Shape-shifting Greek sea god / SAT 8-11-12 / Kid-lit title character I am ruler of all that I see / Largest living rodent / Noted dark film star of 1930s / Moon in Chinese / Annual holiday airing of grievances / Former GM compact / Epithet for many rapper / Apiphobe's bane

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Constructor: Josh Knapp

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: LE ROUX (31D: "The Phantom of the Opera" writer) —

Gaston Louis Alfred Leroux (6 May 1868 – 15 April 1927) was a French journalist and author ofdetective fiction.
In the English-speaking world, he is best known for writing the novel The Phantom of the Opera (Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, 1910), which has been made into several film and stage productions of the same name, notably the 1925 film starring Lon Chaney; and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1986 musical. (wikipedia)
• • •

Really liked this one, though I kind of short-shrifted it by watching the women's 4x100 and other track & field events while solving. Felt toughish, but then I realized any Saturday is going to feel toughish if you're giving it only half your attention. Once I found JAFAR (50D: Aladdin's enemy), I got the traction I needed and took off ("J"s are useful).

[Sorry, I'm kind of hypnotized by BMX racing right now. I had no idea I liked this sport so much. Both wife and I are riveted in ways we haven't been by other sports. I do NOT like how there are all these heats (tons of them) and this complicated scoring system, but then there's just a single short race for medals, so the racers who were dominating in most of the heats have one off race and they don't medal. Stupid.]

You know what's not stupid? NO DICE and "CREEPSHOW" (gold medal in the segue competition goes to ME!). In fact, there's virtually nothing stupid about this grid. This is what happens when you a. keep your themeless grid at a very fillable 70 words and b. you take the time and care needed to make your grid clean. Not everyone does this. I have been guilty of not doing this. But in my experience, putting in the time, being ruthless on yourself, pays off. Clean grids are happy grids. This one has just two less-than-lovely little answers: ORME and EMAG (55D: "... a man no mightier than thyself ___": "Julius Caesar" + 40D: iPad read, maybe). Maybe PEDS isn't Fabulous. But come on. I usually give a themeless a fat handful of passes on the short stuff, and there's hardly anything ugh-worthy here at all. Plus, the longer stuff is pretty interesting and occasionally sweet.

I did not know that FESTIVUS was a real thing (13D: Annual holiday with an "airing of grievances"). I thought it was a made-up "Seinfeld" thing. I had trouble swallowing the idea of TOTO as a "star"—was the "actor" named TOTO too (22A: Noted dark film star of the 1930s). Had a bit of scare at the CAPYBARA / YIN crossing, as I confused CAPYBARA (34D: Largest living rodent) with "chupacabra" and that made me hesitate with the vowel. But then YIN was the only thing that made sense at -IN (47A: Moon, in Chinese). I got a bit frustrated with my movie knowledge when "CHRISTINE" didn't work for 1A: 1982 Stephen King horror film) and I couldn't figure out who this AL guy was who wrote and directed "Talk to Her" (17A: "Talk to Her" director/screenwriter, 2002 => Pedro ALMODOVAR). Thought English gardens might have HEDGEROWS (even though the clue was in the singular) (15A: Feature of some English gardens). Otherwise, no real problems, though I did have a little trouble getting up into the NE. Deciding on the -OLOGY ending at 12D: School allowed me to see TRYST (finally) (38A: It might be cheating), which  then let me move onward and upward, finishing finally with the "F" in SCI-FI (an abbrev. which really should be signaled by the clue, I think) (10A: Domain of some invasions).

  • 16A: Poet who wrote "All pity is self-pity" (AUDEN) — should've got this off the "A"; didn't.
  • 19A: Sch. that Theo Huxtable attended on "The Cosby Show" (NYU) — first thing in the grid. I've noticed that my "first things in the grid" tend to be pop culturey. 
  • 30A: Classic 1977 song with the repeated line "Let's get together and feel all right" ("ONE LOVE") — wow; this is a massive gimme for a Saturday.
[Unclassic 1977 song]
  • 41A: U.N. observer starting in '74 (PLO) — also a gimme, though I'm not sure why. I think I just associate "observer" status most readily with the PLO. If there are other observers (and I'm sure there are), I can't name them off the top of my head.
  • 8D: Longtime Tanglewood figure (OZAWA) — I was lucky enough to know that Tanglewood had something to do with classical music, and to have the "O" on place before I saw the clue. OZAWA is a pretty crosswordesey conductor.
  • 26D: Kid-lit title character who says "I am the ruler of all that I see!" (YERTLE) — the turtle. Took me a while, as this is not one of the Seuss books I grew up with.
  • 41D: Shape-shifting Greek sea god (PROTEUS) — dang, I *knew* this (from the adj. "protean"), but because I couldn't *&^%ing spell NEFERTITI (I went with NEFRITITI) (59A: Queen with a prominent bust), I couldn't get it to work so figured it was some other Greek sea god I didn't know about. Like, I don't know, LER or something. (Nope, that's Irish—my bad)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 1:09 AM  

Definitely tougher than yesterday's, but still easy-medium for me.  The NW-SE diagonal was easy while NE and SW were tougher.

Erasures: Like Rex  HEDGErows for MAZE, plus  huba for SNAP (I forgot that [ ] signals a sound), and  JAbAR for JAFAR (a basketball driven error, I know--2 Bs).

Had to guess the U in the LEROUX/REUBEN but Evan's heuristic worked again.   Fortunately, I knew how to spell NEFERTITI because PROTEUS was a borderline WTF. 

Seemed like a lot of "you know it or you don't" pop culture stuff...NYU, ALMODOVAR, ONELOVE...

Liked this a lot!   FESTIVUS (pop culture again) alone makes it for me, but throw in CREEPSHOW, NEFERTITI, CAPYBARA, WEREWOLF... and you've got one SMOKIN' puzzle.  Very well done Mr. Knapp

Jeep 1:28 AM  

Well, Rex is back ... and as preachy as ever.

JFC 2:19 AM  

Just a classic Rex writeup but I still miss Puzzle Girl.

I found this very hard, but of course I would, as our beloved Deb would know.

I see a link with Lon Chaney who starred in the silent version of The Phantom of the Opera and his son Lon Chaney, Jr, who played in all those 1940 WEREWOLF movies as the werewolf.

The Phantom and the Lon Chaney, Jr. movies were CREEP SHOWs.

Is there a theme?

Rex, dear, no matter what I say about you or your writeups, you should know that I always sign my posts with XOXO....

JFC (Trying to break the sycophant habit)

Audena Cabybara Michaels 4:13 AM  

Loved the challenge, tho took me FOREVER...both legs fell asleep while solving and I had to do a slow motion crawl to bed.

SO tough that Christine/CREEPSHOW have the same number of letters, as do:

I was so proud of getting the sportsy ARM for pitcher's need... and super confusing that two of the letters were actually right but in the wrong place!

I know an editor who signs his letters XOXO, so thought this may be an inside joke, but I doubt he signs his letters to Josh Knap that way!

Not a true malapop, but put in a misspelled RE(a)GAN for EDMUND, only to have her appear below...

Always want a PH in NEFERTITI.

Plopped in ALMODOVAR right away, despite hating that film and finding it one of the most misogynist pieces of work I've ever seen (the only reasonable woman is one that is in a coma and can't speak back, etc. Blech)
Why Almodovar is known as a woman's director escapes the other notorious "women's director", who likes them pliable or mute, aka Woody Allen (Who is here in SF running around filming. Everyone is posting pics of him on security apparently!)

Two moments of pride:
One, realizing that the pity line sounded like AUDEN even tho I only know that one sad poem about death from "Four Weddings and a Funeral" that they do as a eulogy;
and Two
plopping ELEVENTH in for 37D "Like President James K. Polk".

When I was accepted on Jeopardy! umpteen years ago, I made up mnemonics for all the presidents. The L and K of Polk look like an 11. Therefore,
Polk is the 11th president. PO11<.
See it?

(I still want to write a book of mnemonics for 8th graders called "How to Remember Shit", but my own mind is fading too fast and I keep forgetting to write it!)

One Wrong Square (OWS) club again... CAPaBARA/aIN :(
aIN ain't YIN.
And I knew that even tho I didn't "know" the word for "moon" in Chinese, I'd recognize it when I saw it, 'cept I never did.
But YIN makes sense! Even if I had run the alphabet, I'm so lazy I'd prob have quit before Y.

Oh, one cool thing...
I'm sure there is a linguistically
uber-nerdy/hilarious joke in that somewhere!

Milford 7:13 AM  

Was watching exact same events as Rex while solving, but I found this puzzle much harder, being the 3,131 fastest crossword solver in the universe.

Many of the same writeovers mentioned, ChriStine for CREEPSHOW, petuLANT for INSOLENT, five different things before FLY, etc. Also, had choP for SNAP. And (please don't lecture me, I know, I know) I initially had NAVAhO. TOTO was maddening. Too many things I just didn't know to mention.

Really loved ELEVENTH, FLAREGUN, FESTIVUS, for the rest of us (this is real?). Knew PROTEUS because of the syndrome and X-Men.

Milford 7:20 AM  

Please ignore some of my attempts to capitalize the correct letters above. It's early.

mitchs 7:43 AM  

Hats off to you "easy-mediums" out there. Not really, I sort of hate you. I still don't know how to parse that director's name AL, ALDO? Really wanted BLUEMOON for 9d. Off to google OZAWA. (Tanglewood. Sheesh. What the heck is that?)


hazel 7:58 AM  

This puzzle was so far outside my wheelhouse i had to throw my bat at it. Death by a thousand factoids. My first two entries were ALMODOVAR and ONELOVE - then crickets.

Have to give it a thumbs down because it made me feel dense - and thats just not the way i like to start a Saturday!!

Anonymous 8:01 AM  

Are you kidding? This was harder than hard, one of the hardest Times puzzles I've ever seen. Look at how quickly the times balloon for the applet solvers. Absolutely nowhere to dig in for me, except the NE (sap/press), which turned out to be of no help. Of course if you love Stephen King or are a college literature professor, or watched Seinfeld, you had three long gimmes at the top and this was probably a piece of cake. Guess I was totally SOL on this, as my cultural interests have the empty set intersection with this thing.

r.alphbunker 8:07 AM  

A really great puzzle.

The NE gave me the most trouble. I had Eliot for the poet and then petulant. {Domain of some invasions} had me thinking of servers that manage computer viruses. The Wizard of Oz was a film noir? :-) Needed to replace the {Gender ambiguous name} DAle with with the equally ambiguous DANA. Getting SAP and then PRESS finally broke it open.

I loved the clue for REUBEN. Here was a familiar word clued creatively. Post-googling reveled that Gad was another of the 12 tribes.

The Bard 8:32 AM  

Julius Caesar > Act I, scene III

CASSIUS: You are dull, Casca, and those sparks of life
That should be in a Roman you do want,
Or else you use not. You look pale and gaze
And put on fear and cast yourself in wonder,
To see the strange impatience of the heavens:
But if you would consider the true cause
Why all these fires, why all these gliding ghosts,
Why birds and beasts from quality and kind,
Why old men fool and children calculate,
Why all these things change from their ordinance
Their natures and preformed faculties
To monstrous quality,--why, you shall find
That heaven hath infused them with these spirits,
To make them instruments of fear and warning
Unto some monstrous state.
Now could I, Casca, name to thee a man
Most like this dreadful night,
That thunders, lightens, opens graves, and roars
As doth the lion in the Capitol,
A man no mightier than thyself or me
In personal action, yet prodigious grown
And fearful, as these strange eruptions are.

CASCA: 'Tis Caesar that you mean; is it not, Cassius?


King Lear > Act II, scene I

REGAN: No marvel, then, though he were ill affected:
'Tis they have put him on the old man's death,
To have the expense and waste of his revenues.
I have this present evening from my sister
Been well inform'd of them; and with such cautions,
That if they come to sojourn at my house,
I'll not be there.

CORNWALL: Nor I, assure thee, Regan.
Edmund, I hear that you have shown your father
A child-like office.

EDMUND: 'Twas my duty, sir.

Glimmerglass 8:52 AM  

@Hazel. You knew ALMODOVAR? Good for you. I wish I'd known it, though after an infinity of time I got it from crosses. Two wrong letters today (both spelling errors), about normal for a Saturday. Interesting puzzle. I love Saturdays.

JayWalker 8:53 AM  

Medium???? Really????? In what rarified universe do you live in? This was one of the hardest puzzles in years for me. Never did finish it. Had 21 errors!! This was about as much fun as a colonoscopy.

evil doug 9:08 AM  

I missed only the exact same square, with the precisely identical wrong letter, as ACME. Even tried the alphabet run, and kind of liked 'yin', but I just couldn't accept 'capYbara' over 'capabara'.

But on my first pass through the whole damn box, the only---I mean only---answer I was sure of was 'Festivus' ("...for the rest of us"). So on a puzzle this tough---take all the difficulty this week's easy Monday through Friday puzzles should have had, and smoosh it into a normal Saturday test, and that's how rugged this grid was for me---I'm proud as punch just to come thatclose.

Wanted Polk to be 'one-----'. Some five letter word for 'term'. Guessed Alero (didn't think it was a compact) and Jafar (nee Jabar), and Nefertiti saved the whole Confederacy.

Great stuff: skewed, flare gun, end run, caste, traumatic, gelato, Reuben, smoking, haven, sap, curt, insolent---the list could go on.

Well done,

"Pretty Fly For a White Guy"
---The Offspring

pauer 9:10 AM  

Lots of things in my wheelhouse so I didn't find this too tough at all. Could have made another Stephen King reference with HEDGEMAZE (there's one in "The Shining"). I figured out PROTEUS thanks to "...Forum" - I played one of the multipurpose Proteans back in the day. Usually there are three (3's are funny) but we had four and wigs that made us look like the Beatles. 4=not funny Fun puzzle!

Tomorrow's the last day to get your Lollapuzzoola 5 puzzles, too, btw. Visit

Joe The Juggler 9:14 AM  

I think this was easy for a Saturday. It's the first Saturday I finished without Google help in some time (and I count solving with Google help as a DNF). And I finished in under 20 minutes.

Unknown 9:30 AM  

Totally stuck in the NE till I guessed HEDGEMAZE - that definitely helped. Got CAPYBARA right away, having read Bill Peet's "Capyboppy" to my kids many times when they were little. It's a kids' classic about the author's family bringing a pet capybara into their home. Apparently a true story. Always thought Bill Peet had the best artwork in children's books. Having said that, why the heck was YERTLE so hard!

jackj 9:32 AM  

A tough puzzle but, thankfully, Josh Knapp left a gimme at the doorstep by asking for “Longtime Tanglewood figure” and even though he left the BSO and Tanglewood ten or so years ago, it could only mean Seiji OZAWA.

Seiji’s “W” triggered SKEWED, whose “D” begat the name DANA, with DANA Carvey coming immediately to mind for the male and Queen Latifah, nee DANA Owen, (the other Queen), repping the ladies, [with names attached the “gender-ambiguous” clue seemed vaguely pejorative], but their second “A’s” helped identify FLAREGUN whose “U” pointed to Seinfeld’s joyously secular aluminum pole symbol of FESTIVUS and the memory of a zany Kramer, picketing his bagel-making employer with a sign reading, “FESTIVUS yes! Bagels no!”.

Other parts of the puzzle didn’t emerge so easily, ALMODOVAR, LEROUX and CAPYBARA for example, but NEFERTITI, the only Queen of note with a famous bust, even if it's kept in Berlin, the oh-so clever ELEVENTH, the hapless PLO and the cutesy XOXO were ripe for the picking.

All told, a SMOKING puzzle from Mr. Knapp, though it might have been ever so slightly tastier if he had clued REUBEN as the sandwich, not the tribe!

Suzy 9:55 AM  

Is this "Welcome back, Rex, Day?". If so,
Welcome Back, Rex!

Challenging puzzle-- admit to googling Yertle and Festivus,
still fun-- no crummy fill!

Carola 9:57 AM  

Much easier for me than the struggles of yesterday and Thursday - nice to feel a little more ADEPT at this game. My spelling of ALMODOVAR was a little shaky, but EGO gave me the vowel I needed. Also had HEDGErows before I saw OZAWA.

Loved the TRYST with ONE LOVE and XOXO, the GRATIN and the GELATO, and the fun of writing in PROTEUS and NEFERTITI.

Just finished reading Glen Duncan's The Last WEREWOLF. Recommend.

Thanks, Josh Knapp - very fun.

Neville 9:57 AM  

I liked a lot of it (NEFERTITI, PROTEUS, HEDGEMAZE, etc.) but not knowing ALMODOVaR/OZaWA (who? what?) left a sour taste in my mouth. Should I have heard of either of these two folks? (I can't imagine why - other than crosswords.) I'm happy to learn names - just don't cross them with other names I don't know!

Anonymous 10:01 AM  

Google, Google, and more Google. And then I missed

Bob Kerfuffle 10:03 AM  

Very nice Saturday puzzle.

Just one write-over, at 8 D, before OZAWA had OPERA (in retrospect, would have been strange.)

GILL I. 10:16 AM  

This was tough but I was going to finish it no matter. I did have to Google LEROUX and PROTEUS. Wasn't sure about CAPYBARA at all but I had seen that word before.
@Rex you had me going with your chupacabra...He/she is the Yeti of rodents. It means "goat sucker."
ALMODOVAR was one of my first entries. I've seen all of his movies. Like @Auden, I didn't much care for "Talk to Her." He's an interesting figure though. His irreverent humor (which is very Spanish) first started surfacing in the early 70's. Franco's regime finally fell and he got involved in Madrid's "alternative cultural scene." This gave him (and tons of other artists) free reign (rein?) to pretty much do what he wanted. He's been compared, by some, to Quentin Tarantino.
YERTLE is such a cool name to say.

Festivclaus 10:26 AM  

It's indeed "made up", just not by Seinfeld:

Festivus was conceived by writer Dan O'Keefe and was celebrated by his family as early as 1966. The holiday was later introduced into popular culture by O'Keefe's screenwriter son Daniel on an episode of Seinfeld. The holiday's celebration, as it was shown on Seinfeld, included an unadorned aluminum "Festivus pole", practices such as the "Airing of Grievances" and "Feats of Strength", and the labeling of easily explainable events as "Festivus miracles". [wiki]

Loren Muse Smith 10:41 AM  

Josh Knapp took a FLARE GUN to my EGO this morning! I’ll gratefully join the group who found this wicked hard.

Andrea – since I had, mysteriously, “pen name” first, when PHONEME fell, I saw it only as PHONE ME and didn’t realize what it actually was until you pointed it out. Shame on me!!

Kept circling back to the NE wanting “pithy” or “terse” for CURT.


I also kept checking to make sure “Coach ??” (he’ll remain nameless, but he’s known as The Rodent in some circles) didn’t fit for 34 down.

A TRAUMATIC dnf for me, but I think if I’d been more patient I could have finished without googling (hey only REUBEN and LEROUX early on for some needed traction)! I agree – this was one fine puzzle, and one to remind me that I’m not a big-league solver. Yet.

jberg 11:12 AM  

Really hard for me - took me two passes, with a trip to the gymn in between, and even then was slow going - almost TRAUMATIC. Speaking of which, that took too long as I was looking for a condition of the scarring surface, rahter than one of the scarring event. I've never watched Seingfeld (no TV), so had only vaguely heard of FESTIVUS. In my experience, grievances get aired just fine without a holiday!

For some reason, wanted ByroN at 16A, and thought Polk must have been a Yale man, and therefore an ELi something, until I finally figured out the monument was NAVAJO and not Sonora. And I went back and forth between PRESS and media so much that those squares are no longer legible, except to me.

PROTEUS was a gimme, though:

"Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan, nurtured in a creed outworn.
So might I standing on this pleasant lea
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea,
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn."

As Wordsworth liked to say ...

Sandy K 11:19 AM  

This was definitely not a SNAP for me- more like TRAUMATIC. But got through it at last, thinking I had been ADEPT...

Welcome back, Rex...xoxo

Shamik 11:25 AM  

Thought this was going to be excruciatingly hard, but then the SW fell and then the rest of the puzzle fell SE, NW, NE. Especially thought it would be hard when LIL and then ANG were my first gimmes. Couldn't remember if it was ONELOVE or ONELIFE, so could only plug in ONEL--E.

But it fell in an easy time of 13:19...and that a few extra seconds since I had a typo.

SO many fresh answers in this puzzle. Good job, Josh Knapp!

joho 11:37 AM  

Well, like @Hazel this was totally outside my wheelhouse. Put me in the group that found it beyond hard. I can usually plug away to the finish but not with this one. I do admire the puzzle, however, I just couldn't solve it!

@Audena Cabybara Michaels ... LOL at "slow motion crawl to bed." You need to be writing comedy! Also regarding PHONE ME ... I'm with @loren muse smith ... that's how I parsed it. That's a phrase in the language, too, which I like better than "Figure of speech." Could have been clued something like "Gesture made with hand to ear?" I don't know.

I do know I feel stupid today!

Two Ponies 11:46 AM  

Worst DNF that I can remember.
Salem's Lot also fits for 1A.

Sue McC 12:10 PM  

Favorite puzzle of the week by far. A challenge, but not an impossible one. No googling needed. Love OZAWA, went to Tanglewood earlier this year for the all-Wagner great. Have an inexplicable affinity for CAPYBARA, so got that right quick. CREEPSHOW took longer than it should have. FESTIVUS was a gimme. Fun!

Anonymous 12:21 PM  

A Saturday extravaganza!
Got YERTLE the Turtle from Dr. Seuss,
and FESTIVUS from George Costanza.

Merle 12:30 PM  

Hard puzzle, and not much fun. Re Festivus, Rex. It is a made-up holiday by the family of one of the Seinfeld writers. So -- you were right, it is from Seinfeld re popular culture awareness, and wrong, in that it is indeed made up, not in any sense "traditional", except for one family. Who knows, might become a tradition. Hey, shout out to A.C. Michaels -- cute first and middle names, straight from this annoying puzzle, I totally agree with you about Almodovar. Sexist yuck. Rex, the second "o" in Almodovar takes an accent aigu. My computer won't let me put one in on this page -- but you should on your blog when his name comes up. Don't need the acute accent in the puzzle, though. Gimmes: One Love, Navajo, Almodovar, Reuben -- but not LeRoux. Nefertiti eventually -- not a gimme, but an "Oh yeah, here we go." Nice to see a Bob Marley song in a crossword puzzle. Not a usual clue or answer. Like others, I had hedgerow instead of hedgemaze. Good clue and answer. Regan and Edmund good clues/answers too. Hmmm -- not Goneril, not Cordelia -- who? Oh. Yeah.

Merle 12:38 PM  

Posting again. Total shout-out to A.C. Michaels. What name are you going to use in your next post, Michaels? Anyway, your cultural frame of reference is very impressive, and your post really fun to read. I too, as a non-sports fan, was very proud of getting "arm" -- and alas, got caught in the tar-baby of my pride before I noticed the "tar". Your recognition of the "Audenesque" quality of the pity quote totally rocks. And the phone me phoneme conjunction also very kewl. I look forward to more of your posts, whatever your names will be....

Merle again on a lazy Saturday 12:49 PM  

Neville, yes, you should have heard of Almodovar and Ozawa -- famous Spanish film director, famous conductor. Now you have heard of them!

JAE, re pop culture -- I guess since I am 70 years old, some of what you call pop culture I call classic. "One Love" is a great classic Bob Marley anthem. Bob Marley was a 20th century prophet. NYU -- well, if you are too young to have watched the Cosby Show, I'm not -- but I sure didn't remember Theo's school. But I figured it out from the 1D and 3D crosses, which then gave me the "y" in 2D, and thus "rely on". Hey, we rely on crosses, don't we? And, Bard, thx for the quotes from the Bard.

Rex Parker 1:07 PM  

@Neville, you ignorant slut ...

I can't believe I'm going to "I can't believe you didn't know" you, but I am. Pedro Almodovar is kind of a big deal. And Seiji Ozawa too. See, I even know the dude's first name, and I'm hardly a classical musicophile or whatever they're called.

But hats off to the spirit of admitting to your "WTFs?!" Admissions of failure / ignorance are inherently more interesting than declarations of gimmes.


syndy 1:54 PM  

Put me in the ALDO who?camp.But I'M also in the right wheelhouse camp!Only three minutes longer than yesterday. aren't ALL holidays made-up? Christmas at one time,Kwansaa and FESTIVUS for the rest of us!The crossing FLY?ELF in the center is amusing two thumbs up!

Anonymous 2:19 PM  

No kidding. I have had very little trouble finishing a puzzle. This was tough. Could be my age but you guys who think this was.medium are awfully good my hats off to you

Almodovar Curtla Mazes 2:29 PM  

@ merle
Thanks for all the shoutouts...Careful,'ll encourage me! i'd say 80% of my cultural references are from earlier exposure to film...but this puzzle hit some of my sweet spots in other areas...

Repeated the ONELOVE lyric in my head over and over till I realized it was a Bob Marley song I've heard hundreds of times, but written and out of context and devoid of the music made it tough...then BOOM!
(was hoping to see an embedded video)

I don't know how old Josh Knapp is (whose name I typoed earlier, sorry!) but I get why someone younger might struggle with OZAWA and ALMODOVAR if they aren't into music and film.
I think OZAWA and certainly Tanglewood are more an East Coast Boston/NY kind of thing...and ALMODOVAR you'd sort of have to know indy, foreign films, despite his more recent more mainstream (?!?!) releases!

Agree with @rex that admitting ignorance is more interesting than gimmes, but I think certain folks gimmes are fascinating if given a context. We're such a diverse group.

So @Neville, if you were une femme d'un certain age, you might have been more aware of Almodovar being responsible for launching a certain sexy Spanish actor's career....long before he left his wife and kids for Melanie Griffith (about to suffer the same karmic fate) and long before he did voiceovers for animated films that might be more your generation!

We seem to have @the bard and even @festiclaus chiming in, and I was hoping @Auden himself might. Can't find the poem the pity line was quoted from, or if it's just a quote quote...
But i will paste the first part of the Auden poem that had so moved me in "Four Weddings..." causing me to seek out the poem, as this puzzle might now cause @young Neville to seek out Almodovar.

That's what the puzzle and/or this blog can be all about, no?

Anyway, here is part of the Auden poem that was so beautifully delivered by the young gay lover...It was the same time I was losing my closest friends to AIDS and it struck such a deep chord, even tho I'm usually frightened by poetry.

Selected Poems of W.H. Auden
by W. H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W.H. Auden 2:57 PM  

in Selected Poems of W.H. Auden
by W. H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

O the valley in the summer where I and my John
Beside the deep river would walk on and on
While the flowers at our feet and the birds up above
Argued so sweetly on reciprocal love,
And I leaned on his shoulder; 'O Johnny, let's play':
But he frowned like thunder and he went away.

O that Friday near Christmas as I well recall
When we went to the Charity Matinee Ball,
The floor was so smooth and the band was so loud
And Johnny so handsome I felt so proud;
'Squeeze me tighter, dear Johnny, let's dance till it's day':
But he frowned like thunder and he went away.

Shall I ever forget at the Grand Opera
When music poured out of each wonderful star?
Diamonds and pearls they hung dazzling down
Over each silver and golden silk gown;
'O John I'm in heaven,' I whispered to say:
But he frowned like thunder and he went away.

O but he was fair as a garden in flower,
As slender and tall as the great Eiffel Tower,
When the waltz throbbed out on the long promenade
O his eyes and his smile they went straight to my heart;
'O marry me, Johnny, I'll love and obey':
But he frowned like thunder and he went away.

O last night I dreamed of you, Johnny, my lover,
You'd the sun on one arm and the moon on the other,
The sea it was blue and the grass it was green,
Every star rattled a round tambourine;
Ten thousand miles deep in a pit there I lay:
But you frowned like thunder and you went away.

joho 2:58 PM  

Oh, too beautiful. Tears.

ANON B 3:31 PM  

You people must live in a different world than I do. Even when I saw the answers I looked
at about a dozen of them and all
I could say was huh?
I still don't know what or who was Toto. Please explain.

Wystan Hugh Auden 3:33 PM  

All pity is self-pity.
W. H. Auden - "Interlude: West's Disease" in The Dyer's Hand, and Other Essays(1962)

Clark 3:58 PM  

@ANON B — Let me google that for you: film star toto. Not that I knew that, but that is what crosses are for.

Lewis 3:59 PM  

After a few Googles, it was a great solve -- it felt fresh, with many aha's. But I wouldn't have gotten enough of a foothold without Google.

I wanted chop/chop over SNAP/SNAP.

A smart puzzle and my feeling is it was made with the solver in mind rather than the constructor.

Evan 4:14 PM  

Put me in the Medium-Challenging, or even Challenging camp. This puzzle beat me up real good. I got it all, but not after struggling for a long time, especially in that northeast corner. I had some of the same mistakes listed earlier (petuLENT, which is of course spelled incorrectly anyway), and some new ones: mOTO, as in Mr. Moto, instead of TOTO, and pedagOGY instead of IDEOLOGY. In the southwest corner, I had ACtIonED instead of ACHIEVED -- and am very glad to have been wrong there, because "actioned" would have been a horrible answer (and probably not a real word either).


I am very, very impressed that you know of Proteus from X-Men. I remember watching an episode from the 90s TV cartoon with him as the bad guy, and that's exactly what came to mind when I got the answer.


I couldn't tell you Josh's exact age, but I met him last week at Lollapuzzoola, and he's a fairly young gun like myself.

Clark 4:35 PM  

Ok. So I suggested above that the dark film star of the 1930s was TOTO, the great Italian film star. But why call him 'dark'? And why the 1930s? (Imdb only lists two movies made by him in the 1930s.) Not being able to let it go, I started looking into whether TOTO was the name of the character or the "actor" in the Wizard of OZ. It seems that the dog's actual name was Terry before and during the making of the many movies that made her famous during the 30's. Her name was subsequently "officially" (whatever that means) changed to Toto. So for a Saturday, it looks like the clue is legit. Now, can I please get back to work?

Sycophant 4:41 PM  

Meh . . .

chefwen 4:43 PM  

All my little squares are filled in but technically a DNF as I ACTIVELY had to consult Uncle Google just to get started. Once I got my foot in the door it turned into a fun solve.

Gareth Bain 5:27 PM  

@Rex, like @Neville I had never heard of either BC (before crosswords). I learned Ozawa from a previous puzzle, in fact I think I've used him in a puzzle in the interim. Needed every damn crossing for ALMODOVAR! In fact, half way through, I wanted him to be an Arab gentleman called Ahmed Ovar (and was trying to figure out a way for the V to become an M). I nearly never surprised any longer at what a) some people don't know, b) some people expect that everyone knows.

sanfranman59 6:02 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 6:20, 6:49, 0.96, 22%, Easy-Medium
Tue 9:49, 8:57, 1.10, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 10:42, 11:47, 0.91, 30%, Easy-Medium
Thu 12:05, 18:52, 0.64, 3%, Easy (5th lowest median solve time of 162 Thursdays)
Fri 17:47, 24:38, 0.72, 10%, Easy
Sat 27:11, 29:20, 0.93, 33%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:38, 3:41, 0.99, 46%, Medium
Tue 5:38, 4:38, 1.21, 95%, Challenging (9th highest median solve time of 163 Tuesdays)
Wed 5:34, 5:54, 0.94, 37%, Easy-Medium
Thu 6:14, 9:21, 0.67, 4%, Easy (6th lowest median solve time of 162 Thursdays)
Fri 10:05, 12:13, 0.82, 25%, Easy-Medium
Sat 14:21, 16:38, 0.86, 22%, Easy-Medium

Dirigonzo 7:32 PM  

The puzzle is currently kicking my butt - top half is complete but not much going on in the southern states yet, but I'm not ready to give up. I just stopped by to remind everybody that the Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight/tomorrow morning, with up to 60 "shooting stars" per hour expected, so if the sky is clear where you are I hope you can get out to enjoy this spectacular display of nature. More on the puzzle later (maybe).

Anonymous 10:01 AM  

Medium? Are you kidding? This one was so easy I fell asleep and never finished it. Boy, talk about easy.

Dirigonzo 1:16 PM  

I finally finished on Sunday morning and came here to learn that I am in the OWS club with the same wrong letter as ACM and ED; for reasons that nobody but me would understand, I find that slightly ironic yet strangely satisfying.

Now on to the (syndicated) Sunday puzzle.

JK Lipes 5:45 PM  

alas, long gone are the days when we saw the likes of giants like William Safire whose delight in language shone through in every column he ever wrote. Mr. Blogger, how about choosing some great words like "dryad", "aeronaut", "stint" or "emo" to teach and amuse the public at large?

david kulko 8:47 PM  

6D really gummed up the NW for me. i entered and maintained "searing" knowing it must be wrong and could not get "hedge maze" (yuck) or almodavar (i should get out more) as a result. of secondary frustration was the complete misread of 8D where i put "opera." Go "figure." This also "skewed" my result.

Blog 8:07 AM  

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Spacecraft 1:03 PM  

Amazing the diversity of perceived ease/difficulty. For me? South medium, north & NE: impossible without Google.

CAPYBARA was my first gimme entry; I love to watch those nature shows on Discovery and PBS. Took a bit to "realize" that 35d was ACHIEVED; the clue's not wrong, but boy does it ever use a narrow sense of the word. Yeah, well, it IS Saturday.

Having been primed by STONEAGE, and with the ____GE in place for 1d, I naturally thought the political challenger's promise was a NEWAGE. This, with HAVEN already in, meant WESCRAVEN was a perfect fit (no, I've never heard of ALMODOVAR). All kinds of trouble ensued. This Number 1 King fan couldn't get 1a; Needful Things was too long. Google straightened it all out.

Then the NE. I TOTO-ally agree that SCIFI should have been clued "abbr." And what is "dark" film? Same as film noir? If this refers to the dog, does he mean that Toto first appeared in the B/W portion of Oz? Or if it's that Itralian guy, I object to the term "noted." Noted by whom? Five foreign film students? Out of almost 7 billion? Bah.

Why are we looking at food deal ads? Is anybody screening the blogs?

Solving in Seattle 2:29 PM  

PHONEME if you solved this puzzle without googling. I did learn a lot doing it, like that James K. Polk was one hell of a president (wanted democrat) and that PROTEUS was a shape shifter. SW was tough for me. Lots of writeovers until ACHIEVED became apparent.

Josh Knapp was pretty current with this offering: LIL, FLY, SMOKING (hot), EMAG, and NODICE (ala, Letterman).

The Pacific Northwest has had 56 straight days of no rain and BONITA sunshine. Pure heaven. No FESTIVUS here.

Anonymous 3:21 PM  

Great puzzle....and I finished with one error (capabara)... BUT, I don't at all care for a made up word like Festivus which turns out to be a singularly modern myth. Do they teach this holiday in schools? Has Noah Webster ever been acquainted with the word? IT DID NOT BELONG IN THIS PUZZLE.
Ron Diego

DMGrandma 5:33 PM  

I'm with those who found this puzzle over the top. Didn't finish and didn't care to. There was way too much out of my sphere. Even my year of Shakespeare didn't help-we didn't read King Lear! So came here to see if I was the only one, and relieved to see some others also struggled. It soothes the troubled psyche.

Ginger 6:25 PM  

Boy did I ever struggle with this. 'DNF' does not begin to explain the trouble I had with it. Uncle Google helped me get a toehold, but even then I was left marooned, with no where to go. Okay, so I knew OZAWA, NEFERTITI (yes, really needs a PH) and CAPYBARA, but the list of those I didn't know, and couldn't parse is much longer.

@DMGraandma - are you watching the Davis Cup?

@SIS - yes, the Pacific Northwest has been heavenly. However, Here in the south of WA we did get about 15 min. of lovely rain yesterday. And now ...the dawgs are barking.

@Diri - Shout out to Maine at 1-A

Ginger 6:28 PM  

@Diri - That is the writer, not the work! Nothing creepy about beautiful Maine. Totally enjoyed my visit there.

Dirigonzo 7:13 PM  

@Ginger - thanks for the clarification! So many of his stories take place in Maine locales, anyone who has never visited here might think it is a spooky place indeed.

DMGrandma 7:54 PM  

@Ginger. Sadly we don't get the Davis Cup or much else. Our cable provider is really tight-fisted about what we can and can't get, and, of course, has a monopoly! They just took away four more channels, including CSPAN which is really a downer, particularly since it hasn't been that long since they took away my favorite channel. CSPAN2 which has all those great book programs on the weekend. Sorry to vent.
Hope you are enjoying the matches!

Anonyrat 5:05 AM  

This is a great example of how a puzzle should be constructed. I hope Messrs. Krozel and Collins are taking notes.
@RP 1:07 PM - I can't believe YOU didn't know CAPYBARA. That was a total gimme and my first entry in the grid. Since you seem to like songs/videos related to puzzle clues/answers, I recommend you check out "Rats" by Rasputina. I think you'd like it.

bananafishie 12:14 PM  

This may be the first Saturday ever where I thought it was easier than Rex's rating - usually I'm thinking "well, that one's at least Medium," and Rex has an Easy on it.

It was a bit difficult to get my first toehold, but once I got started, the only things that slowed me down were putting in DIREWOLF for WEREWOLF, and the "MAZE" part of HEDGEMAZE simply wouldn't come until I went through the alphabet for the third time ... sometimes when the letter I'm looking for is a Z, I get lazy and peter out around V as I'm going through the alphabet.

Anonymous 1:24 AM  

I saw Sigur Ros in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery recently. Toto is the name on the dog's headstone there. I still don't get the "dark" part of clue.

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