Fashionista * Moon Zombie / THU 3-18-10 / Tilly of Tinseltown / Millet's moon / Renaissance cradle city / Resident winter palace before 1917

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Constructor: Daniel A. Finan

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: EIGHT(H)NOTES (38A: [Refer to blurb]) — Blurb = "When this puzzle is done, the answers will include a familiar series of 38-Across (minus the middle square). Connect the squares of this series in order with a line, starting with the circled square. The resulting image will be a pair of 38-Across (WITH the middle square). In addition, the clues all share a feature that provides an additional hint to the puzzle's theme." // EIGHT NOTES of the scale, i.e. DO, RE, MI, etc. back to DO, are rebus squares, which, when you connect them with a pen/pencil, form a picture of two EIGHTHNOTES

Word of the Day: SHERI Moon Zombie (34D: Fashionista ___ Moon Zombie) —

Sheri Lyn Skurkis (born September 26, 1970) is an American actress and fashion designer. She legally changed her name to Sheri Moon and later Sheri Moon Zombie after she married her long-term boyfriend Rob Zombie. She has been named as a "scream queen" // Moon designed a clothing line, Total Skull, which debuted at the end of May 2006. She explains, "The phrase "total skull" to me means awesome, rad, the best of the best." (wikipedia)

• • •

Huge discrepancy here between how much I admire the construction (a lot) and how much I enjoyed solving it (not a lot). This is one of those Gallery Puzzles — you can hang it on the wall and admire its beauty when it's complete, but getting to completion ... not a lot of fun. I mean, rebuses are inherently fun to me, so I guess it's got that going for it, but in order to pull off the very demanding theme, the overall fill is compromised, and by "compromised" I mean "crying in pain."

But let's start with the good — this puzzle's theme has a gajillion levels, from the basic rebus concept, to the resulting image of EIGHTHNOTES, to the use of scale note sequence as a guide to drawing the NOTES, to the crafty use of the unchecked "H" in the theme description, to the coup de grâce —the fact that every clue starts with "Do," "Re," "Fa," "Sol," "La," "Ti," or ... well, "Do" again. It's a constructional tour de force. That's two French phrases I've used to describe this thing and I'm only in my first paragraph. Jeanne D'Arc! To quote Randy Jackson, I have to give it up for you, dawg, that was hott. A whoooooooole lot hotttter than yesterday's debacle. Whose idea was the cluing? Seems like a touch Will would put on a puzzle to make the puzzle presentation extra spicy. Anyway, from an architectural standpoint, impressive.

And yet: There's so much weak fill in this thing that I'll spare you the full run-down. I'll just point out a few low points. MCMIII (48D: "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" was published in this year) next to the miserably crosswordesey ETERNE (49D: Timeless, old-style) is one of the worse pair of parallel 6s I've seen in a long time. MCMIII exceeds my length tolerance for Random Roman Numerals by at least two ... do you call them DIGITs if they're Roman? Letters? Anyway, ick. Oh, and about ETERNE. Watch this — it's cool:

  • ETERNE. Remove a letter and rearrange to get...
  • ENTRE (it's ENT[RE]E, I realize, but I put in only first letters of rebus squares, so it's just ENTRE in my grid).
  • Remove a letter and rearrange to get...
  • ENER. Remove a letter and rearrange to get...
  • ERE.

OK, it's not cool, it's "cool." Or at least curious. Also curious is the biggest sink hole of abbreviations I've ever seen in a puzzle. Absolutely solid abbrev. content from ETAL south to ESC, encompassing five (5!) answers in total: ET AL, ENER, GRE, ESC and REC. I could tour the rest of the grid to pick up junk like -IER (42A: Laborer's suffix), -IDE (4D: Lanthan- suffix), MFR, HGTS, etc. but I'll stop now. Anyway, my point is there is an oceanic gap between the quality of the theme concept and grid construction, on the one hand, and the quality of the fill, on the other. Sadly, I didn't have the chance to admire the grid construction and theme until *after* I was done. So I'll give this one a marginal thumbs-up. I hate to encourage more constructorial self-indulgence, more puzzles that really care very little for the solver and his / her actual solving experience. But despite my aversion to having to draw on my grid to "get" the theme, this puzzle's crazy, pageant-contestant-like exuberance and ambition won me over, mostly, in the end.

Theme answers:
  • DO 1 — 57A: Time-share unit (CONDO) / 58D: Solving, as a puzzle (DOING)
  • RE — 65A: Renaissance cradle city (FLORENCE) / 52D: Restaurant order (ENTREE)
  • MI — 62A: Doughbags (MULTI-MILLIONAIRE) / 63D: Mineral in sheets (MICA)

  • FA — 20A: "Do me ___ and ..." (A FAVOR) / 6D: Mideast peace conference attendee, 1993 (ARAFAT)
  • SOL — 16A: Resting place for the deceased (MAUSOLEUM) / 11D: Reverse of "bring together" (ISOLATE)
  • LA — 56A: Milk: Prefix (LACTO-) / 39D: Fatal virus (EBOLA)
  • TI — 59A: Latin motto "Ars ___ artis" (GRATIA) / 55D: Lazy (OTIOSE)
  • DO 2 — 47A: Fated for ruin (DOOMED) / 31D: Michigan, e.g., to a Spaniard (ESTADO)
The notes of the scale, DO RE MI etc., have provided the bases for what feels like countless theme puzzles, so my first thought on discovering the rebus pattern was "Oh ... no. Not again." The fact that this puzzle really raised the bar on scale-themes means, I hope, that we never see one again unless it can somehow top the rock-opera craziness of this one.

  • 15A: Middle name of Sen. Joe Lieberman (ISADORE) — Wow. That was unexpected. Joe is a door ... yes, he is that interesting. And he swings back and forth as if on hinges. And sometimes you want to pound on him. Yes. Perfect.
  • 22A: Ming's 7'6" and Bryant's 6'6", e.g.: Abbr. (HGTS.) — I should have guessed at this point that something was up with the clues, because my first thoughts were, simultaneously, "Ouch, that is crappy fill" / "Man, that is an odd clue" (actually, in real time, the latter thought probably came first)
  • 61A: Tilly of Tinseltown (MEG) — Still?
  • 62A: Doughbags (MULTI-MILLIONAIRE) — I'll let you guess what I thought this clue said the first time I glanced at it. Hint: it's a legitimate subset of "Doughbags."
  • 66A: Resident of the Winter Palace before 1917 (TSARINA) — more longish crosswordesey dreck. I do like the ZESTIER underneath it, though (68A: Relatively piquant)
  • 1D: Rémy Martin units (FIFTHS) — Thought champagne was involved and tried to put in MAGNUMS (MAGNA?)
  • 3D: Late New York senator Jacob (JAVITS) — First thing in the grid, though I spelled him JAVITZ, like Lenny KRAVITZ or Jon LOVITZ.
  • 7D: Regulator mechanism, for short (SERVO) — seen it in puzzles before; otherwise, I wouldn't know the word except as the name of one of the 'bots on "Mystery Science Theater 3000."
  • 10D: Millet's moon (LUNE) — Kate Millet? She's French? No, she's a MILLETT with two "T"s. Hmmm."Millet" is a grain ... oh, here we go. He's also a French painter. Jean-François Millet.
  • 13D: Mister Belvedere and others (BUTLERS) — for some reason, I confuse him with Hercule Poirot. I mean, I know which is which, but in certain details ... for instance, today, I thought Mr. Belvedere was Belgian. But that's Poirot. They share a certain look, I guess.
  • 23D: "Reginald" writer (SAKI) — Never Read SAKI. Ever. I just write him in whenever the answer is four letters and I don't know the author in question.
  • 24A: "Resolved that...," for debaters ("TOPIC") — eek. Thought this was a two-word phrase starting "TO..." e.g. "TO WIT!"
  • 41D: Fanged villain (DRACULA) — I liked vampires better when they were villains. Now they're the smoky-eyed fantasies of tween girls. Boo.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

***Final Notice: P.S. It's NCAA Basketball Tournament time. Join my ESPN Tournament Challenge Group, "All Hail OOXTEPLERNON" (password: obolsmiff). Winner will get a copy of Bob Klahn's new crossword book, "The Wrath of Klahn" (unused!). Go here to sign up. [Crossword publishers should always feel free to send me swag that I can give away, hint hint] Tournament tip-off is today at 12:20 PM, so get your entry in before then.


8:20 AM  


foodie 8:30 AM  

Rex, you are so right... this is such a thing of beauty-- architecturally. Une beautée!

It took me a while to figure out the central H. And I never figured out that the clues started with DO RE MI...

Most impressive...

Jim H 8:47 AM  

I want to second the comment on Joe's middle name. That's perfect.

After doing the puzzle in 2across (riding the bus), had to open the newspaper and see the clues all at once to see the "feature" they all share. Nicely done!

Captcha: whosmin: a type of claim to mineral rights?

dk 8:54 AM  

Rex, how could you compare Mr. Belvedere to Poirot: mon duex! ... or words to that effect.

The aforementioned aside I agree with Rex right down the middle. Mr. Finan if there is an award for obsessive construction you get it.

I do not like rebuses or any of the other cute things done with puzzle fill but this one was worth it. At the end (my little gray cells are slow this AM) I saw the clue construction and set aside all of my groaning over the dos, res, and mes.

Well it seems I am gushing over this one as much as I do Andrea and given how jealous she can get...

**** (4 Stars) Great Thursday.

Secret word: roffer - budget alignment procedure

jesser 8:58 AM  

I never saw the brilliance of the clue beginnings until Rex pointed it out. Wow. Gracias, Rex!

I really enjoyed this puzzle, although (because?) I did it without the blurb, so I discovered the rebus at ESTA/DO/OMED, with EBO/LA/CTO right there underneath. With those in hand, I looked for and found the rest.

Only writeover (which I'm kinda proud of, to be honest) was at 35D, where I initially entered STRingsup. Hey, it was a good answer! Very wild west! It was the razor clue at 45A that made me undo the hangman's knot and just STRANGLE the puzzle instead.

Also, I want to thank Daniel Finan and Will Shortz for helping me decide what to lunch on today: FAJITAS!

Never heard of SERVO, but didn't need to; the crosses made it appear by magic.

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Conicsil! (A geometric hospital ward? OK, it was lame, so sue me.) -- jesser

Ulrich 9:01 AM  

As an architect, how could I not admire the construction? Absolutely bowled me over--and like others, I didn't even see the thing with the clues! Nor did I notice the crappy fill b/c the rebus squares were placed in such unexpected places that they kept me on my toes throughout--saw the sense of it all only after the fact, and then was won over. I particularly admire the cheek to use an isolated H in the middle.

DrGaellon 9:08 AM  

I HATE rebus puzzles, because they always throw me off - "that can't be right, it doesn't fit." I missed the clues starting with the notes as well until Rex mentioned it; that is genius work, though it leads to some tortured clues (HGTS in particular; if not for the theme, "Bklyn ____" would be a more obvious clue). I am pleased that I did eventually manage to finish it without reference to Rex's notes (though I did have to pull Wikipedia for a few things, like Grete WAITZ). I also had JAVITZ at first, and I ought to know better. And I totally agree with Rex's comments on ISADORE; that's a beautiful assessment of his character. (That's an uncommon spelling of the name, Isidore being the more usual; fortunately, I had JAVITS first).

joho 9:18 AM  

Bravo, Daniel A. Finan! This is a most impressive puzzle no matter what day of the week!

I love rebuses and drawing on my puzzles so I hit the jackpot to day.

This definitely made up for yesterday. @Foodie ... a thing of beauty indeed!

dk 9:23 AM  

@fikink from yesterday. I have not heard a fruit fly buzz but if you hum a few bars I could fake it.

Note: creative link between today and yesterday. Back to curve linear modeling. See you all tomorrow.

ps. @jessor, SERVO is also a character on Mystery Science 3000 (or MMM).

Elaine 9:25 AM  

I was solving this at 3 in the morning, bewildered by the convoluted Note, and perplexed that none of my answers fit, except JAVITS and FIRENZE (yeah)...until it dawned on me: Thursday is Rebus Day.

I did have write-overs CNOTE and DOLT before correcting with the crosses, not to mention FLORENCE. Otherwise, had a good time.

Since EIGHTH NOTES is equally a phrase, the H is not really isolated, IMHO.

leackedd-- hmm, unclothed in a meadow?

JayWalker 9:32 AM  

While I HATE to give you compliments, you certainly deserve them here! Did not tumble to the "notes" at the start of the clues. Genius. However, at the beginning of the blog you left "Mi" out of the list. Poor "mi." Why do you hate "mi?" What did "I" . . . I mean "mi" do to . . . uh . . . wait. Oh screw it. Happy Thursday everyone.

chefbea 9:37 AM  

I knew it was a rebus. I found them all. At the top of my puzzle it said "see notepad" What note pad??.
38A refer to blurb. What blurb??

Never noticed that the clues all started with do, re, mi etc

All in all not a fun puzzle

Tinbeni 9:39 AM  

I HATE REBUS puzzles!

This one may have changed my mind about that feeling.

Smitty 9:40 AM  

That Millett painting (The Gleaners) launched a superb movie about dumpster diving for everything from food to art projects

Elaine 9:42 AM  

BTW, in the matter of 17A [false start's result,] I imposed a FIVE YEAR PENALTY. Admit it, it would cut down on those pesky players who jump the gun!

Oscar 9:53 AM  

@Rex - You've merited a 2010Bloggie nomination for Joe ISADORE. In 2011, when you win, we will be arguing about a clue which says you won it in 2010 vs 2011.

Dough 10:04 AM  

Started solving this on the computer and then, once I saw what was happening hit the ctrl-p. Some puzzles are meant for dead wood and this was one of them. Rex, I think you're way overanalyzing. The fill was crossword-acceptable and the solving was way fun, including that gangly Roman year. The H in the middle is brilliant, the picture was terrific. This deserves a place on the honor roll of best-of-year (so far!)

Dough 10:04 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah 10:04 AM  

I had to google SHERI; I figured it was Rob Zombie's wife, but that was as far as I got. I knew there was something going on when it was clear that 6D was ARAFAT and there wasn't enough room, but it took me a little while to get the theme. To be honest, the fact that all the clues began with do, re, mi etc was a bit clever clever for my tastes. And for the record, although three-letter clues are always a lifesaver for me from Thursday onwards, these ones were just silly.

deerfencer 10:10 AM  

@ Oscar: Completely agree with that 2010 Bloggie nomination--though I think they should be renamed the Total Skull awards.
Who knew Rex could do such great stand up?
Very funny stuff!

Puzzle was good fun but with occasional glitches/near misses that gave me fits in the SE corner especially.

Overall a great Thursday solve despite the contortionist fill.

Polepolisher 10:26 AM  

Once again, for those of us living in asia and solving the puzzle in the herald tribune, there was no blurb. Still i could kinda figure it out after a while, sorta. but really, the tribune claims to be the world version of nytimes. get yer shit together on the crosswords!!

Ulrich 10:35 AM  

@Elaine: The H is isolated in the sense that it violates one cardinal rule of construction (for NYT puzzles): Each square must be reachable by an across AND a down answer--that's what I meant.

Speaking of Sen. Javits: I really deplore the disappearance of fiscally conservative and socially liberal Republicans in the Senate. To think that one of the leaders of the charge against Republican Nixon was a Republican (Weicker)--those were the days...

Parshutr 10:40 AM  

Got the rebus with ars gratia artis (I look for clues I know, so that was early on.)
I missed most of the subtlety, and had DOLT instead of DOPE, forgot that the note is SOL not SO, until I entered the mausoleum.
All in all, a melange to savor with a bowl of Edy's!

PlantieBea 10:42 AM  

What Rex said.

I caught the rebus at CONDO, liked the sassy central H, and tried to make Michigan an ESTAt.

Back to the beach and college kids.

Secret word: zestr

Glitch 10:50 AM  

Aren't those quarter notes?

(Can't seem to find the squares to complete the *flags*)


JMorgie 10:57 AM  

very enjoyable. except for weird unknown things like moon whatserface.

highly recommend reading Saki -- short story writer [real name H.H. Munro]. very clever, Rex, you would like him.

creocat 11:01 AM  

@Glitch - since they're connected across the top ('FA' to 'SOL'), they're eigth notes.

JenCT 11:10 AM  

Got the rebus at ARAFAT.

The SOL in MAUSOLEUM threw me for a while, with 3 letters in one square.

Very impressive, even with La TOYA thrown in there.

Two Ponies 11:10 AM  

Thank you creocat. Before you showed up I was going to second Glitch's question.
I usually love a rebus but as I caught on I thought "Not another do, re, mi gag?!"
I see the cleverness of the design but not so spangled to merit hanging on my wall.
There were some interesting words like otiose and melanges.
Other than that not really that fun. I'll just kiss it goodbye and get ready for Friday.

Anonymous 11:13 AM  

Who doesn't like a musical theme? (rhetorical question, don't answer)
It didn't take long for me to realize this puzzle was a rebus, but it took me far too long to realize what the rebus was. But the payoff was wonderful; the drawing and the clues-- what a sublime solving experience.

Two other things about this puzzle:

One-and I can't think of 'do re mi. . .' without seeing Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music.

Two-and I always picture the roaring MGM lion when I see Ars Gratia Artis

Thiper- wish my captcha was quaver today

Elaine 11:19 AM  

Thanks--another custom of construction that had not occurred to me.
creocat has already mentioned the connector that often takes the place of the 'flag' when there are two or more eighth notes in succession. Since we were supposed to draw the line from DO to DO, we automatically created the notation.

I agree, Munro was a master of the short story, and it's too bad for folks to miss out on his works. I have never forgotten 'Sredni Vashtar,' which I read at age 10. Maybe Rex will give his daughter a collection of Saki's best, and they can both read it...

MIL is supposed to be sprung from the slammer, oops I meant hospital, today. Cross your fingers for me, puh-leeze!

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

i first read 62A as "douchebags", but luckily that still led me to the correct answer

Anonymous 11:49 AM  

I finished this one but I don't see the feature in the clues that "provides an additional hint to the puzzle's theme." Can someone clue me in?

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

Ahhh... I just got it (I didn't see it the first time I scrolled through this thread). Ignore my comment right above at 11:49.

Stan 11:59 AM  

For me, this felt more like a mathematical brain-twister than a word puzzle. But the theme execution was awesome--completely over the top. It should set the bar for "drawing-on-the-puzzle" themes as well as "do-re-mi."

Greene 12:28 PM  

Just when I thought the solfège theme had been tapped dry, along comes this little masterpiece. I had a blast solving it online and actually printed the completed grid just to connect the notes and get the picture. Loved it!!!

CoolPapaD 12:32 PM  

I really loved this, and it took about a sixteenth-note to realize it was a rebus. We've seen the do re mi before, but never this beautifully. ANAS killed me - I know I've seen it before, but I'll never think about Ana any way except as a girl's name (disclosure - old girlfriend).

Can someone please explain what I was supposed to do with the central H, with respect to the drawing? My picture connected all of the rebus squares, but I'm not sure if there should be a line from the top "bar (connecting the FA and SOL) to the "H."

Should 15A be ISABORE? Good LORD - when he talks, I usually wake up several hours later with the test-patterns on the TV screen!

SethG 1:13 PM  

The constructor's last puzzle was the one where you had to draw a sailboat. (The one before that was a Sunday, which I loved.)

I got the rebus right away, still took forever to finish.

I started with the wrong razor and filled in GARROTTES, a variable but correct spelling, off the ATRA. And not all of the RARE GASes are rare, so I didn't realize they're called that and that whole area took a while. Went with EMPRISONS, a variable but correct spelling, tried to fit in ENTOMBx when I had no idea about the OMY or the grain/artist, so that whole area took a while.

Then, I chose the wrong random Latin and went with GRATA, not realizing that it's OTIOSE and not OTOSE. Couldn't figure out where to put my TI, and I tried forever in the DOxx/TOxxx/xSPOT area. Also really wanted TO WIT, wanted DODO, and debate TOPICs don't come up much in mathletics.

I did not much enjoy the process. And, seriously NYT, enough with the solfège puzzles already.

Steve J 1:15 PM  

Ow. My head hurts.

Now that I know what's going on, I still have trouble parsing that convoluted blurb. I never noticed do-re-mi-etc. until well at the end. And since I solve with the iPhone app, I never saw the notes. (In fact, does anyone have a pic they link to? I'm not about to draw on my iPhone screen.)

I look at this puzzle in much the same way I look at most Modernist architecture: I understand and even admire what was going on, but I don't enjoy it. Maybe it was the ample amounts of groan-worthy fill, as well as a couple clues that struck me as off.

Such as Remy Martin. As Rex mentioned, it isn't sold in fifths. And, being French, it probably never has. The standard champagne bottle is 750 ml, which is close to a fifth (much like a liter and quart are close to each other). I suppose it's ok if one doesn't expect precision and accuracy from their clues. Since this wasn't a case of wordplay, I don't think being off works here.

I'm more forgiving of the cluing for FAJITAS, even though that one's literally wrong. Fajitas are Tex-Mex. Tijuana is nowhere near Texas, of course. Since the usual foreign-language cuing isn't usually expected to be literal, I'm more forgiving of this one. Although, "Nuevo Laredo dishes" or "Juarez dishes" may have been better choices.

Clark 1:32 PM  

Oh man this one was good. I got the rebus when I realized that 'florence' wanted to go in 65A and 'cemetery' in 16A. Aha! FLOREN[CE] and [CE]METERY. Then I had [I D]IG IT, A[T E]ASE. You get the picture. But cream rises to the top, and these errors were gradually overpowered by the right answers. Saw the solfege syllables and was able to put everything right. The picture told me where [SOL] had to go. I never got the clue in the clues. "The clues ALL share a feature . . ." I thought, which clues? he can't mean ALL all. But he did. Why didn't I just look? Doh!

Martin 1:42 PM  

Rémy Martin makes cognac, not champagne. And it comes in fifths, among other sizes.

Doc John 1:47 PM  

I am so sick of the DO RE MI puzzles. It's been done. Find another series to work with. There, I said it.

I tried "d*ckhead" before settling on ISADORE. Joe is giving my family name, Lieberman, a bad name and I'm sick of it already. And his sponsoring of a bill to end Don't Ask Don't Tell will not redeem him.

RARE GAS? Noble, maybe, but not rare. Rare earth, yes. Rare gas, no.

Steve J 1:49 PM  

@Martin: You're right that Remy Martin is cognac, not champagne. Really stupid mistake on my part.

But are you sure about its coming in fifths? I've always seen it in metric measures. Looking quickly at the sites for various local wine shops, etc., they all list metric measures as well.

I suppose it's possible that fifth and 750 ml have become synonymous. But from a literal standpoint, they're not the same, and it's been a long time since even American-produced spirits have been bottled on the imperial measurement rather than metric.

Martin 1:52 PM  

BTW, a "fifth" today is universally 750 ml, not the 757 ml that 1/5 of a US gallon works out to. If people missed the metrification of the booze bottle, they might be looking for something that no longer exists: a bottle labeled "One fifth of a gallon." The standard 750 ml bottle is now called a fifth.

From wikipedia:

A fifth of liquor, once one fifth of a U.S. gallon, or 757 mL, is now commonly 750 mL, though it is still referred to as "a fifth."

OldCarFudd 1:57 PM  

For something this good, I forgive bad fill. Brilliant! And, like many of you, I never saw the beginnings of the clues - although, had I gone back to read the blurb again after I finished solving, I'd like to think I would have been smart enough to notice.

I paused a bit when I realized that not all do, re, --- syllables in the puzzle were rebuses. Starting with 1A, fajitas. But the blurb was accurate, so I can't fuss.

@Rex - great comments about Joe, even though I like Joe. @Ulrich - I, too, mourn the loss of fiscally conservative and socially liberal Republicans. They've morphed into free-spending bigots. That's why I re-registered as a Democrat last year.

frants - rants about too many French clues.

mac 3:01 PM  

I have a lot of admiration for this piece of work, but can't say I enjoyed the solve. I found the explanation vague, as some of the clues (like for topic). I also had "strings up" at first, and for the cognac I tried to think of a different name for snifters!

Several of the impressionists made their version of the fields and harvest paintings by Millet.

Please don't remind me of Joe Isadore...

@Rex: I can't believe you have never read Saki!!;-).
I'm actually sure you would like his twisty stories.

Now here's a good one: Elati!

Charles Bogle 3:03 PM  

The only fun, laugh out loud moment for me was when I resorted to google to find out who "Mr. Belvedere was," and hit on the Urban Dictionary...try it! Otherwise, am also in awe of construction and personally proud I was able to determine fairly on that it was a rebus; but, it was just a huge pain to finish; felt IMPRISONED while doing so; another high point was flailing around for something nice about the moon penned by Edna St. Vincent Millet (!) And accidentally hitting uponm Rex, the Englishman and all the other published solvers. While the substance disappointed, Rex's write-up is an absolute masterpiece. It will stand for all ETERNE


chefbea 3:09 PM  

I still don't understand...What was the blurb???

william e emba 3:09 PM  

The members of the last column of the periodic table have in fact been called "rare", "inert", and "noble" gases. The name "inert" is obsolete/deprecated/inaccurate. In particular, the sometimes seen cluing of "inert" in terms of the chemistry of xenon or krypton is flat-out erroneous.

Speaking as an outsider, I have the impression that "RARE GAS" is actually common in industrial chemistry, while "noble gas" is the standard in academic/research chemistry.

"Rare earth", in contrast, is more or less a synonym for lanthanIDE. That was just a goof on your part.

Here is a quarter-note: ♩. Here is an eighth-note: ♪. Here are two eighth-notes "beamed" together: ♫.

Question for the obsessive purists: can one still say the clue for FIVE YARD PENALTY (False start's result, in football) is 100% correct, since the other team can decline the penalty?

Aaron Riccio 3:18 PM  

@chefbea -- Using the Notepad feature in Across Lite, you'll be able to see the description the constructor left for the puzzle. I've copied it below:

When this puzzle is done, the answers will include a familiar series of 38-Across (minus the middle square). Connect the squares of this series in order with a line, starting with the circled square. The resulting image will be a pair of 38-Across (WITH the middle square). In addition, the clues all share a feature that provides an additional hint to the puzzle's theme.

Anonymous 3:26 PM  

Or you could, you know, look at the write-up. I believe it's mentioned.

Anonymous 3:28 PM  

@William e emba- I don't think a team can decline a false start penalty, or if they can, I've never seen it. Because the penalty occurs before the play actually starts, a false start gives the offense a free five yards.

sanfranman59 3:39 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 23:59, 19:28, 1.23, 91%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 13:08, 9:22, 1.40, 97%, Challenging

Zeke 3:48 PM  

@TPTSteve - that's "Gives the defense..."
@Aaron - It must have been different in AcrossLite, because my note read "When this puzzle is done, the answers will include a familiar series of 38-Across (minus the middle square). Connect the .. Connect the squares? You gotta be kidding me, I ain't going to connect no F#$@ing squares!! This is the F(&*%#$ing NYTimes, not the placemat at IHOP. ... blah blah blah"

lit.doc 3:51 PM  

Wow. This was an astonishing construction. Bravo indeed to Daniel A. Finan! I love rebuses, and I love puzzles where catching on to the theme aids my solving experience. That I don't care much one way or t'other about "makes a drawing when you're done" puzzles doesn't make it one whit less impressive. And the solfege clue-starts (which I totally forgot even to look for til I was reminded by Rex's write-up) is the icing. Yumm.

Done in 36:06 with no googles, which is probably my best Thursday ever. And it was fun to solve. Caught on to the rebus theme at MAU[SOL]EUM. No WTF moments. Still new enough at this that crappy fill doesn't irk me if it's gettable, and any clue cavils I had have been discussed by @Steve J, @Ulrich, and others. All in all, a most excellent day in the neighborhood.

@Rex, your explication of Lieberman's middle name was hysterical, as was @CoolPapaD's var. spelling of same.

@CoolPapaD, the central H isn't part of the drawing as such. It changes EIGHT NOTES, which describes the rebus squares, into EIGHT NOTES, which describes the drawing.

@anon. 11:49/50, take a few minutes to create a Blogger identity and, when you post, you'll have a little trash can (visible only to you) at the bottom of your comments, into which you can toss them at will.

@chefbea, no notepad, were you solving in Across Lite? If so, maybe you need to update your version.

@Ulrich, gotta join you in a too-rare "reaching out across the aisle" moment. As a socially far-left second-amendment Democrat, I too bemoan the apparent extinction of fiscally conservative and socially liberal Republicans.

DIRECTI is worse fill than SILENTE.

fergus 3:58 PM  

I wrote in HALOGEN, figuring that the Nobles Gases were kept apart??

Realized that I'm not so averse to crappy fill, since noe of the Rexcitations bothered me in the least.

And I reckon that this group has managed to eliminate symmetrical rebus placement from Mr. Shortz's consideration ... ?

(I know this is getting a bit tiresome but I had "scrie" the writer who wasn't to be )

william e emba 4:14 PM  

tststeve: You might be right, before the snap means it's apparently automatic, since there's no loss of down either. On the other hand, if the clock was running near the end of the half/game at the time of the penalty, it also kills 10 seconds off the clock--perhaps the defensive team does not want that?

So let's revise the question. Is the clue 100% accurate as written, considering either of the following two scenarios may also apply.

Version one: Suppose there is an offsetting penalty from the other team, also five yards. In other words, if two penalties cancel each other, do they in fact "occur"?

Version two: suppose the clock is running at the time of the infraction, and there are less than ten seconds on the clock to end the half/game. The penalty also carries an automatic loss of ten seconds, and in fact ends the half/game if called, so again the yardage loss does not "occur".

CoolPapaD 4:22 PM  

@lit.doc - Thanks! Now I like it even more. I was wondering if it was common knowledge that the scale is sung with eighth-notes, and wondering if I should have known that! Now that I know that the clue referred to 8 notes, it makes perfect sense!

Watch a youtube clip of Droopy Dog with your eyes closed, and tell me it doesn't sound exactly like Lieberman...

Joe 4:24 PM  

Can't believe it--a rebus puzzle I was able to just about finish....because I HATE rebus puzzles.

Things like ISADORE, ETERNE, and TSARINA were annoying but most of it was not bad--once you figured out it was a #$&@*@ rebus puzzle.

SHERRI Moon Zombie is NOT one of Frank Zappa's kids. Puh-leeze. Unknown to most people.

Easy way to tell Poirot from Belvedere: Belvedere was always "joking" about how he survived the London blitz in The Big One, WW II.

I personally liked Belvedere better when he wore a dress and wanted to direct Springtime For Hitler.

chefwen 4:34 PM  

@Zeke - I'm still laughing, IHOP indeed!

Loved the puzzle, took me a while to struggle through, but I enjoyed every minute.

nestraw - right before the last straw

Martin 4:36 PM  

A clue does not have to describe the entry 100% of the time to be 100% correct. Jennifer Tilly does not make MEG wrong.

Finding counterexamples for clues gets easier as the week progresses, BTW.

And Alf's guardian or whatever he is, Willie Tanner, could be Lieberman's twin.

chefbea 4:39 PM  

Thanks for explaining the note pad and the blurb.

@lit doc I do not solve in across lite. I go to the puzzle there and print it out. The only thing in the print out was (see Notepad)

Glitch 4:50 PM  


Thanks for the explaination


Thanks for pointing out @creocat answered my question.


PS: Not everyone has a music teacher when growing up.

Bob Kerfuffle 4:54 PM  

@Martin - Max Wright played Willie Tanner.

I was prepared to put up a little fight against 59 A, Latin motto "Ars GRATIA artis", since although the words are indeed Latin, the motto is actually a translation of the French expression of "Art for art's sake", created for commercial purposes, and it was not really an ancient Latin motto. But once I realized that the word "Latin" was in there mainly for its "La" beginning . . . Why fight it?

Another amazing puzzle; loved it.

David in CA 5:17 PM  

You end up having a 6 character roman numeral in your grid, which just happens to be the year of the 1st powered flight, which was accomplished by guys with one of the most amenable to punning names around, so you clue it as a publication date of some obscure book!
Just how techo-phobic can the NYT puzzle become???

Loved it otherwise.

SueRohr 6:17 PM  

While I am in awe of the construction here, I still find it self indulgent. I don't want to draw on my puzzle. I don't want the crappy fill that must be used to make the puzzle "work". I much prefer a good straightforward difficult but doable puzzle with interesting clues and fill. And a puzzle that is workable in across lite as well as in other newspapers.

Ulrich 6:45 PM  

@lit.doc: I was actually reaching out across the aisle--we may be on the same side after all.

@mac: I thought of you just now as I watched Anderlecht against Hamburg via life-streaming...

SethG 7:17 PM  

A false start penalty may only be called on the offense. (If the defense induces the false start, that's a delay of game or a neutral zone infraction, defending on the method of inducement.) The stoppage is automatic; the yardage penalty may be declined, and that might happen (as is does with intentional delay of game penalties) when it just gives the offense a better strategic spot for punting.

I thought about offsetting penalties, but I'm not sure how that can happen with a false start penalty. (An unsportsmanlike conduct or personal foul could ensue, but that penalty wouldn't offset.

As for Martin's point, there's a limit to how far that goes. I agree that this is accurate, but I don't think you could say that, say, [False start's result, in football] can be used to clue DECLINED PENALTY just because a penalty may be declined. No matter how far the week has progressed.

I can't believe we've had this much discussion of Joe Lieberman without a single mention of Kermit the Frog.

chefwen 7:36 PM  

@chefbea - I solve the same way you do. Yesterday I clicked on the little notepad thingy on top and the blurb appeared on the screen. Tried to memorize it (it was kinda long) and then printed the puzzle.

David 7:37 PM  

Ulrich summed up my thoughts pretty well---the construction was incredible, didn't even notice the craziness of the cluing, and even didn't mind the fill because of the other stuff going on.

Very strong rebus squares, too; a bunch of them turned out to match my first guesses, so I kept wanting them so bad but couldn't figure out how to make it work. That's part of what makes me love rebus puzzles, and wacky ones like this with different (but totally thematic) rebuses are even better.

And Rex hit the theme the nose. This puzzle's the crazy pinnacle of the notes theme that we've seen so often before. Next time we see the theme, I'm definitely going to compare it against this one. The solo H was just clever icing on the cake, as the puzzle even worked perfectly without it, and even more perfectly with it. A rule-break that was worth it, adding to the puzzle but not a crutch.

edith b 8:51 PM  

Here I thought ISA{DO}{RE} somehow fit into the rebus of this puzzle but, for the life of me, couldn't figure out its raison d'etre.

I caught on to the fact that it was a rebus at the ARA{FA}T/A{FA}VOR cross, and at the same time, noticed all the clues started with elements of the solfege so I thought the ISADORE situation might not be that far outside the realm of possibility after all. Which made for an extremely confused woman, what with an unchecked square smack-dab in the middle of the puzzle, along with a single {circled} square at 58.

It finally occurred to me to read what was in the {see Notepad} which turned out to be a convoluted mish-mash that only served to confuse me further as I was not interested in turning my puzzle into a placemat from the IHOP (thank you for the image, Zeke).

I ended up solving the puzzle in a reasonable amount of time by not paying any attention to the various bells-and-whistles that came packaged along with it. What a strange couple of weeks it has been!

Oh, and welcome back, Greene, it was nice seeing your "thumbs-up" avatar again.

Two Ponies 9:08 PM  

@ edith b, Thank you for welcoming back Greene. I noticed the return as well but forgot to include it in my post.
@ Greene, I don't know where you have been but glad you are back.

Sfingi 9:35 PM  

Strangely I caught on to the fact that there were full words in some squares because MAUSOLEUM and ISOLATE had to be. I thought, OMG, I'm going to solve one of those rebus thingies! At first I thought it was a "sun/moon" thing. But another "it has to be" - AFAVOR, I was on my way. WOW.

However, I didn't get the whole thing. Had to Google for WAITZ (sports), SHERI (young), ISADORE (good grief). In the SW, I got messed up with MULTIMILLIONAIRE, picking TI instead of MI. DOING escaped me, so it was a mess.

Didn't notice the musical notes in the beginning of the clues 'til here. But I'm semi-proud, since I never tried a rebus cw before, knowingly.

Being OCD I rather admire the puzzle.

@Seth - I wanted "garotte" but couldn't make it work.

@Joe - Correct. Moon Unit Zappa is Frank's daughter, and it's her christened name, if I can take that word in vain.

A servomechanism (one word) employs a real time feedback loop to constantly correct a position. Our own brains can act as one when we're steering. So, it can be biological, mechanical or electronic. Nuff said.
(Note: when you talk sciency, you must say "so" somewhere.)

My captcha is STUPE. Subtle.

sanfranman59 10:18 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:55, 6:55, 1.00, 55%, Medium
Tue 9:25, 8:54, 1.06, 68%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 13:58, 11:50, 1.18, 88%, Challenging
Thu 23:59, 19:28, 1.23, 91%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:30, 3:40, 0.95, 43%, Medium
Tue 4:30, 4:31, 1.00, 54%, Medium
Wed 6:39, 5:48, 1.15, 82%, Challenging
Thu 12:25, 9:21, 1.33, 95%, Challenging

mac 10:39 PM  

@SethG: As a Connecticut resident and a Democrat, I really like to just forget about this.....Isadore.

@Ulrich: who won?

can't make anything of emichup....

Anonymous 10:55 PM  

One of the worst solving experiences I've had with the NYT...hope u music majors had fun

Tadd Dameron 1:49 AM  

This crossword had more awesomeness in the center square. H could represent a B-natural. B-natural is notated as H in German musical texts.
In "Godel, Escher, Bach" Douglas Hofstadter explained how Bach used the four letters in his name as a musical theme: B-A-C-H became B flat A, C, B-natural.

"Descending" FIFTHS (1D) is a clever opening for a musically themed puzzle: the 12 keys move through a circle of fifths. Well played Daniel Finan!

WilsonCPU 11:46 AM  

OK, I'm on the fence. I agree the fill was dreck, but the construction was brilliant in concept. But the local paper dropped all the Down clues from 40D through 62D, which entailed a lot of back-and-forth guessing, making the final all-correct answer unusually satisfying. Took several minutes to work out the additional hint. Then had no clue beginning with SOL, but guess that was in the lost clues...

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