French novelist Pierre / FRI 3-12-11 / Columbarium object / Daughter in Cherry Orchard / Children's author Eleanor

Friday, March 11, 2011

Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Eleanor ESTES (14D: Children's author Eleanor) —

Eleanor Estes (May 9, 1906 – July 15, 1988) was an American children's author. [...] Estes's book Ginger Pye (1951) won the Newbery Medal, and three of her other books (The Middle Moffat, Rufus M., and The Hundred Dresses) were chosen as Newbery Honor books. She also received the Certificate of Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children’s Literature and was nominated for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. By the time of her death at age 82, Estes had written 19 children's books and one novel for adults. (wikipedia)
• • •

Just fine. Not MA-S's best work, by a long shot, but very competent for a themeless puzzle with stacked 15s running across the center. Here's the thing—stacked 15s are hard to pull off, so you have to admire the feat on some level, and yet ... it's Been Done, many times, so there's no longer any novelty in it. Unless you get some Fantastic answers in there, the feat seems a little meaningless at this point. I'm not sure any of the 15s qualify as Fantastic, though I like SOUND THE RETREAT best of all. Can we please retires A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE? That's at least three times I've seen that particular 15 in recent months. Otherwise, there's very little in the way of groany stuff (only CORMS (32D: Bulblike bases of stems), LOTI (31D: French novelist Pierre), NEI (54A: Verdi's "___ giardin del bello"), CITER, and DORSA rubbed me the wrong way). Good work, but without any particular sizzle, I won't remember it in a few hours, let alone tomorrow.

Biggest problem area for me was, not surprisingly, that vast white middle. Top and bottom were pretty cinchy, but I didn't know there was a SINAI DESERT, and I thought "etiolate" mean something like "taper" or "deteriorate" (not WHITEN), so I had trouble getting into the middle at first. At first pass, only OLIN, DRESS FASTENERS, ELDEST, AT 'EM, and SESS fell in. Those last three eventually allowed me to see A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE, and I made good headway from there. Once I got into the bottom, the SW threatened to be pretty recalcitrant, mostly because ARCADE was really hard to turn up (43A: Game keeper), but it all fell into place. SE played like a Wednesday. The End.

  • 1A: Cosmonaut's craft (SOYUZ) — learned the name from crosswords. Picked it up from the helpful gimme ZED (5D: Letter in the Globe and Mail)
  • 19A: Cabinet dept. since 1965 (HUD) — Housing and Urban Development. I had HHS at first.
  • 1D: What the narrator "threw up" in "The Night Before Christmas" (SASH) — Loved this one, as it reminded me of my mom, who read me this poem a lot when I was very little. It may be the first poem I ever knew by heart. You'll have to ask her.
  • 2D: Baseball's Lefty (GROVE) — well, it should've been GROVE, anyway...

  • 4D: Columbarium object (URN) — Who can forget Keats's "Ode on a Columbarium Object?" Beauty is truth, truth beauty. I have no idea what "Columbarium" is (wikipedia says it's "a place for the respectful and usually public storage of cinerary urns."
  • 10D: Onetime owner of Sheraton Hotels (ITT) — I thought maybe OTT. Then thought, "Cousin ITT? Really?"
  • 33D: Daughter in "The Cherry Orchard" (ANYA) — went for ANNA then thought "nah, needs to be more Russiany." That "Y" helped me finally get the oddly clued LITERARY STUDIES (how is that a concentration for an English major????? Virtually any course an English major takes is LITERARY STUDIES. You'd concentrate, maybe, in a period or genre or something like that. I mean, do math majors have concentrations in "number studies?" (please don't answer that)
  • 53D: Tom T. Hall's "Mama Bake ___" ("A PIE") — got it easily without knowing the song or even who Tom T. Hall is (sounds familiar, but ...). Let's see ... ooh, he's a "country balladeer," says wiki. Let's listen.

Now compare with ... [profanity warning]


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. puzzle by me and Angela Halsted over at Brendan Emmett Quigley's website today. Check it out.


Anonymous 12:12 AM  

You know, Willy & Merle were, respectively, 27 and 32 in that video. As the saying goes, it's not the years, it's the miles, and those boys have some hard miles on them.

SethG 12:21 AM  

Lefty GROVE crosses nicely with the Department of Veterans Affairs, if you don't notice the "dept" in the clue.

I skip M-W 1:11 AM  

I can't download puzzle. anyone else having problems?

chefwen 1:55 AM  

Any Friday that I can finish is aces in my book. As Rex mentioned A LOT ON ONES PLATE being around lately was a big help. The long answers filled in easily for me except for 30A where I filled in LITERARY STorIES, that had me flummoxed for a tad bit.

This was one of my better Fridays in a long time Whoo Hoo!!

Anonymous 2:09 AM  

Nice little puzzle, but I'm sorry, carputer is one of the ugliest words I've seen in a while. Has anyone ever said that word in the history of the universe?

davko 2:19 AM  

You've got to respect a puzzle that allows for such confident building of edifices that must later be torn down. The seemingly obvious GROVE for "Baseball's Lefty" (2D) and FLIER for Superman (63A) led to some wild but plausible word combinations before their folly was laid bare.

Once chastened, I cruised evenly from top to bottom like a descending curtain. Loved the way the stacked 15's gradually became recognizable as my staggered verticals bled down, providing valuable letters.

Didn't mind CITER so much (45D), because you at least had to deduce this from "quoter" (a word which sounds almost as awkward).

I could practically hear the collective groan of Rex and countless others who, like me, have seen ALOTONONESPLATE ad nauseum. C'mon Will, I know you've got a lot on your plate, but how did you let this go through?

JaxInL.A. 2:48 AM  

I usually fall asleep right after I finish the puzzle so I don't get here until the next morning when loads more people have posted. It feels a little like I arrived at the party too early. Don't know quite why, though.

I breezed right thru the NW and SE corners, and got cocky. In the end I had to wrestle with this one quite a bit before reaching critical mass for filling in the stacked 15s. HTG, too. I try not to on a Thursday if I can help it.

The Hundred Dresses is one of my all-time favorite books. If only I had remembered the author.

Thanks for the music lesson, Rex. Never one to avoid a professor's direction to "discuss," I have to say that we used to be jollier about our alcoholism. I like the juxtaposition. The Physics song is pretty catchy for this day and age, but I gotta be cranky about why current songs must use derogatory swear words and then claim they don't mean anything by 'em. (this is not a complaint about Rex posting the song, but commentary on the genre, about which I admit only limited knowledge, tho I do have a teenager, tho.)


jae 3:22 AM  

This was on the easy side for me, except for the center where LITERARY took while (ANNA was the problem). Which brings me to a question " what constitutes a DNF?" These days, when you do the puzzle on a device, (I'm on an IPAD) you know you don't have a correct grid when you've filled it in and don't get the "completed" screen or Mr. Happy Pencil in AcrossLite. I always check for typos but if there's not an obvious one I start looking for alternative answers and can usually find my error. Is this a DNF? On paper it's sink or swim and I'm leaning towards going back to my mechanical pencil.

arcadea corms michaels 3:29 AM  

Yay! Ignorance pays!!!!!!!!
I've never heard of Lefty Grove...
but there is a bar here in SF called Lefty O'Douls...had no idea that was a baseball player, but got it off the O. :) :) :)

Same mindset too that ANnA needed to be Russian-ed up.

One of the worst dates in my life was with Ben of Ben and Jerry's, to the point that I could not only not remember Ben's last name, I suddenly thought maybe I had gone out with Jerry!
Then I became fixated that his name might be Ben SteiN. oy.
(We had mutual friends who thought we'd hit it off, he needed a ride to the dinner party we were both invited to, got stuck in traffic and he kept telling me to "go with the flow" and other faux-hippie bullshit...oh, never mind.)

Like @Rex, I had the top and the bottom and nada in the middle.
I knew from SINAI, however, but
it evens out bec I had no clue about "The Night Before Christmas"!

Not helpful that I tried RETuRnED, RiPostED, before RETORTED...not to mention ONspeakingTERMS and the way off olympICstAdiums.

Is Pierre LOTI the guy who wrote the novel without "e"? And why isn't the plural of 11D Backs DORSi?
I need a course in plurals.

I really liked ANTIDEPRESSANTS...

I ADORE the inventiveness of being able to get away with THREETENS!
(62A "Pretty good poker hand")

And my favorite thing was my myriad wrong answers for 13D "One likely to get men's attention": T----.

I skip M-W 3:37 AM  

Finally got it downloaded on the 3rd browser I tried.

Lefty O'Doul's is a longtime baseball-themed bar in SF, otherwise would have been stuck. Who's Lefty Grove?

I thought English major's concentration would have involved Sten guns or the like, agree w/ Rex about literary studies. Tried stories too.

LBJ put in the HUD as part of the The War (now lost) on Poverty. Sinai Desert featured pretty prominently in 6-day war, 2 years later, though I tried Sandy at first,

Liked sound the retreat and anti-depressants, and on intimate terms. Dress fasteners good too.

The novel I just finished writing includes a "Tinkputer" so can't complain about carputer too much. BTW any literary agents out there? otherwise I'll need loads of SASE's.

I skip M-W 3:44 AM  

@arcadea No, Loti was not the e-less author, that was Georges Perec. I think Loti wrote about places like Istambul.

PastelLady 3:49 AM  

Hmmph. 'The Moffats' was a favorite childhood read for me, and I read the series aloud to my children, too. Eleanor ESTES' books are set in much earlier times, but touch on many of the universals of childhood. Give your kids a glimpse into early 20th-century life! Find out who Adelina Patti was!

Anonymous 4:31 AM  

I just googled carputer and it gets lots of hits, in fact there seem to be whole websites devoted to these devices ( not sure why anyone would want one, however). I'd guess that these would be illegal in some states.

DJG 4:54 AM  

Rank of baseball Leftys with five-letter last names in terms of crossword-worthiness.


Lefty O'Doul is third on the list, but probably shows up the most. He only played about six MLB seasons and retired in 1934. (But he did have a damn good career average -- .349.)

Octavian 4:56 AM  

Strange. First time I breezed thru a Friday puzzle where I didn't feel any elation. Just seemed very easy for some reason.

Blasted through the top and bottom as if I was taking dication. Then got stuck in the middle. I had NEGEV Desert for awhile instead of SINAI (doh!), and thought LITERARY STUDIES couldn't possibly be right as it was too broad for a "concentration."

THREE TENS was a great answer and Russian Alternative was my favorite clue.

I also had trouble downloading this from the NYT website so solved it on the iPad instead. (V nicely done app, if you haven't tried.)

Smitty 5:57 AM  

Somehow Bartlett's morphed into Bartles and James (didn't they make CIDER or some alcoholic fruit drink?)

Cousin ITT owned Sheraton Hotels? Rex you crack me up!

Rex Parker 6:40 AM  

Just waking up here to horrible news from Japan. All best wishes to my readers in Japan, and, to my west coasters, Fresno is calling you (i.e. get off the coast!).


Anonymous 6:48 AM  

Can somebody please explain EDS for "Glamour types"? I'm hoping it's not referring to "editors"...

Rex Parker 6:49 AM  

It's referring to editors.

joho 8:10 AM  

@Rex, stacked 15s are "a feat that seems a little meaningless at this point." What? I will always be impressed with any constructor who can pull this off as smoothly as Martin Ashwood-Smith just did.

@DJG ... Gomez was my first answer!

r.alphbunker 8:16 AM  

An excellent puzzle. Took 40 minutes with OVERTurE instead of OVERTONE messing up the perfection at the end. That was carelessness on my part. The histogram of the completed entries says it all.
First 4 minutes 9 words correct
2. 12 words correct
3. 3
4. 14
5. 4
6. 0!
7. 0!
8. 1!
9. 10
10. 16

That burst of 16 at the end was a lot of fun and nicely balanced the 12 minute period where nothing was happening. Perseverance pays off.

@acme Thanks for the laughs. What a world we live in, so full of humor and horror.

fikink 8:49 AM  

Many wonderful clues - "cows" for SCARES, "suggestions" for OVERTONES, and the lone "close" for ON INTIMATE TERMS. Spent a good deal of time deciding if I was looking for something pertaining to closing a door or something that was in close proximity to something. Took a long while to discover that it was in close proximity to SOMEONE. Kept trying to come to TERMS via closing a deal.
Decent Friday puzzle.

Lynn 8:50 AM  

Carputer? Perhaps the worst word I've ever seen in a crossword. Did he make it up?

No BS 8:57 AM  

Mini course in plurals for Andrea Nominator Corms:

Singular of back in latin is dorsum. Plural of that type of noun (second declension, neuter, if I remember correctly, all of which end in -um) is replace -um with -a. Second declension, masculine (maybe a little more familiar in crosswordland) ends, usually, in -us and pluralizes with -i., so it would be dorsi only if back were dorsus.

Similar help from ignorance concerning the sinister baseballers.

Hoping to meet many of you at ACPT (my rookie appearance) next week. I, for one, will have my blog tag displayed.

Bill from NJ 9:11 AM  

Got ALOTONONESPLATE with no crosses and was absolutely certain it was correct. Went smugly forward from there.

Anonymous 9:13 AM  

I skip M-W, what browser did you use that finally worked? I've been unable to download the puzzle for two days - have tried IE (my usual browser) and Mozilla, with no luck.

Anonymous 9:17 AM  

Been reading NYT grammarian...shouldn't Cain be elder?

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

Lynn said:

"Carputer? Perhaps the worst word I've ever seen in a crossword. Did he make it up?"

No I did not:

There are almost half a million results for "carputer" on Google.

We don't make "stuff" up.

-Martin Ashwood-Smith

lit.doc 9:23 AM  

DNF. Died trying to cross the KALIHARI DESERT.

Completed S, which is progress of a sort, and then ran DRESS FASTENERS up into N, where I got scattered fill but not enough for any real traction. ZED / SOYUZ / SASH in NW hooked to HHR, AVOID instead of AVERT, and so on. Sigh.

I hope this was a good puzzle.

Rex Parker 9:27 AM  

MAS is quickly becoming my favorite constructor-commenter. He simply doesn't #&$^ around.


Howard B 9:28 AM  

I was surprised by CARPUTER as well. Then looked it up post-solve, and learned something new for the day. It's valid, solid, and I was as surprised as any to find that out. Then again, I didn't have a car with a working CD player until maybe 5 years ago, so take it for what it's worth.
Love technology, but not so much while I'm driving ;).

Nice puzzle today, Martin.

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

Anon 9:17, Cain and Abel were Adam and Eve's first two sons. They had at least one other - Seth.

Matthew G. 9:41 AM  

This one skewed easy-ish for me for a Friday, mainly because I've seen A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE so many times recently, and because many of the three letter answers were gimmes. My first pass through the grid didn't turn up much, but I then went back and did the twelve threes (not to be confused with the THREE TENS), and the grid opened up like a flower in May.

It's a good thing I tend to work from the bottom up, because I too surely would have put GROVE instead of ODOUL if I'd run into that with no crosses, and then refused to budge.

I agree that A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE probably needs to be retired. Not only is it no longer interesting, but it made this puzzle a lot easier than it otherwise would have been. Like Rex, I was dubious about LITERARY STUDIES, but it does look like a few institutions have a major with that official name, so, okay.

Otherwise, liked the puzzle a lot, mainly because of the cluing. POLITICAL ARENAS and SOUND THE RETREAT were the best 15s.

Rex Parker 9:50 AM  

@Matthew, you wrote "I was dubious about LITERARY STUDIES, but it does look like a few institutions have a major with that official name, so, okay." But if you read the clue, the "major" is already established as English. That's the problem—I'm being asked to believe that "LITERARY STUDIES" is a "concentration" within the English major. Maybe this is "professional annoyance," but the clue feels inaccurate/implausible, as worded.

I have no doubt that "LITERARY STUDIES" is, in fact, a major at several if not many institutions.


Bob Kerfuffle 9:56 AM  

Two write-overs, OVERTURES before OVERTONES and MFA before BFA.

Fortunately, I took the time to count letters before putting THEBAN DESERT at 18 D. Don't want to re-ignite debate about using definite article, but in this case it was potentially confusing.

jesser 9:56 AM  

I liked it. I have a very busy day ahead, so that will be all.

Prayers winging toward Japan and other affected areas. I love New Mexico.

-- jesser

Anonymous 9:57 AM  

Very difficult for me. So it must be a typical Friday. Did not solve a lot even with google.
Could not enjoy the puzzle very much when you stare at so many blanks for the longest time. But I admire the constructor's skills and those of you who found it easy.

Tobias Duncan 10:01 AM  

@Andrea I feel your hippie pain.In Northern NM you will be asked your astrological sign within the first 15 min if any romantic encounter .If you respond with anything other than an earnest recounting of the date and time of your birth, you are met with a look of absolute horror.

I do not understand ZED SEA or EDS

Wade 10:10 AM  

Fredo, you break my heart. Respect for Tom T. Hall! Last I checked the only version of "Mama Bake a Pie" on Youtube was a low-quality cover by Drive-By Truckers, but that song is one of the most viscerally effective anti-war songs I've ever heard, up there with "And the Band Played Waltzing Mathilda." It's about a legless soldier coming home from Viet Nam. Tom T. was a pretty radical dude whose songs amazingly got not only tolerated but became hits on mainstream country radio. He also wrote stupid crap like "I Like Beer," which I also love.

But mainly I'm here today to give a shout-out to Palo Pinto county, my hometown backyard, whose notorious jail hosted several of my friends when we were growing up but never me, because I'm too cagey to be caged.

I'm with you on LITERARY STUDIES. I had "creative writing" there. ("What's your major?" "English." "What's your concentration?" "Well, reading books and poems and stuff, I guess.")

JaxInL.A. 10:14 AM  

I looked up Pierre Loti. He was a late 19th century French naval officer who wrote books about his many travels in a semi-autobiographical way that reflected the impressionist atmosphere of the time. Apparently he heavily influenced Proust. His novel of Tahiti inspired the opera Lakmé, and he has a namesake wine bar in NY and hotel in Istanbul.

To my mind, we should have had an article in the clue for THE SINAI DESERT. 

Forgot earlier to say thanks to Mr. Ashwood-Smith for a nice puzzle with clever clues already noted, plus the "runners, of a sort" (CANDIDATES) (I tried to put in marathoner at first), and I liked the reference then to POLITICAL ARENAS.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

Tobias Duncan:

Globe and Mail are British papers - the Brits call "z" ZED.

SEA - think of o'er the bounding main.

EDS - short for "editors" (at Glamour magazine).

JaxInL.A. 10:20 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ulrich 10:23 AM  

@Anonymous: Thanks for making several minutes worth of typing a waste of time for me.

I thought I check in b/c in a few hrs., I'll be leaving for Vegas via NYC, to continue to Death Valley for 5 days of hiking--won't be able to do puzzles on paper, the only way I know.

Be seeing some of you in Brooklyn next week (the day I'm returning)

JaxInL.A. 10:39 AM  

Hey, Rex failed to note that he and Puzzle Girl have a guest puzzle out today at Brendan Emmett Quigley's site, plus there's an interview and a picture for those of you who want to know how to recognize them at ACPT next week.  

JC66 10:44 AM  

@Anonymous 9:13

The Safari browser works for me; Google Chrome used to, but now doesn't.

I think the SINAI Desert is the "wilderness" where Jesus was tempted for forty days (it is the Lenten Season) as well as the "wilderness" that Moses and the Jews wandered for 40 years after escaping slavery in Egypt before arriving in Israel.

PuzzleNut 10:51 AM  

A very good Friday. I finished with one error, SOYeZ/eRN. Thanks for explaining what a Columbarium is, although I probably won't use it in any casual conversations.
I can't imagine not being impressed with ANY quad stacks of 15's. I also can't imagine Will telling a constructor, "Looks good, just take out ALOTONONESPLATE".
Overall, the puzzle seemed easier than I expected after the first pass through. Just enough toeholds throughout to barely get by. Write-overs included RETuRnED, DORSi and fLarE (for ALINE). I've learned to be cautious with my answers by the end of the week.

Two Ponies 10:54 AM  

Clever clues today.
It would have paid to be a botanist though. Corms? And it seems that etiolate refers to growing plants in the dark.
I love learning new things in my puzzle.
I had the arenas part of 29A before I got candidates so was thinking sports of course.
I see that @ chefwen posted early. I hope she was not affected by the tsunami. I just got an automated call from California giving me a warning notice about it. Scary.

quilter1 11:04 AM  

Thrilled to finish a Friday in short order. Had DORSi first. SASH was my first entry and like RP, The Night Before Christmas was the first poem I memorized and can still recite.

Once again the Earth shrugged.

Anonymous 11:13 AM  


Thanks for the suggestion on the browser. I just tried downloading from a different computer using IE, and it worked - so either something's messed up on my laptop or NYT fixed the web site.

If I run into problems again, I'll give Safari a try.

Noam D. Elkies 11:19 AM  

...and of course the grid is necessarily (given symmetry and the central "quad") 16 rows wide, not the usual 15.

The 4x15 stack may have been Done Before, but not that"many times", plus here there are also two 13-letter answers crossing each of the four words in the stack plus extra 15's in the third and third-to-last row.

And yes, A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE is rather common for a 15-letter answer — six xwordinfo hits, including another one just a week ago — but there are thirteen others with as many hits, and nine that have appeared 7 or 8 times.


Roberto 11:40 AM  


SMS 11:42 AM  

I may be in the minority but there was a lot I didn't like in this puzzle. The technical feat of 4 x 15 with long crosses aside, count me in the group that found carputer particularly ugly. I also disliked "dressfastener," "anear," and "youdo" clued with "seriously?" and the "the" in the sinai desert answer

Add to that list several obscure names and you have a puzzle that i found less fun and revelatory than many. I finished, but it was a bit of a slog with more groans than "aha"s...

Of course there were some exceptions. I liked the clues for "citer," "alien," and "herds"--all pretty inspired. And I too liked learning the meaning of etiolate.

cheers to all and best wishes to any of those touched by the earthquake...

mmorgan 11:46 AM  

Some great clues here -- 5D (Letter in the Globe and Mail), 44D (Russian alternative), and others. I was unsure of a few things that turned out to be correct (always a nice feeling). But I was messed up by having MGM for ITT at 10D, and ANnA at 33D -- and I was expecting a much more specific qualifier than LITERARY for 39A.

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

Folks, the last time I checked, the Globe and Mail was a Toronto-based Canadian newspaper. And in Canada, they say "Zed", just like the Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, South Africans, etc.

The London "newspaper" (and I use that term loosely) you may be thinking of is the Daily Mail.

Random Stuff 11:57 AM  

@Two Ponies:

Etiolate is the technique for "growing" white asparagus --- the green stems are covered with soil until they turn white from lack of light.


Fearless leader never forgets being published, see the the end of his write-up ;)


Shamik 12:02 PM  

SO refreshing to return to read this blog after so many days of either no puzzle solving or solving so late in the day, that I didn't have more time than to note Rex's rating of the puzzle. So refreshing to read comments from people with brains. Ahhhhh. But then a sigh of sadness because of not being able to join a bunch of you this year in Brooklyn.

Medium puzzle. And I don't know where I've been but maybe I have a lot on my plate since I hadn't noticed that ALOTONONESPLATE has been done too much. It was one of the last things to fall in my 17:06 puzzle.

Thoughts go out to those in Japan and other areas affected.

lit.doc 12:27 PM  

To add to my remarks from last night (posted in haste on the way out the door this morning), I'm glad to see that it was, indeed, a good puzzle.

Except maybe for CARPUTER (mostly 'cuz my truck's carputer is named HAL, for obvious reasons)and LITERARY STUDIES, which @Rex dissected so aptly.

I guessed correctly on 4D, but was expecting that Columbarium would turn out to be some radioactive element I haven't heard of.

chefbea 12:37 PM  

Not to bad for a Friday but still DNF.

Now I will try Rex and Angela's puzzle

GenJoneser 12:43 PM  

Thanks Dad for working at ITT way back when. You helped me again...RIP.

Stan 12:49 PM  

Stuck way too long with the agricultural meanings of "runner" and "field" (cantalope? vine? melon patch?) before CANDIDATE emerged.

Especially liked the vocab in the SOYUZ/SASH and EXURB/ENNUI corners. Mrs. Stan knew Lefty O'Doul's from the Bay Area and also the San Francisco Columbarium.

Lively blog today -- Andrea's date story, @Wade on Tom T. Hall, Rex on Literary Studies, Ashwood-Smith's visit... Great stuff!

syndy 12:54 PM  

Lovely medium friday puzzle but will remember that the anonymous mr Ashwood-Smith is easily thrown into defensive mode! particularly liked the eenui in the exurb! sash first answer and odoul second(don" know how I knew)I had SCENES for 25 across til lack of pecil happiness....

fikink 1:08 PM  

Ditto @Shamik, it is nice to be able to read Rex in a timely fashion and be buoyed with some of the more considered posts. I think I, too, am lucky to only have time for the NYT puzzle these days: I have not been inundated with ALOTONONESPLATE.

@SMS, because ANEAR was clued "poetically," it was quite Apparent to me. This is just more beautiful resonance in this puzzle, given how engaged I was with the clue for 40A.

@Ulrich, have a good trek. Wish I could catch up with you in Brooklyn next week.

@Wade, remember Dylan's "John Brown"? It ends:

As he turned away to walk, his Ma was still in shock
At seein' the metal brace that helped him stand.
But as he turned to go, he called his mother close
And dropped his medals down into her hand.

William Strunk 1:11 PM  

@RP "Not MA-S's best work, by a long shot" should be removed from your commentary or a citation given so that readers can compare for themselves.

Sarah 1:17 PM  

CARPUTER? Ugh. Had to google a few things, but finished the puzzle fairly swiftly for me. As someone who teaches English Majors, the first thing that came to mind as a concentration was "creativewriting," which is a very popular among our students (and I felt very clever getting, even though it was wrong). Then had to change that to LITERARYSTorIES, although I thought "huh"? LITERARY STUDIES is, as others have pointed out, just redundant. That's all English majors do. I really wanted to get the word "trey" into a clue about poker, but not such luck. All in all not overly hard for a Friday, but not much fun either.

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

I don't see any problem with LITERARY STUDIES, as the answer to the clue "Concentration for an English major". As Rex admits it may be the concentration of all English majors. All includes one. Now if the clue had been "Specialty of an English major", I would see the point. I think this is a case of the specialist being blinded by the trees of a specialty and overlooking the forest. This issue has even been discussed recently on this very blog.

If the major were Biology, the concentration would be in Life Science, whether the specialty was Botany or Mammalian Anatomy.

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

Most creative wrong answer: columbarium is a dovecote?

Anonymous 2:04 PM  

Urn was my first write-in did not realise columbarium is unfamiliar to many.

Hands up for Lefty Gomez! Tough puzzle today.

Never heard of Eleanor Estes and though zed is in my native tongue what makes the "zed" stand out as a letter over any other letter?

Astrid 2:30 PM  

I've just got a question for anyone who knows Italian or Verdi's Don Carlo (or both) - shouldn't it be "Nel giardin del bello"? or is "Nei" some sort of regionalism, or a construction that my extremely basic Italian lessons didn't cover? I googled it, and both spellings get hits, but "Nei" looks very odd to me... Please enlighten me!

John V 2:39 PM  

All of what's been said. Last to fall for me was Literary Studies, as I didn't know Palo Pinto, Lina Olin, Pierre Loti, Anya, Corms. Guess I need to get out more, make new frineds, or something.

Very rewarding puzzle as it was, for me, was a multiple seater. Good instance of putting it aside and letting it grow. Fun.

Sparky 2:50 PM  

Almost finished. Two squares blank at 42A N--. Had 39A STorIES and stuck with it. 4D eRN. ALOTONONESPLATE fine with me because I haven't been this close on a Friday in weeks.

Looking forward to weekend and then ACPT. Yea.

Good luck to all touched by the earthquake.

Ruth 2:53 PM  

Astrid: I actually think there's a typo in the clue. "NEI" is a plural form of "in the" and the following word should be Giardini. If it is Giardin it would be NEL. I'm not sure but I think the aria is "Nel Giardin".

dk 3:01 PM  

Bull = HES.... moo

Tobias Duncan, I would always respond with "Slippery When Wet" when asked my sign. My sister would say "Watch for Falling Rocks:" Just a thought.

The rest a solid *** (3 Star Friday).

Andrea, I tried to think of a suitably smutty response to your T****, but as we are not ONINTIMATETERMS... I just oinked to myself.

Ulrich, say hey to Scotty if you stop by his castle.


Astrid 3:09 PM  

Thanks, Ruth - that makes sense to me.
Anyone have a good score for Don Carlo? I'd really like to know which construction Verdi used...

Even I forgot what I called it.. 3:11 PM  

@Astrid @Ruth A Google search for +verdi +"nei giardin" out-returns a Google search +verdi +"nel giardin" by 5:4. Further, we all know that there are no typos on any web page anywhere, so it's offically a toss-up.


foodie 3:20 PM  

Great to hear from you, @Bill from NJ!

And @Wade the Uncaged!

What Rex said re LITERARY STUDIES..

THE SINAI DESERT was my first answer. The clue for POLITICAL ARENAS really threw me for a loop.

I loved seeing ANTIDEPRESSANTS in the grid, and the way they were clued.

Impressive construction.

GILL I. 3:35 PM  

Loved the puzzle. Laughed as usual at Acme. Love Left O'Douls in SFO. Am so sad about today.

Clark 3:53 PM  

"And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters." (Genesis 5:4)

@Astrid -- I'm no Italian expert, but I have to think that giardin is plural here (even though the normal plural of giardino is giardini). My score says "nei giardin del bello saracin ostello", which looks to me like "in the gardens of the beautiful Saracen palace". At the beginning of Act Two, the text is "A mezzanotte, ai giardin della Regina." 'ai' signals, once again, a plural not a singular. The gardens of the queen.

GILL I. 3:54 PM  

Well crap, I can't ever spell. It's Lefty O'Douls. Great place for a beer or two, on Geary (unless they moved) great place for after hours.

archaeoprof 4:15 PM  

Good to hear from you @Bill from NJ!

Finished, but had to work at it. Loved "novel ID" for ISBN.

archaeoprof 4:17 PM  

And thanks, @Rex, for the Willie and Waylon!

mitchs 4:21 PM  

Also like Mr. Ashwood Smith's response. Sometimes being indignant is exactly the right tone. BTW, over on Amy's blog MA-S reveals that TEASE was originally clued with the Yiddish (I guess) spelling of "noodge".

Off point, I recently discovered, very gratefully, that you can access the Saturday Stumper via Stan Newman's blog. Is there an also alternate route to the LAT?

william e emba 5:08 PM  

The bottom was easy, the middle refused to yield for the longest time, partly because I refused to believe A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE was showing up again! The other reason I had difficulty in the middle was because of my difficulty up top, for the "Runner", I had ManOnBase, which actually had four correct letters. It wasn't until I got the D from DRESS FASTENERS that I corrected it.

Looking at SA-- for 1D, I kept thinking of SACK, not SASH.

I had MFA instead of BFA, which tied me up. I was wondering way too long if ELDEN or OLDEN was "Hallowed".

CoffeeLvr 5:31 PM  

"Professor" Parker: I would rather drink my beer listening to Tom T. in contrast to the Physics. But I agree with their sentiments - ain't nothing like a beer.

I am pleased, I completed a Friday in a reasonable amount of time, with no assistance. Except I picked up the book on the table next to me to confirm 55D ISBN before it occurred to me I was cheating.

The SE reminded me of my teenage years - ENNUI in EXURBia. At least we had cows, but no resident bulls.

I liked seeing A PIE cross SAPOR crossing APRON, which Mama would wear, no doubt.

I have printed the MS/SH puzzle from BEQ's site, now to solve it.

mac 5:39 PM  

Good Friday puzzle with some great clues, tough for me but ultimately doable. Never heard the word "carputer", but it's sort of cute.

I also was way off base thinking the runner was some sort of vine in a tropical something-or-other. Thank goodness for "alotononesplate"!

Hi Wade and Bill in NJ!

chefwen 5:42 PM  

@TwoPonies - All is well here, thanks for your concern. My niece, Maya Frommer lives in Tokyo and was on a train headed to the airport when it hit. She was interviewed by MSNBC today. She sounded pretty cool, calm, and collected but big brother confirms that she is very frightened.

fikink 5:46 PM  

@chefwen, been thinking of you all day. Glad you are good.

foodie 6:17 PM  

@chefwen, same here. Glad you and your niece are OK.

I have a previous trainee who lives right where it hit. Waiting to hear back from him.

I guess once in while, nature reminds us who's boss.

kratsman 6:28 PM  

MitchS--don't know what you consider alternate, cause I don't know what method you use now. But WIJ'S Puzzle Pointers and each host all of the day's puzzles. They're linked to on Rex's sidebar.

mitchs 6:40 PM  

Thanks kratsman, I'll give it a shot...

Anonymous 8:10 PM  

For the purists regarding "Literary Studies," a little Googling generates the following:

Washington State University, Department of English offers “Literary studies, an option in the English major …”

Georgia State University, Department of English offers five "concentrations" in their B.A. in English, including “Literary Studies.”

University of Wisconsin, Department of English offers Ph.D. programs in “Literary Studies,” as well as Composition & Rhetoric, Applied English Linguistics, Creative Writing, and others.

Iowa State University, Department of English offers undergraduate “concentrations” in “Literary Studies,” English Education, and Rhetorical Studies.

I realize these are probably not the premier English departments in the U.S., but they are all respectable universities.

Wade 8:48 PM  

Anonymous (if that is your real name), nothing wrong with those universities' English departments as far as I know. The point some of us may have been trying to make is that presumably everything an English department offers is related to literary studies, but that's a naive view, I realize, because even when I was a professional English major the English departments were dumping grounds for whatever political or theoretical school of thought or area of study was in vogue at the moment, some of which were only nominally related to literary studies. When I was in grad school, Chiapas was all the rage, and Subcomandante Marcos, so your thesis or dissertation better have something to do with that. Then clearness was the rage (remember Crystal Pepsi?) and then it was wideness (wide-stick deodorant, wider mouths on beer bottles), and then for awhile you couldn't find anything on a restaurant menu that wasn't chipotle. I've forgotten now what we were talking about. Oh, yes, Tom T. Hall. Check out his great songs "Trip to Hayden" and "Homecoming" and "That's How I Got to Memphis."

davko 9:13 PM  

Having taken 2 semesters of Italian, I can safely say the NEI is legit -- like NEL, it's a contraction meaning "in the..." but for a masculine plural noun. Where I have a problem is with "giardin" -- I was certain the plural was "giardini."

fikink 9:33 PM  

@Wade, at U of Iowa the dumping ground was Comparative Literature or Comp Lit - and in the Political Science Department. More Deconstruction there than I care to import.

GILL I. 9:37 PM  

@foodie: Yes, my thoughts too.

Astrid 9:55 PM  

Thanks to all who commented on the Verdi question - I appreciate your insight!

sanfranman59 10:01 PM  

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 6:55, 6:55, 1.00, 53%, Medium
Tue 7:15, 8:55, 0.81, 4%, Easy
Wed 10:48, 11:43, 0.92, 38%, Easy-Medium
Thu 18:13, 19:08, 0.96, 45%, Medium
Fri 24:55, 26:14, 0.95, 40%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:41, 0.96, 34%, Easy-Medium
Tue 3:42, 4:34, 0.81, 2%, Easy
Wed 5:33, 5:47, 0.96, 42%, Medium
Thu 9:02, 9:12, 0.98, 58%, Medium
Fri 12:23, 12:52, 0.96, 49%, Medium

mac 10:03 PM  

@Foodie: so true.

Unknown 11:04 PM  

Townes lives.

Pete 11:04 PM  

I'm pretty sure that English majors devote the majority of their concentration to Literary Studies as opposed to, say, the subtelties of Physics for Poets.
Otherwise, what Wade said. Come to think of it, just what Wade said.

foodie 11:08 PM  

@Wade, even though I'm bummed about Japan, I swear you had me hooting with laughter. Thank you!!

Two Ponies 11:24 PM  

@ Wade, Always a hoot when you drop by.

Yahswe Sukuyugi 1:31 AM  

That's stunning. Cool oldies.

Will 2:19 PM  

Did anyone else have a missing letter where sapor crossed loess? two words that were not in my vocabulary until today.

Chip Hilton 3:31 PM  

Way late with this comment, but...

I taught in a school where the library was named after Eleanor Estes. She grew up in our town (West Haven, CT) and made many references to the geography of the area in her stories. I met her once and she was a delight. Highly recommend 'The Hundred Dresses' to teach youngsters about mean spiritedness and its damage.

Dirigonzo 4:36 PM  

It's 5 weeks after the earthquake/tsunami disaster in Japan and and the magnitude of the death and destruction it caused is still being determined - and the nuclear near-catastrophe it precipitated is still out of control. All of us have been affected to some degree by this event, but soon enough the news cycle will move on to something more important - celebrity misbehavior possibly - and all will be forgotten, except by those who lost everyone and/or everything and have to rebuild their lives from scratch. Life goes on.

As to the puzzle, I liked it. First run-through of all the clues produced a dozen answers, all correct it turns out, which provided enough of a toehold to get started on the long answers. SOUNDTHERETREAT fell first and LITERARYSTUDIES went in last for all the reasons discussed by the prime-timers. THREETENS is a good poker hand, but so is a fullhouse and THREEaces is even better. so I had to wait a while for that corner to sort itself out.

Still sad about Japan, though.

Longbeachlee 1:36 AM  

Geezer alert - I grew up in San Francisco as a SF Seals (AAA Pacific Coast League) fan. Lefty O'Doul managed them for what seemed like forever. He was a popular chaacter around town.

lodsf 1:14 PM  

[3/11 syndic+ Apr’11] DNF but living in San Francisco knew about Lefty ODOUL and columbariums where they keep URNS. The Neptune Society’s San Francisco Columbarium – the remaining structure from an early 20th century Odd Fellows Cemetery – is actually a local ‘attraction’; Google “San Francisco Columbarium” for pictures and Yelp reviews. (Or try this -- -- if ‘links’ post I’m not sure.)

5 weeks later and still disturbing news from Japan. Local news coverage here, from the start, has been disappointing focusing more on harbor damage in Santa Cruz & Crescent City than Japan. Not that I’m not empathetic to the California costal communities, but it would have/ would be nice to have better coverage of actual events in Japan.

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