Suspense novelist Hoag / WED 8-17-11 / Yalta locale / Stooge surname / L'eggs wares / Big Apple mayor before Koch / Former Ford minivan

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Constructor: Michael Black

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Initial things — Clues are famous people with two first initials and a last name that can also be a thing (or things). Initials are written with a slash between them, because each represents a different word that can precede the last name in a common phrase. So ...

  • 20A: M/C Hammer? => Mallet or Claw
  • 39A: W/C Fields? => Wrigley and Coors
  • 58A: L/L Bean? => Lima or Lentil

Word of the Day: Abraham BEAME (66A: Big Apple mayor before Koch) —
Abraham David "Abe" Beame (March 20, 1906 – February 10, 2001) was mayor of New York City from 1974 to 1977. As such, he presided over the city during the fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s, during which the city was almost forced to declare bankruptcy. (wikipedia)
• • •

Loved the grid but found the theme answers jarring, first because of the OR / AND / OR inconsistency, and then because I have a hard time hearing "MALLET hammer" or (especially) LENTIL bean." I guess if you think of the answers as types of thing, rather than word that can precede said thing, it all works fine. Lots of cruddy short stuff, but most of the longer stuff is nice, and that matters more. Too much damned Latin — ET ALII ERGO IRAE INITIO. Had no real problems except those of my own making, most notably at the end, in the SE corner where I couldn't get INITIO to come out right. This was largely because of a plausible typo that left me with OHIO as the answer to 65A: "___ be in England": Browning. Last I checked, OHIO be not in England.

The change from OR phrase to AND phrase and back to another OR phrase can be explained by the nature of the names in the clues. "Fields" is a plural, where "Hammer" and "Bean" are singular. Thus the AND for "Fields" and OR for the other two.

  • 14A: "The Godfather" score composer Nino (ROTA) — I will always associate this composer with "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening, as I've read several interviews where he expresses his admiration for ROTA.

  • 31A: Suspense novelist Hoag (TAMI) — she has one of those names where first and last names are both built for puzzles.
  • 34A: Literally, "reign" in Hindi (RAJ) — Period of British colonial rule in India. Also a character on the sitcom "What's Happening?"
  • 43A: Former Ford minivan (AEROSTAR) — really wanted ECONOLINE, which is definitely a van, just not a mini.

  • 1D: Yalta locale (CRIMEA) — Yalta looks like Yeltsin who was president of Russia which is home to the CRIMEAn peninsula. Or was. It's now a "sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine," whatever that means (wikipedia).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Tobias Duncan 12:19 AM  

Weird puzzle, tons of stuff I did not know (for a Wednesday)and it felt like a total slog but my time said easy med, go figure.Honestly I do not know how I could have filled in the northwest because I did not have a good handle on any of it.I just guessed a bunch and was right somehow.Is that normal?

Modesty Blasé 12:29 AM  

Good Wednesday. Didn't tear through it but not a slog at all.
Here's a great video I saw the other night of Daniel Radcliffe singing the PERIODIC table.

retired_chemist 12:37 AM  

Slow going but worth it. Medium.

One of the dogs needs XANAX in thunderstorms. Which we could use about now - dry as dust here in N. Texas.

Thanks, Mr. Black.

George NYC 12:38 AM  

AEROSTAR makes me think of Neil Young. Would post a link but don't know how. And/or didn't bother me. XANAX made up for ETALII which I thought should be Et Alia.

retired_chemist 12:46 AM  

FYI here is the Tom Lehrer original Element Song. Takes me back.....

Anonymous 12:50 AM  

@Rex, what I love about you is your inconsisency about inconsistency.

BTW, Yalta was where the Allies in WWII divided up Europe between your communist countries under the USSR and the western democracies.

PurpleGuy 12:51 AM  

Had no trouble with this one. Agree with the rating.
Enjoyed the writeup.
Bathed next to INITIO(from the start) next to NYLONS gave me a smile. Is that a SIN ?

Thank you Mr. Black for a good puzzle.

Happy Hump Day all.

Shanti -

syndy 12:54 AM  

Yes but a MALLET may be a type of hammer but a CLAW is not IT needs to be a CLAW HAMMER. Same with LENTIL/LIMA! WRIGLEY/COORS though...It's a very apologetic Puzzle FEEL BAD, MY BAD, AW MAN-I say PSHAW! very colorless puzzle

Evan K. 1:00 AM  

I found the NE and SW corners to have quite interesting fives: "Oops, MY BAD." "AW MAN, that was my carburetor!"

"You think you need XANAX? PSHAW!"

Dense high-Scrabblage in both cases. In other news, learned some new Latin phrases today. Apparently ETALII is a common answer.

Initially thought AEROSTAR was WINDSTAR, but IRAE quickly disabused me of that notion.

CAPTCHA: erstyr. I could use some erstyr crackers.

GILL I. 1:15 AM  

I haven't been on REX's like/dislike o-meter lately. I wasn't crazy about Mon/Tue but really enjoyed this one - perhaps because so much was familiar to me and there was stuff I didn't know but could infer.
Never heard of MENDELLEV but then I know squat about chemistry. I won't forget him now since, among many of his talents, he perfected the distillation of vodka. Maybe r_c can add some light or....
Also, didn't know QAS - Queen Anne's School?
Loved ADIEU for 29A [Closing bid] as well as JETSAM for 35D [Tea, in Boston Harbor, once.
A clever and fun Wed. puzzle

CoolPapaD 1:36 AM  

Rex - Ohio be not in England, but there be an East Liverpool, Ohio!

I loved this puzzle, and it moved quickly once I got the theme - wasn't looking too easy until then!

@George NYC - I will NEVER look at another AEROSTAR the same way again. Didn't make the connection until I read your post, and just spent the last ten minutes checking out some of the amazing vids on youtube (eg ). This Canadian is truly one of the greatest singers/songwriters/social critics in American history. Thanks!

santafefran 1:47 AM  

@Gill I. P. Q as in Queen

I struggled with the NW corner not knowing CHEN, ROTA or HOWARD and took far too long to remember CRIMEA but the rest fell steadily in place.

Surprised to see MYBAD and FEELBAD together.

Check out my late post yesterday for some more clever senior texts.

chefwen 2:04 AM  

@CoolPapaD - There is also an England in Ohio.

Loved the puzzle but like @santafefran had it all done except the NW corner, did not know CHEN or ROTA, HOWARD finally came from the depths of nowhere and I was able to finish. I have never, ever said LENTIL bean or MALLET hammer. Really liked MY BAD, AW MAN and PSHAW. Husband has been know to pop a XANAX occasionally, the guy pushes himself too hard.

George NYC 2:14 AM  

Thanks for that link! Hadn't seen/heard that version. Good one.

ana crimea michaels 3:13 AM  

MYBAD! Bec I couldn't believe MYBAD and FEELBAD would be in the same puzzle either, I put in FEELSAD and actually thought SIDEN must have been an early VP, like to Millard Fillmore or someone I'd never heard of!!!!!!!! MYSAD!

Very Scrabbly up top, very non-so on the bottom. This puzzle felt all over the place on so many levels, BUT it felt like a really original idea and fun way of looking at things, so I liked the thought behind it, even tho I didn't like looking at the theme answers.

MALLETORCLAW is just plain ugly, but SO cool to have looked at M/C Hammer? and come up with that...
I mean, really, so cool!

Yet NASL, ERI, INA, GMCS, RBIS, ELSES, SRTA so close to IRAE and REL (plus having to see a Bush reference in the puzzle) all made me slightly irritated.

Guess what?! I won't tell my Abe Beame story again! But he was an old pal of my grandpa's from Brooklyn.

evil doug 8:15 AM  

Oh, to be in England, but not until the coppers shoot all the damn looters.

All in all, I'd rather be in Philadelphia---after the cops shoot all those looting punks, too.


shrub5 8:24 AM  

@santafefran: thanks for the QAS explanation. One of these days I will remember this type of answer.

Ended with one blank at the ROT_ / N_SL intersection. I didn't know the composer or the soccer org. Guessed an I but was wrong.

Had FEELLOW before FEELBAD. That resulted in LIDEN for the VP. Was looking for something else wrong for way too long before BIDEN came to mind...

William Claude Dukenfield (WC Fields)
Stanley Burrell Jr. (MC* Hammer)
Leon Leonwood Bean (LL Bean)
* can't find that MC stands for anything

LAIRDS: Scots form of lords.

dk 8:46 AM  

Tobias the answer is no! And I see our time is up for today. :) Dr. dk

** (2 stars)

As Andrea (my dove) wrote the theme construction is very clever. Me, I just had the blahs (or meh) when I finished.

Perhaps a mood elevator. I know I will ask my land lady to pick 2 fingers... nuuch nuuch.

d (curly joe) k

Anonymous 8:47 AM  

Can we just note the NW corner for a second?

Across: Proper name, Proper name, easy phrase, theme answer, Latin word, French word

Down: Place name, Proper name, Latin phrase, org initials

Gettable, but ... yuck!

Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard 8:51 AM  

Men in Black was nominated for an Academy Award in 1934.

jesser 9:00 AM  

The NW flat undid me. I knew exactly none of those names, so I guessed osWAlD at 2D, which mucked up everything up there. Blech.

I liked the theme and the rest of the puzzle, but I think I need a XANAX.

Jimmy Buffett played a great concert in WRIGLEY Field a few years back. My calendar couldn't come together to attend, but I have it on CD. He and Mac MacAnally did the encore from up in the bleachers, and they played a Steve Goodman tune (which was either 'City of New Orleans' or 'Banana Republics' but I can't remember which).

I think I shall find some new ways to 44A this weekend. Why not?

John V 9:11 AM  

acme has it right for the top -- scrabbly. Had to fill to get NASL and CHEN. Pshaw? Really? Needed fill to get PIXAR. Has ...CLUB for the longest time @ 20A. SPAWN took a while for me. Okay with the theme.

So NE and NW played Medium/Challenging the rest easy. A tale of two puzzles in the New Haven.

captcha wofflati: What the oggler buys at Starbucks.

Marlon Brando 9:18 AM  

@DK - You're a fan of my work in "Last Tango in Paris"?

Anonymous 9:32 AM  

@evil doug: Hope to hell you don't own a pistol, Nutcase.

chefbea 9:41 AM  

Liked the puzzle but did have to google a bit.

Love those Beans!!! And Have been to L.L. Bean when we were in Maine. Great store

slypett 10:11 AM  

evil: Looting is ugly. Ugliness must be destroyed. If we must do ugly things in the process, so be it. Stay bloodthirsty, my friend.

thursdaysd 10:29 AM  

I had almost the same reaction as @acme to sIDEN - except I thought sAD matched the clue better than BAD, rather than worrying about two appearances of bad in the same puzzle. I also fell down in the NW - intersection of three unknowns was hopeless. Especially as I hadn't realized Pele finished his career in the north. Otherwise I rather enjoyed this one, except I had gAmmA before MANTA, which slowed things down even more.

Although the Crimea was made part of Ukraine in 1954, the inhabitants don't seem too happy about it, and still speak Russian. Some nice scenery - photos here.

Two Ponies 10:31 AM  

I thought this puzzle sucked.
I had to slog through all of that Latin and a forest of proper names to get mallet hammer and a lentil bean? Boo hiss.

If we ever lose our 2nd Amendment rights who will protect us?
The police? Don't make me laugh.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

What's up with the tiresome a**holes in the comments today? I come here to read about crossword clues, not pathetic and ridiculous macho posturing.

Matthew G. 10:44 AM  

Not bad, but I had an error in the NW on ROTA/NASL. I went with ROTi/NiSL. Never heard of ROTA (and Roti seemed to me to be a more likely Italian surname), and I was thinking {Pele's org.} was perhaps the National Indoor Soccer League -- it seemed to me a plausible enterprise that Pele might have come up with to promote soccer in the USA decades ago, before it was popular, so I went with it. I would expect these both to be crosswordese, but I don't think I've ever seen them before. Oh well.

Agree with Rex about the theme inconsistency. Wondering where the OR would show up in the middle entry definitely added considerable seconds to my time. I see now how it's justified, but man, that's subtle. I like the theme on balance, though.

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

Hands up for difficulty in the NW corner. Knew Rota right off, guess Chen and wanted FIFA for Pele's organization but the NASL kept insisting it should be in.

Good challenge for Wednesday.

Masked and Anonymous 10:49 AM  

Can't complain about the fill, as sailed right thru this puz. Really really liked the theme. A little quirky, but original and clever. Thumbs up.

Fave fill: XANAX, JETSAM, PIXAR, and the -BAD boys (gutsy).

"Fave" clue: "___ de guerre". French. My nemesis. Got it all from crosses. NOM backwards is French, too, I think. Snort.

Image of 31 in crossword hell: Puz theme answers have the circles. Most of the fill is Latin medical or legal terms. When puz is completed, circles contain random Roman numerals. Reveal is an answer that turns out to be what you get, if you add up all the Roman numeral entries. Oh, yeh, and it's a pangram.

jackj 10:51 AM  

The carping about the theme clues seems off-base.

The clue isn't seeking a "MALLET hammer", it's looking for a hammer which happens to be a MALLET. And, it isn't a "LENTIL bean" that is being sought, it's that bean which we call a LENTIL.

Having an old-fashioned retort, PSHAW, as the answer in the extreme upper right and to have its counterpoint in present day lingo, AWMAN, in the corresponding location in the extreme lower left was a terrific touch by Mr. Black.

Good show, for just your third puzzle, Michael!

Anonymous 11:10 AM  

Knowing Latin is the mark of a well educated person. Fully half the word in English have Latin roots. Stop complaining.

archaeoprof 11:12 AM  

Agree with @ana crimea, but I enjoyed solving this one.

Because Nino ROTA's theme to "The Godfather" is in my head.

Love that music, and those films.

They show where violence leads us.

Larry 11:14 AM  

@Jackj - The problem is the inconsistency within an answer. There are CLAW HAMMERS, it's a real name for something. No one says pass me the CLAW when they want to pull out a nail. So, MALLET, which is a stand alone thing is inconsistent with CLAW which isn't, at least in the sense of hammers. Similarly, LIMA is a modifier for a bean, where as LENTIL isn't. If MALLET hadn't been paired with CLAW, MALLET would have been fine. But it was paired with CLAW.

You may not care about the inconsistency, which is fine, but you can't deny the inconsistency once it's been pointed out to you, repeatedly and clearly.

Moe 11:17 AM  

@Anon - You know what's the mark of a well educated person? Knowing the difference between the definite and indefinate articles.

CoolPapaD 11:18 AM  

@shrub5 - MC stands for Master of Ceremonies, a title that many of the early DJs used.

Stan 11:20 AM  

Thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle, maybe because it took me so long to suss out the theme. WRIGLEY AND COORS was just a great reveal. Yes, NW was thorny, but didn't make me FEEL SAD.

My captcha is: inwoe. Well, off to therapy...

efrex 11:30 AM  

Two straight days of being undone by difficult corners (SE yesterday, NW today). Knocked out the rest of the puzzle in medium-fast time, and thought the theme was ok. Thought Pele's organization was MISL, which really didn't help matters at all up there. AWMAN!

quilter1 11:41 AM  

I thought this one was pretty easy. Most of the Latin shows up in puzzles on a regular basis so having it in one's memory bank is a plus.

I question whether lentils are really beans. They grow in pods so maybe. But they seem so different. I guess I'll have to look it up online as my dictionary was no help. That being said I do have a ham bone in the freezer and a bag on lentils in the pantry. Too bad its 84 degrees here.

vitul: necessary when FEELING BAD

quilter1 11:51 AM  

I got my computer problems fixed. New avatar is the latest quilt, Sand, Sea and Sky, made for 11 y/o great-niece.

hazel 11:51 AM  

couldnt get into the swing of this one. smelled a bit musty. that age-old toothpaste with the bucky beaver irritates me almost as much as Asta does. I think it should be a rule that constructors should have to have used a product, at least once before they can put it in a puzzle.

on a positive note, i liked WRIGLEYANDCOORS and RBIs. in case the sports fans missed the ATL-SFO game last night, Martin Prado had a fabulous walk off RBI hit though it wasn't a sac fly.

I liked JETSAM too, but that s about it. Pass the XANAX, @jesser. better yet, maybe i'll have a better outlook after a good swim. Either way, new one tomorrow!

evil doug 12:01 PM  

"Flash mobs"---sounds so quaint! Just a bunch of cute kids having fun!

In one group of businesses, they hit all the stores---except, of course, the bookstore. The one place they ought to be spending more time....

These guys are bullies, thieves, unproductive drains on society---and dangerous. Until we get serious about responding, they'd better worry about gun owners. Sooner or later they're going to run into a shop owner with no sense of humor.

Mayor Michael Nutter of Philly? He's my new hero.


Glaucon 12:01 PM  

The "Godfather Score Composer" answer has me singing "Reno Dakota" by the Magnetic Fields: Reno Dakota you're no Nino Rota / You don't know the score.

mac 12:05 PM  

Unfinished. Didn't even guess for the A in NASL and Rota. Have to say that I enjoyed the solve, though, and the aha moment with Wrigley and Coors, which explained the other theme answers.

Aw man and My bad are great, but feel bad shouldn't have been part of this puzzle. I liked "spawn" and "equals". Overall an odd mix of easy, medium and two impossible for me.

joho 12:14 PM  


Tobias Duncan 12:18 PM  

@Glaucon I cant believe you just referenced one of my favorite songs!
You should have a look at this short video of the real Reno Dakota

chefbea 12:58 PM  

@quilter1 beautiful quilt!!!

and/or carla michaels 1:01 PM  

Joho is having some computer issues so pls get in touch with her off line
(tho her test seemed to work)

rjbrunner 1:12 PM  

Don't know about most of you, but for me solving is mostly a nonverbal affair (though I do admit to my lips moving and some aspirating when I run through the alphabet). Finished today in the SW 69A and laughed at myself when I said out loud, "Aw! Man!" I guess that makes this a fun and funny puzzle. Thank you Mike Black.

Chip Hilton 1:14 PM  

NW corner got me, as the opera cross with ETALII was just too much. Otherwise, muddled through what I thought was a challenging Wednesday.

Thanks for the Nanci Griffith clip, Rex. I've loved her since the first time I saw her. She was the opening act for the Everly Brothers and the lads were late arriving, so Nanci got some extra stage time and won my heart.

shrub5 2:26 PM  

@CoolPapaD: thanks for the info on MC Hammer. Cool!

Wade 2:39 PM  

Dan Seals, from west Texas, was called "England" Dan because he liked the Beatles. I know what you're thinking: "A lot of people liked the Beatles!" You don't understand: He REALLY REALLY REALLY liked the Beatles.

Lewis 2:41 PM  

@maskedand anonymous -- how about a subtheme where ll the answers are spelling variations of the colloquial term for "u-turn"?

Oklahoma Jack 3:24 PM  

@Wade - You know what we in Oklahoma called guys who REALLY REALLY REALLY liked the Beatles?


GILL I. 3:32 PM  

@santafefran. Head bang...Thanks.

nanpilla 3:41 PM  

When my son had to write a mother's day book about me, he listed under favorite song:
Fordi Conoline. Thanks for the memories, Rex!

That A in ROTA, NASL was my last letter in, and was just a guess, other than that, this was smooth sailing.

Hard to come up with any other possible theme answers. Anyone?

Captcha: hamation - bad pigs!

sanfranman59 4:39 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 11:37, 11:51, 0.98, 50%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:46, 5:51, 0.99, 51%, Medium

william e emba 4:49 PM  

ERI tu is Italian, not Latin. I'm a little surprised Rex didn't do one of his trademark punny links to Mocedades singing "Eres Tu". Surely he thinks of that song first every time "Eri tu" is in the puzzle!

The actual Latin is usually hidden inside the abbreviation "et al". When written out, ET ALII is masculine plural (and is the more common). "Et alia" is neuter plural. "Et aliae" is the feminine plural. Long lists of authors are usually human, so unless they are all women (after the first author) it would usually get an "et alii". The full name of lawsuits can involve one party or the other being a list of corporations or government entities, so these would get an "et alia".

I don't get the point of the clue "Big Apple mayor before Koch". Why not "New York"? I was expecting a cutesy nickname sort of answer, like "the Big Beamer" or whatnot.

I find the treatment NYT gives to religious belief rather inconsistent. It seems skittish at times to the point of distraction. Yesterday the clue about the fate of the pious was qualified as according to some, but today, the cause of damnation is completely unqualified. I would prefer the clues to be streamlined, and so long as they stay away from Bald Claims about Deities Themselves, that it just be understood that "according to common Western traditional religious beliefs" always applies to the lesser beliefs. Surely the classic "First person?" clue for Adam can't be beat. (And no, the eroteme does not mean there is implicit theological w(r)iggle room here: the ? only means the usual meaning of "first person" doesn't apply, hahaha.)

CoffeeLvr 5:03 PM  

@Masked and Anonymous, thanks for that image of @Rex in Hell. The only thing missing is a groaner of a pun; let's make it a Sunday with a punny title!

@quilter1, love your latest quilt. A very peaceful palette.

I did not find the grid that hard, but I would have without the reinforcement here for entries in previous grids: BEAME, ERI tu, ET ALII, TAMI, OONA. Terms in the clues I learned from solving and discussions here: Mendeleev and sac fly.

I was lucky I did not have a DNF. I finished the grid fairly easily with one blank where ROTA crosses NASL. Got it on the first guess. So today I will try to retain Nino Rota. Thanks for the clip, Rex.

Clue for my Captcha: Fa, Sol (MIDSCALE)

Brian 5:50 PM  

Couldn't get to the puzzle till later but really got a kick out of the theme, which is clever, if inconsistent. I resisted MALLET because it didn't seem right until I was forced to concede. I was sure it was something like Mike Hammer.

Cluing for JETSAM, PSHAW, and AWMAN was terrific.

I echo questioning FEELBAD and MYBAD in the same grid. It's weird. It really jumped out at me so I wonder why Mr. Black or Mr. Shortz didn't seize on it and fix it

Long answers (YARDARMS, PERIODIC, SPACEMEN) were great.

I didn't like SRTA in the middle like that and I really disliked ETALII.

Is it cheating if I texted my son to ask the last name of the "Big Brother" hostess?

Nice work, Mr. Black. It's a theme I'll remember.

ksquare 6:10 PM  

2D, Stooge surname, HOWARD, was assumed by the HORWITZ brothers, Moses (Moe), Samuel (Shemp) and Jerome (Curly). When Shemp went out on his own he was replaced by Larry Fine, and they were then billed as Moe, Larry and Curly. After Curly became ill he was replaced by Curly Joe, whose surname I don't remember, in a few pictures.

skua76 7:52 PM  

For some reason I found this a bit quirky for a Wednesday (and now that I think about it, the comments today seem a bit quirky as well...) My problem was that I thought the panic drug was XANAC, I actually had to google it to come up with WAX for the cross.

I was so proud of myself to remember the (Dr.) Howard name for the Stooges from the skit. I thought Rex would comment on that. Thanks ksquare!

Texas Momma 9:36 PM  

@thursdaysd Thanks for the link to Yalta pictures. What a pretty place. Also liked seeing Odessa which I know only from crosswords. Will have to learn more and then visit.

Sfingi 9:37 PM  

@anon1110 - and 11% of English is Greek. Greek is alive and well and living in - English!

@Retchem - Doggy Downers and Puppy Uppers - and XanaX is a palindrome.

@Ksquare - Was Mrs. Horwitz proud of her boys?

Puzzle was easy, in that I had no Googling. It's a trick by the NYT to get me to buy the Thurs.

Some sports head-scratching - I guess COORS is an arena. Thought "in queen" was another weird sports clue at first.

@Shrub5 - great info.

william e emba 11:19 PM  

After they became an independent act, the Three Stooges were always billed as "The Three Stooges" (except in Ireland) not by their names. Placards would commonly picture the three men and their names, though.

They started out as Shemp, then also Moe, then also Larry as stooges to one Ted Healy. Healy was an all-round jackass, though, so Shemp quit, Curly took his place (accounts differ, but Wikipedia on T3S is currently incorrect, while on Curly it is more correct). Eventually Healy and the Stooges split up, but it was ugly.

After 10 years, Curly had a debilitating series of strokes, Shemp came back and took his place. Shemp died suddenly, and very minor actor Joe Palma was faked as Shemp in four films for contract purposes. Then Joe Besser took his place. Joe's wife became sick, then Curly Joe DeRita filled in, and that was more or less it. (When Larry had his stroke, their long time costar Emil "the fourth stooge" Sitka was recruited to take his place, but nothing came of it.)

Posting from Philadelphia, birthplace of Louis Feinberg, the man who changed his name to Larry Fine.

And for those who don't know the reference, "Calling Dr Howard, Dr Fine, Dr Howard" is a major catchline from Men in Black, as implied by the poster above. This line or some version of it has become something of a catchphrase tribute on its own: you're supposed to smile. Sheesh, children today.

sanfranman59 12:25 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 7:28, 6:51, 1.09, 82%, Challenging
Tue 7:25, 8:54, 0.83, 7%, Easy (8th fastest median solve time of 113 Tuesdays)
Wed 11:31, 11:51, 0.97, 47%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:57, 3:40, 1.08, 85%, Challenging
Tue 4:01, 4:35, 0.88, 11%, Easy
Wed 5:37, 5:51, 0.96, 44%, Medium

thursdaysd 8:42 AM  

@Texas Momma - glad you liked the pix. Ukraine is an interesting and worthwhile destination, but not the easiest travel. See the link from my photos to my description of the trip.

Anonymous 12:00 PM  

"Ha ha, the Ukraine. Do you know what the Ukraine is? It's a sitting duck. A road apple, Newman. The Ukraine is weak. It's feeble. I think it's time to put the hurt on the Ukraine."

After getting MALLET OR CLAW and LIMA OR LENTIL I loked at 39a...all I had at that point was just the RS at the end, and my first thought was STRAWBERRY OR MRS.

Note that MC Hammer and Billy BEANe both spent time on baseball Fields.

BAD twice on the same puzzle? Oops, MY BAD. (clever wink, if you ask me)

@George NYC 12:38 AM & CoolPapaD
This is the one I always think of.

Anonymous 4:36 PM  

Out of 76 entries in this grid, we have 16 proper names, 9 foreign expressions, 4 acronyms, 7 of words run together (NOT counting the three theme answers) and 4 abbreviations. Not mentioned are three that are just plain ugly: the way-overused ANA, the possessive ELSE(')S and the totally horrid QAS. That's 43, which means there are only 33 actual single English WORDS. Now I know we need to use some fill from those categories, but to outnumber the real words? That has to be poor. This grid was OK, I guess, but I feel constructors can do better.
One minor writeover: wanted ADIOS when I had the first three letters. I couldn't BELIEVE 24a, that someone actually had the nerve to do that. Q AS in queen? AW, MAN!

muderi: Japanese wine from grape stompers who forgot to wash their feet first?

Dirigonzo 6:21 PM  

From syndiland, Nearly Naticked in the Northwest but managed to figure things out.

Sad to see the "looting is a capital crime" crowd spewing their venom here.

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