Singer with the second video ever played on MTV / THU 2-18-10 / Cornwall feature / Little The Wire antihero / Hell is full of musical amateurs

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Constructor: Caleb Madison

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: KEYS (56D: PC things, which can be found at the starts of 14-, 22-, 37-, 46- and 61-Across) — KEYS in question are on a PC (or Mac) keyboard

Word of the Day: ANZIO (30D: W.W. II battleground) —

Anzio is a city and comune on the coast of the Lazio region of Italy, about 57 km (35 mi) south of Rome. // Well known for its seaside harbour setting, it is a fishing port and a departure point for ferries and hydroplanes to the Pontine Islands of Ponza, Palmarola and Ventotene. The city bears great historical significance as the site of a crucial Allied landing during World War II. (wikipedia)

• • •

Short write-up today, as I have places to do and things to be. Caleb Madison is a wickedly talented constructor, but I was put off this puzzle immediately by its basic, oft-repeated theme. I know I've seen this theme many, many times before in my solving career. One way I know this is that I went back and read my own words from last year — in a write-up of an Oct. 19, 2009 puzzle in the LAT with theme answers that ended ENTER, TAB, ESCAPE, CONTROL, and SHIFT, I wrote "First thought: seen it. Multiple times. Let's retire this theme starting ... now." Surprised a basic "starts with" theme was chosen for a NYT Thursday. Now as this theme goes, I'm quite sure Caleb has done it as well or better than anyone. The theme answers are fantastic, vibrant, original. Much of the fill is iffy at best (OF A, I'D NO, AT IT, ALL I, AGRIC (!?), Return of the AMAHS, and crosswordese aplenty), but the long stuff is stellar, which always helps — loved PG THIRTEEN despite the numeral-to-word change (11D: Like the movies "10,000 B.C." and "2012") and esp. PAT BENATAR (27D: Singer with the second video ever played on MTV). I knew the Buggles were first, I did *not* know she was second. She has one of the greatest female rock voices ever. I owned several albums by her when I was a teen, and I still own at least one.

Pat Benatar - Love is a Battlefield 1983

Theme answers:
  • 14A: Go into a new mode (SHIFT gears)
  • 22A: One in chains, maybe (ESCAPE artist) — tried to go with ESCAPED FELON at first ...
  • 37A: 1983's highest-grossing film ("RETURN of the Jedi")
  • 46A: Bossy sort (CONTROL freak)
  • 61A: Gridiron ploy (OPTION play)
The puzzle is pop culture heavy, which I don't mind at all, and it skews '80s, so it's in my sweet spot (How in the world did I remember Jill ST. JOHN (44D: Bond girl Jill!?)). It's got SENIORITIS (17A: Almost-grad's disease), even though Caleb won't be able to suffer from it until *next year*. It's got odd, sometimes complicated clues that mask crosswordese — SHAH is 60A: Onetime Asian autocrat, NATO is 57A: Intl. group whose initials in English and French are reversed. It's got a feminine suffix clued as "quaint," which is pretty bold considering how common the suffix still is (9D: Quaint occupational suffix). It's got a clue about "The Wire" — a requisite puzzle feature for all hipster constructors (I'm winking at BEQ right now) (55D: ___ Little, "The Wire" antihero). It's got a great quote from G.B. SHAW (21A: Who wrote "Hell is full of musical amateurs"), and a shout-out to Bugs Bunny (58D: "Recipient" or a Bugs Bunny question). All in all, a breezy, mostly entertaining puzzle — though Caleb can and has done sooo much better. It's a testament to his skills that he was able to get a very tired theme to dance like this.

[Sorry, George Bernard Shaw — Hell is for Children]

  • 18A: Have ___ (at it) — I had AN IN. Ns where Ts should have been. What a horrible little answer to stumble on.
  • 28A: Cornwall feature (moor) — I had MOAT ... I really did.
  • 53A: Execute, archaically (doest) — "Killeth? Slayeth? Bah!"
  • 15D: Title twin sister in a series of children's books by Jean and Gareth Adamson (Topsy) / 34A: Title twin brother of 15-Down (Tim) — very nice cross-reference. I don't know these books. I know Flopsy and MOPsy (31D: Challenge for a hairstylist) and Cottontail ...
I'm off to Brooklyn today, leaving my home and dogs in the able hands of my trusty home/dog-sitter. I'll check in periodically from the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, where, for the first time in four years, I will *not* be competing. I'm going to hang out, see people, interview people, attend parties, and go to the finals on Sunday. The blog will continue uninterrupted...

See you later,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Bluefish 7:19 AM  

Despite hackneyed theme, it was still a fairly enjoyable puzzle as the terms felt fresh. Also 'senioritis' and 'dont tell me' were great.

I object to "Option" as a theme answer however as it is not found on a PC keyboard -- only on Mac keyboards. (Yes, a Mac is a personal computer, but since crosswords are all about the accuracy of definitions let's be honest and admit the term 'PC' refers to Windows machines.)

How did that get past the testers? They are probably all NY elitists who have only owned Macs.

SethG 7:31 AM  

I first thought have A FIT, then AN IN, but the T brought me back to A fIT so when I finally got the cross, my last of the downs in that corner, I read it as have A TIT. That's probably been reported on this blog as often as we've had this theme, I can't remember for sure.

Heck, I didn't even notice the theme until we got to the reveal clue. And sure, it may be tired, but the fantastic long stuff, uniformly terrific, absolutely made this for me. (And even if the rest of it hadn't, PAT BENATAR might have been enough. I fricken love Pat Benatar.)

Easy indeed--almost my fastest Thursday ever, and three minutes faster than yesterday's puzzle.

The Bard 7:46 AM  

King Henry IV, part I > Act III, scene III

PRINCE HENRY: O, my sweet beef, I must still be good angel to thee: the money is paid back again.

FALSTAFF: O, I do not like that paying back; 'tis a double labour.

PRINCE HENRY: I am good friends with my father and may do any thing.

FALSTAFF: Rob me the exchequer the first thing thou doest, and do it with unwashed hands too.

Anonymous 8:11 AM  

The puzzle gave me fits in NW, where I couldn't stop thinking of stretch (10A) as a verb, and drew a blank at 18A and had to work 21A from the downs, which didn't come easy either.
On the other hand, the bottom half fell easily.

The long acrosses at 14A and 17A disguised the theme well- I completely missed the connection 17A had with 22A and 37A, and the others. I just thought they were long answers.

To RP and those traveling to Brooklyn, good luck and have fun

salo 8:14 AM  

This did not felt more like a Tuesday puzzle to me. Especially after BEQ's "Do or Die" puzzle yesterday.

salo 8:21 AM  

Make that either "This did not feel like a Thursday puzzle to me" or "This felt more like a Tuesday puzzle to me"

joho 8:34 AM  

Seeing Caleb at the top is always a joy but this puzzle not so much. I think we always expect excellence on every level from him so when it falls short we notice. It's hard to be king.

My major complaint about this puzzle is that it was just too easy for a Thursday. Today should have been more of a challenge.

@Rex ... I can't believe you aren't competing! Does that mean you'll have to take down your 44th best rating after the tournament? I do hope you have a great time and fill us all in on what's going on. And I wish everybody who is competing the best of luck!

My captcha today was AGRIC.

fikink 8:35 AM  

@salo, I knew what you meant. Yes, it was pretty straightforward for a Thursday, I think.
But enjoyable.
@Bluefish, I had the same thought about OPTION key.
@Seth, I followed the same path to A TIT. ;)
Caleb, definitely not TRIPE. thanks.

chefbea 8:51 AM  

Good puzzle. Had to google a bit. I too had a tit.

Good luck to all in the tournament. Look forward to seeing fotos of all the Rexites. Sorry I can't be there.

Elaine 8:56 AM  

Hand up for 'Have A FIT'-- in fact, most of the Fill In The Blanks were vague enough to be un-gimmes. (I always skip the pop culture clues because I NEVER know them; imagine my surprise when PATB_ immediately filled itself in! because I know I would not recognize her, her voice, her songs, her music, or her Full moon view if I saw them!)

I agree with everyone--a solid Tuesday puzzle. If Caleb wants to be KHAN--no, make that SHAH--he must stay away from Macs...

Buena suerte! to all Solvers at the ACPT. Looking forward to the Rex Report.

dk 8:59 AM  

@Bluefish, as I smugly type on my Mac, sitting at my Stickley desk, pondering a day of mogul skiing while wondering if I should drive the Benz, I rankle at your suggestion that I (NY born and bred) may be elitist. I wonder what the little people are doing?

@sethg & fikink, ditto the tit.

@joho, my first reaction to Rex not solving was: Are we going to retire the number 44.

@acme wave when you fly over.

This puzzle is more a Wednesday than a Thursday. Still AOK.

** (2 Stars)

secret word - mistomb

jesser 8:59 AM  

Note to self: Do not immediately write in Otoes when a tribe begins with O. That bugaboo snarled the SW for longer than I'm comfortable admitting.

I thought this puzzle was a LOT of fun. The TRIPE at 8D reminded me of my favorite Saturday morning breakfast at Old Town Restaurant, where the menudo is all you can eat for $6. Mmmmm. That's stuff you can EAT UP!

I will not comment about 39D except to say it reflects type casting, in my opinion.

Loved how MOP crossed RETURN OF THE JEDI, which made me think of That 70s Show, which remains a guilty pleasure from time to time.

Rex and others attending the ACPT, I wish you safe travels and good times! And now, I must be an ESCAPE ARTIST and get to work.

Undalta! -- jesser

lit.doc 9:00 AM  

Midnight musings. Wish I were at ACPT so I could buy a round for all puzzle geeks present. Also wish I could take more credit for solving this one. Finished in 45:31 with NO cheats. Best Thursday EVER. Will be astonished if Rex doesn’t rate this one eeeeasy. Nonetheless, I feel terrific.

By my solving notes, I count 15 first-pass gimmes. Also some first-pass missteps, of course, like ONCE (upon a time) before ACT 1 and GOOD idea! before (much later!) I’D NO. Then a few second-pass payoffs, like 37A (!) from REAR, AMAHS, and JERK.

Only [find BEQ and have him fill this in] moment was AGRIC. ‘Nuff said. Party hard and puzzle hard, dudes and dudettes. More in the a.m.

In the light of day, Rex’s write up is as expected. Also entertaining and politic at the same time. Loved especially the ironic “theme answers are fantastic, vibrant, original”.

@Bluefish, I share your umbrage over the anti-PC-American use of OPTION, though by the time I got there I was so focused on filling in blank squares that I didn’t even notice.

PanamaRed 9:06 AM  

Fun puzzle - I had little trouble with it, and Thursdays don't always go down so quickly.

Actually, an true ESCAPE ARTIST would be free of the chains, eh?

PanamaRed 9:09 AM  

A true escape artist, that is.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 9:11 AM  

Caleb's got style, so much style that it's wasted. The kid knows if you're going to have a long entry, it had better damn well be colorful.

@Rex: I caught the wink. Now will you just watch the !@#%*?@# "Wire" already? It'll be up your alley. Caleb knows.

deerfencer 9:12 AM  

Meh. This one didn't dance for me and felt pretty uninspired, though I did like CONTROLFREAK and SENIORITIS.

Rex's write-up and the Jill St. John pic were the morning highlights for me. Have a great time at the tournament all!

HudsonHawk 9:41 AM  

Like Rex, I recalled the Buggles, but didn't know PAT NEBATAR (as Butthead called her) was second. I also didn't remember that the late great Trey Wilson played her dad in the video.

Unlike most of the commenters, I actually trudged through this one. It probably had to do with the extra pints the Molson girls were pushing last night at the corner pub while I was watching Shaun White rock the half pipe.

archaeoprof 9:45 AM  

Excellent write-up today, Rex. Concise, substantial, thought-provoking, and kind. You should teach writing or something.

That Pat Benatar is hot. I missed the 80's raising children. All I remember is the Care Bears.

Good luck to all at the ACPT.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

That Benatar video brought back memories of all those MTV morality tales of the eighties. One of the most popular genres was the one typified by that video: "I'll Show You, Daddy. I'll Go a-Whorin'!" Or I guess that's what she was doing. I couldn't really follow it. She's mad at her dad, or maybe he's mad at her (messing around with her brother upstairs? Is that her brother?), so he chases her outside yelling about "microbes and shit" and "looking in the one place you know my son ain't at," and she gets in a car and starts to fall asleep and ... she dreams of whoring for Freddie Mercury? Then wakes up as one of the zombies in the "Thriller" video? Or was it all just a . . . dream?

Jim in Chicago 10:09 AM  

My day started off badly when in my usual search for a Thursday Gimme I settled on ERIN Morales, which, of course, turned out to be wrong.

I then got the theme immediately from 56D, which helped immensely today.

Quibbles and Questions:

The name of the movie is "Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi", there is no movie by the title "Return....".

I think we discussed this last time it appeared, but EZPass is not limited to the NE, I see it all the time in the midwest.

I HATE AGRIC as an abbreviation. Really stretching there.

Try as I might I cannot locate a typefont that is only called "Times". The original version replaced an older font used by the Times of London, which was called "Times Old Roman" so the new version was named "Times New Roman". I can now find "Times Bold" and many other variations, but not just "Times".

I always get caught over "oaten" straw and once again filled in "eaten" as the answer to "like some straw", falling into the same old trap.

retired_chemist 10:10 AM  

Hand up for the oft-reported route to A TIT. Mine started with A COW. Hand up also for ONCE @ 1A.

Liked it a lot. The delightful theme answers (and the theme did help) made up for some weak short fill (OF A @ 32D; A-OK @ 54A, IF I @ 4D). Would have enjoyed 4D if clued as 'ow a Cockney uses 59Ds.

Good luck to all @ ACPT. Was just in NY at Westminster where Jerry Lee made the cut but nothing further. One year I WILL stay for ACPT, which seems always to be the weekend after.

Excitement on the return trip - an engine went out over Arkansas and we made a forced landing in Little Rock. All dogs and people were fine. Got in 4 hours late, but got there. I shall attribute my slow time to being frazzled from all that. (Wonder how long I can sell that one?}

Rex Parker 10:13 AM  

"Episode VI" — oh come on. There was No Such Thing in 1983 (the year in the clue). I'll assume that quibble is a joke. And "Times" is a common font. One of the most basic. I just checked Microsoft Word. There it is.


retired_chemist 10:13 AM  

@ Jim - Word 2008 for Mac offers a plain vanilla Times font. Perhaps to make up for calling the Alt key Control.

retired_chemist 10:15 AM  

oops Alt => Option. My bad.

slypett 10:19 AM  

A TIT: Cape Annese for 'eeeeasy'.

Elaine 10:20 AM  

I had to wait for my resident expert to wake up before bringing up this quibble: 59D [Wax things, for short] was the clue for LPS.

LPS were and are vinyl.

Cylinders manufactured for the earliest Edison phonographs were wax--emphasis on early days--up til 1912. Edison was able to improve the life of his recordings by turning to an early plastic: celluloid. Flat disks, even for early recorded sound, were made of shellac (though the masters were cut on wax) and, later, plastics.

It's rare to catch the NYT puzzle editor out, but this one is absolutely incorrect.

salo 10:21 AM  

It is interesting to compare the trashing of Paul Hunsberger's maiden effort on Tuesday with the hagiography today. Brings to mind Sarah Palin's horror over Rahm Emanuel's use of the word "retard" and her justification of Rush Limbaugh's use of the same word.

ArtLvr 10:24 AM  

@jesser -- me too, memo to self: don't imagine Otoes only... and check the 4-letter river too. TIM and TOPSY were new to me, as was BENATAR.

It all went fairly smoothly though, and I loved CONTROL FREAK, E-ZPASS, tricky little Times clue for FONTS. Also the "Full moon view?" after our timely Lunar Eclipse of yesterday! However, I think a PINUP was a generation earlier than its clue "Bunny photo", and AGRIC -- ugh.

Never mind the nits, Caleb, today's puzzle had more plusses than minuses for me!

@ r_c, Sorry your dog didn't win at Westminster but relieved that your plane trip had a happy if harrowing ending...To all at the tournament, have a blast!


edith b 10:24 AM  

My daughter loved the Topsy and Tim books so I had a leg up on this one. A couple of old friends ARETE and AMAHS also helped. The movies in the Midlands were both neons for me and I sailed through this one.

Like Rex, I had MOAT at 28A and this held me up a little in the NE but, all and all, this was an easy solve for me on what was an information-based puzzle that I do well on but always find disappointing in the long run.

Ben 10:28 AM  

@BEQ: He's got style for miles and miles.

See you in Brooklyn, whoever's going. No sleep 'til then.

PlantieBea 10:33 AM  

Red faced over the errors I made with this puzzle. Had ESAU/ANSUO and RULE/MUOR. I thought for sure MUOR would be the WOTD.

My excuse: I did the puzzle while watching the Olympic half pipe/snowboard competition won by Shawn White. Talk about a MOP.

Good luck to all who are competing this weekend.

deerfencer 10:35 AM  

@BEQ: Do they close caption "The Wire"? I
tried to watch it once or twice and literally couldn't understand 80% of the dialogue. Kind of hard to appreciate--or even follow the plot--when you miss that much of it. Any tips?

Two Ponies 10:44 AM  

I was very disappointed by this one.Too many partials and clues that seemed "off" to me. I agree with Elaine about wax v. vinyl. Role for King Henry? Gimme a break.
Just not enough fun for my Thursday morning, sorry.
I heard that Pat Benatar was trained in opera before she formed her band. No idea if it is true.
Only a woman with a body like Jill St. John could pull off wearing that hideous outfit.
Looking forward to the tourney reports.

Glitch 11:03 AM  


Playing "stacks of wax" was a common "patter" phrase used by the fast talking DJ's in the 50's = 60's. Not to be taken literally, but very much in the language [of the time]. My quibble is that they were referring to 45s not LPs.


Nowhere in the clue is "keyboard" mentioned. I can find on my PC (and windows) a whole bunch of things labeled OPTION.


AnotherGeezer 11:06 AM  

@Glitch, @Elain, @Etc - I'm of the age where wax was synonymous with LPS, went looking for verification on the web only to find that it's made a comeback among the Hip Hop generation. They seem to look for "wax" when looking for LPs

Bill from NJ 11:12 AM  


My dad hit the beach at Salerno during the invasion of Italy during WWII and wrote "Letters from the Front" home to his hometown newspaper in Greensboro MD that referenced ANZIO. He spoke often about Anzio to me.

To those people who are Pink Floyd fans, Roger Waters, the brains behind Pink Floyd, lost his father at Anzio before he was born. A lot of the material in "The Wall" was based on his formative years in England without a father. The album "The Final Cut" deals extensively with ANZIO.

To those that are interested . . .

Bob Kerfuffle 11:22 AM  

More on "Wax":

matt 11:26 AM  

I don't understand the love for this one. Are you all friends with the constructor, or just Rex?

@ Glitch: 56 down implies that they are in fact keys. BTW, PC's don't have Return keys either, in my experience.

Elaine 11:33 AM  

Ernie Pyle, an extraordinary war correspondent, wrote about the ANZIO-Nettuno beachhead and the extreme conditions under which all the forces had to conduct their battle. _Brave Men_ is still a gripping read, not least because Pyle was a prose master.

(Ernie Pyle was killed by a sniper in the Pacific. His home in ?NM or AZ? is preserved in his memory; I assume it is still.)

@Glitch, Geezer, et al

The clue might have stood if [stacks of wax] had been used, but [Wax things]-- nah. My point was also-- records were NEVER made of wax, least of all LPs. Personally, I had heard 'platters' plenty of times, but never 'wax.' But judging by these posts, Will Shortz will likely be unrepentent. I am going to turn him in to the Society for Recorded Sound.

pyrox-- Stone Age pyrex ware?

Two Ponies 11:43 AM  

@ Glitch, It doesn't say keyboard but certainly says Keys for 56D.
@ matt, There is no return on my keyboard either.
I retract my objection to the wax clue. It's clunky but I do remember the slang now.
I hope Friday gives us something more entertaining.

lit.doc 11:47 AM  

@deerfencer, yes they do, though I imagine it depends on your cable provider and the level of service you subscribe to. Was visiting my sister last xmas and, while we were watching The Wire, I started whining about not understanding Martian. To my surprise, she turned on the subtitles.

@Two Ponies, I've read the same thing about Pat Benatar having had years of operatic voice lessons.

I've also heard that Jill St.John had to get a Brazilian vinyl so she could wear that hideous outfit.

william e emba 11:47 AM  

I'm perhaps the unique individual who found this puzzle Challenging, trying to finish the NW. I kept thinking of the SPACE bar, not the SHIFT key.

One minor hiccup was the names Jean and Gareth Adamson, which I did not know, reminded me way too strongly of Joy and George Adamson, and I kept wondering if I missed one of their sequels to Born Free about some lion/lioness cubmates. (And Flopsy and Mopsy kept running mental interference.)

william e emba 11:51 AM  

Rex, perhaps you had an easy time remembering Jill ST JOHN because I mentioned her back when I commented on GOGO a few months ago. She was the actress in the first Batman episode whose character's death inspired Batman to say "what a way to go-go", much to the confusion of the film crew who did not understand yet what they were filming.

jesser 11:59 AM  

@ Elaine: Ernie Pyle was from Albuquerque, NM. I don;t know whether his home has been preserved as a museum, or whether it's still in use as a residence.

On another topic, I can't remember which comedian once quipped that if Pat Benatar and Tom Petty had a child together, it would look like Alien. Look at their pictures side by side and damned if that isn't a good prediction!

Dismsesi! -- jesser

CoolPapaD 12:21 PM  

@deerfencer - I always have a problem understanding dialogue on TV - The Sopranos was particularly difficult. My wife insisted on a hearing test, which I passed with flying colors. I've taken to watching most shows like that with the captioning available on most new TVs.

I really enjoyed this one, though the NW was the most difficult for me. Somehow got PAT BENATAR from only the "A" in Pat only - she was a constant presence on MTV in the days when they actually contributed to music. Now, as far as I can tell, it's just a bunch of crap teen soaps and reality shows with wretched pseudo role-models....

toad 12:24 PM  

omg I just figured out the quaint reference. brilliant! Check out the definition for quaint in Chaucer.

Anonymous 12:25 PM  

Now I know why they got the sign language lady during the Star Spangled Banner.

Jeb 12:33 PM  

@Rex - Perhaps you forgot that Star Wars began with Episode IV, went to VI then re-started with I-III. God, I can't believe I'm a grown man and know this. I went to the first one in a drive-in, saw the opening 5 minutes, and haven't seen another second of the series. And no, it wasn't a memorable story as to why I only saw 5 minutes.

Gray 12:41 PM  

@Jeb - Perhaps Rex's point is that they didn't call it Episode VI. Here's a 1983 poster.

jae 12:41 PM  

An OK puzzle but a little too easy for a Thurs. Hand up for MOAT. I CC everything on TV except the news and the late night talk shows. Keeps me from having to rewind or ask my bride "what did he/she say?"

Mon Calamari 12:42 PM  

Wow, Jeb, just 5 minutes to blow up her Death Star?

Clark 12:53 PM  

I blame Canada, in general, and the half pipe in particular for distracting me (putting me in the same boat as @HudsonHawk, though without the Molsons, and I see @PlantieBea is also with us) and making this a bit of a challenge. That Shaun White guy was flying so high into the air I was whooping and shouting. Needed the reveal to break into the theme answers. Then they all fell at once.

Re: PCs and MACs. Do you guy check the brand if someone asks for a kleenex? “Oh, could you please hand me a facial tissue?” Just askin'.

@retired_chemist -- Do you know the joke about two guys on a plane, one engine goes out, pilot says the flight is going to be an hour late, second engine goes out, pilot says 3 hours late, third engine goes out, pilot says 6 hours late . . . [stretch the joke out, make one guy Irish, etc.]. Guy2 says to Guy1, “I hope that 4th engine doesn’t conk out or we’ll be up here all day.”

Jeb 1:04 PM  

@Mon Calamari - You just had to rub it in, didn't you? Oops, I see this is going downhill fast. No, she fell asleep, though we did just celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.

lit.doc 1:08 PM  

@Salo, "hagiography" is the perfect word. Well said.

@matt and others, RETURN is actually Italian for ENTER.

@toad, I was starting to wonder if anyone else was lit-geekish enough to notice that one! Good eye.

@Jeb, Rex is just flat-out right on this one. Star Wars was only *later* retitled Episode IV etc. Originally, "EPISODE IV" and "A NEW HOPE" were the first two lines of the opening crawl.

Jeb 1:34 PM  

@Lit Doc - That's a relief.

Steve J 1:53 PM  

For whatever reason, this wasn't easy for me. Finished a bit above my average Thursday time.

Liked parts, disliked parts. Won't belabor the details, as others have covered everything I would (including what was a difficult NE corner for me).

There is one thing that brought up a question for me: IDNO. Even once I saw that's what was fitting in there, I didn't pick up that it was "I'd no." Never considered a contraction.

Which gets to the question: It's considered convention (and required) that if an answer is an abbreviation, this must be indicated in the clue somehow, either by abbreviating a word in the clue or including (abbrev.) at the end. So, why not the same convention for contractions? Granted, most of the time I don't fail to see them at some point, but it's a curious question (to me, anyway).

Curmudgeon 2:15 PM  

Have AT IT

I did not like this puzzle, not EASY, rather ANNOYING

Too many ambiguous FIBs (fliis-in-the-blanks and abbrs. to call this mutt elegant.

I'll have A TIT, thank you

John Hoffman 2:22 PM  

Easier Thursday for me than usual. I often can't do them!

NW corner was hardest.

Also I'm cranky about "wax things".

Ruth 2:38 PM  

@deerfencer, if you're going to be watching The Wire I'd assume you'll rent the DVDs. I watched the whole series on DVD and there are definitely English subtitles. I used 'em all the way through, and my hearing is pretty good. You just need them. I started doing the subtitle thing years ago when I was trying to watch a DVD of "Billy Elliot" and for the life of me could not catch what those Welsh kids were saying. Saves a lot of time on the rewind button. Y' feel me? (you'll understand the last comment after you've watched The Wire. It is FABULOUS)

Glitch 3:07 PM  

OK, I "forgot" to look at the answer to find the "keyboard" implication (my bad), but FWIW, the clue didn't "say" keyboard, so I got that part right and claim partial credit.

(Actually, the clue didn't "say" anything, one had to read it --- ba-da-boom).

For the dictionary obsessed, from
PC: A microcomputer with its own processor and hard drive. Although technically this refers to all such computers, including Macs, the term PC is nearly synonymous with only the [Windows] -compatible microcomputers.

[Linux users need not respond]


In fact the "Society for Recorded Sound" is the major repository for wax LPs.

(I'd tell you what my captcha was, but then it wouldn't come true)


Clark 3:14 PM  

"Well You Say I'm Twenty Something And Should Be Slacking
But I'm Working Harder Than Ever And You Could Call It Macking
So I'm Supposed To Sit Upon My Couch Watching My T.V.
I'm Still Listening To Wax, I'm Not Using The CD."

"Sure Shot," the Beastie Boys. 1912? Oh, no, that would be 1994. :-)

sanfranman59 3:17 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 14:55, 19:27, 0.77, 8%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Thu 7:03, 9:20, 0.76, 8%, Easy

xyz 3:24 PM  

Hand up for entry "Have A COW" which proved wrong. I made a mess of this thing, it must be an elite puizzler's dream?

I did not find this one at all easy, it had a lot of open-ended questions with many answers crossing each other, AGRIC abbreviation also did not know TIM & TOPSY and always think RITA Morales is from Hollywood.

I won't (captcha) lyste any more of my failings for today, it seems generally a love-fest for this to me indifferent puzzle.

Charles, Prince of Wales 3:34 PM  

@Ruth -

Madam, Billy Elliot is English, not Welsh.

hazel 3:54 PM  

Snaptcha. Should have been a Wednesday.

Re: The Wire - I agree that it was sort of hard understanding what was going on at first, but it was well worth it to keep listening. Not sure if it would have been the same experience if I had been reading and watching.

Not a Pat Benatar fan - from my own (limited) perspective, she seemed to appeal primarily to young adult males. My boyfriend actually camped out (remember that?) for tickets and we saw her in concert in the early '80s. I remember clearly bringing him coffee while he was waiting for the TicketMaster to open. I also remember really dreading going to the show. I remember almost nothing about the show itself.

chefwen 4:11 PM  

Like @wm m emba, I found this one more on the difficult side, however, it was made so by all my errors. Am I the only one who slapped down on side kick off the O in DOC? Well, that sure as sh*t didn't work. Other major goofs were trash before TRIPE, hand up for moat before MOOR. Never heard of EZ PAYS, guess I don't get out much. etc. etc.

Caleb and I are just not on the same wave-length.

Needs more Puzzles 4:54 PM  

Holy Quigley! is down! The sky is falling; the sky is falling!

Anyone know what is up??

ortivido? isn't there a shorter way to say this?

Charles Bogle 4:56 PM  

@elaine-hand up for A FIT. "Cornwall feature" and PG13" gave me fits in NW...liked PINUP/STJOHN...didn't care for partial phrases eg SOASTO, ORNOT...IMO not one of Mr. Madison's usually clever and entertaining outings...tough for those not from NE to get EzPASS?

retired_chemist 5:15 PM  

@ Clark - funny joke, in a black humor sort of way. Thanks.

des 6:36 PM  

no one talked about the theme after 1:00 pm - what gives?
I never got the theme answer because I have never seen the keyboard of a MAC. Well, Rex often has to find the theme for me anyway; yes, I was able to complete the puzzle without it, but still --- ugh!

Anonymous 7:06 PM  

Too easy for a thurs, and a bit too boring a theme as well, but I still thought it was so fun. I mean, senioritis? PG Thirteen? Awesome.

andrea carla michaels 7:39 PM  

I promise I will read all your comments when I get back from Orange's party, the Tipsey Tourney. I started partying last night already, again this afternoon, and now I'm on my way to Brooklyn.
The puzzle was the final one at the Westport tournament, and I did it in drips and drabs today anyway, being sidetracked by Andrea.... She is as much fun as you all imagine!

I saw Pat Benatar for the first time at Catch a Rising Star in London. That's what I remember and I'm sticking with it.

Last Saturday I had to laugh at the discussion of Arete. I was pretty sure it would show up in a late week puzzle....!

So surprised Rex is not competing! I can sort of imagine him wanting to enjoy it one year without the pressure. Hope to see him this evening.

mac 7:42 PM  

Sorry, Andrea used my laptop this afternoon. That comment was mine! She is at a scrabble event mid-town.

Stan 8:15 PM  

I liked this puzzle a lot. Maybe being a relative newbie and never having seen the theme before gave me a different perspective, but I thought it had real freshness and energy.

@Bill_from_NJ: My uncle died in the battle at Salerno (on a Merchant Marine ship). So Anzio and Salerno were always familiar terms to me growing up in the '50s.

Re: The Wire. My approach was to watch every episode twice, back to back. Most of the dialogue came through that way.

Anonymous 8:46 PM  


Interesting comments. I was focused on how in football, they never say "option play," just "the option" as in "Oklahoma often runs the option."

MTV's second video was Pat Benatar's "You Better Run," from my favorite album of hers, "Crimes of Passion."

Rex Parker 9:26 PM  

Coming to you live from the bar at the Marriott ... with PG and Orange and Katie Hammill. Peter Gordon is across the room. With mac. Buncha drunk scraggly guys at the bar, one of whom started cat-calling me and telling me he was a "fan." OK ... see you later. Your guest blogger for Fri and Sat is a gem. Enjoy.

Anonymous 9:40 PM  

I was unable to comment earlier as my system at work does not allow the captcha image to appear. If you notice, the enter key on most keyboards have a return arrow on it as well. It performs as a return key in nearly all word programs or text entries. I think of the arrow as the same return as I learned when typing on a manual typewriter MANY years ago.

puzzlemensch 10:02 PM  

Wax actually had to with the way the master was originally cut before the vinyl disks were manufactured. The wax created the original mold.

sanfranman59 10:05 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 5:58, 6:54, 0.86, 15%, Easy
Tue 7:53, 8:42, 0.91, 26%, Easy-Medium
Wed 11:03, 11:54, 0.93, 33%, Easy-Medium
Thu 15:15, 19:28, 0.78, 9%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:16, 3:40, 0.89, 20%, Easy-Medium
Tue 3:59, 4:27, 0.90, 21%, Easy-Medium
Wed 5:43, 5:51, 0.98, 49%, Medium
Thu 6:44, 9:20, 0.72, 5%, Easy

For the top 100 solvers, this one ranks as the 10th easiest relative to the day of the week of 205 puzzles I've tracked since last June.

mac 1:22 AM  

This evening's tipsey tourney was not a confidence booster for me. I just want to forget about it as quickly as I can. Tyler, of course, finished it in no time at all, claiming he didn't understand some of the clues and answers. Orange followed right behind him, and she was sitting right next to me. I had had a glass of wine and I soon found out that doesn't help with crosswords. Never drink and solve, and never solve late evening. After the two pros finished their puzzles, the rest of us pretty quickly started working together to get an end to this torture. In the meantime Merle Reagle was telling us very funny wordplay stories and testing us on anagram prowess. Peter Gordon was there, and Puzzle Girl was the grand referee. There was a slightly quicker next puzzle, which our blog master, Rex Parker, also did, and then we parted to rest up for tomorrow's action. On the way to finding a taxi I ran into Karen from the Cape and her mother, returning from "Lion's King".
Looking forward to meeting and seeing lots of blogfriends tomorrow!

mac 1:22 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
StanCanyon 11:12 AM  

I found it amusing that Jill St. John was a 44D!

jpChris 1:14 PM  

@Rex — If you don't compete, how can you still be the 44th Greatest?

@jae — Ditto on the CC.

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