Odysseus savior / WED 4-4-12 / Irish equivalent of Edward / Furbys yo-yos once / Romance/thriller novelist Hoag / 1982 sci-fi film with 2010 sequel

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Constructor: Zoe Wheeler

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Z sounds — phrases with "Z" sounds in them have "Z"-containing words changed to homophones, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: John BONHAM (11D: John of Led Zeppelin) —
John Henry Bonham (31 May 1948 – 25 September 1980) was an English musician and songwriter, best known as the drummer of Led Zeppelin. Bonham was esteemed for his speed, power, fast right foot, distinctive sound, and "feel" for the groove. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest drummers in the history of rock music by many drummers, other musicians, and commentators in the industry. Over 30 years after his death, Bonham continues to garner awards and praise, including a Rolling Stone readers' pick in 2011 placing him in first place of the magazine's "best drummers of all time". (wikipedia)
• • •

Couldn't find the handle on this one at all. Just floundered. Everywhere. [Frankenstein's monster had one on his forehead]? BOLT? No? Uh, OK, then ... I don't know. [Lumps] are BLOBS? No ... uh ... [Irish equivalent of Edward]? $^%& if I know. EAMONN? With two Ns? Alrighty. Flashing sign in a TV studio is ON AIR ... oh, guess not. So ... no idea. Many crosses later ... still no idea. Furbys and yo-yos were ... FADS ... or ... don't know. [Crop circle, some believe] is a SIGN? Of? ... pfft, don't know. Baseball Hall-of-Famer who ... damn it, that info is not revealing At All. Three letters, so probably OTT, but: not helpful. Moving on. BLUSH is a "bit" of makeup? "Bit???" That makes no sense. "Que sera sera" means "whatever will be will be," but ... not here. [Quick smells] are SNIFFS, right? Yes, yes, yes, yes ... no? Ugh. OK, [Less than social sorts]. Gotta be NERDS. No? GEEKS? Dang. I mean, the whole puzzle was like this. Theme was pretty loose (not in a bad way, just ... no vowel progression, no respelling consistency, etc.), so I didn't really get it for a while.

Only two real complaints about this puzzle. First, STAR. It's in here twice. And in intersecting answers, for *$&%'s sake. That's a Back-to-the-Drawing-Board problem. Stop. Refill the grid. Set standards to "Higher"! Second ... well, here, it's complicated. The most daring (yay) theme answer is also the one that makes me cringe a tiny bit. Not a big fan of "gays" as a noun. "He's a GAY!" Yuck. I have heard gay-friendly folks use it that way, but usually only ironically, i.e. semi-making fun of the way gay-uncomfortable or gay-unfriendly people talk. "He's a black." No. No. "The blacks are riled up about Trayvon." Yes, someone might say that, but not someone who likes "blacks" too much. So STAR GAYS, while undoubtedly well meaning and undeniably clever, just missed the mark with me, sensibility-wise. Also, by far the hardest theme answer to get. I couldn't accept it—mostly because of the STAR repeat, though, to be honest. That's certainly the worse offense. Also ... I mean really, is Ricky Martin a "STAR" any more?

That "A" in GAYS was the last letter I got (WIZARDRY! ... dear lord, that was hard) (39D: Spelling, e.g.?).

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Acts the heckler at the Westminster dog show? (BOOS HOUNDS)
  • 24A: Cheeses manufactured in the Mediterranean? (SEA BRIES)
  • 37A: Entourages for Odysseus's faithful wife? (PENELOPE CREWS) — he only had one wife. You don't really need "faithful" here (though, yes, she is a paragon of fidelity)
  • 53A: Ricky Martin and Neil Patrick Harris? (STAR GAYS)
  • 59A: Expressions of regret from apartment building managers? (SUPER SIGHS)
  • 65A: Romance/thriller novelist Hoag (TAMI) — useful to know for both her first and her last names. 
  • 6D: Odysseus' savior (INO) — always forget her name. INU. Shiba INU? I think that's a dog.
  • 68A: 1982 sci-fi film with a 2010 sequel ("TRON") — you can stop at "film." Got it. Nerdy old-skool props for getting "TRON" and "STAR WARS" into the same grid (though, again, "STAR Wars" probably shouldn't be here at all).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


foodie 12:05 AM  

Exactly. Exactly. What Rex said.

Same missteps, same sense of floundering, same feeling that the whole thing is a bit off, and not loving STAR GAYS...while seeing potential cleverness.

Just not very smooth...

Tobias Duncan 12:14 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tobias Duncan 12:17 AM  

Rex nailed this one for sure.
STARGAYS sounds like just exactly the kind of joke I would have made when I was a nerdy homophobic schoolkid hanging out in the back of the bus. I almost feel like I must have made that joke actually, "They are gay and they are stars, get it? They are STARGAYS!!!!!"
Good lord I said all kinds of stupid stuff like that as a child.

I am not offended mind you, but I am damn curious to if see my buddy Jesser is.

jae 12:18 AM  

Tough Wed.!!  Me too for BOLT and OMEN for SIGN, EON for ERA, GUYS for GAYS, plus EAMONN, ISERE (actually a gimme after 7000+ puzzles), INO, SYSOPS... tough  Wed. !!

I liked it.  Who needs ZZZZs.

STARGAYS was worth the price of admission!

Pete 12:23 AM  

My knowledge of music or movie stars post 1990 consists of standing in line at the supermarket looking at the magazines, and that's been greatly reduced by self serve checkout. This is massively irrelevent, but goes a little bit to explaining why I confuse Mark Anthony and Ricky Martin. It also explains why I was confused that JLo married Mark Anthony. This is a long way of saying I was shocked that Will outed Mark Anthony. Or the person I thought was Mark Anthony.

Everything felt off here, I can't remember bouncing around a Wednesday trying to find two crossing answers that made any sense. My list of WTFs was longer than Rex's, I don't have the dedication he has. Everything felt off here.

GILL I. 12:24 AM  

I flounderd too. In just about all the same spots as Rex. But then after I finished I kept staring at the puzzle and thought it was down-right wierd.
WIZARDRY, GEEKS, WHIFFS even ZAP had me biting my pen. I'm so used to the obvious answers. Why the hell isn't it sniffs... it's always sniffs. Who is EAMONN with two nn's and dearie is just not SUGAR. So, I really, really liked this puzzle because it was different and I love SEA BRIES.

pk 12:37 AM  

Of course, Frankenstein had a scar on his forehead, just like Harry Potter. Maybe that is where Ms. Rowling got her idea.

Loved most of the theme answers, especially Boos Hounds and Star Gays.

I wish I knew how to imbed video. I would insert the "Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody come together and love one another right now"...

Oh, ugly words, I have to deal with this anti-robot s*#t

chefwen 2:08 AM  

Opposite day for me, I loved this one. Got it at SEA BRIES and had fun, fun, fun. Laughed out loud at STAR GAYS and knew my BIL would love that one too. He's the sister I always wanted. BOOS HOUNDS was pretty cute too.

Only sticky areas were at 15A where I filled in wild child before ONLY. That messed me up for quite a while, and at 48A Eon before ERA.

Thanks for a good Wednesday Puzzle Zoe Wheeler (my MIL's maiden name)

Anoa Bob 2:20 AM  

So knowing the sexual orientation of people is now de rigueur for solving NYT xwords (53A GAY STARS)? I'm still trying to learn all the European rivers. Hey, I thought 58A ISERE was one!

Shouldn't 37A be PENELOPE'S CREWS. Or are possesive nouns out of fashion nowadays? And since she is from Spain, her last name "Cruz" isn't a homophone of "crews". If I recall my SPAN 101 correctly, the Spanish letter "z" is pronounced like the English letter "s".

I guess these nits shouldn't stand in the way of the quest for wackiness.

Deb 2:21 AM  

I had exactly the same reaction to STAR GAYS as you, Rex - a hearty chuckle at the audacity coupled with a slight cringe. On balance, I liked it simply because it was unexpected, but I'll be interested to hear Jesser's thoughts

I was having a hard time breaking into this puzzle, too, and even thought (for too long) that there was a rebus going on because I really wanted PLAquE for PLATE and at first glance I thought that rebusing the QU would allow me to fit "quid pro quo" where TRADEOFF needed to be.

JaxInL.A. 2:57 AM  

Wow. Five women constructors in a now now! That has to be on purpose, and thank you very much, Will Shortz. It's really nice to see some names of the female persuasion.

This puzzle gave me a total case of Positive Arexia (finding something easy that Rex struggles with).

Sometimes it's luck and sometimes it's the wheelhouse, but I got the theme pretty fast and liked some of the ambiguous clues. That factoid about the all-time top-selling toy line gave me the chance to draw my daughter into solving, always a plus in my book.

This is Ms. Wheeler's 3rd NYT puzzle, though her 1st two were both in 2010. She looks like a fresh young thing (one of the Brown crew?) in the pic on XWordInfo.com. Thanks, Zoe!

Andrea Carla Michaelz 3:49 AM  

@jaxin LA
It wasn't intentional and a new sort of record (tho Orange wisely brought up "How many days in a row have we had all male constructors"
And yes, Zoe is a Brown senior who was interning out here and is so tall and beautiful and modest and smart I felt like jumping off the Bridge we were walking across!
(Actually thrilled for her and look forward to all her freshness!)
The STAR thing is unfortunate in an otherwise breasy pussle.

@pete's confusion with Marc Antony is hilarious, and i would have liked to be privy to the conversation as to who would represnt star gays and how it had to be folks already out, despite much bigger stars than Ricky Martin are certainly there for the choosing!

Ted 4:26 AM  

Yeah I'm with you Rex, I'm an ESL teacher of teenagers in Vietnam, and "a gay" comes up often...It should only be used an adjective. Nice write up, I'm with you on all of it.

Mark Tucker 7:14 AM  

53A - I had"CLOSETED" for "STARGAYS" - hard to figure out themes online in OneAcross because it blanks out puzzle title . . .


Z 7:30 AM  

@JaxinLA - Positive Arexia! - don't they treat that with little blue pills? I Love It.

I, too, had Positive Arexia on this one. Thought bolt at 1A, looked at 1D and immediately fixed to SRS/SCAR and was off and running. snIFFS and Eon slowed me a little in the south, but otherwise thought this was very easy.

Unfortunate 53A. On the bright side, at least we live in an era where one can be out and still a star. We were watching All That Heaven Allows with Rock Hudson playing a young, hot, arborist lusting for an older widow the other night. The whole "woman needs a man to complete her life," theme was disturbing. That Rock Hudson was the man was ironic on many levels. I couldn't keep watching.

@RP - Shiba Inus are indeed dogs. My updated pic is Samurai, the house Shiba Inu.

dk 7:41 AM  

Well STARGAYS works as well the the other word plays IMHO. And, two stars in the puzzle portends the rating to follow.

🌟🌟 (2 Stars) I like most of the fill but to APE our dear leader: "I could not get a handle on this one." That, however, is my problem. Zoe, nice job. What grad school are you going to?

Warning EDDA like ruminations ahead!

Sue S. and I (two science GEEKS) saw Led Z at the Syracuse War Memorial just before the release of LZ2. We had to be helped across the street and ushered to our seats as we were... lost in space. I was amazed to see skinny guys stepping on fuzz buster, treble boosters and wah-wah pedals... it certainly heightened the experience along with the WHIFFS of...

Skip ahead a decade or so and I am sitting with my GEEK friends at Cray Research discussing ways to use computer coded animation to create a SENSE of doom in a film whose working title was TRON.

Now skip ahead again to a warm summer day on an island in the Swedish Archipelago with a boat building GEEK pal delivering a vessel to a member of 9A.

The moral of this EDDA is GEEKS may be antisocial but they get around.

Prepare to be assimilated.

Rur Borg

JenCT 7:52 AM  

@dk: great story...

Similar feeling and stumbles as @Rex, though I liked the puzzle more than he did.

Got totally stuck at WIZARDRY; wanted something like WITCHERY (is that even a word?)

Was a HUGE Zeppelin fan in high school; that was during the "Disco Sucks" times (for some people, it's still disco sucks time).


JenCT 7:53 AM  

The "Email followup comments" box is back! Yay!

jackj 7:56 AM  

Clever, clever puzzle by an old friend from the Brown student invasion of two years ago.

Zoe’s theme entries were super, uber-punny with not a runt in the litter. I suspect STARGAYS will receive the most attention but, except for its aggressiveness, it doesn’t really stand out from the others and all deserve 5 groans, (the punners smoot), in my book.

The non-theme entries were especially strong with such winners as ARDORS, HECTIC, WHIFFS and WIZARDRY leading the way.

It’s particularly nice to see another of the Brown crew sticking with the constructing of crosswords, even when the heady times of the Brown Puzzling Association have probably passed.

Thanks, Zoe!!

For those unfamiliar with the week of puzzles from six Brown students, you can copy and paste the following link to read all about it:


orangeblossomspecial 8:08 AM  

R. Martin and N.P. Harris are both stars and gays, so what's the problem? I thought it was cute. Besides, gay used to mean "happy", as in this Bing Crosby recording of
GAY Love, a title that wouldn't be possible in today's world.

The puzzle has an accidental reference to Doris Day, who celebrated a birthday recently. She sang 5D
QUE SERA SERA in an Alfred Hitchcock film.

Frank Sinatra recorded 9D
Long AGO and Far Away.

John V 8:13 AM  

Hand up for loving this one! Loved the wacky theme answers.

Re: concerns with STARGAYS, pluralization of PENELOPECREWS, etc: I mean come on, this is a puzzle, folks. My standard is, was it fun? Answer today, you bet. Forgive the following preachy B.S., but for me, getting up at 6:00, 600 miles from home, to do the puzzle at 7 before a pending 14 hour work day is the single best thing I do all day. Getting into analysis paralysis over any puzzle is just so wrong. I solve the puzzle because it is the most fun thing I do in any work day. That is my wish for all solvers. YMMV, of course.

Apart from the theme, loved TRADEOFF, WIZARDRY, esp WIZARDRY.

Re: two stars, I guess that makes this a star-crossed puzzle (53a--27d), right?

Thanks, Zoe, and thanks for stopping @Acme from jumping off the bridge!

Jp 8:18 AM  

Had the same hiccups that Rex had and progressed through the same route. SNIFFS for WHIFFS, BLOBS for GLOBS, OMEN for SIGN, etc.
Even needed a bit of Google to finish it up.
I got the theme answers but I did not get the theme until I got to the blog. So I could not appreciate the cleverness of it all.
Based on my experience I would rate it the same as Rex did.

Sue McC 8:22 AM  

This felt like more of a Monday to me, pausing only for EAMONN. Got the theme at SEABRIES and smooth sailing from there. I'm with the others on STARGAYS - it feels wrong. I knew it was the right answer but felt yucky filling it in.

Sue McC 8:24 AM  

On the other hand, an answer of PENELOPESCREWS would have presented some interesting cluing possibilities.

Kevin 8:40 AM  

I had the same reaction as Rex to STARGAYS - my thoughts were "clevery wordplay, true, but tacky." Reminded me of the clue for ILLEGAL a while back.

That being said, it was clever, not that hard to figure out given the theme (although that while corner was tough for me), and there are much more offensive things out there in the world.

PS: I'd still consider Ricky Martin a star - he's about to headline a revival of Evita on Broadway.

joho 8:59 AM  

I thought this might be one of those polarizing puzzles. Personally I loved it! Zoe demonstrated her WIZARDRY here in such a fresh and unexpected way.

Only hold up was sNIFFS before WHIFFS.

I do have a note in the margin about the two STARS, a glaring repeat, but still they didn't ruin this puzzle for me.

Tita 9:21 AM  

NW was Monday-easy, much of the rest had some really hard stuff.

2 STARS?? Thought that was a cardinal sin!
I don't mind the GAYS answer (I thought it was GuYS for a very long time.)
Hey - plenty of x-words are slightly askew when force-fit into a grid...if "gay" is mainstream, then let it suffer the same stretches as any other word. Lighten up!

@Rex, re: "Bit" of makeup:
85-year-old Irish uncle-in-law would say: "A little bit of powder and a little bit of paint, will soon make a lassie look like what she ain't"

@Z - beautiful pup!

@JenCT - thx for noticing about email option - syndiland - you're not alone anymore!

Tita 9:30 AM  

And shoutout to Oren & Loren @ 32A!

JenCT 9:32 AM  

I just had to link to this video - Grandpa gets
a new iPad:


dj1969 9:47 AM  

For what it's worth, I am a gay man and I thought STAR GAYS was hilarious. Love that we live in a society where that is comfortable enough (and THEY are finally comfortable enough) to be a NYT crossword answer. I didn't cringe at all.

I also flew through this puzzle in record time. Cluing was tricky, but I kept coming up with the right answers somehow. I guess Zoe Wheeler and I are on the same wavelength. This was my favorite Wednesday puzzle in quite some time.

LindaB 9:51 AM  

Linda B said...
As the clue STAR GAYS started to fill, I had the same knee-jerk reaction of "oh no they didn't". But with some musing, I have to say I think it shows some societal progression. Would love to know what NPH and RM think. Is using Gay as a noun offensive?

John V 9:54 AM  

BTW, we should note, as it were, that 26A D Flat Equivalent= CSHARP, is only true the accpeptance of Bache's introduction of tempered tuning. So, shouldn't the clue say "Post Bach D Flat Equivalent?" I mean, pre-Bach, this sort of glibness could get one executed, you know ;)

quilter1 10:06 AM  

Got most of it quickly, but then bogged down and DNF. I had STARGuYS and thought it was right, mostly I guess because unless it is someone I actually know and care about I don't keep track of others' sexual orientation. Both of those names are barely on the edge of my consciousness. Same with PENELOPE Cruz. An actress, right? But I liked SEA BRIES,SUPER SIGHS and BOOS HOUNDS. And I did know the faithful wife was PENELOPE so that was frustrating not to be able to finish the phrase. On to tomorrow.

jberg 10:15 AM  

C SHARP was responsible for the 20th century revival of English country dancing - now THERE would have been a clue!

Aside from that, I enjoyed this puzzle - I don't mind ambiguous clues, that's part of the challenge. A little unhappy with the plurals ARBORS and DOONES, and I still have no idea what a PENELOPE CRuise is. (And the trouble with PENELOPESCREWS is that, famously, she didn't - she wove instead.)

Seems to me we've seen both the mixed levity crew for OTT and the spelling clue for wizards already this year; the latter still stumped me for awhile.

My only real problem thoush was in Minnesota (an otherwise lovely state), where for some reason I wanted an ugLY child and still have no idea who of what INO was (the clue for which should have had an s after the ', just to prove that I'm totally pedantic).

John V 10:15 AM  

Um, that should say, " ... true after the acceptance of Bach's .." See what happens to fingers when the commenter is trying to be snarky? Sheesh.

Joe 10:27 AM  

@LindaB - Exactly!

As a gay, I had exactly zero problem with STARGAYS. If we are not amused, we need to get over ourselves. Personally, I laughed myself to little gay tears.

rosebud 10:36 AM  

My comment on this puzzle would be a question about the BOOSHOUNDS answer. All four other themes change a final Z sound to plural (of a noun). This one changes an internal Z sound to a present tense of a verb. I'm surprised that its not a case of all five having the same structure, or even 3 of one type/2 of the other, rather than 4/1.

Two Ponies 10:46 AM  

I liked the theme answers a lot but had no idea who those two gUys were much less what their sexual orientation was.

Anne 10:47 AM  

Really, I thought I was losing my mind while trying to do this - I kept thinking it can't be this hard. SO I was sincerely relieved to read Rex as he had nearly the same experience that I did. Thank you, Rex.

Martin 10:49 AM  

Neil Patrick Harris was on Letterman recently and shared that his nickname used to be LBJ. I somehow think he's past finding "a gay" offensive.

The whole controversy reminds me of people who claim "a Jew" is offensive. It's never Jews.

afrogran 10:53 AM  

This was an easy Wednesday for me. The only write-over was SNIFFS for WHIFFS.
I Got Seabries quickly, so had no problem with the other puns.
Anyone remember Eamonn de Valera - Irish prime minister?
I was surprised at the STARGAYS answer. So often the crossword is too politically correct and carefully stays clear of anything mildly controversial.

black eyed susans kitchen 10:53 AM  

Easy...maybe it was the female side of my brain working...still, I put in star...gays? No really? Yup, had to come here to verify it was indeed stargays.

chefbea 10:55 AM  

Got the theme at Penelopecrews while sitting in doctor's waiting room. Then finished when I got home.

Not only a shout out to @Oren...but to me!!! The top chef bee.

Good puzzle. Thanx Zoe

Zasked and Wanonymous 10:59 AM  

Funky. thUmbsUp.

Funkiest moments:
- Two STARs.
- Two Odysseuses.
- 4 "Z-sound" enders, one beginner. (Unless HOUNZE is somethin', too.)
- ABBAS/BONHAM/SYSOPS intersections of death.
- MITT. Wanted NEWT.
- Zoe Wheeler. Scrabbly. Similar to Will Shortz, in that regard. Or to WIZARDRY.
- @#31*!'s write-up.
- Wording up of 21-Down's clue.
- EAMONN. Appropriately, an anagram of "No Name".

Bob Kerfuffle 11:03 AM  

Totally irrelevant, but at the ACPT this year, had Saturday night dinner with imsdave and Lindsay at EAMONN's Restaurant.

But just had to comment so I could try the email follow-up function which I have so badly missed for the last month or two.

R.Bush 11:17 AM  

Agree with so many of the previous comments... Both men are also carbon based life forms. Who cares?. Must i know their orientation to complete a puzzle? NPH is a neighbor down the street with his partner.. They are simply nice guys and neighbors.

Mike 11:25 AM  

I did pretty well on this one, but even after filling in booshounds I didn't see the theme for a bit. Having a word with an actual z in it (wizardry) threw me off.

Star gays was the last section I completed. And I'm gay.

Mighty Nisden 11:28 AM  

Hand up for loving this one. Struggled as usual with a wednesday, but finally conquered it.
Laughed out loud at BOOSHOUNDS. Thought all the themes were excellent.

I did need help from my daughter, who was passing through the room. "Who is Neil Patrick Harris?"
"He's gay" she said and Bingo!!

Well done Ms. Wheeler!!

GILL I. 11:33 AM  

@pete: I'm still laughing at your comments because that is precisely something I would do.
Yay, Yay and more yay's re email follow-up
Oh, @afrogran: De Valera spells his first name with one n.

archaeoprof 11:40 AM  

The presence of two STARs in the SE threw me way off today.

Kept trying to figure out which one had to be wrong...

Ricky Martin is gay?

Jim 11:51 AM  

Haven't commented with consistency in a long time, but...wow! Never have I raced through a mid-week puzzle like this (save one small section with __OSHOUNDS...I thought I was looking for nOOSHOUNDS, thinking that was some breed of dog I didn't know of...since HOUNDS could've referred to the catcalling itself, not the dogs...((PANT PANT!!)following all of this?)

Anyway, I was making headway toward a 6:30 minute Wed, which is really good for me, when, BAM! That SE corner hit me like a ton of bricks.

Didn't have nerdS, since the K was forthcoming easily enough...but wonKS, then dorKS. Nothing was moving the needle on STAR___S, especially since STAYEDON was too blah to be convincing, and WIZARDRY was way down the road somewhere.

Add the crossing STARs and you had the making of a mind-bending moment that just felt wrong...even after I had finished.

Too bad, because I was really enjoying the puns and the puzzle overall to that point.

xyz 11:52 AM  

Low Bang-for-buck, lost interest, full fill, technical DNF


don't really care, low fun, especially for Weds.

What Rex said ...

Masked and Anonymous II 11:55 AM  

Yep. "HOUNDZ" **is** somethin'. So all 5 theme answers can end with Z-sounders. The BOOze part in answer uno threw me, at first.

Got evidence here, but would advise sweet young thingz like Zoe, "Don't go there, girl":

xyz 11:56 AM  

Former partner of mine's family owns the (Chinese) companies that make the STARWARS toys (yes, billions & billions of them - and you've never heard of the Holding company for them either ...).

If one toy causes a kid to choke from swallowing, lose an eye, etc., only one company to sue. Smart.

SBP - standard business practice

p.s. Sorry for double post

Happy Camper 12:02 PM  

APPLAUSE. Well done Zoe! Many nice TWISTS. This was FUN and a BRIES for me. Loved STAR GAYS -- over the TOP! ONLY those solvers who STAYED ON to WRITE to the END know how this FEELS.

Masked and Anonymous's Last Silver Bullet 12:02 PM  

P.S. @31: Geez. That Frankenstein picture just winked at me. Weirded me out, dude.

wyonative 12:13 PM  

I flew through the top and slowed down at the bottom. I'm never a fast solver but would have rated this easy-medium for me. I was amused to see "emu" after yesterday's ant/emu discussion.

oldbizmark 12:39 PM  

thought this was EXTREMELY easy for a Wednesday. Maybe it was just a case of overthinking it for some of yous? I was very surprised to see it marked as medium-challenging. I would have liked to be a bit challenging. No such luck. Didn't realize that Ricky Martin was gay but I guess I was not surprised. Couple of chuckles in the puzzle but overall a bore with lots of busy work for little easy clues.

Lewis 12:42 PM  

It's a gift when unexpected answers come up; that's what makes a puzzle fresh. Keep 'em coming, Zoe. This was a fun puzzle, and for me, one of my fastest Wednesdays ever.

It's about playing with words, these are puns, so STARGAYS is okay by me. For me, it doesn't cross that line in this situation. Some answers would, no doubt, but not this one.

John V 12:46 PM  

Captcha is of interest to us all, I dare say. Here is a description of Google's experimental version of captcha designed to be easier for humans and harder for bots to use. Let us wish Google well on this effort!

Bird 1:33 PM  

Medium solve for me due to a couple corrections and misdirections, but I liked this one. WIZARDRY came easy after last week's WAND/SPELLING combo.

Ditto the comments @John V made at 8:13. Don't get bogged down on technicalities (grammar, spelling, etc.) while your solving. Fill in the answer and move on. However, if there is an egregious error and it causes you to stop for a minute that is a different story. That said, I would have liked to see PENELOPE's CREWS. And are we really unsatisfied that the theme was not totally and perfectly and symmetrically applied? The wacky Z words were not all the second words in the answer – so what. The theme answers were not all verbs or all nouns – so what? Well, that’s my opinion anyway.

Happy Humpday!

And it's Opening Day for MLB!

laurie 1:43 PM  

Thought 53A was star dads (or something to do with the fact that both these gay men recently had twins) and 54D was dorks so the SE for me was dnf. Not in my wheelhouse at all today but happy to see new clues that threw me off ( hand up for wanting omen over wild in 5 & 15A and eon instead of era etc).

Anonymous 1:49 PM  

SER @ 36 down. I don't get it.

Wood 1:52 PM  

Chuckled at STAR GAYS, but it did give me a slight twinge, and I'm gay. Maybe it's because I'm old enough to remember when the word "gay" was more loaded than it is today, at least in noun form. Old emotions die hard.

The puzzle was choppy, but in a good way. Got hung up in the SW with snIFFS and various other mistakes. But a satisfying solve once complete!

John V 2:06 PM  

Anoymous 1:49 SER = Sermon, clue, "Special delivery" abbr=abbreviation

chefbea 3:10 PM  

@JohnV Thanks for the captcha info. At least now I know what the letters stand for. Think I'll remember???
No way

Anonymous 3:22 PM  

Ok - I'm gay and I loved loved loved stargays. Laughed out loud right here in starbucks. All non-gay people can relax and just enjoy the super clever cluing.

long suffering mets fan 3:31 PM  

Really enjoyed this one -- tricky cluing, felt almost Thursdayish

thanks, Zoe great job

Per archaeoprof's comment that Israel has only one golf course prompted me to google what I deemed to be an impossibility --
per worldgolf.com, incredibly it only has 2: Caesarea Golf & CC and the Gaash Golf Club. Hard to fathom as in my home state of New Jersey, which is roughly the size of Israel, we have 360 golf courses

BTW, anyone else look at archaeoprof's avatar and have an immediate flashback to the 70s of a Cosmo Burt Reynolds spread?

Just wonderin

sanfranman59 3:52 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 12:42, 11:50, 1.07, 73%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:32, 5:53, 1.11, 81%, Challenging

Rex's write-up captures my solving experience of this puzzle to a T. I felt like I was overwriting just about every answer I confidently entered including all of the exact errors Rex mentions.

Clark 3:57 PM  
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Clark 3:59 PM  

STAR GAYS was faboo!

So Mel OTT batted left and threw right. Who cares?. Next thing you know, we'll have to keep track of who's pitching and who's catching. We shouldn't have to be confronted by that kind of information. I'm sure he was simply a nice guy and neighbor.

John V 4:16 PM  


JenCT 4:23 PM  

@long suffering: yes. LOL

dk 4:33 PM  

@tita, I know the 2 stars may seem like a slight to the most wonderful Zoe... however, my arbitrary and capricious rating system incorporates my solving experience. And, today I floundered (to quote Rex). Hence the 2 stars. Still a hearty obrigado to Zoe.

Loren Muse Smith 5:11 PM  

I've just gotten around to finishing, and count me in the "liked it" crowd. Favorite was SEA BRIES.

@Tita - I did smile at MUSED.

For what it's worth, Dad batted left and threw right, too.

Sfingi 5:42 PM  

I, also, had a hard time with the theme, getting SUPERSIGHS only. First, only one was based on a name. Second, I couldn't believe it was going to be STARGAYS. I had to check and see if Martin had come out, yet. Speaking of Bats Left, Throws Right, I think they're switch-hitters. Or, they have kids, you know.

For long AGO I had ART, as in Life is short, ART is long.

@Clark - the lefty thing is an obsession beyond baseball, a thing of itself. (I wrote my Master's thesis on it.)Just remember, the answer for baseball is always OTT and for hockey is always ORR.

@Pete - every day I'm reminded of how old I am, so I need to come here to learn something new.

ANONB 6:02 PM  

They took a good word, "gay", and
misapplied it. I remember it from
Gay Paree or Gay Divorcee.
But in those days, gays weren't
an everyday topic.

Tita 6:22 PM  

@dk - lol - took me a while to figure out why you singled me out to justify your personal rating system...
My disbelief was at 2 STARs appearing in the grid...not 2 stars... ;) (Puzzle husband thought the sky would fall and pestilence would cover the earth if 2 words appeared in the grid...He said a quiet "obrigado", but is now reconsidering the date on the Rapture.

@Clark - ROTFLMAO!!!

Loren Muse Smith 6:27 PM  

@Tita - do you think Japanese "arigatoo" is their way of saying "obrigado?" I never looked into historical linguistics or etymology or anything.

Sparky 7:30 PM  

Pretty much the same ambiguities as @Rex but I thought they were kind of fun. Had omen before SIGN, sniffs, STARtrek, with child, cds before EPS, nerds. Got SEABRIES first.

There may be rules to spelling Irish names but I don't know them. Sean, Shaun, Shorn, huh? Plus a lot have changed since I was a kid, become more Celtic, I guess. Also, I never vocalized when I skipped so what's with this TRALA that keeps showing up?

There is an enormous shout out (or two) lurking in this puzz no one has mentioned. Is there some kind of tacit agreement I don't know about? Happy hump day.

Sparky 7:34 PM  

@JenCT, JohnV, BobK. How does that email reply thing work? I says email reply to my address--huh?Any help from any source appreciated.

Tita 7:34 PM  

@loren - I had always been told that, but per Wiki (even the Portuguese version), it's false. They do show many others words that are Portuguese in origin.

It certainly sounds similar, and since they were the first Europeans to visit and establish trade, sure makes for a good etymological myth...

Loren Muse Smith 7:40 PM  

@Tita - Thanks. Just recently read Shogun for the first time - what a read! - and started wondering.

Signing out for the night.

Sayoonara - "good bye"

Sai no onara - "most honorable rhinoceros fart."

If you say the latter fast, no one notices.

JenCT 7:44 PM  

@Sparky: under "choose your identity" when you're posting a comment, check the box to send followup emails to your account. This will send you an email whenever a followup post occurs.

It's a lot easier than always checking the blog!

P.S. Did you watch the video I posted?

Martin 7:50 PM  

Yes, arigato is native Japanese. Doesn't it strike people the least bit racist to imagine the Japanese had no word for "thank you" until the Europeans imported the concept?

Loren Muse Smith 8:04 PM  

@Martin - thanks for the clarification. There are other instances where a language has a native way to say "thank you" but adopts a foreign one that becomes the more used one. Farsi is the only one that comes to mind right now. "Teshekur" (excuse the awful romanization attempt) has been upstaged by "merci" for a long time.

Loren Muse Smith 8:09 PM  

@Martin - also - it's been my experience that "sumimasen" is much more common in Japanese for "thank you" than "arigatoo," and the former carries with it the connotation of "so sorry" whereas "arigatoo" does not.

Loren Muse Smith 8:09 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deb 8:14 PM  

@Sparky - I went back and looked over the grid but cn't see the "shout-outs" you're referring to. The only tacit agreement I'm aware of re this blog is keeping your comments to a maximum of three per day, but even that gets ignored on a daily basis, so...share, please!

Tita 8:17 PM  

@Martin...no one was implying that the Japanese as a race were not polite until they encountered westerners...!
Did Americans have no garages until the French gave us the word?
Borrowed words exist in all languages.

chefbea 8:22 PM  

@Sparky and @Deb I mentioned 2 shout outs earlier!!

Sparky 8:55 PM  

Okay: @Deb and chefbea; Penelope Harper and Michael Sharp. I thought maybe we are not to mention 31's personal life though that doesn't compute since his food poisoning was discussed recently. What do I know? @JenCT--just watched the video. Eficient old fellow, isn't he, helping in the kitchen and all? lol. @JohnV. Oh, right, pictures of house numbers are going to be easier to read. Thanks for the post. Just had to enter 3 catchpahs. Maybe the photos are easier. Centainly some are prettier.

Martin 10:07 PM  

Yep, Japanese has a lot of (native) ways to say thank you. Domo, arigato, domo arigato, domo arigato gozaimasu, domo arigato gozaimashita are all thank you with increasing "very much." I don't know, @loren muse smith, if sumimasen is a good habit for "thank you." It mainly means "excuse me" and as "thank you" implies an apology for putting you out of your way.

But "garage"? My whole point is that you wouldn't expect the most polite people on the planet to be waiting for a loan word here to articulate a concept that they couldn't quite express. The Japanese love loan words, but not for concepts that are as old as their culture.

Sorry, but the old canard that arigato is Portuguese hits a nerve.

Z 10:25 PM  

@John V and @ Tita - methinks you have dirty minds.

No email follow-up box for me. I wonder why.

Clark 11:03 PM  

@Z -- Methinks they were paying attention.

mac 11:06 PM  

Good thing I will be 6 hours ahead starting Saturday, I've been so late so often lately!

I had a very similar solving experience as Rex did.

Talking about the borrowed terms: it's always seemed odd to me that bon appetit, guten Appetit, eet smakelijk and buon appetito have no English equivalent.

hazel 11:22 PM  

@mac - in the south we say "dig in!"

Loren Muse Smith 11:58 PM  

@Martin- obviously, I'm not fluent in Japanese by any stretch of the imagination. My Japanese instructor almost always wanted "sumimasen" to any form of "arigatoo," the former implying a "so sorry" with its "thank you." And how does going from "gozaimasu" (present) to "gozaimashita" (past) increases the "very much"ness?

@mac - good points! English needs equivalents for those expressions!

@Martin - English also needs an equivalent for "watashi wa yoru yowai," which is me! I can't believe I'm up this late.

I had no idea that this was such a controversial subject! I just read Shogun, knew "obrigado" sounded like "arigatoo," and wondered aloud in front of 20,000 readers of this blog!
Since there are people who understand, I'll refrain from the less-used "sayoonara" and now say "osaki ni shitsurei shimasu. O yasumi nasai."

jedlevine 12:42 AM  

It would be nice if the theme answers connected other than just being homophones. I was thinking alcohol theme when I uncovered the first two, "booshounds" and "seabreas". Guess it would be hard to make them all connect in theme and be homophones as well. How about "make love to person behind the wheel" = screwdriver." Wait that's not a homophone. And why does the gay answer have to show up in a puzzle with a "homo"phone theme?

sanfranman59 12:42 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 6:56, 6:50, 1.03, 61%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 8:47, 8:52, 0.99, 55%, Medium
Wed 12:37, 11:50, 1.07, 73%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:39, 3:40, 1.00, 50%, Medium
Tue 4:42, 4:35, 1.03, 63%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:19, 5:53, 1.07, 75%, Medium-Challenging

Martin 2:22 AM  

@loren muse smith,

The past tense is considered more polite and formal. The sense is "you have done me a favor that cannot be improved" as opposed to any implication that you expect more.

These people are manically polite.

Loren Muse Smith 5:43 AM  

@Martin- I don't want to hijack this blog talking about the Japanese obsession with politeness, but I'd like to discuss it further. I've never heard that "arigatoo gozaimashita" is more polite than "arigatoo gozaimasu." I'm interested in hearing more, though. Could you email me?

Tita 11:07 AM  

Thanks for that insight into Japansese culture. While it is, alas, not one of the languages I speak, I am always fascinated by the differences in cultures that are often expressed in the language.

However, I beg to differ about who is missing the point - it is a conjecture about etymology that was raised...not lack of manners...
I have never ever heard it said or implied that it was the Portuguese who taught the Japanese to be polite. The fallacy is about the origin of the word, not hte activity.
Did the French teach the English to make gaffes?

Some loan words DO in fact enter a language because that "thing" had not existed prior...
like curry and hula.
But, others are just such a good fit that they come in alongside of, or supplanting, the native words...
The concepts described by chicanery, gaffe, or chutzpah..., certainly existed in English, as did words to describe them, but nonetheless, we chose to embrace these. Indians did not need to "teach" the Brits how to practice chicanery...

Even when strongly opposed by official decree - note M. Toubon's lack of success in France..."Le week-end" is so much better of a word than "le fin de semaine".

Don't mean to sound preachy - as I'm sure you didn't meant to use the word 'racist' anywhere near our dear Loren (or me!).
But I just love thinking about how languages grow and are influenced, and since it's already tomorrow, and most people are off this thread, am happy hearing myself talk.
(Sorry syndilanders!)

Anonymous 8:24 PM  


Anonymous 5:32 PM  

I also take issue with "stargays." Think it's in poor taste and in fact somewhat creepy. I consider beneath a NYT CW puzzle to have a tongue in-cheek-answer such as this, which is more like foot in mouth. Nothing wrong with the word gay or being gay, but in this context it sounds like a mockery of someone's sexuality.

Anonymous 11:10 AM  

On the subject of Japanese. If you'd like to be "fluent" in Japanese and do not care to spend 6 to 8 years of grueling study, memorization and frustration, then learn 3 simple words and 2 rules: The words are Domo, Dozo, and Sumimasen. The rules are, 1) if someone says Dozo, then say Domo, if someone says Domo, then say Dozo, and 2) if someone says anything else, simply say Sumimasen. And since we all know that Spanish is much simpler than Japanese, there is only one word and one rule in Espanol. Whenever anyone says anything, simply say, "Pues," and draw it out as long as you want.

Ginger 1:52 PM  

@John V About your preachy B.S.,(your words) YES, we spend an inordinate amount of time on these things because they are stimulating and FUN. Gracias for putting it so well.

I got hung up at 6-A with hoax, then Scam-Sham before SIGN, and I still don't get INO. Also wanted snIFF, which slowed up the SW. The theme was defintely different, with interesting TWISTS.

I'm hoping for the day when commenting on a person's sexuality doesn't cause anyone to cringe. A day when all are accepted equally. So I guess I'm the one getting 'preachy' now.

rain forest 2:37 PM  

Put me in the crowd who very much appreciate attempts to make a puzzle fresh and inventive, as this one is. Two "star"s in the grid? Who cares? Two different meanings of "star", and one was a theme answer. We've had themes where the same word has been used 4 or 5 times. No matter how well-executed a puzzle, SOMEONE will find something about which to complain. Boos for booze was good.
Never mind...

For my part, having Abbas be a gimme opened up the NE which gave me booshounds which gave me sign and globs, and from there it went smoothly until wizardry, which was brilliant. I kept pronouncing the last three letters as "dry", as in "not wet". Stargays fixed that.
I really liked this on.


Spacecraft 2:56 PM  

I didn't know either Harris OR Martin was. I'm curious to know how the term "gay" got started. I used to think it meant "See, look: I'm happy, no matter what!" Now I just think it's nature correcting for overpopulation. A mutation that was bound to surface.

Anyhoo, I missed the double-STAR gaffe that has you all so upset; it doesn't horrify me, but I suppose I'd try to avoid such if I ever attempted one of these.

The thing that DOES upset me today is 12d. Sorry, but neither "ARDOR" nor "enthusiasm" can be pluralized. Ridiculous. Even worse than SYSOPS next door. Aren't we lucky there's someone known as ABBAS, of you'd be cluing "Swedish singing groups in alternate universes." THIS is the corner that needs to go back to the drawing board.

DMGrandma 2:57 PM  

Thought this puzzle was fun even though it took a while to catch on. I originally thought I was just out of sync today as I bumbled through making all the small sniff-whiff corrections that Rex commented on.
My worst hang-up was wanting "Spelling" to have something to do with Aaron, not helped by having "star guys", though a little surprised that astronomers would be well enough known. Like someone said above, my current pop knowledge comes from magazines at the check-out, and now that I shop at Sprouts and Trader Joes, I'm totally out of the loop. But, somehow "wizardry" emerged,and I finished with a smile.

rain forest 3:15 PM  

@Spacecraft I don't know about "ardors" (didn't bother looking it up), but I remember in the movie "The Untouchables", Al Capone (played by Robert Deniro) is addressing his "boys" at a dinner, and talking about his "enthusiasms", one of which was baseball. He then proceeded to bash the head of a crony with a baseball bat. The word "enthusiasms" has stuck with me, for some reason. Doesn't make it right, but if it can be used, so can "ardors".

Dirigonzo 6:49 PM  

My OCD approach to puzzle-solving served me well today as my first run through all of the clues "by the numbers" produced enough crosses to see a couple of theme answers, and then I was like "I'll Have Another" going to the rail and charging through the rest of the field to cross the finish line going full speed. STARGAYS didn't phase me because by the time I got there STAR was in place and gaze was obviously the right homophone (no pun intended) to complete the phrase. No knowledge of any one's sexual orientation required.

Ann Romney was here last week and MITT shows up today - it's going to be a long election season.

Osprey update (east coast edition) - Dock workers unceremoniously removed the nest that the Osprey pair had built on the megaberth pier and tossed it in the bay, after they had determined that there were no eggs in it. Not every story has a happy ending (especially if you are an osprey).

Email updates are back in prime-time - hi, @Gil I.P., @Tita, et al!

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