Shepherd co-wrote Christmas Story / WED 7-20-11 / 1951 Bogart/Hepburn film / Requested gift in Christmas Story / Hall's partner pop music

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: ROYAL FLUSH (1A: [see blurb])

Blurb: "When this puzzle is done, you will find that the ends of the answers to the five starred clues, when in the 15-/67-Across [SAME / SUIT], comprise a 1-/71-Across [ROYAL / FLUSH]."

Word of the Day: NORIA (40D: Waterwheel) —

A noria [...] is a machine for lifting water into a small aqueduct, either for the purpose of irrigation or, in at least one known instance, to feed seawater into a saltern. (wikipedia)
• • •

Off-putting from the get-go. Bad enough when 1A = [see blurb] —I just started the puzzle, I don't want to see any damned blurb right now— but when that blurb is utterly nonsensical and unhelpful, as this one was, then things have really gone off the rails. Decided that after wasting those ten seconds, I'd just plow ahead and worry about making sense of the blurb later. Grid was mostly a piece of cake. Junky in places, but not overwhelmingly so, and I really enjoyed the long Acrosses in the middle, especially SIGOURNEY (a lovely actress who looks lovely in the grid) (44A: Weaver of tales on the big screen). But then I hit NORI- / -IRACE and stopped cold. Knew I'd seen that damned [Waterwheel] before in some crosswordy crossword gone by, but couldn't remember specifics, and couldn't make sense of 59A: *Shooting star?. I think I thought an AIR ACE was a flying star, primarily. Also, I thought -IRACE was one word. Good thing that clue was starred so I could separate ACE out and see my problem. But when I put the "A" in, I didn't get the "Congratulations!" sign. Turns out I still had a blank, up top at SA-E / E-ALL. [See blurb]! @##$%! Needed the blurb to get figure out SAME, because I *never* would've figure out EMALL, which is about the worst partial I've ever seen. E-MALL, which has been used many times, is also terrible, but at least it's inferrable. 'EM ALL is horrendous. I would've loved KILL 'EM ALL — a great full title. But that partial is JUNK (62A: Kind of mail). Trying to decided if it's junkier than NORIA (I think so) or DESIS (uh, probably) or ACNES (oh, man, close call).

Theme answers:
  • 20A: *Midwest conference (BIG TEN)
  • 22A: *Pancake (FLAPJACK)
  • 39A: *1951 Bogart/Hepburn film ("THE AFRICAN QUEEN")
  • 56A: *Billy Crystal's "Memories of Me" co-star (ALAN KING)
  • 59A: *Shooting star? (AIR ACE)

The theme is just a dressed-up version of a "last words=10-to-ACE" theme that must have been done before. Unfortunately the dressing up (valiant) is accomplished via a convoluted blurb. In the end, this is a well-meaning and mildly ambitious attempt to make something new and interesting out of something old and not-so-interesting, but I can't say it succeeds.

  • 17A: Requested gift in "A Christmas Story" (BB GUN) — You'll shoot your eye out!

  • 50A: One-named female singer with the 2002 #1 hit "Foolish" (ASHANTI) — couldn't remember if she ended in "I" or "E." Thank god I guessed right, because that last letter runs smack into NORIA, which I couldn't recall confidently to save my life.
  • 68A: Hall's partner in pop music (OATES) — My first concert! [seriously]. The bulk of their career spans my childhood and adolescence. This is one of the first songs I remember being my "favorite" song (I was in 5th grade):

  • 10D: Pilgrims to Mecca (HAJJIS) — let's just hope you know who JEAN Shepherd is, because you could just as easily guess HADJIS / DEAN here. I guessed "J" and was correct. I have no idea why I guessed "J."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[The following announcement will be up all week]

I'm coming to NYC for the Lollapuzzoola Tournament on Saturday, Aug. 6 (you should go—info here). But you know that. What you don't know (yet) is that I'm coming several days early to do some interviews for a crossword project I'm working on, and I'm hoping to interview some of You (New Yorkers) about your xword habit. I'm especially interested in talking to people who think they are unlikely solvers, or who solve in weird / interesting / iconic places, or who have good solving anecdotes, or who are famous / prominent in their fields, or any combo of the above. I'm also interested in ordinary everyday solvers. I'm not looking for fast or accomplished solvers. Just interesting solvers. If you live in NYC, this (probably) means you! If you are going to be in town on Aug. 4-5 and are willing to talk to me for a few minutes, drop me a line at rexparker at mac dot com. I'll be exceedingly grateful. I'll see what kind of response I get and set up a schedule from there. If I don't hear from you, I'll just have to wander the streets harassing anyone I see solving a crossword, even though this may result in my getting punched, or worse. So help me out. Thank you!


syndy 12:27 AM  

ARMA uh huh not sure if hissing at someone is showing disdain so much as warning you're about to claw his face off!Rein in the junk please

erik 12:54 AM  

how about HADJIS, DIAN fossey, ALMA mater, and et ALIA/ALIA shawkat for the upper right corner?

PK 12:55 AM  

Agree totally with Rex about the off-putting *see blurb* at 1A. I don't ever want to *see blurb* or *see XX Down* or any other self-referntial crap whatsoever, but I especially don't want to start off that way at 1A. It's just not a good idea, and the payoff was what?? Royal Flush? Whoopti-doo-da-da. Maybe it's cuz I'm not a poker player, I don't know.

Other than that, pretty fun and doable. Is doable really a word?

Wish I could be in NY on Aug. 6, but I am going to be taking my new dog, Ty, to a benefit walk for the Weatherford, TX, animal shelter that day. At 7:00 a.m., b/c it has been over 100 degrees here for the past 18 days, with no end in sight.

Tobias Duncan 12:57 AM  

Was not feeling it. Loved African Queen and got it with just a few crosses and liked a few other things but damn did I hate the sports stuff and pop culture today.

I also cannot stress how much I hate looking at a clue only to see " see some other crap".
It just fills my heart with hate.

thursdaysd 1:11 AM  

Ugh. Just ugh. I hate referential clues like that, although I did appreciate the symmetrical placement, and I liked THEAFRICANQUEEN marching across the middle.

In addition, too many names - ASHANTI crossing ANOUK and SAGET required guesses, and then I guessed wrong at HAdJIS and had to change it to get the happy pencil. I did know NGAIO, since I used to read her, and NORIA, having seen several very big ones in Hama, back before the Syrian government started killing the inhabitants again. But even though I had to take Latin in school, and actually read some of the Aeniad in the original, I only got ARMA from crosses.

Unknown 1:17 AM  
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davko 1:23 AM  

I did fall into that HADJI/DEAN trap. And that's wasn't all. Never having watched "Full House" or heard of either Ngaio Marsh or Ashanti, I got clobbered by this puzzle's tangle of pronouns. The unsatisfying theme, crummy fill, and re-use of the RABBI-in-a-bar clue (yes, unbelievably) left me feeling pretty disenchanted, overall.

pk 1:33 AM  

I feel ya, davko....disenchanted is a good description

CoffeeLvr 2:04 AM  

I didn't know JEAN Shepard, so dEAN looked okay to me. Stared at the same blank square as @Rex, finally Googled "waterwheel nori" so put back the A I had entered on the possibility of AIR ACE being correct. Still no Happy Pencil. Reviewed the puzzle, remembered the HAJJ vs. HADJ discussion, fixed that. A lot of crap to go through at the end.

The biggest grin I got out of the puzzle was laughing at myself for entering Charlotte before SIGOURNEY.

chefwen 2:06 AM  

I guess, so far, that I am in the minority here. I kinda liked it, maybe because I love playing video poker and have been dealt a royal flush twice which payed out handsomely both times. Big smiles!!

Had to get ALAN KING from all downs and my only write over was at 17A where I had the G in place with YEGGS and put in waGon, thinking of those Red Ryder Wagons, when nothing else would work, the BB GUN wormed it's way back into the brain.

Anyway, I hope others liked it as much as I did.

Anonymous 2:09 AM  

Is there an actual relationship between the nori of nori rolls and the noria of the aqueducts? You'd think, but is it real?

GILL I. 3:38 AM  

I didn't see any blurb in my edition.
Managed to finish with a smile though. I'm the worse poker player in the world cause I put a stupid grin on my face when I have two aces.
I liked SIGOURNEY in "Alien" and that's about it. Wasn't her latest movie with some blue people or something?
No NADIR here - I enjoyed this Peter Collins.

Rube 3:40 AM  

I don't know what to say. Did I dislike this Wednesday puzzle because of what I didn't know or because the blurb was not given in the online version. Eventually got ROYAL FLUSH which made SAME SUIT guessable. However, the obvious "either you know it or you don't" of the D or J of the HAJJIS/JEAN cross was unforgiveable. As was the NORIA/AIRACE cross... I had no idea... and this on a Wednesday! Fortunately, and unlike the above, ARMA was gettable from crosses.

On the plus side there was SIGOURNEY and THEAFRICANQUEEN... not enough to make this an enjoyable puzzle. Two thumbs down.

arma combat michaels 4:24 AM  

9 theme answers, people!!!!
Perfectly balanced, all at the end, beautiful long answer across the middle
lots of Qs and JJJs! The HA?JI thing I had to wait for the cross too, but how could one not be happy to see it was yet another J???

And for those of us d'un certain age JEAN Shepherd referencing BBGUN was priceless...and ALAN KING, SIGOURNEY Weaver, Bob SAGET, ANOUK AIMEE James AGEE Henry LUCE
is a s(*&load of names but would ALL be in our "wheelhouse"

(Actually the only thing NOT in my wheelhouse is the word wheelhouse...totally bugs me but can't put my finger on why, other than I don't know what a wheel house is and I hate overused cliches, like "being on the same page", etc.)

I love the cheekiness of FLAPJACK!
And perversely the DESIS bec there really were two...

The only thing I felt all eyebrow-y raised about was ADELPHI/PHI crossing bec it feels like the PHI is the same word, but that 's bec ADELPHI looks like a Greek letter to me, sort of Aleph + Delta + Phi = ADELPHI.

Quick memory:
HAIR was the first musical I went to with my brand new step-grandma (my grandfather remarried at 60 to a woman his age, more or less).
This was circa 1970, I think. I was all of 10 and this was our first activity together, ever! Seeing HAIR on Broadway!!! So I thought she was the coolest grandma in the world. Maidie turned 99 in May and I still think she is :)

And ending on, this week really is potty-centric!
I am NOT going to say "Has gone down the toilet" bec I thought this was a wonderful puzzle, all crunchy and weird! (But weird in a good way)

CoffeeLvr 4:26 AM  

71A FLUSH continues this week's plumbing theme; some might consider 65A as another contribution. Not sure it passes the breakfast test.

acme 4:26 AM  

oh wow, I just realized of course ALEPH is Hebrew not Greek, but still!
(it's late)

chefwen 5:05 AM  

"PAYED out handsomely" Where did she go to school? Let's try paid, yeah, that's it!

acmes 5:20 AM  

someone want to embed this? By coincidence, they had a slideshow of Sigourney Weaver's career on our local news station blog:

SethG 7:27 AM  

I complained when (I/E)NURE crossed RIN and they clued it as an ancient Japanese coin instead of the dog. HA(D/J)JIS crossing xEAN clued as a name is just as bad.

Both Hadjis and Hajjis have been in the puzzle, clued the same way. HADJI is actually even more common. There is absolutely no way to know whether the dude who wrote the story is a DEAN or a JEAN. That, as clued, is a bad cross.

exaudio 7:50 AM  

Liked it, but dnf due to HADJI/DEAN, which I thought was correct, trying to fix ERIN/NORIA, which I thought must be wrong.

Z 7:54 AM  

Blurbs don't bother me, so I enjoyed the puzzle.

Was saved from the HAdJIS "error" because I threw down Hateon for 29A which led me to HAJist(?). Fixed it through the crosses, but just left that initial J in place.

Unlike Rex, I guessed wrong on ASHANTe, so when I wrote in the final A I was left with NOReA. Unintentional learning took place when I yahoo (I don't google anymore) took me to the Wiki article.

The African Queen is right after Casablanca on my list of favorite old movies.

joho 7:57 AM  

I'm with @chefwen, @Gill I.P. and @arma combat michaels in loving this puzzle!

I wasn't thrilled with seeing (Sees Blurb) at 1A but had no problem figuring those out. I was amazed at the construction of this beauty what with the pay off of the poker theme, HAIR in one corner and ACT1 in the other and AGEE crossing THEAFRICANQUEEN.

I knew NORIA. I also have spent a little bit of time with one of the DESIS ...the son is a super nice guy.

@Rex, it seems you turn really negative when a puzzle slows you down.

Thank you, Peter!

John 7:59 AM  

The real problem with this puzzle is the the ends of the starred clues produce a "Royal Straight Flush", not a "Royal Flush". I suppose it could be argued that by necessity a "Royal Flush" is a "Royal Straight Flush" but in poker parlance it makes no sense. "Royal" means Ace - 10. "Straight" means a consecutive run" and "Flush" means all of the same suit.

David L 8:18 AM  

Didn't know whether the singer was ASHANTI or ASHANTE, didn't know NORIA, and stared uselessly at _IRACE for a long time. Nasty. I got the HAJJIS/JEAN cross because I knew JEAN, but I agree with those who think it was a stinky cross, especially for a Wednesday.

efrex 8:20 AM  

Thought I was gonna fly through this one, what with the "smack-dab-in-my-wheelhouse" HAIR and JEAN Shepherd references (if you haven't actually heard Jean perform "Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid," the monologue on which "A Christmas Story" is based, you are missing a treat). Got the theme quickly, and filled in all the back words.

Like others, had ASHANTE/NOREA, which was irritating. Didn't mind EMALL, but IER as a "suffix for front?" Really? Blech.

dk 8:21 AM  

@acme, my dove. Wheelhouse is where one steers (actually pilots) the boat. It is where the charts are that give one guidance on where to, or not to sail. Given that old charts often represented the secret knowledge of the Captain, or his shipping company... any way you get the drift. FYI it is a boat if it fits inside a ship.

I transposed letters in Ms. Weaver's name resulting in alien fill (I am so witty) and had the same ASHANT e or i moment as Rex.

Otherwise this one was easy as pie, got the theme, figured out the cards would be in order and laughed out loud when I filled in FLUSH. This must be National Porcelain week.

FLAPJACK is also a great character on Adventure Time aka The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack.

I agree with Andrea and chefwen this puzzle is nothing to HISSAT. Except for 8D which totally sucks.

*** (3 Stars)

mac 8:32 AM  

I liked this puzzle, too, well-crafted. Just ignored the blurb until I got flush, then I could easily fill in the other unclued spaces. One write-over at 4D: joke for a nut.

Glimmerglass 8:52 AM  

Lighten up, Rex. On a Wednesday, you don't need to read the blurb. Infer it from the answers you do have. I though this puzzle had a well executed theme. I print the puzzle at 10 pm and do it on paper at breakfast the next morning. It's a pain to go back on line to read the blurb, so I usually don't. Wednesdays are usually "medium" so working out what the blurb must say is no harder than catching on to a rebus. However, in this case, the instructions could easily have been in 1A ("With 71A, this puzzle's theme") and 13A ("With 67A, requirement for 1A-71A").

DESievers 8:56 AM  

Didn't know NORIA or this var. spelling of HAJJIS. Stared densely at AIRACE for ages and never understood until I read Rex's blog. Sometimes your brain is just not in 'word separation' mode, I guess. I was just singing/humming Hall & Oates 'Your Kiss' yesterday ... no reason, I hadn't heard it anywhere, it just popped into my head ... one of those cosmic echoes (or pre-echoes) that crossworders are prone to on occasion, I guess.

Brian 9:00 AM  

Theme came too easily for me, actually, and I lost curiosity after filling in ROYAL from crosses and then immediately filling in FLUSH in the lower right corner and dropping in SAME and SUIT. I knew what to expect the rest of the way and felt la little let down.

Did love THEAFRICANQUEEN (wonderful, wonderful flick) and SIGOURNEY.

Liked BBGUN, SERAPH and (unlike Rex) EMALL, although that one took me a bit to puzzle out.

There were maybe a touch too many music-related answers (HAIR, ASHANTI, EMALL, OATES). Geez, maybe I'm wrong about that now that I list them. Seemed like a lot more than four.

Lastly, any puzzle with BIGTEN in it can't be all bad. That's my neck of the woods. So GO BLUE!

jesser 9:05 AM  

I failed the dEAN Shepherd test, and I had a writeover at 62A, where I first wanted bUlK. ANOUK next to NGAIO was brutal. If not for the BB GUN at 17A, I don't think I'd have grinned at all during this solve. And to anyone who knows poker, SAME SUIT is redundant when you are talking about a ROYAL FLUSH. Me no likey.

davko 9:12 AM  
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davko 9:14 AM  

For those having trouble finding the blurb in their Across Lite versions: click on the small yellow notebook icon alongside the puzzle's boldfaced "i.d. tag," in the upper left corner. Anytime something referenced in the clue list seems to be missing, this is usually where it's hiding.

thursdaysd 9:19 AM  

@Anonymous 2:09 "Is there an actual relationship between the nori of nori rolls and the noria of the aqueducts?" - since nori is Japanese and noria is derived from Arabic, vanishingly unlikely. For a photo of a noria, go here:

John V 9:25 AM  

Played easy on the train today. Initially was looking for "Kill email" from Metallica, but my hopes were dashed. Alas.

A tad OT, but saw this funny bit from the BBC that word fans will enjoy. Turns out, neologisms are hated by many on both sides of the pond:

foodie 9:40 AM  

I'm on the impressed side, although I also see the point of the plaints.

Especially about the blurb in 1A. I understand why it's there, and how it's part of the unfolding of the theme. It's just not a welcoming way to enter a puzzle. It's like you ring the door bell and someone says: come through the back door and shuts the door in your face. You're not too sure of your welcome after that, and it takes you a while to warm up...

chefbea 9:47 AM  

Haven't read the posts yet but when I finnished the puzzle I started laughing!!! Wondering if a plunger was needed for the Royal Flush!!! (maybe someone else thought this as well)

chefbea 9:55 AM  

Did like the puzzle and don't know why I knew Jean Shepherd.

@Marlo welcome to Rexville. Read your post from last night

jackj 10:01 AM  

Another bit of whimsy which purports to produce a royal straight flush, (with no wild cards,) but it relies on too many outlier entries which then become one-eyed jacks in mufti.

First the good, ORGANISMS, SERAPH and THIRST were top-flight; but then we had to suffer JEAN/DEAN (HAJJIS/HADJIS), DESIS, ACNES, et al, and a misdeal seemed probable.

Sadly, the theme itself is flawed since, as any poker player will tell you, a straight flush (royal or other) is only so if the cards are of the SAME SUIT.

In any event, a tip of the hat to Peter Collins. He has established himself as the most published Times constructor of 2011 with seven so far; only uber-constructor Patrick Berry has as many.

DBGeezer 10:11 AM  

I couldn't understand the blurb until after I finished the puzzle. Then I figured it out.

ARMA virumque cano
Troiae qui primus ab oris ...

Arms and the man I sing,
Who exiled from Troy ...

Cheerio 10:16 AM  

I liked the puzzly aspect of the blurb at the top, though it was pretty easy to suss out. Hall & Oates was a gimme for me, but oddly, though I know the names and I know the songs, I had never bothered to connect the two. (Obviously, I'm not into pop music, nor almost any music of my time.) I am very disappointed to learn that they are responsible for that incredibly annoying "Kiss on my List" song, not to mention that I had thought the lyric was "Your Kiss is on my Lips." I imagined them as cooler than this, sort of more like Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Oh well.

retired_chemist 10:25 AM  

Any puzzle with two apparently obscure/ambiguous crosses is flawed. I got HAJJI on a coin toss but was prepared to make it HADJI if the cross required it. When Mr. Happy Pencil appeared I never looked back. Knew how to spell the name ASHANTI (ASHANTI Blaize is a local Channel 5 TV reporter) but never have heard the singer.

Like many I did the puzzle without trying to understand the theme until late in the game. It eventually was helpful, however.

THE AFRICAN QUEEN went in instantly, since it was one of my favorite movies.

Most of the fill was staightforward and, except for the bad ones everybody else noted, unremarkable.

captcha unmea, as in "I didn't do it" <=> unmea culpa.

Matthew G. 10:29 AM  

That HAJJIS/JEAN crossing is bad. I got it right, but I could just as easily have been wrong. I only vaguely summoned up the name JEAN Shepherd. I don't think he's famous enough to cross a word with two valid spellings, especially since I've seen "A Christmas Story" countless times but still didn't know him.

Otherwise, for the most part, I thought this was Tuesday-ish in difficulty. It was one of those rare days where I actively used the theme to speed up my time -- I caught on with 1A and then filled in all the theme entries with no crosses, except the ALAN in ALAN KING, which I wasn't sure about.

NORIA was a new word for me.

Matthew G. 10:31 AM  

By the way, when I was a kid, I thought the band's name was Haulin' Oats. I continued to think this until an age I will not reveal herein.

solasoletta 10:43 AM  

"Can I get you anything, Mr. Trainer? Coffee, tea, me?"

Two Ponies 10:44 AM  

Today I am half Rex and half Andrea. Figuring out the blurb helped me get through to the end but I fell for the Dean/Jean trap.
I guess the spelling of the pilgrims will be like the Russian ruler. Hope for good crosses.
@ DESievers, I like "pre-echo". That happens to me as well.

miriam b 11:04 AM  

NORIA harks back to Maleska-land.

JEAN Shepherd's radio show was wonderful, as are his books. When my son (now 52) and his best friend were 13 or so, they prevailed upon me to take them to a local appearance by Mr. Shepherd. He was very affable and he willingly autographed a copy of one of his books which I had brought along for the purpose. He often discussed kitsch on his radio show - things like a horse statue with a clock in its stomach - so I brought along my burping beer mug to show him.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:05 AM  

I thought the puzzle was quite pleasant, maybe because it seemed so opaque at first look, but shifted to Easy once I had TEN and JACK.

Doesn't hurt that I have been a great Jean Shepherd fan since I was a high school freshman, c. 1959.

Masked and Anonymous 11:05 AM  

I wrote "DJ" in the square numbered 19. Everything else about that has already been ridden hard and put away wet.

I haven't signed the "no blurbs" pledge, so was OK with that. Theme density was pretty ambitious, so engine lights coming on all over the place, when you uncover the resulting fill. Puz could use some salve for them ACNES. But, hey...

1. Theme had a different slant. Like that. Royal Flush. Always a sure bet.
2. Puz put up a fight. Like that.
3. Puz had SIGOURNEY. Love her. Also had ORGANISMS. Paired up, a kinda "Alien" subtheme. Loved that flick.
4. Puz had six U's. Nice.
5. Puz got @31 riled up. Always a plus.
6. Andrea darlin' liked it. Love her.
7. Puz had "Kill 'em All". Gutsy. Confusin'. But gutsy.

Impressed... 11:06 AM  

Another fortunate symmetry, beautifully exploited:

.....   QUEEN

Rex Parker 11:26 AM  

You're "Impressed" with the rotational symmetry that virtually every single puzzle's theme answers have? Or are you "Impressed" that the theme answers divide into two equal parts ... except for that pesky big one? Either way, low bar.

JaxInL.A. 11:37 AM  
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JaxInL.A. 11:39 AM  

What, no love for ALAN KING? the man was hilarious.  

And here's ACME's local TV slideshow of Sigourney Weaver's career.

erik 11:42 AM  

P.S. I thought ASHANTI was a household name. But I guess that's just because I've seen Coach Carter 20 times.

P.P.S. I liked the puzzle.

DBGeezer 11:42 AM  

Crossword constructors:
If ARMA makes good crosswordese as the opening of the Aeneid, it seems that the opening of Caesar's Wars would also be a good crossword word.
GALLIA omnia in tres partes divisa est

David 11:52 AM  

Wasn't HAJJ in the NW corner of a recent puzzle? Was it a similar clue? It it wasn't for that I would've written in HAJIS and been in trouble.

I'm in the minority of folks who did like the puzzle, even with the AREA/ARMA/ARENA/AFAR/AJAR in the top (AJAR at the bottom). Kind of a shame that the one 15 letter clue was such a gimme, whereas the other 4 themed clues for me required some thought or crosses.

Nancy in PA 11:59 AM  

Any blog comments page in which I can not only read "vanishingly unlikely" but also "Haulin' Oats" is OK by me. I won't tell you how long I thought of "Nights in White Satin" as "Knights in White Satin," as in Monty Pythonish lumberjacks...

I'm with ACME on knowing all those proper names, and right down to seeing Hair on Broadway in 1970 with my (very cool) mom.

Karen 12:00 PM  

Today's posts were WAY better than today's puzzle! Particularly liked 'haulin oats." Too good!

deerfencer 12:13 PM  

Enjoyed it even with the several ACNES (ugly spots) throughout, especially EMALL, which is an aberration.

My family has seen the TV version of Jean Shepherd's classic "A Christmas Story" more times than I can count--very funny stuff.

I will say it helped to have the Tour de France on in the background to help keep things light as several riders--including the yellow-jerseyed Voelker--had some embarrassingly amateurish problems with the last descent that resulted in them temporarily detouring into some dude's driveway (or "car park" as Phil Leggett says).

Left a big blank square at the trouble spot @ square 59. AIRACE clue stinks. You can certainly be a pro, Blue Angel-type pilot without ever shooting a thing.

Check the fine print 12:14 PM  


Did you miss "when in the 15A/67A" part?


JenCT 12:41 PM  

@foodie: well-put.

Same mistake with HADJIS/DEAN; also had HIVES for 54d for too long.

@Matthew G: Haulin' Oats - Ha!

Anonymous 12:50 PM  


Anonymous 12:58 PM  

A large part of the reason I come here is so that I don't have to figure out themes or the purpose of circles or "see blurb". After the first few lines today I thought I might have to read the blurb after all. But there was enough info to figure out what the deal was if one read far enough.

I'm with those folks that wish Shortz would decide to spell the word HADJ or HAJJ -- or ARTICHOKE for all I care. Just be consistent.

retired_chemist 1:19 PM  

@ Anon 12:58 - you will never get that consistency you seek. If an answer is correct with either/any spelling, either/any is likely to crop up sometime. We just need to deal with it....

DBGeezer 1:43 PM  

Both HADJ and HAJJ are estimates of what the word actually sounds like in Arabic. Consequently, both are wrong and both are right.

It's a bit like the British concluding that Mumbai should be written as Bombay.

capcha hiculkab: The request of a drunk who knows he should not drive home.

jberg 2:17 PM  

I liked it, despite having a long period when I could not remember what kind of QUEEN they were in in that movie - pure senility, not the constructor's fault! I also liked the way the theme went in two directions -- the ROYAL FLUSH one, and then a bunch of references to the moviel

I had blanks for both HA_JIS and ARM_ (the latter since there was nothing in the clue to indicate Latin, rather than the English ARMs); was about to go with dEAN Shepherd when I suddently realized that I knew the name JEAN. But I started with Beyonce at 30A before the crosses straightened that out.

An easy solve still, once I saw from the crosses that 1A was ROYAL the rest of the theme was clear, and that covered a lot of the puzzle.

ANON B 2:39 PM  

When there is a Comment Deleted and the sentence This Post Has
Been Deleted By The Author, is the author Rex Parker or the author of the deleted comment?

If the latter, how does one delete
one's commment?

evil doug 2:41 PM  

Actually, an "ace" is a pilot who shoots down enemy aircraft---normally five---during aerial combat.


Still impressed 2:45 PM  

In response to @Rex's blowoff:

I'm impressed that the English language conveniently provides 3-4-5-4-3 symmetry for the names of the cards in the ROYAL FLUSH and that the constructor exploited them with symmetric theme entries:

..5 ... QUEEN

Sorry about the central ..5, though. Perhaps "white QUEEN" from Alice would have been more impressive (but a 10, not a 15).

chefbea 2:46 PM  

@AnonB just click on the trash can to delete. You have to have a name though - an account

IKnowYouAreThinkingTheSameThing 3:09 PM  

There are days when I think an acme blog would be so much more fun to read than a Rex blog.

Two Ponies 3:23 PM  

@ IKnow...,
I enjoy the balance between the two. We always have someone to agree or disagree with. More grist for the mill.

Forgot to say the Kill 'Em All was my first entry. Not because that is my musical genre of choice but because PuzzleMate plays stuff like that while lifts weights.

Z 3:35 PM  

@John - "Royal Straight Flush" is redundant. A Royal Flush is a specific straight flush headed by the ACE. Replace any of the five cards with a lower card of the suit and it is just a flush. Change the suit of any of the cards and it is just a straight.

jackj 4:21 PM  

@Check the fine print-

My point was that having SAMESUIT as a qualifier was totally redundant. All cards must be of the same suit or it isn't a flush.

long suffering mets fan 4:30 PM  

Funny, seeing the archaic YEGGS yet again in an NYT puzzle makes me yearn for the days of ALOTONONESPLATE

Lets hope Thursday turns it up a notch to match the outside temperature

Stay cool, all

Anonymous 5:04 PM  


SAME SUIT is not redundant; it is necessary to have a flush, as you point out:

"All cards must be of the same suit or it isn't a flush."

Otherwise, the blurb would claim that 10 through Ace in any suit comprises a royal flush. I'm no poker player, but I think this would just be an Ace high straight, or maybe a royal straight?

sanfranman59 5:04 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)

Wed 11:39, 11:52, 0.98, 52%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:00, 5:58, 1.02, 64%, Medium-Challenging

grayvlad 5:04 PM  

if you get the puzzle on line, you don't get any blurbs, titles, or helpful info.

archaeoprof 5:39 PM  

I'm with @Joho and the others who enjoyed this puzzle.

In high school Latin we had to memorize the first seven lines of the Aeneid. Nowadays if I ever have trouble falling asleep, I just start with line one, and I'm out before I get to line seven.

william e emba 5:56 PM  

I started in the NE (drawn in by the High Culture "ARMA virumque cano" gimme) and was delighted to see JEAN Shepherd, the great Low Culture guru and patron saint of the "night people", as he called his listeners on his late late 1:00-5:30 AM radio show from the 1950s. He played a little music, but mostly just talked and talked and entertained like few others.

This was before I was even born, but Shepherd pulled off one of the greatest hoaxes of all time, the child of which I have on my bookshelves (although the price was high enough and the paperback is fragile enough that I've been afraid to actually read it).

Shepherd decided to recruit his night people to help screw things up for the day people, since the day people live and die by the Official List Of What's Good For You instead of thinking for themselves. The night people were to go into bookstores, and ask for a copy of a nonexistent book. Together with his call-ins, the author's name Frederick R Ewing, the book's title I, Libertine, and the overall plot (a fictionalized version of the then-recently-and-finally published diaries of Boswell) were developed.

That's right, Shepherd invented the flash mob!

The hoax was a smashing success, with I, Libertine becoming the must-have book of the season for awhile. Ian Ballantine--a night person himself--decided he had to publish the novel--and recruited Theodore Sturgeon to write it. Shepherd posed for the author's picture. And since I pretty much read all things Sturgeon (I highly recommend the now complete collected stories in 13 volumes), I tracked down a copy and now await the cheap reprint.

Come on. When was the last time you saw "Gadzooks!" quoth I, "but here's a saucy bawd!" on a book cover?


As for the rest of the puzzle, I got the theme instantly off of FLAPJACK, wrote in the other cards, wrote in ROYAL FLUSH and then with a cross or two wrote in SAME HAND. Very easy, with the only holdup being having to guess the last letter of ASHANTI, and then not seeing AIR ACE for the longest time to finish the puzzle.

And yes, AIR ACEs do fly well. But in wartime, they shoot down many of the enemy. So the clue was entirely accurate.

Complaining about NGAIO Marsh is not allowed. She was a famous enough mystery novelist in her day--ranked with Christie and Sayers--and she's still in print. And she frequently shows up in crosswords.

sanfranman59 6:28 PM  

A couple people now have commented that the blurb was not available in the "online version". What "online version" do you mean? The browser interface, the PDF and the Across Lite versions all have the blurb. In the browser interface, you need to click the Notepad link above the top left corder of the grid to see it. In Across Lite, you click on the little notepad icon to the right of the date below the toolbar at the top of the screen. In the PDF version, the note is printed near the top of the page just above the clues.

Frankly, I wish I hadn't bothered reading the blurb on this puzzle since it only served to confuse me with its fractured syntax.

michael 6:47 PM  

I got Jean Shepard and Ngaio Marsh without difficulty, but these must have been hard for most people under 50 (or maybe even under 60).

Anonymous 6:58 PM  

I did the puzzle in across lite, which I am fairly new to. Was there some way to view the blurb?

Anonymous 8:10 PM  

@Anon 6:58 - At the top, to the right of the date, there's a little yellow notepad. Click on that, and there's your blurb.

Sfingi 8:24 PM  

Arms and the man, I sing. So, I had ARMS.

Had SojOURNEr before SIGOURNEY, in keeping with my weird choices.

The blurb was unnecessary.

Didn't know NORIA, BANKIN (sports), ASHANTI (youth) (my double Natick).

jj 8:29 PM  

Someone should at least note that the release of this puzzle coincided with the final table of the World Series of Poker being decided.

Two Ponies 8:37 PM  

Good catch @ jj!
The headline of the Vegas local paper today was about the big poker game.

Anonymous 9:03 PM  

In Across Lite you can also go to View, Notepad...

cody.riggs 9:33 PM  

I really don't understand the blurb-hating anti-self-referentialists...except that I suspect that y'all are speed-solvers and can't stand anything that might take a few seconds to figure out. What's the point of doing a puzzle if there's no variety &/or challenge?

sanfranman59 10:05 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 6:22, 6:51, 0.93, 24%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:59, 8:55, 1.01, 58%, Medium
Wed 11:39, 11:52, 0.98, 52%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:20, 3:40, 0.91, 16%, Easy
Tue 4:48, 4:35, 1.05, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 5:54, 5:52, 1.01, 57%, Medium

RunningDan 10:19 PM  

I think those cards COMPOSE a Royal Flush, not COMPRISE. The whole comprises its' parts, while the parts (together) compose the whole, right?

mmorgan 10:24 PM  

Wow, this Thursday puzzle is a toughie. Who's this Michael Sharp? Can't wait till Rex tears this one to shreds.

chefwen 11:55 PM  

@mmorgan - LOL

Anonymous 11:09 AM  

My biggest beef is that conference is called the BIG TEN despite the fact that it is comprised of twelve teams.

Anonymous 1:11 PM  

Remember that TWELVE in the duodecimal notation is represented as a "10" so it's only a small stretch.

Deb 2:30 PM  

@cody.riggs - I'm definitely not a speed solver, but really, really despise cross-referenced clues and blurbs that are impossible to make sense of until AFTER you complete the puzzle and no longer need them. (Though this puzzle's blurb was one of the very few that I actually did need in order to complete the EMALL & NORIA obscurities.) They both annoy me because they're just tools constructors seem to use to point out the cleverness of the puzzle without adding anything to the solving experience. Unless you actually enjoy bouncing around a grid willy-nilly and losing your place. Which I do not.

That said, I didn't hate this puzzle as much as Rex. But I don't think it's possible for me to dredge up as much passion, pro or con, for a crossword puzzle as Rex. I often wonder if he doesn't hyperbolize his feelings about a puzzle just to make the blog interesting. Kinda like shock jocks overstate their case to sell ad time. I've checked out a few other crossword blogs and they're usually pretty boring in comparison to this one, so he obviously has the right idea.

rain forest 2:43 PM  

When speed solvers confront "see the blurb", they are angered because it will slow them down. I read the blurb, got rabbi, orbit, and yeggs, and so royal flush fell into place. When I got to 15-across, slammed in same suit, and the rest was fun, except for Ngaio which I knew had to be correct from the crosses, but is someone I've never heard of.
I have difficulty understanding the need people have to find things, usually nit-picky things, to criticize, eg, 'em all, which is part of a song title. If, say, there were a clue: Hall and Oates' "Abandoned _____", I doubt that "luncheonette" would evoke such ire, but it's the same idea as Kill 'Em All. Btw, an air ace was/is a fighter pilot noted for his success at shooting down other planes--see The Red Baron, or Billy Bishop.

Dirigonzo 6:22 PM  

In syndiland, stumbled on some of the same iffy crosses as others but still had a good time.

Saw a production of HAIR in Germany - many in the (mostly military) audience were outraged, I loved it! Great play,great songs, wonderful memories.

"Lucy's husband and son" had me thinking briefly that something really kinky was going on, but DESIS came along and assured me the problem was in my admittedly sick mind, not the clue.

Anonymous 7:43 PM  

Nothing is more frustrating that having to get help for just one letter.

Curse you noria!

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