Rocker Hitchcock / THU 6-30-11 / Snack cake since 1961 / Whitman's dooryard bloomer / Intermediate at law / 1966 gold album Herb Alpert

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Constructor: David Poole

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: ACRONYM (50D: Basis of the answer to each starred clue, commonly) — answers are silly sentences that are also homophones of common acronyms (initialisms, actually, but why split hairs?)

Word of the Day: MESNE (10D: Intermediate, at law) —


[Cf. Mean intermediate.]
(Law) Middle; intervening; as, a mesne lord, that is, a lord who holds land of a superior, but grants a part of it to another person, in which case he is a tenant to the superior, but lord or superior to the second grantee, and hence is called the mesne lord. // Mesne process, intermediate process; process intervening between the beginning and end of a suit, sometimes understood to be the whole process preceding the execution. Blackstone. Burrill. -- Mesne profits, profits of premises during the time the owner has been wrongfully kept out of the possession of his estate. Burrill. (Read more:

• • •

This puzzle is ingenious, even if the fill is a little rough around the edges in parts. ROBYN Hitchcock (57D: Rocker Hitchcock) crossing ALAN BALL!? (64A: "Six Feet Under" creator) Yikes. I knew both, but only because a. I was in college when ROBYN Hitchcock was a well known "college rock" (it was a thing) artist, and b. I do puzzles and have stumbled on ALAN BALL before. Lots of names, and with every theme answer relying on your knowing famous names, this seems like an easy puzzle to get stuck in (name-y puzzles tend to be landmines). But the theme is great, even if, as I say, ACRONYMs, technically, can be said as a word, e.g. NOW (the National Organization for Women) or OSHA (the Organization of Senior Hat Artists). These are all initialisms, but I think dictionaries have tired of people screwing up and decided that any initialism can be called an ACRONYM now, so ... here we are.

Theme answers:
  • 16A: *"Got it! You want me to play Dorothy's aunt!" ("I SEE! BE EM!")
  • 25A: *"Get in line, Ms. Gorme!" ("QUEUE, EYDIE!")
  • 40A: *"Ms. Myers, shall I pour?" ("DEE DEE ... TEA?") — this was the first theme answers I stumbled across and I somehow couldn't get the name DOROTHEA out of my head (I had the last two letters). Even later, when I'd filled in ACRONYM, I couldn't figure out what the deal was. Only when I got "QUEUE, EYDIE!" and went "huh?" did it dawn on me what was going on. After that, things were a little easier.
  • 56A: *"Supermodel Macpherson, I presume?" ("YOU ARE ELLE?")
  • 71A: *"Sly insect!" ("CAGEY BEE!")
Got Nothing in the NW and so ended up starting at BALD (33A: Unlocked?) and sliding right down into the SE corner, where I ended up piecing together ACRONYM pretty early, well before I had any theme answer in place. Man, there are Really a lot of names in this puzzle. But I've said that. I also said the fill was a little rough around the edges, but truthfully the only outright ugly thing in the grid is MESNE (which I have seen only once before: when it was running through a stack of four 15s back in March) (10D: Intermediate, at law). Otherwise the puzzle is hampered only by an excessive reliance on odd names. Weird to have FDA and SRO (60A: 1966 gold album by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass) and GMT and PSA in this puzzle, if only because I really want to turn them into theme answers. *"Gosh, it's all gone!" => "GEE, EMPTY!" *"Urinate, my fellow Mexican!" => "PEE, ESE!" I think I've got the hang of it.

  • 15A: Horse-drawn vehicle (LANDAU) — like ALAN BALL, I know LANDAU Only from crosswords.
  • 34A: Cub #21 of 1990s-2000s (SOSA) — "of the Steroid Era" is more like it.
  • 35A: "The Rules of the Game" filmmaker, 1939 (RENOIR) — Jean. Know the name, but have not (to my knowledge) seen any of his films.
  • 53A: Peeler's target, informally (SPUD) — a befuddling clue. "Target" makes potato-peeling sound awfully violent / personal.
  • 55A: Whitman's dooryard bloomer (LILAC) — just finished "To Kill a Mockingbird" today. I'd never read it before. Hey, guess what else I've never read. Go on.
  • 73A: Surfer's handle (USER NAME) — that use of "surf" shouldn't fool anyone at this point.
  • 2D: Newman of early "S.N.L." (LARAINE) — know her name by sound. Written out, it looks Nuts.
  • 6D: Snack cake since 1961 (SUZY Q) — ooh, rough. I haven't seen one of these ... well, since I don't when. Not sure I could pick one out of a snack cake line-up.

  • 58D: Horror movie locale, for short (ELM ST.) — again, pretty hard. I was thinking "locale" in the general sense (i.e. cabin in the woods).
  • 67D: Old NASA vehicle (LEM) — A common enough ACRONYM. I was reminded of it the other day when someone, somewhere mentioned a one-hit wonder band that I'd completely forgotten about. OK, so their name's LEN, not LEM. Just go with it:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. Thanks to everyone who visited the new Facebook page for this website yesterday. I did not expect all the nice comments posted there. Much appreciated. I'll have a "Like" button up on the website soon (or, rather, PuzzleGirl will help me put one up ... she laughs at me when I try to do tech stuff on my own. Literally, laughs). Til then, you can check out the page here. It's a nice place to interact with readers and distribute information and generally goof around.


kirble 12:08 AM  

It annoyed me that all of the theme answers included famous women's names except for the last one.

I guess LAE* is not a desirable answer, but then we could have had CAGEY BEA ("Sly Ms. Arthur" perhaps) as an answer and had perfectly consistent theme execution.

*apparently, it's appeared 10 times before in the xwords database, so it's completely legit (if a bit tough).

thursdaysd 12:37 AM  

That was effectively DNF - I had to google EYDIE and SUSYQ. Way too many names, as Rex mentioned, most of which I didn't know, although guessing helped.

Did like a few answers - e.g. ALD and HAVANA - but could someone explain what SYS is an abbreviation for and what it has to do with the Fed? Surely not system?

Captcha is sockbag - I should go do that.

Oh, and sorry, but I refuse to use Facebook.

santafefran 12:58 AM  

"When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed"--a beautiful opening line in Whitman's elegy to Lincoln.

The heart of this puzzle did me in since I didn't know REESE, had RUSE for SPUD. @thursdaysd --don't get SYS either.

What's the deal with all the MARSBARS? The special treat for crossword constructors?


Anonymous 1:03 AM  

@Thursdayd - Yes, Federal Reserve System.

Ingenious? I agree. And fun, if a little difficult for me.

Vincent L. 1:05 AM  

For some reason I guessed YouAreElle off the top of my head (with zero confidence), but when I got CageyBee, I saw the theme. I was wondering why the caveat "commonly" was needed in the revealer, "Basis of the answer to each starred clue, commonly." Thanks to Rex I see it's because they're initialisms.

The names made it hard, esp. Eydie for me. But the theme made it doable -- and fun. (In 25A, with Q, it almost had to be QED, so the question was how to spell the name E-D....)

jae 1:35 AM  

Clever, fun and well done. The names put this one on the tough side for a Thurs. for me too. I knew most of them but needed a couple of good guesses (e.g.BALL/ROBYN) to finish.

Around three years ago on this blog I mentioned that the new Bolivian pres. would make a good NYT clue/answer. (He had just been on The Daily Show.) Finally! Or maybe he has shown up earlier and I just missed it???

I skip M-W 1:47 AM  

This was my fastest Thursday since I don't remember when, even though I'm coming down from the steroids. Between the De in 40 A from crosses and the name Elle Macpherson (no idea who she is, but name is familiar) theme came fast. Agree, not acronyms, but who knows "initialism"? I guess I've heard of Alan Ball, probably though listening to Terry Gross, got Robyn from cross.
@Rex, I've still never read "to Kill a Mockingbird." Should I? But I have seen "Les Regles du Jeu" more than once; marvelous. Liked QED, ICBM and KGB. URL and DDT not so much.

captcha = glystyla Part of the mouth you use to pronounce these initialisms?

PurpleGuy 1:55 AM  

Fun romp of a puzzle.
Made me think of the old rhyme-

ABCD puppies ?
MNO puppies.
OSAR ... CM PN !!!!

Great writeup, Rex, as usual. Thanks for the Creedence Clearwater Revival clip. They were one of my favorites back in the day(I won't say HOW FAR back !!).

I have that vinyl album of Herb Alpert !! Still in pristine condition.

Let's help make the Facebook page the best of all. With the great minds on this blog, we should create an amazing page.
@Jesser, I'm looking at you !!!

Happy Thursday all!

Shanti -

captcha : wories - not as intense problems !!!

CoffeeLvr 2:00 AM  

I misspelled EYDIE right off the bat, ended up burning a Check when QUEUE?EDIE wasn't fitting. Also decided just to go ahead and Google Alan Ball instead of running the alphabet. Didn't have the O in SRO, so couldn't see ROBYN either.

Cute enough theme, agree with @Kirble that CAGEY BEA would have tightened it up.

acronym cagey michaels 2:09 AM  

Loved it, but really DON'T think there should be FDA, SRO, PSA in there if possible, tho loved the clues @Rex came up with!

Bleedover: MARSBARS weird! If MESNE is in tomorrow, then something is UP!

But that's one swell corner:

And am SUPER glad ISEEBEEM did not have a scatalogical clue.

One wrong square as always: ROBeN
I got that it was supposed to be CAGEY, but somehow I thought I was supposed to spell it CAGEE...altho at least I didn't spell it KAYJEE.

And THANK GOD for Puzzle Girl...
When I tried to post that constructor picnic pic, I linked it to my own gmail account and thought everyone would be able to read ALL my email. Called Rex, Seth and Puzzle Girl in a TOTAL panic...and before I even hung up, she took care of it!
If I ever do a reverse witness protection program and need a hit man, I know who to call.

shrub5 2:29 AM  

Loved this puzzle! I got SPAMALOT off of the P and was off to the races in the NE corner. Chuckled at the answer and clue for LEAD DOG (sled head) -- reminded me of the saying "unless you're the lead dog, the view never changes." MESNE filled itself in, mercifully. I had GNP in for 'certain world std' before correcting to GMT. Knew that LARAINE Newman had an unusual spelling of her first name, so needed the crosses for help on that one. All in all a nice Thursday challenge.

retired_chemist 5:01 AM  

Fun puzzle, very good theme. Was somewaht mysified by it until I got most of 50D ACRONYM in place, at which (late) point the light dawned. Medium-challenging.

HANSOM started 15A off. Soon fixed. BEQ in 2005 clued LANDAU by an actor I have never heard of, and that is the only non-vehicular clue I found. I would love someday to see LANDAU clued by Lev _______, Nobel Laureate in Physics. But I won't. Nor EVO clued by the dog food.

Had STOGIE for 47A. Somehow I don't think it is a "good smoke" though. Had to wait for crosses.

Thanks, Mr. Poole.

retired_chemist 5:10 AM  

And, note that there is probably a way to use Aunt BEE from the Andy Griffith show and Mayberry RFD to improve consistency of 71A with the other theme answers. But I can't think of one at 4 AM....

retired_chemist 5:20 AM  

And, once I seriously wake up, I am sure I will have heard of Martin Landau.

R-A-G-G-M-O-P-P (Ragmop) 7:20 AM  

I can't believe you haven't read the Upanishads! And you call yourself an Upanisadist! Plus: I hate sports! And I don't even own a, how you say?, "Tee-Vee."

SethG 7:35 AM  

With something EM and something EYDIE and something ELLE in place, I tried, hard, to make the middle one something DEE DEE. EASEFUL? I've said that as often as I've counted to NEUF.

Great theme, rough cluing, tough, fun Thursday.

mmorgan 8:15 AM  

Loved this one!

bko 8:19 AM  

I loved seeing "ersatz"! This was a fun, quick puzzle (except for "easeful"). I did so want it to be "Elle? Oh, Elle!", however.
Now I'll have "The Taste of Honey" running through my head all day.

Anonymous 8:30 AM  

Help! I can't parse Queueeydie to QED. Where's the D sound? The E?

evil doug 8:30 AM  

"6D: Snack cake since 1961 (SUZY Q) — ooh, rough. I haven't seen one of these ... well, since I don't when. Not sure I could pick one out of a snack cake line-up."

You evoke one of the all-time great Seinfeld scenes, Michael:

GEORGE: I’ve spent the last hour preparing ten candy bars with no wrappers of identification of any kind for him to select from.

WILLIE: It took you an hour?

GEORGE: Only I hold the answer key to their true candy identities. And so, without further ado, I give you.. the candy bar line-up. (Opens a door to a back room.)

(Various dealership employees are munching on candy bars)

SALESWOMAN: Hey, Willie, check it out! Free candy!

GEORGE: That’s my candy bar line-up! Where are all my cards?! They’re - they’re all on the floor!

(George starts picking up the numbered cards from off the floor. He sees the mechanic eating one of the candy bars)

GEORGE: And you! How many Twix does that make for you, today?! Like, 8 Twix?!


MAN: Hey, this Clark bar is good.

GEORGE: It’s a Twix! They’re all Twix! It was a setup! A setup, I tell ya! And you’ve robbed it! You’ve all screwed me again! Now, gimme one! Gimme a Twix!

MECHANIC: They’re all gone.

GEORGE: (Yelling out, frustrated. The camera spins from a top angle) Ttttttwwwwiiiiiixxxxx!



Tara 8:31 AM  

Long time reader, first time commenter here. I enjoyed this puzzle! It was much more friendly to me than yesterday's, but I agree with santafefran - what's with the two Mars Bars this week? Ew. Also, I love that Robyn song.

exaudio 8:49 AM  

Loved it! My favorite theme answer was ICBM. Rex, I thought I was the last person in the world who knew or cared about the difference between an acronym and an initialism. Should we keep up the fight or just concede defeat?

joho 8:55 AM  

@Rex, "snack cake line-up" cracked me up.

@acronym cagey michaels, your ISEEBEEM comment, too! And I agree, it was weird seeing MARSBARS again.

Thank you, David Poole, for such an original idea, it made for a really fun solve for me.

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

1. Renoir's Grand Illusion is one of my top three movies ever. Please see it (when you're in a serious mood).

2. Robyn Hitchcock is a dude from the 80's

3. Don't you think EASEFUL and SLEETY are kinda yucky?

David L 9:26 AM  

I remember seeing Robyn Hitchcock in the mid 70s when he was a frequently drunk guy with a guitar hanging around college bars and pubs in Cambridge...

Finished with one silly error: SUZIQ crossing with SIS -- the clue for SYS was a bit obscure for a Thursday, I thought.

I kind of like EASEFUL. It has at least one distinguished use:

I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain

(Keats, Ode to a Nightingale)

ArtO 9:29 AM  

Tough, clever. As others, had edie for eydie which created probs since never heard of mesne. And, wasn't MARSBARS (singular) in a very recent NYT puzzle!!??

Lindsay 9:38 AM  

To me, it looks like the theme was cribbed from CDB. Even a shout out to DB at 71A.

chefbea 9:53 AM  

Pretty easy but did have to google a bit

One nit to pic...peeler's target is the rind or skin of any veggie or fruit. Not the whole thing like spud.

santafefran 9:57 AM  

Just rereading my comments and want to correct that I had RUSE for DUPE and that kept me from seeing SPUD like forever.

Matthew G. 10:18 AM  

It appears that I am in the minority (of one?) today. I did not like this puzzle at all. The theme entries are terribly strained (I SEE! BE EM! -- you like that, really?), and three out of five revolve around minor celebrities (one of whom, EYDIE Gorme, I've never heard of).

Then there's the utter Natick at the crossing of LANDAU and LARAINE. Crossing a non-standard spelling of a common first name with a word that Rex admits he knows only from crosswords and that I have never seen at all ... hard to see what's praiseworthy there. I had LoRAINE/LoNDAU. Knew ROBYN Hitchcock, but needed almost every cross for ALAN BALL.

Know SUZY-Q only as the CCR song, not as a cake. I tried SUZY'S, which made QUEUE EYDIE impossible to see. Then there's EASEFUL, a word that certainly exists ... but which nobody uses, and which I therefore resisted for ages. Did not know there was a filmmaker named RENOIR. Did not remember the name of the main character in Terminator (REESE).

I like a hard puzzle, but the proper names here were just far too obscure, and propped up too strained of a theme, for this puzzle to be fun. Just not my cup of tea at all. But I don't mind being the odd man out once in a while. On to tomorrow.

Anonymous 10:27 AM  

I really enjoyed this one and found it the easiest Thursday in a long time. Well executed theme and above average fill. ROBYN Hitchcock was a huge plus -- nice to see him earn a NYT Crossword citation. And sure glad I could get MESNE from the crosses...

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

Anon 8:30 Eydie is pronounced
ee dee.

Mel Ott 11:10 AM  

I thought the theme was pretty good. The play on ACRONYMs/Initialisms was cute , if a tad forced.

Insert usual rant on proper names....21 of them by my count, not counting a bunch of brand names, titles, agency initials (SUZY Q, FDA, etc.)

A bunch of proper name Naticks, including RENOIR/REESE, ALAN BALL/ROBYN & LILA/MIRREN.

@David L: Thanks for the Keats citation. I was all set to dump on EASEFUL until I read your post.

Glitch 11:13 AM  

@Mathew G

Pretty much the opposite experience from you, LANDAU and RENOIR gimmes, Robyn a WTF.

You make it sound like "knows only from crosswords" is a bad thing.

I've learned a LOT in 50+ years of doing them, and hope to keep on.

And joining the "nobody uses it so I won't put it in" camp will only lead to frustration.


Stan 11:23 AM  

As a fan of both "Six Feet Under" and Jean Renoir movies (and for that matter, Robyn Hitchcock and Helen Mirren), I had an easier time with this one than some might have. But it's nice to see that even people who had to work from crosses appreciated the clever construction here.

Kudos to Mr. Poole (who, by the way, gave us ICY DEAD PEOPLE in his last effort).

Matthew G. 11:28 AM  

@Glitch: I love learning new words (especially non-proper nouns) from crosswords. But crossing an obscure word with an obscure and oddly spelled proper name is a poor form of pedagogy. If everything crossing LANDAU were inferrable, I would have had absolutely zero problem with it and welcomed it. The first A in LARAINE is not inferrable.

And yes, "knows only from crosswords" is a bad thing. I mean, of course there have to be a few such words in every puzzle to make them work. But at least for me, solving pleasure is derived from what Rex calls "in the language" words, not crossword words.

Greg Clinton 11:35 AM  

I walked away from this one for a while. And I found myself muttering cagey bee, cagey bee. Then an image of KFC chicken came to me. Cagey bee? KFC? No...KGB! Then the puzzle, she was mine :)

mmespeer 11:55 AM  

Interesting that a lot of the comments are about the number of proper names. I recently received a book of crosswords (Simon & Shuster collections). I've been doing the Times puzzles for about a year and getting more confident, but the puzzles in this collection seem very hard to me, with lots of proper names and very obscure words. Anyone else find this to be so?

Bob Kerfuffle 12:10 PM  

Fun puzzle; I loved it.

@jae - According to XwordInfo, this is the first appearance of EVO, by any clue, in the Times (since 1993.)

syndy 12:11 PM  

But maybe one point of crosswords is to expand what IS in the language! just like reading!Found this fun and challenging! knew EYDIE if not how to spell her-and won't kvetch about ABBEY=SISTERS.surely with BLENDER/ersatz/enrol there was enough entrees into alaska-thanks dpoole thumbs up

David 12:24 PM  

absolutely loved this one. Today's Word of the Day, MESNE, was actually my first clue (have seen it in 2-3 puzzles, somehow remembered it), and along with gimmes PSA and AER, gave me SPAMALOT, and then the first of the themed answers ISEEBEEM. From there, I just breezed,. Was lucky to remember a non-traditional spelling of LARAINE Newman from way back in the '70s.

Another reason I loved this puzzle, and esp. ISEEBEEM - it reminded me of a terrific Sunday NYT puzzle I solved in college (it took 3 or 4 days, as was the case with many Sundays back then). The theme wasn't acronyms/initialisms, but just really crazy word play, and one of the funnest answers was ELECTRONIC, with the clue something along the lines of the constructor/solver recognizing the idea/fact of Reagan being picked for political office. The ouzzle had what seemed like 8-10 similar themed answers.

Sparky 12:35 PM  

FAT- Domino tripped me up. Thinking mask, tile, Cuban game, sugar brand? Never made it to human being. Guessed the Y in ROBYN as it made more sense with the across. Went around and ah had on ICBM. Did not like EASEFUL. @DavidL. Thanks for the Keats.

You can get a landau when you rent a hearse.

I'm not too happy about Facebook.

Weekend on the way. Glorious Fourth everyone.

Nick 12:36 PM  

Wow, really? I thought this was the sloppiest puzzle I've seen in a long time. The theme answers were ridiculous and awkward, and as for the rest of the fill... SLEETY and EASEFUL? Pretty sure I'd have to swing a 2000-mile-long bat around the entire western hemisphere to hit a single person who's ever used either of those words. Not impressed.

jackj 12:36 PM  

Those theme answers may look like sow's ears but they are truly silk purses!

David Poole proves himself an able word alchemist by converting gibberish to brilliance.

Wonderful puzzle!

thursdaysd 12:47 PM  

@syndy - I had a lot of doubts about ABBEYS too, took me quite a while to put it in. But I checked this morning and both my UK and US dictionaries say it's right.

retired_chemist 12:48 PM  

@ mmespeer - I agree. I have been doing a lot of those puzzles. They are rather old, and apparently at that time several clue/answer styles were OK that no longer seem to be.

Indeed the proper nouns include some quite obscure ones. Some of those probably were much less obscure at the time, but some I just can't believe.

There are also many words, both in clues and answers, that I just. don't. know. Many more than in today's puzzles.

But what really ticks me off about those puzzles is the use of arbitrary abbreviations as answers, when there is a conventional abbreviation the constructor does NOT use. Seems like one about every third puzzle. A made up example: cpn for captain. That sort of thing...

Consider it a different genre - maybe dialect is the word I want. But enjoy them for the different experiences they provide.

madger 12:52 PM  

So, how did you enjoy "To Kill a Mockingbird"?

John V 12:59 PM  

Had SUZYS at 6D, and just could not see 25A, notwithstanding I knew it had to be Edyie Gorme. So, with that glitch in the NE area, a very small DNF. Enjoyed the theme, though.

efrex 1:02 PM  

Thought I was going to have a superfast Thursday: got SPAMALOT right out of the chute, which lead to ISEEBEEM and QUEUEEYDIE and the whole NE falling in no time. Catching on to the theme, I sussed out YOUAREELLE quickly, and the SW succumbed. ACRONYM opened up the SE, and I thought I was home free.

Then came the NW.

Ugh, just ugh. Couldn't break it. Wanted MUDDLER instead of BLENDER, TILE instead of FATS, and never heard of a SUZYQ or LARAINE Newman or Ms. Myers. Full-out, flat-on-my-face DNF.

Terrific theme; just too many clues outside my wheelhouse. *sigh*

MikeM 1:49 PM  

I had a hard time getting Dee Dee Myers and thought she was too obscure. I just read her bio and she was Press Secretary for Clinton for 2 years... so maybe I am wrong. Loved the puzzle and finished although it was a challenge

shrub5 2:05 PM  

I meant to include this in my previous post:
Thanks for the photo of "Spud" Webb in your write-up, notable for winning the slam dunk contest in 1986 despite being one of the shortest players in the history of the NBA (5'7"). He delivered many memorable moments playing for my Sacramento Kings in the early 90's.

jberg 2:27 PM  

This one was really weird for me, although fun. I worked down the across clues all the way to 27 (DIOR) before I could write anything - although I did think in passing, "hmm, 12A could be LANDAU, but that would be too bizarre). DEEDEETEA gave me the theme, and it was pretty easy from there - only writeover was at 54D, which I first thought would have to be Di_.

For 6D, all I could think of was Little Debbie, until I had almost all the crosses.

mmespeer 3:02 PM  

Thanks @retired_chemist. I'm often confounded by what Rex and others refer to as crosswordese answers in the NYT. Maybe these puzzles will increase that part of my vocabulary.
I enjoy your comments.

GLR 3:06 PM  

I liked this one, overall. Personal Natick at RENOIR ROOD crossing, but otherwise, it was pretty smooth.

I was not familiar with the initialism/acronym distinction – interesting. And, I’d note that beyond the theme answers and the other initialisms Rex pointed out, there _is_ one acronym – at 38D (SEa, Air, and Land teams).

sanfranman59 4:29 PM  

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

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

Thu 17:08, 19:04, 0.90, 35%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 8:59, 9:13, 0.97, 55%, Medium

I guess I'm in good company in the ROBYN/SRO/ALANBALL Natick camp. But I managed to work it out without resorting to Google. Even with the speed bump in the SW, I managed to finish well within my Easy-Medium Thursday range.

I loved the theme. Somehow, QUEUE EYDIE popped right into my head when I read the clue (I even remembered how to spell her name) and I was off and running with the theme. For some reason, ISEEBEEM took me a while to parse.

Matthew G. 4:43 PM  

Wow. I truly am an outlier today, not just in disliking the puzzle but in finding it much harder than most recent Thursdays. My experience of the relative difficulty is usually pretty consistent with sanfranman59's report, and I'm usually on the same page with others about what is or isn't obscure, but it's pretty clear that today the entries I thought were incredibly esoteric were much less so to others. Statistical noise, I guess.

NittyGriddy 5:43 PM  

Have to agree with Matthew, but not quite for the same reasons. Not just LARAINE Newman of Saturday Night Live fame, but actress LARAINE Day has been a staple of puzzles for years. (She and Joel McCrea were the stars of Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent.) And LANDAU is another crossword staple, not to mention that it's also how Oscar-winning actor Martin spells his last name, so the best guess for that crossing really had to be an A.

But I totally agree about the awkwardness of several of the theme answers -- YOU ARE ELLE is okay, but I SEE BE EM??? Not only a stretch, but the "I" doesn't change to a different word. So the rule is, we can suspend the theme idea when it's convenient?

And the stress is wrong on QUEUE EYDIE. The original letters are QED, all with equal stress. QUEUE EYDIE is stressed as "kew EE-dee." At least "cue Eydie," as in to tell Ms. Gorme when to start singing, makes a lot more sense. But I guess answer quality had to take a back seat to the fact that it needed to be 10 letters long. That's the tail wagging the dog.

CAGEY BEE is perfectly okay, but I saw it in a book somewhere when I was a teenager, so it's definitely been around awhile. If you've never seen it, it's a fine finisher, but for me, it was anticlimactic.

And yes, it is totally worth it to pick a big nit with the idea that these are initialisms, not acronyms. The key difference with acronyms, when the word was coined 80+ years ago, is that they're pronounceable, like "scuba" and "radar." Later came NASA and NATO, but the pronounceability aspect was still there. Dictionaries must have given up trying to get people to get the differentiation right, but that doesn't mean we have to. (Or, at least, that I have to.)

The last bone I have to pick is with the three-letter words that cross the theme answers in the corners. Honest, it's not like all three eight-letter answers in the corners are theme answers, only one of them is, yet the three-letter down answers that cross them are: SIM, PSA, AER, OER, TMS (at the top) and ACU, LAS, ABA, LEM, LEE (at the bottom), a pretty motley crew of "words." Throw in SYS, ENROL, SEIS, GMT, NEUF, EVO, ULEE, and ISM and the result is less than stellar.

Cheerio 6:43 PM  

What does PSA stand for? Public School Announcement?

I also don't get "I'll bite"

Anonymous 6:44 PM  

I have never seen an episode of "Six Feet Under" but was familiar with it because Alan Poul, who worked on that show, later worked on a CBS pilot called "Swingtown" for which he used our house as a set. Naturally I filled in that clue with Alan Poul, rather than Alan Ball. I'm pretty new to crosswords so I was surprised that other than that error I managed to work my way through the entire puzzle.

CoffeeLvr 6:46 PM  

The appearance of MARSBARS twice in recent puzzles struck me while I read my local paper over lunch. Mars is opening a new manufacturing plant in Topeka, KS. The facility will make Snickers BARS and M & M's. Some good economic news, although not good nutrition (in excess.)

Matthew G. 6:47 PM  

The fact that there is an actor with the surname Landau does nothing to make an unrelated non-proper noun with the same spelling more inferrable. If anything, it makes it less so, because it means there's another cluing option for that entry that I would expect to see if that were to be the answer.

Brian 7:07 PM  

Hard but I liked it. For some reason I got ISEEBEEM out of the gate and then got YOUAREELLE and CAGEYBEE, but I got all mucked up around QUEUEEYDIE because I kept thinking Gorme's name was Nadine, which I realize now is because I was thinking of the writer Nadine Gordimer.

I could not make Nadine sound like any letters and I had to get it on crosses.

Loved seeing ERSATZ.

This wasn't an easy puzzle to construct. Kudos, Poole!

sanfranman59 7:39 PM  

@Cheerio ... PSA = Public Service Announcement

retired_chemist 8:33 PM  

@ cheerio - also prostate specific antigen, but not as clued.

Anonymous 9:20 PM  

I normally don't like puzzles with lots of obscure names, but this one really only had one natick for me (62D/69A). I liked the theme, and it helped with the solving. I loved "ISEEBEEM", the first theme word I got.

JenCT 9:32 PM  

@acme: I had the same thoughts about ISEEBEEM.

@evildoug: I miss those Seinfeld episodes!

That Robyn video is truly awful...

Tried YODEL before SUZYQ.

Loved BALD for Unlocked.

Fun puzzle.

ksquare 10:21 PM  

For those too young to remember Eydie Gorme, she was a young singer on the Steve Allen show in the fifties, along with Steve Lawrence whom she later married.
And for those who see a scatological connection to ISEEBEEM, that's only what an Eskimo produces.


gorme, she was a young singer on the steve


Anonymous 12:03 AM  

Ok, Now I get why I didn't get the QED clue. Ms. Gorme was a singer 60 years ago; I have never heard of her; and while I could have worked an Edith, she pronounced her name funny.

Too lazy to look at grid, but was I supposed to figure out the queueEYDIE (the last five letters) were pronounced E.D.?

Thanks anon above for helping me out.

Anonymous 12:13 AM  

Rex, I also will not join you on FB. I know you'll miss me.

sanfranman59 2:04 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 7:18, 6:52, 1.06, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 8:40, 8:55, 0.97, 49%, Medium
Wed 13:34, 11:53, 1.14, 84%, Challenging
Thu 17:35, 19:04, 0.92, 40%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:48, 3:40, 1.04, 67%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:28, 4:35, 0.97, 48%, Medium
Wed 6:27, 5:52, 1.10, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 8:29, 9:13, 0.92, 42%, Medium

Benjamin Michael Bledsoe 7:29 PM  

Once I realized that "landau" was the correct answer, I was all but kicking myself for missing it.

I learned the term, as clued, a couple of months ago. It had something to do with the wedding of a couple of college sweethearts: Wills & Kate; or as they are now officially known: TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The bridegroom's grandparents, aka HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh rode in a landau after the wedding.

Anonymous 3:17 AM  

Didn't one of the big three make a "Landau" model?.....Chrysler? Or Buick? Maybe a long way back?
Seems like I remember owning one. Not old enough for it to have been horse drawn.

Anonymous 11:30 AM  

Robyn Hitchcock makes the NYT Crossword. Crossing an insect related theme answer to boot. It doesn't get any better than that.

This puzzle felt very British to me, what with Hitchcock, Monty Python, tea, abbeys and the queen. Plus, Mars Bars always make me think of the Rolling Stones and peeling spuds remind me of Squeeze. (albums, on the other hand, remind me of plans.)

I wonder if anyone ever enjoyed a spot of tea with Mr. Ramone.

Deb 2:34 PM  

I loved this one because with only one exception (ROBYN) all of the names were very familiar to me. I recall seeing EYDIE Gorme and Steve Lawrence on various variety shows on TV when I was in grade school, LARAINE Newman on SNL when I was a teenager, DEE DEE Myers on TV press conferences and ELLE Macpherson on the cover of SI during my child-raising years, and ALAN BALL's fantastic HBO offerings (Six Feet Under and True Blood) as an empty-nester. This puzzle was like a pop-culture jaunt through all the days of my life. What could be better?

captcha=doweeds: Do-rags for your chia pet

Mary in Bend, OR 2:51 PM  

Anon 3:17 am: Didn't one of the big three make a "Landau" model?.....

Yes! I got that answer quickly, as I drove a 1975 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Landau for many years. Google Images to see it. It's a beautiful, sleek car.

Cary in Boulder 3:12 PM  

i had a good time with this one; thought it was pretty easy for a Thursday.

Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme were regulars on the Steve Allen Show (someone else the young folk here have probably never heard of). Eydie's big song was 1963's "Blame It on the Bossa Nova." Ahhh, the dance of love. They are both alive and members of the Songwriters' Hall of Fame. So there.

I knew Ms. Newman's name had a non-standard spelling, but it took a long time to give up on that O. That SUZYQ cake sounds like something that's just gotta be toxic. ENROL with one L? If you say so.

Alan Ball is also the man behind HBO's "True Blood."

Saw a restored version of Renoir's "Rules of the Game" a few years back as part of Roger Ebert's Cinema Interruptus at CU. Not my favorite flick, but I could appreciate the craft in it.

BTW, that Robyn clipped symbolized everything that's wrong about recent pap music ... er, pop music.

Dirigonzo 5:22 PM  

Last letter in was the "D" in BALD and that provided the most enjoyable moment in the whole solve for me. I'm in Matthew G's camp on this one, and I came here expecting RP to really shred the puzzle in his write-up.

I thought the Bin Laden hunter clue was a trifle macabre given the gruesome conclusion of that hunt, but maybe that's just me.

Waxy in Montreal 6:07 PM  

Auntie EM
NED Beatty
Christian DIOR
Sammy SOSA
ELLE Macpherson
EVO Morales
FATS Domino
Alastair SIM
ULEE Jackson
ROBYN Hitchcock
LILA Wallace
Bruce LEE
Martin LANDAU & SUZY-Q (honorable mentions)

May have left a few out but I can't remember a NYT puzzle including so many (user)names. Good thing the world population is approaching 7 billion...

Dirigonzo 6:28 PM  

@Waxy - Exactly!

Anonymous 7:40 PM  

Have to agree with @Deb about everything except Alan Ball (didn't know him). It was like going back in time - I even knew how to spell LARAINE from SNL.

Did not know REESE or RENOIR and didn't like EASEFUL and SLEETY - (he sounds like one of the seven dwarfs - oh wait, that would be SNEEZY, which also happens with winter weather.

Although I also agree with @Waxy in Montreal and @Dirigonzo that there were just too many names, I still enjoyed this puzzle.

Waxy in Montreal 8:28 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Waxy in Montreal 8:31 PM  

@Pippin, actually I enjoyed the puzzle too as I'm pretty good identifying names. Thought it was a real tour de force on the part of David Poole to be able to squeeze just as many as he did into the grid.

captcha=eutzpae, euro zone chutzpah?

East Sac Girl 11:41 PM  

Got YOUAREELLE right away but the theme didn't click until CAGEYBEE. Needed a little help, but not much.

MARSBARS again...... interesting. Had trouble with QED clue because I had SUZYQ wrong (had susie) and I kept wanted to spell Eydie as "Edie"

Oh well, fun puzzle.

Waxy in Montreal 12:16 AM  

@East Sac Girl - I think lots of people doing this puzzle including me confused EYDIE Gorme with that other 50's icon EDIE Adams.

Anonymous 4:09 AM  

Strange that RP should rate this one m-c; I found it fairly easy. Once I had the YO of YOUAREELLE I saw the URL acronym, and was off and running. Filled in all the theme answers as well as the word ACRONYM at 50d, though I did have a bit of a tussle with CAGEYBEE (did not know ALANBALL at all, inferring the name from crosses).
Hand up for loving the marvelous word ERSATZ--but EASEFUL has to be one of the ugliest words ever. Some nice fill (ULEE, NAH, and the inimitable Alistair SIM), but some ughs too (DLI, TMS). Tell ya, there oughta be a law against Roman numerology in crosswords. Bet your last buck if I ever make one, it won't have any.
A qualified thumbs-up--and a thankyew to RP for the tape of one of my favorite CCR songs.

captcha=abluti: Latin for "I wash my hands" (of the word EASEFUL!)

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