Swedish-based international clothing giant / WED 10-20-10 / Material in Canadian tuxedo / German word slangily extreme / One of three original muses

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Constructor: Finn Vigeland

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: H & M (37A: Swedish-based international clothing giant ... or a hint to the answers to the six starred clues) — two-word phrases where first word starts with "H" and second word starts with "M"

Word of the Day: Nino ROTA (54A: "The Godfater" composer Nino) —

Nino Rota (December 3, 1911, Milan – April 10, 1979, Rome) was a world-renowned Italian composer and academic who is best known for his film scores, notably for the films of Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti. He also composed the music for two of Franco Zeffirelli's Shakespeare films, and for the first two films of Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather trilogy, receiving for the latter the Academy Award for Best original Score in 1974. // During his long career Rota was an extraordinarily prolific composer, especially of music for the cinema. He wrote more than 150 scores for Italian and international productions from the 1930s until his death in 1979—an average of three scores each year over a 46 year period, and in his most productive period from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s he wrote as many as ten scores every year, and sometimes more, with a remarkable thirteen film scores to his credit in 1954. Alongside this great body film work, he composed ten operas, five ballets and dozens of other orchestral, choral and chamber works, the best known being his string concerto. He also composed the music for many theatre productions by Visconti, Zeffirelli and Eduardo de Filippo as well as maintaining a long teaching career at the Liceo Musicale in Bari, Italy, where he was the director for almost 30 years. (wikipedia)

• • •

Ambivalent toward this one. Impressive number of theme answers (6 + central revealer and possibly HI MOM, though that clue isn't starred...), but H AND M means almost nothing to me (Swedish? Giant?) and I really wanted to see HOLY MACKEREL and you could make puzzles one after the other with a letter-AND-letter theme (R&B, B&O, J&B, etc.). Doesn't seem that imaginative. Also, there were some icky obscurities (ARHAT, KIEL, non-Mia HAMM) (31A: Enlightened Buddhist; 63A: Germany's ___ Canal; 37D: 2004 Olympics gymnastics star Paul or Morgan), as well as the mind-bendingly horrible ASTARE (Like Fred when he gazes intently?) (45D: Rubbernecking). Cluing felt really RATCHETed up—thorny all over. "Canadian tuxedo?" (51D: Material in a "Canadian tuxedo")—Are you all up there really that backward that you think DENIM is fancy suit material? Not sure why, but ERESTU seems worse as a complete song title than as a partial clue for ERES (6D: 1974 Mocedades hit). HORACE MANN is the eponym of our local elementary school, so I liked that, and HAUT MONDE, though tough to get, is a cool phrase. Ditto HASHMARKS and LIVE CHAT (4D: Real-time online conversation). I think I admire more than I dislike today. Clue that unnecessarily threw me the most: 30D: Like 12-hour clocks (AM/PM). I just couldn't conceive what a "12-hour clock" was. Turns out, it's ... a clock. Like 99% of clocks you encounter in the world. Just not military.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: *Megadeth's music genre (HEAVY METAL) — started up here in the NW, and thought I'd sail through this thing in no time. Zero resistance. Then I hit ...

  • 27A: *"The Lion King" song ("HAKUNA MATATA") — how in the bleep do you spell that? My first instinct was "AKUNA MATADA"
  • 43A: *Hilton head, e.g. (HOTEL MANAGER) — see, again, Not Wednesday cluing. I guess the lowercase "h" in "head" should have told me something, but it didn't

  • 58A: *The Father of American Public Education (HORACE MANN)
  • 11D: *Lines on a football field (HASHMARKS)
  • 33D: *Society (HAUT MONDE) — ugh to the vagueness of that clue
Screwed myself a little by going with EMIR and NYLON over IMAM (26D: Shiite leader) and NINON (28D: Sheer fabric), so center-grid was the site of my first minor breakdown. Wanted RICO for ROTA (not sure why), balked hard at ASTARE, and couldn't get SMELLED from that clue (48A: Knocked someone out, say) until I had all but one letter. I'm still not sure I get it. Is it that you stink so bad that you made someone literally pass out? Pretty tenuous.

Now if you'll pardon me, I'm off to try to start a MNEME MEME... (47A: One of the three original Muses + 64A: Internet ___ (viral phenomenon))

  • 40A: Hi-tech heart (CPU) — the "heart" of your computer, that is
  • 52A: Viking training camp? (FJORD) — cutesy clue that tries hard to make you think of football. Did Vikings really "train?" In FJORDs?
  • 57A: Who once remarked "You can't stay mad at somebody who makes you laugh" (LENO) — how would he know?
  • 61A: German word slangily used to mean "extremely" (UBER) — as in "I find the KIEL Canal UBER-fascinating."
Gotta stay up and watch "Touch of Evil" — there are worse fates.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 12:22 AM  

Got the h&m reference immediately and thought for a sec was going to be a fun/young/current puzzle. Livechat, meme, cool words (even tho the clues were pretty literal) , Canadian tuxedo good (also heard Texan tuxedo) and some other fun (hi mom). But the rest sucked. German canals, Latin, Greek muses, Ninon, ocala, haut monde. just really junked up the grid. took the fun away.

PurpleGuy 12:23 AM  

didn't care for this one so much. I cry foul at HAT crossing ARHAT, and next to the "hat" in LIVECHAT.All these over the "at" in SEAT. Rather ugly IMHO.

Like our leader, I thought I would sail through this with HEAVY METAL and knowing HAKUNA MATATA. My teaching years in first and second grade came in handy there.
Took me a long time to finally get the lowercase "h" in the clue: Hilton head,e.g.
Agree completely with ASTARE. It's just plain ugly.
Thinking of "Fred gazing intently" did make me chortle !
I'm old enough, and a movie buff, that Nino ROTA was a gimme.
So overall, I didn't enjoy this solve as much.
Somedays are like that.

Happy Wednesday to all. It's over the hump day.
Let's all be careful going over it ! ;)

Shanti -
Bob/ PurpleGuy

fvigeland 12:34 AM  

Hey everyone! I know I don't comment all that much, but I am a faithful reader of Rex's blog, so it's pretty exciting to see my name up there today. Thanks to Rex for the generally favorable review!

I did have to make a few concessions in the fill to accomodate the 6 theme answers, ASTARE being one of them… I can't help but think of Fred every time I a-stare at the word too.

HIMOM is definitely an Easter egg. Once that (inadvertently) fell into place there, I attempted to make the symmetrical grid entry (which is now MNEME) into "HIT ME" (a la blackjack), which seemed fleetingly viable, considering it shared its last two letters with MNEME. Alas, it was not meant to be, but I left HIMOM in there for the eagle-eyed solvers.

This is my first accepted and published puzzle, so despite some of the fill (ASTARE, KIEL, ARHAT) that even I wasn't fond of, it holds a special place in my heart. Rex, HORACE MANN is the name of my high school, from which I graduated this year, and was actually the seed for the puzzle.

Thanks for hearing me everyone! Hope you enjoy the solve.

Rex Parker 12:38 AM  

Wow, Finn, you got your comments in early!

Thanks for the details, and congrats on the debut.


foodie 12:49 AM  

Finn, thanks for the early appearance. I love your name!
And congrats on getting published!

I know H&M because there are all these young women in our family who shop there, but I had NO idea it was Swedish! Wow. Ikea and H &M- I see a pattern.

I really liked the top of this puzzle. The bottom (pants?) not so much.

And I think the cluing made it harder (as Rex Noted).

My QDI predicts challenging (but my QDI is still in training).

CaseAce 12:50 AM  

This was a uber daunting debut by the wunderkind, Finn Vigeland, that had us screaming "foul" due to it's degree of difficulty for a Wednesday!
Actually, ARHAT's are off to him!

Clark 12:53 AM  

I thought this was über-hard. I had no clue with HAKUNA MATATA, NINON or ERESTU; same for ASCH, ARHAT. So I just got naticked all over the place. But it was way better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick : )

[Thanks for LA puzzle tip, @chefwen. First LA puzzle for me and for SPP. We did a simultaneous parallel solve.]

Anonymous 1:10 AM  

Hardly Meaningful....

Octavian 1:24 AM  

Finn -- normally I would give a first-timer a pass, especially someone so young, but I thought this was a "horrible misfire" of a puzzle.

I am normally someone who likes almost every puzzle but this one turned me off from the start with the terrible upper left corner of OCALA, OCHRE, CIERA, AVAST, ERSE. All boring crosswordese. C'mon, that's like hardly even trying.

Then all the theme entries were ho-hum except for HORACE MANN, who was a great figure. Also kudos for MNEME, which is a super-cool word, as is MEME.

But overall, "holy moly" this was a "helluva mess."

chefwen 1:25 AM  

I agree with @Clark on the UBER hard rating. So many unknowns for me, I'm thinkin' it's an age thing.

Caught on to the H & M theme, but have never heard of that clothing brand, then again, I'm not a slave to fashion as Aldo Chello sp? used to say.

Don't think I could have gotten through that without uncle Google, and this is the first time I have Googled on a Wednesday, that I recall.

Looking forward to my favorite puzzle day, c'mon Thursday.

chefwen 1:30 AM  

@Rex - Your comment on 57A made me laugh louder than I have ever laughed at Jay Leno, I guess that's why I seldom, if ever, watch him on purpose.

Unknown 1:34 AM  

Found "______ Man" frustratingly vague. Definitely a toughy for a Wednesday. Never heard of "ninon" before. Had "omega" instead of "Ciera" and initially thought Megadeth played "death metal" so I was a bit slow to pick up the theme and even once I had the pattern "hand m" meant nothing to me. :)

andrea hi mom! michaels 1:46 AM  

Me too on the Leno joke! "How would he know?" HAHHAHAHAHAHAH!
(But I swear he used to be funny back in the early 80s!)

I thought this was tough but interesting...I loved the HIMOM shout out!

Tons of getting stuck but the ol' Scrabble J bailed me out of the corner (I had Luke for JEDI originally...)

The HAT/HAT/HAT buildup is interesting! Maybe it's a HAT trick!
Normally I would balk, but these are interesting letters used in wildly different words (ARHAT very sophisticated and LIVECHAT very current) so it wasn't like an ERS buildup, kind of cool.

I'm with @Rex in that I still don't get SmELLED (I debated about SpELLED even tho I sort of knew GMAC)
I had a mistake: fLED for BLED ("ran") so I thought fANO was the card game and might mean bath somehow, tho of course BANO makes perfect sense.

Oh, and having put Rus in for ROM I had someone seeing red as TuR-?
Turk? Turd? BOSOM saved me!
(@dk insert your own joke here)

H and M is hugely hugely hugely popular here in SF. The day it opened, kids were lined up around the block.

And 15 M's!!!!!!! That's gotta be some sort of record and they ended so many words that weren't even part of the theme!!! I think that's great!

I say great all around!
HAKUNAMATATA bitch to spell but is super interesting and of an age and fresh...HEAVYMETAL is cool, HASHMARKS is visual...and the fact that HORACEMANN was his highschool I think is fab!!!!!
HIMOM indeed!
Bravo Finn! (Plus extra points for having such a cool first name!)

H&M, I had no ikea 2:12 AM  

Had an average Wednesday time, until FLED/BLED FANO/BANO destroyed me. Ignorant of "The Lion King" I went looking for errors in all the wrong places.
My slowest Wednesday ever!

Just saw the PBS Frontline special on Todd Willingham. His HEAVY METAL posters of Led Zep and Iron Maiden were used as evidence against him.

Steve J 2:56 AM  

Congrats on the debut, Finn. I wish I could say I liked this more than I did. To me, the clunky parts outweighed the good ones for me.

I did like some of the more-challenging cluing (Hilton head was good), but some of it seemed to push from challenging to obtuse. Many, including Finn himself, have already covered the bad fill. And then there were the parts that just didn't click (like the much-discussed aroma-induced knockout).

Theme itself is not interesting on its face, but I think the bulk of the theme answers had enough spice to liven things up. I especially liked HASHMARKS and the aforementioned Hilton head clue/answer combo.

Again, congrats on the debut.

Smitty 7:17 AM  



Brendan Emmett Quigley 7:24 AM  

No Megadeth videos today? C'mon!

Samuel Hartwell 7:54 AM  

Arhat? Really? This should certainly be the word of the day; I had everything else and gave up without the initial "A" --

glimmerglass 8:00 AM  

This was as hard for me as yesterday was easy. Reluctantly left ASTARE and SMELLED, though neither makes sense to me. So I lucked out. I don't buy FJORD either, but the crossed made it so.

dk 8:08 AM  

It was the breast of times (how is that Andrea)....

Off to a great start when I thought it was H and L. I even lived in Sweden for 3 years for pete's sake. The only thing I remember from the Lion King is the circle which I suppose is a mini theme with 62A.

This took a long time for a Wednesday and I was suppose to be getting ready for a 4 hour conference call. So thanks Finn for the excuse to slack off.

*** (3 Stars) Finn, I look forward to more from you with a little more symmetry to the fill. Call Andrea for advice.

Trying to buy an old farm in Western Wisc where I will plant grapes in partnership with a chap who has an orchard. Wish me luck and start singing the song from Green Acres. My strategy is after losing most of my investments in the bubbles d'jour I will throw the rest away on various grape blights, voracious deer, etc. in an attempt to create my own bubbles.

d (Zsa Zsa's sister) k

Mneme 8:25 AM  

Thank you, Mr. Vigeland. Based on most crosswords, you'd think that Erato was the only freaking muse in the world. Man, is she stuck up about it too!

The Big E 8:39 AM  

@Finn, et. al....
I have always found it one of the biggest ironies that one of the best private schools in New York City (is this where you went, Finn?) is named after the founder of the public education system...
I went to Horace Mann elementary in Washington, DC. Public. :-)

Overall, was annoyed by some of the overly arcane answers/clues - the cross of Arhat and Asch, for one... (perhaps that's my own ignorance, but both of those seem very obscure, particularly for a wednesday)
I agreed with other's remarks, in part, but in sum, I think it was a nice puzzle! (Hate H&M, though, as does my wife!) :-)

Happy Puzzling!

JaxInL.A. 8:55 AM  

If Finn just finished high school, when did he submit his puzzle? I just read a series of short pieces by Patrick Merrell in the NYT Wordplay blog called "A Day With Will Shortz" that ran during the week of Sept. 18. There he talks about the sometimes multi-year lead time on some puzzles (esp. Tues thru Sat: apparently both Sunday and Monday puzzles are the least numerous among NYT submissions). Finn must have put this in while still in high school, right? Congratulations, Finn!

I nearly gave up in the SW today.  I had HA_T_OND_ and could make nothing at all out of the extremely vague clue.   I've heard of demiMONDE in somewhat common use in English, but not HAUTMONDE. Seems to me that it should have been clued like BANO was today, e.g. "Society in Savigny" or similar.  On a whim I googled French cities starting with S and it turns out there are probably a thousand such municipalities.  The things you can find on the 'net.  Check it out: http://www.frenchconnections.co.uk/en/guideatoz/CITY/starts-with-S.

Echo others on the bizarrely clued SMELLED crossed with the truly odd ASTARE. Otherwise I liked that corner with RADII and EPSOM.  Loved HI MOM.

Alas, once again all three video posts are blanked out on the iPad. Sigh. Ah, well. 
Happy Wednesday, everyone.     

SethG 8:57 AM  

(B/F)LED has the (I/E)NURE problem, but only as clued. I knew BAÑO, but surely would have complained if it were French. What, that's toilette? Well, then Mongolian, ugaalgın öröö. Why do they do that? Add in ASTARE, and this puzzle has a few of my least favorite things apuzzle. (I'm looking at you, IN AT.)

Knew ASCH from seeing him in puzzles, ARHAT from seeing it in a lot of puzzles, HAMM from the clue, ROTA and RITT from the crosses, and HAUT MONDE from the theme. Overall, finished in average Wednesday time and enjoyed it. Congrats, FV!

Alamo and Maine 9:17 AM  

Remember "Hard for Wednesday" puzzle & cluing is solely under Will's control --- he can change either or both.

My only complaint is ASAP = (As Soon As Posssible), "NOW!" = STAT

Nice job Finn.


joho 9:20 AM  

HANDM was an unknown so the theme didn't sing for me and the puzzle was definitely harder than most Wednesdays for reasons already mentioned but, even so, I liked it. I learned a few words and that's always a good thing. However I did not like AMPM which seems made up to me. AMFM is a thing, but AMPM?

Congratulations Finn! You should be very proud of yourself!

mmorgan 9:25 AM  

I went through three stages with this: (1) Lots of gimmes, (2) a good workout, and finally (3) WTF?? Got the theme (and all theme answers) quickly, but some of the fill... Total blank on ARHAT (which I don't know why I don't know), HAMM, and ANAEROBE -- couldn't get them from crosses despite having most of their letters. And some I got but didn't "get" (e.g., SMELLED... and HAT?).

Loved @RPs Leno comment!

Congrats on the debut!

Looker-upper of Indeterminate Gender 9:32 AM  

Hat (n)...

3. A role or office symbolized by or as if by the wearing of different hats: wears two hats, one as parent and one as corporate executive.

Ulrich 9:39 AM  

@Finn: Congratulations!

For future reference, German words are trickier than you think. The "Kiel Canal" is called "Nord-Ostsee-Kanal" in Germany (North Sea-Baltic Sea-Canal)--so, "Germany's __ Canal" is misleading, at best. A more carefully considered clue would, perhaps, say "__ Canal in Germany" (which still makes it inappropriate for a Wednesday IMHO). UBER is not a German word at all; it's English b/c it differs both in spelling AND pronunciation from the German über, from which it derives. And please don't even try inflected German words! Good luck!

Anonymous 9:40 AM  

I thought you could have one NEAT before dinner :)

PuzzleNut 9:42 AM  

Liked it - definitely challenging for a Wednesday, but nothing unfair - IMO.
Always enjoy comments from the puzzle creator - thanks for joining the group and your insights on the creative process.
Also, good to hear from @Mneme. That sibling rivalry must be hell.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:00 AM  

Agree, a tip of the HAT to Finn!

This puzzle put up a good but honest fight, which I greatly appreciate.

One write-over, Had 5 D as AGA before ALY, which definitely slowed me down.

Only one complaint, as noted by Rex, why is Viking training camp? a FJORD, aside from the general Nordic reference. Finn? Martin?

Diana Holquist 10:13 AM  

Got the top half and the theme in a flash, even if had no idea what ERSE and ERESTU were. But then....


It's all been said before, so I won't repeat. OK, I can't help myself, I will: Smelled? Anaerobe? Arhat? Asch? Ninon? Astare? On a Wednesday?

This just wasn't fun. Too "smart" by half.

David L 10:29 AM  

As others have said, some perplexing cluing in this one, and that ARHAT/HAT business was borderline unfair (in what sense is a hat a symbol of position? as when I'm wearing my figurative crossword fan hat?) And NINON was unknown to me.

But I had a silly mistake all my own. I plunked in ABER at 61A, thinking that it's used in German as a sort of intensifier. Dass war aber falsch. I wasn't sure why fans would HAM (overact, maybe) but then I don't know why they would HUM either...

Two Ponies 10:37 AM  

I'm always happy for a debut constructor and envious at the same time. Bonus when he or she drops by as well.
Unfortunately this one smelled.
Way too many obscure proper names.
What would make a world map more colorful than other maps?
I could carp more but it would be pointless.
I will still be watching for your name next time.

mitchs 10:40 AM  

Way tough for me. As clued, shouldn't SEAT be the dreaded ASEAT? For SEAT, how about "You might your's before dinner."

@Andrea - I used to love Leno on Letterman. Ironic that he was at his funniest there.

mitchs 10:42 AM  

That's "take your's". Sorry.

Hamm, from Toy Story 10:42 AM  

@David L - The fans that HUM also blow air around.

and, @Two Ponies - The WORLDMAPs in my "World Almanac and Book of Facts" definitely jump out as the only full color pages among the other 928 pages.

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

@david L

Think of ceiling fans, not the kind at a sporting event.

Several difficult spots that have already been discussed, but I figured everything out except the ARHAT/ASCH cross. I figured it had to be A or E, but picked the wrong one. Then I checked my trusty Webster's for ARHAT, and there it was - 'a buddhist monk that has attained Nirvana'.

Congratulations on your debut, Finn. Try not to let the nitpicking bother you - we can be a tough crowd, and there are very few puzzles universally praised.


mmorowitz 10:54 AM  

The clue I take the biggest issue with is "Hi-Tech Heart". The CPU is the "brain". If anything is going to be the "heart" of a piece of technology, it's the power supply.

archaeoprof 10:54 AM  

Sorry, but I don't share the general dislike for this puzzle. I enjoyed it. Challenging for a Wednesday, yes, and offbeat, but doable.

Knew H&M from many trips to Germany to visit my godson Benedict.

For 32D I tried "rain", and hung on to it for a long time...

Thanks, Finn!

treedweller 11:15 AM  

well, that clue for LENO explains why I've been pissed at him for so many years.

are you sure you didn't mean "take yours"?

Jim 11:17 AM  

I will read the omments later but no time now, so sorry if I duplicate.

Finn! I got nothing against you, but...I hate you. And Rex, I see no reason to equivocate. This is a BAD puzzle. Full stop! Let me count the ways.

First off, even the valid cluing was hardly Wed-appropriate: 48A? 51D? To say nothing of just BS clues / answers. INAT the beginning!? Is that a phrase? And how is 'Ran' BLED? Exuse me...fLED!? At least if you're going to be excessively obscure (I don't know what a spanish bath is) you've at least got to be exclusive!! And GLADHAND is a verb, not a noun. Just ...Aargh!!

So, in sum, ARHAT/LIVECHAT/HAT...ESAD...RITA/ROTA...SMELLED...HUM...to say nothing of just really obscure crosswordese. An xword only a seasoned solver (or maybe his mother) could love.

P.S. Did like WKRP on top of BOSOM, RADII, AVAST (really cool word) and ANAEROBE.

ArtLvr 11:19 AM  

Congrats, Finn! Lots of fresh and challenging fill, but gettable. (Good thing I didn't think of BLED.)

@ JaxonL.A. - Never mind finding a French city for HAUT MONDE: "Society on the Seine" would do it!


Anonymous 11:22 AM  

Don't be such a grouch! Canadian tuxedo / denim is hilarious and H&M is a Swedish giant with 2,000 stores in 37 countries (wiki).

The Big E 11:28 AM  

@Jim - I will quickly take umbrage with at least one of your picked nits...
Bled for Ran is completely acceptable. Think of when you do your laundry. You do not want your colors to run, or bleed, and stain your whites. Hence, why you separate colors from white.

Anonymous 11:28 AM  

Although took me only slightly longer than the average Wednesday, it felt much more difficult because I wasn't really confident about my answers. Like many others posting here, I shrugged my shoulders and plugged in things like ERESTU, RITT, ARHAT, ASCH, CPU (how is that a heart? isn't it referred to as the "brain" of the computer??), MNEME, ENNIO, DENIM (huh), KIEL and EPSOM. All were just inferred from crosses.

Mel Ott 11:40 AM  

Pet puzzle peeve: we frequently see AMAT (or amas or even amo) clued as part of a Latin trio, as in today's puzzle. It's about 55 years since HS Latin, but it seems to me that the congugation of the Latin word "to love" is SIX words, not three: amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatas, amant. How is that a trio?

Thank you, Mrs. Ierardi, wherever you are.

Anonymous 11:43 AM  

@austin: yeah, I got apostrophe happy.

To get to the HEART of the matter 11:53 AM  

6a: the central or innermost part : center [M-W Online]

The heart of a computer is the central processing unit (CPU).
This device contains all the circuitry that the computer need to manipulate data and execute instructions.
Motherboard is like that body of the computer, and the CPU is like the brain of the computer.[Answers.com]


Quintus Horatius Flaccus 11:59 AM  

@Mel Ott, dude, the sextet comprises two trios: the singular amo, amas, amat, and the plural amamus, amatis, amant.

Sparky 12:05 PM  

Congratulations Finn. Another one so young, my goodness. Had pRESTo and can't spell HAKoNMATATA. Didn't know ARHAT. Wanted John Dewey for a while but crossings and theme changed that. Went to H and M once but nothing fit. I don't mind a little crosswordese. One person's grrr is another's oh, great I've seen that one before. @Rex: Nino Rota clip brought back many movie going memories. Thanks.

The Big E 12:08 PM  

Was I the only one who immediately put in "Circle of Life" for the Lion King song? I corrected myself before too long, but that was the first thing that came to mind!

Anonymous 12:10 PM  

Chewed through the thing by way of wasting my morning and got it down to one unknown square, the Utah City cross with über. I Rex Parkered thinking what a good boy am I, only to find more mistakes than I have ever made in a crossword puzzle before. Part of the problem was, if you'll pardon the expression, my anaemone, which even without the added A would have needed oxygen, but somehow hum with an umlaut just didn't seem right to me. Kids these days, I just don't know.

The Hag 12:23 PM  

I liked the wide variety of languages/countries that were represented.

I think most of the specific gripes that have been raised are valid, but in the end I liked more than I didn't. The puzzles I dislike most are those that I find dull. Even with all its warts, I found this one to be an entertaining solve.

Evgeny 12:23 PM  

Absolutely agree with @Ulrich, the cluing of the Kiel canal threw me off the tracks completely. Was looking for a German canal name.

Thanks for the funny write-up, Mr. Parker. Although, when I look at the clock on the screen in front of me (it says 18:22 right now), I don't think 99% of the clocks in the world are 12-hour clocks (in the U.S., maybe). My estimate would be a lot lower.

As Vikings go, weren't they sailors, first of all? Practicing/training sailing in a FJORD makes perfect sense to me...

Charles Manson 12:43 PM  

Re Leno quote:

Three men met at a party, and it wasn't long until the conversation
got around to their line of work and what kind of cars they drove.
"I own a sign company," the first man said. "So naturally, I have a purple Neon."
The other two men nodded.
"I'm a veterinarian," said the second fellow. "I have a white `Vet."
The third guy was quiet for a minute.
"Well," he finally said, "I'm a proctologist. I have a brown Probe."

Am I off the hook yet? Will you come to my parole hearing?

jesser 1:05 PM  

I don't believe I've ever had such a bloodbath on a Wednesday before. I still have 23 open squares, plus that effed up f where fLED should not have been.

The entire SW was gruesome because I could not parse the H___M___ at 33D, and my mind would not let go of Luke at 53, so even though I never wrote him in, he just sat there, invisible, mucking up any chance at a solve.

The one H___M___ excepted, I got the center reveal off the others, although I have never heard of the place. I'm a Kohl's guy. Sue me.

The open space over RSh and next to RHAT made me say Really Bad Words that I do not regret. Reading the comments, I regret them even less than I didn't a minute ago.

But those words paled entirely next to the ones I used when I encountered HAKU_AMATATA. Paging OOXTEPLERNON in Natick! I am 52. I don't watch cartoons anymore, and I have no use for sheer fabrics, so Death by Blank for me.

So, OK, Finn, congratulations! You beat me -- badly. You Klahned me. You Quigley'd me. But I'll be back...

Swaqlch! (The technical term for the wad in which my panties find themselves at the moment.) -- jesser

Moonchild 1:43 PM  

Is today really Wed.?
Haut monde?
All of this pain and suffering for a store chain I have never seen or heard of.
The whole CA coast of this one handed me my ass on a platter.
Finn, you sound like a nice guy so
I'll bite my tongue.

stix2metunesmiffin 1:50 PM  

My least favorite puzzling experience is when I get the theme, nail the theme answers, and am then forced to SLOG through tedious unrewarding fill. Sadly the case here, though surely a solid debut. I give the music clues/answers a pass today, which is unusual. This is my first post so I'll just say that if you wann clue "Oom-Pah" the "Oom" is on the beat, and typically produced by the tubas and the "Pah" is off the beat and typically produced by the french horns. If you want to drive a french horn player nuts just start whistling a Souza march in their general vicinity and they'll start Pah-ing their faces off!

ArtLvr 1:56 PM  

No ashcan to delete my comment above? Ah well, it turns out that 41D BLED was correct -- and that makes more sense with baño than "fano"!!!


p.s. I'm tired of having to sign in as often as twice a day -- At least give me back an ashcan...

Van55 1:57 PM  

I agree with most of what's been said -- even when it is conflicting. Abstruse clues and answers abound but the puzzle was solvable for me and more entertaining than not.

Very interesting debut puzzle, Finn. How much of it should Shortz be blamed/praised for?

fvigeland 2:14 PM  

Hi, everyone. Thanks for all the comments! It's very interesting hearing the array of opinions.

A lot of the cluing is my original cluing, but Will did make a few changes. Three big changes include: SMELLED, changed from my [Caught a whiff of], DENIM from [Kind of skirt], and BLED from my [Ran in the wash] to just [Ran] -- those seem to have been the source of a lot of ire today. Oh, I also originally had HAUTMONDE as [The élite], which I don't think is any more or less vague than [Society]. But I am definitely responsible for [Hilton head] with the lower case h, [Like 12-hour clocks], and [Enlightened Buddhist]. I think Will took up the level of cluing a lot because I always saw this puzzle as a Tuesday (I guess I don't know my own strength). Seems like it provided quite a workout for a lot of you, but I'm glad to hear that many if not most had an enjoyable experience.

@The Big E, yes, I attended the NYC private school incarnation of Horace Mann. Definitely an irony I have contemplated many times over the 10 years I went there.

And @acme, thanks for being especially kind! 15 M's ties a NYT record, as a matter of fact! I'm glad you like my name. :)

Anonymous 2:25 PM  

I teach Asian lit, so Arhat came quickly, but I'm afraid I got knocked out by the smell in the southeast. I promise to look up hashmarks.

Anonymous 2:48 PM  

I actually got the clue immediately, but the CPU is the brain of the computer, not the heart (I guess the heart would be the power supply?).

I liked DENIM.

Lots of crosswordese to me today (I'm still pretty new to this level of xwords) including ERSE, NINON, IMAM, but I agree with Rex that I liked more than I disliked.

Anonymous 2:49 PM  

From the more-than-you-maybe-wanted-to-know dept, MNEME (or MNEMosynE - in my old Websters), is 'the goddess of memory in Greek mythology and mother of the Muses by Zeus', and is the source of the word mnemonic.


Doc John 3:11 PM  

I'm with Rex on this one. The SW corner just killed me- JEDI, YODA, JEDI, YODA. Had FJORD in then took it out. MNEME? Really?
But, one man's WFT is another man's gimme. I've known ARHAT since HS when I took a religion/philosophy class with the late, great Mr. Wimmers. The way I remember it, an ARHAT is someone who attains Nirvana and stays there while a Bodhisattva is someone who attains Nirvana and returns to help others achieve it. (I was so amazed when I found out that wasn't just a word that Steely Dan made up. Same for "fez".) Also, thanks to Mr. Wimmers' European History class, we all found out that Jethro Tull was a real person.
And finally, Circle of Life fits just fine, too.

John V 3:22 PM  

Running late today, so just a couple of things. I'd make this challenging for a Wednesday. Thought several of clues, already noted, were more Friday-like than not. Hadn't a clue on the theme answer.

Congrats, Finn, on your debut!

D_Blackwell 3:25 PM  

I really like getting author comments and some of the clue edits, a rarely seen perspective.

The edit for SMELLED is just terrible, one of the worst clues in the puzzle. The edit to DENIM is very nice, and the change for BLED is appropriate.

I loved HAUT MONDE, and of the two clue choices it looks like a coin flip choice to me. Both are right on target.

"Hilton head, e.g." was excellent, clue of the day.

". . . because I always saw this puzzle as a Tuesday . . ."

It feels like a Wednesday that was pushed to Thursdayish with the clueing. I would never have thought Tuesday.

On the whole I didn't care for it (big picture view), primarily because of the cluing, but so what? There was stuff that I really liked, such as HAUT MONDE.

sanfranman59 3:49 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)

Wed 18:02, 11:43, 1.54, 100%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 7:58, 5:46, 1.38, 99%, Challenging

That 100% for the All Solvers group means this puzzle has the highest median solve time of the 68 Wednesday puzzles in my spreadsheet. In fact, that 18:02 median solve time is about a half-minute higher than the previous high. For the Top 100 group, only Julian Lim's 1/6/2010 puzzle has a higher median solve time. Translation: For most online solvers, this puzzle is arguably beyond the pale for a Wednesday puzzle. That was certainly my experience. I kept saying to myself as I solved, "This is no Wednesday puzzle, Will!"

J 3:51 PM  

Didn't like many of the clues/answer for the reasons Rex and others have mentioned.


Also: the LENO quote supposes that you "make them laugh" in the first place.

Glitch 4:04 PM  

It appears this puzzle would have had a much better reception if published on a Friday.

As a DOW neutralist, I found this an enjoyable two cupper.

Also, it's too bad "piling on" is only illegal in football ;)


Unknown 4:48 PM  

I rarely comment although I enjoy the blog. This is the most frustrating puzzle I have seen in months. That Lion King song? I've never seen the movie; that's okay, if the song title had been inferrable from crosses - it's just a jumble of letters. I'm not going to repeat all the nits mentioned above, but there were naticks galore.

Shortz should be slapped for his clue for smelled. It stank.

Doc John 5:52 PM  

Say what you want about Jay LENO but once I saw him in concert right after having a huge fight with my best friend (who was also attending the concert with me and a couple other friends). Needless to say, I was in a foul mood but once Jay started, I forgot all about that and had a great time and laughed myself silly.
(This was about 20 years ago, though.)

Pumba 6:03 PM  

Clearly, the CPU is the kidney of the computer.

Since the CPU is not in fact a body part, and the computer not in fact a body, this part of today's discussion is kinda pointless...

Stella in NYC 6:22 PM  

Full disclosure: I know Finn, so I'm admittedly biased. However, I did not know he had a published submission, and I was startled to see his name today!

Didn't have any difficulty with the theme, perhaps because I have daughters and live in NYC where H&M stores abound. Loved HORACE MANN because, well, the author spent so much of his young life there (he's not much older than Caleb Madison, btw). FJORD was also fun because Vigeland is a Norwegian surname.

Didn't love ASTARE and had trouble with ARHAT even though I studied some Eastern religion in college. Also, only got NINON through the crosses (I knew a little French girl named Ninon, but had never heard of it as a fabric). Otherwise, I enjoyed this.

Congratulations to Finn on his debut -- he's a brilliant and personable young man who I'm sure we'll see more from in the future!

foodie 6:34 PM  

I know people have said it all. But I want to underscore what has been said earlier about the difficulty. When I used my quick rating index, I thought Wow, this is so high for a Wednesday, my system may need to be rethought. Now that I see @sanfranman's numbers, it confirms to me that this puzzle was way too hard for a Wednesday. And clearly, this is not Finn's issue, it is Will's.

The puzzle has many strengths and some weaknesses. But a lot of the puzzling experience in the NYTimes is about expectation. I think there is a mind set in terms of how far we reach, how deeply we dig, and how many chances we take in terms of guesses, based on the day of the week. That there is variation on a given day is unavoidable, and even desirable. It keeps things interesting. But when it is at the extremes (especially in the more difficult direction) it elicits a lot of frustration, as we have seen today, and I believe is unfair to the constructor.

@Finn, I'm glad that you're not just very talented but have a wonderful attitude about input. That combination, along with the memorable name, is dynamite! Hope to see a lot more from you soon.

Anonymous 7:09 PM  

My own solving time would have made this a fairly tough Thursday or an easy Friday.

I liked it a lot, despite SMELLED and NINON; the clue for SMELLED is just awful and I've never heard of NINON. I'm pretty sure I'll remember NINON from now on. ;) It seemed to me that 34A could just as easily have been ONAT as INAT, so I had no way to distinguish NINON from the nonexistent (but cool-looking) NONON.

Anonymous 7:16 PM  


Ignore my two word comment before and all the other comments from those who have never had a puzzle published. I admire anyone who breaks into the NYT puzzle and you should be very proud. My father was more proud of his one cartoon published in the New Yorker than all the others he had published. Styles differ and this puzzle presented new challenges but harldy insurmountable ones or so difficult as to quibble on the day of its publication. Good luck on future efforts.

Two Ponies 7:34 PM  

As the day went by my attitude mellowed and my appreciation has deepened. Then I came back to the blog to reverse my sour review.
I should have appreciated the learning moments. As usual @ foodie said it best.
@ Finn, Wicked!

Lookup Guy 8:10 PM  


NINON has appeared 12 times, 2 each M-T-W, 4 on Sun, but never on Friday.

Ben 9:50 PM  

"57A: Who once remarked "You can't stay mad at somebody who makes you laugh" (LENO) — how would he know?"

BOOM. I hate Jay Leno on so many levels.

As for H&M, first encountered them and their poorly made, fashionable clothing when I was in London in late '03. Didn't even know it was a Swedish giant, the IKEA of slapped-together, good-looking clothing. Next thing I knew they were open in my hometown of Chicago, where I still have yet to pay them a visit.

edith b 9:56 PM  

I liked the way the West Coast BLED into the SW corner and my elementary school teaching experience certainly was a big help with the Lion King song and that broke the puzzle wide open for me.

I had lots of trouble with the far NW but finally got it all straightened out. As usual, there were lots of nits that needed to be picked but not an inordinate amount that affected my enjoyment of the puzzle.

I didn't learn the constructors age until I got here or that it was a debut. Impressive, indeed.

shrub5 10:06 PM  

Puzzle was difficult but I finished it correctly without help and learned a lot. So, IMO, a worthwhile experience regardless of the day of the week. Very nice job, Finn.

"Hakuna Matata" is a Swahili phrase that is roughly translated as "no worries." The song was nominated for an Academy Award in 1995 and lost to another song from the same movie "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" A third song from "The Lion King", "Circle of Life," was also nominated.

dk 10:25 PM  

Dear Mr. Manson,

As I was a part of your first parole review I can assure you that your name and the light of day will never appear in a factual news report.

So no you cannot "get out now." A little high on the 8 scale, if you know what I mean.


Finn, I echo @two ponies comment. Keep them coming as those of us who toil in obscurity require our envy of you to drive us on. Must install Crossfire v 1.2

Charles Manson 11:12 PM  

@dk - So, I made you laugh, and you're still mad at me? Man, that Leno character is a bigger db than even I thought.

Unknown 11:40 PM  

I think everyone has been way too easy on Finn because of his age. It's a feat for anyone to post a puzzle in the NYT - let's keep age out of it. You're either good enough to publish a puzzle in the NYT or you are not. You can practice elsewhere. Age has nothing to do with it and neither does a debut.

This puzzle did not pass the "smelled" test. Lousy clue by Shortz, naticks all over, too many proper names I have never heard of, and, of course, that Lion King song bang in the middle. My swahili sucks. Don't have kids, have never seen Lion King, but if I had, would I have remembered the spelling of that song? No.

European language = erse? It would be hard to find a rarer Eur language, and I'm Irish, so I speak some erse. I'm familiar with it as xwordese, more so than the few phrases I can utter.

I thing I read that Shortz has said that while some clues may be esoteric, they should be solveable by easier crosses. I'd like to see him defend this one. (And for a Wednesday!) Will can kiss my erse.

If Will wants to promote teen constructors, the best of these in recent weeks was Jose Chardiet's 10/11 (Tuesday) puzzle. Without the clue in notepad, that would have been a good Thursday.

captcha = sagin. I am offended!

Unknown 11:43 PM  

I thing = I think.

captcha = pheste (what Shortz thinks I am).

sanfranman59 12:33 AM  

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 5:46, 6:57, 0.83, 1%, Easy
Tue 8:41, 8:55, 0.97, 50%, Medium
Wed 18:03, 11:43, 1.54, 100%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:16, 3:43, 0.88, 3%, Easy
Tue 4:37, 4:36, 1.00, 57%, Medium
Wed 7:35, 5:46, 1.32, 96%, Challenging

deerfencer 10:45 AM  

@sanfranman: Said the same to my wife after throwing in the towel on this one:
"This one's not a Wednesday puzzle, not even close." Can't remember the last time I got stuck so early in the week.

Interesting that Shortz appears responsible for both the worst clue in the puzzle AND for misplacing it as a Wednesday puzzle.

Congrats to Finn on his debut; there was some good stuff here.

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