Spouse in 2009 headlines —THU 1-13-11— 1944 mystery play by Agatha Christie / Pegasus appeared in company's logo / Nickname Schumann's Symphony No. 3

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: NILE and its anagrams — five theme answers end or begin (in alternating fashion) with a word made out of the letters N, I, L, and E

Word of the Day: "OLEO" (30A: Miles Davis jazz number) —

Bags' Groove is a jazz album recorded by Miles Davis in 1954 for Prestige Records. Both takes of the title track come from a session on December 24, 1954 ("Bags" was vibraphonist Milt Jackson's nickname). The rest of the album was recorded earlier in the year, on 29 June. (The other tracks from the December session are found on the album Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants. All of the tracks from the December session are on Disc 3 of the Thelonious Monk Complete Prestige Recordings CD box set.) // The title composition and the three compositions on the album by the young Sonny Rollins all went on to become jazz standards. // The track "Oleo" was the first time that Davis used the Harmon mute on a studio recording. It would become an important part of his trumpet sound for the rest of his career. (wikipedia)

• • •

[It's pledge week here at the Rex Parker site (thru Sat.) —read my pitch for donations in the opening paragraphs of Sunday's write-up, here ... and thanks for your faithful readership (and the many kind messages I've received so far)]

This did not seem like a Thursday puzzle. Yesterday was the rebus, and today, a (relatively) straightforward anagram puzzle. That said, this one was slightly tougher, and I liked it quite a bit more, despite the surprising simplicity of the theme concept. I suspected yet another rebus of some sort with the first theme answer, as the first three words (MURDER ON THE) had me wanting ORIENT EXPRESS on the end—this despite having had to clue NILE very recently, and thus having seen and considered (and ultimately rejected) the Christie book as a possibility. No, wait ... her *book* was "Death on the Nile." This *play* (!?) was based on that book. Hmm. Strange.

Had a biggish hold-up with ELIN NORDEGREN, first because I had EL--NOR and I figured the woman's name would be ELEANOR, and second because I could not remember Anything about her last name except that it was Swedish. Or is it Norwegian? No, I was right the first time. Sweden. Needed almost all the crosses to get NORDEGREN. Only problems in the bottom half were "OLEO" (never seen that clue, that I can recall), and LUNK—a four-letter word that could easily have been DOLT or DODO (31D: Blockhead). I didn't know TWO IRONS hit "long shots." Do irons hit longer shots than woods? Use of "long" here seems really loose. More partials and short gunk than I'm used to seeing from Gorski, but enough lively stuff to be well worth the effort (especially like TAX LIEN, FREE REIN, and, oddly, RHENISH27A: Nickname of Schumann's Symphony #3). First answer, aptly, was GIMME (1D: "I want it, and I want it now!").

Theme answers:
  • 17A: 1944 mystery play by Agatha Christie ("MURDER ON THE NILE")
  • 21A: Spouse in 2009 headlines (ELIN NORDEGREN)
  • 37A: Something that may be on a house (TAX LIEN)
  • 50A: Who said "I put up my thumb and it blotted out the planet Earth" (NEIL ARMSTRONG) —I was expecting some comic book mad scientist...
  • 57A: Takes things a bit too far (GOES OVER THE LINE)
  • 20A: Fashion designer Tahari (ELIE) — your Wiesel alternative
  • 3D: 1938 Physics Nobelist (FERMI) — helped me change ELEANOR to ELIN NOR-
  • 25D: Weeper of Thebes (NIOBE) — a handy classical lady to know: 60% vowels, unusual "B" placement.
  • 59D: Bygone Spanish queen (ENA) — I know of her existence *only* because of crosswords. She has the same name as Bambi's aunt ... which I also know *only* because of crosswords.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


r.alphbunker 12:10 AM  

I think the theme was ELIN and her anagrams. I recall that EG mentioned Elin in her blog.

An easy puzzle.

Wade 12:13 AM  

I've always mis-heard her name as Erin Mondegreen.

Paul 12:17 AM  

Commenting on puzzles is way less fun when you've made your peace with the fact that words don't mean what they mean, and that while horns and antlers are completely different things, it no longer matters, they're just pointy things on critters heads.

SethG 12:21 AM  

Didn't know the cake, guessed it.
Didn't know the song, figured it out.
Didn't know the play, eventually figured it out.
Didn't know the symphony, eventually stared at the answer in disbelief.

This took me more than twice as long as yesterday's.

syndy 12:31 AM  

Could not for the life of me figure out who elinnor Degrin was-google didn't know either! Put in the mirror crackd right away;had hit me instead of gimme.I suppose a serf may be a vassal but not always!(henry 11 was a vassal to philip augustus!)and do golf courses plant elms especially???? odd puzzle I got to (at) me or on!!

jae 12:34 AM  

Clever, fun puzzle which was more medium for me. Partly for the reasons noted by SethG and because the central-west was tricky.

Rube 12:43 AM  

@Wade, what was "misheard" was "Lady" Mondegreen.

Had to use every cross to get ELINNOR DEGREN, and that is how I eventually parsed it. I know who she was, but was totally lost.

I think ELIE and GLESS were the only pop culture names here. That must be why I finished this puzzle in quick time. Wait, there were also "...ATME", and "IGOTO Extremes". But all gettable from crosses.

For this music and classics loving scientist, RHENISH, NIOBE, and FERMI were GIMMEs. MML was a toughie, but gettable. Great puzzle, despite the ANTLER/horn issue.

Ulrich 1:27 AM  

I must've come across the name of the long-suffering wife, unwillingly, a thousand times, but it apparently made no impression on me whatsoever, so that I, too, scratched my head, thinking "who the hell was Elinnor Degren?", until I realized that all the anagrams work on complete 4-letter words, which led me to google the correct name, and finally, all became clear. Still, Lady Mondegreen IS the more interesting character IMHO.

Schuman was born on the shore of the Rhein and it's only natural that he wrote a Rheinische Symphonie. Now, if the river becomes "Rhine" and the adjective "Rhenish", I can see how the association between river and work gets lost. Which suggests to me that cluing "Rhenish" via "__ sauerbraten" may be a better idea, especially with all the classical music haters around!

Just watched the last embers die in our fireplace, while the snow reaches the window sills outside--urgemütlich!

chefwen 1:58 AM  

I got off to a really bad start by slamming in zoom lens at 37D. I thought it was a brilliant answer, couldn't have been more wrong. Oops!
My other sticking point was 30A and 36A where I wanted zen Buddhist, never heard of NUN Buddhist, so I ended up with a mini mistake.

Did not get the NILE/ELIN/LIEN/NEIL/LINE theme 'til I arrived here. Maybe a little thick in the head after all those cocktails the other night.

Don Byas 2:23 AM  

Sonny Rollins' composition OLEO, is one of many tunes based on the chord changes to "I Got Rhythm."
The 1956 album "Relaxin' With the Miles Davis Quintet" features John Coltrane on tenor sax. At 1:46-1:48 Coltrane deftly answers the final three notes of Miles' solo.
Red Garland piano, Paul Chambers bass, Philly Joe Jones drums

Doug 2:43 AM  

Was there any bigger spouse story in 2009 than Tiger and ELIN? Maybe Sandra Bullock.

Quick Thursday once I got a toehold on the downs because the crosses were impossible on their own.

Confidentely wrote CROSSESTHELINE in pen, then confidently Xd out the first part when I had a spare cell! And do I know LEES? I've got 5G of pale ale bubbling on its LEES as we speak.

jae 2:53 AM  

...and by tricky I mean what chefwen said about ZEN.

andrea bananacakes michaels 3:32 AM  

Put in ELIN WOODS but had 4 spaces left! How soon we forget!

Took me a while after finishing to find a theme and when I did, I wanted it to have been anagrams of LINE and had a more reveal-ish final answer...
Like, something about tangled LINEs or get your LINEs mixed up...something like that.
But it is amazing there are five solid anagrams of four letters... and yet I still looked for more.

I also went over each letter of RHENISH twelve times, trying to figure out which letter was wrong.

This week seems very mixed up to me, bec this seems like a Tuesday idea...rebuses are usually Thursday and that Monday was like a Wednesday.

I didn't think BANANACAKE was a real thing, but I don't know from food. Seems like it could be a pet name for some kooky couple...
"C'mere bananacakes and give me some sugar!"

Maybe a TWO IRON is what ELIN used to smash Tiger's back window?

Rube 3:47 AM  

@chefwen, not to worry, the Mai Tais were worth it. I didn't get the theme either until coming here, but in my case it was Manhattans, now that I'm back on the mainland.

BTW, to me, a yellowish cake is a PoundCake. Banana Cakes are brown.

I skip M-W 3:49 AM  

This puzzle went very fast for me, even though I got Elin Nordegren entirely from crosses, thought she was maybe the ex-wife of (now) ex SC Gov. didn't see theme until I reached here.

Perhaps went fast because I drank Champagne tonight, which I did because I got engaged, so you may wonder why I did the puzzle afterwards, but a hint might be that I'm old enough to have known Fermi personally (he died in 1954).

captcha = depecra, which I should feel, but don't.

shrub5 7:25 AM  

Got mired in the NE as I put FRONT YARDS, then FRONT ROADS, in for FRONT ROOMS. When I sit on my porch, I look into my yard. Seldom turn around and look at a front room (don't have what would be a "front room" anyway.) Also was slowed down here by intersecting words from French phrases and a random RN. Hacked my way out of this mess, grumbling. Another tough spot was OLEO/NUN/LUNK. Liked the anagram theme, though I didn't see it until I finished.

The Bard 7:26 AM  

Hamlet > Act I, scene II

HAMLET: O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
So excellent a king; that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on: and yet, within a month--
Let me not think on't--Frailty, thy name is woman!--
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow'd my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears:--why she, even she--
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn'd longer--married with my uncle,
My father's brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month:
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not nor it cannot come to good:
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.

joho 8:24 AM  

All that French in the NE almost made me cry, "Natique!" Fortunately I was able to figure it out.

I did end up with an error, however, because my 24A School subject was alG instead of ENG. I had no idea how ELIN spells NORDEGRaN and RHElISH looked just as reasonable at RHENISH to me!

jackj 8:27 AM  

As to the theme, this is what Jim Horne wrote on XwordInfo:

"JimH notes: Each of the first four theme answers goes over the LINE. The first of each pair ends with an anagram of LINE and the second begins with its margana (that same anagram reversed.)"

David L 8:53 AM  

I had ALG and ENGLISH symphony, until Tiger's ex set me straight. Final words were OLEO and NUN, both total guesses, so I was surprised that Happy Pencil popped right up. All jazz is OLEO to my ears -- random tootling.

Too many partials to make this a good puzzle. Don't throw bouquets AT ME - is that a line from a song, or just some arbitrary phrase? Why not "Don't throw bouquets" onto the dining table while I'm sorting out receipts as the first step in doing my taxes this year?

@I skip M-W: congratulations! Never met Fermi, but met people who did. A cool dude.

jesser 9:09 AM  

@ Joho and I had the same error for the same reason. Ugh.

I liked the crunchiness of the puzzle, although SSRS was ugly. My sister makes a seriously mean BANANA CAKE. And I will go around all day saying SKI DOOS to myself, because it makes me smile. I'm easily amused, I guess. :-)

I am grateful for no TAX LIEN on my home, but if I wanna keep it that way, I better get to work. Happy Thursday Rexville!

Lupboya! (Not going there) -- jesser

P.S. to Rex: Donation will come ON OR near Feb. 1. I promise.

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

Enjoyed it, though I did not complete it.
Figured out the theme alright in reasonable time (for me), got stuck on ERIN "what's-her-name?" in 21 A, as I had Tiger Woods's wife in mind.

I identified the 4 long them answers, and thought I covered the theme... and I did not see the theme was also in the shorter 37A TAXLIEN, so I could not answer that one.

Besides, I have a kind request to the community:
I am not proficient in crosswrodese, so I'd like to save some time on these.
Indeed, there is very little satisfaction feeling when I figure them out.
It's all about resource and return; how much time you spend to get the answer for how much satisfaction you get in return. Most crosswordes is poor in that respect.

I checked on Wikipedia ("crosswordese" entry), quite a long list already, but incomplete.

Any better source? Thx!

From Bangna/Bangkok

duaneu 9:26 AM  

BANANA CAKE isn't really yellow, unless you forget to peel the bananas first...

imsdave 9:33 AM  

Back when I was really struggling with my woods, I used to use a TWOIRON off the tee. Fortunately, technology solved that problem about twenty years ago. Cleeks would probably have been a good clue on a Friday. In todays world, I'd probably have used "Nearly obsolete golf clubs". Thank you hybrids.

Fun puzzle, definitely a medium for me.

Look Up Guy 9:54 AM  

It's Buddhist NUN (not NUN Buddhist)

Definitions of "Buddhist Nun" on the Web:

•A bhikkhuni (' (Sanskrit) , (Pāli) or 比丘尼 (Chinese characters), ภิกษุณี', ) is a fully ordained female Buddhist monastic. Male monastics are called bhikkhus. Both bhikkhunis and bhikkhus live by the vinaya. ...

"Don't bouquets AT ME" is the opening line of "People Will Say We're In Love" from the musical Oklahoma.

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

Student to Butch Harmon (Tiger Woods' coach till 2002: Hitting a two iron pure is better than sex
Harmon: You need a better sex-life.
In the olden days, the best players carried #1-9 irons and two wedges (two woods and putter.)
Nowadays, more like a hybrid, 3-9 irons and 3 or four wedges.

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

Aha - 1 ends with NILE, 2 begins with NILE reversed, 3 ends with LIEN, 4 begins with LIEN reversed.

And 5 is the end of the LINE....

Whaddya call that - Anagrams Plus?

Van55 10:12 AM  

I am disappointed, having firmly believed that Ms. Gorse would never stoop to such lazy tripe as ESE, MML and SSRS in one puzzle. Ugh.

Sparky 10:19 AM  

DNF. Snarled up in the mid west OLEO/SKIDOOS section. Agree @Shrub5. Who sits turned around staring into the parlor? Sigh.

@Iskip. Happy engagement, best wishes.

Banana bread is brown. I'll have the yellow cake with the fudge icing, please.

Pinyan 10:30 AM  

TWO-IRONS do hit long shots. For golf clubs, the low numbers hit further, so a 2-iron hits much further than a 6-iron (the other possible answer I was looking at there).

mac 10:39 AM  

Had to do it online again - am only now being plowed out. Actually the plow couldn't do the job yesterday, there is a bulldozer in my driveway.

Easy-Medium for me too, except for the oleo-nun-skidoos-lunk area.

All in all, what SethG said.

@I skip M-W: congratulations!

Howard B 10:50 AM  

@Wade: Mondegreen for the win. Nice.

@Van: The small answers, solid or not, do hold a puzzle together. You rarely see grids, from experienced or new constructors, without at least a couple imperfect fill words. Personally, I wasn't fond of those either ;). There's always something that we feel could be better, and that's fine.

But whether or not we like a puzzle, clue, or answer, and believe me, all valid criticism here is usually appreciated, we can respectfully do without the condescension inherent in "lazy tripe" etc. Especially from Ms. Gorski - like her puzzles or not, she's certainly not a constructor who relies on lazy tripe, and she has the constructing chops to back that up.

Nothing personal, just that really, this is a puzzle blog, and while criticizing fill is certainly fair game, the insulting tone is excessive.
Unless you're joking of course, in which case I retract all of this. Hard to read tone and nuance in a post :).

P.S. It's "Gorski". "Gorse" is a shrub native to crosswords.
Said my peace, carry on.

Two Ponies 10:52 AM  

Did not like this one bit.
I had to wade through so much crap that I needed those thigh-high boots for what?
Forgive the reiteration but ...
There are lots of trees on a golf course, elms are for lining streets.
If you are on the porch why are you looking at the house?
Banana cakes are not yellow unless they are artificially colored.
Lunk is a word?
Guff for me is to sass or be obstructive.
A better answer for "Members of a former union" (considering the mini golf theme and Tiger) would have Exes.
This one goes into the "circular file."

efrex 10:58 AM  

I know that Ms. Gorski is a beloved and revered constructor, but I just haven't "clicked" with her yet. Frustrating, because there's a lot that I liked in this one: great NEIL ARMSTRONG quote, musical theater references, some sparkling fill. On the other hand, found myself slogging to get through this thing, needing Google help several times.

The NE, to me, is particularly ugly: foreign word crossing another foreign word, a roman numeral and a direction... yech! (By the way: I find it amusing that the 11-down clue is fine, but if you tried to clue a similar sentiment in English, it would never fly).

Writeovers: originally had ZEN instead of NUN and AGAR instead of ROUX.

Shamik 10:59 AM  

@Joho & Jesser: We attended the same school and took ALG at the same time. And I figured it was Tiger Woods' ex-wife, but thought her name was ELINNORDEGRAN which made for the RHELISH symphony.

Now there are things I like mustard on and things I don't. But I don't like relish on anything. To me, relish is irrelevant. When something is irrelevant in our family we say that it is relish. Such was this symphony. Naticked. IMHO

@I skip M-W: Congratulations on your engagement!

If your banana cake is yellow, bake it longer.

And finally, an easy-medium puzzle save for the two wrong squares. But then I have a very poor correct solve rate with Gorski puzzles. :-(

Matthew G. 11:09 AM  

I liked this one a lot. I didn't notice the anagram theme till I was done, but that didn't really slow me down any.

Very little slowed me down today. Had RAN INTO instead of FED INTO, so that was a marginal slowdown in the NW.

What was funny about this puzzle is that although I found it easy, I still learned a good deal from it. I would be curious to know where the term "FRONT ROOMS" is used -- I've vaguely heard the term, but I suspect it's a regionalism in certain parts of the country. My search reveals that it's synonymous with "living room" or "den," which are the terms I would use. Didn't have any trouble getting it, though, and I know it's an accepted term.

I also did not know there was such a thing as a two iron --- I don't play golf, and I always had the impression that the woods had only low numbers and the irons had only high numbers. Now I see that it's simply that the higher-numbered woods and lower-numbered irons that are less frequently used.

Finally, I'm embarrassed to admit that until today, I always thought the expression was FREE REIGN, not FREE REIN. In my defense, the former expression also makes sense with the same meaning, although upon reflection I get why the latter is more sensible.

Liz Gorski, entertaining and instructive all at once. I think her puzzles flow together better than any other constructor's. You never see any seams.

chefbea 11:15 AM  

Tough for me. Googled and DNF

Everyone is right - banana cake is not yellow

archaeoprof 11:15 AM  

Didn't remember ELIN's last name. Had to get it from crosses.

@Iskip: congratulations on your engagement.

My favorite uncle used to say, "I hope I live as long as I want to, and want to as long as I live."

hazel 11:25 AM  

@Sparky, mmmmmm yellow cake.

Big fan of Ms. Gorski, but not a fan of this puzzle, mainly because of the "Natique" issue coined by Joho. Cest la vie.

Could be I've got a touch of cabin fever too - flat out sick of the icy snow. Hey, you rogue isobars and isotherms - get out of my yard! Get back to where you're supposed to be - far NNE of me!!

I hope IRA GLASS shows up in the puzz during Rex's pledge week.

LIVESTRONG everybody, especially you, Edith B!!

retired_chemist 11:35 AM  

@ I skip M-W - congratulations. I became engaged in 2006 at the age of 65, and I bear testimony to the happiness of a late in life marriage. May you be as happy as we are.

Theme? There was a theme? I thought it was a dead easy themeless Friday. Or a medium Thursday without a rebus. Regardless, I liked it.

@ Chefwen - ZOOM LENS is singular so doesn't fit the clue.

Hand up for ZEN @ 36A, FOOT @ 29D (SERT was a vassal?), and for the L in OLEO/LUNK being my WTF.

Goedi 11:36 AM  

I was really hoping the Miles Davis Number was Four (off an earlier album). Alas...
But why have "number" in the clue if that wasn't the tune?

retired_chemist 11:39 AM  

NOt all yellowcake is tasty.

7thecow 11:40 AM  

I'm with @Rube et al, slammed in SPONGECAKE and TSE, then looked at the clue for 58D and knew I had it wrong.
Was really surprised that RHENISH was correct. I couldn't see any other way to do the crosses, but it just didn't look like a word.
Embarassed to say DNF because of brainfreeze on ROUE/TAELIEN. D'oh on reveal.

fikink 11:53 AM  

Insisted on Robert Louise Stevenson for too long. Glad I don't time.

Also had the false start with ELEANOR ("veil's" name) and wondered what was big about ELEANOR RIGB[e]Y in 2009.

Closest I could come to making sense of the unknown Miles Davis was OLiO, but was locked in with END IN, so that was the final downfall for me.

@syndy, had the same questions re: ELMS, why particularly ELMs?

@Ulrich, thank you for the backstory on Schuman's composition.
Also, ImTranslator cannot translate "urgemütlich" for me and I am thinking I miss "Veil" - would you be so kind?

@Don Byas, now I must check out the album and run it by FIL who still is very much listening to jazz. Thanks.

Yellow cake to me has nothing to do with BANANAS...but here I am going ballistic again.

Thanks, EG, solid, but tricky!

Stan 11:55 AM  

Good one! Liked it fine as a themeless with some nifty names. Should have realized from the day and the constructor there would be more going on.

I wanted a waxwing on my house.

Must go out now (through the FRONT ROOMS) and shovel off the porch, where six inches of snow has blown through the screens.

quilter1 11:55 AM  

Finished later than usual because of an interruption, but found this one easy with interesting answers. I actually baked a banana cake on Tues. for a lunch on Wed. No leftovers. I am taking the yellow cake with fudge frosting as a suggestion for next week's lunch. Banana cake is indeed brown as it calls for very ripe bananas.
I resisted zen for NUN at first because I couldn't see the z fitting. Also had ran into for FEDINTO at first, but these were quickly fixed. I like Gorski puzzles, always fresh, challenging and fun.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:56 AM  

@shrub5 said it very well at 7:25 AM. Solving on paper, I finished with one mistake at 15 A: Went from FRONTYARDS to FRONTROADS, but never made it to FRONTROOMS. And note that to a non-French-speaker, MAI was as good as MOI in filling a quotation I couldn't understand, and MDL is as good a mid-century year as MML.

TheDoctor 12:05 PM  

I wanted FISHCUSTARD for 63 across but it wouldn't fit.

Cleopatra 12:42 PM  

I think that the theme is anagrams of the word NILE. My old buddy Heraclitus once said that you can't step into the same river twice. Well that sure describes the Nile, it is always changing. That change is modelled nicely in this puzzle by the anagrams.

Had trouble with some of the modern clues. For example, I thought that ATEN was the one who blotted out the Earth with his thumb. I've never heard of Neil Armstrong.

Van55 12:51 PM  


Please blame the autospell correct feature for GORSE where I typed GORSKI.

And I certainly meant no insult to Ms. Gorski with my criticism. My point remains that she is such an expeptional and exceptionally experienced constructor that I was disappointed to see her have to resort to the random Roman numeral, the compass direction between random cities and the too easy SSRS at the bottom of a column of answers from her of all people and all in one puzzle. I'd call it tripe no matter who the constructor.

I acknowledge, of course, that some "weak" or "trite" or even "lazy" "tripe fill" HAS to be used from time to time or there couldn't be 365 new puzzles every year. I expect it in early- to mid- puzzles and from newer constructors. I do not expect it from a star such as Liz Gorski in a Thursday puzzle.

william e emba 12:59 PM  

I finished with ALG instead of ENG. Oh well. I solved this bottom up, and got the theme off of NEIL/LINE immediately.

If you are not familiar with Death on the Nile, I highly recommend it. Her mysteries are really as good as the hype says and then some, and on top of that, DOTN is one of her better ones.

I know only enough French to struggle through French mathematical papers, but I thought the lyrics were clear enough: "Voulez-vous coucher avec ___ ce soir?" means "Will you coucher with ___ this evening?" It had to be "me", not "May".

JaxInL.A. 1:09 PM  

I knew I was in for a treat when I saw that today's offering came from Liz Gorski.  I flew through this puzzle with possibly my fastest Thursday time ever, but still didn't get the "Well Done" that is your only reward for solving on the iPad with the NYT-dictated Magmic program.  Could not figure out what was wrong, so I looked up all the stuff I was iffy about.  

-TYRO (which was a sort of guess dredged up from an impression of former xwords) and, yeah, it means newbie, based on a Greek root for recruit.  
-LEES (similar source) and, yeah, sediment during fermentation, likely from Middle English.  
-OLEO (total guess because it was the only thing that fit) yeah, Miles did a piece called that.  Love the new clue for this standard.

So what was the problem? Had to come here to realize that I had misnamed poor Enrico as FERMe, although having ELeN probably helped me avoid mis-parsing (can I make up that word?) her name as described above, which helped me spell out NORDEGREN without problems.  That wrong letter also kept me from seeing any theme.  So my triumphant 23 minute Thursday became a DNF. Sigh.

treedweller 1:21 PM  

I am sure any of our esteemed chefs here would produce a brown BANANACAKE, but I've had something from Hostess or one of those national of bakeries that was called banana-flavored and was cake and was quite yellow from the artificial coloring (to go with the disgusting artificial flavoring and the disgusting artificial creme filling). Just sayin.

And, @Ullrich, I can't speak for everyone, but RHENISH is no less a mystery to me using your alternate clue. Just sayin.

I never got the alternating reversed anagrams. I never even got the anagrams, for that matter. Come to think of it, I guess I felt this was a slog and when I was done I was done, with no interest in going back to dissect it further. Sorry, Ms. Gorski, but this one was not for me, though I tried hard to like it.

william e emba 1:22 PM  

Many years ago, there was a NYT Sunday acrostic that I had an inauspicious start. I only got three of the clue words on my first pass, and a second and third pass didn't help any. The partials were unhelpful. As I kept staring, I noticed the three clue answers I had started with G, B, and S. Then I noticed that the spacing was G-----B------S----------. Could it be? GBS=George Bernard Shaw, seven letter title, probably Candide, but he did write a lot. Well, it didn't take learn to confirm that I had the correct author, but the title turned out to be an insipid Letters.

And speaking of GBS, here's a link of interest to Chip Hilton regarding the previous appearance of Shaw in the puzzle. It contains three of the requested essays. A longer version of one of these, including a comment about Shaw, can be found here.

PuzzleNut 1:24 PM  

Finished OK, but a few too many "I guess that could be right" answers from such a renowned constructor. NE was iffy, for reasons already well expressed.
Just got back from a long vacation in NM and a wedding in Anchorage, only to find it is winter everywhere in the country. Very cold in Houston, but may have something to do with the lack of coats and hats.
Almost tripped up on the ROUe/ROUX, but my daughters spelling bee saved the day. Liked the N.A. quote, but not much else that really tickled my fancy.

JaxInL.A. 1:30 PM  

Oh, congratulations to @I Skip M-W! And, yeah, why were you doing a puzzle at such a moment?

@Anon in Bangna/Bangkok, I don't think there is a simple way to master the arcane language that is crosswordese. Amy Reynaldo's book might help. Check out Diary of a Crossword Fiend. Rex has a link to it on the blog. And all of the xWord bloggers out there often run pieces to call attention to these things. So do more of what you are doing. Solve regularly and check in with others to see what lasting skills might come from each puzzle. Good luck.

fikink 1:41 PM  

Can't blame "Louise" on spellcheck, but I DO know that is not Robert Stevenson's middle name. :)

retired_chemist 2:05 PM  

@ PuzzleNut sauce thickener = ROUe? You can make up a plot around that one!

@ fikink and Ulrich - was it supposed to be ungemütlich?

brandsinger 2:07 PM  

Re: two iron
Yes, the lower-numbered irons are for longer shots. A one iron is practically flat -- very little angle -- and very difficult to use.

Lee Trevino used to say that the way to survive a lightening storm on the golf course is to hold up a one iron -- "because even God can't hit a one iron."

Thanks, Rex, for a most delightful and unique site.

Ulrich 2:29 PM  

@fikink: ur + gemütlich is gemütlich to the max,

and @ret._chem.: it's the exact opposite of ungemütlich!

@treedweller: Rheinischer (Rhenish) sauerbraten is an ur-German dish--I thought it may be better known in this crowd than a symphony by some obscure composer from the Rhineland:-)

retired_chemist 2:36 PM  

@ Ulrich - thanks. Learn something every day. does the ur- come from über- somehow?

1 bad apple 3:16 PM  

Having zero interest in Tiger and his antics helped me fall into the Eleanor trap for too long. The only amusement I gleaned from that story was the delicious choice of weapon she took to his car.
The lack of symmetry of the anagrams kept me from seeing the theme.
The NE corner is a train wreck.

Anonymous 3:17 PM  

@brandsinger - Trevino was paying tribute to Jack Nicklaus - from Wikipedia:

In the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach again under severe scoring conditions, Nicklaus struck a one-iron on the 218-yard par-3 17th hole during the final round into a stiff, gusty ocean breeze that hit the flagstick and ended up three inches from the cup.

Nicklaus won his 11th professional major with that shot....

Anonymous 3:26 PM  

For a Thursday this was a very easy puzzle for me. I normally struggle and often need help to finish it. But not on this one. I completed it but had PUNK instead of LUNK and OPEO instead of OLEO. Never heard of LUNK and PUNK seemed reasonable.
Knowing basic French came in handy for the NE corner.
All in all an enjoyable puzzle.

ArtLvr 3:59 PM  

Congrats to I-skip M-W, and best wishes!

Ulrich, it's interesting that your Ur- means "to the max" to you, though I'd guessed that, but if you google the "Ur-Hamlet", you'll find it's used in English meaning the "proto-" i.e. "first-version", which was well-known in Shakespeare's time before he wrote his own Hamlet, but is lost to us. Wikipedia translates the German ur- as "primordial", and someone else says it means "original" in German.

That said, I had a wee problem with Carte blanche at 9D at first, trying Free hand before FREE REIN was required by RHENISH! I do prefer the imagery of the lax rein as opposed to giving someone his head or a free hand in doing something, let alone a blank check!

And I was missing the clever Gorski theme, which murdered the NILE or at least totally mixed it up, so I finished okay but felt something was lacking. I was enlightened on coming here, the last Aha!


p.s. @ Van55, who wondered the other day if Thom Mcan were still extant: I don't know about today but can report having sighted one of those shoe stores in Traverse City, MI, just a few years ago!

ArtLvr 4:14 PM  

p.p.s. By coincidence, it turns out that the Thom Mcan brand was named after Scottish golfer Thomas McCann by chain owner Ward Melville in the early 1920s. By 1939 there were over 650 stores, but their popularity peaked by the 1970s. They are still available in WalMart and K-Mart, but the stores themselves were all closed by 1996. I guess I saw the brand recently, but not the store!

Ulrich 4:42 PM  

@Artlvr: There's a huge difference between an "Ur" that precedes a noun and one that precedes an adjective! But even if it precedes an adjective, "to the max" may not be the best rendering (I tossed this off w/o much thought) in many cases--it really depends. "urdeutsch" would mean "archetypically German", rather than "German to the max".

@ret._chem.: no idea where "ur" comes from=--Artlvr may know more about it than me at this point

Speaking of French: "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi" always strikes me as really funny: It's the formal address--i.e. you proposition someone with whom you are not even on informal terms ("vous" as opposed to "tu"--"Sie" vs "du" in German). I guess it's possible, like when the object of your desire is Princess Diana as opposed to some gin-soaked barroom queen in Memphis...

fikink 4:51 PM  

@Ulrich, I've been off in the corner composing this while you posted:

@ArtLvr, "Urwald" refers to a the primeval forest and Ur language is a proto-human language, much like the Proto-Renaissance contained much of the aesthetic that came to full bloom in the early 16th century. Dada played around with Ur language in their sound poems and random poetry.
I bet if we ask Ulrich again, he will say that you are not far off in applying it to the sense of Urgemutlich...like the quintessential "gemütlich" - Now let's have Ulrich define "gemütlich."

Anonymous 5:33 PM  

I looked up Nun Buddhists in Google. Without checking every entry,all I could find was Buddhist nun. I could not imagine
Oleo to be a jazz number. As a result I left 30D and 31D blank.
So what? If that's what the constructor thinks is good clue
I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

gin-soaked barroom queen in memphis 5:34 PM  

Hey, I may be a skank but I am gemütlich. Most of the time.

foodie 5:37 PM  

I liked the puzzle, but agree with Andrea that the week feels mixed up.

Thank you Rex for clearing up the MURDER ON THE NILE vs. Death ON THE NILE. Having read the book, the discrepancy gave me pause.

@Ulrich, re "voulez-vous coucher avec moi?" I must say I never heard it or read it in any French books until I came to the US, so I'm thinking it's really not a common French expression. When I search it as a phrase on French only Google, all the hits relate to English usage of some sort. But others have pondered your point-See


On a semi-related front:

@I skip M-W

I chuckled at the implication of your logic:

"Perhaps went fast because I drank Champagne tonight, which I did because I got engaged, so you may wonder why I did the puzzle afterwards, but a hint might be that I'm old enough to have known Fermi personally (he died in 1954)"

May be it's not an age thing! I know young people who got engaged and spent the evening playing Bananagrams- truly. Anyhow, Congratulations!

ksquare 5:41 PM  

For those unfamiliar with LADY MONDEGREEN it how an injured person was comforted. They 'laid him on the Green'. I don't remember the source. Can any of you wordsmiths provide it?

The Bonnie Earl O' Moray 6:07 PM  

@ksquare - Look me up on Wikipedia.

(Can you believe it? Captcha is "verses"!)

The source of all knowledge 6:09 PM  


Stan 6:20 PM  

Re: "no idea where 'ur' comes from..."


Ulrich 6:31 PM  

@fikink: There's a reason gemütlich is never translated into English!

@foodie: Thx for the link. I read the comments with great interest (and I find the suggestion that a prostitute would address a john with "vous", i.e. formally, even more hilarious...)

Anonymous 6:42 PM  

@ PuzzleNut I I had the same exact experience w/ ROUX. My daughter was in a spelling bee this week (came in third... she was beaten by 2 6th graders, my daughter is in 3rd grade, we are very proud) and on her list of words to study was ROUX. She looked up every word she did not know the definition of. This was one of them. I had never heard of it either and it was somewhat eerie to see it 3 days later in the NYTimes puzzle

Clark 7:23 PM  

It is hard to say anything interesting about the origin of UR- because it is such an UR-old word. It is a prefix that means 'from out of' or 'derived from' something like that. It comes from an Old High German prefix that means just that. If you trace it further back to Indo-European it is related to the English 'out'. I'm disappointed. I always figured it came from the name of the ancient city UR. My bad.

andrea who moi?chaels 7:24 PM  

Maybe we should now address you as Urlich!

(And congrats to @ISkipM-W! Perhaps your new bride will be a M-W gal and there will be peace in the world...)

I think "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi" was the first (faux?) French phrase I learned as a sixth-grader... and in Minneapolis, circa 1969, that was considered VERY risque! It was around the same time kids would scream "Your epidermis is showing!"
How infelicitous all around!

william e emba 8:55 PM  

I am surprised at my ignorance. "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi" has its own Wikipedia entry. It apparently goes a way back, and was known to everybody else out there, including A Streetcar Named Desire, Moulin Rouge!, and E E Cummings back in 1923.

miriam b 9:11 PM  

@ wiliam e emba: a nitpick. Candida, not Candide.

@Ulrich: Is "comfy" as close as we can get to a translation for "gemütlich"? There has to be a better word.

I once asked some French relatives (well, French of Lithuanian extraction) for a French equivalent for "cue. All they could suggest was "mignon" which didn't quite do it for me.

Caprcha: epinedl = what's used for spinal anesthesia

fikink 9:19 PM  

@miriamb - Hello! Glad to see you back.
The way Veil used "gemütlich," it was more than comfy. It was sublimely comfy, transportingly comfy.

@Ulrich, Veil would have loved you - and don't forget "Ulrich" was her maiden name!

miriam b 9:22 PM  

Oh boy, typos R us. I meant "cute". not "cue" and even misspelled "captcha".

I have a sort of excuse. Raccoon removal is underway here and is proving stressful. This may be affecting my typing.

lascra: a very stretchy fabric

mac 9:28 PM  

@Miriam B: Hi! mignon for cute sounds good to be.

We use the ur (oer) in Dutch as well, and even oergezellig (urgemuetlich). We also say oeroud, uralt (wait, Asbach??), which means really, really old. It really means really, really, very, very.

Voulez-vous etc. was a hit song in I think the 70s.

We once had a wonderful discussion with many examples of mondegreens. Lots of them to do with lyrics of well-know songs.

captcha: debbled

mac 9:28 PM  

@Andrea: Ulrich is not old enough to be uralt.

a guy 9:30 PM  

Google says "really cozy". If Google were smarter, it would tell us whether or not we've set a record today for off-topic foreign language discussions that about six people care about.

mac 9:32 PM  

Sorry for the many comments, I should get organized. Gemuetlich or gezellig are very hard to translate into English. My sister always uses the word "cozy".

another guy 9:40 PM  

@a guy: You're right. Since English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me.

fikink 9:45 PM  

@a guy at 9:30, excuse us for thinking crossword puzzles are about language and not accommodating your ADD entertainment requirements.

Rex Parker 9:55 PM  

Play nice.

ShortShrift 10:08 PM  

Aha! Just about to ask the class what was the union that SSRs were a member of...and now that I get it, the answer doesn't seem so awful (but I agree it's stretchy). Anyway, appreciated the fill of this one (esp. ROUX, having recently visited N'awlins -- yum!), though I had to come here to learn the theme, once again. Thanks, LookUpGuy, but pace Wikipedia, I think NUN is far from a certain Buddhist. Then again, it's Thursday after all...

Anonymous 10:10 PM  

I say those who think this is about entertainment should contribute to Rex according to their means and those who think this is about language - English or foreign - should contribute according to their needs.....

Captcha is skjhpo - can you believe that?

mac 10:11 PM  

(@anotherguy: LOL)

sanfranman59 1:42 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 7:32, 6:55, 1.09, 83%, Challenging
Tue 8:16, 8:54, 0.93, 37%, Easy-Medium
Wed 10:36, 11:44, 0.90, 30%, Easy-Medium
Thu 16:12, 19:00, 0.85, 24%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:50, 3:41, 1.04, 69%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:27, 4:34, 0.97, 48%, Medium
Wed 5:31, 5:47, 0.96, 41%, Medium
Thu 7:50, 9:09, 0.86, 30%, Easy-Medium

Anonymous 7:16 PM  

interesting tidbit about one of the central clues, that being 17-across "1944 mystery play by Agatha Christie"...
Apparently Ms. Gorski didn't do her homework on this one, as the play in question began *rehearsals* in 1944, but under a different title (Hidden Horizon). The play premiered as "Murder on the Nile" two years later, in 1946, which is the date credited to play officially.

Linda 3:49 PM  

I don't see that anyone answered the question about whether "Don't throw bouquets at me" is a lyric or what. It's a line from the song "People will say we're in love" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical play Oklahoma.

Dirigonzo 4:28 PM  

Until I came here and read what had been written 5 weeks ago I had no clue as to who ELINNORDEGREN might be, and since I also did not know that ROUX is a sauce thickener I did not finish the grid. I wish I had known about the thickener, but I'm actually glad I don't know ELIN-whatshername because I really, really don't care about celebrity scandals.

Cary in Boulder 6:03 PM  

The song with "Voulez vous," etc., was Lady Marmalade by the group Labelle from 1974. It was produced by Alan Toussaint, so you know it had a little ROUX in it.

All the theme answers came pretty easily to me, tho I missed the theme totally. Managed to finish with much headscratching from OLEO, RHENISH/NIOBE, and NINERS/SSRS.

Marc 9:19 PM  

Since I don't follow golf, I had no idea who Elin Nordegren was. I had to google her name to find out; I guarantee I had never heard it before.

Of course I'd heard of the fall of Tiger Woods, but I made a conscious effort to ignore it as much as possible. Not that I'm above reading celebrity gossip from time to time; but it just wasn't that interesting to me.

She is attractive, though.

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