Ligurian capital / THU 11-25-10 / Mexican silver center / 1955 Platters hit / Hayes portrayer Mod Squad / Bygone science/sci-fi magazine

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Constructor: Bill Thompson

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Rare Scrabble tiles65A: Number of tiles per Scrabble set for the letter at the end of the answer to each starred clue (ONE); five theme answers end in X, Z, J, Q, and K, respectively

Word of the Day: TAXCO (7D: Mexican silver center) —

Taxco de Alarcón (usually referred to as simply “Taxco”) is a small city and municipality located in the Mexican state of Guerrero. The name Taxco is most likely derived from the Nahuatl word tlacheco, which means “place of the ballgame.” However, one interpretation has the name coming from the word tatzco which means “where the father of the water is,” due to the high waterfall near the town center on Atatzin Mountain. “De Alarcón” is in honor of writer Juan Ruiz de Alarcón who was a native of the town. Like many municipalities in central Mexico, the municipality’s coat-of-arms is an Aztec glyph. This glyph is in the shape of a Mesoamerican ballcourt with rings, players and skulls, derived from the most likely source of Taxco’s name. // The city is heavily associated with silver, both with the mining of it and other metals and for the crafting of it into jewelry, silverware and other items. This reputation, along with the city’s picturesque homes and surrounding landscapes have made tourism the main economic activity as the only large-scale mining operation here is coming to a close. (wikipedia)
• • •
Happy Thanksgiving! My favorite food day of the year. I have no idea how I'll do the write-up tomorrow night ... I'm going to have to plan my eating and naps very strategically; otherwise I will wake up late and disoriented on Friday morning (not the greatest conditions for blogging). This puzzle felt Easy, but the clock says it's just like any other Thursday, difficulty-wise, so there. My main reaction to this puzzle is: There's only one "K" tile in Scrabble!? Yet another reason for me to hate that game. "K" is the best letter in the alphabet ... when I think of all those -NK and -RK and -SK and -CK (not to mention K-starting) words NOT getting made in Scrabble games across the world, it just makes me sad. One "Q," I get, but one "K." Ridiculous.

The only place in the grid that gave me any real trouble was the NE. The phrases GO TO IT (8A: Get started) and TORE AT (18A: Mauled), while solid enough, felt iffy for some reason. THRO' I didn't know at all (10D: "And ___ the field the road runs by": Tennyson), though I ended up inferring it in the end. ETHYNE? With a "Y?" (16A: Simple hydrocarbon) I'm guessing that ETHANE and ETHENE are also real things. Invent some new word formations, chemists. Your language is tedious! I know, I know, there are perfectly sane, rational reasons for these names. But this set is pretty dull and non-descript, you have to admit. Anyhoo, I had to fuss around a bit to make that corner work out. But even that wasn't too taxing. I had a little trouble getting started in the NW, as I had DEFACE for DAMAGE (1D: Split or crack), and ANGELINA looks like it means "little angel," not "messenger of God" (14A: Woman's name that means "messenger of God"), and I've never heard MALCOLM X referred to as a "human rights activist." Not that you couldn't make that claim, or that it isn't valid. I've just never heard it. Saw "Ghostbusters" in the theater when it came out, but did not remember the name of the vehicle ECTO-1 (15D: ___-1 ("Ghostbusters" vehicle). After I got out of there, it was smooth sailing all the way til the wobbly ending in the NE.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: *Omaha-born human rights activist (MALCOLM X)
  • 36A: *Today's kids, demographically speaking (GENERATION Z)
  • 59A: *Brand with the challenge to lose one inch from your waist in two weeks (SPECIAL K)
  • 24D: *"What Do You Do With a B.A. in English?" musical ("AVENUE Q")
  • 27D: *Performer born James Todd Smith (LL COOL J)

There were a few inventive and interesting clues in this puzzle. I balked at 40A: Gate opener for Apollo the first go round. Couldn't figure out what it could mean, and briefly considered the possibility that the Apollo in question was Apollo Creed from the "Rocky" movies. Only after the grid was completed did I notice the answer, EOS, and remember that she was goddess of the dawn, and would open the gate so that Apollo could go on his daily chariot ride across the sky. Another interesting clue: 56A: How some gym instructors stand (AKIMBO). This seems so random and arbitrary, and yet rings true at the same time. I have no idea where this mental image is coming from ...

  • 22A: Baum princess (OZMA) — Had the "Z," so not too hard. I picked up this princess's name either from a comic book adaptation of a Baum book or just from solving puzzles.
  • 23A: Ligurian capital (GENOA) — Double trouble: no idea what "Ligurian" means and no idea which meaning of "capital" the clue wants. Liguria = region of Italy, but you probably figured that out by now.
  • 32A: 1955 Platters hit ("ONLY YOU") — Now this song, and this group, I know. Much more familiar than those damned FOUR ACES from a couple days ago.

  • 46A: Approximately 946 of these make a qt. (MLS.) — got it entirely from crosses. No idea why I couldn't solve it straight off. I was probably looking for some much more obscure abbr.
  • 47A: Bouquet : pheasants :: covey : ___ (QUAIL) — State bird of California. We had them in our backyard from time to time. Gimme.
  • 64A: Hayes portrayer in "The Mod Squad" (EPPS) — Omar. I think he's in "House" now (despite my general admiration for Hugh Laurie, I like "House" about as much as I like Scrabble).
  • 3D: Viewing with elevator eyes (OGLING) — Really? That's a phrase? "Elevator eyes?" It's vivid, and just imagining what it might mean helped me get the answers, so ... thumbs up.
  • 9D: Chiwere-speaking tribe (OTO) — considered UTE at first. Turns out the UTE language is UTE.
  • 35D: Japanese surname follower (-SAN) — Like Cho-Cho-SAN in "Madame Butterfly" or Daniel-SAN in "Karate Kid"
  • 52D: Bygone science/sci-fi magazine (OMNI) — as I believe I've said before, it's also a bygone sports arena in Atlanta.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


D_Blackwell 12:42 AM  

I can't call this a themed crossword. More like a themeless with a twist. It was nice, though. I mean that in a good way.

I thought a few of the clues (just a few) were disappointing (as though made harder at the expense of quality) and that it would be better polished as an excellent Wednesday. (It was pretty easy for a Thursday.)

I did not like the MLS entry to the Qt. reference. Multiple Listing Service has never been referenced in the NYT.?

SethG 12:43 AM  

Felt pretty easy to me, too, and the clock agrees.

My biggest problem was the cross between TAXCO and what the applet showed as [Sup?rieur et ?ri?]. LA_S could be almost anything, TAX_O could be almost nothing, and it took me a while to infer what the accented letters must have been. Also, I can't spell succeed and must have missed a generation.

Happy Turkey/Football Day!

Anonymous 1:02 AM  

MLS and CCS in the same puzzle, both meaning the same measure of volume? Am I missing something? Is there some other CC in a hospital?

If not, that just seems particularly ugh-inducing.

ArtLvr 1:37 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
ArtLvr 1:40 AM  

Critical Care Units? No matter, it's a theme gift to @Andrea and fellow Scrabblers... Good fun!

I was thinking Elk skin before EELSKIN at 39D, and that ETHYNE would have been sneakier if we hadn't had OYEZ recently...

Hope everyone gets THRO' Thanksgiving happily. A NIT -- I think "moody" goes with "feeling gloomy" 12A, but IN A MOOD not so much. Maybe it's just me?


Alex S. 1:57 AM  

THRU/UZMA seemed just as (actually, slightly more) plausible as THRO/OZMA.

LACS was really hard to see with the applet issue.

Was not so pleased with "Tee follower", "Plunk preceder", "Suffix with ball", "Prefix with cumulus" all being in the same puzzle. With all the other partials in the cluing, it felt like that well was sucked dry pretty quickly.

Clark 2:43 AM  

'Angel' means messenger of God, so I took the clue to be asking for an 8-letter woman's name that is a version of angel. We end up with a name that means little messenger of God. That works for me.

I had some trouble in the SE, not knowing MUSCATEL and not seeing SPECIAL K. It didn't help that the clue for RESP is a little off. A repondent is one who responds (is a defendant) in suits that are historically rooted in equity or who responds to an appeal. 'Legal case' is quite a bit broader than that. But, heh, it falls within the region of plausible error, so that's good enough for me. Omar EPPS turned out to be my savior down there. Watching House pays off.

andrea JKXQZ michaels 4:08 AM  

Damn right!!!! LOVE Scrabble and spend more than I should playing it, etc.
Always feels like a small stab in the heart every time @Rex rails how much he hates the things I hold the most dear...not that I should take it personally (why care if someone hates Scrabble?) but sometimes it feels that way.

(But as it's Thanksgiving and I think his birthday to boot, I will shrug and get over it!)

Plus the theme really helped me...
I never remember WHICH Avenue the play is (Always want AVENUEB for some reason...)and saw I needed a J somewhere, so LLCOOLJ came into focus.

And I didn't realize we were up to GENERATION Z already! Was there a Generation XY? Were they all boys?
Will the next generation be like Orchestra theatre rows and be dubbed GENERATION AA? And will that generation all have a drinking problem?

Hand up for uZMA at first, but as Baum wrote "The Wizard of Oz" that was helpful in figuring out that the princess might be OZma.

Smitty 7:49 AM  

@Rex....What- No Louie Prima singing Angelina?

David 7:53 AM  

An enjoyable start to Thanksgiving Day! A lot of it wasn't immediately obvious but the solution emerged with thought and perseverance... :)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

pauer 8:05 AM  

I know Ozma from the creepy film "Return to Oz."

You can hate Scrabble and "House" all you want, but lay off the Four Aces, would'ya?

Here's some of their musical goodness for everybody:

Happy Turkey Day! Gobble gobble!

Anonymous 8:41 AM  

cubic centimeters

Arthur 8:42 AM  

When I read the clue for MALCOLMX, I thought man, that's going to generate mail. I'm thankful it hasn't.
I can't reconcile the name James Todd Smith, which to me evokes a sophmore at Exeter Academy wearing chinos, a polo shirt and a sweater draped over his shoulders, with LLCOOLJ.

I assumed UZMA was the slum/third rate sister city of Oz.

OldCarFudd 9:13 AM  

I enjoyed this, although I had a DNF. Like Rex, I couldn't get a foothold in the NE. Unlike Rex, I quit to do other things today.

Plunked down ccs for 46A without looking, then wondered why the dons weren't working. Woke up and put in mls, and then was surprised to see ccs elsewhere.

deerfencer 9:21 AM  

Liked it overall but found the puzzle plenty difficult in spots.

Embarrassed to say I'd never heard the term OYEZ OYEZ (don't we say "ALL RISE" here in the States?) so struggled mightily in the NE, especially with ETHYNE/UZMA cross.

Nitpick of the day: "Split or crack" is a terribly imprecise and unhelpful clue for DAMAGE IMO.

Thanks for the workout, Bill Thompson.

Happy Turkey Day all!

joho 9:24 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle a lot. Scrabbliness pleases me.



Anonymous 9:37 AM  

I imagine there are lots of bloggers who enjoyed this one because of the Scrabble theme, but for me it was just another Thursday that got the best of me.

This is Thanksgiving and I was hoping for something more of a Thanksgiving theme besides a covey of QUAIL. That is disappointing but today otherwise offers an opportunity to rant about my NYT XWP pet peeves. Number 1 is the parochial nature of the NYT puzzle when the NYT likes to think of itself as a national publication. How many answers are peculiar to NYC? To his credit Mr. Thompson had none of those (SNL doesn’t count). Number 2 is the liberty constructors take with all kinds of foreign words, including obscure burgs in foreign countries, but more having to do with foreign language. I mean this is America and the NYT is still an American publication and English is the American language. To his credit Mr. Thompson employed this tactic very little (but TAXCO, c’mon, man). Number 3 is the use of more than one word to fill lines. Can’t someone construct a puzzle with only English words that fill an entire line!? Today’s puzzle carried that to the nth degree by including individual letters for words, employing Scrabble as an excuse. I mean when you have more than one word there is at least one blank space between each word, which of course is a little rule of the English language that is conveniently ignored in these puzzles. Number 4 is the use of proper names. I know there are terms like Nadick used here to describe this annoyance, but it really is not nice to go through life name-dropping. Finally, I really RANKLE when the constructor uses words I have never heard of, like AKIMBO in today’s puzzle. This is especially irksome because it makes me realize how ignorant I am.

So having gotten that off my chest, I look forward to today’s festivities. Around 4 wife of 45 years and I will walk over to Ditka’s (that’s Mike Ditka’s restaurant in Chicago) to have what has become our traditional way to celebrate. (I wonder if people know how few good restaurants stay open on Thanksgiving? I once took my wife to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and we couldn’t find any place to go afterward and wound up at that restaurant in Rockefeller Center that overlooks the skating rink -- mobbed).

We will sit in our favorite booth and watch the Boys and the Saints. Wife will have her Bombay sapphire martini on the rocks (a drink I introduced her to when we were dating) and I have my Belvedere chilled and up. We will toast to our blessings and then to this blog (if Rex publishes this). After the traditional turkey dinner with the trimmings, we will take dessert home – usually a slice of Key Lime and a slice of pecan pie – and after a Maker’s Mark or two, watch the Bengals maul the Jets tonight (or the Jets blast the cats). Of course, wife doesn’t mind not having to prepare a feast for a crowd or not having any dirty dishes to clean afterward.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all....

retired_chemist 9:41 AM  

Boo to Rex's dissing systematic chemical nomenclature - except if he was having us on about it being dull. It's SUPPOSED to be dull and formulaic, or else it isn't systematic and (to a chemist) quickly indicative of a molecular structure.

@ ArtLvr - I thought CCS was cubic centimeters, not critical care. Interesting to have both MLS and CCS if so. Toss in ETHYNE and I am wondering if Bill Thompson is the chemist whom I know by that name.

Finished with one (silly) error. Has TASCO for the Mexican silver center, then didn't even look at the 17A clue again and thought MALCOLMS was fine. Other than that blunder I would have been under 8 min, a good time for me on a Thursday.

Enjoyed the theme, agree the short fill is less than stellar.

mitchs 9:48 AM  

Yet another Natick for me: ANCIeNand eOS. If this keeps up I might as well move there. At least no one would be able to find me.

quilter1 9:49 AM  

I was surprised at how many answers I *just knew* but not sure how, like LLCOOLJ-oh, just remembered he is on NCIS LA-OZMA, SPECIALK, AKIMBO, TAXCO. Also now have an ear worm of ONLY YOU to take with me to Thanksgiving feast. Agree with medium rating. I had ANGELICA and didn't see my mistake until coming here. May you all have a lovely day, Linda

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

I liked the puzzle. The clueing for 'get to it' and 'get' really left me cold, though. Especially trick-get. I've not thought of 'get' in that form since I was in high school.

PuzzleNut 10:09 AM  

Thought this was very difficult for a Wednesday and then realized, after checking in here, that it is already Thursday (oh yeah, Thanksgiving).
Count me in the "Love Scabble" camp, so that added to my puzzle enjoyment today. Saw the asterisks and searched for the reveal, which helped in solving. Like @Alex, fell for THRu/uZMA, and unlike @ACM, didn't use her logic to fix it.
Never heard of elevator eyes, but what a perfect mental picture of ogling. Great clue!
@Rex - thanks for the EOS story. Made the right guess, but nice to know the myth behind the answer.

Lindsay 10:17 AM  

So all that Lindy-hopping was in Omaha? I thought it was New York. Or maybe the family had moved by then. Too lazy to look it up.

No real problems with the puzz, though like others I found the NE a bit ugly.

Today's the first day of the C2 Holiday Challenge (you rowers know what I'm talking about!) so time to step away from the computer and hop on the ERG.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:36 AM  

DNF - Total loss at 8, 16, and 18 A. (Had SETOUT at 8A.)

No time - must head over the river and through the woods to sister-in-law's house. Read ya later.

(But what the heck - no rebus and no Thanksgiving theme!?!)

Bob Kerfuffle 11:05 AM  

Almost forgot - Happy Thanksgiving to All!

John Marshall Harlan 11:10 AM  

One of the things I am grateful for is that the "separate but equal" doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson was overturned in 1954 by Brown v. Board of Education. A short summary of Plessy is available at The Oyez Project. The vote was 7-1 to uphold "separate but equal." The dissent is worth a look, a sample:

"But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved. It is therefore to be regretted that this high tribunal, the final expositor of the fundamental law of the land, has reached the conclusion that it is competent for a State to regulate the enjoyment by citizens of their civil rights solely upon the basis of race."

Frank Lynch 11:19 AM  

My error was jumping on what I presumed would be "Alda." Thanks for the Rodd Rundgren gimme!

The Great Dissenter 11:21 AM  

From the one vote against the "separate but equal" doctrine upheld by Plessy v. Ferguson. and the Law of the Land until Brown v. Board of Education.

"But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved. It is therefore to be regretted that this high tribunal, the final expositor of the fundamental law of the land, has reached the conclusion that it is competent for a State to regulate the enjoyment by citizens of their civil rights solely upon the basis of race."
John Marshall Harlan

Oyez Project Link:

Shamik 11:22 AM  

@Anonymous 9:37: In deference to the holiday, I will be grateful that Rex has provided a forum for disagreement. Read more, practice more and become a member of the global community. TAXCO isn't a stretch. And it will definitely be Jets blast the cats.

Easy-medium, though choppy feel to today's puzzle.

@ACME: Loved your description of the generations! Ha-ha! Ha-ha! Ha-ha!

Had OZRA, which fixed quickly. Absolutely and steadfastly refused to ask the husband for help with the Ghostbusters vehicle. After I finished the puzzle, I asked him. Of course he knew it. I am probably the lone person in the universe that finds this movie not terribly funny and actually boring.

Don't eat too much, folks. Be true to the holiday and be grateful for what you have in your life to be grateful for:

Availability of these puzzles, the blog community, and Rex's tireless efforts to maintain this blog. And that's just the stuff from this segment of our lives.

Arundel 11:22 AM  

LL COOL J (who was overlooked recently in favor of Leon L. Bean) got me started without crosses, and with the Scrabble clue I knew immediately what was going on. All I needed was to eliminate TWO in favor of ONE. Grinned at the thought of how easy this would be for @andrea. (LOL at the Generation _ comments, by the way.)

Must be off for a breakfast of Special K and muscatel, then GO TO IT with cooking. Have a good one!

@stan (posting from the shared laptop in sunny upstate NY)

Van55 11:25 AM  

Scrabbly fun today despite some really iffy (to me) fill that has already been mentioned ANIT, OON, VEE, KER, MLS, CCS.

29 proper nouns by my count.

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

@Shamik - Christmas is coming. Bah, humbug....

Chip Hilton 12:09 PM  

GET over GAG for 'trick'? Not for me, which destroyed my NE corner. I settled for GORE AT, which I knew stood no chance. Other than that, a fun romp whilst the smell of roasting turkey filled the kitchen.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Chip Hilton 12:09 PM  

GET over GAG for 'trick'? Not for me, which destroyed my NE corner. I settled for GORE AT, which I knew stood no chance. Other than that, a fun romp whilst the smell of roasting turkey filled the kitchen.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Leon 12:15 PM  

Nice NYT debut Mr.Thompson.
Thanks for the site RP.

The The Oyez Project gives a good tutorial on Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). "Separate but Equal" was the law until overturned by Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

John Marshall Harlen (The Great dissenter) was the only opposing vote. A sample from his dissent:

"But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved. It is therefore to be regretted that this high tribunal, the final expositor of the fundamental law of the land, has reached the conclusion that it is competent for a State to regulate the enjoyment by citizens of their civil rights solely upon the basis of race."

mexgirl 12:22 PM  


Mel Ott 12:27 PM  

Not a scrabble person, but still enjoyed the puzzle.

Took awhile to work THRO the NE. IN A MOOD finally corrected SET OUT to GO TO IT, and guessed right at the THRO/OZMA Natick. @Andrea: thanks for the OZ-OZMA connection. That did not occur to me. Don't like TORE AT for "mauled".

Loved the Platters. Always gave us a chance for a slow dance. Contemporaries of the Four Aces, who were more or less mainstream. Platters were one of the greatest of all those wonderful doo wop groups.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

Two Ponies 12:31 PM  

If we had not seen oyez recently I would have been sunk.
The SE corner took the longest for me. There certainly are a few things that Est. can be. Estonia finally came to me but only after I made two pies and put them in to bake.
Soon the house will be filled with wonderful aromas.
Hope you all have a delicious day.

Norm 12:32 PM  

cute theme, but ugly NE. no thank you.

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

Dissent by John Mashall Harlan in Plessy:

But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved. It is therefore to be regretted that this high tribunal, the final expositor of the fundamental law of the land, has reached the conclusion that it is competent for a State to regulate the enjoyment by citizens of their civil rights solely upon the basis of race.

"Separate but equal" overturned in 1954 by Brown v. Board of Education.

Masked and Anonymous Gobbler 12:49 PM  

There but for TAXkO/LAkS was a perfecto solve in pretty darn good time. Assume this PangramPuz got a pretty good Scrabble score or freshness factor or high Richter scale reading or somethin'.

Let's eat! Ever been a puz with a theme about giblets? Leftovers? Indigestion?

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

i love hugh laurie as house and enjoy scrabble. would think that rex would love scrabble. well you live and loin. DNF.

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

MLS could be any of a couple of dozen things besides MilliLiterS, most prominently Major-League Soccer.

Most of which would be better in a puzzle that also contains CCS, though not if they were cleverly cross-referenced.

Nate 1:03 PM  

Shouldn't 11D "OYEZOYEZ" have been

starred clue?

Anonymous 1:24 PM  


jae 1:27 PM  

Happy Thanksgiving all! Medium for me too except for NE which was tough for reasons already discussed. I liked this one. Minor hiccups include a reright on AKIMBO, HEE for VEE, and LAGO (wrong language plus no plural) for LACS. Only excuse is that I was watching Glee while doing the puzzle. (I too confess to being a House fan which is even better this year with the addition of Amber Tamblyn.)

Rube 1:28 PM  

While waiting for @Retired_Chemist, let me point out: Ethyne (Acetylene) =C2H2; Ethene (Ethylene) = C2H4, and; Ethane = C2H6. (There is no C2H8.)

Didn't like the NE, but got it. However, had to google in the NW for GENOA. Think I've heard of Liguria before, but couldn't remember where. Ergo, DNF.

Happy Turkey Day all.

The Bard 1:41 PM  

The letter at the end of OYEZ OYEZ is a zed, but the word at the end is OYEZ. Each of the starred clues ended with the words X, Z, K, Q, and J.

Anonymous 1:51 PM  

@ Shamik – TAXCO, AKIMBO, GENOA left me out in the cold (I knew and witnessed FERGUSON and knew ONLY YOU - still remember those high notes, MALCOLM X and MUSCATEL): It’s not that I don’t appreciate your kind thoughts on how to improve my mind, I was just quoting Charles Dickens, whose novels I read as a young man. He was a product of the industrial revolution and obviously was struck by the extremes of capitalism as well how many times paths cross during a lifetime. Well, there is only so much trivia that my mind can absorb and if you can answer this I will be forever grateful. The cells in our body are constantly dying and being replaced. Computers have memory stored in some inorganic matters. Our brains have memory but our brains are constantly changing as brain cells die and are replaced by new brain cells. So, how is it that we humans retain memory when the cells in which that memory is stored die and are replaced by new cells with no memory? Back to my Thanksgiving and Sequoia Grove cabernet and cheese....

william e emba 1:57 PM  

OYEZOYEZ ends in a Z by spelling, but not a separate letter Z, which is what the other theme answers end in.

I had to guess between ANGELIN-/T-XCO
with an A or an E at the cross. Didn't anyone else? I decided in the name TEXCO was too much like TEXAS.

THRO is British (like Tennyson) and THRU is American (invented by Noah Webster).

Of course ETHYNE is "simple". It's actually the simplest possible hydrocarbon in atom count: C2H2. There's a C-C triple bond (that's what the -YNE) means.

GET means "trick" in the sense that "haha, I got you!" means the same as "haha, I tricked you!". I was technically finished, but until I figured this out, I probably spent twice as long trying to think through the NE again because I could not get GET and I had doubts about GO TO IT. I even wasted time wondering if the "simple" hydrocarbon was actually BUTYNE.

Yesterday I got to remember my rocket science days. Well, today I get to remember my cryptography days! Hah! I was only in FT MEADE itself once for a special conference related to Project JKQXZ (name changed to protect my hindparts). Although I had a very very high security clearance, I was required to have a cleared escort when walking the hallways. At one point, colleague #1 left me at a certain spot where colleague #2 was supposed to join me. After 10 minutes of #2 not showing up, I was getting a little bit worried. Oh, no, what if I'm trapped here in NSA forever!!! I mean, the place I usually worked at had what I thought were all the works security-wise (2-3 front guards at all times, combo locks where you couldn't really see the buttons, lots of thick safes, lots of red-lined paper, lots of shredders, military escort special delivery, cryptophones that made everyone sound like Elmer Fudd, tin-foil protected keyboards, heck, tin-foil protected computer centers) but NSA, whoa, the guards at all the checkpoints, internal and external, were armed military personnel! So was I going to break the rules a little bit and go look for #2? Uh uh. You see, the biggest prerequisite for working these JKQXZ gigs is you have to be smart, and boy, was I playing the smart angles for all they were worth and did not move. Sheer genius on my part--#2 in fact showed up later, and as proof, here I am today.

mitchs 2:13 PM  

@rex thanks again for this blog which allows me to cyber-hang with folks like william e emba, et al. Wow, what story!

nate 2:14 PM  

The theme clue says "letter" at the end of each starred clue,
not "word". It also does not
prohibit the letter being used more than once
Crossword nit-pickers call "K" a word at the end of Special K but I
still call it a letter.

Anonymous 2:22 PM  

@william e emba - agree with mitchs - what a fascinating story! That makes my day. Of course, you did at Ft. Meade what Gen. Meade would do -- wait.

Anonymous 2:30 PM  

As a chemist, I didn't like "ethyne" either. That's crosswordese for acetylene (as noted above) and ethene is crosswordese for ethylene. I never see these words, accurate though they are, in any other context.

Anyway, I got stuck in NE with alkyne in that slot (a nice, common chemical term). Happy thanksgiving!

Unknown 2:39 PM  

A little late getting here today. I was on a mission early this morning. This puzzle was definitely Thursday worthy. Congrats to Bill Thompson with assists from Will.

Agonized over the personal natick at 10D & 21A, but finally got MHP through the process of elimination.

I too, thought that there would be a turkey theme, but this bird had a lot of meat on its bones. Liked the theme. Not going to jump into the fray, vis-a-vis AKIMBO or escalator eyes. They work for me.

I'm on the horns of a lemming here. I love all you guys and gals so much, but since the advent of Mr. Happy Pencil, I find myself torn between a post here, or on Wordplay. I used to always come here first, to proof my puzzle. Now, I find myself starting on Wordplay. I was there for quite a while, before I discovered this blog. A bit obtuse perhaps, but I never claimed to be the sharpest pencil in the box.

Anyway, there's only so much time in the day. I have diarrhea of the mouth, so I don't know the meanings of the words terse, concise, succinct, or brevity. I start out with good intentions, but my posts always morph into diatribes or inane rambling. It's in my genes from my mother's side.

Being retired is nice, but if you spend four hours a day at the NYT, the LA Times, AV, the Washington Post, Fireball crosswords, and BEQ's website, you have issues! My knowledge base is worthless, to anyone but me. I used to spend almost every waking hour outdoors. I have to get a grip.

Well, I doubt that my recent lack of input on this site has been noticed, but if I am wrong, I am truly humbled. There are so many great people here. There are a lot of great people on Wordplay as well. I'm sure that there are crossovers with different blog names, and I know a few, but they are hard to remember sometimes. My short term memory isn't what it used to be. At any rate, if you see the name chaos anywhere, you can be pretty sure that it's me. You all know my style by now.

Chances are, I'll probably make another post today, after I read the full blog, but I just wanted to get get this out for my own edification.

Have a great turkey day all !

william e emba 2:48 PM  

One of the interesting aspects of cryptological work that I remember best is that, despite the extremely mathematical nature of the field, wordfreaking in some form or other was a common avocation. In particular, I recall one fellow who daily photocopied the NYT puzzle and blitzed through it, leaving the completed puzzle out for anyone interested.

Another aspect I remember was that project names were usually Utterly Fantastic Words! To this day, some of my favorite obscure words date from the work I did then. And it's very difficult for me to use them in public, but then, it's probably something of a giveaway to the right people out there when I don't use JKQXZ at least once every five years, like a smart-aleck word freak is supposed to do.

Anonymous 2:59 PM  

@Chaos - I've missed you. Every since you knew a juke was in a real diner I've looked for your input. It might not be the same as william e emba but it is as entertaining....

NATE 3:21 PM  


There is no 21A. What is MHT?
I'm not up on all the cute acronyms

mmorgan 3:40 PM  

@Anon 9:37 -- I have a book of Weng and Maleska "classics" and one highly notable distinction between their puzzles and those of today is that the older ones had MUCH more in the way of foreign words (and many more obscure literary and geographic references in general). Complaining about the puzzles being NYC-centric and simultaneously too "foreign" does not rouse my sympathies. But I hope you enjoy your Belvedere.

I generally enjoyed the puzzle but got messed up by having GENERATION M -- I thought that's where we are now (M for Millenials). I ran into the same stone wall as @Bob Kerfuffle. And I had all kinds of trouble in the SW, despite having AKIMBO and more... Eventually, HTG (Had To Google), which is something I really hate to do, to get FERGUSON. But I agree with @Shamlik -- it was kinda "choppy."

Only vaguely know LLCOOLJ but I loved the way it worked in the puzzle, making me seriously doubt several answers I put in as crosses before I got it.

Happy Turkey, folks!

PlantieBea 3:45 PM  

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Love your posts william e emba. I have to agree with Retired Chemist about chemical nomenclature: it's dry but fairly dependable, unlike plant taxonomy.

sanfranman59 4:26 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 17:21, 19:02, 0.91, 41%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 8:51, 9:11, 0.96, 51%, Medium

Happy Thanksgiving to all the fine inhabitants of RexWorld.

JaxInL.A. 4:45 PM  

Okay, turkey is nearly done, side dishes all in hand, salad nearly assembled, have to set the table and gather every chair in the house, and we should be set to sit down with family and our international home stay students past and present (8 at last count, though others may show up). We will have delegates from Japan, China, and Saudi Arabia this year. Makes for interesting conversations, I can tell you.

I finished most of the puzzle last night but got completely stuck in the SW. Had FT__ADE and could not get past it. MLS And ESPO??? No help from those two crosses, and it took me eons to think of EELSKIN as a wallet material. Finally googled for FTMEADE and called it a day this AM. Had to move on. The rest of it came really easily, as others have noted, so was disappointed that I got so badly stuck. Still, had a great time with this puzzle.

@ACME, I, too, wonder how it is possible for Rex to hate Scrabble. So what if you can't use words like hajj or kick or knock or knack or all of those many double Z words like puzzle? Even without two Js, Ks, Qs, Xs, or Zs, Scrabble is a blast and makes my xwording better. So there.

Having said that, thanks, Rex, for making the time to maintain this space for all of us. Among the many causes for happiness in my life, I count this blog as a small but important component. Happy Gratitude to everyone!

Anonymous 7:26 PM  

@ mmorgan - The Belvedere was yummy in the tummy, thx. Frankly, I don't have any sympathies for my pet peeves either. I used to live in DC and play tennis when people on the adjacent court and in the elevators would be speaking some foreign language, so I have an aversion to foreign words. But please tell me this: are there any plurals in crossword puzzle?

Unknown 7:35 PM  

Excellent comments today from everyone. I'm thankful to Rex for this blog and all it's participants.

Anonymous @ 2:59 PM : Thanks for the vote of confidence. You and I seem to be truly sympatico, but you're right. I can't hold a candle to Mr. Emba.

@ william e emba : What a fascinating story ! I used to have a top security clearance as well, but not at your level. I was wondering, when you do crosswords on paper, do they self-destruct after five minutes ?

Nate @ 3:21 PM : Sorry Nate, I meant 22A. MHP is Mr. Happy Pencil, our new mascot who we all can't wait to see each day.

OHHH, I ate too much ! That's all for me today.

Anonymous 10:34 PM  

LL Cool J stands for "Ladies Love Cool James." So it wasn't a gimme, exactly, but knowing that helped.

Sfingi 10:36 PM  

Difficult for me.

Does anyone remember when people were claiming electric shocks from EELSKIN wallets?

@MMorgan - love HTG! I'll be using that and doing that. Funny, FERGUSON was the first thing I put in, probably because Hubster's a lawyer. But, HTG SPECIALK and still couldn't find it!

Always glad I don't have to cook. Came to Hubster cousin's bearing gifts. Anyone have corn pudding?

AKIMBO is one of the few words in English from Africa.

MUSCATEL always makes me laugh. A fellow I worked with renamed a park here called Steuben, MUSCATEL Beach because the winos hung out there.

Back in the '60s I had a high security clearance at local AFB, now gone, since I worked on programs involving mapping Cambodia as we denied we were there. Glad to get that off my chest.

Kendall 11:03 PM  

I know I can be critical at times, but it's the holiday season so no reason for that! I really liked this puzzle and it's theme. Really liked the Southern half of this puzzle for not any one particdular reason. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

william e emba 11:34 PM  

"Generation M"? I shouldn't laugh, but I will: that was a 5-issue Marvel comics miniseries a few years ago.

Self-destruct in 5 minutes? Dang, I should have thought of that! That's probably easier than solving the puzzles in my head, like my mentor Dr Benton Quest always did.

Unknown 9:33 AM  

You are right about twice your age. I am 76 and found today's puz. to be a cinch. Also- my wife is a Wellesely grad so Katherine Bates was a gimme.

Anonymous 1:45 PM  

Huh. Surely it's the arms that are AKIMBO and not the person. (Yes, I've checked dictionary definitions, but this is one time I'll side with usage.)

"Choppy"—good word for the overall feel. I had a heck of a time in the NW due to picking multiple NITS instead of just one.

Waxy in Montreal 2:51 PM  

5 weeks on and the turkey references remain valid except this time out it's the Christmas leftovers version of the gobbler. Usually only play Scrabble during yuletide so the theme was particularly apt.

Personal Nattick at 8. where SET (as in a trick in bridge) and SO TO IT worked for me...

And is OON really a suffix with ball?

Randy Chong 5:17 PM  

"Elevator Eyes" was also a song by The Temptations

NotalwaysrightBill 7:47 PM  

Syndicated paper solver.

A little surprised that so few knew TAXCO and that nobody commented on their having visited. Well worth the sidetrip IMO. While there, we were adopted by a lovely Univ. of Maryland linguistics researcher investigating the language of the Nuahatl, the indigenous people who speak vestigial Aztec. One night she interviewed a Nahuatl family, who spoke a little Spanish, during dinner at the home of some friends who spoke Spanish only, using what little Spanish she knew, in a basically three-way translation exercise.

Actually, I had a ball there, no room for the stories.

Anonymous 1:15 AM  

Syndicated solver.
Ironic, that for a (very) novice Thurs+ solver I knew Taxco right off (a Calif thing?) and akimbo popped right into my head with the ending *o* of Ore (gon). So with Taxco & Malcolm X I thought I was going to be a smarter person this Thursday, but no luck...
I did not learn about Oyez etc when getting my B. A. in English...
But thanks for the Blog & all the comments as I look back to Thanksgiving & forward to 2011 (it's 12-30 here). Laura O.

tingod 1:15 AM  

I'm a usually pretty smart guy, but "medium difficulty" for this puzzle ? Seems harder than that to me Hmm. "MLS" came immediately for me. Of course, I base my idea of difficulty on whether or not i can solve it without looking anything up.

tingod 1:20 AM  

Seth - "LA_S" could be 'anything'?? HAD to be Lacs as Superior and Erie are lakes.

My comments are late because I don't get NYT, just get the puzzles published later.

SethG 5:21 PM  

Supérieur and Érié are lakes, but what I was trying to figure out was what Sup?rieur and ?ri? were. The solving applet on the Times site typically doesn't handle foreign characters correctly. If you don't know what the clue is, the blank in LA_S could be nearly any letter.

Bird of Paradise 1:24 AM  

Ever se quail running at a distence? They look like they had wheels on

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