AM  

I didn't hate it, but Rex raised some great points. I got hung up briefly in the Midwest, because TV actor Ken with a four letter surname is surely OLIN. Oh yeah, WAHL.

As for O'SHEAS, what Alex and deerfencer said. You feel like they should provide tetanus shots.

Stan 11:01 AM  

I enjoyed the process of figuring out the theme, and for me that justified the crosswordy fill elsewhere.

And, as already noted, SLUGGO, RATT, and ADOPTED were great!

Two Ponies 11:04 AM  

Thanks Meg for helping me realize that Foghorn Leghorn is the source of that quote. Rather obscure for a Wed.
I'm surprised that Alex and deerfencer even know of O'Sheas. It is indeed the saddest casino on the Strip. Downtown is another story.
Anti-skid showed up for this mess as well I see.
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in the same puzzle?
Syd Barrett, 'nuf said.
In the manner of "If you can't say something nice ..." I also enjoyed the crossing of hula and lei as well as the adopted and Ansel clues.

hazel 11:44 AM  

This wasn't a slog for me- as it still had me scratching my head over a bunch of clues after the 2nd pass. I didn't know the answers, but I had enough to solve with logic. So I was still engaged. Plus, the sheer quantity of ESE in the fill was astonishing.

I also thought SO PROUDLY WE WAIL was funny, in a darkly comic way.

Procedural point - can OOXTEPLERNON really digest words with more than 4 letters?

Doug 11:47 AM  

Okay guys and gals, some days you WIN WIN and other days you WAH WAH (the correct spelling, as an astute solver pointed out yesterday).

william e emba 11:59 AM  

Just last night I did a random crossword from a 2002 Dell magazine I have lying around with Peer Gynt's mother! I ASE'd that one!

I had BASEHIT for the funny soldier, thought it was a bit of a pun, wasn't sure if it was a theme answer, didn't even bother to think if the actor's name HAHL sounded plausible. So in the end, by the time I got the theme and put it to work, I completely forgot to even check the middle. Oh well.

The very first Batman episode starred a young Jill St John, whose character died falling into boiling hot water surrounding a nuclear reactor in the Batcave. Batman commented, very seriously and very drily, "what a way to GOGO".

What is truly funny about the line is that as this was the first episode of this so amazingly different TV show, the film crew had no idea of what they were actually seeing and hearing. Someone thought that Adam West had goofed, and pointed out "he said what a way to GOGO" repeatedly, thinking he was helping.

Also (and perhaps they filmed this later) the dance club where Batman did the Batusi with Jill St John earlier in the episode was called "What a Way to GO-GO".

Geezer 12:10 PM  

@pix, you owe me a beer. ILEA is the regular plural of ilium, I have never heard the plural of that section of intestine referred to as ileums. That is laughable! Look ileums and ilea up in your dictionary.

As for codger, geezer, fogy, old man, when you join that distinguished group it'll seem amusing that all those kids think the term derogatory.

Thank you @Rex for pointing out that 39A was a thee clue. I got the W in there but found the cluing feeble until your light removed my SHADOWY understanding.

Sonya 12:16 PM  

w.e. emba, You amaze me.
Your range of interests makes my head spin.
You are bad to the bone (even if you didn't know the song the other day)

Sonya 12:19 PM  

@ w.e. emba,
Your sphere of interests makes my head spin.
You are bad to the bone (even if you didn't know that song the other day.

Peter 12:22 PM  

I actually don't mind AKA, since it's used regularly outside of crosswords. RAJA too, since it has a nice foreign flavor (and a J!).

The others though...

andrea chipchat michaels 12:27 PM  

yay! I win a beer, but since I don't drink, can I substitute an icecream sandwich???
Well, I DO drink...but at the moment it's this horrible pre-colonscopy liquid that I am literally force-feeding (drinking?) myself with this blog to distract me...
Anyway, I was reading AND discussing ILEA 2 days ago and the difference between that and ILIA!!!!!!!!!!!
(Both good in Scrabble and quite convenient with a vowel heavy rack...speakng of which HASBRO now owns Scrabble too and is/are really evil in that they've ended funding for our national tournament so as to concentrate on young school players and have jettisoned us CODGERS in the process...(not unlike the NY Times editors!)
NOT bec they care about the youth of our country or education or all the fabulous things about Scrabble but bec they want to insure future consumers to sell more sets to! :(

Oh, was there a puzzle?!!!
I am not going to say I hated it, but I DO love the write up and the comments...and now that I only do the puzzle as an excuse to get to the blog, today is a good day!!!!!

Here I am, moments from my operation and I'm laughing my head off!!!!!!!!

Rex pleading "unborn"!!!!!!
@Crosscan saying "I am people"!!!
@Treedweller dissing Canadians!!!!!!
@toothdoc being pleased s/he gets to pull teeth on the next patient!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You can't write this stuff!!!!!

(oops, I guess you can. I will have @Ulrich explain the complex tautology involved)

中国蓝色 12:40 PM  

这个难题很多crosswordese。 它不是令人愉快和许多三封信件简称。

andrea gogo michaels 12:55 PM  

Ken Wahl really does look like Big (from Sex in the City...but you are also conflating all these hunks with the other guy who played Puddy on Seinfeld now is in another sitcom about married couples. Patrick Warburton? SOmething like that who was also the voice in that cartoon movie about the incredibles...and was the Tick.)

I'd try to be more helpful but the MoviPrep has kicked in and I'm still trying to figure out if @Orange can make some puzzle out of TAXIDRIVER, SOPROUDLYWEHAIL and ???

MikeM 12:56 PM  

I actually liked this puzzle and struggled for awhile about what the heck Moses and Steve Jobs had in common; the beginning "A" suggested it had something to do with (an) Apple.

I also first put down Ken OLIN instead of WAHL. I think Ken Olin is the guy from thirtysomething.

I recall OSHEAS with fondness. Sure it is seedy, but it is the only place on the Strip where you can enjoy pints of Harp while playing 2 dollar hands of blackjack. I was there with my college buddies. Say no more.

Anonymous 12:58 PM  

darkman said...
I feel sorry for the constructor. To get accepted by Wil and rejected by Rex (and the majority of Rexians) cannot be pleasant.

Darkman, don't feel bad for the constructor. Rex is just a flea in the NYT's side. Only a relative few in the world even know he exists, and his silly, ill-conceived opinions matter not at all.

--Jake L.

Hindi_Xworder 12:58 PM  

अभि ये चिनी लोग करोसवरड के बारे में अपनि भशा में बलोग पोसत करने लगे है तो मैं कयूँ अनगरेज़ि में लिखु?

बहुत मज़ा आ रहा है, रेक्स पारकर! धनयवाद!

Anonymous 1:03 PM  

Anon 12:58. I chuckle at the truthiness of your comment although to refer to Rex as a flea is a bit much...

mac 1:11 PM  


If it weren't for the crosswordese this puzzle would probably have been challenging to impossible for me. Tooooo many people I don't know or remember. And "That's a joke, son"?? I agree with a lot of what I read in the write-up so let me just concentrate on the possitive:

I basically liked the theme answers, and thought the little central one was cute.
Liked adopted(!), hownow, shadowy and winwin. Maybe agogo would be better?

Now I remember Providence; I liked it, actually, like CrossCan. And isn't the actress Syd in a different show now?

william e emba 1:21 PM  

Sonya: It's really an illusion. I probably have the same sized range of interests as most posters here. It's just that by leaving out 99% of music, sports, cars, food, TV, movies, and James Whitcomb Riley, I get to fill it in with the important stuff in life, like math, science, history, Yeats, Dilbert, and DC comic books.

Google Translate 1:22 PM  

Sorry, I suck at Hindi. Best I could do:

Cini about these people Krosvrd Abhi at Apani Bsha then I started Posat Blog कयूँ Anagreji Likhu in?Is great fun, Parkar Rex! Dnywad!

At least he like it, Rex

treedweller 1:29 PM  

Try "She has reclined on that sofa for three hours."

SueRohr 1:40 PM  

This was super easy for me. Could fill in the few I didn't know from the crosses and thought the theme was kind of cute. Like others, I didn't notice all the short words till Rex pointed them out.
BTW Chris Noth is the guy who was on Sex and the City. He's now playing Julianne Margoulies' incarcerated husband on "The Good Wife." (I watch way too much TV.)

bigsteve46 2:05 PM  

I don't get the ooxterplernon thing. Can someone explain? You seem to be overdoing it a bit on the in-jokes lately, Rex.

Elaine 2:08 PM  

Yesterday you mentioned "Father Knows Best." I wanted to send you to "Orange Crate Art," a blog by Michael Leddy, and his discussion of that show. Thoroughly enjoyable-- I only saw about two of those old shows, but one of them was the one Leddy discussed in detail!

I agree with you about the Easy rating. Really, except for being slowed by switching betw/ Across and Down (bifocals are hell; just ask any CODGER) I thought it was a pretty speedy solve.

CLark 2:11 PM  

Foghorn Leghorn: "That’s a joke, son." The cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn was a reference to Senator Beauregard Claghorn, a character on the Fred Allen (radio) Show.

"Senator Claghorn--portrayed by Allen's announcer, Kenny Delmar---was a blustery Southern politician whose home was usually the first at which Allen would knock. Claghorn would typically answer the door with, 'Somebody, ah say, somebody knocked! Claghorn's the name, Senator Claghorn, that is. I'm from the south. Suh.'"

"When Allen was finally able to get a word in edgewise on the Senator, he would ask him a topical question, to which Claghorn would respond with a rapid stream of talk, shouting, repetition, and punnery. After a quip, the senator would laugh uproariously, and utter one of his two catchphrases: 'That's a joke, son!' or 'Pay attention now, boy!
(These last two paragraphs are from Wikipedia, “Senator Claghorn.”)

There is nothing wrong with the cluing of GOGO. This is a word that has been around the block a few times. Just because you saw it all well-behaved and dressed up in a suit and tie does not mean that it was not out having a go go weekend on Fire Island.

Doc John 2:21 PM  

I'm in with everyone else.
Did anyone mention the SINAI / Moses connection yet?
To Andrea: I hope they wake you up before you GOGO!

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

Rex, why do you find ASE so hurty? It's not an acronym, an abbreviation, a prefix or suffix, a variant spelling, a compass direction, a Roman numeral -- or any other such thing that I find irritating if not painful.


Anonymous 2:33 PM  

Apparently the "before my time" excuse is ok for TV, movies and SOME music, but not poetry, theatre and opera? I've watched plenty of movies and TV shows that were made before I was born, and read books written in the past. I think it's funny that Mozart wasn't always well received during his time, but now he's an icon. Also pop culture that is current is ok, but not that which is not? And, if pop culture is below some of the solvers who comment here, I feel bad that all the puzzles aren't up to your academic and sophisticated standards. Living in a world with plebians like me must really be hard on you!

Google Translater 2:41 PM  

@12:40 China Blue said ...
This problem a lot of crosswordese. It is not pleasant, and many referred to three letters.

PIX 2:47 PM  

@Geezer...since the clue refers to "sections of digestive tracts" I obviously meant to write "ilea may indeed be the pleural of ILEUM (= part of small intestine...not ilium=part of pelvis)...that was a typo on my any case I did not say the word was wrong, just very annoying...also, you are not claiming to have used the word recently, so no beer for you.

@Andrea Chipchat Michaels:you win and yes you can have an icecream sandwich in place of the time i will be more careful how i phrase the challenge. What i meant to ask, was when was the last time someone had seen or used ilea in a situation not directly involved in puzzles (be it crossword or scrabble), but in the real world where someone really was concerned about more than one ileum. In any case, good luck with the colonscopy (don't worry, they cannot reach your ileum with the scope)and let me know how I can arrange to FedEx an icecream sandwich to you.

Sonya 3:05 PM  

My dear Mr. Elba,
It is your diversity that is your charm.

Red Faced Sonya 3:12 PM  

Oops, I meant Emba, of course.
Your nom-de-blog is too close to a certain palindrome.

sanfranman59 3:14 PM  

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

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

Wed 14:25, 11:48, 1.22, 92%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 7:21, 5:49, 1.26, 93%, Challenging

chefwen 3:15 PM  

Well, I kinda liked it. Took me a wee bit more time than a typical Wednesday, but it had some crunch to it. The only ones that gave me pause were GOGO and LAIN. I had no idea Steve Jobs was adopted, why would I?

Off to buy some LEIS for incoming snowbirds today.

Martin 3:21 PM  

Is there any guidance for constructors wishing to avoid Bad Short Fill? I understand "crosswordese" to mean words you are very unlikely to encounter outside of crosswords. Of course this would depend on what else you do besides crosswords, but a lot of the offending fill on today's list (ISLE, ARLENE, TIARA, OSHEAS, UAL, RAJA) doesn't seem obscure in this sense.

Is ILEA yucky because intestines are yucky in general, or is it something about these letters?

Is lack of freshness, that is words that appear in fill often, the offensive attribute?

I compared today's list with some fill from a recent puzzle that Rex declared "a fine outing" (Friday, 11/20) and am not sure I see a major difference:

[It goes witout saying that PEE is great, and wouldn't meet anyone's criteria for bad fill.]

Most puzzles with several long entries will need a fairly high number of threes and fours, so it's important for constructors to be able to predict that SHO, SRO, TAE, REUP, CEOS and TAROS are fine fill while IDA, LEI, UAL, ODIE, RAJA and TIARA suck.

dk 3:27 PM  

@William EE, I used to live near the arroyo in Pasadena upon which "Wayne Manor" was perched and saw it everyday. Your comments on Batman and @CLark's back story on Foghorn (I say, I say, boy...) Leghorn (the only cartoon cel I own) are part of what makes this blog a joy.

Not to mention Andrea's narcoleptic pre-op rambling.

@pix, don't be sendin my girl ice cream :):), she prefers diamonds: Some Fun

STFU 3:36 PM  

@Martin - Let's see - Stacked 10s vs Stacked 4s as cause for suspect 3 letter words. Yup, you're right, they're the same.

Ruth 3:48 PM  

I also wanted to ask Martin's question: why is ILEA automatically yucky? Seems anytime anyone mentions anything even remotely gastrointestinal on this blog it gets a "yuck" from somebody. Y'all are a bunch of weenies!
And they DO often get to the ileum with a colonoscopy--frequently they are able to pass the scope through the ileocecal valve and a few inches up the ileum. Just to set the record straight!
Now, me: I hate anything to do with mucus. Yuck. Maybe I'm a weenie too.

Martin 4:32 PM  

@STFU (May I call you Shut?)

I think your point is that the flaw is a larger number of threes and fours than the three fifteens justify. That's a different topic than the quality of the threes and fours (and fives).

Is there a reason to expect less sparkle from the crossing fills of stacked 10s than stacked fours? If the underlying assumption is that fours are easier to redo until the crosses are better, you might be underestimating the constraints that three 15s impose, even though they're not stacked.

archaeoprof 4:48 PM  

It's the end of the semester here, and today is the first day this week I've had time for the puzzle. So I enjoyed this one, if only because it wasn't a student's paper.

AV 4:52 PM  

@Martin 4:32: OK, I will play compare and contrast.

The Friday 11/20 puzzle had JAZZERCISE crossing ZOLAESQUE, with some clean stacked triple-10-ers. This stacking will lead to some of the three letter words you mention.

Today's puzzle had four 15-letter theme entries with fairly standard fill. If a solver didn't care for the theme fill, s/he will not care for the entire puzzle and the rest of the fill will get more prominence.

And when I said "I will play", here's what I meant. I quickly tried a grid on CCW and came up with this for an alternate view of what this themed puzzle could look like:


The above fill has tons of crosswordese, but would you excuse this fill in view of the stacked 9-letter words?


edith b 4:59 PM  

Amen, brother anon 2:33. I grit my teeth every time I hear "that was before my time." By that logic, everything pre-1900 is before everybody's time. And it truly amazes me when I hear the "I was too young" excuse trotted out to cover ignorance about Wategate.

I remember watching "Wiseguy" in the late 80s. It was one of the first programs to present story arcs where a guest actor was featured in a multipart series of episodes. Ray Sharkey, a fine actor who succumbed to drug addiction in his 40s, and Kevin Spacey, who played the seriously strange Mel Proffit, were two actors who were featured in "Wiseguy."

I agree with @rex about the fill and I found myself tiptoeing thru all the slush and arriving at the theme answers that way. I enjoyed this one in an odd sort of way.

Rex Parker 5:00 PM  

Martin, are you kidding w/ that list. The following simply aren't bad at all:


ZEB is admittedly odd, but your list just isn't in the same league as today's. And STFU (for all his/her lack of tact) is right about stacked longs making bad short fill more forgivable. As I said, there's very, very little payoff for the crud today. You must be able to see the difference, as you seem a generally smart, observant, even-headed person.

Also, a "fine outing" isn't exactly a rave :)

Old Codger 5:14 PM  

Really enjoying all of the Foghorn Leghorn bits. I loved the tough-guy little chicken hawk, too.

@Anonymous 2:33
I think the point to be taken from the discussion today would be that all of us have lacunae when it comes to personal knowledge base. Even so, one soldiers on and often solves despite these gaps. I fail to detect any snobby commentary, but you certainly seem determined to be cranky about practically everything. Perhaps a nap?

Stanley Thomas Fu 5:45 PM  

@Martin - No, actually it's Stan. Just a little (perhaps childish) retribution I pull out once in a while after a childhood of taunting.

And ENO driven by the leading E in the Scrabletastic JAZZERCISE as part of stacked 10s will allways be 100 times as acceptable as ENO driven by the WOF HASTEM... stack of 6s.

jeff in chicago 8:28 PM  


(I got here late today. No need to say much else.)

chefbea 9:14 PM  

I too am very late. Found the puzzle difficult and couldnt finish til I came here. Too late to google. Did this while watching the tree lighting ceremony which was much more enjoyable than the puzzle

Stephen 9:27 PM  

I fell for LOT instead of TON, and LOAN instead of LIEN too.

Some of this was clever. Bread in a jar, in an ark, raw material, blotter abbr, approach shot, spinners, mushroom maker, salt (got me going on biblical dead ends), get out into the open, storytelling dance, primary strategy, ADOPTED!, Nina companion.

But the theme was sadly lame. And if we did all this just to make a play on BASEHIT, well... gag me with a spoon.

Stephen 9:30 PM  

I quickly put down PROPHET for Jobs and Moses, and it not only fit it even had two correct crosses. I thought it was such a clever clue until I discovered it was actually much more clever than that.

Stephen 9:37 PM  

OK. I retract my spoon gag. The theme actually does make more sense than I thought. I finally understood PICTURE OF HEALTH.

I'm usually put in a bad mood whenever I have to hear people say anything the least bit respectful of Mr. Gates.

Sfingi 9:43 PM  

MataHari in Miniature

Had a hard time with this. Didn't know OSHEAS SYD RATT BIFF SKAT SON SELIG because I don't have much truck with the subjects. But then, I also didn't know pikake, though I guessed it must be a LEI. Didn't know the f/64, but Googled and found it very interesting. This is the plus today - and everyone's comments.

Ase's Death is a very nice dirge (oxymoron?). I once read the Ibsen play. Very impressed with the Boyg and the Button-Maker. Very deep and philosophical. A must read.

My grandmother use to say, when we got gas for the Nash - "Esso? I guess so."

@PlantieB - I thought Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree was a kid's song.

@Campsite - could be dangerous, people trying to open airplane windows to throw it the hell out.

@Darkman - As Liberace said, he can cry all the way to the bank.

This codgeress had her nap 5:30 - 7. It helped.

Should I try Thurs?

PlantieBea 9:55 PM  

@Sfingi: Yes, for your Thursday attempt, and here's a link about the Kookabura dispute.

sanfranman59 10:08 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

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

In the 27 weeks I've been tracking solve times, this one rates as the second most challenging Wednesday puzzle for all solvers (10th most challenging overall) and the third most challenging for the top 100 (14th overall).

Charles Bogle 10:29 PM  

total stinker of a puzzle...this constructor must be in LALA Land--thank goodness RP's write-up made attempting the slog, and giving up in dislike, well worth the trip

Stan 11:12 PM  

Just repeating what I said before: I enjoyed this "crud" (Rex Parker), this "total stinker of a puzzle" (Charles Bogle). Guess there's no accounting for taste.

andrea tied(one)on michaels 12:16 AM  

all's well...thanks for some of the offline encouragement...I'd never brought it up at all had it not been for ILEA and a wild desire for an ice cream sandwich.

Bottom line, four 15s that are coherent is super hard to do...and sadly many didn't even notice them bec the fill could have been a lot better.

on the chance you were not just asking about Jobs' adoption rhetorically, I'll answer why some people had some idea.
There was a very public thing about his being given away and the mom keeping the daughter who grew up to be the writer Mona Simpson and they found each other after both had become famous (actually the timing I'm not positive about)
It's straight out of that new ABC show "Find My Family" which has me sobbing uncontrollably from beginning to end.
But that's another topic!

What would have been cool if instead of Moses it had been Job who had been found in the reeds...
Then it would have been what Job and Jobs had in common.

But I love those kinds of definitions, ie words that can preceed this and this...
or anything where you have to link two seemingly wildly disparate (?) me, that is what solving puzzles (and matchmaking!) and synapse-connecting is all about!
I mean, find the link between a colonscopy and getting an ice cream sandwich by FedEx!

(From now on, I'm going to shout at people "Go to Well!")

fergus 4:34 AM  

Don't know why exactly, but this one threw me -- SELIG elocution?

Singer 1:37 PM  

I didn't think this puzzle was as lame as some. I agree that there was a lot of short fill, and some was less than inspired, but there were four 15's, which has an impact on that. Many of the short words on the @#$% list are pretty commonly used, and not dissed in other puzzles. I particularly don't understand the negativity to ASE since Ase's Death is a very well known movement in one of the Peer Gynt Suites, and would be familiar to most of you if you listened to it. It therefore isn't all that arcane, and it is reasonably fresh as I haven't seen it used in a puzzle for some time.

I did think that OF LA was a stretch as fill goes, and don't particularly like LA LA either.

I wanted A-Bomb for 58A. N-Test isn't all that common a term.

syndakate 4:30 PM  

I just found out that Mona Simpson, Steve Jobs' sister, happens to be married to a man with the surname Appel! He happens to be a writer for Rex's favorite, The Simpsons. Which is why Homer's mother's name happens to be Mona Simpson. Strange happenings.

Nullifidian 3:22 AM  

From syndication-land:

This was a godawful puzzle. I started it while watching Mission Impossible at 3 p.m., and only just got finished with it slightly before midnight. It wasn't the difficulty so much as the fact that I'd hit another piece of outright crosswordese or a ridiculously contrived answer and throw it down in disgust.

Seriously, LIEUT? I thought it might be Det. Lt. Kojak (Detective Lieutenant), but LEI put paid to that guess. What's the idea? A word is 'abbreviated' if one starts writing it down and runs out of available spaces? Can I write an NYT crossword that uses LIEUTENA as an 'abbreviation'? If the crossword creators are to use abbreviations, they should only be commonly used abbreviations, not whatever the hell they want to call an abbreviation when they need some filler.

GELT (27D) is not "Hanukkah goodies". It's Yiddish for money. When was the last time you used a plural construction for the word "money"? Secondly and more importantly, though money is often given in Hanukkah celebrations, it is not a catch-all word for all that might be given during Hanukkah. This clumsy cluing, on top of the already clumsy fill, aggravated me intensely.

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