Shop dresser / SUN 12-19-10 / 1914 Edgar Rice Burroughs novel / Superhero played Liam Neeson 1990 film / Clone optical medium's contents

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Constructor: Kevin G. Der

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE (125A: Event on Dec. 21, 2010, viewable in North and South America, depicted visually in this puzzle) — mostly a rebus a puzzle, with the MOON going BRIGHT, DIM, DARK (rebus squares in upper left of grid) until it's directly aligned with the EARTH (rebus square) and SUN (rebus square), then goes DARK, DIM, BRIGHT again (rebus squares in upper right of grid). In a TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE, the SUN is CASTING / A SHADOW on the MOON (137A: With 146-Across, what the center of this puzzle is doing during a 125-Across). Oh, and apparently at its climax, the MOON will TURN RED (35A: What the focus of a 125-Across will do at its climax) during a TOTAL ECLIPSE.

Word of the Day: AMNION (96D: Protective membrane) —

n., pl., -ni·ons, or -ni·a (-nē-ə).
A thin, tough, membranous sac that encloses the embryo or fetus of a mammal, bird, or reptile. It is filled with a serous fluid in which the embryo is suspended. (wikipedia)
• • •

An incredible architectural achievement (on an oversized 23x23 grid) that I didn't enjoy much at all. Did not understand (and still mostly don't) the BRIGHT, DIM, DARK squares, and that BRIGHT square in the west was a total bear. I mean, that section was bleeping hard. Had IN UTERO and ERST and that's it. If I'd gotten the BRIGHT on the other side first, things would've been so much easier (I mean, Madeleine AlBRIGHT—easy!). But back to BRIGHT DIM DARK. Why does the MOON go DARK before the alignment with SUN and EARTH, and *then* TURN RED!? Oh, here's an explanation:
The Moon does not completely disappear as it passes through the umbra because of the refraction of sunlight by the Earth’s atmosphere into the shadow cone; if the Earth had no atmosphere, the Moon would be completely dark during an eclipse. The red coloring arises because sunlight reaching the Moon must pass through a long and dense layer of the Earth’s atmosphere, where it is scattered. Shorter wavelengths are more likely to be scattered by the air molecules and the small particles, and so by the time the light has passed through the atmosphere, the longer wavelengths dominate. This resulting light we perceive as red. (wikipedia)
But does the MOON ever get wholly DARK, then? Confusing. The whole concept felt forced in terms of its physical execution in grid-space. I mean, there are some inspired (if brutal) answers in this puzzle because of all the theme mumbo jumbo. CD IMAGE, ouch! Criminy (47A: Clone of an optical medium's contents). And what the hell (I thought) is the center square in AT THE — SCORE. "At the [blank] Score," what kind of a title is that? (SCORE is not a self-standing word at all—answer is "AT THE EARTH'S CORE"). RARE EARTH is not a term I've ever heard except as a band name (59D: Terbium or thulium). I thought turbium and thulium were RARE metals? RARE elements? Pfft. I finished with a wrong letter: AMNEON / TE AMO instead of AMNION / TI AMO (119A: Italian lover's coo). This error is ironic for reasons I'll tell you about in a few days.

BRIGHT spots: MAHARANI (120A: Indian royal) over XRAY SPEX (124A: Novelty glasses), PEA BRAINS (57A: Dummies), and the clue on LITERATI (116A: Book set?). Lowlights: ENARM (64D: Prepare to fight), OLOGY (86D: Science), TEEMER (98D: One that overflows), INBUILT (150A: There from the start), and the clue on MXLV (120D: The year 1045). Also the partial A MERE, ugh (89A: "Honor is ___ scutcheon": Shak.). Again, that little section in the west, just nasty. Oh, and I almost forgot: ARRANT?!?! I have literally never seen that word before (95D: Out-and-out). Maybe I've *heard* it and thought it was spelled "ERRANT." Yeeeeesh.

Theme answers:
  • BRIGHT IDEA (63D: Promising proposal) / BRIGHTEN (63A: Remove drapes from, as a room) -- ALBRIGHT (69A: First female U.S. secretary of state) / BRIGHT SIDE ) (71D: Optimist's focus)
  • ON A DIME (40A: One way to stop) / DIMAG (41D: Yankee great Joe, colloquially) -- CD IMAGE / DIMLY (48D: How things may be lit or remembered)
  • AFTER DARK (29A: At night) / DARKMAN (30D: Superhero played by Liam Neeson in a 1990 film) -- DARK HORSE (32A: Long-shot candidate) / DARK AGE (32D: Era of ignorance)
  • MANY MOONS AGO (26A: A long time past) / MOONING (27D: Youthful prank in a car)
  • GOES UNDER (140A: Folds) / SUN-UP (143D: Dawn)
Studied Chaucer forEver and never once did I hear "HEROIC couplet" used in relation to his work (16D: Kind of couplet for Chaucer). That is a term I associate with much later poets (18c) who wrote in a much more regular meter. Chaucer's lines in "Canterbury Tales" are, generally, rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter, and that, apparently, is good enough for him to get credited all over the place with writing in HEROIC couplets, but this seems imprecise. "HEROIC" just doesn't fit for "CT." Except maybe "The Knight's Tale." Here's the definition of "HEROIC couplet" from "Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms":

Named from its use by Dryden and others in the heroic drama of the late 17th century, the heroic couplet had been established much earlier by Chaucer as a major English verse‐form for narrative and other kinds of non‐dramatic poetry; it dominated English poetry of the 18th century, notably in the closed couplets of Pope, before declining in importance in the early 19th century.

This makes sense—invented in the English Augustan Age and then grafted back onto Chaucer. Dryden was, after all, one of Chaucer's most important translators. It's the "for Chaucer" part of the clue that bugs me. "HEROIC couplet" was not a term "for Chaucer." It didn't exist in the 14th century.

  • 11A: Shop dresser (ADZE) — so "dressing" is some kind of woodworking term? This clue was hard.
  • 23A: Rama's kingdom (SIAM) — King Mongkut of "The King and I"? — Rama IV? Confusing.
  • 38A: Glossy black bird (DAW) — crossword instinct: this was my first guess. Also had good luck recalling another crossword regular, SATO (51D: 1974 Japanese Nobelist).
  • 103A: Loser to McKinley (BRYAN) — trouble, as this went through the mysterious ARRANT...
  • 151A: It marks the target on a curling rink (TEE LINE) — target is shaped like bullseye, isn't it? Not a line ... this is some technical thing I clearly don't understand.
  • 18D: Paper for which Murray Kempton and Jim Dwyer won Pulitzers (NEWSDAY) — who?
  • 101D: Jordan's Queen ___ International Airport (ALIA) — ugh. yuck. How was this not NOOR?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


retired_chemist 12:20 AM  

The rare earth elements are actually not very rare. They have a number of uses, the most familiar being as phosphors in the CRT of (now old) TVs. Some, particularly gadolinium, are used in contrast agents to enhance mri scans.

I blew it in the south - on a coin flip, put TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE, intending to check the crosses to decide if it was SOLAR or LUNAR, then forgot to check. So TE AMO and whatever garbage I had instead of AMNION were all wrong. Bah.

But the puzzle was brilliant. Vibrant fill, solid cluing. Bravo.

Hal Tepfer 12:22 AM  

Liked this one. Liked the non-consistency of the rebus clues, and I think the solution *looks* elegant. By the way, I think that the "...curling rink" answer is "Tee Line" (not toe).

Anonymous 12:37 AM  

Took me forever to get the bottom middle "sun". Very fun puzzle but took me 2+hours.

Noam D. Elkies 12:40 AM  

Does the cryptic note about the 96D:AMNION crossing mean that congratulations are due? (I guessed correctly to change the standard "te amo" to 119A:TI_AMO after remembering "amniocentesis".)

Yes, the moon gets increasingly dim just before going all red. The refracted red lighting is much dimmer than direct sunlight; the shadowed portion of the lunar disc has that red color throughout the process, but we hardly notice it as long as there's a sliver of moon in the canonical silver color.

This effect used to be well known when people thought eclipses and the like were divine omens. The apocalyptic acrostic poem Apparebit Repentina Dies that I quoted last month for "clangor tubæ" also includes the (unheroic) couplet

Erubescet orbis lunæ, sol et obscurabitur,
stellae cadent pallescentes, mundi tremet ambitus.

[the orb of the Moon will 35A:TURN_RED, and the Sun will be obscured;
the stars, dimming, will fall, and the world's course will tremble.]

NB What makes the first line apocalyptic is not the lunar eclipse but a simultaneous solar and lunar eclipse, which as you can see on the grid cannot happen by natural means.

Ah yes, the grid: I did enjoy the puzzle — which does have its rough moments, though the west region didn't strike me as particularly ornery (certainly not compared with the Fri/Sat level clues for 101D:ALIA and 11:ADZE/23A:SIAM) — but I wonder why it had to be oversized; there are only 9 rebus squares, and while there are some nice stacks and long theme answers I'd have expected that a normal 21x21 size would suffice.

120D:MXLV is unfortunate but at least the clue states the actual number so the entry is a gimme — and with an X and a V at that. "95D:ARRANT nonsense" is a familiar phrase; gives a different example, from Shakespeare ("we are arrant knaves, all; believe none of us"), and reports that indeed it originated as an alteration of "errant". I can give no excuses for 86D:OLOGY as clued (should just be clued as a suffix), 98D:TEEMER, and 89A:A_MERE, except that it's the price we have to pay for the theme to work.


The Bard 12:49 AM  

Hamlet > Act III, scene I

HAMLET: You should not have believed me; for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it: I loved you not.

OPHELIA: I was the more deceived.

HAMLET: Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a
breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest;
but yet I could accuse me of such things that it
were better my mother had not borne me: I am very
proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at
my beck than I have thoughts to put them in,
imagination to give them shape, or time to act them
in. What should such fellows as I do crawling
between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves,
all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery.
Where's your father?

OPHELIA: At home, my lord.

HAMLET: Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool no where but in's own house. Farewell.

OPHELIA: O, help him, you sweet heavens!

HAMLET: If thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague for
thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as
snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a
go: farewell. Or, if thou wilt needs
marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well enough
what monsters you make of them. To a nunnery, go,
and quickly too. Farewell.

OPHELIA: O heavenly powers, restore him!

HAMLET: I have heard of your paintings too, well enough;
God has given you one face, and you make yourselves
another: you jig, you amble, and you lisp, and
nick-name God's creatures, and make your wantonness
your ignorance. Go to, I'll no more on't; it hath
made me mad. I say, we will have no more marriages:
those that are married already, all but one, shall
live; the rest shall keep as they are. To a
nunnery, go.


King Henry IV, part I > Act V, scene I

FALSTAFF: 'Tis not due yet; I would be loath to pay him before his day. What need I be so forward with him that calls not on me? Well, 'tis no matter; honour pricks
me on. Yea, but how if honour prick me off when I come on? how then? Can honour set to a leg? no: or an arm? no: or take away the grief of a wound? no.
Honour hath no skill in surgery, then? no. What is
honour? a word. What is in that word honour? what
is that honour? air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it?
he that died o' Wednesday. Doth he feel it? no.
Doth he hear it? no. 'Tis insensible, then. Yea,
to the dead. But will it not live with the living?
no. Why? detraction will not suffer it. Therefore
I'll none of it. Honour is a mere scutcheon: and so
ends my catechism.


davko 2:05 AM  

A moderately challenging but altogether trouble-free exercise, once I figured out what was going on. I liked the novelty of watching the pattern of rebus square actually position themselves into something meaningful and representative of the theme.

If there was a flaw for me, it was the inconsistent use of the words formed in the rebus squares as the words themselves or as letter sequences. MOON crossed with MOONING was clever, but SUNUP with GOESUNDER? Pure expediency. Had the latter contained the word SUN, it would not only have been more satisfying, but true to the use of its symbol.

@retired_chemist: Is referring to terbium or thulium as just "rare earth" acceptable (the implication of 59D), or does proper vernacular demand the full designation "rare earth metal" or "rare earth element"?

7thecow 3:27 AM  

I'm with Rex on this one. Impressive , but not that enjoyable. Had the SON/TOELINE cross also, plus SCENE/WEIKIKI. Wasn't real sure about the beach and didn't have a clue about the long solo. OLOGY came easy but with a grimace. Got all the rebus parts but didn't get the "picture" until I came here. Rex, how do you do those graphics? Do you have an advanced version of ACROSS HEAVY?

jae 3:49 AM  

Yes, impressive and, as Rex pointed out, a bit flawed. I made the same error as Rex with TE AMO (which blew another error free streak), but I liked the challenge.

@anon12:37 It also took me a while to get the SUN at 140a.

Only real misstep was APU for MOE. I know he sells Duff at the Quickie Mart.

Anonymous 6:10 AM  

I didn't get back here last night to say thanks for clearing up HTG - Had To Google. I appreciate it.

Anonymous 8:05 AM  

Regular readers know rare earths have been a big part of the news reported in the NYTimes, particularly the problem with China holding so much of the earth's supply.


retired_chemist 8:08 AM  

@ davko -

Fine either way. "Earth" in this sense historically referred to the oxide. The oxides melt at such high temperature that they remain solids (“earths”) in fires. (wikipedia) The nomenclature is a bit sloppy, but since the meaning is always clear in context we chemists seem not to confuse ourselves in this case.

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

Flew through this. Easy. LOved it.

CFXK 9:14 AM  

"Dark" is not an absolute term; neither is "bright." Both are relative terms: the former being the relative absence of visible light while the latter being the relative presence of visible light. Brightness and darkness are defined in terms of one another. The puzzle is, then, consistent: relative brightness and darkness in opposition to one another on a continuum with "dimness" as the midpoint. Perfect, actually.
As there is no "total darkness" during an eclipse, neither is there "total brightness." If there were total brightness, I'd fear a plunge into total darkness (i.e., we'd all go blind).

joho 9:30 AM  

Kudos to Kevin!

I don't feel so bad with my one error, TeAMO, as I join others. AMNION/ AMNEON are both Greek to me.

I enjoyed this.

ArtLvr 9:32 AM  

@ The Bard -- more to mention: Shakespeare used ARRANT for out-and-out: arrant knave, arrant fool...

Thank heavens (pun) I'd seen the upcoming LUNAR ECLIPSE described a few days ago! I think it starts just after 2 a.m. eastern time on Dec. 21st?

Brilliant puzzle, but it helped to know where it was headed... Even so, I had trouble at 150A because I wanted innate or inborn for INBUILT.


Just another Joe 9:32 AM  

I turn red after climax also.

mmorgan 9:33 AM  

Very enjoyable and highly absorbing puzzle, but also sloggy and with some bumps.

First had DDS (dentist) for 44A: Driller (SGT), thought Jordan's queen was NOOR (long story there), and I had MAHARAja for a bit. But what really held me up was having SUNNY for BRIGHT (63D and 71D -- Sunny IDEA and Sunny SIDE were okay, but the Acrosses just wouldn't work till I BRIGHTened up).

Finished with one error -- sEA for MEA at 78A (guessed because I didn't know BIO_E, but mea culpa, should have known that).

Now I'm excited about seeing the eclipse!

mmorgan 9:37 AM  

Oh, and Sweeney Todd calls Pirelli's elixir "nothing but an arrant fraud, concocted from piss and ink."

The Dane 10:08 AM  

HAMLET: Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a
breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest;
but yet I could accuse me of such things that it
were better my mother had not borne me: I am very
proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at
my beck than I have thoughts to put them in,
imagination to give them shape, or time to act them
in. What should such fellows as I do crawling
between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves,
all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery.
Where's your father?

Smitty 10:17 AM  

I enjoyed this departure from the usual more-is-not-better-Sunday.
First I looked for a shape - (volcano?) then I looked for a Dec 21 event - (Winter Solstice?). THen I got the Dim, Dark and Bright, etc.
The Sun and MOon came way after I though we were done with gimmicks.
Discovering the Earth in the middle was over the top.

I don't understand why an ADZE is a shop dressing either.

Anonymous 10:27 AM  

No offense, Rex, but you're too damn critical about these puzzles. It seems like 90% of what you write is pointing out "flaws" with the clues or construction. Lighten up.

Anonymous 10:35 AM  

One can "dress" wood--that is,smoothe it, shape it or "finish" it. To do that you use a tool called an adze.

7thecow 10:40 AM  

An adze is used in a wood shop to dress a big beam, give it a smooth clean surface. There was a fellow in Eugene years ago who handcrafted beams for open beam houses. He was so good with his adze that customers would ask him to leave some axe marks so that the beams wouldn't look like they had just come out of a mill, and they could brag about their handcrafted house.
I still have my father's adze from his time in the Brooklyn shipyards in the early 1940s.

DB Geezer 10:53 AM  

Chemical familiarity set this up for me. RARE EARTH was one of my initial fills, so the theme was apparent early.

Noam D. Elkies 10:59 AM  

Forgot to mention: Rex, are you sure you've never heard of 59D:RARE_[EARTH]? This once-obscure detour in the periodic table has been in the news recently because China, the world's largest exporter of most of these metals, has been using its near-monopoly to try to score various political and economic points.


Anonymous 11:02 AM  

I get that an adze is a dresser, but why a "shop" dresser? Maybe it's a Boston thing, like "You're lookin' wicked shop today."

Anonymous 11:08 AM  

@Anon 11:02 It's used in a wood shop.

Anonymous 11:10 AM  

I thought it was clever and fun. I'm so happy to get a Sunday puzzle done!

dogbreath 11:18 AM  

Very cool and challenging puzzle. Got the theme answers way before some of the nastier fill. Kudos to Mr. Der for a fine effort--and shame on Rex for not knowing about rare earths when they've been all over the news--or at least the NY Times--the past six months.

China's current virtual monopoly of the same is a very serious issue given how many essential products--see cars, many electronics, etc.--use rare earths. There are plans pending (given federal funding and permits) to resurrect a couple old abandoned rare earth mines here in the US, but I'm reading this is a long slow process that won't see results for at least five years.

Pegasus 11:31 AM  

The mixed rebuses, architecture (as Rex pointed out), and the difficult but essentially fair clues created a masterpiece. I've been doing NYT puzzles for over 50 years, and I've never seen one quite like this. Bravo, Kevin and Will.

Anonymous 11:52 AM  

Clever puzzle. Second time since Thanksgiving for A Sunday Christmas Tree symmetry. Must be that time of the year. December 21 will also be the shortest day of the year with the least amount of sunshine in the northern hemisphere. Coupled with the lunar eclipse, so SAD?

Captcha: fox is in

Mel Ott 12:02 PM  

Very impressive construction. A bit of a slog, but generally interesting throughout.

Hand up for AMNEO/TE AMO.

Don't 75A & 111A violate an unwritten rule/convention by having a first name in the clue and a surname in the answer? Shouldn't they be clued Bouvier's #2 and #1?

glimmerglass 12:38 PM  

Clever puzzle, and very hard for me, too (2+ hours). Gotr the brights, dims, and darks, and the earth. But moon and sun took me forEVER. The deep south center and near-north center help me up.

Murray Kempton 12:44 PM  

"A critic is someone who enters the battlefield after the war is over and shoots the wounded."

So, what does that make a Crossword Critic?

Anonymous 12:57 PM  

i enjoyed this unusual puzzle altho it ruined my string of finishes as i was dim about dim. got the others correctly. even amnio. awaiting good news from you, rex.

Rex Parker 1:00 PM  

Holy smoke, let me kill the speculation now: my comment re: TIAMO / AMNIO has nothing to do with an expected child (...that I know of!)


Anonymous 1:01 PM  

I'm thinking I really liked this puzzle alot, but I'm also thinking that somehwere amongst this group of Nate-pickers someone, at least one person, will say something like: "Is a rebus a rebus or what? I mean, how is one supposed to know it's dim in one square and bright in another?" Well, maybe Rex came close, but not really...

Canis is my captcha.

nanpilla 1:03 PM  

Hand up for TE AMO here too, altho the AMNIO should have fixed that, if I had bothered to check my crosses.

Difficult, but satisfying puzzle. This would look cool enlarged with various little orbs in the boxes.

Let's all hope for clear skies!

Thanks, Kevin!

Anonymous 1:05 PM  

GSAC? This is beyond obscure. Could find no reference on Google to any such E.U. group. WTF?

mmorgan 1:05 PM  

@nanpilla: for "enlarged with various little orbs in the boxes" just go to Wordplay! It's WAY cool.

Rex Parker 1:06 PM  

At anon 1:05, if GSAC were in the grid, you would have a point.

Geometricus 1:07 PM  

Loved this puzzle, even though it took me over an hour. I was also lucky to have read an article about the eclipse yesterday. I started to make plans to wake the kids to see the moon "turn to blood" at about 2:30am CST but then I checked the weather: it will snow from noon on Monday right up through the (outdoor) Vikings game here in Mpls. But they could be wrong. I'm hoping we might get lucky and have it clear just in time to see the eclipse.

archaeoprof 1:19 PM  

Challenging, for sure, but consistently clever and interesting.

Knew ALIA because I've flown in and out of that airport several times.

I bet @Foodie knew ALIA too. :)

SethG 1:27 PM  

I don't care about astronomy, didn't know about the impending eclipse, and the grid certainly contains lots of yuck, but I enjoyed this anyway.

Really hard for a Sunday, and no section came together easily. Lots of the difficulty came from things I've never heard of, but I was able to piece it all together anyway.

Mostly, I think I just love Der cluing.

Stan 2:08 PM  

We learned something (the red-shift effect) as well as having great fun throughout. Loved all the surprises as the theme was revealed.

My wife solves online and did not get Mr. HP at the end. Has she made an error somewhere or is this an effect of all the rebuses?

Congrats, Kevin!

Kudos also to the United States Senate, for once.

nanpilla 2:14 PM  

@mmorgan : Thanks! That is just what I had in mind - imagine that!

miriam b 2:14 PM  

Newsday = major Lon Guyland & NYC daily newspaper, which BTW I do not read.

Unknown 2:30 PM  

I have heard 'dress' used in this sense in boating and climbing, too: you 'dress' a knot after constructing it--clean it up by untwisting any misplaced strands so that it is neat and symmetrical. Helps you see it's been properly tied before you fling yourself off a cliff/into a rapid. Still, I had no clue (so to speak) what an adze was. Sounds like some kind of African antelope.

Anonymous 2:31 PM  

Enjoyable puzzle! I love the combination of visual and rebus. My only grumble (even with all the hard stuff) is "Bart Simpsom's Grandmother". Really.

I liked the rare earth clue a lot. Got most of the rebus answers easily enough, but sun gave me trouble.

Buzzkill Aldrin 2:47 PM  

I made a C in a class called "Astronomy in Science Fiction" as an undergrad and as a result of that hate space. I didn't do much better in my world geography class, so the earth is on my shit list, too.

syndy 2:48 PM  

Went looking for the sun after i found the earth but the dims came hard!!some answer that after I get em I still did't get'em=Teemer?jetway? scena? but a rara opus for Mr Der

retired_chemist 2:59 PM  

@ Anon 1:05 - check Rex's grid - G-SIX.

Anonymous 3:00 PM  

This was the greatest puzzle of the year. Ah, but the snarks at out today. Dunno if I come here for the snarky comments or the honest puzzle critiques, but here is a list of my favorites today: mmorgan, Buzzkill Aldrin and Rex @1:06.

Just Another Joe also turns red after a climax. Once turned white - when a period was missed.

mitchs 3:15 PM  

I thought this one of best Sunday's in recent memory. Loved how the theme seemed to reveal itself as an easy DARK rebus. But not so fast, fella. I still don't have what I'd call a firm grasp on the theme. By far the toughest was the mid-south. Was convinced on the GOES: and some kind of SUN for the down, but didn't see it forever.

Was shocked, SHOCKED that Rex included INBUILT in his bright spots. Bad, bad.

Incredible execution of a really great theme. Kudos, Mr. Der!

Rex Parker 3:22 PM  

@mitch, you didn't read closely enough. INBUILT is a "lowlight."

miriam b 3:22 PM  

Draperies on windows can also be "dressed"; i. e., the folds arranged to hand properly.

quilter1 3:35 PM  

Well, I liked it. It was different than the usual Sunday. DNF only because the SCENA/CEY cross defeated me. But still enjoyed. Had NOOR far too long. Knew ADZE-got one in the basement. Think shop class-build that birdhouse.

wringit: laundry ad lib

edmcan 3:55 PM  

What Rex said. A real slog for me.

william e emba 4:05 PM  

Well, I guess as a science geek I found this medium, with so many gimmes. I mean, I'm looking forward to this eclipse. And the arc BRIGHT-DIM-DARK-()-DARK-DIM-BRIGHT made perfect sense, and the obvious symmetry helped me finish the top much quicker than otherwise. I was stuck for a bit filling in the ()--I was afraid there would be something incompetent like "black", but they got it right.

A good thing I do not know Italian, so I went with TI AMO without the slightest pause. I had GSAC for awhile, decided it must be GSIX, but did not like that--I thought that included non-European countries--but after finishing, learned there's a G6 Europe and a G-6 world that became G-7.

For Pardner I read too fast and rushed to fill in COW(orker) and stopped when I realized that wouldn't fit, and waited for the rebus. Duh. Then I noticed I was looking at the ancient USENET cow-orker joke, and very soon the correct "cow"POKE popped into mind.

I totally lucked out on the first and sixth letters of ARIGATO.

For a four-letter bygone European capital, I actually wanted Bonn. Not until I had the entire answer from the crosses did I realize I'd been fooled by Crossword Trick #1. I stared at SEN for "Clinton or Obama" forever before I realized I'd been fooled by Crossword Trick #2.

I second Rex's complaint about HEROIC couplets in Chaucer.

mitchs 4:05 PM  

@Rex: my bad. Faith restored.

Anonymous 4:15 PM  

I assumed Rex's TE AMO comment had to do with a different kind of offspring and we'd be seeing another Rex puzzle in the Times where TE AMO was either a clue or, more likely, an answer. I hope so. Rex's first puzzle was by far my favorite of the year.

chefwen 4:24 PM  

Total Slog-o-thon for me also. Took me way too long, had to finally put it down last night and finally finished it this morning when the SUN appeared at SUN UP and GOES UNDER came into view. Was happy to finish this puppy.

Rex Parker 4:39 PM  

@Anon 4:15, also wrong. And so that I don't have to keep coming on here, a. stop speculating, and b. all future speculation is wrong.


JaxInL.A. 5:06 PM  

No one else had bEefSTEW for pot au feu? @chefwen? @chefbea? I thought this was something specific, though I suppose the "e.g." should have clued me in. 

I suffered in that section and ultimately had to seek help. Even then DNF because of XRAYSPEc rather than the required SPEX, and MAHARANa instead of MAHARANI. The EU has a GSIX? Still the program says I have incorrect cells but I can't find them for the life of me. I will have to wait for the puzzle to unlock to find my (no doubt silly) mistake(s).  

I LOVED the top part of this puzzle, and figured out the various rebuses (rebi?) with delight.  The SW and SE edges, though, turned into a real slog for me as noted above.  I admire a great deal of the construction and the tough cluing.  But I think we all like best the puzzles that have just the right amount of challenge and success for each of us.  By that measure, I have enormous respect for this one but ended without joy. Sigh. Back to Monday so I can feel smart, like it said in that charming poem from a few months ago that I cannot find.

Still, hoping for Clear Skies on Tuesday night! Thanks, Mr. Der.      

Bonnie Buratti and Kai Lam 5:19 PM  


The crossword is actually a diagram of a total lunar eclipse, with the moon, Earth, and sun in line, as occurs during that event. The "dim" parts are the penumbra (partial shadow),the "dark" is the umbra (totality), and the bright parts are not in eclipse. One of the best NYT crosswords ever, IMHO.

Love your blog.

Bonnie Buratti, NASA/JPL astronomer and avid NYT crosssword fan and follower of Rex Parker.

mitchs 5:29 PM  

@Bonnie and Kai, thanks! I think I finally get it.

Anonymous 5:32 PM  

Rex 4:39 - More accurate (and maybe less snarky) if you had said a. Stop speculating and b. if you speculate, re-eread a.

Stew Leonard

PS. Anyone who hasn't should go to Wordplay to a. see the great rebus illustration and b. wish a 100th happy birthday to Will Shortz' mother.

Rex Parker 5:37 PM  

@"Stew"—there was no snark in my comment, but your version is certainly more elegant.

If only Wordplay commenters sent traffic *my* way... :) I love you guys! If you were here, I'd give you one of the ginger/date sandwich cookies I just made. Well, I'd give the first nine of you a cookie (what kind of recipe makes only nine cookies!?)


chefwen 6:25 PM  

@JaxInL.A. - I did have beefSTEW in first when my husband (a.k.a. Mr. Sports) came up with Roberto ALOMAR at 109A, he also came up with LASAGNES, so he was a total assist with that messy little area I had going on. I also finished incorrectly with XRAYSPEc.
Oh well!

TimJim 6:34 PM  

Liked this one a lot. Inbuilt the only downer. An all-day affair (ok, I watched some football in between).

Tycho Brahe 6:45 PM  

Total lunar eclipses during winter in the northern hemisphere are fairly common, NASA says. However, a lunar eclipse falling precisely on the date of the solstice is quite rare.

Geoff Chester of the U.S. Naval Observatory inspected a list of eclipses going back 2000 years for NASA.

"Since Year 1, I can only find one previous instance of an eclipse matching the same calendar date as the solstice, and that is 1638 DEC 21," Chester said, according to NASA. "Fortunately we won't have to wait 372 years for the next one ... that will be on 2094 DEC 21."

fergus 7:06 PM  

What a fine, lazy puzzle day. Good labor over the Saturday and made a right mess of today's. The messiest rebus puzzle I can recall. Even with my fine ballpoint I couldn't fit six letters into a square, which somehow diminished my esteem for this puzzle despite recognizing the elegance of the craft involved.

So many possibilities arose before coming up with the prosaic LOGIC for the Need for KenKen. I was expecting a playful dismissal ... since I can't be bothered with KK or Sudoku.

And now on to Thursday and Friday, yet I just realized that the puzzle is not quite as much fun if it's not done on the proper day, and therefore having the opportunity to commune with all you other puzzling solvers.

mmorgan 7:13 PM  

@rp 5:37 : I love it when Rex is snarky and I hope that neither cookies nor this ridiculous (and blessedly-soon-to-be-over) time of year is not softening him up (the horror...).

@Bonnie and Kai have made the definitive statement on the relevant astronomy, but I am still hanging on patiently waiting for Andrea's judgment!

mmorgan 7:23 PM  

I know I'm way over my quota/limit, but I just wanted to note that my 90-year-old mother had a really hard time with the paper version today. The larger grid made for smaller physical squares, and she (understandably) had trouble putting in multiple letters. So, she told me, she just wrote in smiles! That sort of worked, but I wish I could show her the great graphic version on Wordplay.

CoolPapaD 7:59 PM  

This was hard, brilliant, and more than enough to pull me out of a posting slump. I had to take a crossword hiatus (due to work-related concerns), and this was a welcome return. Amazing work, Kevin! I loved it so much, I guess it's a total eclipse of the heart!

Matthew G. 8:18 PM  

Stunned to come here and see so many thumbs down on this one. I _loved_ this puzzle.

And this may be the most strongly I've ever disagreed with one of Rex's reviews (and I'm not just saying that for Evgeny's benefit). Architecturally, I didn't think it felt forced at all, I loved the way the celestial bodies lined up on the grid, the way the DIM, DARK and BRIGHT spots fell, and the very shape of the grid itself.

And from a clue/answer perspective, it was just as good, for several reasons. In my opinion, if you're going to do a rebus, this is how it should work. My biggest gripe with the Christmas tree rebus a couple Sundays ago (which, in the reverse of today, most people liked and I hated) was that it was mostly the same rebus word repeated over and over. Here, there is brilliant economy of rebus squares, and no rebus word appears more than twice, so that the answers continue to feel very fresh all the way through.

Yes, it was hard. But I found it hard in the really satisfying sense. I think the reason for that is two-fold. First, the theme-related squares were spread out and not all obvious, so that I continued to feel intrigued by each new section of the grid I progressed to. Second, there were almost no boring clues or answers today. Just a couple of stinkers --- one Roman numeral, EWER, and I admit that something more elegant than C(D IM)AGE would have been nice for that theme-related spot. But I was enjoying the rest too much to care.

So, I'm in the minority today. But I thought this was one of the finest puzzles of the year. I sat and marveled happily at the grid when I was done.

Anonymous 8:23 PM  

In Chicago there is a radio station with the initials WLS -- We Love Snarky.

From another Cicago rqadio station - WGN - comes the following:

Adler Planetarium to celebrate lunar eclipse
December 19, 2010 5:23 PM | No Comments
A spectacular show could unveil itself in Midwestern skies early Tuesday for those who wait up long enough.

Or it could snow.

But on the longest night of the year, a full moon will disappear at 1:40 a.m. behind the Earth's shadow. There won't be another total lunar eclipse on the night of the winter solstice for 84 years.

Weather permitting -- and the forecast isn't favorable in the Chicago area, calling for clouds building Monday and snow overnight -- the eclipse will be visible everywhere in the continental United States, and at its darkest, the moon will be halfway up from the horizon in the south-southwest sky.

"This one is weird in terms of its coincidence with the winter solstice," said Larry Ciupik, an astronomer with the Adler Planetarium. "There is no particular significance that it occurs on a winter solstice, it just works out that another total lunar eclipse won't fall on the longest night of the year again until the year 2094."

The planetarium is offering a free Total Lunar Eclipse Party, with opportunities to view the eclipse through telescopes at the lakefront facility, and listen to astronomers talk about how eclipses occur and tell stories of famous eclipses of the past.

A total lunar eclipse "is a slow, sedate, unusual event when the moon enters the Earth's shadow", an hour of perfect alignment when the Earth glides between the sun and the moon, blocking any sunlight from illuminating the moon's surface in the night sky, Ciupik said.

It happens roughly once a year, but each eclipse is visible only in one part of the world. The last time a total lunar eclipse could be seen in the Chicago area was Feb. 20, 2008.

Indeed, there won't be another visible total lunar eclipse in the Chicago region until the night of April 14-15, 2014.

John who notes there is only one letter difference between SNARK and SHARK (i.e.,LAWYER)....

Anonymous 8:36 PM  

Fantastic puzzle -- beautiful construction; loved the eccentric use of rebus squares; some cool cluing; great to seem my friend Jim Dwyer in a clue, which he much deserves; liked the history piece tipping the great Williams Jennings Bryan loss to William McKinley due to one of the most egregious election frauds in US history; XrayspeX was a hoot.

All in all, challenging but interesting -- two thumbs way up.

michael 9:09 PM  

A terrific puzzle, the best Sunday in a long, long time. I knew about the eclipse and am ok with popular science, but can see how this might hard for some. But I was just blown away by all the theme clues and their placement.

Rube 9:15 PM  

A marvelous puzzle. Enjoyed this immensely although it did take too long to complete. Did not check the cross of TIAMO although I know better. Also screwed up GSIX so DNF, but I don't feel too bad.

Also finished the south central last. By that time, knew SUN had to be there, but couldn't place it.

The good news is that the eclipse will be from about 9:45 to 10:50PM in Hawaii... a civilized time. The bad news is that rain is expected, as the forecast says "showers likely". Maybe we'll get lucky, eh @Chefwen.

Van55 11:41 PM  

Even the stupid RRN did not spoil this. I saw Der's name and thought I was in for a dnf, but I conquered this fantastic puzzle in due time. Excellent challenge!

mac 11:54 PM  

Fantastic puzzle with an amazing diagram and plenty of bite! One good Sunday, Kevin!

I skip M-W 1:35 AM  

I missed the same square as @quilter1 namely the C in Cey, Scena neither of which sound at all familiar. Teh clue for 125A gave the puzzle away even though I opted first for solar, but the earth in the center meant it had to be lunar. I thought the basic design was brilliant, even though a few of the clues and answers disappointed. Something must have happened in 1045!
Had no idea why Moe sold Duff's beer, but got on crosses.
@Stan, hope you know this is not what is usually meant by "red shift."
btw, the rare earths Terbium, Erbium and Ytterbium all are named for the Swedish town of Ytterby.

william e emba 1:58 AM  

I was happy to see KenKen (LOGIC) get a nod in the puzzle, although it was pretty lame.

Yttrium is also named after Ytterby. It is chemically similar to the rare earths, and they are always found together in nature, but it is not actually a rare earth.

I skip M-W: you as might as well memorize Ron CEY aka the Penguin. We've had him before, and we'll have him again. Not as puzzleworthy apparently as Ott or Sosa, but he's in the baseball crossword hall of fame for sure.

Regarding small squares: that's what enlargements on photocopy machines are for! I use 129% weekdays (and 155% for the KenKen.) I used to do 110% on Sundays with the old size magazine, but now I don't bother. I might at some point and switch to 8.5x14 paper. (This ease of enlarging issue is part of the reason I gave up the WSJ Friday and Merle Reagle Sunday puzzles.)

Howard B 12:59 PM  

Late to the show here. Despite my struggles with parts of this puzzle, I loved it. Its theme is elegant, tight and as accurately placed as a crossword grid could allow. Extremely clever.
Now part of this is my personal bias towards more science-y themed cluing and answers, as opposed to the much more common literature, art, and humanities-based content. Now that's excellent, but there are just not as many puzzle themes that hit that math/science spot :).

Now I agree there were some very nasty bits in there, and at first the rebus words did not show themselves easily, but once the theme and related long answers were revealed, exposing the remaining rebus squares and the full theme added to the enjoyment.
Fortunately I've herad of rare earth elements, and I had a different approach to the "AT THE EARTH'S CORE" fill which avoided the 'SCORE' problem by sheer luck. That was offset by my confusion with finding GOE(SUN)DER.

Anyway, just saying that on Sunday, this puzzle was worth the effort. Tougher than usual, and not what you want to solve as your first Sunday puzzle, but a worthy entry.

Jim 1:58 PM  

This is going to sound like a really jerky comment, but, well, I am a jerk:

Have we gotten to the point where even regular crossword puzzlers can't be expected to have a modicum of understanding of world news anymore?

People, you're doing a crossword...from a newspaper!! The Times doesn't even yet charge for its online content. There is no excuse. Have a little range, a little cosmopolitanism, a little worldliness.

'Rare Earths' has been ALL over the news the past year.

If for no other reason, it's important to know about rare earths because its near monopolistic access to them is one of the cudgels with which China has conducted its foreign policy; intimidating Japan, the US, South Korea and anyone else who dares to cross it publicly.

I know the web reinforces insularity and provincialism, if that's your inclination. But it's still not a virtue. At least demonstrate a little shame.

I loved the puzzle by the way. A LOT of answers I'd never remember seeing before, despite all the concessions that presumably had to be made in order to construct the grid. Bravo!

Anonymous 2:04 PM  

Minor Issue - Roberto Alomar was in no way a slugger. Despite playing during the most homer-happy era of baseball, he never had more than 24 HR in a season, with only three seasons of over twenty. Slugger is a term used in reference to a specific type of player, rather that a catch-all term for any (non-pitching) baseball player. Due to this, I spent about 10 minutes trying to somehow rebus 'Clemente' into that spot; I still feel that 'Clemente' is the single correct answer to that clue.

Jim 2:58 PM  


I agree. But I was trying to find another neutral noun to replace it and couldn't readily come up with one.

Batsman doesn't really work. Second baseman gives away too much. Maybe you could do baseballer, but that sounds old-timey. I'm wondering if you had an alternative you were thinking of.

Anonymous 3:11 PM  

@anonymous 2:04pm

Roberto Alomar was certainly a slugger when compared to other 2nd basemen. There were several years he was an MVP candidate because he was an both extra-base-hitting machine and a defensive stalwart, sadly right up until my Mets acquired him, when all his skills seemed to diminish at once.


Tetu 3:58 PM  

I thought "slugger" in baseball parlance had to do with the "slugging avereage" as opposed th the "batting average"--in other words how many times did the player hit a ball to the outfield regardless of whether it was an out or a hit. At any rate, I tried to squeeze Clemente in there too! All in all I liked this puzzle because I was so proud of myself for figuring out the theme right off the bat, so to speak....

Rex Parker 4:28 PM  

..aaaaaaand my hat remains uneaten. Going to bake/eat cookies instead.


quilter1 6:14 PM  

Checking to see if new avatar shows up. It is my 7 y/o granddaughter's Christmas present.

Anonymous 7:07 PM  

@ Anon 3:07

I agree, but I wouldn't (and don't think most would) call guys from the same era with similar numbers like Sandberg, Biggio, Whitaker, or Julio Franco sluggers.

@ Jim

Would just calling him a former Blue Jay/Padre/Oriole/Indian work? I think a lot of baseball players from the 80s/90s don't really have super strong association with any one team, and identifying him with a team really wouldn't narrow things down much beyond "baseball player" for the vast majority of puzzlers. If that's no good, would something like "x-time All Star" work?

If he didn't get so spitty, "HOFer" would be fine. But here we are.

Anonymous 7:23 PM  

Tetu, that's not how slugging average is measured...

Anonymous 12:00 AM  

I agree with Rex, despite figuring out the theme early on, I felt a lot of the clues were quite a stretch.

Stephen 1:29 AM  

loved C(DIM)AGE, as much as GOE(SUN)DER. Whatsa diff?
messed up GSIX, GSac; missed ADZE (that clue is in my list of ONERS); never heard of steak DIANE.

Mostly I'm here to swoon about a piece of the construction that no one mentioned... If you draw a cone from the position of the SUN to the edges of the CELESTIAL BODIES, you will notice that BRIGHT is outside the cone, DIM is right on the edge of the cone, and DARK is within the cone. How cool is that???

I don't think I've ever enjoyed a puzzle with a rebus in it as much as I did this one. I got all the rebusses (pl sp?) without any hints for once. Yay!

MrDave 9:09 PM  

Wow, I found a puzzle easy which Rex found challenging. That never happens. I thought the 152A was "wee" something, which gave me "RENT-A-COW" for 128D. Ha!

Anonymous 10:29 PM  


Anonymous 10:35 PM  

Nate, your caps-lock key is stuck.

Paul Abrahams 12:33 AM  

The theme didn't give me much trouble, but Ron Cey did. I had to look that one up. GSIX was clever, but the X in XRAYSPEX was really forced. Are they actually sold under that name and spelling?

Upper left gave me a little trouble. I guessed right, but how is OBS delivery people? I know it refers to obstetricians, but I've never seen that abbreviation. OBGYN, yes.

Anonymous 3:18 PM  

The grouping of countries called G8 includes the USA and Japan. All the others are in Europe: GSIX.

Unknown 12:45 AM  

This was not too difficult for me, except for the middle west section, where I got stuck for a long time. I cottoned on to the theme right away, but I didn't find it that interesting.

Yes, I had BEEF STEW before finally stumbling onto MEAT STEW.

I have to agree with Rex on this one. A good workout, but for some reason I found it a little irritating. Probably just the mood I'm in.

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

To Anon 3:18PM
The clue 108Down refers specificity to E.U Group. That group is "Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain"

The world-wide G8 adds USA, Japan, Canada, Russia but drops Poland and Spain.

WHS syndicated reader from Montreal

b2burns 11:41 PM  

If your objective is to appeal only to elite players, you succeeded. To most of we mortals, however, this puzzle's new concepts are a bust. Let's call you Vice King until you repent and mend your ways!

Anonymous 6:44 PM  

I know it's late: but because of sindication & the holidays ...

I am confused over 122A: deep-dish dish being lasanges. I am used to it being refered to as lasagna, plural being lasagne. The dish being made with lasagna noodles, the dish might be considered lasagne (many noodles). So would many dishes of many noodles be lasagnes? (plural of a plural)

Maybe the author is still checking the postings of his puzzle and give me his insight.

Laura O. 12:59 PM  

Official Scrabble Players Dictionary gives LASAGNA n pl-S for the baked dish and LASAGNE n pl-S as an alternate spelling.

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

This puzzle is terrible. The usage of symbols and whole words inside of a single letter container defeats the purpose of the puzzle itself. It violates a cardinal rule of crossword puzzles. Now any clue has no boundary no limit to what it can be; how stupid.

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP