Husband of Frigg / WED 3-3-10 / Starbuck's quarry / Shaggy Tibetans / Hammy Now I see

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: RED AND WHITE (18A: Like the Canadian flag ... and a hint to the first names of 24- and 48-Across) — turns out that VIVIEN LEIGH (57A: See 24- and 28-Across) won OSCARs (38A: See 24- and 48-Across) for playing both SCARLETT O'HARA (24A: 1939 role for 57-Across, for which she won a 38-Across) and BLANCHE DUBOIS (48A: 1951 role for 57-Across, for which she won a 38-Across)

Word of the Day: Orvieto (22A: Where Orvieto can be found — BAR / 51D: Where Orvieto can be found — ITALY) —

Orvieto is a city and comune in southwestern Umbria, Italy situated on the flat summit of a large butte of volcanic tuff. The site of the city is among the most dramatic in Europe, rising above the almost-vertical faces of tuff cliffs that are completed by defensive walls built of the same stone. (wikipedia)


Orvieto is an Italian wine region located in Umbria and Lazio, centered around the commune of Orvieto. It is primarily known for its white wines made from a blend of mostly Grechetto and Trebbiano, which is sold under the Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) Orvieto and Orvieto Classico. Blended red wine and eight varietal reds are sold under the Rosso Orvietano DOC. The region has been producing wine since the Middle Ages, when Orvieto wine was known as a sweet, golden yellow wine. Today's white Orvieto is dry, but a semi-sweet style, known as Orvieto Abboccato, and dolce (sweet), are also produced in small quantities.(wikipedia)
• • •

First, I received the following message last night from an insider at the NYT (for those who solve the puzzle right on the NYT puzzle website):

Argh. It looks like the Java applet version of the Wednesday puzzle has a bug. Some updates didn’t make it in. The Across Lite file is correct. You might want to tell your readers. I’ll add a note to Wordplay.

Apologies for the error.

Turns out the downloadable (AcrossLite) version is just fine. As for the puzzle ...

Honestly, this one was kind of like death to solve. Super-choppy and loaded with short fill. Felt like I was being bombarded by short names at one point — I think that point was when BECK (40A: Fox News star), (non-TERI) GARR (46A: Ralph who was the 1974 N.L. batting champ), and DRU (43D: Actress Joanne) were having their little meeting in the S and SE there. The theme was probably very exciting to discover ("Hey, she won Oscars for playing a woman whose name [kinda] means RED *and* a woman whose name [kinda] means WHITE! And they have the same number of letters!"). Not so exciting to solve, however. First, REDANDWHITE as an answer? It's descriptive, but not it's not a self-standing, cohesive phrase (the way, say, RED WHITE AND BLUE or BLACK AND TAN would be). Second, in America, we spell SCARLET (meaning "red") with one "T" and we BLANCH[E] vegetables. Thus, in English, SCARLETT does not mean "RED" and BLANCHE does not mean "WHITE" (you gotta go to QUEBEC for that meaning of BLANCHE). Third, all I could think, as I was solving, was "... is it VIVIEN LEIGH's birthday? Why am I doing a puzzle about VIVIEN LEIGH? Wait, is this a puzzle about CANADA, 'cause of the Olympics? ... is VIVIEN LEIGH Canadian?" So there was almost zero joy for me today. I kind of like PHILANDER (11D: Fool around). That's it.

I had never heard of "Ovieto" as either a place or a wine, so while guessing ITALY was easy, guessing BAR, not so much. Wanted to spell HAMELIN (44A: Town that failed to pay the piper) like the actor Harry HAMLIN, so had some hesitation figuring out where an extra letter went. DELANEY (29A: Kim of "NYPD Blue") and CARNES (63A: Kim who sang "Bette Davis Eyes") just added more bygone names to this puzzle, though I at least mildly enjoyed both of their work when they were still working. Maybe they're both still working and I just don't know about it.

  • 14A: Former Yankee pitcher and coach Stottlemyre (MEL) — Teri GARR and MEL Sharples (of MEL's Diner), both kicked to the curb in the same puzzle.
  • 23A: The N.F.L.'s Papa Bear (HALAS) — He has this weird status as someone who is common to the puzzle but frequently unknown by solvers. Not sure how this happens.
  • 61A: Big tractor, informally (CAT) — Deliberate (if mild) toughening up of clues for Wednesday. See also 38D: Husband of Frigg (ODIN).
  • 19D: Starbuck's quarry (WHALE) — Starbuck is a character in "Moby Dick." He did not hunt lattes.
[ "I will have no man in my boat," said Starbuck, "who is not afraid of a whale." — from "One Drawing for every page of "Moby-Dick" by Matt Kish]
  • 31D: Shaggy Tibetans (YAKS) — not sure why, but I wanted YETIS.
  • 16A: Hammy "Now I see!" ("AH, SO") — If by "Hammy" you mean "Asian-caricaturing," then sure.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Parshutr 8:04 AM  

It's a rare day that I find a puzzle to be easy that Rex has trouble with.
But I filled in SCARLETTOHARA, BLANCHEDUBOIS, and OSCAR right off the bat, had zero difficulty; felt like a Monday!
Unlike yesterday, I learned zero in this one, didn't find it intriguing, not very enjoyable...
c'est la vie...still a good way to start the day!

Bob Kerfuffle 8:06 AM  

I hesitated over some of the many names, but all were gettable from crosses.

My kind of puzzle, in that I liked all the cross-referencing.

I fell for our old friend the YETI, with that starting Y, but wondered if it was plural as well as singular ("Shaggy Tibetans").

Should we wait for someone to ask why anyone would wear A SCOT around his neck?

Parshutr 8:07 AM  

Wouldn't it be nice to have a reverse crosswordese for MEL, as in Bygone Giant?

salo 8:08 AM  

I loved the puzzle. It tied together two current events, the Olympics and the Oscars in a peripheral vision kind of way. It also connected an actress with two films for which she won an Oscar. I am always amazed at the coincidences that constructors find, e.g., Vivien Leigh's two Oscar winning roles have the same number of letters and have first names that are related to a color.

PanamaRed 8:10 AM  

Yeah - this was easy for me, as Scarlett, Oscar, Blanche and Vivien were gimmes right off the bat, and the rest fell into place quickly.

matt 8:22 AM  

I found this to be pretty easy, too, with the exception of the DRU / GARR crossing. That was a total natick for me. I think I put GAAR/DAU. Seemed to make sense at the time.

I thought the puzzle was pretty pretty smooth, if a little boring. Not a ton of partials (if any) and I especially was excited to see ALI spiced up with Tatyana from "The Fresh Prince".

Jim H 8:25 AM  

Briefly wanted CYLON for 19D (yet another Starbuck). But I have to second PanamaRed: easy with those gimmes.

retired_chemist 8:25 AM  

Easy-medium works for me. Lots of names (bad) but I knew most of them (good).

@ Bob K - love YETI as its own plural, cf., e.g. DEER. One YETUS? Nah.....

Filled across first, put RIG @ 61A, making some serious WTFs in the SE downs on the recheck: ORRAS, ITILY, SAGAN. Do NOT picture poor Carl with a pitchfork......

Agree that RED and WHITE would have been better if it were a common phrase. "Types of blood cells" is closer, but maybe not breakfasty. Agree SCARLETT and BLANCHE are a bit askew vis-a-vis the hint.

New (to me) prefix: HIERO. Cool.

Fun. Thanks, Mr. Collins.

Doug 8:30 AM  

I've been to Orvieto, in Tuscany, and I've had my share of their wine, which famously does not travel well. Drink it there, don't buy it here in a bar. 12D was not a very good clue, as Picasso was less Spanish than French. Born in Malaga he lived almost his entire life in France, in Paris and in the South. There, I've nitpicked.

lit.doc 8:31 AM  

I can claim only luck on this one, due to an amazing coincidence of Peter Collins’ choice of clues/answers and Stuff I Actually Know. Maybe my fastest Wednesday ever. Also enjoyed it, which is the important part. And narry clue nor fill I can find fault with.

Some “uh…uh…” moments along the way, of course. Hammy the Squirrel (“Over the Hedge”) is one of my favorite characters (though Bill the Cat will always be The King of Ack), so “Hammy ‘Now I see!’” caused me a bit of slack-jawed head shaking.

I’m annoyed about my hesitation at 48A both for knowing a smidgeon of French (e.g. that a terminal “e” would cause a penultimate “s” to be voiced) and for having taught Streetcar several times. I initially put the “e” after DUBOIS instead of after BLANCH. The resulting Downs were veeery creative.

And the ICFS problem (“I CAN NOT SPELL!”) caused a glitch at 44A, where I had to key in HAM__IN and wait for the Downs to tell me where the L went and which vowel (H?) it needed.

Morgan 8:38 AM  

Fastest Wednesday ever, at 4:20, which is just a hair over a typical Monday. I couldn't even solve this week's Monday, but this one was an absolute breeze for me. Nothing particularly special about it, though.

Elaine 8:42 AM  

Hand up for RIG before CAT @61A, but otherwise this puzzle was a solid Easy. I don't know why I got Joanne DRU, though having the D helped; I wouldn't be able to ID her in a line-up.

Favorite clue was 44A.
Slight wince at 50D...esp this week.

Why is AH,SO hammy? When I lived in Germany I heard it all the time!

I did not realize the squirrel had a name. D'oh!

What is a 'stottlemyre?' Will mull over possibilities to keep busy til Thursday puzzle arrives.

joho 8:46 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle what with OSCAR smack dab in the middle heralding the ceremony this Sunday. I love VIVIENLEIGH and her portrayals of SCARLETTOHARA and especially BLANCHEDUBOIS, both names mean REDANDWHITE to me, not a big stretch. Nice with QUEBEC crossing the Canadian flag's colors. Actors and directors are represented by ERROL Flynn, Joanne DRU, Kim DELANEY and IVAN Reitman. Moby Dick was a WHALE star and ORCAS also act. GARR should have been for Teri. I imagine actors would most likely CLIMBOVER each other to grab an OSCAR, one or two might even be wearing an ASCOT.

Thank you, Peter, for a star-studded, entertaining Wednesday puzzle!

Anonymous 8:52 AM  

Loved Rex's writeup as usual, but what's with the photo of Rue McLanahan? Okay, there is a resemblance to Joann Dru, but. . .

PIX 8:55 AM  

Boring...Much easier than yesterday's;felt like Mon or Tues...

ArtLvr 8:56 AM  

@ Parshutr, re "Wouldn't it be nice to have a reverse crosswordese for MEL, as in Bygone Giant?" By coincidence, I just found through Jim H's blog the link to a perfect example of such reverses from his Ask Will (Shortz) recap. It was the NYT Sept 17, 2009 and had old crosswordese clues for OCA, AIS, ERS, and MOAS, from constructor Arthur Schulman... also a partial of a Paris suburb and a Dutch town known for raising tulips. Much fun!

Today's was old-fashioned in its own way but also enjoyable, even with HIERO- plus some names today's solvers might not recognize. Actress Joanne DRU was hilarious as the fiancée of Auntie Mame's nephew in the film version, still aired on TV now and then.


edith b 8:58 AM  

Old Hollywood history and historical sports are right in my wheelhouse. To those who remember Dr Joyce Brothers who famously memorized boxing history to appear on a quiz show, I also spent a time learning sports history for no good reason that I can think of.

This puzzle was so full of neons that I don't know if I enjoyed it or not. No real challenges for me today

jesser 9:00 AM  

Well, poot. I had ESTo crossing HALoS, so I fail. I hate sports.

Only other write-over was VIVIaN LEIGH, but ELATE straightened that out in short order.

I am proud that I did not know who the Fox News star was, so the B in beck (I refuse to capitalize him) was the last to fall, thanks to BARBS (which was rather deceptively clued, imo).

And that is that. AMEN!

Hershi! (mmm, chocolate!) -- jesser

Stan 9:12 AM  

I admired the attempt to bridge the Olympics and the Oscars, and the placement of Canada in the North with Southerners Scarlett and Blanche below.

Amazing how many names I know phonetically but have no idea how to spell.

Aunt Hattie 9:35 AM  

I'm with anonymous--that is NOT Joanne Dru (I love Rue McC) And I also love it when I romp through and Rex says Medium--I feel so brilliant--especially when I did not fall into a coffee trap with Starbucks...
Also--what is "hammy" about Ah So?

Charles Bogle 9:42 AM  

I guess I'm in the dissent, respectfully. Found the puzzle a bit of a disappointment, esp after great Mon and it filled in relatively smoothly, but didn't feel any sense of mirth...too many short names, glad only one partial (IDONT); sort of a cacaphony of disparate themes....did like HIERO, PHILANDER, UQUATE...some real tired fill...SRTA, HST...never heard of AHSU...cross of BECK and ENCE gave me the wee willies...though not without guile and pleasure, on the whole personally I'll CLIMB PAST it like the dickens

Sandy 9:45 AM  

Rue Mc played Blanche Devereaux. When in doubt, always ask yourself if maybe Rex is joking. I have to do stop and wonder that several times a day.

Blanche/Rue actually drove me nuts, as instead of Dubois *all* I could think of was Devereaux.

I think hams say Ah So.

JayWalker 9:46 AM  

Rue McClanahan, of course!! I kept thinking Glenn Beck!!!!

Bea Arthur 9:49 AM  

Rue McClanahan played Blanche Devereaux on the Golden Girls.

Ah, So is a brand of canned ham popular in the Deep South.

Rex Parker 9:55 AM  

For the record, the woman in the photo with Bill Murray is neither Kim CARNES nor Kim DELANEY.


CoolPapaD 9:55 AM  

Loved it - and I've never seen Gone With the Wind.

Amazing patterns in construction!

Agree with Jesser re beck. These guys (hannity, rush) are showmen...

@ Doug - knowing nothing about wine - how does a wine not "travel well"?

PlantieBea 9:58 AM  

I read the clue for 8D as "Cartoon POUCH" and somehow equated that to ROO. Yikes, that made me question RED AND WHITE which was, of course, correct. Besides that little snafu and the guess at the DRU/GARR crossing, this puzzle fell easily enough for me.

ORCA WHALEs are a touchy subject down here. I wish they'd be left in the DEEP.

I appreciate the symmetry of the themed answers; I'm a LEIGH fan as well, so overall I liked this one.

Steve J 10:04 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve J 10:05 AM  

Found this pretty easy. Did not find this at all enjoyable.

In addition to all the reasons Rex cited, I also hated not one, but two clue repetitions. I don't mind them when they're part of a theme or end up being clever, but neither applied to "Went like the Dickens" or "Where Orvieto can be found." Lazy cluing, in my opinion. (The ORVIETO one could maybe be getting there based on the fact it's both a wine and a city, but that's stretching it.)

I was another one who briefly gave Carl Sagan a pitchfork by dropping in RIG.

dk 10:10 AM  

I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers.

Kinda of an ok puzzle. I did not know HALAS and GARR but got them in the crosses.

Thought for a brief moment that 43D was Summer Glau (star heart throb from Serenity).

Most fun fill was HAMELIN as I went to Hamline (last 2 years of college) and we were known as the Pipers. I, more specifically, was one of the rats. Hi Kris P.

secret word; Dedleri - phrase used by Scarlett as in fiddle dedleri

No One Home 10:11 AM  

Felt like a Monday to me, too. Got all the theme answers right away and no problems with the fill. Would have liked it okay if it was Monday but was disappointed that it was so easy and unchallenging for a Wednesday.

Ulrich 10:14 AM  

@CoolPapaD: A wine doesn't travel well when it travels coach rather than first class.

Sandy 10:14 AM  

wait, Bill Murray was in the puzzle?

hazel 10:16 AM  

Fastest Wednesday ever. Like the paean part of the puzzle - to Vivien Leigh, to movies, to Oscar. The short names made the grid a bit star-studded to me, too, @Joho. I found the whole thing kind of cool. Wish ASTA had made an appearance. (S)he would have fit right in.

xyz 10:26 AM  

Nothing to say except very easy except SE corner which was just an ugly mess with stupid tedious stuff like ALA king, Dict. SYN, CAT ORCAS just swill fill.

Not much of a fan, too inconsistent

firatcim 10:35 AM  

OMG! I thought this was a relatively easy puzzle. Sure, I didn't know Halas, but Orvieto happens to be one of more fave whites. Still, bar was sure tricky. Thanks to Stan for encouraging words on Sunday. You're right about not taking the rating too seriously. It's all about getting into the mind of the designer.

Two Ponies 10:35 AM  

This was fun enough for a Wed.
Vivian Leigh was a real beauty and I enjoyed remembering both of those films.
Like @jesser I did not know 23A
At All so esta or esto? Didn't really care.
Things I learned today: hiero- and Orvieto.
Strange coincidence that just last night I made a reference in an e-mail to Kim Carnes and that song. I haven't thought of either in ages and there they were staring at me from my puzzle. Hmmm.

chefbea 10:54 AM  

Liked the puzzle. Have been to Orvieto which is fairly near Todi where my daughter has a beautiful villa.

Have a grand daughter named Scarlett. Her sister's name is Clementine - and yes they both have red hair.

Stan 10:57 AM  

@firatcim: No prob. Welcome!

archaeoprof 11:05 AM  

@ChefBea: finding Orvieto in the puzzle brightened my day. Such a beautiful place.

Wasn't Ralph GARR nicknamed "the Road Runner"?

hazel 11:11 AM  

@archaeprof - yes he was and a great Brave to boot!! Go Braves!

mitchs 11:34 AM  

Nice to learn HIERO. Otherwise kind meh, easy. Maybe spoiled by Mon and Tues which I really liked for early-weekers.

@Elaine - Mel Stottlemyre (sp?) was a pretty good pitcher for the (despised) Yankees in the mid sixties.

SethG 11:36 AM  

I solved on the applet. Would have known both versions of the BECK clue and neither version of the GARR clue, so the error didn't affect me a bit.

Fast for a Wednesday, and I'm young/clueless enough to have had no idea that Vivien Leigh played those roles. Actually, I didn't read the cross-reffed clues very clearly, and when I had SCARxxxxxHAxx and knew it was Oscar-related I filled in SCARFACE O'HARA. THOR!

SueRohr 11:37 AM  

Easiest Wednesday ever and not very exciting. More like a Monday.

JenCT 11:43 AM  

I liked the puzzle. Only writeover was VIVIEN LEIGH - I had VIVIENNE LEE (oops).

Can't stand G**** B*** - can't even write his name. He doesn't deserve to be mentioned in a puzzle.

Wow, what a critical bunch of solvers we have here! SO glad I'm not a puzzle constructor...

DataGeek 11:47 AM  

As mentioned by a few others, a personal Natick for me at 23A. "This, to Picasso" could have been estO, estA or estE (if memory serves me correctly). I went with ESTE/HALES. Hales seemed like a perfectly reasonable name. I was proud to get all the other names, like DELANEY, LEIGH, CARNES -- soooo disappointing to get snagged on the above.

Fun puzzle. Didn't get the theme at all until Rex clued us in, though. Thanks for that!

Bill from NJ 12:21 PM  


A wine, like a Beaujolais, that are best served in their youth and do not age well, are said not to "travel well."

Elaine 12:21 PM  

@Two Ponies, Data Geek

Often the clue has either the masculine or feminine gender, which might signal whether to use -O or -A. I usually leave the last blank or lightly write in my best guess til I get to crosses.

Oddly, HALAS was a sports name I know (as was Stottlemyre (but thanks, @mitchs). I was kind of playing around, wondering about the many had origins in the type of work that was done: Wainwright--wagon maker (British); Bauer--farmer (Germanic) and so forth. If we can't figure it out, we can make something up, eh? ;-)

My captcha is 'untuaral'--both unnatural AND twisted?

MikeM 12:21 PM  

Carnes, Leigh and Delaney. Beautiful women, all. Mel was also pitching coach for the Yankees during the heralded Torre years.

MC 12:53 PM  

Stottlemyre is an Americanized form of the German name Stadelmayer (also Stadelmaier, Stadelmeyer, and Stadelmeier), a name that originated as an occupational title. In medieval Germany, a Stadelmayer or Stadelmeyer was a man who managed the warehouse of a wholesale merchant. (wikipedia)

Steve J 1:02 PM  

@MC: Thanks for that. I was wondering what the "stottel" part referenced, as the only similar word I could find was "stottern," which means to stammer or stutter. The various forms of "meyer" mean "foreman" or "manager," so I seriously doubted there was an occupation of "manager of stammering."

On a totally different topic of conversation: The Bill Murray/Scarlett Johanssen pic is from "Lost in Translation." I'm having more fun trying to figure out where it ties in with the puzzle/commentary than I did with the puzzle itself. Bill Murray nearly PHILANDERed but didn't. "Blanche" doesn't mean "white" in English, so maybe the puzzle was lost in translation.

HudsonHawk 1:21 PM  

I have a feeling Steve J is going to get the SCARLETT connection in 5..4...3...2...1...

Clark 1:27 PM  

I had ESTe crossing HALeS, so I fail.

ORCAS is not swill fill when OSCAR is dead center.

If we have the red, white and blue, why shouldn't the Canucks have the red and white? Olympics, oscars, flags, names of actresses -- it has a kind of loose organic unity. Me likey.

I couldn't figure out what P_I_ANDE_ was until I wrote it out horizontally. So that's the difference between accross and down!

mitchs 1:30 PM  

HudsonHawk, that was a crack up.

Van55 1:53 PM  

Wow. By my count there are 28 proper noun answers today. That's the most I have counted in any puzzle (though my counting days are still pretty few.). If my math is correct, that's 35% of all the answers in the grid.

Is there a written or unwritten rule for constructors on the topic?

I found the puzzle dead easy for me, so the many proper names was no hindrance.

Parshutr 2:10 PM  

@SteveJ...maybe Rex just wanted a pic of a real Scarlett...

retired_chemist 2:11 PM  

@ DataGeek - ESTO, ESTA si; ESTE no en Español.

andrea yaks michaels 2:11 PM  

It's funny, I agreed with Rex almost 100% wondering if it were Vivien Leigh's birthday, whether she had just died, had died again, if it was the 50 anniversary of GWTW, or if this was the day after the Oscars or what!

But then I read @Salo's comment and totally agreed with THAT! I had thought it was very cool that she played two roles that were Scarlett and Blanche and that Pete noticed and tied it all together...

SO, I'm either the most wishy-washy person alive who has no convictions of my own opinion, or that both can be true!

@bob kerfuffle
By concidence, I have A SCOT around my neck, his name is Alby Tross...why do you ask? ;)

With you, I never met him (Ha! Shout out to dk) but whenever I picture Picasso, I definitely picture him speaking French, so that was weird. I mean, didn't he even refuse to allow the Guernica to be in Spain during Franco's regime? Wasn't he a lifelong Frenchman? At what point are you associated with the country where you've lived the longest, produced most of your work and speak the language!
I mean, I guess it NEVER happened for poor El Greco...

I had CAB for CAT (as in the CAB of a big truck) and thought for a moment that SABAN was a conductor I'd not heard of with a pitch-fork as in tuning-fork for pitch! It's incredible how your mind tries to justify!

As far as I can tell, no hard and fast rule re: proper namecount.
It's all fair game... abbreviations, other languages, phrases, all go into making a puzzle.
Sure TV Guide and People have more names than the NY Times usually does, but names liven and connect.

That's what crosses are for...and that does some times lead to Natick's re: names.
They are a bit know it or you don't (e.g. I'm with @datageek...the HalAs crossing was tough for me bec I didn't know if it were/was ESTo or ESTa)
but, whatever! I don't even know if it is were or was anymore! (And I used to teach English!)

As a part-time constructor, YES it's a tough crowd, but you learn a ton from the nitpickers.
Before Rex, you only heard how wonderful you were from your mom and two or three friends who solved, so it's fantastic that there are hundreds commenting yea and nay!
You have to have a semi-tough skin, but even if you are so thin-skinned you are practically see-thru (like me) you learn a TON from this blog and the criticism...
by the same token, the positive comments shine even more brightly and you have a reason beyond sitting alone in a room to construct, so it makes it worth it.
Ya gotta take the good with the bad and you learn to take ALL the good comments personally and the bad ones "constructively"!

Damn it, what's that smell? My hardboiled egg I forgot about just exploded. Note to self, eat before I read Rex!

jesser 2:56 PM  

What Andrea said! I always enjoy it when the constructors stop in and give their two pennies' worth. Was really hoping BEQ would show up Monday and give us some pearls. Alas.

Wooterap! (what you take when you get caught stealing someone's wooter) -- jesser

Anonymous 3:15 PM  

Much, much too easy for a NY Time puzzle for any day of the week. Reminds me of the kind of puzzle I used to see in local newspapers in places like Baton Rouge or Syracuse (2 places I happened to have resided in.)I mean "scarlett o'hara" and "blanche dubois" and "oscar." ...
Comeon!!! This is the NYT, for pete's sake!

Noam D. Elkies 3:24 PM  

You know there's way too much showbzzz (and sportz namez) in the puzzzle if even Rex gets Rexasperated with it. If you're going to have that kind of theme, especially without a motivating occasion, then the rest of the grid should steer clear of pop names, not wallow in them. Yes, it was reasonably easy for a Wednesday because the theme entries were familiar enough to reconstruct from a few letters even for somebody who can't bother to memorize who played what in which movie (nor the last vowel in 57A:VIVIENLEIGH's given name); but the huge supporting cast still made it a slog to finish. Hope tomorrow will be more fun.


deerfencer 3:29 PM  

Meh--found this one boring and chore-like.
Definite letdown after the snappiness of yesterday's Gorski gem.

sanfranman59 3:30 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)

Wed 9:35, 11:50, 0.95, 10%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Wed 4:48, 5:49, 0.94, 12%, Easy

I motored through this puzzle and was on my way to posting a much better than average Wednesday solve time for me, but got stumped by the the error in the online applet for 46A. I don't watch much Fox News, but I'm pretty familiar with their line-up and GA__ was doing nothing for me. I wasn't completely convinced of DRU and DUBOIS and struggled to come up with BARBS. So I finally Googled Garr Fox News and it returned some New York divorce lawyer that Greta Van Susteren had on her show in 2006. I was pretty miffed that this person was considered to be a Fox News star for this puzzle until I came to Rex's blog this morning to discover that it was a mistake. Being a huge baseball fan and a child of the 70s, the correct clue would have cut about two minutes off my solve time. I HATE when that happens!

edith b 3:37 PM  

It is sometimes as much fun figuring out what the connection is between the pictures Rex posts as it is doing the puzzle.

Blanche Devereaux - Blanche Dubois. I love it. It's free association time, folks.

CoolPapaD 3:57 PM  

@HudsonHawk - Your countdown was indeed funny!

@Bill from NJ - Thanks for the wine info. I don't drink, and don't know much about wine, but your answer had a hint of oak to it, and I liked it! Ulrich's was pretty good as well....

Am I the only one that was bored out of my skull watching Lost in Translation? Give me Caddyshack any day!

chefwen 4:00 PM  

How come the really crotchety people are anonymous?

I am with the "easy, but liked it crowd". Didn't know HALAS, husband did, didn't knot GARR, husband did. It's very handy having a sports nut in house.

Two Ponies 4:02 PM  

@ CoolPapaD, I never made it thru Lost in Translation. I was Lost in Tedium.
Also, I guess we are done slamming "tutee" as an answer because not one person complained about it as a clue today.

Anonymous 4:18 PM  

@Two Ponies- OK, I'll complain :). I actually liked the puzzle and thought the theme was clever. It reminded me to send in my money for a benefit, aptly titled a Night for the Red and White, in two weeks.

@CoolPapaD- wine doesn't travel well when the bottles in your luggage break

Clark 4:33 PM  

@retired_chemist: What, then, is the masculine singular form of the demonstrative adjective meaning 'this'?

Steve J 4:45 PM  

@HudsonHawk: Ha, nicely done.

I admit, that took me way longer to get than it should have when I looked at that first thing this morning (even factoring in the "first thing in the morning" bit). Even after figuring it out, I still found it more fun than the puzzle ...

And, incidentally, I loved "Lost in Translation."

The Corgi of Mystery 4:53 PM  

I think the best thing about this puzzle for me was how fast I solved it -- first sub-4 time on Wednesday ever.

@chefwen: the really crotchety people are always anonymous because it's Universal Internet Law #5

Anonymous 5:09 PM  

Exactly what is the difference between anonymous and a name like "Steven J" or "The Corgi of Mystery" or "chefwen?" You're still anonymous, right? Just asking... I would adopt one of those names, too, but I'm not quite sure how to do it. I think I'd be just as cranky, even with a cute name.

retired_chemist 5:16 PM  

@ Clark - I thought ESTO masc, ESTA fem., ESTE = EAST. MY online dictionary does translate ESTE as THIS. My bad I guess, but I do not recall it from HS Spanish.

Blanche Dubois 5:21 PM  

@ Anon 5:09 - go to the Google main page and get to Blogger. Open an account and you can be cranky with a cute name that distinguishes you from other anonymice. Or, just select Name/URL, type in whatever name you like (URL optional I think), and there you are.


JenCT 5:23 PM  

@Hudson Hawk - laughed at your countdown, too.

@andrea yaks michaels - glad you enjoy the negative (er, constructive) comments also - laughed at "your mom and friends" comment - do you do standup by any chance???

@chefwen - agree w/your Anonymous comment

Londonmom 5:25 PM  

A puzzle, so your name isn't really rex parker and I'm guessing you're probably not a steeplejack either.

lit.doc 5:37 PM  

@retired_chemist and @Clark, it's a matter mostly of accent. "éste" = "this one", "esté" = "it is", and plain old "este" means "this" or "east", depending on context. The direction is usually preceded by an article ("el este") or a prepositional ("del este").

Joel 5:42 PM  

13 names by my count, of which I'd say I knew maybe 3 (although, with the exception of the Natick of Dru and Garr, they were easy to piece together). As a young solver, I expect to have a couple names I don't know, but ugh. Today was a slog. I was hoping to find out Vivien Leigh was Canadian, it would have justified the theme a bit more.

Charles Bogle 5:54 PM  

@doug: many thanks. Guess I violated the cardinal rule of look over the whole grid before turning in! No wonder I felt a little lost

Ulrich 6:17 PM  

@Blanche Dubois: For someone who's supposedly bonkers, you sound pretty sane to me.

And BTW some of us have names that are more real than cute, but I understand that's not an option if you're here on company time...

Glitch 6:47 PM  

@anon 5:09

...and if you click on the names (cute or otherwise), you will often find a way to contact them, and maybe a little about them.

The more you're willing to reveal, the more your comments are considered, be it in your *name* or in your posts. At least sign them with a cute name.

But an unsigned Anon is waaay down on my credible source list.


Teresa 7:41 PM  

Rex, Thanks for the Matt Kish (Moby Dick) art work and link. I am a Moby Dick fan and found his site fascinating.

I liked today's puzzle, it seemed odd at times, but never boring.

ArtLvr 9:10 PM  

@ chefbea and JenCT -- My only granddaughter is a VIVIENNE with that spelling. I think her parents later wished they'd kept it simpler, but there it is.

@ Steve J -- BLANCH does indeed have the "white" meaning in English, most commonly as a verb form indicating withdrawal of color, causing whitening or turning pale (from the French verb "blanchir")... Common usages include blanching of almonds or other foods by removing the skin, often by boiling, plus blanching of linens or other fabrics as in exposure to direct sunlight, blanched bones found dried by desert heat, and blanched cheeks unusually pale as in illness or shock, due to reduced circualtion of the blood... Related English words are blank, blanket and bleach...


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 7:39, 6:55, 1.11, 77%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 10:22, 8:48, 1.18, 88%, Challenging
Wed 9:37, 11:50, 0.81, 10%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:18, 3:41, 1.17, 85%, Challenging
Tue 5:23, 4:30, 1.20, 89%, Challenging
Wed 4:27, 5:48, 0.77, 9%, Easy

Will seems to have his days mixed up this week. Today's and Monday's puzzles were more like a Tuesday and Tuesday's puzzle was more like a Wednesday.

Stan 10:18 PM  

@ArtLvr: Excellent post! The depth of knowledge about words around here is really pretty impressive.

Stephen 10:44 PM  

Oh dear. Some of it fun. Some of it clever. And some of it a litany of obscurities (former pitcher of a baseball team? a role in a rare movie? a wine never sold here? a somebody called Papa Bear? a batting champ from 1974?? and too many etceterae to suffer). Spare me. I don't mind learning about something that has durability, like an old word for music halls or the flag of Quebec, but discovering the name of "actress Joanne" is just too silly. It's forgivable if you have to stoop to these things to make a fill word somewhere, but this puzzle constructor believes we should enjoy them. Eesh.

One stumble I had where I thought I was learning something was the cross point where "digs" crossed "challenges". I had BURBS and DURES, and started to believe that DURES was an old noun form from which the word endures was derived. Alas not. The "digs" clue was good though. Too good.

I waited 36 hours for the answer to "eight the hard way" to sink in. I still haven't figured out why ROLL fits. No one else commented, so it must be too easy. Please rescue my brain.

Nathan Detroit 7:41 AM  

@Stephen -
"Eight the hard way" would be a particular ROLL of the dice, just like snake eyes or boxcars.

BassManPDX 12:55 AM  

To elaborate even further on "eight the hard way"...

In rolling dice, there are different "ways" to make various totals.

For example, there's only one way to roll a TWO: both dice have to come up ONEs. Same for TWELVE -- both dice have to come up SIXes. Since these combos are rare (1 in 36 rolls), they have special names: "Snake-eyes" for double ones, and "Boxcars" for double sixes.

Totals of 4, 6, 8 or 10 thrown as pairs (2+2, 3+3, etc.) are known as "the hard way," since there is only one way to do it -- again a 1-in-36 chance. For example, there are 5 ways to roll an 8: 2+6, 3+5, 4+4, 5+3, and 6+2. By specifying "eight the hard way" you decrease the odds of rolling it from 5/36 to 1/36.

For a game that used to played with the anklebones of oxen, dice has evolved an amazing array of rules, strategies, and colorful terms.

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