1983 Gary Busey comedy / THU 1-21-10 / Authoritarian Spanish leader / 50 mythical sea nymphs / Brevipennate bird / British character in Zorro

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: CUTS CORNERS (36A: What this puzzle's theme does?) — Corners of the puzzle act as rebus squares representing the word "NOTHING." In the print version of the puzzle, there are no black squares in the corners — the corners are simply not there (i.e. cut out, hence CUTS CORNERS). Click here for an image of the grid as it appears in the paper.

Word of the Day: CAUDILLO (36D: Authoritarian Spanish leader)

caudillo (kôdēl'yō Span. kouTHē'), [Span.,= military strongman], type of South American political leader that arose with the 19th-century wars of independence. The first caudillos were often generals who, leading private armies, used their military might to achieve power in the newly independent states. Many were large landowners (hacendados) who sought to advance their private interests. They had in common military skill and a personal magnetism capable of commanding the allegiance of the masses. Caudillos were not associated with particular ideologies or political philosophies. Although they often began their career by opposing the oligarchy, they almost invariably became oligarchs and rarely upset the existing social order. In power, their authority was largely unchecked. Caudillos, or caudilhos in Portuguese-speaking Brazil, left their mark on the histories of all South American nations. Well-known caudillos were Juan Manuel de Rosas and Juan Facundo Quiroga in Argentina, Gabriel García Moreno in Ecuador, Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana and Porfirio Díaz in Mexico, and Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina in the Dominican Republic. In Spain, General Francisco Franco gave himself the title of el Caudillo, using the term literally without its disparaging connotations. (Columbia Encyclopedia)
• • •

I received a heads-up about this puzzle's unusual format (and format disparity between the print and online versions) yesterday from Jim Horne at NYT's "Wordplay" blog, but didn't know what exactly his message said because it was prefaced with so many "spoiler alerts!" that I didn't read it until after I'd finished solving the puzzle the way I do every puzzle — on screen using Black Ink software (most people who solve on-screen, or print out the puzzle from their computers, use Across Lite). Once I'd finished the puzzle, I knew immediately what the print version would look like — the NOTHING in the corners would be quite literal: emptiness, with those squares CUT out as the central theme answers suggests. I had absolutely no trouble picking up the gimmick even with black squares (instead of emptiness) in my corners, and breezed through this in better-than-average time. Noodled around in the NW until AGAMEMNON broke that corner open (16A: Major role in "Troy") — couldn't do much with PERSONAL, but when FANCY ended up meaning the *opposite* of its clue (13D: Free of bells and whistles), I knew that corner was supposed to represent a word — NOT? ... no, NOTHING. Got it. I then immediately filled out the entire perimeter of the puzzle, moving clockwise, without stopping once and without requiring any crosses. When you know NOTHING is in the corner, those edge answers are a piece of cake. would have rated the puzzle "Easy," but CAUDILLO was a complete unknown to me in the SW, TAMARIN felt the same way in the NE (12D: Rain forest monkey) (though I think I've seen it before), and SORENSEN (20D: Author of the 1965 biography "Kennedy") and SLOVENS (!?) (49A: Hardly fops) made me work for the middle. Still just over 6 minutes. I'm guessing this will be one of those puzzle where the difficulty level has *everything* to do with how quickly you pick up the rebus. Once you've got it, the puzzle is easy (for a Thursday). But getting it could have proved tricky for some.

Verdict: this puzzle is conceptually ingenious, as most of Liz Gorski's puzzles are. I love how the central answer is a play on words that actually affects the shape of the grid *and* creates a rebus puzzle. It's brilliant. The non-theme fill is much clunkier than usual for a Gorski puzzle (see IS A crossing ALL OR (!), a plural of R.E.M. (which I've ever seen), and EER followed by ERE on top of ERRANT, yikes...), but the infelicities are quite forgivable. When I say that your crap fill had better get you something good, had better be worth it ... this is what I mean. I will accept a certain amount of iffiness if overall brilliance *and* an enjoyable solving experience are the result.


Theme answers:
  • 1A: "Don't take offense at that" — [nothing] PERSONAL
  • 9A: Was free — COST [nothing]
  • 15D: "Swish!" — [nothing] BUT NET
  • 47D: Betting option — ALL OR [nothing]
  • 65A: Daring person's cry — HERE GOES [nothing]!
  • 64A: Loan lure, maybe — [nothing] DOWN
  • 38D: A nominal fee — NEXT TO [nothing]
  • 13D: Free of bells and whistles — [nothing] FANCY
Even though CAUDILLO and TAMARIN were complete and virtual unknowns, respectively, my toughest time came in the center of this grid, at the SLOVENS / SORENSEN nexus. Had TOILE for VOILE (which I will now add to my "Oh, yeah, that fabric, sounds kind of French" list) (50D: Wedding dress fabric). So I was looking at SLOT--S for a while. Guessed SORENSEN off the "SOR" despite not having any idea how he is, but I kept taking him out, precisely because he was a guess, and since SLOVENS wouldn't reveal itself, I figured maybe SORENSEN was wrong. Simple change of "T" to "V" fixed things, but that change took a while to happen.

  • 14A: 1983 Gary Busey comedy ("D.C. Cab") — I know that Mr. T was in that movie. I know that Tony Danza was in that movie (wait ... he was in "Taxi" ... am I confusing things? ... yes. Yes I am). Anyway, I had no idea Busey was in that movie. I never saw it.

  • 17A: Performer in a seven-million-gallon tank (Shamu) — that's a lot of gallons.
  • 22A: Stick on a pub wall (cue) — nice clue. Wanted DART.
  • 41A: Brevipennate bird (Mac)*
  • 44A: British character in "Zorro" (zed) — liked that one a lot.
  • 55A: Brand at a checkout counter that's also the name of a Phoenix radio stations (KOOL) — "at a checkout counter" did virtually nothing for me in terms of narrowing things down. There's all kinds of crap at my grocery's checkout counters (cigarettes are not one of them). Still, I admire the audacious long-windedness of this clue for some reason.
  • 26D: 50 mythical sea nymphs (Nereids) — I often confuse my OREADS and NEREIDS and DRYADS ... not today.
  • 46D: Opera house attire (stoles) — if you are wealthy dowager from the 1920s, sure. Do people still wear STOLES to the opera, and if so, do other people not point and laugh and ask if they're filming a movie? "Hey, you know what goes well with Puccini? Carcass!"

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

*No, I'm not serious. I know the answer is EMU ... long story.


Anonymous 8:20 AM  

My fastest thursday ever. Got the rebus at nothing but net. Second thing in the grid was limejello. Great puzzle Ms Gorski. Golfballman.

nanpilla 8:23 AM  

Thanks for the heads up last night, Rex, it made the solving a lot more fun. The V in SLOVENS was my last fill, after I took out the T. I can never keep Toile, Voile, and Tulle straight. I kept trying to figure out if there was some other way to spell slattern or some such word, stubbornly sticking to the T until the very last. Overall, felt very easy, but I got the theme almost right away. Spelling NEREIDS always proves to be a challenge for me, so a little erasing going on there. That's what I love about crosswords, you always have crosses to check on lousing spelling. I was playing scrabble with my daughter the other night, and it was frustrating - no cute phrases, no fun slang, and I had to know how to spell the word the first time!

joho 8:40 AM  

The first thing I noticed upon printing out this puzzle were the oddly placed black squares in the corners. Had I seen the version with the corners cut out, totally missing, I think I would have seen the rebus "nothing" sooner. When I see Gorski at the top I know something is up. Oh, how I love Elizabeth's puzzles!

I had mOIre for VOILE for a bit. The last letter to go in was the "I" in CAUDILLO especially because TRIS was new to me, too.

I love rebus puzzles and because Ms. Gorski's are undoubtably the best ... this was just a perfect Thursday for me. It was (missing corner) but fun!

dk 8:48 AM  

41A fill & post -- Way to beat the MAC/EMU thing into the dust -- LOL

Had nones and nots in the corners till I realized it was nothing.

The only LOO I know of that charges a going rate are those often broken green things like the one next to the Coit Tower in SF. LOO's in the UK are free... as I recall.

Could not figure out the monkey, had oring for OPTICS and VOILE came slowly. Was able to correct and made it across the finish line.

The rest was Steady Eddy fill. A great Thursday puzzle. What Rex said.

**** (4 Stars)

Elaine 9:01 AM  

As Rex predicted--a person who does not "see" the rebus right away has trouble. I thought I was looking for opposites of some kind.

I worked from the bottom, and SE went in so, so easily, beginning with LIME JELL-O that I thought I was going to fly through, as TAMARIN and SCAPULAS dropped into place. Wrong, wrong, wrong....

Very bumpy. Had STAGE for microscope part, knew seven Sinclair Lewis novels (but not his first,) and the SW was still blank even when everything else was filled in.

To cut short this sad story, I gave up and visited Amy Reynaldo's blog, where the corners were explained. Good grief. After those easy days leading in, this one was too tough for me. (sob)

Tinbeni 9:20 AM  

There's that EMU!!!

Not a fan of rebus puzzles, but the NE corner (finally) gave me NOTHING ... eight times.

Easy-Medium for Rex, Hard to me.

WOD CAUDILLO & NEREIDS both new (to me) and a few others.

First ever internet solve, with my Scotch companion.
I think in the future I'll SLEEP ON it, and go back to my pen & paper, in the morning.

Zeke 9:25 AM  

Loved the puzzle, had errors too complicated for me to bother to explain, and can't imagine that anyone would care about them anyway. The designed presentation would have been preferable to me however.

treedweller 9:30 AM  

Solidarity, Elaine! I did not give up, but I took a lo-o-ong time on this one because of missing NOTHING.

In addition to that, I had Enos for TRIS, SCAPULAe, and not much for TAMARIN and CAUDILLO. Oh, and tOILE. Even with most of the grid filled, I just kept looking for a rebus to stick into some of the white squares (even considered "nothing" once or twice, but not in the black corners till almost the end).

Of course, these are the ones that really feel good when you finally figure it out.

mitchs 9:39 AM  

DK, I was in Athens, Greece some years ago and they charged for TP at the the public toilet.

duaneu 9:43 AM  

Got the rebus and filled in the edges fairly easily, but still struggled a bit with the center section.

OHT 9:59 AM  

Loved the clue for lime jello. Thought it would have something to do with old cheese.

fikink 10:08 AM  

Rex, Nice, your use of "infelicities" in today's account.
Favorite clue was for CUE.
I never see cigarettes at the checkout counter anymore.
Speaking of STOLES, does anyone remember when monks' cowls were all the rage in the '70s? I think Squeaky Fromme had one.

@nanpilla - "slattern," another great word!

imsdave 10:10 AM  

Fail - missed the rebus (I think it would have worked well in the dead tree version).

First Thursday I can remember that I couldn't finish.

Head hung low.

Smitty 10:12 AM  

@Elaine, I didn't get it either so not easy.medium for me. I finally just threw letters at the squares and amazingly got only one letter wrong but didn't know why answers were right until I came here,

Favorite word of the day KOOL

foodie 10:13 AM  

What a lovely puzzle! It think it would have been significantly easier in print because missing corners would be more evident, but still not hard. But I got stuck in the NE-- DCCAB was unknown to me as was TAMARIN.

@Elaine, I too had STAGE for Microscope part for a while, and wondered how many nonscientists would get it. I don't love OPTIC in that spot, in the singular. I cannot recall ever saying we need to fix the OPTIC on this microscope, it would always be plural. No?

Dave in California 10:16 AM  

I like this, thought it was really clever. I knew SORENSEN rigth away, which made the center easier than for some. I had LIMEJELLO quickly from the crosses, but it wasn't until after the puzzke was complete that I "got" the double entendre. I wasn't sure about SLOVENS/VOILE/LOO until I checked Rex--it seemed a plausible stretch, but who charges for the Loo?--but it turned out to be right. Fun puzzle!

CoolPapaD 10:24 AM  

I love EGs puzzles, and I always expect a rebus. Had a booger of a time with this, though, even though the rebus was easy, and all of the themes answers came quickly. The clue for LIME JELLO was brilliant!

@Elaine - I couldn't get rid of STAGE for the longest time.

@treedweller - scapulae is the only plural I've ever heard.

I live in Phoenix, and I've never heard of KOOL, though the cigarettes always make me think of the George Carlin routine about Koolies cigarettes!

LETs DO IT killed me....

Do they really charge for a public toilet in England? Seriously.

Anonymous 10:27 AM  

Grocery stores are not the only stores with checkouts. If you visit convenience stores, 7-11 and the like, cigarettes are easy to find.

On a less than outstanding site posing as a 'local paper', a medical doctor wrote a column questioning his hospital's banning of all cigarette smoking on the grounds. Depriving the bereaved or about-to-be-bereaved of the comfort of their cigarette struck him as unnecessarily cruel. I wasn't convinced by his arguments, but it was an interesting column.

Noam D. Elkies 10:28 AM  

Thanks to ECG and WS for a neat reboid puzzle, and one of my fastest Thursdays ever — saw the missing corners, went straight to 36A:CUTSCORNERS, eventually worked my way down to the NE (with the great clue for 58A:LIMEJELLO :-), took a few seconds too long to figure out the theme, and then whizzed most of the way around the perimeter. That made the rest easy, despite local mysteries like the gratuitous 52A:TRIS (change that to TRIP and 64A to DONE to make 53/57D PLAN and SSE).

Didn't know 49A:SLOVEN either, but inferred it from the much more familiar "slovenly". m-w.com supplies the etymology "Middle English sloveyn slut, rascal, perhaps from Middle Dutch slof negligent"; the association is preserved in "slattern", and even "slut" itself according to m-w.com though that usage is marked "chiefly British".

Apropos "chiefly British", I also liked the clue for 44A:ZED — quite different from 48A:XED.


P.S. 15D:[NADA]BUTNET would mean something rather different to say Nadal...

OldCarFudd 10:29 AM  

I'm one of the 173 people left on the planet who still gets the NYT delivered to his doorstep, so I do the dead tree edition. This was a delight! Who says an easy puzzle can't be fun?

I did have a question, but I think I see the answer. I wondered why 36A, "What this puzzle's theme does?", was clued with a question mark. It does exactly that: it cuts the corners. I hadn't realized that the computer solvers would be looking at black squares, and would need the question mark to guide them to the existence of a rebus.

Two Ponies 10:40 AM  

Brilliant puzzle.
I'm a nature nut and knew tamarin with a few crosses.
Thinking the clue for 41A might mean "short-feathered" and having the initial E I considered EGG. Birds in the shell have Really short feathers. How funny that it was emu.
One nit for me was the clue for
23A and the use of till. I prefer the use of until or 'til. A till is where you put your moolah.
Caudillo is an interesting word. I thought it also meant a horse tail.
I love rebus puzzles!
These word verification thingies are sort of like a mini bonus puzzle. Mine is hortog today.

Elaine 10:40 AM  

I print out the AcrossLite version, so the squares were there. I doubt that cut-outs would have helped me.

@treedweller, smitty, foodie, coolpapaD and more:
Thanks, guys! I feel a bit better knowing I went down in good company. My hat is off to you who did soldier on and solve it all.

I will mention that for just a second I looked very suspiciously at the green mold. Aspic again???? but the E for EXE reassured.

I'll be interested to see SanFranMan's numbers when I check back tonight!

Carol Bland 10:41 AM  

Public LOOS cost a penny a go when I was young - I haven't needed to use one since the sixties, so I can't attest to their current charges.

slypett 10:43 AM  

Long days at the Bronx Zoo finally paid off! TAMARIN, if not a gimme, came leaping out of the jungle mist. Remembered CAUDILLO, perhaps from some in-the-mists Spanish class. Got AGAMEMNON off the G in PIGOUT, which was my first entry. Finished with two avoidable (had I only thought a little) errors.

Had a really fun time with this one. Thanks, Liz.

mccoll 10:47 AM  

I like Elizabeth Gorski's puzzles and this was no exception. I got the NW right away but couldn't gain any traction in the middle so I went to the SE where HEREGOES and ALLOR gave me the theme. But, like CoolPapaD i put in LETSDOIT and i just knew it was right! WA!WA! It isn't. It had to be LOO for the "going rate" though and when I entered that the dratted thing fell.
@Steve I really wanted Gorgonzola for green mold in the friddge.
Good one EG and thanks for the write-up RP.

PlantieBea 10:53 AM  

It took me forever to see the rebus in this puzzle; I thought it was an opposite puzzle too until almost the end. Ugh. Yes, it was much easier once the light came on, but not much fun while I was trying to find the switch. CAUDILLO and TAMARIN are new. I had to look up DC CAB; thought Lewis's character was OLD Mr. Wren for a while, and stuck with TOILE far too long.

Teehee.. EMU/MAC. Off to the corner to eat LIME JELLO.

David 11:12 AM  

When "for free" was apparently COST and then loan term was DOWN, it became apparent that I was missing something - i.e. NOTHING.

LETSROLL defied me for a bit: I wanted LETSDOIT.

And I thought TAMARIN was a fruit....

Ah but a Thursday that challenged without being defiant - very nice puzzle.

David 11:15 AM  

Oh and yes people wear STOLES to the opera still. I saw one or two here at the Washington National Opera but for some reason I remember the one that looked like little minks biting each other in a line.... Probably inherited from parents!

ArtLvr 11:20 AM  

Loopy but likable puzzle from Liz! I had a little trouble with it last night -- though not in getting the theme, which emerged after I gave up the idea of opposites like @Elaine.

The "going rate" clue for LOO didn't stump me, but the 15D "SWISH!" was impossible. My family used that word for urinating when we were very young! Better than "Do you have to go pee?" (or number 1) but parents probably don't use it any more...

Ted SORENSEN was awesome in his loyalty as JFK's speechwriter -- never answering even years later when queried as to whether the famous "Ask not..." phrase was his, or any other specifics.


retired_chemist 11:26 AM  

@ CoolPapaD - ever hear the phrase "spend a penny" for going to the LOO?

ballse for my characters?? Oh come on!

Two Ponies 11:27 AM  

@ David, I thought about the fruit as well. I think it is a tamarind.
I have a small collection of old furs including the minks in a conga line and another cape-like stole. Since the furs are so old that even the trapppers are long dead I escape the bad karma (in my own mind at least).

HudsonHawk 11:29 AM  

Fairly difficult, but awesome! I missed the rebus initially, because my first theme answer was HERE GOES, which didn't really need the NOTHING part. And ASPIC definitely crossed my mind for 58A.

CoolPapaD 11:34 AM  

@retired_chemist - Never heard the expression, nor have any of the women in my office! Thank you for the link. I remember for a brief time when I was a kid, there were pay toilets springing up in the States, but apparently there was enough of a stink made (pun intended) that it was scrapped.

edith b 11:39 AM  

My husband likes to listen to basketball games on the radio so the expression "Nothin but net" was really familiar to me and was the gateway to this puzzle.

I get the puzzle through the Wordplay website and saw the gimmick for this puzzle there. I do the Across Lite version but knew what I was in for from the beginning. When I saw ALLOR in the SE, I got the rebus.

Like Rex, the major problems were in the Midlands as I had CEO at 33D that had me confused at the reveal clue and had a problem parsing SLOVENS. It took me a while but I finaly got to the bottom of this one.

Brava once again Ms Gorski for a fine effort. Knowing you were the constructor was a big help.

retired_chemist 11:40 AM  

Repost 'cuz it disappeared:

Seinfeld and Costanza (cf. 63A) would love this - it's a puzzle about nothing. Gotta wonder if 63A is a shout-out to the theme.

Very nice in any case. Thanks and props to Ms. Gorski. I'd go for medium - some of the clues seem Friday level to me.

Had _CCA_ for 14D and thought about trying to make OCCAM fit. There was a "comedy" in organic chemistry some 50 years ago in which one side of a controversy (almost exclusively H. C. Brown) used Occam's razor as its prime argument. Turned out he was probably wrong, or so it is generally believed now. Brown subsequently received the 1994 Nobel Prize in Chemistry tor unrelated work.

*David* 11:42 AM  

Got the PDF version and had the opportunity to do the NYT puzzle last night, nice artifice. Had problems with TAMARIN/CAUDILLO/SORENSEN. I also had TOILE not VOILE which I never unravelled satisfactorily leaving me with an error.

lit.doc 11:52 AM  

This post is dedicated to andrea a. micheals, for being a material witness to my struggle in the early hours.

I hope no one else stared at SLOTENS for as long as I did. And I had just had a "my, aren't I clever to be remembering my Crosswordese 101" moment when I slammed TOILE into place.

I now understand fully why everyone thinks so highly of Ms. Gorski.

@KoolPapaD, I lived in Phx. in the mid-late '70s and, at the time, KOOL fm was a like totally top 40 kinda station. I hope the reason you haven't heard of them is that they died from disco.

Yours truly, ingrer. No, make that gymal (@Rex, is this word verification thingy programmed to always ignore the first try? Happens almost every time.)

mitchs 11:53 AM  

Artlvr: You're right Sorensen's loyalty. The biggest controversy was over whether or not he wrote "Profiles in Courage". He denied it for decades. That's why I startled to hear an interview in which he said something to the effect of: "I was not the author. The author of a book is the person whose name is on the cover. They are the ones responsible."

Confession through faint denial.

retired_chemist 11:57 AM  

@ lit.doc - the word thingy times out and resets after some period of time shorter that I need to write a 15 - 20 line post. Short posts get through on the original if you refresh just before you wrote.

nonquarf? really?

Sandy 12:07 PM  

For a while I had "it's not" in the NW square, so the rebus took longer to play out than perhaps it should have.

Oh, and KOAL for KOOL meant that STOLE didn't fall quickly.

Bob Kerfuffle 12:08 PM  

Great puzzle!

I finished my pen on paper version and came to Rex looking for an explanation of SLOTENS!

Briefly had DCCOP before DCCAB.

Agree that OPTIC, singular, looks strange.

Judith 12:11 PM  

@imsdave I too couldn't finish this one, and I thought I had Thursdays licked. Don't know if missing corners would have helped.

I inherited a stole from my grandmother, but never see an opportunity to wear it. Perhaps I should get opera tix. Husband would be bummed though -- not really a fan.

chefbea 12:13 PM  

Absolutely loved the puzzle!!! Thank you Elizabeth

Of course I knew where Lambert field is. Never heard the expression - nothing but the net - but then figured it had to be basketball related.

Glad the green mold was lime jello and not the A word

hazel 12:19 PM  

Thanks for the REMS, @ Rex. Everybody Hurts was a nice companion to LETSROLL, which, since 9/11, means a lot more than "its game time."

I once sold Peter Buck a book when I worked at Waldenbooks. Anne Rice.

Clever puzzle, and fun to solve.

SueRohr 12:22 PM  

I struggled with this one for a while - finally got the theme which I thought was very clever, and finally finished except for slovens, loo and voile. Had to come here to get that. Otherwise, a lot of fun and a perfect degree of difficulty for me for a Thursday.
Rex - I'd love to hear the mac-emu story!

Martin 12:31 PM  

I didn't understand Rex's stole remarks but after reading some comments I guess it assumed the whole-fox ("pelage") stole.

I've been a San Francisco Opera subscriber since 1972 and have seen lots of stoles, but don't recall ever seeing a "carcass" at the opera. A stole is just a fancy shawl, usually silk or lace or the like. There must be some fur stoles on Opening Night, but that's not my series.

David 12:38 PM  

I wonder if Rex is working on a new set of clues for the words EMU and MAC, making them interchangeable? EMU was a stretch from OS X user the other day (Aussie or Oz connection I guess), but now the link is approaching Natick as a given here?

Or maybe Rex had a pet emu whose name was Mac?

John 12:51 PM  

HERE GOES works on it's own, too.

Unknown 12:58 PM  

I actually saw DC Cab back in '83 but had apparently purged it because I still needed a couple of crosses.

Did the whole NW corner without clueing in to the rebus, in spite of thinking "Fancy means the opposite of the clue, what gives". At that moment, if I'd had 'cut corners' instead of black squares, I might have made the connection.

Scanned the puzzle for the theme revealer but couldn't get enough crosses right away to help. So I jumped around the grid a lot and it was ALLOR that got me there.

A very satisfying 'aha' experience and lots of fun to solve.

fikink 1:01 PM  

@David, crossword puzzles are flights of fancy for many of us.
This appears to be at variance with Rex's discussions of speed-solving and the focus on the ACPT, but a playful approach to language is very much a leitmotif of his blog.
Rex is just doing a word riff.

Badir 1:04 PM  

Yeah, I was in the took-a-long-time-to-get-the-rebus-because-I-did-it-in-AcrossLite camp. But I did eventually sort it out and eventually sussed out the tough crossings, for one of my slowest recent Thursdays. But a great concept!

And, as a mathematician, I love the whole spiraly shape of the grid.

xyz 1:07 PM  

I print out Across Lite with the absolute minimum of colour for the black squares to save ink.

Missing corners would have helped a lot, but still a clever puzzle. What, four REBII in a row on Thursday now?

obertb 1:27 PM  

I usually just ignore themes, and I did so today at my peril. I was totally bewildered at the corners (15D Swish = BUTNET? WTF?!) Finished the whole puzzle--with a couple of mistakes--and didn't get the rebus until I came here. And then, Voila!

@Rex: I think this is the second time you've remarked about not knowing Ted SORENSEN. I remember him well from the JFK era, but I'm a lot older than you. And, like me, he's from Nebraska. He's probably not likely to become crosswordese, but maybe you should put up a sticky note just in case.

arrested development 1:35 PM  

Lucille: Michael, look. Look what happened to my fox. Someone cut off his little foot. (wrapping the stole around her neck) Is it - Is it noticeable?

Michael: You’ve gotta remember - - You’re gonna be all splattered in red paint. That’s gonna distract the eye.

fergus 1:57 PM  

"... And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is."

-Wallace Stevens, "The Snow Man"

That is one fine poem. Even better than this excellent puzzle. My little problem arose in choosing a variety of words for the corners, all of which ultimately amuonted to nothing.

fergus 2:00 PM  

... and my students pointed out that I misspelled Buoyancy, yesterday.

fergus 2:21 PM  


I also dislike OPTIC as a term for one of the lenses. Just recently I was reading the guide for my telescope and the thing was riddled with the usage for the use of said objects. The term shows a real lack of imagination, and an abundance of confusion. Optics, to me and you, shold remain simply a chapter in a Physics textbook.

Doc John 2:33 PM  

Rainy San Diego Thursday. The city is being washed away, my below-grade office is leaking from below!
Found the puzzle to be interesting, even though I got the rebus quickly enough, still took fits and starts to finish it (in between seeing the few patients who have washed in today).
TG tomorrow's F!

andrea ( ) michaels 2:47 PM  

YAY Elizabeth Gorski who can do wrong!!!!!!!!!
Never cuts corners in bringing us brilliance!

I loved how she pulled off DCC- - without it being a Roman numeral!!!

thanks for that Sorensen quote... I mean the Kennedys have a loooong history of everyone writing everything for them, whether it's a Spanish placement test or a Pulitzer-prize winning book...
Tho I'd like to think/hope Caroline did more than her fair share with the books she's written on the Constitution, etc.

@Two Ponies
Still wearing little animals for fashion bec the trappers have long since died, reminds me of my old Italian beau's mama who slipped meat into my soups and everything else she could, knowing I was a vegetarian...
when I would ask Anna to pls refrain, she would say "but I didn't kill it, they (cow/pig/lamb) were dead anyway!"

@arrested development
Funny! Where DID I put my red paint?!

Bleedover: dead EMU

andrea nothing michaels 2:52 PM  

damn, I left a huge (blank) between the "do" and the "wrong" so that it would read "YAY ELizabeth Gorski who can do (nothing) wrong!!!!!!!!"
and the blogger "corrected" my intentional blank spaces...
What next? Maybe I need to get Ted SORENSEN's son to write my blog posts!

David 2:52 PM  

@obertb - you did the whole puzzle without figuring out the rebus?

It was so disconcerting to see answers that seemed to be the reverse of what the clue sought. I guess you have a higher tolerance for pain!

jae 2:58 PM  

Fun, clever, typical Gorski. I too am in the acrosslite group that took a while to see the rebus. Other than that and the "T" that I finally changed to "V," pretty easy. Although, CAUDILLO was new to me also.

sanfranman59 3:13 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 22:20, 19:25, 1.15, 85%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 11:32, 9:24, 1.23, 92%, Challenging

With today's gimmick, I wouldn't be surprised if dead tree solvers have disproportionately faster solve times today than those of us who solve online.

mac 3:13 PM  

Wonderful puzzle! Even though my corners were cut, it took me a little time to get the rebus; also thought it was opposites after "fancy". Love lime jello and its clue. Had a few mis-thoughts: X-long for talls, DC Cop, diamond for emerald, arrear for errant and I love slovens. Amazing how many meanings the word till has, and it is actually older than until. Needed some sports help for Tris, but I somehow figured out the "nothing but net".

"let's roll" has such a sad connotation, now.

Had to laught at Rex's toile: visions of Scarlet O'Hara in the curtain dress!

A couple of years ago the ladies' at Harrods in London was one pound, unless you could show their charge card. It's free now. I think there are some new pay-toilets, a sort of kiosk, here and there in NY. Haven't seen them close-up, yet.

obertb 3:31 PM  

@David--Yep, the whole thing, with only one error, ZOD for ZED. And that was just an oversight.

Thing is, the crosses made the theme answers inevitable, even though they made no sense. BUTNET, e.g., is made up of crosses from DCCAB, SHAMU, SPAT, URN, LIE and ERRANT--all of which are pretty obviously correct. Beyond that, it's not so much tolerance for pain as it is tolerance for the possibility that there are things I just don't know or understand or, in this case, see. And, in the end, I can always come here and get straightened out. As it was (full disclosure), I spent over a half-hour on this puzzle and I DO have other things I need to do. So I accepted my Pyrrhic victory over this puzzle and got on with my life.

fergus 4:15 PM  

Can't let this poem go to waste:


One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Anonymous 4:32 PM  

AGAMEMNOn was a surprising gimme especially with the crosses

more than one scapula is scapulae, except in crossword land on an obscurely clued puzzle stretching elsewhere

EER and Ere side by side? Cool!

easy/medium for the host means nothing lately to all but the APEX of the solver pyramid

I'll bet the guy with the stats has a different rating than the host

Martin 5:22 PM  

I can't believe the stole is being maligned so. Look how far you've got to click before you find one that has any fur. Some silkworms might have died for some of these, but very few quadrupeds did.

chefwen 5:26 PM  

@Elaine and others - Thank you for keeping me company as the ship was sinking. I could not figure what was going, kept wondering when "opposite day" was going to emerge. Checked in with Rex late last night to see if he had posted yet, saw the grid he had pictured and thought, allrighty now that sure would have made it easier. Still feel like a dumkoff! Spelling Ulrich?

Have a English friend who still says "Pardon me, I have to go spend a penny", here we say that we have to go shi shi.

psystie - a messed up Pastie

chefbea 5:32 PM  

I vaguely remember - way back when - all stall in the ladies room were locked and you had to put either a nickel or a dime in the slot to open the door.

Shamik 5:35 PM  

@CoolPapaD: We ;ive in the NW valley, in Peoria. KOOL-FM is 95.5 and plays light jazz.

I am alone. All alone. I hated this puzzle. Second longest time for a Thursday and never saw the rebus. Without seeing the rebus, too much made no sense. Can't think of a puzzle The cluing felt like Saturday. Usually enjoy Ms. Gorski's puzzles. Not this time.

Ulrich 5:39 PM  

@chefwen: You had to drag me into this just when I thought I had nothing to add to nobody: It's Dummkopf--unless there is a Yiddish version...

... and since I'm writing anyway, I have to confess that having HERE GOES early on prevented me, too, for a while from seeing the rebus--but really loved it when it clicked


jeff in chicago 5:55 PM  

Sweet puzzle! Loved it.

CoolPapaD 5:56 PM  

@Shamik - I initially thought the same thing, but cool jazz is KYOT, 95.5 FM (they call it the coyote), and KOOL is 94.5, and is a greatest hits / oldies format (according to one of our very young nurses, and their website). My wife loves cool jazz - I am sadly addicted to talk radio! How 'bout this rain! May as well be back in Cleveland!

Stan 6:26 PM  

Put me in the "beyond good, really great" column. Elizabeth Gorski is the Basho (or maybe Emily Dickinson) of puzzles -- bending simple materials into awesome effects.

Wonderful balance here between high/classical culture (Agamemnon/Nereids/Alexander) and prosaic Americanism (Nothing but net, DC Cab, Lime jello, Here goes nothing).

Thanks, Liz!

Calisms 6:55 PM  

That is absolutley the first time Basho and Emily Dickinson have ever been used in the same sentence.

slypett 7:19 PM  

calisms: In 1963, in an unpublished essay titled, "Anti-tendencies: the Larger Prospects of Poetry Today", I wrote, "The way we think of Basho,now,
is as a gnomic interpreter of Zen Buddhism, much as we see Emily Dickinson as an interpreter of Transcendental Protestantism."

Shamik 7:26 PM  

@CoolPapaD: Dang. This rain must be washing out some brain cells. Your young nurse is correct. I can hear the island mon saying K-Y-OOO-T. And KOOL is oldies...my husband likes it. Love the rain...hear we're getting half a year's rain (4 inches) here in Phx...and they're closing Sky Harbor for high winds. Roads up north are closed between Sedona/Flag, Camp Verde/Flag (I-17) and Winslow/Pine.

chefwen 7:48 PM  

@Ulrich - Now I really feel like a dummkopf, Google didn't recognize it the way I spelled it, they said do you mean dummkopf? I will NOT tell my Austrian father about this little indecent, he would be ashamed. Thanks for setting me straight.

Martin 8:03 PM  


Around here we reserve shi shi for children and dogs. Every dog in the extended family will fetch a leash in respnse to "shi shi."

Grownups go shiko.

wootor -- seems like too good a word to waste on a captcha.

Stan 8:03 PM  

@darkman: Sorry -- I didn't mean to plagiarize your stuff! But that is a funny coincidence.

Glitch 8:18 PM  

IMO, the "cutie" captcha comments are becoming more annoying than the spam that's being blocked --- and at least the latter was easier to skip over without risking missing a promising post.


slypett 8:25 PM  

Stan: Congratulations! You fell for one of my pseudo-academic gags! Made my night! No hard feelings?

Elaine 8:35 PM  

Well, I am so glad for fellow-travelers like @chefwen....
We also serve who only stand and.. drool...or something.
Hey, I could have spelt DUMMKOPF for you! But no....all the talk now is of Calisms. (Oh, dear..."spend a penny" is well-known to me, as are the legions of pay-as-you-go toiletten in Europe. Is this chat PC?)

Suspicious look: CoolPapaD, did you used to be Pednsrg? I am pretty sure CLV is having one of its worst winters in the past decade or so....I also am glad to be Elsewhere!

Hoping for a better tomorrow (in the spirit of Scarlett)
?cousne? oops fredio!

chefwen 9:21 PM  

How about incident not indecent. Brain must be on hold today. Sigh!

Clark 9:25 PM  

I loved this puzzle. Did it in Across-Lite, and I don’t think it would have taken me any longer had I seen the actually missing corners. I got the reveal before getting any of the edges. Then the edges fell.

@chefwen -- you remind me it's time to make a big batch of pasties. Yum.

@darkman -- Awesome reply. I thought that essay was one of the works left behind by Pierre Menard!

Stan 9:28 PM  

@darkman: None :-D

And I hereby patent the Basho - Dickinson - Gorski analogy so that all future published use will need to footnote this blog.

sanfranman59 10:19 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 6:47, 6:54, 0.98, 51%, Medium
Tue 8:56, 8:47, 1.02, 60%, Medium
Wed 10:54, 12:01, 0.91, 27%, Easy-Medium
Thu 22:53, 19:26, 1.18, 89%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:39, 3:40, 1.00, 54%, Medium
Tue 4:28, 4:29, 0.99, 54%, Medium
Wed 5:45, 5:55, 0.97, 48%, Medium
Thu 10:45, 9:22, 1.15, 85%, Challenging

slypett 11:14 PM  

çlark: Delightful! Thanks!

mac 11:28 PM  

@darkman: that was very good. And it took you only 24 minutes!;-)

Bill from NJ 12:16 AM  


As my grandfather was fond of blurting out:

"you just said a cotton-pickin' mouth full."

One of the reasons I enjoy this blog so much is because every day is Christmas, every puzzle is a brand new train. And Rex is the engineer.

He toys with language in his revue and brings out the best in a lot of people.

PIX 9:13 AM  

Great puzzle...Ms.Gorski is the champ...it took me until Friday morning to finish but since it was Ms. Gorski's I knew it would be worth it...and it was...she is my favorite constructor by far.

Minor complaint: there is no "microscope part" called optic. Microsopics have lenses which are part of the optical system or they concern themselves with optics but there is no part called optic. Bad clue.

slypett 1:18 PM  

PIX: Optic: n., obs. =optic glass.

Ben 4:34 PM  

Eric the Midget is a cranky man who calls in to the Howard Stern radio show. He resents being called Eric the Midget and would rather be known as Eric the Actor.

Confined to a wheelchair, growth-stunted and suffering from various physical maladies, he would be a sympathetic character were he not so angry, defiant, mean-spirited and confrontational.

When this puzzle hit the NYT on Thursday, Eric was good-naturedly teased by the Stern crew, as they insisted that he would now have to accept the Midget appellation since it has been ratified by the New York Times. Predictably, he was having none of it.

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP