Thank you in Swahili / THU 4-18-12 / Trevelyan villain in Goldeneye / Actress Steppat On Her Majesty's / Dwarf planet beyond Pluto / Old Shaker leader / Montgomery of Jazz

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Constructor: Sean Dobbin

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: OUTSIDERS (35A: Nonmembers ... or what 4-, 7- and 10-Down lack?) — three theme answers have "R"s that are outside the grid (i.e. you have to imagine the initial and terminal Rs in those answers)

Word of the Day: ILSE Steppat (19A: Actress Steppat of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service") —
Ilse Paula Steppat (November 11, 1917 in Wuppertal – December 21, 1969 in West Berlin) was a German actress. Her husband was noted actor and director Max Nosseck. // She began her cinematic career at the age of 15 playing Joan of Arc. Steppat appeared regularly on the German stage, and starred in more than forty movies. In the 1960s, she appeared frequently in crime movies based on the work of author Edgar Wallace, such as Die Gruft mit dem RätselschlossDer unheimliche Mönch and Die blaue Hand, which brought her great fame in Germany. // In her only English language role, Steppat played Blofeld's assistant and henchwoman Irma Bunt in the James Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service. In the first English language conversation between Steppat and the movie's producer, Albert R. Broccoli, she confused the word verlobt (engaged) with engagiert. Despite this, however, she was awarded the role of Irma Bunt. Steppat was unable to capitalise on her new fame outside of Germany, as she died of a heart attack only four days after the movie's international release. She is buried in the Waldfriedhof Dahlem in Berlin. (wikipedia)
• • •

Talk about your crossword coincidences. An ILSE who played an IRMA!? Wow.

Not sure why, but this puzzle took me Forever to get into, and even after I got the theme figured out, I still struggled. Nothing up top was a gimme except EST'D and IS IT I ... maybe GETS. It's possible that if I'd abandoned the N much earlier and headed south (where I might've seen the gimme GWENS, for instance; 65A: Music's Stefani and others), I could've got rolling sooner. ERIS would've helped. I don't know. Between ridiculous stuff like ILSE (who?), ALEC (who?), ASANTE (we're supposed to know Swahili now? why is this valid?), and EGON (22A: Certain Ghostbuster) (I recently rewatched "Ghostbusters" and still needed virtually every cross), and then forced-tough cluing — SELECTS as a noun (!?!?! ouch.) (11D: Superior things); EDITION as a [Dictionary specification]!? — I just floundered. But mostly I just failed to come up with stuff I should've come up with. %&^*ing CASSAVA (1D: Tapioca source). I wanted IPOD at 1A: It can change one's tune and so both CASSAVA and CAPO (and, indeed, the whole NW corner) stayed hidden for a long time. Not LA PAZ or SUCRE or LHASA but SANA'A! Brutal (20A: World capital at 7,200+ feet).

Concept seems fine. Cute. None of the long phrases feels like a bullseye, though. All accurate enough, but just a bit ... off-center. Apt-ish. Defensible, but odd. RESIGNATION LETTER is probably closest to spot-on. Anyway, not thrilling, but just fine. Wish the bizarre proper noun onslaught had been less onslaughty, but there's nothing really beyond the pale. Not much else to say.

Theme answers:
  • 4D: Checker or Domino (OCK AND ROLL SINGE)
  • 7D: It may include two weeks' notice (ESIGNATION LETTE)
  • 10D: John Calvin, e.g. (ELIGIOUS REFORME)
So not all Rs are "outside." Just some.

  • 16A: Wolf whistle accompanier, maybe (LEER) — I was looking for something more vocal. Hubba hubba or yowza or the like.
  • 46A: Old Shaker leader (ANN LEE) — super-important name to know for crosswords. Her full name shows up a lot (as do ANN and LEE, obviously)
  • 66A: Recording artist made famous by the BBC series "The Celts" (ENYA) — never heard of that series. She was made famous by "Orinoco Flow," as far as I remember.

  • 52A: He once wrote "Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague" (SAFIRE) — that's a twofer. Nice.
  • 8D: 10th-century Holy Roman emperor (OTTO I) — among the dreckiest, crosswordiest answers. And it helped me a Lot today. I also managed to remember the much less crosswordesey WES (59D: Montgomery of jazz), though like OTTO I, he's known to me only through crosswords.
  • 2D: Ellery Queen and others (ALIASES) — wanted PEN NAMES or PSEUDONYMS from the second I saw the clue. Criminals have ALIASES.
  • 25D: Floride, par exemple (ÉTAT) — fooled by this one at first. Not sure my brain even registered the Frenchness of "par exemple."
  • 49D: ___ Neuchâtel (LAC) — no idea what this is. At all. I mean, I assume it's a lake, but ... yeah, for me this is up there with ASANTE and ALEC and ILSE as far as familiarity goes. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:12 AM  

Clever tricky Thurs. with no circles and only 2 3s.   I liked it a lot.  Pretty smooth grid.

Erasures PILLS for VIALS and NAILEDON for UP which made the SE a struggle.  So, med-tough for me.

Wanted QUITO and then LHASA for 20a but waited for some crosses before I put my Bic to paper.

Possible Naticky crosses = CASSAVA/ASANTE/SANAA.

retired_chemist 12:13 AM  

Very nice puzzle. I'd call it medium-challenging.

Finished with one error - DURABLE, not DURABLY, @ 44D, and failed to see the obviously incorrect ENEA.

Needed four crosses for SANA'A and had two of Rex's three alternatives at various times. Also could have had DRUGS, HYPOS, PILLS,... @ 48A, but I picked the right one the first time.

I like learning from the puzzle, and this one had several teachable moments. Yet it was totally Natick-free. Remarkable IMO.

Thanks, Mr, Dobbin.

pk 12:24 AM  

r's outside the grid - seriously??

Not a normal Thursday rebus, but r's outside of the grid.

Rest of the puzzle was lovely. Seriously.

Tried "eligiacal leader" for 10D. Yes, I did.

Objection to 27D "Ones with a safety net" - the Poor.

Have gotten really good at this proving I'm not a robot bit.

Clark 12:29 AM  

Lac Neuchâtel. Bern is across the lake and off to the left; Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau are to the left of the twin spires.

thursdaysd 12:37 AM  

Two thirds of this went fast, but I had to google (actually, duckduckgo these days) ASANTE to get into the west, so really a DNF.

I, too, had pIlLS before VIALS, and lhasA before SANAA, and also kiss before ERIN. I got the theme fairly quickly, but it didn't help with that west side.

Geometricus 12:43 AM  

Got a leg up in the north by guessing HAfTa where HASTO goes, but it was right enough to get me PHI, RASE and OTTOI, which gave me PREOP.

In the end I held onto PILLS in error and ended up with 5 wrong letters, one of them really stupid: I spelled PENAANT wrong and so my high elevation world capital was SAAAA. Sounds more like a guy falling from 7200+ feet.

chefwen 1:01 AM  

@Geometricus - Now that was funny, I can hear him now.

Because I have no patience SANA'A spoiled my Google free week.

Like @jae had NAILED on and kept it for quite a while. That was my last corner to complete when UP popped into the drained brain.

Great puzzle, I enjoyed it a lot.

Thanks Sean Dobbin and Rex.

Anonymous 1:03 AM  


GILL I. 1:18 AM  

I really like this puzzle. It took OUTSIDERS right in the middle for me to figure out the theme.
I half expected the answers to read backwards but I like this much better.
Loved the clue and answer for 48A since if you nail your horsehoe DOWN you get nothing but bad luck.
49D sounds like a cream cheese and CAPO had me scratching my head...
Thanks Mr. Dobbin. Nary a NITPICK here.

FearlessK 1:27 AM  

Wes Montgomery: one of the all-time greats. Check out "West Coast Blues"

Asante Cassava Michaels 1:56 AM  

Fun! Always love it when there is still something new under the sun...

Made the same mistakes as everyone else apparently:
Pills, NAILED on, DURABLe/ENeA ( and wondered who the heck that was, but not enough to change it!)

I'll add one more: NOiRE MUSIQUE. Wow, now I'm making spelling errors in French, but spelling Swahili words correctly. The world has gone insane!

Had ????TB for POINTB and freaked out, so was thriled when the answer appeared! Freaky depending on which end you come to it from.

Knowing Fats Domino's real name was ANTOINE was my toehold. Definitely filed under "why do I know that but not what I had for lunch yesterday?"...a file getting alarmingly full.

Someone should get meta and nitpick NITPICKS.

Don Byas 2:54 AM  

WES Montgomery is awesome. Octaves! No pick, just a thumb.
Love "Smokin' at the Half Note" and "The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery." - with "West Coast Blues" @FearlessK

I've seen ENYA in a million puzzles, but I was too confident about DURABLe. Way too long to fix that letter.
27d. cluing confused me, I had "The RICH."

foodie 3:29 AM  

Haha... I thought I was the only one to think NOiRE Before NOTRE. But it was no spelling error... I blocked on what else it could be for quite a while.

Agree with Andrea also that one of the best things about this puzzle is the fresh concept... Very cool. Great week so far!

Eejit 3:52 AM  

I would have thought the French for Florida would be Florida. Do they have French versions for all the states? Thought it was something to do with fluoride for a while. Found it relatively easy for a Thursday.

The iPhone app wouldn't let me 'submit' my time to the Magmic site, anyone else ever experience that?

Jakarta Dan 4:12 AM  

Another nice puzzle this week. A bit tough for a Thursday, so felt satisfying to wrap it up.

Was slowed down by pIlLS for VIALS and for a longer time by bRuShES for DRESSES, as ESTb at 10A didn't seem unreasonable, even though a KH end to 26A seemed very unlikely, since carps, whether complaining or fishy, has nothing to do with an ankh.


I skip M-W 4:49 AM  

Hands up for Enea and durable at end, and midway, brushes and noire, plus Quito and much too high La Paz before Sana'a. Had no idea who Enya is.

Anonymous 6:21 AM  

@Rex, Thank you for rating this challenging and I don't mean to nitpick again but you have ELSE instead of ILSE for your word of the day....


PS. I will take the rest of the day to decide whether I like this. I never think outside the box.

Rudy 7:33 AM  

This puzz was fun true to this week's fantastic run. For the wonks and geeks among us there are SAFIRE and COTAN peacefully coexisting side by side. Not sure I enjoyed bookend R's missing but it was nice touch to have smack bang in the middle the theme (OUTSIDERS and/or OUTSIDE R'S) ambiguously laid out.

Never guessed SANAA was the world highest capital in Yemen which I thought was as flat as Saudi Arabia. I had heard of NAILEDdown but NAILEDUP?

Sure ED will have comments on 41A.

PS: first word in captcha is "rsolvers".. wow that must be an omen

Law student 7:39 AM  

@retired_chemist, I made the same ENeA/DURABLe mistake.

Great puzzle, though.

SethG 7:40 AM  

No problem with the Frenches, with the Swahili, spelling SANA'A, with ENYA, with EGON. I did forget which four letters to use from ESTablisheD, have no idea about ILSE vs Elsa vs Ilsa, and try Sartre instead of SAFIRE.

VASTEST is a ridiculous word.

pauer 7:50 AM  

Only 4 theme answers but they all interlock! Fun idea and a really low word count. Good stuff.

We've seen letters outside the grid before, but this is one of the only ones to resist the temptation of [How this puzzle will make you think] for OUTSIDETHEBOX or some such.

I'm filing this next to the TEN ORS puzzle in my brain.

Loren Muse Smith 7:54 AM  

Challenging, indeed. What a great idea for a theme! I DNF thanks to Natick city in the NW. Struggled forever in all the other corners, but eventually got them. Hand up for “pills” before VIALS and never changing DURABLe to DURABLY. Who the heck is “enea?”

I mysteriously kept wanting “omerta” to fit in for VENDETTA. Liked the cluing for I KNOW.

@SethG – I can’t believe you knew SANA, EGON,and ASANTE! I agree with your take on VASTEST.

I called Dad last night to congratulate him on doing a Wednesday. I warned him again that a Thursday may bring along some funny business. Mom asked (on the other extension), “Will it be a pangram?” (Her word of the moment that I’m sure she’s deftly worked into the conversation over a bridge hand or two). I said, “Not necessarily, but it may be a rebus – a puzzle with some funny business going on – more than one letter in a square, a symbol in a square – maybe even (and I really said this) letters outside the grid.” How eerie.

Diane 7:55 AM  

@eejit - Not for me, but sometimes it does that. Just try again later by deleting and refilling one letter. you add to your time every when you go back to the puzzle, though.

No problem with two Domino's in the puzzle, when it's not the theme?

Liked the misdirection that Domino and Checker can be playing pieces - but maybe the capital C in the clue gave it away as I definitely thought rock and roll first.

Glimmerglass 8:17 AM  

Wonderfully difficult Thursday, almost as hard as most Saturdays. I had two stupid spelling mistakes DURABLe/ENeA (and I should know ENYA from xwords), and kAPO/kASSAVA, but I eventually worked out the hard stuff. Great fun.

Anonymous 8:20 AM  

Didn't anybody else object to Fats Domino appearing in two clues, one of which helps answer the "outside r" clue at 4D?

John V 8:25 AM  

Challenging; hand up for DNF. Cool theme, which I got right away, but NW and SW really sunk me. CAPO/SANAA/ASANTE/CASSAVA all in a pile not passing my breakfast test. Could not see VIALS, having PILLS. 53A ERIN completely foreign to me, ditto ANNLEE. Should have known ANTOINE, but would not come this morning.

56A Trig function -- COTAN: shouldn't the clue say abbr?

Alternate clue of the day 41A: Secret Service in Columbia?

evil doug 8:25 AM  

Ironically, I don't think Chubby Checker or Fats Domino recorded for Chess Records....

How do you prevent a theme from screwing up a puzzle? By adding extra letters outside the box. Been a while since I've seen one of these, but I like this one fine. I thought the long answers were tonal with one very minor exception: I always say 'letter of resignation', but no biggie.

Tried 'talcs' for the drug stock. Had --toine, so the An- saved me on that and then 'Annlee' (or is it Ann Lee?).

Won a beer glass in a rock trivia contest on a layover at a Cleveland bar by knowing the group that sang "Time Won't Let Me": The Outsiders.

RIP Willie Safire---what a way with words.

Enjoyed the fresh cluing on 'point b', 'capo', 'aliases', 'durably', 'pennant' and 'tush' (I had rUmp for a bit).

Been a good week. Don't screw up Friday and Saturday, Will.

I bet Loren came up with asante without even breathing hard....


Anonymous 8:28 AM  

OK. Now I see a few others did.

This is a major fail in my book! There must be other Antione's in the world! Restaurant in New Orleans? Author of The Little Prince? French Chemist Lavoisier?

Tita 8:34 AM  

@Rex - a wolf can't yell YOWZA while whistling!
Fewer proper names than yesterday, but still alot...

@jae - exactly to everything you said (excepting the capitals - I thought only of La Paz.)

@Eejit - La Californie, for one.

Refusing to give up mAniocA before CASSAVA was my downfall. Had to google SANA'A to convince myself. (Isn't that a melon??)
Did you know that the plant is highly poisonous until a staggering array of processes are applied to it?

@Diane - was wondering about the redirect there too, but could only think of taxi cabs and pizza!

Good puzzle, though hard for Thursday.

dk 8:38 AM  

So I get OUTSIDERS right away and then spend 20 minutes trying to figure out how Calvin, Checker and Domino are outsiders. Then I get ESIGNATIONLETTE and I still sit here wondering about how the aforementioned lads can be linked as outsiders….

I returned to the Northwest to try to cram in pearl rice for 1d - and like attempting to pull on the skinny jeans… Had to check CASSAVA as that is a new one for me.

56 minutes later I was done only to find out it is EGON not iGON.

I am thinking of starting up a reality puzzle show titled: Clueless.

🌟🌟🌟 (3 Stars) Just a fun time.

Tita 8:39 AM  
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Tita 8:42 AM  

@JohnV - "Trig" instead of "Trigonometry" clued the shortening (not abbv) at COTAN for COTANgent...but you knew that... ;)
(I had COSEC there for too long...)

Sue McC 8:43 AM  

Great Thursday! I didn't care for SANAA and ASANTE so close to each other, but for some reason I got OUTSIDERS and immediately saw OUTSIDE R'S, so that helped tremendously in getting the theme answers. ETAT got filled in by crosses, so I never even read the clue, and when I read through the comments was wondering what the French business was all about...had to go back to the puzzle to investigate.

joho 8:44 AM  

A fourth winner in a row this week!

I got the theme ... finally ... at (R)ELIGIOUSREFORME(R).

I ended up with the same careless mistake as others with DURABLe which is so lame as we all know ENYA!

Really fresh and fun, thank you, Sean Dobbin!

Anonymous 8:47 AM  

Wow! Can't believe I finished! Only three Googles. Horse shoe NAILED UP refers to nailing it with the ends pointing up to keep the luck from running out. An old superstition.

Howard B 8:54 AM  

@ACM: "Knowing Fats Domino's real name was ANTOINE was my toehold. Definitely filed under "why do I know that but not what I had for lunch yesterday?"...a file getting alarmingly full."
- This is, disconcertingly, my mental experience as well lately :). I need a new filing system.

So yeah, I love these sort of themes more than Rex, and also agreed with Rex on the general name-iness of the fill. That was a rough spot. Liked learning what the Swahili word meant, though. I have seen it (not infrequently) used as a name before.

Didn't think there was anything in terms of crossword difficulty that was far beyond the pale here, though it was trickier than usual. Also have no objection to additional R's within theme answers. The only thematic commonality is R's at the terminal ends of answers, which is clearly stated (OUTSIDE Rs). So no other inconsistency going on to spoil it for me.

Sir Hillary 8:56 AM  

Not sure if others have commented on this, but while "thank you" in Swahili is "asante", "thank you very much" in Swahili is "asante sana". Cool to see SANAA right above ASANTE, albeit with the extra A.

Also, my "nom de Rex" is a tribute to my favorite Bond movie, in which Ms. Steppat played a big part. It is her character, the toadlike Fraulein Bunt, who kills Bond's wife Teresa in the final scene of the only 007 film to end on a down note.

jackj 9:01 AM  

A nice debut puzzle from Sean Dobbin, a think outside the box puzzle, (if a rather basic one, since only the beginning and ending “R’s” of the three 15 letter entries are on the outside looking in), but also with a mildly cleverish, think-it-through, reveal.

The theme answers were all straightforward once the gimmick was deduced, as in (R)ESIGNATIONLETTE(R) but, it seemed that the true strength of the puzzle was in the fill, not the theme.

Things like ANNLEE, (a gimme, if one has paid attention when this oft needed name has appeared in the past), SETSSAIL, (with OPENSEA on its starboard flank), and master wordsman SAFIRE and POINTB also qualifying as standouts.

The real fun tussle comes in the upper left corner where answers like CASSAVA, a cleverly clued ALIASES (and ditto on CAPO), SANAA, (which wanted to be LHASA), and, well, let me just note that all of the entries in that corner, including ASANTE, VENDETTA and ASTR, were special and what we have is a truly “stellar”, gnarly but fun section which seemed best left for last in the solving.

The only slightly sour points came with HOER, DRESSES, the iffy TREE answer and POOR, (as clued), but one might make the point that these are but NITPICKS. They certainly don’t diminish the overall excellence of the puzzle.

Congratulations, Sean!

jberg 9:33 AM  

Finished with two errors, one of them really stupid. First, the same DURABLe/ENeA cross as so many others (no matter what it was that made ENYA famous, it wasn't famous enough to get into my awareness); and then when I figured out ANN LEE, I stupidly wrote down ANlLEE instead, which had ANTOINE - so I ended up guessing Fats's name was AlTeINE (didn't know the Star Trek name, and TReI seemed as good as TROI.)

Lots of writeovers: floSSES before DRESSES, and the same two as everyone else. First Sucre, then I got the terminal A from ATE and said, Aha, it's really LhasA! I too never realized Sana'a was that high.

Similarly, I figured Pharmacy stock must be DRUGS - noticed how it wasn't clued as Drugstore stock! Then I got the 4D theme answer, changing the g to l, and realized it must be pIlLS. Only VASTEST saved me. (There must be some joke about Big Bertha, the vastest gun in the East, but I can't quite work it out, so I offer the raw materials free to whoever wants them.)

Great puzzle, but two quibbles: To embark is to get on the boat; later the boat SETS SAIL, but it's not the same thing. And if I remember right, Ellery Queeen was the pen name for two people, so ALIASES doesn't really fit.

What is the rule on duplicating? I thought it was OK in clues, just not in answers. Often you see identical clues two or three times, with a different answer each time - is that a special case?

Anonymous 9:35 AM  

CAPO changes the KEY -- the tune is the same. puzzle is tough enough without inventing new meanings for words! And Cotangent is never ever Cotan! either COT if you program or cotanget. You dont get to make up new ___

OISK 9:46 AM  

Too much pop culture for me, although the theme was clever, and made the puzzle enjoyable overall. I missed enya, as did many here, although I have no idea who "Enya" is, (have seen it in puzzles, though, and should have gotten it) but I missed one other square, because I have never heard of "Gwens" Stefani, nor of "Wes" Montgomery. I knew it had to be either Gwens and Wes, or Gwenn and Wen, and I chose the latter. I don't think that two pop clues should cross like that, but that is just my own peculiar prejudice.

chefbea 9:53 AM  

Tough puzzle. Had to google. Hand up for noire and pills.

I went to my pantry to look at the box of tapioca. No mention of cassava. Just soy.

orangeblossomspecial 9:59 AM  

Thanks to @FearlessK and @Don Byas, here is 'West Coast Blues' by WES Montgomery.

Fats Domino and Chubby Checker are too ancient for @Rexie to put them in his blog, so here is ANTOINE Fats Domino.

And here is Chubby CHECKER, including an intro by Dick Clark, who died yesterday.

.alphbunke 10:17 AM  

Loved the puzzle. When I got the revealer I thought it meant one R was outside the box. It was fun to realize that it applied to both the first and last letter.

Cheerio 10:23 AM  

Loved this puzzle! I will now remember Sean Dobbins name and be happy when I see it on the puzzle. I agree with @retired_chemist that the puzzle had some delicious learning moments. That's really why I liked it so much. But I also love how getting the theme word "outsiders" blew open the puzzle for me. Usually I think about the theme after the fact. Favorite things I didn't know: Sanaa, Eris, Ann Lee, Nostre Musique. I'm embarrassed that I've never heard of Sanaa. It looks like a place that I might even consider visiting one day. The wikipedia page for Eris is an interesting read.

Cheerio 10:23 AM  
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Loren Muse Smith 10:47 AM  

@Evil - sorry to say I did not know ASANTE, but I do now.

@jackj - thanks for pointing out SET SAIL across from OPEN SEA. Cool.

But the prize of the day goes to @Sir Hillary. I was utterly, insanely, and childishly jealous that you were able to make the observation that "very much" in Swahili is "sana," and that SANAA is elegantly placed right above ASANTE!!!! To use a word I've picked up here (courtesy of Tita or Gill I.P.) That observation gobsmacked me! Wonder if that was serendipity or design.

Matthew G. 10:50 AM  

Will Shortz is on his game this week -- I can't recall a better Monday-through-Thursday series than we've just had.

I loved this puzzle. I also finished in a pretty normal Thursday time. I know why, and it was luck, not skill. I decided to try following Matt Gaffney's recent advice from his new video series, and start by scanning for fill-in-the-blank clues rather than starting from 1A. I don't know how well this will work over the long haul, but it was very useful today because it meant my first entry was AUTO. That started me off right next to the theme revealer, and so I had OUTSIDERS before I even tried for the long downs or their crosses. Thus, I never had to scratch my head over the missing Rs, which saved a boatload of time.

Didn't find anything off about the theme entries. A RESIGNATION LETTER is unquestionably a thing called by that name, and so is a RELIGIOUS REFORMER. ROCK AND ROLL SINGER is probably weaker than "rock and roll star" or "rock and roller" would be, but not by much.

Lindsay 10:54 AM  

I think I am a robot after all. I got 35A OUTSIDERS, and concluded an "ET" rebus must be afoot. Then I filled in the grid, wrote the Rs in the top margin and asked myself what the three Rs had to do with aliens. Or OUTSIDERS of any sort. Are elementary school students from another planet? No answer occurring to me, I put the puzzle down and walked away.

A flaming example of why I have never figured out, and never will be able to figure out, any puzzle with a meta theme. Not once, not ever.

Anonymous 11:19 AM  

@Rex, this is the second consecutive day that I've noted for you typos in your commentary. In both instances I noted the corrections were later made. I don't know why they caught my attention. I dislike nitpickers but I work in an industry where nitpickers flourish. Of course, there are no nitpickers on this blog. When commenters on Wordplay call out Deb's errors, whether mere typos or something more substantive, Deb has the good sense and manners to thank that person and acknowledge the error and note that it has been corrected. That not only makes the commenter feel good but makes the early comment noting the error make sense after the change. And I'm not just saying....


JenCT 11:27 AM  

@Anonymous 9:35: think of a CAPO in terms of changing the TUNE, as in tuning the instrument.

Liked this very much; took a long time, but ultimately finished with no errors.

Can we please retire HOER? I've worked with lots of landscapers, and never referred to one as a HOER. "Okay, you dig the holes; you can spread the mulch; and, oh yeah, would you be the HOER?"

Sounds like a bad TV Reality show concept.

Anonymous 11:29 AM  

As ever, I admire all of you who had fun with this. For me, when the puzzle's about the constructor showing off how clever he is, the joy is gone.

GILL I. 12:18 PM  

@jenCT I seriously got CAPO by thinking of the mafia offing your head which indeed changes your tune.
@Lindsay: Sure you will. I'm guessing by next Wed.
@JFC: I would like to say ASANTE in advance for correcting all of my errors because I forget to preview and I always have a ton.

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

@JFC - First, I believe that Rex prefers getting notices of typos not in the comments but via email. Second, what on earth makes you think you're the one and only one that pointed out the typo? Third, what the hell does "I noted you for" mean?

KRMunson 12:35 PM  

Am I the only person who thought that 4-, 7-, and 10-down lacked "Inside R's"????

acme 12:49 PM  

Ha! I'll bet that even tho it would probably grammatically be "Musique NOiRE" in French, we subconsciously thought noire bec of all the musique noire in the puzzle: Chubby Checker, Fats Domino, Wes Montgomery...
perhaps Enya is Black Irish? ;)

(fwiw, the real spelling of her name is Eithne)

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

My only issue was the lack of follow-through on the "Chubby/Fats" misdirection. Shouldn't the actual answer be an interesting as the implied one? ROCKANDROLLSINGERS just doesn't do it for me. That's like cluing "Costello and Presley, for example" as WHITEMEN or something. Just boring.

quilter1 1:06 PM  

I thought this one was really fun. Finished in the NE as I resisted SANA'A for too long.

Learned ASANTE from a former colleague who was a missionary kid in Kenya and taught our department how to be polite when we had visitors from Africa.

Hand up for NOiRE, and I remembered ANTOINE from puzzles.

Masked and Anonymous 1:07 PM  

@KRMunson: Darn good point. I reckon the way the puz looked at it, those answers lacked the R's that were on their "outside" edges (start and finish).

Fave filler:
- VENDETTA: In another puz universe, this could be a theme answer, with clue "Sell James CDs?"
- NAILEDUP: Has that sweet smell of subtle desperation that I always admire. thUmbsUp for nailedUp.
- NOTRE/LAC/RASE: Tough bunch to use in a sentence. Maybe: "That NOTRE Dame coach would LAC a RASE next year." Sure beats "ASANTE would say to Rudolph, 'Ho ho ho'", anyhoo.

Fave clue: That SAFIRE one. Already singled out by 31 for its niceness. Wonder what Safire would say about "nailed up".

Nice debut, Mr. Dobbin. Only 70 words, and still managed 4 U's. Asante, dude.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

I thought this was a GREAT puzzle, just what I look for on Thursdays.

600 1:15 PM  

I'm not sure why Rex found the theme answers less than spot on. I found ROCK AND ROLL SINGER and RELIGIOUS REFORMER perfectly fit. Usually themes don't help me much. These did. Maybe that's why I like them.

Also, I don't think anyone has noticed the different parsing of "OUTSIDERS" and "OUTSIDE R'S." Maybe it's just too self evident to bring up, but I enjoyed it.

The NW was hard for me, but somewhere out of crossword cyberspace I pulled out SANAA (after trying Lhasa) and the rest fell nicely. All in all, I really liked this puzzle. I love a rebus on Thursday and always come hoping for one, but this stood in well enough.

@acme--laugh out loud about that full file. I've got one too. as, apparently, does Howard B.

@Don Byas--The Rich! Too funny! But sad, very sad.

@chefbea--I love that you went to the box of tapioca! I'm in the group that thinks googling IS kind of cheating--but going to something real? I do that and call it a learning experience.

A little synchronicity: I've heard many pundits talking about how much Dick Clark did to help end racism in the music industry. Then I came here and found Fats and Chubby, who I'm pretty sure I saw on Bandstand oh, so many years ago. Nice coincidence.

Pope Paul III 1:22 PM  


Anonymous 1:27 PM  

@oisk: Your alternative can't be correct, b/c 65A calls for a plural ("and others").

Rube 1:32 PM  

Did all but the NW corner of this most enjoyable puzzle last night. Didn't know CASSAVA, CAPO, ALEC, and ASANTE. ALso, like others, thought LhasA, and had SaNK then SuNK before SINK. My guess is that most of us had never heard of SANA'A before last year's Arab Spring -- I sure hadn't -- and only now are beginning to learn about it and the rest of Yemen.

I, too, had the usual writeovers, but add ESTD/anno to my list. However, ENYA has become such common crosswordese these days that I filled it in off of the E. Four letters starting with E and "Celtic"... slam dunk. (Still don't really know who she is, just that she's crosswordese.)

If this is really a debut puzzle, then please, please keep them coming, Sean.

Almost forgot to mention that I, (sob), had to Google to get CASSAVA before the NW would open up.

Anonymous 1:35 PM  

Speaking of 'outsiders,' probably everything I'm about to say is going to show that I am one, serious-crossword-puzzle-community-wise, but here goes…

Am surprised that folks found this so challenging -- I'm not all that good at crosswords, and this is the first Thursday I've ever been able to finish on my own.

As for the 'pop' culture references… My fervent wish about crossword creators (that eventually, they'd come from my generation and stop including clues about obscure stuff from the 40's/50's/60's) may finally be starting to come true…

Oh, also -- I always start with the fill-in-the-blanks -- they're most often the easiest!

Sparky 1:39 PM  

Just couldn't finish NW corner, 2 and 3D. Wanted authors for 2D. PREOP a gimee. ANNLEE too. We used to go Hancock Shaker Village when we antiqued.

This took a while. Had OUTSIDERS but parsed incorrectly. The light dawned with LETTE-R; ah hah. Other Rs filled in.

@Gil I. P. That was cheese for me too. Funny @dk about the skinny jeans. Much good humor today. How nice.

Anonymous 1:42 PM  

600 said "Also, I don't think anyone has noticed the different parsing of "OUTSIDERS" and "OUTSIDE R'S." Maybe it's just too self evident to bring up, but I enjoyed it."

See Rudy @7:23am

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

WONDERFUL theme. Falls into the "wish I'd thought of that" category.

Joe DiP

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

Really good puzzles all week so far..

I think Dick Clark announced him as Mr. Antoine Fats Domino...

Anonymous 1:45 PM  

WONDERFUL theme. Falls into the "wish I'd thought of that" category.

Joe DiP

600 1:57 PM  

@Rudy--Sorry I missed that you had already brought up OUTSIDERS vs. OUTSIDE R's. I had read the blog . . . just missed it. Mea culpa.

Tita 2:05 PM  

Have you seen "The Commitments"?
Your Black Irish comment reminds of the line:
"Do you not get it, lads? The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So say it once, say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud."

(Spoken when one of them asks if being black is not a requirement for being a soul singer...)

archaeoprof 2:27 PM  

No time today. I'm chairing the tenure committee hearings. Joy.

Delightfully fresh puzzle. NW stumped me, even though I often use a CAPO when playing guitar!

Bird 2:48 PM  

Wow. Again I was done in at the NW and NE corners, though both were partial fills again today. I had SWABKIT for 12D and HOWL (all the cartoons of guys going crazy for pretty girls show him turning into a wolf that whistles and howls) for 16A. For CAPO – is it the crime boss meaning that changes your tune or is there a musical definition? Got the theme, which was pretty good by the way with Checker and Domino and some crosses. I agree with @Rex about the rest of the fill – I’m going to get Rosetta Stone for Swahili and start memorizing the World Atlas.

Had DRUGS for VIALS. Tried to fit PRIVATEEYE (I) for 2D. I’m no English Prof., but I think the wording for 44D fits DURABLE. I did correct after seeing ENYA, though.

RIP Dick Clark.

Jim 3:07 PM  

Stand up and take notice! Now THIS is what a Thursday puzzle should be.

Although I was almost SuNK in the NW. I righted myself, slowly, after pulling ALEC out of the recesses of my brain. I should not know that answer. In fact, I'm ashamed I do. Goldeneye was not a great picture. But ALEC was played by the inimitable...what's his name. The guy who plays the same psychopath in every Patriot Games and fill-in-the-nineties-action-movie-here. It seems like a LONG way to go for ALEC, but, hey, it pulled my fat out of the fire today.

I really don't see what the fuss about NAILEDUP is. And I don't think it's specific to the fact that horseshoes are, in fact, nailed UP, either. I think anything could have fit here...'Like picture frames', 'Like wall art', or 'Like calendars'.

NAILED is not really a verb, except in one specific, rather bedroom-specific sense.

Maxwell 3:09 PM  

I agree with KRMunson

4, 7 and 10-down don't *lack* outside Rs. They "have" outside Rs.

Lewis 3:13 PM  

@anon 9:35 -- if you change the key you have changed the tune, yes, in a more subtle way than changing the melodic line, nonetheless, the tune has been changed.
And you'll find COTAN if you Google "trigonometric functions" and look for the abbreviations, as in the clue the abbreviation "trig" was used.

I found the puzzle difficult, but not tedious. Things kept coming and breaking through. Lots of corrections on my part. Loved the process. Loved the puzzle. Great puzzle aside from the fact that it's a debut. Sean, keep them coming -- I hope you're not a flash in the pan!

asante cotan michaels 3:30 PM  

I get why people balk at foreign words in the puzzle, but I for one like to learn the word "thank you" in all languages...
and millions of folks speak Swahili (Just met a guy from Tanzania a few nights ago and he calls it Kiswahili)
I will be delighted to surprise him by adding ASANTE (which I can remember as sort of a corruption of an Italian toast..."to health!" ASANTE!)

The only other words I know are simba (lion) hujamo rafiki (hello friend) so this is a welcome addition, courtesy of the NY Times crossword puzzle!

(No Ms in the puzzle today, mmmm?)

wyonative 3:37 PM  

I did this on and off all day long, telling myself "I think I can, I think I can" each time I returned. Finishing it was a tremendous pleasure. I made all the mistakes everyone has mentioned and more. I felt sure, for a short while, that wink was the answer instead of leer.
Add me to the list of people who left "durable" in. Makes me want to know the proportion of adjectives to adverbs in NYT crossword puzzles.

Asante Samuel 4:20 PM  

Why didn't Sean clue ASANTE as NFL cornerback Samuel (much easier clue)? Because he plays for the hated Philadelphia Eagles (who incidentally are trying to trade him) and this is a New York paper!

sanfranman59 4:34 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 19:32, 18:57, 1.03, 60%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 9:59, 9:19, 1.07, 68%, Medium-Challenging

mac 4:50 PM  

Enoyed this one a lot, got the theme fairly easily and filled it in at a good clip.

I liked finding Safire in the puzzle, miss his grumpy brilliance.

Anonymous 5:02 PM  

@Anon 12:19 pm and Gill I. P. -- First, I did not direct my comment to either of you. Second, I assume others may point out typos to Rex by email, phone or otherwise but fail to see the relevance of that to my comments. Third, if Rex chooses to run his blog in a manner that does not suit me or take suggestions from a potential donor, then my choice is to put up with that or not particpate on this blog. Third, what surprises me is that anyone, especially those on this blog whose IQs are presumably above 100, would object to someone saying "Thank you." Fourth, I believe you missed my point. Fifth, have a nice day....


jackj 5:06 PM  


If you like 63 across, your moniker for today can be:

"asante cotan mole".

RMasked and AnonymousR 5:17 PM  

@Maxwell: The folks agree with you guys. They drew the missing R's in the margins of the solution grid. So then the answers have outside R's, because they didn't have their outside R's. Or whatever.

Really cool theme idea. Elegant. Unlike outside toilets, for instance, which would've been way too awkward a theme to implement.

asante cassava moles 5:32 PM  

so right! Asante! Missed 63A...

I even tried to make a puzzle with MOLES (Molecules, chocolate sauce, spies and critters) but it was rejected! :(

(just as well, as I like to have suspicious moles removed!)

if you miss "grumpy brilliance", I know a blog you may want to check out...
oh wait! you're on it! ;)

michael 7:41 PM  

I thought this was a great puzzle and (for once) found this easier than most of you. I did put in pills for a while, but did know enya.

Z 9:12 PM  

Early morning meeting, so took a stab at lunch, getting most of the south, then finished the north after work. ESTb and ILSa left me wondering what bRaSSES had to do with anyone's morning routine.

Avoided the ENeA mistake by getting ENYA first. I did look at the clue again to make sure DURABLY fit.

I got SANAA off ATE. We have a sizable Yemeni immigrant population in Dearborn, but I learned that SANAA is so far above sea level because I googled it in a previous puzzle.

@JFC - since you are being obtuse, publicly pointing out other's errors is rude. I believe that the suggestion that such observations be emailed in private rather than posted in the comments was an attempt to gently point out to you that you were being rude without repeating your rudeness. There is no need for you to thank me.

GILL I. 9:16 PM  

@Z: Gracias. A gentleman and a scholar.....

Anonymous 11:04 PM  

@JFC - It seems that you are seeking gratitude and attention for pointing out other's errors. Is that rude, pompous, snooty, impolite? What would Emily Post say?

lorjer 1:08 PM  

I figured out the thing about the R's but wonder why the solution did not show it in today's paper .

OISK 7:24 PM  

Thanks to "anonymous" for pointing out that I missed "and others", and certainly should have gotten "Gwens". My fault, not that of the constructor! BTW, when I write that a puzzle has too much pop culture FOR ME, I am not implying that there is anything wrong with that. Our responses to the puzzles are personal, and there is not reason today's constructors should be writing for 66 year old scientists who never listen to popular music! I didn't care for crossing "Wes" with Gwens," since I never heard of either one, but Rex never heard of Neuchatel, which I have visited a few times.

Lola505 1:13 PM  

Good one, Sean Dobbin! You really had me goin' for awhile -- I thought, "Are there NO 3-letter words here that are gimmmies to get me started?!" Lots of erudite clues and fill words, many I didn't know, but learned by the crosses.
Didn't take too too long to finish, with no errors, and only two wite-outs (my version of erasures), and a pleased-with-myself feeling.

Spacecraft 4:16 PM  

Finished, with the all-too-common mistake at ENeA--but there was no hope for the NW without Google. I agree that ALIASES never occurred, because authors (at least good ones!) are not criminals. I STILL have no idea what 1a means; filled in CAPO entirely on crosses, after 3d ("It's decided in the fall--" which is one of those clues that could mean ANYthing) turned out to be _ENNANT. I haven't the foggiest what CAPO has to do with tune-changing. And ASTR? Without a vowel ending? Completely threw me. As for 20 and 24a, those were just purely ungettable except by research.

A groaner of a theme; I felt as if the constructor were elbowing me in the ribs. Get it? Get it? Yeah, I got it.

There's some good stuff here: VENDETTA, SAFIRE, ANTOINE. (BTW, @acme, we know Fats' real name because the late great Dick Clark introduced him that way. Dick was always a people-person; that's why his career lasted his whole life.)

I'll add my objection to the clue for 27d: a POOR one indeed.

Waxy in Montreal 5:11 PM  

@Spacecraft - with you on Capo which according to Wikipedia means "a device used on the neck of a stringed (typically fretted) instrument to shorten the playable length of the strings, hence raising the pitch". However, other than the N-W, found this easy for a Thursday, maybe because OUTSIDE R'S was revealed very quickly by ETAT & AUTO, gimmes IMHO.

Captcha = "parldf ecutures", which certainly sounds like it could be useful dans l'état de la Floride or on lac Neuchâtel.

Lola505 5:12 PM  

@Spacecraft, a capo is a little "cheater" bar, applied to the neck of a guitar between frets to easily change the key in which music is played. HTH.

Spacecraft 7:37 PM  

Thanks, @Waxy % @Lola. We used to call 'em steel fingers. Never knew the "proper" name for 'em. Ay Caramba--and me such a Deadhead: Jerry used them all the time.

Dirigonzo 8:18 PM  

My (incomplete) grid would have been considerably neater had I not thrown down Earlyretirement at 7d off the E in PREOP - I knew it was wrong at the next cross, but having to change every letter but one made the middle of the puzzle a little untidy. I managed the rest with only moderate difficulty after OUTSIDERS appeared, until , that is, I arrived back in the NW corner which remained largely blank. I finally decided on one four-letter word to complete the entire section - "UNCLE" - and then I came here to learn all the stuff I did not know.

Thanks to my fellow syndi-solvers for explaining CAPO.

The safety net is broken snd after the upcoming elections it could be totally dismantled. (Sorry, I try to keep my political comments on my own blog, but I am really worried about what is happening to our society - I'll stop now.)

Dalai Lama 8:19 PM  

Now, now, now, my good people. It is better to light a match than to curse the noire. We are all part and particles of this vastest universe. Blogger bitterness be banned!

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