Third-place presidential candidate 1920 who ran his campaign from jail / THU 2-11-10 / Twists in trattoria / 1960s trip taker

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: ABE (62D: Nickname of the man (born 2/12/1809) who gave the address at 18A [GETTYSBURG], issued the 28A/45A [EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION], was the first elected president of the 60A [REPUBLICAN] Party, and whose name can be found in this puzzle's main diagonal)

Word of the Day: Eugene V. DEBS (Third-place presidential candidate of 1920 who ran his campaign from jail)

Eugene Victor Debs (November 5, 1855 – October 20, 1926) was an American union leader, one of the founding members of the International Labor Union and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), as well as candidate for President of the United States as a member of the Social Democratic Party in 1900, and later as a member of the Socialist Party of America in 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920. Through his presidential candidacies as well as his work with labor movements, Debs would eventually become one of the best-known socialists in the United States.
• • •

I didn't care for this much. Equal parts dull and annoying — as dry and straightforward a theme as I can ever remember seeing on a Thursday. The diagonal name thing deserves at least polite applause, and (I suppose) excuses some of the infelicities in the grid. But overall, not a satisfying experience for me. On the one hand, way way way too easy, theme-wise. I went straight to the 62D clue, knew it was ABE, and just filled in the theme answers (exc. one — see below) with almost zero thought. No crosses needed. On the other hand, perhaps to make up for the ease factor, the clues were rough all over, and included (esp. in the top half) a boatload of names, several (DERN — 17A: 2009 Golden Globe winner for "Recount"; NASH — 51A: Ambassador of old autodom) clued in unfamiliar or tough-to-suss-out ways. There was some entertainment value in wrestling with the amped-up cluing, but stuff like 24A: What unicorns live in (myth) felt forced. INAS (58D: Much precedent?) should be banned from crosswords forever. It Is Not A Word. Is it even a prefix? Ugh. Makes "IN ME" look like a gem (25D: "She Believes ___" (Kenny Rogers hit)).

Biggest trouble spots for me were in the SE — where the SHOGI (52D: Japanese chess) / SION (69A: Capital of Valais) crossing gave me a scare — and in the N and NE, but only because my software was acting buggy; in Black Ink (my version of AcrossLite) the ABE clue was faaaaaaar too long to be seen in the clue window. I'm supposed to be able to hover my cursor over the partially visible clue and have the whole thing appear in a pop-up window, but that feature is temperamental, and it wasn't working well today. Thus I had to do much of that top part without GETTYSBURG in place. Finally got enough crosses to guess that it must be GETTYSBURG (despite not being able to see the clue for context). Also thought "trattoria" signified "bakery" for some reason (!?), and thus didn't pick up the (easy) ROTINI (8D: Twists in a trattoria) even with the -INI in place. "But ... PANINI aren't twists!"

  • 15A: Character in all six "Star Wars" films, informally (Artoo) — good example of familiar name that I couldn't see at all until I got several crosses. Maybe I don't think of him (it?) as a "character," thought he (it?) clearly is.
  • 25D: ___ Hunter, leader of rock's Mott the Hoople (Ian) — I know this from ... from ... I think from Brendan Emmett Quigley's puzzles. Seems like a route he'd go down for IAN.
  • 43A: Classic Mercedes roadsters (SLS) — more ugh. I see that it is on the ABRAHAM LINCOLN fault line, so I guess I can't complain much. C'est la guerre.
  • 1D: "___ Live," 1992 multiplatinum album (AC/DC) — this clue is kind of cheap, in that virtually nothing in the clue tips you to the band name.
  • 2D: Letter-shaped bridge support (T-beam) — not a big fan of your letter-shaped BEAMs and BARs, but I guess they're sometimes necessary.
  • 3D: It's sometimes given to prisoners (mercy) — "shown." The word is "shown." Not "given."
  • 5D: Problems in synchronization (lags) — no idea why, but this was a gimme, and one I really needed up there. Still thought 5A: 1960s trip taker (Leary) might be LAIKA, but she took her trip in the '50s.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 11:23 PM  

I believe 5D: problems in sychronization is LAGS

foodie 11:45 PM  

I think the central clue was way too long, not only because it was impossible to read in Across Lite, but also because it had too much information. If it had been phrased more mysteriously the whole puzzle, which is well constructed, would have been more fun.

Anonymous 12:06 AM  

"Much precedent" is far and away my favorite clue. Thumbs up on the whole puzzle.

jeff in chicago 12:18 AM  

Ha! Didn't even realize I was doing Thursday's puzzle. I've never posted this close to the top.

Anyhoo....Like it. Clever, but not thrilling. Guessed at the SHOGI/SION cross. Liked the clue for ARMS. AC/DC and ABBA in the same puzzle - just 4 letters into the alphabet, but miles apart musically.

lit.doc 12:20 AM  

The two things about this puzzle that didn’t suck were Rex’s write up and how early he posted it. The 62A clue could be read in Across Lite using the slide bar at the bottom of the DOWN clue box, but what a pain in the ass. That I was able to get through the puzzle slowly and without a zillion googles doesn’t excuse its not being any fun.

Starting out across the Canadian border, I sucked even worse than the puzzle. And I can’t blame Canada. 1A HEMI, 2D WTFBEAM (question for any mechanical engineers in the room: is any term other than I-beam really in common usage?), 5A (ironically) LSD’ER, 7D EXTRACT, and 9D VARY. Geez.

Went S to the theme-reveal clue, and pretty quickly filled in all the related answers (though I didn’t see the NW-SE diagonal thingy till done because of how effed up N was, so it didn’t help at all). But the fill was mostly pretty brutal for me. Gave myself a gold star for Crosswordese 101 progress when “Essen’s region” immediately fired my RUHR synapse. But what a slog. The top fourth took forever.

Ugliest moment of the night was the 52D/69A crossing that Rex said gave him a scare. I’m hesitant to use the N word, but c’mon. @Constructors, does that pass the sniff test?

CoolPapaD 12:33 AM  

Agree with foodie and Rex that the theme clue was way too easy, and I was able to fill in all of them at once. LEARY also dropped immediately (intended).

I really enjoyed this one overall, and again learned a few new words, including BURL, SARACEN and SHOGI.

Dumb mistake - SHOEIN and VECE. Never heard of mezza voce, but shouldna missed it!

Doe-eyed, yes. SLOE-eyed, huh?

ArtLvr 12:40 AM  

Jim Horne gave a large-print version of that pesky long clue at the top of his blog, thank goodness. Once I saw the puzzle was ABE-related, I didn't make a note of the clues, just worked out each theme answer as it came along. I agreed that it was a good feat of construction, but marred by that loopy clue!

LEARY was hoot, as there's a new book out about him: Don Lattin's "The Harvard Psychedelic Club". It covers all you ever knew, heard or didn't hear, from Leary's first Trip in Cuernevaca in 1960, through experiments he and Richard Alpert tried that led to their being kicked out of Harvard. Also it follows the other leaders like Ginsberg, Burrows, Hoffman and Huxley. How Huxley died in '63 on the same day as JFK, and Alpert went to India and came back as a swami, Ram Das... How Steve Jobs conceived of a mouse. Can a movie be far behind?


Steve J 12:54 AM  

Just want to point out that SLS are great - when you're talking about 50s- and 60s-era Mercedes. It's the opposite of great in this puzzle. Especially right next to SOS.

It's bad any day of the week, let alone a Thursday, when every theme answer can get filled in just by reading the cross-referenced clue when literally nothing else in the grid has been filled in. I don't have an issue with the theme (I have issues with the puzzle, but not the theme), but why did it have to be clued so bloody obviously? Especially for a Thursday. Anyone with a minimal recall of American history can quickly fill out a substantial portion of the puzzle. Kind of lame. Especially for a Thursday.

Did I mention that this went ridiculously quickly for a Thursday? Well, at least 95% of the puzzle, until I got stuck at the same places others did. I'm with lit.doc on questioning the SHOGI/SION crossing. I guess I should be grateful that SION wasn't clued with a "DaVinci Code" reference.

Some other displeasing stuff: CBER, the clue for PET, the clue for OUTVOTE (if you beat someone in an electoral race, you don't outvote them, as you're only allowed to vote once; unless there's only one vote in the race and your opponent forgets to vote for themselves, in which case you could indeed beat them by outvoting them). However, I really liked the clue for LEARY (although I had a brief detour of LEARS, thinking that jets worked for trips, and while not recalling Learjets being that popular back then, I figured it was the jet age and all).

Needless to say, I'm not a fan of this one. Think I may have to go dig up one of the archived puzzles in my iPhone app and find a proper Thursday to do, as I'm left feeling like I went to an overhyped restaurant that served tiny portions of mediocre food.

ArtLvr 12:59 AM  

p.s. I see Alpert's nom de guru was/is Baba Ram Dass.

Robin 1:11 AM  

Holy Crap on a Cracker, as Penny of the Big Bang Theory might say. A theme that actually helped the solve. Obviously not Thursday-worthy, since I solved it on Wednesday night, but still...I enjoyed it.
Thanx RP for early (clever as always) write-up and affirmation that this xword neophyte can actually (rarely) play on Thursday.

Clark 2:06 AM  

When everybody was whining about the clue for SION the other day, I almost talked about this beautiful city in Switzerland, which would have given y'all a leg up -- but I didn't. Sorry. I have hiked all over the Valais (or Kanton Wallis as it is in German) and have passed through Sion many times. The Chateau de Sion is worth a look.

Blackhawk 3:30 AM  

Too easy for a Thursday but -- let's face it -- anytime you get to think about Abe Lincoln and his remarkable achievement as statesman and civilian war commander it is a good day.

Especially appropriate today when we look across the Atlantic and see the Europeans struggling w/ their union. It would have v easy for Lincoln to let the South go, just as many French and Germans would like to see Greece jettisoned from their union, but he stood up to the challenge and at unbelievable loss of life saved our country from becoming a squabbling bunch of duchies for the next 150 years.

So lift your head from the puzzle and give a birthday thanks for one of the great leaders the country has produced -- a man so tall that when they tried to fit him into a crossword box they had to wedge him in at a slant.

andrea helllllllooooo michaels 3:46 AM  

This was a reverse pleasure, prob tons of fun for the constructor, to make and fit all those things in plus have something on the diagonal, fancy! Less so for the solver.

But I'm probably just saying that bec I had XLS for the car, Xaracen meant as much to me as SARACEN, which I guess I should look up but I'm a lazy bitch. @Clark?

I also had cURL for BURL. I didn't catch the whole DEBS thing bec I think I thought he was spelled with two BBs.

I'd like to read that!

Just realized ARTOO could be a Star Wars playground taunt!

I liked APLENTY aplenty
and 53D HELLO seemed like you could really "hear" the answer... love that!

Bowl game bowlful, was fun for me to say (in my head, lots of voices there) and it seemed timely. I'm sure there is still a bowlful of NACHOS lying out still from some non-neatnik's Superbowl party.

Got to see the fabulous gypsy jazz guitarist Lulo Reinhardt AGAIN tonight!!!!!!! He was in town for a few days, before he flies tomorrow to... NATICK !!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was dying to explain the whole Natick thing to him, but as his first language is Romani, second German, third or fourth English, by the time I explained to him that I make crosswords, and who/what Rex was, I would be exhausted and he would be dead.

imsdave 5:43 AM  

Easy puzzle - way too much of it given away by the theme clue - but - I failed. SAON looked like it could have the same derivation as the Saone river, so after much A-I-A-I hestitation, I popped in the A.

Elaine 5:48 AM  

My favorite clue was 54D, because it made me smile. Hand up for HEMI, and since the M worked, I just left that corner for last.

Hand up for a Natick at SHOGI/SION; there is a game GO, so I figured, heck, maybe SHOGO is the full name; SOON didn't sound French, but I've been in HOORN (West Frisian Islands) so hey, O is a nice letter!

Since I solve on paper, the second I hit 18A, sending me to 62D and ABE, I filled in all of the long answers....but because I was searching for a Left-to-right diagonal (I know, duh) SLS evaded me. STS? Car models~~~bleah.

I would be more ashamed of my Fail if it had been a cooler puzzle; at the same time, Blackhawk (Lincoln served in that series of 'wars') is right; anytime we pause to think of Honest ABE, it elevates the tone of the gathering.

inest--birds have iNests?

Anonymous 8:23 AM  

Solved it rather easily, to my surprise, and attacked it the way @Elaine did. As a result, I didn't look at many of the clues, and was stunned to learn I knew what Japanese chess was.

I liked the cluing for IRA at 50A- a nice change of pace.

A decent Thursday

George Gordon Byron 8:29 AM  

Maid of Athens, ere we part,
Give, oh, give back my heart!
Or, since that has left my breast,
Keep it now, and take the rest!
Hear my vow before I go,
Zoë mou sas agapo.

By those tresses unconfined,
Wooed by each Aegean wind;
By those lids whose jetty fringe
Kiss thy soft cheeks' blooming tinge;
By those wild eyes like the roe,
Zoë mou sas agapo.

By that lip I long to taste;
By that zone-encircled waist;
By all the token-flowers that tell
What words can never speak so well;
By love's alternate joy and woe,
Zoë mou sas agapo.

Maid of Athens! I am gone:
Think of me, sweet! when alone.
Though I fly to Istambol,
Athens holds my heart and soul:
Can I cease to love thee? No!
Zoë mou sas agapo.

VaBeach puzzler 8:38 AM  

With easier fill, this would have been a great puzzle for kids. BTW, I can't find good puzzles to bring my grandkiddies into the puzzle world (and away from their iEverythings!).

chefbea 8:45 AM  

I agree. The theme made it way too easy. I too put in all the answers and then proceded.

took me forever to sign into my account so I could post. Why do we have to re-sign in everyday???

mac 8:56 AM  

Why didn't they toughen the clues and serve this puzzle up on the 12th???

Even I managed to get most of the theme answers in right away (tried declaration instead of proclamation first), but I do like this diagonal feat. I hadn't heard of Debs, and the foodie in me wanted mezza luna, a most popular kitchen gadget in NY at the moment: ChopChop's all around.

@imsdave: I went the Saone reasoning route as well...

@Blackhawk: nice comment.

retired_chemist 9:03 AM  

Nice puzzle. Would have been easier if I has read the 62D clue first, as Rex did. As it was, I got more than halfway through before reading half of the clue (the part that AL revealed in the standard window). Filled in all the theme answers as Lincoln references, but guessed at the clues. At the end, resized the window and read the whole clue. D'oh!

Is a symod (my captcha) a meeting of cloned bishops?

Somehow knew SHOGI - never played it. Had IND for Mich. neighbor first. Ditto PHOBOS for the moon @ 37A, which I was prepared to change if indicated. It was. Wrong planet anyway.....

The upper floors of the building I used to work in were supported by T-BEAMS, i.e. cross section is a T. Choices for construction beams are I and T AFAIK. Would not want to be in a building that had, say, Z-BEAMS or S-BEAMS.

Had ---RUB for 40D Masseuse's offering and briefly wondered what body part fit in 3 letters. EAR seemed unlikely on silliness grounds, as did several slang words on the Gray Lady's ground rules.

Thanks you, Mr. Collins. I gave myself more of a workout than I think you intended, but I enjoyed it.

jesser 9:04 AM  

What everyone else said. Up top, when I had the G and the second T in place on 18A, I looked at the 62D clue and figured it out, so the diagonal cascaded down and the rest of the theme entries went in without benefit of crosses. I guessed in the I in SION, but I felt pretty confident. I did NOT feel confident guessing the S in SLS, but it turned out to be right. I never heard of SARACEN. I agree about the clue/answer misfit at 38A, but I loved the SHOO in just below. Anyone else pencil in PALMS for 20A, only to have the downs say, "Hold on, Cowboy." And had I not sussed the theme early, I'm betting I'd have slapped in SOUP for 57D before SLAW would have forced its way into the grid.

Stormy day here in southern N.M., but we need the rain, so I won't whine. The high will still be near 60, and I just look at the temps of you folks in the higher latitudes and shiver for you.

And now, I have work APLENTY to do, you adios, amigos!

Nizater! -- jesser

Darryl 9:19 AM  

Way too little bile for OUTVOTE here today. Unless Chicago, the only place where one person can single handedly outvote the masses, it's just bad.
BURLS are not knots. BURLS are abnormal growths in trees, thought to be the result of infectious agents, physical trauma or unknown causes. Some include massive amounts of unformed branch precurors. Knots are simply the intersection of two branches, or a branch and the trunk.

The stack of Kawabata's books on my just read pile made SHOGI an odd gimme.

Anonymous 9:22 AM  

Nachos aren't served in a bowl--that would be gross--but on a plate. Maybe y'all call something else nachos.

mccoll 9:23 AM  

More fun for the constructor that the destructee, by half! I simply wrote in the answers for the theme clues and went from there. I had one google at DERN.
@imsdave I made the same mistake.Rats!
Thanks for the write-up RP and everyone for the comments.

CoolPapaD 9:26 AM  

@andrea helllllllooooo michaels - Never heard of Lulo - I'm assuming from your description he is somehow related to Django, who I'd never heard of until hearing a terrific story about him on NPR.

Tomorrow is not only Abe's birthday, but also Charles Darwin's. Survival of the fittest seems appropriate for a Friday puzzle!

treedweller 9:34 AM  

Am I the only one who doesn't know ski resorts? I looked up SARACEN after the fact and I grant that I should know that one, or at least can't complain about it, but ALTA was pushing it for me. As far as I'm concerned, SLS was as good as no crosses. SHOGI / SION had me waffling, but I guessed right without much doubt.

And I know that technically NACHOS can be tortilla chips, but in my world, NACHOS are tortilla chips topped with cheese, pickled jalapeños, and possibly beans, tomatoes, sour cream, pico de gallo . . . mmmm, nachos.

As for the theme, I skipped the cross-reference the first time, read it the second time (except for the part that didn't show up in the applet) and groaned, finally took the time to digest it the third time and filled in all the theme answers, and never even saw the diagonal. So consider me Not A Fan.

JMorgie 9:50 AM  

Great to see SHOGI in a puzzle; I have been playing since high school. One of its features is that unlike european chess where capture men are taken out of the game, in Shogi a captured player can be reinserted in the game much as captured Samurei would change sides and serve a new master. gives a whole level of complexity.

also nice to see things a knew -- like the Nash and Burl. last thing to fall into place for me was ACDC but then i know nothing about music from the last 30 years.

easy for a thursday


PlantieBea 9:52 AM  

My brother was born on 2/12, so the theme was a gimme. I filled in the across answers immediately, but never looked at the diagonal until I came here and saw Rex's write-up.

Considered FURL and PURL for the knot. DEBS was an unknown, so I learned something new with BURL and DEBS.

Alta is a terrific place to ski--great snow, kind of old fashioned and quiet without snowboarders.

Thanks P Collins and Rex.

dk 10:05 AM  

Warning Pompous post ahead:

Drive a vintage SL in the summer, got it cheap in Florida about 12 years ago as the seller's spouse thought getting in the car was difficult and the doors were heavy. Drove said SL when I met Andrea... sigh.

Went to Milbrook in the 60's with girlfriend who knew T. Leary... we inhaled deeply.

Family tree is littered with Republicans who admire and worked with Lincoln and Rockefeller.

60's trip taker pal had a NASH that we painted bright red with more coats of lacquer than I can remember. He customized the grill so the car looked like it was sneering. We named it Seconal. I had a 55 VW bug with little flippers for turn signals, we painted it to look like an magic eight ball. We named it Mr. 8. God, were we cool or what.

As a sophomore in HS wrote a paper in Lincoln.

EUROPA, sixth moon of Jupiter was discovered by Galileo in 1610. EUROPA in MYTH was courted by Zeus who no doubt gave her a Unicorn -- Unicorns also play an important role in Napoleon Dynamite

Son went to ASU before Tulane.

In short (you wish) this puzzle was a SHOOIN. Got the theme first and the rest was like shooting ducks in a pond... with my Berretta over/under of course.

This one was way to easy for a Thursday. Now I will be way too full of myself and over confident for Friday.

** (2 Stars) A Tuesday trying to be Thursday. Every WASP knows the importance of one's place.

John 10:06 AM  

Had PURL for BURL ( need to bone up on crocheting termenology)and SARACON instead of the correct answer. Too easy for thursday.

BTW, I havent been able to post on Blogger since Cruciverb was hacked, until today. Blogger just would not take my submissions. I have no idea what happened, but it sure did!

Glitch 10:15 AM  


Your brother was Abraham Lincoln ????


archaeoprof 10:18 AM  

Agree with Foodie et al. But Abe earned a theme puzzle on his birthday. He was a great president.

(please don't tell anyone down here in SC that I think Abe was a great president...)

Here in the town where I live there is a diner where you can order your burger "APLENTY." The burger is served beneath a mound of fries and onion rings. Really.

Martin 10:26 AM  


The clue didn't say anything about tree.

slypett 10:29 AM  

I had fun--I guess. I mean, how can you not know if you had a good time, or not? Answer: When the puzzle is so easy it goes down like an oyster--just a hint of taste and a satyisfying plop when it hits that stomach acid.

PlantieBea 10:30 AM  

@Glitch: That's what we called him. I have another brother who was born on 2/14. He's a real saint. It really dates me, don't you think?

SethG 10:31 AM  

BURL is also Ives. And it's not in my standard dictionary, but some others have "To defeat (an opponent or proposal, for example) in voting." as a secondary definition of OUTVOTE. Might I recommend one doesn't google ["oil rub" +masseuse]?

I solved on the applet, where no resizing would give me the "...Party, and whose name can be found in this puzzle's main diagonal" part of the reveal clue. My only problem was with OPTi/SiS and remembering my Abba songs.

poc 10:32 AM  

I agree with Rex entirely (for once :-). Much too boring for a Thursday.

I believe "trattoria" originally meant a place where farm workers stopped to eat, from the Italian for tractor. At least that's what an Italian friend tells me. Likewise, "carbonara" refers to miners and "putanesca" to (how shall I put it?), ladies of pleasure.

OldCarFudd 10:44 AM  

Agree it must have been more fun to create than to solve, but not a bad puzzle. I knew NASH and SLS, although not all SLs were roadsters. The most famous one was a coupe with gull-wing doors that opened out of the roof. Nashes were known for seats that converted into beds. This caused great ructions when a teen-ager's boyfriend appeared in one to squire her on a date.

BOOOO! to the OUTVOTE clue!

I enjoyed Blackhawk's and dj's posts - for different reasons.

treedweller 10:46 AM  

Well, seeing @SethG's post makes me realize my problem with SLS / ALTA would have disappeared if only the whole cross-referencing clue had appeared. I withdraw my complaint thereof and insert great annoyance with the applet.

Two Ponies 10:51 AM  

@ treedweller, I'm surprised you did not have something to say about Darryl's tree comment. I haven't clicked on Martin's link yet.
@ dk, Once again reading your life story sounds so much like my own I just have to grin at the great memories. Thanks. Unlike the public service commercials my brain in no way resembles fried eggs.
@ Blackhawk, Very thoughtful comment.
I filled in the theme answers before 80% of the puzzle so it was more of a slog than anything.
I cringed at the spelling of Ameba.
I much prefer Amoeba.
When I see sloe-eyed I always think of the actress from the Cosby Show who married Lenny Kravitz.
Nice to see Mott the Hoople, AC/DC, and Dr. Leary all in the same puzzle.

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

There's a civic good to crosswords being devoted to worthy personages like Lincoln every once in a while. Maybe not a huge civic good, but a good nonetheless.

God knows we have to wade through enough Simpsons clues on other days.

I, like a lot of other folks, thought the puzzle to be a bit easy, but my time was in line with other Thursday solves. When I checked the NYT website, the number of solvers and the times (about 18-19 minutes median) looked to be pretty much in line with Thursdays also.

Darryl 11:01 AM  

@Martin - You are, of course, correct. I hereby modify my complaint to one of a "In the language" violation, or ok for Saturday, not Thurs. If one Googles BURL with some reference to your definition, e.g. +BURL +fabric / +knit / +cloth, etc, for each of them the first 5 pages return only definitions matching the one you profered. Except of course for pages saying how cute BURL Ives looked in his knit sweater.

Aaron Riccio 11:06 AM  

Yeah, I just don't care for informationally themed puzzles (right up there with quote puzzles). Crosswords are about words, and Thursdays are about getting loose, and I wanted more wordplay. The rigidity of diagonal crossing and bland across-themes resulted in some poor filling, too. Every cross I couldn't make was a result of a lack of trivial knowledge (BURL, though I should have known DEBS; SOS, which I had as OPTI)....

A real bummer, all around.

dk 11:06 AM  

@two ponies, yeah but I bet you went blind staring at the sun.

One more Andrea like post: Photo'd Ian Hunter in the Mott The Hoople days. Watch Alice Doesn't Live Her Anymore for your Ian assignment.

Tony from Charm City 11:15 AM  

Very easy Thursday, especially once you read the theme-revealing clue @ 62-D.

The one clue I hated was for 38-A. The politician can't OUTVOTE his competition. He can receive more votes, but he can only vote once (unless he's from Chicago.)

Robin 11:17 AM  

First created circa 1943 by Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya, the original nachos consisted of fried corn tortillas covered with melted cheddar cheese and pickled jalapeño peppers.

Judith 11:22 AM  

Ummm nachos!

Loved the Ian Hunter reference. In 1979, I constantly listened to this tune when the daylight comes. Also, Cleveland Rocks!

I had a great time (as in went quickly) on this one.

Martin 11:27 AM  

Considering how often Will Shortz gets outvoted around here, I'm surprised this entry is so controversial.


I'm not sure "not in the language" can be called on a word. That's for phrases where we don't have dictionaries to settle things.

Chorister 11:29 AM  

Yeah, reading the comments & realizing I didn't even see some of these clues denotes too easy for a Thursday. On the other hand I didn't see the slanted A.L. & I already deleted the puzzle. Darn.

Am trying out Black Ink & liking it. At least I could slide the bar along & read the long clue, which in Across Lite no amount of resizing would have revealed.

slypett 11:31 AM  

Robin: And I always thought 'nachos' was related to Yiddish 'nosh'!

Stan 11:49 AM  

Very similar solving experience here. Tabling specific questions (like whether "Beat in a race' can possibly mean OUTVOTE) I think it's fair to say that the (impressive) theme answers were revealed all-at-once and too quickly, leaving many to wrestle with single-letter squares that just weren't a lot of fun to guess.

I like @foodie's suggestion that "more mysterious" clues would have helped.

Elaine 11:55 AM  

I hope someone who speaks Italian will chime in; I myself think that the "trattoria" story was suspect and that the person who told you this was having you on. Torturing Americans is an addiction with some folks.

@John 10:06
'PURL' is a knitting term, and I've never heard it applied to crochet. I hear a lot of guys are taking up knitting...

I'm with you on the BURL issue, but 'knot' did produce the desired answer from many of us. My old walnut dresser has burled panels on the drawer fronts; these were often applied as veneers (so as to allow more use of the attractive wood.) The knots (in, for instance, knotty pine, are quite different in appearance.

A lot of people must be snowed in today!

rhoneyman 11:55 AM  

spherical beginning = atmo? no one else seems to have an issue with that so it must be my problem. but what a problem. how do you get an uncommon abbreviation from such an abstruse definition? must be the question mark.

Dough 12:00 PM  

Well, I thought it was just a sensational puzzle. That a diagonal ABRAHAM■LINCOLN would conveniently cross the EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION is fabulous. This morning, for no reason, I printed out the puzzle rather than solving online. I think that made the difference. Apparently, the online solving experience failed this puzzle.

HudsonHawk 12:03 PM  

@rhoneyman, try ATMOsphere...

Rex Parker 12:03 PM  

This is why Martin and I don't see things the same way. At all. He's way way more respectful of (reverent of) dictionaries. (And generally an apologist for the puzzle/Will). For him, if the word is in the (a) dictionary, it's good. I think if it's there, it's *legit,* but that does not make it "good," and "in-the-language" (which is a real thing) beats NOT-in-the-language (but in the dictionary) hands down. Further, as Martin knows, stuff is in the puzzle that is Not in the dictionary all the time. Also, as he knows, being in the dictionary is not even enough for Will, who specifically warns constructors off arcana in the NYT specs.

Darryl 12:10 PM  

I just refreshed my screen to erase the carefully construted, highly nuanced, extremely long dialog I had chosen to continue with Martin.
You may thank me for my erasure by donating to your charity of choice.

Auntie AnaGram 12:16 PM  

There are dictionaries of "common phrases"...idioms....slang....and on and on.

Are you new here? If so, Welcome.
(@HudsonHawk: rhoneyman got the answer; he just wonders why we aren't mad)

Many of us were suckered into HEMI- as the first entry at 1A. Keep in mind that as the week bears on, cluing gets tricky (as in sly, crafty, misleading, or even outright cruel.) So "spherical" was probably designed to make someone think of an ORB first (imagine this Peter Collins person snickering.) Ah, but old hands were not fooled; clues with "starter, beginning, lead-in" and the like often mean you should look for a prefix, a paired/compound word, or just a word part that might precede the word in the clue.

When you figure out ATMO- you are supposed to feel clever. Or perhaps just take down Peter Collins' name and plot revenge

rhoneyman 12:29 PM  

thanks, auntie. i'm new and no, i didn't get atmo (i-beam? t-beam? whatever...). but then, i haven't done xwords for years and years so i'm not terribly clever in that way. :)

at any rate, as soon as i saw hawk's reply (and thank you for that as well), i realized my sin. i had always thought that by thursday the puzzles would be nearly impossible to finish. that i came within a couple of wrong letters to completion made me scratch my head and google the clue, which explains how i lost my way and found y'all.

thanks again.

Karen from the Cape 12:50 PM  

I liked the puzzle. Would more people have liked it if the diagonal hadn't been clued, but was a secret word? But I'm in a good mood because I had half a snow day.

I started with HEMI at 1A, eventually changed to the good old I BEAM and had a lot of trouble finding my mistake. Besides wondering how AIMO started a sphere.

Martin 1:07 PM  

For the record, I never say that being in the dictionary assures a clue is good -- only that it's correct. I'm a fact checker, not an editor, so that's natural. I challenge you to find an instance where I object to someone not liking a clue (as opposed to saying it's wrong). This is an important distinction -- to me, at least.

In the case of the BURL clue, the dictionary defense (of correctness) was in response to an opinion that the clue was wrong. In fact, I thought the clue was also good because most people think that burls are a kind of knot. The correctness defense is only relevent if you play the "technically they're not" card

obertb 1:13 PM  

I couldn't see the 62D clue until I printed out the AcrossLite version. Once I saw it, 61 squares of the puzzle suddenly became gimmes, no crosses needed.

This puzzle is no doubt admirable as a feat of construction; as a solving experience, not so much. It seems to me that this situation is becoming more and more common in NYT puzzles--construction for construction's sake, without a lot of regard for the experience of the solver. It reminds me of what has been going on in the art world for a long time: art for art's sake, with no regard for anyone except those in the insider art community. This results in work that is boring and uninteresting to look at but which is believed to be important because of the "ideas" involved. (See Tom Wolfe's "The Painted Word.")

Clark 1:55 PM  

@ndrea shoo shooin michaels -- Free look ups on command are just for you. For others there will be a fee, to be negotiated.

From Chapter X of Le morte Darthur, entitled “Of a battle done by Sir Gawaine angainst a Saracen, which after was yielden and became Christian.”

"Then Sir Gawaine said, it were great shame to them to avoid without any strokes; Wherefore I advise to take our arms and to make us ready to meet with these Saracens and misbelieving men, and with the help of God we shall overthrow them and have a fair day on them."

Jeffrey 2:02 PM  

Yeah, 62D gave away too much, leading to a how-fast-can-I-write- down-all-these-letters-in-my-head, but a fine puzzle overall.

lit.doc 2:20 PM  

@Clark and @andrea AMI michaels, re "Saracen", see also "The Song of Roland" which is, if memory serves, the oldest extant example of French literature.

Not exactly an honorific therein: "Saracen" = "paynim" = "heathen" = pagans = Muslims.

Van55 2:23 PM  

Damn, I thought I had left a comment this morning, but I don't see it now. If this is a repeat, please forgive me.

I appreciated the simplicity, elegance ans subject matter of the them.

I was aggravated by what I consider overuse of proper nouns in the fill. I counted 21 proper noun answers, some of which, such as SION, ACDC, and DERN, are pretty arcane as clued.

xyz 2:47 PM  

It seems rather odd for me to agree so closely with Rex, he loves puzzles I hate and vice versa, but "Equal Parts Dull and Annoying" is spot on.

The theme was far too easy making much of the very dull fill harder to get due to much impatience. Even with the struggles, a very easy Thursday.

An occasional crossing letter indecision made the puzzle all the less fun, especially compared to today's just lovely LAT.

However, had the last part of the 62D clue been HONEST ABE rather than the looooong run short hop simple "ABE" I might have been more impressed.

poc 2:55 PM  

@Elaine: you may well be right, but a) I'm not American, b) my friend was definitely not pulling my leg (which isn't to say he was right of course), and c) the best I can come up with via Google relates trattoria ultimately to Latin trahere, to haul, but of course that's also the origin of tractor, i.e. they are at least cousins.

Unknown 2:57 PM  

I just wanted to heap some more bile on OUTVOTE. "Beat in a race?" One of the most misleading and flat-out wrong clues in quite a while.

xyz 3:01 PM  



smartypants 3:24 PM  


dk 3:33 PM  

@lit doc, I was about to chime in with the Song of Roland (in a feeble attempt to appear bright) but you beat me to it. I guess I am just SLOE.

@oldcar... I had a 1949 Plymouth Business Coupe with a drop back seat on the passenger side. Please note this is the one car I wish I still had. It was green with a grey cloth interior......swooooooooon.

Off to ski the bumps: Andrea control yourself.

todd 4:41 PM  

I agree on the spelling of "ameba." While both are likely acceptable, "amoeba" is much more common and has been used in NYTimes Crossword puzzles before

Elaine 5:06 PM  

My computer was the victim of a power outage, so I just looked at your link. I *suppose* that 'knot' could have been linked to the other definition (the non-tree one,) but I will say that, after 50 years of sewing/quilting/fabric arts, I have never referred to a BURL. I would use the word SLUB, or less specifically FLAW. If the problem was not intrinsic to the fabric, but due to threads from a machine or human stitcher, I might say KNOT. Never BURL. But maybe that's just me. I was perfectly happy thinking of a knot in a piece of wood from a tree, and the crossing from Eugene DEBS gave me the B.

I did try to look at your profile for an e-mail address, but as you know, there is no info at all. I am sure "trattoria" existed as a word before the tractor, much as a "reaper" used to be a person, not a machine. So, that does fly...interesting! I noticed that there were different levels of ristorantes, all labeled specifically....I could never bring myself to eat at an 'alimentaria.' Just too...alimentary.

@lit.doc, dk
SARACENS were supposedly very talented makers of sharp blades... which could explain why Roland was singing tenor, eh? JUST kidding!

See you tomorrow!

retired_chemist 5:19 PM  

@ Two Ponies, todd - if you do NYT puzzles for a year you will in all probability see both AMEBA and AMOEBA, with roughly equal frequency. Same for its plural -S or -E. Depends on the exigencies of the grid, I suspect, since it is never theme fill. It's just how it is so no point in worrying about it. Sorta like GRAY/GREY, PAYOR/PAYER,.....

sanfranman59 5:53 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 16:32, 19:35, 0.84, 12%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Thu 8:47, 9:25, 0.93, 35%, Easy-Medium

chefbea 6:40 PM  

In case anyone cares...

slypett 6:52 PM  

smartypants: Scathing and an apt comment on what we've all been guilty of, from time to time: not using readilly available reference materials before posting, hence debating the relative value of breathing air.

Charles Bogle 7:09 PM  

@clark: thanks for the SARACEN "color". Like @coolpapad, learned some interesting new words today. Liked SHOOIN. BURL is also a type of fine wood finish. So much more could have been done w this theme IMO. How peculiar to have DEBS be the only non-celeb proper name in a Lincoln tribute puzzle. Otherwise agree dull and annoying overall (eg AETNA, ROOT, HELLO, NAYS etc and their clues)

chefwen 7:10 PM  

@archaeoprof - I saw that diner on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives. The same blind man calling out the orders to the kitchen all day, emphasizing, ah PLENTEE! Those burgers looked great.

I had earmarked a couple thing to Google, as it turned out, unnecessarily. Easy for a Thursday, but timely.

Two Ponies 7:48 PM  

@r_c, I've been doing these puzzles enough years to know what you are saying. My point is that the spelling today (as other days) makes me cringe. If I had used that spelling in school or university I believe I would have gotten corrected.
Just one of those xword annoyances.

Glitch 8:08 PM  

@Two Ponies

Per wiki:

ameba (plural amebas or amebae)

Alternative spelling of amoeba.

Usage notes: Ameba is the usual spelling of this word in the US.
Also, google hits favor ameba to amoeba by about 100 to one.

And yet, in the spirit of what this blog has become, I agree with you.


retired_chemist 8:09 PM  

@ Two Ponies - sure. Sorry to nettle.

Two Ponies 9:09 PM  

@ Glitch and r_c,
I was not trying to be a drudge. I'm just old school.
Wiki and Google might have some cred in the modern world but in my textbooks ameba would have been the variation not the other way around.

'Nuf said. See you on Friday.

Anonymous 11:03 PM  

I believe the legend of Robin Hood included a SARACEN character. I know I have seen this word often enough to have no problem with it. This may be the first time ever that I knew something (besides Science terms) that was unfamiliar to some of the regular contributors. I am going to celebrate.

Darryl 11:49 PM  

@smartypants - Tense issues aside, the only way the construct you offer given the clue Beat in a race works, given that it must be singular, is: The people who voted for me outvoted the people who voted for my opponent.
Meritorious of bile.

slypett 12:09 AM  

Glitch: It was amoeba in high school biology and will aleways be amoeba to me.

Clark 1:12 AM  

@Darryl --

Using the first definition offered by @smartypants: The Democrats hope to beat the Republicans in a race. = The Democrats hope to outvote the Republicans.

Darryl 8:24 AM  

@Clark - That's assuming that there are only Democrats & Republicans. Independants, socialists, Greens, etc can't vote?

Anonymous 2:36 AM  

I don't understand the problem with 58D. "INAS" isn't a word or a prefix... it's two words!!

"in as"

As in, words that can precede "much" to make the phrase "in as much (as)."

Come on, Rex. It's not that hard.

Another Anonymous 2:43 AM  

You're right, it's not that hard. You're just wrong.

Waxy in Montreal 8:41 PM  

INASMUCH as he was also famously born on 2/12/1809, surprised the grid contained no shoutout to Charles Darwin. (Except maybe AMEBA?)

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