Suckler of Romulus Remus / THU 2-9-12 / Island birthplace of Epicurus / Spartan king who fought Pyrrhus / Salty orange square

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Constructor: Kevin G. Der

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SAILS (62A: Travels over what's hidden in the answers to the seven starred clues) — "SEA" appears "hidden" in the answers to the starred clues, starting at the front of the answer and moving one square to the right w/ each successive theme answer

Word of the Day: PALSY (9D: Tight) —
[Honestly, I have no idea how [Tight] works ... I'm asking people right now ... only guess I have is that these are synonyms for "drunk" ... OK, it turns out PALSY is slangly for chummy; "PAL" + "SY" i.e. in the manner of a pal. I think I've only heard this expression as part of the rhyming, sing-songy "palsy-walsy." Thanks so much to C. Eutsler for the comprehension assist.]
• • •

I enjoyed this as a vaguely thorny puzzle, and the forward movement of SEA is, in retrospect, a nice touch. But (and it's a big but) the final theme answer absolutely, positively kills the puzzle for me. You cannot have "SEA" in your answer. Not in a puzzle where your revealer clue explicitly states that "SEA" is "hidden." It's not even a metaphorical SEA. It's an actual, honest-to-god, made-of-water SEA. The kind one SAILS over. I hesitated So Long before entering CELTIC SEA because I couldn't accept that "SEA" would appear literally, nakedly, like that. I still can't accept it.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: *Look for (SEARCH OUT)
  • 21A: *Entice with (USE AS BAIT) — not at all crazy about this "answer." Hardly a coherent phrase. See also the next theme answer...
  • 28A: *Drop one, say (LOSE A GAME)
  • 34A: *July, for Major League Baseball (MIDSEASON)
  • 44A: *Doesn't worry (RESTS EASY)
  • 51A: *It may bear a coat of arms (ROYAL SEAL)
  • 57A: *View from Land's End (CELTIC SEA)  

Unusually, I went searching for the revealer before stumbling upon it naturally in the course of solving. Normally I don't like to do this. Too much extra movement. But today, I was semi-stuck and thought maybe if I could find the rationale, I could move more quickly. And it worked. First I wondered what it would mean to travel over an ARCH (see first theme answer), but then I looked at a couple more theme answers and SAILS became obvious. Other strange aspect of my solve—it felt reasonably tough throughout, except in the SW, which I solved in about 10 seconds. Weirdly uneven (for me). Otherwise, nothing too flummoxy (except PALSY, obviously). Didn't know JOSEPH I at all (33D: Holy Roman emperor during the War of the Spanish Succession), but he was easy enough to piece together. What's a BETACAM? (11D: Sony recorder) That doesn't have anything to do with the defunct "Betamax" video format, does it? Well, sort of. Here's more than you'd ever want to know.

  • 33A: Most common first name among U.S. presidents (six) (JAMES) — this came pretty quickly, without any actual counting.
  • 46A: TV's onetime ___ Club (PTL) — tough clue; luckily all the longish Downs came super easy, so I barely saw this clue. 
  • 1D: "___ his kiss" (repeated 1964 lyric) ("IT'S IN") — Seems like a call an announcer might make in ... some sport. Golf? Soccer?
  • 2D: Suckler of Romulus and Remus (SHE-WOLF) — I just (re-)read Book VIII of the Aeneid earlier today, so, yeah, I knew this. She's on Aeneas's shield, I think; the one Vulcan agrees to make for him in exchange for hot sex with Venus (is there any other kind?). See, Venus is Aeneas's mom and ... etc. I did less well on the other classical clues. Forgot SAMOS even existed (29D: Island birthplace of Epicurus). Ditto AREUS (30D: Spartan king who fought Pyrrhus).
  • 18D: Salty orange square (CHEEZ-IT) — Nice. I haven't eaten these since my childhood, but I used to shovel them into my face by the fistful.
  • 42D: Ophthalmologist's procedure (DYE TEST) — wow. That's *really* close to EYE TEST, isn't it?
  • 52D: "The Land of Painted Caves" novelist (AUEL) — got it off the "L." Never heard of the book, but a four-letter novelist who writes about (what sounds like) prehistoric times? Not a hard guess. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:06 AM  

I like this puzzle. It has my favorite snack, my favorite constructor, my favorite TV show, my favorite European river and my favorite dog command. I used to tell our schnoodle to sicem when our boys were misbehaving. Then the mutt would turn on me until I slapped him down with my cane. But he was a male. It was different with our Airedale. When she was old and suffering from arthritis I would drive her over to the soccer field at the Darien H.S. in the afternoon. The team was practicing. So I would lift her from the back of our jeep and set her down and tell her to sicem. She would walk all around the field, sniffing on the far side at every leaf, twig and stone. I had to watch her all the time because I was never sure if she would run into the woods and disappear. She never did and would always return when I would lift her back into the Jeep and drive her home….


Evan K. 12:10 AM  
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jae 12:12 AM  

This one was medium-tough for me.  Partly because I thought 1a was a "." instead of a ":".  But, mostly because it was on the tough side for a Thurs.  Clever puzzle.  I think I've seen "the word move through the answers"  theme before but this was nicely done. I had the same issue with CELTICSEA as Rex but I'm not sure you could have SEA "move" without it or something similar?

ALAIT before LATTE but it seems the ALAIT version is cafe.

Had to change EYETEST to DYETEST.  (google fluorescein angiogram).

Is 9a a BEQ shout out from Kevin?

Top half more challenging than the bottom for me.  Good thing FRAZIER was a gimmie.  Good book and good  movie.

Evan K. 12:12 AM  

Hmm... is having one of the seven sailed-over seas being literally placed in the answer a really bad thing? I actually didn't know about the Celtic Sea before this, though it wasn't too difficult a guess with that clue.

Pete 12:14 AM  

Did you know Troy Polamalu had and older brother name Epicurius? Yup, it just had to be true, old enough to have been born back on the old island, SAMOA.

Aeneas pimped out his mom? That's just not nice. I knew AUEL off the 'L' too, just didn't know the AUE part.

Rube 12:43 AM  

Yeah, pretty tough, but any Thursday w/out Googles RESTSEASY with me. Got the south pretty quickly, but had to work in the north. Fortunately made a WAG on SEARCHOUT with only the U and most of the NW came into focus. A simple pair like 23A-26A can make big trouble when I had NOT oNe before NOT ANY. PALSe didn't make any sense, but then PALSY didn't either... at first. Then, thinking about PALSY walsy brought forth a groan.

Had a few writeovers, but not many.

Used to have a cat who adopted us some years ago. We figured she was a garbage can cat as one of her favorite foods was CHEEZITS... actually she preferred Spicy CHEEZITS. Weird cat.

GILL I. 12:55 AM  

The best thing about this puzzle was seeing that gerbil in a tea cup nibbling on a CHEEZIT.

Evan 1:23 AM  

Ugh, this one kicked the crap out of me. I had EYE TEST for a very long time. That, combined with my lack of knowledge of both AREUS and SANKA, made UNASKED incredibly difficult to uncover.

Also, I have never, ever seen the shortened college major spelled as POLY SCI with a Y. POLI SCI with I, yes. And I refused to put in ESTONIA for quite a while, owing to the fact that because the clue was referring to a city, I figured the answer had to be a city and not a country. All of that made the Southwest corner a real struggle. I'll chalk my shoddy performance on this one up to a bad day.

I can appreciate that this particular theme must have been very difficult to pull off -- there are 68 theme squares among only 72 answers in this puzzle, and it's likely pretty hard to come up with good phrases to use for each of the seven long theme entries where the hidden sea moves one square over after each one. But there is some crappy fill in the service of creating that theme, like ELEMS, SAMOS, AREUS, and RETEAM -- an excuse for a word if I ever heard one. Fortunately, the puzzle does make up for it in awesome like CHEEZIT and SHE-WOLF, so I can't entirely complain.

retired_chemist 1:27 AM  

Liked it. Figured DYE TEST had something to do with fluorescein - the vets use that to check for corneal scratches in dogs. Presumably human eyes work the same way.

My 6 Presidents were not James at first. Had REPRESS @ 37D but REPOT made no sense. 32A was CROZIER as the first guess. All fixed.

Cuba and Jamaica ANTILLES? Who knew? Nice one.

YAH means something derisive? Who knew that too? Not so nice.

15A was A-ONE, then ACES, before ACME. Sorry, Andrea. What was I (not) thinking?

Thanks, Mr. Der.

Evan 1:29 AM  

On the plus side, I had _OOTS at 59-Across, so naturally, I chuckled at the thought that the answer was TOOTS. The NYT has been going all PG-13 on us lately, so I figured that maybe they dropped some bathroom humor in today's puzzle. No such luck.

travis 1:39 AM  

Air Nausea? Sky nausea? FC Chelsea? Not sure any of them really work as phrases.

Jakarta Dan 1:58 AM  

For some reason our version of the IHT is not printing clues properly. Yesterday every lower case n was printed as an underscore, so we had 14D: ___ o_ (se_te_ce shorte_er), and so on. At first thought is was part of a theme, but obviously not.

Today, every lower case n is an upper case R, giving us 52D "The LaRd of PaiRted Caves" Rovelist.

Thought it was a reference to Scooby Doo's book on spelunking with fats.

If oRly. (20A for us.)

chefwen 2:04 AM  

Medium but a little on the tedious side for me, just SO SO.

9A was a gimme, growing up in the Milwaukee area, we always had to bring our own PBRB to parties.

Charles FRAZIER was also a given, loved, loved, loved that book. Have given it to many friends.

Onto to the weekend crunch.

@quilter1 - If you didn't get my note, late yesterday, sent me an email, I have something I would love to share with you.

15A "Top" 2:24 AM  

YAH I too wondered about that final on -the- nose SEA...
But i sort of took it as "From SEA to shining SEA" so it almost needed SEA at the end.

I sort of "sailed" thru this so, i was looking for something trickier from Kevin Der! So when i got to 46A "TV's onetime ____ Club" I seriously thought the answer might be "700"!

Ironically I also tried Apex before ACME because i figured Kevin would use an X! My only writeover besides CHEEtoh and baLTICSEA, bAH and momentarily thinking of changing UNASKED to UNASKEe.

Anyway, too easy for Kevin "interesting..." Der, but a marvel of construction!

exaudio 6:58 AM  

Liked this one a lot, but like @evan, had to question POLYSCI. It's not many sciences, it's polItical science.

Smitty 7:03 AM  

I knew IT'S IN HIS KISS, a.k.a. the Shoop Shoop song. ....but don't ask me about any rap music.


CAPT. I am the Captain of the Pinafore;
ALL. And a right good captain, too!
CAPT. You're very, very good,
And be it understood,
I command a right good crew,
ALL. We're very, very good,
And be it understood,
He commands a right good crew.
CAPT. Though related to a peer,
I can hand, reef, and steer,
And ship a selvagee;
I am never known to quail
At the furry of a gale,
And I'm never, never sick at sea!
ALL. What, never?
CAPT. No, never!
ALL. What, never?
CAPT. Hardly ever!
ALL. He's hardly ever sick at sea!
Then give three cheers, and one cheer more,
For the hardy Captain of the Pinafore!

Anonymous 7:36 AM  

I agree with Gill!

c388791 7:41 AM  

Love the picture of the hamster!!

Loren Muse Smith 8:14 AM  
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Loren Muse Smith 8:16 AM  
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Loren Muse Smith 8:18 AM  

At first I thought this puzzle was going to kick me MIDASS, but I dug my heels in and managed to finish.

@Evan - I resisted putting in ESTONIA, too, wanting a city instead.

I knew when I saw it had to be CELTICSEA that Rex was going to object. The vision of him shovelling CHEEZITS into his mouth by the fistful reminds me of how I can eat a whole can of boiled peanuts (remember Appalachian American) over the sink without coming up for air.

I grew up in Chattanooga, and there was an ancient collie who lived down the street. Whenever we said SICEM she would run over and viciously attack a tree. She did it in such a frenzy that finally we were forbidden to say it lest she have a heart attack. Of course we whispered it anyway becauSE Afterall the spectacle was too irresistable.

This puzzle felt really sibilant - 34 S's!

David L 8:21 AM  

I spent many summer vacations near Land's End, and this is the first I've heard of a Celtic Sea. It's just the Atlantic Ocean, people, all the way to the colonies...

And PolySci? Really?

David 8:26 AM  

Pretty challenging for me. Didn't see the SEA theme until the very end, and I really hurt myself on the revealer by putting in AUER vs AUEL for a while.

Not flashing on ESTONIA as related to Helsinki hurt me too, so most of that SW came very very slowly. I also simply kept looking for some funky rebus or midtheme letter combo, which made it harder to suss out the those long answers.

Really liked the SCOURGES-TSETSES tie-in, as well as SHEWOLF. DYETEST was nasty, had me wanting ONAKNEE instead of UNASKED for a while.

So overall, fun puzzle, but tougher than a usual Thursday.

Oscar 8:37 AM  

Odd hybrid: simple theme that should probably have had a higher word count and been earlier in the week, but using that many theme answers forces a lot of compromises.

joho 8:41 AM  

Having just had a hidden word puzzle published I couldn't believe it when I saw CELTICSEA. Here's a terrible solution, "Where Oscar Wilde once lived." INCHELSEA. But at least it doesn't end in SEA! SEA moving one square to the right is very impressive indeed, but the final answer ruined for me.

John V 8:44 AM  

Medium except 30D, 2D, 32A, AREUS,SHEWOLF,FRAZIER.

Tempted to re-post beer limerick for 9A, but I leave that as your Google Of The Day.

jberg 8:57 AM  

Yay! (not Yah!), it's Estonia week in puzzle land! About time; I expect Tallinn in Saturday's puzzle.

I, too, had never heard of the CELTIC SEA, and at first thought it was what the Welsh called the Irish Sea (sort of like the Sea of Japan being the "East Sea" in Korea). But no, it's the area between Ireland and Brittany, Celtic all the way around. Part of the Atlantic, indeed.

I liked the puzzle a lot more after I read Rex and realized that the SEAs were SAILing through the theme answers, and that there were seven of them. Before that, I was grousing about 5 of the SEAs being contained in single words, rather than spanning at least two (and none using every word in the answer). But the one-letter-at-a-time progression makes up for that. So ELEMS and RETEAM (and POLY SCI, see below) are my only real gripes.

As for 57A, IN CHELSEA should be easy enough to clue - someone puzzleworthy must live in such a place, in London or NYC. (Parochial Massachusetts clue: Where overpaid officials get cheap public housing, while poor people go homeless -- one of our many ongoing scandals.)

As a political scientist, though, I have to join the crowd condemning 39D. It's absolutely wrong.

As a Wisconsin boy, I thought of PABST right away, but was slow to put it in because I don't think it qualifies as a giant any more - not in the league of Anheuser-Busch, or Heineken, or Asahi, I fear.

Finally, we seem to have a difference of opinion: hamster or gerbil? Beats me!

Jon88 9:04 AM  

"I knew when I saw it had to be CELTICSEA that Rex was going to object." Not just Rex. It's a flawed themer, forced by the concept. (The only non-"seas" I can find are far too obscure for prime time: FC or LC SWANSEA, CHELIOSEA, EUFRIESEA, TRICHOSEA, etc.) But it's a problem only if you put the NYT crossword on a pedestal.

@jae: That's café au lait, not alait.

Jon88 9:05 AM  

@jberg: IN CHELSEA isn't an actual phrase, regardless of how easy it is to clue.

jackj 9:12 AM  

After the best Monday and Wednesday puzzles in memory, (and a tough Tuesday that held its own in the early week line up), expectations were high for a super special gimmick puzzle for Thursday. Seeing Kevin Der as the constructor heightened the possibility but, alas, ‘twas not to be.

Kevin’s offering was perfectly workmanlike, which to the consternation of any constructor is gobbledygook perhaps, but it is also a politic way of saying it fell short of expectations. Sorry, but SAILS over the seven SEA(s) just didn’t float my boat.

I did like seeing SHEWOLF, ESPOSOS, TRAITOR (for the cluing, especially) and CHEEZIT, but felt the opposite about the SCOURGES/TSETSES combo and POLI SCI with the awkward Y and then, finally, a mixed bag of proper nouns, with ANTILLES deserving a “si”; and AREUS, earning an “oxi”.

Kevin, one of our elite constructors, deserves a make good for this one.

quilter1 9:15 AM  

I've been to Land's End and looked at the sea but never knew it was called the CELTIC SEA. Liked SHEWOLF and CHEEZIT (Dave Barry is always brushing the crumbs off) and thought this a nice crunchy puzzle.

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

As a Ph.D. student in political science, I just want to join the crowd condemning 39D. Poli sci is the unquestioned short form of the subject.

That, and I really wanted 57D to be Wisconsin (where the clothing store is based). Wouldn't have fit the theme, but would have made a much better clue.

chefbea 9:37 AM  

Tough puzzle. DNF.

Love raspberries but what do they have to do with hoots. Never heard of dye test and We have Estonia two days in a row!!

Love cheezits and I think that is a hampster.

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

Liked how "sea" in midseason is in the middle of the answer as well as middle of the grid. Nice touch

Tita 9:48 AM  

Me three, @Gill!

Thanks Rex for pointing out the sailing of the SEAs, and the fact that there are seven of them.

Has anyone else seen the Scrabble Cheezits???
Niece got a box for my Scrabbl-loving Mom.

I try to stay away from misspelled foods - cheez, creme, etc., but may have to make an exception here...!

Wrote a fabulous paper on Aristarchus of SAMOS, who theorized on a heliocentric universe, and calculated distances to sun & moon, in the 3rd century BC.

Thanks Mr. Der - liked it.

dk 9:56 AM  

chefbea, if I stick out my tongue and go blaaaaaccccch that is a Raspberry. And if I look at you and go woo woo that is a HOOT. YAH: Both can be derisive.

*** (3 Stars) SAILed through this one. And, drum roll it has ACME in the grid. Swooooooooooooonnnnn

Only part I did not like was AUEL as I always want to put an r in her name and stone age bodice rippers do not do it for me.

Thank you Kevin

John V 9:59 AM  

BTW, this puzzle was not the final in Westport. Wonder when Will springs that one on us?

evil doug 10:04 AM  

If 'thru' is the answer, shouldn't the clue be "kind of st.", or otherwise indicate that a lesser alternative to 'through' is sought?

Suckling? Nice! Like everybody said, that's a thoughtful---and original!---shout-out to Andrea....

How about using 'land' in the first and last theme answers, with several 'sea' answers in between? Fully concur on the incomprehensible allowance of Celtic Sea here. I looked---not many words end in 'sea'---tried to think of good 'nausea' usage, or Hosea, or the horrid 'lower case a' ("One way to misspell 52D") that brings to mind the 'capital n' debacle last week....


Norm 10:19 AM  

Do not understand all this fretting about the violation of the "rule" that the theme word not appear in the puzzle. It was a fun theme, and it actually struck me as a nice touch that the final theme answer was a real sea.

Sir Hillary Bray 10:26 AM  

Immediately thought of the BATTERSEA area in London, but it would be tough to clue.

Ulrich 10:42 AM  

Like Rex, I needed the theme to get unstuck in several areas--placing the SEA progression did wonders--and like he, I held out to the end w.r.t that damned sea nobody ever heard of. Now I have to figure out what's wrong with me--I can't remember ever agreeing with the King on so many counts...

@Sir Hillary: Tough to clue or not, it would have been worth the effort!

Two Ponies 10:45 AM  

Well, despite the Celtic Sea I liked this. It was a nice workout.
I especially liked the history clues. Pyrrhus gave us the phrase Pyrrhic victory (a win but at a crushing price).
Some answers sure were head-scratchers. Hexane? Yah?
But I did like the word progression so thumbs up.

Matthew G. 10:46 AM  

I'm all over the map on this one. I knew Rex was going to rant about SEA being an actual SEA in the final theme answer, but it really didn't bother me. The word SEA progresses through the grid as it moves, and it winds up an actual SEA. No sweat. I also really like how MIDSEASON is at the center of the grid, I love the clue on LOSE A GAME (so colloquially accurate), and I love BETA CAM and CHEEZIT and SHE WOLF. All of that was great, and I enjoyed the puzzle about 95% of the time.

But there are three big wince-inducers here. First, it's POLI SCI, not POLY SCI. It's not a bunch of sciences, it's one science--political. Second, what is "YAH"? BAH or UGH or ACK or GAH or MEH or FEH, sure ... I can think of plenty of derisive calls in three letters, but YAH is (to me) just an offhanded way of saying "yeah." And finally, like Rex, I did not understand PALSY at all until reading the explanation here.

Overall, I liked this a lot, but it sure was uneven.

chefbea 10:56 AM  

@dk Won't someone be jealous if you go woo woo at me????

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

I suppose if the revealer clue had merely said "what can be found in" instead of "what's hidden in" that might obviate Rex's objection. Sea really isn't hidden if it's sticking out there like a warning flag for riptides. So I must concede this point to Rex, though my concern is that he might have committed suicide over it but for his obligation to write the blog. Thank goodness he'll still be around for Friday's puzzle....


Anonymous 11:26 AM  

THRU is a common way of expressing through on street signs so nobody who drives cars should complain about the clue, unless you are a retired Delta pilot, in which case you are entitled....


mac 11:38 AM  

Medium for me as well, with my last word "unasked". Thought on a skee might mean on a dare for a while. Learned Samos, which only makes Samoa more uncertain from now on...

I wanted the Irish Sea at 57D, so Celtic isn't far off.

@John V: I think the final puzzle in Westport was a Saturday with the clues adjusted to a Thursday level.

jesser 11:42 AM  

Big Fat DNF for me, on account of Mr. _RASIE_, the SHEWOL_ and King A_EUS. I had No Idea on those.

That's the bad news. The good news is I leave tomorrow with Son Daniel on a Caribbean cruise (Key West, Ocho Rios, Grand Caymen, Miami) that was purchased before the Adventures of December, and is probably not a good idea At All economically, but I have never been, and pretty much everything but the drinks are already paid for, so to the SEA I go. I can hear your HOOTS from here!

See y'all on or about the 21st!

Larry 11:48 AM  

Since it's ESTONIA week in the puzzle, I thought I'd mention that my wife is Estonian American. She's typical of those of her age: parents from the battleground nations between Russia and Germany in WWII, eldest sibling born in Estonia, the next in a work camp in Germany, the rest, of which she is one, born in America.

The reason I say she's Estonian American, given that she's never set foot in Estonia, is that during her childhood she was imbued with the culture of her parents, Estonian- socially, morally, lingustically and [how the hell do you say culinarily?]. This has informed every aspect of her life. This culture is significantly different from mine, 15th generation American, some better that how I was raise, some worse, but different on many levels.

America is said to be a melting pot, and eventually it is. But until everything gets homoginized to some bland, tasteless mayonaise, we are provided with a mosaic which enriches us all.

So, thanks to Appalachian Americans, Asian Americans, Estonian Americans. True, your great grandchildren will be mall rats indisguishable from one another, but until then, thanks for your distinctness.

jae 11:50 AM  

@Jon88 -- Thanks, apparently not being a coffee drinker has its drawbacks.

Norm 12:15 PM  

JFC Anonymous @ 11:18 -- LOL

JFC Anonymous @ 11:26 -- ROFL


Wood 12:31 PM  

Feeling grouchy today. Didn't like this puzzle, although slightly ameliorated now that it's been pointed out how SEA "sails" from left to right through the theme answers -- didn't pick up on that. Would have been nicer if a BOAT had done the sailing though. Agree that CELTIC SEA ruins the integrity of the "hidden" word theme. It's not hidden. It's right there in plain sight. But I suppose there aren't many options for 9-letter answers that end in SEA, other than actual seas.

OK, 7 theme answers plus a revealer is pretty impressive. But even with those constraints, hate the clues for YAH and PALSY (especially since a much more common sense of PALSY could still be clued in a challenging manner). Agree about the spelling of POLY SCI. Resent SAMOS and AREUS. Finished in average Thursday time but not without a lot of eye rolls (as opposed to DYE rolls).

Think I need to go back to bed and get out on the right side.

Tobias Duncan 12:32 PM  

@jesser,I see no reason for you to be exempted from posting while on a cruise ship.You should have full internet access on the upper deck where you can lie in the sun, sip cocktails and solve the crossword.

New Mexico is 0 for 2 ( I have been waiting to drop that sports reference for weeks) on this one as I DNFed as well. I hope SantaFeFran has better luck.

Masked and Anonymous 12:58 PM  

Great how "S-E-A" sailed across successive theme answers, 1 position at at time, finally dumping into the Celtic Sea. Don't see anything to object to. So SEA is hidden in plain sight, at the end; fine by me. Maybe I'm just in a good mood -- PuzSpouse baked up some banana bread for me, this AM. Yum.

Does seem a little more like a Wednesday-level theme, somehow. But the clues and ancient-history references sure put up a fight, at my house. Credible U-count, too. Gotta go thUmbsUp.

Moment of discomfort: ESO?/SAMO? But guessed right, so never reached the hemorrhoid stage.

Acme 1:18 PM  

Considering none of us knew CELTIC SEA right off the bat, perhaps it was "hidden" in that respect!

@joho @jberg @sir Hillary, et al
INCHELSEA, an unreal phrase to begin with, might not have been better, as for all we know, Chel-sea might derive from Cel-tic sea, (and probably Battersea has a sea root derivation) so same deal in the end....

So maybe Kevin could have even started out with a SEA that starts with the word SEA... Like SEAOFGALILEE and then it would be one SEA eventually emptying into another.
But folks probably wouldn't like that any better.

Still marvelling that it was from SEA to shining SEA...
And that he made it a perfect seven seas...

Loren Muse Smith 1:19 PM  

@masked and anonymous and Wood- Thanks for so clearly pointing out the progression across the page of SEA. I totally missed that. It made the final fill more stomachable, but I guess ending with _ _ _nausea or something would have been better.

@ED - I, too, wanted an abbreviation in THRU's clue.

@Larry - interesting about your wife. Whenever I see a man in a turban jogging or a girl on my daughter's basketball team playing in a hajib, I always think America is more like a tossed salad than a melting pot. Let's hope our grandchildren don't turn out to be sunglasses-wearing, gum-smacking mall rats.

My captcha is endoodi. Just sayin'

evil doug 1:32 PM  

I agree, Loren; America's not much of a melting pot anymore. As you say, more like a salad. Or a bowl of Trix: The colors mingle together a little, but the individual spheres cling more fully to their original shape and color.

The objective used to be to assimilate as quickly as possible---to master the language, to learn the remarkable history of her birth, to cherish the freedoms spelled out in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, to honor one's past but adopt the promise of America, to strive for true equality, to serve in her military or Peace Corps or other means of giving back, to wave the Stars and Stripes proudly as new Americans---simply "Americans" now---attain the citizenship hungered for by so many and granted to so few.

Those of us who were raised with the vision of integration and fairness and unity of all Americans now see self-segregation and self-serving groups based on skin color, country of origin, religion. And, of course, these days the class warfare rhetoric from the White House divides us on financial terms, too.

I don't think we'll ever see that melting pot metaphor be valid again....

Scottish-Irish-German-English-French-Caucasian-red-headed-American...or: American.

JDiP 1:34 PM  

GREAT choice of music. One of Townshend's best

mac 1:47 PM  

Battersea could work, if we could only think of a decent clue. Both Chelsea and Battersea were landing places in the river.

Ulrich 2:13 PM  

@acme: I like your idea very much. We have to keep in mind that theme words need to be 9 letters long b/c you want to move SEA along, one letter at a time, through exactly 7 words (it's indeed impressive that Kevin managed to pull this off). So, we could begin with SEAOFGUAM (I'm making this up, but you get the idea)...and rephrase the revealer, as someone already suggested.

UNDIT--the reverse of a ADIT, the first word of xwordese I ever learned.

Anonymous 2:29 PM  

Liked the puzzle, generally love everything Kevin Der does, but poly sci is the wrongest thing I've seen in a NYT puzzle. Surprised that got by the testers.

Bird 2:30 PM  

This has been a tough week. Vague cluing, obscure fill, naticks, etc. I agree with Rex on the final theme answer and INCHELSEA, though not a phrase, would work for me. Don’t understand why Rex says 21A and 28A are not coherent phrases, but no mention of 17A. They seem the same to me.

YAH is derisive? YAH is yes is Fargo: Marge Gunderson: Say, Lou, didya hear the one about the guy who couldn't afford personalized plates, so he went and changed his name to J3L2404?
Lou: YAH, that's a good one.

PABST is not a brewing giant anymore. I had Coors. When that didn’t work I tried to think of companies that brew tea – none were 5 letters.

Only other writeovers were a-one then apex for ACME and deal for SALE. Oh, and of course eYETEST.

Never heard of HOOTS as a fruit, but got it from crosses. What the hell is a HOOT? Nevermind, thanks DK.

If ESTONIA is the answer, then shouldn’t it be clued as south of Finland?

@Jesser – My girlfriend (now wife) went on a similar trip back in 1995. I proposed to her after the Captain’s Dinner under a moonlit sky with a billion stars overhead. We stopped at Cozumel, Mexico; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Laberdee, Haiti and Grand Caymen. It was a wonderful trip. We’ve also been to Key West twice where the sunsets are a party. Bon voyage!

Deb 2:36 PM  

Hand up in annoyance at POLY SCI and YAH. SAMOS crossing ESOS was pretty annoying, too; I don't mind common foreign words making it into a puzzle, but ESOS doesn't qualify, and particularly not when it's crossing what should have been SAMOa. Hmph.

CELTIC SEA definitely struck a sour note, but only because I've been a regular reader here long enough to know it was a foul.

"And, of course, these days the class warfare rhetoric from the White House divides us on financial terms, too."

Oh, puh-leeeease, Evil Doug. It's the TALKING about it that causes the divide, not the fact of it? Un-friggin-believable.

Nuff said about that; this is NOT the forum. But that comment annoyed me a helluva lot more than anything in this puzzle.

To end on a positive note: C. Eutsler's explanation of PALSY on Rex's FB page was "First 3 letters are the word, next two letters "in the style of"?" I was impressed at how succinctly he managed to explain it without giving it away. I couldn't have done it.

Loren Muse Smith 2:46 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren Muse Smith 2:47 PM  

@Evil – I've always been drawn to people from other cultures; I spent my undergrad days chasing around Rotary Scholars from Europe and was always bringing home people from all over the world. (Dad once asked why I couldn’t find a nice American Methodist guy.) I do take note, though, when someone from another country sues a school district because the cafeteria doesn’t serve food that suits her daughter’s ethnic diet or when I have the option to oprima el numero dos para continuar en español. I repeat, I just notice. I'm not sure where I come down on that. I have to say, though, overall, I delight in people from other countries and think America is all the richer for having such diverse population. If there’s a guy in a shiny white pantsuit (clearly foreign) at a cocktail party, I’m, well, the whole duck on a Junebug thing. You’re right - we’ll probably never be a melting pot, and I’m glad. I like turbans.

As to my roots, well my aunt Maryon enthusiastically did geneology and had us traced back to George Washington. I boasted about this for years only learn recently that whenever she couldn’t find out a piece of information, she consulted the Ouija Board.

Lewis 2:54 PM  


Maybe the Melting Pot wasn't so ideal. After all there was much discrimination against many of the cultures that weren't the norm, that is, white and Christian. Maybe these subgroups felt the need to express what you call "honor one's past" and have it exist instead of disappearing, subsumed into the norm. Maybe we are in a period of transition, heading toward a place where one's culture is celebrated and the collection of all these cultures -- America -- is honored and treasured as a prized place to live. A place superior to the Melting Pot.

If so, and I'd like to believe it is, then you are right, we may never experience the Melting Pot again. But maybe that's a good thing.

Bird 2:54 PM  

@Evil - my mother was born and raised in Danmark, but moved the US when she met my father who was stationed at the embassy in Copenhagen. She worked very hard to improve her English and eventually became a citizen in 1976. My mother-in-law is from Genoa. She also worked very hard and became a US citizen.

They are both disgusted at immigrants who are too lazy to learn English or otherwise "assimilate".

Amazing what happens in a generation.

Sorry @Deb for adding to the POLISCI talk. This is not the place so I will stop now.

Anonymous 3:25 PM  

The only thing missing from this blog is audio. Then Rex could play Windmills of Your Mind while Deba nd Doug are playing chess....


evil doug 3:33 PM  


"If there’s a guy in a shiny white pantsuit (clearly foreign) at a cocktail party, I’m, well, the whole duck on a Junebug thing."

Next time I'm at your party I'll wear a kilt, a beret, lederhosen, Irish dancing clogs and chain mail adorned with King Richard's coat of arms. Also a Nehru jacket just to be sure you see me....


Anonymous 3:40 PM  

@evil - what a sight that would be. rofl.

Two Ponies 3:43 PM  

Re: the Samoa/Samos mix-up. With a name like Epicurus I think the South Pacific is out of the running.

@ jesser Bon Voyage!

Loren Muse Smith 3:58 PM  

@Evil - I almost spit my seltzer on my laptop! I'm learning not to read this blog with liquid in my mouth. You're in excellent company; the last time I almost spit out my drink was listening to David Sedaris sing "Away in a Manger" in the style of Billie Holiday

You Junebug, you.

quilter1 4:11 PM  

My husband is from Latvia via a displaced persons camp. My daughter-in-law is one of two of ten siblings who survived Pol Pot in Cambodia. I first heard the U.S. (there are several Americas) described as a salad bowl by a Vietnamese. My own ancestors just stepped off the boat and kept on going--no questions asked. IMHO, everyone is welcome.

sanfranman59 4:12 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Thu 19:35, 18:57, 1.03, 60%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 10:16, 9:16, 1.11, 74%, Medium-Challenging

Anonymous 5:20 PM  

Loved the answer sanka - recalled my now 84 year old father drinking it in my childhood. Is it still around?

Anonymous 5:21 PM  

America never was a melting pot, otherwise you wouldd all be fluent in Cherokee or Algonquin.

Uncle Sam 5:26 PM  

This is the greatest country in the world and ALL are welcome as long as you behave yourself and learn English. Others (freeloaders, illegals, troublemakers) can go elsewhere.

Deb 5:31 PM  

@Anonymous/JFC: I hereby dub thee Jiminy F-ing Cricket, by dint of the fact that you seem to be enamored of your own repetetive chirping.

chefbea 5:32 PM  

@Bird lol re:license plate!!!

Anonymous 7:04 PM  

@Deb: Harsh. Also F-ing incomprehensible.

not JFC by the way

fergus 7:35 PM  

How about PROLAPSE A for a nine-letter word hiding the seventh sea? Clued as Hester Prynne withering unto herself?

Anonymous 7:56 PM  

Thank you, @Anon at 7:04.

@Deb - Oh, puh-leeeease....


Gloria Vanderbilt 8:13 PM  

There is an unwritten rule here of limiting one's self to three posts.
Thank you.

I skip M-W 9:35 PM  

@ Gloria V - are you sure you're not Amy V?
Been wracking my brain to come up with alternative to Celtic Sea. Best so far: beginning of a phrase from a very polite literary agent to possible submitters who may want their mss back.

As to the salad vs. pot debate, I'm not sure we've ever been well molten. About 40 years ago, I was waiting in line in Manhattan to renew my passport, when the people with the 70ish man ahead of me explained to the clerk that he (the man) had been born in Brooklyn but had never left the country before and spoke only Italian.

fergus 10:19 PM  

All I got was the captcha and none of my vituperation.

Anonymous 10:52 PM  

How is "legion," "host?"

Anonymous 11:14 PM  

PALSY was shaky. HOOTS had me hollering. Otherwise fun.- John

rosebud 10:17 AM  

Syndication-land here.

Tough puzzle. D/E-YETEST was a killer. A lot of tough proper nouns through here.

Anonymous 11:49 AM  

Anonymous said...
How is "legion," "host?"

By definition.

connie in seattle 1:29 PM  

This was a tough one but DNG. I missed the "sea" progression and thought it very clever.
I spoke to the owner of Blue Highway game shop on Queen Anne and suggested a xword puzzle night. I think the way it could work is he prints out a difficult puzzle and puzzlers pay $5-10 per person (or group) for a copy of it. First to solve correctly splits the pot with the store. BYOB. Will post here if this idea comes to fruition.

Lola505 1:33 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle and didn't find it too difficult for a Thursday. I didn't *get* the theme before reading Rex's take, but easily finished with no errors.

I have read most of Jean Auel's "Clan of the Cave Bear" book series and enjoyed "Land of Painted Caves" as well. So much so that I also watched the documentary, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" (Netflix) which cave in France was Auel's inspiration for this novel.

Solving in Seattle 2:02 PM  

I join the HOST who had trouble with eYETEST. Is there such a person as "UNASKEe"? I am also part of the legion who had issue with the bogus CELTICSEA. Other than that, I sailed THRU Mr. Der's puzzle and gave it my ROYALSEAL of approval.

DMGrandma 4:24 PM  

Thanks for help with the prime numbers thing yesterday. Today's puzzle went easier-but must confess to spelling those cheese things with an s where the z belonged, so not quite a successful solve. On to tomorrow.
One of my captchas is "suctsoff" Should think it ought to be bleeped, or have times changed that much?

Anonymous 5:29 PM  

I'm with you Evil D 100% of the way. Diversification and "poly" nationalities are good things. Just don't settle in the US and attempt to change any laws or customs to accomodate or imitate those you left behind. Remember the old saying, When in Rome......?

Dirigonzo 6:11 PM  

I had easy street at 14a for way too long so that corner took a while to sort out, but I eventually got THRU it. Otherwise, sailing the seven seas is always going to make me a happy man. Oh YAH, my one and only degree (from a very long time ago) is in Political Science, so you know how I feel about 39d.

@Deb posted here as a syndi-solver from the inception of the blog until she moved up to prime time a couple of months ago, and today she did us proud by mixing it up with @Evil Doug himself! You go, girl!

Spacecraft 7:50 PM  

I ballked at even coming here today because I was afraid it would be rated "easy," or some such. Medium is far enough from my experience which was straight-out challenging. I stared this baby down for most of the day (off-and-on, of course; I DO have a life) and despaired of ever finishing sans help. But, I did manage, no thanks to brutal Saturday-style cluing. Bygone flyers? I'm thinking extinct birds. Sellout? I'm thinking a full arena.

Now let's take "government study, briefly." That would be political science, shortened to POLISCI, never POLYSCI. That was a flat-out mistake, Kevin, admit it! Perhaps you meant the study of polymers, or polygamy. RETEAM is a word, I am dismayed to discover, but surely a bad one. And ELEMS? Let me say, in the words of an old friend, Mr. Charles Brown:


Balanced against these outrages is the extra cleverness of having the SEA move like a wave through the theme answers (Totally unnoticed by me till OFL pointed it out)--and the extra EXTRA cleverness of MIDSEASON showing up in the MIDdle of the progression (and of the puzzle!). Plus, of course, the satisfaction of a tough solve.

Dirigonzo 8:20 PM  

@Solving in Seattle - re your last post yesterday, thanks for stopping by my blog - I'm glad you enjoyed my musings. I think Maine is a special place to live and I'm glad you enjoyed your time here.

@DMGrandma - Sadly, I think times have changed that much (but I suspect you really knew that).

There are several Canadian syndi-solvers that lurk around here and come in to comment from time to time - I wonder where thay all are?

Blogger - PLEASE bring back email updates!

captcha: urong - maybe I am, but I'm entitled to my opinion anyway.

Waxy in Montreal 9:23 PM  

Ayuh @Diri - most Canadian solvers are probably stuck on CHEEZIT, uncommon in tundraland. Had CHEESIE which wouldn't allow DEPOT to emerge, especially with the egregious POLYSCI to contend with. But, as @Evan and others pointed out, having the seven "sea" entries begin in a square progressing from one through seven through the theme answers was a certainly a constructional tour de force. Left me with a roseate glow...

Dirigonzo 10:19 PM  

@Waxy - You don't have Cheez-its, and yet you still call yourselves a civilized people? Unbelievable! Still nice of you to pop in, though - maybe some of your Pacific coast compatriots will weigh in on the Cheez-it cultural war later. Best regards.

I wonder if even @RP gets email updates anymore?

Joshua 10:52 PM  

So you need a nine-letter clue that ends with SEA, but not referring to a body of water?:

"Are You There, Vodka? It's ____"


Red Valerian 8:53 AM  

@Dirigonzo--Unbelievable, but true! No Cheezits on the Left Coast.

I imagine @RP doesn't get updates either.


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