1975 Tony winner for best play / THU 7-26-12 / European blackbirds / Sportscaster Scully / Time's 1986 Woman of Year / Pioneering Isaac Asimov book / Unit of length that's roughly diameter of proton

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Double U — Rebus puzzle where (on 8 occasions) one square represents "UU" in the Across answer and "W" in the Down [grid is 16 wide to accommodate the 14-square central theme answer] 

Word of the Day: MERLS (28A: European blackbirds) —

See blackbird.

[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin merulus, merula.]
• • •

I figure this theme was pretty easy to pick up if you A. know who Corazon AQUINO is (2D: Time's 1986 Woman of the Year) and B. have at least heard of the play "EQUUS" (15A: 1975 Tony winner for best play). Anyway, that's how I figured it out (very early). Still, despite understanding the theme, this one still took me a hell of a long time. 9:59 on paper. This is mostly due to my rusty Latin, which figured that a [Will-'o-the-wisp] must be an IGNUM FATUUM  (this despite the fact that if you had asked me the nominative singular for the Latin "fire" I would've told you IGNIS immediately ... ugh). Wouldn't have been so bad except that the IGNUM / IGNIS screw-up essentially blocked my flow into the bottom of the grid. Just cold blocked it.  SEDGE (58D: Water chestnut, e.g.) and SILENT (51D: Not providing any hints, say) were impossible to see with the error in place. So I had to come back around and attack from the SW, going DATABASE (39D: Researcher's electronic tool) to "I SEE..." to VIN (a gimme that really helped finish things off down there) (64D: Sportscaster Scully). Walked face first into MUUMUU—had no idea there would be anything down there. Absolutely love that the grid "ends" with a 1-2 UU UU combination. Nice exclamation point.

Theme answers:
  • 19A: Situated somewhere between two extremes (ON A CONTINUUM)
  • 24A: Forever (IN PERPETUUM)
  • 39A: "Capeesh?" ("YOU UNDERSTAND?")
  • 57A: Will-o'-the-wisp (IGNIS FATUUS)
  • 64A: Like some bags of food (VACUUM-SEALED)
  • 70A: Colorful dress (MUUMUU)

I've seen a theme very much like this before—in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. 2007 or 2008, somewhere in there. But I don't think it had the rebus or the directional variation, so ... good for Joel. Joel attends college at my alma mater and currently, as in Right Now, works for Mr. Shortz as a summer intern. He's reading / accepting / rejecting several of my puzzles as we speak. I love you, Joel! Here's the positive review you asked for!

  • 1A: White-robed figure of Greek mythology (FATE) — Weren't they all wearing white robes? They were in Clash of the Titans, anyway.
  • 21A: It orbited Earth 86,331 times (MIR) — big fat gimme. An orbiter in 3 letters? How is that not MIR?
  • 44A: Torque symbol (TAU) — hard, until I saw it ended in "U"—then easy.
  • 49A: 1894 opera set in Alexandria ("THAÏS") — once again, the plural of THAI gets passed over for the relatively obscure opera. You THAIS who solve the puzzle need to put a bug in Will's ear.
  • 55A: Gymnasium floor choice (MAPLE) — Wow. Is this common knowledge? The wood type of gym floors? I was not looking wood. I was looking, I don't know, MATs or something MAT-like. Maybe parquet.
  • 72A: Rays' home, informally (ST. PETE) — went looking for the ballpark itself, not the city. THE ... something, I figured. Only I wanted THE TROP, which didn't fit. (I am happy to report, however, that I was right about THE TROP being the ballpark's informal name)
  • 1D: Unit of length that's roughly the diameter of a proton (FERMI) — no idea. Even when I had 3/5 of a physicist in place ... no idea.
  • 12D: Best pal in a 1950s sitcom (ED NORTON) — first thought: "ETHEL MERTZ"
  • 22D: Pioneering 1950 Isaac Asimov book ("I, ROBOT") — a not-uncommon crossword answer. Something about its starting with the "I" and having alternating vowels and consonants seems to make it useful.

  • 50D: How Perry Mason often caught the guilty (IN A LIE) — first of all, this is how almost all "the guilty" are caught, whoever they are and wherever they're caught. Second, hurray for Perry Mason. I just started reading the Perry Mason books (by xword stalwart ERLE Stanley Gardner) this past month while on vacation. Formulaic, for sure, but in a way that really works. Gardner is a really good writer. Scenes are vivid. The prose, economical. He cut his teeth in the pulps—as writing training grounds go, you could do worse.
Finally, from the self-promotion department, a couple things. First, if you missed it while I was gone, I have an article in "Rock Cellar Magazine" this month—"A Crossword Revolution? Indie Puzzle Makers and the Music That Moves Them." You should check it out. Also, next week's Tuesday NYT (July 31) is mine. I'll let someone else blog it, partly because I don't want to blog my own puzzle, and partly because I'll be out of town *again* (this time, Oregon). No, wait, I don't leave til Tuesday, which means I'll still be here Monday night to blog, so ... nah, I'm handing it off. I don't know which puzzle of mine it is (Will has a few in his possession). So we'll all be surprised together.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:08 AM  

Nothing like a tricky Thurs.  Medium-challenging for me too even after I, like Rex, caught the theme.  Did not know IGNIS FATUUS, had SICem before ON and UNES before RUES.   Sat for quite a while with only MIR and ESS correct in the NW.

Did know TIM, WYLE, and SWIT.  The last two really helped getting the theme.

TWERPS are more nerdy than jerky.

Gotta to agree with Rex on this one.  How can you not love a tricky Thurs. that's on the tough side!

Nice one Joel.

lymank 12:11 AM  

Welcome back Rex! Still wondering how one ascends to the level of doing a Thursday in under 10 minutes. If I finish a Thursday in about 30 minutes with no outside help (like today), I feel giddy.
I love rebuses. Caught the uu - w theme with Muumuu. Things fell pretty quickly after that.
Looking forward to seeing Rex's puzzle sometime next week.

optionsgeek 12:18 AM  

Loved this puzzle even though it brutalized me, maybe because of all the words/spellings I had never heard, but was somehow able to guess even with the difficult clueing.

Never heard of IGNIS FATUUM or EQUUS or encountered the spelling of MUUMUU, so the theme took quite a bit
longer for me to suss out. Still, it was enjoyable, even if it played more like a hard Saturday for me than a Thursday.

Anonymous 12:41 AM  

Man, M&A's going to have a really embarassing incident about this one, only to find out that he's only got half the U count that it seems at first blush.

Rube 1:05 AM  

Hand up for not knowing IGNISFATUUS... had no idea... Mrs. McQuiston is giving me a disapproving look from somewhere. However, got this from the crosses.

Unfortunately, did not know EQUUS, AQUINO, or FERMI and had to Google for EQUUS so that the others fell into place. In retrospect, am embarrased that I didn't know what a FERMI is... probably should have.

There should be a discussion here about using LBS for MASS. It should be LB-mass, not jus LBS. Wanted KGS or MGS, but had the B in place and had to go with the obvious.

Got the theme with VACWMSEALED, which helped with virtually all of the other theme answers.

Very fine Thusday. Even though I had to Google.

Evan 1:59 AM  

Nice, fairly tough puzzle with a fun a-ha moment when the rebus became clear. My first thought on the rebus, strangely, was TO(QUE) at 44-Down, as though a chef were saying "Top o' the morning" to his customers. I must have been thinking of the old Seinfeld shop Top of the Muffin to You.

That northwest corner was pretty mystifying. I had unES instead of RUES at first (I thought the pun was on "ones"), so with a wrong N in there, I considered el nINO (?!!) instead of AQUINO at 2-Down. What?

Good thing my faint but still prior knowledge of both Corazon AQUINO and EQUUS helped me out of that jam. And though it's a small gripe, I wasn't crazy about the clue for ESS -- yes, I see that the S after the apostrophe is the ending, but why does "poet" precede it? Is "poet's ending" a common phrase I'm unaware of? Plus, the apostrophe makes it seem like the answer should be TEE. In some other puzzle in the distant past, the answer to the clue "Nation's borders?" was ENS, not EN AND ESS.

Agreed with @Rube. The pound is usually defined as a unit of weight (rather than mass) equivalent to 0.453 kilograms, although "pound" is short for "pound-mass," which is also a unit of mass. So while I think the clue at 34-Across is technically correct, the scientific community generally recommends distinguishing between pound-mass and pound-force.

Davis 2:16 AM  

It's nice to see a challenging themed Thursday pop up. One technological annoyance for me: I spent about 5-10 minutes trying to figure out if the digital version told me my solution was incorrect because of an actual error somewhere, or because I had entered Ws for the UUs (turned out it was both). One of the few downsides to doing these on the ipad.

The theme took me some time to figure out — I knew something was up when it looked like "DO YOU UNDERSTAND" had to be correct, but didn't quite fit unless I quashed a U ("Alda" is the only actor from M*A*S*H whose name I remember). But oddly enough, if was "IGNIS FATUUS" that got me all the way there. As usual, all that high school Latin paid off.

And while we're on the theme, that Simpsons episode is exactly what came to mind when I saw MUUMUU. Good call on including that image.

Anonymous 2:40 AM  

The puzzle at the ATP was alled "Stuck on You" and required repetiton of the letter u at the end of the themed entries.

jae 2:51 AM  

@Evan -- I think 4d was going for POETESS, i.e. a poet of the female persuasion... Gertrude Stein...

syndy 2:54 AM  

I knew that something was up but didn't suss it out til MWMW! I did have the IGNIS and knew that 1down was a phycist but I was thinking of a different one.Lots and lots of writeovers but such a lot of fun to work out=thanks joel thanks Rex but how is IGNIS FATUUS NOT the wtd?

Danny 3:43 AM  

I was REALLY hoping this week's Thursday was going to be rebus-y (rebussy?). I'm glad I did not hope in vain.

Really fun puzzle, despite my having to Google a few times. Just quite a few answers not in my vocabulary yet (crossword or otherwise).

In regards to "Thaïs": Despite the opera's general obscurity, the piece "Meditation" is quite a popular go-to for violinists. Here's the ever-exquisite Anne-Sophie Mutter playing it:


Unknown 6:38 AM  

@Davis...same problem. Was it the w or uu on the iPad or just a goof? Tried switching the rebus answers to no avail and would have thrown the darn thing across the room except that I am too practical to risk breaking this gizmo. How will i play Cityville after all. So...after heaving many sighs (of frustration) i switched 40D from outraces to outpaces - thought marle was plausible. What do i know from gym floors? Mats didn't fit. Sheesh.

Loved the puzzle though. Great Rebus, my all-time favorite type.

MaryBR 7:09 AM  

Naticked at the SWI?/?HAIS crossing. Really could have been anything as I had never heard of either answer. Otherwise difficult but doable (had never heard of IGNIS FATUUS either and frankly couldn't remember what a will o the wisp is, but crosses made it inferable, even if my time was atrociously slow!)

optionsgeek 7:14 AM  

@Rube- re: the LBS for MASS clue, I think there is a clear editing error here. As all physics majors know, a lb. is a measure of weight. However a slug is the corresponding measure of mass. A 160 lb astronaut would be much less on the moon but would still have 160 slugs of mass. Someone should ask Will about this.

r.alphbunker 7:27 AM  

Great Thursday puzzle.

I got the theme when I refused to give up SWIT and realized that if the W was changed to UU DOYOUUNDESTAND would work.

It took a while to see DATABASE because I think of it as a logical entity rather than an electronic tool. The electronic tool would be the computer on which the database is stored.

Anonymous 7:40 AM  

I guess medium-challenging is Rex's hardest designation, other than ones made up for a specific puzzle? Surely this was closer to "challenging" than "medium" for a Thursday.

Glimmerglass 7:40 AM  

Great puzzle (and a good blog). I found it "moderate" after I tumbled to the Dubya rebus. I'm mad at myself because I left Loretta Swit as SUIT. I'm a big M*A*S*H fan, and I know Loretta SUUIT very well, but my eye didn't pick up the missing U in DOYOUNDERSTAND.

The Bard 8:18 AM  

King Henry IV, part I > Act III, scene III

BARDOLPH: Why, you are so fat, Sir John, that you must needs
be out of all compass, out of all reasonable
compass, Sir John.

FALSTAFF: Do thou amend thy face, and I'll amend my life:
thou art our admiral, thou bearest the lantern in
the poop, but 'tis in the nose of thee; thou art the
Knight of the Burning Lamp.

BARDOLPH: Why, Sir John, my face does you no harm.

FALSTAFF: No, I'll be sworn; I make as good use of it as many
a man doth of a Death's-head or a memento mori: I
never see thy face but I think upon hell-fire and
Dives that lived in purple; for there he is in his
robes, burning, burning. If thou wert any way
given to virtue, I would swear by thy face; my oath
should be 'By this fire, that's God's angel:' but
thou art altogether given over; and wert indeed, but
for the light in thy face, the son of utter
darkness. When thou rannest up Gadshill in the
night to catch my horse, if I did not think thou
hadst been an ignis fatuus or a ball of wildfire,
there's no purchase in money. O, thou art a
perpetual triumph, an everlasting bonfire-light!
Thou hast saved me a thousand marks in links and
torches, walking with thee in the night betwixt
tavern and tavern: but the sack that thou hast
drunk me would have bought me lights as good cheap
at the dearest chandler's in Europe. I have
maintained that salamander of yours with fire any
time this two and thirty years; God reward me for

BARDOLPH: 'Sblood, I would my face were in your belly!

FALSTAFF: God-a-mercy! so should I be sure to be heart-burned.

Sue McC 8:43 AM  

Ok, does _anyone_ really know Will o' the wisp is IGNIS FATUUS? If so, I bow to you. I got the gag from ONACONTINUUM, and found the puzzle fun and challenging, but IGNIS FATUUS? Really?

joho 8:52 AM  

KUUdos to Joel! Brilliant!

The NW almost did me in because of unES but EQUUS saved me. How wonderful that matches up with MUUMUUS!

I really can't say enUUgh about this but don't have the time today.

LUUvED it!

Anonymous 8:54 AM  

On a scale, rate how much you liked this puzzle from 1 to 5, 1 being "never should have been published", 5 being "it's the best puzzle ever". Valid answers are 1,2,3,4,5.

There are two extremes, but not a CONTINUUM.

Carola 9:00 AM  

Very nifty! I caught on when I had 19A ending in INWM from the crosses, and finished with a "It's gotta be an 'S'" for the IGNIS/SEDGE cross - and was happy to find out here that it was right.

Today being on the older end of the CONTINUUM helped me with AQUINO and EQUUS and with the 1950's TV figures. I remember Perry Mason catching witnesses IN A LIE each week, and I think Ralph Kramden often found ED NORTON ALL WET. But now the internal DATABASE fails me - it seems to me there was a cartoon villain based on FERMI who was "rotten to the nucleus" - but maybe it's me being all wet on this one.

@Danny - I love that "Meditation." I have the Joshua Bell recording, also very lovely.

archaeoprof 9:02 AM  

Quirky, all-over-the-map, flat-out delightful puzzle.

@Rex: every baseball fan would think "The Trop" for 72A.

"Law & Order" was "Perry Mason's" post-modern grandchild.

evil doug 9:08 AM  

Science geeks shouldn't do crossword puzzles. It's going to be a long day of physics lessons....

Speaking of which, I naturally applied many important heuristic techniques in order to come up with Agnes Fatwa or whatever it is.

Kinda got a thing for Lois Griffin....


Evan 9:13 AM  


Thanks. I've so rarely heard the word "poet" made gender-specific, so "poetess" never registered with me.


As @Rube and I wrote above, I think "pound" is a shorthand version of the unit "pound-mass." But yes, when people say simply "pound" what they're normally thinking of is the unit "pound-force."

shannon 9:15 AM  

as I truly stink at crosswords past an occasional Wednesday I could only get a few answers, but I am REALLY looking forward to Tuesdays puzzle now!!

Milford 9:17 AM  

Challenging puzzle for me, probably my slowest Thursday time ever, but it was a good workout in getting those theme answers.
AQUINO led to EQUUS - actually EQUS at first, stupidly thinking this was some acceptable spelling of the play. Had sari for MWMW, so I sat staring at DOYOWNDERSTAND thinking, well, no I actually don't...ooh...aha!
If 57A had hinted differently I may have been able to pull out that it was something mystical and Latin much sooner.

BigSteve46 9:18 AM  

So I guess we can assume Rex left a positive revue of this puzzle because the constructor "attends college at my alma mater and currently, as in Right Now, works for Mr. Shortz as a summer intern. He's reading / accepting / rejecting several of my puzzles as we speak."

I mean its only a crossword puzzle, but - what do you REALLY think about it, Rex?

Evan 9:22 AM  

Also, @Rex, isn't it 8 occasions where the UU/W comes into play, not 7? I counted 8 rebus squares (2 for MUUMUU).

Pete 9:26 AM  

Newton's second law is F=MA.
LBS in the common sense is at the left hand side of the equation.
LBS in the form of pounds-mass is on the right hand side of the equation.

Both are entries in the equation:

Pounds-force = (Pounds-mass)*G, being the gravitational force.

The clue is correct, even for science geeks.

Milford 9:37 AM  

@Danny - I forgot to say thank you for the "Meditation" connection to THAÏS. I love this kind of connection to an opera I've pitifully never heard of. Someone also graciously did this awhile back for the Flower Duet from Lakme. A belated thank you to him/her as well!

dk 9:50 AM  

Rex, The guilty may be caught in any number of ways. Red handed comes to mind.

So I merrily plow through this puzzle putting in u/w thinking maybe this constructor is from Wisconsin or something.

Given UU is sometimes a symbol for tush it is appropriate that I felt like an ass when I figured out I was half right… or half UU.

Have I mentioned that the first time Perry Mason was in color he lost the case.

The puzzle fill was down right fun. The old chestnuts (e.g., OSLO) were even in a party dress.

🌟🌟🌟 (3 Stars) Nice one Joel. Have some Afghan fries at Walter's for me. Best with chutney IMHO.

My beloved Andrea is in the area. Hope to see her next week.

Loren Muse Smith 9:54 AM  

Wow. I could write a treatise on a beauty like this.

After the double slap in the face at 1A and 1D (I’m weak at science and automatically give up upon seeing the word “mythology”), I skulked southeasterly, confidently filling in SWIT and “tosca,” and then continued to the southeast, smelling the rebus rat at MUU MUU. It took me forever to figure it out, though. Seems like five times, I’d fill in a W, only to erase it when it was apparent an M was to follow. Even after getting the trick at ON A CONTINUUM and DOWNLOAD, I still wasn’t able to finish, having heard only IN PERPETUity, and never having heard IGNISFATUUS. Actually, the real reason I DNF the SW because it didn’t occur to me that the rebus could be somewhere other than that penultimate square (Since the reveal was different, I didn’t count that.) The SW has the only theme entry where the double U isn’t next to last.

Cool things – How elegant that the reveal was the only theme entry where the two U’s were in two different words! The MAPLE/ELM cross and the SSN/NAMING crosses are fun, as is SWIT right next to the other Mash entry, NEHI.

But, in my opinion, there is another aspect of this puzzle that is as equally impressive as its theme: the huge spectrum of subjects it covers. Opera, 50s, 60s, 80s, 90s TV, mythology, literature, sports, bodies of water, geography, politics, foreign language, science. . . It’s a puzzle like this that gives the Times the reputation for being the hardest (even though we all know it’s not). I would leave a “finished” grid like this on my desk hoping that someone would see it and conclude that I’m well versed in the above subjects, not understanding the epic struggle I had desperately sussing out ST PETE, THAIS, and VEDA from the crosses.

Definitely not the DRAG that stares out from dead center. Beautiful, beautiful puzzle.

jackj 10:06 AM  

When I was younger, once I started a book I would finish it, no matter what. These days, if a book hasn’t grabbed my interest after 40 or so pages it’s “sayonara” and I’m on to the next one in my “To-be-read” pile.

I’ve developed a similar attitude towards crosswords; in the past I would stay with it until it was finished, even if it took hours. These days, if a puzzle is a major source of aggravation, I’ll either do a couple of googles to open up the grid and finish or call it a day and move on.

Today’s puzzle became a “pass” when the aggravation of dealing with recalcitrant “U’s” and resistant “W’s” that weren’t making any sense indicated that serious mental anguish was aborning and for the first time in ages, for me, it was FUHGEDDABOUDIT.

Kudos to Joel for his tour de force but, it seems I was right to escape the puzzle early on since IGNISFATUUS, ONACONTINUUM and INPERPETUUM seem the very essence of aggravation and I’m thrilled that I passed on it when I did.

retired_chemist 10:07 AM  

I actually got the theme at IGNIS FATUUS. Had OTTAWA @ 53D and SPEWS @ 59D, and (after a momentary WTF) smiled at MWMW (70A)in my final check after I had applied the theme all across the rest of the grid.

I DO'S @ 22A slowed me down a bit - I was SO sure.

Never heard of MERLS, which my dictionary calls Scottish or archaic.

Hand up for ALDA before S(UU)IT @ 35D. Especially enjoyed fixing that while I was using the theme to fix all the errors I had around the grid.

Thanks, Mr. Fagliano. More, please.

GILL I. 10:07 AM  

My best friend (I can't remember her name) taught me how to hold my chin with the palm of my hand and stick my nose in a book and fall asleep without falling down. I did this during Latin classes and I FAILED....I would have remembered IGNIS FATTUS had I paid attention but then again, it was probably never deemed a proper word to discuss out loud.
When I finished this puzzle (and I was determined) I really marveled at the mind that created this. I knew it was a rebus but the UU/W had my head spinning. That little EDNORTON/DOWNLOAD section just didn't want to pop in. I always want two mm's for vacuum and the muumuus I've met only want one u. Two glasses of a Lodi Zin, a good night's sleep and my other best friend Google, and I finally finished with a HUGE SMILE on my face.
Thank you Joel.

chefbea 10:07 AM  

What a great puzzle but DNF Got the uu part right away but didnt realize the 2 U's made a W. Brilliant

Cant wait til masked and anonymous posts

John V 10:09 AM  

Uber challening here. Got the rebus/non-rebus idea but, of all places, had two mistakes in the NW, wanting UNES for RUES, which broke the cross with FATES. Lottsa work. I guess I had fun, but not just sure at the moment.

I'm rushing around this morning, so maybe this it has already been pointed out that that the puzzle is one big pun on the letter "W" which is -- hello -- "double U" That's pretty cool.

Danny 10:12 AM  

@Carola and @Milford:

You're welcome! It's a truly lovely piece. Every time THAIS is a crossword answer and the gripes spew out like geysers, I am sort of stunned. I always thought it was a fairly heard-of opera.

I mean, I can't sit you down and explain the entire plot and name all the characters of the opera. However, who of us can explain every detail of "Evita" and "Aida," both common crossword answers?

GILL I. 10:14 AM  

Well, at least I didn't write in IGNIS FARTUS.

orangeblossomspecial 10:17 AM  

"Crazy words, crazy tune" has a neat line about 23A: "Told my dog, go sic him, but the durn dog wouldn't go."

Scott Joplin made several piano rolls, including his composition of 55A "MAPLE leaf rag".

Martin 10:42 AM  

Clear editing error? The American unit of mass is the pound. Yes, in technical contexts, the unit of mass can be distinguished from the unit of weight by using lbm vs. lbf, but lb is accepted for both the pound-mass and the pound-weight. The slug is only defined in the Imperial system.

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

@Martin - As mentioned above, both mass and force appear in Newton's second law. The clue is 100% correct, independently of whether one specifically differentiates between pound force and pound mass.

Two Ponies 11:02 AM  

I found this very frustrating and not much fun.
I thought, like Rex, that all of those Greek robes were white.
I thought Scots wore tams and the Irish say top o' the morning.
As usual, I agree with @ jackj.
I admire those with a knowledge of physics but I must confess that I'm skipping those discussions of the Lbs answer.

Matthew G. 11:08 AM  

Hand up for never having heard of the opera THAIS before. I would have to concur with Rex that it is "relatively obscure"--although I am no opera buff, I feel like I can name the biggies, and to me that isn't one. Funny you should mention Aida, @Danny -- my first thought at 49 Across was: "An opera about a city in Egypt and it's not four letters? What's happened to Crossworld today?"

I also can't identify any M*A*S*H cast members not named Alan Alda, so the SWIT/THAIS crossing left me with an incorrect square (I shrugged and guessed K).

I also had one other error: WEDGE instead of SEDGE. Water chestnuts are kind of wedge-shaped, no? And since I had no clue on Igni-whatever, I figured it was as good a try as any.

Needless to say, I found this Challenging. I was pleased to finish with only two errors, honestly. And I loved the theme -- just wish they could have found something cleaner than IGNIS FATUUS. Like Rex, I was counting my lucky stars early on that I had vaguely heard of a play called EQUUS.

Mel Ott 11:27 AM  

Man, this was one tough puzzle for me, even after I caught on to the UU schtik. Fell into the UNES for RUES trap, so I thought 2D had to be GANDHI. Took forever to figger out that NW.

Good puzzle, altho I think 3 Latin words/phrases out of 7 theme answers is just a tad excessive.

Years ago in college I took a Dante course from a person who was identified as the college's POETESS-in-Residence. I assume that would be an un-PC title for most colleges now. She was a real nut-case, but Dante taught me a lot.

Tita 11:31 AM  

Still on my phone, so forgive the typos. Loved the theme, not so much love for some fill, though had I not been in a rush to head out, perhaps would have enjoyed the struggle more.
I do admire the clue for RUES...delightfully leading in all directions, a does the Étoile itself...
Started with unES, changed to RoiS when I got FERMI...kings walk triumphantly through arches, no?...
Switched to the generic luiS for a time, then have up and came here...so clever!
(the constructor, not me...)
And I have spent slot of time zipping around that famous roundabout...

One nit...how about that lonely U in TAU?

John V 11:31 AM  

BTW, kept wanting to write in DENIRO for 2D. I think the heat is getting to me -- supposed to be 99 at 4pm today.

Anonymous 11:35 AM  

Lots of recordings of Thais. Also, there's some famous music from the opera that frequently fills bargain-basement "Essential Classics" CDs. So, no it's not obscure.

Ulrich 12:00 PM  

When I finally put down the double double u's of MUUMUU, I smiled, put the clipboard down next to my bed, and went to sleep with a deep sense of satisfaction.

Sparky 12:13 PM  

WYLE my first entry. Got the idea at MUUMUU/SPEWS. A friend from Hawaii has pointed out to me how to pronounce mumu with two uus.

Worked from the bottom up. Had to look in my almanac for EQUUS. Could not get TRU out of my mind. Some wandering and wondering with white robes, Ethel and mats. Filled in IGNISFATUUS with downs but no idea. DNF. Stuck in NE--missed S--ASTA, O-- and -I-. Thus no ONACONTINUM.

An enjoyable struggle but I grew impatient and came here. @JohnV; you are the first with the pun. Good write up Rex. @Maskedand Annonymus where are you?

Rookie 12:14 PM  

The Metropolitan Opera did a gorgeous version of Thais that I saw in their HD movie theater broadcasts just a few years ago. I'd really encourage you to check it out. I loved all of it; the "Meditation" was/is incredibly moving.

Surprised that MAPLE came immediately and that I could suss out Fermi from just two letters since all my science courses were in biology.

I loved this puzzle and am in awe of one who could create it. As someone pointed out previously, there is such a breadth of knowledge.

Lastly, I was surprised that I'd never heard of IGNIS FATUUS despite three years of Latin class in which I did not use the previously described deceit of sleeping with my chin in my palm. (and, boy, could I have ever used it through all the battering ram tales of those Gallic wars in Caesar in Latin 2. Thankfully, Cicero in Latin 3 made up for that. Grateful today, though, for my language study because I immediately knew it was RUES and not UNES.

OISK 12:15 PM  

Thais is a "gimmee" for me. The Met staged it pretty recently, and the "meditation" is a pretty oft-recorded classical piece. Delightful puzzle, though it took me a long time to crack the uu=w. Never heard of ignisfatuus either, but the down clues that revealed it were all solvable. Those of us who prefer classical music are probably annoyed by clues about rap stars and rock groups; these are far more common than clues using Thais, Lakme, etc!

Anonymous 12:15 PM  

I caught on to the rebus when I knew the colorful dress had to be MUUMUU because of the cross with OTTAWA, but I still couldn't finish because I was trying to force 19-A to be ONANOPTIMUUM, although I knew that OPTIMUM wasn't really spelled that way and the phrase didn't really sound right. Never would have come up with ONACONTINUUM. Oh, well.

Sparky 12:16 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
retired_chemist 12:19 PM  

@ Gill I. P. - LOL re IGNIS FARTUS. had a friend in college who did that.....

Maskedand Annonymus 12:37 PM  

Right here, @Sparky.

UUouuza! Big thUUmbsUUp. This wasn't just a puz; it was a pUUz! Best one of the year, so far. Internin' for the Shortzmeister must make U real extra savvy, at coming up with the max-primo themes. UUouu.

Seems like I had done some research before, and come up with UU ideas, followed by beseeching someone here to do this. That research helped, as I vaguely remembered INPERPETUUM, EQUUS, and the weirdball but great IGNISFATUUS. [Faint recollection that some other double-vowel puz had got my blood up to do that.]

Anyhoo... Great pUUz, Joel. Dude! U are my new BUFF.

Muumuu! Booyah! (Thanx, another puz.) I'm seein' this one passing over into I Fink U Freaky 2012 glory. UUouu! Sputter. Gurgle.

P.S. How many U's were there? Almost a philosophical poser. Poor, confused xwordinfo analysis says 3. Har. Had that count beat at MUUMUU, Joel.

Rookie 12:41 PM  

In case anyone is interested, here is a link for the DVD of the Met's recent production of Thais that both OISK and I coincidentally cited in simultaneous postings here. I was so blown away by the music and the production that I ordered the DVD as soon as it became available. Give it a try! (BTW, those HD Met transmissions are a great way to dip your toe into opera. I love living in the St Croix River Valley near the Twin Cities and still having access to the Met. As Candide would say ...or was it Pangloss? ... It's the best of all possible worlds!)


Rookie 12:52 PM  

In case anyone is interested, here is a link for the DVD of the Met's recent production of Thais that both OISK and I coincidentally cited in simultaneous postings here. I was so blown away by the music and the production that I ordered the DVD as soon as it became available. Give it a try! (BTW, those HD Met transmissions are a great way to dip your toe into opera. I love living in the St Croix River Valley near the Twin Cities and still having access to the Met. As Candide would say ...or was it Pangloss? ... It's the best of all possible worlds!)


Deb 1:55 PM  

I know I've done a puzzle with the W/UU trick (including the directional variation and rebus) some time in the last six months or so, but it didn't rely on such obscure Latin as this one. I was so hoping Rex would recall it, but apparently it wasn't a Times puzzle. Anyone?

Three and you're out... 2:13 PM  

...of ewes, that is. I didn't treat the puzz as a rebus, but rather put the correct "w" in the downs and left the acrosses to be sounded as one would pronounce the "w" in spelling aloud. Too many ewes in a shute to be comfortable.

Three and... 2:20 PM  

...make that chute.

Zwhatever 2:47 PM  

@retired chemist - typing the Hot Lips Houlihan actress' name as S(UU)IT is vaguely inappropriate.

@Evil Doug - you aren't alone. I was going to include a link to the Deviant Art website with pics, but their Lois images are so inappropriate that they make you prove you're 18 to see some of them.

Had the wEDGE/SEDGE debate because IGNIuu FATUUS seemed perfectly reasonable given the theme. I left it and never returned. The S looks darker than the w so I'll claim correctness, but I didn't really know.

Briefly wondered how a Sally Ride rebus could fit initially at 2d, and MIR got my hopes up a little. No such tribute today. When I returned, even though I had the theme already, I had to run the alphabet with A-UI-O in place. The Q shook loose EQUUS.

Last letter in was the L in MERLS/DOWNLOAD. Wasn't there a MERL discussion here not too long ago?

Lots of work. Lots of fun.

retired_chemist 3:18 PM  

IGNIS FATUUS actiuallhy sounds like he is a colleague of Pseudolus and Erronius in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."

sanfranman59 3:28 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 24:30, 18:56, 1.29, 89%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 13:50, 9:22, 1.48, 95%, Challenging

Bird 3:43 PM  

I’m with @jae on this one, though I needed assistance in completing the NW corner. Seems a few of us had UNES before RUES.

Discovered the ploy at 39A. I immediately put in ALDA as one of the Emmy winners from M*A*S*H, but LBS gave me the correct answer; Hot Lips was another great character. Also wanted MARTINI to fit somehow at 41D.

This Mechanical Engineer knew there was going to be a discussion on LBS and MASS, but also knew the terms are interchangeable outside the scientific community.

To all you solvers who use electronic devices – just solve with pen/pencil on paper. ;)

@Gill I. P. 10:14 – LOL! Good thing I wasn’t drinking coffee.


Martin 3:45 PM  


I have to jump in here regarding the clue for LBS. I agree with the many complaints that this clue is quite problematic, as a pound is a unit of force, not mass.

Pete, you say that the clue is technically OK, since force does appear in the F = MA equation. However, I do not think that this works because of how cross-references work in the NYT puzzle. When one clue references another, I thought that was understood to mean it was a reference the *answer* to the other clue -- not the clue itself. If that is right, the clue "73-Across units" means "units of MASS" not "units that appear in the equation referred to in 73-Across."

Longtime puzzlers, is this correct?

Isaac 4:20 PM  

@Martin - Correct. The clue for 34A wants you to use the answer for 73A. Otherwise, the clue for 34A would read something like "UOM for Weight".

John V 4:29 PM  

@Martin, I read the cross-reference as you suggest. Also to consider is that while LBS is only a three letter word, it is at a pretty tight spot in the grid, crossing one of the theme answers, SWIT as well as IROBOT, presenting a potential Natick crossing. That said, I think it ends up being fair in the context of a Thursday puzzle. I never considered this issue about the clue as I solved and don't remember having seen the clue, as LBS came from entirely the crosses, for me.

Pete 4:34 PM  

@Martin - I'm sure you're correct. However, my way takes me out of the absurd Force/Mass/Damned English Language fiasco, ergo it's better. Occasionally, ignorance is bliss.

Lewis 4:40 PM  

What a great week of puzzles! I love a puzzle that fires up my brain, as this one did.

KarenSampsonHudson 5:38 PM  

I agree, Rex, about Erle Stanley Gardner--I've always enjoyed his succinct style and minimal yet vivid descriptions. I'm glad to have an English prof's endorsement for the Perry Masons!

jberg 5:42 PM  

We've got a real race here! Will there be more comments about pounds, force, and mass? Or about how obscure "Thais" is or is not? They're neck and neck!

It took me until MUUMUU to get the theme, partly because I was thinking IGNIS FATUa or FATUi or something like that. Also had unES, like everybody ese, apparently - and REcall before REHIRE. So it was tough for me - and I finished with an error, due to not knowing SWIT and to looking at DO YOU NDERSTAND and not noticing that a U was missing. Also, I didn't know VIN Scully, and had OUTPACEd instead of OUTPACES, for no good reason, so I ran the alphabet on _EDT a couple of times before I finally realized the D should be an S.

Conclusion: a great, challenging puzzle, and I should improve my skills.

Anonymous 5:54 PM  

Posting here as anonymous
Might place you ONACONTINUUM
Somewhere between cowardly
and lazy at a minimum

Rex won't read ya'
You're a persona non grata
Not that there's anything wrong with that
Yadda, yadda, yadda...

Numbers Guy 5:56 PM  

if BID means OFFER (which i still dont concede), then LBS can be a legitimate abbreviation for pounds-mass, despite the fact that some professions would disagree.
i wouldnt use it in a scientific journal, but in common usage the clue is correct.
when i saw it i cringed and figured the cross reference was to be cute even while making the clue less accurate than it could have been.

the bigger clue problem is for ONACONTINUUM, which is not mathematically correct at all.

but hey, im just happy i finished this with only 1 letter wrong - that damn S.

Anonymous 6:16 PM  

@5.54 Anon

I'm lovin it.

Tita 7:02 PM  

@Z - I had the exact sanme thought - Women of the year was going to be some rebus for Sally Ride, and MIR confirmed it - was delighted about that!

A little more M and A 7:10 PM  

@Deb--The UU/double-U puz you described above doesn't quite ring a bell. There was an amateur one made by a "Friend of M & A", back in 2011, that did most of that, but didn't use a rebus gimmick and didn't vary the UU=W based on direction. So probably not your fond memory.

Lookin' forward to 31's upcoming TuesPuz. An add-NZ puz? Would have to be one of them rush job deals, so probably not. Whatever it is, I know it'll be first class. And unlikely to be a pangram.

Kim 8:07 PM  

A similar uu for w trick was just used by Will Shortz in a Sunday NPR puzzle in June involving adding v and e to a French word to get its English synonym - vin becomes wine.

Deb 9:04 PM  

I may not be a fan of The Three Stooges, but I sure do get a chuckle out of watching Jiminy F Cricket reply to his own posts. (I trust I'm not the only one.)

mac 9:34 PM  

Beautiful puzzle! I had a lot of it filled in before I got the theme at Wyle/in perpetuum. Totally accepting mumu as the correct spelling in the SE did not help at all.

I liked the elm/maple crossing as well, but, @Loren, where's the reveal??

Database was a bit of a let-down, I expected something a little more esoteric. Merl = merel in Dutch, plus it is my niece's name. Never new the English word.

I'm flying to Portland, Oregon, early Wednesday morning for the Saturday wedding of another niece.

Now on to yesterday's puzzle, haven't had any time.

Andruua Carluu Michuuls 2:03 AM  

So cuul, Joel!!!!

Late ringing in, bec DNF...Never got the NW (NUU?) corner...
If only I had realized the symmetry of the rebuus!!!!
So even tho I changed unES to RUES, I missed EQUUS and stuck with CATS! Triple embarrassment bec I sawEQUUS in 1975 AND Amy AQUINO, is my best(ess) pal from college.

Anyway, two years of Latin here, (I mean literally here here, as I'm back in my childhood hometown) but ignorant (ignisant?) of IGNISFATUUS, Plus guessed adPERPETUUM. :(

@dk, @sethg, I'm Here in Mpls for a national Scrabble tournament! (Just in case it ever comes up, a D is worth two points!) ;)

For those who think they haven't heard of the opera THAIS, imagine the i has two dots over it (or either side?) and i'll bet it will seem more familiar.

The fact that STPETE and VIN were my first two entries is clearly a sign of the apocalypse...tho I hope not before I see @dk next week!

Aquino Continuum Muumuus 2:11 AM  

Ps my other mess up that took a long long time to clear up...
22A Brief promises? I had "I DOs"...

Davis 2:40 AM  

@Mary Rose — I had one goof in the puzzle (had MELLS instead of MERLS), and I had used Ws instead of UUs. After trying both Ws and UUs, I eventually discovered the MERLS error, and then had to try both Ws and UUs before figuring out that the ipad wanted the UUs.

fvigeland 10:37 AM  

I've been working on sort of the inverse of this theme on and off forever (WORLDWIDEWEB spans the grid as UUORLDUUIDEUUEB, with each U in its own box), but props to Joel for great execution on this. I had a simultaneous "oh wow" and "oh damn" reaction when I grokked the theme. I guess I've got at least five years now to keep tweaking my grid!

Hand up for trying to make a rebus work with ETHELMERTZ where EDNORTON is.

Even as a 19-year-old, I love Perry Mason. Inherited that gene from my dad. We watch reruns on the Hallmark Channel.

sanfranman59 12:22 PM  

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 6:30, 6:49, 0.95, 29%, Easy-Medium
Tue 7:23, 8:56, 0.83, 7%, Easy
Wed 13:44, 11:47, 1.17, 86%, Challenging
Thu 24:54, 18:56, 1.32, 92%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:40, 3:41, 1.00, 52%, Medium
Tue 4:21, 4:38, 0.94, 37%, Easy-Medium
Wed 7:42, 5:54, 1.31, 97%, Challenging (5th highest median solve time of 158 Wednesdays)
Thu 13:31, 9:22, 1.44, 94%, Challenging

Will 2:55 PM  

Much harder than the Friday last week, which I breezed through. This I had to put down a few times. Took a while to get the theme- got it from muumuu. Kept trying to fit Eddie Haskel in for Ed Norton and thought that had something to do with the clue. For some reason had a Honeymooners brain fart.

Anonymous 1:13 PM  

From an old puzzle guy, doing puzzlew over 50 years, this is up there with the very best. Excellent work, Mr. Fagliano! And, thank you. Ron Diego

Solving in Seattle 2:46 PM  

Joel Fagliano, U hit this one oUt of the baWlpark! What a fun, brilliant crossword puzzle.

Luckily, I saw EQUUS on broadway with Tony Perkins in the star role back in '75, so I knew a rebus was afoot. I started by putting the extra U with the S. Really caught on to the key with SWIT.

Like @Acme, I had Idos before IOUS, and I agree with @Two Ponies that TAM is Scottish, not Irish - my only clue nit.

@Loren, I too enjoyed the crossing of MAPLE and ELM, and SSNS and NAMING. Thanks for pointing out SWIT and NEHI adjoining.

@SiS lol award of the day to Anon 5:54pm.

IGNIS FATUUS should have been the WOTD.

Dirigonzo 4:19 PM  

I knew something tricky was afoot when the perfectly obvious DOYO[UU]NDERSTAND wouldn't fit into the squares allotted to it, but it wasn't until I got to the MUUMUU
OTTAWA cross that had my aha! moment. I would not have found all of the occurrences of the rebus were it not for their perfect symmetry in the grid. This was a marvelous Thursday puzzlewhere even the 3 letter fill was made challenging (PIC for Shot? Oh, yeah, as in a photo shoot - now I get it!) and of course, LBS which the physicists are still arguing about.

Spacecraft 7:03 PM  

Too tough for me. TROOP is a VERB???? They trooped across the country. Sure. BAH! Have you ever heard it used as a verb? Neither have I. I'm putting this down as a totally unfair clue. Nor have i ever heard of ONACONTINUUM as being "between two extremes." And I'm sure we're all familiar with the good ol' IGNISFATUUS. Anybody who says they did this puzzle without EXTENSIVE Googling I simply do not believe.

Besides TAM not being Irish, as has been mentioned, LBS do NOT measure mass, they measure weight. There's a difference. Will, did you police these clues? EDNORTON could have done a better job.

Dirigonzo 8:31 PM  

@Spacecraft - my first instinct, which I probably should have followed, was to let your comment pass without a reply but Evan Williams convinced me, after a lenghty debate, that one of your statements could not be left unchallenged.

You are certainly entitled to your opinion of the puzzle and the cluing - I always look forward to your posts to see what you thought of the offering of the day - but when you say, "Anybody who says they did this puzzle without EXTENSIVE Googling I simply do not believe.", you go from legitimately critizing the puzzle to questioning the credibility of many commenters, including me. I assure you I completed the puzzle with NO googling, as I suspect did @Solving in Seattle and many of the earlier commenters who shared their solving experience. We all have days when we succeed and days when we come up short, but a tough day for you does not mean that everybody else had the same experience.

Maybe you were just having a bad day, or maybe I've just had too much bourbon - either way I look forward to your comments and criticism of the puzzle.

Anonymous 6:17 AM  

Was looking for AIDS at 4D ...

Anonymous 10:22 PM  

Can't really call this one "fun." But I did complete it without any assistance - though in record long time.

Pound mass / pound force blah blah blah: Before the metric system was inflicted on us, mass and force were related by the only gravitational acceleration known: that of the earth. Pounds mass / pounds force - either is a unit in Newton's 2nd Law.

Crossword puzzles have gotten to be so gimmicky these days.

Blade 5:35 AM  

I think it’s literally the last letter of the clue.

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