Folded like fan / SUN 3-7-10 / Food whose name means lumps / Portrayer Cuthbert J Twillie Egbert Souse Flower Belle Lee Peaches O'Day / Harry's chum

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Constructor: Tony Orbach and Patrick Blindauer

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "COME TO ORDER" — Familiar phrases have one word (circled) anagrammed such that the anagrammed letters come out in alphabetical order, a feature (allegedly) signaled by the answer A TO Z (120D: The works ... or how each set of circled letters in this puzzle is arranged)

Word of the Day: PLICATE (22A: Folded like a fan) —

Arranged in folds like those of a fan; pleated.

[Latin plicātus, past participle of plicāre, to fold.]

• • •

I have never heard the expression "A TO Z" used to refer to alphabetization. It's a metaphor for a gamut — a full range, the whole enchilada, etc. Couldn't find "A"s or "Z"s that helped me make sense of the anagrams (one circled "A," no circled "Z"s). Couldn't find any "A" or "Z" patterns. Were first letters moved to end? Were "A"s changed to "Z"s? No. I had no idea what I was supposed to be seeing. Finally had to go look up what the theme was supposed to be. Really frustrating and disappointing. I don't see what's interesting about 4- and 5-letter anagrams having their letters be alphabetical. Might have seemed interesting while constructing, but it just gets a big shrug from me. The "A TO Z" clue really killed my love for this one. Well, not "killed." I was actually enjoying myself a bit while I was solving, particularly because Patrick and Tony (and Will, I assume) provided really crafty and tougher-than-average clues, and the theme answers were pretty cute.

I handled the puzzle in something like average time, but those big corners in the NE and SW crushed me a bit. Big, open, and hard to get into. Also, in the NE, full of (or surrounded by) crap I just didn't know. Totally blanked on stupid crosswordesey OLAN (14D: "The Good Earth" heroine), who would have helped a lot. Never Ever heard of PLICATE (!?). And EPINAL (40A: French city on the Moselle River) ... well, clearly I'd heard it somewhere before, but yikes almighty it is Fantastically unimportant as French places go. So ... not a fan of having to resort to arcana like PLICATE and crosswordesey minor French places in order to make the grid work. SW was far less ugly, and a little less tough, but still put up a fight, mainly because I couldn't see the "OPRY" part of OPRYMANIA and therefore couldn't see SYSTOLIC (91D: Having a rhythmically recurrent contraction) and then there was SAMPAN (104A: Chinese craft), or rather -MPAN, which my brain wanted to be TAMPAN (I know, I know) etc. LOUIS VI (127A: French king called "the Fat")? Not among my top three LOUIS (those would be LOUIS XIV, LOUIS XVI, and LOUIS Armstrong). But I worked it out.

Theme answers:
  • 26A: Slogan encouraging binge drinking? (HOPS TIL YOU DROP) — from "shop til you drop"
  • 42A: What spectators high up in Ashe Stadium see? (TENNIS BELOW) — from "tennis elbow"
  • 45A: Tutorial on becoming a resident manager? (SUPER DEMO) — from "Superdome"
  • 69A: Alex Trebek? (THE HINT MAN) — from "The Thin Man"; I want to like this one, but I just can't shake the fact that he provides ANSWERS. He's the ANSWER MAN (which is a real phrase).
  • 73A: Eco-friendly computers from Taiwan? (GREEN ACERS) — from "Green Acres"
  • 98A: Nashville neurosis? (OPRY MANIA) — from "pyromania"
  • 101A: Teakettle's sound? (FLOW WHISTLE) — from "wolf whistle"; FLOW WHISTLE? Really? 'Cause of the "flow" of steam? I can think of some great non-breakfast-test-passing clues for this one.
  • 117A: Clueless emcee? (A HOST IN THE DARK) — from "a shot in the dark"


  • 1A: Quarter deck? (HEARTS) — Great clue. Tried SPADES first.
  • 60A: Harry's chum at Hogwarts (RON) — "Chum"? You don't see that word much these days. Quaint.
  • 67A: Pickup line locale? (DEPOT) — Needed every cross. Pretty good clue. I was imagining some kind of truck show.
  • 105A: Mount ___ (highest point on Baffin Island) (ODIN) — "Alrighty then, if you'll just tell me where Baffin Island is, I'll see what I can find out." Got this all from crosses. Baffin Island is the largest island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
  • 7D: Swiss district known for its cheese (GRUYÈRE) — good stuff. Got this off the "-ER-" — interesting that this crosses ERE I (38A: "... saw Elba"). "Able was I ERE I ate GRUYÈRE" = motto of LOUIS VI).
  • 16D: Portrayer of Cuthbert J. Twillie and Egbert Sousé (W.C. FIELDS) — needed crosses. Got MAE WEST (99D: Portrayer of Flower Belle Lee and Peaches O'Day) much more easily.
  • 37D: Food whose name means "lumps" (GNOCCHI) — Mmmm, lumps. Good stuff.
  • 41D: Franco of "Camelot" (NERO) —Ugh. The only "Franco" actor I know is James. For NERO, give me the emperor who married his sister any day.
  • 66D: Bratkowski in the Packers Hall of Fame (ZEKE) — no idea.
  • 70D: Egyptian for "be at peace" (HOTEP) — noooo idea, even with HOTE- in place. "That's what HOTEL means? Well that's just weird."
  • 89A: Twin vampire in "The Twilight Saga" (ALEC) — What is "The Twilight Saga?" (all in quotation marks). I know what "Twilight" is. And "New Moon." Etc. But this thing you speak of that has "The Twilight Saga" as a title such that you'd put it inside quotation marks? New to me. [Twin vampire in the "Twilight" saga] seems way more accurate. Oh, I see that "The Twilight Saga" is somehow the official name of the film series, though only the sequels (e.g. "New Moon," etc.) get the pre-colonic "The Twilight Saga" in their titles. The movie "Twilight" is just called "Twilight." Stupid, stupid, confusing. My sister loves the "Twilight" books. I read the first and decided that was enough. Also, that kid who plays Edward (whom I saw on "The Daily Show" and who seems like a nice enough guy) ... someone should tell him he looks like a parody of a parody of some guy who thinks he's doing a James Dean impression but is actually doing a kind of neutered homeless young Brando. Just blander. Blando. Whatever. It's working for him, clearly.
And now your Tweets of the Week — puzzle chatter from the Twitterverse:

  • @CynthiaNowak My crossword puzzle dubbed the macarena the dance craze of the 90s. Barf.
  • @michelehumes Lazy weekend activity--the Grits & Gravy crossword I wrote for the Southern Foodways Alliance:
  • @bumrockss When the NYT xword has clues like today: "2003 hiphop hit by Fabolous" I feel like I'm really smart.
  • @hwentworth I'm pretty sure all Eton is famous for is being next to 'Charlie Chaplin's Wife' in every crossword puzzle ever
  • @YaleRumpus "Mike's Hard Lemonade, etc" is a clue for today's LA Times crossword. For some reason the answer is not "bitch beer."
  • @KJatIU My favorites pics from yesterday! Rex Parker in the finals of the triple jump:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Bob Kerfuffle 7:34 AM  

I liked this puzzle more and more as I went through solving it, as I realized that each answer phrase made sense of a sort in the original and with the circled letters in alphabetical order. But I must admit that ATOZ was among my last fills, as I agree with Rex that it is not a standard phrase for "alphabetical order". But the meaning is clear and not far-fetched.

My only write-over was NIEMAN before NEIMAN.

I would say that Alex Trebek does deserve the title of "Hint man," because most Jeopardy! clues are constructed as Olafs. Hard to come up with an example right now, but generally any question that might require high school level knowledge has an added clause that kicks it back to fifth grade level.

MsCarrera 7:42 AM  

@Bob Kerfuffle - I have not heard of the term "Olaf" as pertaining to hints. Would you enlighten me please? Thx

retired_chemist 8:01 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
retired_chemist 8:06 AM  

@ MsCarrera - an Olaf is a clue with extraneous information that adds nothing to your chances of getting the answer, e.g. "King of Norway who ate porridge for breakfast every day for a year." Answer: Olaf XX,where XX is a Roman numeral you need the crosses for anyway.

I was going to say that Franco Nero was no more obscure than minor characters in The Simpsons. His Wikipedia categories, however, do not offer an aura of distinction:

"Categories: 1941 births | Italian film actors | Living people | People from the Province of Modena | Spaghetti Western actors"

So I guess if you were around in the sixties and early seventies, when Camelot had everyone's attention, he's in your wheelhouse as well as mine. Otherwise, maybe not.

I found this unusually challenging for a Sunday. Felt like Friday cluing. Took me forever to figure out the theme. Didn't get to A TO Z until I had completed a couple of theme answers, and got it via crosses, so it was more of a self-check than a solving aid. I had already figured out the anagram part, just not the alphabetical order. FLOW WHISTLE? Really? ANY whistling is a flow whistle, so the clue doesn't gruntle me.

Hand up for not knowing Conrad VEIDT, AMATOL, and EPINAL. Could piece PLICATE together from its Latin roots and related words. Had 79A = KOOKY and 88D POLY (my bad) Sci, which made ECSTASY and CYNIC (with the REAL Y's) hard to see.

Anyway, tough, fair except for some obscure names, and kinda fun. Thanks, Tony and Patrick.

retired_chemist 8:14 AM  

Interesting thought: The A TO Z hint to the anagrams is actually an Olaf! You need to know the original phrase,and then each anagram fits uniquely. Alphabetical order adds nothing to the solution. The circled letters in the answer just all happen to be in alphabetical order.

MsCarrera 8:48 AM  

Yes, I get that, but how did the term "Olaf" come to mean that?

Zeke 9:00 AM  

@MsCarerra - The term "Olaf" was coined by Crosscan. I was going to say it was a neologism of Crosscan's, but I couldn't remember the term neologism.

This puzzle was the anti Reeses Cup for me - two things that leave a foul taste in my mouth, circles in puzzles and anagrams, which when combined ending up being pleasant. I too had the same wtf at ATOZ - did you switch the first and last letters?, what does ATOZ have to do with it? failed in seeing the connection, and over to Amy's for the answer. I thought it was enough of a twist on anagrams/circles to salvage the puzzle. The absurd anagram was FLOWWHISTLE, and one of eight anagram to absurd phrase seems to be a record.

Leslie 9:02 AM  

Wow. I liked this one way more than Rex did. The "A to Z" thing, pointing out that all the anagram letters were in alphabetical order, impressed me more than it did him, obviously.

I don't bridle at seeing the answer OLAN, but I do heave a gusty sigh, because that answer seems incapable of getting embedded in my brain. I have to get it from crosses Every Single Time.

I wanted "Nuts" to be an adjective, so I put in "loony" and KOOKS took a while to show up. Also, ED KOCH took an embarrassingly long time to introduce himself. Lots of Ks today!

Bet they didn't call him "Louis the Fat" to his face.

joho 9:10 AM  

@Leslie ... I had wacko, kooky, KOOKS.

I think square 41 is a Natick. I guessed the "N" correctly but I had no knowledge of either EPINAL or NERO.

I really liked the anagrams and even more so when I got ATOZ. In fact, that's how I fixed OldYMANIA to OPRYMANIA because OldY was in the wrong order.

Interesting, original Sunday ... thank you Tony and Patrick!

SethG 9:33 AM  

In the Onion, OLAF was clued as [Norwegian king who...oh, as if you know anything about Norwegian kings]. It was cemented a day later with [French novelist Robert _____, upon whose work the 1973 thriller "The Day of the Dolphin" is based]--if you don't know Robert MERLE from the first part of the clue, the rest won't help you.

Crosscanm that day: "Here's an example of an OLAF:

(3 letters)Baseball great Mel who scored 1,859 runs.

The "who scored 1,859 runs" makes it an OLAF because it is information that no one will actually use to solve the clue. If you don't get it from Baseball great Mel, the rest won't help you, as the subset of people knowing the second part and not the first part is near zero.

EPINAL has the same population as Florence, AL, the 11th largest city in Alabama. I used the anagramness to enter A HOST IN THE DARK from just the H. I used the alphabetic orderness to decide between ENDED and ENDER before I even had the O, P or Y.

Althea Gibson _and_ Arthur Ashe!

the redanman 9:41 AM  

I just printed out the Across Lite version of this puzzle, haven't done it yet. I hope this is better than most of the "circle in a square" puzzles.

Yuck! I don't like it already ...

Bob Kerfuffle 9:53 AM  

My apologies to all, and especially to Crosscan for twisting his lovely creation, "Olaf."

I would plead intoxication, but the only intoxicant was being the first to comment this morning.

What I should have said was that Jeopardy! questions (Or answers, if they insist) are a form of Reverse Olaf. That is, the obscure part comes first, then the giveaway, as, say, "Site of the first public tomato consumption, later capital of the Garden State" (not true, but you get the idea.)

And I had meant to say that this puzzle is very impressive, finding words and phrases that met the theme.

jesser 10:02 AM  

This one was slow going, even after I figured out what was going on. I kept flitting around the grid trying to find gimmees that would give me toeholds, but everything gummed up at the middle where I had No Idea about PBS's flagship, that PIAF thing or Baffin Island. This area was further, greatly, tragically complicated by the fact that I had earlier penned in (as a gimme!) arCH support for 113A, which left me with __aNESS for the court reporter at 102D. Untangling that particular mess took far far too long, and I ended up with a tangled write-over mess of which I am decidedly Not Proud.

And so I will sulk. There shall be no GLOATING in Las Cruces this day, unless it's about the weather, which is fantastic.

Once again, I wish to publicly thank Glitch for the tech support yesterday. My mood is much improved by the lack of warning windows! :-)

Batipe! (what happens when you hit the worng ekys.) -- jesser

OldCarFudd 10:08 AM  

Like others, I had a devil of a time figuring out how ATOZ explained the theme. But I enjoyed the anagrams and the puzzle.

Jeffrey 10:12 AM  

Am I late to my own party? What Seth said that I said.

I don't think Jeopardy clues are really Olafs because they usually give you 2 different ways to come up with the answer, as opposed to an extra fact that doesn't help those who don't get the first clue. Olafs like to live in Monday puzzles.

I liked the puzzle and thought A TO Z summed it up just perfectly. So there!

MsCarrera 10:21 AM  

I seem to have opened up a lively discussion on Olafs. Of course, I then had to check out what Crosscan is and got involved with solving one. Thanks to all for your input. I often learn something from your posts.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 10:27 AM  

Just throwing it out there, thought this one was a real entertaining and somewhat novel puzzle. Surprised you weren't feeling it. Oh, by the way, nice high top fade in that picture of you in the triple jump.

Parshutr 10:27 AM  

I agree with RP's assessment, except I was familiar with NERO's work. Only hangup -- but one that cost me bigtime -- was being sure that _ _ CH support was ARCH! But getting WI_NESS finally broke through the erroneous mindset.

Skua 10:39 AM  

REGO (Park) is a portmanteau derived from Real Good Construction Company which used to own the land. It is near Elmhurst ,Forest Hills and Maspeth

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

We were Ok with this one, but take exception to "Elks" as an answer. Pluaral of elk should be elk, not elks. (Like moose and moose, not moose and mooses) Unless it is about several members of an organization who get to drunk to drive home whilst wearing their silly hats... Just saying.

Meg 10:48 AM  

I had fun with this one and especially enjoyed "Wind up on stage". So many ways to pronounce it. Until I got to 120D, I thought this was just a run-of-the-mill anagram theme, but alpha order is impressive!

I eventually got past SUPERMODE and GREENRACES.

Of the 23 definitions for "light"(adj.), #23 is "being in debt to the pot in a poker game "

Thanks Tony and Patrick!

DB Geezer 10:49 AM  

P's but not Q's seems like an incorrect clue. P's are indeed RHOS, but to add the Q part seems Queer. Does that make it an Olaf?

I caught the theme early with TENNISBELOW, and the title and crosses led me quickly to ATOZ

Needed Rex to give me the central crossings of KNEES and ALEPH. I kept wanting to put in the names of Old Testament characters like ASAPH
Thanks all for your amusing and instructive comments.

foodie 11:00 AM  

For me, this puzzle was an example of enjoying an activity in spite of the fact that I did not ace it-- a talent I acquired late in life, thanks in part to solving puzzles. In other words, I found it rather challenging, but loved it nonetheless. I struggled to get going but getting the first theme answer helped me immensely in getting the rest. And while I knew the letters were scrambled, I didn't realize they were alphabetical until I got to the very end--the A TO Z answer seemed like icing on the cake.

The puzzle had a great deal of new information, clever cluing and chuckle inducing answers. And I enjoyed that T. Orbach snuck into it his dad's hit "TRY TO Remember"-- (I'm guessing it was him :)

Great job!

Scott W. 11:10 AM  

As a Microsoft Excel user, A TO Z came relatively easily to me. When sorting data in a spreadsheet, Microsoft offers the icons "A to Z" and "Z to A" to sort in alphabetical and reverse alphabetical order respectively.

edith b 11:17 AM  

At first, I was looking for a connection among the circled letters and there wasn't one. Then I went looking for what the connection was and what it meant. Again nothing.

I was far too clever for my own good, having FREAKS for 132A:Midway enticements which prevented me from seeing the reveal so I went through the whole puzzle not understanding what "The works" signified.

I ended up solving the whole thing but I felt like the lady in the dark trying to identify an elephant.

lit.doc 11:33 AM  

The first words I wanted to see this morning were Rex’s assessment of this puzzle’s difficulty vis-à-vis an average Sunday. Was glad to see “Medium-Challenging”, as that made sense of the hour and a half it took me to get through it. But get through it I did.

Ended up with 13 key-overs, and all the first fills were perfectly fine except for being wrong. With 2.5 exceptions. ULAN before OLAN, again. SEGO before SAGO (this from a person with a sago palm in his yard), and 42A BALLS, from B_L__, knowing it had to be wrong. Especially on a 21x, it still seems useful to me to enter “seed fill” in the absence of quick cross-checks.

Best high-quality wrong answers were “Smack” = HEROIN (till it was subducted by TECTONIC) and “Wind up on the stage?” = ACT V. I felt like such a clever lad till my answer was murdered—on stage—by LOEB.

Caught onto the alpha-order circled-letters + anagrams at GREEN ACERS, which let me fix TENNIS BELOW. Congrat’s to Tony Orbach and Patrick Blindauer for one of the more astonishing themes I’ve yet encountered. It was lots of fun, as well as useful in solving.

I blame Canada for the lengthy solving time. In NE, it was really hard to give up on PLEATED, though the payoff was a new word. In NC, I wrestled from beginning to nearly the end with 21A GIVES IN (or CAVES IN) stacked on top of UGLIER, knowing one had to be wrong. And NW sat almost empty till the very end, when the “deck” might refer to playing cards.

Anonymous 11:36 AM  

OBAN = town in Scotland/malt whisky
OLAN = Pearl Buck character
OMAN = country
ONAN = Bible character (rare)
ORAN = seaport in Libya

some old-time crossword-ese

lit.doc 11:37 AM  

...when the "deck" might refer to playing cards light went on, finally.

Geez, can't even block text this morning. But it smells like the coffee is ready. Back after I've read the rest of Rex's write up and y'alls' comments.

ArtLvr 12:12 PM  

Not TOUGH for me last night, though it took quite a bit of time anyway. I did see ALTHEA Gibson play in the Clay Courts TENNIS tournaments in the early fifties, so that helped for starters. Edie PIAF was a gimme too, but I needed the crosses for VEIDT.

PLICATE was fun, as French classes were big on the "explication" of texts, GRUYERE was great too, EPINAL not so much, and LOUIS VI ("le Gros") came back dimly as securing the Capetian royal line against robber barons, etc. I saw in Wiki that his first marriage was annulled despite production of a child, no further information there - odd!

I liked the wackiness of the theme answers, never mind the extraneous complication of an alphabetic order in the circled anagrammed portions -- no PRIZES for the extra-clever icing on the cake, LOL. Loved tasty fill like GNOCCHI though, especially next to OINK. Food for thought...

Felicitations to Tony and Patrick -- it was a very interesting Sunday puzzle!


lit.doc 12:13 PM  

@Rex, LMFAO over your spot-on description of the young man who plays Edward in the Twilight thingy. Saw Jon Stewart that night and was at a total loss to explain the young man's apparent appeal to the SYTs.

@BEQ, how 'bout a link to the pic of RP in the triple jump?

@Anon 10:41, me too re ELKS. Jotted "what next, SHEEPS?" in my notes last night. Checked my American Heritage this a.m. and, much to my chagrin, the pl. is, indeed, "elk" or "elks". And the pl. of kleenex is kleenices. And the pl. of sheriff is sheriffim. Argh.

@Scott W., what you said re Excel and A TO Z. Getting that one early on was actually helpful several times doing letter elimination on the anagrams.

Deb Amlen 12:26 PM  

This did feel like a harder-than-average Sunday, but I enjoyed it. For some reason, HOPS TIL YOU DROP was the last to fall for me, but maybe that's because I have no concept of retail therapy.

Loved your description of "Twilight". I needed to consult the Resident Teenage Girl for the answer to that one, as my knowledge of the story doesn't go much beyond Edward, Bella and the werewolf guy. Technically I probably should know it. My daughter and I went to the premiere (I was there under duress, I promise) of "New Moon" where ALEC's twin Jane makes an appearance. Not sure if ALEC was there or not, as I was too busy being lulled to sleep by the bad acting.

Bill from NJ 1:14 PM  

I used to eat lunch every day at H A Winston's and my usual seat was next to a movie poster for a Bogart flick, "All Through the Night," which co-starred Conrad Veidt so, as Edith B. is fond of saying, that was a neon for me. This helped produce the first theme answer HOPSTILYOUDROP and got me off on a good foot today.

Noam D. Elkies 1:18 PM  

I liked the theme and theme entries a lot — figured out the anagram quickly (enough to guess 117A:AHOSTINTHEDARK from the clue alone) but didn't notice the alphabetical order till I got to 120D:ATOZ (which helped in a few other spots). There aren't all that many 4- or 5-letter words that have all letters in alphabetical order and anagram to another word that's part of a familiar phrase (or in one case a prefix in a familiar word).

Outside the theme it felt quite hard for a weekend puzzle, and my time (~30' with one error) corroborates this. Yes, the NE was a particular trouble spot, though at least 22A:PLICATE is interesting, being the rarely seen source of "replicate". Likewise 70D:HOTEP, mysterious on its own but part of the familiar Pharaonic names Imhotep and Amenhotep (the first of which even found its way to pap culture with The Mummy). There's no such extenuation for 10D:VEIDT, 66D:ZEKE, or these clues for 41D:NERO and 89D:ALEC — there's no way to infer them, practically no confirmation except that they're plausible names, and no reason to Try To Remember all such names in the bottomless morass of showbzzzz and sportz trivia that the puzzle too often dips into.

Yes, a neat clue for 1A:SPADES (and yes, I too went for "hearts" after guessing 3D:ATOP); also 4D:RHOS, 39D:ELKS (though indeed the plural feels wrong), 62A:ONE (a trivium I was told only a month or two ago), 110A:CRANIA, and 77A:א.

Re 127A:LOUISVI's nickname: 900 years ago fat may have been a mark of wealth rather than gluttony and morbidity...


Elaine 1:19 PM  

Hand up for just about all the misdirected entries during this solve. Plus I was able to slip in a few of my own-- For 84A [bow head when receiving one] I put MRI; my excuse is that AIM was the [Wisk alternative.] You know, old people can get quite mixed up and brush their teeth with laundry detergent..
I had TARO for [starchy stuff,] which it is, just not in this puzzle. I went around and around in that area; it was like a bad dream.

Add that I had TENNIS BALLS at 42A, and you will see why it took me a while to 'see' the theme. I'd have appreciated ABC ORDER vs A TO Z.

Glad I managed to do this puzzle, which I enjoyed even though I feel like [Rhapsody] was a poor clue for ECSTASY.

see the tweets for the 'Rex Parker' photo link

jae 1:20 PM  

Tougher than average Sun. for me also. Although, I had no problem with the ATOZ answer. Like joho I correctly guessed the N in NERO/EPINAL just because NERO appears so often in puzzles. I liked this one and it was a good work out.

George NYC 1:27 PM  

For a while, I thought the anagram for SUPERDEMO was SUPERMODE, short for supermodel. Ah, no.
I agree the A to Z thing seemed wrong, but I buy the Excel (which I have used about once) explanation.
Liked having W C Fields and Mae West together again.

Stan 1:34 PM  

The 'Z' in (fools me every time) ATOZ was my last letter, so the unexpected revelation at the end worked for me. But the main thing is that the anagrammed phrases were good (with one exception). Loved TENNIS BELOW and GREEN ACERS.

Is 117A an intentional shout-out to Elke Sommer?

mac 1:42 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle much more than I usually do a Sunday size one! Went the traditional route, started in the NW and worked to the second theme answer, then remembered a tip Ashish gave me in Brooklyn: go to the theme explanation first. Wish I had remembered that during the tournament.... It was perfectly clear to me what was meant from just "hops" and "below".

I've been on the Moselle, by the Moselle and still did not remember Epinal. Had to dig deep for Olan, and thought 22A would have something to do with plisse. WC Fields saved me there. Veidt was acceptable because of his first name Conrad, and I have to admit I know really well how Neiman Marcus is spelled!

The SW was the last area to be completed, but after answering a phone call Mae West became clear and the rest fell.

Fantastic puzzle with really good clues and great attention to detail! Thank you Patrick and Tony.

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

I liked this one a lot, though it gave me fits and I don't like anagrams. I particularly liked the cluing, with the exception of 101A, which RP already commented on.

As far as HOTEP goes, I know there was an Egyptian god Amenhotep I learned about in 4th grade, so I plugged in HO after the TEP had been in place and I was stuck.

I should've also remembered RONIN, 76A, because that was one of the first films I watched on DVD, and because it has one of the best chase scenes of all time in it through the streets of Arles (It may actually be better than Bullitt and French Connection)

mac 1:53 PM  

@Noam D. Elkies: Freudian slip, Pap culture? ;-).

Steve J 2:06 PM  

I really struggled through this one. My brain just doesn't parse anagrams well, which was strike 1 for me (although the A to Z clue definitely helped me realize that, at least, the anagrams had to go in alphabetical order). Strike 2 was the tougher cluing. Still not sure how I think about htat. I mean, I like not using the same old clues for the same old corsswordese, but that moved some things into really obscure territory.

Not really sure if I liked this or not. It reminds me of a lot of neoclassical art: I admire the technique, but it does nothing for me emotionally.

Anonymous 2:18 PM  


No Freudian slip for Mr Elkes - he is saying, in his own inimitable way, that he does not approve of Pop Culture and finds it unworthy of inclusion in The New York Times Crossword puzzle, G*d forfend.

Noam D. Elkies 3:01 PM  

@mac 1:53 and anon 2:18 — yes, the variant "pap" is intentional, but no, it's not just a matter of blanket disapproval, nor even of p*p culture per se (I don't want to see "composer and violinist Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf" as a clue for AUGUST either). Those "Olaf" clues are actually a case in point: to newcomers who don't happen be such devoted b*seball fans that they actually remember names of players from three generations ago(!), the 1859-run clue lets on that this was somebody who actually achieved something outstanding within his domain, as opposed to just one of thousands who played pro sportz in the past century whose name happens to have a useful letter pattern (cf. Y.A.Tittle). Merely finding a new Alec or Nero in the Wikipage for the name is not enough. Same for 127A:LOUISVI — only a handful of solvers (cetrainly not I) will know that "the fat" excludes Louis II or XI, but this gives us something to hang on to beyond "it's yet another one of those Olaf/Otto/Louis/Leo the SomeRomanNvmerals".


Noam D. Elkies 3:12 PM  

P.S. Not surprisingly this wordplay is not new; Google remembers a Time Magazine essay "The Trimuph of Pap Culture" from 1981 that spells it out: "pop (for popular) culture has become—to borrow the word that means childish, meatless mush [from "pab(u)lum"]—mostly pap culture, a.k.a. trash, kitsch and schlock."


George NYC 3:17 PM  

That's Time magazine for ya.

abide 3:37 PM  

I thought the theme was pretty scattershot until the ATOZ kicker. That made it more palatable.

Got HOTEP from a memory of OOXTEPLERNON.

Dough 3:38 PM  

I thought this was a delightful puzzle. Lots of good challenging clues and a fun theme. I got that the circled letters were anagrams and was impressed when I saw the A to Z clue to realize that extra kicker to it. Some constructors love their movies and some love their youth culture. I always enjoy to solve Tony Orbach's puzzles because, as a theater lover, he always throws in a couple of references for those solvers like me who share his love of the stage.

Anonymous 4:14 PM  

So when you guys say "it took me the usual time," how long is that for this group of what seem to be particuarly skilled crossworders.

Also: I like to do the puzzle only in order, i.e., I can solve in my head but I am only allowed to fill the spaces left to right, row by row. I started doing this to lessen the boredom of Monday puzzles and then it became a habit. Does anybody else do this?

Scott W. 4:39 PM  

Anonymous--Yes, I do something similar. To make the Monday and Tuesday puzzles more of a challenge, my goal is to complete what I've termed a "continuous" puzzle. By that I mean I start with filling in a single answer (normally 1A) and then allow myself to solve only for clues that "intersect" the original or subsequent entries. In other words, I don't allow myself to jump to open sections of the puzzle when I get stuck, even if I know answers there. Of course, I simultaneously try for a "perfect, continuous" puzzle--one with no cross-outs along the way.

Rick Stein 4:46 PM  

Is light = OWES

Give me a break!

Like some noodles = WET

Just about as bad.

Hated FLOW WHISTLE, too.

Elaine 4:51 PM  

@Anony 4:14
You ask: "Does anybody else do this?"
My answer:
Only the people with masochistic tendencies.
No, but seriously--I would never do this to myself toward the end of the puzzleweek. MTW often work out that way, and writing in the letters is actually the thing that slows me down. A really tough (meaning good) puzzle might take me 45 minutes, though. I'm sure most of the speed solvers require only a quarter of that amount of time. With a tough puzzle I go over the grid looking for a chink in its armor, then work from there. In the end, can anyone tell that you've solved in a particular order?

Here's a question: if you are solving only via the Across clues, do you go back and read the Downs later?

Clark 4:58 PM  

ATOZ made perfect sense to me (and it helped me get several of the answers). ATOZ, running the gamut, the full range -- all imply an ordering, musical scale (in a particular order) starting at gamma ut, letters (in a particular order) from A TO Z. I guess I was just on the right frequency today (Kenneth).

I know VEIDT as the name that semi-puzzle partner will give me when I read him that Casablanca clue. You’d think I might remember it someday. (You would be wrong.)

chefwen 5:15 PM  

Absolutely loved this puzzle, took me a while to shovel my way through it, but I made it. Didn't catch on to the A TO Z bonus until I arrived here, that put the + on the A I already gave it.

Caught on to the theme with TENNIS BELOW. Confess to minor googling,
i.e. the fat king. Being from the frozen tundra, I did know ZEKE Bratkowski, once you have heard that name you just don't forget it.

Thanks for the super puzzle Tony and Patrick.

lit.doc 5:28 PM  

@Elaine, isn't "masochistic crossword solver" a bit oxymoronic? Jus' askin'.

In late-breaking mnemonic news, I thought of a way to remember "plicate" that's even etymologically sound--"explicate". Same latin root, "to unfold". I may have a chance of retaining my Word O' the Day.

CoolPapaD 5:49 PM  

Two days off crosswords really did my brain bad! Got the anagram gimmick easily, but never got the alphabetical thing til I came here. Generally a very enjoyable puzzle, but got snagged big-time by ARCH support - took a while to correct it. Despite my profession, I also whiffed on SYSTOLIC - I originally thought it was a variation of SYNCOPATE, and though I eventually got BIG LEAD, I left it as SYNTOLIC! ALso had BLEATING instead of GLOATING - couldn't get the starchy substance in question, and haven't been to Baffin Island in ages.

Otherwise, I agree with all who thought the cluing was terrific - very clever!

Norm 6:54 PM  

@ scottw and Anon 4:14

I do Scott's across/down/across/down/etc. (I assume that's what you meant) for the LA Times puzzle on the way home on BART each day, since it's generally too easy otherwise. I try the "all across" for the early NY Times each week, but I give myself permission to do the downs when I hit a long across. I think I've just outed myself with masochistic tendencies per Elaine. Also probably obsessive compulsive, since I like when starting in the NW ends in the SE. If I paid more attention to grids, I could probably figure out when that would even be possible (probably related to the rotation/symmetry), but I think I've said too much already. Geek, I am.

Glitch 7:00 PM  

Really liked this one.

It all started with HOPS (some sort of wacky substitution), anagrams came to me with HINT, confirmed back at BELOW, with ATOZ putting it all in order.

Most of my "observations" (had no real gripes) already covered, an easy / medium puzzle for me.


PS: Glad so many found my IE tip useful.


Stan 7:06 PM  

A librarian's perspective:

Alphabetical ascending (A to Z) order is probably the second most common sorting system. The first being numerical ascending.

In the library/database world there are lots of others (LIFO -- Last In, First Out; FIFO -- First In First Out, etc.) For computer programmers there are probably a gazillion others. I think I once knew ASCII order....

No clue how it works with with Chinese-Japanese-Korean-Tibetan.

JenCT 7:15 PM  

Liked this puzzle; got the theme, but still struggled in the NW and the SW.

Big mistakes: CNN instead of NPR, BERT instead of ELMO, PLEATED instead of PLICATE, and SPASMING instead of SYSTOLIC. These hung me up for far too long.

Didn't find that the theme helped much, but I enjoyed this anyway.

Bill from NJ 8:16 PM  

@Scott W-

That was exactly my approach to early-week puzzles and Sundays in the days when this pastime was a solitary one and completely tied to the newspaper and pen-and-ink.

Of course, everything changed when I discovered the blogs and computer-solving although there are times when I wax nostalgic for the old days.

fergus 8:39 PM  

Had to grind a bit to get through this one. Never took to the theme, since it just seemed too sketchy, due to A-Z specification. Clues felt a bit more obscure than a normal Sunday. Glad that many others liked it, but this was a lot clunkier than I would expect from the esteemed constructors.

Glitch 9:40 PM  

For Metro NY Cablevision viewers, the Oscars are back on WABC

Scott W. 11:00 PM  

@Bill from NJ--

I commute into NYC by train Mon-Fri, so it's still newspaper and ink for me on those days. I move online for the weekends.

andrea paris michaels 2:37 AM  

franco nero is/was him singing "if ever i would leave you" to my favorite musical.
tony/patrick is/are hot

Anonymous 6:03 AM  

62A: which ONE did you pick, KentucKY or GeorGA - oops there's something in my IowIA...

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

A tedious, joyless puzzle that felt more like a random (and boring) facts quiz than anything else.

Oscar 7:41 PM  

Well, *I* thought it was brilliant. Possibly the most amazing thing to ever grace the printed page.

A thing of beauty is a joy, indeed.

Crocus 6:34 PM  

Is this the longest AHA you've ever heard? The librarian in one 1969 episode of Star Trek, the original series was named Mr. ATOZ. I didn't get it until I did this crossword puzzle!!!!

jjoe256 9:19 PM  

Scanned the comments looking for one about "homely" "uglier" To me, it's offensive, and homelier is nowhere near uglier. Plainer, maybe, but not, uglier.

Anonymous 1:26 AM  

I'm surprised no one mentioned the movie 'Bubba Ho-Tep' in regards to that clue/answer. Still got it with the crossings, but a clue like Cult movie 'Bubba ___' would have been a gimme for me.

Anonymous 5:46 PM  

For those who didn't like A to Z used as it was in this puzzle, consider this:

Even in the meaning you are used to, "A to Z" is really shorthand for "Everything from A to Z." In fact "Everything from A THROUGH Z" might be more precise.

The first part of the 120D clue applies to the shorthand above ("The works").

The second part of the clue applies to a different shorthand, where "A to Z" means "From A to Z" or "Ordered from A to Z." In this case "to" is actually better than "through," so I don't see any problem with this interpretation of "A to Z."

Consider these phrases:

"The alphabet includes all letters (from A through Z)." (Or "from A to Z")

"Sort alphabetically (from A to Z)."

Again, both uses seem OK to me.

Anonymous 6:01 PM  

. . . Also, I'm surprised no one had a problem with 83D being clued without an "abbr." (or an abbreviation hint in the clue).

Anonymous 11:12 AM  

I found this puzzle annoying beyond words although I got the theme and eventually several of the harder answers. But there are WRONG answers in here. The biggest one: there are TWO - not one -states where the last two letters are their own postal abbreviation - Alaska (AK)and Kentucky (KY). It didn't say anything about the last two letters having to be in order so "one" was clearly wrong. Totally ruined this puzzle for me. As did "plicate" which is so arcane as to be just rude.

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