Egypt's last ruling Ptolemy familiarly / MON 2-15-10 / Collegiate digs / Bit of Dobbin's dinner / Blossom supporter

Monday, February 15, 2010

Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "blank IN THE blank" — idiomatic phrases that follow that pattern, where first "blank" is a body part ... mostly.

Word of the Day: NORAH Jones (28D: Singer Jones whose father is Ravi Shankar) —

Norah Jones (born March 30, 1979) is an American singer-songwriter, pianist, keyboardist, guitarist, and actress. She is the daughter of sitarist Ravi Shankar, and the half-sister of Anoushka Shankar. Her career began with her 2002 debut album Come Away with Me, an adult contemporary vocal jazz album with a soul/folk/country tinge, that received five Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best New Artist. This was followed by her second album, Feels like Home, released in 2004. In 2007, she released her third album, Not Too Late. Jones released her fourth album, The Fall, on November 17, 2009. She has sold more than 17 million albums in the US and over 40 million records worldwide; altogether, she has sold more albums than any other female jazz artist during the 2000s. (wikipedia)

• • •

I believe RAVI Shankar and NORAH Jones to be the only father/daughter crosswordese team in existence. I don't think OBAMA and MALIA count. Yet.

A supremely easy puzzle marred by someone's writing me to complain about one of the clues *before I'd even done the puzzle* (at 7pm on a Sunday, come on!). Note: until you see my blog post up, assume I *haven't* done the puzzle. Now there's a giant asterisk next to my time for this one (fastest of 2010 by a couple seconds). Complaint was about 24D: Lacking a stopover, as a flight (direct). Complainer was irate because "direct" flights, by definition, make at least one stop. But of course the clue doesn't stay "stop." It's says "stopover." [Cough]

I didn't like the theme too much. MIND and HEAD are too much the same thing, and really, to be solid, the body parts involved should have read from top to bottom — start with HEAD (or MIND) and work down to FOOT. Why are we going back up to HEAD there at the end? The grid is very expertly filled. Ms. Lempel is always reliable on this account. Nothing sloppy or lazy from her. Ever. I could have done without TESTEE (54A: Exam taker), but other than that, lovely.

Speaking of TESTEE ... wife and I rescued a beagle yesterday who was trapped in the yard of an abandoned little school house at the entrance to the IBM Glen where we walk every day. We saw him sitting behind the chain link fence and thought someone must be in there with him, but no. He would *not* come to either of us, but then I took our dogs up the hill and he turned into a sweetheart. Had only a rabies tag. It's Sunday, so no one answered at the vet's. Wife carried him (!) up the hill (it's probably a mile, uphill, in the snow). We took him home. Shockingly, the Town of Union returned our call and told us that the beagle owners had been looking for him. For three days (!!). So there was a happy ending as his owners drove to our house to get him. Oh, and why did this paragraph start "Speaking of TESTEE"? Well, this particular dog was Not Fixed. I felt bad for him. First, he seemed to walk ... funny. Second, this dog was ... out of control around our (female, spayed) dogs. Just ... sexually abusive in the worst ways. I mean, he was too small, and they pretty much kicked his ass (he was not TOP DOG — 44D: Honcho), but man, he was relentless. Oh, and it clearly pained him that I would not let him *kill* our cat. He wanted to hunt the cat so bad he barked hysterically and was crying. Take away our animals — sweetest dog ever. Adorable. Thus concludes my story of the rescued dog with giant balls.

P.S. the dog's name was SKEETER.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: What a dirty person has (MIND IN THE GUTTER)
  • 27A: What an embezzler has (HAND IN THE TILL)
  • 43A: What a well-connected applicant has (FOOT IN THE DOOR)
  • 58A: What a dreamer has (HEAD IN THE CLOUDS)
Bunch of lively mid-range fill today, with TOP DOG, NITWIT (10D: Lamebrain), and DOT COM (45D: Techie's company) as highlights (DOT COM is a character on "30 Rock," and I expect to see DOT COM clued that way annnny day now). GROSS OUT is also fantastic (39D: Fill with disgust). Only hesitation came at the tail end of MEDICARE (4D: Health program for seniors) — had a "MEDICARE or MEDICAID?" moment. Also, for no good reason, couldn't figure out what 16A: ___-Dade County could be (it's MIAMI, duh). That's just a mental wipe-out. Figured that the odd fill-in-the-blank clue meant it would be a more obscure, regional answer.

  • 1A: Collegiate digs (dorm) — first thought: archaeology. Then I got it.
  • 39A: Machines on cotton plantations (gins) — Eli Whitney! Thus concludes the portion of the program wherein I tell you everything I know about the cotton GIN.
  • 51A: Bit of Dobbin's dinner (oat) — can we kill Dobbin? Please. His time has come and gone.
  • 62A: Tartar sauce ingredient (mayo) — I demand an abbrev. cue here.
  • 65A: Blossom supporter (stem) — never cared for that show.

  • 5D: Gazillionaire Trump (Donald) — Just call him a billionaire. That's what he is, right?
  • 9D: Australia's unofficial national bird (emu) — how in the world do you verify something like this. If it were verifiable, then it would in some way be official ... wouldn't it? Yes. I declare that the cassowary is Australia's "unofficial" national bird.
  • 29D: Spot for eating curds and whey (tuffet) — well you don't see that word every day.
  • 34D: Egypt's last ruling Ptolemy, familiarly (Cleo) — gave me more trouble than any clue including MEDICARE. Nothing indicating a female ruler ... no asps ... no Nile ... no Antony ... no Liz Taylor ...
  • 42D: Low-tech hair dryer (towel) — that is a great clue. Easy, but no less great for being easy. It's creative. Imaginative. Interesting. Hurray.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


PurpleGuy 12:45 AM  

Did this in Across Lite and had my best time. Usually I print it out. This was a lot of fun.
I chuckled at GINS, since i had a couple of gin martinis before solving ! My mind is not in the gutter, though.
Plus I have a few more years before I can qualify for the senior health program. That is if there is such a program in the future !

Thank you for a great write-up as usual. Like the new blog layout. Classy !

Cheers to Ms. Lempel This was a truly enjoyable Monday !

Rex- I would have paid to have the beagle kill the cats around my house. I'm totally peeved at the people that let their cats roam free. I can't walk in my own yard without watching for cat droppings.
Glad Skeeter got back with his family.

chefwen 1:51 AM  

Hey Purple Guy, nice to have you back, but don't be talking trash about cat killing. Cats are my favorite people.

Fun, easy, Monday puzzle and a great write-up, Rex. Thank You.

Cute little doggy you rescued; I hope his owners do the right thing and have him spayed. We don't need more stray animals that aren't cared for properly.

edith b 2:15 AM  

I am used to a much more elegant puzzle from Lynn Lempel. I don't think MIND fits in with HAND, FOOT and HEAD. This reminds of the old puzzles that ask which one is not like the others.

For the most part, I don't care for early week puzzles because I've been doing the Times Puzzles for better than 30 years and Monday Tuesday and Wednesday just don't pack the punch that I require.

Keeping my hand in. Thats why I do them and I tend to grade them on their elegance. This one didn't measure up.

Elaine 7:57 AM  

AND most babies' first word is 'Mama,' not DADA. (Except Purple Guy's baby, who said, 'Kitty.')

PurpleGuy, honest: cats bury their excretions; raccoons and possums are more, er, careless.

I am with EdithB--MTW are too often like this one--writing in the answers is the only thing that slows me down. I even miss most of the cluing because there is nothing to go back for.

Cotton GINS are still around, though some went out of business with last year's disastrous growing season. However, I believe gins were business ventures built and run apart from the plantations--and often serving as the brokers for the cotton that was processed. Someone up on the history of agricultural industrialization might chime in, since there is not much else to pique a discussion.

chefbea 8:06 AM  

Too easy. Finished it before I finished my cereal.

We are going to have our hands on the snow shovel again. More snow coming tonight :-(

dk 8:18 AM  

@Purpleguy. There is an old joke about an ugly yellow cat with a long nose that eats dogs that attack it. When the dog owners recoil in horror and shame the cat owner states: "Before I cut of its tail and painted it yellow it was a gator." I am just sayin.

Eli Whitney who invented the Gin funded Yale, all things in puzzle world are connected.

@edith b, my sister will not do the Monday or Tuesday puzzles and often skips Wednesday. She does the Saturday puzzle in under 15... I am thinkin of taken my yellow cat over to her house.

Just a good solid Monday puzzle. Thank you Lynn.

*** (3 Stars)

Rex, Nice graphic novel feel to the blog. Change is good.

Dough 8:40 AM  

Redesign rating: average

The #CCCC99 color against the #777759 feels kind of ordinary and, well, just plain blah. There's nothing wrong exactly, but it just doesn't have any freshness to it. The gigantic header with the blogger's name seems self-serving and, frankly, not very creative. I look forward to this very capable blogger's next effort.

I stared at the top navigation for the longest time. Nothing. Then it suddenly dawned on me that it must be black text on a dark olive background. I hovered over the area and voila! there it was -- the navigation revealed itself.

The "About Me" picture of superhero Rex is now too small for the space provided and frankly, we've seen this picture so many times in exactly that location, I was hoping for something a little fresher this time. Even align-right would have been a welcome change.

That list of followers on the right side reminds me of the Brady Bunch, which I used to watch religiously. So here's a video from that show.

Main column: 526px
Side wrapper: 197px
Second side wrapper: 197px

Signed Peter Parker, King of the Web

atomsforpeace 9:05 AM  

Love the new page design. This one was fun, easy, with some nice mid-range fill, as you said.

I shared the Skeeter anecdote with my girlfriend who works for our Humane Society's state director. She got a kick out of it. Thanks!

SethG 9:16 AM  

WTF? re: the Tuesday theme? Symmetric 15s HAPPY LITHUANIAN//INDEPENDENCE DAY is nice, but couldn't we at least get Olympics or something? I couldn't remember how to spell Vilnius.

Australia's unofficial national fauna is the kangaroo. Mine is the giraffe.

Donald Trump is maybe even just a Millionaire. Anyone have a good tartar sauce recipe? Monday!

Elaine 9:22 AM  

(As a bread baker, I note that a really good, active dough is full of hot air... ) The navigation bar--deep red-brown, burnt sienna perhaps--on green; maybe you can adjust your monitor brightness? I like this shade of green, too; it's easy on rheumy old eyes.

Now, about Rex's picture: actually, the picture IS aging! but Rex himself remains a young whippersnapper no matter how much time passes, even after crossing into the Forties! (Rex's initials are D.M.S.....guess what the D stands for!)

LOVE the cat joke.

Elaine 9:24 AM  

SethG, honey? Are you okay?

J. Sterling Morton 9:25 AM  

SENDON to Treedweller.

chefbea 9:27 AM  

@sehtg e-mail me and I'll give you a recipe for tartar sauce

OldCarFudd 9:27 AM  

The dead tree edition's clue for 24D is: "Not beating around the bush." Are there really different clues in the on-line puzzles?

I thought this was pretty neat. It reminded me of the old saw: "Keep your eye on the ball, your nose to the grindstone, and your shoulder to the wheel. Now try to work in that position."

Anonymous 9:28 AM  

Wow- I go away for the day and there's a whole new layout. It looks great.

Great write up- was hoping for a link to Great Balls of Fire after the dog story.

Write over for Send To instead of the correct SEND ON. A typical Monday.

Captcha=Sobled- past tense of soble

slypett 9:33 AM  

Popped this like a zit. Teeny, tiny, itty, bitty, eensy, weensy nit: MIND IS NOT A BODY PART. Can you excise, amputate, castrate or otherwise remove it? No.

PIX 9:43 AM  

Like "OldCarFudd" I solve the dead tree edition and my clue for 24D was "Not beating around the bush?"...Why is this different than the on line edition?

Easy puzzle...but important to remember that if Puzzle World is going to continue to attract new citizens, entry level puzzles are the price that must be paid.

chefbea 9:47 AM  

my 24d was "lacking a stopover, as a flight

mac 10:02 AM  

Good Monday puzzle, with as usual in Lynn Lempel's work, good and occasionally great fill. Only not-so-great word: dislike. Love gross out!

A lass is not necessarily fair, she is just a girl.

Don't send Dobbin to the glue factory!

@Chefbea: I think we'll have mostly rain and sleet on the coast. The rest of the week looks good, I'm driving to NY Wednesday morning. Puzzle vacation!

Chorister 10:05 AM  

Cotton, wheat, and sugar beats put me through college. Cotton gins provided my first career. Not that anybody cares, but sometimes cotton gins belong to the cotton planters and sometimes not. We never brokered the cotton we ginned, but shipped it as instructed. We sold the seed from it though. If the seed price exceeded the ginning charges the grower got some money back, so they could make money on both the cotton and the seed. One of the 5 "C's" of AZ is "Cotton," but not a lot is still grown here. Houses now sit on the fields and gin yards. Still some grown on the reservation by Scottsdale & they have to haul it all the way to Coolidge to get it ginned.

Chorister 10:06 AM  

Sugar beets. dang.

jesser 10:17 AM  

17A made me grin, because the name of my bowling team is MINDs IN THE GUTTER.

Loved that 48D was a down, ergo producing hanging CHAD.

Rex, your beagle story is too good. I have 4 rescue dogs, a rescue cat and a rescue parrot. I would have made the neuter job a condition of release IF the dog had been less aggressive toward the cat and you could have held onto it a bit longer. When it comes to animal welfare, I am not above advocating extortion.

As to the suggestion above that a mind cannot be lost like a limb, I would have you visit the local Alzheimer's home, where sad evidence abounds.

Happy Presidents' Day!

Tharypi! -- jesser

Van55 10:17 AM  

Proof positive that a Monday easy puzzle can be fresh and fun without resort to the usual cliche fill. Take that, BEQ1 :-)

lit.doc 10:17 AM  

Gotta speak up for puzzles like today. Think of the median age of most of us posting on any given day, and the median number of years of solving experience (I'm an outlier there by umpteen standard deviations). Yes, this was my fastest solve yet, at 8:30on Across Lite. And therein lies my point. My NYT subscription is less than a year old, and 8:30 shows me great improvement over the past few months.

Unless we want crossword solving to be a pastime that fades into the sunset as we do, displaced by playstations and what have you, new people and especially young(er) people must acquire The Addiction. And easy puzzles like today's are a perfect gateway drug.

When I first ventured further afield than what I now know to be the execrably bad puzzle in my local daily paper, a puzzle like today's would have hooked me, especially if a came back on Tuesday and Wednesday. If I'd found nothing out there in The Real World Of Crosswords other than some of the brain-frying, soul-crushing offerings from late in the week, I'd have gone in search of a different hobby.

lit.doc 10:24 AM  

And in other late-breaking news, I saw Word Play for the first time last evening.

Most arresting moments were watching Merle Reagle demonstrating his approach to constucting the titulat puzzle, Will Shortz commenting on what percentage of a NYT puzzle were actually his (I was flabbergasted), and the strange, strange circumstances under which the three in the championship round have to solve.

And yes, my very first crossword puzzle books came in that same box.

PurpleGuy 10:24 AM  

@chefwen and Elaine- I'm really not a cat hater.It's just that I have a gravel yard and the cats use it as a litter box. Trust me, it's not always buried.

@dk- LOL. Great cat joke.

Been doing the NY Times puzzle for over 40 years, and still like the early week ones. Keeps my retired brain active.

lit.doc 10:25 AM  

Let's add an "a" to "titular", and add more coffee to me.

Chorister 10:27 AM  

And on the big balls subject, I offer this:

Not Shaks., but a close personal relative and other very creative young friends made it.

I am of course technological only semi-literate (having spent so much of my life with the 19th century technology of the cotton gin, no doubt) so I do hope the link works.

treedweller 10:32 AM  

I didn't notice the MIND disconnect. I admit it's a different kind of body part, but if the mind isn't part of the body, what is it?

Anyway, I found it to be a fun, smooth puzzle.

@J. Sterling Morton
Thanks for the link! I actually know Mark Chisolm, so it was surprising to see him there. He's a great guy--no surprise that he's volunteering to help out the next generation of arborists.

Ulrich 10:42 AM  

@Dough aka Peter Parker: Would you send me an e-mail so that I can send you one?

OldCarFudd 10:46 AM  

@lit.doc - You made the case for early-in-the-week puzzles that I've been wanting to make, but you made it better.

Jim in Chicago 11:00 AM  

I was scratching my head about the problem with "direct" flight since I also had the other clue for 24D in my dead tree edition.

I wonder when the two versions are finalized. I'm guessing the online goes first, and them someone caught and changed the 24D clue in time for the print edition. I'm in the "confusing clue" camp, since the use of the term "direct" is a huge controversy in the Frequent Flyer camp. "Direct" flights often also include a change of plane, and are used by the airlines when it is to their advantage to use a single flight number for what is clearly a connection in every sense of the term.

Steve J 11:05 AM  

Touching on a few things:

What we Yanks call nonstop flights, the Brits call direct. So the clue works, I guess. Odd that it's different online vs. dead trees. And it would be a bit unusual in a Monday to go for the British English form.

Regarding MIND: the mind, at least to me, is not a body part. While it's associated with the brain, it's not synonymous, as the brain does a whole lot of things not associated with the mind (like keep your heart beating). I suppose if one had to tie the mind into anatomy, it would map to the cerebral cortex, where cognitive activity primarily takes place (but even then, that might not work, as emotional activity takes place in other locations). So, at least as I conceive it (and I'm guessing others), MIND is more of an abstraction, certainly compared to hands and feet.

And for the value of early-week puzzles: I'm with lit.doc. I've really only seriously gotten into puzzle solving in the last year or so. Even though I now blow through Mondays and Tuedsays, I still appreciate having them. At the very least, they help show me how I've improved. But there are also times where I just like doing a puzzle, but I'm not in the mood for one that's going to take a lot of effort. Maybe they're empty calories, but just like the empty calories in my nightly beer/wine/whisk(e)y keep me happy, so do early-week puzzles.

xyz 11:14 AM  

I don't do timing, but ... Agreed, this puzzle is fodder for "Best Ever" Time.

Definitely a wanker e-mail you got there, Rex. Too bad.

NO complaints, MAYO is hardly an abbreviation as one never sees it "mayo."

xyz 11:22 AM  


No, DADA is much easier for an infant to say and it is indeed often first "word". (They have actually no idea what they are saying no matter what Earth Momma says). Greater control of oral muscles is necessary for "M" than "D" - often really pissing off Mums because they spend more time with baby and feel slighted.

Everyone knew that, right?

That's real science as opposed to Global Warming/Human-Induced Climate Change. (try forming the letters and you'll see, if that fails ask a real Pediatrician, I only have known a few.

:-) to those angry over the GW/HICC dig

Stan 11:25 AM  

Loved 'Gazillionaire', GUSHES, TUFFET, and of course TOWEL. The Head vs. Mind controversy does not bother me, though I can see why it's debatable.

I can't believe that a nonsensical complaint got the clue changed before press time. Gross me out!

fikink 11:35 AM  

I bet @Foodie has much to say on the topic of brain vs. mind. I hope she stops by today.

@redanman, your explanation in favor of DADA makes good sense to me.

Stan 11:42 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sfingi 11:42 AM  

@Rex - liked the puzzle. Didn't notice the body order (not odor). Because of hubster, I can't have a cat (to sleep with - they're excellent sleepers). So I feed the squirrels. And I have to chase the cats away. A worker at the MWPI-Pratt Inst. here has rescued 100 feral cats from our block, had them fixed if not ill, and taken them home to the boonies.
Had the beagle been kidnapped or just got trapped (did you ask him)?

When someone asked who Albertus Magnus was, hubster said, "He was a very holy man, with huge balls." Good name for the beaglet.

My best friend had a cat named Stashu who killed dogs. The neighbors made her get rid of it. She found a farmer who'd take it for the vermin. When he came, Stashu walked out of the house and stepped right into the guys truck.TATA.

As I said at the LAT, the CIA is lurking in both puzzles.

I hope they mean it this time when they say TATA. Desire not to see that again.

Pet peeve - when people say "petition" for PARTITION.

I enjoyed summer Girl Scouts CAMP, but my son agreed with Woody Allen, that he "was savagely beaten by children of all races and creeds."

@Chorister - I care. Cotton GINs put me in mind of Edgar Degas (and let's not forget slavery).

@LitDoc - agree. I drop out of the NYT by Thur. or Fri. Someday I won't. Maybe I'll continue doing the Mon. in public places to impress people. I'm not at that point.

@SteveJ - Take a philosophy course to really put a railroad spike in your brain/skull about mind/body. Concentrate on Descartes and the British Empiricists. Have fun.

Stan 11:46 AM  

Hmm -- I hadn't had a chance to read Jim in Chicago's post before commenting on 'direct' flights. Okay, the new clue avoids this complexity. Never mind...

archaeoprof 11:48 AM  

@Rex: cute beagle! You did your good deed for the day. Beagles are smart, but they do have a certain compulsion to find and follow a scent.

For 5D I first tried "the DONALD."

CoolPapaD 12:20 PM  

This one was not too easy time-wise for me - had my NOSE TO THE GRINDSTONE the whole time. Overall, cute theme, and I didn't mind (ahem) the brain - mind issue.

Hysterical write-up!

Good luck to those of you with your EYES ON THE PRIZE this coming weekend!

Anonymous 12:22 PM  

one more vote that the complainer had a point, even if her timing was not good. When I flew, travel agents and I had no problem communicating: non-stop meant exactly what it said, direct meant no change of planes, but at least one stop, anything else was to be avoided. As for stop versus stopover, no difference to me. And not to Merriam either (the first dictionary to pop up when I looked). Why use 3 syllables when 1 perfectly expresses the meaning?

Also, a vote for the view that mind does not fit well with hand, head and foot.

But it's a super-easy Monday puzzle, why get picky?

Joe M 12:30 PM  

I would have offered to marry Ms Lempel if she had gotten ASSOVERTEAKETTLE in there.

hazel 12:44 PM  

TATUM and RYAN ONEAL I think are also well-known father daughter crossword pair.

Liked the puzzle, the theme, the MIND, the ease, all of it.

Doc John 12:57 PM  

Made up for Saturday's unfinished puzzle with my fastest time yet- well under 5 minutes!
Not much to add today other than that I had another malaplop (ish). Put in "iced" for Refrigerated only to find ICIER later in the grid. That sort of counts, doesn't it?

edith b 1:20 PM  

When I commented on the puzzle this morning, I was speaking only for myself. I appreciate why the puzzle strength goes from easy to hard for exactly the reasons elucidated by @lit doc.

I rate the early week puzzles on factors other than difficulty and I gave my reasons why I didn't care for this puzzle. Faulty as they may seem to others, they are mine alone and I am entitled to them.

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

@dk: Shame on you! Eli Whitney didn't fund Yale - Elihu Yale did!
Yale was founded long before cotton gins anyways.

Indy 1:38 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Indy 1:42 PM  

@dough, very funny parody of this blog. Peter Parker, King of the Web!! Nice! BTW, I also agree!!

joho 1:45 PM  

@Jesser ... my team name would be MINE'S IN THE GUTTER.

@Rex, you didn't possibly fly to San Diego last Monday, did you? The guy behind me on the plane looked just like you.

Thank you, Lynn, for a fine Monday puzzle. And count me in the camp that thinks a mind can be lost like a hand, a foot and a head.

Shamik 1:49 PM  

Nice puzzle. Better write-up. Am on a different computer...newly downloaded AcrossLite. All the settings were not how I usually use them.

And I'm staying at my brother's in Stamford, CT...where they are fostering a dog...Not Fixed with their spayed female dog.

No doggy sexual pranks going on, but lots of barking, whining and ass-kicking by the dominant female. And I'm supposed to be doing puzzles in prep for this weekend? If I can solve through that, I should be ok on Saturday.

So I related to the write-up. Thanks!

jesser 1:54 PM  

@joho -- Our team has had many names, including The Grim Sweepers, The Pin Worms (we even had retro shirts made for that one, with a little worm emerging from the thumbhole of the ball), The Parrotheads (but we pronounced it The Paro Thee Ads) and The Ball Busters. My average is 156, so I'm decidedly not a good bowler, but this league has played together Sunday evenings for 14 years, and it's like family out there. Any time anyone from Rexville is in Las Cruces for a Sunday evening, you're welcome to stop by 10 Pin Alley and say hello. I'll even spring for nachos and an adult beverage!

Rednes! -- jesser

chefbea 2:01 PM  

@shamik e-mail me. would be fun to meet.!!!

mitchs 2:06 PM  

Over on Wordplay Martin informs us that MAYO is in the dictionary. Per the byplay between Rex and Martin of a few days ago, that makes it "legit" but not necessarily "good".

Charles Bogle 2:14 PM  

Agree w @edithb, @elaine, also @lit.doc. And echo somme good words picked out by @stan. Add NITWIT (at first I had ninnie). Could have done w/out TESTEE and "Take THAT," but it is Monday and I'm a Lempel fan. @sfingi: I usded to feel same way re Thurs and Fri. Now, if I have an hour+, I sit down w google and just go for it. Worked for me last Thurs and Fri. Regardless whether I finish, I come here to learn what I miss. @Rex: how about PAUL and STELLA McCartney? MAHATMAS and INDIRA Gandhi? JON Voigt and what's her name JOLIE (?). Great rescue story. RICHARD and KATE Burton? @chefbea: did you get my email?

lit.doc 2:17 PM  

@edith b, no offense, ma'am. My intentions were to speak up in support of the general value of the easier puzzles, not to criticize advanced solvers and constructors who are, unlike myself, qualified to critique particular nuances of a puzzle (e.g. the mind/head dustup today)that go unnoticed by beginning solvers.

Paul 2:22 PM  

@Charled Bogle - MAHATMAS and INDIRA Gandhi don't quite make it because they're unrelated. INDIRA is the daughter of Nehru, not Gandhi.

Martin 2:43 PM  


You might prefer a County Mayo clue. To some solvers that might be a "better" clue. I'd be ok either way.

But you can't legally "improve" this clue by signaling it as an abbreviation or slang or French or with any other qualification if the dictionary doesn't. Call it excessive deference to the dictionary if you wish, but any Times editor needs an authority to assert that something is not simply a valid American English word. Otherwise, it's making stuff up, which the Times frowns on. People don't realize it, but calling a word "var" or "obs" or "alt" in a clue if the dictionary doesn't is as much an editing error as saying five guineas are worth 21 shillings. A second spelling is not the same as a variant, even if it's not used by any of us.

Finally, an abbreviation signal in a clue is required for a entry that normally appears in print with a period and is never pronounced as written. THU is an abbreviation because we don't say "thoo." AMEX is not usually an abbreviation (although early in the week it might be signaled, on the theory that someone might say "American Stock Exchange" or "American Express" when reading it aloud). I would never expect to see "mayo" signaled as an abbreviation. Not only does the dictionary confirm it's a word, but nobody would convert "Hold the mayo!" to "Hold the mayonnaise!" when reading the line.

To recap: the clue is correct and can't be improved without rewriting. As always, "good" is up to the solver.

chefbea 2:49 PM  

@charles bogle. Did not receive an e-mail. try again

CoolPapaD 2:52 PM  

Question - since the redesign, I cannot see any avatars next to the posters' names - anyone else having this problem? Any solutions you techies may know of?
Did I just end a sentence with a preposition?

xyz 3:00 PM  


Generally, if avatars don't show it's a browser security setting (look under tools/security, etc) or you may have to sign in under your posting name to view what is considered a different type of 'content'. (At least it is so on IE and Firefox. I get that box every time at the Hospital on ts interweb to allow the 'non-secure content'. (Insert eyes-rolling toward the sky smilie character)

SethG 3:03 PM  

The McCartneys are famous, but I wouldn't call Stella crosswordese. Same for the Tylers, Cruises, Cyrusi, McCains, Presleys, Wilsons, Bergens, Clintons,... I think maybe ADA and OONA are the closest I can think of.

George NYC 3:05 PM  

Eli Whitney attended Yale, and married a relative of one of Yale's early presidents and died in New Haven. There is a student program named after him but I don't think he "funded" Yale in the sense of giving a lot of dough. As anonymous pointed out earlier, Elihu Yale founded Yale.

Busby 3:39 PM  

@Martin - "Tatar sauce ingredient, in short"?

sanfranman59 3:54 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)

Mon 5:58, 6:54, 0.86, 17%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:16, 3:40, 0.89, 20%, Easy-Medium

Elaine 4:10 PM  


For just one second, I thought we were going to correspond about a 'dadaist' clue in another puzzle. Alas, no.
Another Dada/Mama discussion also appeared on another blog. Nonetheless:

Actually, I stand by a baby's use of 'mama' preceding 'dada,' based on real science!--and if necessary I can trot out my credentials in infant language development, phonetics, linguistics, and all that blah blah.

Instead of my hunting for a 'real pediatrician,' per your suggestion, I refer you to a pediatric speech/language specialist on this matter.

Which would be the long way around, but clearly you think I am just a Doting Mother who parked her brains and education at the door on the way out of the delivery room. (And anyone who has nursed an infant has a lot of respect for infant oral musculature. ow.)

Infant utterances do not 'count' as words until used meaningfully/purposefully. Babbling is developmentally important, and within months evolves into babbling only with sounds found in the infant's linguistic environment. (Even deaf babies babble for a brief period, but then cease; this is part of the differential diagnosis for profound and severe deafness.) Yes, there are a lot of meaningless noises, but eventually even 'Earth Mommas' are right--the baby speaks! And when it comes to the first *word,* research backs up 'Mama.'

All in a spirit of appreciation for Global Warming, of course :0)

mac 4:13 PM  

That's a scary thought, Tatar sauce. To go with the meat pie?

Martin 4:28 PM  


Don't let 'em ride you. In fact, "tartar sauce" comes from "sauce tartare," which is named for the Tatars, also spelled Tartars. Both steak tartare and sauce tartare are named for the supposedly brutish tribe. Sauce tartare is considered "coarse," so any people other than "French" would have worked.

"Short" is an abbreviation signal so is really the problem, not a solution. But an editor might accept "Tartar sauce ingredient, in a diner" if he wanted to make the clue more telegraphic. It struck me as fairly gimmeish as written (mayonnaise and relish, four letters, hmm).

Busby 4:36 PM  

@Mac - No, just spit roasted with a tomato / garlic / lemon brush on sauce. Some prefer dry rubs, but that's just sick.

chefbea 4:51 PM  

@busby love dry rubs yummm

lit.doc 5:21 PM  

@CoolPapaD, if the Redanman's suggestion doesn't fix it, go to and check your profile. It recently happened to me that my avatar as well as most but not all others disappeared from my view of the blog. Went to, reloaded my own avatar, and the problem was fixed.

Kendall 5:28 PM  

Emu is officially the unofficial bird of Australia. In that they don't have one, but if they did, that would be it.

Kiwi for New Zealand :)

xyz 5:34 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Kerfuffle 6:04 PM  

To echo tptsteve, I go away for a week and find a fancy new blog.

Now I'll have to dress better before coming here!

slypett 7:06 PM  

Elaine: You are formidable when roused. Like a momma badger.

Anonymous 7:22 PM  

@lit.doc and redanman - Thanks - will try these later!


Martin 7:43 PM  

Not wishing to cross Elaine (who also goes by Mean Old Lady -- proudly, I might add), it is with great trepidation that I offer these survey results. It is too good not to risk life and limb for.

mac 8:02 PM  

@Martin: thanks for the tartar info. I hadn't looked into the source for the term, just had a gruesome visual, twice in 2 days.

I have to agree on dada also; my husband wasn't around much at all, and our son, a very early speaker, definitely started out with dada. A friend taught him: what's the king of beer? Budweiser!

slypett 8:04 PM  

Martin: You and Elaine are tied for'Badger of the Year'.

Sfingi 9:14 PM  

Interesting info on Tartar sauce - actually, now that I know it has MAYO in it, I know why I don't like it. Anyone ever see Canadians eating French fries with MAYO? Gag me with a spoon.

How about Woody Allen and Soonyi - Guess that's a GROSSOUT, too.

How about the various Barrymores?

Has a TUFFET been written of anywhere other than the nursery rhyme?

Question for all computer types - why am I the only one with a garbage can at the bottom of my comments? Is this a hint?

Busby 9:20 PM  

@Martin - Short may be an abbreviation signal, but it is also a shortening signal. If a SCOTTIE is "Short dog, for short" is ok, as cruciverb says it is, then MAYO can be "Tartar sauce ingredient, for short".

I had no problem with MAYO as clued, but you can't say it couldn't be altered without change and still follow the rules.

edith b 10:16 PM  


We all have a trash can so we can delete our comment if we so choose. You see only your own so that others cannot delete your comment. Rex has control of a universal trash can that gives him control of what gets published on his blog

foodie 11:14 PM  

It's so late, but the whole day has passed with no mention of the word of the day, the lovely NORAH Jones... Thank you Rex for the clip. I love her jazzy, bluesy ways... Because you chose her, I sent something to my granddaughter today: A clip of her singing with Elmo about the Letter Y: "Dont know why 'Y' didn't come".

@Fikink, you're right, but I will spare everyone : ) I think @Steve J made the essential points. I agree with everyone's comments that MIND is a function of the brain (an emergent property if you will) and is at variance with the rest of the theme.

That aside, I enjoyed the smoothness of the puzzle. As we've learned from Andrea, Easy is hard to do.

Efron 11:38 PM  

Dada vs Mama - I bet Mamas spend way more time teaching baby to say Dada than vice versa. My first word was Bang!, thanks to an older brother who seemed to like to put his toy guy to my head and say Bang!

andrea in the michaels 12:44 AM  

with MINDINTHEGUTTER I thought we were in for bowling theme...I got excited.
Yes, not sure there should be both MIND and HEAD and then not in order, but this is one of those things where since four is the new three, some times the fourth makes it less consistent but three isn't enough any more.
It's cool there were four that matched up in length, etc.

I'm also excited about thinking about other father daughter pairs and am amazed others chimed in with so many...there's an idea in that too, no doubt.

Just saw my daddy today (I'm in NY) so I'd love to dream up a Sunday-sized puzzle called "Daddy issues"

wow, you are lucky to be alive!

Unknown 10:26 AM  

@ Rex re MIAMI-Dade...Guess you forgot those six counties in FL. in 2000, the only six in which Gore ask for a recount of those CHADs...Had he asked for a statewide recount...oh, but why go there?
Re Donald Trump's wealth: Trump pretends he is a billionaire, but he is leveraged to the moon. His projects are always going bust, but by the time that happens he has wormed out of the holding. I'd give him "millionare" at best.
A billionaire is Bloomberg, with ten real ones.

Anonymous 12:16 PM  


NORAH is right up there with ENYA for some of us, not so positively that is

syndy 1:43 PM  

Rex,is not cleopatra the most famous ptolemy? IS she not obviously female? is a female not supposed to rule? just saying. I've never seen you insist clues be gender specific before

a guy 2:11 PM  

If the clue had said "Egypt's most famous ruler", I'm guessing Rex wouldn't have had the same trouble. My problem was I thought it -was- gender specific, and that Ptolemy was some guy's name.

If one knew that Cleopatra was a Ptolemy, one would probably recognize her as the most famous. I, and I'm guessing lots of others, didn't know that she was one. And now that I do know, I guess I still don't know what it means to have been one.

Keep in mind, "trouble" is relative on a Monday...

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