English author Edward Bulwer- / THU 9-22-11 / Songwriter Jimmy Senator Jim / Ritual in which bitter herbs are dipped / Cuban name 2000 news

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Constructor: Jeff Dubner
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: D [?] LY! — five theme answers all start with D [?] LY (by sound), where [?] is a different vowel sound (vowels progress from A to U consecutively)

Word of the Day: Edward Bulwer-LYTTON (41D: English author Edward Bulwer-___) —
Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton PC (25 May 1803 – 18 January 1873), was an English politician, poet, playwright, and prolific novelist. He was immensely popular with the reading public and wrote a stream of bestselling novels which earned him a considerable fortune. He coined the phrases "the great unwashed", "pursuit of the almighty dollar", "the pen is mightier than the sword", and the famous opening line "It was a dark and stormy night (wikipedia)
• • •

This was a very easy Friday puzzle to me, as I never saw the theme until I was done, and with stacks of long Acrosses in the NW and SE corners, the grid looks/feels more themeless than themed. So it's a Tuesday-type theme that played like a Wednesday but looked and felt like a Friday. And yet today is Thursday. No matter—I still had a good time. I think BEN STEIN'S is an unholy abomination of an answer (it's an enormous partial trying to pretend that it isn't) (12D: Win whose money, in a bygone game show?), but everything else seems pretty solid, and the theme answers are bouncy (!) and original-seeming. I thought the theme would have something to do with fisherman, since there were those symmetrical answers about a [Fisherman's relation?]. But that never panned out, and I finished the puzzle ... puzzled. Most befuddling part of the puzzle was the last letter I put in—the "A" in RAUCH (who?) (46D: Jon ___, at 6'11" the tallest player in Major League Baseball history) and ATL, which I did not understand At All. "Atlanta is between two Plymouths? What?" I see ATL for Atlanta all the time; for "Atlantic," not so much. About as much as I see PAC for "Pacific" (outside of the term "PAC-12 Conference," that is).  As for RAUCH, my first thought was ISNER, since I saw "tall" and "player" and I remember thinking he had a good name for crosswords. But he's a tennis player, and spells his name "John." My proudest moment of the solve was dropping in both LLD (41A: Barrister's deg.) and LYTTON. I'm no Anglophile, so the ease with which these answers came to me surprised even myself.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: London newspaper (DAILY MAIL)
  • 23A: Turkey's location (DELI COUNTER)
  • 33A: Taking one's sweet time (DILLY-DALLYING) — a great center answer
  • 44A: Singer with the hit country album "Backwoods Barbie" (DOLLY PARTON)
  • 54A: "Gotcha," formally ("DULY NOTED") — confusing, as "Gotcha" can mean several things.  
I thought I had a cold on Monday, and then Tuesday I felt so good I thought I was mistaken, but today, whoa boy. My body feels fine, but my head is a wreck, so I have to keep this brief so I can get some rest.

  • 1A: Vitamin C source from Southeast Asia (STARFRUIT) — I see these at the supermarket sometimes, but I've never tried them. This answer was not easy for me to pick up.
  • 10A: Songwriter Jimmy and Senator Jim (WEBBS) — Jimmy Webb wrote "Wichita Lineman" and a lot of other popular songs of the later 20th century. 

  • 15A: It has just 16 rules of grammar (ESPERANTO) — I love this answer, especially followed closely by ALEUT (16A: Western language historically written in the Cyrillic alphabet)—that's a hell of a language duo.
  • 29A: ___ Street, main thoroughfare in "Peyton Place" (ELM) — People know that? Yikes. 
  • 1D: Ritual in which bitter herbs are dipped (SEDER)ERNS was the first word I put in the grid. SEDER was the second.
  • 11D: Cuban name in 2000 news (ELIAN) — I wonder about ELIAN. Mainly what I wonder is: how long will he be crossworthy? Forever? His name is soooo lovely from a crossword standpoint, but that incident doesn't seem like something with long-term historical implications. But if it's easy for me to recall (it is), then maybe we'll still be seeing it 20 years from now, though I think future young people are going to be a little annoyed that they're being asked to remember something so trivial.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    lit.doc 12:16 AM  

    Finished in under half an hour, so I’m guessing it will be super easy for the accomplished solvers. And an embarrassing portion of that brief, shining moment was spent staring at 8D IZISI wondering WTF (wasn’t Joey Izisi in some car commercials a while back?). CFS syndrome is a terrible burden.

    The vowel-rotation theme can come close to not quite totally uninteresting, but only if each letter is pronounced hard in the theme answer, IMHO.

    Fav solving spot was 51A, “It’s located between two Plymouths”. Aside from the moronic parking lot jokes that came to me unbidden, what made it work—what made me work—was not being at all sure of the spelling for 46D WHO? or 42D I KNOW HOW TO SAY IT BUT… Again, CFS syndrome forced me to actually figure out the clue.`

    Tobias Duncan 12:24 AM  

    Easy Thursday for the most part but good lord that was a lot of names. Loved Esperanto and a few others but felt all the names muddied the puzzle a bit.
    Watched most of EXPELLED when it came out on dvd.I was not convinced.

    CoffeeLvr 12:44 AM  

    Yes, a lot of names, but I knew most of them. Many of the entries are related to TV: PBS, SNL, ANA (as clued), TYNE, BAIO, MINDY, the Peyton Place clue for ELM, DYNOMITE, & Win BEN STEIN'S Money.

    Crossing and cross-referencing RIBS and ABS was a nice touch.

    syndy 12:47 AM  

    Damn,said the duchess. A tuesday at the most-no writeovers no problems.oh wait a minute ONE writeover- Doo for dit.no dilly dallying

    Rube 12:57 AM  

    I thought #31 was going to bitch about some of the theme answers: some had double ells, some not, and some used 2 vowels, some not, and some ended in y, and some in i... inconsistent! But no, no rant today.

    Personally, any Thursday I can solve without Googles and has Dolly Parton & Bulwer-LYTTON as answers is OK by me. I have no idea what the BEN STEIN answer is about, but it's gettable from the crosses so, again, I'm not complaining. The same goes with Scott BAIO and a few other pop culture clues/answers.

    Pop for a young person = DADA was my favorite.

    Jo 1:04 AM  

    I, too, found this a really easy Thursday -- I often DNF on Thursday/Friday puzzles, but this one just fell together. I guess on ELM street, based on just the E, had to guess on WEBBS and RAUCH, but otherwise, it was mostly stuff I could figure out with a little thought. Pretty enjoyable, actually.

    andrea carlyastrzemski michaels 1:06 AM  

    how can you not love a puzzle with DILLYDALLYING across the middle??!!

    I have to agree with what Rex said..I mean,
    "So it's a Tuesday-type theme that played like a Wednesday but looked and felt like a Friday. And yet today is Thursday."
    Couldn't have said it better, or more convoluted myself!

    I have so much I liked about this puzzle, but right now I'm in Mpls for my 35th highschool reunion and having so many amazing coincidences I can't even breathe...

    I agree about the TV-ness of this, crossed with sports sports sports
    (BUDSELIG, CARL Yaz, PASS/being defined as Bomb, LAILA Ali (tho I know her from "Dancing with the Stars") but I knew them, except the RAUCH guy.)

    1D I was all excited... I know this!
    It's a Passover reference! But then I became obsessed that it had it's own name for that portion of the SEDER so I couldn't figure out the answer...
    I couldn't PARSE-ley it (heehee) and it took at least one of the ten minutes to do this whole thing!

    Was on "Win BEN STEINS Money" and I wish I could find a clip of it. Won $1200 of his money and Jimmy Kimmel saved most of his razzing for my opponents:
    Sven who looked like Merl and collected comic books, and a tall teacher who was a dead ringer for Shelley Long, so I got away unscathed...sort of...

    (The following may or may not be a total flight of fancy and the names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent):
    "Neb" emailed me for weeks afterwards asking to tie me up and create a future Jeopardy! champion.
    Very crazy. And if he weren't such a rightwing maniac, I may have even said yes!

    retired_chemist 1:35 AM  

    Medium here. Plunked down LLB @ 41A and it took me a minute of checking to fix it. 33D briefly was NANO NANO, from Mork and Mindy. But that was NANU NANU anyway.....

    STAR FRUIT was a new one for me, but the proper names were all familiar except for RAUCH. Cool that ALEUT is written in Cyrillic - who knew?

    Thanks, Mr. Dubner.

    pk 1:41 AM  

    Hmm. I guess everybody loved it except me. My best guess is that the only reason this puzz was accepted was b/c of the "daily mail" ref. I thought "erns" was spelled "ernes"...maybe I'm just in a bad mood...didn't think I was until I came here.

    retired_chemist 1:44 AM  

    @ pk - ERNS,ERNES - whichever fits. Both are correct.

    CoffeeLvr 1:46 AM  

    @Andrea Carlyastrzemski, that story was not so hard to parse. I did not realize he was a right wing nut even then. Gee, I might have seen you on the show!

    Clark 2:01 AM  

    The Ben Stein answer was such an abomination that it crossed over into fabulousness. Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

    jae 2:25 AM  

    Damn, Clark stole my Bueller comment. Easy for me. Only write over was INUIT. The theme seemed iffy at best (what Rube said) but the fill was pretty solid (what Rex said). So, Iliked it too, easy but lively.

    shrub5 2:38 AM  

    This was my fastest Thursday in a long time, maybe of all time. Enjoyed the solve and learned a few things as well.

    @andreacarl...Your stories are so amazing. Who'da thunk it? Is BS really as droll as he sounds? I liked that show but never really knew when or what station it was on -- would just stumble across it now and then.

    Thank God I never had to take an ORAL / FINAL EXAM. I would have been awash in flop sweat.

    ITALO Calvino -- got this today because it was in yesterday's LAT puzzle where I got it wrong due to a stupid mistake on a cross.

    chefwen 3:40 AM  

    Rex, you might want to stock up on some STAR FRUIT for a little extra vitamin C to help you over this nasty cold thing, it's pretty tasty.

    DILLY DALLYING made me smile as my husband always accuses me of doing the same when walking through a store. He, a typical male, likes to get in, get what is needed, and get the hell out. I, on the other hand need to see what is new and what I didn't know I had to have until I saw it. Costco is a prime example.

    Again, thought the puzzle was a tad bit on the easy side which has me frightened for Friday and Saturday.

    @Andrea - was in you nape of the woods and thought it would be fun to get together but you were away at some high faulting wedding. Maybe next time.

    capcha - prigg - not even close to that.

    octavian piccadilly 4:58 AM  

    felt like a monday -- super easy.

    nothing tricky about it at all. not sure why this wasn't at most a tuesday or wednesday.

    construction-wise, though, i loved the progression of vowels in the theme answers. that was cool.

    AussieDan 5:00 AM  

    Maybe I'm way behind the times, but have the good folk here heard of the Bulwer Lytton fiction contest? Its a annual contest to write the worst first sentence of a novel. Might be right up some peoples alley.
    I also thought the puzzle was very easy. 13 minutes is fast for me....on Tuesday, so I had to check the day again, being Thursday afternoon here in Australia

    Gill I. P. 6:40 AM  

    @AussieDan: It was a dark and stormy night....
    I had a good time with this puzzle. A bit on the easy side for a Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday.
    I wonder if Jeff Dubner is a Brit who became dead chuffed with Yankee baseball.
    I don't understand 21A PASS for Bomb??? and I had to stare at the two Fisherman's relation clue/answers.
    Favorite - like others - is DILLY DALLYING.
    Are POLYPS really coral creatures? I have this vision in my head that won't go away.

    dk 6:52 AM  

    I am with @pk.

    **(2 Stars) I mean what part of an ICEPALACE is one able to skate on: The moat?

    joho 7:26 AM  

    Yes, this was easy for a Thursday but with all the original fill the solve felt fresh and interesting.

    I got off to a good start with SEDER ... @Andrea Carlyastrzemski, I did not know the bitter herb was parsley! I wonder if you bumped into Neb today how he'd react ... I'll bet the same!

    @Gill I.P. ... a bomb can be a PASS in football.

    I liked how many of the clues referenced other clues. It kind of tied some of the pieces of the puzzle together.

    Nice job, Jeff!

    MaryBR 7:50 AM  

    Yes, incredibly easy for a Thursday for me too. Got annoyed with all the names as I was doing it, then got to the end and realized I had no writeovers and had probably my fastest time ever. If you're going to have lots of names, at least have good crosses! Didn't notice the theme til I logged onto the blog...

    jbsnadb 7:51 AM  

    12 minutes was very fast for me Thursday-wise.

    I do have a small bone to pick with Rex, who said:

    "Though I think future young people are going to be a little annoyed that they're being asked to remember something so trivial."

    Doesn't that describe virtually every clue in every puzzle ever constructed? British PMs for 60 years ago? Scoot Baio? Yaz? Even Dolly Parton. Tyne-frickin'-Daly? The puzzles we love all rely on minutiae from the entire scope of our existence and knowledge base. You wanna do puzzles, you need to embrace the trivial, and I think the kids from 20 years in the future will get and appreciate that too.

    AnnieD 7:58 AM  

    I too found the puzzle an easy one for a Thurs.

    I'm surprised no one is complaining that the vowel sounds are not consistent. Seems to me it should've been:


    I was also surprised that I did so well on a name-rich puzzle. Usually I'm pulling my hair out on those.

    hazel 7:59 AM  

    What struck me about this puzzle is all the BS. BenStein, BudSelig, pBS, aBS, riBS.Lots of BS. Also noticed in the paper that today is Scott BAIO's birthday (Chachi is 51! cuma ti yi yi ay! ESPERANTO for Yikes!).

    an easy and uneventful solve.

    REM called it quits today. sigh.

    David 8:13 AM  

    Very easy today, my first sub-10 minute Thursday! Lots and lots of baseball which helped immensely, and Jon RAUCH was on my Fantasy baseball team once. Zero issues, though before I wrote in ESPERANTO I was briefly tempted to throw in one more sports answer, ESPNRADIO. Had no issue with BENSTEINS, though I needed almost every cross to get it.

    evil doug 8:33 AM  

    Always amused by the concept of a "training bra". Little girls in the gym, pumping iron, kick-boxing, jabbing the speed bag, going a few rounds with Laila Ali....

    I've also advised my wife: As long as panties are called panties, there can never be true equality of the sexes.


    Jim 8:42 AM  


    Not sure the point you're making, but the term 'panties' is indeed vaguely...what? Infantilizing? Objectifying? The brits (I'm this kind of anglophile, not the WYTTON/LLD type) call them pants. Because they call pants trousers, of course. Cetainly sounds weird to my ear, but it is less giggle-provoking.

    The reason why ELIAN is groan-worthy is because he was never worth knowing about in the first place. Ruined my Easter in 2000. It's like putting Terry Schiavo in the puzzle in five years, or George bush in ten. No accomplishments and never worth my time in the first place.

    Jim 8:45 AM  

    I mean Lytton. Five minutes after I finished the puzzle, and I already forgot the man's name.

    Unknown 8:52 AM  

    I finished this faster than M,T,W of this week so I thought Rex would call it "super easy." Did it thinking it was sort of themeless, danced after getting the easy ones all over. My favorite clue-answer was THESTONES. Saw many great rock shows, but none better than the Bigger Bang stop in Nice in 2008.

    skua76 9:02 AM  

    ARRRR! Am I the only one who found this one too hard? A few too many names in the WSW for me, a DNF probably because I couldn't see DYNOMITE and didn't remember ITALO from yesterday's LAT. Here's hoping for a better tomorrow.

    jberg 9:08 AM  

    @Jim, I thought the British called them step-ins, but maybe that's old fashioned. I once read a 'Carter Dickson' novel where a man was chasing a woman in her step-ins, and didn't realize how racy it was until 10 years later.

    Speaking of Brits, do barristers really get an LlD? I'm pretty sure law is an undergraduate degree there.

    Still, a fun puzzle. My only gripe is the two 'course closer' clues both pointing to exams; I wanted one to be about golf or auto racing or something.

    edwords 9:21 AM  

    Fast time for me too, probably at least in part because I did it when I came home from Fenway last night (another excruciating loss!). Gotta say, RAUCH really shouldn't be that tough, at least by current baseball standards -- he was a named closer as recently as this year, pitched in big cities like Chicago, and then there's the 6'11" thing. Not that obscure, I don't think. But then, I'm a fan (obviously)

    efrex 9:25 AM  

    After yesterday's abomination, this just flew by. My fastest Thursday ever, and a blast solving, although I needed Rex's writeup to work out the theme.

    Like one or two others, know Bulwer LYTTON from the eponymous bad writing contest (an online associate of mine actually won in the "vile puns" category last year). Only writeover: had TSA before FAA.

    Howard B 9:31 AM  

    DYNOMITE was hysterical to see in the grid in a good way, BEN STEINS in another way altogether.

    Win Ben Stein's Money was one of my favorite game shows back in the day, too.
    @ACM: Great story! Always fun to 'hear' from you.

    chefbea 9:38 AM  

    I agree.. easiest Thursday ever. Never heard of Ben stein or the show. I too see star fruit all the time but have never tried it.

    Loved hammer's partner!!

    Rex Parker 9:42 AM  

    "Ruined my Easter" is my new favorite complaint ever.

    And yes, why didn't any of the theme answers start with DALLY and DULLY!? Just think of the possibilities! (go ahead ... do it ...)

    There's ... uh ... DALLY LAMA! And ...


    evil doug 9:46 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Brian 9:47 AM  

    Yes it was a fly-through, but I'm with Tobias -- too heavy on names. Almost to the point of ridiculousness: MINDY, BEN STEINS, BUD SELIG, DOLLY PARTON, RAUCH, ANA, TYNE, ATTLEE, LAILA, ELIAN, ITALO. Did I miss any?

    Come one, isn't that over the top?

    I did really like DYNOMITE and DILLYDALLYING across the middle. Also WAMPUM.

    I question TOL. Is that supposed to be a dialect?

    evil doug 9:53 AM  

    George's training bra:

    Frank: How long it takes to find a bra? What's going on in there? You ask me to get a pair of underwear, I'm back in two seconds...you know about the cup sizes and all? They have different cups.

    George: I-I know about the cups.

    Frank: You got the A, B, C the D. That's the biggest.

    George: I know the D is the biggest. I've based my whole life on knowing that the D is the biggest.

    Estelle: Here, here's the bra.

    Frank: Let me see it.

    Estelle: 100% lycra-spandex.

    Frank: Let me see it.

    Estelle: I told you. Here, think you know everything?

    Frank: Hmm, that's surprising. All right, what else? You got the cups in the front, two loops in the back. All right, I guess that's about it.

    George: I got it. Cups in the front, loops in the back.

    What other training is required?


    quilter1 9:54 AM  

    Try the star fruit! And it looks so pretty sliced with strawberries.

    Like most I thought this one very easy. Finished smoothly with no write-overs. I liked the clever cluing and some fresh words. We watched Win Ben Stein's Money pretty regularly once we found it, so maybe I saw Andrea's episode.

    Often there are coincidental duplications of clues/answers with NYT and LAT on the same or next day. I blame global warming.

    he Elian photo is disturbing. Poor kid. Hope he is doing OK as a young adult.

    Chip Hilton 10:29 AM  

    BRA and DOLLYPARTON in the same puzzle. And DOLLY at clue 44. DULYNOTED.

    Cheerio 10:31 AM  

    HTG for Selig and Stein but I thought this was fun. Parts felt easy, parts less so. Odd rhythm to it, but ultimately nice.

    Two Ponies 10:34 AM  

    I was surprised I was able to blast through all of those names.
    I liked the theme and it helped me fill in deli with no crosses.
    I liked the Patton quote.
    Used to love Ben Stein's show.
    Best part of the puzzle for me was the Aleut Cyrillic connection. I must look into that. It sounds very interesting. Isn't Cyrillic the wedge-shaped script the Egyptians used on clay? How did the Aleuts get it? And like Frank Zappa asked, what do they write on up there? Off to Google.

    Two Ponies 10:45 AM  

    Oops. Got my languages mixed up.
    I was thinking about cuniform.
    Cyrillic is Russian and makes perfect sense.

    slypett 10:48 AM  

    Except for ALEUT, I found this puzzle lacking in everything but names.

    ELIAN Gonzales is probably still dining out on his war stories.

    Crosscan 10:52 AM  

    Family legend has it that LL Zamenhof,the creator of ESPERANTO, is a relative. Thus explaining kinda why I only follow 16 rules of grammar in English.

    Tobias Duncan 10:53 AM  

    Wow, I had no idea Ben Stein was such a big deal.I only knew him from "Expelled" and I have to say, he was less than impressive there.He just trotted out the same old misunderstandings about evolution that the ID people have been using the whole time.You would think they would at least read up on the latest evolutionary theory before attempting to debunk it.The whole time I was watching all I could think about was how the hell did this guy pass biology?

    Anonymous 10:57 AM  

    @Evil Doug/Jim
    you should try to find the episode of "Inside the Actor's Studio" with Amy Poehler. She was very funny talking about the word "Panties."

    John V 11:13 AM  

    Mixed. Mostly easy, but like others has a WTF moment with Ben Stein. Stared at that ***ONE** freaking letter crossing PA*S for approximately an eternity.

    SE last to come. Actually had BOLA, so was wondering who the heck were THE STANES?

    Good thing I had my pencil back today, is what I'm saying.

    mac 11:18 AM  

    Great puzzle, and surprising that I finished it in great time with all those people I didn't know!

    Amazing I knew all expressions mentioned in the wiki piece, but I don't think I've ever read anything by Bulwer-Lytton. I have heard of the contest.

    @Jim: don't they call them knickers?

    Starfruit is quite tart, I think it's mostly sliced and used as a garnish.

    jackj 12:18 PM  

    When I finished this puzzle I couldn't help but think of Peggy Lee and "Is that all there is?".

    Thursday puzzles have a special place in the lives of Times cruciverbalists and, when they disappoint, it can really upset the rhythms of solvers for days on end.

    Some tidbits of interesting fill though, like the "double your pleasure, double your fun, double "T" Brits"; Snoopy hero LYTTON and Churchill nemesis ATTLEE.

    And, ALEUT is/was not a great entry but it offered a super piece of info as regards the tie to the Cyrillic alphabet.

    As regards another entry, if you want to sample STARFRUIT, be sure to consider what medications you are using since starfruit, like grapefruit, can dramatically increase the potency of drugs like statins, (think Lipitor), with potentially dangerous consequences.

    Thought the theme was drab as dishwater, which can be DULYNOTED, but it might be better described as DULLYNOTED.

    KarenSampsonHudson 12:23 PM  

    Smooth Thursday--I also thought Aleut info interesting.
    Jackj--Can starfruit affect insulin uptake, as grapefruit does?

    oldbizmark 12:26 PM  

    great puzzle for the baseball lovers out there. thought it was pretty easy for a thursday but still much more difficult than yesterday. real trouble with the NE corner. otherwise, easy peasy, mac and cheesy.

    600 12:32 PM  

    I ought to stay silent; I have nothing to add that hasn't been said, but I simply must brag--this was my fastest Thursday ever! On second thought, that's probably not bragable because to me this felt like a Wednesday, maybe Tuesday. That's been said too.

    Also, I never saw the theme. Figured it for a themeless until I came here. So I guess I have nothing to brag about. Still--my fastest Thursday ever! YAY! Let me also add that I enjoyed it. I loved the names and languages. BUD SELIG was unknown to me, but the crosses were fair.

    I remember Ben Stein as much from "Wonder Years" as from "Ferris Bueller," but never heard of "Expelled" before. (By the way, I KNOW titles should be underlined not quoted, but can't figure out how to do that here. Sorry.) I don't suppose I'll watch it. It sounds like an exercise in stupidity. (But, @Tobias Duncan, what are "ID people?")

    The A in RAUCH/ATL was my last entry too, and I was delighted to see Mr. Happy Pencil. I was only half way sure of LLD, but when I had LLYT-N, it seemed clear O would be the finishing letter in ITALO, though I had suspected ITALY. Wouldn't LLYTYN work? That one was a bit of a NATICK for me, and on two ends, but I got it!

    Finally, @Jim--I too found "ruined my Easter" to be a great complaint. I also loved your final line: "No accomplishments and never worth my time in the first place." Imagine the list we could make of examples of those taking up space in our brains. If I could get rid of them, think of all the new things I could learn . . .

    Sparky 1:25 PM  

    Went speedily for me too.
    Spotted theme halfway and then filled in the missing D plus vowels where needed.

    @Jim and MAC. Hands up for knickers. I've learned it from mystery books. Perhaps it's old fashioned. TSA before FAA. Small town street, 3 letters--ELM. Seldom watched Peyton Place. The book was hot stuff in its day.

    @JohnV. I use a Pilot FriXion. It erases by friction. The ink disappears--eerie.

    Onward to Friday and Saturday, hopeful or fearful. can't decide.

    Anonymous 1:43 PM  

    what could be more demoralizing than finishing a puzzle and finding that everyone else found it to be so easy.

    John V 1:43 PM  

    @Sparky: Thanks for the Pilot FriXion suggestion. Will have a look at Staples over the weekend.

    Bob Kerfuffle 1:43 PM  

    Nice Monday puzzle. Now where's my Thursday rebus or other challenging wordplay?

    @jackj stated my feelings exactly re Thursday puzzles.

    @Brian - According to Wikipedia,

    Writing the song -

    (Harold) Arlen and (Johnny) Mercer wrote the entire score for the 1941 film Blues in the Night. One requirement was for a blues song to be sung in a jail cell. As usual with Mercer, the composer wrote the music first, then Mercer wrote the words. Arlen said,

    The whole thing just poured out. And I knew in my guts, without even thinking what Johnny would write for a lyric, that this was strong, strong, strong! When Mercer wrote "Blues in the Night", I went over his lyric and I started to hum it over his desk. It sounded marvelous once I got to the second stanza but that first twelve was weak tea. On the third or fourth page of his work sheets I saw some lines — one of them was "My momma done tol' me, when I was in knee pants." I said, "Why don't you try that?" It was one of the very few times I've ever suggested anything like that to John.

    Anonymous 1:45 PM  

    karen s h probably not a good idea to get medical advice from a xword blog

    jackj 2:07 PM  

    @KarenSampsonHudson- Anonymous at 1:45 PM gave the proper response.

    Please check with your pharmacist or doctor if you need a definitive response.

    Matthew G. 2:09 PM  

    All the people who know a lot more about construction than I do think BEN STEIN'S and its clue are horrible, so I must be wrong. But I agree with Clark that it falls into the category of "so ugly, it's adorable." Put a big grin on my face. It almost sounds like one of the deliberately contorted question category names from the show, so it worked for me.

    @acme: I am very jealous. I wanted so badly to be on "Win Ben Stein's Money," but it never came to be. I despise his politics, but the man is a riot as a game show host.

    Really loved today's puzzle. Fantastic work, Jeff!

    Jonathan 2:21 PM  


    The two "Fisherman's relation?" items are not actually symmetrically placed in the grid.

    Close to it, but not quite.

    Best Regards - Jonathan

    Anonymous 2:22 PM  

    The Atlantic Ocean (ATL, 51a) is between two Plymouths - one in England and one in Massachusetts.

    Jonathan 2:47 PM  


    Since the singer pronounces the word "told" without the "d", the lyrics are written "My mama done tol' me" - hence TOL in the puzzle.

    Yes - it's dialect. That also explains why "done" is the auxiliary verb, instead of the standard "had".

    On another subject, I suppose that any American woman or man who has socially motivated objections to the word "panties" is free to call them "underpants".

    Best regards - Jonathan

    Anonymous 3:02 PM  

    No one mentioned it so it must be an easy answer, but what does 55 down NAT refer to?

    Wikipedia 3:10 PM  

    @Diana -

    The Washington Nationals are a professional baseball team based in Washington, D.C. The Nationals are a member of the Eastern Division of the National League of Major League Baseball (MLB).

    John V 3:11 PM  

    @diana, NAT refers to Washington Nationals baseball team.

    Brian 3:50 PM  

    @Jonathan and @Bob Kerfuffle,

    THANK you. I didn't realize it was a song lyric.

    Now reading about 'Blues in the Night' on Wikipedia, I see that I really should. I don't recall ever hearing it. I will have to hunt down a recording.

    Thanks again! That really was bugging me.

    sanfranman59 3:54 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 11:47, 19:13, 0.61, 2%, Easy

    Top 100 solvers

    Thu 6:20, 9:22, 0.68, 3%, Easy

    By the numbers, not only is this one of the easiest Thursday puzzles in my spreadsheet, but the above ratios are among the lowest of the nearly 700 puzzles I've tracked to date (only 3 "All solvers" ratios are lower than 0.61 and only 13 "Top 100" ratios are lower than 0.68). These times are much more typical of a Wednesday puzzle.

    As one who has followed baseball on a day-to-day basis for about 40 years, I can't believe that Jon RAUCH passed Will's crossworthy test. I would venture to guess that only the most avid of baseball fans would come up with that name. I needed a couple of crosses, which is pretty unusual for me with a baseball clue.

    Jonathan 4:00 PM  


    Google for Ella Fitzgerald's performance of Blues in the Night, which is on Youtube. Really a classic, both the song and the performance.

    Best regards - Jonathan

    retired_chemist 5:46 PM  

    Rauch in German means smoke, or sometimes rough. Seems that could make a less obscure Thursday clue.

    Scott 6:24 PM  

    I'm having some technical difficulties loading today's Xword - I thought maybe this community might have some pointers.

    When I click on any link to the NYT puzzles (Acrosslite, pdf, play online, cruciverb link). Nothing happens and I get the perpetual loading page that never loads.

    This happens in Firefox, Chrome, and IE. This happens on multiple computers.

    My NYT subscription is current.

    I am able to open up other (non-NYT) Xwords in acrosslite.

    Any solutions, recommendations or pointers to other helpful places would be appreciated.

    Sorry to post stuff unrelated to the puzzle content, but I didn't know where to go for help (I sent an email through the NYT site but expect a lengthy delay before any response).

    chefbea 6:41 PM  

    @scott send me your e-mail address and I will send you today's puzzle

    NFL Coach 7:28 PM  

    Congratulations on your "Blog of Note" award!

    from NFL Classifieds

    Sfingi 7:42 PM  

    @Evil - you can't train 'em; they aren't muscles. And I never called them anything but underpants. "When I was in pigtails" - literally - we never used those words (training bra, panties)

    Had to Google for ATTLEE, WEBB, RAUCH, THESTONES.

    @John - thanx for sports explanation.

    @Anon222 - thank you for ATL explanation.

    @Ret.Chem - you really think RAUCH is a common German word? I only see it commonly on some smoked cheeses, and most people don't know that that's about.

    Matthew G. 7:46 PM  

    Uh oh. Don't look now, but "Blog of Note" may prove to mean "Conduit of Spam." (I'm looking at you, @NFL Coach).

    @sfingi,@retired_chemist: I actually had the same thought as ret_chem. I am a pretty big baseball fan who usually finds gimmes in any baseball clue, but I couldn't remember RAUCH. But despite having taken my last German class 13 years ago, it's one of the small handful of words I remember. Rauchen verboten = "no smoking" in German.

    JenCT 9:06 PM  

    @Sparky: I also like the Pilot Frixion, especially for puzzles on glossy paper.

    Blew through this until DULYNOTED - the answer just wouldn't come to me.

    Looks like the constructor doesn't trust fishermen...

    lit.doc 9:29 PM  

    @600, titles are underlined only in hand-written work, to indicate italics. Word-processed work should actually use italics (same number of key strokes as underlining, FWIW). But getting to your question...

    In almost any word processor (i.e. not in a blog's "Leave your comment box), type the following with no spaces between the non-title markings:

    < I >Title to be Italicized< / I >

    Then cut-and-paste your comment on the blog (also saves your comments in case Blogger eats them).

    p.s., @600, "ID people" = people who claim to believe in "Intelligent Design", which is a euphemism for "Creationism".

    sanfranman59 10:06 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 7:26, 6:51, 1.08, 81%, Challenging
    Tue 8:03, 8:54, 0.91, 23%, Easy-Medium
    Wed 13:27, 11:51, 1.14, 82%, Challenging
    Thu 12:03, 19:13, 0.63, 2%, Easy (2rd lowest median solve time of 119 Thursday puzzles)

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 3:51, 3:40, 1.05, 75%, Medium-Challenging
    Tue 4:11, 4:35, 0.91, 21%, Easy-Medium
    Wed 6:30, 5:51, 1.11, 81%, Challenging
    Thu 6:13, 9:22, 0.66, 3%, Easy (3rd lowest median solve time of 119 Thursday puzzles)

    mmorgan 11:54 PM  

    Interesting and fun puzzle.

    It may seem trivial at this moment but at the time the Elian Gonzalez episode was a very significant matter of foreign policy with multiple levels of implications. I still think it's important (even as I wonder what his life is like today).

    cody.riggs 1:16 AM  

    Re: "Panties". Until after the Civil War, the term was only used for MEN'S undergarments. Imagine 1863 Southerners discussin' how the army should really send down fresh boots and panties to the militia.

    Of course "Rauch" is a common German word. Just like "balcony" or "caterpillar" or "willow"...you don't use it every day, but it's common, nonetheless. Everyone (German) knows it.

    I agree that the Elian episode should be remembered in the future. My partner and I were just discussing it, and we remember an astounding number of details. There was a similar case involving Oregon/Mexico as well that Oregonians should keep in mind.

    Great Wednesday puzzle. Ooops...is it Thursday?

    I loved the show "Win Ben Stein's Money" (Jimmy Kimmel was hot!) but that Stein is indeed a sociopathic Ayn-Rand-worshipping nutjob.

    Great write-up today.

    GE Portland

    Mike 8:33 AM  

    Very disappointing for a Thursday. Daily, deli, ..., that's it? Is Will running short of Thursday-quality puzzles?

    Anonymous 12:46 PM  

    The aptly named Jon RAUCH throws smoke.

    I'm of the opinion that a repeated clue ("Fisherman's relation") should have two unrelated answers. Not the case with TALE and YARN.

    Amazed we made it all the way to Syndication Land without anobody mentioning the DAILY double (MAIL and TYNE).

    Training BRA and DOLLY PARTON are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Note, however, that BRA crosses the only double-D theme answer. Now it makes sense.

    Anonymous 12:58 PM  

    @Rex Parker 9:42 AM - to paraphrase Elaine: "I'm sorry, we already have a DALLY"

    Dirigonzo 3:17 PM  

    From syndiland, ESPERANTO was mentioned in the "Non Sequitur" comic strip today, too late to be of any use to prime-timers but it was very helpful to me (I do not consider reading the comics to be "cheating"). "Peyton Place" was a fictional town in New England and parts of the movie were shot in my home town. The book and the movie were considered pretty scandalous at the time.

    RPDTNYTCP on this date 5 years ago:
    - Solving time: 22:00 "Solving time: 22:00

    THEME: none

    Switched to Firefox browser yesterday and the whole Blogger interface is Bizarro to me right now - looks Sorta right, but is clearly new, different, off, probably better, but as yet partially inscrutable to me."
    - "I was like Hector in the "Bangor" portion of the puzzle. Valiant struggle, ultimate defeat." (I only included this because I'm surprised the RP knows where Bangor is.)
    - "I was All About Real Literature when I was a kid - weirdly highbrow for a teenager, and for someone who played so many video games. In later life my brows have lowered considerably. For instance, I'm currently surrounded by stacks of comic books, many of them featuring superheroes with ridiculous muscles and / or bosoms."
    - "5D: Chutzpah (brass)
    I had the B from JACK BLACK. And so, of course, I had the much better BALLS written here initially. But since the Times would never deign to go so, er, low, I had to revise my thinking. Actually, the Perfect answer here would have been a happy marriage: BRASS BALLS."
    - There were 4 comment, one from @Howard B pointing out an error in RP's completed grid. Rex responded thus: "$##&%, it is SUPPE. It's German. Not my language. Man, why do I go on?"

    Anonymous 4:49 PM  

    Spacecraft rates this one as a Tuesday or early Wedensday offering. My very first entry was THESTONES, and if that wasn't right, well, it damn well shoulda been. Some of the clues are a little off-putting, that's all.
    "Traded beads" I read as a verb in the past tense, instead of "beads that are traded." And "Bomb, e.g." for PASS--despite having two meanings (football play or FINALEXAM result)--wasn't easy to pick up. Luckily the gimme crosses were there.
    A memory from "Win Ben Stein's Money:" actual shock, I think for the first time, at seeing something on free TV. I refer to a category they called "Edna Ferber-ger." I remember thinking, OMG, can they SAY that?
    I've heard many monickers for SATAN, but "Old Scratch" was not one of them. Once again, gimme crosses saved the day.

    Red Valerian 11:05 PM  

    Late from syndi-land.

    @jberg: law degrees here in Canada are also undergraduate degrees, though most people who get them already have a bachelor's. We also have a graduate degree in law.

    @dk: LOL. I guess the idea was that an ice palace is like a cineplex or fancy rec centre. or something.

    I highly recommend (for whatever that's worth) Italo Calvino's "Cosmicomics." Though one must be in the mood...

    Puzzle was fine, though should have been Wednesday.

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