Michael of "Superbad" / THU 8-25-11 / Harold of the Clinton White House / Lepidopterist's tool / Patty Hearst alias / Tennis great born in Serbia

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Constructor: Patrick Blindauer & Francis Heaney

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Food Pyramids — Circled letters form the name of a food in the shape of a pyramid.

Hi hi, Andrea Carla Michaels here getting to blog today's SASSY (1D: Fresh) puzzle. The lovely PuzzleGirl will help me technically: editing, embedding the images and doing my laundry, because she's just that kind of friend! Speaking of friends, should I recuse myself because Patrick Blindauer and Francis Heaney and I are close buddies? Full disclosure: Patrick and I are frequent puzzle collaborators and I'm going to Patrick's wedding in a couple of weeks.* Well, I would pass on guest-blogging, if I didn't honestly love this puzzle and felt the least bit conflicted. Instead I've got lots to say about this little gem … and Rex was nice enough to let me sit in and say it!

First of all, let's look at the construction. You've got four food "pyramids" stacked across the grid: SOUR CREAM, COBB SALAD, SNOW CONES, SWEET ROLL. Clever, clever construction, if not the most nutritious four-course meal. Love me some Cobb Salad, tho you never know what you are going to get. Sometimes they forget the avocado and put peas in there, sometimes there is a hard boiled egg, sometimes blue cheese delicately sprinkled, sometimes just a huge chunk. It's always an adventure! Hmmm, now that I think about it, is a COBB SALAD a "food" per se or a type of meal made of up different foods? Same slight stutter in initially wanting SNOWpeas because I was unsure if snow cones were food. (By the way, do not, I repeat, do not look up "SNOWCONES" in the Urban Dictionary.)

One minor quibble, theme-wise. Being a start-at-1A solver, I'm not sure I wanted the theme circles to be given away in just the second entry of the grid .… I would rather have been enlightened at the end.

Loved that the grid was rife with food imagery! Patrick and Francis sweetened the solving experience with a little SUET here (4D: Ingredient in some English pudding … yuck), a little ROCA there (49D: Almond ___ (candy brand)), sprinkled with LESS SALT (24D: Dietary dictum for one with hyper tension … and with an echo of EKCO (30D: Kitchenware brand), all washed down with some wine (48D: Blush stoppers (CORKS)).

I would rate this fairly easy, because although I don't time myself, I see my only writeover was CaliSTOGA for CONESTOGA (38A: Pioneer carrier). That would be my Word of the Day, but you can look it up yourself. Just do not google SNOWCONES! I'm serious! I'll never sleep again!

Being a lady of a "certain age" (OLDIE?) I had an easier time with certain clues, e.g. SHE'S A LADY (33A: 1971 Tom Jones hit). How cool is that that Francis and/or Patrick spotted the word SALAD in there???!!

And I still vividly remember the SLA and TANIA (37A: Patty Hearst alias).

Some folks might have had trouble in the heavily-peopled far right middle section, what with EDIE (28D: Falco, of "Nurse Jackie"), the aforementioned TANIA and ICKES (40A: Harold of the Clinton White House). ICKES will live up/down to his name and be icky for some. Why on earth did Harold's parents not change their name when they had the chance? Younger folks are probably more likely to suss out KYLE (60A: "South Park" Boy), CERA (27D: Michael of "Superbad") and ELMO (15A: Friend of Zoe and Abby). I didn't know who Zoe and Abby were. "Sesame Street" premiered in 1969 … I was already ten and knew my alphabet fairly well at that point, so the Muppets were not part of my education. Though I have a vague recovered memory of two silhouettes mouthing, "MMM … OP … MOP"! Trickiest clue, I'm guessing, was "55D Mad people, e.g.: Abbr." If that tripped you up, the answer is EDS., which is short for editors, as in editors of MAD Magazine. Get it now? You're welcome! In my lifetime, we've gone from "What me worry?" to "No worries." Whenever someone says "No worries" instead of "You're welcome," I always feel compelled to respond, "Some worries!" (Then again, I'm Jewish.)

You could see the constructors' predilection for Broadway peek out with the RAITT clue referring to Bonnie's dad John, rather than the "Let's Give Them Something to Talk About" songstress. Bonnie lives here in San Francisco. We have mutual friends and I occasionally run into her, and we have this weird vibe where something always goes terribly wrong between us (once she sort of accused me of stressing out her blind poodle, but that's another story for another time!).

Speaking of San Francisco, I took TROLLEY CAR (54A: Conductor's place) as a personal shoutout to me. But then again, I take everything personally … even CLOBBER (my favorite word in the puzzle!)

Needless to say, these two brilliant creators rarely have DRECK (58A: Shoddy stuff) in their puzzles. The closest they come is DIPL. (42D: Embassy worker), which a little birdie told me may even have been changed. If WEEP were simply changed to PEEL, DIPL. would be transformed into DILL, two more food references (!). Plus you wouldn't lose their clever SEOUL entry (44D: City whose name sounds like a fish). That, by the way, is why Patrick and Francis are too clever by half … and I mean that in a good way … Their SEOUL is a triple Seoul Food/Sole Food/Soul Food pun! And, as we know, Seoul is the brevity of wit! (You would, however, lose the lovely Ms. Fay WRAY (51D "King Kong" costar, 1933).)

Finally, I would be betraying my Minnesota roots if I did not mention the very light Scandinavian theme (by light, I mean a total of two clues!). Scrabble players will recognize RYAS (29D: Scandinavian rugs) if they know their three-letter words (-YA also takes a P front hook!) … and PELLE (45D: "___ The Conqueror" (Max Von Sydow film)) is Norwegian, even tho Max Von Sydow (who was nominated for an Academy award for his role) is Swedish. That was a gimme for me as I have been in love with his son Clas going on 35 years now! Fun fact: Max Von Sydow (who's played everyone from Jesus Christ to the Exorcist to Ming the Merciless to the assassin in "Three Days of the Condor"; he was in all the early Bergman films and was the knight who played Chess with Death!) looks just like the picture on a $20 bill.

And on that (twenty-dollar) note, I'll say CIAO! (56A: Foreign farewell)

HUG (34D: O, Symbolically),


* P.S. By the way, if you love Patrick's puzzles, be sure to check out his website. And you can hop on over to the Crossword Fiend Forum for a little puzzle I made for Patrick and his lovely-bride-to-be Rebecca in lieu of a proper engagement present!


GILL I. 12:29 AM  

@ACME. What a terrific write-up to go along with a fun, fun puzzle.
I thought of the bloggers when DRECK appeared since it seems to be a favorite blah word. Not so here.
Great words CONESTOGA ICKES...
I had a bunch of little things to add but ACME filled them in in a much more amusing way.
Thank you both Mr. Blindauer and Heaney. En hora buena to Mr. Blindauer on his up coming nuptials.

Tobias Duncan 12:32 AM  

Man even a lovely write up from the wonderful ACME could not talk me out of the cranky pants.So much in this puzzle I have never heard of(for a thursday.
What the hell is Almond Roca?
I was just discussing Jane EYRE last night with someone who assumed I had read it, I kept trying to admit that I had not but forgot about it before I got the chance. Weird Karma to have that bite me in the ass today.
Some fine people here suggested some AMIS for me to read, but alas I have not gotten around to it so no help today.
Conestoga has gotten me before I think.
The only thing I can remember Max von Sydow in was Intacto (great weird film)
On and on. The long stuff came super fast. Should have paid attention to the theme, it would have helped me immensely.

Pete 12:37 AM  

Uh, Andrea, if WEEP were changed to PEEL, you'd be having people eating a SWEEPROLL with their breakfast. Now, the ones I get at my local WaWas actually taste as if they've been used to sweep the floor, but I don't think they want to advertise that fact.

santafefran 12:46 AM  


The first three pyramids complete the first word in the two top tiers, but SWEE TROLL doesn't quite make the cut.

But a puzzle filled with this much FOOD is not DRECK. Thanks to Patrick and Francis (sp?)!

acme 12:48 AM  

oops! @Pete, you are right! I can't change one of their circles!
(tho the way I had it it would be SPEETROLL, not SWEEPROLL, but still, wrong! And WEEL doesn't really work.
See, I should have left this to the professionals! ;)
My (Superbad)! OK, no more from me till tomorrow! Good, night Sweet Roll.

santafefran 12:50 AM  

My bad--I just now realized that Francis Heaney is not Patrick's intended who is Rebecca. So please ignore my (sp?) above.

Ellen L. 1:15 AM  

Impressed with this puzzle. TGFG! (Thank Goodness For Google) I needed it to get me through the proper nouns, as I frequently do on Thursday. It helps me jumpstart the rest if the puzzle after I get stuck. All part of the fun.

I have never seen this type of theme done before! I love how creative and clever people can be.

syndy 3:09 AM  

I cringed when I saw the circles but now I'm taking it back-what fun!and not just because I gotthe COBB SALAD off the "D" If you're going to have circles THIS is how you do it!Just as tasty as ALMOND ROCA but I must agree SNOW CONEs are not food.

jae 3:27 AM  

Delightful write up, delightful puzzle! I also had this at easy-medium. No real problems (see BEQ's Monday 1a) or write overs but SE took a wee bit of staring, hence the medium part. Nice Thurs.!

Modesty Blasé 4:04 AM  

Concur that you've done an admirable job with today's breakdown.
Seemed a very easy Thursday as it's sometimes a slog for me at the end of the week.
I loved seeing DRECK as it's a wonderfully evocative word in conversation.
The clue for EDS was unfortunate. Luckily, I'm a tennis fan and [Monica] SELES (I don't think I've seen this as "tennis star palindrome") was easy.
Not very challenging, but I'll probably get my butt kicked tomorrow.

shrub5 5:39 AM  

Well, this was a different sort of puzzle! I had put WORD pyramids in at first before figuring out it was FOOD. Also my fanny was REAR before becoming SEAT.

@acme: Enjoyed the funny, entertaining write-up (encore!) I did your puzzle for the happy couple a while back. How wonderful for you to create this special gift! Without a doubt more thoughtful than a toaster.

I was a little annoyed with myself as I tried to think of every male tennis player in the world before I considered that the answer could be a woman...SELES.

Cute picture of the cat with the technicolor tongue!

Anonymous 7:34 AM  

Please explain Otto cinque

Z 7:37 AM  

HTG and still DNF. Loved the construction, but just so much cluing that didn't click for me. Not sure how AMOUR is an "affair," so that M was a blank. RAITT/ROCA is a total (non-geographic) Natick for me. The only John -AITT I could come up with was hAITT. And the SE - forget it. Had Kenny and Cartman locked in my head, so I just couldn't come up with Kyle. Plopped in lendl, so that blocked that whole corner. With all the other people in the puzzle, I was thinking some obscure Mae West character for 58D. And whenever I see "PC" I presume Windows specific keyboards, so wrote in alt with false confidence.

Nevertheless, I like this puzzle. While the cluing was hard for me, there was nothing particularly unfair or unusually obscure. I loved the adding of a third dimension to the solve with the pyramids. Loved seeing DRECK.

SethG 8:06 AM  

I wrote in RAYE. That didn't help. Finally changed it, but then I had WEAR. That didn't help. I stared at DURL for way too long. DIPL? That's a tough little section.

Can't wait for the Food MyPlate puzzle!

embee 8:25 AM  

8 minus 5 is three in Italian. Took me awhile. Thought Otto was a ruler.

nanpilla 8:30 AM  

@santafefran - I thought the same thing. I don't eat TROLLS, SWEE or otherwise!

@acme - fun write-up! And, of course, I just had to look....... ewwwww.

@anonymous 7:34 8-5=3 in italian.

joho 8:35 AM  

What a delightful puzzle blogged in a most delightful way by our Acme!

I give this a big LOVE stamp of approval (visualize the stacked letters with the tilted O -- a little bit like a pyramid.)

The original theme was as refreshing as a palate cleanser between courses, or in this case, the puzzle days of the week.

Thank you, Patrick and Francis!

jberg 9:02 AM  

Great writeup, fun puzzle - although I finished with an error, TANyA/EDyE - who knew? Also, here in New England we have sno-cones, not SNOW CONES, but maybe it is different elsewhere.

Everybody's talking about circles, but in my paper there are shaded squares, instead. Either way, I had forgotten Rex was away and was expecting some scathing remarks about them. That would have been entertaining, too, but ACME's take was outstanding. Thanks!

jesser 9:04 AM  

It is one of the great ironies of my life that I am allergic to nuts. Because of that and my ignorance of Broadway (I do like Streisand, or I'd have had my membership revoked by now), I was Naticked down at the 49A/D intersection. So I thought maybe mOCA was a knock-off spelling of 'mocha' and John mAITT was featured in 'Carousel.'

I was wrong.

Only writeover was rEAr before SEAT at 20A.

This was a crunchy puzzle for me. I only needed the circles in the SNOW CONE region to help me go through there a little faster. I've never even heard of COBB SALAD (it probably has nuts in it), so it's lucky I know me some Tom Jones and BASIC BLACK. I know about SWISS BANKs, but have no reason -- sadly -- to employ one.

Loved the write-up!

And now: On to the day! Happy Thursday, Rexville!

evil doug 9:09 AM  

"Speaking of San Francisco, I took TROLLEY CAR (54A: Conductor's place) as a personal shoutout to me."

While San Francisco might have trolley cars, I'm guessing a real "shout out" to The City would instead be CABLE cars, my single favorite SF layover pastime. I'm pretty sure that calling cable cars "trolleys" is an actionable offense akin to saying "Frisco". Dirty Harry has killed for less.


evil doug 9:19 AM  

...but if you're looking for a shout-out, Andrea ("if!" Ha!), then Kyle might do. He's Jewish, too. His little brother Ike is my fave.


retired_chemist 9:32 AM  

@ anon 7:34 re otto cinque - put the en dash back in. It is a minus sign.

Easy medium and a lot of fun. The pyramids were a big help.

Writeovers RELO => BSMT, INTEL => CISCO, MOAB (which was a place, not a person - who knew?) => SAUL, ALT =>ESC, SOSO => EXPO. NON writeovers: RAITT, DRECK, SI SI, DAK (debated CAR but guessed right), SELES.

Didn't like the clue for ARCS - I do not see how welding arcs are bands.

Andrea's writeup was a highlight - good job!

Wade 9:52 AM  

I read recently they were changing the food pyramid. I don't really remember any more than that. You're welcome. I remember being taught the food pyramid and getting a button at school that said "Have a 3-2-4-4 Day!" As in 3 servings of grain, 2 of meat, 4 of fruit/veg, and 4 of dairy, I think. Forty years after having that crammed down my throat, I'm on board with the notion that grain really isn't all that great for you, and that you should suspect anything that is that hard to figure out how to use. I eat mostly bugs now.

I didn't get the puzzle, I think. I thought each of those foods was supposed to represent a part of the food pyramid (Sour Cream for dairy, Cobb Salad for vegetables), but then Snow Cone blew that theory. Then I thought each food was shaped like a pyramid, because you can put that little curl on a dollop of sour cream, and a snow cone is a pyramid. Sort of. An upside down pyramid I guess. I have similar justifications for the salad and the sweet roll but I'm kind of not buying them.

Nicely done, Andrea. It was right at a year ago that I was in San Francisco and heard the blind poodle story in person.

slypett 9:57 AM  

Ooh! I hated this puzzle so much! It has everything I don't like: circles, easy long words, puns, Patty Hearst and DAK crossing DIPL.

You've got a disorderly (not disordred) mind Andrea Carlova. Thanks for the fun.

Kurt 9:57 AM  

I went to the Urban Dictionary and I don't understand the ickiness. To quote:

"snow cone"

"In baseball a catch made by a fielder or basemen where part of the baseball is sticking out of the top webbing of the glove resembling a snow cone. Many a defensive save is made with a snow cone grab."

Am I missing something?

chefbea 10:02 AM  

Great puzzle...great write up

Had rear for seat

Suet is for the birds.

We are battin down the hatches. Irene's suppose to be here Sat. Then you guys in New York and Ct get her Sunday

jackj 10:06 AM  

The Hollywood Brown Derby may have shuttered but its most famous creation, the COBB SALAD lives on! All other recipes are considered feeble imitations.

Take Acme's advice and do not look up SNOWCONES on Urban Dictionary, even ONADARE. It is the worst form of DRECK.

Had never thought of Monica SELES nationality and, if questioned, would not have guessed Serbian; more trivia to addle the axons.

Otherwise, agnostic on the puzzle.

JaxInL.A. 10:24 AM  

Fun puzzle, right up my alley. I love the rambling, conversational quality of Andrea's write-ups. It makes me feel like I'm in the same room with her.

Almond ROCA was my dad's favorite candy. It comes on thumb-sized logs wrapped in gold foil and is sold in the premium candy section of the grocery store, at least here in California. It's toffee, covered in chocolate, rolled in crushed almonds. Hard on the teeth but Really tasty.

@Tobias, given the disproportionate frequency of Jane EYRE in crosswords, it's probably worth your while to invest in watching at least a movie adaptation. Rexites might recommend their favorites, but there have been a few. And the book ain't bad.

@r_c, I am also hoping someone will explain about ARCS and bands.

foodie 10:33 AM  

I had mixed feelings about the puzzle, mostly because of my own ignorance of proper names. Natick City! But I liked the literal visualization of the FOOD Pyramid, and, as Andrea pointed out, the food vibe throughout the puzzle. It gave it that atmospheric feeling. COBB SALAD is one of my least favorite foods, but I appreciate the SPIN that Andrea put on it, as an adventure.

Andrea's write up, on the other hand, was pure delight. Brightened up my morning! Thank you! And Thank you Rex for your great taste in guest bloggers!

Arundel 10:36 AM  

A fine Thursday, but especially the write-up! No DRECK anywhere (with the exception of DIPL). What more could one ask of a Thursday.

San Francisco has both cable cars (a touristic indulgence, at some ridiculous price per ride) and the great collection of antique trolley cars that run in the summer on Market Street and around the Embarcadero. Much cooler - the open "boat" car from Blackpool is the best!

Oh - and arc welding is a means of joining metals using a band of electrical current. Thus ends my knowledge of the subject.

Bob Lundegaard 10:37 AM  


Are you sure you're from Minnesota? A true Gopher would know that "Pelle" is Danish, not Norwegian. Tsk, tsk!!

Bob Lundegaard

joho 10:38 AM  

@Andrea Carla Michaels ... please tell us the blind poodle story!

@JaxinL.A. ... I just watched the 2011 "Jane Eyre" this past weekend and really enjoyed it. It stars Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender who do a great job.

Two Ponies 10:55 AM  

Loved/hated this puzzle.
For some reason several of the clues just seemed weird.
Backsplash unit? Reissue?
Too many proper names for my taste but they were gettable.
Nearly Naticked by Raitt/Amis.
In the end I liked it.
Thanks for sitting in Andrea.
Of course I cannot resist so off to the Urban Dict.!

Bob Kerfuffle 11:15 AM  

I had a weird little phonetic mix-up: At 29 D, for Scandinavian rugs, put in RIAS (no, that would be narrow inlets or creeks) and at 37 A, Patty Hearst alias, had TANYA (no, that would be my nephew's ex-wife.) But a simple diagonal flip of the I and the Y and all was right!

Loved the write-up, ACME.

Stan 11:22 AM  

Enjoyable puzzle! Haven't ever seen a theme quite like this one.

Didn't we just have SWEE Pea? Oh no, that was OLIVE Oyl...

More marginal Scandinavian connections: CLOGs are big in Northern Europe. TROLLhättan, Sweden is where they make (puzzle friendly) Saabs.

Lindsay 11:30 AM  

Finally! Food pyramids for the rest of us! Snow cones! Sweet rolls! But what is the salad doing in there? Points off for inconsistent theme.

ArtO 11:36 AM  

"easy-medium" Thursday means finished for me!!

truly enjoyed the write-up. Superb!! Great sense of humor. Thanks much.

Must agree, no way is snow cone a food. sno cone would be bad enough since it barely qualifies as food.

mac 12:02 PM  

Wonderful Thursday, with some enjoyable moments of fear I wouldn't be able to finish it without help.

Stay away from that Cobb salad! The one good thing about it is that you don't need to eat at all the rest of the day.

Great write-up, knowledgeable but also like a fun stream of consciousness. Good job by all three.

Please tell the blind poodle story!

M07S 12:15 PM  

@Arundel, I've done industrial electrical work for many years but never heard of "a band of electrical current". Conduction bands maybe but not in the context of welding.

OISK 12:22 PM  

Enjoyed the puzzle, although I misspelled "Tanya" and "Edye", careless of me. Loved the write-up. There were plenty of answers that were completely unfamiliar to me - Kyle, Elmo, Roca, Pelle, but some really clever cluing ("Conductor's Place threw me for a while). Still, I have a minor quibble. "Dreck" is a Yiddish vulgarity. I find it interesting that while puzzles might include foreign vulgarities, such as "merde" or "schmuck" they avoid the English equivalents, "shit" and "prick." "Shoddy stuff" is a little too figurative a clue for "dreck" in my mind...

JenCT 12:36 PM  

Enjoyed the puzzle; major hangup was CORK (nice misdirection.)

Writeovers: LARD to SUET, RELO to BSMT, WARP to WEEP. Also, TROLLEYCARS started as TRAINsomething.

Nice writeup, Andrea.

Masked and Anonymous 12:44 PM  

I'm with the dual ponies gal; engine light went on at RAITT/ROCA/AMIS in the SW. Had to guess there and guessed good. There was other stuff I didn't know, but it all sorted itself out. (RYAS? Dudes!)

Hall-of-Famer theme idea. I'm with Andrea Darlin', tho -- woulda buried the FOOD reveal a bit deeper. Made things a tad too easy for a ThursPuz. Still and all, thumbs way up, dudes.

Loved the write-up. You can 31-sub any old time, Amorphous Conestoga Michaels.

Bassetwrangler 12:45 PM  

There must be some line of longitude in America that delineates where the abbreviation BSMT has no meaning. It is well east of us here in CA (or Cali to you hep cats). I can't determine whether this is east coast elitism or not. I guess if you go down to your BSMT to retrieve a bottle of fine wine it is and if you go down to play with your model trains it isn't.

John V 1:12 PM  

Easy/medium until hit SE. Just could not see TROLLEYCAR and the crosses of TROLLY. Had dreck -- this is New York, after all -- but WRAY and SAUL wouldn't come either. So, a close call, but a DNF.

Masked and Anonymous II 1:27 PM  

P.S. M&A Food Pyramid nutritional value analysis:
SWEETROLL = A+ (prefer mine without the DIPL sprinkles, tho)
PEEP (@#45) = C, as a seasonal treat only

Anonymous 1:31 PM  

Disappointed that there wasn't any sort of connecting theme with the foods.

The first "pyramid" I got was SNOWCONE, which is a food that is sort of pyramid-shaped when served. So I thought that was going to be the theme: Foods that were pyramids... literally, food pyramids! Cool!

But no... just random foods that were arranged in the grid as a pyramid. Bummer.

efrex 1:35 PM  

Oisk: It's interesting to see how time softens certain vulgarities. "Dork" and "Dreck" are no longer verboten in the NYT crossword, although I still wince a bit when I see 'em.

CONESTOGA is a brand-new word for me, and I'm obviously too out-of-practice in my Scrabble world since I forgot RYAS. Never knew about EASES as a tailoring term. On the other hand, musical theater knowledge gave me John RAITT, and "don't you know there's AWAR on (1776 - the weakest score ever written for a great musical), so that evened things out a bit. Overall a pretty reasonable Thursday with a nice theme. Never saw an episode of "South Park" but remember the "KYLE's Mom" song from the movie which cannot be repeated in decent company (or even here, for that matter).

600 2:04 PM  

Loved this puzzle. Finished in awfully good time for me; for some reason almost everything was, as Rex would say, in my wheelhouse. My generation spans both Raitts--I enjoy them both. And by the by, sure would like to hear the blind poodle story.

Had rear and butt and even name before SEAT, but it resolved itself easily. And hands up for Lendl before SELES and relo before BSMT.

Still lots of fun; a feel good puzzle, but maybe not quite as much fun as acme's post. I loved it! Now off to the Urban Dictionary . . .

Rube 2:12 PM  

Can't say I particularly liked this puzz... too many proper names, so HTG. Did enjoy ACME's writeup 'tho.

Sometimes when welding and a gap needs to be filled, the welder may use "bands" of the welding material to fill the gap. However, equating these bands to ARCS is an exorbitant stretch.

Sparky 2:14 PM  

Tooled along happily. RAITT a gimme. My age. I stumbled on ICKES because thinking of FDR administration Ickes.

Alas, bogged down in SE. Could not kick train out of my head. Erased WEEP. Should have Googled Von Sydow as he's not in my Maltin.

Thanks Andrea for a ride that rang the bell.

Anonymous 2:35 PM  

Fun puzzle. Appropriately challenging for my cat-sized brain. My 2 cents: I assumed mad men was e.g. for emotionally disturbed. Editors? Hmm.

Lewis 2:57 PM  

@acme -- radiant writeup!

@lindsay -- you made me laugh.

SHESALADY is kind of cool, for embedded in it is HESALAD...

Tobias Duncan 3:19 PM  

I am sick of people maligning the Cobb Salad. I defy anyone here to come up with a two thousand calorie meal that lets you imagine you have stuck to your diet.

sanfranman59 3:27 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 16:50, 19:12, 0.88, 29%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 9:47, 9:22, 1.04, 67%, Medium-Challenging

I'm afraid that today's stats are going to be badly skewed because the online interface was not working last evening (at least it wasn't when I tried to solve the puzzle at about midnight Pacific time). In fact, when I went to solve the puzzle last night, there were no stats at all for this puzzle on the NYT Crossword page. Something tells me that many of the usual early birds downloaded the puzzle to solve in Across Lite on their computers when they realized that they couldn't solve it online. That's what I did. I'm guessing that the early birds are also skewed toward the faster solvers. So while there are some of the usual speed-solvers at the top of the "Fastest" list, many are missing. Ah, the subtle complexities of conducting research in a real-world setting. C'est la vie.

DBGeezer 3:33 PM  

Andrea ACME, that is to say, you
Absolutely Clever Marvelous Entertainer,
Thanks for a great write up! I love your regular contributions to the blog and your ability to provide relevant pseudonyms. Keep 'em coming, and thanks again.

Final Silver Bullet 3:34 PM  

P.P.S.S. Iconic SNO(W)CONE pic. Includes the rarely photographed SNO(W)CAT. Lotta crosswordese goin' down, in that there pic.

@ACME: Kinda glad I did the Urban Dictionary lookup. Thanx for the tip. Learned all about SnorgTees.


Nighthawk 4:03 PM  

Fun write up by ACME. I too now want to hear the "blind dog" story. Sounds like the title of a country song or a stage name for a blues singer.

Speaking of aliases, Patty Hearst's Symbionese Liberation Army nom de guerre of TANIA brought back memories too. And had me wondering about its leader, Donald DeFreeze a/k/a Field Marshall Cinque (pronounced, IIRC, "sin Q") and whether the Hearst clue led Patrick and Francis to think of the clue for 39D Otto - cinque. Or did that come first and led them to the Hearst clue/ans?

Speaking of tweaks, with a bit of a change in the clunky DIPL, 61A could have been WEED and clued to Hearst's boyfriend at the time of her kidnapping from her Berkley home, Steven Weed.

Part of the SLA's ransom demands included distibution of free food. A huge pile of it. Valued somewhere between 4 and 400 Mil worth. Over 100,000 bags of groceries were distributed in a 4 county area over 2 months in 1974. Would it have stacked in a pyramid?

@Kurt--nice defensive save indeed.

long suffering mets fan 4:39 PM  

fine Tues/Weds puzzle -- too bad its Thursday

Matthew G. 4:54 PM  

Surprised at all the people calling this easy, and particularly at those calling it too easy for a Thursday. I thought this was one of the harder Thursdays in quite a while, because of a lot of proper names and tough, tough cluing.

Liked it quite a bit, but found it very tough.

andrea croatian michaels 4:56 PM  

@Bob Lundegaard,
Ha! You're right! Pelle is Danish Danish Danish! I should have gotten that as a tie in to SWEET ROLL!

I am coming back to Minneapolis for my 35tth highschool reunion in September and will try and get my card renewed! But you are right, not a real gopher (parents had moved there from NY when I was about 9)

But to be corrected by no less than the film critic of the Mpls Star and tribune whom the Cohen brothers named their lead character in "Fargo" after, who ALSO plays Scrabble, pleases me to no end!!!

(Somewhere, right now, I suspect Rex is eating something on a stick!)

And speaking of being corrected, it must be a good day when all @evil doug can chide me on is the TROLLEY shout out! We indeed have beautiful trolleys here along Market Street (I was on the one from Milano last night and all the signage is still in Italiano!)
But on second thought, I think this TROLLEYCAR reference was a secret shout out from Patrick to his fiancee, awaiting him in St. Louis!

I'm glad that's why there were no responses to the blog last night! I thought it was bec Rex was gone!
And I guess this was harder than I thought, as I didn't know Compere, arc welding, "Say SISI" (I almost posted a video of Captain Kangaroo singing it). And I understand TANiA/EDiE might have been tough, but totally inferrable, right?

As for the blind poodle story, you are barking up the wrong tree...I have to wait till either BLIND, POODLE, RAITT is in the puzzle again! Altho I ramble, I do try to keep it tied to the puzzle! ;)

You crack me up...can't wait till YOU sub-blog!
I got lucky that it was a puzzle I loved!

pauer 5:07 PM  

Thanks for all the nice comments about our latest word baby. This one came together pretty fast, as I recall; since we submitted it (back on 1/17/11) the grid went through a minor change from DANL to DIPL (no doubt because of WEEN). It was tough to find any foods that worked in this formation at all, much less find a set that also formed a meal or belonged to different food groups or something. And even though it seems like the number of theme squares is low (36), that's actually the number of the triple-checked squares; if you count every Across and Down that shares a letter with one of the pyramids, there are 188 theme squares.

If I had to be critical, I'd say the grid's too closed off in the middle (but we had to isolate the pyramids!) and pyramids have three dimensions while these formations of circles (or shaded squares) are merely 2-D triangles (Charlatans!).

Thanks to Francis for working with me on this, to Will for selecting and improving it, and to Andrea for giving it such an amusing write-up! I would've plotzed, if I did that sort of thing.

Anonymous 8:40 PM  

Loved the puzzle & adore Cobb salad.
Thanks for the great writeup Andrea
(I sat to your left @ Lollapuzzoola)

foodie 10:09 PM  

@ pauer,I had to look up plotz...interesting:) Now, I'm ready for you if you ever stick it in a puzzle...

@sanfranman, I for one conduct research in the unreal world...or may be it just feels that way at times...

@acme, still resisting the snow cone look up. I'm feeling like Jane EYRE. Those people at Urban Dictionnary are probably wondering what's going on today...I might save it till tomorrow.

william e emba 10:18 PM  

I couldn't get anything in the NW beyond AMOUR and NORAS, so I went to Minnesota (no, not a shout out to our guest blogger) and put in OLDIE and DOT/DIT right away. So what kind of pyramid was -O-D? Obviously, a word pyramid! That kind of slowed me down, but it got fixed easily enough.

Anonymous 4:36 PM  


First of all, that's Peter Gammons on the $20.

Second, pyramids are most efficiently constructed from the bottom up. I found it unsettling having to start from the top.

Shouts out to J.T. SNOW and TY COBB.

Shout out to the Red Sox at 24a. No 48d popping in bean town last night. Wow.

Dirigonzo 6:49 PM  

Bogged down for a long time in the SE corner because I wanted 52a Fair to be sosO, which I thought was pretty clever and sure to be right. Finally had my "Oh, not THAT kind of fair" moment, EXPO went in and the whole corner came into focus. Love how that happens.

Anonymous 2:04 AM  

Wow. Easy-medium? Not for me! I needed a ton of Google help, and I still totally don't understand the clue for 30a EASES: Tailor's allowances? HUH???
As a Syndi-solver, I found this puzzle in the 9/29 Las Vegas Review-Journal, which today was printed (pretty) in pink, but that homage to breast cancer awareness didn't slow me down; the glut of massively-obscure entries did. "Say SISI," a 1940 hit??? Come on. I was born in 1940! I'd say that was really reaching. Never heard of almond--or any other kind of nut--ROCA. And "mad people" for EDS: really, how is anyone expected to get that?
Now we get to the DRECK that passes as fill: HUR (partials are awful), DIPL, ASSN, RYAS, TSK (might be OK if doubled).
Sorry guys, but for the ol' Spacecraft, this one was a rather unpleasant and unrewarding slog. I await a better tomorrow. CIAO.

Deb 3:57 AM  

@Anonymous 2:04 - I was born in '57, but "Say SISI" rang a bell for me (barely audible because I'm practically deaf); Almond Roca is VERY familiar to me; and EDS for "Mad people" is such a gimme due to remembering Alfred Newman and Mad Magazine that I can't believe you - being of a much more likely age to recall Mad magazine than I - missed it!

My guess is you're relatively new to the Shortz era NYT Crossword or perhaps more enamored of his stodgy predecessor's style. Or very possibly, just new to the puzzle altogether - in which case, I urge you to stick with it, because once you tumble to the ways Mr. Shortz likes to toy with us, you'll feel ever so full of yourself when you can rise to the occasion.

BTW, @acme, if you happen to ever run across this: I don't mean to give Will full credit for each and every puzzle, but I absolutely give him credit for changing the gold standard of puzzles into one that is accessible to more than just stodgy professorial types. I offered a very-gently used copy of a book of Maleska era puzzles on one of Rex's FB posts and got NO takers. I think I even offered to pay postage!

Anonymous 7:03 AM  

Spacecraft again. Wanted to correct an inaccuracy in post of 2:04; that is, the NYT puzzle appears in the Las Vegas SUN, which is packaged with--but separate from--the LVRJ. The Sun was also pink.
And now to Deb: just wanted to say that I was thoroughly immersed in the whole MAD thing; or to put it another way, I had one grunch but the eggplant over there. And we must pause here, hat in hand, and give homage to the late, great, incomparable Don Martin. Everybody ready?

Back to the rather dull present. It is possible to miss that connection, "mad people"=EDS, because I missed it. Sometimes, I guess, our brains are caught in the right-turn-only lane when we're supposed to go straight (one reason I no longer drive!).
Anyway, I do enjoy these most of the time, having cut my eye teeth on Mr. Shortz's wit with a one-time subscription to GAMES Magazine. I still wish I could make sense of "tailor's allowances" = EASES. Can't even find anything in Google to make THAT connection.

JenCT 7:31 AM  

@Anon 7:03: Here's a definition from About.com:

Ease is to draw the fibers of fabric closer together than they were woven or originally manufactured. This is usually achieved with machine basting. When easing in fabric, no tucks or gathers are made in the fabric.

The amount of ease built in to a pattern refers to the amount of space available form the body measurements to the actual garment.

pauer 8:18 AM  

Thanks for the comments from syndication land. It's always interesting to see what people do and don't know. Hopefully, learning a few things isn't *too* painful - I certainly learn stuff by working with people like Francis (who is a super-genius) and by looking things up to write the clues. Generally, I find Thursdays to be too easy, so I try to make mine a little too hard to balance out the universe. Until next time!

Deb 11:56 AM  

@pauer - Wow! I'm always tickled to see constructors share their thoughts here, but this is the first time I've seen one bounce into syndi-land. Thanks, and congrats on the recent marriage!

Anonymous 2:02 AM  


Always feel like I'm the last one in the country to do the puzzle! But, I'd like the constructors to know that a woman in Alaska was riding her bike around in the 45 degree weather 10/1 singing, "She's A Lady", thanks to their efforts. It is a very persistent little song and it may be several days before I can make it stop.
Almost had a French Natick in NW where compere (sorry I can't put in accent) crossed French affair. Got emcee totally from crosses and just stared at it. Huh? That's not a French word! So I learned something.
Thanks to andrea/acme for very clever writeup!

ocozzie 11:53 AM  

Would've been a lot easier if the syndicated version I got had included the circles!

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