Composer Shostakovich / TUE 8-3-10 / Small craft with launching tubes / "Sweet" bloomer

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Constructor: Paula Gamache

Relative difficulty: I don't know from difficulty, but felt pretty smooth to me. Smooth is good.

THEME: Attendees at '70's key parties, or Things that Swing. But you knew that, because you got 56A, which made my typing it out yet again kind of pointless. Just look up an inch or two on your screen, and there it is.

Word of the Day: Moon pie (51A: Chocolate coated marshmallow sandwich)
The MoonPie brand moon pie or MoonPie is a pastry which consists of two round graham cracker cookies, with marshmallow filling in the center, dipped in chocolate or other flavors. The traditional pie is about the diameter of a hockey puck.

I listened to a six year old tell me of the glory that is a mallomar [1:30AM edit: S'Mores you idiot, the kid was talking about S'mores] just this past Sunday, made by hand from the three basic food groups (Graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate), then melted over an open camp fire with his father. Apparently, some things in life are perfect. I'm suspecting a Moon Pie is less so, as I studiously try to avoid pastries which contain the phrase "hockey puck" in their description. We all make our own life choices, that's one of mine.

Zeke here, filling in for a vacationing Rex.

Words fail to express how much I really wanted a seriously subpar puzzle today. See, my schtick is sardonic humor, bordering on snottiness. I'm good at it, I revel in it. I worried so much about doing this since Rex gave me the invite that I prepackaged rants which would have made Bierce proud, but I get this puzzle to talk about. One of these rants had an extended treatise on how Ted Williams' head, disembodied and languishing in a cryogenic state with tuna cans frozen to his forehead serves as a metaphor for one of my least favorite categories of fill. I have this in my back pocket, and I have this puzzle to talk about? That when I was draft eligible I was in fact ONEA, but that there was no way was I "Ready to Serve". Snap, take that Paula! Yup, that will keep each of you rolling in the aisles this morning. For your own sake, try to keep it down if you're reading this at the office.

I've no objective criteria by which to judge difficulty, I just go by the feel of how consistent the puzzle is, does it flow. There were a few hiccups along the way, as PT BOAT kind of felt like "Please go away" on the welcome mat that is, or should be, 1A/1D, but when that's the extent of your complaints, you have no complaints.

Theme Entries
  • 17A: They're Up (BASEBALL BATTERS)
  • 31A: Some Wall Street Journal Charts (STOCK PRICES)
  • 35A: They're waiting to be persuaded (UNDECIDED VOTERS)
  • 43A: Western Entrances (SALOON DOORS)
  • 56A: Category for 17-, 31-, 35-,and 43- Accross (what, you're expecting me to type it in again? You already typed it in, I typed it in above, and you want it again? THINGS THAT SWING)
Among the theme answers, I do have a complaint about UNDECIDED VOTERS, in that they don't actually swing. They cause swings, they don't swing. Man, I sure hope Paula forgives me for this trashing I'm giving her. Good thing I'm not real.

  • 16A: YSL Fragrance (OPIUM) Will, yesterday you stepped up to the plate by cluing ASS simply as idiot. No biblical imagery of riding an ASS or smiting with the jawbone of an Ass, just ASS, pure and simple, as we all use it. Why back off with OPIUM? YSL was talking about OPIUM, pure and simple. It's OPIUM, one of the scourges of mankind, but call it what it is for what it is.
  • 34A: Begone! (SCAT) You all know I'm going to embed Ella somewhere in here, no? The whole puzzle is about things that swing, among which Ella is at the top of the list. So why not clue SCAT via Ella? You trying to take that away from me too Paula, hoping I would miss it? Man, if I used the "B" word in public I'd be all upside your head with it.
  • 36D/50A (NEAL crossing ALYSSUM) [2AM edit] Kind of Naticky here, though I've gotten NEAL wrong often enough that he's part of the family. My family consists mainly of things I've gotten wrong. First, NINA is my go to NPR person. I solved this 90%+ downs only, had the N___ saw NPR, entered NINA. Quickly erased NINA, what with her last name being Totenberg, not Conan, though Nina will return to the story line here. If I ever knew of Sweet ALYSSUM, which I doubt, I would have to guess I misread it as Sweet Asylum. Which takes me back to OPIUM.
In an unrelated but completely true story, I got a major resentment towards Ella Fitzgerald today. Huge resentment. See, Paula was messing with me with (4A) FIEND, (62D) SIN and my (erroneous) 36D NINA, which combined as a diabolical reference to the following:

This song has been playing nonstop in my head for the past 6 months. Seriously, it's playing in the background of my mind all day long. Yes, I take meds for this, but they don't work. As to the song, it is absolutely perfect, if you can get past the apocalyptic imagery and just focus on its pure statement of hopelessness. I spent most of Saturday trying to get this song out of my head. I finally thought I had done so, replace him with some Keb' Mo', when I went to check out the Expo who was the MVP in the All Star Game, Tim Raines. Wait, I know him, "Rock" Raines. He played for the Yankees. Rock, I ran to the Rock, Rock won't help me. Damn, Nina's back again. I figured that the one person who could force Nina from my mind was Ella, so I went out looking for some new Ella, and found a CD which contained a song I've been looking for for years. Just this evening, I ripped it to my Zune (yes, I'm the one who has one, you can all tell your friends that you actually know one), and listened to it. I've been looking for that song for years, and it is probably her worst recording ever. Ever, and she never had a bad recording.

So, you want one of the best THINGS THAT SWING? Gotcha covered (volume at max absolutely required, screw the at/not at work thing).

Wait, no Ella? Damned right no Ella, the bitch let me down today. Oops, I guess I do use the "B" word in public. Paula, you got off easy.

Signed, Zeke, for Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS: Sorry, but I can't remove all the gratituous boldness in the typefaces.
PPS: Thanks PuzzleGirl for making the above PS irrelevant, and the blog look less chimp-written.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


PurpleGuy 12:44 AM  

@Zeke- great write up. Had me laughing through my tears. Your descriptions were spot on.

Fond memories of mallowmars as a kid. Actually still love them. May now have to go to the store to find some !
I like snottiness. I can relate. I was drafted just as they came out with the lottery. My number was 354. And I was already in VietNam, thank you very much !

I liked the puzzle in general, but didn't really care much for the theme. It was OK.
Only writeover was INfEsT before INSECT.

Thank you all for the concern for my brother. He is home, in a lot of pain, but doing OK. His feistiness is back, so I know he's fine ! That's what older brother do, right?

Thanks again Zeke for the laughs.
Great way to start a Tuesday.

Shanti - Bob/PurpleGuy

Anonymous 1:01 AM  

You hit the nail on the head...Things that swing...and no *swing*???? 'Sup with that? Thanks for the Nina Simone song--wow.

D_Blackwell 1:22 AM  

"Why back off with OPIUM?"

NYT has clued OPIUM to the drug on numerous occasions. If that were not the case, I would be disappointed, but have to give the okay to the YSL reference on this.

HEROIN has appeared twice and been clued similarly.

syndy 1:30 AM  

do stock prices swing? never heard that.pretty sure we called the camp fire version a s'more.I definitely found the downs easier than the acrosses-but i'd call it a medium tuesday nice of paula to throw the doggy an ossa

andrea it don't mean a thing michaels 3:01 AM  

Mallomars were my mom's hands-off- don't-you-dare-touch stash in the basement freezer back in the day when they were unavailable for sale in Minneapolis in the 70's and she would smuggle them in from NY. My mother's OPIUM was Mallomars. Still afraid to this day to try one, lest I got hooked. If she could have injected them into her eyeball I'm sure she would.

Three grid-crossing 15s and TWO does Paula do that?

new to me: ALYSSUM, TROI, PSI...

Tiny surprise at DOESA but made up for by cOOl little accumulation of Os there (DOORS, DOOM, OSSO, MOONPIE, CREDO, VERO) it's a pretty amazing grid.

List=y theme (very $20,000 Pyramid..."Things that swing?" but solid solid solid.

Great job, @Zeke.

Clark 5:23 AM  

LIONEL? Who knew? Apparently everyone. And I suppose all you sports people know who this ELS guy is. Well Phil and I didn't. And Semi-puzzle partner wouldn't have either if he had been awake. (But we did guess it right.) The three of us are here on the North shore of Kawa'i. WiFi cost a fortune on the ship we were on for a week, so I downloaded the puzzle every day, but didn't read the blog. It's nice to be back.

Greene 5:35 AM  

Liked the puzzle. Loved the write-up. Thanks, Zeke.

@Andrea: THINGS THAT SWING also made me think $25,000 Pyramid, but only after I stopped wondering why Hugh Heffner and Austin Powers were not in the puzzle. Maybe that kind of "swing" puzzle would appear in The Onion. You should totally write that one!

In case nobody remembers, Tyne DALY won her Tony Award for the 1989 Broadway production of Gypsy. It was a strange production (which I saw twice) in that while Ms. Daly was a superb actress and formidable presence as the stage mother who quite literally eats her young, she simply did not have the necessary vocal equipment to carry the evening. A non-singing Rose? What? I still shudder when I listen to the cast recording that was made of the production.

And yet...Tyne turned in the warmest and most sympathetic performance of this character I have ever seen. Her performance may have been vocally bested by more recent productions starring Bernadette Peters and especially Patti LuPone (the best of the modern Roses in my opinion), but I still have fond memories of Ms. Daly because for once you actually liked this character instead of just being appalled by her. It's a pity the production was not filmed since people who only know Tyne from the audio recording are likely to wonder how she ever got a Tony Award for singing so poorly.

Oscar 6:39 AM  

Lots of theme, such as it is. Seems like a rip-off of this one, tho:

Maybe the Sabin's should look into pressing charges.

redhed 7:41 AM  

I agree that the puzzle is mostly smooth, with only a couple of hiccups. Thanks to Paula for a good Tuesday puzzle (imho) and to Zeke for a good write-up. Gotta like a guy who digs some Keb'Mo'!!

Leslie 7:53 AM  

Loved Zeke's write-up AND Paula's puzzle. I enjoy odd words and odder consonant mash-ups; ALYSSUM gave me a smile because one of my dad's pet names for my mom is "Sweet Alyssum" (which, for the non-gardeners in the group, is a specific type of allysum). When I got SALOON DOORS and ALYSSUM, I was all, "Crud! Nothing starts with DM--where's my mistake?" Then DMITRI rescued me. Same experience with PSI and TENNESSEE--"Wait, PT can't start a word . . . oh, yeah, I guess it can."

Today's word: "shebe." Either what the Queen of Sheba's close friends called her, or what a scary woman gives you (the heebie-shebes).

Anonymous 8:05 AM  

Great. Write-up. Woke me right up, and now I'm ready for a swingin' day!

Here's another "oo" word that maybe could have seen some play in this grid... "Noose"

Later swingers!

joho 8:30 AM  

ALYSSUM is definitely my WOTD.


Ernie ELS swings. Too bad TIGERWOODS is only a ten.

Thank you, Paula for a wonderful Tuesday (so far so good this week) and @Zeke for your witty writeup!

Anonymous 8:48 AM  

Nice write-up, Zeke, and nice puzzle PG. I'm fighting a summer cold, and the puzzle gave me fits; it took my far longer to finish than a typical Tuesday.

I first had Mallomars visiting my grandparents in NY forty years ago or so. WOW, were they good. I still see them in the store, but can't bring myself to buy them; the box would last about a minute.

John V 8:53 AM  

Avg Tues, save for SE: 55A, Deanna Troi, new to me, non-Trechie. Same for 48D, Lionel, cousin of Lancelot. Just guessed and got these right.

JenCT 8:54 AM  

@Andrea - LOL about Mallomars - my dad kept his in the fridge, and we weren't allowed to touch them!

Sweet ALYSSUM is growing in my garden right now.

Really enjoyed this puzzle! And great write-up, Zeke (how much coffee did you have before you wrote it?).

dk 8:58 AM  

Both the puzzle and the write-up remind me of Pachinko. Lots of little steel balls that you can only hope fall into place... and mostly they don't.

To be fair chaos theory and the calculus tell us that upon close inspection every thing has order.

The swing theme and Zeke's magical mystery tour into swing are synchronous. I could also say scatological but why bring poop into the conversation. Thus the whole (puzzle and write-up), is greater than the sum of the parts. This is a first for me as I usually see them (puzzle and write-up) as separate entities.

I wonder if the comments will be all over the map giving a third leg to a chaotic stool (no poop pun intended).

Paula and Zeke, an interesting Tuesday experience.

** (2 Stars)

Zeke 9:16 AM  

@Oscar - How does Things that Swing come across as a rip-off of Things With Wings? Unless all Things [any defining category] constitutes a ripoff, in which case the Sabins ripped off a couple of hundred previous constructors. The two puzzles have no common themes entries, because the categories are different.

@All - My life: I'm trying to fall asleep last night, knowing something's wrong. At 1:30 I realize it was the Mallomar/S'Mores screwup, which prompted me to get out of bed and fix it. What resonates with the readers? You got it, Mallomar.

chefbea 9:49 AM  

I thought this was more wednesdayish. Had to google a bit. And what is HMS Beagle?? a ship I've never heard of.

Never had a moon pie!! S'mores yes

Wade 9:51 AM  

Zeke (if that is in fact your real name), Tuesday's normally my day off but I thought I'd SWING by and put a few of the WORDS used in the puzzle in ALL CAPS in my comment. Wait, I think I did that wrong.

Moon Pies and RC was supposedly a classic combo of my parents' generation. I'll be 115 in October, the oldest person on the planet if that Japanese broad will get out of the way.

Funny stuff and a fun puzzle. It's also a pandagram in that it uses both black and white squares.

JenCT 9:52 AM  

@chefbea - You're not missing anything - s'mores are infinitely better than moonpies.

Van55 9:52 AM  

The three letter fill leaves a lot to be desired today, in my humble opinion. ESL is way over-used. HMS Beagle?????? AWW, TRA, INS, FEB. Ick.

Otherwise this was a fine Tuesday, leaning a bit Wednesday, effort for me.

Funny write-up Zeke. Thanks.

Charles Darwin 9:53 AM  

Never heard of the HMS Beagle? Damn! I wrote "Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle", and it got pretty good reviews.

Phil 9:56 AM  

@Wade - No, you did it just fine, it fits right in. A word of caution though, don't get too involved in aspiring to be the oldest person in the world, because you always hear about them dying. Must be some kind of jinx or something.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:58 AM  

Brava, Paula, and Bravo, Zeke!

One write-over: Out of pure ignorance, had ALYSIUM before ALYSSUM; situated under SALOONDOORS, this pointed to 44 D, Some Oklahomans, being OIxxxx, which for a few seconds seemed to be OILMEN!

Me too, redundantly, 10:18 AM  

Eight ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Beagle, after a dog breed. The most notable of these ships is the second HMS Beagle, 1820–1870, which transported Charles Darwin around the world in the voyage of the Beagle.

foodie 10:26 AM  

Wicked Witch of the West, here... I did not love this. Not sure I even liked it. And not just because I think it's on the challenging side for a Tuesday (but SanFranMan will tell us. He's back! Yay!!).

While the theme was clever (a la Pyramid, to echo Andrea), I felt the cluing was subpar. I don't think UNDECIDED VOTERS necessarily swing. They can often sit there, firmly unwilling to choose until they hear more evidence on the matter (I know that it's call swing vote, but that because it swings the election not because the voters have emotional lability). And I wasn't sure for a while why the cluing of STOCK PRICES was bothersome, but it was. Here's a thought-- it's not "transitive". In other words WSJ charts can denote STOCK PRICES and those PRICES swing, but the charts cannot. Cognitive dissonance without playfulness = unsmoothiness.

I was actually surprised when I completed the puzzle and then noted the constructor's name. I usually love Paula's puzzles.

But I'm with you all re Zeke's entertaining write-up! Very funny!! I especially loved the cryogenic imagery... I hope that proves that I'm not just grumpy because I'm missing my Turkish Coffee this morning (where can you get good Turkish coffee in NY?)

JC66 10:27 AM  

I don't know about today, but when I was a kid to they didn't sell Malomars during the summer in the NYC area because they'd melt on the supermarket shelves. It was a BIG DAY when they reappeared in September.

Thanks Paula and Zeke for a fun Tuesday experience.

fikink 10:30 AM  

@dk is right on with his Magical Mystery Tour analogy. Between the puzzle and Zeke's dance, I felt I was back doing my Pinball Wizard number! What a treat, Zeke - thanks.

Paula, this was a particularly solid Tuesday puzzle for me since you successfully wove not only THINGS THAT SWING by their agency, but also THINGS THAT SWING in different manners. Does that make sense?

And just who is this Justin Bieber person anyway?

Nancy in PA 10:35 AM  

We used to sing Oh Sinner Man (I think more like the Weavers version...or did the Kingston Trio record it too?) at Girl Scout camp while cooking S'mores. Mallomars are one daughter's lunchbox fave but only in grocery stores in the cooler months.

Loved the puzzle, loved the write-up, love Keb' Mo' (anyone aware that he wrote the Martha Stewart show theme?).

Two Ponies 10:36 AM  

Way to go Zeke! I saw Rex's message to you recently and wondered if you were in the batter's box. I think this is the forum you have been waiting for. I also hope you get a chance to use your stored-up rants in the near future.
This puzzle was OK for a Tuesday.
Not sparkling but nice long answers that span the grid.
Naivete was good to see.
Backpacking with my cur on a tether in front of me gave me that Beta dog's view for many a trip.
Who knew Lancelot's cousin was a model train?
@ Clark, We heard you stood up @chefwen and missed her homemade muffins. I think you missed out.

Rex Parker 10:39 AM  

Zune! That made my day.

I didn't care for this puzzle At All, and am grateful to be spared the obligation of talking about it.

Must go pack for trek up the mountains now. Thanks, Zeke,


Cathyat40 10:40 AM  

Had one writeover: OSSa instead of OSSO, which gave me MOaNPIE.

Thought Rex was vitriolic, but he's a pussycat compared to Zeke.

I would rather not read the b- word, unless it's in the context of a dog-breeding blog.

Dough 10:49 AM  

Nice writeup. It was a good puzzle. What a clue for REAR!! OMG. Not to be overly fastidious, but don't alpha dogs get the first sniff? I mean, I know that everyone sniffs everyone before the party is over, but to specify beta dog in the clue would indicate they get first sniff? Anyone? (Echo, echo, chirp, chirp)?

Doug 10:51 AM  

Re to the re to Ted Williams. Astute baseball fans will recall that when the Splendid Splinter (what an awful nickname) died, his family tussled over the issue whether to cremate him or freeze him cryogenically. I thought at the time, this proves that it doesn't really matter whether the world ends in fire or ice (with apologies to Frost). Ted must have laughed himself silly in his cold tube over this.

Anonymous 11:07 AM  

I don't want to be anonymous, but am having huge problems signing up for Google/Blogger.

I've been reading the site for some time, but this is my first post--and I'm a couple of days late. Please can someone tell me why Sunday's "Bunny covering" is ski suit? I'm thinking in terms of Playboy Bunny, but just can't get my head around the answer. I liked the comment that said it should have been "skin mag." That I would have understood.

Sorry I'm late. Thanks in advance.

Tinbeni 11:20 AM  

Zeke, Nice pitch-hitting.

Must be a Southern thingy.
MOONPIE's are wonderful.

Trust me, if you had my stock portfolio you would realize that STOCK PRICES do, in fact, swing.
(I'm trying to work a deal with various companies that for a mere $10K I WILL NOT buy their stock. If they don't agree, I will buy, and they will lose billions!)

ALYSSUM is my WOD. If it isn't a hemp derivative, I have no idea the name of any plant.

AWW NUTS! That's my blitch!
(Is that better @Cathyat40?)

@Anon 11:07
The girls on the slopes are sometimes referred to as

dk 11:21 AM  

Anon, skin mag here. A snow bunny a name given to women who were/are more concerned about appearance than ski skills. Males are just known as toads. One ski area in Vermont used to be known as mascara mountain due to the prevalence of bunnies in ski suits.

@foodie, thank you. I thought I was the only one.

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

Anon to Anon....

("Ski Bunnies" wear "Ski Suits")

Sfingi 11:31 AM  

@Rex - BC has a reference to Binghamton NY, today.

The theme was breezy and easy, but..

I don't remember TENNESSEE Ave. It must yield low rents.

Had to Google Ernie ELS (sports), LIONEL and Deanna TROI. Wanted S'mores and Mallomars instead of the Southern treat MOONPIE. So, SE was a mess. So, this was a hard Tues. for me, both crosswords.
At least I have Science Tuesday for consolation!

Had "five" before ANAP.

SethG 12:19 PM  

This wasn't a Tuesday puzzle, it was a Monday on top, Wednesday on bottom puzzle.

Nice work, Zeke.

Two Ponies 12:25 PM  

Perhaps it has already been said and I missed it but re:
our August 17 surprise.
Can it be that our fearless leader has a debut puzzle coming up???
Hmmm. That will be interesting indeed. I hope it's true.

chefbea 1:01 PM  

@two ponies I said the same thing a couple of days ago!!! Hope so as well

nanpilla 1:02 PM  

@Sfingi -Science Tuesday is my favorite day of the week, too! Hubbie loves Dining in/Dining out on Wednesdays.

@Zeke - fun write-up!
@PG fun puzzle.
@joho - you are right about the week looking good.
@ACME - also thought immediately of The Pyramid.

I have a fabulous Moon Pie recipe if anyone is interested - the sea salt in the filing makes it wonderful.

Clumsy 1:04 PM  

since you brought it up, did BC make any sense to you? I mean, I know it's always a little optimistic to expect BC to make sense (less so since crazy Johnny died and some third cousin or something like that took over, but still), but usually I at least know what it's going for. I was clueless on this one.

Moon Over My Fanny 1:10 PM  

The recipe for Moon Pie is go to the store to that section where the cellophane-wrapped crap is all piled up--the Little Debbies and Ho-Hos and Honey Buns and that crap--and dig around until you find a Moon Pie. "Sea salt"! Good grief!

Mel Ott 1:11 PM  


Re Ted williams. You think Splendid Splinter is a bad nickname. When Ted had a celebrated incident where he insulted the fans by spitting in their direction, the writers began calling him the Splendid Spitter!

His best nickname was Teddy Ballgame.

Doug 1:27 PM  

Glad there's some division on the difficulty as Mon-Tue puzzles are a breeze and this week's have been relatively much harder for me. "Relatively" and not "asbolutely" though ....

Theme was fine, but hard to get at first because of so many proper noun downs for a Tuesday: NEAL, VERO, OSAGES, AEROS, DMITRI, LIONEL, THEO etc. It's good to be challenged though, otherwise it wouldn't be a NYT puzzle.

Anonymous 1:42 PM  

Zeke — You made my day with Nina Simone!

retired_chemist 1:43 PM  

@ Anon 11:07 - you should only discuss the current puzzle on this blog. Some of us at times (myself, e.g.) run a backlog and don't do them in sequence. So your comment is effectively a spoiler as I now know one of the answers on Sunday. Since you are new, I thought you might like to know.

And thanks to several for the shout-out to our young girl, Glengowan's C-Quel, who was winners' bitch at the dog show in Longview on Sunday, where I was. That BTW was why I haven't done the Sunday puzzle yet. We call her - S'More!

Oh, the puzzle - harder that most Tuesdays for me. ASIA Minor (35D) and COCO (WTF?) Beach (39D) slowed the middle a bit, LIONEL (48D) was clued at a late week level, and I would have been looking for John Updike's Applesmiths (cf. (Couples) if I had caught onto the theme earlier.

Anyway, a fun trip.

JC66 2:10 PM  


I think the girls on the slopes are skiers and the girls who hang out in the lodge are ski bunnies.

jesser 2:20 PM  

@Zeke: yesterday, you initiated me to the term 'pocket pool' and today's puzzle is themed 'Things that swing.' There is perfection in this world if you only look for it!

Great write-up! And yeah, I liked the puzzle, too!

Lincnet! (The next great thing to expect from The Internets) -- jesser

Steve J 2:50 PM  

@Sfingi: TENNESSEE Ave. is in the group of properties just before the Free Parking space. If I remember right, they go (in order) St James, Tennessee, New York.

Found today's puzzle easy (which is a bit remarkable, as I did it with a migraine setting in). For whatever reason, the issues with the theme didn't bother me much. Maybe migraines paradoxically make me less picky.

Loved DEBUNK. Great word. Also loved the clue for SEANCE.

Wish I had a Malomar story, so I didn't feel left out. But I hate marshmallows, so that pretty much rules out Malomars. Or MOONPIEs.

michael 2:56 PM  

Tennessee Avenue is actually a good property to own. I once read a book on Monopoly strategy (my geekiness knows no limits) that said that the oranges were the most profitable properties. I think this was related to their proximity to certain other squares, but don't remember the details.

sanfranman59 3:16 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)

Tue 10:26, 8:49, 1.18, 92%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 5:37, 4:33, 1.23, 97%, Challenging

Someone stole our Tuesday puzzle and replaced it with a Wednesday.

Dorkboy 3:43 PM  


I just read your comments on the Jeopardy/Crossword connection from 6 weeks ago (HELLO - from syndication-land!).
When I was on Jeopardy in the late 1990's, a group of game designers from Coleco were asking the contestants to take a optional and anonymous survey. They had been doing the survey for 7 months, and approximately 250 contestants had done the survey so far. It was about 15 pages long and asked questions about how much we read, educational background, what we did in our leisure time, travels in other parts of the world, things of that nature. They were doing the survey so they could create realistic 'contestants' in the interactive video game that they were creating.
As we all (16 contestants in the green room) did the survey, one asked what types of commonalities they were finding...and the two answers were quite telling.

The woman from Coleco said "Very little. We have been surprised that there is such a varied background among those of you who make it onto the show. Several months later, the only REAL common denominator that we can say is that 80% of the people that make it this far do crossword puzzles every day. There have been no other things that we find that are statistically significant."

One of the other contestants - a test chef for Trader Joe's (grocery store chain) turns around with a smile on her face and says "One other thing that we have in common that isn't on the survey - Nobody likes to play Trivial Pursuit against ANY of us."

Her joke was the best thing about my day at the Jeopardy studio....but I'm a winner inside.

Prama - dyslexic fan of cured meats.

chefbea 3:44 PM  

@nanpilla Can you e-mail the moon pie recipe?. would love to see it.

The Big E 3:58 PM  

first of all,
@zeke - I concur with everyone else who has said "great write-up."
But perhaps tomorrow you could be a little more pithy and sardonic? (or do I mean pissy and sarcastic?) ;-) Just kidding - I like the biting humor you inject! :-)

Seriously, though - great write-up.

I have to agree with someone earlier who mentioned that "stock prices" and "swinging" don't really jive.
I have always noticed and read of the market swinging, but stock prices fluctuating. There is swing trading, but a "swinging stock price?" Meh...

Overall, though, liked the puzzle a lot - particularly the Saloon Doors. Great answer!


Even Bigger Geek 4:03 PM  

@Michael - They're the result of the most probable toss of the dice from Jail. Jail is important because you can both land there naturally, and get sent there. Your greatest chance of landing on any specific square is at Jail, for this reason. The next greatest are the most probable points to get to from there, e.g. 7, 6&8, 5&9 squares after Jail. Beyond your second throw, differences in probabilities are minimal.

Sfingi 4:07 PM  

@Clumsy - The BC guy is from Binghamton, NY, and right now there are dinosaurs all over town, each decorated in different ways.
The first time I saw this sort of thing was in Saratoga Spa., NY, with horses, naturally. I can't remember if they were raising money by selling them, or just showing municipal support. There were special artists as well as commercial examples.
Binghamton bullets:
Rex teaches at Binghamton U presently.
My son and a sister are both grads and Philo majors. My son had the top scholarship and went there free.
There is a Spiedie fest and balloon rally every August. I'm suspecting this will be running along with the dinosaur show.
The spiedie or spitteen (as we call them in Utica) is a Sicilian meal from centuries of Arabic influence - cubes of meat alternating with onions, basil, etc on skewers.
I'm having trouble getting Google to load today, but I imagine you can find more info on it now.

PIX 4:18 PM  

@sanfranman59...just wanted to say I am glad you are back and posting the stats...I found this puzzle hard for a Tuesday( not a complaint, just an observation) and your numbers show it to be "challenging." That always makes me feel much better. Thanks.

Biggest Geek 4:18 PM  

If you're in jail, you frequently can only leave if you throw doubles. So moving 8 squares from jail is more likely than moving 7 (since that might be double 4s). Given the Monopoly rules, there's a table that lists the relative frequency of square visits here.

Note that once you have a hotel, oranges reach the break-even point most quickly but greens give a higher overall value per roll.

nanpilla 4:40 PM  

@chefbea : you got it. Do you need to update your email on blogger?

And it turns out what I make are whoopie pies, not moon pies - I probably don't even know what a moon pie is! Whoopie pies are two chocolate cakes filled with a cooked buttercream mixture. Sorry for stepping on any moon pie toes...

The Big E 4:43 PM  

@nanpilla - there is a HUGE explosion all over the nation now for Whoopie Pies! (My fiancee loves them!) Nowadays they are not just limited to chocolate or even buttercream. In fact, I believe that traditionally they were chocolate cake with fluffernutter in the center.
Now you can have pumpkin cake, red velvet cake, fluffernutter, buttercream, or even a very tasty cream cheese frosting.
We get ours from One Girl Cookies in Cobble Hill! :-)

Two Ponies 4:44 PM  

@ Dorkboy, Thanks for the Jeopardy story. I'm not surprised that crosswords and Jeopardy complement each other. Oh, yeah, I'm a fan of both. I've tried out for the show but no luck yet.

foodie 5:07 PM  

@dk, having seen Rex's comment, now I wonder what he would have written (I'm sure it would have been hilarious). How are your mind-reading skills?

@Dorkboy, wow, it's amazing to hear an answer 6 weeks later! Thank you!! It's great to hear that my impression has some data to support it. I'm a sucker for data. And I appreciate your taking the time to write.

Getting your delayed answer reminds me of when I first moved to the US from the Middle East (way before e-mail, im, facebook, Skype, videoconferencing, and all that other good stuff). I'd write letters to my family with news, questions, descriptions of life- altering events or idle chitchat. It would take about 3 weeks for the letter to get there and 3 weeks to get the answer back. Sometimes, I'd stare at the response and I'd have no clue what they were commenting on. But it was actually good to stop, look back and reflect on where I had been in my life a few weeks before. So, your answer made me nostalgic...

And I admire all the folks who read the comments a few weeks later thought they rarely participate. Is that right? Or do you guys have a whole other conversation after we've left and we just don't hear about it??? I should go back and check.

@Sanfranman, are you going to tell us about your time off? Was it for fun? Did you do the puzzle? Did you miss us as much as we missed you? Or are you going to remain mysterious?

joho 5:26 PM  

@Dorkboy ... I have to chime in to say I loved your story. Thanks for sharing.

sanfranman59 5:27 PM  

@foodie ... Re my time away, I was out of town for a week+ of R & R visiting family and friends in sweltering Northeast Ohio. I pretty much kept up with my daily crossword quota (NYT, LAT, Yahoo,, & USAToday) but decided to take a break from posting the times here because I wasn't always near a computer to update my spreadsheet at closing time (as I almost always am when I'm home). I had a grand time at the Burning River Festival in Cleveland visiting with college friends and acquaintances I haven't seen in 30 years.

Thanks for the encouraging words, PIX

shrub5 5:37 PM  

Nice pinch hitting, Zeke.

THEO van Gogh of 54Down was the great-grandson of Theo van Gogh, brother of Vincent. He was assassinated in 2004 at the age of 47 by a Muslim with terrorist ties. Prior to his death, van Gogh had created a short movie "Submission" dealing with the topic of violence against women in some Islamic societies. An English translation of the word "Islam" is submission. (wiki)

retired_chemist 5:55 PM  

@ Zeke - liked the writeup.

@ SanFranMan59 - nice to have you back

@DorkBoy - nice Jeopardy story. I thought of trying out for Wheel of Fortune but I feared my Irritable Vowel Syndrome would nix it.

foodie 6:07 PM  

@shrub, I know this is what wiki says re the definition of Islam. But submission does not exactly capture the right connotation of the word. And I'm only being linguistic here, not political or religious. In English, submission connotes a fearful response to a greater power. There is another, related word word in Arabic, ISTISLAM, which means to give in because of despair or weakness, as in a war, or to submit to a more powerful force. But "Islam" has more of a peaceful feeling of surrender, not out of fear, but out of belief, respect, love, etc... It really is hard to capture the nuance but it's clearly different in Arabic (a feeling of Zen??? : ). I can totally see how the militants these days would lead to added confusion.

Thanks Sanfranman! Glad you enjoyed your time off : )

chefbea 6:07 PM  

@nanpilla thanx got the recipe but havent had time to read it

mac 6:52 PM  

I thought this was a polished puzzle, favorite word "debunk", least favorite "does a". Beta dog's view! The saloon doors hitting the rear! I've used SL's Opium, a winter fragrance.

I thought "fiend" was a reference to @Orange, of course.

william e emba 6:52 PM  

I wanted to fill the DAL- AL-SSUM cross with E, since I've heard of the name Dale, and I don't know my flowers. But ALESSUM looked stupid. Thinking, maybe, just maybe DAL-'s a last name, I got DALY and that made sense (Daly City is near Berkeley). But it seems the actress is very well-known from TV, and I'm sure the flower is just as well-known, so I can't criticize this as some kind of early-week Natick.

Yes, the HMS Beagle is megafamous, solely because of Charles Darwin's ride on it, which led him to develop evolution and natural selection. A decade later, Thomas Henry Huxley sailed on the HMS Rattlesnake, and that inspired him to develop his own circular/analogy theory of life form relations, now totally forgotten. As is the ship.

But that ship should have been memorialized just the same. For once Darwin published, Huxley was won over instantly, and soon became known as Darwin's bulldog on account of his fierce argumentation (including the famed Wilberforce debate). But bulldog is all wrong. Huxley should be known as Darwin's rattlesnake.

Zeke 7:08 PM  

Couple of thoughts after having done this.
First, Rex does a hell of a lot of work, and does it extremely well.
I wish I had read Foodie's first comment before I wrote the post, as Cognitive Dissonance was what I was trying to, but failed to, get at. All I want from a Monday/Tuesday puzzle is a lack of cognitive dissonance. It takes an extaordinary theme, either good or bad, to make me notice it. Today's theme wasn't at either extreme, so it made absolutely no impression on me. I also wasn't jarred by anything, so all I had was a nice little Tuesday, no cognitive dissonance, hohum theme.
As I was trying go through the puzzle post solve, clue by clue, my thought was How the hell does Rex do this? Where does the dedication come from to discuss whether LIONEL was fair, unfair, good, bad, etc, as clued seven days a week, fifty plus weeks a year? Beats the hell out of me. The toughest part of all of ths was to keep my mouth shut all day. Well, mostly shut.

So, thanks for all the kind words. For those who weren't just blowing smoke up my ass, I'm glad you liked it. For those who were, I'm thankful you were polite.

The Big E 7:30 PM  

no smoke, Zeke. Well done.
And a really nice, thoughtful analysis of the work Rex puts in. Not something I had ever considered, really. I try and blog myself, and can't bring myself to do it every day.
Very nice words.

jesser 7:40 PM  

@Zeke: I don't smoke. Just sayin'.


shrub5 9:03 PM  

@foodie: thanks for your clarification of the specific meaning of submission. The film title was likely using it in a different (negative) sense.

Sfingi 9:12 PM  

@Clumsy - Final comment on B.C. that I forgot - it stands for Broome County, NY.

sanfranman59 12:14 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my7/30/2009 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 7:16, 6:58, 1.04, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 10:30, 8:49, 1.19, 92%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:51, 3:43, 1.04, 71%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 5:13, 4:33, 1.12, 90%, Challenging

Yup ... this was a tough Tuesday.

Stan 12:26 AM  

Long day (real-estate closing, my first, coming Friday -- and I would much rather be reading this blog than talking to legal/financial advisors and cleaning out garbage cans with a hose). But it was nice to do this smooth, cerebral puzzle at the end of the day. For me, the theme clicked perfectly, after the rest was finished, and Paula's droll wit kept things interesting along the way.

Funny write-up: Rex excels as a talent-spotter.

Clumsy 5:57 PM  

thanks for the explanations. Instead of insane religious pedantry, the new Hart gives us insane esoteric regionalism. Maybe that's an improvement, I'm not sure.

Dirigonzo 6:22 PM  

Wow, that's weird - yesterday I posted a comment to the syndicated puzzle, then today @Foodie wonders if there's a whole other conversation going on back here. Of course he wrote the comment five weeks ago but it was new to me, which got me thinking about the whole time-space continuum thing, which I totally do not understand, and then I thought, well why doesn't the party keep on going five weeks in the past (or is it the future?)- with @Rex' kind indulgence of course. So with that said, I agree with @SethG - I breezed through the top half of this puzzle (an aside - I solve top to bottom, left to right, in numerical order, as God intended)then met my come-uppance at 35A where I convinced myself that those waiting to be persuaded were some kind of -sitTERS. I had to go all the way to the bottom and work my way back up to straighten things out. Once I decided that a Beta dog's view really might be REAR, URSA won out over asia and my -sitTERS turned out to be UNDECIDEDVOTERS and voila - done! @Foodie, if you are still reading, hello from the past, or is it the future since you had to wait 5 weeks to read this? I am SO confused.

midj 9:10 PM  

I also read the comments 5 weeks behind in syndication land as this is "real time" to me! Sundays are frequently weird as references are made to puzzles I won't solve for weeks... :-) Too bad we don't have our own little world here at the end of the blog comments. I enjoy the write ups, the comments, and the glimpses into all your lives. Thanks for a wonderful and eclectic forum Rex!

Rex Parker 9:17 PM  

My pleasure

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