Swedish actress Persson / THU 8-12-10 / Joni Mitchell song lyric she was swallowed by sky / Top ten singer born Nigeria / Christiansen founder Lego

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Constructor: Barry Boone

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: The sinking of the Titanic — the S.O.S. (73A: See 38-Across) call to the R.M.S. CARPATHIA (65A: Responder to 38-Across on 4/15/1912) is spelled out in MORSE CODE (17A: See 38-Across) in the center of the grid, in rebus form: DIT DIT DIT DAH DAH DAH DIT DIT DIT (38A: 73-Across, in 17-Across)

Word of the Day: ESSY Persson (62A: Swedish actress Persson) —

Essy Persson is a Swedish actress born 15 June 1941 in Gothenburg (Sweden). In 1971 she appeared in the movie Want So Much To Believe. (that is the Entirety of her wikipedia write-up!)
• • •

This puzzle was comically hard for a Thursday—more like a toughish Friday for me. Surprised by my slow time, I checked the initial returns at the NYT site and laughed out loud at how slow they were—the puzzle had been up 25 minutes and only 11 people had finished and my cruddy time would have put me third. Actually, the puzzle wasn't *that* tough until I got to the SW corner, where things got ridiculous. I had nothing below AYE (49A: Reply to Captain Kirk). Just ... nothing. Kept trying to think of a *place* at 41D: "The Great Gatsby" setting=>JAZZAGE) and failing. Started doubting the JET part of JETSKI (41A: Vacation vehicle). Just a disaster. Wanted TOUGH for LONER (56D: Typical Clint Eastwood role). Had no hope of getting EMERY (71A: What might do a foul tip?), AXONS (64A: Transmission conduits, of a sort), ESSY (!?!?), or LONER from the clues alone. Deeply ironically, the answer to save me down there was TEA ROSE (43D: Flower named for its smell). I don't even know what one is. But I've seen it in puzzles before (it's loaded with low-value Scrabble letters, so not uncommon as 7-letter answers go), and for some reason the clue was specific enough to make my brain go blip. And then everything fell.

Before that ... well, I didn't really understand what was going on. That is, I had NO IDEA what CARPATHIA was. Never heard of it. So the puzzle's theme made little sense to me, though from the date I could infer the Titanic was involved somehow. As for the rebus, I picked it up without Too much trouble. Hit the middle of the puzzle and *nothing* was working (good sign that some trick is afoot). Still, that all fell without too much struggle. Had much, much more trouble piecing together HI MOM (15A: Stadium sign). Don't know the title "AMELIA" (8D: Joni Mitchell song with the lyric "she was swallowed by the sky") even if I've probably heard the song at some time ... er, nope, never heard it. So I had to back that one into the corner, praying that it was in fact "AMELIA" (and CREMA4A: Caffè go-with) and not EMELIA (a name I've seen only in Shakespeare—oh, damn, that's EMILIA. Nevermind).

So there's the general toughness of a rebus puzzle, coupled with tougher-than-average cluing. I mean, didn't you put in CABANAS for 1D: Beach shelters (RAMADAS)? How mean was that? Plus, RED was clued weirdly (1A: Stop on it) and AXE's clue felt off (14A: Headbanger's instrument)—I always think of the headbanger as the fan, not the guitar player, and doesn't AXE come from blues, not metal? (comes from neither, it turns out— see interesting etymological discussions here and here). So it was rough all over. My love of rebuses is offset here by my general dislike of (very) heavily cross-referenced cluing. CARPATHIA's clue is the only one with Any info in it. No symmetrical answer for SOS, either. That middle string of DITs and DAHs, though ... that's pretty magical. Overall, a memorable, challenging, and predominantly enjoyable puzzle.

There is one answer in this puzzle that made me laugh out loud—you will find out why on Tuesday...

  • 44A: ___ Christiansen, founder of the Lego company (OLE) — whoa. Big day for the Scandinavians, I guess. OLE, ESSY; ESSY, OLE.
  • 68A: Rightmost column in the periodic table (GASES) — ugh. I haven't looked at a periodic table since junior year of high school. Wanted, I don't know, INERT or something. Actually wanted NEONS, but knew that NEON was just one element, not a column. At least GASES was a recognizable entity I could get with a few crosses.
  • 24D: Part of the "De Camptown Races" refrain (DOO [DAH]) — this answer right here is where I started to figure out the theme. Wanted DOOS, but then the clue would have to read [Parts ...], not [Part...]. First thing I put in was DO-DA, thinking, "man, that is a stupid way to spell that."

  • 35D: Snake's place (I[DAH]O) — brutally vague, until you get the theme.
  • 53D: Neighbor of Francia (ESPAÑA) — fittingly, right next to the Spanish word PAZ (67D: Goal of las Naciones unidas), and crossing the Francia-ish, i.e. French, words PAS DE (63A: ___ deux).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


operapianist 1:09 AM  

Well, well, well. I eventually finished this beast, and definitely in agreement that the rebus wasn't even the hardest part. HIMOM was ridiculously hard to parse (though makes sense in the end)--originally had ROC for "Singer Ocasek" and considered "HOMOS!" but then recanted quickly...(Hey I can say that, right?? Since I AM one?)

As a fairly new regular solver, I was happy to actually *get* the rebus, but trouble abounded both before and after that happened:

1) had DOT for the 3 middle rebus squares for awhile. Not helpful.
2) pre-rebus, I actually spelled out "DITDOTDIT". Also not helpful.
3) thought "cuts and splices film, e.g." might justify the abbrev. EDS. Wrong.
4) filled in GASES with no crosses and figured EASTEGG to be inferrable for "Great Gatsby setting". Nope.
5) had AMP for "headbanger's instrument" (figuring one would need loud sounds for moshing and such) and actually considered EMOTICA as "strange things", i.e. a possible plural of "emoticon". Wow.

I loved this puzzle in the end and was honestly happy to finish it. Brain-bleeding shall commence with tomorrow's puzzle, I'm sure.

Van55 1:10 AM  

Though I finished it ultimately, words cannot describe how much I hated the cross-referenced cluing and the rebus. Who needs the gimmicks? Eddy Persson is mightily obscure. The clue for RYE among others is mensanized. And yes I very confidently penned CABANA in where RAMADA ended up. Infuriating!

Van55 1:14 AM  

Spell check "corrected" E S S Y. Sorry

syndy 1:16 AM  

Carpathia to me said Dracula so that slowed me way up-wanted ditka but held off until edith poped up-so-morse code sos 1912 and finally remembered that the Carpathia was the first ship to reac the titanic-WOW but what the heck do snakes and Idaho have to do with each other?Me I played yoyo with loner for clint

ArtLvr 1:49 AM  

Snake River? just a guess...

I knew the CARPATHIA, responder to the fateful SOS, so it was a matter of fitting the code in 38A. E-DIT-H, Pres. Wilson's wife, was the key from which the rest was an open book...

Good thing ASIAN was already at 9A, so it couldn't repeat at 69A. My brain was LAckadaisICAL and out of ENERGY toward the END.

Bravo, Barry Boone!


ArtLvr 2:04 AM  

p.s. It turns out that Idaho's Snake River was the "site of an unsuccessful stunt attempt" by one whose name regularly haunts crosswords, EVEL KNIEVEL. Now I leave it to others to ascertain if that was the last, lethal failure. His personal Titanic?


CoolPapaD 2:14 AM  

As I type this, listening to Joni Mitchell (thanks, Rex), it occurs to me I don't listen to nearly enough Joni Mitchell these days. What a great clip.

And, what a great puzzle. I fell into the same traps - CABANAS, EAST/WEST EGG, and who knew RAMADA was a real word? I had CAMPERS for 41A for way too long, and as soon as JETSKI fell, I knew 39D had to be DITKA somehow, and the rebus opened up.

Loved 64A - neat clue.

Since when do gang bangers make lace? Am I the last American male without a tattoo?? Does anyone else here think this body ink thing has gotten way out of hand?

chefwen 2:54 AM  

Figured out the theme with Ditka and Edits but it still was a bit of a slog to get through. At 4D I had two bit before CHEESY, not even freakin close. 41D JAZZ era before AGE. CARPATHIA was a similar name to a ship we first took to England when I was five, but it sank in 1918, so that was out of the question, although, sometimes I feel that old. Have emailed Dear Old Dad to find out the ships real name.

Took me a while to wrap this puppy up, but wrap it up I did.

capcha myoppig - near sighted pet swine.

mouse 5:20 AM  

Can someone please explain 71A What might do a foul tip? EMERY.

andrea hi mom! michaels 5:32 AM  

wow. Word for word what @Rex said, except add an hour plus more for my time!
(And having spent a few hours writing about Tuesday, I even share his laugh)

I only have 4 or 5 words with no writeovers...all names (LEEZA, YAO, RIC, SADE and a couple of others!)
suffice to say I fell forevery single possible mistake, especially brutal having East Egg have to become JAZZAGE, even with the one letter G being correct, I wanted two SSs in GASES. Doesn't GASSES look better? It's BANDANNA all over again.

That DITDITDITDAHDAHDAHDITDITDIT reminded me of Byron and Robin's IDOIDOIDOIDOIDO last month...so 47D "SAIDIDO was shocking!
(Plus I kept trying to fit the rebus in to that (Said I (DO T)O) as I thought it was DIT/DOT and DASH. WHAT A MESS!
But loved finishing (OLE!) and I learned a lot.
I will count NATTILY as a bleedover from MRPEANUT.

andrea carpathia michaels 5:43 AM  

as it's 2:35am maybe it's up to me to explain; Foul tip in this case is an EMERY board filing down a nail. Ugly and the Y was my last letter entered after running the alphabet...couldn't have gone further unless EMERz was a word!
Just learned what EMO was from my almost-16 yr old nephew two days ago (for me, it's comic Phillips!)

I'm still reeling from all the mistakes I did...even MAliA for SASHA...or bYmouth had to become EYEEXAM! (Just had one hours ago too! Oy.)
I think this puzzle should have appeared April 15th (what day of the week was that, Rainman?)

And did anyone comment on the 3 Zs and 3 Xs? and that snazzy J?

Oh, and I thought there must be a team in IDAHO called The Snakes. But in retrospect, I'm insane!

r.alphbunker 7:10 AM  

Remembered from long ago that SOS was chosen as the distress signal because it was so easy to tap out, so once i got e[dit] I guessed the correct sequence. My iPhone made a tapping noise as I was doing the puzzle. Happily I did not need Google to finish. Google sometimes plays the role of Carpathia for me at the end of the week.

A memorable puzzle!

T-No-Money 7:23 AM  

Hand up for CABANAS at 1A. Also left DOT DOT DOT for WAAYYY too long in the middle of the SOS rebus. Finished with two mistakes: 1)TAG (like, graffiti) at 60D (and CARPAGHIA at 65A--Hey, it sounded plausible), and CREME at 4 (with EMELIA at 8D).

Impressive puzzle with a killer Southwest. A worthwhile slog.

Leslie 8:02 AM  

Thank you, Art Lvr, for the explanation of the Snake River in Idaho. I did NOT get that reference.

Nothing different or useful to say. I didn't know RAMADA could have that meaning, so (like everybody else, right?) I put in "cabana" until MORSE CODE absolutely crowbarred it out of there. And, while I'm normally much more sanguine about cross-referenced cluing than Rex is, it did definitely get on my nerves today.

Captcha word today: "butsup." Supply your own jokes.

Cathyat40 9:10 AM  


jesser 9:18 AM  

Slogville. Many writeovers. And a fail, because I could not make HIMO_ make any sense, and I didn't know the Mitchell song, and I didn't run far enough through the alphabet to find the M. I stopped at the tragically wrong 'd'. In hindsight, of course, HI MOM is so damn simple to parse.

I'm guessing 98 percent of solvers made the cAbANAS mistake early, and I'm confident that with the rebus only barely beginning to emerge, many also went with Snake In The GrasS at 35D. Took a while for that snake to slither out and make way for potato farming.

At 59A, I thought ShAft had to be right. I was wrong. Same with 25A, where I wanted ALIa.

I did OK in the SW, but I went back and forth in the SE for a while before it came into view.

In the end, I liked it, and I can hardly wait to see what Rex laughed out loud about. I'm putting this one aside until Tuesday to see whether I can figure it out before coming to the blog.

Hope everyone in Rexville has an outstanding Thursday. I checked the numbers and have confirmed that I yet again failed to win the Powerball, so I am moving forward with somewhat muted joy through this day. :-)

Qvistions (those things ESSY keeps asking) -- jesser

mitchs 9:23 AM  

Had EYETEST and TEAROSE which led to...nothing. I knew EYETEST was right, right? So I deleted TEAROSE. Then I DNF. Thanks, Rex, for the commiseration.

Anonymous 10:03 AM  

@CoolPapaD you are not the last American male without a tat its down to you and I. Do these women with their names tatooed on their neck think that's sexy? Not me.

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

10:03 anon should read Golfballman

Zeke 10:08 AM  

I'm not as embarrased by my cabana mistake as I am about how long it took me to give it up. A few years ago I actually looked up what RAMADA meant, still remembered it meant a shelter of some sort, had enough crosses so that I knew cabana was wrong, but I couldn't give it up. I got tripped up by JAZZAGE with the exact same clue about a year ago, and I still wouldn't go with JETSKI because I knew there was not town/village in the North Shore of LI which started with J.
I eventually figured out what the clue for 71A meant, though I still would like someone to parse that for me so that it made sense. If your tip is foul, it is infected with some sort of jungle rot so that you've got some 'splainin to do, and you should be soaking it in bleach. It's not that it's chipped and you need to file it down.
I got the 4A/8D cross wrong. I don't care, as I neither care about variants/various foreign spellings of cream, nor about anything Joni Mitchell ever did.

AXE should never be used in any connection to music, other that a bunch of old jazz players sitting around backstage at 4AM jamming, some 15 year old kid asks if he could sit in, they ask him if he brought his AXE with him, and he takes out his soprano sax. It can't even be an alto sax.

Ulrich 10:11 AM  

@Anonymous: It's actually down to you, CoolPapaD and me.

Boy, am I relieved that others struggled with this beast the way I did, cabana and all.

dk 10:17 AM  

Lots of miss-clues here. A setting is a location not an era or age, thus I stand by East Egg and a responder is an individual (e.g., Radioman) not an object. One plays on sod and in a time zone. I could whine on... I shall not.

Note: I was always intrigued by the CARPATHIA as the first ship on the scene as the Carpathian Mountains are the reputed home of vampires.

Got the theme in the crosses and my time was similar to that of my own Daisy Buchanan: Andrea

*** (3 Stars) This one got the best of me and I feel a bit mislead.

J 10:27 AM  

This was nonsense, attempting to be much too clever.
Asking who was Ingmar Bergman's cinematographer would be known far better than some obscure Swedish actress. Not to mention I would LOVE to see someone work NYKVIST into a puzzle.

And we won't even get into the choice of Joni Mitchell song.

Add I can't believe Rex didn't reference Blazing Saddles for Camptown Races.

Glimmerglass 10:41 AM  

Great, very hard Thursday. Took more than an hour -- two mistakes Creme + emelia and pas + Leesa. Made all the same false starts Rex did, especially cabana for ramada and East Egg for Jazz Age. I did recognize the Carpathia, which led me back through the cross references to (finally!) the rebus-theme. I thought the crosses of 38A were all clever.

Two Ponies 11:03 AM  

All of this and no Titanic in the puzzle? I was so disappointed.
Tough clues today.
I must go to different costume parties than Barry Boone does because I could not let go of Eve.
Ape requires a rental unless you keep that sort of thing on hand.
I figured that with Ole in Scandinavian disguise Eve could be lurking behind a fig leaf as well.
Does a tea rose smell like tea?
Eye exam as a requirement for "many" a prescription?
Hey Andrea, I thought of the Mr. Peanut bleed-over as well.
I liked the clue for Santa but not for Hi Mom. Why does Dad always get ignored?
PuzzleMate says that there is no tatoo that can enhance a woman's body. I agree it's true for both sexes. Some people have so much ink that they almost don't need clothes. Hey all you kids, good luck with all that in your middle age!

mac 11:04 AM  

Great, great puzzle, although Fridayish to me. Made many of the mistakes mentioned, but did figure it out. Strangely enough, a sports clue/answer opened it up: Ditka!

Nice clues, laughed at 66D Rye! Last area t fall was the SW. Hope the puzzles at the Lollapuzzoola are a little gentler....

Gubdude 11:07 AM  

I thought the NE was the easiest section but the SW was brutal for me. Completely guessed TEAROSE and didn't think anything ___AGE was right.

Got the rebus because I knew the Bears coach had to be DITKA or Halas. The middle went down fairly easily once I knew what I was dealing with.

Masked and Anonymous and U-less 11:25 AM  

Love the ThursPuz. Always can count on it to put up a fight. I finished without entirely knowing what I was doin'. Had MORSECODE and SOS and CARPATHIA mighty early on, so just backed the rig in from there. Didn't understand the EMERY clue, but wrote in the right letters, somehow. CABANAS didn't call out to me at all, as already had M of MORSE cemented into place there.

Big headbanger for me was at the intersection of CREMe and eMELIA. So sue me; I can't spell in French.

Dreadful, dismal, pitiful U turnout. I know they're hard to fit into a busy puz, but, dang, Shortzmeister, couldn't we have at least one?!?! Oh well. Hi-yo, AYE-AOL-IDE-BAH, away...

Clark 11:27 AM  

Man oh man oh I had a bunch of little mistakes. CREMe/eMELIEA, DIVeS(huh?)/SMe, CARPAgHia/TAg, SNARl/LlEZA (why not another double L name?). But I still enjoyed it. cAbAnAS kept me from seeing MORSE CODE until I got SOS in place. Then the whole middle filled itself in nicely.

I am also a member of the sans tat club -- but I confess that I want one.

Anonymous 11:42 AM  

@Two Ponies - SNL addressed the middle aged tattoo issue here

joho 11:52 AM  

It's all been said. As you can see by my late arrival, I was battered by this brilliant puzzle. I did get the rebus after forever, but never could figure out the SW by myself. I solved all the rest, though, and will have to be content with that. Tough, tough Thursday.

Thank you Barry Boone .. the DITDITDITDAHDAHDAHDITDITDIT was worth the beating!

Howard B 11:55 AM  

Well, this was certainly a rough ride. A worthy challenge, though I agree the cluing was insane. I also started right off with CABANAS, so that was pleasantly evil. ESSY I decided early on (after a failed stab at INGA) that I would not know, so left that as an offering to the crossing gods.

I was relieved, though, to discoverthe rebus on I[dah]O from the Snake River reference, since a clue referencing same river squished me during a tournament puzzle. I had only vaguely heard of the rivre at that time, and the clue only used 'Snake' to disguise the reference, so I missed the wordplay and left that area blank. Felt a bit better this time around.

@operapianist: Roc Ocasek sounds like a perfectly workable stage name to me. Just quite a bit larger, feathery and with possibly sharper claws than the actual singer.

Sparky 12:04 PM  

Completely destroyed. DNF. As soon as I opened the paper I said we haven't seen a rhebus in a long time. Tried 1A "stop on a dime" which would fit with 73A. Never did catch on. I hope I don't burst into tears at Lollapuzzoola and make a fool of myself. Well, tomorrow is another day. "bhedo" I feel like Anne Boleyn

Bob Kerfuffle 12:21 PM  

Great puzzle!

From comments so far, seems I am the only one who put in EXOTICS before EXOTICA.

See you at Lollapuzzoola?!

Bob (no tats) Kerfuffle

Anonymous 12:25 PM  

@masked and anonymous.
Caffè is Italian. Cafè is French. Crème would be correct in French.

Love rebus puzzles and this was no exception. The "aha" moment is always delightful.

Moonchild 12:31 PM  

Never reading Gatsby helped today.
I got a Z from 61A and made a good guess.
Wicked good clues today.
I always forget if Ocasek skips the C or K in his name.
@ Van55, Today the random Roman numeral "expedited" my solve today. At least it narrowed down the possibilities.
For the stadium sign I was hoping it wasn't that bible verse guy.
Does he still do that?
Since the sinking ship did not show up in the clues or answers I even looked at the grid pattern hoping the shape would appear.
I guess it had already gone down.
I suppose the Emery clue was meant to make us think of a sports answer but I thought it was just plain weird. Rookie manicurist?
One of my favorite slang terms for tats on a girl's lower back:
tramp stamp.

Anonymous 12:31 PM  

I finally picked up the theme with Doodah and Ditka, but until I did, I wracked by brain trying to come up with a three letter football coach. It just wasn't happenin'. Anyway, SE killed me, so a lousy DNF today.

On a brighter note, my almost-15 year old son asked me yesterday to save the NYT when I left for work (actually he left a note- he was still sleeping), and later called me to remind me to bring home the puzzle. Since I'd finished it already, we did yesterday's LAT together, and then I started him off on a few of the previous NYT Monday puzzles. He practically finished his first one, but didn't know some of the stand-bys, eg, ESSO. He'll work on the rest today, but I see another afficionado in the making.

jesser 12:36 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Masked and Anonymous 12:49 PM  

@Anon 12:25... Thanks for the Italian job. Most alarmin' thing about that comment was realizin' that someone was actually readin' what I wrote. YeeCats, I need to learn how to spell ... in English!

While I'm Here dept: Saw "Dinner for Schmucks" at the local bijou the other day. So bad it was good, know what I'm sayin'?

jesser 12:51 PM  

have seven tattoos and two brands. All I can say in my defense is that the early 80s was an interesting period fueled by sex, drugs and rock and roll. I did have the moderately good sense to have them placed so that they are all invisible if I'm wearing an elbow-length short-sleeve shirt.

At 51, I now look at myself in the mirror most mornings and think, "That was not your best move. Nor that. Nor that. Nor that. Nor that. But I still kinda like those two."

Anonymous 12:51 PM  

Re the CREMA/AMELIA crossing --

No one thought of Amelia Earhart's flight disappearance for the E/A tipoff (swallowed by the sky)?

Tinbeni 12:51 PM  

Saw a 2hr. show yesterday about the Titanic on the History Channel.

Been caught by the "Dit/Dot" -v- "Dit/Dah" too many other times in crosswords.
Saw the clue, got a mental picture from the beginning of "Blazing Saddles" and Camptown Races being sung by the yahoo's. Started humming DOO DAH, DOO DAH.
Then DITka showed up.
Rebus and theme solved.

Hand-up for another who will never get a TAT.
If you do that, you can't give blood for a year.
And what seems "cool" at age 20 isn't at age 50+.
(This doesn't apply to Scotch, certain herbs and spices or the music I still love from the '70s, they're still "cool").

TEAROSE was recently in the LAT.
OLE & ESSY learning momnets.

Can't say I finished ASAP, but it was a FUN slog.

treedweller 1:10 PM  

I had a very similar experience to Rex, but, like T-No-Money, went with TAg instead of TAT. Couldn't care less about the Titanic, its sinking, its rescuers, or the movie based on it. Not that it's not fair game--I'm just sayin.

Is this showing up because of the recent news about an ice island (like the one that sank the Titanic) breaking away from Greenland? Because I can't help but wonder, Why? Why Titanic, why today?

eva 1:12 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle: I'll raise my hand on EXOTICs instead of EXOTICA.

Took me an appallingly long time to realize this was a rebus, even though (as Rex said) I should've been tipped off by the fact that absolutely nothing was working out in the middle. Plus, I'm a lifelong Bears fan! Argh! And it made me sad to erase EAST EGG - I just read The Great Gatsby a few months ago for my book club and had been so proud of myself for filling it in. But the aha moment was quite satisfying.

Finished with one error, ESSe/EMERe, but I'm not bitter about the clue for the latter - I think it's kinda clever.

Van55 1:16 PM  


I agree with you about the random Roman numeral today, which is why I didn't mention it along with my other gripes. :-)

Zeke 1:20 PM  

@Anon 12:51 I can't speak for everyone, but for myself, no. As with every analogy/metaphor/simile I've ever heard Joni Mitchell make, AMELIA Earhart / Swallowed by the sky just doesn't work.

Amelia Earhart wasn't swallowed by the sky, she was swallowed by the sea or was rendered road pizza by a crashing into a mountain (is that mountain pizza?). She didn't soar higher and higher until it was pointless to go back, she ran out of gas and died a brutal death. Sorry Joni, that's life.

Lest we forget 1:41 PM  

The Morse Code pairings:

Dit/Dah --- meant to be verbalized

dit dit dit / dah dah dah / dit dit dit

Dot/Dash --- meant to be printed

... / --- / ...

(Forgive the /'s in the example, blogger removes spaces it doesn't feel are necessary)


Anonymous 1:49 PM  

Rough crowd today.
Between no sympathy for the Titanic and reducing Amelia Earhart to road pizza things seem to have taken a dark turn.

Shamik 2:00 PM  

Although I finished the puzzle in 17:02 time, whoopee-do. Three wrong squares:

AMELIA for EMILIA (it could happen) which gives

CREME for CREMA (thought I'd seen that in puzzles before)

PAS for PAX (still had de deux on the brain) which gives

LEESA for LEEZA (it could happen)

Clever construction, decently hard solve...disappointing for me due to the 3 wrong squares.

Tinbeni 2:12 PM  

You obviously didn't listen to the clip Rex provided.

Joni Mitchell's complete stanza:
"A Ghost of aviation,
she was swallowed by the sky.
Or by the sea
like me she had a dream to fly.
Like Icarus ascending
on those beautiful foolish arms.
Amelia is was just a false alarm."

OK, Not up to snuff with Gordon Lightfoots
"Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"

Anon 1:49
Don't knock Road Pizza until you've tried some good ol' Southern Road-Kill-Armadillo on the half-shell.

Shamik 2:14 PM  

And ABE shows up at my costume parties....doesn't he?

Anonymous 2:21 PM  

The SW did me in, partly because I wouldn't let go of East Egg (except for trying West Egg).

Jim 2:28 PM  

Great, great puzzle. Exactly what they're supposed to do. Spark conversation, and frustration. Breezed through the top half, hit an impenetrable wall in the miffle. Worjked around to get the SE (from doth to dost to HAST, BAH!) And the S. SW was dicey and couldn't get to it from what I had.

Which brings me to the rebus (is that an abbrev. For something, btw?). Can they title it, or ring a bell, or something, to denote a rebus. Outside Sundays, I never expect them. Never founf it today, despite knowing E(DIT)H Gault and Mike (DIT)KA but my mind wouldn't go there. Lile Marty McFly, I have a real problem thinking 4th dimensionally.

My real problem is this: if I was SURE about either one of these, I would have been FORCED to open my mind, but there have been many Bear coaches and (thanks to The American President) I know Wilson was married before. The rest of the crosses, forget it. They could've been anything. So, really disappointed because I think I could have completed the SW if I could have come in from ___SKI. In a rebus, on a Thursday, at least one has got to be a slam dunk!

Last thing: 'Starting Pitcher' is not an ACE. An ACE is a starting pitcher. Bad clue. 'Top starting pitcher', or 'Starting pitcher, sometimes', sure. Bad job there.

John V 2:32 PM  

Wow, this was hard. Ditto the comments on SW. Broker it by looking at an image of the periodic table .. couldn't remember all of it from 1963 :(

Finished, with one mistake in SE, carpathia and didn't see 47D"saidido"

Knew immediately that this was a rebus and got it with edits/ditka.

In the end, worked hard but not sure how much fun I had. S'life!

Zeke 2:42 PM  

@Tinbeni - Not so much didn't listen as couldn't listen. I did try.

There was true heroism in her attempt, which was all predicated on the likelihood of her actual, tragic, demise. Hypothesizing that "she was swallowed by the sky" diminishes both.

chefbea 3:06 PM  

WOW what a tough puzzle!!! Googled a bit then gave up DNF Got morse code, sos and 38 across but had no idea it had anything to do with the Titanic

Tomorrow has to be easier!!

Squeek the Anonymouse 3:14 PM  

@ Zeke, I usually find your comments amusing however in the wake of a certain plane crashing into a mountain in Alaska just days ago I think you are teetering on the edge of bad taste when refering to the victims as "mountain pizza".
Let's go back to talking about tatoos. That's a lot more fun.

foodie 3:44 PM  

Yeah, my QDI agrees with Rex, this baby is between a Friday and a Saturday. I'm guessing SanFranMan will quote us percentiles in the mid to high 90's.

I think the puzzle per se was really clever and well done. But the cluing was unnecessarily tough in combination with having a rebus. So, to me, it was made unnecessarily frustrating.

My most embarrassing moment, in this embarrassing adventure, is how long it took me to figure out AXON. My bread and and olive oil...

@Andrea, I think, but I'm not sure, that "Gasses" or "Gassed" means the act of administering a Gas to someone. So, it's a proper format for the verb. I think : )

George NYC 3:56 PM  

With poetic license, "swallowed by the sky" seems a perfectly fine way to describe someone lost in flight. It's not to be taken literally; it's a sublime image.

Glitch 3:57 PM  

@Jim wrote:

"Can they title it, or ring a bell, or something, to denote a rebus. Outside Sundays, I never expect them."

Part of the fun in solving is discovering a rebus (BTW not an abbr, I'll let you look it up).

E[dit]s, [Dit]ka, and do[dah] were all pointed out as tipoffs, gimme's that wouldn't fit.

Especially expect them on Thursdays (which are nominally Sunday level).

BTW, when a rebus shows up earlier in the week (easier), you are more likely to find the rebus squares imbedded symetrically, end of the week, not so much --- either will generate comments.

Keep on solving, experience helps.


retired_chemist 4:09 PM  

Hand up for CABANAS for a while and for futzing with the rebus for a good while. DOO(dah) and (dit)KA provided the AHA moment that made the middle row, 73A, and 17A fall like dominoes.

Triage nurse, over here please - I think I will make it but get me the medic STAT.The SW nearly killed me, and I seem not to be alone. Smugly holding on to EAST EGG/WEST EGG until the 20 minute mark :-(, dithering between EYE EXAM/EYE TEST, not knowing ESSY, and not being enough of a movie buff to make LONER a lock @ 56D were the chief culprits. GASES @ 98A - OK, but that's not the essence of Group 18 (or 8 if you are as old as I am).

EMERY - the foul tip presumably is a broken or jagged fingernail IMO.

An enjoyable puzzle hellish for a Thursday but worth it in the end. Mr. Boone, more please.

retired_chemist 4:14 PM  

@ Foodie - it took me a long time (see above) to change EXONS to AXONS. OK, a genetic info conduit (which is what I was thinking) is a bit arcane, but still....

The (ea)(we)ST EGG error was "confirmed" by that and by GASES, so I feel had. But in a good way......

SethG 4:43 PM  

HI MOM was my third answer. I've never seen a "Hi Mom!" tattoo. I also don't care about the Titanic, and if they hadn't been upper class folk and hadn't made movies about it almost no one else would, either.

ESSY Persson played Woman in _I, a Woman_, a cheap, Swedish-made study of nymphomania which Time called the "[p]ioneer of the pseudo-respectable porno picture". She played Therese in _Therese and Isabelle_, which "tells the old story of homosexual love between school chums." EXOTICA indeed.

sanfranman59 4:47 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

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

Thu 28:30, 19:18, 1.48, 97%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 15:07, 9:16, 1.63, 97%, Challenging

These median solve times are in Friday Medium-Challenging/Challenging territory.

I was cruising to a pretty good Thursday solve time, having dispatched the rebus in reasonably short order. Then came the SW and I ended up with my first DNF Thursday in the 63 weeks I've been systematically recording my solve times. A fun, but ultimately frustrating solving experience. I might have eventually had a revelation and completed the puzzle without cheating, but my crossword attention span degrades quickly beyond the 30 minute mark and I was at 40 minutes when I finally gave in and called Uncle Google. Actually, it wasn't even all that easy to Google up an answer in the SW.

(this is my second attempt to post my midday message ... the first one disappeared ... just like earlier this week ... what's up Blogger???)

fergus 4:49 PM  

So confounded in the SW that I tried SYMPTOM for the prescription Clue; TRADES IN for Focuses (on); IDLER or IDIOT, sorry Clint; and abandoning the EGGs, wondered whether JERICHO might have been the name of that gas station town?

sanfranman59 4:53 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

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

Thu 28:30, 19:18, 1.48, 97%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 15:07, 9:16, 1.63, 97%, Challenging

These median solve times are in Friday Medium-Challenging/Challenging territory.

I was cruising to a pretty good Thursday solve time, having dispatched the rebus in reasonably short order. Then came the SW and I ended up with my first DNF Thursday in the 63 weeks I've been systematically recording my solve times. A fun, but ultimately frustrating solving experience. I might have eventually had a revelation and completed the puzzle without cheating, but my crossword attention span degrades quickly beyond the 30 minute mark and I was at 40 minutes when I finally gave in and called Uncle Google. Actually, it wasn't even all that easy to Google up an answer in the SW.

(OK ... so this is the third time I've tried to post this message ... this time I'm doing so without the link to my 7/30/2009 post to see if that's the explanation for my messages disappearing this week)

JenCT 5:12 PM  

My favorite answer was HIMOM - I've watched a lot of football...

Hey, lighten up on the TAT people - I'm very proud of mine!

Sfingi 5:24 PM  


Only names I actually knew were SADE and SASHA.

The trouble was that getting the rebus didn't aid in much else, since it was only in the one place. (Got the rebus with DAHLIA.)

Also had cAbAnAS, guessed OLE (what could it be in 3 letters?)
Also had EAst EGg. Time, not place, setting. That's fair.

Didn't like the question about the TEAROSE. Oh, it smells like a TEAROSE. I guess I'll call it a TEAROSE.
Circular? Begging the question?
Or ENDIT. Why bother with the word "relationship"? Just say, "Terminate something."
And "vacation vehicle." JETSKI too particular for a non-sportster. For me, a vacation vehicle is one with huge AC output.

I have the same question as @Mouse.
Wouldn't that be "fix" a foul tip.

Generally unpleasant experience, since my attention degrades at the 2 hour mark! (re @SanFranMan) An hour before Google-Time and another after. Finally, I fell asleep and my pen hit me in the nose.

Just the whines of a Thursday loser.

WaskesiuT 5:30 PM  

Never realized so many morons were interested in crossword puzzles.

Tinbeni 5:38 PM  

Having studied game theory and stratey for the iterated prisoner's dilemma (being a fan of "equivalent retaliation") I have a personal preference:

Tit for TAT.

Anonymous 5:55 PM  

@ WaskesiuT,
Does your boss know you are sending insults while you are supposed to be working?
How's the weather up there in B.C.?
It doesn't take a Girl With a Dragon Tatoo to find you.

Martin 6:18 PM  


You're not the only one who's mentioned the ACE clue, which is odd. In general, "sometimes" can be omitted from a clue. A JETSKI is not the only "Vacation vehicle." "HI MOM" is not the only "Stadium sign." And your ACE is not your only starting pitcher.

Clue and entry aren't synonyms. That's why they're called "clues."

william e emba 6:50 PM  

Since I haven't been to the beach in 40 years, it never occurred to me to try cabanas. I was thinking of leantos or even gazebos. I got RAMADAS after I got the M from MORSECODE.

I was also going with Rex's odd spelling DODA (crossed with I DO as opposed to DO I), since I just couldn't think of a good rebus to squeeze out.

While I knew of Coach DITKA, I did not know any other coach, so I didn't even suspect anything there.

And while I knew EDITH Wilson, that was the second Mrs Wilson, and I couldn't remember the first one's name whatsoever, so again I did not force myself to admit there was a rebus.

It is currently believed that element 118 aka ununoctium (symbol Uuo), the element under radon in the periodic table, would actually form a solid under normal conditions. Not a gas. This is way too over-the-top bizarre though to count as criticism of the clue.

Late Night 7:58 PM  

@ william e emba -- Wake up, man! Haven't you been following the travails of sanfranman59?? If you put an active link in your post, it gets removed. So please no more salacious references to ununoctium!!

william e emba has left a new comment on the post "Swedish actress Persson / THU 8-12-10 / Joni Mitc...":

Since I haven't been to the beach in 40 years, it never occurred to me to try cabanas. I was thinking of leantos or even gazebos. I got RAMADAS after I got the M from MORSECODE.

I was also going with Rex's odd spelling DODA (crossed with I DO as opposed to DO I), since I just couldn't think of a good rebus to squeeze out.

While I knew of Coach DITKA, I did not know any other coach, so I didn't even suspect anything there.

And while I knew EDITH Wilson, that was the second Mrs Wilson, and I couldn't remember the first one's name whatsoever, so again I did not force myself to admit there was a rebus.

It is currently believed that element 118 aka ununoctium (symbol Uuo), the element under radon in the periodic table, would actually form a solid under normal conditions. Not a gas. This is way too over-the-top bizarre though to count as criticism of the clue.

Jim 8:24 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sfingi 8:29 PM  

@LateNight - wish I even knew what you were talking about (re: active links).

But, I thank everyone for sharing today.

A cold front is moving in! Hurrah from me and harp seals everywhere.

Jim 8:30 PM  

I think I thank you for your assistance, and I don't have the solving experience of many others here (about three months solid) but, I must insist, cluing ACE as 'Starting pitcher' is imprecise.

Take the example you gave, of 'Vacation vehicle'. Sure, there are many...CAMPER, STATIONWAGON, UBOAT or, of course, JETSKI. Clearly, here, they are looking for an EXAMPLE of a vacation vehicle. After all, there's no synonym for that clue.

In 'Starting pitcher', however, and on clues like this generally, they need to distinguish among the type of answer they're looking for.

They either could be looking for a synonym (like, I don't know, HURLER or THROWER, though these are not great answers, I admit) OR an example or type (STOPPER, ACE, etc.)

It's one thing to have a clue like 'Fire', where there are many meanings and we're expected to divine the correct one. But everyone knows they're looking for a synonym for fire, not an example of fire (CAMP, for instance, would be an unacceptable answer). To clue for that, they would have 'Fire, sometimes' or some such thing.

But that's precisely my point. When there is (any) doubt about that for which you are cluing, you need to remove said doubt by pointing in one direction or the other. Here, my argument is, it was just as legitimate to infer they were looking for a synonym of starting pitcher, so when it turns out the answer was an example, I felt aggrieved. Hence, the diatribes. Savvy?

P.S. I'm aware this will get little play, however, given the late hour. My bet is no one will ever even read this. All the same, good to get off my chest.

Squeek 9:12 PM  

@ Jim, It's not so late on the left coast.
Before you get your knickers in a twist next time just remember that the later in the week the looser the rules.
Besides, it's a puzzle, dude.
It's supposed to be hard.
Would you do them if they were easy?
That would be like the place mats at IHOP.

foodie 9:55 PM  

@Jim, here's my take:

In learning to solve the NY Times puzzle we go through exactly the same stages described for handling grief: 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Depression and 5) Acceptance.

I still remember the early phases- "Nooo that can't be right!It must be a typo!" Then, "What the heck? That clue is so unfair! What's Will thinking? Is that what he gets the big bucks for?" And now, the very same types of clues make me chuckle and hope I remember the trick for next time. I have finally reached acceptance. Very occasionally, one of those early tendencies raises its ugly head, but I have learned to squash them, and fast.

I will leave it to you to decide the stage you're at. But awareness of these stages is helpful. It saves you a lot of grief... I wish you luck...

RK 9:57 PM  

sade and enya...Queens of the crosswords ...__ __ __ ...

retired_chemist 10:12 PM  

@ foodie - well put.

@ RK - ELLA, ELLE, ETTA, YOKO ONO (together or separately), and probably others I have forgot are crossworld queens as well.

sanfranman59 10:16 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 6:56, 6:58, 1.00, 54%, Medium
Tue 9:52, 8:50, 1.12, 87%, Challenging
Wed 9:28, 11:45, 0.81, 9%, Easy
Thu 28:24, 19:18, 1.47, 97%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:51, 3:43, 0.98, 42%, Medium
Tue 5:05, 4:33, 1.12, 85%, Challenging
Wed 4:57, 5:46, 0.88, 16%, Easy
Thu 14:42, 9:15, 1.59, 97%, Challenging

Yupper ... it apparently was the embedded hyperlink that sent my earlier posts into the ether.

Of 61 Thursday puzzles in my spreadsheet, there are two others with slower median solve times than this one (Xan Vongsathorn's 1/7/2010 and Matt Ginsburg & Pete Muller's 12/3/2009 puzzles), but this one surely qualifies as an ass kicker.

fergus 10:47 PM  

Good analysis, Jim. Same as I was thinking when resigned to ACE. Can't gainsay Foodie's acceptance of the situation and condition, though.

It's hard to avoid mentioning current captcha: rentimpy

liquid el lay 3:55 AM  

Started with AXE x EXOTICA which is really cool.

Surfers build pole and palm frond structures on beaches up and down the California coast. It's part of the endemic architecture. They're called "PALAPAS". That was my third, and very confident, entry.

After a long while, "PALAPAS" became "CABANAS" before becoming RAMADAS because I had to stop on RED.

Other revisions:
"REX" for RIC
"VIET" for NASA (read clue as "_____? Cong")
and "I DO?" for DO I?

I looked for rebuses to make "NOBLEGASES" for GASES fit, and "ENSNARES" for SNARES (off the incorrect "VIET"...)

Got MORSECODE from SOS, and tried to cram in dots and dashes... but was already working with rebus(DIT) off EDITS..

Eventually figured it out, except I spelled the ship "TARPAGHIA" and failed to get EMERY, spelling "EMERA" and wondering- what is this?

Should have got that. I'm surprised no-one has mentioned, a pitcher can doctor a baseball with an emery board. It's been done, gives the ball more bite and more curve- kind of like this puzzle.

Anonymous 11:47 AM  

It's probably too late to ask, but I would greatly appreciate an explanation of the answer for "headbanger's instrument". The only reference I can find to "axe" as an instrument is in reference to Jazz. According to Google, it is also the name of a hard rock band. I thought a headbanger was a fan of heavy metal music. I just don't understand.
ps. I agree with those who thought that the clue "What might DO a foul tip" was awful- the Santa clue almost made up for it.

liquid el lay 2:57 PM  


AXE = electric guitar,
Which is why its crossing of EXOTICA (a music genre) is so cool.

Anonymous 1:54 PM  

Thank you, liquid el lay.

Male Strippers 7:19 AM  

Great to share...........

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

Cross referenced clues = circular reference = no clue at all. three cross referenced clues in one puzzle -that is just plain cheating.

Anonymous 4:23 PM  

WHAT A CRACK POT! I may take an hour to do most NY Times crosswords, so I mostlikely dont fit in here but this was a lame puzzle.

a non college grad

Dirigonzo 6:02 PM  

I'm pretty proud of myself for even finishing this puppy, albeit with one little mistake - CREMe/eMELIA (which I would have caught if I had bothered to check things over but I was too busy congratulating myself.) Almost unbelievably, my solving experience closely paralleled @Rex and @Andrea(whatever)Michaels, although I don't have a clue what they might be chuckling about with regard to Tuesday's puzzle (obviously it has long since been published and I could easily jump ahead to look at it, but I'll wait for it to come up in due time.) And of course I was WAY slower than either of them, but I finished on the same day I started and that's pretty good for me when a puzzle is as difficult as this one was.

Anonymous 10:18 PM  

Five weeks and a couple of solving days late - hand up for Abe at the party. I also thought that there was a mini-theme going with ace, ape, axe, and aye. Here in the Southwest we are having difficulty picturing a ramada at the beach instead of in the desert.

Unknown 6:47 PM  

For my money the cross-referencing and rebus would have been fine -- it was the extremely hard cluing and a few too many obscure entries that made me take too, too long. Essy, Amelia, Ole, and so many misleading clues (Headbanger's instrument, Life, Gatsby setting). So relieved to see that many of you had the same experience.

bauskern 7:13 PM  

I'm here ten years later, and yes, this was a hard puzzle. (A voice from the future.)

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