Heraldic band / THU 9-30-10 / Destination for Near Eastern caravan / Zeno's locale / Sci-fi role starting 1966 / Low-cost home loan corp

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Constructor: Victor Fleming

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Uh-uh" — That's the clue for five theme answers

Word of the Day: SERAI (31A: Destination for a Near Eastern caravan)


(in the East) a caravanserai or inn
[from Turkish saray palace, from Persian sarāī palace; see caravanserai]
nsary. (dictionary.
• • •
This puzzle reviews itself.

I have been surprised this week at how little care has been given to the quality of the fill. The theme is fine—no real memorable answers, but it's consistent enough, with a nice colloquial quality. But the non-theme stuff is Horrible. Over and over again, grimace-inducing answers. Not just one, but at least half a dozen. Obscure names, strange abbreviations, odd forms like LHASAN (ack) (44D: Like the Dalai Lama, historically) and SUBMERSE (ugh) (63A: Put under), and then ... whatever SERAI is. Apparently, the cuteness of the idea of the theme is all that matters. Computers can fill in the blanks. I just don't know ...

Theme answers:
  • 34A: BAD IDEA
  • 36A: BACK OFF
  • 58A: DON'T DO IT
Briefly: shot self in foot early on with DR. SPOCK / KARATE instead of MR. SPOCK (1A: Sci-fi role starting in 1966) / KUNG FU (7D: Style of fighting). Weird to make those mistakes and yet have ORLE (ugh) be a gimme (5D: Heraldic band). Then I confused "L" and"D" and wrote in MLI for 1D: Year Michelangelo began work on "David" (MDI) ("began?" Since when is "year artist began a work" a basis for an important date???). TEAS for BEES (22A: Some socials) also held me up. To this point, frustrating, but not anger-inducing. Normal Thursday stuff. It was not until I encountered the slew of (often absurdly marginal) character / actor names that I began to get annoyed, and then by the time I hit the east coast (toward the end of things), I had completely checked out. Don't know how you cram a section full of ERIKA (25D: Actress Alexander of "The Cosby Show") / SERAI / FNMA (!?) (39D: Low-cost home loan corp.) / A COW / NUM (48A: Deut. preceder) / MINA (52A: ___ Harker, wife in Bram Stoker's "Dracula") and think "yeah, that's good." Also, CAN TOO, YES BUT, DARE ME—I'll take one. I will not take three.

I have used a juicer, but wouldn't know a REAMER if it were staring at me (29A: It gets the juice out).

I have "F.U." written in the margin next to 64A: Girl in "Waterworld" (ENOLA)


  • 43D: Brokerage name since 1992 (E*TRADE) — I confess to enjoying their baby.

  • 8D: Nymph pursuer (SATYR) — pairing of this with FAUN (38D: 8-Down's Roman equivalent) was one of the nicer moments today
  • 23D: Zeno's locale (ELEA) — one of those answers (like ORLE) that you have beaten into you one too many times; eventually, the word just sticks, whether you like it or not (though truthfully, today, my brain rolodexed a host of E-words: EDOM, ELIA, etc. before remembering ELEA—which reminds me, ALEA is the Latin word for "die" (singular of "dice") in case anyone asks)

The end.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


nanpilla 12:31 AM  

We usually see Fannie Mae written out as the pronunciation for FNMA. I don't think I've seen FNMA in a crossword before - looks weird.

Also had teas before BEES.

I use a lemon reamer all the time. I prefer the wooden ones to the metal ones.

The clues for ELBA and ENOLA just seem to be perversely obtuse.

Anonymous 12:45 AM  

This puzzle was painful. Uh - uh, Just don't do it. I am still confused as to why HOV (55A) was clued as letters on the road, short for hovercraft? Not that a hovercraft is actually "on" the road. And yes, I know, I am missing something, but what that is I have no clue (pardon the pun).
Not being a resident of the US, FNMA crossing MINA was a Natick, any vowel at the end seemed fine. I failed and left an I. Seria all later.

protege01 12:46 AM  

Actually had one of my best Thursday times. Which is weird. I think I got lucky on a lot of the answers by guessing right the first time.

I guess the theme is ok. No real rhyme or reason to the answers but they're good enough.

DECOROUS? Guess I missed that one in high school. And college. And everywhere else. New word for me. Luckily MR SPOCK was easier so the NW wasn't too hard.

Is LHASAN the right way to say it? Sounds off and forced to me.

Clark 12:58 AM  

I'm always a little disappointed when it's Thursday and there's no rebus.

@anon 12:45 -- HOV stands for high-occupancy vehicle. Somewhere, not where I live, they reserve the far left lane for cars with 2 (?) or more passengers at certain times. Those lanes have HOV painted on the pavement. Or something like that.

Square knOT instead of ROOT had me tied up for a while over there in Maryland.

SERAI is related to Seraglio as in Abduction from the Seraglio, and somehow by that roundabout way I recognized it.

Ben 1:08 AM  

Last Saturday's took me just over 8 minutes (too easy for a Saturday) and this took almost 10 (too hard for a Thursday). The Earth is slipping off its axis.

Mrs Pock 1:21 AM  

Read this yesterday: Sarajevo, capital city of Bosnia-Herzegovina, derives from SERAI. (p 413 "Hitch-22")

Faster than average, but it felt kind of stale.
I made it through the ERIKA SERAI FNMA MINA gantlet. It didn't make me feel clever. Instead I feel like I've done too many crosswords!
Do I really need to know ENOLA [Girl in "Waterworld"]? too?

PurpleGuy 1:42 AM  

This will probably be my last comment for a long time. I get the impression that no one cares, and that I don't exist. Like "mr. cellophane" from the musical "Chicago."

This was a good puzzle. Had all of the exact same mistakes as Rex. TEAS before BEES, KARATE before KUNGFU, etc.

I could throw in some comments but IWOULDN'TIFIWEREYOU and I will certainly THINKAGAIN before submit a comment. DON'TDOIT will be my mantra.

I was in college when Star Trek came out, and I remember Mr. Spock all too well. Leonard Nimoy is now featured on the show "Fringe'" for those of you interested.

I hope all of the people in Rexville prosper and do well.
I will continue to care for my mom and make sure she is comfortable. That's where my priority lies.

We both give @Tinbeni a toast, and hope he experiences the best sunsets.

Shanti -

SethG 1:42 AM  

I have possibly ordered the tallest Guinness before, sure. Smallest is also a Guinness superlative, but one I'd be less likely to order.

Lingo is a weird way to refer to html. Is it an accurate way? I'm not sure...

Jesse 1:52 AM  

@purpleguy - I hope everything is okay. I'll miss reading your comments.

Falconer 2:33 AM  

When I saw this theme, I immediately wondered if the judge had been inspired by my post here a few weeks ago about the many meanings of the term, "Uh huh" and "Uh uh".

I wrote those comments in response to concern about the use of "ah so." The idea was that "uh huh" and "uh uh" change their meaning depending on one's intonation, just like the Japanese term "ah so."

Probably not ... but just sayin'.

Loved this puzzle and was not put off by the fill, some of which was fairly clever. Seemed very easy to me, more like a Tuesday or Wednesday than a Thursday.

Got to say this, speaking of 35A: "That's the way, uh huh, uh huh, I like it, uh huh, uh-huh." http://goo.gl/FWWW

Falconer 2:45 AM  

Whoops ... of course I meant 35D ... Cue the disco ball.

Here's another version by KC and the Sunshine Band: http://goo.gl/eNsW

Doug 3:06 AM  

Maybe I'm just a positive guy, or don't translate text to spoken English well? I took "Uh-huh!" to be like the answer to "Do you want ice cream?" That clobbered me the entire time, for sure.

LOTS of obscure stuff, and not a pleasant time either.

chefwen 3:07 AM  

@PurpleGuy - Don't go, we love your humor, your comments, and your sweet Mom. Heck, Tinbeni toasts you and your Mom every night, I mentioned you in my comment yesterday, stick around.

Thought the puzzle was kind of cute, struggled a tad bit so handed it to my husband to see if he could fill in a couple of squares. It doesn't matter if I have filled it in 90% or just 50%, the same comment always follows, "you haven't done anything". You would think he could come up with something new once in a while, just to giggle up the situation.

My wooden lemon reamer used to be one of my favorite implements until they came out with the metal squeezy things that don't let the seeds fall through, a much cleaner method.

Fell into some of the same traps that Rex did with teas before BEES, and had to Google the ERIKA babe, and like @Clark was really looking forward to a good rebus, maybe next week.

jae 3:46 AM  

I liked this one. But, I usually like JF's efforts. This was a tad tougher than the average Thurs. for me, so, Rex's Med.-Chal. works. Yes to KARATE, TEAS, plus OASIS and HANES. My take is that SERAI/ERIKA and FNMA/MINA was what it took to make it a Thurs.

andrea karma michaels 3:46 AM  

I took the CANTOO, DAREME, YESBUT as the flip side and wish they too had been clued "Uh Huh" (with a raised eyebrow)
Wouldn't that have been fun?

JudgeVic always has fill I don't quite get...but today, thru these wonderful bloggers (THAT"S YOU TOO PURPLEGUY!) I have now learned about HOV and that FNMA = Fanny Mae!
(I originally had FEMA, which made TO A MAE! so it all comes full circle)

Time to roll out the mnemonic I learned in 9th grade Sunday school
(Thank you, Mr. Henken, Temple Israel, Minneapolis circa 1973) as to how to remember the books of the Old Testament:
Goldberg's Elephant Lost Nine Dollars
(Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)
I silently repeated it, and then confidently wrote in LEV. Oy!
(Sorry, Mr. Henken, my addled temple, San Francisco, 2010)

shrub5 6:03 AM  

Puzzle just OK -- didn't care for the theme all that much -- it exceeded my tolerance for short phrases in quotes. Plus, it started right off with a Roman numeral at 1D. Needing google to finish was the capper. Sigh.

I, too, like those E*trade baby commercials esp. the one on the airplane where he is served milk on the rocks and says his E*trade stop loss orders saved him "a pantload."

@PurpleGuy Bob: I enjoy your posts; please reconsider.

joho 8:28 AM  

@andrea karma michaels ... I had the same thought about the positive flipside in the puzzle and added TOAMAN, WINOUT and OHWOW to CANTOO, YESBUT and DAREME.

Because I had REc for REW I had IcOULDNTIFIWantedto before IWOULDNTIFIWEREYOU.

Totally guessed right at the "A" in MINA/FNMA.

@Purple Guy ... is it something we did? I've always enjoyed your upbeat posts.

I agree about some of the groans in the grid but I still enjoyed the freshness of the colloquial theme answers.

Thank you, Victor Fleming!

mmorgan 8:53 AM  

No strong feelings about this puzzle either way... Had some zip but a lot of slog. Got SERAI but couldn't convince myself it was correct; it just looked so... weird.

Had TEAS and ILLS and could not get to BEES. REAMER was a BADIDEA.

My favorite thing in the puzzle: OH WOW A COW at the intersection of 46A and 33D. Ha!!!

mmorgan 8:57 AM  


Following up on yesterday: it could be possible to combine something out of HORSE FEATHERS DUCK SOUP or ROOM SERVICE AT THE CIRCUS or even LOVE HAPPY ANIMAL CRACKERS!

jesser 9:03 AM  

Stay on board, Purple Guy. This ship needs all its hands!

I guess I'm the only one so far who liked the puzzle. I don't time myself but this felt like a normal Thursday. Cluing was at the right level of difficulty to give me the cool 'ahas' when the answers appeared. Unlike Rex, I loved SUMBERGE for 'Put under.'

Only writeover was at 38D, where I put FAwN, before the Biblical book smote me. That corner did me in, however, because I entered FNMc at 39D and never went back to check the crosses. I'd like to think I'd have reconsidered if I had.

40A was a gimme, because one of their largest plants was located just outside Las Cruces for many, many years, and I had many friends who worked there.

I am openly an OMNIVORE, so that was fun to find.

And although 32D is clued to have a two-word answer, I must gloat in the fact that I spent two wonderful years in RATON, N.M., as managing editor of The Raton Range. Best watering hole I ever haunted was Miss Lena's Silver Dollar Saloon. It's long since closed, but I'll take memories from that place to the grave.

I'll be gone most all of today for a tour of the El Paso Animal Shelter, so I'll be depressed by evening. I predict more bourbon than usual for the nightly intake ritual.

Pritool! (I'm in the mood to remind people to spay/neuter their pets, so I'll speculate that it's a surgical device for veterinarians) -- jesser

Rex Parker 9:04 AM  

@jesser, I too loved SUBMERGE. Sadly, that was not the correct answer.

hazel 9:06 AM  

Hmm. I didn't really feel like the puzzle was that easy, but when I finished, my time said otherwise. Super. Easy. Not exactly sure why.

Those phrases just rolled off my fingers, regardless of the fact that I would never say them instead of UH-UH. For me UH-UH - is kind of a No She Didn't phrase, with the accent on the 2nd UH, which is also really drawn out. Or a simple No (I'm not interested).

Still, I kind of liked it - no wincing or grimacing - but no outright awesomeness either. I think ACME's idea would definitely have added some snap.

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

Amen Rex, this puzzle made me "cross".

That was pretty harsh. Feel better now?

Diana Holquist 9:09 AM  

@purple guy Oh, no! Don't go.

I'd just like to take a moment to thank ALL the commenters here for teaching me so much. I do the puzzle the best I can. Read Rex. Fill in what I missed. Read the comments. Learn how much subtext I REALLY missed. Reinforce the Elbas (island,right) Orles (heraldic band, got it) of puzzledom. And now, I can almost do the Thurs puzzle, thanks to you all, purple or green or whatever color you guys are.

(Liked this puzzle. Laughed when I got "Jazz group for short"; learned FNMA; had "submerge" forever like others and couldn't get the end.)

David L 9:09 AM  

This turned out to be an easy Thursday for me, despite a lot of odd and random and generally unsatisfying stuff. REAMER to me is a woodworking or machining tool used to widen holes -- never heard of it in a fruitarian context, but Google tells me it is legit, and Google never lies.

Had square FOOT for a while, until I decided that EFIKA was an unlikely name, even for an actress.

And DAREME sounds off -- TRY ME, yes, or I DARE YOU, but DARE ME? Dear me...

jesser 9:12 AM  

@ Rex and others: I remembered it wrong, but got in right in the puzzle; SUBMERSE! Still love it, but I may just be basking in RATON memories. I got SUBMERSEd and SUMBERgEd more'n once in snow storms and at Miss Lena's Silver Dollar Saloon! :-)

Wah Wah Wah 9:16 AM  

Goodbye, Cruel Blog.

now that's what I call a cigar 9:17 AM  

Anon at 9:08, apparently rampant self-pity is tolerated on this board but not comments calling out the self-pity. My comment was deleted by the host. Feel better now? (Why isn't Purple Guy's comment deleted? He's the one who tried to derail the puzzle discussion into a discussion about him.)

DocRoss 9:26 AM  

I've been lurking here for a while and enjoy the insight & humor I find here. I just had to share a solving moment I was sure someone would have noticed before me.

As BACKOFF was revealing itself, for a few moments I had --C-OFF, then --CKOFF, and somehow it took me longer to see the BA than it should have.

I got SERAI from the classic Santana album "Caravanserai".

Thanks for all the fun, Rex!

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

I hate this blog! Before I merely googled the answers I dodn't know, so life was easy. Then I started feeling guilty and worked to get all the answers (right) without googling. So today I finally achieved that result and don't feel the better off for it. Uh uh!!!....

ArtLvr 9:57 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
ArtLvr 10:02 AM  

@PurpleGuy -- Anyone who is prime care-giver for a family member aged 102 is bound to need some time off to recharge the batteries. I admire your normally upbeat comments and sympathiize with your down moments! Please see if there isn't a local group which provides relief sitters in your area? They are big help in getting through periods of feeling overwhelmed... And stay with us!

As to the puzzle, I got lucky with DECOROUS from the start, which gave me KUNG FU and kept me from writing in Pious for GODLY... "Leggo my Eggo" ran in my head for a moment, before the SHARDS made it LEGGS. HOV came to me too, maybe I've seen it in Florida? Yes, the clue for ENOLA was a pain and so was SUBMERSE rather than Submerge, but it all fell easily today with crosses.

I liked it a lot!


Van55 10:07 AM  

Theme was decent enough, but I have to agree with RP about the fill.

Hated the random Roman numeral as usual.

Hated the LHASAN/ENOLA cross as clued, but I suppose ENOLA clued as half a bomber name is overused.

Found SERAI/ERIKA to be a DNF correctly cross.


21 largely obscure proper nouns?

Not my kind of Thursday puzzle.

Rex Parker 10:25 AM  

@cigar, I deleted you for being an asshole who contributed precisely zero to discussion of the puzzle discussion. Who the fuck cares what you think about someone's alleged self-pity? No one. You're sniping for the sake of sniping. You can do that on, let's see, Every Other Blog In Existence. Not here.

You wanted to know "why," and now you know. I'm leaving your current non-contribution in place. Hope that makes you happy.

Back to the puzzle.


Anonymous 10:33 AM  

I like it when Rex talks dirty. Now if WS would only allow some dirty words in the puzzle....

chefbea 10:34 AM  

Didn't really like the theme but found this an easier than usual Thurs.

@Nanpila and @chef wen I have the wooden reamer which I use to use all the time til the metal squeezy things came on the market. I now have both a yellow and green one.

@purple guy - hope you don't stay away too long.

Now to watch the wind and rain!!! Wilmington has broken all sorts of records. We have 20+ inches of rain since Monday afternoon and it's still raining.

smk4 10:36 AM  

Overall this was a meh, but I did like the 2D trap of automatically filling in REC and it being "confirmed" with ICOULD... at first glance.

And what's wrong with SUBMERSE? I've always submersed dishes in the sink, but submerged someone's head in the toilet. (Well, I don't, but you know what I mean.)

I Hate Proper Names 10:39 AM  

Three of the first four across answers are proper names, with many more such answers to follow. Just noticed Van55 referred to this irritation. Ironically, I found the puzzle Easy compared with most Thrusday puzzles - I didn't need to know any of those obscure proper names to finish it up. No way I would call this puzzle challenging.

By the way, instead of @cigar's second post, Van55's post is duplcated.

dk 10:45 AM  

@purpleguy, get recharged and get back. Doctor's orders.

@nanpilla, speaking of obtuse, 27A should have been clued as nickname for the shark in Jaws.

@cigar, dial 1 900 GETACLUE. Note to other bloggers, I think incorporating a puzzle theme into my pithy BARB (at @cigar's expense) is worthy of my reinstatement into MENSA.

I made the same MR/DR mistake as Rex (potty mouth) Parker along with attempting several alternative spellings of sedated for 63A. Otherwise fun solid fill.

*** (3 Stars) I miss the L'eggs eggs.

Rex Parker 10:46 AM  

"Discussion of the puzzle discussion"—pretty sure I meant to leave one of those "discussion"s out, above. Oh well. Off to brave the rain, and student papers.


Beadola 10:48 AM  

I enjoyed "dare me" coming immediately after "don't do it". Had a lucky guess for the A in the FNMA, Mina cross. Thanks for the explanation of HOV. I live in an area with car pool lanes everywhere and never saw HOV. Guess I need to visit Florida.

Two Ponies 10:52 AM  

Quite a mix of highs and lows today. The worst for me was crossing a loan group with a chapter from a religious book I've never read.
I love that E*Trade kid!
Agree that L'Eggs should have kept those plastic eggs.
Theme phrases were OK but gave the puzzle a sort of negative vibe.

Matthew G. 10:58 AM  

I actually really liked LHASAN, since at least it can be deduced from the clue with some pondering, unlike random pop-culture proper names one either knows or doesn't. Experienced a moment of cherished solving pleasure when that one suddenly clicked despite having only a couple crosses.

Never head of a REAMER, though, and the word conjures up vaguely inappropriate mental images. SERAI was a new one too, but thankfully the crosses came through.

I really liked the theme, too. I could quibble a little bit with imperfect parallelism -- to me, "Uh-uh" is an answer or response, while the phrases it clues are all commands -- but once I understood what "Uh-uh" meant to the constructor, it was fun finding each of the theme phrases.

PuzzleNut 11:10 AM  

This one fell easily. Not a big fan of the repeated clue, but no real issue with any of the crosses. LHASAN was the weakest, IMO, while I liked OMNIVORE, MODEL and ARROYO.
Was very surprised to see Rex stumble on SERAI. Thought that was one of those words that you commit to memory early on.
Wish RATON was clued as a New Mexico town.

ShortShrift 11:15 AM  

Today's obscure clue for ENOLA can only be justified by yesterday's gimme. When I first started in on NYT puzzles I had the impression that each daily puzzle had one answer in common with the previous day's. (This is back in the pre-Shortz years and my solving hasn't been continuous since then.) Am I misremembering that unwritten rule? Or am I all wet? Anyone?

Clark 11:16 AM  

I'm gonna wear purple today to show solidarity with care-givers, commenters who exist especially when they have the impression that they don't, and the whole Rexville gang, including, well, you know. (But to you anonycarpers, you've got to pick a name to be one of the gang . . .)

w.v.: falnegg (a lazy little alpine corner where the rösti is might fine, and the wifi will get you to Rexville)

Ulrich 11:16 AM  

I'm of course partial to a constructor sharing my name (sans one m)--so, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and went through several intonations of Uh-uh! and sure enough, there's one that's a command meaning exactly what the clues indicated (the first uh is higher pitched than the second). I use it with my cats when they're about to do something untoward, like try to get into my plate before I'm done eating--they seem to respond more to tone than to the usual mixture of German and English I throw at them--perhaps bilingualism overtaxes their little brains...

And speaking of bilingualism: Repeated clues are a great learning experience for us non-native speakers!

Lindsay 11:22 AM  

I know of a rowing club that sorts race entrants into the following classifications: singles, doubles, and HOV (high occupancy vessel).

Being a fan of watery words, I'm fine with submerse, though Erika and Enola can take their leave any time.

Noam D. Elkies 11:24 AM  

Zeno of 23D:ELEA, I know; also "alea", as in "iacta est ....", or the Junk Age's plague of aleatoric music (just because it's "art music" doesn't mean it's any good). But for 15A:MACRAE, I had no idea; fortunately I guessed the right middle initial for 9D:TCU. Otherwise, neat puzzle idea — yes, I'd rather have a weekly rebus but it's hard to come up with fresh ones — and I didn't feel it was more "F.U."-worthy than normal.

Yes, the clue for 1D:MDI is not ideal, but none of the other WikiWorthy events of 1501 look any better.

Anybody else try "square foot" instead of square 28A:ROOT, or "Never again" for 49A:THINKAGAIN? The last one delayed the SW by a long time. Other write-overs were "teas" for 22A:BEES, noted already, and GNMA for 39D:FNMA. Didn't even think of "submerge" for 63A:SUBMERSE. "Igs" would be hard to justify at 60D, though here at Harvard the annual Ig Nobel awards (a.k.a. the Igs) are scheduled for tonight.

NDE [captcha = zenedu = location of the sacred river Alf?]

P.S. 102! 46A:OH_WOW. We may like our daily dose of Purple, but of course your own Loved Ones must take precedence. Fare well (literally).

joecab 11:25 AM  

I have been doing crosswords regularly for over 10 years and I don't recall ever seeing SERAI before.

I don't even know how anyone can be surprised that people never saw it. How many times has it ever appeared in the NYT?

archaeoprof 11:26 AM  

Teas before BEES, and submerge before SUBMERSE.

Agree with @Rex about the clue for 64A. But I guess it's pretty hard to find a Thursday-level clue for ENOLA.

Love those ETRADE ads, esp. the one about "Shankapotamus."

jae 11:26 AM  

In the spirit of correcting one's posts, I meant to say "VF's efforts" vice JF's. My only excuse is that it was it late and I was upset about purpleguy departing.

JaxInL.A. 11:28 AM  

Maybe it's an age thing. This was a very quick solve for me, though it did not feel easy. I grew up on movie musicals and loved Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae in Oklahoma. We had the record albums (the age thing, remember?) for both shows, and I can still recall the covers. Saw the movie Carousel too young, though, and did not like the death of the hero before the end, then his return to reassure his love as a ghost. Did the show in high school back when public schools still had drama depts, though I still hated the soppy ending.

I also lived in Washington, D.C. where Stacy Keach frequently appeared in shows at the Arena Stage (maybe he still does?). This meant that the NE fell immediately for me.

I have a glass reamer, the kind with a dish part to catch the juice, that I had to go find in a thrift store when I got tired of how much was missed by the metal one (like @chefwen uses).

I did think that the HOV clue should have signaled an abbreviation. Liked satyr and faun in the same puzzle, and had an aha moment when I realized that the final across refered to the Book of World Records and not the brew (TALLEST).

Words of encouragement to @PurpleGuy. My grandmother made it to 101 but had lost most of her mental function by then. I find your stories of your mum reassuring. Maybe it's the puzzles that keep the brain sharp?

Parshutr 11:28 AM  

@Rex...thanks to you for sweeping out the [other] assholes.
Found this one strangely easy, perhaps because I'm always thinking BACK OFF, THINK AGAIN, BAD IDEA on the J O B. Then again, I didn't get anything until I moved to the NE and saw STACY and SATYR, then was off to the races.
@Purple Guy...fare thee well, visit and contribute as you like.

OldCarFudd 11:38 AM  

I o't know why, but I found this easy. Started at the beginning and just kept writing.

Those deep-sea exploring contraptions that give us fabulous pictures of the Titanic and life around undersea vents are called submersibles.

Most random Roman numerals aren't all that random. Michelangelo was renaissance, ergo 14-something to 16-something, so the number will start with an M. That eliminates Dr. Spock. And the other two letters have to be I, C, V, X, L, or D. That narrows the field considerably, and if you have any crossings, you can usually determine which of the six possibilities you're looking for.

I knew serai, probably from crosswords. I knew FNMA from work (once upon a time) and the financial pages (more recently). We tried HOV lanes in NJ and they were a disaster, so we got rid of them.

I enjoyed the theme.

Purple Guy, we'll miss you. Come back soon.

Tinbeni 11:44 AM  

OH WOW, I had to search out the WOD SERAI, got it all from crosses.

Hmmm, this week is kinda strange, first a Monday, then a Tuesday, back to a Monday (yesterday was tooooo easy) and today a Thursday test of proper names.

FNMA & ETRADE were gimmies from watching too much CNBC.

Roman Numerals don't bother me. Agree with Rex, who remembers the date something was started.

PurpleGuy, you aren't going anywhere ... we're "Toasting buds!"

chefbea 11:53 AM  

I know serai from crosswords. It use to be in all the time...way back when.

Look Up Guy 12:06 PM  

@joecab (3rd time in your 10 yrs)

Thu 9/30/10 31A Destination for a Near Eastern caravan

Sun 9/9/07 123A Near East hotel

Fri 1/5/01 27A Near Eastern inn

Sun 3/23/97 38D Mideast inn

Sun 4/2/95 57A Eastern inn

Sat 10/1/94 28D Turkish inn

Sun 2/6/94 83A Turkish palace Arthur

Masked and Anonymous 12:08 PM  

Your love to me is a mystery,
And the clues are all around.
If you don't come across,
I'm gonna be down.

@44: Har. No sunshine in NY, evidently. Judge Vic comes across, and you are down.

Very commendable theme, IMO. Not quite the quirkiness you might tend to associate with yer ThursPuz, I'd grant. Nice, healthy GnU count of 4n8! Tons of fill you just don't see that often. KUNGFU! -- Always a crowd pleaser. I the jury must go thumbs up.

Bob Kerfuffle 12:15 PM  

@Victor Fleming: Your Honor, I plead guilty on the following counts: (1) REC/REW and (2) TEAS/BEES.

I throw myself on the mercy of the court and only ask that I be allowed access to the Times crossword for the duration of my sentence.

Moonchild 12:17 PM  

Trying Never Again sure screwed up my SE. Also what/who are RA's?
Those glass cups with the cone in the middle are just juicers at my house.
Parts of this was fun and other parts were like swallowing shards of glass.

It is slightly hypocritical to allow whines for attention but not criticism of that behavior. We are here to have fun, not to belabor our lots in life. The affirmation I seek and find here comes from the discovery that solving the NYT puzzle is no longer playing solitaire. Asking for more makes it all about "me" with not enough "we".

Mel Ott 12:22 PM  

Speaking of crap fill - I was slowed down in the SW by mixing my graduate TAS (teaching assistants?) with my RAS (residence assistants? residential assistants?).

I also had SUBMERGE. Stared at IgS forever.

@Purple Guy: I've always appreciated your comments. Take care of Mom and don't be a stranger.

Ulrich 1:59 PM  

@Moonchild: Part of the fun, to me, is that b/c people let us see glimpses of their lives (with our chief setting the example), the personalities of the individual posters emerge over time--I enjoy that b/c it allows me to see the person behind the avatar. I admit, tho, that this is very different from "whines for attention"...

Badir 2:24 PM  

As a mathematician, I'm ashamed to admit that my only error was fOOT for 28-across; but at least Noam also started with the non-mathy answer! I started running through the alphabet and stopped at F without trying for something better, figuring the cross was some weird name. :(

miriam b 2:26 PM  

Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai
Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day,
How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp
Abode his destined Hour, and went his way.

—Fitzgerald, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Stanza 17 in the 5th Edition

And then there's Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail.

Just free-associating as usual.

Masked and Anonymous 2:45 PM  

@P_rpleG_y: It just wouldn't be the same without U. [Bad idea. Back off. Think again. Etc.] In any case, all the best to yah, dude. M & A

Ulrich 2:48 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ulrich 2:51 PM  

@miriam b: I clicked a little to find out if "serai" and "serail" derive from the same root--result: possibly not.

Serail: The harem of a Muslim household--from Italian "serraglio" (animal cage), from Medieval Latin "serrāculum" (bolt), from Latin "sera" (a door bar); associated also with Turkish "seray" (palace--see below)

Serai: from Persian "saray" (camp, palace)

My guess is that when Italian "serraglio" got simplified into "Serail" (e.g. in German--cf. the Mozart Singspiel), it got associated with Turkish/Persian "seray" w/o actually deriving from it

Sparky 2:56 PM  

@OldCar Fudd. Yes, the Roman numeral M gave MRSPOCK. After I tried Kirk, Ham Solo, sigh. HOV lanes in Florida . I am a Snowbird. Had ISS and then changed it for SUBMERgE so fell into that trap. But as usual picked away and it revealed.
Jesser, do what's best for now. Keep your strength up and visit when you can.

J 3:07 PM  

I give this whole puzzle an F.U.--for "Felix Unger," of course....

miriam b 3:36 PM  

@ulrich: Interesting. I imagine the French "serrer" (to close) is also derived from the original Latin word. Then there's "serried ranks" (close military formation).

alan 3:44 PM  

Like Rex and others I also fell into the trap of submerge for submerse.Always one square wrong.Crap!

acme 4:07 PM  

Resident Advisor

@Ulrich @ Miriam
Loving such a highbrowed discussion!
Que Serai, Serai?

I think we have a good idea for a MarxBros double feature...can't figure out how to contact you off blog so as not to derail today's discussion (I just get a Russian cooking blog)
So might you contact me off-blog:

sanfranman59 4:14 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 17:53, 19:07, 0.94, 44%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 8:57, 9:11, 0.98, 56%, Medium

Given how prevalent Fannie Mae has been in the news since the mortgage meltdown, I didn't think FNMA was particularly egregious. If it hadn't taken me about 3 minutes to find a typo, I would have come in at one of my better Thursday solve times. Even with that extra time, I beat my Thursday average by almost 4 minutes.

Sfingi 4:35 PM  

DNF and a real mess.

I'll just list all my mistakes, which I stuck with, and I never touched the SW corner:

forts - BRUCE
paris - MILAN
haneS - LEGGS
suV - HOV

and my favorite booboo:
gourmand - OMNIVORE

Hey, my sister's a picky eater -but still an omnivore like the rest of us humans, bears and pigs.

@Ben - I coulda spent 10 hours on this and not budged.

@PurpleGuy - I'm a bit worn out over my 91-yr. old, though she's in a nursing home, now. I'm thinking about going back to the shrink. Occasionally, I take a day off, but then I feel guilty. There are lots of us out there. I once made a complaint to the State of NY, and the investigator started crying on my shoulder about his mother. This is all going to get worse before it gets better. For myself, it's "Clean the gun," I kid you not.

Tinbeni 4:54 PM  

M & A
I liked your "U" joke.
Also, since we now have a blue 'J' I'm going to have to void that adoption and adopt the letter 'K'.

@PurpleGuy and @Sfingi
The best job I ever had was from Feb 1st to Oct 3, 1996 taking care of my Mom. I had a lot of help from Hospice (they were wonderful). But she died in her own bed peacefully.
The way I figured, the first few years of my life I needed a lot of attention. It was time to payback, in kind.
(OK, a little help from my two older brothers and older sister would have been nice ... but they were too busy with their own lives).

You two (plus 102yo Mom) get a Toast at sunset.

You figured me out ... I'm a retired Franciscan Friar.

fergus 4:59 PM  

What an odd, unfriendly puzzle from such a judicious creator. I had a little spell this morning where I was tired of the puzzle and all the triviality and small-minded bullshit that repercusses, but then I did yesterday's and went down to the 7-11 to buy today's Times. At least I read the Arts section.

Aunt Hattie 5:10 PM  

@purpleguy--Hope all the positive comments and compliments are making you feel better--we ALL feel invisible some times, whatever our situations, but obviously you are not, at least here in puzzleland. And won't your mother miss us, too? AS others have said, in crosswordese, think again.

PIX 5:56 PM  

On Thursdays, I expect something more creative; disappointing puzzle.

48A is very easy if you happen to remember the line from Inherit The Wind: "We shall hex the Pentateuch and slip you in neatly between Numbers and Deuteronomy!!" (Darrow beating up Bryan)

CoffeeLvr 6:14 PM  

@JaxInLA, thank you for explaining what Guinness had to do with TALLEST. I had it right, but kept spinning it around for a twenty mile drive. Alec Guinness? Stout?

I have a yellow plastic REAMER, designed in two parts so the seeds are caught in a sort of sieve, and the juice flows through into a separate container. Son requested it recently; he didn't get it.

Had rOOT, and SERAa (like Sanaa?), and poor Ms. Alexander was EfaKA. Nothing to do but laugh.

@Sfingi, maybe this applies. At work I used to mutter, "This is really bad, but it's been worse, and it'll be worse again." Somehow found that comforting.

Bob/Purple Guy, Shanti to you as well.

PurpleGuy 6:25 PM  

To all in Rexville-
I certainly did not mean to come acroos as whining, or seeking attention.
I apologize if it appeared as such.

Yes, I will still be around. You can't get rid of me that easily. Just maybe not posting as often.

You all literally brought tears to my eyes, and made me realize what a great place this site is. You all renew my faith in humanity.

Ok, maybe I'm being sappy, but I mean every word of it. You all are THE BEST and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Oh, by the way, mom was livid at my post and wants you all to know she loves the puzzles and this site.

Many toasts will be had tonight !



acme 6:43 PM  

Was Enola from Waterworld gay? May be a way to remember!
OK, back to work on a new puzzle...

dk 6:45 PM  

Bob the purple, You did not come across as whining or seeking attention, if you did I would have complained, as while I rarely whine I always seek attention. Tho, I often loose to Acme as she name drops.

Oh yeah, tell your mom she is right.

My mom (87) still believes Nixon is the victim of a hostile press and will not touch anything NYT. I do not have the heart to tell her the puzzle she does in syndication comes from the paper that shall not be named

A toast to @Purple tonight, perhaps a glass of wine :);0.

ur pal dk

Watched Last Picture Show last night, IFIWEREYOU I would watch it to.

PIX 6:52 PM  

@Purple Guy...none of my business but: when people have to spend a lot of time taking care of the sick/dying/elderly there is a tendency for them to withdraw from everything else...which is understandable, but counter-productive...the reason is, the person you are caring for needs you to keep them involved in the world to whatever degree possible, because the alternative is that they lose all connections with the outside world and have only their inner world of pain and suffering ...cutting yourself from the puzzle/rex's blog means your mom loses one more connection to the world, however slim and tenuous...stay involved...

this is meant to be helpful and i apologize if it comes across the wrong way...

Anonymous 7:09 PM  

1. I want to see the comment by Cigar that Rex deleted -- it's not fair Rex deletes the only good comment on his blog. 2. Square FOOT, ROOT, KNOT -- that's what erasers are for. 3. Why this endless -- dare I say pointless? -- commentary on possible answers -- it is what is is and deal with it. 4. If there is a God, the rain in the East will wash away the entire East Coast....

Unknown 7:16 PM  

Thank you, nanpilla, for using a reamer!
Congrats, protege01, for a great solving time!
Mrs. Pock, you do indeed need to know the girl from “Waterworld”!
Purple Guy, hardly a day goes by that I do not say to someone, “I care that Purple Guy exists!” Thanks for saying “This was a good puzzle.” My wife thought so, too. She loved SUBMERSE!
Falconer, thanks for saying you “Loved this puzzle!”
(Is there any irony in the fact that, this very day, I closed on a FNMA loan?!)
Joho, you are welcome! Thanks for thanking me!
Hazel, I plead guilty to being Super Easy, but not to being Super!
KooKoo, thanks for liking the puzzle. So glad you laughed!
Ulrich, thanks for the benefit of the doubt!
Joecab, I’m proud to have introduced you to SERAI In quotes, it gets 14,500 Google hits; it’s in 19 on-line dictionaries. In a database that I use, it appears to have been in at least 5 Times puzzles between 1993 & 2007 (and over 25 other puzzles in the same time frame). It’s a Thursday word!
Fergus, even in court folks don’t say I am odd and unfriendly. One or the other, but never both. (Few call me judicious, either.)
And thanks, everyone, for continuing to patronize Rex's excellent blog spot.
FYI, this puzzle was submitted in May 2009, accepted a month later.

Vic Fleming

Unknown 7:18 PM  

I meant that 14,500 to be 14,500,000 - as in Google hits for "serai."


The captain of your troll police 7:29 PM  

(abbr.) DFTT (and I don't mean the judge!)

foodie 7:36 PM  

@Vic Fleming, greatest post by a constructor ever (except for ACME whom I compare to no one).

But I think you forgot to thank @Noam D. Elkies. He said your puzzle wasn't more FU worthy than normal. Or is being FU worthy something we should all strive for?

Anonymous 7:41 PM  

@ Victor - Right....

Two Ponies 7:47 PM  

@ Vic, Thank you so much for dropping by. I love hearing from constructors. I have seen your name many times before and am a fan.

@ Purple Guy, I was hoping you would pop back and see what a stir you caused. We all have our "crosses to bear". It's all relative to what you have endured so far in this life. This is a kind crowd for the most part. We went through foodie's father's illness, for example. There must be some sort of line drawn, however, because what we share is the puzzle. It might sound shallow to an outsider but keeping that as our focus allows some small glimpses into our personal lives without crossing that invisible line. I, for one, like that small distance. Sort of like fences making good neighbors.
Enjoy your mom while you have her. Mine has been gone for a long time. Also, if she is 102 you can't be a spring chicken yourself so take care of yourself as well.

Rex Parker 7:55 PM  

SERAI is a common French verb form (first person singular future indicative of "être") so that 14.5 million figure is a *little* inflated. There's a reason something with *that* combination of highly desirable letters appears so rarely in puzzles.

Anonymous 7:56 PM  

Victor, foodie and Two Ponies -- Right.

Sharpie48 8:15 PM  

I Love this blog-I've been hovering over it for a few months, intimidated by your knowledge!

It really helps to hear that you all make the same mistakes I do and I have learned so much about solving.

@anonymous 7:09-I don't see the discussions pointless at all.

Thanks, Rex and All Here!

fergus 8:26 PM  

Judge Victor -- glad you didn't mind my baseless critique. Solving a puzzle is about one one-hundredth as relevant as creating one. Yet we solvers feel free to let our pipe-end, scant-considered aesthetics be known. Whenever I don't really like a puzzle that much, I usually take the side of the constructor.

I was talking about Yeats yesterday, saying that I didn't much like the general thrust of his poems, yet I couldn't deny that he could put ideas into words incisively.

foodie 8:29 PM  

@Rex and Vic, about half the hits, 7,340,000 in my search, are found when you allow only French language.

I grew up with that word, so I have no perspective on its familiarity with the West.

@Purple Guy,

I know it's hard to be purple
But it's worse to be blue...
This is the worst poem ever
Written just for you!

Sfingi 9:01 PM  

@Anon709 - Bend over. I have a different kind of reamer.
The West Coast and that other sun-infested place - FL will go first. I don't see too many NE or NY towns getting sucked into holes or washing off cliffs.
When I started in 6/09, I was greatly relieved that others made the same and similar errors. I learned what I needed to concentrate on. If you're a minute-man now - not just in your usual bedroom way, but the CW way - then get thee to a forum where solvers brag about their victories. We won't mind.

@PurpleGuy - at the prison, we were reminded that the inmate pushing the broom is not invisible and is taking notes! Another group that feels invisible as they age is women. I tell my friends it doesn't matter what you look like any more, no one looks when you're over 60. The benefit is, you get an earful.

Ciao ciao, bambino (or as they say in CWs - Ciaos.

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 7:23, 6:58, 1.06, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 10:16, 8:55, 1.15, 87%, Challenging
Wed 9:45, 11:39, 0.84, 17%, Easy
Thu 17:57, 19:07, 0.94, 44%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:59, 3:43, 1.07, 83%, Challenging
Tue 5:08, 4:36, 1.12, 85%, Challenging
Wed 4:54, 5:45, 0.85, 11%, Easy
Thu 8:41, 9:10, 0.95, 49%, Medium

luisa massim 11:48 PM  

AGOGO? Disco? Maybe if you think original discoteque, Chicago 1950s. Not the later 70s disco.

Anonymous 12:00 PM  

In case it wasn't noted, FNMA is the stock symbol for Fannie Mae. I don't recall seeing answers in symbol form without a hint such as " . . . symbol" etc. Would anyone think a 4 letter answer to the clue, "Western Java Maker" could be SBUX (Starbucks)??

Lurking, Just Behind You! 2:43 PM  

The discussion of this puzzle was the highlight of my day....but that's not all that strange as I LOVE it here.

@PurpleGuy - glad to see that you 're-considered'. I hope that I continue to see your avitar several weeks behind your comments out here in syndication-land. Continued best wishes for you and your mom.

I also love the fact that RP keeps a tight leash on his blog and accepts very little bullshit...it is HIS after all and I love being his guest. His smackdowns never fail to amuse me.

@Vic - this should be on the shortlist of nominees for post of the year. Thanks for your puzzle(s) and your post and amusing me.

And I am not so secretly amused by the discussion of Reaming. I love it when WS lets stuff like that into his baby.

OVELO - Cheerios from the ASIS table??

NotalwaysrightBill 7:57 PM  

Syndicated puzzler. Sure glad I'm not good enough to be as picayune as some. Still learnin' plenty from some of the small fill and so still havin' fun.
REAMER and SUBMERSE both perfectly good answers for the given clues. What's the prob, Bob?
Have a sneaking suspicion that MILANESE or LOSANGELINO wouldn't have gotten as poor a reception as LHASAN. Names are what they are.
Thanks @[whomever] for the "Goldberg's Elephant . . . " mnemonic.
Personal biggest quibble from this puzzle: 52D: MODEL for "Feature at an auto show, in two different ways": a pretty contorted stretch ifn ya ask me.
Found the theme answers to be on infirm footings. None of the "Uh-uh"'s led to a solid "NO", but ended up being more like ominous warnings instead (IWOULDNTIFIWEREYOU).
Better for me was the subtheme of STOIC SATYRFAUN REAMERS AGOGO TOAMAN.

NotalwaysrightBill 8:09 PM  

Now I see that a person from MILAN is actually called a MILANIAN (UGH UGH and DOUBLE UGH). Hey, but that's the deal, so . . . .

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