Japanese flower-arranging art / WED 4-18-12 / Constellation with Stingray Nebula / Cuneiform discovery site / Subject of 1982 best seller on sexuality / Carnaby Street type of 60s

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Constructor: Steven Riley

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: SQUARE DANCE (38A: Hoedown activity ... or what each group of circled letters is?) — circles form squares at six different places in the grid. Each of these squares spells out a dance (when read clockwise, starting in the NW corner of each square)

Word of the Day: IKEBANA (59A: Japanese flower-arranging art) —
More than simply putting flowers in a container, ikebana is a disciplined art form in which nature and humanity are brought together. Contrary to the idea of floral arrangement as a collection of particolored or multicolored arrangement of blooms, ikebana often emphasizes other areas of the plant, such as its stems and leaves, and draws emphasis toward shapelineform. Though ikebana is a creative expression, it has certain rules governing its form. The artist's intention behind each arrangement is shown through a piece's color combinations, natural shapes, graceful lines, and the usually implied meaning of the arrangement. // Another aspect present in ikebana is its employment of minimalism. That is, an arrangement may consist of only a minimal number of blooms interspersed among stalks and leaves. The structure of a Japanese flower arrangement is based on a scalene triangle delineated by three main points, usually twigs, considered in some schools to symbolize heavenearth, and man and in others sunmoon, and earth. The container is a key element of the composition, and various styles of pottery may be used in their construction. (wikipedia) 
• • •

Well that was easy. The theme is a good one, though one that I'm stunned hasn't been done before. Knowing the theme didn't help me at any point, and I haven't heard of half these dances—or, rather, I haven't heard of the HABANERA, didn't know the BOOGALOO was a real thing, and thought FANDANGO was a card game when that square first came into view (probably thinking FARO). In fact, when I got KENO GAME (GAME is necessary?) (11D: Casino attraction with a "bubble"), I thought there was some kind of gambling theme happening. But honestly I didn't have much time to "think" because the answers were so darned easy to get. [Brubeck of jazz], really? Wow. [Gumbo need], four letters? Huh, I wonder... I will grant you that SAMANTHA EGGAR is an insane answer for any day of the week, and IKEBANA is exotic in a non-everyday kind of way, and IBAÑEZ is meaningless to me unless it's got a baseball clue (51D: Big guitar brand), so those answers spiced things up a little. But otherwise, it was just fill-in-the-blanks, easy as pie. Helps to be a constant solver, as usual, since stuff like AMARNA (2D: Cuneiform discovery site) and AZO and AMYL and GIA and INCA and ANTZ and ARA (52A: Constellation with the Stingray Nebula) even SUMAC just filled themselves in.

This puzzle's G-SPOT is easy to find (9D: Subject of a 1982 best seller on sexuality).

I only just now figured out that I had SAMANTHA / EGGAR (of whom I've never heard) confused with Nicole Eggert, who was on "Baywatch" and "Charles in Charge." I'm not sure which actress is more out-there as a crossword answer, but EGGAR's got the Academy Award nomination, so that probably makes her slightly more legitimate. That said. I can pick Nicole Eggert out of a line-up. Not so EGGAR.

  • 29A: Pitcher Maglie who was outdueled in Don Larsen's 1956 perfect game (SAL) — not sure how I know this. Maybe I don't. Maybe I just inferred it from the "S"; the only SAL I know from baseball is SAL Bando.
  • 43A: Carnaby Street type of the '60s (MOD) — Off the "D." Seemed reasonable. Probably wouldn't have gotten it so easily without the phrase "of the '60s."
  • 64A: ___ Ishii ("Kill Bill" character) (O-REN) — I love this movie, and I have rejected this answer from one of my own puzzles before, so ... not hard.

  • 66A: S.U.V. named for a lake (TAHOE) — where they do their squaredancing at the Tahoedown.
  • 61D: 17 of them are sung before "my gosh" in a 2010 #1 Usher hit (OHS) — Decidedly better than the cereal clue.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:36 AM  

&$!*?$ circles again?  This could get irritating.  Easy for me too except for the pretty obscure O'REN/IBANEZ cross which was not made easier by the equally obscure HABANERA dance/aria/pepper/rhythm...  Not as fond of this one as I was of Mon. & Tues.  Nuf said. 

Anonymous 12:47 AM  

The puzzle was okay. But, I do not understand "fang" at 17 across.

jae 12:53 AM  

@anon 12:47 -- A canine tooth on a cat is a FANG.

pk 12:54 AM  

@anon 12:47 - "fang" was one of the few things I actually got in the NW. It's a cat's tooth.

pk 1:00 AM  

@jae - echo.

Wish I had started from the bottom up, b/c the top was hell - at least the very far NW - DEICES for DEFOGS...GRRRS for GNARS - Is Gnar a real word???

Then when I got downstairs, it was all easy-peasy. I guess that's how Wednesday go.

Anonymous 1:36 AM  

Got stuck around amarna/eggar/ordains/gnars

The rest was very easy.

foodie 1:40 AM  

I thought the theme was cool and I got it righ off the bat, and it actually did help me in a few places. The fill, to me, was heterogenous, Monday easy in some spots and verging on the Naticky in others e,g IBANEZ crossing OREN. On the other hand, SAMANTHA EGGAR was a gimme. That movie was weird and stuck with me.

The Cuneiform stuff is from Syria and the sites I know best competed with this answer... Ugarit, for example, got in the way of AMARNA.

I love IKEBANA. Blows me away. Someday, maybe when I'm 90, I'll take a class in it. A friend of mine has revealed to me his secret of happiness in old age:Do stuff you've always longed to do where there is a LOT of room for improvement, rather than struggle to hold on to skills you had that are sure to wane with age. So, I've got a bucket list along these lines, and IKEBANA is at the very top...

BTW, this capcha business is starting to creep me out. It's seeping into my subconscious. I met a guy the other day and he was so perfect in a fake sort of way, I found myself thinking : " please prove you're not a robot"..

amarna char-on malemutts 1:42 AM  

Fantastic idea, tho I too had not really heard of HABANERA...
Actually I didn't know a ton of s(*&
but got thru crosses and loved all the Scrabbly-ness.

4 Zs is nothing to sneeze at, along with 2 Ks, a Q...but no JX to make pangram panners happy!

I knew SAMANTHA EGGAR as "The Collector" is in my top 10 books of all times and I give it as a present once a year, so was aware of the film, tho I feel like I've never seen it...

I didn't know O-REN (shout out to Loren's papa! Too bad he's only up to Tuesdays!) SAL, AMARNA (with AMANA!), IBANEZ (Sports or musical) but all referable. (Is that a word?)

Loved GSPOT, RECTIFY, CHUNG, MITZI, ZOE, BEAU, IKEBANA and the whole theme.
Loving this week...what if every puzzle every day is good!!!???!!!

Martin 3:18 AM  


Ikebana is more wonderful than you can imagine, and don't wait. Like most Asian disciplines, you don't learn it -- you live it. Or at least you let it affect your life. In my school (the most traditional and celebrating its 550th anniversary this year) there are certain styles you aren't taught until about ten years of study (at the lesson-every-week-or-two pace). But don't let that deter you. There's no wrong time to start. After 30 years, I'm still amazed at the insights every lesson brings.

BTW, I also learned a lot about Japanese cuisine from ikebana. It's amazing how much vocabulary the two arts share, for instance.

chefwen 3:24 AM  

@loren muse smith - You must get your dad to try this one, if only for 64A. He's the only reason I was able to finish. Had no idea of the guitar brand and slapped down the N in O REN because of his name. IBANEZ and IKEBANA were unknown to me and had to be obtained by crosses.

So far, I am rating this weeks puzzles A+. Keep them coming!

Clark 6:24 AM  

Here's a Habañera that I bet you all know. (There's an ad at the beginning that I was able to click through.) It's worth it to hear Callas.

Doris 6:49 AM  

I used to make the same mistake myself as an editor of musical subject who has only a small working knowledge of Spanish: It's habanera, no ñ, And, yes, it's best known for Carmen's entrance aria in the opera, though the word itself does not appear in the libretto. After all, it takes place in Seville, Spain, not in Cuba.
Pedantically yours (but it's so much fun)!

Loren Muse Smith 7:17 AM  

Well, I thought I had a DNF with GNARS, knowing full well that was no word (I’m with you there, @pk). (@Rex – the theme did help me, because that’s where that “n” came from.) Turns out I did indeed have a DNF, but only because I had a HiHO/EUROPiP cross. What the heck is a “europip?” Some jerko schmerko from Brussels??

@Martin – I was so happy for you when I filled IKEBANA!! Likewise, Dad, at OREN!

@Anon 1:36am – exactly the same trouble in the NW.

@Acme – exactly the same thoughts on the Z’s, K’s, Q, but no J or X.

Terrific theme and fill, but almost as (potentially) Naticky as scrabbly with the enormous number of proper names. I’ve never seen AZO, ARMANA, AFYL, IBANEZ, EGGARS (sorry). . . Loved TO BOOT, RECTIFY, RAZZ, IKEBANA and that FANG, SNARL, and GNARS (resignedly) were in the same puzzle.

Just to weigh in again even though it hasn’t come up yet– WADE IN totally means “attack energetically” in my dialect.

dk 7:33 AM  

@foodie, A guy that is perfect in every way is a robot. At least that is what the voices from my toaster tell me… along with resistance is futile of course.

Another fine puzzle that leaves me cold. Sigh. Must be a side effect of the party I went to with the Knights of Walpurgi.

Just bought a stove so brands like AMANA are top of mind. And, as I recall when IBANEZ guitars hit the scene some who actually knew how to play found the sound cold, unlike the allegedly warm tones from a Martin. The things you remember.

🎸🎸🎸 (3 Guitars) I am going to rise above my funk and give this puzzle its due.

Participated in an organizational culture building session yesterday where I learned about the mood elevator. Apparently, when you are feeling low you just have to punch a button to get to a higher floor… I wasted 10 years of my life in school and 3 years residency and interning when all I really had to do was tell my clients to take an elevator ride.

Who'd a thunk it.

Rudy 7:53 AM  

This was a nice puzzle with my favorite actress when I was a teenager: Samantha Eggar. Before there was Julie Christie, Jane Fonda, there was.. her.

What a preponderance of Z'z, K's. And some clever cluing for 66a TAHOE and 24 a GNARS. I bet Connie CHUNG never made such a grand entrance as this. All in all great puzzle and a scrumptious week.. so far

John V 8:01 AM  

Not easy; challenging. Got it, but, save for the theme no fun whatsoever. Thought the NW was world class ugly, esp AMARNA (captcha: prove you're not Maleska.) I know IBANEZ from baseball but no connection to guitars. SE crossing two proper names, IBANEZ/OREN, tossing in IKEBANA TO BOOT? Really? Tilt.

So for my money, inventive theme, did NOT like the fill. GNAR.

joho 8:02 AM  

I share the good reviews with those who think this is the third great puzzle in a row this week. I am really looking forward to what's in store for tomorrow. I think Will is on a roll!

I thought a HABANERA was a type of chili pepper.

Misspelled EGGeR so ORDAINS was slow in coming but did.

Really fun theme executed extremely well, thank you, Steven Riley!

John V 8:04 AM  

Also, do not find that 23D passes the breakfast test. Sure its in the language but out of place in the NYT puzzle, IMHO.

Anonymous 8:22 AM  

SAMANTHA EGGAR: top redhead! Any puzzle with her is sterling. 41 down "Be prepared" also the title of Tom Lehrer song: "Don't solicit for your sister. That's not nice, unless you get a good percentage of her price."

Sue McC 8:25 AM  

Like pk, I wish I had started from the bottom. I thought it was moderate, not easy. I get what John V is saying about 23D, but have to admit it brought a chuckle. Didn't care for the theme, but I imagine this took some doing to work out those squares, so props to Mr Riley.

evil doug 8:26 AM  

"But otherwise, it was just fill-in-the-blanks, easy as pie. Helps to be a constant solver, as usual, since stuff like AMARNA (2D: Cuneiform discovery site) and AZO and AMYL and GIA and INCA and ANTZ and ARA (52A: Constellation with the Stingray Nebula) even SUMAC just filled themselves in."

Yikes, Michael. If those are the ones that were easy, I'd hate to see the hard ones....

GEORGE: Well, Jerry, I been thinkin'. I've gotten as far as I can go with George Costanza.

JERRY: Is this the suicide talk or the nickname talk?

GEORGE: The nickname. George. What is that? It's nothing. It's got no snap, no zip. I need a nickname that makes people light up.

JERRY: You mean like...Liza!

GEORGE: But I was thinking...T-bone.

JERRY: But there's no "t" in your name. What about G-bone?

GEORGE: There's no G-bone.

JERRY: There's a g-spot.

GEORGE: That's a myth!
No no no no no no no no no
No no no no no no no no
No no no no no no no no
No no no no no

Nobody can do
The shing-a-ling
Like I do

Nobody can do
the skate
Like I do

Nobody can do
The boogaloo
Like I do

Nobody can do
the philly
Like I do

The Human Beinz: Nobody But Me
We skipped the light fandango
turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
but the crowd called out for more

The room was humming harder
as the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
the waiter brought a tray

Procol Harem: Whiter Shade of Pale


orangeblossomspecial 8:32 AM  

SAL Maglie appeared on What's My Line when Phil Rizzuto was a panelist. According to the marginalia, he appeared the night prior to losing to Don Larsen's perfect game.

MITZI Gaynor was a singer / dancer of the 40s, 50s and 60s.

Kevin 8:40 AM  

Surprised there hasn't been much discussion of WADED IN. To me, wading is the opposite of diving. "Attacked energetically" would be DOVE IN, not WADED IN. I would have had a much easier time if the clue had been "Approached cautiously."

Anonymous 8:40 AM  

@Rex, I konw you think I never read your blog but I always do, sometimes more closely than others. I suggest you add a "t" after "though" before "FANDANGO" to complete your thought (that's a pun, son).

Otherwise, I like your comments today, though I have heard of SAMANTHA....


Wood 9:05 AM  

Easy except the NW and OREN/IBANEZ cross. Never heard of EGGAR or AMARNA, but FANDANGO helped me see it was DEFOGS, not DEiceS. That cracked it open but I still had to have my app clear 2 wrong letters.

jberg 9:10 AM  

@Kevin and others - you don't WADE IN to the water, you wade in to a battle, swinging your sword and hoping you don't go under.

AMARNA was totally a guess for me, until I got the theme and therefore FANDANGO. Even then, GNARS/EGGAR was pretty much a guess, though the latter sounded vaguely like I might hae heard it once. And I never saw OREN, but got it from the crosses.

I did appreciate all those OLAFS at 32A; "Five ambiguously spelled Norse kings" would have been even better.

As for IKEBANA, I guess you know it or you don't; you should, though, it's wonderful stuff. Not so wonderful: the clue for 30A.

"Prove you're not a robot" should go viral - almost as good as "all your base are belong to us."

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

I, for one, have never been GNARed at by a dog.

GILL I. 9:28 AM  

When I saw the circles again, I look everywhere for a note. No note but lots of fun.
I've heard of all the dances but the MACARENA makes me want to eat SUMAC. My favorite of course is HABANERA which means from Havana. Bizet's Carmen popularized the aria but not so much the dance which is more Sevillano.
@joho HABANER(O)'s = "Oh crikey, that's hot."
Nice hello to Mr. OREN, fun puzzle with some great words and best of all, there was no note to fool me.

chefbea 9:30 AM  

Loved the puzzle!! Knew all the dances. Good shout out to Oren.

@Acme did you notice the ZZ (double z again)

I have an Ikabana bowl that I love. Sits in the kitchen with flowers in the center and fruit around them.

jackj 9:31 AM  

Overall, this seems to be one confused puppy, all in the effort to preserve “the theme”, the blessed “theme”. The mix of a few fresh answers, an overdose of crosswordese and obscurities which a kindergarten teacher would damn as “not playing well with others”, make for a very awkward solve, indeed.

How many riffs of AMANA and its cousins, AMArNA and sAMANthA should we allow to accommodate “the theme”? How many AZO’s, ZOE’s, and MITZI’s before one hollers “Bingo”? Do we BOO the BSA if the OHS don’t seem MOD and the AMYL poppers are too pooped to pop? Does the dreck known as THA bring anything to the game beyond giving us half the HORA?

It may be a clever “theme” but we are reminded once again that puzzles don’t succeed on theme alone and for this one, the sooner it is a memory, the better. (Kudos though for the shout-out to OREN (Muse), even if he is hidden in a clue for an obscure character named “Ishii”).

Pete 9:36 AM  

@Evil - You've finally answered a question that's been bugging me for quite a while. That is, where your providing context to clues/answers by finding scenes from Seinfeld a sardonic counterpoint to @The Bard's doing the same with scenes from Shakespeare, tacitly ridiculing Shakespeare worship or not?

Tita 9:40 AM  

Too many pop names meant DNF...

Liked BOO and Bronx Cheer in same puzzle, and HOHO TOBOOT!
Like clue for ORDAINS, FANG, VANDAL.

I had to guess to get my smiling Will icon.
Like Rex, the theme didn't help - where the fill was hard for me coincided with dances I didn't know (HABANERA and BOOGALOO). Thanks to those who provided context for those!

There's "WADEDIN" again clued as the opposite of what I think it means - if you are unsure, timid, hesitant, you wade in, otherwise, you DIVE IN. (Except for @Loren @ jberg!)

@Oren - congratulations on making the NYT puzzle!!!!!!

@Martin - fascinating! I have a friend who has been doing Bonsai for years
- I envy him his patience in mastering such a long-term art. Ikebana has a much more immediate "reward". Are there parallels between the two?

@Clark - thanks for that link.

@Loren - funny how Belgium is the New Jersey of Europe, deriding joke-wise...

Puzzle full of square dances left me "ephorac" (capcha).

mac 9:54 AM  

Easy except for Amarna and oren/ibanez, but I guessed lucky and didn't lose time over it.

Ikebana is beautiful and wonderful to do.

Beautiful day on the Alster.

OISK 9:55 AM  

While I agree with those who found too much "pop", and I don't like the contrived clue for "ohs" involving some group(?) called Usher - completely unfamiliar to me, and also never heard of a boy band called "Hanson", nor a character named Oren Ishii, nor a brand of guitar called "Ibanez..." I really enjoyed this puzzle, largely because of the theme. All of the dances were easy for me to get, and gave me squares I could have missed otherwise. (Fandango giving me Amarna and Gnars, for example) Sal Maglie was a hated pitcher for the NY Giants who pitched against Carl Erkine of my beloved Bums in the first game I ever saw live. Oisk won that one. However, Maglie was traded to the Dodgers in 1956, and helped them reach the World Series that year, even pitching a no-hitter. Knew Samantha and Mitzi immediately, which helped make this one pretty easy for me. But it was the theme that I found really delightful in this one.

efrex 10:11 AM  

If you must have circles, then you should at least use 'em somewhat creatively, and I thought this one did. Violently dislike GNARS, though, especially crossing the unknown (to me) Ms. EGGAR. Some great cluing on FANG, ORDAINS, and MUTTS, and any puzzle which references both DAVE Brubeck and Spike Jones TOBOOT is gaining major points with me. A bit heavy on the obscure-ish proper nouns, but otherwise a fun (and pretty easy) solve. Thanks, Mr. Riley!

quilter1 10:26 AM  

I think one must be over a certain age to know SAMANTHA EGGAR, so lovely. MITZI is still singing and dancing and she looks good. Loved the FANG clue, listen to Brubeck all the time. Yes this was easy for constant solvers, but I, too, felt annoyed at seeing circles once again. It is a cute idea, well done. But enough already.

Mel Ott 10:35 AM  

Guessed right on the triple Natick at IKEBANA/OREN/IBANEZ/HABANERA.

SAL Maglie was a fine pitcher with a great curveball. Known as 'SAL the Barber', supposedly because of the close shaves he gave the hitters.

Martin 10:53 AM  

There are parallels between all Japanese arts. Many of the principles of Japanese gardening, bonsai, ikebana and even stone appreciation (suiseki) overlap, and they with the tea ceremony, cuisine and the design of ceramics. It's impossible to study any one of them and not absorb some of the Japanese approach to life. I don't want to romanticize it -- they can be nuts at times like anyone else -- but it's a very nice complement to our experiential programming. Highly recommended.

BTW, if you consider the arc of your learning ikebana (called kado, the "way of flowers," akin to judo or kendo) the gratification isn't as quick as you think compared with training a bonsai.

KRMunson 10:53 AM  

I was looking forward to @Evil Doug's post about 9 Down - c'mon!

KRMunson 10:58 AM  

That said, no love for this puzzle. Too much esoteric/offbeat fill (even for a crossword puzzle). Emarna, Ibanez, Oren - if you don't know these right away you have to get them from crosses or else you are doomed. Even Antz had me - I thought it was ANTS and had no way to check it because I didn't know IBANEZ.

Masked and Anonymo7Us 11:05 AM  

'Nother good one. thumbUp. Would normally go 2 Up, but SE corner was too hard. Only HABANERA (which I hadn't realized was in my neuro-circuitry at all) saved my bacon, down there.

Can't believe that Mr. Riley kept those square circles (!?) symmetric. And then throws in up-down stacks of 6, just because. Gnarly. Nice constructin', dude.

Like how 31 has been pretty happy all week. All these extra U's must be calming him down.

DigitalDan 11:19 AM  

Samantha Eggar in "The Collector" is a groundbreaking, if disturbing, film.

HabaÑera is, among other things, a great aria from "Carmen." There's more to great literature than books?

r.alphbunker 11:20 AM  

How to make an educated guess for the IKEBANA/IBANEZ/OREN disaster?

The only reasonable one was IKEBANi because origami and sushi end in "i". The letter after ORE probably was a consonent so that narrowed it down to 21 letters.

I googled.

JaxInL.A. 11:36 AM  

I could tell right away that this was a debut, as the cluing felt very fresh and different. I loved it, even with the blemishes noted by Rex and others. Thanks to Orange's review of this puzzle at Crossword Fiend, I read this very cool interview with today's constructor.

Sorry to to be a distraction, but thanks very much for your good thoughts last week. Life goes on, even when that seems a shocking new idea. Thank heaven for the respite in a crossword puzzle.

Martin 11:37 AM  

There is no tilde in La Habana, habanera or habanero.

Anonymous 11:38 AM  

"Carmen" the opera was based on "Carmen", the novella by Merimee.
"The Collector", the movie was based on "The Collector" the novel by John Fowles.

Books are the source of all.

edwords 11:48 AM  

Two points: 1) Surprised that Rex wasn't familiar with Sal "The Barber" Maglie, who was a standout pitcher in his day (nickname from his propensity to brush back hitters with a "close shave" pitch) and 2) Kill Bill, Rex? Really? I'm pretty sure that is the single worst movie ever made. To qualify for that title, a film can't just be bad, it's gotta be bad while trying to be good, a la Heaven's Gate. Anyway, I hated, hated, hated that movie -- and I love Q Tarantino. Vomitsville.

foodie 11:50 AM  

@Martin, thank you for the encouragement! Wow, it's new perspective on my IKEBANA plan! I will definitely ponder it.

When I visited Japan the first time, 30 years ago, I was struck by a sense of unity that seemed to permeate the culture. I could not put my finger on it, but whether you're looking at architecture, the way they support the trees, build fences, serve food, arrange flowers, it felt unmistakable, like nothing else I'd ever seen. In some ways I felt way more foreign than I did in China, for example, because there was this integrated attitude that I could sense but was not really grasping.

I live in a house that has some echoes of Japanese architecture, with a tokonoma that's crying for such arrangements. But I think one reason I originally put off learning it (aside from having no time) was that part of me resists the idea of rules --I grew up with enough of those to last a few lifetimes. But also because they seemed to collide with my idea of creativity. But I've come to understand that they are not mutually exclusive. So, may be you just gave me the activation energy to go there! Thanks!

David 11:55 AM  

Another fine puzzle, this makes 3 for 3 this week.

The dances didn't help me solve the puzzle, but I'm familiar with FANDANGO as a cool post-grad coming-of-age flick featuring a young Kevin Costner, road-tripping with a bunch of fellow fun lovers. Also know BOOGALOO from XM Radio, which often plays Ringo Starr's Back Off Boogaloo.

Also knew SAMANTHA EGGAR from about 2 crosses, and I have no idea why. I just wikied her, and although her face was very familiar, I am UNfamiliar with everything she has ever done.

Mighty Nisden 12:02 PM  

@foodie - It would be nice to walk up to someone and ask to prove they are not a robot. I may do that in some meeting sometime in the future if the timing is just right. Write down some foolish word and ask them to say it out loud.

NW and SE were too brutal for me. Hand up for never hearing GNARS before. Had DEiceS before finally getting DEFOGS.

JenCT 12:25 PM  

@foodie 1:40: LOL on the captcha experience, and that's great advice you were given - I'm going to try to remember that.

@evil 8:26: great quotes!

IBANEZ a gimme for me; musicians in my family mean lots of music catalogs around all the time.

I loved "You suck!"/BOO - very much in the language.

Lewis 1:45 PM  

Never heard of ikebana, but now after reading comments am intrigued, and will check it out.

There was enough in my wheelhouse to give this puzzle an easy feel for Wednesday, knowing IBANEZ and SAMANTHA EGGAR greatly helped. Impressive debut, Steven!

Boni 2:11 PM  

@Martin - a blast from the past..."nice vase"; one of my favorite stories.

oren muse 2:24 PM  

I’m honored by my recognition in today’s puzzle!

@Foodie – right on regarding your remarks on aging and IKEBANA. Although I’m still in my eighties, crosswords are still at the top of my list, and the fact that I’m trying the Times ones by myself is akin to starting something new later on in life. Maybe finishing a Saturday will be on my bucket list.

@chefwen – I DID try today’s and was pleased I was able to finish most of it.

Upon checking the answers, I saw I had a mistake and had “mules” crossing with “hunson, “ which fit fine for me. Growing up in the Louis Armstrong/Al Hirt era, HANSON is unfamiliar.

The dance theme hit home with me. You all may not know, but I’m actually an expert at all six dances, and the HULA is my specialty. I have to admit, I look good in a grass skirt.

By far my best Wednesday. I still try to do it every day. I just never get very far and don’t have a comment. Well – I had one today – a first for me on a Wednesday!

retired_chemist 2:38 PM  

Count me among those who remember SAL Maglie with great respect.

@ r.alph - the transliteration of the Japanese word for flower is hana. P, H, and B are phonetically related, as are the kana, or phonetic characters, for the three letters. The choice in Japanesse speech depends on the sound preceding, and consequently so does the transliteration. HANA => BANA makes perfect sense to a Japanese, so if it deals with a flower, BANA is the ending, not BANI.

Fun puzzle for this old-timer. Thanks, Mr. Riley.

IMDb 2:43 PM  

The Collector (1965)

Freddie, a socially withdrawn bank clerk and butterfly collector, decides to expand to collecting human specimens. That's where art student Miranda Grey comes in. Miranda matches wits with Freddie the icy psychopath.

IMDb 2:45 PM  

Fandango (1985)

It's 1971 at the University of Texas, Austin. College buddies, facing graduation, marriage, and the draft, skip out of their own graduation party and head to the Mexican border for some adventure, a buried secret, and one last go-around at "the privileges of youth".

Bird 2:48 PM  

Started off OK with 5A, but spelled 10A with a C so that corner was a total mess. I should have remembered DAVE Brubeck from previous puzzles, but did not. For 1D I was thinking outside surface of the windshield – WIPERS, SWIPES, SCRAPES – but the G in GRRRS (GNARS!) was no help. Makes a father of? ORDAINS. Duh! Cuneiform? Seen it a few times and still no idea. I ended up with a blank NW corner and a partial NE corner. Otherwise the puzzle was fun and a decent challenge.

Fav clue/answer was 9D.

Never heard of IBANEZ guitars. I have heard of Gibson (God bless Les Paul), Fender and Rickenbacker. And as a Yankee I enjoyed it when Raúl IBAÑEZ hit that monster home run off Jason Isringhausen of the Anaheim Angels (sorry, but I refuse to say LA).

Hand up for WADING IN slowly, but this an old discussion.

Happy Humpday!

Sparky 2:48 PM  

Pretty much sailed through this: DAVE, CHUNG, OKRA. Wowzer. Guess just in my store of minutiae. Plus a lot of while not exactly crosswordese could be called seen it before: INCA, CSI, OLAFs, OPTS, ANTZ fr'nstance. Didn't know HABANERA is a dance, just an aria. Consider MACARENA a game, not a dance but okay, okay. Filled the boxes.

Tickled with shout out to OREN.
@Lauren, Tita and Kevin: we had a lengthy discussion re WADE IN some time back. To me the expresion is "waded in without thinking' which implies speed rather than caution. Different strokes for different folks.

acme 2:58 PM  

Re: "The COllector"...Despite Samantha Eggar's charms, may I recommend the book which has a twist half way thru that no film experience could match...well, maybe Rashomon.

and that description of "Fandango"...you swap out "Colombia" for "Mexico" and it sounds like the secret service scandal du jour.

Anonymous 2:58 PM  

Delighted to see "You suck!" as a clue in the puzzle. It's about time we as a society stopped treating this as profanity.

Anonymous 3:06 PM  

Never heard of SAMANTHA EGGAR?
What a babe!
Between her and MITZI Gaynor's figure, this puzzle can get you daydreaming.....

quilter1 3:12 PM  

Gosh, I think it was twenty years ago that Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) said "that sucks" in an interview and got reamed by media. He then went on to make it worse by explaining that the full saying is "that sucks the hind tittie" referring to hogs and little piggies not getting their share of milk. His reasoning, "that sucks" is more demure than the full phrase.

sanfranman59 3:31 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)

Wed 10:45, 11:48, 0.91, 31%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:55, 5:52, 1.01, 56%, Medium

IMDb 3:37 PM  

@acme 2:58 - In total agreement on books vs. movies. It is the rare case where the movie does the book justice.

I was just reading in today's NYT about that party in Columbia. What will Mr. President do?

From Arthur (1981) . . .

Arthur [In the restaraunt with his female guest]: You're a hooker? Jesus, I forgot! I just thought I was doing GREAT with you!

long suffering mets fan 3:38 PM  

yes @KRMunson, we all anxiously await evil doug's (aka the bard of Seinfeld) musings when there's something blue on the board -- alas, not to be today

Lots of garbage fill -- AMARNA, GNARS (@Loren, I'm with you -- is it really a word?), IKEBANA, CHARON, O-REN Meh, Meh, Meh ADA ARA AZO AMYL Acrap

Thought 17A could have been clued as "Phyllis Diller's husband"

Bird 3:39 PM  

@quilter1 - from Arthur (981) . . .

Arthur: Have you ever been on a yacht?
Linda: No, is it wonderful?
Arthur: It doesn't suck.

art teacher 4:03 PM  

Not a big fan of this puzzle, for all the stated reasons... even if it was clever and I could appreciate the work.

Agree that waded in clues something purposeful or measured not energetic - but thanks @jberg for another reading!

3D vandal for graffiti "artist" makes me gnar, even with the "perhaps" added to take away the sting. The noun is wrong, it should be graffiti tagger.
Quick reference: type "graffiti tags" into Google images. Then type in "graffiti art." Tagging is almost always vandalism, art is often not. It just confuses the genre not to use the right language.

"Kilroy wuz here" with the little man peeking over the fence is a tag. Tags are signatures used to mark territory (or sign a work, an identity thing), which is the lowest form of graffiti writing in terms of talent and is also used by gangs. Taggers don't have the ability to make graffiti an artform.

Whereas "artist" is used to describe a person talented enough to create fullscale artworks (sometimes on paper wheatpasted onto walls), often with permission, and is quite often specifically NOT vandalism. Fun examples:

Of course there is Banksy, Keith Haring, Basquiat, JR, etc.

Unknown 4:09 PM  

How come nobody remembers SAMANTHA EGGAR from Dr. Doolittle?

Loved the clues for FANG and ORDAINS. Lots of gimmes for a Wednesday, for me that is.

Good day to all!


r.alphbunker 4:29 PM  

Thanks. How did you know what to put in for ORE_?

Anonymous 4:41 PM  

@art teacher You've got a point, but 'art' is in the eyes of the owner, as well as the beholder. Someone putting a boom-box under my living room window playing HabaÑera from Carmen full blast is vandalizing my living space. Similarly, someone painting on my wall without my permission is vandalizing my property regardless of the quality of the work

joho 6:11 PM  

@oren muse ... you are a hoot! And as for Wednesdays, I have a feeling we'll be reading your daily comments soon!

@INDb...That sounds a lot like "The Silence of the Lambs." @acme ... sounds like I missed a great book, I must read it!

retired_chemist 6:46 PM  

@ quilter1 - "the full saying is "that sucks the hind tittie" referring to hogs and little piggies not getting their share of milk."

Based on my breeding of dogs, hind tit is the BEST. I imagine that other quadrupeds have similar anatomy and physiology.

Clark 7:14 PM  

@Doris -- Thanks for the correction on the tilda. You’re way ahead of me if you have a small working knowledge of Spanish. The Bizet aria doesn’t need to have “Habanera” in the title to be a habanera. The habanera is a genre of dance music that has its roots in Cuba but is certainly not limited to Cuba. In the musical circles I move in, we call a piece that incorporates the characteristic rhythms and gestures of the habanera a—big surprise—”habanera.” Here is a habanera by Debussy . I’m pretty sure Debussy never made it to cuba, but that didn't stop him from writing a habanera.

foodie 7:31 PM  

@oren muse now I imagine you doing your puzzles in a grass skirt.. If it ever happens, please post a photo!

Anonymous 7:57 PM  

GNARS???? Seriously?

Z 8:05 PM  

DNF on a Wednesday. See @PK 1:00 am and you got my story.

@Oren - You'll have to teach the rest of us how to Hula dance in a grass skirt.

@Retired_Chemist - "Based on my breeding of dogs, hind tit is the BEST." Glad you clarified the source of that knowledge.

Four Z's today after two on Monday. Looking for 8 Z's on Friday.

captcha - ageounar grensul - Olaf murderer.

Tita 8:42 PM  

@Oren - I have a picture of my puzzle Mom (88 now) in a grass skirt on her lanai on a trip to Maui...I think she was 75 then. She surprised us by appearing on the lanai doing a hula!

nebraska doug 10:49 PM  

SAMANTHA EGGAR? Challenging for a Wednesday, the NW was brutal...AMARNA?

sanfranman59 1:24 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 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 6:37, 6:49, 0.97, 39%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:34, 8:52, 0.97, 46%, Medium
Wed 11:02, 11:49, 0.93, 38%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:38, 3:40, 0.99, 49%, Medium
Tue 4:27, 4:35, 0.97, 46%, Medium
Wed 5:53, 5:52, 1.00, 54%, Medium

The number of online solvers today was well below the Wednesday average (566 vs. 675). This probably means there were more DNFs and that the All Solvers metrics are slightly skewed toward the Easy end of the scale. I think this was really a Medium Wednesday, by the numbers.

delajeff 6:55 AM  

This theme HAS been done before, and recently. It's in a crossword in Natan Last's book "Word." Several of the dances, including the macarena and the macarena, are also used, as is the theme answer Square Dance.

delajeff 6:56 AM  

meant the macarena and the fandango

Anonymous 1:28 AM  

nice idea.. thanks for sharing..

DMGrandma 1:41 PM  

Enjoyed the puzzle, but had to make a lot of guesses on what, to me, were strange words. Thought the baseball guy was SOL, but eventually decided ARMANA sounded right, and so it went. Changing EBOLI to EBOLA gave me ANTZ and that guitar I didn't know. Sadly, misspelled ISUsU, so ended up one square short.
If the captchas are supposed to help determine what the words are, how does the robot master judge if we are right or wrong?

Spacecraft 2:41 PM  

@kevin: Think of entering a strange stream where you can't see the bottom. Some prefer to dip a toe, while others just WADE IN.

@acme: were those male mutts malamutes? Or just the male malamutes? Oh, let's call the whole thing off.

Despite the theme gimme (took one look at the 38a clue, saw the configuration of the circle groups, and went "duh"), I thought this one was interesting. There were certainly some bold choices throughout the fill. You can say "HOHO--" but not "ho hum."

What's all the fuss about GNARS? We've had that before. Personally, I'll never forget it since I challenged a Scrabble opponent on it. I HATE challenging words that turn out to be real.

Only glitches were misspelling HANSeN, which threw me off for a bit, plus a hand up for DEiceS.

Idahoconnie 3:32 PM  

Nice to see Don Larsen as a clue again. He is happy and alive here in North Idaho. He signs lots of baseballs and donates them to charity. His wife is a dear also and active in a local charity.

Ginger 3:40 PM  

This one was fun, had me dancing all over the grid. The only dance that I questioned was BOOGALOO, but my daughter confirmed it was featured on a kids show. I did find the dances helpful.

I natiked on EMAG/AMARNA, so DNF, which bums me out on a Wed. Lively clueing for ORDAINS, FANG, and TAILOR.

Raul IBANEZ is one of many former Mariners wreaking havoc on their former teammates. Especially Adrien Beltre the last few games. There are a lot of great players we shoulda hung onto.

@clark - thanks for the Callas link

Dirigonzo 5:30 PM  

"Canine on a feline" reminded me of some of the bizarre behavior that goes on between my dog who thinks he's a cat and my cat who think's he's a dog - and they've both been "fixed by a vet". Lots of GNARring and SNARLING involved.

I wanted ArARat at 2d for too long, but doing the FANDANGO RECTIFied that (didn't someone coin the word "rexify" here a while back - I think so, but I don't recall the definition. Anybody?).

Anonymous 7:40 PM  

Circle gets the square.

Tita 8:38 PM  

@idahoconnie - I'm so glad to know Mr. Larsen's whereabouts!
Tell him "hey" from Tita in Connecticut - I am an erstwhile Yankee fanatic, born 7 days before he pitched that perfect game. It is permanently burned in my memory for that reason!

@DMGrandma - think 'crowdsourcing' meets "ask the audience'...
whatever gets the most votes wins. Though I think that of late, these capchas are not from manuscripts - they are nothing but plain old nasty.

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