2002 Tom Hanks Paul Newman film / MON 6-14-10 / Onetime Alaska boondoggle / Oblique-angled four-sided figure / Willow whose twigs are used in basketry

Monday, June 14, 2010

Constructor: Mark Feldman

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: ROUND-TRIP TICKET (65A: Traveler's option ... or what you won't get on a 17-, 27- or 48-Across) — theme answers are all titles referring to (theoretically) one-way trips — I'm not convinced you can't come back from NOWHERE ...

Word of the Day: John NANCE Garner (35D: F.D.R. veep John ___ Garner) —

GARNER, John Nance, a Representative from Texas and a Vice President of the United States; born near Detroit, Red River County, Tex., November 22, 1868; had limited educational advantages; studied law, admitted to the bar in 1890, and commenced practice in Uvalde, Uvalde County, Tex.; judge of Uvalde County, Tex., 1893-1896; member, State house of representatives 1898-1902; elected as a Democrat to the Fifty-eighth and to the fourteen succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1903-March 3, 1933); served as minority floor leader (Seventy-first Congress) and as Speaker of the House of Representatives (Seventy-second Congress); reelected to the Seventy-third Congress on November 8, 1932, and on the same day was elected Vice President of the United States on the ticket headed by Franklin D. Roosevelt; reelected Vice President in 1936 and served in that office from March 4, 1933, to January 20, 1941; retired to private life and resided in Uvalde, Tex., until his death there on November 7, 1967; interment in Uvalde Cemetery. (Biographical Directory of the United States Congress)

• • •

Nice little palate cleanser after yesterday's spicy meatball. Parts of this were very easy, but there were enough little hiccups along the way to keep me at a perfectly average time (for me, on Mondays, this is somewhere in the lowish 3's). I lost precious seconds right out of the gate, as I had no idea what to do with 4D: Cutting part of a lumberjack's tool (AXHEAD). My brain kicked into crosswordese gear: ICE AXE? No. AXE ... what? Had the "E" and tried AXEEND. When that didn't work, I actually had AXEEAR (!?). Once I threw HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN across the grid, I got it just fine, but I'm telling you, when you're solving fast, seconds are precious, and that was enough to keep me from a faster-than-avg. time. Too bad, because from there on out I killed it. Slowed slightly at NANCE (which I didn't know), and got a little tentative with OTARU (though I was pretty sure it was right) (39A: Japanese port). Had the TICKET part of the the last theme answer at first and considered ELECTRONIC TICKET ... it's actually faster, for me, to fight through the crosses til a good answer becomes visible than it is for me to take the time to look at all the theme answers and figure out what the revealer might be getting at. I typically don't notice Monday themes until After I'm done. True again today. As for the theme, it's unusual and clever, though wasn't the whole point of HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN that Michael Landon *came back* and did stuff for people and gave guidance or something??? That show had all the appeal of "Touched by an Angel" (i.e. none) for me, so I don't know. Yes! He's an "angel sent down to earth" (wiki). So ... there! I prefer to remember M. Landon as all good-hearted Americans do: as Charles ("Pa") on "Little House on the Prairie."

Theme answers:
  • 17A: 1980s TV series starring Michael Landon ("HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN")
  • 27A: 2002 Tom Hanks/Paul Newman film ("ROAD TO PERDITION")
  • 48A: Onetime Alaska boondoggle (BRIDGE TO NOWHERE)

  • 38A: Organization for geniuses (MENSA) — my wife, in one of her not-so-charitable moments, exclaimed as she solved this "Why don't they ever clue this as [Organization for pretentious twits] — only the word wasn't "twits." Close. But not.
  • 43A: Cranium contents (BRAIN) — I might have lost a few seconds here, too, thinking "contents" would clue a plural.
  • 47A: Big Japanese computer maker: Abbr. (NEC) — there was a time when I was not familiar with this abbrev. Never like it when abbrevs. cross stuff I don't know (here, NANCE). But in the end, no problem today.
  • 27D: Oblique-angled, four-sided figure (RHOMB) — Wife not happy here either. "Is RHOMBUS plural?" Um, no. RHOMB is just what RHOMBUS's friends call him.
  • 34D: Willow whose twigs are used in basketry (OSIER) — learned early in my solving career. For no clear reason, I have an affection for it. Related (via basketry) to RAFFIA, for which I have no particular affection.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


foodie 1:02 AM  

Something a little sad about this theme- all this going without coming back. A little harder than average for a Monday, because of the mid-Pacific region.

Rex, I'm with your wife on RHOMB. I imagine it's a perfectly good word if it made it past Will, but I don't have to like it.

OSIER reminds me of Moses. When I was a kid I learned about him in French and his basket was made of OSIER. I love Moses Baskets for carrying babies (and grand babies) around.
I'll hang onto that thought to buffer out the PERDITION vibe.

PurpleGuy 1:02 AM  

I had fun solving this puzzle. It went down fairly fast.
RHOMB took the crosses to confirm. Rex, your comments almost made me wet my pants. What RHOMBUS's friends call him, indeed !!
I also agree with your wife that MENSA should be clued differently. Organization for pretentious *(word that rhymes with twits).

Thanks to Mark Feldman for a good puzzle.

sturesel- German pastry for dyslexics !

lit.doc 2:15 AM  

Nice, stout Monday puzzle. Speaking of stout, what time did futbol start today? Same time the Guinness started. Result? 22:12 for a Monday puzzle. I look forward to hearing how the non-abusers did with this one.

@Sandy, having been there, done that, I still think you’re being too kind to MENSA.

lit.doc 2:26 AM  

ohandbytheway @Rex, big-time thanx for the AC/DC and David Byrne videos!

syndy 2:40 AM  

very mountainous monday;from the alps to mt etna to mt ossa even a little lava thrown in!Whippersnappers like rexy may think of the little house but we real old americans know Michael Landon as little Joe Cartwright! Speaking of one way trips: AXHEAD REDDENED: ouch! and didn't the teamster honcho have a one way trip as well?

Steve J 2:47 AM  

Regarding the question of whether one can come back from nowhere: There's a delightful pub in Plymouth, England, called the Nowhere. I've been there. I came back. QED.

Sailed through most of the puzzle, but got totally bogged down in Oregon. I share Rex's wife's displeasure with RHOMB, and it did not fill for me quickly. I've never heard a Western referred to as an OATER (seeing as how I'm younger than their heyday, and they've never been a genre I've liked, aside from the occasional one-off exception), and the only violin maker I can ever remember is Stradivarius (even though I know I saw this guy in a puzzle within the last couple months).

Sparing the long, boring details, I eventually worked it out, although I guessed with the T and A (yes, snicker) of OTARU. There must be some dark corner of my brain where that word resides.

While I rarely get excited by Monday themes (hell, most weeks I don't even notice them until long after I'm done), I liked the way this one worked. Tough not to like four 15-letter answers on a Monday.

fikink 2:50 AM  

@lit.doc, lovely use of the word "stout" - I agree.

Can anyone recall for me the name of the comic who did a killer Jack Nicholson impression and also ended his act doing AC/DC? I even think he did a stint on SNL. Just cannot come up with a name to google.

"palette cleanser" seems apt, too, Rex.

@syndy, "Little Joe" here, too.

Thank you, Mark Feldman!

"subso" - less than meh

andrea grin michaels 2:58 AM  

your comments were fabulous...
TEAMSTER HONCHO...good one!!!!

I thought this puzzle was super clever and would have been perfect perfect sans RHOMB/OTARU...neither of which belong anywhere near a Monday. (Ditto OSIER/NANCE)

But great great great theme and how lucky ROUNDTRIPTICKET is 15...

(It's interesting to clue something by its negative, as the kicker could/should have been ONEWAYTICKET, but that isn't 15)

quickie writeover PEACE for truCE.
I don't think GRINs should ever be sheepish. Baa.

In short, I loved this...
Plus there was something kicky about starting out with BAMA/BAHA

andrea inane michaels 3:00 AM  

Jim Breuer?

fikink 3:08 AM  

@Andrea, BINGO!

Leslie 7:45 AM  

>didn't the teamster honcho have a one way trip as well?


Rex, for me it's because OSIER is such a pretty sounding word, and "raffia" reminds me of "raffish," which isn't supposed to be a good quality.

Fun, cute, easy--and I'm content to think of HEAVEN, PERDITION, and NOWHERE as destinations with no return.

gamscol--Betty Grable's German exchange program school.

edith b 7:47 AM  

My family was impressed by Mensa and, since I was a girl who read alot and had a large fund of general knowledge, encouraged me to take the Mensa test. I agreed with Snady, Rex, and refused to take the test. I'm an American so twit is not part of my vocabulary but NITWIT is.

Mt Dad was upset but, curiously enough, my mother was more so. Go figure.

Michael Landon - the former Oogie Orowitz had a three pronged career with Bonanza, Little House and Highway. I missed all three but know enough about his career to get the reference - a typical crossword nerd I am, I guess.

Skua 8:01 AM  

I am a member of DENSA: those who cannot finish Monday NYT puzzles.

dk 8:12 AM  

You know there is a Super MENSA group for us real smarties. Membership is secret but my friend Linda and I will show our cards. (Bleed over boring grad school story where we ticked a fellow student who was very very very vocal about his MENSA membership -- for you new comers)

MENSA, BRAIN and INANE altogether is very cute in my superior twitish opinion (IMSTO)

Ready, steady Monday Thank you Mark.

Little Joe is also mentioned in "Take a Walk on the Wild Side."

I have turned into a soccer junkie... for a thing of beauty watch Germany play.

*** (3 Stars) The TEAMSTER, ROAD, HIGHWAY and TRIP coupled with METER is some rough HEWN fun

Judith 8:14 AM  

The best version of Road to Nowhere is in the film Young at Heart, which I recommend strongly to anyone!

found this puzzle thankfully easy after yesterday's frustration with flag mess. Just not a rebus fan. Can deal with a rhomb.

joho 8:34 AM  

Great start to the week, thank you, Mark Feldman!

I have the feeling if you think you're a genius you probably aren't.

ArtLvr 8:36 AM  

I liked this one too, with PEACE on top of HEAVEN and AIM not quite aligned with PERDITION.

The BRIDGE-TO-NOWHERE-denying Alaskan ex-gov should have REDDENED, but no. The winking URGE wasn't even sheepish. (GRIN).

@dk, my thought too: MENSA crossing INANE with BRAIN underneath was neat! Maybe it was a pre-Internet way to NAB a date who was like-minded?


ArtLvr 8:43 AM  

p.s. I think NANCE is Brit-speak for a dummy?


PIX 8:45 AM  

I thought this was rather difficult for a Monday...RHOMB/OTARU/OSIER/NANCE etc.

Is Rhomb ever really used in place of rhombus? Wiki says they are the same thing but does anyone actually use rhomb?

Hitler starting WWII is actually a bit controversial...many historians say WWII began with the Japanese invasion of China, which had nothing to do with Hitler. Wiki: "Other dates for the beginning of war include the Japanese invasion of Manchuria on 13 September 1931;[5] the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937;[6][7] or one of several other events."

dk 9:44 AM  

@joho, duhhh whatcha sayin? :0

secret word: exciz - my premarital waist line

Van55 10:04 AM  

I too think this was more challenging than medium for a Monday. Those 5 letter down answers across the waistline are tough-ish: RHOMB, OATER, AMATI, PINOT, ERATO, RABIN, OSIER and NANCE. Though some are crosswordese for many of us new solvers might be stumped by several of them.

I enjoyed the puzzle and the clever theme.

Jeff Chen 10:08 AM  

What a great Monday theme! Very clever. If only I were in MENSA I might have thought of it...


It's worse than that 10:10 AM  


Definitions of NANCE on the Web:

-A short form of Nancy boy; To act in an effeminate manner; A short form of the female given name Nancy

-fagot: offensive term for an openly homosexual man

Bob Kerfuffle 10:10 AM  

Very nice Monday puzzle.

27 A: Tom Hanks and Paul Newman -- two guys with reputations of being very nice. ROAD TO PERDITION -- one of the most violent and brutal films I have ever seen.

4 D -- I toyed with AX EDGE (surely that is the "cutting part") but didn't put it in.

72 A -- I am more inclined to PERQ, but apparently that is British.

retired_chemist 10:19 AM  

John Nance Garner is most famous IMO for his advice to LBJ that the vice-presidency isn't worth a pitcher of warm spit. In the spirit of euphemism brought on by the MENSA discussion, I shall not cite the word Garner most probably used instead of spit. LOL (@ ArtLvr) MENSA crossing INANE.

Other than to comment on HONCHO, the Japanese origin of which is interesting (hancho <=> squad leader, which needs a macron on the o that I can't figure out how to do), not a lot to say that hasn't been said.

Two Ponies 10:34 AM  

I really enjoyed the theme esp. when I got the ticket answer that pulled it all together. Nice one Mark!
Comments today are even better than the puzzle. You guys crack me up.
@ ArtLvr, Although I have never seen it in print, the word I hear the Brits say is "nonse" as in "Don't be such a nonse". I always took it to be a shortened form of nonsense.
My but that Michael Landon was a
handsome devil (who played an angel).

fikink 10:34 AM  

So when will vuvuzelas appear in the puzzle or have they already?

DBGeezer 10:37 AM  

One of the advantages of being 81 is that NANCE fell into place at first Glance.

Tinbeni 10:53 AM  

The Road to Nowhere and Highway to Hell clips were appropriate, thanks.

SOT over TSK (stack) seems right.

But, as said earlier by @dk, the MENSA over BRAIN with the INANE down ... well that did get the GRIN!!!

Ellen 1:17 PM  

I loved this theme.

They say the National Puzzlers' League is "what you were hoping Mensa would be like."

mac 1:38 PM  

Good Monday puzzle, with my only hesitation at osier, always confuse it with osage.

Learned a new word today: rhomb.

Oogie Orowitz? Oh, no!

Back to the soccer.

lit.doc 2:51 PM  

@fikink, good heavens, woman, this is the NYT! They have standards of propriety. They would never show a vuvuzela, not even a vajazzled vuvuzela.

@retired_chemist, I think the html codes for “o with macron” are ō (numeric) or ō (hex). Never actually tried posting either type, as usually ASCII codes cover the usual suspects, like alt 164 for the tilde on an n: ñ. Let’s try it:

Numeric: hanch<ō>

Hex: hanch<&#x14D>

I created this doc in Word. Let’s see what happens when I plug it into the Rexosphere.

Anonymous 2:54 PM  

And let's not forget Michael Landon's starring role in 'I was a Teenage Werewolf'.

Rex Parker 2:55 PM  

Or you could vajazzle your uvula. That would be bold.

Bored at Barnes&Noble

lit.doc 2:57 PM  

Hmmm. Advantage numeric, and I see that the initial & and terminal ; take the place of the usual < > bookends. So let's try the numeric code #333 again:


sanfranman59 3:20 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)

Mon 7:05, 6:55, 1.02, 65%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:51, 3:42, 1.04, 73%, Medium-Challenging

SethG 3:52 PM  

Frank and Joe called Nancy "Nance" sometimes. So did Ned and Bess.

deerfencer 3:57 PM  

Solid Monday puzzle that took some Tuesday effort in parts.

In a past life as an arborist I always liked the name of the shrub commonly called red osier dogwood--pretty plant as well.

Separately, I've decided my next dog will be named Rhomb Emmanuel.

retired_chemist 4:03 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
retired_chemist 4:06 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
retired_chemist 4:12 PM  

HA! Hanchō - I got the o with a macron (ō - there, I did it again!) from the character palette's Accented Latin tab. The palette has an insert button which places the character at the cursor point in the last active document. The palette also gives the character's Unicode designation, as well as its UTF8 (whatever that is) designation. So the high bit characters apparently are all readily available.

Thanks to lit.doc anyway - I couldn't get the Mac alt (aka option) key to do anything useful.

CAPTCHA:crowless - something we are often NOT out here in the boonies. When we are not crowless the dogs are mongo clamorous.

Unknown 4:40 PM  

I'm testing the waters. Just wondering how much more I can get away with here, than at Wordplay where the "Inappropriate" police lurk.

At Wordplay, SARA@10 speculated that Snap and Crackle were a couple, in reference to 24D in today's puzzle.

I felt compelled to reply to her. I don't mean to imply anything that smacks of being homophobic. I think we could all appreciate the perspective if we are as open minded as we would like to think?

Therefore, my reply to SARA:

Sara@10: Very perspicacious of you. The Kellogg P.R. team has been doing a magnificent job of diffusing speculation for a very long time. Snap and Crackle are indeed a couple, but have always adhered to a modified \" Don't Ask, Don't Tell \" policy. Pop has always known that he was the third meal, but don't let your imagination run wild. Pop is completely straight, but tends to associate with TARTS. They all share the rent for the bowl equally, because the cost of sugar and milk is through the box top! In this economy, they are longing for the days when they can once again frolic with the SunKist raisins, and other fruits.

They use aliases for cover. Snap uses Pans, and Crackle uses Elk Carc. He pronounces it Elk Cars as in Reindeer Sleigh, but people tend to butcher it? Pop signs his name backward too, but gets lots of funny looks?

Ceres, the Roman Goddess of grain, is threatening to \"Out\" everyone, but Tony The Tiger has issued a warning. He said, that if it comes to CAPT.CRUNCH time, he has a few TRIX up his sleeve. He has threatened to make SHREDDED WHEAT out of anyone who has the potential to be a cereal killer !

Stay tuned for QUAKING developments!

fikink 5:23 PM  

@Rex, lit.doc, earlier today my Volvo was pulled over for vehicular [life]cycling in a school zone. Best I park my vuvuzela!
See you guys tomorrow ;)

retired_chemist 6:33 PM  



My captcha is boffes - appropriate.

lit.doc 6:45 PM  

@chaos1, effing brilliant! Thanks for sharing.

a guy 6:47 PM  

Vuvuzela: "An annoying trumpet-like instrument played by fans, mainly in African countries, in football matches."

Vajazzle: "To give the female genitals a sparkly makeover with crystals so as to enhance their appearance."

Captcha: "Acronym: Completely Automated Public Turing test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart. Tests that are easy for a human to pass, but difficult for a computer (thus preventing things like automated signups)."

retired_chemist 6:58 PM  

@ a guy -

yes, I can google too. The implicit question was what if anything about the puzzle triggered this thread. Not that it needed to be triggered, but it usually is.

Sfingi 8:20 PM  

Also never heard of NANCE, RHOMB or OTARU. Beginning to learn BAMA and BAHA; good thing, since they cross.

@Ret.Chem -Boffes/Bofus - reminds me of an old joke - un-PC in at least 2 ways. I tried to get it as a NYS plate, but someone beat me to it.
Garner sounds possibly underappreciated. I picked up some of the Caro books on LBJ. Secondhand. Worth their weight in paper. Maybe Garner's in there.

I've known only one person to actually join MENSA. Very smart, though a bit autistic.

Ren and Stimpy - I could never tell if they were cats or dogs, let alone Chihuhuas. Funny cartoon, but lousy drawing.

@SteveJ - OATER is a CW thing. I've never seen it elsewhere, but too many times here.
T'would be nice to see Stradivarious across the middle of a CW.

@Syndy - funny!

No one mentioned the movie, Road to PERDITION, which I loved.

Mark Feldman must think SOME of us are INANE. I wonder what he expected. If he even reads this.

Captcha - sciony - I wish my son would hurry up and commit some sciony.

fikink 8:48 PM  

@Sfingi, yes - I referred to it the other day.

One said about the photographer, "He gonna focus."
Her sister said, "Bofus?"

I love it for the language - one of my "pickin'-the-flyshit-out-of-the-pepper" father's favorite jokes.

All in good will...

Jenny 8:53 PM  

8D 'One-armed bandit' (SLOT) is still a mystery to me. What am I missing?!

Love your wife's comment about MENSA. Though I must admit that the one person I know who's a member *isn't* pretentious...

JenCT 9:16 PM  

@Jenny: SLOT machine is a one-armed bandit.

@Skua: DENSA - too funny!

@Rex: LOL at your wife's comments.

Peter in Wilmington 9:26 PM  


I thoroughly enjoy your post, however, I am a little perplexed. You say you solve Monday puzzles "in the low 3's." I take that to mean approximately 3 minutes. How is that physically possible? That would mean that you read and write each answer in less than 6 seconds (on average).

your average blank 9:53 PM  

i have met but a few mensa members and they are seemed too proud.
i liked the puzzle and it was more tuesdayish.

Rex Parker 10:03 PM  


Six seconds would feel like an Eternity for me to get an answer, actually. The reality is much faster. 190 seconds for a puzzle with 78 answers. That's less than three seconds per answer, counting your way. But that's not exactly right, given that I often see a clue/answer for the first time with 3/4 of it already filled from crosses. I'm not getting 78 answers from scratch (all blanks).

*Really* fast solvers do the Monday NYT routinely in the mid-low 2s.

lit.doc 11:21 PM  

@retired_chemist, I riffed off @fikink's 10:34 post and, being me, ran with it. Rereading all the comments, I too am puzzled re where the whole vuvuzela thingy came from. I'll email the perp and see if I can find out.

Bill from NJ 1:53 AM  

@Steve J & Sfingi-

VARIETY Magazine is the movie industry's bible that discusses the movie business to insiders and OATER is a shorthand-term used by Variety to describe a Western to the Industry just as NABE is used to describe a Neighborhood Theater. Variety uses a whole slew of shorthand words like OATER and NABE.

sanfranman59 2:07 AM  

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 7:09, 6:55, 1.03, 69%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:40, 3:41, 0.99, 50%, Medium

fikink 5:58 AM  

@retired chemist, et. al., Mac and Ulrich, in their enthusiasm, have impressed upon me the seriousness of the World Cup.
Currently, there is discussion about banning the vuvuzelas.
VUVUZELAS struck me as a word pregnant with crossword puzzle possibilities.
I am the perp who brought the word to the sandbox today.
@lit.doc joined me.
Soon Rex's mom told him to take a break from his studies and get some fresh air.
He had both the urban dictionary and a crossword puzzle in his back pocket.
The three of us sniggered for a while at all the naughty words in Rex's dictionary...

then it got late and we had to get home for dinner.

p.s. @lit.doc, you have my shovel, please bring it with you tomorrow ;)

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