Town outside of Buffalo / THU 8-19-10 / Chief Justice before Hughes / Targets of salicyllic acid / 1940 spencer tracy biopic

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Constructor: Kristian House

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: HEAD FIRST (33A: Impetuously ... or what can go on each part of the answer to each starred clue?) — "HEAD" can precede both words in each theme answer, in common phrases, though I have no idea what a HEAD PIECE is...

Word of the Day: ELMA (23D: Town outside of Buffalo) —

The Town of Elma was split from the Towns of Aurora and Lancaster. Encompassing 36 square miles with two major waterways, the Buffalo Creek and Cazenovia Creek, Elma sits squarely in the center of Erie County and can safely ["phew!"] call itself the Heart of Erie County. Over 11,304 residents call Elma home, as does Iroquois Central School, one of Western New Yorks top rated school systems, and Elma Meadows Golf Course, one of Erie Countys [sic] top public courses. Residents enjoy spending time with their family and friends at two of Elma's parks, the Elma Village Green and Creek Road Park. There are also athletic fields, a Senior Center, Town Museum, and Public Library. (Town of Elma, New York official website)
• • •

A "words that can follow" puzzle ... on a Thursday? Weird. This is a reasonably common genre of puzzle that normally falls a day or two earlier in the week. There's nothing tricky here, just some hard / ambiguous cluing, and a Ton of theme answers (impressive). Sadly, the puzzle experience was largely ruined for me by the cheap trickery of ELMA. Why in the World do you draw attention to the Worst answer in your grid by cluing it in a way that so deliberately tries to trick people into guessing a different (much more reasonable) answer (in this case, ERIE)? If you are going to trick folks, make them Like your trick once they discover it. No One but residents of ELMA is going to enjoy discovering ELMA. "Oh, 11,000 people? ... and a Senior Center? ... you don't say." The ELMA debacle is unfortunate, as there is a lot of sizzle in this grid — highlight is the HANGDOG (33D: Abject) / ERAGON (46D: 2003 Christopher Paolini fantasy best seller) crossing in the SW. Also like ROOFTOP (esp. as clued, 39D: Like the last Beatles concert, 1969) and (though I do Not enjoy his films) CAMERON, esp. next to ONE-MAN HYPE (4D: Kind of army or show + 17D: Ballyhoo).

Theme answers:
  • 16A: *One on safari (GAME HUNTER)
  • 20A: *Part of stage scenery (SET PIECE)
  • 26A: *What a cell doesn't need (PHONE LINE)
  • 43A: *Absolutely (STONE COLD)
  • 49A: *Cut off from water (LAND LOCK)
  • 54A: *Person with a baton (BAND MASTER)

STONE COLD is the best theme answer here, for sure. Wish clue had gone with [Moniker for pro wrestler Steve Austin], but maybe that wouldn't have played with the older, or younger, demographic. I think of a SET PIECE as a prepared play in sports, most often involving free kicks or corner kicks in soccer. That answer did not come easily at all, as clued. Clue on ANARCHY feels awfully arbitrary (2D: "___ is the only slight glimmer of hope": Mick Jagger). Why was Jagger speaking out about ANARCHY? Why did anyone bother to write his quotation down? Had an oddly hard time with the crossing of STRAW (5A: Item sometimes having an elbow) and WARTS (9D: Targets of salicylic acid) (palindrome!!!). Could think only of STRAW as a piece of flora, and, well, I've never had to deal with WARTS before, so it wasn't until I got everything but the crossing letter that I finally figured out what the letter had to be.

  • 10A: "L'Amour avec ___" (French love song) ("TOI") — Come on, everyone, sing it with me! Oh, that's right, you can't, because you don't know it. No, you don't, Frenchie.
  • 30A: Objectivist Rand (AYN) — Makes her sound like a painter. My mom used to get "The Objectivist," and owns two signed copies of Rand novels, which is weird, because if you had to list a thousand people who you thought might have influenced my mother in any substantial way, AYN Rand, I assure you, would not be on that list.
  • 52A: Chief Justice before Hughes (TAFT) — Me: "Hughes?" Luckily, I knew TAFT had been a Chief Justice, so it only took a letter or two to figure this one out.
  • 62A: Host Gibbons of "Hollywood Confidential" (LEEZA) — a name built for crosswords. No idea what (undoubtedly horrible) show is being referred to in this clue.
  • 10D: Arboreal marker (TREE TAG) — Hmmm. Can I put a TAG on anything and then make a new phrase? I'm just saying I don't know why TREEs are TAGged, and google isn't helping much. There's a game called TREE TAG. That can't be much fun. The trees can't very well get away, or chase you.
  • 28D: "___, the Man," 1940 biopic starring Spencer Tracy ("EDISON") — yikes! Saturday cluing. Unless you are a serious film buff, or roughly 80+ years old.
  • 37D: Actresses Crain and Tripplehorn (JEANNES) — a gimme, though I can only dimly picture one of these JEANNES (the latter), and I don't know why or where I know her from.
  • 56D: One-named singer of the 1998 hit "It's All About Me" (MYA) — it's amazing I know who she is, bec. I have a serious pop music gap right around the time I was finishing my dissertation, and ... I don't know that she's done anything lately. Now M.I.A.— she's working.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


JC66 12:22 AM  

ELMA was my WOD, also. Did you know it's 1/3 the size of Natick? Just sayin.

Jeanne Tripplehorn has been in many movies and now stars in HBO's Big Love.

des 12:39 AM  

HEADPIECE is a very common word (used with bridal veils, tiaras, etc.) However, I do agree that SET PIECE is strangely clued, although gives the stage set clue above the planning clue (meanings 3 and 4, if that is to be believed!).

I agree that Jeanne Tripplehorn is well-known. My first memory of her was in "The Firm" with Tom Cruise; this was also the first of Grisham's many movies.

I struggled with STRAW and had to go to Google to be reminded about the sipping kind. And what is up with this very complicated theme hint clue for 33A? I mean, why not just say "the answer relates to both parts of the starred clues?"

CaseAce 12:52 AM  

Rex, A "headpiece" refers to ones intellect,like the brainy types who pay visitations to your daily blog!

Zeke 12:58 AM  

Was QVC having a sale on NiceGuy pills today and you decided to splurge?

The theme answers just felt forced. All hunters are GAMEHUNTERS, as game is, by definition, what they're hunting. I spent 5 minutes trying to figure out what the BIGG rebus was, because GAMEHUNTERS by itself is not a phrase. Big game, small game sure. Neither is LANDLOCK a phrase. Land locked is, but not land lock. Unless there's some insane 'Nuck plan to build a penninsula down from British Columbia all the way to Baja California and LANDLOCK the entire west coast of the US. Did I say insane 'Nuck? Sorry, that's bordering on mole sauce* territory.

BANDMASTER? Wasn't he the wannabe band geek that couldn't even be a band geek so instead kept track of the music stands and such and was the only one that I was able to beat up in High School?

* Finally, re 1a: Mole means sauce. There's no such thing as Mole sauce. Well, maybe at The LaBrea Tar Pits there is, but not in the rest of the world. There's mole verdi, mole negre, mole Pablano, mole Rojo, mole [every major region in Mexico] and even quacamole, but no Mole sauce. And you put salsa on tacos, not mole Rojo.

Anonymous 1:02 AM  

Rex, as usual, is dead on. A "words that can follow" puzzle on a Thursday is just lame.

Let's have more Sharp puzzles!

sanfranman59 1:24 AM  

I gotta say that Rex's comment about TREE TAG made me laugh out loud.

I just now realized that I repeatedly misread the clue for 31A as "Kind of lightning" and couldn't for the life of me understand why Rex didn't comment about MOOD being the answer. Me: "MOOD lightning??? Like what you do when things get a little tense with your sig oth? You light(e)n the mood??? Are you kidding me?" Yup ... apparently I was kidding me.

I was in all kinds of bands when I was in high school (marching, concert, pep, jazz) and don't recall coming across the term BAND MASTER. BAND leader or director? Yes. Concert MASTER? Check. BAND MASTER? Nope. But Random House has it as "the conductor of a military band, circus band, etc.", so I guess it's legit.

syndy 1:40 AM  

so many ways to clue ONAN but not this one.most of the theme answers are slightly off( a cell doesn't have a land line)I believe the maple trees there in Vermont get tagged don't know any others.still short fill not too bad and I really liked hangdog- @ zeke what is the sauce wjth the unsweet chocolate?

Anonymous 1:47 AM  

Why is the answer to "force felt on earth" "oneg"? Anyone?

Anonymous 1:48 AM  

It's not o-neg, as in o negative. It's one g, as in one gravity.

Anonymous 2:07 AM  

I love Jeanne Tripplehorn too. She's one of those rare actors who is great in everything she does.

Comparing the blogs today is instructive and shows once again why Rex is the master. Wordplay inexplicably calls this puzzle "a much more ambitious variation that we’ve seen only a few times before." Apparently nobody there knows the first f*ing thing aabout crosswords. Amy is too polite to diss the theme. Only Rex has the guts to call it like it is: "This is a reasonably common genre of puzzle that normally falls a day or two earlier in the week. There's nothing tricky here..."

Nuff said. Elma didn't bug me at all because the crosses were easy and I love the Einstein and Yeats clue. Let's just stop having Tuesday puzzles on Thursday.

John 2:31 AM  

I ran across the term "Headpiece" in an Indiana Jones movie, I forget which one. BTY, I'm 58 and have seen "Edison,The Man" more than once! I guess I fall into the serious film buff catagory.

anarchy carla michaels 4:39 AM  

Damn! I liked this A LOT till I read the blog, which I have to admit @rex, @zeke, @syndy, and all the @anonymice have many valid points.

But I was terribly impressed by how many phrases there were with HEAD FIRST... and that blended nicely to make a third concept...

but then (screeching halt sound), damn it, they're right, LANDLOCK isn't really a thing, you sort of DO need BIG with GAMEHUNTER, LandLINE is better than PHONELINE
(and HEADLAND is something, so that'd have worked, but there it was being misused in LANDLOCK) and folks barely know SETPIECE nor BANDMASTER...

Can I still say I still really liked it? For lots of reasons, one huge one is Kristian House found a way to pluralize SANTAS in a non-strained way.

Plus a clear pangram (LeeZa, AJaX, IQtest, Viola, LandlocK)

Ahhh visions of the Beatles on the ROOFTOP! (@rex, video??? Or has it been done too much?)
Tho admittedly I confused it with the Shea Stadium concert (I know, dates WAY off) so I started with the lame "sOldout".

And I loved the elbow/STRAW thing;
(Had to run the alphabet to get the W...and synchronicitously Frasier on "Cheers" said STRAW just now) It brought back great childhood memories with those fun straws made out of crinkly plastic that pulled out and pushed in and you could play with them in the Bosco grandma and grandpa gave you.

VERY proud of myself for having learned RYNE and REMY from this blog.

So, where was HEAD CASE + HEAD CHEESE = CHEESECASE: "Display at your upscale deli"? :)

Thank you and goodnight.

Glimmerglass 7:40 AM  

Could the cell in 26A be a jail cell? That's the only way that makes sense to me. A cell phone DOES have a phone line; it's just not a land line.

Leslie 7:50 AM  

Okay--I must be undercaffienated, because I Did Not Notice that BOTH parts of each theme clue could have HEAD in front of them. Even though the 33A clue said so, in black and white, right there. So now I'm twice as impressed.

Love, love, love the answer STONE COLD.

joho 8:16 AM  

My biggest road blocks were PHONErest before PHONELINE and BANDleadER before BANDMASTER. There is such a thing as a head rest, but I guess not a head leader. I also couldn't get Erie out my head for the longest time.

I wanted the STRAW to be pasta.

Not my favorite puzzle this week, but I still enjoyed the solve and I am always impressed by a pangram.

Thank you, Kristian!

The Big E 8:24 AM  

@Zeke - gotta disagree with you about hunters! You can have "Bargain Hunters" or "Cougar hunters" (and I am not talking about "game," per se, though it is a game to many!) or other types of hunters! So hunter need not imply game hunting!
All in all I liked the puzzle, but "Bandmaster" felt forced to me. I kept wanting it to be Bandleader.
Working in theatre for as many years as I did, set piece was not at all an issue for me.
All in all, a nice puzzle!

retired_chemist 8:39 AM  

Agree a TACO, at least in Tex-Mex cuisine, doesn't have Molé. But Google finds tacos sometimes made that way, so OK.

TAFT appeared as an answer on either a Millionaire or Jeopardy rerun here recently as the only person both to administer and to receive the Presidential oath of office. So that helped.

Had BAND LEADER until I got the theme. Never heard of BAND MASTER. Sounds kinky.

Embarrassed to say I needed four crosses to get SANTAS.

Took me a while, so I guess I agree with Rex's rating. But it felt easier than that.

sillygoose 8:43 AM  

I am usually looking for big tricks on Thursday, so this puzzle felt a little bit easy overall.

I thought maybe strads had elbows, since I think they have necks?, but darts had to be warts and so I didn't question the straw elbow, even if I have never heard of it. The only straws I use poke into little juice boxes that like to spurt back at you.

For a while I had REMo crossing HoPE, before I looked at the clues more carefully. And I had ELMo after taking out erie, because once you have been infected by Elmo you are never fully cured, and who names a town ELMA anyway?

The Big E 8:48 AM  

@ sillygoose - according to Wikipedia, the sacred gospel of all knowledge on the internet, the town of Elma was so named because "a resident suggested it be named after a famous large American elm, then growing in the town."
And let's not argue with Wikipedia. It knows all. And is never wrong. Ever.
Having grown up in Washington, DC, I suppose I am happy that the town was not named swamp-ville.

The Bard 8:48 AM  

Twelfth Night > Act V, scene I

DUKE ORSINO: Be not amazed; right noble is his blood.
If this be so, as yet the glass seems true,
I shall have share in this most happy wreck.


Boy, thou hast said to me a thousand times
Thou never shouldst love woman like to me.

VIOLA: And all those sayings will I overswear;
And those swearings keep as true in soul
As doth that orbed continent the fire
That severs day from night.

DUKE ORSINO: Give me thy hand;
And let me see thee in thy woman's weeds.

David L 9:00 AM  

The STRA?/?ARTS cross tripped me up -- thought of D, P, W for the missing letter, couldn't make sense of any of them. You use salicylic acid on warts? Not when I had one, years ago. And as a non-consumer of soda, I couldn't make the connection between straw and elbow.

slowro: yep, that was me today

jesser 9:06 AM  

I was suspecting a rebus at 10D, where I wanted TREE rinG. Obviously, I could not make it work.

As did Rex, I found the cluing pretty weird and some of the answers highly suspect: TREE TAG? CLASS A?

Totally agree with Zeke about molé not being a taco go-with among those who know what Mexican food is really all about. Reminds me of years ago when I visited Cincinnati, and my friends there took me to a place called Skyline Chili. They were plum twitterpated about this place, which served me a plate of spaghetti with cinammon and beans. Seriously? You people think this is chile? Come to New Mexico.

I effed up 5A by putting in STRAp, and then came to the blog to learn how in hell the answer to 9D corresponded to the clue. It didn't. Makes me want to bang my head (ha!) against a wall.

Surprised no one has commented about DINO yet. Far and away my favorite Rat Packer, he was. I have many of his albums, and I sometimes look for his old TV bits on the Internets, just for the laughs. That guy was smoooooooooth.

Happy Thursday, and peace out! :-)

Bleri! (What Dino's vision often was, but I loved him for it. I believe he was a Scotch lover, eh Tinbeni?) -- jesser

nanpilla 9:17 AM  

@jesser I wanted TREE RING also, even trying to justify that with Electrical Engineers might be abbreviated as EENGS. Managed to finish, but it just seemed to take me forever.

Erie held up the middle, atilT(I was ready to rant about another A____ word) instead of LEANT, coupled with the wierd tree thing going on up there made the NE last to go.

VaBeach puzzler 9:22 AM  

I propose a complete ban -- or at least a year's sabbatical -- for "words that can follow" puzzles. That approach does not help with the solving, at least not for me, and is a really weak link(age). Can we start a petition?

Howard B 9:46 AM  

It's easy to get hung up on the translations or exact technical definition of words used. True that 'mole' and even 'salsa' may literally mean 'sauce', and that there are several specific varieties of each. But keep in mind the puzzle works from 'in-the-language' usage, and in many common usages (and indeed, many restaurant menus), "mole" on its own just means some form of cocoa-based sauce with chili pepper & other ingredients.

Remember that the way we actually use words in phrases, menus, etc. is sometimes not quite the way it was intended in its originating language, or even in our own dictionary, surprisingly. Keeps life interesting.

I do agree that mole is rarely seen on tacos (in my neck of the woods, far from Mexico), although I have seen it occasionally as an option.

Now I'm getting hungry.

P.S. - ELMA hurt my soul today. That's some rough stuff.

chefbea 10:00 AM  

One tough puzzle that I did not like!!! and DNF

Only saving grace was that one of my best friends growing up was Elma. Havent seen her in a while but will e-mail her and tell her that she made the NYT xword puzzle

jalderso 10:01 AM  

Rex, I imagine you know Jeanne Tripplehorn from her role in Basic Instinct.

Zeke 10:01 AM  

@Sydney - The sauce just called Mole most places, which has the chocolate in it, is probably Mole Poblano.
@Big E (Is the The part of the name?) - I didn't think of bargain hunters when I was writing the rant. Still, unmodified, Hunters implies game, so the game is redundant. No one has eversaid of a hunter that he/she is a GAMEHUNER

Glitch 10:16 AM  

Stopped circling clues that made me "sigh" (opposite of "aha") about 1/2 way through.

A bit of post-solving searching found justification for all the answers, but overall, my reaction to this puzzle was same as @jesser to "Cincinnati chili".

For those interested, regarding some of the comments above:
Tree Tag Patent

Mole Sauce

LANDLOCK is a verb (per several dictionaries), as is, I assume, "cut" in the clue.


Van55 10:28 AM  

I don't know why anyone would have an issue with ELMA, after all, it has ten times the population of DES ARC, Arkansas, which made an appearance in either a NYT or LAT puzzle a few months back. I think it was LAT.

I'm with Anarchy Michaels on this one. Despite some off cluing (TACOs do not come with Mole), I found it just challenging enough for me on a Thursday, and I thought that the density of the theme answers was pretty impressive.

mitchs 10:47 AM  

As a Cincinnati boy, let me assure you that we understand that Skyline and the various other purveyors of Cincinnati Chili aren't serving anything resembling what qualifies as "chili" in most cuisines.

Jesser, your friends should have warned you.

The originators of these recipes were in fact largely Greek-Americans.

It ain't "chili", but it's addictive. There's a large market for frozen servings sent to ex-Cincinnatians all over the world.

The Big E 10:52 AM  

@mitchs and @jesser - mitchs has an excellent point about Skyline. My company here in NY ordered several cans of the stuff and had a Coney party on our deck - grilled up dogs with Skyline chili, cheese, onions... Quite popular!
It does stink to high-heaven when you cook it up, though! YOWZERS!

ArtLvr 10:54 AM  

I agree with Andrea too: lots to like, in spite of flaws! I'm glad Will accepted this clever pangram for our amusement -- Kristian needn't feel HANGDOG about it, even if LANDLOCK is awkward, etc.


Two Ponies 10:57 AM  

I slogged through this groaner to finally finish in the NW.
Put me on the band wagon (with the wagon master or the band leader but not both) that would never put mole on a taco.
Just like @ nanpilla I was set to erupt because I thought leant was going to be another dreaded a_word like atilt.
Did not know Eragon with an E. I only know Aragon.
My dead tree (sans a tag) puzzle is all marked up with crap I didn't like.
Spot-on write up. Agree that hang dog was the only bright spot.
@ Rex, Thanks for the link to the Lollapuzzoola puzzles. I'm working my way through them. Good fun!

CoffeeLvr 10:59 AM  

Well, proud to say that I finished a Med-Challenging Thursday with no errors, no Googles, no resources, e.g. globe.
What a slog it was for me. Did anyone else build off ERIE and get HEED---S-, and desperately try to fit LESS in some how? I had BANDleader for 54A & LANDLOCK at that point, and so wanted land less, lock less (?bald?), band less (think certain women's trousers) and leader less.
Didn't believe TACO with mole, but finally penciled it in lightly after my brain rebooted and I remembered Cameron. (I solve in pencil, except on Monday's when I'm feeling sharp.)
So wanted ECOTOURIST for 16A, put it in based on SVU. It fit!
Hand up for difficulty with STRAW, finally saw WARTS and thought that maybe the plant straw had bumps called elbows every so often on the stalk (kinda like bamboo). Never thought of drinking straw.

Now that I have vented, on to the day.

"bershex" - how I felt during parts of this puzzle

Anonymous 11:05 AM  

Holy crap! I just realized that the two halves of each answer both have to go with each other and both have to go with HEAD. Holy holy crap! Rex, how could you say there's nothing tricky going on? I find it hard to believe it's even possible to find so many words with that property, let alone get the lengths and symmetric distributions right. I'm seriously impressed.

Rex Parker 11:07 AM  

There is no trick you need to figure out to solve the puzzle. And this type of theme has been done before, multiple times. Neither of these things is (necessarily) a knock against the puzzle.


OldCarFudd 11:12 AM  

I definitely got an "aha!" moment when I figured out was the central answer was. Tough (for me) but enjoyable.

Elma, while a town on no ones's radar screen, was not a Natick. All the letters were inferrable from crossings. I can't see what all the griping's about.

My age is showing, as is my lack of attention to modern movies. I knew Jeanne Crain, but not Tripplehorn.

Don't loggers tag trees to be cut? Or, perhaps, trees NOT to be cut?

Bandmaster rand old bells, so I thought it was OK. Phone line, on the other hand, bothered me for the same reason as it did some of the others. I, too, was trhinking jailhouse, and then phone wire, before I grokked the theme. Then I forgave the slight stretch.

Nice pangram, nice puzzle.

The Big E 11:15 AM  

@OldCarFudd - LOVE the fact that you use the word "grok!"
MVS would be proud! :-)

Gubdude 11:24 AM  

Definitely was pretty challenging for me. Took a lot of plodding through to make any real ground.

Threw in surething for 43A, thankfully ETTA was there to bring me back. Also started with grAdeA where CLASSA should have gone.

And I have had Mole sauce one on an enchildada and I will not be trying that again. Possibly the worst thing I've ever eaten.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:31 AM  

Killed me, in that I finished with a letter wrong:

Had STRAP and PARTS, with a bit of rationalization: "Some of those fancy STRAPs they put on people with broken arms or broken collar bones have elbow cups, don't they?" And rationalization plus ignorance: "Salicylic acid is a necessary component of acetylsalicylic acid, or aspirin, and that targets various PARTS of tghe body, doesn't it? And besides, enough other clues are strange enough that this might just be right."

Also, write-over at BANDLEADER/BANDMASTER.

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

Major Eaton: Frankly, we're somewhat suspicious of Mr. Ravenwood, an American being mentioned so prominently in a secret Nazi cable.
Brody: Oh, rubbish. Ravenwood's no Nazi.
Colonel Musgrove: Well, what do the Nazis want him for then?
Indiana: Well, obviously, the Nazis are looking for the headpiece to the Staff of Ra and they think Abner's got it.
Major Eaton: What exactly is a headpiece to the Staff of Ra?
Indiana: Well, the staff is just a stick. I don't know, about this big. Nobody really knows for sure how high. And it's...
[turns blackboard to blank side]
Indiana: it's, uh... it's capped with an elaborate headpiece in the shape of the sun with a crystal in the center. And what you did was, you take the staff to a special room in Tanis, a map room with a miniature of the city all laid out on the floor. And if you put the staff in a certain place at a certain time of day, the sun shone through here and made a beam that came down on the floor here... and gave you the exact location of the Well of the Souls.

archaeoprof 11:49 AM  

@mitchs: wouldn't you agree that GoldStar is better than Skyline?

BTW, the origins may be more Middle Eastern than Greek. Earlier this summer I found Cincinnati-style chili in Amman and Aqaba, Jordan. They even called it a "3-way."

As for the puzzle, I agree with @Anarchy Michaels and @Van55.

JC66 11:52 AM  

To me BANDMASTER brings to mind Robert Preston in The Music Man.

The Big E 11:54 AM  

@archaeoprof - that style of chili may have had middle-eastern origins, but Skyline Chili itself has distinct Greek origins.

mac 11:55 AM  

Chewy puzzle, and pretty competent, but it did feel a bit like a slog. I caused myself some trouble by putting neon in 31A.

I guess I don't know enough about the terminology to have a problem with bandmaster, but I had a little problem with the clues for set piece and stone cold. I like the name for the bendable straw, very apt. We have tree tags on several trees, a former owner had the Stamford Arboretum come out and identify and tag some of them.

Food!! A Cincy friend made the chili once with spaghetti, I loved it!

I once had a mighty battle with the preparation of mole poblano, it wouldn't get smooth enough. I was also disappointed that it didn't taste a little more like chocolate. I think I made it for a chicken dish.

Tinbeni 12:03 PM  

I agree, 6 themes with a reveal is impressive.

As is my ilk, I searched out the theme reveal and got HEADFIRST quickly.

Figured the *starred* answers were *two-words* each so at 16a"One on safari" I had no problem with GAMEHUNTER.
(Silly me, I was just trying to solve a puzzle. Forgot the part where I'm suppose to over-analyze each clue and get lost in a meaningless headgame).

The other 5 themes fell easily, fave was PHONELINE.
Thought about that BANDleader but I already had ROOFTOP.

(WOD) ELMA, MYA and TOI were all crosses. They looked OK to me but I wouldn't call them learning moments. Just more useless trivia.

All-in-all, a bit of a slog but a FUN Thursday.

Anonymous 12:03 PM  

Isn't a headpiece what Las Vegas show girls wear on their heads? Also, you are all welcome to visit Elma, Iowa, home of the Blue Bird Tavern and many Mennonites using horse-and-buggys.

a guy 12:36 PM  

What some call "over-analyze", some call "analyze".

Cathyat40 12:37 PM  

I'm happy that I'm ignorant enough to have enjoyed the puzzle.

Had OldCArS before OILCANS and RiOtous before ROOFTOP. Went through the alphabet to get STRAW/WART. Used the theme reveal to help me get most of the theme answers.

zuffer = to feel pain while solving a subpar pangram

Moonchild 12:39 PM  

I really wanted to like this one but it just kept making me mad.

What in the world is Mick going on about?
Anarchy sounds real fun until the lights go out, the water stops running, and no one picks up the garbage.

Mole on my taco? No thanks.
I did enjoy learning about the roots of Cinn. chili. I love making and eating it. It is a nice example of using a seasoning (in this case cinnamon) that we usually associate with something sweet in a savory dish instead.

Lots of theme density but they were too awkward. Throw in tree tag and it tips the scale the wrong way.

deerfencer 12:43 PM  

As someone who used to make a living in the trees (former arborist and aerial chainsaw wizard), I can weigh in authoritatively on tree tags, which are identifying markers/signs often affixed to specimen trees at arboretums and city parks, usually inscribed both in English (common name, e.g. Sugar Maple) and below that the botanical name in Latin (acer saccharum). Basically these tags are meant as learning tools for the general public.

That said, I found the cluing in general
frustrating and just plain off, and the puzzle as a whole a struggle throughout--at least until the last few moments when everything finally fell into place.

Nitpicks of the day: Where is the usual tipoff that EDS and MSS will be abbreviated answers?

Separately, I find this type of self-referential cluing (see A to solve B; see B to solve A) maddening as a solver and a sign of laziness on the part of the constructor. Is it really that difficult to avoid these?

Mel Ott 12:51 PM  

Finished it. Hated it.

Too many proper names. Especially names with idiosyncratic spellings (ERIQ, AYN, LEEZA, MYA, RYNE), even if I knew a couple of them. Crossing two of them (62A & 56D) is unforgiveable. Guessed right.

Too many nonword words like LANDLOCK. (Try to use it in a sentence. What would be the subject? God?)

Too much MSS, EDS, ENGS. Yuck!

End of rant.

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

Clue for taco was awful. Sure you MIGHT put mole sauce on it. You MIGHT put ketchup on ice cream. Mole goes with chicken and turkey.

mitchs 12:54 PM  

@archaeoprof: Yes indeed, given the choice I pick Gold Star every time!

And for those unfamiliar we should probably stress that Cincy Chili is served as a topping over a hot dog or spaghetti, with various combinations of cheese/onion/pinto beans.

(It also makes a TERRIFIC dip with sour cream, cheese, etc.)

And don't forget the hot sauce!

Shamik 12:58 PM  

Neither actress was familiar to me by name, so originally had JOANNAS in with EXALT nearby. STOMA nicely fit in there until LAND LOCKed me in to getting rid of EXALT which meant STOMA became STENT and JEANNES showed up. This puzzle was a slog.

However, Rex's write-up has me envisioning a SF movie directed by CAMERON which features a game of TREETAG by trees in motion.

Solved correctly with a medium-challenging time for me on a Thursday.

Posted new blog yesterday on our work-cation in Alaska....and it seems I probably did crack my tailbone. Shouldn't cliff jump at 55.

tricat: dangerous animal in upcoming CAMERON movie featuring TREETAG

D_Blackwell 1:06 PM  

I can't say that I am especially fond of TREE TAG, but it's getting more comment than I would have thought.

A TREE TAG is often used as an identifier on estates and other large, managed properties. The history of the health of the tree can be tracked with a TREE TAG, typically a small, numbered medallion of sorts. They are usually nailed in at about eye level. I wonder if barcoded tags have been made yet?

D_Blackwell 1:13 PM  

A TREE TAG patent? Ridiculous!

John V 1:31 PM  

@bob Kerfuffle -- exact same error. Can someone explain 5D, as I am the only living (sort of) person who has never seen Law and Order?

For me, more difficult than usual, esp NE.

alan 1:37 PM  

Easy puzzle. More Tuesday than Thursday. Errors:hope for hype,aragon for eragon(pure carelessness).DRAT!

Arby 1:40 PM  

Not to beat a dead horse, but this is the perfect image to illustrate the concept of "headpiece":

Anonymous 1:49 PM  

Technical nit:

A "cell" serves multiple mobile phones in a given area, and generally uses a PHONE LINE (often a T1) to backhaul this aggregated traffic to the PSTN (public switched telephone network).

Clue could have used Droid or Treo in place of "cell".

------> Joe in telecom in NYC

Anonymous 1:51 PM  

I feel like such an idiot. Every time I think a puzzle is particularly good I come here and find out it sucks. Sigh. I'll get better. Thanks, Rex!

hazel 1:53 PM  

I thought this puzzle was pretty solid. Theme helped me with some answers. Kind of reminded me of a Sunday in that regard. Wackiness itself stayed inside the park - nothing too irritating. Some nice corner verticals - HANGDOG, ULSTERS, OILCANS, e.g.

I liked it.

The Big E 1:56 PM  

@ John V - There are 3 law and order spin-offs:
Law and Order: SVU (Special Victims Unit)
Law and Order: CI (Criminal Intent)
and coming this fall (ugh)
Law and Order: Los Angeles
(i may not be exact in the way I write the titles, but...)

joho 2:09 PM  

When I first moved to the Cincinnati area everybody was extolling Skyline chili. I thought it was very thin and kind of weird tasting. But now when I make my own chili I do add cinnamon and Hershey's natural unsweetened chocolate to give it that slightly exotic Skyline flavor. It's tasty.

Glitch 2:14 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glitch 2:18 PM  

@Mel Ott wrote:

Too many nonword words like LANDLOCK. (Try to use it in a sentence. What would be the subject? God?)

I offer:

It was almost dark, but not dark enough to prevent us from seeing those wonderfully green hills which landlock the harbour.
—The Crack of Doom

A re-plat of the subject property to avoid a landlock of parcel 136C-D-029.

US-Patent-7080577 --- godda protect those original ideas.

These answers, as well as Mole Sauce on tacos, Cincinnati chili, and this puzzle all appear to be an acquired taste.

Bon appetit to about half of today's posters ;-)


Howard B 2:21 PM  

On second thought, agree that mole/taco is really odd. The menus I was thinking of, I believe, just offer a choice of sauces on your entree as alternatives. So no mole tacos as an item unless you want the mole as a side order. Mea culpa. (I didn't remember that clue when solving since I had the crossings in place).

Also meant to say 'chile peppers' and not exactly 'chili', which is a totally different tasty thing. Pre-coffee blogging is rarely a good idea.

chefbea 2:26 PM  

@Mac That would be called Chili Mac at steak and shake in the mid-west

I have a great chili recipe that I actually entered in a chili contest. Came in 2nd. Two of the ingredients are Coca cola and chocolate. Yummm

John V 2:41 PM  

@The Big E: Thanks.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:44 PM  

@John V - The Big E has already answered your question, but I wanted to add, since you say you have never seen Law and Order: Law and Order SVU stands for Special Victims Unit, but the latter doesn't really explain that the focus of the show is Sex Crimes (Of which, I believe, anyone can be a victim.) However, a quick look at Wikipedia shows that this strange bit of ?political correctness? . . . ?euphemism? . . . derives directly from the actual name of the division of the New York City Police Department which investigates sex crimes!

Sandy 2:48 PM  

Apart from my empty squares in the northwest (that road clue wasn't helping any), I didn't dislike this as much as many of you seem to. "word in front of" themes may be common, but they don't strike me as hackneyed.

The Big E 2:51 PM  

@ Bob Kerfuffle - re: the term SVU actually being derived from the dept. of the NYPD that investigates sex crimes: I knew they said that at the beginning of the show (or alluded to it), but I figured it was typical entertainment fluff. Had no idea there was basis in fact!

Mel Ott 2:54 PM  


In the first sentence the LANDLOCK phrase is pretty ugly.

In the second (ugly, bureaucratic) sentence LANDLOCK is a noun, not a verb.

Good try, but there isn't much to work with here.

BigSteve46 3:03 PM  

Don't see why Rex is so upset about Elma. These kind of answers are quite common in the NYT puzzle. Also, how would "Erie" be a "much more suitable answer?" Buffalo is in Erie County, there is a whole full-sized city of Erie down the lake way over in PA - but there is no town of Erie near Buffalo that I know. It just seems odd with all of the trivia-type cluing that accompanies these puzzles - especially the more difficult ones as the weekend approaches -to pick on this one.

Clark 3:06 PM  

I thought this puzzle was fun in a quirky way. Kept putting stuff in (ERIE), taking it out (I don't really know that), putting stuff in (TACO), taking it out (no way, mole, taco . . .). The theme idea may be old but I enjoyed letting the old noggin try to come up with words that worked with head.

We watched South Pacific last night (first time for me) to enjoy settings that are now familiar to us from our stay on the North shore of Kaua'i. There were some awesome HEADPIECEs on display. (And, whoa, is that movie gay or what?!)

Oh, and LANDLOCK seems like a cool word to me. Landlocked is ok. It is a past participle. I figure, if there is a past participle then there should be a simple infinitive (or indicative) form, whether or not anyone has ever used it.

Tinbeni 3:11 PM  

@Anon 1:51 said...
"Every time I think a puzzle is particularly good I come here and find out it sucks."

Sounds to me like you enjoyed the time you spent solving and had FUN.

I wouldn't let the naysayer's invalidate your initial opinion of what is, or isn't, a good puzzle to you.

You present a valid LANDLOCK sentence and it still gets rated "ugly."
Seems you've found your way to Ricky Nelson's Garden Party.

sanfranman59 3:18 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 17:34, 19:16, 0.91, 40%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 8:44, 9:15, 0.94, 47%, Medium

Anonymous 3:20 PM  

Tree tags are used it make a perminent referance to a tree. And are used by engineers and arcitects to label trees to be saved or removed from site plans. Most are a disc about 2" in dia made out of aluminum and nialed to a tree. As far as i know there haven't been any with bar codes yet, but its a good idea.

jesser 3:28 PM  

"I'd advise against buying that parcel. The view is nice, but there is no access/egress easement, so you'd be landlocked unless one of the adjacent property owners would allow you to build a road across their lot."

archaeoprof 3:32 PM  

@Joho: "thin and weird tasting" is a very good description of Skyline. Gold Star is much better, wouldn't you agree?

I suspect a lot of Cincinnati folk have their own personal recipes. I have mine, and non-puzzle wife (from Oxford, OH) has hers too.

JC66 3:41 PM  


Ya think @Anon 1:51 might have been being sarcastic?

mitchs 3:42 PM  

@Clark: I wouldn't know a past participle from a bowl of Skykine, but isn't the point that landlocked in common usage is an adjective and not a verb? The clue could either adjective or verb, "cut off' could be an action or description.

But "Landlock" without the -ed can only be a verb, right?

So the sentence could only be something like: "I hate that neighbor of mine. I'm gonna drain the damn lake and landlock that sumbitch."

joho 3:46 PM  

@archeoprof ... I'm afraid to say I've never tried Gold Star even though there's one minutes away. My stepsons say it's much better than Skyline, though. And, small world, they live most of the time in Oxford which is about 20 minutes from our house. It is nice to know that you and your wife have your own non-Skyline recipes!

sanfranman59 3:55 PM  

Wow ... Little did I know that there was an Oxford, OH contingent here on Rex's blog! I'm a 1981 grad of Miami U. So @archeaoprof, you married a townie, did you? When I was there, they were few and far between.

As for Skyline, I hadn't heard of it until I went to MU and never did develop a taste for it. To me, spaghetti with chili is, well, spaghetti, not chili.

captcha=reefur ... ah, another reminder of my days in Oxford

Clark 4:13 PM  

@mitchs -- Yes. It is a verb. Your sentence using 'landlock' as a verb is 100 understandable. I bet people have used the word in this way. Even if no one has ever used it this way, it is inferable (hence understandable) because the form 'landlocked' as an adjective is a participle. It is in fact a past participle which is derived from the verb form LANDLOCK.

jae 4:29 PM  

Didn't hate it, didn't love it. Me too for ERIE at first. I've been enjoying Mexican cuisine in the SW US and Mexico for over 30 years and have never run across a TACO with mole.

Tinbeni 4:53 PM  


Ya think I might just be making a statement regarding how I judge a puzzle and the clues/answers therein?

Rex's witty repartee of his solving experience is adroit and insightful.

Some of the comments here ... not so much.

william e emba 4:54 PM  

I never thought of Erie. Erie PA is too far away as far as I'm concerned, and too big to be a "town". I just got ELMA from the crosses and didn't care whatsoever. The puzzle was challenging enough anyway that it didn't register as an issue.

The OED does not list a verb form for LANDLOCK, although it cites a rare noun phrase "LAND LOCK", meaning either the condition of being landlocked (quoted from a dictionary!) or just a landlocked region itself.

W3I, however, does list LANDLOCK as a verb. It describes it as a back-formation from landlocked, which of course was just land+locked.

To add to the TREE TAG business: Well, yes, Rex, you can tag anything you want and then you get "anything tags". But first you've got to actually tag them. Trees get tagged all the time--there's a couple blocks of tagged trees along the road where I live--so we have "tree tags". So until someone gets in the habit of tagging squids, we don't have "squid tags". At least, I don't think we do. I'm not a working cephalopodiatrist. (We do have fish tags though.)

Doug 5:37 PM  

I'm surprised I finished this one. I had several breaks and go back tos. For some reason I got stuck with BANDLEADER until I sussed out the theme and knew it was wrong. LOCAL being wrong screwed me up until I figured out it was NOFAT. EXALT instead of EXTOL also slowed me down considerably. Otherwise, I liked this puzzle.

joho 5:51 PM  

@sanfranman59 ... my stepson, Ethan, starts class at Miami next week ... very exciting. It's a beautiful campus ... do you ever come back?

4 (sorry, Rex) and out.

foodie 6:49 PM  

Rex, I have a feeling your mom is a very cool lady. I LOVED her post to you the day of your puzzle. And now I find out that deal with AYN Rand-- both that she has two signed copies of her books and that you find it surprising.

My take on it is that many women of a certain age who try to think about their own value system became fascinated with Rand at some point in their life. Actually, I take back "the certain age". My daughter, who is in her 20's, went through an Ayn Rand phase.

In most cases, this infatuation passes more ore less swiftly. There is something invigorating, albeit untenable, in Rand's extreme position on many topics. As I was evolving my own beliefs it was fascinating to have someone, a woman especially, express this extreme stance on human values with the purity of complete conviction.

retired_chemist 6:50 PM  

ELMA being 1/3 the size of Natick says it all.

I wish I could tell you why salicylic acid is a treatment for warts, but I can't. Even Google doesn't help me much on the mechanism of action. There are reports of salicylic acid inducing resistance to plant viruses and interfering with plant virus (specifically, tobacco mosaic virus) replication. For human warts (they're virus-induced) I couldn't find anything on a quick search.

treedweller 6:53 PM  

Just had to confirm that my comment from Tuesday ("This was one of the best thursday puzzles I've seen in a long time") was borne out, for me at least, since I was faster both yesterday and today than I was on Tuesday. FWIW.

TREE TAGS got a lot more play here than I expected, so I won't go on about it, but I will say I see them all the time (speaking of the small, numbered, aluminum disks). Nobody ever knows who tagged them, where the information is stored that was recorded when they were tagged, or what sort of plan was enacted as a result of the tagging, but they are Out There. The theoretical point of tree tags is to assist in a tree inventory--you cannot effectively manage an urban forest if you don't know what you have. But I think they generally get put there when a lot is developed--in Austin, for example, you must get City permission to remove trees above a certain size, so inventories are required. Once the builder leaves, nobody ever thinks about the tags again.

treedweller 6:55 PM  

somehow I failed to log in to my "treedweller" account and instead logged in to my "arborworks" account, in case you're wondering why some new guy is quoting himself from a nonexistent Tuesday comment.

treedweller 6:57 PM  

ahh, that's better.

Two Ponies 7:04 PM  

@ treedweller/arborworks,
I was wondering when you stop by and tell us the dirt on tree tags.
I've never seen one.
Price tags, toe tags but no trees.

I went through an Ayn Rand phase too.
She is worth reading if for no other reason than to give you balance as you form your own beliefs.

retired_chemist 7:11 PM  

I always thought tree tags were intended to help plant scientists follow the trees' migration paths......

Anonymous 7:17 PM  

@Zeke If you are going to be pedantic about mole sauce, you might take care to get the rest of your comment right.

mole verde
mole negro
mole poblano

Anonymous 7:33 PM  

I've been to Elma, NY: there's a bar there that has good potato pancakes, but not much else. And it's "outside" Buffalo in the sense that it's not inside of it - it's actually a fair distance from the city.

Moles are sauces, and there are moles other than the common mole poblano, but you don't put them on tacos unless you really like getting your hands messy.

retired_chemist 8:08 PM  

Nice article on mole poblano and other moles.

CrazyCat 8:24 PM  

I started this puzzle at 4 a.m. and was so disturbed by the thought of mole on tacos that I had to get out of bed and search my Rick Bayless cookbooks to find out if there was such a thing. Enchiladas, yes, tacos no. Went back to sleep and finished the puzzle this afternoon. Everything else has been said.

Jim 10:00 PM  

After reading the comments about the theme answers (though my problem was more with the cluing and the HEAD-iness of one of them), I was like, "Yeah, this one was flawed". Thanks for the validation, guys.

Specifically, Absolutely, sans quotes, is an adverb. STONECOLD is an adjective or, as an exclamation, a declarative adjective. "Absolutely" would have fit the bill, if clued as such. As would have Absolute. But absolutely, no quotes, no way jose!

And who ever heard of HEAD-LAND? (Now looking it up) Fine, it's the end of a peninsula. Never heard of it; far more obscure / questionable than the theme answers themselves which, STONECOLD aside, I thought were just fine.

Maybe a Tuesday construction and theme, but hard enough in practice to warrant the Medium-Challenging rating, with or without the questionable clues / HEAD- constructions.

In short, I'll take this FIN as a real feather in my cap and a stepping stone to the next level.

sanfranman59 10:04 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 6:38, 6:58, 0.95, 28%, Easy-Medium
Tue 11:09, 8:52, 1.26, 97%, Challenging
Wed 11:34, 11:44, 0.99, 54%, Medium
Thu 18:19, 19:17, 0.95, 44%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:33, 3:43, 0.96, 33%, Easy-Medium
Tue 5:38, 4:34, 1.23, 97%, Challenging
Wed 5:35, 5:46, 0.97, 44%, Medium
Thu 8:22, 9:14, 0.91, 40%, Medium

CrazyCat 10:15 PM  

@Jim, If you live in San Francisco, which I don't, but visit often, the Marin headland(s) are a spectacular place to go hiking. Back to the taco/mole question, I guess Rachel Ray does that kind of stuff.

Late to the party 10:05 AM  

People seemed kind of snippy today, and unaware of irony. Someone early on says LANDLOCK felt forced, and gives an example of how Land Lock might actually be used in a sentence as clued. This gets refuted by a citation from a book by an author that neither Wikipedia or Amazon recognizes as an author, and the transcript of the Chatanooga planning commitee concerning replatting a subdivision. This refutes that the term Landlock isn't really in the language?

Anonymous 12:47 PM  

BEST part of the puzzle was the palindrome, which I didn't notice until Rex pointed it out. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

liquid el lay 12:59 PM  

I am going to LANDLOCK that troublesome captain by posting him to the Pentagon.

A TACO is a treat that comes with cilantro.

LEEZA should be banished!

Cross-referencing clues bug me.

Batman says The Joker is a Fiend!

andrea karqlzja michaels 4:40 PM  

@mel ott

I didn't realize that all the names were spelled all crazily:
ERIQ, LEEZA, AYN, RYNE, MYA...I'd throw JEANNE into that mix as well!
Now I like it even more, specifically bec they are so one-of-a-kind-y. (Well, two of a kind for JEANNE) AND helps to make the pangram!

@Crazy cat Lady
I was going to chime in about the Marin Headlands but you beat me to it...and just this weekend with @Wade's visit, I learned about Lands End which I'd never heard of...always takes a tourist to help you get to know your own city better.

Yes, we all seem to go thru an AYN Rand phase. I know I've spoken more than once about seeing her at BU circa 1977 and she was tiny with this heavy Russian accent that sounded like a little old Jewish bubbeh...and she railed against the Feminist movement and thus ended my 17 yr old infatuation with her!

Ben 5:16 PM  

Abject defining HANGDOG?

I abject.

Unknown 2:15 PM  

Theatre major here. SET PIECE came easily to me, with just the S.

Lionkiwi 2:25 PM  

Jumping into the mix waaaay late...but, nobody mentioned dress (up)=tog?? This irritated me even more than mole and elma combined. Where I come from a tog is a bathing suit and certainly nowhere near a tuxedo...certainly leaves one feeling out in the cold.
Which reminds me, why are so many infatuated with absolutely=stone cold, when one is an adverb, the other an adjective? Absolutely irritating. Stone cold irritating?

Dirigonzo 7:40 PM  

Well, I finished it so I can't hate it, but I have to say the going in the NW corner, which was the last to fall for me, was pretty tedious. That entire section was blank until I finally sussed out PHONELINE from the theme and then I was able to crawl up the grid letter by letter. Did I say tedious? ONAN open road seems really arbitrary and I put it it reluctantly, really hoping it was wrong. And LEANT, over in the mid-Atlantic area, just seems wrong even if it isn't. And after reading the posts here, some of which I always find to be educational, entertaining and insightful, I would just like to say, "Go @Tinbeni - you rock!"

Waxy in Montreal 12:23 AM  

BTW, there's yet another Law and Order spinoff - Law and Order:UK - set in London currently in production. Saw an episode tonight (Sept. 23) on CityTV up here and IMHO it's excellent fare.

And Jeanne Tripplehorn also featured prominently in one of the better episodes of Midsomer Murders, another British TV production which formerly aired on A&E and is now shown on at least a couple of Canadian public networks.

Prof 3:07 PM  

Last last word said. I have been reading this blog for three years, and have never participated as everything I experienced during the solves was already discussed and rediscussed. In Thursday's puzzle, though, my expertise (Ph.D. in theatre) finally made a difference. A set piece (20A) is common theatre parlance for a piece of furniture. Love this blog. I have learned so much. Hope to participate more in the future.

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