Asian nurse / TUE 8-28-12 / Old Philosophers place / 1998 BP acquisition / Outdated tape format / Discontinued Swedish car / Newspaperman Adolph

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Constructor: Lou Borenstein

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell — "Hell" is changed to "Heaven" and vice versa in popular song titles. Top of the grid has word BELOW (1A: Traditional location of one of this puzzle's theme words), bottom has ABOVE (64A: Traditional location of one of this puzzle's theme words)

The songs:
  • HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN (17A: Opposite of an AC/DC song?)
  • STAIRWAY TO HELL (25A: Opposite of a Led Zeppelin number?)
  • BAT OUT OF HEAVEN (42A: Opposite of a Meat Loaf tune?)
  • PENNIES FROM HELL (56A: Opposite of a Bing Crosby hit?)

Word of the Day: BASAL metabolism (61A: ___ metabolism) —
Basal metabolic rate (BMR), and the closely related resting metabolic rate (RMR), is the amount of energy expended daily by humans and other animals at rest. Rest is defined as existing in a neutrally temperate environment while in the post-absorptive state. In plants, different considerations apply.
The release, and using, of energy in this state is sufficient only for the functioning of the vital organs, the heartlungsnervous systemkidneysliver,intestinesex organsmuscles, and skin. (wikipedia)
• • •

First, the good: the BELOW / ABOVE thing is a nice extra touch, even if there is no referent (i.e. below what? above what? ... I don't think of BELOW and ABOVE as "locations," exactly, but ... close enough for government work). Also, "PENNIES FROM HELL" is genuinely funny for many reasons, not least of which is that pennies are the worst. From heaven, sure, during the Depression you might think that. But now, from hell indeed.

Now the less good: the theme was a non-starter for me because "HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN" is a thing. A known, popular thing. So there is nothing funny there, because it was the name of an exceedingly unfunny, tremendously earnest, religious drama starring Michael Landon. For these theme answers to work, they have to surprise by being new and unexpected, odd, strange, funny ... "HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN" is none of these. Then there's the fill, which is pretty dire. When I wasn't choking on crosswordese (and really tired crosswordese too, like AMAH [Asian nurse] and AER), I was enduring an onslaught of gridingly bland fill. Lots of 3s and 4s, and nothing longer than a couple of boring 7s. You could smell the mothballs on this one. So there's a cute core concept, and a nice added dimension with BELOW / ABOVE, but overall, not a predominantly pleasant experience.

  • 14A: 1998 BP acquisition (AMOCO) — Off the "A"; 5-letter gas company, not hard.
  • 21A: Outdated tape format (VHS) — I kind of miss these. I'm having a hard time throwing mine out, even though I got rid of my VCR years ago. I tend to have pointless nostalgia for bygone formats. I own (and even use) a manual typewriter. I just got my first so-called "smartphone" today. (I have no nostalgia for my dumbphone, though; I'm taking a rock to that thing)
  • 4D: Newspaperman Adolph (OCHS) — he's like LOEW (31D: MGM founder) and yesterday's ICAHN. Or that guy you don't really know but he's at half the parties you go to so you somehow learned his name. That guy.
  • 32D: Discontinued Swedish car (SAAB) — hand to god, I had no idea these were "discontinued." Crossworld should've had a funeral. I think being bygone actually *elevates* your status in the Crosswordese Pantheon.
  • 36D: Old philosophers' place (STOA) — the whole puzzle felt about as fresh and entertaining as this answer.
  • 37D: Pants part that gets a lot of wear (SEAT) — the SEAT is not the part of the pants I associate with "wear." I've had pants give out or fray in a number of places; not there. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Eddie Jefferson 12:07 AM  

I've been trolling here for years, and today is the first time I've actually caught you in an error: 56A should be BENNY'S..., a play on the song Benny's from Heaven

Evan 12:09 AM  

I'm back from my whirlwind wedding/mini-honeymoon extravaganza! Which means I'm still catching up on puzzles from last week. Don't give anything away from those, if y'all could please be so kind.

BAH! I liked this puzzle simply for STAIRWAY TO HELL. One of the greatest rock songs in history turned upside down. Though I can see Rex's complaint -- the fill isn't very sparkly outside of the theme answers. Still had a chuckle when TRACT was clued as "Chunk of land" -- SUREST am I that I wasn't the only one who thought of the Monty Python line "She's got huuuuge....TRACTs o' land!" from "The Holy Grail."

syndy 12:26 AM  

Usually I rise up into an uprising but what the Heaven!AMAHMAVAHAB about sez it all-usual tuesday dreck.

jae 12:26 AM  

Easy-medium for me after applying my iPad typing minus 90 second adjustment.  Speaking of which, welcome back Sanfranman man, I think it's safe to say we've missed you.

Pretty zippy theme for a Tues., but I'm with Rex, the HIGHWAYTOHEAVEN TV show is a problem. Re: fill sure we have AMAH, OTT, and SROS, but least LEO wasn't a pope.  I liked it more than Rex.

Anonymous 12:38 AM  

Speaking of Heaven and Hell, thank you God for cancelling day 1 of the Republican convention.

JFC 12:47 AM  

@Rex said, "...the whole puzzle felt about as fresh and entertaining as this answer."

The constructor is a first timer for the NYT XWP.

I caught the BELOW and the ABOVE and agree with Rex about the nice touch.

Where I differ is that the constructor had a concept which he implemented with that added touch. As for the fill, I'm just a solver who cares about fill as much as Rex cares about newly published constructors. I say Lou has a future because he has a concept. The fill will come later.

But it's good to see Rex getting back to his old self....


Pooloniousmonk 12:49 AM  

The fact that Saabs were discontinued by GM was implied in the Sunday puzzle. That is what clued me in on the answer to this one. And to think that when I learned about the Saabs in Sunday's puzzle, I thought this information was just one more bit of useless trivia. Its utility thus came as a delightful surprise. The real stumper was that Mel question. I had blank-T-blank for the longest time.

Anoa Bob 1:06 AM  

Love the pic of "BASAL" Rathbone. Brought back memories of a house-full of college students at SDSU in the early 70's who thought that the epitome of cool on a Friday night was to get together with your sweetie and your friends, lay in some good eats, drinks and smoke, and watch a Basil Rathbone & Nigel Bruce "Sherlock Holmes" film. Good stuff.

Amoco Cro-la Meadows 1:54 AM  

I thought a nice flip on titles, and that the lengths worked out was fabulous. 14 15 15 14
All songs...
Very nice consistency and the whole BELOW/ABOVE dollop was sweet and unexpected.

Hardest part was that Olly Olly... I thought it was "all come" or "all in" free. OXEN? What the heck is that from?

Not crazy about a lot of the fill...but theme trumped all today, for me!

chefwen 2:39 AM  

Thought the puzzle was O.K. and kinda cute, but it didn't really blow my skirt up. So far the best was @Eddie Jefferson's Benny's from Heaven, I had never heard that before and it got me laughing.

Ninjapenguin 3:35 AM  

Fairly new crossworder here, but I just had to come on to complain about NERTS. What the heck?! An obscure alternate version of a fairly archaic slang term? With no hints to this in the clue? I thought for sure that it was incorrect and spent a good ten minutes trying to figure out where I had gone wrong. NERTS to you, Mr. Borenstein.

Unknown 5:05 AM  

include information about your state licensure and other will helpful in interview time.

Nurse Cover Letters 

Anonymous 5:06 AM  

In the old Ernie Bushmlllet comic "Nancy", one of her favorite outbursts was "Nerts!".

Anonymous 5:09 AM  

Make that "Bushmlller" above.

Karen 5:44 AM  

Perhaps I'm getting old but I like pennies. Much to my children's chagrin I will stop to pick up a penny and chant "Find a penny pick it up all the day you'll have good luck!" Can never remember whether heads up or down is supposed to be the luckiest!

Z 6:48 AM  

Loved the theme, barely noticed the fill. In fact, I had to go back and see if a couple of complaints were in the grid because I didn't remember them, AMAH and LEO in particular.

I noticed that I had OTm, looked at the clue wondering if it should be aTm, saw our buddy @Mel Ott and realized SEAT instead of SEAm. I also managed to write HOrdeS before HOARDS. Otherwise a straightforward solve once I groked the theme at the Led Zeppelin clue, which gave me the AC/DC answer, BELOW above and ABOVE below.

As to the locationess of ABOVE/BELOW - Do you think it is a sign from ABOVE that Isaac is affecting the Republican Convention? Greed and Hubris are sins that land one down BELOW in the after life. Those guys should be careful, because I think this might be an OMEN.

TSG 7:10 AM  

Never heard of the Highway to Heaven TV show so no offense taken. It pays to miss a decade or two of network television, now more than ever.

dk 7:35 AM  

All that ranting over a TV show and nary a word about beta format tapes - the Tesla of video. Phones going from Bakelite to Plastic was the highway to heck IMHO.

I had a SAAB. Bad gear ratio from 1st to 2nd but otherwise a fine car. Too bad GM was afraid of a Chinese SAAB and they killed the car. I was living PT in Sweden when GM acquired SAAB and the consensus was GM would run SAAB into the ground -- never a percentage in being right.

The cute theme and the reversal of BELOW and ABOVE all spell good job to this solver.

🌟🌟🌟 (3 Stars) A pleasant Tuesday: Who knew! Thanks Lou.

GILL I. 7:37 AM  

I thought the theme was great. The answers were smile inducing. My favorite was PENNIES FROM HELL. My mom introduced me to Frances Langford and I loved hearing her sing that song along with Yankee Doodle Dandy. Brenda Lee did a good rendition as well.
@Amoco: I always heard it as "Olsen's free."

John V 7:48 AM  

Either permutation of 17A are unknown to me, so I needed the theme to get them.

Fav clue/answer: 49A NESS, the untouchable leader. Fun!

Do AMAHs take care of ESNEs when the get sick? Only Big Gene knows for sure!

joho 8:08 AM  

I was happy to see that @Rex pointed out the extra twist of BELOW above and ABOVE below in the puzzle. Fun!

I have to agree with everybody who didn't like all the crosswordese in the fill. Also, there were so many old references: ASCAP, NERTS, VHS, LEO (G.CARROLL), SMITE, SNEAD, OCHS, NESS, AHAB, OTT ... STOA and AMAH already mentioned).

Still, I really liked the theme with its concept of playing on opposites. So in the end this was an ABOVE average Tuesday for me not BELOW.

Congratulations to Lou Borenstein on your debut!

MountainManZach 8:17 AM  

Is RexWord getting enough traffic to get spam comments these days? Now you know you've arrived.

Milford 8:24 AM  

What's not to love about a puzzle with both a Led Zeppelin AND an AC/DC song in the theme?

I found this to be easy and fun - the 3-letter stuff doesn't bother me as many of you, but maybe in another 500 puzzles it will.

My favorite theme answer was actually BAT OUT OF HEAVEN - just a fun phrase.

ASCAP on top of NERTS was small slow-up. I don't think I know either of these.

Maybe it was tone set by the constructor, thinking maybe he and I are close in age, but I really was thinking the 48D clue with " ___ Shuffle" was going to be "Ikky" (yeah, I know, it's spelled wrong).

Welcome back, Evan and Sanfranman!

Anonymous 8:29 AM  

It had me at Led Zeppelin! Nice Tuesday!

orangeblossomspecial 8:32 AM  

@Gill I.P. at 7:37: Here is Frances Langford singing 'PENNIES FROM Heaven'.

Al Jolson recorded 'I'm in a seventh heaven'.

wordie 8:35 AM  

It's been raining here in the mid-Atlantic off and on for 24 hours, and my paper was soaked this morning. Still, I managed to do the soggy puzzle. I had a chuckle when I filled in SUTRA and than saw the clue ". . . Lingus".

Miette 8:47 AM  

A friend of mine who's son died at the age of 13 from cancer loves to find pennies. She takes it as a sign that her son is smiling down on her from Heaven.

Miette 9:08 AM  

A friend from college just wrote on his FB wall on Sunday:

Choose one:
A)Olly, Olly, Oxen Free.
B)Allee, Alley, In Free.
C)I have no idea what you are talking about.

I wrote:

D)Olly, Olly, In Free

(Although I never heard the phrase as a kid. It has only been in the past 20 years that I first heard it, and that has only been when the pastor at church would sometimes use it in his sermons.)

Anonymous 9:12 AM  

In hide and seek, all ye, all ye outs in, all in free has become olly olly oxen.....

Saba 9:24 AM  


Olly,Olly,HOME free was the cry screamed by a player in any of several games played on the streets of New York City when he or she freed other players who had been "captured" by the "it" kid. I have no idea wher OXEN came from. They were extremely rare on the streets of NY. Fun puzzle


Miette 9:24 AM  

Should have read:

D)Olly, Olly, All In Free.

(I learned from reading replies to my friend's FB post that it was a chant used when playing HIDE AND GO SEEK. I don't remember ever hearing it used when I played that as a kid.)

joho 9:36 AM  

As in kid in California we definitely shouted "Olly Olly OXEN FREE!" I like Jlb's explanation at 9:12 AM ... sounds right to me.

chefbea 9:37 AM  

Easy fun puzzle. When I saw 1 across I knew what 64 across would be.

Thought MPAA would be WOD. Never heard of it. What does it stand for.

Back in the day... we always said olly olly oxen free, when playing hide 'n seek.

jberg 9:40 AM  

We never said OXEN, but it sounded familiar once I got it - I think I've heard it in adult life, I thought from kids who grew up in Long Island (but not sure of that last). Anyway, a fun puzzle, even if the demise of the SAAB saddened me. I had a model 95 for a long time - it no longer required oil in the gas tank, but was still idiosyncratic. We were an example of the well-known phenomenon that they broke down a lot but their owners thought they were great cars.

@Samantha, now that you've found us stick around and try a few puzzles!

quilter1 9:43 AM  

I guess it depends on where you grew up. We said olly olly outs in free. The theme was cute, the fill was kind of boring, but since I forbid the words boring/bored in my house I'll change it to uninspired. I'll bet the constructor is too young to remember Highway to Heaven and I had forgotten all about it myself. Even filling it in to the puzzle did not jog my memory--Rex did. But not bad for a debut.

Bill Cosby 10:09 AM  

Leonard Part 6 is perhaps the single most underrated film of all time. Thank you, Rex, for giving this cinematic gem some long overdue recognition.

Carola 10:10 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carola 10:14 AM  

I'm with Rex all the way on this one.

On the OXEN - I grew up in a Scandinavian town and instead of the "olly olly" we said "Ole Ole Olson, all in free...." I only learned from crosswords that this was not a universal cry.

Two Ponies 10:25 AM  

Loved the theme. Hated the fill.
Hope to never see Nisi again.
RRN's, popes, and legalese all really piss me off.
Olly, olly, outs in free.

How did the spam get in?

jae 10:38 AM  

OXEN free for me as a kid.

Frank Burns (MASH) and Liz Lemon (30 Rock)have been known to say NERTS. In fact, I think there may have been a crossword clue about Liz Lemon's usage.

Feel free to rearrange the errant : in my previous post.

Sandy K 10:58 AM  

Unfortunately, I remember the "outdated tape format" VHS, Nancy and Sluggo- NERTS, The Untouchables with Elliot Ness, and Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes.

ANYHOW, ABOVE and BELOW, not a bad puzzle.

Must be some more substitutions...
My Blue HELL? 7th HELL? HEAVEN Bent for Leather? Motorcycle group-HEAVEN's Angels?

Bob Kerfuffle 11:08 AM  

I am haunted by the memory of an echoing "Olly, Olly, Oxen Free!", possibly from a Twilight Zone episode titled "Hide and Seek," but my search skills fail me in finding the scene.

Meanwhile, Wikipedia notes, ""Olly olly oxen free" is suspiciously close to the German phrase "Alle, alle auch sind frei," meaning "everyone, everyone is also free.""

Dan 11:22 AM  

So I can never remember the difference between an apse and a nave, so when I got to 52A, I decided to check the down answer for a hint. "Ishmael's captain" And then somehow my brain thought "four letter captain's name starting with A or N? Ah! NEMO!" *facepalm*

Sparky 11:26 AM  

The puzzle: meh. @Saba, @Miette, et al, back in Brooklyn we called it Hide and Go Seek and yelled Home Free while hitting the tree where It hid her eyes and counted at the start. That whole Ollie Ollie Oxen Free news to me in later years.

Welcome back Evan.

OISK 11:27 AM  

Having no idea about ANY song ever performed by ACDC, Led Zepp, or Meatloaf, this was less fun for me than it might have been for those who listen to rock. (Knew pennies from heaven, of course) I have no problem with the rest of the fill, though, really liked "nerts". Like most of the New Yorkers, apparently, never heard of "Oxen" free. We just said "Olly olly in free." Appropriate difficulty for a Tuesday, clever theme that I would have liked were I a fan of any of those three rock groups.

Tita 11:33 AM  

@Rex: I guess it's cause profs stand up so much. We couch potatoes wear out our pants in the SEAT.

Liked the theme, with the switched ABOVE/BELOW.
Didn't mind most of the xwordese, with the exception of TNUT.

Oh - nobody noticed EDENS in the grid? Would have been cool had that been between ABOVE & BELOW...

ksquare 11:52 AM  

If you don't think BASAL Rathbone was funny enough, his son was named (for real) RHODIAN Rathbone.
Just sayin'.

andy 11:56 AM  

Being one of those people who reliably hears song lyrics incorrectly, I thought I'd fall in the trap of remembering 12D one way, only to have been saying it wrong for years, and have the puzzle messed up from the start. Happy to see OXEN is common usage.

Milford 12:01 PM  

Wow, it's funny how OXEN was a gimme for some of us, but totally bizarre for so many! Maybe it is regional, as suggested. I think for hide-and-seek we would actually yell out "come out, come out, wherever you are!"

I really like the idea that @Bob Kerfuffle suggested, that it has a German origin. It reminded me how growing up we would have what we called "gas-house" eggs (an egg fried inside a hole in toast). It wasn't until a few years ago we realized it came from the German "gast haus", or guest house eggs.

chefbea 12:14 PM  

@Milford use to make those all the time for my kids. We called them eggs in a nest

Tita 1:25 PM  

@Milford, @chefbea - chefhusband makes those - calls 'em Toad in the Hole.

Masked and Anonymo4Us 1:37 PM  

Liked the puz just fine. A la @31, squirmed a smidge when I wrote in HIGHWAYTOHEAVEN, wondering if that was a trick question. Nothing else Styx in my craw, altho a bit of clean-up ensues...

1. "Ally Ally Oxen Free" is what it says on my Kingston Trio record. QED.

2. BELOW is placed above and ABOVE is below in the grid. Fittin'. thUmbsUp for upside-down thinkin'. Cute debut, Lou.

3. Sure hard to squeeze bloggin' in, when you're working all these extra Shortzmeister B-day puzs. That Sunday-sized one is a hairy bear.

Acme 2:01 PM  

Toad in the hole?! Ick! Fastest way to encourage vegetarianism I've ever heard!

(plus, @milford, i don't think I'd trust anything associated with German called "gas house" :(
but I'm going to have to go with @bob kerfuffle that "oxen" is a mondegren of sorts from German and totally regional.
I mean really auch sind/oxen too close.)

I'm wondering if the constructor used autofill, because the 14 15 15 14 construction is really hard to pull off in an early week puzzle and he was so happy the grid was fillable to begin with (esp given the dollop of the reverse BELOW/ABOVE) that he just went with it.
It's presuming a lot...but if the criticisms weren't so harsh about the fill which really wasn't ideal, he might even admit to it.
I know when I was first making the transition to using a computer and a database to construct after decades by hand, I didn't immediately understand that the fill could be filled in one word at a time. I would put in my theme, press autofill to see if it was fillable and then change each section one word at a time which seemed more labor intensive than if I'd just done by hand to begin I abandoned the computer.
A collaborator showed how i could put in my theme and then choose each word from a list of possibilities and the likelihood each would lead to a smooth fill. So it's my guess that since Lou is new, he might have just concentrated on theme (58 letters plus ten more in specific first and last word placement!) and that's how all the AMAH stuff happened.
Then again, I could be totally wrong as I still use VHS!

M and A confused as usual 2:13 PM  

@Andrea Darlin'--Don't quite get why 15-14-14-15 would be an unusually hard assignment to pull off. But do get why chippin' in BELOW and ABOVE could make life more complicated. Ironically, the corners with BELOW/ABOVE in 'em don't have many BAHS-inducing moments. Maybe that's cuz they were almost road-blocked off? (31 did chase after OCHS, cuz he reminded him of some dude at a party, I think.)

Captcha Interfacing with The Blorg tip: 31 doesn't seem to be a universal number substitute anymore. More's the pity.

GILL I. 2:26 PM  

@oranageblossom: Thank you, I knew you'd come through!
@Acme: Really interesting. I've often wondered about some puzzles that have a plethora of "crosswordese" which has become so tired. I love it when a new word or phrase is introduced which doesn't seem often enough.
I pay attention to the constructors and the words they use. My favorites are those that aren't afraid to use whacky phrases or words. I remember Ian Livengood using AUTEUR (the clue had something to do with a filmaker) on a Monday. My newbie daughter got it right away although some deemed it too hard. Anyway, I think you do leave a signature every time you construct which, in my opinion, should be as computer free as possible.

John V 3:14 PM  

Re: Fill/Autofill/Punxsutawney Phil. Doesn't the point about autofill beg the question? After all, Will decides what goes and what does not, regardless of whether the fill was generated by a software tool, a person or an ESNE.

My take on today's puzzle is that Will concluded that this was an interesting enough theme to make a bit more allowance for the fill. As @Acme noted, this sort of theme density is unusual and commendable for a Tuesday.

sanfranman59 4:12 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)

Tue 7:12, 8:56, 0.81, 4%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:04, 4:39, 0.88, 13%, Easy

Arghhhh!!! These captchas are getting more and more difficult to decipher. This is attempt #5. How the heck am I supposed to be able to tell the different between an upper and a lower case C/c, S/s, U/u, V/v, W/w or Z/z when all of the letters are different sizes???

Charley 4:28 PM  

No nerts, please.

Loren Muse Smith 4:55 PM  

We yelled OXEN in Chattanooga, too, along with “Ice cream, peaches, punkin’ pie. . .who’s not ready, holler ‘I’!” Loved @Bob Kerfuffle’s German theory.

Really, really impressive to get the two 14's and two 15's with songs that have HEAVEN and HELL. The ABOVE and BELOW just ice the cake.

I always get a kick out of it if 1A and/or the last across answer in the SE have a secondary meaning.

I had my second class in the prison last night. At the end of class, I passed out the Monday puzzle. As I was replacing dictionaries, collecting papers, etc, I looked around and got such a kick out of seeing the smatterings of ELF, NIT, DIVOT, ROY, ONO, GERMAN. . . The last thing we did in class was review the parts of speech, so for those that wanted to hang around after class, I showed them how if the clue is one part of speech, the answer must be the same part of speech. By and large, the puzzle is full of nouns, but we did find some verbs – FASTENED, WOLFED, GOT, READ TO, adjectives – RAPT, INNATE, and an adverbial phrase – IN A SEC.

Someone griped last week late after my EPI/EPEE post:

“Let's see LMS cut the recidivism rate by teaching her pupils the differences between transitive and intransitive verbs. Yeah, that'll make a big difference.”

FWIW, I’m not doing this because I’m Little Miss Prisspot Do-Gooder trying to change anyone’s life. I’m doing this because I love to run my mouth about Language and grammar, and maybe I can shed some light for one or two of them on how cool Language is.

(Further FWIW, I never, ever try to teach the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs. With the exception of the problematic lie/lay, sit/set, rise/raise, etc., native speakers of English know the difference, otherwise we’d hear things like

*The mother slept the baby.
*Everyone captured yesterday.

I just cover the aforementioned pairs, avoid the terms transitive and intransitive, and call it a day.)

quilter1 4:55 PM  

So interesting how we all had differing hide and seek refrains, yet they seem to have a common root. I think we said come out, come out, only when a hider could not be found.

Z 5:20 PM  

@LMS - I like "Little Miss Prisspot Do-Gooder" - maybe you could adopt it as your blog handle.

FWIW - Knowledge and learning are inherently worthy ends. The funny thing is - education does lower recidivism.

mac 5:24 PM  

Easy but very nice Tuesday. Maybe because I knew most of the theme answers, it was funny to me.

Yes, some stale fill, but all in all decent puzzle.

Never heard about the "oxen" expression, but I bet @Bob Kerfuffle is right.

Better copy this or I'll lose it. Never got through at all yesterday, but my problem is that I don't want to give google my phone number. Out of spite it eats my comment.

Bob Kerfuffle 5:40 PM  

@mac and others - Thank you for your kind responses to my comment, but I do want to point out that I was only, as I said, quoting Wikipedia. I have grown a bit anxious that I may have my wrist slapped by Ulrich, who could point out that the proper German for the quoted words would be "Alle, Alle auch frei sind" rather than". . . sind frei."

jackj 5:58 PM  

After three days without a Verizon DSL connection, our area just came back to life so forgive me if I’m duplicative of the previous comments. (I know, I know, I could have just skipped the post but old habits aren’t easily overcome).

In a charming “Alice in Wonderland”-like puzzle, where the theme indicates that nothing is as it seems, Lou Borenstein twits us with a holy roller’s celestial, dyslexic hootenanny, featuring songs of HEAVEN and HELL, while the atheists, who are “Not personally engaged”, remain ALOOF but can still go next door to visit the STOA, (the “Old philosophers place”), to see what they have to say about all this.

Other than an incidental nod to EDENS and the cute ABOVE and BELOW entries, the rest of the puzzle is thankfully secular, drifting from ATHLETE to LUMENS and PSEUDO to SUTRA, but the fill, though adequate, reminds us that this puzzle is all about the theme.

Still, a nice debut, Lou.

Tonypct 6:07 PM  

Actually you are incorrect. Bing Crosby's song was "Pennies from Heaven.". And why would that clue be the only one that was a play on an actual song? Plus, the answer to 48d is clearly "iPod" making 56a "Pennies from Heaven."

skua76 6:24 PM  

I really enjoyed the theme (and thinking about the songs), but I too wondered about OXEN...when I played the game it was just "Ally Ally In Free." And @M&A I guess I don't remember the Kingston Trio song.

I originally put in NERTz for 15A and was surprised to learn (later when looking it up) that it was an alternate spelling. Or two.

I went to the Wordplay blog hoping for some info on Lou (or his age) but no luck. Well, a new constructor has to start somewhere, or someday there won't be any constructors or puzzles.

AARGH, the captchas. A few days ago I visited a site that (instead of a captcha) had a question with a single-word answer that only frequent visitors would know. For this site such a question would be "What is ACME's middle name?"

skua76 6:26 PM  

...and I forgot to thank @loren for her post about class #2 in the prison!

bigSteveSF 6:40 PM  

I'm a NERT.
There I've said it. I've been wanting to get it off my chest for quite a while.

NERT stands for Neighborhood Emergency Response Team.
Many Communities call them CERTS (much sweeter).
I took the classes and go for the drills, and if you ask me very nicely I'll show you my badge :)
In fact, I just went for re-certification -- got to shoot off the fire extinguisher, and get dummy out from under fallen wood (a process called cribbing).
When we do the City-wide drill every April, the high school student get extra credit for playing victims. Some really go all out (hatchet in the head, fake bone sticking out of arm ...)

Also, we used to get a 10% discount at Lowe's Hardware.
All kidding aside, I would recommend

Zoneman 6:47 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle: I believe the TZ episode you referred to was Kick the Can by George Clayton Johnson.

Sparky 7:02 PM  

That was me yesterday in an attempt to be somewhat amusing. I would never really call myself Queen; my father always said we are Americans, we got away from the King and I agree. Hate that Disney Princess stuff too.

@Milford is right. I've remembered so many steps to Hide and Seek: the counting and hiding; then Ready or Not, Here I Come; then finding with Tap Tap Somebody Under The Sullivan's cellar door; then the race of a brave one who manages the Home Free; and, last Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are when everybody got bored and the Good Humor truck arrived.
I'm exhausted.

This morning a catchpa offered me 14 numerals to copy. While trying to refresh I erased myself. (I can't seem to learn how to save.) Tomorrow in Humpday, what can happen?

sanfranman59 10:29 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 6:02, 6:49, 0.89, 7%, Easy
Tue 7:16, 8:56, 0.81, 5%, Easy (8th lowest median solve time of 166 Tuesdays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:41, 0.96, 32%, Easy-Medium
Tue 3:58, 4:39, 0.85, 7%, Easy

@Jae & Milford ... Thanks for the welcome back. It's nice to be missed. It's nice to know that at least a few folks out here find the stats I post to be of interest.

Spacecraft 11:52 AM  

Easy-peasy: couldn't fill it in fast enough. Only one section--the NE--gave me the slightest pause, with "Can" for AXE and "Buckled" for GAVE. I think the cluing needs to be squeezed toward the center: too easy to start the week; too hard to end it.

Notes: I thought the Meat Loaf title was for the album, not realizing that it could also be an individual song title. I had, as it happened, the OUTOF part in first--and I was trying to get how TWOOUTOFTHREE...would fit. A bit later, of course, it was obvious.

Right on! to the Rexism about HIGHWAYTOHEAVEN: Man, was that a stinko series! ...I've seen NERTZ but not NERTS. ...We were "in-free" kids, but I've seen OXEN (don't recall where). As presented, the theme would have been more effective with both "HELL" entries on the top half, etc....but you can't have everything. ...Not the best fill I've ever seen--but not the worst, either. UPRISE is a bit unusual; the word most often appears as UPRISING. And now, my blog is ATANEND.

Ginger 12:37 PM  

Rock music and I are not on the same planet. I don't know the songs of AC/DC, Meatloaf and Led Zepp., but these songs, and their opposites were easily gettable from the crosses. Had a brief hiccup when I misspelled LeoW, easily fixed.

Easy for a Tuesday. Welcome back @sanfranman59, Missed you and your evaluations.

Capcha: drhappo DR HAPPY!

rain forest 1:08 PM  

Fine puzzle with a nice theme which was very-well executed, including the below/above additions. Bat out of Hell brought back memories. Meatloaf was one 'hell' of a singer, and I heard he recently had tried to make a comback. I don't think anyone was capable of covering his songs. Pennies from hell--hah! Am I alone in accepting three-word crosswordese without complaint? I'd miss Mel Ott if he disappeared.

DMGrandma 2:31 PM  

Paused when I saw the names of the performers-only one i've ever heard is, of course, Crosby. But, the crosses made the fill pretty obvious, and I ended with only one write-over, ANYHOW for ANYway. Now I have something like 150 pages to read and critique for a committee meeting this afternoon, so '"Ta Ta"!

Dirigonzo 3:28 PM  

Yesterday we had deadheads rubbing elbows with Roy Rogers and today the likes of AC/DC, Meat Loaf and Led Zepp are hobnobbing with Bing Crosby. Maybe the theme for the week (if there isn't such a thing there should be) is multi-generational duets.

I never remember AMAH and NISI, and the MPAA/STOA cross was pretty much total guess. SMITE (plus smote, and especially smitten) strike me as a words that could be very useful in a grid.

@wordie said: "I had a chuckle when I filled in SUTRA and than saw the clue ". . . Lingus"." It made me chuckle.

Solving in Seattle 8:01 PM  

Easy, cute puzzle. My only problem came in Maine at 11A with "had" instead of GOT. Duh on the clue Hamiltons. So my downs were hAVE, aXEN, and dENS. A doy Tuesday DNF.

Watching season 6 of Dexter (on Netflix because I don't have Showtime) with just the final to go. God I love that show.

Dirigonzo 8:28 PM  

@SiS - We who call Maine our home are a very tolerant lot so I would call your solution "good enough for government work" and credit you with a DF. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to learn what "doy" means (it's Spanish, right?).

SmacD 9:12 PM  

Regarding the "Olly olly oxen free" debate: I know that Evil Doug usually provides the "Seinfeld" references here, but as we are now in the Syndiland time zone, I am assuming that he took that day off.

Here is a behind-the-scenes look at the episode titled "The Pool Guy"; check out Newman starting at around 3:07.

Not to say that other sources are peccable, but "Seinfeld" is impeccable.

Ding L. Berry 5:16 AM  

@anonymous 5:06 AM and 5:09 AM - Are you sure you didn't mean Ernie Bushmullet? Not sure if that hairstyle would be ABOVE or BELOW ...
@dk 7:35 AM - Bet you also hated it when you had to start dialing the phone yourself instead of just picking up the earpiece and having an operator connect you.
@Gill I. P. 7:37 AM - "Olsen's free" - That's when Mary-Kate and Ashley turned 18.
@Two Ponies 10:25 AM - I'd like to see Nisi as a clue, as follows: "Nisi _____ (also a car usually driven at 20 miles an hour under the speed limit by lame old hippies)". The answer, of course, would be Prius.
@OISK 11:27 AM - It appears you are the "anti-me." The Led Zep, AC/DC and Meatloaf songs were cake for me, but I wouldn't know a Bing Crosby song if I tripped over it. Growing up in L.A., OXEN free was also a gimme. And I hated NERTS - my WTF WOTD - never ever heard anyone say "nerts."
Love the capcha - "hebilla" - so many possibilities: former President Clinton; Ozarks resident with a speech impediment; something you say in response to someone who mumbles unintelligibly.
@Tita 11:33 AM - At least it wasn't ANUT, clued as "Bust ____".
@Milford 12:01 PM - We had "gas-house" eggs growing up all the time as a kid. They weren't fried inside toast. Eggs just made my father gassy.
@Tita 1:25 PM - "Toad in the Hole" means something entirely different to Mrs. Berry.
@Acme 2:01 PM - Can't trust those dang Germans period -they're gonna kill us all. Never again! JDL! JDL!
@sanfranman59 4:12 PM - I might be wrong, but I don't think captcha cares if you capitalize or not.
@loren muse smith 4:55 PM - So sorry to hear you're in prison! Whatcha do?
@Z 5:20 PM - re "Little Miss Prisspot Do-Gooder" - Just make sure you don't leave out that first "r"!
@bigSteveSF 6:40 PM - re: getting a "dummy out from under fallen wood" - yeah, had that problem a few times (wink wink, nudge nudge) - didn't know it was called "cribbing."
@sanfranman59 10:29 PM - Are you kidding!? I was totally bummed you weren't here last week - I really wanted to see your numbers for some of those puzzles. Your stats are the second reason I read this blog (the first being just to see if I got the answers right). If you leave, you should get a sub, like RP. And unlike everything I've said above, I'm being totally serious. If you had your own blog, with your stats and the correct solution, I'd read that instead of this. Have you ever thought about it (seriously)?
@Dirigonzo 8:28 PM - "doy" is not Spanish - it's 1970s slang synonymous with "duh".

Ellen S 9:17 PM  

I'm so far out in syndiland I can't even see the Highway to Heaven (did hate that show). But posting anyway just for the record: when I was a kid in Chicago, it was "Oley, Oley, Ocean free." ("Oley" rhyming with "holy". ) and this is, for me, yesterday's puzzle so really nobody will see this. Regardless of which, @lms, keep up the good work.

Anonymous 6:47 PM  

I've been trying all day to find that scene front Twilight Zone when the spirit shape calls olly olly oxen free. it don't appear on you tube. it was an episode from the 80's shows. I had it on vhs recorded from the tv.

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