Late Soviet diplomat Dobrynin / THU 12-9-10 / Kantian concern / Hillbillies put-down / Literally way of gods / 1975 Southern rock hit

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Constructors: Byron Walden & Caleb Madison

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Where there's SMOKE there's FIRE58D: Word that can combine with the starts of the answers to the six starred clues (SMOKE) / 71A: Word that can combine with the ends of the answers to the six starred clues (FIRE)

Word of the Day: MERLE Oberon (43D: Oberon of "Wuthering Heights") —

Merle Oberon (18 or 19 February 1911– 23 November 1979) was an Indian-born British actress. // She began her film career in British films, and a prominent role, as Anne Boleyn in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), brought her attention. Leading roles in such films as The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) advanced her career, and she travelled to the United States to make films for Samuel Goldwyn. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in The Dark Angel (1935). A traffic collision in 1937 caused facial injuries that could have ended her career, but she soon followed this with her most renowned role, as "Cathy" in Wuthering Heights (1939). Her career continued until the end of the 1940s when it declined and her acting performances over the following years were relatively few. (wikipedia)

• • •
Looks like I'm an outlier on this one, as I blew through it in a very fast time. Was tempted to rate it "Easy" or "Easy-Medium" ... until I saw the posted times at the NYT puzzle site, which were way higher than normal. So I went to "Medium," but I wouldn't be surprised to see it come in harder than that. So the question is: why? I would have been a full minute faster than I was if I'd been able to make quicker sense of the far south, which was by far the toughest part for me. The DUTY part of MORAL DUTY was a big "???" (40D: Kantian concern). and then there were two cross-referenced answers in this little section, neither of which I had (SEA/BASS) (64D: With 60-Down, big Chilean export), and did not recall SONYA at all, and (stupidly) couldn't see ANGUS even after I had the "U" (63A: Beef type). Guessed SONYA from -ONY- (70A: Whom Raskolnikov confesses his crime to in "Crime and Punishment") and then the SEA of SEA / BASS leaped out, and I was done down there. Swept up the west coast and ended with BOMBS (32D: Turkeys). Time: 5:22. Exceptional, especially considering I never properly saw the clues for SMOKE or FIRE — too long for my software to read effectively, and unless I have to, I don't waste time expanding the clue box or hovering my cursor over the clue to see the whole thing. Luckily for me, the answers ended up being easily inferrable with a bunch of crosses.

The grid is highly inventive. SPIRIT OF / TROY!? That is one crazy and imaginative cross-reference (44D: With 19-Across, U.S.C.'s marching band). MORAL DUTY was another, tougher creative answer. Impressive that six theme answers (four of them intersecting other theme answers) all work with this theme, although I have to say I don't get FIRE BOAT (is that like a FIRE TRUCK, but ... in BOAT form?) or WHITE SMOKE (is that a particular kind of smoke? I didn't know SMOKE came in flavors). Favorite answers of the day were COMB-OVERS (6D: Dos that are don'ts) and "FREE BIRD"! In the end, only ANATOLY lay completely beyond my ken. The rest I knew or at least have seen before. Playful and, for me, relatively easy. Good work.

Theme answers:
  • 11D: *Porch feature (SCREEN DOOR)
  • 22A: *Dramatically expose (BLOW OPEN)
  • 24A: *Home near a shore (HOUSE BOAT)
  • 34D: *Hillbillies' put-down (WHITE TRASH)
  • 54A: *Massachusetts college (HOLY CROSS)
  • 59A: *1975 Southern rock hit stereotypically requested at concerts ("FREE BIRD")
  • 44A: 1998 Roberto Clemente Award winner (SOSA) — had -OSA. Wrote in ROSA. As in Parks. Yes, I'm serious.
  • 47A: Classification for some popular Spanish music (ORO) — Spanish-speaking countries classify their records by precious metals too? What's Spanish for "platinum?" (the internet tells me it's "platino")
  • 65A: Tropical vegetable also known as elephant's-ear (TARO) — interesting trivia clue, which I never saw ... or never saw past "Tropical vegetable..."; whatever crosses I had in place made the answer easy to get from that part of the clue alone.
  • 3D: Words to a kidder ("OH, YOU") — love this cute colloquialism. Also love the clue on the more common "HI, MOM" (61A: Words mouthed to a camera).
  • 8D: Youngest Hall-of-Famer (at age 22) to hit 100 home runs (MEL OTT) — love when crosswordese folks get their full names into the grid. Also, this stat is amazing. To hit that many home runs, that young, in that era ... incredible. The dude was only 5'9" 170lbs.
  • 30D: Italian poet who was the subject of a Goethe play and a Donizetti opera (TASSO) — wrote in TAZZO, conflating the poet and the Italian word for cup ("tazza").
  • 50D: Literally, "way of the gods" (SHINTO) — this took some thinking, and if I hadn't come up with SHINTO (off the SHI-), I'd have been SHInTo-out-of-luck in the south (which, again, was tough as hell).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


r.alphbunker 12:25 AM  

White smoke means a pope has been elected.

Took a while to see the Troy/Trojan connection. Steady but slow progress through the puzzle.

retired_chemist 12:40 AM  

Good one. One error which really wasn't - OLAF @ 27A, with a mind to change the F if I needed the V later. Needed just a couple of letters for COMBOVERS, filled it quickly, and left the F. Bah. Same issue with ALIA/ALII, but I got that one right.

Had MANTLE @ 8D off M, soon erased all but the M and came back to it when I hadf all the crosses. MELOTT? WHO????? Oh - MEL OTT.

Whether ONE K is a "Short racs" depends on your perspective. And physical condition.....

Thanks, Messrs. Walden and Madison.

sanfranman59 12:53 AM  

Excellent choice for the "fire" clip, Rex, but were it my blog, I would have gone this route.

nhart 1:01 AM  

White smoke is a signal that a new pope has been selected. The cardinals vote and then burn the votes. The white smoke (don't ask me how they do it) symbolizes the final vote.

D_Blackwell 1:06 AM  

Cool theme. Wow.

This came in on the easy side for me.

Do they still have fire boats on the Chicago river? Lake Michigan also? I don't know how high those water guns shoot. Pretty darn high.

Horrible clue of "Pro team?" for YEAS

I like when women 'show their TALENTS'.

My darlin' wondered what the line is on somebody wearing Ben Pall's crossword dice, as earings, to the ACPT. I put the odds at about 100%. From the PDF provided, the size is workable.

She further wondered if I could make a bigger grid, because the ones we made on Sunday will be smallish on the tree and she's in love with the damn things. But when my baby wonders something, I like to accommodate; points in the bank. I've made up a completed grid that makes a 2" block. The NYT PDF makes a block about 1 1/4". It doesn't sound like much, but this one is about 4x larger.

I don't know why they didn't make a couple of PDFs available with a large and small size die ready to cut and fold, or ready to fill in, or both. It's their job to make the crosswords and constructors look good, and it was a pitiful poor effort to maximizing the presentation. The PDF provided, once provided, had other junk crammed on the page, and on a Sunday size. It perturbs me that mediocre was perfectly fine.

My first run through came out pretty well. I missed thickening a border on a fold, a big mistake, but not bad at all for a draft version. Bright red pips would stand out better and be more Christmassy. It's up to my darlin'. Whatever edits she wants I'll take care of. If anybody is interested in the first pass:

Filled grid, black pips:

Grid and numbers:

fikink 1:57 AM  

I am so with Rex on this one. Played it similarly, but did think that WHITE SMOKE had to do with the Pope. Man, I loved the play with Kant - thought immediately of you, @Clark.
Then to have our own @MEL OTT in the puzzle. Superb!
Damn! This one was fun. Thanks. Boys!

I skip M-W 2:08 AM  

A good time for me, less than 6 times @Rex's. never heard of Free Bird. Anatoly Dobrynin was a long-time Soviet Ambassador to US. There is (or was) a plaque in a Chinese restaurant in DC where he held secret meetings (with RFK?) during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
In the 1989 SF earthquake, a fire boat was deployed to put out fires in the marina district.

Clark 2:36 AM  

Holy smokes! (as my Grandpa used to say) that Kant cartoon is the coolest thing I have ever seen on this blog. @Ulrich -- is 'Denkhaube' what we call 'thinking cap' as in "That's a tough one, I'd better put on my thinking cap"? I googled around and found it used that way, but also found it as a reference to the 'neocortex' and to some kind of helmet with electrodes for brain research.

Kant's opponent is saying to Kant "Your turn, sir." Kant says, "I think . . .", and we see his brain processing everything in terms of the pure forms of sensibility, space and time, and the twelve categories, arranged in the four groups, quantity, quality, reality (that's a mistake, it should be relation) and modality. What goes on in the four boxes that are lit up isn't quite the way the categories work, but it is hilarious: (Unity) The white ball . . . (reality) struck in this way . . . (causality) will move the black one over there . . . (necessity) every time . . .

Köstlich! (I would say 'priceless', but the MasterCard website is down.)

(And I liked the puzzle too.)

jae 2:37 AM  

Yes, a fun puzzle! Interesting fill. I wrote med-challenging in the margin but it felt more on the medium side to me. I think central/south (e.g. ANATOLY, SONYA) made it a bit more than medium. I fell for the 39a misdirect and had DRAFTS at first. I also tried SATS/TONS in NE.

Falconer 3:39 AM  

ANATOLY was the first word in the grid for me. Major Cold War figure. Russian ambassador to the U.S. from the early '60s to mid-'80s.

Skipping around, my next answer was FREEBIRD. Which just looks awesome in the grid.

You could clue that one as the final song played on Conan's "Tonight Show" gig, with Will Ferrell singing and O'Brien on lead guitar.

Fun puzzle. Inventive. Nice going.

andrea combovers michaels 3:55 AM  

Look how clean this grid is!
Look how clever the theme is!!!!
Look how many they got...and how SMOKE and FIRE are related
(Love Rex's summation "Where there's smoke there's fire"!!!)

Must have been a blast to make.
What can't these guys do????
And if you make two columns (which I did as I solved, once I saw the theme)
and it alternates that SMOKE comes after, then before, then after...
same is true for FREE.
Is that construction or is that construction?!!

To the point that DIETSODA almost looked like it worked too!

(FIREBOATS puts out fires on clown boats with FIRE PIES!)

and for it to be fun to boot, as again Rex pointed out from HIMOM!
wow wow envy and admiration.

And not only is there a Q, Z and K mixed in with 12 theme answers, I loved the double-ness of LLANO over ASCII.

Gareth Bain 6:51 AM  

Wait so MERLE Oberon isn't a country singer... Or a male! Thanks for the word of the day! Cleared up a whole lot of misconceptions!

foodie 7:15 AM  

Rex, I think your solving impression is correct. My Quick & Dirty Index (Based on early solvers) puts this at Easy Medium, but near Medium.

I'm with Rex and Andrea re the genius of this construction. Beyond the already noted brilliance, I noted that in the grid SMOKE rises from FIRE!!!

The iPAD program, which slows me down considerably compared to Across Lite, has one really cool feature. When you click on a clue that's related to more than one answer, all relevant answers are highlighted in the grid. In this case, you click on the clue for SMOKE or FIRE and you see this beautiful intersection of long answers framing the middle. Most impressive.

joho 8:01 AM  

I'm totally in awe of these two. Marvelous construction with uber creative theme and answers.

This was one of the best Thursdays ever.

All I can say, Byron and Walden is: DONTCEASE!

Smitty 8:03 AM  

@Jae I fell into the Miller DRAFTS trap as well and couldn't figure out what FOCAL DUTY meant.

I'm not a big fan of Combo- Clues
Spirit of - Troy
Sea - Bass
Throw in today's theme and it wasn't my favorite puzzle
... the one Combo I loved was COMBOVER

glimmerglass 8:03 AM  

This was medium hard for me, mostly because for the longest time I had "drafts" for "Miller products" instead of DRAMAS. I got WHITE TRASH okay, but the connection to white smoke is more specialized than the other 11 theme answers. There are lots of fire boats, but the white smoke comes only every few years.

Fire Marshal Bill 8:30 AM  

“Smoke color is not necessarily an indicator of what is burning. While wood smoke from a well ventilated or fuel controlled wood fire is light colored or gray, the same fuel under low-oxygen conditions, or ventilation-controlled conditions in a post-flashover fire can be quite dark or black. Black smoke can also be produced by the burning of other materials including most plastics or ignitable liquids.”

Hungry Mother 9:09 AM  

Rainy morning, so I tried a Thursday for the first time in months. Got it in quick time for me and thought it would be ranked as easy by the pros.

Tinbeni 9:09 AM  

What a FUN solving experience.
Must have been on Byron & Caleb wave-length.
Couldn't write-in the letters fast enough.

Always like seeing NASDAQ. Should be great today.

Warm enough for just the SCREEN DOOR ...

I think the last few days cold spell is making me lean more toward the OMANI thingy.
(@ulrich, my Texan bud says there are places for Avatar over there).

ArtLvr 9:16 AM  

HOLY MOLEY! I had a lot of close-but-no-cigar ideas to clear out before the right DRAMAS unfolded -- Antonin for ANATOLY, Satari for SHINTO, etc. It was an eye-opener and a relief to get to the SE corner and find the theme signal to test the rest!

The TALENTS of the constructors are awesome... Congrats to Byron and Caleb!


PlantieBea 9:20 AM  

What a great Thursday puzzle. Bravo Byron and Caleb!

I too fell into the DRAFTS/ FOCAL DUTY trap. The Catholic mini-theme continues today with HOLY CROSS and the WHITE smoke.

Thanks for the Bryan Ferry clip, Rex. I was hoping for FREE BIRD(!) or When the Levee Fails.

Yes, FIREBOATS still exist although in my tiny hometown ours has been re-purposed to serve as a sunset cocktail cruise on the bay.

OldCarFudd 9:21 AM  

Delightful! And the them helped with some of the later theme answers, which is always a plus.

It used to be that a ship making its maiden transatlantic voyage to New York would be escorted into the harbor by fire boats spewing great fountains of water. An impressive sight.

In 28A I had the T and the S, and the space was too long for tiaras, so for a while D_Blackwell and I were on the same wave length.

mmorgan 9:36 AM  

Whew. A workout, but a satisfying finish. Great puzzle!

It took me F-O-R-E-V-E-R to finish up in the South and *especially* the SE, which Just... Would... Not... Fall... (Even with OMANI and ONEK -- partly because I had HIMAS for HIMOM.)

Had to make a bunch of changes to get unstuck. First had limeSODA for DIETSODA (4D) and DRAftS for DRAMAS at 39A -- and the correct answer is MUCH better. And I first had RED WINE for SEA BASS (60/64D) -- wishful thinking. (Speaking of which, @Tinbeni: 20 degrees here, no screen doors!)

Eventually changing ANATOLe to ANATOLY really helped a lot on the bottom.

Again, it was a very satisfying finish and there was so much to like here.

A Fine Puzzle (but) 9:42 AM  

Liked today's offering, with the exception of some nits that I won't bother to post. Made "easy level" time on the east and west coasts, but the strip down the center tripled me into the medium-challenging range.




For years I've been satisfied with just solving puzzles with perhaps an occasional post-solve admiration of construction.

You've taken this to a whole new level. The suggestion of the NYT offering different size pdf's was brilliant (I had been forced to just use the scale on the print screen).

I admire you enhanced enjoyment.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:55 AM  

Good one!

My nominee for favorite clue would be 20 A, "Five Jacksons", CNOTE.

lochsa 10:06 AM  

one error: there's no such thing as SIERRAS--the range is always singular.

fikink 10:12 AM  

Thanks for the explication, @Clark. Your post made perfect sense when read with the cartoon next to it. I do love visuals!
And thanks for the cartoon, @Rex.

mmorowitz 10:18 AM  

Pretty easy for me.

ELHI continues to be my least favorite fill of all time. It's a word that I have never, ever seen or heard anywhere outside of a puzzle.

(A close second is EMAG.)

If the two of those ever appear in the same puzzle, I may have a coronary.

"Hey! Are any of the neighborhood ELHI kids reading any interesting EMAGS lately?"

Tobias Duncan 10:20 AM  

WHITETRASH did sting a bit and made me think of Louis CK.

(Warning this is ten kinds of vulgar)

Captcha= Flart

Ulrich 10:28 AM  

@Clark: Respect! I have nothing to add to your explanation of the cartoon. As to Denkhaube, it's not in common use AFAIK, unlike "thinking cap". The most intriguing special usage I've found is in a research lab, where it's used to identify the contraption put over a rat's head to measure brain activity--i.e. it's a real object!

@tinbeni: I'm so relieved!

Great puzzle BTW--easier, for me, than yesterday's.

quilter1 10:29 AM  

Steady solve and really liked this puzzle. I had DRAFTS too for awhile. Kind of sad since I like dramas and don't drink beer.

I'm creating a quilting related glossary for a presentation next month and found myself thinking up clues for a quilt themed puzzle, not that I have a clue how to construct. But I would enjoy that puzzle.

william e emba 10:35 AM  

I'd say my only criticism is the clue "Youngest Hall-of-Famer (at age 22) to hit 100 home runs". As written, it seems somebody was inducted at age 22.

The MERLE Oberon clue/answer completely mystified me. I mean, it's been thirty years since I read Weathering Heights, but no way was that name in that book. Thanks, Rex, for the reveal.

I'd actually read part of TASSO Jerusalem Delivered years and years ago. I'm surprised he's in the puzzle before Saturday.

The reason nobody sees ELHI is simply because it's obsolete, but it's never clued as if it were obsolete. The term was replaced with K-12 and that was that.

7thecow 10:41 AM  

First time commenting. Enjoyed the puzzle. Got started in the NE- PSAT-TOY-TROY ( a gimme from daughter at USC). From there worked down to SE to the theme answers. Looked back at SCREENDOOR and thought "this is lame" DOOR FIRE? Took more fill to realize the alternating pattern. Only nit I have is ELHI-for all grades-eww.

Recent post about captcha really opened my eyes. I've been following this blog for months and thought it was some in joke. Amazing to find they're using it to "translate" hard to read documents. I feel like a guinea pig in an experiment, but in a good way.

Van55 10:43 AM  

Superbly constructed puzzle with a very clever, dense theme. Nicely clued, too for the most part. Hate, hate, hate cross referenced clues, so that was a big negative for my taste.

archaeoprof 10:46 AM  

Wow! This one just got better and better as I went along.

Favorite clue: 6D "do's that are don'ts." Next time I see a COMBOVER, it will be very hard not to smile.

Two Ponies 10:50 AM  

The SE had me so frustrated that I had to calm down after it finally fell so I could admire the construction. Well done!
It was hard to let go of Spartans for Spirit of. Hi Mom got me out of that trap and gave me a grin.

7thecow 10:51 AM  

Just read my local PBS newsletter with this link to a COMBOVERS related video

retired_chemist 11:12 AM  

@ mmorowitz - our Science Education faculty used the term ELHI occasionally. Agree K-12 is more common and more recent.

American Third Position 11:12 AM  

Since when are racial slurs tolerated in the puzzle?
Oh, I see. The victim of the put-down is Caucasian. That's OK?
Just try inserting any other race or color in front of trash and see what happens.

Anonymous 11:49 AM  

My favorite clue is Hillbillies' put-down for WHITE TRASH. For some reason, maybe because my parents were from Kentucky, I always thought “hillbillies” was a put-down. The two are not the same and it is hard for me to see how WHITE TRASH can be a bigger put-down than hillbillies. Hillbillies are from them thar hills (generally associated with a certain region of the United States that PCer's like to call Appalachia) but WHITE TRASH can be found anywhere, maybe even in NYC. However, I knew that WHITE SMOKE was the signal from the Vatican when the College of Cardinals elected a new Pope and a FIREBOAT is a boat used by a fire department to put out fire. My downfall was ALIA instead of ALII, which turned the SPIRIT of TROY into a very, very slow marching band....

John the Hillbilly

deerfencer 11:51 AM  

Excellent challenge for junior-level solvers like myself. Artfully crafted puzzle with lots to delight and marvel at upon completion. Sweet!

BigSteve46 12:02 PM  

A question for Rex - or anyone else who measures the time it takes to do the puzzle: are there different time listings for people who do the puzzle on-line as opposed to those who still use paper and pen/pencil? On the rare occasions when I do the puzzle on-line, it seems to be much easier and much faster than my usual old fashioned way. To me, it would be almost impossible to do one of these puzzles in 5 minutes handwritten, even if you got every answer immediately. Just curious ... Also, when there are xword puzzle contents, does everyone have to use pen and paper?

Mel Ott 12:06 PM  

Hey, it's nice to be more than mere 3-letter fill for a change!

A couple of weeks ago I alluded to some boat trouble I once had in Hell Gate in NYC. These days the Coast Guard around NYC is too busy with homeland security issues to be of much assistance to pleasure boaters. It was the FIRE BOAT KEVIN C. KANE that came to my assistance from their dock under the Manhattan span of the Triboro Bridge. The crew was wonderful. Thanks again, guys.

efrex 1:00 PM  

Wow. Guess I'm not on the Walden/Madison wavelength. Had a ton of trouble with this thing, and thought that the short fill was quite irritating (TIL, ELHI, OLLAS, ALII, BAWD). A CNOTE is one Franklin, not five Jacksons. My own ignorance is probably to blame for quite a bit, though. Having POTATOS and DRAFTS for POTPIES and DRAMAS didn't help, either.

Did like the COMBOVER and HIMOM clues, though...

captcha: mistac - using too many breath fresheners before a big date...

Glitch 1:04 PM  


Some of us actually prefer (rather than "still use") pen/pencil on paper (aka dead tree version).

It usually takes longer, much as "touch typing" is generally faster than "hand writting". Many of us, however, don't have more than a passing interest in speed solving (I time my solves in cups of coffee).

That said, here.'s a link to the champion "dead tree" solver, featured in last Tuesday's NYT's Science Times.


Martin 1:27 PM  

@American Third Position,

If you think past your paranoia, you'll find comfort in the fact that "white trash" really deprecates black people. Originally coined by poor southern blacks, "poor white trash" meant white folks who were so low on the social ladder that they might as well have been black. They are the exception that proves the rule of supposed white supremacy. Adopted by white southerners, the phrase puts down those below you socially by implicitly comparing them with blacks.

This is not a good example to howl "PC" over.

Tournament solving is always done on paper. Some solvers find paper faster than computer. Moving a pencil from upper-left to lower-right is certainly faster than any combination of keyboard/mouse gestures.

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

To: Martin
CC: American Third Position

"'ll find comfort in the fact that "white trash" really deprecates black people." Your historical context might be correct (I really don't know) but (a) the clue had nothing to do with non-whites and (b) to some it might seem that the clue and answer are akin to someone telling some people that other people will find comfort with their guns and Bibles.

PS. I think you forgot Trailer Park Trash in your discussion. It also occurs to me that nobody has ever called you a hillbilly. Now that is a comforting thought....

John the Hillbilly (formerly John the Banished)

John V 1:44 PM  

Alas, DNF. Got totally flumoxed by South, in multiple ways, especially not knowing freebird, not Sonya. With those, I'd have had a chance.

dk 1:52 PM  

**** (4 Stars) You two dorks have me singing the Porky Pig version of Fire

Ditto all the praise.

d(white trash*)k


Anonymous 2:05 PM  

dork   /dɔrk/ Show Spelled
–noun Slang .
1. a stupid or ridiculous person; jerk; nerd.
2. Vulgar . penis.

What happened to the policy of not insulting commenters? Must have been thrown out with the WHITE TRASH....

John the White Trash

Martin 2:12 PM  


It's got nothing to do with history. For "white trash" to be an anti-white racial slur, it has to be interpreted as "trash, like white people." Coming from hillbillies as clued (are there any black hillbillies?), that's unlikely. It means "trash compared with most white people." It's like arguing that "that's real white of you" is anti-white.

Anonymous 2:21 PM  


NATE 2:43 PM  

REX: Re:Your last comment on your
blog re:SHINTO. If it were posted by a commenter, I'll bet you would have thrown it out.

D_Blackwell 2:44 PM  

Ha. Haven't heard 'Mighty white of you.' in a long time. As to who is getting their ox gored, it depends upon who/when/why. Rarely do I think that the historical context should be the primary consideration to interpreting current usage.

They are both pretty nasty. WHITE TRASH enjoys a life apart from its original intent, almost trendy, but it's still pretty bad at heart.

Lame, safe clue aside (Boo!), I enjoyed seeing the entry. It is a wonderful descriptive that insults bottom-of-the-barrel whites and pokes all blacks at the same time. I participate in this kind of talk almost exclusively as an observer. Not much useful is actually being said by this point.

mmorowitz 2:52 PM  


D_Blackwell 2:55 PM  

From the Online Etymology Dictionary (a really cool reference [if limited in depth]):

1831, originally Southern U.S. black slang.

The slaves themselves entertain the very highest contempt for white servants, whom they designate as 'poor white trash.' [Fanny Kemble, journal, Jan. 6, 1833]

John V 2:58 PM  

@Anonymous: bawd is a synonym for madam, woman who runs house of prostitition. Et Alii is masculine plural form, usually abreviated et al. ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange (, a system of encoding characters to numbers to be understood by computers.

Google is your friend :)

MLK 3:14 PM  

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
I have a dream that one day, when we wish to disparage individuals or a class of people, when we drive by a cluster of broken down shacks, and wish to be feel the need to heap ridicule upon misfortune, we can call them just plain trash, not white, black or brown trash.

Anonymous 3:26 PM  


I've gotten over being called a hillbilly a long time ago. All I am trying to say is that the term hillbilly is pejorative and to use it as a clue for another pejorative term is questonable taste for the NYT. I love a lively debate but I am over the limt. Suffice it to say that it amazes me how one person's slur is just another person's historical reference. That only seems to work as a rationale when the person being slurred is white.

Otherwise, I echo the other favorable comments on the puzzle.

John the Vanished

PS. My captcha is under...must be a mistake....

Joe 3:32 PM  

This was NOT a medium.
Never heard of GOETHE'S TASSO.

Also agree with glimmerglass and mmorowitz.

To those getting bent out of shape: relax, it's just a friggin' crossword puzzle.
This is not a case for "Kantian concern."

American Third Position 3:55 PM  

@ John the Vanished Banished Hillbilly, That was my point. Thank you. If the subject of the slur is white then anything goes and no one may protest. On the other side there is the issue of pride. Blacks, Latinos, gays, etc. are all encouraged to be proud of their heritage. If I make any remark regarding being proud of my European roots everyone jumps to scream racist. Double standard.

sanfranman59 4:08 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 18:22, 19:00, 0.97, 50%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 8:37, 8:47, 0.94, 46%, Medium

Anonymous 4:27 PM  

I'm fairly new into both solving and constructing (2 puzzles so far published, one accepted, and 2 out for consideration). Rex, you might remember my "Organic Reactions" one.

I've been following this blog for a few months. I enjoyed today's puzzle also. In fact it was better to me than any I've completed in a long time. It was challenging, but doable. It's the kind of puzzle that I find fun and that is the reason I do them. Speed of completion isn't, as yet, an issue to me.

In fact, I thought so many puzzles that I have completed were lame that I thought I could do better. I've learned the hard way how wrong I was. Hasn't stopped me from trying though.

I figure I can always learn something from a bunch of brainiacs, as many of you appear to be, and I have. It did my heart good that this group liked this fun puzzle. It's encouraging.

Sue Miskimins of Elkton, SD

SethG 4:30 PM  

The theme was amazing, and didn't help with the solve.

I did most of the puzzle at something near your speed, but the DUTY/SEA BASS area killed me. I was so sure we would spend all day discussing overfishing and the Patagonian toothfish. White seabass are western, and black sea bass are eastern.

Tobias Duncan 4:46 PM  

For the record my comment about the sting of WHITETRASH was meant to be facetious.
Double standard ? Perhaps, but white men are on the winning end of so many it just seems ridiculous to feel buthurt by few that dont go your way.

andrea firebird michaels 5:13 PM  

(If you are still here) I'd recommend making a wordsearch...lots easier and you can pass them out and folks love them, even those who don't usually do puzzles or might be intimidated by a crossword...
I can help if you want and they are fun to sort of weave the words together...sort of like quilts!

Sad Byron and Caleb brilliant puzzle's discussion derailled again by a troll or whatever they are called.

Rube 5:20 PM  

Who you callin' a Hillbilly?

Go Ogle 5:26 PM  

@Anonymous 2:21 - @mmorowitz et al. are being too gentle with you. Better you should learn that if you don't "get" an answer, your first move should be to enter "define: bawd" or whatever in your Google search bar. If that explanation does not clear up the mystery, you have real wordplay and a fit subject for discussion in the blog. (For example, if the answer to "flat" is TWOD.)

Blast From The Past 5:33 PM  

"Moving a pencil from upper-left to lower-right is certainly faster than any combination of keyboard/mouse gestures."

Unless you are left-handed.

Two Ponies 5:38 PM  

@ andrea firebird,
I didn't think the puzzle got derailed. It shined.
I sometimes like the tangents that occur and today was interesting.
As long as everyone remains civil then I enjoy different points of view.
@ Rube, I wondered if you would chime in :)

Anonymous 5:42 PM  

Or know how to hold down the shift key while hitting tab.

Kendall 5:48 PM  

This definitely took me longer than normal, but was also a lot of fun. I struggled greatly in getting MELOTT because I just really expected it to be a single last name, not an entire name. MEL-T- really should have been obvious, but it just wasn't.

Not because it offends me in anyway at all, but I was sort of surprised to see WHITETRASH make it into a NYT puzzle. This is not to try and point at any one person who has commented about this showing up, just merely that I was surprised. Maybe the puzzles are very, very slowly becoming more liberal?

Only other misstep was at HIMOM, and in general that whole SE corner. The cross of SMOKE/FIRE wasn't apparent to me, and had I not gotten OMANI I probably wouldn't have finished there.

Overall fun and challenging. I'm glad I was able to finish it (with a 6 hour break between my two attempts).

quilter1 6:17 PM  

@andrea firebird michaels, still here and thanks, that's a great suggestion. I believe I could put that together and then use it as one of my presentation handouts. I have until Jan 29, so lots of time.

Congratulations to Sue M. on getting puzzles published. Cheers!

What is going on? My captcha is lithe.

Anonymous 6:37 PM  

wasn't it BOAT FIRE ????

Alex DiFabio 6:47 PM  

Got the theme before 'whitetrash' and had 'brush' in there for tooooo long (brushfire)

Anonymous 8:22 PM  

A witty and clever constructor once wrote about puzzles: For me, since theme is everything, I'd do a whole puzzle on Hillbillies if there were nine theme answers in a 15 x 15 grid!

John the Troll....

mac 8:23 PM  

What a fabulous puzzle! Loved every part of it. Of course I wanted red wine from Chile, but the bass was not a problem. Olaf/v was a leave-open, had drafts before drama for a bit, but everything worked out easily.

I was wondering about the Sierras issue, we discussed it some time ago. Bawd sounded very Dickensian to me, but no problem there.

Mel Ott? I had Melot-, and figured it was some Italian or Spanish name.... The our good friend showed up!

Anonymous 8:25 PM  

John, I'm confused. Who are you trying to annoy?

Anonymous 8:40 PM  

With Kendall as far as being surprised at the inclusion of WHITETRASH in the NYT's puzzle even though I have no personal problem with it.

Methinks Will Shortz is indeed getting more liberal in his middle age--and like it.

That said, there is definitely a double standard here amongst honky/haole slurs vs other races. Rex has yipped on several occasions when a very mild black or Asian stereotype has been invoked yet had nary a word to say today about WHITETRASH.

I think it's called white guilt.

Rex Parker 8:43 PM  

Whites have never been the victims of systematic racial oppression in this country. Ever. So, yeah, assailing whitey just doesn't land for me. It's silly to think spic and nigger are somehow equivalent to white trash or ANY other so-called slur against whites. Guilt has nothing to do with it.

Anonymous 9:21 PM  

Rex’s comment reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite Clint Eastwood movies - Dirty Harry (1971):

Gonzales (picked to replace Dirty Harry’s dead partner): There is one question, Inspector Callahan: Why do they call you "Dirty Harry"?

De Georgio: Ah that's one thing about our Harry, doesn't play any favorites! Harry hates everybody: Limeys, Micks, Hebes, Fat Dagos, Niggers, Honkies, Chinks, you name it.

Gonzales: How does he feel about Mexicans?

De Georgio: Ask him.

Harry Callahan: Especially Spics.

Rex, I don’t think we are (at least I’m not) talking about systematic racial discrimination. It’s more about common decency.

Dirty John….

Anonymous 9:37 PM  

Here, here. The whole point is that... "white trash" doesn't belong in the NYT.

- W.T.M.D. from Northeast Ohio

Noam D. Elkies 10:09 PM  

Impressive puzzle, even if one must stretch a bit to get six 58D:SMOKE/71A:FIRE pairs. Not sure how easy it was because I solved it in bits and pieces in an airport. Turns out I had one mistake, BOOBS for 32D:BOMBS (figured OCI was some company I didn't recognize).

Drafts? Feh. It clearly wasn't beer. So I put in FLOURS. Not. Nor GRAINS, which made less sense but fits ?RA??S. Eventually figured out what kind of Miller we were dealing with.

All this back-and-forth re 34D:WHITE_TRASH, and nothing about this use of "Madam" in the clue for 32A:BAWD, or indeed the word itself? The related "bawdy" is one thing, but I'd have though "bawd" itself would be beyond the pale. Wrong again, though: it's appeared nine times, usually clued "Madam" but also "House keeper?" (E.C.Gorski '02) and "Shady lady" and "Floozy" (both Christopher Page, '97 and '94). Even PIMP has been seen once, on a Sunday 1D at that (E.C.Gorski again, 2000).

Since nobody else here is channeling the other Will S.:

Romeo & Juliet IV 1:

NURSE: if you be he, sir, I desire some confidence
with you.

She will indite him to some supper.

A bawd, a bawd, a bawd! so ho!

[NB not the modern slang usage of "ho"...]

Measure for Measure II 1:

Come you hither to me, Master tapster. What's your name, Master tapster?

POMPEY Pompey.

ESCALUS What else?

POMPEY Bum, sir.

ESCALUS. Troth, and your bum is the greatest thing about you;
so that in the beastliest sense you are Pompey the
Great. Pompey, you are partly a bawd, Pompey,
howsoever you colour it in being a tapster, are you
not? [...]

NDE P.S. One of these days I want to hear somebody at the Symphony call out "play Firebird!" :-)

Rex Parker 10:49 PM  

3 comment limit.

fergus 11:08 PM  

I've kind of given up on evangelizing the Puzzle to anyone, but this one could revive the practice.

Unknown 11:41 PM  

I live way out in Spokane, WA and always turn to Rex when I give up on the puzzle. I also love everyone's comments. My problem is that our local paper publishes the NYT puzzle a month behind (!!) (I suppose it's cheaper for them), so I'm forced to look at the archives for my answers. Sadly, I don't leave my own comments, since who's gonna read comments relating to a puzzle from last month?

Anonymous 3:14 AM  

I checked out USC's contribution to Fleetwood Mac's TUSK, a blast from the past, while I was finishing this one. NASDAQ: inspired!!!

Anonymous 5:36 AM  

Crossing Freebird and White Trash: inspired! Heck, the whole puzzle was inspired. Just awesome. (And for the record, while I am probably about as far from a hillbilly as it is possible to be as a Bostonian-Angeleno mix, I loved Freebird in high school, and it still gives me goosebumps when I hear the opening bars).

lodsf 10:49 AM  

Just a note to say love the blog & always learn from it. Did see your 'reminder' a few days (+ 5 weeks ago) and will re-visit Pay Pal.
Sometimes wish that on blogs, like Facebook, one could 'hide' certain bloggers...with really only one anon/john in mind. Mostly everything/ everyone else is great.
Thanks again for the blog.
Laura O.

Anonymous 1:19 PM  

Am really the only one who, not remember which company Verizon bought, had 'boobs' instead of 'bombs'?

clansman9448 7:59 PM  

Tough one today. I think a combo of the multiple SMOKE/FIRE crosses, the other long compound words & the couple of "split" clues added up to make my life difficult. Actually not complaining, though. Liked the puzzle overall.
I solve all my puzzles on paper. The only one on my computer(offline)is in Hoyle Word Games & I don't like it, so I stick with both the Oregonian's Daily & NYT Syndicated.
I am left-handed & it doesn't seem to be a problem as I am constantly using the pen as a pointer between clue & answer, moving back & forth. Usually do the local in under 10 minutes, but NYT has gone from 10 minutes to over an hour, to Cheat, to Give Up Anyway.
Before anyone even tries to get me involved in the WHITETRASH discussion, please note that my username is clansman9448 with a "c", as in bagpipes & tartan kilts. I am sad to admit, unfortunately, that the "k" spelling came from the same ethnic/historic roots as my own.

clansman9448 8:10 PM  

2 shorts: anonymous @ 1:19pm. Yes I had BOOBS 1st.
re: left handed. I learned early in life to tilt my paper to the opposite side & use a slight backhand so I'm not hooked over the whole puzzle with my hand. I was lucky in that my education started just after they stopped forcing "us" to write right-handed(think mid 1950's).

Randy Chong 8:46 PM  

Last Anonymous -- see Noam, just seven comments above yours.

Randy Chong 8:50 PM  

@clansman I solve the Oregonian daily and NYT syndicated too! I live in Portland. The only thing that irks me is that occasionally they print the NYT in the middle of the page, instead of a corner! I don't care which corner, but it must be in a corner! I called once and for 6 months (I counted) they always got it right.

Anonymous 1:30 AM  

@Jay- I'm a fellow Spokanite here also. You're definitely not the only who posts from syndication-land.

Got stuck on "welcome mat" for "screen door". Worked out of it quickly enough and overall really liked the puzzle today.

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