Olympians brought them down / FRI 4-13-12 / Upper house support / Big inits in paperback publishing / Pulitzer-winning poet Armantrout / Home of U.S. Army Women's Museum / Word repeated before lama sabachthani in Mark 15

Friday, April 13, 2012

Constructor: Tim Croce

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: COWBIRD (36A: Follower of grazing cattle) —
Cowbirds are birds belonging to the genus Molothrus in the family Icteridae. They are brood parasitic New World birds which are unrelated to the Old World cuckoos, one of which, the Common Cuckoo, is the best-known brood parasitic bird. (wikipedia)
• • •

I think I was psyched out / put off my game just by the sight of this one. I am over the whole 15-stacks thing. Just seeing them now makes me depressed. 15-stacks are the new pangram, i.e. a pointless achievement that's been done many times so who cares? Now, when they're really great, they can be reasonably delightful. But it's hard to get all good phrases and mostly non-ridiculous crosses. The 15s on this one are actually 2/3 strong up top (not a fan of any phrase with "ONE'S" in it) and 2/3 strong below (PASSES ON DESSERT = PAINTS ONE'S HOUSE = not a thing). The crosses, however, are dire, esp. up top. That stretch of Downs from ESTS to RAES (inclusive) is about the worst set of five consecutive Downs I've ever seen. No one answer is beyond the pale, but together they're a mess. So, stack-wise, you've got mixed results.

The rest of it is OK, though ROOF TRUSS is ??? (32D: Upper house support) and the non-"Time Machine" ELOI is annoying (39A: Word repeated before "lama sabachthani" in Mark 15)—look, you've got ELOI in your grid; accept it. Don't pretend it's something interesting. It's cruddy fill you had to use. Just "Time Machine" it and move on. Actually, the whole west area is unattractive: FT. LEE, ROOF TRUSS, WTO, ELOI. I like IT HURTS (40D: "Ow-w-w!"), which rescues that section from utter ruin. Middle was really, really hard for me to get into, mostly because I (stupidly) couldn't come up with DEO volente, which, even though it's small, would've helped a lot with every one of its crosses (all of which stumped me for a long time). Having ENSNARE for ENTWINE (21D: Tangle up) was my big undoing. That was hard to come back from. If I've heard of a COWBIRD, I don't know when. Anyway, if I hadn't bit on ENSNARE, and if I'd remembered DEO, I could have shaved minutes off this thing. As it was, this took me longer than any puzzle (including Sundays!) I've done since Mar. 19 (when I started keeping track of my times on paper). Not astronomically long, but way longer than a Friday should be taking me. I blame the 15 stacks, or rather my disgusted reaction to them, for putting me off my game.

  • 19A: Flutter the eyelids, say (STIR) — this puzzle is definitely clued at a Saturday level. I had three crosses (ST-R) before I figured this one out. 
  • 30A: "Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress" novelist (DEFOE) — a much-needed gimme, though of course I misspelled it (Willem) DAFOE. Also nailed LETHE (43A: River that the dead drank from, in myth). Yay, literature background.
  • 35A: Intl. group whose biennial conferences are focuses of protest (WTO) — I could see the damned fake anarchists in my mind, but couldn't bring up more than the "W" part of the initialism. World ... Health Organization? No. No. You wouldn't clue WHO that way! Ugh. My bad. 
  • 41A: Frames wind up on them (FILM REELS) — this is what I mean about Saturday cluing. There are hardly any reliable toeholds in that center section. 45A: "Love Actually" co-star, 2003 (NEESON)??? Didn't that movie have like a thousand "famous" people in it?
  • 1D: You'll get it from CliffsNotes (GIST) — yuck on this clue, for a number of reasons. Much as I think CliffsNotes is a stupid product, those pamphlety things provide *way* more than the GIST.

  • 10D: Pulitzer-winning poet Armantrout and others (RAES) — more mutton dressed as lamb. See also ELOI.
  • 31D: Home of the U.S. Army Women's Museum (FT. LEE) — hell if I know. Being in the awkward west section, this was a tough pick-up for me.
  • 25D: Chiwere speakers (IOWAS) — not a gimme, but I had the "IO-" so ... easy.
  • 49D: "Rotten School" series author (STINE) — As in R.L. Inferrable since he did that whatever series for kids in the '90s. "Goosebumps!" I associate that series with "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," because I associate both with the godawful early '90s.
  • 23D: Winner of over 100 Pulitzer Prizes, briefly (NY TIMES) — gratuitous self-promotion? Why not? Not off-putting at all.
  • 58D: "Odi et ___": Catullus (AMO) — "I hate and I love": don't go getting any ideas about ODI in your puzzle, please, constructors.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jackj 12:08 AM  

When seeking the answer to the clue “Winner of over 100 Pulitzer Prizes, briefly”, can anyone think that Will Shortz would sanction any answer other than NYTIMES? Me neither.

In typical Croceian fashion, Tim gives us some triple stacks to remember, especially those in the upper portion of the puzzle with INONESSALADDAYS being a close call for “Best of the bunch” in my book.

Rex’s resident bard will, no doubt give the relevant passage, but SALAD DAYS began with Shakespeare, in “Antony and Cleopatra”, spoken by Cleo as I recall.

That triggered a wonderful memory for me of a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon, quite a few years back, to see “Antony and Cleopatra” at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

What made it especially memorable was that Lou Gossett, Jr., (then a big star in the U.S.), was in the cast as part of a summer stint with the esteemed Royal Shakespeare Company and his role in that play was, literally, that of a spear-carrier. His dedication to his craft by taking such a subordinate position with the Company impressed me no end.

Can’t help but note that Tim adopts a “bad boy” persona by cluing ELOI in a way that even the most ardent Maleska devotee would find offensive and he will likely take heart thinking that ITHURTS.

Couldn’t help but give a little poke, Tim. I enjoyed your puzzle, (mostly)!

jae 12:15 AM  

Pretty zippy Fri.  The 15s were pretty easy for me (although PASSESUP... took a while to fix) but the middle was tough, so medium over all.  I liked it!  Solid challenge.

Have no idea what NAL is.

Prefer my OYE to precede como va.

My erasure in the middle was ENSNARL.

I agree with Rex about 15 stacks. Iffy fill PLUS once you've got a few crosses they are usually pretty obvious, e.g. I got 1a with only the G in GIST.

thursdaysd 12:17 AM  

Well, I personally am thrilled. I finished this in under half an hour with no googling, and no "clear wrong letters" which I've been using in preference to google lately, and felt for sure I would find Rex saying it was easy.

First pass I didn't have much beyond WTO and IST, and I've never heard of STINE or Armantrout or LON who?, so I must just have been on the right wavelength tonight.

Maybe I'll have some DESSERT tomorrow to celebrate.

JoelF 12:33 AM  

I gotta disagree about triple stacks. Yes, they've been done a lot in crosswords ... but so has pretty much everything else, and I think if you do stacks well, they make for an interesting change to the 68- and 70-worders we usually see on Friday. This one was pretty well done, I thought, especially the top stack.

I can excuse some of the short stuff like ESTS, NAL, and RAES, because I rarely get pleasure out of filling in short answers anyway. The pleasure comes from unveiling cool long answers like GIVE ME ONE REASON.

GILL I. 12:34 AM  

The six 15 stacks sound like a conversation with a date someone from LETHE arranged for you.
I always seem to say HUH? a lot on my Friday's. COWBIRD? ROOFTRUSS? Odi et AMO???
I did like I THURTS and OYE should really precede Como Va.....

GILL I. 12:37 AM  

@jae: Like minds? At least it wasn't Ole.

Tyler 12:47 AM  

I thought this was pretty good. If nothing else, it's a good reminder that you don't need to show off with quad-stacks to make an enjoyable themeless.

Mark Murphy 12:48 AM  

NAL stands for New American Library, a pioneering paperback-book publisher. I believe it's now part of Penguin Books.

As I was going through this puzzle, I wondered for a moment whether it was originally supposed to run a week earlier, on Good Friday, given the references to Lent, Deo Volente (God willing) and "Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?"("My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?")

Greg Charles 12:50 AM  

In the months of reading this blog, I've noticed the two things most likely to make Rex grumble are birds and California place names. Today we had both, but Rex only hit cowbird, and totally gave San Rafael a pass. I started with Sausalito there and paid dearly for it.

I actually liked the new clue for ELOI. I learned something new. Now if I can just remember it. Eloi eloi Gabby Sabatini. Is that it?

Tobias Duncan 12:52 AM  

I did not know any of the gimmies Rex spoke of but COWBIRD and ROOFTRUSS was no problem at all.
Was gonna put in ensnare with no crosses but get this, I misspelled it so it would not fit and popped in ENTWINE.Talk about luck! As most of you know by now I cant spell for sh*^.
Speaking of which,did Rex use "Site" for "sight" as some joke I did not get? I mess up my homophones all the fricken time. I know which ones go where but in the heat of the moment I often pop in the wrong one.I dont think I have ever seen Rex do it though.

Oldactor 12:54 AM  

Here in Texas I see cowbirds almost every day and who doesn't remember Lon Chaney Jr. and Senior.

Evan 12:55 AM  


Well done. Like you, it's a rare occurrence when I feel that the puzzle was relatively easy for a Friday but Rex rates it as challenging or medium-challenging. So you're right to be thrilled -- take it as a sign that your solving skills are markedly improving.

Leaving aside Rex's qualms about 15-letter stacks, as I wrote in a previous comment some time ago, I actually think that grid-spanning 15-letter answers tend to be easier for me to solve than shorter ones. I don't know if others have the same feeling and I'm not entirely sure why that is, but my best guess is that 15-letter answers usually have multiple words in them, and once you've got a couple of letters, you can perhaps figure out one of the smaller individual words and from there get the rest of it. It may not be as easy to get a good toe-hold on a long answer if you're dealing with one very long word.

In theory, there are a lot more possible combinations of letters that can fit in a 15-letter space than a 7-letter one. But maybe once you have a few letters, the number of possible combinations in a 15-letter answer drops dramatically. I doubt that there are many 15-letter phrases that will give you the equivalent of "I'd like to hear any justification at all" without the answer sounding completely ridiculous. By contrast, smaller answers might have multiple possible answers that could reasonably fit well with a clue -- for example, 51-Across could have been REAR, TAIL, TUSH, or BUTT, and that's before one even considers if the clue is referring to one's RUMP and not another definition of "bottom." 4-Down could have been IMPROVE, ADVANCE, or UPGRADE.

Case in point, GIVE ME ONE REASON was literally the first thing I put in the grid, no crosses, and it went down almost immediately. I pulled back on it for a little bit because I thought 1-Down might be PLOT, but once GIST became a reasonable guess I plowed ahead. SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW fell after getting the first three letters. ENTWINE and ENABLER, however, both took much longer to crack, especially because, like Rex, I thought ENSNARE could have worked there too.

Perhaps some linguistics or neuroscience experts -- or failing that, crossword enthusiasts -- can enlighten me as to whether or not that made any sense. It made sense in my head, anyway.

Tobias Duncan 12:55 AM  

COWBIRDS are pretty neat.They lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and then go off and party their asses off and never look back while some poor little finch is raising a monster twice its size.
Lots of parenting like that in Taos.
Damn hippies.

Anonymous 12:57 AM  

Really, Rex?:
"I think I was psyched out / put off my game just by the site of this one."

Fix that.

Clark 1:13 AM  

Das Tut Gut!

ELOI is sort of a catholic school gimme—at least for those of us who were paying attention.

Octavian 1:15 AM  

Absolutely crushed this one like a soda can in a trash compactor. Was sure that Rex would ruin my night by calling it EASY, so delighted to see it was deemed formidable.

Did the top in like 2 minutes. Had Give Me One Reason and So What Else Is New instantly and then just filled in the downs like i was just dotting i's and crossing t's.

San Rafael was a gimme for a Californian, and the bottom triple stack came extremely fast, starting with Your Place or Mine (first thought was, "You Come Here Often?" and then Instrument Panel (first thought was "Departure Boards".

Very interesting and enjoyable puzzle, all in all.

Hope everyone has a great Friday. Don't pass on dessert!

foodie 1:16 AM  

I liked it and given my usual Friday struggles, this was more of an Easy- Medium for me. If the long ones come to you, it's a huge help.

I really wanted WET BEHIND THE EARS instead of the SALAD DAYS answer. GIST went in with no hesitation, but what was tight was WAD rather then END. Still that D gave me DESSERT...

I appreciated learning the new ELOI meaning!

Anonymous 1:47 AM  

Rex wrote:

"Don't go getting any ideas about ODI in your puzzle, please, constructors."

Oh yeah? Just try and stop us.

-The Constructors

Andrea Cranny Michaels 2:01 AM  

If only WETBEHINDTHEEARS was 15, not 16!
I could pair it with INONESSALADDAYS 15 and FRESHOFFTHEFARM 15 ( which is what I put in) et voila, a Monday!

Malapop right next door...I had EST for SWEET ending...

Odi = hate, as in ODIOUS, ODIUM...so AMO works well.

I love learning this meaning of ELOI, perhaps that is how the literary characters got their name...

Yes, very religious vibe to this puzzle...
(what else do you expect from someone whose name means "cross"?)
So maybe YOURPLACEORMINE? was meant to get to know someone in the "biblical sense"!

chefwen 2:05 AM  

Started off by confidently filling in outlet at 27A for hole in the wall which I thought was rather clever. NOT!

Had to do a couple of Googles to get a toe hold i.e. Rotten School guy and Chiwere speakers. Thought the bottom stack was easier than the top.

No COW BIRDS here, that I know of, we have cattle egrets that follow me around when I cut the grass, looking for centipedes, mice and other little tasty creatures. They are beautiful and graceful.

Why anyone would PASS ON DESSERT (to quote @Rex) is beyond the pale to me.

retired_chemist 2:17 AM  

Hand up for the obviously popular ENSNARE. Some other odd writeovers today: COWHAND -> COWHERD -> COWBIRD; TERRITORY for FREE STATE; EL TEMPO [sic]for NY TIMES; SANTA ROSA for SAN RAFAEL RASH for ROTE; SUMP for RUMP. Despite all this I finished in a better than average (for me) time, so I'll call it easy-medium.

I too seem to be getting the 15s with fewer crosses than I used to need. Progress, I presume. In any case I like 15 stacks much better than I used to.

Mostly enjoyable, with the several clinkers that @Rex and others pointed out. Thanks, Mr. Croce.

Captcha "feasse cershist" must mean something in, say, Gaelic.....

retired_chemist 2:23 AM  

COWBIRDS and grackles flock together and interbreed here in TX. Sometimes HUGE flocks. One gets a Hitchcockian feeling and wonders where Tippi Hedren is.....

Gaius Valerius Catullus 7:00 AM  

Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

I hate and I love. Wherefore would I do this, perhaps you ask?
I do not know. But I feel that it happens and I am tortured.

Smitty 7:20 AM  

I agree with @thursdayd - finished in under :30 which is easy-medium for me. Like @andreacrannymichaels I started with WETBEHINDTHEEAR (ran out of space before the "s")
The rest was gettable but not at first. (I second Rex's ELOI comment)
WTO happened here in Seattle.. Bad day for the Emerald City.
What is NSW (state bordering the Pacific)?

Smitty 7:21 AM  

Oh New South Wales?

Gaius Valerius Catullus 7:28 AM  

Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

I hate and I love. Wherefore would I do this, perhaps you ask?
I do not know. But I feel that it happens and I am tortured.

The Bard 7:32 AM  

King Lear > Act IV, scene VII

KING LEAR: Where have I been? Where am I? Fair daylight?
I am mightily abused. I should e'en die with pity,
To see another thus. I know not what to say.
I will not swear these are my hands: let's see;
I feel this pin prick. Would I were assured
Of my condition!

CORDELIA: O, look upon me, sir,
And hold your hands in benediction o'er me:
No, sir, you must not kneel.

KING LEAR: Pray, do not mock me:
I am a very foolish fond old man,
Fourscore and upward, not an hour more nor less;
And, to deal plainly,
I fear I am not in my perfect mind.
Methinks I should know you, and know this man;
Yet I am doubtful for I am mainly ignorant
What place this is; and all the skill I have
Remembers not these garments; nor I know not
Where I did lodge last night. Do not laugh at me;
For, as I am a man, I think this lady
To be my child Cordelia.

Antony and Cleopatra > Act I, scene V

CLEOPATRA: My salad days,
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,
To say as I said then! But, come, away;
Get me ink and paper:
He shall have every day a several greeting,
Or I'll unpeople Egypt.

Loren Muse Smith 7:51 AM  

I liked the stacks and have come to learn those long answers are a lot easier to get than the shorties.

@Evil - SAWN again

@Tobias - too funny about COWBIRDs!

@Acme - I always wish I had noticed the stuff you see and wish I could post things like you do.

Gotta run - two reasons:

1. Wedding season
2. Prom season (and I have a 17 year old daughter)

John V 8:35 AM  

Loved crossing YOURPLACEORMINE with ITHURTS. I mean, what's up with that?

I thought medium and regretably had none of our host's reactions to the 15s, the fill, etc. This was one one of those puzzles where, after first pass through, there was still plenty 'o white space, the cite of which made me pail.

For me, a perfect Friday, esp. getting it done, error free, before heading to CLT. A good kickoff for the weekend. Honestly, Fridays don't get any better than that. Thanks, Tim.

jberg 8:49 AM  

@Loren, that was one reason more than was asked for! Generous!

Put me with those who a) found it medium at worst, b) had ploT before GIST - first word I put in, and really messed me up; the ONE REASON it was medium and not easy for me; 3) wanted ENsnarE before ENTWINE.

I got ELOI off the E - had a vague idea it means 'lord,' and seemed a likely thing to say twice. Would've been a good video clip choice - plenty of songs with 'lord, lord, lord' in them. Wait, maybe Jimmy Cliff? Nope, just one 'lord' in there.

This one had a nostalgic feel with those FILM REELS and developing film with TONER (not much developing these days, so we pour the stuff into printer cartridges).

@Retired_Chemist, what do those cowbird-grackle hybrids look like? Brown heads and big tails? I'd love to see one!

Gareth Bain 9:15 AM  

@Acme (cc: @Foodie): You know you can have a central 16 answer in your crossword, right? ;). Don't see what the fuss is about ELOI. Perfectly legitimate Biblical clue. I know there are people who believe there should be no Bible answers in crosswords; just like there are people who believe there should be no sports answers; or no Simpsons answers...

thursdaysd 9:21 AM  

@Evan - thanks. Saturdays are still a struggle but Thursday and Friday have improved. I still prefer English cryptics, but I'm very rusty at those.

@Oldactor - to the best of my recollection I've never seen or heard of either Chaney. I was thinking Bela Lugosi but of course he didn't fit. But I'll take a book over a movie any time.

joho 9:23 AM  

I was done in by the middle. I thought the star was Kate hudSON and was so pleased that I finally got COWherD. I did get REC, but has iSOF, got ENTWINE but never CRANNY. I got all the rest but DNF.

Nice shout out to Ulrich at 48A.

I, too, like the new cluing for ELOI and don't think I'll forget it.

Not the most fun Friday for me but that's my fault, not Tim Croce's.

Pete 9:28 AM  

Easiest Friday ever for me. Got 1A (almost, it took a while to dig up REASON rather than EXAMPLE ) off the G, and it just flowed from there.

Paying attention to birds is the easiest way possible to make one's life more interesting, more beautiful. They're omnipresent, and if you just pay attention when they present themselves to you you're living in a more interesting and beautiful world. The risk of turning into a full-fledged birdie and living your entire life with binoculars draped about your neck while wearing a floppy wool hat is actually minimal.

KRMunson 9:29 AM  

I was ready to see Rex rate this one easy, too. I was surprised to read Rex's review. There is something to being on the "same wavelength" as certain constructors. I see Tim Croce and I know I will get it done pretty quickly. Same with Paula Gamache, Barry Silk, and others.

captcha: depayead ntgrookip (organic catfood?)

Viva la weekend!

orangeblossomspecial 9:34 AM  

@thursdaysd - For LON Chaney Sr, try the silent version of Hunchback of Notre Dame or Phantom of the Opera. For LON Chaney Jr, try The Wolf Man or Abbot & Costello meet Frankenstein.

Sir Hillary 9:43 AM  

[In a bar]
Dick: "Your place or mine?"
Jane: "Give me one reason."
Dick: "Entwine in oil!"
Jane: "Well..."
Dick: "Plus, it hurts!"
Jane: "So what else is new?"
Dick: "Film reels."
Jane: "Edited?"
Dick: "Oye."
[They leave]

archaeoprof 9:49 AM  

Another 3-stack fan here. Especially when they're done as well as Tim Croce can do them.

@Andrea Cranny: your comment reminded me of Vinny the mobster in the film Sister Act. "I know dis woman, in da biblical sense!"

Loren Muse Smith 9:50 AM  

Ok. More time. I ended up NOT having to run out to get the Too Big But Found Out Late Last Night Someone Could Take It In By May 12 Prom Dress. She's changed her mind on the color. AARRGGGHH!

@Gareth - no Prince Valiant or state motto clues.

@Pete - I once watched our 10 month old Great Dane mix puppy get a thorough work out chasing around a "wounded" Killdeer (Plover? I'm not a birder). It was fun to watch.

@Thursdaysd - English cryptics? I'm impressed! My mind just doesn't work that way; I've never been able to get even one answer. Ever.

retired_chemist 9:51 AM  

@ jberg - the boat-tailed grackles, not so much. But common grackles and cowbirds have very similar morphology, just different color patterns. The grackles are a sort of iridescent black and the cowbirds are dullish black with a brown head. Mixed flocks pretty much run the gamut between these extremes.

In spring sometimes one sees flocks of what appears to be thousands.

Blue Stater 9:52 AM  

In what universe, pray, do flight numbers appear on instrument panels (61A)?

John V 9:54 AM  

@Blue Stater 9:52 re: Flight Numbers. I read this to mean flight "numbers" such as altitude, air speed, etc.

chefbea 10:03 AM  

@blue stater Think of numbers in the pilots instument panel..altitude, mph,mach etc. or ask Evil

the puzzle, agree..was pretty easy for a friday.

Last night I did the small puzzle in the Wilmington Star Times and there was a cross right in the center of the puzzle. However..that had nothing to do with the theme

thursdaysd 10:16 AM  

@loren muse smith - no reason to be impressed, I grew up in England, so for a long time cryptics were the only crosswords I did. It helps a lot to realize there's a "code" - words that indicate that a clue is, e.g., an anagram or a container. And clues generally include two ways to get the answer - one straight and one word play - so it doesn't matter so much that you don't know cricketers or soccer players.

I still prefer cryptics, and now the app on my iPad gets me access to some, I'm trying to get back into solving them. Doesn't help that I've been gone so long.

jesser 10:16 AM  

The middle was a mess, and I DNF.

The only thing I liked about this puzzle was coming to the blog and seeing @Tobias' comparison of COWBIRDs to parents in Taos. He nailed it, he did.

A busy Friday awaits. I hope a good weekend is enjoyed by all in Rexville!

dk 10:20 AM  

@loren, I can send your daughter a picture of me and date Sue in our prom attire. Me, powder blue jacket whose sleeves are just a little (way) short, awkwardly standing next to my hippie chick gf looking hot as all get out in some muslin thing she made out of old curtains.

@tobias, above mentioned gf will be driving up from Sante Fe to discuss your damn hippies comment -- up close and personal :)

I agree with the "whomevers" who find the 15 letter clues easier than the short ones. Also that was some wags commentary on the NYT puzzles a while back.

for 56a or my ever popular service station line

���� (2 Stars) Thank you Tim.

dk 10:22 AM  

🌟🌟 Tried to get cute with the stars.

Matthew G. 10:23 AM  

I actually found this pretty easy for a Friday. All of the 15s came quickly with few crosses. I didn't necessarily like the short fill any better than Rex did, particularly the silly clue for ELOI, but I thought the long answers were very good.

The clue on GIST worked for me. That was my first entry.

lwsexson 10:32 AM  

Here in Indiana I see Brown-headed Cowbirds every day and I bet Rex could too if he ever bothered to look at birds. They have spread way beyond their cattle following former range and are common all over the US. That was one of the easiest clues for me.

Mel Ott 10:32 AM  

I like the stacks - all of them.

Those Christians who attended Holy Week services last week heard 'ELOI ELOI lama sabachthani' at least once. It's the beginning of Psalm 22: 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' Mark uses the Aramaic version ELOI; Matthew uses the Hebrew ELI.

David 10:36 AM  

Two very different puzzles for me. Had the top 1/3 and bottom 1/3 done in about 5 minutes, middle 1/3 about 25. I like seeing the 15 stacks as well, generally they make up for the subpar fill that is often necessary to create them, and they are almost always in my wheelhouse.

But the middle killed me. For some reason I threw in PRE-ESTATE for FREE STATE, but even that writeover may not have helped much with FTLEE. The keys to my misery were taking forever to get the WELL part of MEAN WELL, having no clue on ROOF TRUSS, and, moving to the center, slowly accepting COWBIRD for COWBIRD all from crosses. At least I finished successfully, but that whole middle made my brain hurt.

Masked and Anonymous 10:55 AM  

About a middle-weight fight, at my place. Nice FriPuz, TC. Now, on to a "meatier" matter.

@#31*!: Dang, dude. Constructors are almost gonna have to stand on their heads and spit nickels soon, to get a half-decent review in T-Rexville. The list of no-nos grows ever longer...
1. Avoid stacks of 15's. Point of order: Might be OK, if cheater squares are used, to make a 13-14-15 stack?
2. Avoid pangrams.
3. Avoid RRNs.
4. Avoid Nat-ticks. I kinda agree with this one.
5. Avoid circles.
6. Avoid real sneaky clues.
7. Avoid not being Patrick Berry.
8. Avoid "ONES".
9. Avoid topics unfamiliar to English professors.
10. Avoid -er and re- stuff.
11. Avoid phrases that sound/smell desperate.
12-999. Avoid all that other stuff that I'm forgetting.
But now, the straw that breaks the camel's back...
1000. No ODI! Dude! Point of order: Even if clued as "Funny frind of Garfild"?

P.S. Captchas are getting plum disgusting. Some of the letters are startin' to sprout tufts of fur.

wyonative 11:01 AM  

May have been my fastest Friday ever, so I am feeling pleased. There was a time when I couldn't even get a foothold in Friday puzzles. I did the puzzle from top to bottom, which is unusual for me. I too had plot and Sausalito for a while. @JohnV, cute spelling!

Mr. Benson 11:02 AM  

I usually agree with Rex's assessment of how easy or challenging a puzzle is, but all this week I've been way out of sync. Yesterday's "easy-medium" took me forever and I flew through today's "medium-challenging" in Wednesday-ish time. I came up with "give me one reason" right away and was off to the races. I would have called it super-easy except for that middle, which I agree was thorny. Even there, I didn't make the "ENSNARED" mistake because I already confidently had the T from "FREESTATE."

JenCT 11:26 AM  

@Masked and Anonymous: LOL

I'm NOT fond of COWBIRDS for this reason: Kirtland's Warbler

Didn't know that was the meaning of SALAD DAYS; learned something new!


KRMunson 11:42 AM  

@Masked and Anonymous - loved your list of no-no's. Especially liked "avoid not being Patrick Berry" - classic!

JenCT 11:51 AM  

I should clarify that the Kirtland's Warbler is just one of the COWBIRD's victims; they prey on many other smaller birds.

Loren Muse Smith 11:57 AM  

@dk - too funny! I had my mom custom make me a prom dress one year out of this ghastly fabric I picked that looked like draperies! I tried to find a funny prom picture at Awkward Family Photos but didn't see one. This picture is cute, though:


@thursdaysd - I'm ashamed to say that someone once walked me through the "rules" and such for cryptics, and I still got nowhere!

JaxInL.A. 12:02 PM  

I hope that Rexville will forgive my posting something personal, but my household has been turned upside down since a tragic shooting on Tuesday night involving one of those Chinese home stay students I talk about sometimes. My house made the front page of yesterday's print L.A. Times. the paper gets a lot wrong, but you get the idea. The press conference in this article will take place in front of my house, I would appreciate the good thoughts if this crowd.

Thank heavens for crossword puzzles. An engaging pastime that can take one away for the duration of the solve. Alas, today's puzzle was my fastest Friday ever. Not normally something I would lament.

quilter1 12:24 PM  

Doing a funeral today so DNF, but agree with @Rex that the crosses should be gettable. I got most of the bottom two thirds then came to a halt. Little joy.

JenCT 12:27 PM  

@JaxInLA: sending good thoughts your way...

andrea cowbell michaels 1:14 PM  

Will respond off blog...but tragic :(

I don't think Will would allow for a 16 on a Monday...

I also forgot to mention I originally put in COWgIRl, which is a COWBIRD of a sort, if you're English and all...

and now all morning I've had visions of what's his name from SNL saying "More COWBIRD, MORE COWBIRD!"

Evan 1:59 PM  


You're thinking of Christopher Walken. And the exact line is:

"Guess what! I got a fever. And the only prescription is more cowbell."

You can watch the skit here.

IMDb 2:00 PM  

Love Actually (2003) . . .

The characters are falling in love, falling out of love, some are with right people, some are with the wrong people, some are looking to have an affair, some are in the period of mourning; a capsule summary of reality. Love begins and love ends. They flirt a lot. They are all flirting with love. At all ages and social levels, love is the theme. Romantic love and brotherly love is the hotchpotch through out the movie. Most of the movie is filmed in London, during Christmas and the characters all ended up at Heathrow airport a very uplifting note.

Starring . . .

Bill Nighy, Gregor Fisher, Rory MacGregor, Colin Firth, Sienna Guillory, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson. Lulu Popplewell, Kris Marshall, Heike Makatsch, Martin Freeman, Joanna Page, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley

hate, actually 2:14 PM  

Dreadful little movie, actually, not a real note in the entire thing, and a silly way to clue NEESON who had a small role in it...esp given his body of work...and really, who remembers anyone but Colin Firth!

BTW, Tim Croce also has today's syndicated puzzle if you missed it and can't get enough of him

JHC 2:16 PM  

I wonder what Will Shortz would do if someone tried to clue NYTIMES as [Jayson Blair's former employer (Abbr.)]

Bob Kerfuffle 2:21 PM  

Fairly straightforward top-to-bottom solve, leading to one write-over: At 44D, SEMPER before SEMPRE.

Tita 2:27 PM  

@Tobias - how can you say COWBIRDs are pretty neat!!? Not only do they take off and party, leaving some poor stranger to be stuck raising its far-too-big kid, but it tosses out original parents' eggs!!

Prime example of Rabeneltern...(check @Ulrich's blog to see his latest ebook).
Ulrich - can this word be used only to describe humans, or can a Kuhvogel be a Rabenelter?

I am of course delighted to find a Friday that I finished in under 30 minutes rated Medium-Challenging when I got here!
Though I worry that the same dynamics might be at work as in women's fashion...
I just bought a jacket that is a size 2. While I suppose that is meant to make me feel good about myself, I am no size 2!

Bird 2:29 PM  

This was one big ENIGMA for me. DNF. Put in WHAT ELSE IS THERE for 17A and got stymied because, obviously, the downs that I thought were correct didn’t cross well. So I skip to the bottom and started filling in answers and thinking, “OK, I guess I’ll go bottom-up”. Well, that’s as far as I got – all the bottom, some of the middle and none of the top. I thought the phrase for 1A was “GIVE ME ONE good REASON”. I learned new a phrase at 16A. The clue for FILMREELS is clever, even if I didn’t get the answer until I got here. And with so many write-overs, my grid started to look like the ink-blot captchas from a while back.

I haven’t seen any comment on 59D. How does CEN relate to 2000s. If it’s an abbreviation for century, then shouldn’t the clue be 2001 – 2100? I read the clue as referring to the the millennium, hence MIL.

@Rex – “Saturday cluing” is the perfect description of this one, at least for me. But PASSES ON DESSERT is a thing; it’s a phrase. Don’t you get to eat out once in a while and hear people say, “I’ll pass on dessert tonight” when the waitperson asks if anyone would like to see the dessert menu?


Warren Zevon 2:31 PM  

Well, I saw Lon Chaney walkin' with the queen
Doin' the werewolves of London
I saw Lon Chaney Jr. walkin' with the queen
Doin' the werewolves of London
I saw a werewolf drinkin' a pina colada at Trader Vic's
And his hair was perfect

Anonymous 2:34 PM  

@Warren Z - Thanks for the post. I was wondering which way you went, up or down, and now I know.

Wood 2:37 PM  

Loved the stacks. Not a record Friday but respectable.

acme 3:02 PM  

Totally with you on the one GOOD reason, which held me up forever...tho I'm thankful for @Rex's posting of that fabulous Tracy Chapman song I had forgotten about, even tho it was the best rock song of 1996 or whenever that was! Not much of a video tho. Looks so cheap!
Love her voice tho. Used to see her around here, I think she even used to record up in SANRAFAEL so it all ties together magically.

Also agree to Pass ON or UP dessert is totally in the language...but his "Paints the house" line made me laugh.

yes, thank you for the link to Christopher Walken...blanked on his name AND whatshisname the tall guy whom I still can't think of his name...Will Ferrell! Wow, I'm on some sort of 7 second delay and I'm not even being censored (that I know of)!

mac 3:02 PM  

I can't call it easy, because I couldn't finish the Ft. Lee / WTO crossing. Everything else was easy, with long answers that came quickly.

Gist as the first answer helped a lot. Did NOT like the ad sites / etail crossing much, and started with Dumas instead of Defoe.

Rube 3:12 PM  

I always groan when I see multiple 15s, but found these pretty easy today. It's probably a "psyche-out" thing and after reading today's posts I'll hopefully get over the initial dread.

I always wonder about the use of medium sized cities such as SANRAFAEL. A gimme as it's about 10 miles north of here and I was there yesterday, but what's an East coaster to do?

Like @acme, had COWgIRl and thought it was probably wrong, but never went back to correct it... so a DNF. Perhaps I should start doing the on-line versions so Mr. Happy Pencil will upbraid me for these types of mistakes. Nah, I like the feel of paper in my hand.

I have no problem with ELOI as clued, but had "near @Rex" reasoning in that I first had ELOu, thinking that if the answer was ELOI the clue would be "Time Machine" related.

For no particular reason, DEO volente is not in my vocabulary, whereas Insha'Allah is. Will amend that starting today.

No way can I read these captchas.

acme 3:14 PM  

Oh my god, I have just now made the connection between Eloi Eloi and the holocaust poetry/song "Eili, Eili" by Hannah Senesh!!!
"Why has god forsaken me..."...she was the 23 yr old Hungarian freedom fighter killed by the nazis by firing squad and refused to denounce or wear a blindfold!

The following is from a website, but I think anyone who went to Jewish summer camp probably knows the song...:
"a lot of Senesh's Hebrew poetry has been set to music over the years... She was a young woman who left Hungary and went to the former Palestine in the 1930s as a teenager. Enlisting in the Palestinian Brigade, which was part of the British army, she was sent into Czechoslovakia to try to bring people out. She was captured and killed when she was in her mid-20s.

The other song, "Eili, Eili," almost seems a foretelling of what she would miss because she died young:

"My God, My God, don't let these things ever end: the sand and the sea, the rush of the waters, the crash of the heavens, the prayer of man.""

Tita 3:16 PM  

@M&A - hilarious!
Don't forget - No Plurals!

Sparky 3:17 PM  

I finished in less time than usual for a Friday. About an hour with a couple of put downs and pick ups. Alas I see I have three wrong entries: sOWBIRD, AMu, and CENp. Who knew? Finished the bottom first and worked way up. Had plot for 1D too long. Tried to cram in WAS, ORE and CAL at 15D before the light dawned.

Isn't having the two ONEs up there a no no also? LOL @M&A. Taking notes, eh? @JaxinLA. Good thoughts your way. Hang in there.

Looking forward to Saturday.

Bob Kerfuffle 3:19 PM  

@Bird - "In the language", "the 2000s" could be a decade, a century, or a millennium (even though we all know that the year 2000 was actually the last year of the preceding DEC, CEN, or MIL.)

Anonymous 3:30 PM  

Between ' "just Time Machine it" and move on', 'damned fake anarchists' and 'mutton dressed up as lamb' I'll be back tomorrow.

Thanks Rex

Ulrich 3:39 PM  

Late to the game--too busy managing eBooks, a completely new experience for me.

@joho: Right--a nice gimme to start a Friday with.

@Tita: Not quite. "Eltern" has not singular--you have be specific (of course, it's German!)--so, it's either the mother or the father.

Bird 3:39 PM  

@acme & @evan - my favorite SNL skit with Christopher Walken is the one about the Celebrity Psychic Friends Network:

Announcer: It's time for "Christopher Walken's Celebrity Psychic Friends Network".

Christopher Walken: Hello. I'm Christopher Walken. And welcome.. to Christopher Walken's Psychic Friends Network. If you would like to be.. my psychic friend.. call this number now. I can tell you about.. money.. success.. love.. and romance.. or.. just hang out with you. All it takes is a phone.. and an open mind. No one will know. No one. I can tell you things about yourself. Things you don't know. [ phone doesn't ring ] Why aren't you calling? You could be.. in grave danger.. and I can help you.. as your psychic friend. While we're waiting.. for your call.. I'd like to introduce my first guest. It's someone you already know. He was the star of the television series "Diff'rent Strokes".. now, he's my psychic friend. It's Todd Bridges.

Todd Bridges: Hi, Christopher, it's great to be here!

Christopher Walken: I know! Todd, tell us.. how you became.. a psychic friend.

Todd Bridges: Well, Christopher, I had just killed someone, and I was high on crack. And then, I called the Psychic Friends Network, and you let me know I was in grave danger.

Christopher Walken: Oh.. that's wonderful, Todd.. we're very, very proud of you. If you'd like to talk with Todd.. and be his psychic friend.. call now. Todd could come to your house.. and advise you.. but he can't.. unless you call. [ phones don't ring ] Why aren't you calling Todd? Maybe you're not at home. Call anyway. By the time you get home.. he could be there.. waiting for you. My next geust, you know. He was in the movie.. "Back To The Future". It's Crispin Glover.

Crispin Glover: Hey, you.. it's great to be here!

Christopher Walken: Crispin.. how did you become.. a psychic friend?

Crispin Glover: Well, Christopher.. I'm not really good at.. confrontations. So I called the Psychic Network, and you told me I was in great danger.

Christopher Walken: That's nice, Crispin. If you'd like to know.. about future success.. money.. romance.. or.. great danger.. call us. Do it. No one.. will know. [ phones don't ring ] I don't understand.. why you're not calling.

Todd Bridges: Well, Chris, maybe the audience should know we're not the only members of the Psychic Friends Network.

Christopher Walken: Todd's right.. there are others who can come to your house.. like Rick James.. the guy who attacked Monica Seles.. and Sean Young. Todd, Crispin, Rick and Sean, and the guy who attacked Monica Seles.. want to spend time with you.. at your house.. but they can't do that.. unless you tell us where you live.. so, please.. call now.

Todd Bridges: I'd like a key to you house.

Crispin Glover: I'd like to be your soulmate.. [ laughs ] ..and have a key to your house.

Christopher Walken: We know. Call. Look, you're wasting time.. we could be in your driveway by now. Me and Todd and Crispin.. waiting for you.. being.. your friend. [ phones don't ring ] Look.. no one is calling.. I'm upset.

Todd Bridges: I'll still come to your house.

Christopher Walken: Todd will still come to your house.

Crispin Glover: [ starting to crack ] Hey, you.. get your damn hands off me, right now!

Todd Bridges: I'll go to your house.

Christopher Walken: No, Todd.. don't go.

Todd Bridges: No, I want to go.

Christopher Walken: Don't go.. Don't go..

[ fade out ]

Bird 3:47 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle - Thanks. I just thought the clue was too vague, but then again it is Friday. And I'm total agreement that 2000 was old milenium. I remember having arguments with friends about Y2K. There is no year zero so how could 2000 be the 2000th year? Isn't that why we say 1980 was in the 20th century? Not saying I didn't party . . . like it was 1999.

Enjoy your weekend folks!

Anonymous 3:54 PM  

Bird's favorite Christopher Walken skit in SNL, brought to his mind by the More Cowbell skit, brought to my mind my favorite scene from War and Peace where Prince Andrei and Princess Maria were having a disagreement over who to invite to a party.

I'll post it here once all 1000 pages finish downloading. Come back in an hour, and good luck scrolling past it to the next post.

Lewis 4:02 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 4:13 PM  

I needed a couple of Googles, with which the puzzle fell quickly (for me). My wheelhouse is such that I've never heard of SALAD DAYS or LETHE, but I think I'll remember them for the future.

Anonymous 4:16 PM  

I'm back from my two martini lunch and in a good mood, so I will agree with Matthew G and Loren. Acme always saves her best stuff for this site but is so serious when she comments on Wordplay.

I think long answers are fun to uncover, regardless of the fill required. These were particularly amusing. @Acme, YOUR PLACE OR MINE followed by INSTRUMENT PANEL is indeed a Biblical way of getting to know someone....


Christopher Walken 4:17 PM  

@Anon 3:54 - Aw, was Bird's post too long? Too friggin' bad! That is also my fav skit. Think I'll ask them if I can host again 'cause I need to catch up to Alec and Steve.

I'd love to do a character with a wife, a nice little house, a couple of kids, a dog, maybe a bit of singing, and no guns and no killing, but nobody offers me those kind of parts.

sanfranman59 4:31 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)

Fri 21:05, 24:59, 0.84, 22%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Fri 10:27, 12:22, 0.85, 25%, Easy-Medium

Sorry if today's numbers burst anyone's bubble. I know they burst mine. I rarely even finish a Friday or Saturday puzzle that Rex rates at Medium-Challenging or Challenging, let alone finish with an Easy-Medium time as I did today. Oh well.

Z 4:36 PM  

@Jax - Sending good thoughts.

Easy top and middle, but the bottom 15s took me awhile. Have to agree that 15s are easier than tricksy short fill. Cases in point - 51D was hUll, 59D was dEc, 60D was sot, and 56 was arf than bow before YIP.

Remembering that we had to special order our addition's ROOFTRUSS's finally gave me RUMP then IT HURTS and a tentative PLUS and the bottom 15s finally went in. Easy medium in the end.

alummi vicoerd - chewy,sentimental graduates?

GILL I. 4:40 PM  

@JaxInL.A. the news of the shooting made top news in the Sacramento Bee. This has to be awful for you. Good thoughts being sent your way.

Anonymous 4:40 PM  

Is it cheating (or technical DNF) if you look at your keyboard to get underscore's neighbor?

santafefran 5:06 PM  

@JaxinLA What a tragedy and so tough for you. Sending all good thoughts to you.

chefwen 6:16 PM  

@JaxinLA - How very sad. Good thoughts winging your way.

quilter1 6:25 PM  

JaxinLA: so sorry. I can empathize as we lost a 21 y/o neighbor to a senseless shooting, a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Besides being so sad it is also infuriating.

sanfranman59 1:55 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 6:16, 6:49, 0.92, 17%, Easy
Tue 8:59, 8:52, 1.01, 61%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 8:33, 11:49, 0.72, 2%, Easy (3rd lowest median solve time of 145 Wednesdays)
Thu 16:26, 18:56, 0.87, 24%, Easy-Medium
Fri 21:28, 25:00, 0.86, 24%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:19, 3:40, 0.91, 12%, Easy
Tue 4:36, 4:35, 1.00, 58%, Medium
Wed 4:33, 5:52, 0.78, 3%, Easy (5th lowest median solve time of 144 Wednesdays)
Thu 8:33, 9:18, 0.92, 40%, Medium
Fri 10:03, 12:22, 0.81, 22%, Easy-Medium

Anonymous 3:03 PM  

Rex has become pretty predictable. The puzzles he breezes through, he likes and are "easy" (relatively speaking, of course) and the ones he struggles with, he just plain dislikes and don't even deserve a "challenging" because they are "bad" puzzles. I also noticed he totally sucked at the tournament, so maybe that's his problem. Who cares.

Anonymous 1:00 PM  

@Masked & Anonymous.
A hearty Amen to your well printed words. Sometimes I think the could-be-puzzlemaster is like the Asian cook who shuns food from anyone's wok but his own. Sad.

Solving in Seattle 3:04 PM  

From Syndieland it is rare to have a thought that somewhere in the ninety or so RT posts hasn't been voiced already, so..curses on you @ACMe for COWgIRl.

I got my toehold in this puzzle in the middle section and smiled when I thought of 36A as a gIRl. Next to fall was the bottom, and last was the top. ADSImES held me up for awhile. OYE has me humming Santana. Actually wore out two LPs.

Discussion of COWBIRDS makes me wonder if they, like lampray eels, have no redeeming attributes.

@Sir Hilary, you get biggest laugh of the day.

Capcha: sagemov rdsofts. Bulgarian, for "YOURPLACEORMINE."

Lola505 6:33 PM  

@JaxinLA, what a tragic event.

@Masked and Anonymous, great list!

I thought this was entertainingly do-able. I've got no problem with 15's -- makes me feel powerful to fill 'em in.

Had CowPIES for quite awhile, but thought that was a little icky for the NYT puzzle, and sure enough, it was.

Only other mis-starts were
1d - Plot for GIST, and
51a - Tush for RUMP.

Had fun working several of the Crosswords LA Tournament puzzles yesterday -- I'm within the time limits, but certainly not prize-winning speedy. At my point in life, I feel, what's the point of rushing?

Good fun on a Friday!

Waxy in Montreal 7:44 PM  

Fun Friday other than a personal Nattick at the LETHE/SEMPRE intersection where I guessed LETHO/SOMPRE. Also contributing to generalized confusion in the SW was the combination of ROOFSTRUT and TUSH that I remained committed to for way too long.

@Lola505 - while it empowers you to fill-in those 15's, I actually feel exhausted each time I complete one and in dire need of a nap! Different strokes for...

Dirigonzo 7:52 PM  

I'm with those who found this one easy "for a Friday" although I finished with one error DEi volente as the actress was no help. A bad guess at 4d had improvE instead of ENHANCE and the underscore neighbor was dash at first but all my other "throw 'em in and see if they work" guesses worked.

So far we have had centennial puzzles for the Titanic and Clara Barton and yesterday I suggested that Fenway Park is due for one in a couple of days (in syndi time); here's another possibility - LL Bean (the company, not the man) is having it's 100th birthday celebration in 2012. Seems like a Double L theme would have lots of possibilities.

Lola505 9:31 PM  

@Waxy in Montreal (I LOVE Montreal, BTW!) ... naps are good, too!

Solving in Seattle 10:57 PM  

@Lola, & @Waxy, I, too, love Montreal. My wife and I were there for the first time last Summer over the 4th of July weekend and stayed at a charming auberge on the river. Fabulous dining, and we walked up to Mont Real one day and ended up at St. Joseph's Oratory. It was a $25 cab ride back to our auberge. Your city is like Vancouver, "Once in a world."

Lola505 11:39 PM  

@Solving in Seattle & @Waxy, I adore France too, but I'm not kidding -- I have never had better French cuisine than in Montreal. The scenery ain't bad, either. (It's that nine feet of snow in the winter that might deter me, though.)

Ginger 12:56 AM  

to @jaxinLA from syndiland. I wish you and the other students comfort and peace after such a horrible event.

Doubt that anyone will see this, as it's so late. Started this morning while waiting in the 'we'll do the best we can' (beauty)salon, where my first pass produced next to nothing. Then....took a toe-hold in the bottom section and finished the south with no errors. Knew LETHE, though from where I've no idea. Then tonight I bombed in the north. Nothing worked. I can blame ore at 15-D, but my wheelhouse was obviously closed for repairs. "Tomorrow is another day."

Waxy in Montreal 9:46 AM  

On behalf of the Montreal Tourist Bureau, thanks for all the unsolicited promos. And Seattle, New Mexico, et al are great places to visit as well! Now on to Saturday...

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