Chief of medicine on Scrubs / 12-22-11 / Red-haired ogress of film / 1951 historical role for Peter Ustinov / Sponsor of ads famous for nudity

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Constructor: Kristian House

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: SHAPE SHIFTER (55A: Werewolf, e.g. ... or the one responsible for 20-, 34- and 41-Across— shape names are changed to other shape names inside familiar phrases

Word of the Day: ALY Khan (33A: Khan married to Rita Hayworth) —
Prince Ali Solomone Aga Khan (June 13, 1911 – May 12, 1960), known as Aly Khan was a son of Aga Khan III, the head of the Ismaili Muslims, and the father of Aga Khan IV. A socialite, racehorse owner and jockey, he was the third husband of actress Rita Hayworth. After being passed over for succession as Aga Khan, he served as Pakistan's representative to the United Nations, where he became a vice president of the General Assembly. // His first name was typically spelled Aly in the press. The titles of prince and princess, which are claimed by children of the Aga Khan by virtue of their descent from Shah Fath Ali Shah of the Persian Qajar dynasty, were recognized as courtesy titles by the British government in 1938. (wikipedia)
• • •
[FOR MY READERS IN SYNDICATION: It's pledge week here at the Rex Parker site (thru Sat.) —read my pitch for donations in the opening paragraphs of Sunday's write-up, here ... and thanks for your faithful readership (and the many kind messages I've received so far)]

• • •
Simple theme with a nice revealer. Very tidy, in that all the shapes are kept in the family—that is, they just shift (as in move) around the grid. Nobody morphs into a RHOMBUS or anything. Grid is mostly very nice—smooth and Scrabbly. But why didn't you go for the pangram, Kristian!? Why!?!? Just a Z and a J away. So close. Sarcasm.

The strangest thing about this puzzle was that for most of the time it played like a Tuesday. Started with DODD-Frank and was down at FIONA (64A: Red-haired ogress of film) before I knew it. Of course getting to the back ends of those theme answers was a little tougher than getting at their front ends, but it didn't take much. My main area of struggle was in the Great Lakes-to-Northeast part of the grid. Could Not retrieve SEAM as [31A: Part of a baseball] and then (the killer), after getting the -VIN part of 25A: Title cartoon boy (CALVIN), I wrote in ... MARVIN! Talk about missing wide. The quality gap there is tremendous. I don't think I'd have even remembered that "Marvin" was a comic if I hadn't run across this comic strip while reading "The Comics Curmudgeon" a couple weeks ago:

Hilarious, I know. Anyway, MARVIN really $&^%ed me. Also slowed down by NO WAY, which I had in the space that was supposed to be filled by IXNAY (16A: "Nope!"). Also puzzled by 11D: The Wildcats of the America East Conf. (UNH) (my university is in this same conference; didn't help) and the clue on ILLS (27D: Drugs and crime), e.g. I had VICE. So that whole region was noticeably harder than the rest, and yet "hard" is a relative term. When I finish a Thursday under 5, nothing can really be said to be "hard."

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Uncool Eskimo? (ARCTIC SQUARE)
  • 34A: Percussion instrument owned by a New York newspaper? (TIMES TRIANGLE)
  • 41A: Close-knit group at a popular island destination? (BERMUDA CIRCLE
  • 15A: 1951 historical role for Peter Ustinov (NERO) — I didn't Know this, exactly, but with even one cross, or perhaps none, it's a pretty easy guess.
  • 23A: Original Beatles bassist Sutcliffe (STU) — I like the Beatles but I'm no aficionado, so I learned STU from crosswords. He comes up so often that you should commit him to memory if he isn't there already. The other STU is Disco.

  • 52D: Hit TV series starring Gary Sinise ("CSI: NY") — this helped me change LOWFAT to LOWCAL (51A: Lite). To my knowledge, I have never in my life seen a single episode of any flavor of "CSI". I've watched the opening, but as soon as that non-descript guy utters his stupid, cutesy / portentous tagline, right before The Who or whoever start playing, I'm out of there.
  • 56D: Sponsor of ads famous for nudity (PETA) — here you go—a crossword twofer: a PETA ad featuring EVA Mendes. 

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Whacker 6:53 AM  

    Had to get Dylan's Quinn the Mighty Eskimo out of my head to move on... Then it was easy.. WAY easy for Thursday but fun.

    Wood 7:03 AM  

    Up at an ungodly hour... I guess that's how you get to comment first on this here blog.

    This was a nice tricky puzzle. I had a lot of reasonable answers confirmed by at least one cross that turned out to be wrong... nowAY for IXNAY, StAb for SPAR, sosO for EXPO, and VAGUEst idea for VAGUE NOTION. Really good ambiguous cluing.

    My one complaint is 14A, AMIR. What is with these (Var.) clues? With all due respect for the difficulty of puzzle construction, isn't it just a misspelling???

    Other than that, liked the puzzle, theme, and fresh-feeling fill.

    Wood 7:10 AM  

    Here's a clue I'd like to see for 61D: "Doubled, dog deposit"

    Hey, I should get up early like this more often.

    Anonymous 7:37 AM  

    No, AMIR is not a misspelling, it is a variant spelling sanctioned by the dictionary.

    ArtO 7:48 AM  

    Thanks, Kristen, for an ego-boosting Thursday. Since I finished without much ado, was not surprised to see Rex's EASY.

    ArtO 7:51 AM  

    Correction - Kristian. Sorry.

    efrex 7:54 AM  

    After yesterday's slog, this was a breath of fresh air. Very easy for a Thursday, but a really nice theme, and some sweet fill. The long downs are great, and some nice cluing made the corners just a bit tough. Resisted Rex's MARVIN and LOWFAT instead of CALVIN/LOWCAL (good thing too, since I forgot my pencil and was doing this one in ink). Not familiar with KASDAN, SEGO, ANNA, DELA, or KELSO, but all were fairly crossed.

    Bravo, Mr. House!

    SethG 8:05 AM  

    After BERMUDA CIRCLE I immediately filled in 55A. Then, I had to erase. Then I had SHAPE CHANGER and NAVY bean and had to erase. Still a fine, easy puzzle.

    I have no idea why, but I'm developing a weird intuitive feel for months. Filled in OCT with no crosses, but I have no idea what a hunter's moon is. (Actually, probably some werewolf thing...?)

    Pete 8:06 AM  

    CALVIN was Tintin for too long. I blame Steven Spielberg. Hell, I blame him for my receding hairline, so I wouldn't read too much into his responsibility for the CALVIN/Tintin debacle.

    For once I'm awaiting Evil Doug's post, for I'm too PC to make the PETA add joke.

    jberg 8:31 AM  

    This was one of those themes that needs a double take. I saw that it was shapes, but at first I thought it was just shapes with random words; I had to finish the whole thing and stare at it for a while before I saw how they were shifting to the next theme down. I liked the puzzle a lot more after I saw that.

    I tried changer, too, but that would have given me a Roman numberal ending with A. Glad to see OCHRE spelled right, after "ocher" a couple of months ago! (See earlier discussion on "types of nerd."

    joho 8:36 AM  

    It took forever to figure out "Champagne chum" because I couldn't see the region for the bubbly.

    This seemed extremely fresh all over with lots of scrabbly letters and a fun and original theme. It's also close to a pangram as @Rex so "nicely" pointed out.

    DISCUSTHROW and VAGUENOTION are beautiful as @efrex mentioned.

    Easy, yes, and most enjoyable, too. Thank you, Kristian!

    Anonymous 8:41 AM  

    I forgot what RP wrote about today's puzzle after scrolling down and laying eyes on Ms. Mendez's gorgeous bubble butt.

    quilter1 8:58 AM  

    I had Sid before STU but otherwise pretty easy and fun.

    MaryBR 9:03 AM  

    Got messed up by NYET/ALY Khan. I wanted NYET but felt it *had* to be ALi given the origin of the name. Thought perhaps NIET was a permissible variation. So that was an annoying error to finish with, especially when I come here and see that the proper spelling is with an I, it's just that everyone in the Western media misspelled it!

    Manet 9:09 AM  

    More nudes, less rant. That's a beaut of a butt!

    grainsog--an unpopular breakfast cereal

    Tita 9:13 AM  

    Did none of you New Yawkers ever ride the 13D 12D?
    I love this clue pairing. While I never did ride it (Playland was my go-to amusement park), it is an iconic part of Coney Island!

    I tried TIMESTRombonE before catching on to the revealer at BERMMUDACIRCLE...
    Hey - I had _IME_TR...
    Oh - THAT kind of percussion... ;)

    Blurred eyes over the revealer clue - I like to grok the theme without the spoiler when I can, and I did!

    When transferred to Germany, where car PERKs are quite commonplace, was given a new Hertz car ever 2 months. That, and miles of open Autobahn...those were the days!

    Great puzzle Ms. House!

    Tita 9:22 AM  

    Oh - and in a tasty moment of synchronicity...
    Had FAVA beans for dinner last night!
    Popular in Portugal, it's a quick dish to put together and oh so satisfying...
    Involves onions, tomatos, chouriço, topped off with a poached egg. (Or to be really authentic, you break the egg into a well in the center.)

    jackj 9:27 AM  

    Tita- I think Ms. House is actually a Mr.

    Lots of fun with this puzzle which has a clever theme and excellent fill.

    IXNAY, with no special warning as to its pig-latiness was clever and it gave us another nice entry when it tied the X to EXCEL.

    Having no knowledge whatsoever of "Scrubs" I would have preferred seeing KELSO clued as something like "Only 5 time winner of the American Horse of the Year award".

    Nice to see ACAI in the grid; a thing which is touted as an antioxidant but, for me, is most notable as a word and that mainly from its fun pronunciation "ah-sigh-ee".

    Good puzzle, even if it was published a day or too late.

    retired_chemist 9:28 AM  

    I'm figuring that constructors can use pretty much whatever (reasonable) transliteration they like when the word is from a language that does not use the Roman alphabet. So the ALI/ALY, EMIR/AMIR/EMEER/AMEER ambiguities don't bother me so long as the crosses are fair.

    Enjoyable puzzle which played harder for me than it should have. Started with BAA @ 24A, which led to FOO CAKE @ 5D. Thought it was another name for FUNNEL CAKE. Not....

    I too put OCT down for the hunter's moon on intuition and nothing more. Turns out it is the first full moon after the harvest moon, which latter is the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox (Wikipedia). Who knew?

    37A was BORG at first. Had TAUPE as my autumn color (19A). True enough in our part of Texas....

    Didn't get PETA until after three crosses. My bad. But AIDA went right in. Four letter 19th century opera? Wrap it up and put a bow on it....

    Thanks, Mr. House.

    evil doug 9:29 AM  

    Beatles songs---with or without Stu---like "Anna" are oldies. Pink Floyd songs are oldies. But "Shine on Harvest Moon" is just old.

    "UNH" is the sound people make in novels when they're hit over the head. Did you know that Presbyterian College teams are named "Blue Hose"? I wish it was Blue Ho's. Anyway, that's a handy thing to remember if you ever play the "name a college whose teams don't end in 's'."

    Barney Frank should be in jail. Hope these hearings show the full culpability of managers at Fannie and Freddie---and how Barney enabled them to help cause the housing meltdown.

    Liked the 'v' stuff today---'vague notion', 'void', fava, and the wonderful Calvin (and Hobbes).

    Wild Bill Kelso was the Belushi character in the highly underrated "1941".

    I'd rather she go naked, too....


    Tobias Duncan 9:30 AM  

    I have been trying to bone up on my pop culture, so when Rex posted a naked woman I have never heard of, I checked out her IMDb page.
    Wow an entire list of movies I have never even heard of.They remade Bad Lieutenant? Who would do that?

    Pete 9:41 AM  

    Oh @Evil Doug, once again you disappoint. The correct riposte to the Eva Mendes ad was "How am I to know her true opinion about fur from that angle?". I trusted you man!

    imfromjersey 9:49 AM  

    Got really slowed down in the NE when I had ASU (Arizona State) for 11D and took FOREVER to get IXNAY at 16A. Also had TINTIN for 25A, thinking how timely it was! Nice puzzle, well done Mr. House.

    Matthew G. 10:27 AM  

    I suspect this may be one of those days when sanfranman ranks the puzzle as one of the five or so easiest for its day ... this was in all respects an early-week puzzle. I loved it, but it was no Thursday. Only one or two clues (such as the WTF clue on ANNA) were even Thursday-like.

    Mostly because of luck, I didn't struggle where Rex did. I used to be a huge CALVIN and Hobbes fan, so that went right into the grid. Definitely a much more valuable contribution to the world of comics than Marvin is. I also had DIORAMA before I hit the NE corner, so no trouble with IXNAY.

    The only two entries that were unfamiliar to me (ALY and KASDAN) had rock-solid crosses. Nice constructing, Kristian.

    Also, in my opinion, Times Square might as well be called TIMES TRIANGLE in reality. There's nothing square about it, really, but it's got lots of triangular traffic islands that feed hapless tourists (and New Yorkers forced to go there for some unfortunate reason) into endless funnels of crowded misery. My least favorite spot in my home city.

    600 10:32 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    600 10:38 AM  

    10:32 deletion--my bad. Sorry.

    Am I the only one who cannot see FAVA without remembering, "I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti"?

    Really liked the cleverness of this puzzle, though it felt very easy for a Thursday. Still, I needed an easy day of puzzle and blog after yesterday. Will we not be psychoanalyzing Rex and each other today? Excellent!

    Hands up for Borg before ASHE and tossing in OCT on intuition alone. Also hating on those alternate spellings, though NYET made ALY clear, even if it seemed wrong. But I hated AMIR. I agree that just feels like a misspelling.

    Hmm. Way to not go political, @evil.

    Dr. Maxwell Edison 10:41 AM  

    Weird. On first pass I came to the clue "Shine on Harvest Moon" and didn't know the answer but subconsciously thought Pink Floyd (because of "Shine On, You Crazy Diamond"), and four or five clues later there's "Pink _______." ISN'T THAT THE WEIRDEST THING IN THE WHOLE WORLD? THESE PUZZLE MAKERS THEY MESS WITH YOUR HEAD!

    Anonymous 10:42 AM  

    It's misleading to clue CSI NY as a 'hit show' It may have been once, but it's certainly not now. It's not on the list of top-rated shows for the year.

    CBS has consigned it to the virtual graveyard of Friday night. Friday and Saturday, I read recently, is where shows go to burn off their last episodes before they go away.

    I do watch it, but it's not a hit show.

    Two Ponies 10:42 AM  

    Very fun and satisfying if a tad easy. But after yesterday I was ready for some enjoyment.
    I looked at yesterdays comments before coming to todays.
    130 comments! Is that a record?
    From that I learned our old friend @Tinbeni is back. Welcome home.
    I also learned that someone called @Rex the Rush Limbaugh of crosswords. @Rex also said he didn't think his yoga skills would help him in grudge match with Will. Priceless!
    Everyone seems in such a better mood today. @Pete, you are wicked (funny).
    @ dk, did you think of Firesign Theater at "Beaut of a butte"?

    Tinbeni 10:58 AM  

    @Two Ponies:
    Front, too.

    Always like to work a crossword word into the daily conversation.
    IXNAY wins that prise today.

    I have a VAGUE NOTION I seen this type of theme before but I'll leave my rant at the door.

    BTW, I'm NOT a big fan of Winter.
    I bet it won't hit 80 for my beach walk on Honeymoon Island today.

    A "toast" to one-and-all at Sunset.

    John V 11:07 AM  

    Still crazy at work, so just popping in to say thanks @Rex for SHAPESHIFTing from Wednesday bad ass to Thursday great ass. Much appreciated.

    Hardest part of this easy item was trying to find the Thursday "trick" that was not there; a null trick as it were.

    Not getting CALVIN? He is my muse! See, for example CalvinBall:
    Other kids' games are all such a bore!
    They've gotta have rules and they gotta keep score!
    Calvinball is better by far!
    It's never the same! It's always bizarre!
    You don't need a team or a referee!
    You know that it's great, 'cause it's named after me!
    —The Calvinball theme song" -- Wikipedia

    Happy shortest day of the year, FWIW.

    JaxInL.A. 11:12 AM  

    I detect a mini-Arab theme with AMIR, IMAM, ALY, IRAQ, and, for me, FAVA beans, which I learned about from a Saudi boarder.

    I liked this smooth, Thursday-easy puzzle very much. My solving experience was much like Rex's, without the stumbles. I LOVE Calvin and Hobbes, and respect but regret Bill Watterson's decision to stop writing the strip.

    I remember Mr. House as a constructor I enjoy so I looked him up in We had a nice puzzle from him on the still-fun-to-write date of 11/1/11, but what I'm remembering is his Gee Whiz puzzle from Jan. 9, 2011, which included the noteworthy G STRING THEORY.

    iPad users will want to check out the Wordplay blog today where Deb Amlen notes that LitSoft has just released Across Lite for iPad. I find that the "Crosswords" and Crux apps work just fine for me, and I don't have to go get each puzzle I want to solve. I did want to see what Mr. Happy Pencil's dance looks like, though.

    Finally, I found the coolest crossword necktie at Walgreens for a mere $3.50. I just wish that I had solving friends nearby to buy them for.

    Happy 3rd night of Hanukkah, everyone. Consider celebrating with these terrific latkes from an NPR article I heard last night.

    JaxInL.A. 11:12 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Gary Sinese 11:20 AM  

    I just love the fact that it is often very difficult to decide if Rex is joking.

    He writes, "To my knowledge, I have never in my life seen a single episode of any flavor of "CSI". I've watched the opening, but as soon as that non-descript guy utters his stupid, cutesy / portentous tagline, right before The Who or whoever start playing, I'm out of there."

    But to me that better describes the Law and Order franchise. ("There are two parts to the criminal justice system . . . . ") So - Joke or no joke?

    Mel Ott 11:21 AM  

    I still miss CALVIN.

    TOFU wiggles? One more reason not to like it.

    The Mets have a minor league team in Brooklyn: the Brooklyn Cyclones.

    jae 11:22 AM  

    Fine puzzle. Cute theme, nice long fill, but too easy. But, hey, sometimes easy is good on a Thurs. Only write over was the E to A in AMIR. Maybe Will thinks we need more time to shop this weekend?

    Anonymous 11:41 AM  

    Now that is what I call a Beut Butte. Tofu isn't the only thing that jiggles on this blog.

    600 11:59 AM  

    Meant to say--Richie (remember Little Richie Rich?) before CALVIN, and I love Calvin!

    Second favorite strip:

    Scene: dark. Calvin and Hobbes in bed.
    Calvin: What is the purpose of human life?
    Silent cel.
    Silent cel.
    Hobbes: Tiger Food

    All time favorite:
    Scene: Calvin packing for a space flight.
    Hobbes: Do you have snacks?
    Calvin: Yes.
    Hobbes: Do you have good snacks?
    Calvin: Yes.
    Hobbes: Do you have enough snacks for me?

    Forgive me if I've quoted incorrectly. The above from memory only--and using the snack conversation over and over in real life.

    Loren Muse Smith 12:05 PM  

    600 - I totally agree with you on two points: Hannibal Lecter is irrevocably linked to fava beans, and AMIR felt like a misspelling. I like either EMIR or EMEER. Three transliterated entries in one puzzle. Cool.

    JenCT 12:19 PM  

    C'mon, who didn't think of JELL-O first for food that wiggles?

    IXNAY took me forever to get.

    The picture of Eva Mendes' admirable posterior just begs for an alternative, which is my avatar for today only.

    retired_chemist 12:31 PM  

    @ JenCT - LOL!

    syndy 12:32 PM  

    I had a VAGUE NOTION that the Hunters moon was involved with the William Rufus thing so I got Oct. I had SNOWMAN for 9 down so/NOWAY!(had a mini theme going there). DODD was my personal Natick until I had ALL the crosses for DAMASK BAA before MOO but all easy to fix and an enjoyable theme.BROCATI=a dark green sport car

    Matthew G. 1:14 PM  


    The Silent Penultimate Panel Watch.

    KRMunson 1:15 PM  

    @JaxInLA. I love XWorrds as much as the next guy, but isn't a "cool crossword necktie" an oxymoron?

    KRMunson 1:17 PM  


    r.alphbunker 1:27 PM  

    I once gave a cartoon interpretation exam in a Software Engineering course. The Calvin cartoon had the question "Would Calvin be a good software engineer. Why or why not?"

    @Dr Edison
    Have you ever read John Hodgman?

    Chip Hilton 1:31 PM  

    @JenCT - Sorry, but Eva Mendes thrills me on more than your Mendoes.

    I liked this puzzle, especially the switching of the three theme shapes. Smooth, K. House. I had FlOrA before FIONA (thinking of a Red Menace) and KASDeN went undetected after using it for my first fill. So, an imperfect solution on a perfectly gorgeous first winter's day.

    Lewis 1:51 PM  

    Maybe I'm part dyslexic, but when I saw the clue "Go at it", I saw the last two words and immediately thought, "Tita" -- so, hello Tita.

    I'd heard of SHAPESHIFTER somewhere before, because I got it with just a couple of crosses, but wasn't all that sure of its usage, so that was good learning for me today.

    Probably my fastest time for a Thursday, though I'm not big on timing, and I feel good because I haven't used Google yet this week...

    Anna Car Mesas 2:04 PM  

    Recently tried a Monday version of this theme, which was rejected as being done to death, even tho I had two never-in-a-NYT-puzzle before: TIANNEMANSQUARE
    (which I'm probably misspelling but if i go to Google to check, it erases my comment...damn iPad) and the new show THESECRETCIRCLE.

    So at first i was bummed that a variation appeared, when when I got to SHAPESHIFTER I loved it...and yes, fresh!

    I took it one step further...I had NiE? And put in N.
    Nevermind that NEIN is not spelled NIEN. Sorry @Ulrich, wherever Du bist!

    Total Middle Eastern vibe! maybe to offset all the NOEL brouhaha! Where's @foodie to weigh in on the transliteration variations?
    (and i meant to thank you yesterday for including me i n on that list of illustrious constructors privately offblog, but I'm embarrassed to say, I blanked on your real name!
    I can't do the blogname thing in real life...I call Mac "Mac", Foodie, Orange, Rex, dk...and respond to ACME which I'd faint if any of my nonpuzzle pals called me that)

    Also thanks for the headsup about the Walgreen's tie...
    I have a Scrabble one sitting on my regifting shelf, just awaiting the perfect recipient!

    Ha! And not that i did that thumb/middle finger thing to enlarge your photo, but what's with that mysterious shadowy thing next to the guy at the far right? Surely not the Loch Ness Monster, right?

    The month after "Silence of the Lambs" came out, I had crashed the after party at the Oscars ( those were the days!)
    Anthony Hopkins approached me (i thought I was accidentally sitting in his chair but he was just being friendly)
    and we chatted and i actually made some joke about the fava beans and Chianti, BEFORE he had to endure the next 20 years of that same joke! At one point he winked and said he was a free man now...
    Then Jeremy Irons' publicist whisked him away and I never saw him again (sigh)

    Being a major Beatles fan, STU was easy, but ANNA totally stumped me, tho I'm happy to have that song be my earworm for's very gentle and lovely and when I have my own blog, I'll post one of their songs every day till I'm shut down by YouTube/Apple/Michael Jackson/Sir Paul or whoever owns whatever these days.

    acme (68A, so close!) 2:19 PM  

    PS. I don't understand why it's subtitled "Go to Him"
    The lyric is "Go WITH him" which John sings about thirty times...It wasn't written by John or Paul but by Arthur maybe that was AAs original title?

    Horatio Caine 2:22 PM  

    Looks like the creator of this puzzle ...

    /removes sunglasses

    ... had some CROSS WORDS with a killer.

    /cue The Who


    JHC 2:30 PM  

    There seems to me to be something... I dunno, inelegant about changing Times Square to TIMESTRIANGLE and cluing it with the newspaper. The square is named after the newspaper in the first place. Not that it's wrong per se, but dampens the enjoyment of the theme a little.

    CoffeeLvr 2:48 PM  

    @John V, thanks for my first LOL moment of the day.

    My favorite clue was "Beaut of a butte."

    Favorite entries were DIORAMA crossing CALVIN. I seem to remember Calvin making dioramas with anachronistic dinosaurs. When I searched for "Calvin and Hobbes" + diorama, I found a site where you can print out a page and make one; no dinosaurs there, though.

    The stumper for me today was RELA, but the crosses were easy enough. I did not know ANNA either, but the crosses were even easier there.

    Glad you are back @ Tinbeni.

    mac 3:16 PM  

    Nice little puzzle, although easy for a Thursday.

    I'm late, you've all said it. Surprised how quickly ixnay came off the x of excel. Having macrame for 9D slowed me down in that corner. Thank goodness for solid crosses in the cases of Kasdan and Fiona. Love "vague notion" and "up ahead".

    Back to the shops.

    santafefran 3:56 PM  

    I finished this fun puzzle early last night and kept coming to the blog to comment but no joy since Wed was the last blog up. A little part of me panicked that Rex was bowing out after all the comments on Wed., Big sigh of relief when I refreshed the link and saw Rex's Thurs. blog comments.

    Thanks for the iPad Across Lite App mention @JaxInL.A.; I do like Mr. Happy Pencil so think I will switch from Crosswords.

    @JenCT--cute buttes!

    @joho--same block about Champagne chums

    NOWAY led to CAR and EYE which really screwed me up in the NE so when I finally relented and put in DIORAMA, I still couldn't see DEUCE for the CAR. It was my last writeover. What a fun puzzle!

    @Dr. Maxwell Edison, our own Andrea (ACME) coined a word for coming up with the correct answer for a later clue: malapop. You had a Pink FLOYD malapop.

    @CoffeeLvr, did you mean DELA? It makes more sense if you parse it Francois de la Rochefoucauld.

    @dk, glad to hear you made it to NM without getting ICEDIN on the STRADA. See you and @Tobias Christmas day at La Fonda.

    stodges--not us!

    fergus 4:11 PM  

    Why is such a nice and smooth little puzzle appearing on a Thursday? I'm ill and hungover and disappointed to have had no struggle with this one.

    Due to yesterday's Xmas party I didn't get around to reading most of the blog-introspective comments until this morning. At one point I might have said that the key to Rex and his community is that we're sparing our non-puzzling friends and spouses from the pettiness of our strtuggles and triumphs. Except that sometimes I have to mention the tenor of the conversation or some witty remark, by which my sweetheart humors me by showing a clearly tepid interest, so I shortly desist.

    So in a sense, Rex's best audience is they who don't read him at all. How meta is that?

    David 4:27 PM  

    Puzzle was too easy for a Thursday, but man I LOVE Calvin and Hobbes, I'm a huge Pink Floyd fan, and the revealer was a lovely answer. Eva Mendes is looking just fine as well while I type this.

    santafefran 4:32 PM  

    I meant to say that I typed in BAR before CAR. @#$#$%!

    Tita 5:19 PM  

    @JenCT - you MUST invite me to your next beach party...!

    fergus 5:54 PM  

    Another aside, which I hope Rex appreciates, is that criticism is a barely recognized art form. In some views, the text is the only thing that matters -- and therefore an emotional focus on his crankiness should be irrelevant. Other critical analysts insist on the background of the author -- those who pretend to see into the writer's psyche.

    Having spent some time among English professors I recognize an extra little element of what our blog-host is all about. A bold critique forces the reader to consider the merit of the art.

    Eejit 6:28 PM  

    I had about four clues left when the Iphone Magmic app crashed yet again, so I don't know what my time would have been. Definitely an easy one for a Thursday though.

    I had to re-enter it all and ended up submitting a time of 8 minutes. I felt like a bit of a cheat, but not a big deal I guess. I can sometimes do a Monday in 8 minutes, but that's about it.

    Nice bum, I don't mind a little fur though.

    Anonymous 7:11 PM  

    when something stops giving you pleasure, it's time to move on.

    it's been fun, but you're starting to make me dislike crossword puzzles too, and that's just not fair.

    seriously, let someone else take over, at least for a while.

    CoffeeLvr 7:31 PM  

    @SantaFeFran, thanks, yes, I meant DELA, but parsing it correctly helps make sense.

    Stan 7:32 PM  

    Wow it's nice to see conversation about the puzzle instead of about the blog.

    This one was very satisfactory, and showed that three theme answers, plus a reveal, could work just fine even on a Thursday.

    As for easy, that was not so true for me. I started and stopped and moved to a new section at least three time (but I'm a puzzle idiot). At one point I said "ARCTIC SQUAB?? but it doesn't even fit..."

    davidinwp 9:07 PM  

    I'm not in the translating business, but I understand how difficult it can be translating something from an alternative alphabet into English. How do you translate ضظ, ᄨᄷ, or ЖЮй into a different language?

    Anonymous 9:36 PM  

    @JanCT. Oh, how I've missed the blog. Must go read yesterday.

    Sparky 9:38 PM  

    That was me, Sparky. This old clunker of a computer is tempermental.

    600 9:42 PM  

    @Matthew G--Hope it's not too late for you to see this big THANK YOU! I cannot believe such a website exists--so much fun! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    @Acme--I'm maybe the freakiest Beatles freak ever--I knew STU and ANNA immediately. And if you start your own blog and play Beatles music every day, I will be there every day. Never noticed that "go to him"/"go with him" thing, though. I'll have to pull out The Early Beatles and give it a listen.

    Leon 9:49 PM  

    Peter Ustinov (Nero) and Leo Genn (Petronius) were both nominated for Best Supporting Oscars.

    A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) - Karl Malden - Winner
    Other Nominees:
    Come Fill the Cup (1951) - Gig Young
    Death of a Salesman (1951) - Kevin McCarthy (I)
    Quo Vadis (1951) - Leo Genn
    Quo Vadis (1951) - Peter Ustinov

    From IMDB:
    Peter Ustinov would later say that director Mervyn LeRoy gave him the perfect insight as to how to play Nero. LeRoy told him, "I see Nero as a guy who plays with himself nights."

    retired_chemist 10:20 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Z 10:24 PM  

    Love Calvin and Hobbes, only vaguely aware of Marvin, so it is very weird to come here and discover that RP made the same error I made.

    @Pete - my thought, exactly.
    @JenCT - That's a MESA buttes.
    @Evil - I agree that someone belongs in jail - but BF isn't even on the long list.

    retired_chemist 10:24 PM  

    @ davidinwp - I think you are referring to transliteration, not translation.

    For translation the word either has meaning in the other language or not.

    For transliteration, i.e. writing in another language using your best approximation to the corresponding letters, it is sometimes dicey. Hence the issues this puzzle raised.

    OTOH, for Japanese, among other languages, the task is generally easy. All Japanese words can be written in hiragana and there is an accepted transliteration of every character. There really is only one possibility in nearly all cases. Some exceptions: the long o can be -ō or -oh, cf. Itō or Itoh; Nihon or Nippon for Japan.

    I hope this helps.

    600 12:21 AM  

    @Z--Right. Not even on the long list.

    Cheerio 9:17 AM  


    I also had meta thoughts on the brain due to yesterday's discussion here and nearly posted a long entry. But your comments delivers the right conclusion to my thoughts, so now there is no need to show the process!

    Anonymous 1:09 PM  

    Spacecraft here. Not easy for me; three Googles' worth. I think my basic problem was getting SHAPESHIFTER from--"werewolf??" I would not use that definition. A werewolf grows some extra hair and a mean disposition, maybe, but shape-shift? Nah. Odo, of course. Dracula, sure: he turns into a bat. Werewolf? Nope, he remains your basic hominid. That one bad clue threw me way off.
    Unfortunate, too, because the grid has one of the best fills I've seen in a while. Okay, I'll give you CDII, but that's a small price to pay for the rest.
    Did not know that UNH is yet another Wildcat team, joining Villanova, Kentucky, Arizona.....

    Anonymous 1:22 PM  

    I'm embarrassed that even with the O and D in place I couldn't get "Pink _____" until I figured out what city CSI was in. This from a guy who has nearly every Floyd album and is currently reading a book about Syd Barrett.

    STU and ANNA make a lovely couple, though I don't consider "Anna" a Beatles song. It's an Arthur Alexander song that was covered by the Beatles.

    Steve in PDX 2:28 PM  

    This is an old entry, but I have to state that Calvin is a comic - not a cartoon.

    A cartoon is animation and is seen on the screen, on TV, or in the editorial pages. Comics are sequential drawings we find in the "funnies" section of the newspaper.

    Thus TINTIN (the movie) is a cartoon - and CALVIN should have been clued as a comic.

    Dirigonzo 4:57 PM  

    The State symbol of Utah is SEGO? Does Utah know this - it's a pretty depressing symbol if you ask me. Oh, wait - it must be the SEGO Lily. That's a relief as a ghost town is a pretty strange symbol to promote a state. On the other hand, the Browning M1911 is their State firearm and Jell-o is the (unofficial) State snack. Beats TOFU, I guess.

    Joe in Montreal 5:47 PM  

    syndication chiming in: I agree with questioning the wriggling of TOFU. Maybe it shimmies, but not really.

    Paul Henderson 6:13 PM  

    Da, Da, Canada.
    Ixnay, Ixnay, Soviet.

    Aly/Ali Khan 6:23 PM  

    Drat! Would have married Eva Mendes had my eye but seen her beaut of a butt ere I saw Rita's...

    Red Valerian 6:48 PM  

    I have a theory. (and the theory, it is mine. I own it. It is my theory. Would you like to hear that theory that is mine? Anne Elk)

    Ahem! My theory is this. This blog is a sophisticated psychological/sociological experiment.

    Participants are either subjects who have not given informed consent but are not aware that they are in an experiment, subjects who have not given informed consent but who are aware of the true nature of this blog and continue to return (myself and whatever small cadre there might be of others in the know), the experimenter(s) and, possibly, confederates presenting as subjects. I strongly suspect that no subjects have given informed consent.

    I am still not sure who is in charge, but s/he will make Milgram look like a wuss.

    The truth is around here somewhere...

    Mighty Nisden 7:05 PM  

    @Steve in PDX - correct and it that's why I had so much trouble with it.
    Don't agree it was a Tuesday as this took me a while to solve... just like a normal Thursday.
    Enjoyed it!!

    Dirigonzo 7:37 PM  

    @Red Valerian - that's an interesting theory and not too different from what I have been thinking for a while. When Rex started his facebook page some months ago he mentioned some social experiment he was going to conduct, but if he ever explained the details I missed it. So my theory is this, he continues to post his daily commentary here but has otherwise turned the blog over to the commenters withtout any further participation by our leader. Even Evil Doug's speculation about the demise of the blog did not lure him back to deny or confirm, but the rest of the "community" reacted wildly. I have no idea what the "why" or "whereto" might be, but I think Rex is watching to see how his followers do without continued interaction from him. Or maybe he is just tired (as @ED postulates) or maybe he is just ignoring us. Yes, the truth is somewhere and maybe one day he will make it known to us (of course we won't know until 5 weeks later). But I do love a good conspiracy theory.

    Mark M 3:20 PM  

    Steve in PDX - Thanks. Thought I was the only one who kept trying to come up with a TV cartoon ending in -VIN. If CALVIN was ever a cartoon, that's news to me.

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