Former captial of Crete / THU 3-11-10 / * Savahl couture label / * Green 1987 LPGA Rookie of year / Rathskeller cooler

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Constructor: John Farmer

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Incantations — 3 theme answers are "Incantations" (i.e. "magic words") — then there's a note: "When this puzzle is finished, the six circled letters can be arranged to spell an answer to the catchphrase reading diagonally from upper left to lower right." Catchphrase = "SAY THE MAGIC WORD" / circled letters, rearranged, spell out "PLEASE"

Word of the Day: EMA Savahl (29D: ___ Savahl (couture label)) —

The Ema Savahl Couture was brought to life by owner/designer Ema Koja, who wanted to combine fashion and art without limitations. By utilizing a strong talent in color combination, patterns and fit, Ema has created a look that has been seen on fashionistas from coast to coast. Kelly Clarkson, Tyra Banks, Paris Hilton and Paula Abdul are just a few of the many Ema Savahl fans that have been spotted. // A former European professional volleyball player never could have expected that one day, she would win the break out award for best new fashion designer in Paris, 2000. Growing up in Albania, Ema was surrounded by her three aunts who worked as designers and tailors, instilling in her a love of fashion, and a keen sense of style. While living in Italy, Ema began to study pattern making and found that her talent for design could not be overlooked. After working with Blue Marina and PARAH, her instinctual talent propelled her to move to Miami where the idea to create the Ema Savahl Couture line became a reality. (from the "Bio" at the Official "Ema Savahl" website — honestly, I couldn't find any other source ...)
• • •

Hmmm. Honestly, I think the puzzle's trying to do too much, and half of it relates not at all to the solving experience — it's just a little extra message to find when you're done. I guess you could have used the note to help you get letters along the diagonal. I don't know — I didn't read the note. Anyway, circled letters (that aren't even in order) spelling out a word that needs the diagonal to be in any way relevant to the Actual Answers In The Grid (meat of any puzzle) ... it didn't wow me. I like the grid shape a lot, and I appreciate the construction in general, architecturally. But conceptually, it felt ragged. Like the puzzle was shouting "Look at me!" and when I did, it was twirling a baton while singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and riding a bicycle, and doing all of it competently, which is something, but I kept thinking "I'd rather be watching reruns of 'Who's the Boss?' instead. Or maybe I could finish Season One of 'Mad Men,' finally. Or start 'The Wire.' Why haven't I even started 'The Wire' yet? Maybe if I put a Post-It on my computer I'll finally remember to Netflix it etc."

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Incantation #1 (HOCUS POCUS)
  • 37A: Incantation #2 (ABRACADABRA)
  • 57A: Incantation #3 (OPEN SESAME)
Near-Natick at EMA (29D: ___ Savahl (couture label))/ TAMMIE (33A: ___ Green, 1987 L.P.G.A. Rookie of the Year). I claim that most solvers would know neither off the top their heads. From what I can tell, EMA has never been in any puzzle ever. Ever. Not in the NYT. Not in any puzzle in the database. Well, now the floodgates are open — let the transformation of EMA into crosswordese begin! (ugh) TAMMIE, on the other hand, has been in exactly *one* puzzle, 12 years ago, clued as [Glazed fabric] (WTF!? If *that* had been the clue, I'd have been a dead man). So, yeah, the EMA / TAMMIE intersection is pretty much unholy. The "M" was inferrable when "TAMMIE" was the only plausible name to be made out of "TA-MIE," but still, yuck. That intersection is part of a rather unfortunate name pile-up that includes the CAROL in "OH CAROL" (thought CAROL was DONNA at first) (21D: Top 10 hit for Neil Sedaka), and Ron CEY (28A: Former Dodgers third baseman whom Chris Berman nicknamed "Born in the U.S.") — cute clue.

  • 15A: ___ all-time high (AT AN) — wanted "ON AN" ... or "WE'RE AN" ...

  • 43D: Rathskeller cooler (EIS) — German for "Ice"
  • 47A: Carmaker since 1899 (OPEL) — along with OLIO and OTT and a few others, a very, very familiar answer.
  • 48A: "Alphabet web," to Variety (ABC) — Few answers I dislike more than "Variety"-speak. Does anyone read "Variety" outside of L.A.?
  • 51A: Former capital of Crete (CANEA) — pardon me if I've said this before in some puzzle I've forgotten, but "???" Wikipedia says — "Venetian" spelling!:
Chaniá (Greek: Χανιά, IPA: [xaˈɲa], also transliterated Chania, Hania, and Xania, older form Chanea and Venetian Canea, Ottoman Turkish خانيه Hanya) is the second largest city of Crete and the capital of the Chania Prefecture. It lies along the north coast of the island, about 70 km west of Rethymno and 145 km west of Heraklion.
  • 64A: Dissertation defenses (ORALS) — ORALS come before your dissertation defense in my world. They are part of the field exams you have to pass before you go on to write your dissertation (passing them is what makes you "A.B.D.")
  • 5D: Rejection interjection ("BAH!") — I had "D'OH!" D'OH!
  • 8D: Coach Rockne (KNUTE) — just read a long, brilliant piece by William Gass on KNUT Hamsun in the latest ... one of those magazines I read. He briefly discusses "E" KNUTE v. non-"E" KNUT.
  • 11D: Mrs. James A. Garfield (LUCRETIA) — had HMS Titanic, and thus LUCHETIA for a half second.
  • 32D: Acronym associated with Oreos (NABISCO) — normally think of "acronyms" as *initials* spelling out a "word," but this counts too — short for National Biscuit Company.
  • 41D: ___ dragon (largest living lizard) (KOMODO) — had KIMODO. It was all I could do not to write "KIMONO," frankly.
  • 55D: Billet-doux writer (AMIE) — The puzzle is single-handedly keeping awareness of the word "billet-doux" alive. "When it's too late in the week for "love letter" ... try "billet-doux"!"

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Eric Berlin 7:39 AM  

Some brutal crossings in this, and CANEA was the worst of them. I, in fact, had CANEE crossing TESTED, which makes just as much sense for the 46-D clue, [Took a sample of].

Is it me, or is OPEN SESAME not really synonymous with the other two "incantations?"

SethG 7:46 AM  

What Eric Berlin said for CANEA. You couldn't have given a more specific clue for an arbitrary vowel when it crossed a former (Lu)Cretian capital? I mean, if it was the current capital, I'd understand, but...ugh.

The diagonal added nothing to my solve, but was impressive, maybe even wowed me a bit, when I saw it post-solve. The circled ASELPE? Not so much.

That's a wicked clue for MELDS. Wicked is good.

jesser 8:01 AM  

Rex nailed my fail spot at the intersection of C_Y and _MA. I looked at it and plopped an o in there. O Crap!

The other danger spot for me was the intersection of N_L and DER_K. I know Derek is a fine name, but it sounds midwestern to me, farmer's stock. So pairing it with Bok looked, well, suspicious. I went with it anyway, and was proved right.

Janis IAN was in Las Cruces last week for a series of workshops at NMSU and a concert at the Rio Grande Theater. I wanted to go, but could not.

I'll be interested in @Parshutr's take on 41A. I've played golf for almost 30 years and have never heard anyone say, "Aim over that KNOLL, buddy." I only think of the grassy one in Dallas conspiracy theories when KNOLLS come to mind.

As always, my printed puzzle doesn't show the circles, so I didn't have that (dis?)advantage in solving.

A fine Thursday, in my book.

Castsol (what you do when you chuck the sun at an opposing God in the heavens) -- jesser

Anonymous 8:05 AM  

What Eric and Seth said about Canea- I had "tasted," and I suspect that lots of others will as well. Otherwise, a pleasant solving experience.

Does Garfield's wife also appear as Lucy, or is that another president?

Cluing for 24A Lab monitor felt off- lab restraint maybe, but a leash doesn't monitor the dog.

@Eric Berlin- it isn't just you. In fact, I'm not sure how "PLEASE" works with the other two phrases at all.

Mustafa Ataturk 8:05 AM  

As an Ottoman Turk, I am offended by the choice of the Venetian spelling of CRANAE. Just another example of the Eurocentric bias of the NYTimes. It's properly spelled HANYA, and it's ours. Were I not dead, I'd do something about this

nanpilla 8:07 AM  

Same feelings as Rex. The diagonal is impressive after the fact, but didn't add anything to the solve. I never read the note until after the solve, so maybe it could have helped, but it didn't intersect either of the two problem places for me anyway - the aforementioned TAMMIE-EMA, and NEL-DEREK. Derek is a pretty standard spelling of a name, but with a last name like Bok, I figured any vowel was possible in there.
That said, it was still a very fast Thursday.

joho 8:10 AM  

I had written a side note regarding 29D as "possible Natick" so was happy to see Rex's comment. I've never heard of EMA, guessed at TAMMIE and vaguely knew it had to be an "E" in CEY, but that was one tricky section of the puzzle. RMS was new to me.

I was struck by all the names, first and last: DEREK, KNUTE, CAROL, ENYA, LUCRETIA, TAMMIE AMY, TAN, CEY, ALI, OTT, OWENS AND OLIN.

Small doggie theme with LEASH, BARK and SMELLS was nice.

I liked that the circles for PLEASE were symmetrical.

So I'll say thank you, John Farmer.

Phil 8:20 AM  

@Rex - You could have tied "ATAN all time high" in with "Fly Like an Eagle" and really ruined BEQ's morning

Elaine 8:22 AM  

Hand up for the Naticky spot EMA/TAMMIE--though at least I do know Ron CEY. The diagonal phrase did help me out there with one M, which gave me YMCA--not a gimme for me. Also, had HMS and will be checking RMS shortly.

Otherwise, I liked this puzzle for the layers, but @Rex--did crack up on the baton-twirling comparison. Had the same thoughts about ORALS--definitely not the same thing as the dissertation defense, more of a 'qualifying exam' to reach ABD status. (Like everyone, know quite a few people who never got any further than that.)

Glad to have a Fireball in the e-mail, as this one was over too soon!

Elaine 8:27 AM  

RMS--came up with Royal Mail Ship. White Star Line might have had ships designated as such, so it makes sense. There wasn't any other way to get mail across the Atlantic

dk 8:45 AM  

Had HMS and Olds as do overs. The rest was fun. Cue "Do You Believe in Magic" by Lovin Spoonfull

ABD = all but discipline. Advice I got was treat the dissertation as an endurance task, but remember the race goes to the swift. A bit of a paradox but it worked for me.

Back in the mid-late sixties when pater and I would play a few rounds at the club KNOLL was used to describe a hillock larger than a berm. Dontcha know... or don't you.

Breaking my new Stabilo Bionic with green ink. Got some more gesso yesterday (I wonder what made me think of gesso yesterday, hmmm) and the pen caught my eye. College girlfriend (Hi M) and I both had fountain pens with green ink that we would use when we wrote to one another (so precious).

New laptop may come today: woo woo

Enough rambling

*** (3 Stars) Fun Thursday with an interesting theme IMHO

mitchs 8:46 AM  

You guessed better than I, Jesser. Tried the "I" for the same reason you considered it AND I was thinking Latin instead of Italian for NIL. Completely agree with Rex on his general take - but where's the fun in that?

droode. Stoner Doc.

Aunt Hattie 8:55 AM  

Wow--had to check my calendar to be sure it was not Monday--ran through this in jig time. Which was nice, as this week's m-t-w workouts had me feeling very dull and dismal. So I guess it evens out?

Unknown 8:57 AM  

The E in CEY/EMA is part of the diagonal so that helped me out there... I also went with TESTED/CANEE, to be honest from the list of possible spellings of that city, I am surprised CANEE isnt acceptable.

lit.doc 9:00 AM  

I totally don’t get what’s going on with the NYT puzzles this week. I finished this one in 33:52, and it’s not ‘cause I’m good. And warmed up for it by watching Manchester United crush AC Milan at my local pub. No big slabs of 15s. Nothing longer than a lone 11. What day of the week is this?

Cued by the prefatory note, I actually looked for the theme for a change. Not quite enough letters for “puhleese”, but it was, well, kinda cute. After the fact. Nonetheless, my ill-informed opinion remains that a well-constructed theme puzzle shouldn’t need more of an explanatory preface than—at most—a provocative title, and should reward the clever during the solving experience.

Miscellania. Remind me—which puzzle had 58D in reverse just a day or two ago? Lucky break, there. And I was glad that MINOA was buried by the crosses, rather than by volcanic ash. Fav answer was ONE/ONE—nicely clued.

a.m. addendum. Hand up for the error at the TESTED/CANEE crossing. And @Rex, your write-up made my morning. LMFAO at all after “Like the puzzle was shouting ‘Look at me!…’”

Parshutr 9:03 AM  

Too cute by half. Even a total golf geek like me can't remember anything about Tammie Green.
And @jesser, I feel yer pain. There are some clubs named "Adjective KNOLLS", I suppose, but I've never heard anyone point out a knoll on a 50+ years of playing golf.

CoolPapaD 9:05 AM  

Man! Too much negativity today. This was a terrific puzzle, and though I was slowed by the pseudo-Naticky areas, it was quite do-able, and fun to boot. The diagonal was quite helpful - after getting HOCUS POCUS and SAY THE M, the rest of the diagonal was a gimmee, and gave me a lot of "free" letters.

My personal zone of pain was XKE - I put the "S" in because of the plural, and could not remember what a billet-doux was for a while, but then had one of those satisfying aha moments, and all was right with the world!

Thanks, Mr. Farmer - hope to consume more of your produce soon!

JenCT 9:10 AM  

Favorite clue was Lab Monitor?

Had KEG at first for Rathskeller cooler (don't ask).

'caries' - solvers who care too much?

Anonymous 9:13 AM  

"Crete' ( in clue 51A) was Garfield's nick name for his wife --- I learned it on Jeopardy..

Howard B 9:13 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Howard B 9:14 AM  

I actually did not understand the ABC clue - Variety language is sometimes worse for me than CANEA!

Glad that I didn't see ABC during the solve, as the crosses pretty much negated it.

Anonymous 9:50 AM  

@tptsteve - Garfield had an extra-marital affair with a Lucy Calhoun.

edith b 10:08 AM  

The mashup of names - CEY/TAMMIE/EMA - presented no problems for me as I was faced with TA*MIE as the only variable and guessed that TAMMIE would most likely be the female golfers name.

The other problem spot at CANEA/TASTED was frankly a guess and I chose A over E.

Besides these two areas, the puzzle fell quickly enough as Wacky Week continues apace.

Byron 10:11 AM  

@tpsteve -- You might be thinking of "Lemonade Lucy" Hayes. She got the nickname "Lemonade" by banning alcohol in the White House

Stan 10:13 AM  

My favorite answer was 45D: TOTEBAG

SethG 10:13 AM  

In French, it's La Canée. See, Andrea, you don't even need to put French in the puzzle to have it mess me up.

Er, vive le Roi?

PlantieBea 10:16 AM  

Circles, diagonals, sprawling incantations--this puzzle WAS all over the place. Splat. After my first pass, I was able to complete all of the themed entries and know that the circles would somehow make a PLEASE. Needed plant husband for TAMMIE and guessed at EMA. DH also helped with BOSOX, since I had placed an S in the first letter of the Jag spot. Like Rex, I mispelled KOMODA on the first pass with an I.

Favorite clue was "lab monitor". Thumbs down to aloe vera; I spent some time last weekend pulling out bags full of escaped pups in the landscape.

abide 10:17 AM  

@Eric B. --I thought the themed entries were consistent, as each are famous "magic words"

From Wiki:

The young Ali Baba works collecting and cutting firewood (a valuable commodity) in the forest, and one day he happens to overhear a group of forty thieves visiting their treasure store in the forest. The treasure is in a cave, the mouth of which is sealed by magic. It opens on the words "Open, Simsim" (commonly written as "Open Sesame" in English), and seals itself on the words "Close, Simsim" ("Close Sesame").

@tptsteve- I'll explain this puzzle to you if you say the magic word.

My only confusion was why a constructor of John Farmer's caliber didn't make the circles spell out P-L-E-A-S-E clockwise.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:31 AM  

Agree with joho et al, the magic word(s) today is "Thank you" to John Farmer.

I like a puzzle that shows off, even if I had to deal with the concatenation of CEY, TAMMIE, and EMA to get it to work.

Foolishly had HMS before RMS, but, really, I knew better!

Glitch 10:32 AM  

Rationalization 101

I was bothered that OPENSESAME wasn't really *magic* in the same sense as the other incantations, and PLEASE was even further off.

Felt better when I assumed the theme, as stated in the note, was the catchphrase 'splaining the circled letters, and the 3 *incantations* were, at best, a separate mini theme.

Less is more? ;)


Charles Bogle 10:32 AM  

am baffled,,,is it just me...Thursday feels like Tuesday and Tuesday felt like Friday etc

Also had same near-Natick and had to resort to google; puzzle humbled me by then having a google clue-answer (MAPS)

agree w criticism of former Crete capital. Although CANEA/CANOES 2D make nice juxtaposition, I didn't feel the 2D clue properly tipped me off that the answer was a plural. Orange?

did like the incantation theme but only because the words are a nice way to begin a day. Otherwise, note and circles totally lost on me

Re NABISCO and Oreos--Bring back HYDROX!

also liked LEASH--clever clue/answer

Van55 10:33 AM  

For the first time this week, I agree 100% with Rex.

I never saw the diagonal until I logged in here. Inferred the TAMMIE/EMA cross because M seemed the only plausible letter. Spit up a little in my mouth filing in the nine digit ID answer. Had LUCHETIA instead of LUCRETIA.


When a child demands something "Say the magic word" elicits a polite "Please." Or it is supposed to.

foodie 10:36 AM  

I liked the theme, and the diagonal helped me with the NW. But I did not like the rest of the fill-- too many proper nouns.

Rex, I know what you're saying re ORALS-- they are qualifying exams. There is of course the "ORAL Defense" of the thesis, but for some reason, it's not referred to as ORALS but as "defense".

In the US, your mentor is usually supportive during your Oral Defense, but my father told me that in the UK,at least in his days, your professor was expected to be your toughest critic. His own defense was brutal. He left the session and got on the subway in London having no idea whether he'd made it. As he disembarked, he felt someone tap him on the shoulder. It was his professor, who lived in a completely different part of London. He said: "Young man, I've seen a great deal worse!", and turned around and got back on the train. That was my father's clue that he had passed and done well. You gotta love the style of those Brits!

banana 10:39 AM  

charles bogle, when you're talking about boats and such the plural of craft is craft.

Anonymous 10:39 AM  

@abide- Thanks. Now I get it. Doh!
@Byron- That's who I was thinking of

Two Ponies 10:42 AM  

Impressive construction.
The diagonal helped me but not where I needed it the most. Still somehow I got through all of those names.
The clue that annoyed me the most was 28A. After the first two words I stopped reading because nothing after that was going to help me one iota.
@ edith b, Wacky Week indeed.
The only Lucretia I know is in a Rembrandt painting.
I remember Volare from listening to my dad sing along with it on the car radio. The only word he actually knew was Volare! The rest he just cheerfully muddled through.

lit.doc 10:43 AM  

@Howard B, me too re 48A WTF. I thought for sure that I'd figure it out in the morning, but alas and alack, no. Anybody?

Bob Kerfuffle 10:44 AM  

Had to have been a cartoon, and some Rexites are very good at tracking down sources:

A little girl, maybe 7 or 8, is talking to her younger brother, maybe 4 or 5:

She: What do you do when somebody gives you something?

He: I dunno.

She: You wait for them to say, "Now what do you say?", and then you say, "Thank you."

Also (was interrupted by phone call), meant to add that Rex's comment about billet-doux had to be tongue-in-cheek, since we need that name to tell us the answer is in French.

Martin 10:56 AM  

"Web" is Variety "slanguage" for network. ABC is the "alphabet web" for obvious reasons.

A glossary.

Unknown 11:05 AM  

I totally failed on this one. I didn't see the note about the diagonal, so didn't get any help from that, and the X at the cross of Bosox and Xkes was a blank to me. Off to sulk.

Oh, I like the clue for MELDS.

ArtLvr 11:05 AM  

Drat, I was sure someone had come up with another UMA in lieu of Thurman., I had to google CEY, though I think he appeared here once before.

I agreed with @Seth, the 9A "Gin runs" clue was my favorite, seeming to promise something to do with bootleggers! Wicked good. The M for MELDS and MAPS was my last entry...

Congrats to John Farmer, whose name got smooshed up with Will's in Across Lite! (Well, how would you spell that?)


OldCarFudd 11:12 AM  

I liked it! The diagonal was useful, the circles were symmetrical, and there's nothing wrong with "please" for "say the magic word" - parents use this all the time. I had the same near-Natick feeling as many of you, since those names aren't in my frame of reference, but I guessed right, so I'm happy.

the redanman 11:15 AM  

modimemped here saying "I've seen worse", c'mon Rex it wasn't that bad.

Workable and do-able, Agreed about Tammie Green, (As a golfer) ROSIE came to mind first, even I needed a cross or two and EMA came same way (wife in fashion world no help)

A littel this a little that, workable, doable, PLEASE could have been in order to make puxxle a little better.

I think I registered my disdain for circles in squares in the last week or so, yet again - and a weak one here ...

way better than no puzzle today!

JF 11:28 AM  

My fastest / easiest Thursday ever. I guess this one just happened to intersect my gray matter more than other puzzles. Lucky me.

But CANEA/TASTED? Boo. Total guess at the cross (between that and CANEE/TESTED). Same at EMA/TAMMIE, but one of my friends is named Ema, and Tammie was the only reasonable name in that slot.

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

okay. I just looked at the puzzle again(!) and NOW I see the diagonal catchphrase. (I missed the note and the first paragraph of RP write-up, and didn't need it to solve the puzzle.

I liked the puzzle before; now, armed with the impressive construction, I'm pretty much lovin' it.

This one definitely did not lay an egg.

jae 12:01 PM  

I'm with the "like it" contingent. I read the note, figured out the catch phrase and used it to fill in half a dozen squares. I also agree that this was easier than Tues. Oh, and hands up for changing HMS to RMS and then still not being absolutely sure.

fikink 12:05 PM  

What @SethG said about the MELD clue. Awesome!

("bicreed" - the possibilities are too numerous!)

Unknown 12:11 PM  

The clue for OPEN SESAME is not "magic word" -- it's "incantation." Open Sesame is a magic password, but it is not an incantation -- doesn't cast a spell, etc.

mac 12:12 PM  

NEXT TIME READ THE NOTE! Although it wouldn't have helped me much. Didn't know Cey, Tammie, Ema or Carol.

The theme came easily, after hocus pocus I needed only the first a and the last b to get abracadabra, then guessed the next one would be Open Sesame, so that one does feel right to me.

Could someone explain gin runs / melds to me?

I just googled Derek Bok. One of his quotes is: "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance".

"phthroff", definitely not a crossword word.

dls 12:13 PM  

I ended up with HARK/HAK instead of BARK/BAH.... I admit that HARK is worse than BARK but the meaning does seem to fit, and I don't think BAH is any more convincing than HAH.

Moonchild 12:13 PM  

OK, I got the phrases and the diagonal but all of those names?
For cryin' out loud is that the only way to make it work?
Was the name Chris Berman supposed to help me with the baseball clue? It didn't.
I don't play cards but I think I learned melds here. The only meld I think of is the Vulcan Mind Meld from Star Trek.

My captcha: lizepsym.
That's those white horses, right?
(Just kidding.)

dls 12:13 PM  


Joe 12:22 PM  

Thought this was the best THU in weeks. Not too obscure answers, but you could get them crosswise.

Had the same as Rex, at first, for:


Also had TESTED for TASTED.

And Steve Miller ran out of ideas so fast he started stealing from himself.

Steve J 12:31 PM  

This puzzle stands as a perfect example of why I almost always hate circles in puzzles. They certainly didn't add anything to the solving experience today.

The diagonal did give me a couple letters, but I already had most of the grid filled in by the time I got to that.

In fact, I blew through this one in nearly record time. In fact, I finished below my average Wednesday time. Caught me by surprise.

I find DEREK/NEL a bigger near-Natick for me than TAMMIE/EMA, only because the only missing character I had in the latter was the M after finishing off the other crosses, and that was the only letter that could possibly go there. Whereas, as others noted, any vowel seemed like it could go with someone whose surname is Bok. The E was a mildly educated guess.

As far as the puzzle as a whole, I'm neither impressed nor disappointed. Although it was fun blowing through a Thursday so quickly, it frankly left me suspicious that this was too easy. That may say more about my assessment of my late-week solving skills than the puzzle itself.

allan 12:40 PM  

Agree with moat of the comments. Very easy for a Thursday, too many names and near naticks.

@Rex: Would you consider the CANEA/TASTED cross the second OBOL/SMIFF of the week?

the redanman 12:51 PM  

Just wanted to add that after one pass through the puzzle, I drew a diagonal line throught the diagonal "clue" and it made the rest of the puzzle go very fast as there were so many more letters as to make fill-in-the-blank the M.O.

That's what made it an easier Thursday for me as "Incantation" was not much help as it was a "loose use" of the word as I saw it.

waracc a "Big Game" in the Atlantic Coast Conference?

Sandy 12:57 PM  

Gin (or Gin Rummy) is a card game in which you "meld" your cards into sets and runs.

Rube 1:17 PM  

I was about to ask what the Village People was when, rather than make an ass of myself again, I thought I'd Google it, thinking it was probably some upstart competition to the Village Voice. So... they've been around 30+ years and did YMCA, (which I have heard & danced to). Rex and you Rexites out there are apparently rolling away that big rock I've been living under since leaving NYC in '70.

Most all of the likes/dislikes already stated I agree with and have my hand up for the same traps. I also question 22A ZETAS, but... well... it works... I guess.

As a Giants fan, I would rather not see references to those despicable Dodgers in my xwords.

This was certainly a doable puzz. Done without any Googles, making it an easy Thursday for me.

David 1:36 PM  

Echo pretty much everyone's comments. Managed to infer TAMMIE once the other letters were in, and luckily was on guard for that unnecessarily ambiguous TASTED/CANEA square. I personally made a call that CANEA looked slightly better, but there was no reason the square needed to come down to a coin toss.

Then joined jesser in glitching on the CEY/OMA crossing. A true natick for me, with obscure proper names and no way to infer the shared vowel. Also, not a hard crossing to rework---AMA and OMA are both easy enough to come up with Thursday-level clues for, as are CAY and COY. Seems like it should have changed in editing.

Also had a surprising amount of trouble in the south, just because the Variety clue seemed like such a bizarre way to clue ABC. And that made me trip a bit on the BOSOX, just because I'm not confident on team nicknames.

And definitely a hand up for the theme being underwhelming. I didn't see the diagonal at all until coming here, but even with that the attempted PLEASE fell really flat. The theme would actually work better without trying to pass the circled squares off as part of it---because the circlings didn't work, and also because it makes the "magic word" reference less clever as a way tie together the incantations.

A couple nice bits here and there, sure, but overall it just felt like a really messy puzzle.

Glitch 1:57 PM  

@Charles Boggle & @Banana

Re: 2D

Its the position of the apostrophe at the end of Paddlers' that *signaled* possible plural to me.

This would assume there were more paddlers involved than would fit in the first canoe.

While on the subject of plurals, the diagonal indicates magic WORD, OPEN SESAME and HOCUS POCUS are two words. Furthers my mini theme thesis ;)


Terry Tate 1:59 PM  

Several people are complaining about the vowel in CEY, but I don't see how that's non-inferable.

Doesn't the "Born in the U.S." CxY nickname restrict you to the E?

Noam D. Elkies 2:16 PM  

The magic word is "asleep"? I don't get it.

(Actually I got the diagonal and the circled EASE and expected SESAME — which would have been a much worse punchline — before I got to 57A:OPENSESAME.)

Anyway, the theme might have been a good idea but it proved too ambitious: it's no accident that the CEY/TAMMIE/OHCAROL/EMA cr*pfest happens where two of the extra self-imposed constraints (diagonal and theme ABRACADABRA) intersect.

One and août

John Hoffman 2:30 PM  

This was a terrific puzzle! I liked the theme.

Clark 2:37 PM  

I, like Jesser and David, was a victim of the “rather unfortunate name pile-up.” At the intersection of C_Y and _MA I went with an A. @Terry Tate, just how does "the 'Born in the U.S.' CxY nickname restrict you to the E"? Oh you mean like the '449th digit after the decimal point in the decimal expansion of pi' is '4'. OK.

The diagonal came together early. And that gave me the L of P*L*E*A*S*E.

Royal Mail Ship Titanic -- I did not know that.

HudsonHawk 2:48 PM  

@Clark, Chris Berman's schtick (and it's become really tiresome after 30 years) is to throw in a made up middle name that plays on the first or last name of a baseball player. So Oddibe (pronounced Oh-to-be) McDowell became Oddibe "Young Again" McDowell.

Similarly, Ron Cey (pronounced Say) became Ron "Born in the U.S." Cey. I really wish ESPN would put Berman out to pasture.

andrea cey what? michaels 2:52 PM  

Forgive me while I rave here, this might be long so skip ahead...
My only regret is that I didn't get to weigh in earlier.

I LOVED this puzzle!!!!!!!
Rex found it show-offy and I get why but I thought MAN CAN THIS MAN CONSTRUCT!!!!!!!!!!!!

If it were a Monday, you would already be thrilled that HOCUSPOCUS and OPENSESAME had the same amount of letters...and you could put SAYTHEMAGICWORD 15 across the middle...
but then you'd have ABRACADABRA at 11 letters all by its lonesome and it wouldn't make the cut...

this way you have all FOUR entries and the beautiful diagonal which helped me get CEY (CEY What???!)
and the PLEASE was symmetrical if not in exact order

ASLEEP!!! Funny!!! One and AOUT even funnier!!!)

I too did the HMS/RMS thing and had never heard of CANEA and I lived there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
After graduating college in 1980 (where DEREK Bok was president!!!!)
I moved to Greece...Hania as far as I knew! Yet I didn't even recognize CANEA in the puzzle!

(I think I've told the story before that the Harvard Lampoon used to have a contest of whose name was most like Bo Derek...
Dirk Bogart held the title for a long time till DEREK BOK showed up and all bets were off!!!!!)

Also fun note about Crete: Everyone's last name ends in AKIS which was a Turkish diminutive meaning "little" and meant slightly derogatorily...
But any Greek you meet whose last name is Petrakis or Yanakis, or whatever, amaze and astound them by asking if they are from Crete!
(-opoulos for the Pelopennesus)

Even when I started to blanche about what a boy puzzle it felt like, all cars and sports:
I then realized there were just as many gals

SO I guess it's what you bring to the puzzle, which is what this is all about, no???

Loved ONPAPER. Crazy about ONEONE

Really, the only thing I wasn't happy about were the first two words being SCAB and SMELLS which is icky, but, man, this LIBRA LOVED this puzzle!!!!!!!!!
Bravo John Farmer!

hazel 3:24 PM  

Hard to follow @Andrea! but I too really liked this puzzle. Seemed a bit light for Thursday fare, and I missed the whole diagonal business until I came here.

I thought the Cey clue was cute. Haven't been watching Chris Berman for that long, though, so I still find him more likeable than tiresome. That "He. Could. Go. All. The. Way" is a bit old, though.

tut tut

chefbea 3:40 PM  

Loved the puzzle. Did it early this morning but very busy and just came to the blog. time for a nap

sanfranman59 3:53 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

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

Thu 13:26, 19:21, 0.69, 2%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Thu 7:23, 9:16, 0.80, 11%, Easy

When I finished filling in the grid last evening, I had completed the puzzle in about 11 minutes, a very fast Thursday time for me. Only one problem ... when I clicked the DONE! button, I was informed that I had something wrong and it took me nearly 4 minutes to identify what I had entered as the CANEe/TeSTED crossing as the culprit. As with others here, I don't know CANEA from CANEe and TeSTED seemed like a perfectly reasonable answer for Took a sample of. My experience was similar to last Wednesday's puzzle. Except this time, I couldn't blame my frustration on an error in the cluing.

deerfencer 4:16 PM  

Liked it and actually used the six circled letters hint to find a missing S. Agree there were too many proper names but all in all a fairly easy and enjoyable Thursday. In retrospect it does seem Mr. Farmer used everything but the kitchen sink to get this one done.

fergus 4:39 PM  

So, NABISCO is an Acronym? I guess hat would have to allow BOSOX to qualify as well? Had always thought that the term applied only to the use of the component words' first letters.

Clark 4:47 PM  

Thank You @HudsonHawk. Man oh man, the weird things you sports people do over on that channel! But, the truly stupid thing (I noticed upon reading Andrea’s post) is that I had the E in CEY from the diagonal, but it got knocked out somewhere along the way. Doh!

Bob Kerfuffle 5:15 PM  

@fergus - Regarding NABISCO as an acronym (and wasn't it refreshing to see Oreo in the clue rather than the answer?): The Wikipedia article on Acronyms has more information than anyone could want.

And for everyone, you can find "Captcha" mentioned also, if you are persistent.

Martin 5:16 PM  


The most common definition of "acronym" allows inclusion of several initial letters. Most dictionaries cite "radar" as an example. (The first two letters are contributed by "radio," of course.)

The related abbreviation, the initialism, differs from an acronym in not being pronounced as a word. Thus, "FBI" is not an acronym, but an initialism, per this definition.

That said, there are authorities who define these terms differently. I wouldn't be surprised if you might find one who demotes an acronym that involves multiple letters to initialism. But most cite radar as an acronym.

BOSOX is up for grabs. The irregularity is that the "SOX" component is not a shortening of the contributing word at all, so it's not clear that it's an initialism at all.

william e emba 5:26 PM  

Pretty easy, except for the NE, because I had Google APPS at first, and then went with BIO-balance, and it took forever to unwedge myself. Yet I'm sure we've seen LUCRETIA Garfield before.

I had absolutely no trouble getting CEY, because Rex went on and on about him about six months ago.

I'm sure CANEA has been in the puzzle before. As it, I'm familiar with it because of WWII.

2D was clued "Paddlers' craft", not "Paddler's craft". So there is more than one paddler, hence possibly more than one boat. Very sneaky, but I didn't even notice until someone asked here.

Anonymous 6:20 PM  

As a Dodger fan of the 70s had no trouble coming up with their third baseman, Cey, but c'mon how many Dodgers surnames are there with three letters??

XKE was a gimme so that immediately gave me BoSox as a rival. On the whole, very enjoyable Thursday puzzle - and I never bother with the circled clues, just happy to do the puzzle.

foodie 6:33 PM  

I think the reason for CAENA, CHANIA, and HANYA are all options is because the first letter, at least as written in the Arabic alphabet, depicts a sound that is guttural, has no real equivalent in English and sounds like the German CH in "Ach"...

@Andrea, I love the DEREK Bok/Bo Derek story. His name always rang a bell with me but I never made the connection!

Glitch 6:41 PM  

@william e emba

It appears this is the NYT debut of LUCRETIA

Not ever hear[ing of] Berman, the US part of the clue was a personal olaf. Picked CeY because it sounded like the award (Cy Young).

CANEA has appeared 3 times, all in 1996. Good memory!

Appreciate you agree with my 1:27

That's 3.


Stan 6:50 PM  

Late to the party defending the theme here, but all comments on Naticks and solving experience aside, this thing is built like a brick s&*thouse.

Other than 'Shazaam' (sp.?), the across theme phrases are the most easily recognizable 'incantatory' ones in the language. Who didn't get them with a few crosses? And they happen to break down into 10-11-10 on the grid. And the diagonal question and answer are just as recognizable.

I'm agreed on the Naticky bits. But thematically, this exceeds expectations for a Thursday.

Stan 6:56 PM  

3-and-out comment.

I love it (and find it strange) that an individual BoSox is a BoSox (or Red Sox is a Red Sox). But it's true--you can check their web page.

Bill from NJ 7:33 PM  

This one posed no trouble for me as I recalled in the Maleska Era the word CANEA popped up from time to time. Thank you, Glitch, for detailing its actual dates - all in1996 - and it is funny how we crossword people dig things up out of the recesses of our brains.

And I may not be reading you correctly, but Ron CEY pronounces his name to rhyme with SAY, not CY, hence Chris Berman's pun.

@Edith B-

It never ceases to amaze me how our solving experience can be so similar. I had the exact pattern of thinking that you did for the "mashup" of names at TAMMIE/EMA/CEY.

Sneaking a 4th 8:59 PM  

@Bill nj

Until I found out about the Berman pun connection, Cey = Cy = Sigh, phonetically, in my head.

Goes way back to when I first read the name *Penelope* and verbalized it as PEN-a-lope.


Bill from NJ 9:11 PM  


Funny you should mention PEN-a-lope. As a youngster reading about the Trojan War and Odysseus's problems getting home -I was too young for reading the Iliad and the Odyssey - I had major problems parsing Greek names. I remember being embarrassed by pronouncing Achilles name as A-chiles.

Elaine 9:15 PM  

Um, well some knowledge of Spanish-related surnames helps with CEY, in case one is not old enough to get the name via sheer memory. (He was a Great.)

Maybe I have just cooked too many meals, but TASTED popped up at once, and I would have had to struggle to find TESTED. (This is not a dare, dear constructors!)

captcha is 'nessitab'-- pill that one just MUST have! after solving

Cea 9:41 PM  

All good until BoSox/XKES cross. I mean huh?

Oh well.

Charles Bogle 10:57 PM  

@william e emba, @glitch, @banana--many thanks for the explanation!

sanfranman59 11:18 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 6:35, 6:55, 0.95, 40%, Easy-Medium
Tue 11:47, 8:53, 1.33, 97%, Challenging
Wed 9:57, 11:47, 0.84, 13%, Easy
Thu 13:35, 19:21, 0.70, 4%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:36, 3:40, 0.98, 49%, Medium
Tue 5:24, 4:31, 1.19, 87%, Challenging
Wed 4:43, 5:46, 0.82, 12%, Easy
Thu 7:06, 9:16, 0.77, 9%, Easy

This ranks as the 8th easiest puzzle for all solvers (relative to the day of the week) of the 225 I've tracked since last June.

nebraska doug 11:29 PM  

This felt like my fastest Thursday ever. I was shocked how fast it went down. I took it to bed assuming I'd fall asleep before finishing it (as I often do with late week puzzles) I even left my book in the living room, thinking I wouldn't need it. I ended up having to get up to retrieve it after the puzzle went so quickly. I'm sure I'll be put back in my place on Fri and Sat.

mac 12:10 AM  

@sandy: thank you!
@HudsonHawk: right!

CaseAceFos 3:07 PM  

I submitted a comment that the Wordplay moderator apparently felt was off-putting, namely, the following, "Susan, since you stated that, who remembers Joe Palooka?" well being that I'm still oxygen dependent, not only do I readily recall Ham Fisher's hugely popular comic strip, but I also remember JP's most formidable ring opponent, the riotously rotund, "Humphrey Pennyworth!"

Stephen 4:49 PM  

I'm happy to have done a Thursday at all, so today was a good day. Nevertheless, I cannot suppress my couple of WTFs...

Not only do I recoil at Martin's explanation of "Alphabet web", what the hell is "Variety"?

I think there is a golf course in South Hadley, Mass that has "KNOLLS" in the name. To me it was a great clue. I used to live there. Even so I forgot the name. Why? I was busy doing ORALS, which is *not* defending a thesis.

Finally, "expresses wonder"? Wonder does not mean ignorance! Wonder is a magical state of mind that one hopes to encounter frequently, but ASKS is so flaccid a clue and so far off the essence that one wonders who made up the clue. Me asks.

Stephen 4:49 PM  

I'm happy to have done a Thursday at all, so today was a good day. Nevertheless, I cannot suppress my couple of WTFs...

Not only do I recoil at Martin's explanation of "Alphabet web", what the hell is "Variety"?

I think there is a golf course in South Hadley, Mass that has "KNOLLS" in the name. To me it was a great clue. I used to live there. Even so I forgot the name. Why? I was busy doing ORALS, which is *not* defending a thesis.

Finally, "expresses wonder"? Wonder does not mean ignorance! Wonder is a magical state of mind that one hopes to encounter frequently, but ASKS is so flaccid a clue and so far off the essence that one wonders who made up the clue. Me asks.

Scortch 12:46 PM  

A note from syndication land...

Today is the 98th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

Interesting coincidence.

TimeTraveller 12:50 PM  

I liked it - easy but satisfying. Except for the 58D natick. I wanted AAHS for 54D before going with ASoS (spelling? scratch head). That left me with DERiO BOK--acceptable until I came here and found it was my first name. D'OH

bleter -- me whining and snivelling.

Waxy in Montreal 2:47 PM  

Easiest Thursday since Tammie Green won her rookie award. Methinks Ron Cey should be in the NYT crossword far more often, if not for his unusual name, at least in homage to his awkward yet effective running style which led him to be labelled forever in the knarly knolls of baseballese as "The Penguin".

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