Simba's love in Lion King / MON 8-2-10 / Sitarist Shankar / Sesame Street character with unibrow

Monday, August 2, 2010

Constructor: Diane Baker van Hoff

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (typical Tuesday time for me)

THEME: "The ___ of ___" switches — familiar 15-letter phrases have final words rotated to final position in subsequent theme answer, creating odd phrases, clued with "?"s

Word of the Day: OLLA podrida (16A: ___ podrida (spicy stew)) —

Olla podrida is a Spanish stew made from pork and beans and an inconsistent, wide variety of other meats and vegetables, often including chickpeas, depending on the recipe used. The meal is traditionally prepared in a clay pot over several hours. It is eaten as a main course, sometimes as a single dish, and sometimes with ingredients separated (i.e., meats from the rest, or liquids from solids). (wikipedia)
• • •

Very easy in the parts that weren't the theme answers. Took me way longer than normal (for a Monday) to pick up on the theme. Put in THE SPEED OF SOUND at 17A: Tempo?, only to have it be MUSIC. But then next theme answer began with THE SOUND ... and so exactly what the nature of the switcheroo was did not become evident for a (comparatively) long time. Also, two original phrases are movie titles and one ... isn't (though probably there is a movie out there somewhere called "THE SPEED OF LIGHT"—yep, there it is). Also thrown by the long Downs near the middle of the grid. When these appear in early-week puzzles, they are typically located closer to the edges of the grid, so some part of my brain thought they might be implicated in the theme somehow, especially when I went from TIE THE KNOT (6D: Marry) to WED (26A: Marry). So my brain was a gobbledygook of ideas about the theme as I dutifully plowed forward and got theme answers via crosses. Theme is crazy enough, and the grid structure interesting enough, to make for a satisfying Monday, I think.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Tempo? (THE SPEED OF MUSIC)
  • 37A: Ka-ching? (THE SOUND OF MONEY)
  • 55A: Spectrum? (THE COLOR OF LIGHT)
  • 14A: Sitarist Shankar (RAVI) — crossword staple, father of other musical crossword staple, NORAH Jones.
  • 15A: Squiggle over an "n" (TILDE) — seems like this clue should have "in Spanish" in it (however obvious that might be). Seems incomplete / nonsensical otherwise.
  • 36A: Simba's love in "The Lion King" (NALA) — NALA, FALA, KALA, LALA ... these names bleed together for me.
  • 48A: "Sesame Street" character with a unibrow (BERT) — he also has a pet pigeon, Bernice, and collects bottle caps.
  • 29D: Put X's over (CROSSED OUT) — My brain translated "over" as "on top of" or "above," and I was trying to imagine some activity where one would draw an "X" above something...
Enjoy the week. I'll be back on Sunday, I think, and then for good next Tuesday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


fikink 12:35 AM  

Have a wonderful vacay, Rex. You will be thought of every day.

des 12:39 AM  

I started with the Speed of Light, and also had to move things around as the other themes developed. I do suspect that even though the "Speed of Light" is listed by IMDB as 2007 movie, the three unscrambled themes ("Speed of Light, Sound of Music and the Color of Money), were probably just thought of as commonly known phrases.

Enjoy the week!

chefwen 12:40 AM  

Thought this puzzle was very cute and fun to solve.

Had two hiccups, filled in ABED first and at 5A arose, thought that's odd, abed and arose right next to each other, that ain't kosher. Got the STOOD with STENOS, doh! At 29D put in CROSSEs OUT and ended up with RAsIAL for 53A, thought that was just a word that I did not know, I'll have to look it up. So ended up with one error, now I won't have to look up rasial.

Thought I was going to see @Clark today on his way up to the north shore, but he pulled a "no show" and missed out on some fresh, home made, Auntie Wendy's Muffins.
Husband said, that's o.k., more for me.

Robin 1:04 AM  

How cute was this theme? And on a Monday, no less! Happy holiday, Rex, we'll be right here when you come back.

Steve J 1:23 AM  

Didn't get the rotational aspect of the theme till after I was done, so it came off to me at first as just odd. Nicer to look at now that everything's filled in.

Typical Monday for me, other than the NW. Had THESPEEDOF_____ because I had none of MUSIC's downs for a bit, which slowed me for a few moments until I dropped in SLIP and the corner fell into place.

Just enough thinking to keep this one from being automatic, which is a good thing on a Monday. Not quite as fun as last Monday's, but I'll definitely take it. Nicely done.

andrea trifle michaels 4:04 AM  

I made word for word your mistakes!
arose, corrected with STENOS and then RAsIAL!!!!! (Oh, and I put in Al Capone instead of PACINO!)

LOVED this, but so not a Monday...
the clever switcheroo is easily the mark of a Tuesday, but what do I know?!

I liked the ABED, STOOD, REST... I mean make up your mind! And then seconds later ALLRISE
(to reflect OYER from Saturday!)

Loved that it ended with SEXY...

Nice nice nice idea. You'd think you could just get away with three fifteens with The ____ of ____, but this was a very nice simple twist that was unforced!
I too think the fact that they were all film titles was coincidental, as every phrase under the sun now has been co-opted into a film title.

e.g. Just saw "The Kids Are Alright" which I thought was a terrible title and kept waiting for the Who to show up or be referenced or SOMETHING.
Dumb marketing..."I know! Let's give away the ending and the point of the film in the title!"

They might as well have named "Casablanca" "She leaves Rick".

Greene 5:09 AM  

@Andrea: She Leaves Rick. HA! Wait...somebody will complain that you should have put in a spoiler alert!

Like Rex I put in THE SPEED OF SOUND for 17A and Boy did I have trouble letting go of that! I couldn't get the NE corner to fall for an eternity. Just couldn't get SOUND out of my brain, even with THE SOUND OF MONEY clearly in the grid. Even as the downs fell into place, I just stared stupidly at the evolving answer. Finally got it down to THE SPEED OF *USIC and still I stared.

When reason returned and the answer fell into place, I thought the same thing as Andrea: just the three 15s should be enough of a theme for a Monday, but the word switch changed it from an ordinary puzzle to something quite delightful. Never mind that the theme helped me not a whit during the solve. It was still a very nice discovery at the end. Bravo Ms. van Hoff! Well played, indeed!

dk 7:56 AM  

Thank god Rex is gone. Now we can be ourselves and no longer tolerate his moods, agreeing with him to avoid his wrath... isn't that right anon.

Any puzzle that starts with ABED, ends with SEXY and has a flying monster in the middle... my SLIP thats Rodan.

Agree with Rex (in case he is still around) this is a Tuesday. Only do over was gulp for WOLF.

*** (3 Stars) Very nice Monday.

@chefwen, North Shore? I am on my way to Bayfield next Saturday for a week of Kayaking in the Apostles.

@andrea, Hi!

joho 8:12 AM  

Very SEXY Monday puzzle. My only writeover was PACINO over cApone ala @Andrea.

I'm hoping this fresh, fun offering sets the tone for the whole week.

Happy holiday, @Rex!

Thank you, Diane Baker van Hoff!

JenCT 8:49 AM  

Agree this was more of a Tuesday.

Put in CROSSED OFF before CROSSED OUT, HELIXES before STRANDS, SPREAD before RADIAL. But everything worked out - I need to slow down & check crosses first!

Have a great vacation, Rex.

John V 9:12 AM  

Following on my usual pop-culture dumbness, slowed only on 36A, "NALA". Otherwise, for me, a typical/easy Monday.

jesser 9:25 AM  

Have fun, Rex! Don't do anything we wouldn't (this gives you quite a lot of latitude, actually!).

I loved this puzzle. At 24D, I really wanted Cacique to fit, but of course it wouldn't. ELDERS works, but the spiritual advisers of most pueblo tribes I've been around have been the Caciques.

Any puzzle that references -- even obliquely -- 'The Color of Money' is likely to be a win for a pocket-billiards addict.

Like John V, I don't know from my Lion King critters, but NALA leapt into the grid via crosses, so maybe I learned her name. Maybe not.

Just not much to TRIFLE with about this one. Loved it!

Bricing! (The frosting on a Bundt cake?) -- jesser

JC66 9:32 AM  

Fun puzzled, made better by the inclusion of my name (25 A).

Have fun, Rex.

JC66 9:34 AM  

Which doesn't happen often.

Zeke 10:00 AM  

Hats off to Will for the straight up cluing for 43A.
@JC66 - Which, you don't think Rex has fun often, or your name doesn't appear in puzzles often?
@Jesser - From one pocket billiards addict to another, what does "The Color of Money" have to do with it?
I don't think the three, unaltered, 15s would have made a good Monday at all, it would have been unsufferably boring. The minor, and as Andrea said unforced, changes made it an excellent Monday. Smooth, with an amusing twist.

hazel 10:13 AM  

now that's a puzzle! also had abed and arose and was hoping for the (reviled by all but me) adoze to complete the trifecta.

like the fact that Monday got to let her hair down today. very cool concept and very well-executed to boot.

@dk - what happened to those toadie (or was it sycophant?) pants you were sporting recently? at the cleaners? i'm just jealous/bitter about your upcoming kayaking trip....

Bob Kerfuffle 10:14 AM  

Different. Cute. Liked it.

Mel Ott 10:27 AM  

Didn't get the theme until I filled in all three 15's, which made for a nice "aha" moment. Nice theme, nice puzzle, nicely executed.

CaseAce 10:29 AM  

Viva la difference, as they say in Francais! The RAVI reviews are pouring in this day for Diane's debut in the NYTimes! It was MUSIC to our ears, it had a LIGHT touch and it was right on the MONEY, and, I need add, it was tres SEXY!

Two Ponies 10:29 AM  

I really enjoyed this Monday gem.
The NE was slowest for me but I moved on and the theme gave me what I needed.
I did not know the Marc guy but actually never even read the clue.
Rex, enjoy your holiday. We'll try and behave.
I wonder who the guest hosts/hostesses will be?
@ andrea, I saw your Sat. comment re: oyer. It still looks/sounds silly to me.

Van55 10:32 AM  

A Monday Monday for me. Easy and enjoyable.

daisy 10:37 AM  

i'm surprised none of these sex maniac crossword people didn't mention ASS.

I got the big clues. it was the stew and the DNA stuff that foxed me.

it'll be lonely without you, Rex.

Another great song choice... I hadn't heard Nancy Griffith sing it. John Prine - what a songwriter...

CaseAce 10:51 AM  

"Freda Kahlo" was a character on Sesame Street...who would've thunk it?

Tinbeni 10:55 AM  

Do you know how frustrating it is to run through the "Sesame Street" characters in my mind trying to remember which one has the unibrow?

BERT, Yes it's BERT !!!

As for the theme, I loved it.
A little misdirection on a Monday was FUN.

ArtLvr 10:59 AM  

I too enjoyed the puzzle, with a fun theme and hints of romance with RODIN's "The Kiss".

I also got a kick out of the comment by @ Two Ponies "I did not know the Marc guy..." -- shades of the quasi-royal marriage in Rhinebeck NY last Saturday, when Chelsea Clinton WED little-known investment banker Marc Mezvinsky. Now there's a last name destined for scrabbly xwords...


Ulrich 11:01 AM  

@JC66: It seems to me that Rex has fun every day, except when he is on vacation...

Tuesday, shmuseday--Knowing that this is a debut puzzle makes it even more charming...

Sparky 11:27 AM  

@DONKOS: thanks for explaining RHE from Sunday. Today, took 12 minutes. Which is good for me. Didn't see the rotation of last words till I came here. Answer as it referred to the clue was good enough for me. RAFT is a stretch. You might rent a rowboat. I would prefer to rent a room. My two experiences with camping were cold and lumpy. The foliage was wonderful in the Adarondicks though. I digress. have a goodtime, Rex.

hazel 11:32 AM  

that WAS an excellent song choice. i've only heard the version by A3 which is also awesome.

Echo @Ulrich's "charming". Perfect word to describe this puzzle. enough gushing.

Stan 11:32 AM  

Pleasant, easy, and plain-English -- with a snappy theme for a Monday. Welcome Diane!

My favorite movie: "Rosebud Was a Sled"

jesser 11:56 AM  

@Zeke: I s'pect you know that 'The Color of Money' is a follow up (can't really say a sequel) to 'The Hustler.' It stars Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. Pretty good flick. I also like 'Pool Hall Junkies' starring Christopher Walken.

My favorite movie: Jimmy Stewart Doesn't Die and Mr. Potter Doesn't Win


Zeke 12:10 PM  

@Jesser - Sorry, I forgot that while in prep school we were all horribly pretentious. We accused one another of playing "pocket billiards" rather than "pocket pool" during class, as playing pool was ever so much crasser than billiards. Not enough Graham Crackers for breakfast I guess.
My favorite movie: "Jump, Jimmy, Jump! Your life sucks, will continue to suck, and Mr Potter will hound you forever!"

Two Ponies 12:37 PM  

My favorite movie "Dorothy Hits Her Head and Has a Dream'

icy dead people 12:56 PM  

Another movie favorite: "The Bruce Willis Character is Actually Dead."

JC66 12:59 PM  

@ Zeke & Ulrich and anybody else who cares:

I was obviously talking about Rex.

According to the Cruciverb data base, COHN has appeared in the NY Times a whopping 15 times since 1997.

Sorry for the confusion. (-;

shrub5 1:25 PM  

Sparkly NYT puzzle debut. Loved the clue for TACT. I'll have to remember that response for those "do I look fat in this?" moments.

Smiled at BERT and his unibrow as well as LAB, the "chocolate" dog. Thought this was a very enjoyable solve with just enough twists and turns.

syndy 1:47 PM  

Hey a monday and I got to write a theme answer without reading the clue!After sound of money went ahead and filled in color of light! Diana is my new favorite constructor.Now surely a tilde in any other language would still be over an "N";Happy vacation oh king of crossword puzzledom- bring us back something

The Big E 1:57 PM  

I agree - most excellent puzzle! Like Rex, I was thinking about the phrases as movie titles (in their unjumbled forms), and while The Speed of Light may be a movie, it was just a "teensy" bit disappointing for me that it wasn't a big name film. I felt like this would have transcended the puzzle to one of the great ones.
Ah well, still a lot of fun!

Two Ponies 2:13 PM  

Now that I know this was a debut I'm even happier.
For the Simpsons fans, last night Nelson called someone a spaz.
Lisa corrected him and I had a flash from last week's puzzle.

Doug 2:32 PM  

Pretty good puzzle. Had a couple of ink overs. Wanted SAUTE for BASTE. Misspelled ANNUL as ANULL and had CUSPID instead of CANINE.


Cool theme. Thought twice (though not seriously) that it could have been a Rush (the band) themed puzzle, based on their songs "The Speed of Love" and "The Color of Right."

jesser 2:59 PM  

@Zeke: Although 'pocket billiards' sounds pretentious, it's my preferred usage. The Brunswick Corporation has a patent on the word 'pool,' so they ruined it for me. I don't play on a Brunswick table.

Tres y adios!


fergus 3:00 PM  

Don't they put the TILDEs over the vowel in Portuguese, to suggest the nasally sound?

chefbea 3:10 PM  

Easy Monday puzzle. Been out all day so finally have a chance to read the blog.

Welcome Diane.

diastrat=distraught over rodents

Zeke 3:21 PM  

@Jesser - You clearly had a much, much more genteel upbringing than I, as this is what "pocket pool" meant to me when I was a young teen, and the joke I was so lamely going for.

The Big E 3:27 PM  

@Zeke - ROFLMBO (with a nod to your post!) ;-)

jesser 3:33 PM  

@Zeke: I wish I'd gotten the joke! I've never heard that term, and I'll take the Fifth on whether I've ever played the game. Nah, I'll admit it. Men are pigs, and I'm a man, so...

Thanks for the belly laugh!

And now I really AM outta here. Don't want Rex to smite me from whatever island paradise he is frequenting. :-)


mitchs 3:34 PM  

Any help with why, according to Patrick Blindauer's new blog, about half the answers in a crossword must begin with a vowel?

Sfingi 3:48 PM  

GEE humbug, BAH whiz.

NALA, COHN - Gotta believe ya.

Easy puzzle. Well done. But, have I seen too many OVINE types cavorting recently?

Thought Capone before PACINO. But Capone is a real criminal. PACINO is a real Sicilian.

Mini themes: OLDEN ELDERS.

@ArtLover - So, is RODIN SEXY?

@Stan - funny.
I kept trying to remember an Italian movie called the Kids are Alright, but it's called Everybody's Fine, 1990,Dir. Tornatore. the American movie is based on the same idea of a widower visiting all his grown kids. It should have been called The Kids are Alright.

sanfranman59 4:01 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 7:07, 6:58, 1.02, 62%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:00, 3:43, 1.08, 83%, Challenging

I'm baaaa-aaack (like a bad penny?)

a guy 5:18 PM  

mitchs, think about the first row and the down answers that start there. About 40% of the letters in written English are vowels, so generally about 40% of the down answers that start in the first row must start with vowels.

Also, in general, a consonant is more likely to be followed by a vowel than by a consonant, and vice versa. Words that follow CvCvCv are more common than words that follow, say, CCCvvv. When you consider that letters need to be a part of both an across word and a down word, there's a natural tendency of grids to follow a chess-board like pattern with vowels/consonants instead of black/white.

The specific pattern is highly unlikely, but the general pattern holds pretty well (absent a specific attempt to do otherwise).

Rex Parker 5:19 PM  

Just rode on a plane from D.C. to Denver with Madeleine Albright.

Safely in Colorado now, adjusting to altitude before we go even higher (8-9K ft).

Looks like I'll have wifi at the place we're staying, so I'll be spying on you all, if not saying much. I'm going to try spending most of my time reading these things called "books." They're made of paper. Fascinating.


Two Ponies 7:10 PM  

@ Rex, LOL!
Enjoy, you deserve it.

jesser 7:46 PM  

Well, hell, Rex. Colorado is just one state north. Come on down to the Land of Enchantment! I have a spare room, lots of those book thingies, a vast knowledge of the local restaurant scene and a heck of a promise: We'll treat you so many ways, you're bound to like one of 'em! Bienvenidos, amigo! -- jesser

Sfingi 8:11 PM  

@Rex - Did you discuss the wedding? Ha ha.

Check out

Harvey is Real

(For the Crying Game:) She's a Bloke.

mac 8:45 PM  

Great debut! Lovely Tuesday on a Monday, I'm happy with that.

Had a great day, met Foodie for lunch (a 2 and a half hour lunch) and we seem to agree. On most everything. A lot of fun! Andrea predicted we would get along, and she was right.

@Rex: have a wonderful vacation! We'll keep in mind that you are watching from Colorado.

andrea karl michaels 9:01 PM  

Maybe Madeline can star in a film called "The Kids are Albright"

Van55 9:27 PM  

@jester. Rumor has it that Rex's bark is worse than his smite.

sanfranman59 10:02 PM  

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

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

Mon 7:16, 6:58, 1.04, 72%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:51, 3:43, 1.04, 71%, Medium-Challenging

mac 10:06 PM  

@sanfranman: glad you are back!

Anonymous 3:22 PM  

Is there a blog for Tuesday, August 3? I couldn't find a link to it.

The Big E 3:23 PM  

@anon - I think Rex is on vacation

Steve J 4:07 PM  

Yes, there's a blog for Aug. 3. Click the "newer post" link below. There doesn't happen to be a direct link from the homepage.

PuzzleGirl 4:12 PM  

I would love to know what the problem is with the 8/3 blog post. When I go to Rex's home page (, the very first post is today's (8/3). What is it that you all are seeing?

Steve J 8:59 PM  

@PG: The post is there, but you can't link to the full page with the comments, etc. I suspect because the line of clues at the top (which is what usually links to the full post page) isn't there.

Dirigonzo 5:46 PM  

If I have done this right - definitely not a certainty - this will appear as "The Last Word", which I've noticed some on here are intent on having (though we all know it always belongs to @Rex). And since I'm a syndication solver and thus posting five weeks after everyone else there is a chance that I might actually have the last word, at least chronologically. This was a relatively easy Monday puzzle for me, which is remarkable because only a few months ago - before I discovered this blog and all of your insightful (inciteful?) comments, which I have found to be immensely instructive, I would have struggled mightily with it. I'm still not in a league with most of you but now at least I can usually solve a Friday puzzle (my paper doesn't publish on Saturday) in hours instead of days (I'm persistent if nothing else.) Anyway, I just wanted to jump in, albeit a few weeks late, to say "Thank you" to @Rex and everyone else who posts here for helping me enjoy the NYT crossword solving experience.

Rex Parker 5:47 PM  


Thanks for bothering to comment in syndication. And thank you for the thank you. It's my pleasure :)


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