Ukase issuer / THU 1-14-10 / Happy Motoring sloganeer / Hit 1970s-'90s band with mythological name / Jamaican fellow

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Constructors: Caleb Madison and J.A.S.A. Crossword Class

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: COMMERCIAL BREAK (61A: TV movie interruption ... or feature of 16-, 21-, 31-, 43- and 49-Across?) — "AD" is added to familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: BMI (26A: Abbr. on every original Beatles song)

Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) is one of three United States performing rights organizations, along with ASCAP and SESAC. It collects license fees on behalf of songwriters, composers, and music publishers and distributes them as royalties to those members whose works have been performed. In 2009, BMI collected over US$905 million in licensing fees and distributed US$788 million in royalties.


I know I've seen this gimmick before, or one very much like it (the "add-an-AD" gimmick, that is). The fact that the theme answers are all movies is a nice touch (I had wondered at first why the THEME-revealer clue mentioned "TV movie" so specifically, as a COMMERCIAL BREAK is not movie-specific). The puzzle is kind of cute (and the theme density impressive), but on the whole it doesn't really feel up to NYT Thursday standards. It's just fine, but with nothing terribly memorable, or tricky, or clever about it. The non-theme fill is especially dull. I suspect that there was a certain leeway given to this puzzle because of its unusual creative team; the puzzle appears to be the work of the continuing education class on crosswords that Caleb (who is in what we all hope will be his last year of high school) taught last year on crosswords. As with many recent NYT puzzle publishing stunts, I wasn't a huge fan of this one. Caleb did rightly predict, however, that I would like 1A: Paris Hilton catchphrase ("That's hot!").

In a puzzle where you add Ads, hard as it may be, I think you keep AD out of other answers, i.e. lose ADD A (3D: Recipe direction starter) — a bad answer anyway — and lose FADS (35A: They come and go). Some of the clues are cool, and some of the theme answers are cute (I esp. like BEST IN SHADOW), but overall, pretty bland fare.

Theme answers:

  • 16A: Like a poison pen letter? ("ADdressed to Kill")
  • 21A: "Fly Me to the Moon" and others? ("Space BallADs")
  • 31A: Ham operator's "Hurrah!"? ("RADio Bravo")
  • 43A: Yes-man's biography? ("ToADy Story")
  • 49A: Like a superlatively sneaky sleuth? ("Best in ShADow")

Puzzle looks easy in retrospect, but my time was actually slightly slower than normal for a Thursday. Not sure why. I know I got quite hung up in the NW — had to leave the "A" in REAM blank until the very, very end, as I couldn't imagine how RE-M could fit the clue (18A: "The Office" unit) — I had ROOM. I also couldn't figure out what followed ADD in the [Recipe direction] — I thought there might be a rebus ... and the "ADD" crossing "ADD" phenomenon up there made me even more suspicious that ADD- might be some kind of weird theme answer. In the end, it was just another entry. Had TOIL for PEON (22D: Drudge). I think that's about it, as far as resistance go. And yet the clues were phrased trickily enough that I didn't exactly fly through the grid. Which is just fine for a Thursday.


  • 40A: Writer Chinua Achebe, by birth (Ibo) — Nigerian, I knew. Didn't fit. Then crosswordese training came to the rescue ...
  • 68A: "___ Hope," long-running ABC soap ("Ryan's") — this reminds me of my mom and the early '70s. I'm pretty sure this is what she watched when we'd take our naps / have our quiet time when we lived in Orange, CA that one year (me, age 4-5).
  • 1D: Ukase issuer (tsar) — more crosswordese to the rescue. UKASE absolutely krushed me (as fill) a couple years back, and I've never forgotten it.
  • 9D: He played Lord Jim in "Lord Jim" (O'Toole) — never saw it. After a few crosses, it became clear. I last saw him in "Venus" (2006), which I really enjoyed.
  • 28D: Kelly Clarkson, once (Idol) — and Always. Best Idol Ever. The new season just started yesterday, and a new episode aired again tonight, which means that I can't get this "song" out of my head:

  • 34D: Ingredient in a salty dog (vodka) — goes well with UKASE.
  • 36D: Volume 1 of a two-volume encyclopedia? (A to M) — o come on. This is boring old ATOM. I admire the ambition here, but :/
  • 38D: Hit 1970s-'90s band with a mythological name (Styx) — "Paradise Theater" = crucial LP of my youth; one of the first albums I bought with my own money (see also AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap").

[man I love this album cover]

  • 41D: "Happy Motoring" sloganeer (Esso) — new ESSO clue (to me).
  • 50D: American university where Desmond Tutu taught theology (Emory) — always have to think about the spelling, as I get it confused with "EMERY board."
  • 54D: Little Orphan Annie and others (wards) — true enough, but I needed Every cross here.
  • 62D: Jamaican fellow (mon) — I like it ... but is it really spelled differently? I see it in this glossary, but the glossary claims that the word can apply to anyone, not just a "fellow."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Steve J 12:45 AM  

Had a very similar impression of this puzzle (as well as similar early albums - I think "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" was bought by pretty much every kid in my sixth-grade class). Didn't feel very Thursday, and while there are a handful of clever clues it's still got a lot of just so-so fill. (As well as some head-scratching fill: EATIT?)

And I can't comment without mentioning 6D, which is just lame. It's too obvious a clue for a Monday, let alone a Thursday, and it's one step from using something like "What you're doing now" to clue PUZZLE.

CoolPapaD 1:25 AM  

I really enjoyed this - many things made me smile (Best in Show is one of my all time favorite movies). "Miss out?" is a brilliant clue.

@ Steve J - I got 6D wrong for the longest time; I have always thought it was Bill Haley and THE Comets, and I never missed an episode of Happy Days! I kept thinking that that was the lamest way imaginable to clue "THE."

Did finish with one stupid mistake - had FOIE for 56A. I convinced myself that foie gras meant
silky tasting organ meat, or something of that nature.

@ACME - Pez exec cause of death query was hysterical!

retired_chemist 1:43 AM  

Hand up for THE Comets. Figured THE was going to go and it did....

Enjoyable puzzle. Challenging for me, perhaps because I did it when I was very tired.

Thought the Idol video was going to be She Bangs (William Hung)....

andrea do tell michaels 3:28 AM  

I liked ADding AD!

One of the Rexites the other day wanted themes to be "utile" and this was...every long answer I thought, "Hmmm, the AD has to go in here SOMEWHERE" so that was super helpful.

I wildly ADmire Rex's impartiality bec it's hard not to love Caleb to death. If anything, perhaps he bent over backwards to be fair, as I thought the theme was extremely tight.

And agree you definitely can't have other ADs in the puzzle
(since I had LOCAL instead of LOFAT I had CADS "come and go"...and in my life, they certainly do!!!!!)

Bleed over: OTS

I loved STARDATE and I can't even say why.

One weird mistake:
43D The Three ____.
My first reaction was "The Three AMIGOS" which didn't fit...
So as the answer began to appear -ENORS, I put in The Three SENORS.

Gotta say, I think NEAT all around.
(Radio)BRAVO, Caleb!

Blackhawk 4:22 AM  

Too grumpy, Rex. This was a great puzzle. Not dull at all and a perfect Thursday tone. Lots of interesting angles and left-turns. Thought the answers like "star date," "texas tea," "Uconn", "eat it" and "it's a go" were original and amusing to figure out. Bravo to Caleb and the other constructors. Good job!

Anonymous 5:19 AM  

@SteveJ Did you mean 8D?

I wondered whether 16A technically fits the theme since the added AD doesn't break the movie title but comes at the beginning.

Mary in NE

Greene 5:40 AM  

I thought this puzzle was fun, fun, fun. I solved it from the south upwards, so got COMMERCIAL BREAK very early on. Caught the gimmick with BEST IN SHADOW (love that answer) and I was very quickly able to fill in the rest of the theme answers with hardly any crosses. TOADY STORY? Awesome. SPACE BALLADS? Very amusing.

I got stuck in the west because I wanted EMI instead of BMI and BRUT just would not appear (what the heck is ERUT?). Light finally went on and I was done.

Clifford Odets' The Country Girl was just back on Broadway in 2008 with a glittery cast of actors including Morgan Freeman, Frances McDormand, and Peter Gallagher. I found it strangely inert and uncompelling, but 1950s drama (especially backstagers like this) doesn't always hold up well in revival especially when you're dealing with Odets' very stylized, tough-cookie school of language (which was heavily rewritten by director Mike Nichols anyway). Still and all, nice to have a theatre-related gimmie in the puzzle. Don't forget to check out the 1954 film version, which while maudlin in the extreme, still has a wonderful Oscar-winning performance from the ravishing Grace Kelly. Now THAT'S HOT!

Thanks to Caleb and his class for this most entertaining puzzle. Is he still teaching this course? I would love to take it.

Elaine 6:31 AM  

This one was a slog for me...even after I caught on to the theme, and even though I had a pretty big swath of the East in place. I didn't get it that all the theme entries were movies until SPACE BALLS, which was my last bit of the puzzle! D'oh. Not sure it helped me, in fact.

Hand up for TOIL instead of PEON... and I had ZED instead of ZEE. Tsk.

Clever puzzle, with maybe a bit too much current culture for this Old Gray Head. TEXAS TEA? Paris Hilton's catchphrase? Chinua Achebe? STYX?

Anonymous 7:46 AM  

I thought it was fun too. loved ADDRESSEDTOKILL esp as well as BESTINSHADOW (just like everyone else it seems). great to see The Office being employed...maybe it can replace The Simpsons -- -way too much of that lately.
Miss out? was a great clue too.

David 7:57 AM  

Heh, when was TEXASTEA and STYX current culture, Elaine? :)

Maybe not Thursday tough but still I though the AD'ed movie titles sparkled. I did wonder if "Nazione di Napoli" was an Italian Pola Negri, but then the "aha" moment hit. I'd never heard of EMU Bay, so it was a new way of sneaking in that crossword standby. I also believe ERUT would be a sexier cologne than BRUT....

The Corgi of Mystery 8:30 AM  

I thought this was a nice concept on the whole except for two details. First, the YTD/KTS crossing is particularly ugly. More importantly, the theme revealing COMMERCIAL BREAK seems to suggest that all the ads are inside the movie titles, which doesn't work with ADDRESSED TO KILL. With the number of ads on television nowadays though, I guess it's apt to have one before the movie even begins.

dk 8:34 AM  

Drat, post failed and I lost it. Cliff notes version:

Yeoman-like or Lego-like construction, solid theme, clues are fine -- no spark.

Had TOADsSTORY and sTD (short term dis) which is wrong and right.

@michael from yesterday, doing work on value driven decision making, click on Booty Call Skipper (my little picture) if you have any references or opinions.

@andrea and mac (also yesterday) thank you for your concern, @joho I trust you have no lasting effects from your date with the tree.

*** (3 Stars) Give the class an A minus.

Jeffrey 8:40 AM  

This was a great puzzle! The theme answers were good, the fill was lively, the clues were fresh.

A plus from this grader.

Elaine 8:51 AM  

Ya got me! People of a certain age (cough cough) think nothing much happened after The Beatles!

I've never heard of TEXAS TEA, but I expect it's awful--a lot of sugar, or perhaps somehow fried. I was trying to fit in PETROLEUM or ANTHRACITE or BITUMINOUS for "Black Gold."

You know you are old when the newer styles in clothing are what your students were wearing in 1972.

joho 9:19 AM  

@Elaine ... TEXASTEA is oil, you bet it tastes bad!

I loved this puzzle. The theme answers were fresh & fun ...what @Crosscan said.

@Corgi ... there are indeed ads before the movie now.

@dk ... It was really lucky I blacked out before I hit the tree or I'd be dead. Now I just have a bad back, but not terrible.

Caleb and Class: ADmirable job!!!

mitchs 9:25 AM  

Elaine, how have you managed to live your life without hearing, ad nauseum, the theme song from The Beverly Hillbillies? "...up from the ground come 'a bubblin' crude. Oil, that is, black gold, texas tea.."

Rex, c'mon, this one was fun.

nanpilla 9:34 AM  

I liked this one a lot. Doesn't hurt that SPACEBALLS and BEST IN SHOW are two of my favorite movies. Getting COMMERCIAL BREAK early did help with the THEME answers. This was a little on the challenging side of medium for me, the NE being the last to fall.
I remember reading about Caleb's class and thinking it sounded fun - this puzzle confirms it! Good job, all!

ArtLvr 9:37 AM  

@ Andrea, LOL at your Cads (which I tried first too)!

@ Greene, as always I enjoyed your notes on ODETS, and remembering the lovely Grace Kelly.

As to the puzzle, I liked it just okay, not wildly, but didn't realize immediately that all theme answers were plays on Movie Titles! That moves it up a big notch in cleverness. I managed to get everything with crosses, so I didn't rate it as difficult.

Faves: BEST IN SHADOW, because one might have tried superlative -EST at the end of the phrase, and TOADY STORY was a total giggle. A TO M made one wonder if there was another alternative start to MEX? Thanks, Caleb et al.

Fill surprises: EMU Bay! And GEO-political, which leads me to laud again my current reading: David Williams' new book "Stories in Stone" with nice crosswordese from Gneiss to Xenoliths, and great tales of scientific discoveries in paleontology from "deep time" to the present! It's a wow.


Bill from NJ 9:51 AM  


TEXASTEA is a synonym for oil and was used in "The Beverly Hillbillies" theme song to that end. An excerpt: ". . . he was shootin' for some food, when up from the ground come abubblin' crude. Oil, that is. Black gold. Texas tea..."

Low-water mark for pop culture in the mid '60s. I never watched it myself. Not once. Never. Uh-uh.

Doug 9:52 AM  

ADmirable puzzle. I like it when themes actually help me finish answers, and don't suck. Only clue I didn't like was for TILED, but after Googling it I concede that tiles are a popular alternative to shingles and shakes.

My first album purchase was Some Girls by the Stones around 1979. I almost bought the post-SNF Bee Gees album and to this day I feel soooo much better about the decision. To the point I would have lied about it.

dk 10:01 AM  

@crosscan's grade is inflated due to the USA/CAN exchange rate.

@Joho, did you take some of the "medicine" @darkman sent you? Is that why you blacked out before the tree? An interesting (only to people of a certain age - gag me @elaine) conversation from the ski hill was the use of enclosed chair lifts (think small gondolas) as rebreathers for certain herbal inhalants, coupled with the altitude it makes (excuse me, may make) for an interesting if not enhanced ski experience -- if you catch my drift MON.

Why do I want to watch "To Catch a Thief," the mind doth

I think ESSO also puts a tiger in your tank but given yesterdays ribald comments...........

down in 2

Bob Kerfuffle 10:05 AM  

I liked it.

My first fill was Peter OTOOLE. I saw "Lord Jim" first-run, but what the clue and answer bring to mind is the mockery which appeared in Mad Magazine, showing O'Toole in the movie in successive panels, captioned with various emotions, the image always unchanging. Certainly not the first nor last time such a criticism was made of an actor. (And "Lawrence of Arabia" is probably my all-time favorite movie.)

Dave in California 10:07 AM  

@Elaine, I am guessing you are under 40...and all of us making comments are trying to make ourselves feel better by jumping on you. I bet YOUR knees and back don't hurt when you wake up in the morning...

The odd thing about this puzzle for me was that by the time I figured out the theme, the puzzle was almost done (NE took a little longer, but by then it didn't matter.) There were too many "gimmes"--would've been more fun if figuring out the theme had been necessary to create critical mass.

Van55 10:19 AM  

Add me to the "liked it" column, please. Fresh, funny, mostly clever.

My only real quibble is with "Recipe direction starter" ADDA. You don't start a recipe by adding anything, in my experience. Even if you do, the answer is just lame.

A few false starts gave me trouble. Had HAZE where HIDE ended up. Had CRUDEOIL where TEXASTEA was to be. Had LETSGO for ITSAGO. Didn't know Tchotchke or Chinua Achebe, so that was a bit of a troublesome cross that fell last for me.

Smitty 10:24 AM  

I'm with Rex on this one.

Two gripes.
1-How can "ADD A" be a recipe starter? Add to what?
2-No hint in the clue that U CONN is abbreviated, although I never noticed it sounds like YUKON

And can someone tell me why Dakota Territorians say ERE instead of HERE?

Ruth 10:32 AM  

Me, too, for ERUT. Putting that in an internet context, let's not think too deeply about what e-rut would involve. . .
Doesn't absolutely everybody know that BMI is Body Mass Index? Wouldn't it be better to use that as a clue?

Smitty, it's Eliza Doolittle who says "'ere", I believe.

Tony from Charm City 10:35 AM  

My only gripe is with the first theme answer. As clever as it is, it really isn't a commercial break, since the AD is added to the front of the clue.

@smitty, I didn't like ADDA either, but it's not a recipe starter. It's a specific direction starter, as in a step in the recipe. Also, when I was a kid, I thought UCONN was spelled Yukon because nobody every said "Connecticut." It was always UCONN (at least on ESPN), which is probably why there was no abbreviation indicator.

treedweller 10:42 AM  

I thought the clues on this one screamed "committee writing." I could almost hear the conversation: "Okay, that works, but try to find a way to misdirect solvers." "Ooh, what if we tried . . ." Until every other answer seemed strained to me. Or, to use a phrase I've seen here, too cute by half.

@Smitty check your clues--ELIZA said ERE, at least until 'enry 'iggins taught 'er better.

If Beatles were the end of pop for you, you might not get this, but for those of us who grew up on MTV back when M stood for music, the best version of the Beverly Hillbillies theme is this one.

Elaine 10:43 AM  

Time for new bifocals. Wrong clue.
ELIZA says " 'ERE, I'm a good girl, I am..."

@Bill and others
Thanks for the enlightenment--No, I've never seen "Beverly Hillbillies," though I've heard of them. I imagined TEXAS TEA was some version of Long Island Iced Tea or some such.

Gag you? I don't go for that kinky stuff, dk. Plus, I have a great NEW BFF--it's Dave in California.

@Hi, Dave (she trilled)
Yes, Dave, I am UNDER 40! and petite, blue-eyed blonde! (Plainly you did not read my comments! or profile! No worries!)

Three and out

treedweller 10:45 AM  

Oops, better make that "If The Beatles . . ."

PlantieBea 10:46 AM  

A solid medium Thursday effort for me; enjoyed it much! The SW corner was the last to fall. I had to dredge RYAN's hope from the depths of TV mudville and change MAMBO to SAMBA before BEST IN SHADOW would fall.

Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" is in my large reading stack; nice to see IBO again. Enjoyed some of the oldie references to Star Trek, Beverly Hillbillies, O'TOOLE (especially Lawrence of Arabia), mixed with newer BEST IN SHOW and TOY STORY. Least favorite: the very lame "ADD A".

ADmire the effort Caleb and class. Thanks!

Smitty 10:50 AM  

@Ruth, Treedweller and Elaine
"Time for new bifocals" is an understatement. I think I need something Hubble- strength after missing that one - thanks!

@Tony, thanks. maybe my new Hubble-strength glasses would have helped me see the "direction" part of the clue.

about UCONN - still not convinced that it shouldn't have indicated abbr. -- but thanks!

Shamik 10:51 AM  

Yeeesh...had a time in the challenging area for Thursdays for me. Thought this was a lively puzzle but got really really stuck in the NW. First you have to put me with THE Comets. And agree that you don't start a recipe with ADDA, but with STIR or even MIX1. Didn't even know that Paris Hilton could talk, but should have realized it was ok 'cause they're one syllable words.

But there were things that I loved. Didn't realize these were movies until I got all three theme answers. Really wanted TOADYSAREUS but just couldn't jam it in the allotted squares.

TEXASTEA...well the first thing you know, Ol' Jed's a millionaire...

@dk: I don't ski, but if I did, I'd like to ride in your enclosed gondola.

And so to bed...

joho 10:57 AM  

@dk ... very funny, blacking out should be caused by something, though. In my case, catch an edge, see trees approaching at supersonic speed = blackout. Just like in the old movies, they starting spinning in a circle. So weird. You should poll your tree crashers to see if they have similar experiences.

It's interesting today how some really liked this puzzle and others not at all. It's polarizing.

Judith 10:58 AM  

I did fine on this one. Loved the UCONN clue as for years I thought UCONN was actually Yukon until I expressed surprise that a team from Alaska was going to the NCAA. (You may have guessed by now that sports are NOT my thing).

slypett 11:07 AM  

"Pfaff!' said Colonel Hoople.

What's wrong?

"The darn thing works."

Two Ponies 11:11 AM  

I enjoyed this more than Rex.
Toady story was the best.
As Smitty noted UConn sounds like Yukon so is that why they are the Huskies? If so, that is clever.
Eat It reminded me of Weird Al's Beat It parody.
Nine out of ten homes in Vegas have tiled roofs so I was fine with that one.
Didn't know Paris catchphrase and still don't care.
@ dk, Using your gondola as an herbal rebreather usually leads to a "yard sale" as I recall.
Good job Caleb. Where do I sign up for your class?

OldCarFudd 11:11 AM  

I really liked this! Hand up for THE. Agree you can't start a recipe with ADD A; you have to have something to add it to.

@Greene - I also solved this one bottom up, so the theme revelation was helpful. Usually I start at the top and work down, but today that got me nowhere.

@Shamik - Great line about PH!

@Rex - Yes, 36D is a different clue for tired fill. But there are only so many permutations of 26letters taken 4 at a time, and most of them aren't words, not even in French, Spanish or Swahili. Given that the remaining permutations have to be used over and over again, 7 days a week, those of us who do a lot of crosswords are going to see them over and over again. If the fill can't always be fresh, let's give the constructor bonus points for trying a different clue.

I'm not a spectator sports fan, so my initial reaction to huskies' home was Yukon. That's the first time I realized the team's name has to have been chosen because of what the college's name sounds like. D'oh.!

geographysnob 11:32 AM  

@Judith: maybe geography's not your thing either. The Yukon's not in Alaska. (Well, the Yukon River is, but anyway ...)

Glitch 11:36 AM  


I consider UCONN a nickname, (rather than an abbreviation), as is Huskies, so have no problem.


hazel 11:41 AM  

@Elaine - not trying to be a school marm (2 days in a row!), but Chinua Achebe published his most famous work (Things Fall Apart) in the '50s. I just looked him up - he's 79 in fact! I read TFA somewhat recently, and found it both v. interesting and sad. Colonial arrogance never ceases to amaze me.....

I thought this puzzle was fantastic. The clues, the fill, everything seemed fresh to me. I usually think wackiness puzzles are lame, but I thought all of these phrases were really good, especially TOADYSTORY (w/ you on that @Two Ponies).

Anonymous 11:43 AM  

UCONN/Yukon reminds me more than a bit of my childhood. When I was a kid, I thought there was a singer named "Captain Antonile" and not "The Captain and Tennille." I though the Red Sox had a pitcher named Earl Camboyd until I read his name was Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd. For some reason, I never thought there was a guy named Jethro Tull or Steely Dan.

Dave in California 11:44 AM  

@Elaine: ok, I get it now--but how did a 62 year old manage to miss the Beverly Hillbillies, ESPECIALLY if she lives in Arkansas?

SethG 11:59 AM  

@Name origin theorists, it's a coincidence. The use of the Husky as the mascot predates the use of "UConn" by a decade or so.

@Anonymous, there _was_ a guy named Jethro Tull. But Steely Dan was a dildo.

The AMB/EMU cross took me way too long, as did figuring out what SALDS were.

Anonymous 12:12 PM  

@Seth, I was referring just to the band. I know there was an agriculturist named Jethro Tull. I also know the story behind Steely Dan and the dildo from William Burrough's "Naked Lunch."

Steve J 12:12 PM  

Sorry, I did mean 8D in my earlier comment. Nothing wrong with Bill Haley or HIS Comets. It was THEME I was griping about.

One thing I forgot to note: I definitely tip my metaphorical hat to the class that put this puzzle together. I don't know the back story on them, but it's cool that there's something like that. And I do think they came up with some interesting twists on cluing, even if the fill ended up familiar (I actually liked the cluing for ATOM, simply because it wasn't like every other clue I'd seen for ATOM).

And I still am raising an eyebrow over EATIT. And not just because it keeps triggering the Al Yankovich "Beat It" parody in my head.

jeff in chicago 12:33 PM  

Liked this. I, too, filled this one South to North. Found the 3X8 blocks in the NW and SE impressive. I hang my head in shame for how long it took me to come up with ODETS (awaiting lashes from Greene). Threw TABU in for BRUT (with no crosses yet). As a kid, Tabu was the go-to present for my mom for her birthday, Christmas, Mother's Day, etc. My only "ugh" is ZEE as I still hate the spelled-out letters.

xyz 12:34 PM  

Haven't read anyone's posts yet, but I'll unabashedly throw this puzzle under the bus. (So who is this "J.A.S.A. Class?" anyway?

11 ABBRS. Is that too many? When clued obscurely/tangentially/laterally?

Boring and doable, but hardly worth the effort.

RADIO BRAVO! (I meant HURRAH!!!), I finished ... eventually at greatc cost of heavy levels of tedium, enjoyed LAT much more, but it was pretty easy on the whole.

Unknown 12:37 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle overall, with the same exceptions as others (ADDA, YTD/KTS e.g.)
The theme answers were all so much fun, and with five of them plus the revealer, very impressive.

Liked the mail/MACE clue, and down south LAX beside BRA made me laugh, for some nebulous immature reason. That whole corner was my favourite.

xyz 12:41 PM  

I'm from from CT and all my cousins went to Yukon. (One of the 11 ABBRS.) With the way this puzzle went, when I saw that clue my first thought was IDITAROD - I am indeed learning to puzzle! ( Isee that I am waaaay in the minority oas far as "love for" goes today



mac 12:58 PM  

I liked this puzzle, I thought Caleb and HIS Class were having a lot of fun with some old crosswordese. Actually expected Tabu at 26D. I had ITS at 7 down, and figured Will was giving the kids some leeway...

Put me on the side of The for His, and I wanted "waifs" instead of "wards". The theme helped me a lot, after toady story made it clear. I have no problem with "add a....", it is a recipe direction starter allright.

Go UConn!

lit.doc 12:58 PM  

Hard for me, but not so brain-crushing hard as Thursday usually is. Really, really enjoyed the theme, especially since, as was noted earlier, it actually helped put the puzz together. Once I worked out ADDRESSED TO KILL, the other "five" (I had an extended WTF moment trying to fit AD into 61A) were lots easier for me.

Ironically, it just happened, so this is my Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V demo.

My additions to the missteps are GIMME instead of THEME, and ADVOCATE instead of SIDE WITH. And, no surprise, also the EMI/BMI (hey, The Beatles were British, right?) and THE/HIS (Damn! Went to Amazon afterwards to look at record jackets, and it sure as hell is HIS). Like Rex, wanted NIGERIAN for Achebe. Would have been quite a rebus.

@dk re post failure, happens often enough that I always block my text, hit Ctrl-C to put it into the paste buffer, so that when my post falls into the bit bucket I can just Ctrl-V it back into the "Leave your comment" box.

lit.doc 1:00 PM  

Even more ironically, I failed to addend my "it just happened" comment to the end of my original post. Sigh.

mitchs 1:00 PM  

Treedweller, think you'd have guessed that a committee constructed this w/o prior knowledge? I don't.

fikink 1:03 PM  

Had a BALL doing this one.
Caleb, et. al. - Shout tADa!

kevin der 1:12 PM  

this was such a great puzzle and a very clever theme. kudos to Caleb. my only tiny gripe is that AD wasn't in the middle of the first entry and therefore it isn't technically a "break". other than that it was perfect. great long fill, especially the SE.

treedweller 1:22 PM  

no, I doubt I would. But that's mainly because it wouldn't occur to me that it might have happened. I still might have said something to the effect of "too cute by half."

Looking back, though, it sounds like I thought this was terrible, and I would like to state clearly that is not the case. It was okay; I just did not love it.

I also didn't mean to short-change Flatt $ Scruggs. It's interesting to me that others referenced a different Weird Al parody (seemingly unrelated to my post) after I linked the first. I never even thought about "Eat It" (the parody) when solving.

Elaine 1:29 PM  

(Breaking the rules just for YOU)
Reasons for missing Beverly Hillbillies (and Gilligan's Island, HeeHaw, Golden Girls, and on and on)

a) living in Europe;
b) busy with other things (work, kidz, driving the tractor)
c) watching Sesame Street instead
d) only moved to AR in 2001 (last kid off to college, so escaped from NE Ohio)
e) allergic to re-runs

I vaguely recognize that title, but doubt this writer was widely known in the US in the 50's (when, in any case, I was under 13 yrs of age.) I was educated during the years when contributions in many fields by persons of color were "invisible"--not acknowledged, taught, noted, rewarded, etc. This is the kind of thing that makes the crosswords and the blog nice...filling in gaps. Adding it to my reading list, however.

chefbea 1:30 PM  

Good puzzle but I thought for the longest time that it was a rebus - with ad going in one square. Got addressed to kill and knew I was wrong.

I too thought it was Bill Haley and the Comets \. Love Rock around the clock.

Of course knew Uconn

Going to make butternut squash soup this afternoon.
First I will add a cut up squash to some chicken broth.......

jae 1:31 PM  

I thought this was clever, fun, and just about right for a Thurs. Had a nice aha moment when I realized the theme answers were movies. Did not make the 6d THE error as I knew the catch phrase from a Hilton appearance on Letterman, but I did try TOIL. Nice job Caleb and Class!

rb 2:29 PM  

My favorite mistake in a long time: not knowing Paris's catchphrase, I got hung up for a long time with TWAT SHOT. Knew the NYT would never allow it, but it just seemed so right.

Anonymous 3:01 PM  

I'll speak out in defense of ADDA. The clue is "Recipe Direction Starter", this doesn't mean that ADD A starts the recipe, just one of the directions.

1. Start with one cup of flour
2. ADD A cup of milk

sanfranman59 3:06 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 19:16, 19:20, 1.00, 54%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 8:49, 9:20, 0.94, 39%, Easy-Medium

edmcan 3:28 PM  

Come on you guys, this was cute.

Anonymous 3:30 PM  

21D "Fly Me to the Moon" and others? I immediately threw down SINATRASONGS.

-------> Joe in NYC

andrea carlada michaels 3:31 PM  

@Plantie Bea
I always mix up SAMBA and MAMBO so I just put the AMB in and wait... so then it was almost a reverse malapop when I filled in AMB for AMBassador!

It's funny, I watched Beverly Hillbillies all the time, know the song, or thought I did, and feel like I've NEVER heard them say TEXASTEA. Not once, not never!
When I think of that show, I always think about Max Baer Jr. as I learned about Max Baer Sr. from crosswords! Jethro's daddy was a famous boxer in real life!

what does JASA stand for? They need a new name!

Anonymous 3:32 PM  

21D "Fly Me to the Moon" and others? I immediately threw down SINATRASONGS.


-------> Joe in NYC

Charles Bogle 3:38 PM  

Hat's off to Caleb and his class; may they go on to entertain new generations of puzzle-doers!

Unknown 3:57 PM  

I like this puzzle and I'm ADamant about it. I am, however, now confused by the ADD A. I read it as 'add a' cup of flour, e.g and not ADD A) an egg B) a pinch of salt.

The Texas Tea brought to mind the formal wear shop in the city of one of my work assignments, Houston, Tuxes.

Some One's Zayde 4:03 PM  

@AC[fill in the blank]ME
JASA - It's for your Bubbe - the Jewish Associations for Services for the Aged.

joho 4:35 PM  

@mac, @anon 3:01 & @PhillySolver ... I don't see the problem with ADDA, either. You can start with this direction if the bowl is empty. You just ADD A cup of sugar to the bowl, it's the first thing in it.

4 and out ... good evening everybody!

PlantieBea 4:36 PM  

@ACME: I'm glad I'm not the only one who mixes up the SAMBA MAMBO mumbo jumbo. And, I can't keep the A/O ending straight on either. I am obviously not a dancer. To make matters more complicated, whenever I hear Mambo, I think of the beautiful but deadly green mamba snake native to Africa.

Okay, the smallest bit of digging...MAMBO, Cuban, based on the Rhumba, led to the CHA CHA. SAMBA, Brazilian, older dance, gave rise to the Bossa Nova. Sigh, not that this information helps to keep them straight.

fikink 4:44 PM  

@Plantie Bea, a good idea is to remember not to say say "Sambo..." anything. Then you will never put the "O" on Samba.

andrea combo michaels 4:49 PM  

@fikink, @joe in NYC, @PlantieBea

Samba/Sambo, Mamba/Mambo
I hear a (Sinatra) song coming on...

@Some One's Zayde
Thanks, shana keppeleh! Now I like the puzzle EVEN more!

fikink 4:56 PM  

I keep hearing, "Let's call the whole thing off."

PlantieBea 4:57 PM  

@fikink, ACME: Okay, must never say SAMBO, so no SAMBA/SAMBO combo song. I just did a very limited sampling of SAMBA/MAMBO on youtube. Perhaps it was the special attire of a backless and almost swimsuity looking dress in the SAMBA act I saw, but I will try to remember the SAMBA as the Sexier, Slinkier dance from Brazil--kind of like the Swimsuits you'd expect on the beaches there.

Martin 5:02 PM  


Your silky liver malfunction is more reasonable than you think. "Liver" in Romance languages comes from the Latin word for fig! (It's foie in French, fegato in Italian, higado in Spanish, etc.) The Romans loved a dish called iecur ficatum, which was liver (iecur) stuffed with figs. The abbreviation, ficatum, became the shorthand for "liver."

The Italian for "fig" is fico but is associated closely with "vulva" (fica). That's why the gesture called "fig hand" (mano fico) is both one of Europe's oldest obscene gestures (it has an important role in triggering a brawl in Romeo and Juliet) and a protective sign. (It's also the letter "T" in American Sign Language, somewhat unfortunately.)

Silky indeed.

retired_chemist 5:14 PM  

@Martin - is this (Act I, Scene I) what you are referring to? I thought it was a thumb to the mouth gesture.

Abraham: Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
Sampson: I do bite my thumb, sir.
Abraham: Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
Sampson (to Gregory): Is the law of our side if I say ay?
Gregory: No.
Sampson: No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you sir; but I bite my thumb, sir.
Gregory: Do you quarrel, sir?
Abraham: Quarrel, sir? No, sir.
Sampson: If you do, sir, I am for you: I serve as good a man as you.
Abraham: No better.
Sampson: Well, sir.

Two Ponies 5:15 PM  

@ andrea,
Off the topic of the puzzle but on the topic of naming things
PuzzleMate came up with a cute nickname for the library -
Jeopardy Gym.
@ martin, Do you know stuff like that off the top of your head? Wow.

Tinbeni 5:21 PM  

You go to Hedonism II, Negril, Jamaica 35 times (yup, 35 times) and MON is as easy as it gets.

VODKA - Salty Dog ingredient, a gimmie. Also a go-to restaurant in Sarasota area.

BTW ~ As my avatar implies, I'm a Scotch guy.

Had theme so quick I didn't need the COMMERCIAL BREAK.

A couple weeks ago, the Wednesday and Thursday NYT kicked my ass!
This week, either I am getting better or the degree of difficulty is waning.
I think it's the latter.

Shamik 5:36 PM  

ELAINE IS ONLY 62?!?!?!? She keeps saying she's OLD! If you were my patient I would write:

(Insert general term about how well fed she is), late middle-aged, (Insert race/ethnicity) woman.....

@Elaine: stop acting far older than your age, my dear!

Martin 5:49 PM  


Yes, that's the scene. The biting of the thumb was really making the mano fico and biting the exposed thumbnail. English actors usually get this right. The meaning was obvious and might translate today to "bite me!" Over time this has morphed into other gestures, such as hooking the unencumbered thumbnail under the upper incisor and snapping it out in the direction of the target. But it started as the mano fico.

fergus 5:57 PM  

Caleb - you threw me for a loss today. Well done.

Ruth 6:15 PM  

Shucks--no takers for E-RUT? Definition to include, for instance, dk's perpetual state where Andrea is concerned?
Maybe it's too risque, but gee, this is usually a bawdy crowd.

Elaine 6:17 PM  

Should I suspect you of being a whipper-snapper?
I personally don't think of OLD as a pejorative term, just descriptive. I am "middle-aged" only if you know a lot of 120-year-olds.

You'd have to write:
[Not missing any meals] elderly [WASP] female [with a history of mechanical breakdowns.]

But I do like to quote Picasso: Youth is not a matter of age.

I give myself credit for intellectual curiosity, broad interests, creative pursuits. On the other hand, I don't think I could have built up this fund of general knowledge and experiences in only, say, 40 I am comfortable with being this age. Occasionally I snivel: something hurts, somewhere, all the time. OH well! That way I get to the puzzles early !

Thanks, Caleb Madison and Class. Some good info emerged from this puzzle experience!

Martin 6:21 PM  

PS to r_c,

Here's another citation that is more explicit:

“Giving me the fico with his thombe in his mouth”
Wit's Miserie, Thomas Lodge, 1596

hazel 6:27 PM  

@Elaine - I'm with you. I was minus 3 when it came out! and just happened upon it a few years ago when I was trolling one of the Top 100 Novel lists looking for something to read - and it sounded interesting.

dk 6:30 PM  

Jee whiz, I was reporting on what I heard, not describing my chair lift experience (cough, cough). I am a highly trained first responder and would never do anything that would impair my ability (Insert Yul Brenner from Westworld stating nothing will go wrong about here). That said when I was much younger I did consummate... never mind.

@elaine, do you and Dave want to double date with Andrea (god knows what will go here) Michaels. A little bird told me there are discount rates to CA.

Gotta patrol tomorrow and it will be sunny and 30+ degrees - who needs drugs.

retired_chemist 6:45 PM  

@ Martin - thanks. Love to learn things. Is the German word ficken also derived from ficus?

Noam D. Elkies 7:48 PM  

The "A to M" parsing of 36D:ATOM actually goes back to the Maleska era, though I couldn't find an example more recent than July '99 on xwordinfo.

My time was also slower than usual for a Thursday, but I know why: I put my answer to 1D in 1A as DICTATOR, which was a close enough match (with 6D:HIS changed to the equally plausible THE) that it took a while before I realized what I had done... 1A:THAT SHOT me back by a minute or so.

NDE (in San Diego for the week)

edith b 8:21 PM  

I had my AHA moment at R{AD}IOBRAVO when I realized this puzzle was about movies. I had COMMERCIALBREAK in place but couldn't see how it laced the puzzle together.

I never watched "The Beverly Hillbillies" or anything like it in the 60s. I remember Bill from NJ saying once that he had a whole group of TV programs he "not watched" and I not watched shows of that type. I was too busy reading. I find it fascinating that a highly cultured man like William Paley created that whole genre of dumb downed programming.

Caleb Madison is becoming one of my favorite constructors and my above commemts notwithwstanding, I enjoyed this puzzle alot.

Entropy 8:32 PM  

New to the NYT puzzle.
First time I completed a Thursday.
I see progress in my catching the pun clues.
Had to laugh during the write-up.
Rex you had a hard time at REAM?
That is good, now stay out of prison.

@Elaine - Check out the Hillbillies, the shows are still funny today. You seem to be a STAR here.

Martin 8:37 PM  


Ficus and ficken are unrelated etymologically, although both are fascinating on so many levels.

Ficus was imported into Latin from the Greek word for fig, sukon, which is pre-Indo-European in origin. It had both the gastronomic and anatomical senses in Greek before it was a Latin calque.

Ficken shares Indo-European affinity with a host of English words. Originally meaning "rub" in MHG, it was used in its current sense very early. English words like "fix" and "microfiche" (originally from the French for "nail") are among words that share an Indo-European root with ficken and its many derivatives.

I guess convergent evolution of words is not surprising, at least when certain topics are the subjects.

chefbea 9:00 PM  

just met some new crossword bloggers - anna and ernie. Welcome and you can e-mail me if you have any questions.

fergus 9:02 PM  

I am a day late and Martin is all on about fig trees. Weren't you alarmed about ADVERSE yesterday?

fikink 9:13 PM  

@fergus, as I told you off-blog, you have my full support in fighting the misuse of "averse" and "adverse." But, again, it goes back to my futile crusade to reintroduce "niggardly" as a legitimate, totally PC word.

fergus 9:24 PM  


Your tag amost demands that I respond -- by the laws of thermodynamics.

(first time I failed in a while, on the puzzlw btw.)

You'll see anything fall apart

Sfingi 9:42 PM  

I had decided to do a Thurs. NYT because the LAT was so easy. Big mistake.

I know most of you here think it was a lark, but it was one of the worst I've ever tried, and I'm going back to stopping at Wed.

First, for the first time in a long time, I didn't get the theme, which made the words gibberish.
Second, I Googled lots - much young people stuff. For instance, never heard of STARDATE, Kelly Clarkson, Paris Hilton's quotes, a salty dog.
@RB - right word for that piece of..fluff.

@David - TEXASTEA, STYX and RYANS hope are young for people born during the war. I'm older than a baby-boomer, but the way they're keeping people alive I have lots of time yet to miss out on more.

Beyond that, didn't know EMU Bay, SOIE, RADIOBRAVO. Had "the" before HIS. Wanted "gnomes" for ARBORS. Wanted Sinatra. Wanted Amigos.

Sports - Googled for 3 out of 4 and came up with U Washington for the Huskies. Is the University of Connecticut suddenly some big deal? By suddenly, I mean since 1966. What's a non-sportster to do?

I think the first words in a recipe should be "In a bowl..." or "Mix together..." not ADDA.

What figure is AMB an abrev. for at the UN?

@Joho - Be careful. You know how Sonny Bono and one Kennedy bought the farm - in the same week. A dangerous white powder!

Just not enough in my areas, or could it be that "Too many cooks spoil the broth."

That's my rave and I'm sticking to it.

fergus 10:00 PM  

There are some linguistic battles one wants to fight:

LAY vs LIE - lost cause

apparently who cares?

Adverse contra Averse
I know someone does, ...

ArtLvr 10:12 PM  

@ Martin -- I'm enjoying your linguistic derivations, though I have a feeling there was more you could have ADded...


p.s. $10 Red Cross donations toward rescue and relief efforts can be made from mobile phones by texting HAITI to the number 90999, and the amount will be added to the phone bill... Most carriers waive texting fees, but not Sprint.

I was teaching at the time of the news that JFK was shot, and the kids were stunned, the helplessness made worse because it was way over an hour before his death was confirmed. If any of you are teaching, you might ask the school to allow the brief notice above -- Even being able to help in a very small way will allow the students to get past the nightmares.

ArtLvr 10:18 PM  

@ sfingi, AMB is for AmbassADor. Keep trying all the puzzles, they'll get easier for you bit by bit -- unless really Slangy and then who cares?


CoolPapaD 10:53 PM  

@ Martin - thanks for the fig/liver lesson - quite interesting. Is language your vocation, or just a hobby?

Martin 11:00 PM  

Begging pardon for a fourth post, but it's hopefully less noxious than Nike spam.


I have lots of interests that balance my professional life and keep me sane. Words are one.

Like a lot of crossword folks, I'm a computer nerd. I work for IBM.

sanfranman59 11:15 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 6:52, 6:54, 0.99, 53%, Medium
Tue 9:10, 8:47, 1.04, 66%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 9:53, 12:03, 0.82, 12%, Easy
Thu 18:58, 19:19, 0.98, 50%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:44, 3:40, 1.02, 63%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:52, 4:30, 1.08, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 4:59, 5:55, 0.84, 14%, Easy
Thu 8:26, 9:19, 0.90, 23%, Easy-Medium

For some reason, the top 100 solvers had an easier time with today's puzzle than all solvers.

Entropy 11:35 PM  

I have nothing to do with thermodynamics.

More of a tendency of nature to move from order to disorder.

Like a blank puzzle grid.
Then I starts entering letters & after a few plus write-overs it is complete disorder!!!

retired_chemist 10:14 AM  

@ Martin - fascinating stuff. Thanks again.

@ Entropy - but that is thermodynamic!

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