Peaceful race in Avatar / TUE 8-24-10 / Self-proclaimed astronaut of boxing / Huge poetically / Sport with shells

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Constructor: Caleb Madison and J.A.S.A. Crossword Class

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: TAXI CABANA — "-ANA" is added to the ends of familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: "My Friend IRMA" (24D: "My Friend ___" of 1950s TV) —

My Friend Irma, created by writer-director-producer Cy Howard, was a top-rated, long-run radio situation comedy, so popular in the late 1940s that its success escalated to films, television, a comic strip and a comic book, while Howard scored with another radio comedy hit, Life with Luigi. Marie Wilson portrayed the title character, Irma Peterson, on radio, in two films and a television series. The radio series was broadcast on CBS Radio from April 11, 1947 to August 23, 1954. (wikipedia)
• • •

Ah, Professor Madison. At it again. Still got another year left in high school, and here he is, doing his second (at least, right?) stint as a teacher of crossword construction. J.A.S.A. stands for "Jewish Association for Services for the Aged," and they offer a range of continuing education courses for older people. Here's the blurb on the class from the Fall 2010 catalog:
  • Get A Clue!
  • A Comprehensive Course on Crossword Construction
  • Instructor: CALEB MADISON
  • This class will outline the basic principles of crossword puzzle construction. It will begin with some basic crossword history, but focus mainly on how to come up with a theme, a useable grid, and create the fill. Building puzzles will improve our solving skills. At the end of the semester, the class will come up with one final puzzle to be submitted for publication in The New York Times.
I've taught a similar course to a similar audience here where I live (mine geared more toward solving puzzles, as well as navigating the world of puzzles online), and had a blast. A really smart, engaged audience. Maybe Caleb will chime in in the comments and say a little something about how this puzzle came together. No, scratch that. Not "maybe." Caleb will. You hear me, Caleb!?

Right off the bat this puzzle felt livelier than your average early-week fare. ZOWIE! Pretty simple theme concept — add three letters — but as I've said before, simple is great if the resulting phrases have pop, and these mostly do. MR. NICE GUYANA, while being kind of a funny phrase, isn't really cluable in a way that makes any sense, even wackily, but the others work just fine. BANDANA and BANANA are a little close to one another. Greater variety would have been nice, but ... these are minor points. Two long Downs are wonderful, and the whole grid is pretty neatly filled. For a group effort from a largely inexperienced lot, this is really high-quality work.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Title for a South American mensch? (MR. NICE GUYANA)
  • 34A: Result of heating a certain fruit too long? (SMOKING BANANA)
  • 42A: Informal headwear that can't be shared? (ONE-MAN BANDANA)
  • 56A: Secretive singer Baez? (JOAN OF ARCANA)
Interesting that there's no theme-revealer today. No ANAGRAM or ANAPEST or ... ANACONDA (none of those would have been any good). Nothing to explain the gimmick. It's pretty self-evident. CLEAR, even (62A: Transparent). I stubbed my toe on "IRMA" (either never heard of it or heard of it and then forgot it—only "Friend" I know is FLICKA) and MAUS (my German is not very ... what's the German word for "good?") (66A: What a Katze catches). Self-inflicted slowness occurred in the NE, where I completely botched the spelling of MUHAMMAD ALI (11D: Self-proclaimed "astronaut of boxing") despite having his signature hanging not three feet from where I'm typing. MOHAMMED was what I had. The "O" was the bigger problem. Ended up with COBA for 16A: Destination of many 1960s-'70s hijackings) and then though it must be CABO (as in San Lucas???). Thankfully CABO was manifestly wrong, and CUBA leapt to mind. Nothing else to throw me off today. Want to make sure I give Caleb et al. props for crossing the letter "T" with the letter "T" in "TO A T" and "T-BONE." Nicely done. Also liked the sequential Acrosses NAPS (6A: Siestas) and "I'M UP!" (10A: "No need to wake me!").

  • 6D: Peaceful race in "Avatar" (NAVI) — proud that this answer has become a gimme for me without my ever having had to see the damned movie.
  • 33D: Sir Geraint's faithful wife (ENID) — Countdown to my Arthurian Literature class: 7 days. I'm sure the students will get a good dose of ENID in there somewhere.
  • 44D: Final movie of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, with "The" ("MISFITS") — tried to watch it once. Failed.
  • 59D: Sport with shells (CREW) — this is pretty wicked cluing for a Tuesday. Could think only of three-card monte, which I assumed (rightly) was not a "sport."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Topher 12:44 AM  

I'm pretty sure FEZ came from GUYANA.

Tobias Duncan 12:49 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tobias Duncan 12:50 AM  

My misspelling of Muhammad was worse than yours. This felt more like a wed to me but I have been feeling a day behind for weeks.Mr Nice Guyana reminds me of Jim Jones, but cant find much to complain about in this puzzle. Good theme , not much filler. Looking over it now I am not sure why it took me so long to finish.
I am imagining a scene where an octogenarian is explaining to the young puzzle whiz who Irma was...

Zeke 12:52 AM  

Aha! Context dependent memory - That's why I couldn't remember PROCOLHARUM! Of the thousand times I listened to it, I never listened to "A Whiter Shade of Pale" straight.

Good job JASA & Caleb. What are you going to counter with Natan?

Anonymous 12:53 AM  

What an edgy clue that would have been for Mr. Nice Guyana:
Dubious epithet for Jim Jones

Hungry Bird 1:09 AM  

The "mensch" clue doesn't seem quite right to me, but I yield the JASA mavens. I think of mensch as "a man," ie, someone who will always do the right thing. A nice guy to me conveys something lesser; something say, between a mensch and a nebbish.

Steve J 1:22 AM  

I love that Caleb and the class are doing this and creating puzzles, but I just didn't like the result of this one. Maybe it's because I got the BANANA and BANDANA answers first, and thought that some form of combination of those letters was going to be the theme, but then I discovered it was just -ANA. Not a terribly strong hook to hang one's hat on. That said, I loved JOANOFARCANA.

Other fill had some bright moments like ZOWIE, CRIMP and ICKY, but it wasn't enough to overcome the abundance of abbreviations (ARR, SSN, APBS) partials (REX, TOAT, INON) and awkward constructions (NAGAT, ECOCAR).

CUBA and its clue did give me a chuckle as it reminded me of the old Monty Python skit where someone hijacks a plane bound for Cuba and demands that the plane be taken to Luton.

Falconer 1:44 AM  

Fun puzzle. Caleb is definitely a mensch for doing this w/ the seniors. Liked the sub-theme of Latin America, with Cuba, Guyana and Panama.

Would have been cool to sneak in the great palindrome "A man, a plan, a canal -- Panama!" since it contains the "ana" in two places.

chefwen 2:13 AM  

I was kind of on the FENCE about this one, started out not caring for it too much but after the theme popped up I started to really like it.

I also misspelled MUHAMMAD which gave me a SMOKING BANANi, easily fixed. PROCOL HARUM took every fiber of my being to unearth from my memory bank, but it finally surfaced.

Loved ONE MAN BANDANA, just the thought of sharing a bandana is ICKY!

protege01 3:04 AM  

Didn't really like this one. I was kinda in between but going back over it, there's lots I don't like.
ZOWIE clue felt off to me.
50's tv reference? Really?
And the SW with that long down just did not feel like a Tuesday.

At least it had MRNICEGUYANA.

syndy 3:07 AM  

And I bet we all found different ways to misspell MUHAMMAD.I did start to wonder how the Infante Terrible knew some of the references-boy I bet that class was a hoot! Lovely puzzle except the sucking up 65 down.

Ulrich 3:45 AM  

Like SteveJ, I got the banana bandana first and had expectations that were then frustrated--not really the fault of the puzzle, which I liked, overall.

I've said it many times: German "ach" is much closer to English "alas" than "oh".

...and @Tyrannos Rex: "good" is "gut" (why haven't we seen this in a puzzle yet? I have a gut feeling about it). In "Guten Abend/Morgen/Tag!", you have it in an inflected form. And with an upper case, "Gut" means "(landed) estate".

andreana carlana michaels 4:55 AM  

Caleb can do not wrong...

The U in MAUS my last entry as I thought it was PROCOL HAReM...and still do...what kind of fakackta (JASA how do you spell that?!!!) name is PROCOL HARUM, but maybe the best down entry ever on a Tuesday!

Also wondered how a 7 yr old (or however old Caleb is these days) knew from IRMA, so I loved that that must have come from his class.

ha! I didn't even make the REX connection! More homage than suck up I imagine!

And EVERY single entry felt like they tried to think of something freesh and original. Felt like a lot of thought and love went into this. Loved it. And I'm NOT being a PollyANA!

andrea happybelatedbdayTinbeni michaels 5:26 AM  

ps might I also credit that fabulous photo of young Caleb to famous rock photographer/artist Laura Levine... taken of him and his phenomenal find in her Mystery Spot shop in upstate NY? That pic is gonna be worth a lot of $ some day!

Parshutr 5:46 AM  

Now I know it's not procUl...
Back in the day I knew Ms. Baez. Only. Too. Well.

Ben 7:02 AM  

Strong Tuesday puzzles lately. Rex blog in excelsis!

Anonymous 7:11 AM  

@ Ulrich: not to mention "Gut" - when, ahem, capitalized - in the economic sense, like in "goods and services". Definitely lots of possibilities for clever Deutsch-cluing here


joho 8:03 AM  


So much fun!

I agree that MRNICEGUYANA didn't work as well as the other theme answers but it didn't bother me much. It was nice to BANDANA this time. I liked AGHA KHAN, too.

Fantastic job Caleb and J.A.S.A!
Thank you for a much better than average Tuesday. Keep creatiing!

joho 8:05 AM  

That would be to "see" BANDANA ...

Doug 8:10 AM  

Great puzzle, especially considering it was constructed by "amateurs." I thought PROCOLHARUM a lot easier to misspell than MUHAMMADALI. I'm surprised Rex did not comment on one of the really good, underappreciated English rock bands of yore. Saw them a couple of times, though, like the sixties, if you remembered them, you probably weren't there. Is Brian ENO the crossworld's most popular 3-letter fill? Please enlighten.

The Big E 8:15 AM  

Like ms. andreana carlana michaels, I too got stuck with my last clue of the u in maus. This happened for two reasons:
1. Never heard of Procol Harum, and also think it should be harem.
2. The use of the capital "K" in Katse made me think I was supposed to know a proper name of some sort, which totally threw me for a loop. Not knowing German at all, it is likely, I suppose, that this is how the K is written? or that cat in German is capitalized?

Anyone know?
I don't know if I would have leapt intuitively to a "u" if I saw the word written as "katse," but I like to think I would! :-)

Agree with earlier posters, that Caleb and JASA did a great job on the puzzle!


Anonymous 8:43 AM  

Sheesh, I get so tired of the whining sometimes.

Caleb/your class, this was a GREAT puzzle. Great cluing/answers/execution, and felt smooth as John Legend. Great work!

To all the other whiners, call a Waaambulance.

Parshutr 8:45 AM  

@anonymous, you're whining about whining?
Having fun pointing out our flaws?

Evgeny 8:46 AM  

@ The Big E: all nouns are capitalized in German, not just Katze :-)

can't believe Procol Harum isn't a gimme to most. I'm 25 and it still was a gimme for me... Doug, you're absolutely right about them being really good and also underappreciated. Here's an introduction made at a concert by another famous Doug, who was a friend of the band:


paige 8:48 AM  

One-N-Bandana was spelled "correctly" this time! Also, one of Wade's songs had a line about Joan of Arkansas. Can't remember which one.

The Big E 8:50 AM  

@Evgeny - thanks very much!
I will try to keep that somewhere in my mind when I do puzzles and see if the word in question sounds in some way Germanic to help me figure it out! ;-)
As for Procol Harum, here is the problem for me... When I got my first record player as a Christmas Present from my parents, something for which I had been begging, my sister got me none other than the album "Boy," by U2 (a band whom I now absolutely love).
As a boy of 9, however, I thought it looked like doo-doo and threw a temper tantrum on Xmas morning saying I had wanted Weird Al instead.
Ah, what a doofus I was...

sillygoose 9:08 AM  

What an awesome puzzle! I liked it so much I actually made comments about it to my non-puzzle husband, who just couldn’t care less about puzzles and responded with something like, “so did you know pre-season football already started?”

I liked especially how I didn’t really expect the answers, such as UBANGI, which isn’t a gimme for me, or STYGIAN, and I misspelled both PROCOL HARUM (wanted procul) and MUHAMMAD, which I just had to look back at the grid to see the spelling of again.

Even BASINS didn’t come right away and ESAU is unfamiliar as clued, and I haven’t heard of this IRMA, but I still solved in my regular time, it just was livelier than usual.

Thanks Caleb and class. Maybe submit two puzzles next time :-)

mac 9:10 AM  

Found an ungarded mac on the floor below ours, so here I am!

Good puzzle, done in a little Valerie breakfast place this morning. Is this another under-25 constructors' week`/

@SCOTUS Addict: still addicted to the new version? Welcome back!

@Artlvr: is this James Sandoe of my favorite bookstore in London off the Kings Road?

@Andrea smoking banana: better not use "fakackta" when you are in Holland!

London is cool and wet and wonderful.

JenCT 9:15 AM  

Got CREW immediately, since my son's on his high school crew team.

Only two hangups: couldn't remember the correct spelling of PROCOL HARUM, and actually got stuck on the Runs off at the mouth clue (YABS, JABS, GABS?). ANEMIA took me a while, also.

Liked the puzzle very much.

John V 9:16 AM  

Yep, NE/MuhammadAli was the sticker, otherwise, straight-forward. Also, had REHAB for 71A for a bit.

David L 9:18 AM  

May I just say that I thought the theme was a bit, um, silly? Oh well. But some nice stuff here.

PROCOLHARUM was a gimme for those of a certain age, although I went back and forth on O/U for the second vowel. And the clue for ESAU reminded me of an old and very funny sketch by Alan Bennett, when he was in a foursome with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and Jonathan Miller. Bennett played an earnest, nerdy vicar giving his Sunday sermon on the text "My brother Esau is an hairy man, but I am a smooth man..."

And here it is, thanks to the wayback machine:

joho 9:18 AM  

And that's UBANGI.

fikink 9:23 AM  

The unhappy memory of Jim Jones will forever taint the word GUYANA, but we have subsumed that event with the expression, "drinkiing the Kool Aid."

Agree with @SCOTUS Addict, "mensch" connotes to me something more than NICE. But then, ACH also doesn't mean "Oh" in my book...certainly not the way my 'veil-of-tears' mother said it!

PROCOLHAREM was this morning's smile and JOANOFARCANA is priceless.

Thanks, Caleb, for getting us on our way this Tuesday morning. FIL and I have much to accomplish to earn our Negra Modelo at 5 this evening.
...speaking of that, Happy Birthday belatedly, Tinbeni!

fikink 9:26 AM  

And as @Big E says, I keep thinking it was HAReM, too.
Sorry, should read PROCOLHARUM

SethG 9:27 AM  

I had the problem remembering where the U went in Procol Harum. I did not have the problem remembering where the U went in Muhammad Ali.

Symmetric Panama/Pajama is cute, and Mr Nice Guyana is a total win.

Ulrich 9:37 AM  

@Andrea: I recommend "Maus" by Art Spiegelman.

@Evgeny: Are you a Russian who knows his German, or a German with a Russian name, or is this just a web persona?

I'm off now to the Pilot Pen tournament, hoping to see some lobs being smashed, preferably by the gorgeous Ana Ivanovic.

dk 9:38 AM  

Nice one. ALOT of age specific fill Baez, HIPPIE, IRMA, the P-Band, SMOKINGBANANA and the Maynard G. Krebesian IDIG.

My guess is Calab had to Goggle to understand the class developed fill.

** (2 Stars)

mitchs 9:38 AM  

Absolutely great Tuesday! No one can complain about any generation
gaps in this one, it runs the gamut from IRMA to PROCOL HARUM to ENO.

Love the word STYGIAN.

Norm 9:45 AM  

Tuesday puzzles don't usually make me laugh out loud. This one was great!

Parshutr 9:55 AM  

@fikink, courtesy of Wikipedia:
"Vale of tears is a phrase based upon the Christian religion that refers to Earthly sorrows that are to be left behind when one enters heaven. "Vale" means a valley or a dale. The phrase comes from the Latin in Psalm 84:6 in the Vulgate Bible: "in valle lacrimarum ..." (in the vale of tears ...). It implies that the wickedness of the world makes it dark and reprieve comes only from divine salvation."
My mother came from the same place, only emerged after my father died, whereupon she enjoyed her remaining years.

archaeoprof 9:57 AM  

Ok, this one was pretty good. But is it better than last Tuesday's debut puzzle???

Bob Kerfuffle 10:21 AM  

Very nice puzzle. I fell for PROCUL . . . before PROCOL . . ; everything else already said.

Tinbeni 10:55 AM  

Themes not perfect.
I can live with that.

A grid with ZOWIE, ICKY, DETOX, BANDANA (no double 'N') with a HIPPIE SMOKING BANANA; I DIG.

Apparently Tuesday has become FUN day.

andrea toofunnyforwords michaels, thanks.

chefbea 10:56 AM  

Did this puzzle while waiting at the doctor's office. Also brought Eat, Pray Love in case they kept me waiting longer.

Had trouble with the spelling of muhammad also.

All in all a great puzzle

Two Ponies 11:03 AM  

Nice job Caleb and friends!
This old 23A loved hearing 25D in my head. Remember when you were supposed to be able to get high from smoking banana peels? (I see Tinbeni does.)
20A then had me hearing Alice Cooper's No More Mr. Nice Guy.
The clue for 45D could have stopped at Rhyme scheme since the rest was no help at all.
Fill was an acceptable mix of crosswordese and freshness.
Lastly, bandana was spelled

fikink 11:04 AM  

@Parshutr, "veil" of tears is a running gag in these postings, dating to an early discussion when Rex had but 35 followers. We used to trade stories of the misperceptions of our youth. Both @Andrea and I admitted that for a long time we thought the expression referred to the particularly mournful countenance of our respective mothers, e.g., the veil one wears at a funeral. (Think Jackie Kennedy.)

Like Rex, often my word "play" is not understood. I do know that conjure is not an eel.

"pyroad" - the way of clowns

CoffeeLvr 11:08 AM  

Great job constructers. Loved all the 60's references.

We listened to JOAN at our PAJAMA parties;
wanted to be HIPPIE's;
swooned over Donovan, whose "Mellow Yellow" had one friend drying BANANA peels;
didn't quite understand why Cassius Clay changed his name to something-we-couldnt-spell ALI;
listened to "Whiter Shade of Pale" on the album rock station, because it was too long for Top Forty play;
feared CUBA;
my first serious boyfriend wore a BANDANA (one of which I still have);
and I was a heavenly messenger and "extra" in a summer-stock production of Shaw's Saint JOAN.

Really enjoyed the puzzle. One error, did not know Katze, so did not know MAUS, and misspelled PROCuLHAReM. I knew there was a odd U in it, but when I fixed ONEMANBANADA, did not revisit HAReM.

Does anyone else have more trouble spelling Down answers correctly than Across answers?

The Big E 11:14 AM  

@fikink - while not quite wordplay, per se, one of my favorite books for a while was:
"'Excuse me, while I kiss this guy' and other mis-heard song lyrics."

That might make for a fun puzzle... hmmm...

Anonymous 11:58 AM  


"Would have been cool to sneak in the great palindrome "A man, a plan, a canal -- Panama!" since it contains the "ana" in two places."

I actually count 4 "anas"!

a mAN A plAN A cANAl -- pANAma.

Noam D. Elkies 12:09 PM  

Interesting point about TOATBONE — I agree it feels neat, but we usually don't like it when short words like UP or THE appear in the same puzzle, let alone in crossing clues, so why is a 1-letter word different?

Cute theme; final entry reminds me of Donald Knuth's pun on TeXarcana. What's up with 25D:HARUMSCARUM, though? I see their big hit was 43 years ago. (I was like zero years old then. Evidently most of the co-constructors of this puzzle weren't.) Oh, it's that song — the one that sounds like a Muzacked of a Bach mishmash. Just dump the guitars and drums and go with the real thing!

[medov = wine only 1/20 as good as the French stuff?]

retired_chemist 12:11 PM  

Well done! Challenging here - more Wed. than Tue. But lively and interesting to solve. JASA sounds like it is a fun group based on this puzzle.

PROCOL HARUM is a real WTF. NEVER heard of them. After I finished I Googled it because it sounded so strange.

Glad Ulrich pointed out the ACH problem - I had the feeling the clue was a tad off.

Had TORPOR instead of ANEMIA. Actually ANEMIA is the blood disease that results in tiredness, not tiredness itself. So that too is a bit off. As would TORPOR have been.....

More please, Caleb and JASA both.

Noam D. Elkies 12:11 PM  

[argh, HTML fail: should link to]

mitchs 12:12 PM  

@fikink: For more years than I care to admit I wondered where in the world "Orientar" was. All I knew was that it was the homeland of three kings.

retired_chemist 12:13 PM  

@ NDE re medov - cute! I had to think.....

Sadly the crosseyed bear 12:22 PM  

bandana is the new amoeba


Anonymous 12:43 PM  

I made more than one stupid mistake -- I got 'stew' wrong. Guess I just wasn't in the mood to crossword and I've been grumpy and out of sorts.

But Joan of Arcana made me smile.

Thanks Caleb and company.

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

Medium? are you kidding? medium boring maybe. This was easy-peasy and I'm no genius!

Gray 12:49 PM  

There it is. I'm now taking bets that SanFran's stats say it's harder than medium.

Sparky 12:59 PM  

Much in there right down my demographic. A Whiter Shade of Pale still popular. I live over a bar and some nights someone will play it all night long. Can't stand it anymore. Sounds like a great class. Congrats Caleb and crew.

Moonchild 1:09 PM  

I thought this had some pretty high-end stuff for a Tuesday.
I can't remember seeing maus in a puzzle before.
Irma and Navi in one grid must span a couple of generations at least.
Whiter Shade of Pale is such a classic that I am almost shocked at those who didn't recognize it.
Stygian was new to me and I guess I only thought I knew what arcana meant because without the theme to help me I'm not sure I would have gotten it.
Guyana always makes me think twice because it sounds African to me.
I want to take that class!

Arby 1:26 PM  

I'm neither Jewish nor particularly aged (yet), but I would love to enroll in the next class too!

shrub5 1:31 PM  

Caleb and JASA: just a terrific puzzle! I had a smile on my face throughout. Had the same spelling stumbles on the 11 letter downs as others above; did not fix HAReM so that left me with MAeS rather than MAUS which I should have 'caught'.

Good clue for PAJAMA. And loved the "T" in the TOAT/T-BONE cross (as others have mentioned.)

@Tinbeni: many happy returns to you from a fellow Leo.

Evgeny 1:41 PM  

@ Ulrich: Russian who knows his German - from living here.
btw - Spiegelman's "Maus" is highly recommendable regardless of whether MAUS was a gimme today or not...

as for Procol Harum, let's all agree to disagree

The Big E 1:49 PM  

There's actually a lot of fun with the columns:

NEON MISFITS (who are they? perhaps anyone at the gym who continues to wear their neon spandex to aerobics classes?)

ALEC eating a TBONE in ROME


and REX GABS under his PANAMA (hat, that it).

Don't know why I felt compelled to throw that out there.


Stan 1:56 PM  

No time to read the comments until later -- but really a fun puzzle. Congrats, Caleb et al.!

Van55 2:57 PM  

This one ended in a very, very rare Tuesday F on my report card. I wrote in PROCOLHAREM with utmost confidence and never double checked the across MAES for plausibility -- assuming I got it right from the correct spelling of HAREM.

Some really great answers today offset the couple of clinkers. Loved ICKY STYGIAN.

Clark 2:58 PM  

@mac -- Semi-puzzle partner is also a huge fan of Sandoe's bookstore. Just today a blog that SPP frequents refers to it as "The brilliant John Sandoe Books in Chelsea London". We get a steady stream of books from there (including all of Agatha Christie's first edition facsimiles as they are being reprinted).

The puzzle was great fun. Simple and silly, 'ana' indeed. Caleb, or should I call you Mr. Madison?, when you are old and gray you can teach a class to nursery school students and submit that to the NYT.

We have a new puppy, the beautiful Roxie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. It is tough to find two minutes of quiet time around here -- but I was still able to manage a Tuesday puzzle.

Caleb Madison 3:09 PM  

Hey Rex/Rexites,

For everyone who wants to enroll in the class (which I strongly encourage), the open house is at John Jay College on September 12th. More information is on the JASA website. You need not be Jewish and/or aged to enroll.

As for the puzzle, I'm glad everyone liked it. My favorite clue (MUHAMMAD ALI) was actually from a student. The theme started as ADDENDA (parsed ADD END A), where we'd just add an A to the end of regular phrases... nowhere near as elegant as where we ended up.

If anyone has any other questions, I'd be glad to answer them (I'll be checking the comments pretty regularly).

Again, thanks for the feedback Rex et. al.


Sfingi 3:42 PM  

The Name Game - Shirley Ellis
C'mon everybody.
Let's play a game.
You know that I can make a rhyme
Out of anybody's name.
The first letter of the name
I treat it like it wasn't there...

PROCOLHARUM, HIPPIE, IDIG, JOAN Baez - good memories.
@Parshutr - Far out!


Write-overs: buSstop for MISFITS, beat for PACE. ANoMIe for ANEMIA.

The dreaded SSN.

MAUS, pl. MÄUSe. The umlaut changes the vowel sound to something like "oy" moyzuh, thus the source of our plural, mice, in which the vowel is changed.

@Scotus - Mensch, meaning a stand-up guy, seems sort of a Yiddish interpretation, to me.

@BigE - of course you don't know PROCOLHARUM. And all German nouns are capitalized, period.

@Evgeny - Yes Spiegelman's Maus, the picture novel, is brilliant, moving, unsettling. I donated a copy to the prison.

Has anyone done a puzzle on silent letters? SALVE made me wonder. The wound soother, not Regina, SALVE nos.

I'll never forget a Smothers Brother's bit where the straight one asks the nutty one to quote the Bible. He says, "My brother was a hairy man and I am a smooth."

Liked the CW. This Sr. Citizen would love to take their course! Where in Upstate? And I don't mean Poughkeepsie, I mean the real Upstate.

foodie 3:50 PM  

Fantastic Puzzle!!!! I smiled while the whole time I was doing it. The theme, the fill, the cluing. Just Awesome!

And I had a little bonus (a la Rex and his mom's name yesterday)-- My grandfather was an AGHA and wore a FEZ... For true. I should scan his photo and post it on blogger site. He is also wearing a standard suit and tie and a handlebar mustache. And somehow, that FEZ does not look too strange!

And did you know that a traveling AGHA would stop for a rest at a KHAN, meaning an Inn? So, given this whole vibe, is it a wonder that I fell for it and had HAREM not HARUM?

My QDI puts this definitely on the Challenging side.

sanfranman59 4:09 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 10:05, 8:54, 1.13, 87%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 5:15, 4:35, 1.15, 89%, Challenging

Right you are, @Gray ... by the numbers, this is one of the more challenging Tuesdays in my spreadsheet. As of now, it stands as the 8th and 9th toughest of 62 Tuesday puzzles for the Top 100 and All Solvers groups, respectively. This generally matches my own solving experience, although my solve time falls in my Medium-Challenging range.

The Big E 4:17 PM  

@San Fran Man - What about recording the 1st and 100th fastest times? If you're going to give the median, it might also be intriguing to see what significant markers on the spectrum would be for everyone. Just a thought!

The Big E 4:18 PM  

@sanfranman - sorry for the severing of your name in my last post! (and the rogue capitalization!)

Tinbeni 4:40 PM  

The Big E brought up an interesting idea.

After 62 weeks of compiling this data for:
(1) All Solvers and (2) The 100 Solvers:
Median solve times
Average for day of week
Puzzle Difficulty Rating

Just re-do all your spreadsheets.

Anonymous 5:02 PM  

I thought it was Procul Harum, having studied Latin.

I enjoyed many of the clues, more than usual. Thanks JASA!

The Big E 5:07 PM  

@Tinbeni - that was uncalled for. My thought was that if he had all that raw data already, pulling out one more piece and adding it to the report might be interesting. I think sanfranman's reports are outstanding, and I love reading them every day.
If he has all the data from which to extrapolate medians, fastest times, etc., then he might easily be able to add something that says "include the value from cell 100, 250, 500" or whatever, to show the 100th, 250th, 500th fastest time, etc. That was all I meant by my post.
If you or anyone else thought I was implying that the work he had done should be redone in some fashion, that was not at all my intention, and I'm sorry.

SethG 5:14 PM  

I'm not sure that reporting the 1st and 100th gives us that much more information. And as far as I know sanfranman59 wouldn't have any way to access that data anyway--calculating the medians he reports requires looking up 2 specific times, not tracking all times for everyone.

First, the 1st fastest isn't necessarily accurate. It's quite possible that the fastest on any given day was typing in a puzzle he'd already solved. (Note that a few people "cheating", inadvertent or not, has little effect on any of the stats he compiles.)

In general, the 10-20 fastest tend to be the same names every day, and most or all of those can be aligned with people who are known through independent evidence to solve that quickly. If you want to get a sense for how fast fast people are, check the times on Dan's or Orange's blog.

And the 100th fastest time won't generally be too much different than the median of the top 100.

Right now, for example, the median of the top 100 for today's puzzle stands at 5:15, for all solvers at 10:11. If 5 of the fastest 50 had actually cheated and we throw out their scores, the median for the top 100 would be 5:22. The 100th fastest so far finished in 6:16. And Dan Feyer, who generally doesn't use the applet? He finished today's puzzle in 1:52.

fikink 5:14 PM  

@Naom, you did exist when PROCOLHARUMSCARUM had their big hit. Even way back then you were a twinkle in your father's eye. Like your music and math, you are ageless! ;)

@Coffeelvr, your question re: spelling intrigues me!

@Big E, I still have Harold Hill singing about the Sadder Budweiser girl.:)

@retired_chemist, for some reason I love the word "torpor" - It looks graphically like the paw of a three-toed sloth. (I think that '60's blotter acid is finally coming back to haunt me.)

@mitchs, one Saturday afternoon, my parents said they were going to Sears & Roebucks and asked if I wanted to join them. I was very engaged in something at the time and declined. Later, my mission accomplished, I admitted to Brother Dit (as in, dit-dit-dit, dah-dah-dah, dit-dit-dit) that I should have gone with them "cuz I guess I wanna to see 'em, too."
Brother Dit asked, "Where'd Mom and Dad go?"
I replied, "To see some robots."
I was a very jaded child.

@Clark, pictures please! Gus, my new Lab puppy, wants to see!

@Caleb, you are another reason I wish I were closer to NYC.

The Big E 5:21 PM  

@SethG - fair enough. I guess I was thinking of having such benchmarks for the purposes of being able to see if someone was in the top X number of people. And then being able to say, over time, I'm finishing in the top 250 more often now (or something like that).
Was more or less just throwing ideas out there.
Thanks for the explanation!

sanfranman59 5:24 PM  

@The Big E ... I'm afraid that I don't have all of the raw data. In my spreadsheet, I only record the information that I post for each day's puzzle. As far as I know, there's no way to download all of the solve times for each day's puzzle. If you know of a way to do that, I'd love to hear it. It would save me clicking through each day's posted times. As an aside, I don't know why the Premium Crosswords website calls their list of solve times the "Top Ten Puzzlers" when it actually shows the times of everyone who's submitted a correct solution.

The Big E 5:28 PM  

@sanfranman - I understand. For whatever reason, I was thinking you were extracting all times into a spreadsheet to derive your numbers. Regretfully, I don't know of a way to do that with the applet. Would be neat though! :-)
Thanks again for the great stats!

fergus 7:32 PM  

Since I solved this one like a spider spinning a web rather than the usual lawnmower Tuesday, I considered this one more than Medium. Plus, I was one of those who fell into REHAB, besmirching my reputation, when only A DETOX was required.


I want to go to a class, since I know that my attempts at construction are crap. As was -- and is still my progress on the second Sunday puzzle. It's quite curious to me why I fare so poorly when similar skills usually serve me quite well in contriving words from partial letter content.

(essest - self-explanatory)

R. McGeddon 7:46 PM  

MRNICEGUYANA was my favorite answer. In the movie "The Apartment" an older neighbor advises the Jack Lemmon character to "be a mensch," which he defines as a "human being" - or a regular, decent, considerate person.

CJameson 8:16 PM  

The Rhyme Scheme in Frost's poem has been much discussed and much admired. The Rhyme Scheme involves interlocking rhymes, rhyme chains and more. To suggest that it is merely "AABA" you have to ignore most of the poem, and hope that no one remembers it.

Other than that I thought it was a very good puzzle.

fergus 10:14 PM  

Frost isn't rhyme
as you say
yet he's restrained

Stan 11:43 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stan 11:46 PM  

I agree that, technically, the rhyme scheme of Frost's "Stopping by Woods" is AABA BBCB CCDC DDDD. But that doesn't make the clue / answer wrong -- it's still basically an AABA pattern. Probably the most famous American poem with this pattern (as opposed to, say, ABBA or ABAB). But I'm going out on a limb here and may be wrong -- can anyone think of a counter-example?

fergus 12:17 AM  

Frost set an orderly grid
fairly rigidly metered

Plenty from all walks of life:

Belle Dame of Keats
combined with lines from Dylan

Anonymous 8:39 AM  

@Parshutr- No.

sanfranman59 2:36 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 6:50, 6:58, 0.98, 48%, Medium
Tue 10:16, 8:54, 1.15, 87%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:37, 3:43, 0.98, 43%, Medium
Tue 5:01, 4:35, 1.10, 81%, Challenging

Waxy in Montreal 3:20 PM  

@sanfranman59 - well, since no one commented further 5 weeks ago, let me say that even for a Tuesday this didn't feel like a Challenging puzzle. Maybe Easy-Medium at best. However, I guess your analyses are data-driven so must be correct.

Surprised the J.A.S.A. crew didn't somehow find a way to also include the most famous ANA of their day - Lawrence Welk's "ANA one ANA two ANA onetwotree".

Lest anyone thinks JOAN BAEZ is but a memory of better times past - she's still performing. Mrs. Waxy and I have tickets to see her in Montreal on Oct. 15th and are thrilled ENORM by the prospect. Will be the first time for us since she appeared with Bob Dylan in the Rolling Thunder Revue (1975).

And did I say - really enjoyed this puzzle. Thanks Caleb & J.A.S.A.

Dirigonzo 4:13 PM  

Really, really wanted "Hellish" to be STYxIAN, you know - like the river? Wouldn't let it go for anything. So with the whole grid filled in I sat there staring at MRNICExUYANA; I mean I knew what to do, I just didn't want to do it! But I did - I replaced the errant x so MRNICEGUYANA took his rightful place and the puzzle was complete. And now I know that "stygian" refers to the River Styx so I feel a little better about this. "And that's the way it is, Tuesday September 28, 2010, and to all - goodnight". (Walter Cronkite said something like that at the end of every newscast, I think.) @fikink - You have a Lab puppy? I have 2 Labs - they're litter mates - and a Cocker Spaniel who thinks he's a Lab (I haven't told him he's adopted.) When you have 3 dogs, you have a pack - I call them "The Brat Pack" because, well, because they're spoiled brats. But I still love them.

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