1894 opera set in Egypt / THU 1-28-10 / Scalding castle weapon / Star Wars droid informally / A gun slangily

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Constructor: Raymond C. Young

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: PINK THINGS (54A: What 17-Across and 10- and 24-Down all conceal) — theme answers have words that represent PINK THINGS embedded in them...

Word of the Day: Lonette MCKEE (46D: Lonette of "The Cotton Club" and "Malcolm X")

Lonette McKee (born July 22, 1954) is an American film and television actress, music composer/producer/songwriter, screenwriter and director. [...] McKee won critical acclaim for her Broadway debut performance in the musical The First. She became the first African American to play the coveted role of 'Julie' in the Houston Grand Opera's production of Show Boat on Broadway, for which she received a Tony Award nomination. Her tragic portrayal of jazz legend Billie Holliday in the one-woman show, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill won critical acclaim, standing ovations and a Drama Desk Award nomination. She reprised the role of 'Julie' on Broadway in the most recent revival of the musical Show Boat directed by Hal Prince. [...] McKee had a recurring role on the NBC drama Third Watch. McKee was featured in People magazine's Fifty Most Beautiful 1995 issue. // McKee teaches a master acting workshop at Centenary College of New Jersey, where she serves as an adjunct professor in the Theater Arts department.
• • •

Went to sleep early last night, woke up at 5am and solved this puzzle first thing. Not the most ... efficient way to solve a puzzle. I was not in power-solving mode, so I'm actually not quite sure how difficult/un-difficult this one was. Felt on the easy side much of the time, but then there were hang-ups — most notably in the NE and SW — and I actually stared at the final blank square — the "K" in PINK! — for many seconds before the "K" fell in. PINY THINGS? No. One glance around the grid helped me (eventually) see the PINK. Came in slightly slower than normal ... I guess we an go "Medium-Challenging," but more "Medium" than "Challenging" for me. I don't know that I liked this theme, but I have to at least give it credit for being interesting. PINK THINGS is descriptive, but not exactly a common phrase. There is a song called "Pink Thing" on XTC's "Oranges and Lemons" album (1989), but ... it's about a PINK THING that appears *nowhere* in this grid (I'm pretty sure). My main problem today is that FLAMINGO and CARNATION can hardly be said to be "concealed" in their respective answers. There are only two other letters to "conceal" them in each case. It's like a fat guy trying to hide behind a lamp post — not working. Mildly annoying that the CARNATION in INCARNATION doesn't span two words the way the other "concealed" words do. But whatever. The grid, at least, is compelling, with all sorts of stuff I've never or rarely seen (including a TWADDLING THREEPIO!) (31D: Talking silly + 36D: "Star Wars" droid, informally).

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Scalding castle weapon (FLAMING Oil) — concealing a pink FLAMINGO
  • 10D: Resigned response to tragedy ("Que sERA SERa") — concealing a pink ERASER
  • 24D: A pharaoh vis-√†-vis Horus, in Egyptian myth (inCARNATION) — concealing a pink CARNATION
Found the NE the hardest section to get into and out of. Wanted RABID at first for 13D: Animal-like, but then ESSO changed that to -OID. Couldn't make sense of 10A: Pump, in a way — thought it might have something to do with gas or shoes. Eventually had to figure out QUE SERA SERA from the back end, and that "Q" gave me all the info I needed to handle the NE, including the previously eely QUIZ and ZOOID (nice intersection). Echo of this struggle in the SW, where T-SHAPED (43A: Like a crucifix) was not immediately clear to me, so I had to work that corner from the inside out, and I had OMEN where SIGN was supposed to go (59A: Foreshadowing). The clue that was supposed to be trickiest (I assume) ended up being the one that helped me the most down there. "Letteral" clues (self-referential clues that actually want a "letter" in the clue for their answers) are often hard to see, but HARD G (45D: Head of government?) was obvious to me in this case. This gave me SIGN and then ... done down there. Finished in the SE where only that final "K" in MCKEE gave me real resistance.

  • 14A: Hatch at a hearing (Orrin) — good old trick: use names that are also perfectly ordinary words as a way of throwing the solver. Spent part of last night thinking about how to use N.B.A. star Rudy Gay's name this way.
  • 16A: "Come ___ these yellow sands, / And then take hands": Ariel in "The Tempest" ("unto") — long way to go for [Golden Rule verb], but why not?
  • 20A: Former Saturn (Ion) — Well, if it's "former," you know it's not the planet... that Saturn is still Saturn, as far as I know.
  • 28A: Four-bagger (tater) — ooh, using slang to clue something even slangier. People probably put HOMER in here at first, if they put in anything.
  • 49A: A gun, slangily (heat) — I don't know why "A" is in this clue. I thought it important, so considered A GAT... I guess that, in the phrase PACKING HEAT, "HEAT" stands in for "a gun." OK.
  • 11D: Emasculate, say (unsex) — I had DESEX. Seemed reasonable. Part of the trouble up there in the NE.
  • 43D: 1894 opera set in Egypt (Thais) — by Jules Massenet. Luckily the name THAIS rang a bell, but this one didn't come easily. Wanted AI(I)DA.
  • 55D: Suffix with mescal (-ine) — that seems a bold way to clue (the otherwise cruddy) -INE. It's a psychedelic agent found naturally in peyote. I associate it with Hunter S. Thompson.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Elaine 6:52 AM  

I fell into the trap--DESEX--and ITS GODS WILL fit perfectly going down. Took a bit to undo that. Wanted HOMER but the crosses were already making that impossible. TATER is a new one on me!
Tried C-THREE-PO (til INGE set me straight.)
I had been fooled by the ease of NW and SE corners...A TON of rewriting and finally THAIS helped me out, proving that OMEN could not remain.
Felt more on the Challenging side of Medium to me, but no periods of absolute stand-still, so I feel good.
ORRIN is a word? ORRIS is a word, but.... I guess I will have to look it up!

Elaine 6:55 AM  

D'oh! (Well, it IS early--not yet 6 here.) HATCH is a word. But I did learn that ORRIN means Pale in Gaelic.

The Bard 7:28 AM  

The Tempest : Act I, scene II
[Re-enter ARIEL, invisible, playing and singing;FERDINAND following]

ARIEL'S song.

Come UNTO these yellow sands,
And then take hands:
Courtsied when you have and kiss'd
The wild waves whist,
Foot it featly here and there;
And, sweet sprites, the burthen bear.
Hark, hark!

And from Macbeth,Act I, scene V:
LADY MACBETH: Give him tending;
He brings great news.

[Exit Messenger]

The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, UNSEX me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature's mischief! Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
To cry 'Hold, hold!'

Unknown 8:25 AM  

Enjoyed this. It started off easy up in the NW and I was sailing along but slowed to a crawl in the south.

Liked putt beside hotshots, and nerdy crossing with threepio, and the beautiful quiz/zooid, to name a few.

Smitty 8:27 AM  

Refreshing use of new words, and Threepio was the perfect set up for today's episode of the Phantom Menace.

I had HIAT for A GUN - maybe an obscure reference to some sort of Atom Gun, a smaller version of the Atom Bomb?

Maybe HIAT was some military acronym for High impact Atomic somthingorother?

HEAT works better....so SIGNI should be SEGNI

treedweller 8:29 AM  

I took forever on this; had to google THAIS and still almost did not finish. Had to correct an error where FRANCISII had been Francisco and never quite got fixed--I was thinking ascii and figured it made sense somehow. Of course, ASIA made a lot more sense. Also, hand up for HOMER.

One of the best parts of going to Six Flags as a kid was getting a PINK THING. For those of you unlucky enough to have not experienced them, they are cherry-flavored frozen confections--not quite willing to say ice cream, though it might be true. They come on a plastic stick, which has some kind of character molded into the top half so you reveal it slowly as you eat the ice cream. I'm sure it would be absolutely inedible now, but it was almost as great as riding the Big Bend back in the day.

CoolPapaD 8:29 AM  

I enjoyed this, but did have a few wrong boxes in the SW: THAES, EURO, and SOON - was not in a Googling mood!

Had BOILING OIL for way too long.

Never heard of TATER for home run, but, according to the most trusted source on the planet:

"Slang terms for home runs include: big fly, blast, bomb, circuit clout, dinger, ding-dong, dong, donger four-bagger, four-base knock, four-ply swat, funk blast, goner, gonzo, gopher ball, homer, jack, long ball, moonshot, quadruple, round-tripper, shot, slam, swat, tape-measure shot, tater, wallop, and yakerton." (Wikipedia)

If YAKERTON ever shows up in a puzzle, I'll be ready!

joho 8:50 AM  

I was tickled PINK by this puzzle. I guess PINK just makes me happy. Other than the bird, eraser and posy, I also see SWEETENER in a PINK packet.

Only hiccups were deSEX before UNSEX and bigSHOT before HOTSHOT.

Fun Thursday, thank you Raymond Young!

Bunny 9:04 AM  

I was also fooled by BIG v. HOT shot, and I jumped to "OMEN" instead of SIGN, which screwed me up in the SW. Otherwise, I also liked this Thurs.

Wade 9:27 AM  

Treedweller, damn straight on the pink thing! I wouldn't have remembered those in a thousand years. The flavor was a unique tart/sweet combo, the consistency was perfect, and the color was garish. If they still exist I'm sure they've screwed them up the way the screwed everything else up from when I was a kid, including the weather and the grasshoppers. Remember when yellow grasshoppers were really yellow? Not this dull brown mustard color they try to pass off as grasshoppers these days. There was also a chocolote pink thing at Six Flags, but it was brown.

ArtLvr 9:32 AM  

I'd have said Easy for a Thursday, except for the blankety-blank PING THINGS, which felled me!

I avoided traps otherwise, making sure I had a good cross before entering anything. The hidden words were going to be of different lengths, so CAR was as likely as CARNATION, and ERASER to me was a chalky felt thing for a blackboard. I never thought of a little rubber pencil tip!

PINK with embarrassment... getting all the tricky spots and missing the payoff.


Doug 9:36 AM  

Wasn't it great to get that new Pink Pearl ereaser on the first day of grade school? I felt so adult.

DeeJay 9:53 AM  

Agri-food? Isn't that redundant?

Elaine 10:02 AM  

@Treedweller and Wade
Is Food Porn allowed on this blog?

Anonymous 10:13 AM  

The SW drove me nearly to distraction. Dead stop. Finally, I gave in and googled for THAIS. From that I finally got HEAT, AGRI and INDO. The last to fall? TSHAPED. Grrrrrrrr.

retired_chemist 10:17 AM  

@ DeeJay - well, there's always game for a non-agri-food.

More challenging than medium here. Many of the same mistakes mentioned before: BOILING OIL, HOMER (TATER? Really?), and OMEN.

The SW was my big time sink. OMEN made me try ORFEO @ 43D, making 56A EURO-Aryan, and leaving O???PED for 43A. eventually decided that was T-SHAPED, so the opera must be..... TOSCA. (Hey, I know the names but not much else about operas.) By now I was so confused that I erased the whole corner. Decided that T-SHAPED was the most trustworthy, put it back, and saw HEAT @ 49A. Aha - THAIS! then SIGN, INDO, and AGRI, and BINGO!

Wanted RUSTY for the cowpoke @ 48D - easily fixed in the editing.

The puzzle basically cleaned my clock but I enjoyed the beating.

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

Missed opportunity for a good Super Bowl-related clue at 29-down, such as: Saints slogan: Who ___?

Not sure how familiar the general population is with WHODAT but here in New Orleans you hear it about 50 times a day.

OldCarFudd 10:18 AM  

Fun puzzle, not hard. I also had the K in PINKTHINGS as the last entry, so the theme was wasted on me - not that it mattered. Too long with boiling oil - don't boiling things scald, and flaming things scorch? - but that was my only writeover.

@CoolPapaD - I don't EVER want to see ANY of those home run names in a puzzle!

BTW, has anyone tried the new gimmick puzzles in the Saturday WSJ? A week ago there was a cryptic with an added gimmick. I love cryptics, but this one was miles beyond my abilities. And this Saturday's puzzle looked easy, but I can't get to first base with it, let alone a TATER. WSJ's big Friday crosswords are pretty straightforward, but these new things are for Wall Street types who designed derivative investments and then needed a new challenge.

dk 10:21 AM  

@doug you may wish to use your Pink Pearl on yur spilling uf eraser :):) Speaking of spelling:

Threecpo, as you might imagine, thwarted my annexation of Texas. Ended the fill with 3CPO and cINKTHINGS and a WTF expression. I never get the themes so the concealed words were no help.

My lack of iconic Sci-Fi knowledge aside, this is a great puzzle. FLAMINGOIL, THIRDHAND, etc all wonderful fresh fill. Got the opera with crosses as THAIS is a new one on me.

Definition of NERDY: I have opined on Fear and Loathing in past posts, suffice to say it reminds me of a Grad School trip, following my oral defense, to Las Vegas. Played blackjack (after practicing with a computer simulator for several months) for 4+ hours with my fly unzipped. Fortunately no PINKTHINGS were exposed. I took it as a SIGN and quit while I was up... err ahead..... winning.

**** (4 Stars) Thank you Raymond C. Young. - Great name for a pulp fiction author BTW.

HudsonHawk 10:25 AM  

Hand up for DESEX before UNSEX. Otherwise, an unusually smooth Thursday for me. I will be interested in sanfranman's data.

I can't believe how easy it's been to find a connection to the Phantom Menace for six consecutive days. I also can't believe I'm going to end up watching all 70 minutes of the review. Funny stuff.

des 10:39 AM  

Usually finding the theme early helps me with the puzzle. Not today - no matter that I had PINKTHINGS, QUESERASERA would just not fall. I only remember the number 2 pencils (no pink on them), and there were no separate pink erasers around my house when I was growing up. UGH

Van55 10:39 AM  

I too had BOILINGOIL and HOMERS at first. Misspelled ORREN. Rocky start! D

Did not like the SW a bit where SIGN and SEGNI cross and where THAIS was totally unfamiliar to me.

Nice puzzle overall, though.

Two Ponies 10:49 AM  

Solid Thursday for me.
Zooid is a great word eps. with an android in the same puzzle.
Boiling oil also seems more in the language to me but I still liked this one.
I don't know what these type of answers are called but having "hard G" and "T-shaped" in the same corner would have been tough for me a couple of years ago.
Fresh clues for lait, etna, esso, and ion were a nice touch.
I always hated having to use that fresh Pink Pearl for the first time. It went from perfect to ugly too quickly.
My WV seems to Italian: pessima.

JMorgie 10:57 AM  

More stupid than challenging? a gun is *not* heat -- a gun is a heater. packing heat means carrying weapons. sheeesh. and kosher is not legit. nor is it legal. closer in meaning to 'fit' as in fit to be eaten, in shape etc. and bead to get sweat to get pore? and pink ersaser was weakest of all. Yeeccchhhh

porterse 10:58 AM  

Exactly how much of a sadistic dick do you have to be to actually set the oil on fire before you dump it on your foes? I mean, it's already about 500 degrees F, so are the flames really necessary? All it does is add one or two seconds where the poor guys see it coming and know they're doomed rather than hoping it's only luke warm oil. Seems just mean

slypett 11:02 AM  

If I had one word to say and two words to express it, it would be OGRE

Bob Kerfuffle 11:05 AM  

A good, medium puzzle, which I ultimately hated.

No problem with falling for the HOMER/TATER trap, a standard write-over.

But having a double Natick on the theme answer really turns me off. Finished with MCGEE instead of MCKEE (sorry, never heard of her) and worse, THREEPIO is an informal name for 3CPO??? (If that is in one of the Star Wars commentary clips, please give me a time code so I don't have to watch the whole @#$% thing!)

SethG 11:09 AM  

What is up with "What's up wit DAT?"? Who says that? "What up", maybe, or perhaps "Waz up" or "Wassup". But "What's"? No.

Tried xxxxxBIRDS with FLAMINGO. Caught the pink with CARNATION, but they're both colors so I tried a bunch of color stuff. COLORS. TINCTS. TINGES. I also had FRANCISCO for a while, then ASCH for a long time for ASIA, RUSTY instead of DUSTY, other stuff. Ugh.

This felt average for me. For a Saturday.

retired_chemist 11:12 AM  

@ JMorgie -

As I do not remember your screen name I am assuming you are rather new to this blog.

I understand your irritation. But the clues you complain about are typical, and you will deal with their like numerous times. It's not about exact definitions all the time. Sometimes the clue is just an evocation. Crossworld at this level is like that.

Stan 11:17 AM  

Could. Not. Finish. Southwest...

Made everyone else's mistakes plus a few of my own (e.g., PUNT for PUTT and WHISPERED gossip).

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

Same write overs as everyone has has mentioned, particularly desex. I wrote AIDA down, then realized I was a letter short- THAIS was my next thought.

"The Meditation" from THAIS is an incredibly beautiful piece of music. Check it out:

@SethG- my kids talk like dat :)
@CoolPapaD- I hope 29A didn't give you problems

Mike Lewis 11:45 AM  

I'd call this one Easy-Medium, since I flew through everything except the SW. Ran into a brick wall down there, and ended up having to google THAIS. Other than that, my time came out more Tuesday-ish.

I did fall for the HOMER trap, as well as OMEN instead of SIGN.

Did this one after three beers. Maybe Boulevard is the key to success?

chefbea 11:46 AM  

Thought this was very challenging. Had to google a lot and finally come here cuz I couldn't get the SW.

Hand up for homer. Never heard of tater (except for the ones we eat)

We are a two Saturn family - I drive the ION.

fikink 11:58 AM  

@Rex: Had the same thinking re: "a gun," but instead of thinking AGAT, I thought it was a new way to clue AROD. The only longer word for a gun that I could think of was "piece."
@Bard, thanks for the citations! It is so nice to read things in context.
@Two Ponies,@CoolPapaD: me, too, on BOILING OIL - I never remember the oil being on fire, the arrows were for sure, but the oil?
@Amie, I stuck to OMEN for too long, too.
@Wade, our grasshoppers are kinda mustard-colored up here.
Also, thought the "pink" thing in QUESERASERA was sera, but my dictionary describes it as amber-colored.

So where was PINK FLOYD?

Jon88 12:10 PM  

Random House Unabridged, under "heat": 17. Slang: armed protection, esp. a pistol, revolver, or other firearm: "All guards carry some heat."

Bob Kerfuffle 12:12 PM  

@tptsteve - Thank you for posting the link to the Meditation from THAIS. The music calmed me down enough to realize I had spelled the Star Wars name wrong, and go to Wikipedia to find that indeed,

C-3PO is sometimes called Threepio for short.

CoolPapaD 12:14 PM  

@ tptsteve - Interesting... I had DISKS first, and it did cost me a few minutes until I got enough of INCARNATION to change it. The DISC vs DISK discussion was here a few weeks ago!

Tell the truth - had you really heard of THAIS before, or is that link the result of post-puzzle Googling??!

Anonymous 12:15 PM  


American Heritage Dictionary:

kosher: slang; legitimate

imsdave 12:16 PM  

Definitely challenging for me. I had all of Rex's first thoughts, and the SW took forever until I came up with the HARDG.

"Not go for a drive?' seems to expect that you're looking for an alternative. I don't see that as a good clue for PUTT. Hmmm, Steve, what do you think I should hit here, the driver or the putter?

Pretty nice puzzle overall.

Anonymous 12:26 PM  

@CoolPapaD- Knew it. Performed the Meditation about 6 or 7 years ago, which was my first exposure to the work. Have listened to various recordings since, and listened to a Met broadcast a few years back.

lit.doc 12:28 PM  

Tater? TATER?! OK, so I don’t know everything yet. And today’s lesson took 62:26. But I passed. C minus. Did I say “tater”?

Me too re all the potholes Rex figured we’d step in. And then some. Thinking “reference books”, ended with INDEXES. “ZOOIS?”, you may ask. Hey, I was ready to believe anything by then. At least I could imagine a word kinda like “zoo’ish”. But ZOOID? Sometimes actually being a word is no excuse. And does anyone say 3PO without the C? (With my luck, it’ll turn out that Luke called him that in the original movie which I’ve only seen a gazillion times.)

And if anyone else has gotten through Peter Gordon’s “Attach√© Cases”, please help me out with the 27D/44A cross. Have the right letters, but not the meaning.

Ulrich 12:29 PM  

@tptsteve: Thx from me, too--when I look at the sidebar in YouTube, it appears that the meditation is a showpiece for violinists.

Anyway, this is one of the rare occasions when I like the puzzle less than about everybody else--I solved it w/o big problems, but that is not enough for a Thursday in my book--I share all of Rex's objections to the execution of the theme--I can only say I expect more sparkle, or something quirkier or more inspired on that day--or maybe I just hate pink, especially on carnations.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 12:36 PM  

Just gonna it out there, I always thought that XTC song was about Andy Partridge's penis.

william e emba 12:42 PM  

I found finishing this puzzle challenging at a Saturday level. Yet I did not fall for any of the traps other people mentioned. Usually I just had blanks that I couldn't fill. For example, by the time I finally remembered what a four-bagger was, I was already looking at -ATER. I thought briefly it might be yet another synonym for OATER. I did have Fast-food industry, but I saw that did not look good on top of INDO-Aryan, and I gave it up when I got the Horus clue down. One break and some reaching and I finished it.

I like having DAT on the left and TAD on the right.

I don't like the ZOOID clue "Animal-like". Not one bit. The truth is, ZOOID is only a noun, used to prefer to cells of a higher animal capable of some independent existence, or to early stages in an animal's development, or to individual parts of a colonial animal. The idea that it is an adjective is that rare thing, an invention of dictionaries. The OED lists this meaning, and does not give a single citation, simply saying it has recently appeared in dictionaries.

PlantieBea 12:42 PM  

A tough Thursday for me. TATER? What the hay? I finally got the SW on my own, but could not get QUIZ and QUE SERA SERA entered/parsed in the NE for the life of me. I had WILD THINGS entered for the theme for a bit. CARNATIONS are hardly wild, though. Hand up for DESEX.

It seems to me that flame heated oil that's boiling/smoking would be likely to flash into flames.

Dough 12:43 PM  

Nice Puzzle! Glad 54-A was an explanation of the theme because the only other way to clue "PINK THINGS" has something to do with annoying dogs and my pant leg!

lit.doc 12:45 PM  

A bunch of new posts since I started keying mine (students soooo interfere with the important stuff).

Relieved to see it wasn't just me struggling in SW. If I hadn't already known THAIS I'd probably have ended up with nothing but a pink thing concealed down there.

mac 12:49 PM  

Medium-challenging for me, too. After finding the flamingo, I thought 54A would bit "bird things". Of course I had to get tater throught the crossings. I lucked out thinking of that hard-g and indo, that really sped up the SW. On to the next puzzle, I'm in training....

Karen from the Cape 12:55 PM  

I think the ERASER answer seemed to not fit the theme for me, because I will compare things as pink as a FLAMINGO or a CARNATION, but somehow I never think 'that shade looks just like an eraser'.

I always see it referred to as boiling oil too, not flaming oil. Looking at the google hits, boiling oil pulls up a lot of food hits, flaming oil a lot of D&D and WOW gamers. Add the term castle, for boiling oil you see the term we're all thinking of, with flaming you see arrows, more gamers, and the xword blogs.

As I am quite a sf geek it amuses me to see so many people having trouble with THREEPIO's name. That's been canonical since the first novelizations. You can also call him See-Threepio or C3PO (just like you say Artoo, Artoo-Detoo, or R2D2). Next you will be telling me you don't know what Klaatu Barada Nikto means :)

HudsonHawk 1:12 PM  

@BEQ, you are not alone regarding PINK THING.

deerfencer 1:23 PM  

I'm with emba and others and found many of these clues and/or answers just plain poor, especially ZOOID, AGRI, UNSEX, the latter which I doubt has ever been used in real speech or writing. There's a line here between clever and clumsy cluing that RC Young crosses several times and I'm surprised Shortz let these dogs by.

Otherwise I thought it a decent puzzle. Knew TATER but somehow ended up with RINGTHINGS. Agree ERASER is lame. IMO this puzzle needed more editing.

edith b 1:24 PM  

I did fine on this one due to guessing correctly on all the trouble spots on the first pass. I had INITIALED at 8d which took Homer out of the picture.

Best of all was knowing THAIS that allowed me to evade all the traps in the SW.

My father was fond of the saying "Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you." Today it was my turn to get the bear.

Other days, not so much.

kevin der 1:26 PM  

thought this was moderate difficulty for a thursday. kind of an open grid with those four long down entries in the middle. TWADDLING really threw me off. i've never heard of it. THIRDHAND is kind of a weird entry to see too.

really liked the clue for FLAMING OIL.

can someone explain why being "Square" is being NERDY? they don't seem to jibe for me.

MikeM 1:44 PM  

Stared at the crucifix clue way too long for a former altar boy.

Also, could not parse "eraser" correctly and thought sera, being blood related, was too red to fit the theme.

TATER is common baseballese for anyone who played highschool ball.

SW was a killer, had fast-food for awhile and then thai-food.

I would put this at a Friday difficulty athough I finished w/o googling. Cheers...

miguel 1:48 PM  

I see another of the icons of my youth has died. Perhaps he is now able to be a Catcher in the Rye.

Anonymous 2:03 PM  

SEGNI: so you can stick any foreign word in a puzzle now? I thought it was limited to basic travel vocab, Latin phrases, Hebrew months, music notation, and the occasional word you might have picked up from Hogan's Heroes or Speedy Gonzalez.

I guess this would be a valid clue: "Lilac, to Luigi."

That SW corner looks like it was constructed by a computer: THAIS, AGRI, INDO, SEGNI: the weak spot in an otherwise elegant puzzle.

lit.doc 2:05 PM  

@Karen from the Cape, that's an easy one. Klaatu barada nikto is what the protagonist in "Army of Darkness" has to recite to safely retrieve the Necronomicon. ;)

fikink 2:23 PM  

@Kevin Der Kluge!
I agree NERDY is not square. I had UNHIP for square for a while.

@Karen, I cannot hear those words without seeing Michael Rennie. Did anybody like the remake better?
I can't imagine it.

william e emba 2:24 PM  

I should clarify that I did not find "Animal-like" a poor clue for ZOOID. It is, after all, in the dictionary. I'm just saying this meaning ought to be eliminated from the language, since it is a completely artificial dictionary creation. Will Shortz has aligned himself with the Dark Side here, tut tut, is all.

Anonymous's objection is correct in principle, but SEGNI gets a pass. It's singular "segno" is music notation (the repetition sign, or part of the phrase "dal segno" or "al segno").

chefwen 2:33 PM  

Yup, fell into all the traps as well. Husband helped me out with TATER, a term he remembered from his baseball loving youth. Had fits and starts with THREEPIO and Googled THAIS as a few others did. But after that it was smooth sailing and unlike a lot of y'all, I really loved this one. Felt just right for a Thursday.

jae 2:37 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 2:38 PM  

Hand up fo DESEX and OMEN. Medium-challenging for me also. Didn't know THAIS and it took me too long to get rid of OMEN so I was stuck in SW for a while. I thought it was an OK puzzle but I agree with most of the objections to the cluing, especially in SW.

sanfranman59 2:46 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 22:15, 19:31, 1.14, 84%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 10:22, 9:24, 1.10, 80%, Challenging

At the end of the day, this puzzle will wind up in the Medium-Challenging category for the top 100 solvers and will probably remain in the Challenging category for all solvers.

Bill from NJ 3:03 PM  

I'm glad to see Karen from the Cape pointing out the various ways one can express the robot's names. Although I had never seen C3PO's name spelled the way it is spelled in this puzzle, it was easy enough to infer if you have an open mind about spelling and have an idea what VAR is trying to express as regards these puzzles even if the term variant is not present.

As someone pointed out last week, sometimes you just have to see words as little abstract word puzzles. It's good advise if you want to do well on crossword puzzles.

Keeping strict definitions of words will prove problematic if you let them, as retired_chemist pointed out this morning.

Elaine 3:08 PM  

@fifink, Kevin Der
Persons of a certain age remember when "a square" was the descriptor for students who, say, wore pocket protectors and had leather-cased slide rules on their belts. Every generation has to come up with its own word: NERD. (Square could be the noun or the adjective; NERD is not quite so versatile, and requires the -Y.)

shamet is my captcha... opera-related?

You betcha we knew THAIS!
Saturdays on NPR used to feature (may still, in fact) The Texaco Star Opera series--very week, an entire opera, with the story explained act by act. (They even broadcast The Met's opera competition.) It was a wonderful accompaniment to, say, painting your crummy grad school digs, baking bread, or typing other people's papers for pay. (Does that sound square?)

Jim in Chicago 3:20 PM  

The "k" was the last letter I filled as well, and it still took me forever to find "eraser" in the middle of Queserasera.

Speaking of which, I had xxESE.... and thought of "these things happen", which made me go off in search of a rebus that didn't exist.

I have never heard the term tater before in my life.

Is there any bank left in the world that still uses passbooks? I last remember seeing one about 25 years ago and I'm sure there's an entire generation who wouldn't know what one is.

andrea itsme michaels 3:36 PM  

Except the tater thing which I got but didn't understand, otherwise word for word what Rex experienced.

Actually this puzzle sort of irritated me. I didn't like to start out with SOFAS/SOFIA and didn;t like the SEGNI/SIGN...
and it took longer for me to parse what was hidden in QUESERASERA than it did to solve the entire puzzle, so in that sense PINKTHINGS helped me...

Tho I agree it's not a phrase and it might have been better if the "reveal" was some pink phrase, like "INTHEPINK" or THINKPINK or DIRTYROTTENPINKO or something!
I still wish puzzles were titled bec then you wouldn't have to put the punchline IN the puzzle...but PINKTHINGS would never even pass muster for a title of a puzzle.
Hmmm, I'm trying to even think of something I liked about the puzzle....
I did laugh at @poterse's post, (tho I'm not entirely sure if it was meant as a joke or not!)

My mom always leaves a message saying "itsme" in a singsongy voice that is not really hers or its the voice she sort of uses when her beau is around while she's calling me. Not sure what's that's about.

Not to be too negative, but I still can't stand those "letteral" type clues/answers...tho glad Rex has put a name to it... I fight with my collaborators about them all the time. Hard G. Ick. It just seems so desperate somehow. (Not that I'm NOT desperate, I just don't want to SEEM that way!)

fikink 3:36 PM  

@Elaine, I go with Maynard G. Krebs. Square is the opposite of hip; those not "with it."

Nerds, OTOH and especially today, are more often people who are single-mindedly expert in a certain field or pursuit, a "geek."
(Think of Best Buy's Geek Squad.)
Crossword puzzle people can be NERDY, but are not necessarily square.
Think BEQ here. I believe he even calls himself a hipster.

(btw, it's Fik Ink)


fergus 3:39 PM  

Found this really easy, until it wasn't. Suspicious of my speed in filling in most of the grid, sensing that I'd been had in some fashion. SW was no good; even though I got it right it was still WTF.

dk 3:54 PM  

@elaine. The Texaco Star Opera Hour was on at 2PM on Sundays throughout most of the East Coast. We have reruns on midweek NPR shows on the news channel. I will check the classical channel. Minnesota Public Radio has become the Wal-Mart of public radio so we have ATON of choices.

I was hoping for andrea FLAMINGOIL michaels.

@karen, I do not know what Klaatu Barada Nikto means, but it sounds scary.

TWADDLE on dudes & dudettes

porterse 4:03 PM  

@Andrea FLAMINGOIL Michaels - After the FLAMINGOIL vs BOILINGOIL issue has been raised a half dozen times, there's only so many ways to register ones aversion to the choice. Don't know if it could be categorized as a joke, but was meant to elicit a wry chuckle at least.

Anonymous 4:05 PM  

I agree with what everyone says about FLAMING OIL. It's a WOW term and is not in any reference book pertaining to castle defenses.
BOILING OIL is the proper term.

imsdave 4:11 PM  

I can't read these damn verifiers, even with my glasses - thank goodness they change everytime you fail at one.

Klaatu barada nikto got me searching - though I've seen the movie many many times, I just assumed it meant: 'Klaatu says don't kill the girl, come retrieve and revive my lifeless body, and no drinking until I am revived".

Internet searches seem to reveal that no one knows what it means. Some great posts about it if you poke around though.

Anonymous 4:13 PM  

I'm w @retired_chemist, @imsdave, @chefbea..a number of others..plenty challenging for me and ultimately not finished, esp in NE; don't get HARDG in SW; theme strikes me as too clever by half..definitely had to google Egypt myth, Roman emperor etc which discourages me BUT did enjoy learning new words eg ZOOID, TESRY (bathhouse wear? don't get it)...don't "get" TATER

Lincoln's secretaries, who adored him, referred to the President as "The ANCIENT," meaning they believed he had the wisdom of all the ages

Pet peeve: DAT: "What's up wit ___?" Nasty stuff
\Phew. Glad this one's over
@Rex: super write-up today; thanks. Agree w theme criticism

Zeke 4:19 PM  

@Anon 4:13 TERRY, not TESRY, as in terry cloth, is bathhouse wear.

chefbea 4:23 PM  

@anon 4:13 Bath wear is terry as in terry cloth robe

andrea pinkie michaels 4:49 PM  

By the way, for those of you in Northern California, there is a SIlicon Valley Puzzle weekend...

Sorry for the late notice.

Byron Walden, Tyler Hinman and I will be giving free workshops etc. and it's always fun and for a good cause, the Morgan Hill Library.
Sudoku and crossword mini-tourney.

Sorry for the late/half-buried notice, but here is the info:

Glitch 6:02 PM  

@Jim in Chi ...

Yes Passbook acounts still exist at many banks. My octagenarian Mom wouldn't have it any other way --- she even has a "passbook" CD account.


Rube 8:20 PM  

I'm one of those who didn't know that THAIS was written in 1896. A few months ago I believe we had hetaera (concubine/ courtesan) as a Xwd answer. Googled hetaera at the time and saw THAIS as the example. FIWI and FYI, THAIS was the concubine of Ptolemy I, not a myth.

Did anyone notice that RtwoDtwo (1st choice) and CThreePO (2nd choice) are the same length as THREEPIO (last choice).

I still have my PinkPearl from grade school, it's more than 50 yrs old, but still works.

SNL watchers will know "What's up wit DAT" form Kennan Thompson skits where he "interviews" some personality. He pronounces it more like "What up wi dat". For some reaon, NBC sanitizes it and calls it "What up with that".

@karen from the cape, since I don't think that anyone has answered your question correctly. "Klaatu barado nicto" was what Gort was told after his master, Klaatu, dies while in protective custody. It means that Klaatu has been read his Miranda rights in the Faroffian language, and that everything is OK. Just ignore @lit.doc, he's living in some parallel universe.

What I found confusing was that, despite the theme of this puzzle, there was only one pink clue/answer, Lonette MCKEE. (I think I've previously mentioned that in our household pink refers to any obscure fact from stage, movies, Oscars, current light lit., etc. that may be asked or known, as from the Arts and Entertainment, i.e. pink questions in Trivial Pursuit). Thus, and since I solved without Googles, I give this puzz an "A".

@Anon 2:03 - Methinks from your acerbic remarks that we've heard from you earlier this week. Among other things, get a name - they're free - so the regulars on this site will know who to pillory.

ArtLvr 8:50 PM  

I am very very upset, not being able to access cruciverb.com all day. When I went to the Ephraim website I got the NYT and the CS and the JZ okay — but the LAT was still inaccesible, “forbidden on your server”… though it’s the same one I’ve always used! What gives? Does anyone have any suggestions? Where else can I get all my puzzles?

Help! ∑;(

michael 8:58 PM  

well, I seem to have fallen into every common trap --homer, boiling oil, desex, big shot... Eventually fixed them, but still missed thais/segni (had t-ais/signi) and pinkthings (the theme!) -- had -in-things. Not one of my better days, but still an enjoyable puzzle.

I couldn't figure out what eraser, carnation, and flamingo had in common!

Anonymous 8:59 PM  

I thought it was hiding dynasties at first - Ming, Inca--hadn't solve 10D yet.

mee 9:41 PM  

This video is getting around for another reason as you will see, but I had no clue how to pronounce Natick, but this wasn't my first guess...last sentence in the clip.


Clark 10:56 PM  

This was hard! Ok. Where is everybody. Doing Friday already. T-SHAPED and HARD G did me in. I actually think letteral clues are very cool, but I do still have trouble getting them.

C-3PO is called THREEPIO fairly often in the Star Wars movies. I have in my hands a version of the script of Star Wars -- don't ask -- (Revised Fourth Draft, March 15, 1976), when it was called "The Adventures of Luke Starkiller." On page one C-3PO is introduced in the 'Action' like this: "An explosion rocks the ship as two robots, ARTOO DETOO (R2-D2) and SEE THREEPIO (C-3PO) struggle to make their way through the shaking bouncing passageway. . . . " The 'Character Name' in the formatting of the script is 'THREEPIO'. I know everyone was dying to know this.

sanfranman59 11:19 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 7:18, 6:55, 1.06, 69%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 7:21, 8:45, 0.84, 12%, Easy
Wed 11:24, 12:00, 0.95, 38%, Easy-Medium
Thu 22:15, 19:31, 1.14, 84%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:49, 3:40, 1.04, 70%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 3:48, 4:28, 0.85, 15%, Easy
Wed 5:29, 5:54, 0.93, 33%, Easy-Medium
Thu 9:50, 9:23, 1.05, 72%, Medium-Challenging

slypett 11:30 PM  

Fikink: Rennie rules! I didn't even consider going to see the no-boubt overblown remake.

lit.doc 1:29 AM  

@Rube, LOL forwarded from said parallel universe.

PIX 8:59 AM  

Fully agree with Bob Kerfuffle when he said: "But having a double Natick on the theme answer really turns me off." Took the words right out of my mouth. Hard to believe but there is intelligent life on this planet that does not give a damn about Star Wars.

Joe 10:40 AM  

HATED this.
I hate when the constructor tries to be too clever.
That, I think, is the bane of all puzzle makers/solvers.
DON'T try to be TOO CLEVER.

For example, the clue for PUTT could have easily resulted in PUNT or BUNT.

Ben 9:46 PM  

@Rex @BEQ (though given my tardiness only Rex and syndication solvers are likely to see this), I believe Andy Partridge wrote the song "Pink Thing" as one big double entendre. I.e., it was officially written as (and thus defensible as) an open letter to his newborn baby, but could also be interpreted more archly as Andy talking to his, well, pink thing. All of the lyrics are consistent with either interpretation.

I love "Oranges and Lemons," a true pop masterpiece. Its cardboard CD long case from bygone retail days still decorates my living room.

Anonymous 3:47 PM  

@all, there's a great episode of Cheers where Sam takes Robin Colcord to some charity dinner where Carl 'Yaz' Yazstermski will be attending... In the limo ride, he explains the various slang terms for home runs, and tater is used quite a bit. Rebecca was obviously miffed by Sam's presence...

Waxy in Montreal 5:58 PM  

From Synd-city:
What an odd Thursday. Thought it was the easiest I'd ever solved - almost Mondaylike - until encountering the SW which absolutely stymied me. Didn't know THAIS or SEGNI and T-SHAPED just wouldn't emerge.
BTW, TATER so belongs to the '50s or '60s in baseball parlance. That's what Aaron & Maris hit. These days hitters "GO YARD" when they connect for a four-bagger.

Anonymous 7:31 PM  

Been a baseball fan for more years than I care to admit, but never heard a homer called a "tater".

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