Fearsome, swift-moving creature with snapping jaws / THU 4-8-10 / Caelestes divine wrath / Grass plot around sundial / Old-time floozie

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Constructor: Matt Ginsberg

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Jabberwocky" — seven answers are "words" in "Jabberwocky," a poem from "Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There" by LEWIS CARROLL (44A: Writer who was the source of all the words with asterisked clues in this puzzle)

Word of the Day: LINEAR A (14A: Form of writing of ancient Crete) —

Linear A is one of two linear and possibly syllabic scripts used in ancient Crete before Mycenaean Greek Linear B. In Minoan times, before the Mycenaean Greek dominion, Linear A was the official script for the palaces and cults and Cretan Hieroglyphs were mainly used on seals. These three scripts were discovered and named by Arthur Evans. In 1952, Michael Ventris discovered that Linear B was being used to write the early form of Greek now known as Mycenaean. He and others used this information to achieve a significant and now well accepted decipherment of the script, although many points remain to be elucidated. A failure to discover the language of Linear A has prevented the same sort of progress being made in its decipherment. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well this one is sure to divide people. Or so I'd imagine. If you know "Jabberwocky," then sure, why not — this is lively and by all means original. Nothing says "original" like completely made-up words. Seven spicy little exotic treats, and LEWIS CARROLL's name to boot. Win. On the other hand, if you don't have much or any familiarity with the poem, then this puzzle is a giant "*#%& you!" You better know nearly every damn cross or you're a dead (wo)man. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle — I had the absolutely coincidental good fortune to look over "Jabberwocky" in just the past week or so, as I am currently reading the serialized comic version of "The Complete Alice in Wonderland" (Dynamite Comics), adapted by Leah Moore (daughter of Alan) and John Reppion. So the poem was reasonably fresh. But I have no history with this poem, have never memorized it, and so am familiar only with "BRILLIG" (from crosswords, where it's often used in partials for 'TWAS) and (to a lesser extent) "SLITHY." Thus, I struggled. To the puzzle's credit, I was able to piece it together even without knowing most of the words.

MYSORE (38A: Indian tourist city) is possibly the worst-named city in the history of the world. So high on getting LAHORE straight off (5D: Pakistan's so-called "Garden of Mughals"). So sad at completely bombing with this second ORE.

Theme answers:
  • 1A: *4:00 in the afternoon (BRILLIG)
  • 8A: *To make holes (GIMBLE)
  • 19A: *To go round and round (GYRE)
  • 24A: *Fearsome, swift-moving creature with snapping jaws (BANDERSNATCH)
  • 52A: *Grass plot around a sundial (WABE)
  • 64A: *Lithe and slimy (SLITHY)
  • 65A: *Smiling radiantly (BEAMISH)
Had trouble in the NE, where I wanted MIMBLE and so had no idea what 8D: Church annex? (GOER). I do not like "annex" as a cutesy term for "suffix," but that's just me. It makes a kind of sense. Never can remember LENYA's name (12D: "From Russia With Love" actress Lotte). Wanted LORNA or something. Had EYE instead of RYE for a bit (20A: Catcher's spot?), until I got B-GIRL (11D: Old-time floozie). And the first part of FRYPAN wasn't obvious to me up front either (15D: Browner). More trouble in the SW where I had ADVISE instead of ADJURE (45D: Urge formally), and SPEC instead of ITEM (55D: Detail). Also ORCS instead of ENTS (57D: Tolkien creatures). Getting JAILED ironed everything out (54A: Put away), which I guess makes JAILED an IRONER, of sorts (6D: Person whose work is decreasing?). NW was tough at first, but once I hit on the theme, I went back and put in BRILLIG and all was rightish with the world. The "W" at WABE / WASH (52D: Wadi) was probably my last, tentative letter.

  • 35A: Emulate the dodo (DIE OUT) — "Emulate" implies intention, making this clue ... odd.
  • 47A: Wonderland food for Alice (CAKE) — little bonus theme answer, along with MAD (10D: ___ Hatter) and possibly other things I'm not noticing. Like CRY (29D: "Curiouser and curiouser!," e.g.)
  • 59A: Some buffalo hunters of old (ARAPAHO) — helped me change AUDIO to AURAL (48D: Not visual)
  • 46D: Objects employed to show everyday life (REALIA) — I made up a word that sounded like it might be right, and it was. I cannot imagine what REALIA are or look like. Looks like they are just everyday objects used as aids to comprehension in educational settings. Because "everyday objects" was too clunky.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


PurpleGuy 12:19 AM  

Lotte LENYA was the first answer in the grid for me.
Her album Lotte Lenya sings Kurt Weill -American Theater Songs is a classic and an enjoyable experience. She was ion the original broadway production of "Cabaret." Yes, I'm that old.
I also recommend her album "The Seven Deadly Sins" and Berlin Theatre Songs. Another classic.

This was a fun puzzle for me. Studied Alice in my honors class in high school, and recited the Lobster Quadrille for the class. I was the mock turtle in a stage production. What fun memories.

But I digress. The SE was my thorniest spot.My printer acted up, so I couldn't make out some of the clues. 61D was illegible.
I had to snicker at the clue for 64A. Lithe and slimy indeed. (Bring it on !).
I am BEAMISH right now , and can blame 16A.

Thank you, Matt Ginsberg for a wonderful romp through Wonderland via Jabberwocky.
I had a great time with this puzzle.

Zeke 12:32 AM  

Matt to Zeke: Hey Zeke, I got me a giant "*#%& you!" for you, right here.

Tinbeni 12:53 AM  

ALCOHOL .. READING, same line?
and later a CHASER?
OK, .008 plus, plus, plus.
I'm in my dream puzzle.

Then the clues hit me. HUH? HUH? HUH?
And a real HUH at 51A! WTF!

Happy Thursday, no SNIDE remarks today.

SLITHY sounds like fun. With the B-GIRL?
Is REALIA an actual word?
Where? Urban Dictionary? I'll check later.

NE'ER ('do well') how my sibs describe me. One of my favorite words I ponder on my daily walk on the beach.

Like the @PurpleGuy this puzzle left me BEAMISH ...

lit.doc 1:06 AM  

This was a terrifically enjoyable puzzle, though I imagine the better solvers will find it too easy for Thursday. Me, just over an hour plus two googles. The asterisk at 1A sent me looking for the theme reveal, and the theme answers (including the non-asterisked ones) materialized like a, well, you know. My avatar declares this puzzle 71% cookie, 29% crème, and 100% jabberwonkish.

Jumped down the rabbit hole a bit too fast with 1A TEA TIME. Improved on that by deleting it in favor of 6D DIETER (nice clue). Eventually, the Gil BLAS synapse fired, which got me going in the right direction (still don’t remember who s/he is, or who—or what—Lesage is). Still needed to google for 14A LINEAR A and 5D LAHORE, both of which I’m familiar with but couldn’t connect to the clues.

SE was the other problem area. 45D was ADVISE foreeever. And the uncertainty re 57D—ORCS or ENTS? Eventually saw ADJURE and that corner came together, needing only a pretty straightforward swag at the SU_TANA / REA_IA crossing to finish.

Am I the only one who’s never seen ESNE or SYSORE? I’m guessing that, in Middle English, ESNE is an anagram of SERF. And, till now, I had thought that AGRA is the only tourist city in India.

O frabjous day, Rex has posted early. Hmmm. SYSORE suggests that I ought to have checked my down crosses a bit more carefully. Dang. And thank you, @Rex, for explaining “Church annex”. I was still scratching my apse over that one.

Steve J 1:11 AM  

I never really read Carroll (although I'm sure at some point in my life I read "Jabberwocky," although none of it stuck). So I'm in the camp of feeling like the puzzle was a bit of an f-you.

Actually, that's harsh, even though I chuckled at Rex's characterization. It's a good puzzle for what it is. I'm just not on the invite list for this party. And I certainly didn't know enough of the crosses to be able to crash the party. Only once I gave in and started googling did I get the crosses, which made me able to "complete" the rest of the puzzle ("complete" in quotes because I filled in too much just by looking up the poem for it to count in my mind).

Even if one's familiar with the poem, are they going to be familiar with the meanings of what are madeup words (although a handful can be parsed, like SLITHY)?

Verdict on this one: A firm, unequivocal "Hell if I know." I can't even begin to judge this one.

Tinbeni 1:37 AM  

@Lit.doc & SteveJ
Not so long ago I was doing a puzzle and was as stumped at that tree trunk in the field.
Just hesitant to put in the letter, go with an arcane "feeling" about a clue or word.

Then I realized, it is a crossword puzzle, don't over analyze, don't micro-manage, go with the flow.
If the ancient grey matter thinks it's xxxx try it, you'll like it.

Do not fret over whether or not you have to google a complete unknown or 'unrecalled' answer.

ARAPAHO might be familiar to me, various opera or Spanish, German, Latin clues to you.

I doubt there is an IGNORAMUS who attempts the NYT.

I'm having FUN.
And that is all that matters.

SethG 1:41 AM  

I finished, had an error. This...is not the puzzle in which you want to try to track that down. Turns out I had the made up stuff right, but over a third of my overall time was spent changing NAILED to JAILED.

Too bad FRUMIOUS didn't have a symmetric term (like CSI did). I like the word FRUMIOUS. I learned some of my Jabberwocky from M*A*S*H, MYSORE from a guy named Mysore, and Lotte LENYA from Mack the Knife.

andrea beamish michaels 2:39 AM  

I actually malapopped! Put in LAHORE for MYSORE.

Contemplated NABE for WABE.

Had the entire puzzle but for the NW, which made me sad. SO finally had to google Gil BLAS/LINEARA and all fell into place and I could go on with my life such that it is.
(Didn't help that I had had ERR for GAL, boy is THAT a miss!)

I find this ambitious and original and cool and super-specific, which seems forgivable bec it's about words and language...if it were specific to "Family Guy" or something, I'd be having more of a fit.

My favorite clue was 42D It goes after poli and before fi.

jae 2:46 AM  

I was reasonably familiar enough with the Jabberwocky to get this one although NW was tough (needed my bride for spelling on BRILLIG). I liked it and agree with Rex's Med-Chall. because of the tricky NW.

Oh, and like SethG, I knew LENYA for Mack the Knife.

chefwen 2:53 AM  

Hand waaay up for dead (wo)man. I had heard of Jabberwocky but never read it. Managed to get SLITHY using downs and just for giggles, looked it up, then Uncle Google took me by the hand and led me to a sunnier place. Still, chalking this one up to utter failure, due to massive cheating.

Thursday, being my favorite puzzle day was a big disappointment, was so looking forward to a romp with a rebus, maybe next week

retired_chemist 3:19 AM  

@ lit.doc - LOVE 100% jabberwonkish!

@ Rex re "if you don't have much or any familiarity with the poem, then this puzzle is a giant "*#%& you!" - And those people must be frumious indeed.

In a sense this is an unfair puzzle since it requires detailed knowledge of the poem. In another sense, the poem is part of our culture and I imagine that most of us have heard or read it at one time or another. We are all word wonks, and I suspect many of us found that the strange words just stuck in our minds, even without definitions. That certainly is the case with me.

I had no idea of the definitions used in the clues. However, once I got BANDERSNATCH I saw where we were going and found I remembered much more of the poem than I had a right to expect. It was a pleasant trip down memory lane, to coin a cliché.

The crosses of the starred words were in general fair. overall, I like this puzzle very much.

I hope someone will explain IRONER to me. Is the ironer's work decreasing because most shirts etc. are permanent press nowadays? That seems not to deserve the question mark in the clue, but I can't think of anything else.

andrea irony michaels 3:49 AM  

@ret Chem
(I had pRuNER originally if it makes you feel any better!)
Does that iron out your problem? :)

Elaine 4:36 AM  

My first answer into the grid was 65A--'BEAMING'....and then the Downs turned it into BEAMISH. When I saw the clue for 44A, LEWIS CARROLL did gyre and gimble his way into the puzzle.

I don't quite know the Indian subcontinent, so (Hi, Andrea) I had LAHORE for 38A [Indian tourist city]...finally corrected (and relocated!) Did not know [Waits in music]; LINEARA was new to me; tried ASSURE before ADJURE. (@Andrea: I also had ERR in the margin; @lit.doc: TEATIME is in the margin, too. SO glad I didn't write it in.)

I just loved this puzzle and truly enjoyed revisiting the poem. Guess that makes me a 'Jabberwonk!' So be it!

Alice 6:51 AM  

REALIA is well know to librarians as referring to actual cultural artifacts in the collection, as opposed to books or other media describing them ...

ArtLvr 7:43 AM  

@Andrea Beamish, I had initial thoughts like yours, including LAHORE in the wrong spot, with Err and Dieter in the NW, but discrepancies got ironed out!

Matt's puzzle was so satisfying and gratifying, I almost SOB with joy when someone brings off one like this… We’re used to automatic responses to a clue like “Put away” seeking food answers, eat up or gulp down, — thus JAILED was a treat. My final fill was a sheer grope at the M for MYSORE, since TOM Waits wasn't ringing a bell . Whew.


p.s. I enjoyed @PurpleGuy's memories of his first encounters with LEWIS CARROLL, and @Alice, many thanks for your note re REALIA.

Pogo 8:03 AM  


jesser 8:04 AM  

This puzzle did a bad thing to me, and did not even buy me flowers or take me to dinner. Or use lube, for that matter.

Tionnit! (another made up word that is probably in that poem that I read 40 years ago and found stupid at the time) -- jesser, bitter

PanamaRed 8:11 AM  

@Tinbeni 1:37 AM - I'm with you on having fun. Didn't know any part of the poem - had to Google it - the only way to complete the puzzle for most of us who aren't into Lewis Carroll.

Parshutr 8:19 AM  

Color me *#%&ed.

ArtLvr 8:21 AM  

Glad I looked up TOM Waits -- another CARROLL connection!!!

"Alice is an album by Tom Waits, released in 2002 on Epitaph Records (under the Anti sub-label). The album contains the majority of songs written for the play Alice, based on the forbidden love between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, for whom he wrote the story Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."


NCA President 8:52 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
JayWalker 8:55 AM  

First things first: LitDoc - loved your "scratching my apse" comment. Made me LMAO. I'm in the "Loved it!" camp. My problems were in the SE corner too and were all "real" not "fabulous" answers. Did not know Lani Guinier w/o a Google, but that one Goog opened it up for me and I soon finished. I had "appeal" for 45D and until I fixed that, I couldn't get "jailed." Got the other Carroll ref's pretty quickly but was stumped by the SE's "Beamish." Go figure.

snowmaiden 9:18 AM  

I saw "Alice" at BAM in the early '90's. Amazing show. Featured not one, but TWO theremins. Glad you noticed the reference, ArtLvr.

fikink 9:19 AM  

@lit.doc, thought of you first when I
encountered this puzzle.
@Rex, agree with you on the odd use of "emulate" in the dodo clue.

Enjoyed this enough as one does a one-trick pony.

(@artlvr: still researching the bird, will get back to you today)

retired_chemist 9:23 AM  

@ Andrea Irony Michaels - Thanks and d'oh!

Kelly 9:34 AM  

@jesser - agreed! no dinner, no flowers, but instead ALCOHOL and TOM waits. could be worse...

Matt 9:49 AM  

Interesting. To all who did not know the poem, I apologize! The poem is so much a part of my childhood, I figured it was just a part of our collective consciousness. "Beware the jabberwock, my son ..." And jabberwocky has even become a word in its own right. But I certainly agree that this would have been frustrating for someone who didn't know the poem at all. I'm sorry!

Meanwhile, definitely my 15 minutes of fame today. A puzzle in the NYT, and I'm a guest on Talk of the Nation at 2.40PM Eastern ...

lit.doc 9:54 AM  

@retired_chemist, I caught the "decreasing" trick only 'cause I've run into it before. But IMHO it's still wrong (and no, I'm not alluding to yesterday's its/it's/its' PPOG episode).

Ironers' are trying to dewrinkle and, with e.g. slacks, recrease.

dk 10:01 AM  

Fellow Nighthawks at the Dinner (TOM Waits reference):

Made many of the same errors cited above. The NW gave me the most trouble as I had teatime, err, ETAL.

I also wanted to drop one L or R to stick in the B at 44a and that slowed me down.

Jabberwocky was a favorite of the "talking about my drug experiences" generation (see Grace Slick in Rexland). And, the young dk was encouraged (beaten) not to use profanity and instead substitute words or phrases that may serve to defuse rather than inflame. BANDERSNATCH was a favorite and remains so, although barnacles is fun. Try it.

In short (HA!), got the theme right off.

Matt you rarely disappoint.

*** (3 Stars)

mitchs 10:10 AM  

@Rex. Love the MYSORE comment. The only word I knew (kinda) was SLITHY so I had to guess at several crosses - the good news is I got lucky!

So that made for a tough, fun, rewarding solve, no slog involved. Thanks Matt.

The Cunctator 10:26 AM  

I really enjoyed the bonus theme-related clues:

35A Emulate the dodo (DIE OUT) The Dodo was the character in Alice in Wonderland that is based on Lewis Carroll himself (Charles Do-Do Dodgson)
47A Wonderland food for Alice (CAKE)
10D ___ Hatter (MAD)
29D "Curiouser and curiouser!," e.g. (CRY) Alice's thought

Elaine 10:35 AM  

No, no! Do not apologize; instead, tell all of the poor, deprived people who knew not the Jabberwock that you are so glad you were able to introduce them to a piece of whimsey that is part of their cultural heritage! It was a wonderful, original puzzle--just enough sly-clue misdirection to spice it up, very little same-old fill. Plus, look at the opportunities for clever protest from those who took it on the cruciverbal jaw; I say they managed to have some fun.

Have you read any Ogden Nash lately?

ArtLvr 10:49 AM  

@The Cunctator --also 28D Waits in music (TOM).

p.s. @fikink identified my pretty pair of birds out back in upstate NY as the goldfinches still in their winter dress, state bird of Iowa! Many thanks again, Deb... My current cat is no threat at all, she just sits and -- wait for it -- waits.


frelity - liberated woman, thy name is __

Stan 10:51 AM  

Agree that the 'frumious'/'beamish' response is going to hinge on familiarity with the poem, but for me, Matt hit it out of the park.

MVP (most valuable puzzle) in recent memory.

JMorgie 10:51 AM  

enjoyable puzzle.

I highly recommend a wonderful essay on translating the Jabberwocky into other languages -- its a chapter in Douglas R. Hofstadter's "Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid". if you think the puzzle was hard, imagine translating the made up stuff into german, french, italian, etc. etc. and keeping the sense correct.

Two Ponies 10:55 AM  

I adore Lewis Carroll! He's on the guest list of my fantasy cocktail party. It was not the Alice references that slayed me but some of the wicked fill. Sob.
Brilliant puzzle Matt.
I am truly heartbroken that I could not ace it but the theme was delightful.
I have not seen the current Alice movie for fear I will hate it. Anyone seen it yet? I'm wondering if it is aimed toward people familiar with the story or are they reinventing it for the new generation thus ruining it.

Wow, secret word; lickaida - opera porn?

John V 11:00 AM  

@Rex re: divide: having never read Jaberwocky, this was not a happy ending. Ah me.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:02 AM  

Loved the puzzle; easy-medium at worst.

FWIW, my first (6/7) fill was LINEAR (A or B?). Must come from doing too many Xwds.

r.alphbunker 11:06 AM  

I want a puzzle with words from Finnegan's Wake next. I think that is where the words that we have to type to send a blog entry come from.

Steve J 11:08 AM  

@Matt: As one of those who does not know Jabberwocky, I don't think any apology is necessary. It's a really well-constructed puzzle. It's just not one I was ever going to get. I can easily live with that. I look at it like I do a Saturday: I'm never going to get it, but I can still appreciate it.

As an aside: all the mentions of BEAMISH, and I seem to have stout permanently lodged in my brain today. May have to get a pint after work tonight.

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

Never read Jabberwocky, didn't finish the puzzle -- still liked the puzzle. Decided I'd rather peek at the answers than google a couple things like Mysore

Back in the 90's I had a boss who was enamored with Two Minute Manager (One Minute?) and demanded we all read it and had various other odd practices. After a while, I decided to read Alice in Wonderland and found it reasonably interchangeable with my workplace, which would have been your tax dollars at work were it not that I was working on a contract primarily paid for by foreign governments at the time.

Those were not the good old days, but I still have the copy of Alice and still think kindly of it, if not the workplace.

Two Ponies 11:32 AM  

I forgot to mention my difficulty with sultana. Just as "local" for neighborhood pub is a given to a Brit, so would be sultana if it had been clued as a raisin. That is the only use of the word that I know.
British cookbooks never say raisin (that I have seen).

Nancy in PA 11:40 AM  

I loved this as Jabberwocky is a family favorite and at least one per generation has it memorized (I am the one in my generation). Now that it's National Poetry Month (get a poem a day from Knopfpoetry
@information.randomhouse.com)I will cajole/cudgel one of my offspring into memorizing it.

Can someone tell me what the B stands for in BGIRL?

JF 11:43 AM  

Count me among those who remembered the opening strains of JibJabberwock. I don't remember the whole thing (my kids do), but the opening sentence gave you nearly all the Carroll words, which was enough to get me through. I did expect to see "vorpal" and "frumious", and this actually slowed me down a bit while I tried to make them fit even in places they didn't belong.

I had no idea "wabe" and "brillig" had real referents. I always figured they were gibberish.

REALIA was my biggest sticking point. Never heard of it.

Anonymous 11:44 AM  

This was such a fun puzzle. I think the level of difficulty was just right. So great to try and remember the poem. I did not remember all of the words, but could figure it out without any googling. I am at home sick today and this lifted my mood enormously. Never saw these comments before. Found them when checking on Wadi just to be sure. Enjoying seeing the various reactions. Matt Ginsberg went to our local area high school and my son was acquainted with him. I always think his puzzles are wise beyond his years and make one think creatively, which I appreciate.
"BGirl" aka Bethesda (MD) Girl

Anonymous 11:44 AM  

What a puzzle!!??
Bandersnatch opened this one wide for me, and the only reason I had any sort of clue what was going on was from having read what I think was) Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novel, "The Frumious Bandersnatch," which, in the book, was a rock band.

dising- a half-hearted attempt to disrespect someone

mccoll 11:51 AM  

Any one who is old enough to be able to recite the Jabberwocky should be able to fill this one in without hesitation. So I did. This was the easiest Thursday this year. It could flummox the young, mind you. I enjoyed the comments immensely. Thanks everyone.

Stan 11:52 AM  

Funny that I never liked Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," even when it first came out (and believe me, I was in the ideal consumer demographic for the song back then). Something about the wink-wink-this-is-about-drugs extended metaphor and humorless, dramatic crescendo.... "Somebody to Love" was a better song, IMO.

Aaron Riccio 12:00 PM  

I'll go in the "hated it" camp. Bad enough that there were made-up words from a poem I never read, but for them to cross with things like LINEARA and LAHORE? SULTANA, LANI, ADJURE, and REALIA? ARAPAHO with a weird clue for WASH?

MYSORE brain indeed.... This is not the sort of crosswordese I want to retain.

lit.doc 12:01 PM  

@Elaine, that's "a piece of cultural mimsy".

@Two Ponies, I saw the new Alice movie and enjoyed it. Familiarity with the "real" story helps quite a bit with this "Alice all grown up" sequel. The 3D technology is kinda disappointing (Cameron has really raised the bar), so DO NOT see it on an Imax screen (like I did), as it really "foregounds" the technical blemishes.

chefbea 12:11 PM  

This puzzle was Greek to me. Got Lewis Carroll but none of the clue words. Knew lotte Lenya..

All in all... not a fun puzzle

motaxin = what this puzzle was as compared to yesterdaly's

retired_chemist 12:29 PM  

@ Nancy in PA - B GIRL <= BAR GIRL

fikink 12:52 PM  

@Stan, give a listen to the cut of Somebody To Love on their Bless Its Pointed Little Head album.
It is the way they used to things in concert: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQojFWVRiLA

not so AM-radioish.

obertb 1:05 PM  

@Two Ponies--I wonder if Will thought that this puzzle was timely, given that the Alice movie just came out. That's what I figured, anyway.

Once I saw what was going on, I filled in the puzzle easily. I can still recite (most of) Jabberwocky from memory, but still, some of the clues were obscure to me. SLITHY [Lithe and slimy] I get, but a WABE is a [Grass plot around a sundial]? GIMBLE is [To make holes]? OK, if you say so.

But a very enjoyable puzzle for me.

Noam D. Elkies 1:09 PM  

Happily did not fall for the TEATIME trap for *1A. Once I realized where *8D:GIMBLE was coming from I smiled radiantly all the way through it.

(Well almost all the way; "____ caelestes" is a brave try at a new clue for 9D:IRAE but seems to be in the wrong case or declension or something, and likewise "Unnamed others, briefly" clues only "al.", not 43A:ETAL.)

Also liked the clues for 6D:IRONER (even if it's not technically correct), 34D:SELL, and 53D:AHOY; such wordplay is a nice feature in general but seems particularly apt for a Lewis Carroll-themed puzzle.

Random coincidences: 33D:URAL and 48D:A URAL, 14A:LINEAR A and 61A:SULTAN A. Lahore/Mysore and gal/B-girl have already been observed.

Hard to believe 54A:JAILED and 15A:FORAGED haven't appeared in the last 16 years of NYT puzzles, but that's what xwordinfo.com reports.

Thanks to ArtLvr for the Waits connection, without which 28D:TOM felt like just YAPN (Yet Another Pop Name — yawn). Still I'd prefer "Waits in music" to clue FERMATAS.

I see that others have already made the dodo connection (that clue also explained the unlikely-looking IEO sequence in 35A — which turned out to be the even stranger IEOU); Wikipedia reports that Dodgson stammered, so might have seemed to introduce himself as "Do-Do" before getting out the full name. Perhaps 14A:LINEARA is also a bonus clue, since Dodgson's mathematical research included work in what we now call "linear algebra", as in the "Dodgson condensation" technique for computing a determinant.

Thank you,

archaeoprof 1:29 PM  

Put me in the liked it camp. I knew Jabberwocky, but haven't thought of it in so long that the puzzle was hard, hard. So I didn't finish -- that's a good Thursday puzzle.

Well, maybe one way to improve this puzzle would be to put in a reference to country music. 16A could be clued "Brad Paisley hit."

bluebell 1:42 PM  

Reciting Jabberwocky is my parlor trick, so that part of the puzzle was easy. But my pride was destroyed by words like lineara, Mysore (rhymes with eeyore?) and Tom Waits and Gil Blas. Also Bgirl. (When I was growing up, Floozies had their ears pierced and went out with the sailors from the local base.)

So I failed to finish, but the puzzle was great fun anyway.

Blanche 1:46 PM  

What a delightful puzzle -- thank you, Matt Ginsberg!

Bretski 1:57 PM  

I had to memorize Jabberwocky for a class back in middle school, approximately 1990. To my shock, I still remember every word. Obviously that helped with the thematic material, but there was so much other random minutia that this puzzle was still a bear. I can't imagine attempting it without knowing the theme.

Clark 2:49 PM  

Ashtanga is the kind of yoga I do. That made MYSORE a gimme as that is where Pattabhi Jois (the founder of the modern form of Ashtanga) lived and had his school.

IRAE caelestes is nominative plural, so 'divine wraths', but I guess that might get translated into English in context as a singular. (I am not spending any more time on that one!)

Had BEAMIng early on. Changed it to BEAMISH not even noticing that it was a theme word. Take a noun, add ish, get an adjective. Doing a lot of reading and translating of German has made me scary tolerant of made up words.

Two Ponies 3:30 PM  

I just heard our constructor on NPR's Talk of the Nation as he promised. He was funny, bright, and articulate. The topic had nothing to do with crosswords and it sounds like Matt has a productive life outside of Crossworld. Well done, Matt.

jesser 3:38 PM  

People have lives outside of Crossworld? I feel nauseous. I believe I have the vapors! -- jesser, incredulous

Zeke 3:57 PM  

Decades ago I tried to read Alice in Wonderland, at least twice, and gave up each time. Whatever charm, wit, whimsy it is purported to have didn't correspond to anything I felt. About a year ago I tried to read Jabberwocky, instigated by a puzzle or something said here, and got no further than the second stanza.
So, I revert to my standard of literary value - If you didn't know the authorship or historical context of a work, does its intrinsic merit still show? Could anyone read Jabberwocky without knowing of its pre-approved value? I kind of doubt it. I know one stanza made my head hurt this afternoon.
On another note, and not meaning to brag about my time, but I spent at least 10:24 last night trying to force some form of MYCEAN? into the 14A last night. I doubt anyone here was more dedicated to a wrong answer than I was. In your face!

mac 4:10 PM  

Yes, I also felt I was at the wrong party. My sore.

Brilliant puzzle, though. I loved "forage" and it was good to see our old friend "taw" back. Have to own up to "teatime" as well, and I wondered about "irae".

I'll have you know that the hardest wrinkles to iron out are false creases!

Steve J 4:22 PM  

@Aaron Riccio: Are you perhaps thinking of WASH as a synonym for "clean"? If you think of WASH in its use to describe a dry riverbed in a desert, then it's a easy swap with "Wadi," which means the same thing.

@Jesser: I just red your "no lube" comment. I'm very glad that I had just swallowed my drink immediately before reading that.

@Zeke: You probably have me beat on tenaciousness, but MADRAS hung around my grid for a very long time before I finally realized that wasn't right.

joho 4:39 PM  

Hmmmm, I posted earlier today but it's not here. What I said was: I ended up 4 squares short of victory but didn't mind a bit because I enjoyed myself so much doing this amazingly original, superb puzzle.

@Andrea ... had the same malapop with LAHORE!

Also had FRYmAN before FRYPAN thinking along the terms of someone like a sous chef. How silly is that?!

Thank you, Matt, for this fantastic Thursday1

Zeke 4:41 PM  

@Steve J - At least you figured out that your answer wasn't right.

sanfranman59 4:44 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 21:04, 19:37, 1.07, 71%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 9:26, 9:24, 1.00, 56%, Medium

Elaine 5:16 PM  

@Two Ponies
One movie-loving friend of mine who saw 'Alice' told all of us she found it a 'must-miss,' creepy and overwrought. But lit.doc (above) liked it. So far it's 1 to 1.

When I lived in Lakeland, FL, in the mid 60's, I read the delightful _Blue Danube Cookbook_ which mentioned Sultanas. I forget a lot of things, but not the names of foods and wines. A few years ago I hunted down a copy of the cookbook and bought it.

@Nancy in PA
I thought B GIRLs were just 'not on the A List.'

Since you were brave, I will say that I, too, disagreed with Patrick's interpretations of the word meanings. SLITHY just means agile and slim, in my book, and there were no men named Gyre and Gimble-- those words mean a sort of gamboling, dancing, joyful cavorting about. Preferably on a brillig day.

Finally: IRONER is a word I just can't warm up to. My mother had 'an ironing woman' in the Fifties (when ironing all-cotton dresses, using a steam iron, with no air conditioning, meant something just this side of hell.) Who says 'ironer?' Nobody. Presser, maybe.

Okay, that's my three-cents' worth for the day.

JenCT 5:35 PM  

Admired the puzzle, although I haven't read Jabberwocky - I will now! I have read (several times) Alice in Wonderland, so that helped.

I think I'll be a BGIRL and go for an ALCOHOL CHASER.

SethG 5:52 PM  

Elaine, not sure who Patrick is, but you're not disagreeing with his word meanings, you're disagreeing with Lewis Carroll's.

See the relevant part of Through The Looking Glass here.

obertb 6:34 PM  

@SethG--Thanks for the link to "The Looking Glass," which explains the clues I couldn't understand. I must have read this at on time or another, but had completely forgotten it.

Masked and Anonymous Bandersnatch 6:43 PM  

Tough SE corner, but cool nonsense words throughout. A bit punishing, that we needed to know their meanings, too! 'Course, MYSORE and REALIA seemed like nonsense words to me, while BEAMISH not so much...!

@ 2 ponies: I for one give a big thumbs up to "Alice in Wonderland". It seems not meant to be a remake, but rather a sequel. Burton gives Wonderland a unique look -- almost menacingly dangerous crossed with bizarrely wacky. Think Carroll might have approved.

Oh, and thumbs up to Matt's puz, too!

Two Ponies 7:08 PM  

Thanks to all for the movie feedback. I did not realize it was a sequel. That could make a big difference.
Considering how much I loved Nightmare Before Christmas and what I've read hear I think I will risk it. Even a negative review (as from Elaine's friend) can be very helpful since creepy can be a good thing!
I may be overstepping the bounds of blog etiquette so I had better sign off. Thanks again.

Robert of San Francisco 7:46 PM  

My problem wasn't the theme, which I got fairly quickly. It was the fill -- LINEARA, SULTANA, REALIA, ESNE. That's Friday/Saturday stuff, in my humble, slow-solving, never-Googling opinion. So it took me a lot longer than it should have.

edith b 8:00 PM  

I suppose this is in honor of the Tim Burton film that just came out but but there is an interesting movie called Dreamchild made by Dennis Potter - of The Singing Detective fame - made in 1985 that deals with the "real" Alice on the centenary of Lewis Carroll's birth in 1932. She is 80 years old by this time and is in New York to accept an honorary degree and the movie is a memory piece, mostly her bad ones, regarding the Reverand Charles Dodgson, the "real" Lewis Carrol, who had a bizzare but platonic relationship with the young Alice and wrote "Alice in Wonderland" as his way of commemorating those memories, ironically his good ones, that became the beloved classic that we have today.

My profession was chosen for me, I guess, as I was (am) a maker of lists, a memorizer of poems and the like, and a compulsive reader and the Jabberwocky is one of those things that I memorized for no other reason than that I could. I suppose this puzzle waa tailor-made for me but seems to be a perfect fit for a Thursday and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

foodie 8:28 PM  

Since I grew up overseas and went to a French school, I read Alice in Wonderland in French. That was trippy, because it introduced a whole other layer of absurdity. Think of puns like "Mine is a long and sad tale" to which Alice responds: "it is a long tail, certainly, but why do you call it sad?". How do you translate that and have it make sense.

So, at some point I read Jabberwocky on my own and love the rhythm of it and the nonsensical made up words, but I never knew they had a definition! I always thought you could project whatever you wanted onto them, and that was the genius of the poem.

So, I just learned something! And found out that some of those made up words became part of regular English, Chortled (Chuckle and Snort).

Anyhow, I guessed early on what the theme was and got the long answers but still struggled with the puzzle.

Elaine 8:41 PM  

Worse than D'oh.
I am mixing up my blog-persons and make a pitiful sight.
I had never heard of the 'official' definitions (which were not included in the 'Jabberwocky' I read.) I still prefer my own 'take,' but I appreciate finding out more of the mysterious underpinnings of this poem.

(Everything fades away but my smile....)

sanfranman59 10:04 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 7:32, 6:55, 1.09, 74%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 7:45, 8:52, 0.87, 21%, Easy-Medium
Wed 12:32, 11:51, 1.06, 68%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 21:21, 19:37, 1.09, 74%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:52, 3:40, 1.05, 71%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:16, 4:31, 0.94, 39%, Easy-Medium
Wed 6:38, 5:49, 1.14, 83%, Challenging
Thu 9:16, 9:24, 0.99, 51%, Medium

Anonymous 1:12 AM  

Loved the puzzle since I used to have my students memorize The Jabberwocky in speech class. Also it is worth the price of the ticket to see 'Alice' just to hear Johnny Depp recite the poem in a Scottish brogue.

william e emba 10:43 AM  

I loved the puzzle. Heck, I got the Jabberwocky vocabulary straight from the clues, once I figured out the theme. That's right, WABE and the rest are somewhere part of my working vocabulary.

On the other hand, I was reminded of a personal puzzle frustration. Perhaps the 2nd or 3rd NYT puzzle I ever did was in 1978/1979. It was a Sunday, and it had a magnificent Lewis Carroll theme. And it took me seemingly forever to figure it out--I had to get every single cross the hard way on the southeasternmost down clue, and even then I stared and stared at it before enlightenment dawned. I've often wanted to give the puzzle another crack, but the puzzle does not seem to have been reprinted. (Yup, I've browsed through the answer keys to what ought to be the relevant reprint books, to no avail.)

One other personal smile. While I'm educated enough to be aware of LINEAR A, I'm low brow enough to think of Bored of the Rings first. Their simile "as readable as Linear A" still cracks me up after 35 years now. A masterpiece!

Stan 11:25 AM  

@william e emba: I also fondly remember "Bored of the Rings," with Frito and Dildo, Legolam, etc.

Anonymous 2:04 PM  


in my copy of the Times, a hard copy purchased in Los Angeles, GYRE is clued with an asterisk. The asterisk indicates coinage by Carroll so I said- 'didn't know that(!)' and figured all the other marked clues would be real words too. Not so. GYRE goes back to Latin. The asterisk's a typo.
The other indicated words I've never seen before.

None of them are real words.

I do know that Carroll has coined real words... the boojum tree of the Baja Penninsula, for instance, is a real word. quark too.


So, going off GYRE (a word I've always liked), I tried to find the sense in this whimsy.

Bah. way I feel now, may the jabberwonks 'do like the dodo' and (culturally) DIEOUT!

Oh well, but, might I ask- what is this affection for a story inspired by an unseemly and obsessive interest in children??

it kind of creeps me out. just askin'

Anonymous 3:22 PM  

yeah, oops about quark - what sounds like a duck!

[wiki..] "Gell-Mann originally named the quark after the sound made by ducks.[44] For some time, he was undecided on an actual spelling for the term he intended to coin, until he found the word quark in James Joyce's book Finnegans Wake"

PhillySolver 2:29 PM  

Alas, I was traveling this week and came home today (Saturday) to this fine piece of splazyk. At first, the clues were ghotish and somewhat verbatic and then I recalled the made-up language. Some of the bamsih recredes smathered my frontal lobe, but I got in the ashcanner.

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

I'm confused (no surprise there...). The poem says "beware the Jabberwock, my son, with jaws that bite and claws that snatch ..... and shun the frumious Bandersnatch". So doesn't Clue 24A (Fearsome, swift-moving creature with snapping jaws) refer to the Jabberwock -- not the Bandersnatch? If so, Clue 24A should be something like "the one the son should shun".

WilsonCPU 11:31 AM  

Close - it's:
"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

So it seems Anonymous@10:42am is right.
(ducksthf? Something best done with lube, no doubt - ewwwwwwwww!)

SethG 11:53 AM  

From Carroll's _The Hunting of the Snark_:

But while [the Banker] was seeking with thimbles and care,
A Bandersnatch swiftly drew nigh
And grabbed at the Banker, who shrieked in despair,
For he knew it was useless to fly.

He offered large discount—he offered a cheque
(Drawn "to bearer") for seven-pounds-ten:
But the Bandersnatch merely extended its neck
And grabbed at the Banker again.

Without rest or pause—while those frumious jaws
Went savagely snapping around—
He skipped and he hopped, and he floundered and flopped,
Till fainting he fell to the ground.

So the Bandersnatch was swift, it's jaws snapped, and it seems fearsome to me. I think the clue is fine.

Old Librarian 4:34 PM  

There's a wonderful book called The Annotated Alice with notes by Martin Gardner which defines the nonsense words in Jabberwocky.
Tea time was actually 6:00 -- the children's dinner time. Brillig was derived from broil -- the time of broiling -- close of the afternoon (4:00).
Gimble from gymble -- to screw out holes in anything.
Gyre can be traced back to 1420 as a real word meaning to turn around.
Beamish is also a real word, a variant of beaming.
Slithy is a combination of slimy and lithe.
I usually just lurk, but wanted you all to know about The Annotated Alice, since it's for anyone who enjoys words.

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