Winner of first Nobel Prize in Physics 1901 / TUE 2-15-11 / Sainted ninth-century pope / Sorority members Ann-Margaret Laura Bush

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Constructor: Paula Gamache

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Seen it... — Theme answers begin with words that are synonyms of "ordinary": COMMON, AVERAGE, USUAL, REGULAR

Word of the Day: Wilhelm ROENTGEN (10D: Winner of the first Nobel Prize in Physics, 1901) —

Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (27 March 1845 – 10 February 1923) was a German physicist, who, on 8 November 1895, produced and detected electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength range today known as X-rays or Röntgen rays, an achievement that earned him the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901. (wikipedia)
• • •

Average. Yes, that about says it all. Clean and ordinary in most every way except for the surprising ROENTGEN, which is fantastic. AVERAGE HEIGHT is the weakest of the bunch (not nearly as coherent and snappy a phrase as the others), but it's not bad, just as LEO IV is as bad as it gets in the fill (19D: Sainted ninth-century pope), and it's not so bad either. Strangely, my biggest hang-ups (requiring all the crosses) were little words: DIET (36A: Plan the changes courses) and LOAD (56A: Mutual fund charge). Also, I have never heard of an EXOsphere (50A: Prefix with sphere), and so I wrote in ECO. Sadly, that was the very last letter I filled in, so my first thought was "crud, I've got a mistake somewhere." Thankfully, my mistake was right there, the first place I looked—the EXO cross, LEX (44D: Comics villain ___ Luthor).

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Something everybody is aware of (COMMON KNOWLEDGE)
  • 26A: It's not very short and not very tall (AVERAGE HEIGHT)
  • 46A: They may be rounded up after a crime, with "the" (USUAL SUSPECTS)
  • 60A: Cheapest choice at the pump (REGULAR GASOLINE)
It's an early morning for me, so I'm out of here. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 6:26 AM  


Greene 6:53 AM  

It's a little disconcerting to glance over the completed grid and see ASS hovering slightly above AHOLE. Other than that little issue, I liked this puzzle just fine.

And, of course, there's another shout out to @MAC at 1D, except now there are multiple MACS. Seems to me the world would be a nicer place with multiple MACS in it. Seriously though, what is that, 4 times in the last week? Talk about the USUAL SUSPECTS.

CFG 7:14 AM  

It was looking like a fast day for me until that last square: the R at ROMA and ROENTGEN. Had to go through the alphabet before something made sense.

foodie 7:51 AM  

Do people say REGUlAR GASOLINE,n rather than GAS? I liked that less than AVERAGE HEIGHT.

Somehow, I feel that when the theme centers around ordinariness, which is pretty clever, the phrases should be rather extraordinary. I don't mean unfamiliar, but more evocative. The USUAL SUSPECTS was, to my mind, the only answer that met that criterion.

Otherwise, smooth and easy, although I fell into the EcO trap as well.

@Greene, I agree. Our MAC ( from Rexville) is wonderful and I have had a parade of MACS in my life...I'm very partial to them too.

mmorgan 8:03 AM  

Easy and smooth enough but ROENTGEN just seemed... strange in there, anything but average, usual, regular. Got it easily enough from crosses, but never having heard of him, it just seemed... strange.

joho 8:03 AM  

I thought the cluing was definitely above average: "Stick with a stick," "Plan that changes courses," Expiration notices?"

Interesting to see TOULOUSE again so soon which brought back @Rex's comment mentioning "To A Louse" which was also amusing.

Easy, breezy Tuesday ... thank you, Paula Gamache!

Anonymous 8:40 AM  

The Ghostbuster were NOT a trio. Just another case of the Man keeping the brother down.

Anonymous 8:50 AM  

way too easy.
like, jumbo puzzle bought at the airport when you forgot your book easy.

PurpleGuy 8:57 AM  

This was a fun and east solve for me.No real problems. Thought the cluing was just tricky enough.
Watched "Casablanca" last night on TCM, so the USUAL SUSPECTS made me smile.
Mom is starting to get weaker, so I may not be posting regularly. She does like me to read the writeup from @Rex, and the comments from you all. Thanks.

Thank you Paula for a nice Tuesday puzzle.

Shanti -


SethG 9:10 AM  

For [Something everybody is aware of], with COMxO- in place I wrote in COMBOVER HAIRxxx. I saw it was too long for DO and too short for STYLE, thought they went with the awful CUT, then filled some more in and started erasing.

EROS is SORE reversed, too bad AMOR didn't fit for OLEG.

chefbea 9:18 AM  

Very easy - like a Monday puzzle.

Our Mac is making it into every puzzle.

Noticed lots of U's!! who was it that use to comment on all the U's?

JaxInL.A. 9:19 AM  

I object. The Ghostbusters were a quartet, not a trio. Like @Anon at 8:40 pointed out, why do people always discount the Black guy?  Without Ernie Hudson they could not have crossed the proton streams to close the portal to Gozer's dimension, thereby exploding the rampaging Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man.  Clearly I know much too much about this movie.  

Fun puzzle, just what I have come to expect from Ms. Gamache.

@PurpleGuy, please let your mom know that we are all pulling for her to feel strong. Peace.

Ulrich 9:21 AM  

@foodie: But wouldn't you agree that illustrating ordinariness by ordinariness, not its opposite, is an option? I had the same thought and then decided that La Gamache consciously went for sameness, rather than contrast (Even "the usual suspects" is pretty common by now, I think). In the same vein, she put in again a couple of French words, which is usual for her.

@PurpleGuy: Best wishes from me, too!

Harold 9:28 AM  

Oh, you all you PC fanatics. Who said they forgot the Black Guy? Maybe they forgot the goofy white guy!

fikink 9:36 AM  

"Lucky strikes" and "Subway fare" were my fav clues.
Marshall Crenshaw sounds so Everly Brothers to my ear - nice embed, Rex.
AONE crossing NUMERO UNO is pretty cool
and AENEAS of fleet foot is always good to see again.
Learned today that SLY is from the Old Norse "slögr," meaning "cunning" - solid!
Always thought the title of the song was just "Pretty Woman" - never picked up on the "Oh," Always thought it was just a groan. ha!
@Greene, and I was thinking that the AHOLE/GOBUST cross was nice.
Good eye!
@Mac, are your ears burning yet?
@joho, agree that the clueing was above AVERAGE
@Purple Guy, FIL, too, likes to hear Rex read to him. He knows of your mom and we both send you our good thoughts.
@Seth, COMBOVER - ha!
@Ulrich, good point!
Solid Tuesday, nice textured weave - And haven't we thought a Tuesday was a very difficult day for constructors?

dk 9:42 AM  

Dear Purple guy's mom,

Your picture and your son's devotion to you bring a gentle touch of humanity to the world of blogs and x-word puzzles. You will always be **** (4 Stars) in my book.


Sparky 9:57 AM  

Finished early a.m. Easy does it. Bobbled at bit with not knowing how to spell OHIOAN. Trying for Iowan, huh? Downs saved the day. @PuzzleGuy, wishing you and your Mother strength. @dk said it right.

joho 10:28 AM  

@Purple Guy's Mom ... I second what @dk said so eloquently. My best to you!

Matthew G. 10:38 AM  

This was my fastest Tuesday since I started logging my times. Only slowdowns came with ROMA/OLEG/ROENTGEN in the NE and when I tried REGULAR UNLEADED instead of REGULAR GASOLINE. I liked mine better, because people actually say it.

I, too, was stunned when I saw ASS sitting right above AHOLE in the grid. I'm surprised that the latter made it in even with its innocuous clue --- perhaps Will and Paula don't know that it's become a pretty common abbreviation of its juxtaposition with the former.

archaeoprof 10:57 AM  

I liked it. Not too hard, clever cluing. Fine Tuesday.

@PurpleGuy: thinking of you and your Mom.

Two Ponies 10:57 AM  

Nice smooth Tuesday.
The ass and a hole pairing amused me but now I can't get that "hole in my bucket" song out of my head!
Maybe Mr. Crenshaw can drive it away. I also liked the symmetry of Roentgen and Toulouse.
TCM is honoring the Oscars this month so I caught my favorite parts of The Wizard of Oz the other night (the Tin Man annoys me). Of course, my avatar Dylan is a Toto so that adds to the fun.

chefbea 11:21 AM  

@purple guy and Mom..thinking of you

Masked and Anonymous 11:30 AM  

8 U's. Nice. Way above regular.

@PurpleGuy and Mom: wishing you all the very best

Howard B 11:36 AM  

@PurpleGuy, PurpleMom: Wishing you both the best. Thinking of you out here!

david 11:37 AM  

ASS and AHOLE were my favorite part of the puzzle.

If only SEWON had been STRAPON, then, taken together with NAIL, EROS, and SORE, we'd have a nice morning-after Valentine's Day theme going here...

Kendall 11:38 AM  

Definitely an easy grid for me. Like a few others my last letter was the R of ROENTGEN, but it made sense once I thought about it.

Two mistakes I caught before calling it done. The first, I had NAVAjO, but quickly realized that children do not sing about having A jOLE in their pocket. Second was on LOAD which I just guessed to be LOAn. Still not exactly sure why LOAD makes sense but clearly DEAN going down is correct.

Final thoguhts: It took me forever to get OHOIAN based solely on --IOA-. Also, 38A didn't strike me as OBITS because I didn't realize that wasn't an abbreviation. I learn something new every day in these puzzles...

@PurpleGuy, all the best to both you and your mother. I'll be pulling for you two.

imsdave 11:51 AM  

Above average cluing offset by below average fill. Maybe I just expect too much from Ms. Gamache. The overall effect was just OK.

@PurpleGuy and mom - I third what DK said.

foodie 12:03 PM  

@Ulrich, it's an interesting point-- a form and function sort of concept. I guess I'm willing to be swayed :) especially that I agree that the cluing was good.

@PurpleGuy, I'm so glad you are able to be there for your mom. It's a real privilege, one I know she must appreciate. You're lucky to have each other. One of the hardest things about emigrating (that I never thought about when I was in my twenties) was that I was unable to keep my parents company during their last days. The two of you are an inspiration! Peace to you both.

mac 12:31 PM  

Yes, I've noticed all those macs in the puzzles lately! Thanks for the nice remarks!

This puzzle was right up my alley: love Toulouse-Lautrec, x-rays are Roentgenstralen in Dutch and I as at Saks yesterday (no, didn't buy anything). I think Paula had a lot of fun with several of the word combinations! The only break in the solving was at ---oan.

Foodie is right, it's hard to be far away when parents and other relatives are ill or weakening. Enjoy the time with your mother, Purple Guy, you will be remembering those quiet moments.

syndy 12:41 PM  

Went with Hector first and also Iowaons which clearly did not compute.paula as always a gem! Purple;know where you are-Mother also failing be strong,love ya

Unknown 12:55 PM  

I had trouble with the spelling of Navaho as the real spelling is Navajo. If you google navaho, it prompts you to see Navajo - isn't this a spelling error?

efrex 1:15 PM  

"Meh" theme but generally solid cluing and fill work (liked the DIET clue). Multiple Roman numerals automatically take the score down a half-letter grade in my book, though.

Liked ROENTGEN (I believe x-rays are called "Roentgens" in most other languages) a lot, even though I never remember how to spell it.

Near-writeover: wanted to put in POKE instead of STAB, but held off.

On to the rest of the week!

Clark 1:28 PM  

Stopping to think how to spell OHIOAN got be singing

Why oh why oh why oh
Why did I ever leave Ohio?

I just love the song; I don't actually have any particular fondness or unfondness for the state.

@Purple Guy's Mom -- Greetings. It's nice to know that you are here with us in the mansion that is Rex's blog. We always end the yoga class I go to with a chant ending in shanti. Your son's sign off has seen to it that I think of you when I say it. Shanti.

chefwen 2:02 PM  

For the first time in about 10 years, I have an undeniable urge for a Big Mac, might have to hit up Mickey D's today. Had to get ROENTGEN with all crosses. Only write over was the j in NAVAHO.

@PurpleGuy and Mom - prayers flying your way.

CaseAce 2:22 PM  

The Grey lady has fallen much in arrears with derriere's (ASS) being so frequently exposed over the last month or so!
Tuesday's French Twisty Teaser only adds to the beaucoup cracks being on display in the tres cheeky samplings being submitted...Ooh la la!
Au revoir, Charles Boyeur

PuzzleNut 3:13 PM  

@purple guy - heartfelt wishes for you and your mom. Lost my mother-in-law last year and am proud of all my wife did to keep her comfortable. A difficult time, to be sure, but a wonderful opportunity to witness real humanity. All the best from a small part of your extended family.

sanfranman59 3:31 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

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

Tue 7:21, 8:56, 0.82, 5%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:08, 4:35, 0.90, 20%, Easy

william e emba 3:33 PM  

Once upon a time--I believe it was under Shortz--there was the following fill-in: "The ______ mightier than ...".

Glitch 3:40 PM  



Sunday, August 27, 1995 108A "The _____ mightier..."


Don Juan 3:46 PM  

@wee, @Glitch - That oddly mirrors the opening lines of the Armenian translation of my autobiography, My penis, mightier than a sword, did...

Yoss 5:27 PM  

I suggest today's theme was 'nothing special'

JenCT 8:36 PM  

Didn't notice ASS/AHOLE until I came here - very funny!

The USUALSUSPECTS is one of my all-time favorite movies.

@PurpleGuy: my thoughts are with you and your Mom. (I just lost my Mom, my longtime puzzle partner, this past month.)

Shamik 8:42 PM  

Late to the party, but just thought I'd mention this is the second easiest Tuesday since I started tracking. Meh.

cody.riggs 9:16 PM  

Glad that today's comments have brought up some of my favorite "inappropriate" entries of the past (PEN IS) and NAVAHO...where the crossing was "HEWS" and many people naturally put in a "J" (Was that a NYT or LAT?)

Anyway, another favorite of mine was the one where TIT crossed OSCULATE.

Which brings me to the 3-D word find variety puzzle the other of the first words I found was ENEMA, which I suspect Will put in as a joke since it isn't allowed in the crossword!

Tita 12:14 AM  

@purple mom and guy... My Mom is convalescing at our home after of her absolute favorite things is doing the crosswords together. Good luck to you both.

fergus 1:27 AM  

Dud day for Rex. Yet I quite liked the puzzle. Any time I look at the clock it always seems to come out at eight minutes. Speed it up or slow it down -- keep my penmanship perfect; it's 8 minutes on Monday or Tuesday, and often Wednesday, too.

sanfranman59 1:41 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 6:53, 6:54, 1.00, 52%, Medium
Tue 7:28, 8:56, 0.84, 6%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:47, 3:41, 1.03, 62%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:02, 4:35, 0.88, 11%, Easy

william e emba 5:45 PM  

Wikipedia says that the PEN/IS two-word entry was under Maleska. No date is given.

Anonymous 3:44 AM  

IS no one else bothered that there are actually four ghostbusters??

CFXK 5:13 PM  

Isn't it a problem that the "D" on DJ and the "D" in CDS represent the same word?

Tim 1:10 PM  

From SL (Syndication Land):
LOL about the Ghostbusters -- yes, it was a quartet, and poor Ernie Hudson always ended up covered in ectoplasm. But Wikipedia says trio, so that's all that matters, right?

Have to say this was the easiest NYT puzzle I think I've ever done. Maybe I'm getting better at these -- perhaps it was helpful that I saw a ROENTGEN exhibit at the Mutter Museum years ago -- but whatever it was, nearly every answer was a gimme.

I almost think I know now how Rex must feel every day. :-)

GILL I. 1:45 PM  

Also from SL
My three favorite Mon.-Tue.-Sun. constructors are Andrea, Paula and Liz. Today's Paula was the whimsical I so enjoy by the genius of all three.
After getting our daughter started on the NYT puzzles, my (I can't do these) husband tried his hand on this one. His first entry was MACHU and then he was off and running.

Waxy in Montreal 1:47 PM  

Given the tragic nuclear events in Japan that began weeks after the original appearance of this puzzle on Feb. 15th, how prescient was @Rex in picking ROENTGEN as the WOTD? Almost eerie, IMHO. (The roentgen (R, also röntgen) is a unit of measurement for exposure to radiation such as X-ray and gamma rays.)

Dirigonzo 2:37 PM  

@G.I.P it's nice to see you posting in the syndication time slot again! I'm still trying to get the image of you in hot pants and white thigh-high boots out of my head, though.

@Tim, who you gonna believe, Wikipedia or your lyin' eyes?

@Waxy, "tragic" does not even begin to describe those events which are still unfolding. Very sad - very scary.

Oh yeah, the puzzle - I guess I'm the only one who at first had the Buckeye as a kansAN. Turns out that would be a Jayhawk, maybe?

GILL I. 3:53 PM  

La cucaracha, La cucaracha, ya no puede caminar. Por que le falta, porque no tiene la la la la la la.

Dirigonzo 4:07 PM  

@G.I.P - OK the image is gone but now I can't get the song out of my head.

GILL I. 4:22 PM  

Serves you right.
Mares eat goats and does eat goats and little lambs eat chivy.

SharonAK 8:29 PM  

In case anyone is still reading.
I just googled The Ghostbusters and learned it was children's TV program with a ghost busting trio before the (unrelated)movie was made.
New knowledge I didn't need.

Dirigonzo 8:34 PM  

@SharonAK - lots of us are still reading. Thanks for the info!

That's 3 and out for me.

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