Ukrainian city once / THU 12-13-12 / Kids doorbell-ringing prank / Bygone NFL'er / 1996 live-action animated comedy / 1986 film sequel Razzie-nominated for Worst Visual Effects / Discontinued brand of antidandruff shampoo

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Constructor: Sam Ezersky

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: ING/ONG — in theme answers, both halves of -ING -ONG phrases occupy the same four-letter space in the grid, with both "I" and "O" occupying a single square on four different occasions. Notable, both "I" and "O" provide plausible answers in the crosses.

Word of the Day: "KING KONG LIVES" (61A: 1986 film sequel Razzie-nominated for Worst Visual Effects) —
King Kong Lives, also known as King Kong II, is a 1986 American monster film produced by DEG Studios. Directed by John Guillermin and featuring special effects by Carlo Rambaldi, the film starred Linda Hamilton and Brian Kerwin. The film was a belated sequel to King Kong. //  King Kong, after being shot down from the World Trade Center, is kept alive in a coma for about 10 years at the Atlantic Institute, under the care of surgeon Dr. Amy Franklin (Linda Hamilton). In order to save Kong's life, Dr. Franklin must perform a heart transplant and give Kong a computer-monitored artificial heart. However, he lost so much blood that a transfusion is badly needed. Enter adventurer Hank Mitchell (Brian Kerwin), who captures a giant female gorilla in Borneo (Mitchell theorizes that Borneo and the island from the first movie were once part of the same landmass), bringing her to the Institute so her blood can be used for Kong's operation. The transfusion and the heart transplant are a success, but Kong escapes along with the female, who is dubbed "Lady Kong". Archie Nevitt (John Ashton), an insane army lieutenant colonel, is called in with his men to hunt down and kill the two apes. Lady Kong is captured alive by Nevitt's troops and imprisoned; Kong falls from a cliff and is presumed dead, but soon returns to rescue his mate. But as Franklin and Mitchell soon discover, Kong's artificial heart is beginning to give out. Kong then is successful in saving his mate. After being followed, attacked, and shot by the military, Kong kills the military colonel and dies slowly at a military base. After this event, Lady Kong is back on Kong Island, with her happy, newborn son whom King Kong was able to see and touch before his death. (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow, this was weird. I think it's very clever, now that I see the gimmick, but I never saw the gimmick while solving. I just wondered why the first parts of of the -ING-ONG phrases weren't there (I'd gone w/ "O"s in all the slots, starting at "KING KONG LIVES," figuring it made more sense that the first part of an answer would be left off—for some reason—than that the second part would). I would never have understood the theme had my software not *rejected* my grid, causing me to have to check the grid for errors (couldn't find any), and eventually causing me to have to "Reveal" the answer to see where I went wrong. Turns out everything was right ... I just hadn't written two letters in one space in my grid. I'm guessing the software would've accepted a grid with "I"s instead of "O"s, which would've Really left me thinking, "What the hell?" This is all to say that I imagine there will be people left wondering what the gimmick is: "Where did SING, PING, KING, and DING go?"

Theme answers:
  • SI/ONG VOICE (3D: Insincere-sounding speaking style)
  • PI/ONG TABLE (16A: Feature of many a rec room)
  • "KI/ONG LIVES" (61A: 1986 film sequel Razzie-nominated for Worst Visual Effects)
  • DI/ONG DITCH (34D: Kids' doorbell-ringing prank)
The theme answers alone are enough to give solvers fits. Who's heard of "KING KONG LIVES?" I know DING DONG DITCH, but I have a feeling that answer is gonna puzzle many people, especially those who (like me) don't know why 55A: Ilsa in "Casablanca" is LUND (I assume it's her last name...?). Or maybe you don't remember TEGRIN (20A: Discontinued brand of antidandruff shampoo) or that there used to be such a thing as an L.A. RAM (39A: Bygone N.F.L.'er), or maybe you've never heard of ORBITZ (58A: Big name in travel) or LVOV (an answer that is very hard to l(v)ove) (26D: Ukrainian city, once). I had trouble right away at 1A: Lament after a loss, maybe (SO SAD). I had I LOST, which makes no sense, given that "loss" is in the clue, but that didn't stop me. I had trouble with FOCI because nothing about the clue said "plural" to me (37A: What an ellipse's major axis passes through). I managed to remember that SIG EP is a thing today (44A: College frat with the greatest number of chapter houses (200+)), but had no idea about "VIVO" (23A: Andrea Bocelli's "___ per lei")—not my kind of music.

Liked GO WIDE, and guessing ORBITZ off the "O" and then confirming it immediately with ZOLA (60D: Novelist who was a childhood friend of Cézanne) was oddly exhilarating. Remembering "SPACE JAM" was less exhilarating, but useful nonetheless (10D: 1996 live-action/animated comedy).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:15 AM  

Never heard of D[IO]GDITCH. Does ringing someone's doorbell and running away really merit a name? There so many things that merit names but don't have one I find it hard to believe that ringing a doorbell and running away does.

You know when dogs scratch at the ground after they take a dump? What's the word for that? No, there isn't one, yet there's one for ringing someone's doorbell and running away. You know when you are walking directly at someone and they step to the same side that you do, then step to the other side exactly when they do? Again, no term for that. Well, there's the obligitory "What, are you a friggin Brit or something? We stay right here in America. Get with the damned program", but that's an outburst of pique, not a term.


Bookdeb 12:21 AM  

The NYT app took IO as a rebus. Only then would it recognize the grid as correct.
Hand up for going with the O's at first.

Rookie 12:22 AM  

Solved the puzzle but did not understand the theme. Thanks, Rex, for the explanation.

I could not figure out TINE_RS for "hearing problems." Kept reading it as one word, somehow related to TINNITUS. Only got it with crosses.

Tobias Duncan 12:24 AM  

My grid passed the Mr Pencil test but I guess I did not understand the full theme at all till I came here.

"Legging it" is running away not walking if you are a brit(I think).

Anonymous 12:34 AM  

Orne Sigep Onea Vivo.
Avi Nocal Laram Pago.
Egel Ranup Foci Soo.
Nose Cret Tine Ars, Tegrin too!

Anonymous 12:38 AM  

down clues also work both ways, which makes it far more interesting (write/wrote, go in/go on, rhine/rhone, mite/mote).

Anonymous 12:51 AM  

Hey @Rex - Did you notice the "THEME: ING/ONG — in theme answers, both halves of -ING -ONG phrases occupy the same four-letter space in the grid, with both I and O working in the crosses"? piece you wrote?

Joseph B 1:04 AM  

My grid looks just like yours, Rex, and like you, I considered mine correct.

I'm not sure what the rules are on rebus puzzles, but with IO there, it seems like the crosses should have contained the sequence IO rather than just O.

Anonymous at 12:38AM (PST) may be on to how IO is kosher in those spots, but then it seems like the crossing answers should have evoked the "word" MITEMOTE, etc.

Anonymous at 12:15AM (PST): I grew up calling it "ring and run," but for some reason "ding dong ditch" rang a bell (so to speak).

syndy 1:24 AM  

This thing was just SO SAD! it wanted to be awesome in just the worst way-and it was.

Anonymous 1:42 AM  

LOL :) Reading this response was at least as much fun as the puzzle itself. As for there being a name for ringing a doorbell and running away, yes I at least am very familiar with it, but we always called it a "doorbell ditch". Never heard it called a "ding dong ditch.

jae 2:42 AM  
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jae 2:47 AM  
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jae 2:50 AM  

I did almost all "Os" also as there is such a thing as a PONG TABLE and DONG DITCH seemed reasonable. The exception was SING VOICE. I pointed out to my bride that it could go either way...i.e. WROTE/WRITE both fit...and SING just seemed more probable. However, I did the puzzle on paper so, although I had the feeling something was missing, I didn't catch on until I came here and saw the X in the NW corner of Rex's grid. That was my aha moment. So DNF I guess???

Tough puzzle regardless of the WOE theme. I actually kinda liked it.

Erasures: NOfAt for NOCAL which led to Texan for LARAM even though I had a strong feeling they weren't bygone. Plus Eases for EVENS.

Karl 3:29 AM  

I did the same thing as Rex with the "O"s...but a previous commenter should note that the crossing clues work with either letter (i.e. Rhone and Rhine are both major Euro rivers...)

jae 3:40 AM  

@Karl -- I should have made it clear. My aha moment was for all four theme answers. It was a domino aha (patent pending).

Anonymous 4:32 AM  

Despite sort of seeing the theme, I was positive "singsongy" had to be correct. It really jacked up my NorCal region.

Ataris Closecut Mavis 4:37 AM  

Yes, went with all O's tho sortof noticed it could be RHINE/RHONE, GOIN, GO ON, WRITE/WROTE,
but didn't cotton to the MITE/MOTE, so assumed you left off the first word, so didn't fully get it till @Rex explained it!

What would I have done before this blog? Again only understood 1/2 of what goes on...and never know I had all these one letter mistakes!

I had TWO L mistakes...
21 Down LO CAL/ NO CAL thinking maybe THAT was the theme, to have the same word parsed differently in two parts of the grid bec LOCAL was also at 66A.

(New theme idea!)

So TEGRIL didn't read wrong to me. Damn!
(Didn't help that I started out with a SWim team, instead of a SWAT team)

But worst part was I left it at LOCI for FOCI and couldn't make sense of my CALE answer!!!!!!

Two major editing complaints:

SOME was in the grid at 15A
("Partly") but then it was a CLUE for
27Down "Some: Sp"!!!!???

You can't have SOME as an answer in the grid (15 Across) and then have it be the clue to another answer, even if it is in Spanish!

Nevermind UNAS is sorta ugly even in Spanish. Looks like one of those fake plurals like ATARIS or RADARS.

SO some craziness going on.

As for the ILSA = LUND, that seems crazy cluing too. Yes, that's her last name, but you wouldn't clue "Dorothy in "Wizard of Oz" and have the answer be GALE (not JUDY), would you???

On the plus side, fillwise, I'm crazy about the ORBITZ/ZOLA crossing!

So MANY thumbs up for the theme.
SOME thumbs down for the editing (tho I quake in my boots to WRITE/WROTE that!)

Danp 6:18 AM  

Great idea for a rebus, but terrible execution and cluing. Way too many obscure answers. And I would never have gotten sing-song voice from that clue. Plurals and schwa are each ok once in a while, but not in the same puzzle, please.

Zygotic 6:50 AM  

The theme is I/O (on/off).

I think the theme is pretty well done except for TEGRIN crossing OLNE and NO-CAL. There is some ugliness, but getting the I/O to work both ways with the cluing is pretty nifty.

r.alphbunker 6:59 AM  

The penny dropped with P[I/O]NGPONG then really dropped when I highlighted the other incomplete theme answers and noticed that MOTE, RHINE and GOON could also be MITE, RHONE and GOON.

Rebuses are not one of Across Lite's strong points. If this were an ACPT puzzle I bet that the failure to include the I/O rebus would have been graded as 4incorrect letters by the human judges.

r.alphbunker 7:07 AM  

I agree that the NG is an epitheme. May I add that I/O could also be read as input/output?

Zygotic 7:21 AM  

@r.alphbunker - Yes, you may. I had it at first but deleted it because of uncertainty.

JFC 7:22 AM  

Had the opposite experience in that I had the first word in and after the puzzle thought the second word was omitted. MHP popped up. Came here and, thanks, Rex, for pointing out the rebus. However, I had the same weird feeling as I did it....


Milford 7:27 AM  

So baffling to be trying to complete this puzzle and just know that something is amiss with the theme answers but not being able to find the missing parts in the puzzle. Thankfully, I come here and find out they are hiding in plain sight!

Hand up for having SONG/PONG/KONG/DONG first. I'm not sure why I picked those, except that I think I read "put to paper" as the past tense WROTE and never thought twice about it or the other three crosses being valid both ways.

So even though I was exasperated trying to get my grid finished and accepted, I'm am now rather in awe of this theme! (FWIW, the Magmic app also accepted the grid as an IO rebus - thank you @Bookdeb!)

Many problems with Oregon area, deli before CAFE, so then lOCI before FOCI, never seen LVOV before ( looks like a RRN to me). Then the whole NO CAL that was lofat, no fat and lo cal first. UNoS before UNAS, which are both correct. And in SW, one ROOM before ART ROOM.

But I was pretty proud that I got the PLURALS and SCHWA clues. The blog has taught me well!

Milford 7:30 AM  

That would be "I am" not "I'm am"

Smitty 8:32 AM  

Could someone please explain the SCHWA answer?

@Danp - I agree. No solving joy, and by the time I came here and read about the clever gimmick I'd totally missed, it was too late.

Anonymous 8:35 AM  

The first thing I noticed was the closed grid; the large NE and SW corners being their own mini-puzzles.

The theme made up for that. Loved it. I had a tough time of it. Can't remember the last time that I had to take a Thursday crossword to bed with me - and shockingly devoid of entries. It looked like my Saturday crosswords.

I had barely exposed the theme. Something was up with P I/O NG TABLE, but I had no idea what.

As oft happens in these situations, I woke up very early in the morning, picked it back up, and started making progress almost right away.

I had WRITE and then somehow noticed that it could also be WROTE, and that was all she WROTE. I had the theme.

Super-tough solve. The junk fill wasn't too bad a trade for the great theme, but the cluing. Seriously? I don't mind tough clues that leave me saying "Oh,yeah." when the answer falls, but I seriously mind clues that leave me feeling unfairly deceived (deliberately so). In the end, I was pretty pleased with myself for sorting out the theme.

Wanted to DEAD FISH instead of INERT GAS for "It's hard to get a reaction out of".

Had a hard time sorting out CUT SHORT to SHORT CUT and finally to CLOSE CUT.

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

SING/SONG, WRITE/WROTE, DING/DONG, and RHINE/RHONE are the correct answers such that doing this puzzle on an iPhone required the use of the rebus function to insert an "I" and "o" in that order to solve the puzzle successfully and receive a time for completing the puzzle

The troubles with being an editor 8:40 AM  

Will Shortz's dilema:

I like the theme, but it's Table Tennis, not Ping Pong. Ping Pong is just wrong; so very, very wrong.

[Exhaustive examination of other _ING/_ONG possibilities ensues].

Damn It! I've just endorsed Ping Pong, out there for all eternity, for all to see.

jackj 8:41 AM  

When you’re a smiling, baby-faced young man and you’ve only contributed one crossword to the NY Times and that inaugural effort was a Saturday, you’ve established a puzzle persona that demands you jealously protect that nascent super star image and when pressed to do so for this second go-around, Sam Ezersky simply smiled and said “No problem, dude”.

This clever double rebus with interchangeable I/O’s was obvious at PING PONG TABLE and confirmed by SING SONG VOICE but then the problem was how do you fit 13 letters into the 9 squares allotted?

Why, you just clue crossing word(s) that can accept either an I or an O as with “Put to paper” being either WRITE or WROTE giving the I/O rebus, as does “Proceed, say” for GO IN/GO ON and on through two more iterations of the gimmick.

The fill was appropriately tricky from our boy wonder, with “Dollars and cents, e.g.” for PLURALS being Exhibit A, with MADAM, clued by “_____Chair” and then with INERTGAS and SKOAL also sparkling, all were allowed into evidence, ENBLOC, even though this is a NONLEGAL venture.

Reflecting on the puzzle after filling in the final SCHWA, clearly Sam has once again proven that he belongs in that exclusive consortium of junior constructors who routinely are giving us some of the best puzzles the Times is able to offer. “No problem, dude”, right Sam?

Thanks for a great job!

Tita 8:41 AM  

Thanks @Rex - I never noticed that the crosses went both ways.

A classic example of a puzzle that was "meh" until I got here. Went from "Meh" to "Aha" to "Annoyed I didn't figure it out for myself" to "Nice puzzle!"...

@D[IO]NGMYAS - well said!


Anonymous 8:44 AM  

Tegrin spelled backwards in Nirget -- Phoebe Buffet.

Unknown 8:45 AM  

Didn't we have the same clue for SCHWA not too long ago?

I finished, using INGs, and while navigating over to the blog, was thinking "That was weird." Had to chuckle upon seeing Rex's opening statement. Didn't notice the crosses work with I/O too. Impressive, but still weird.

evil doug 9:07 AM  

Ding Dong Ditch is only fun if you first place a bag of dog crap on the threshold and set it ablaze. Hilarity ensues when the victim opens the door and instinctively tries to extinguish the fire by stomping on it---hence a real reason to 'ditch' and hie thee home.


Nancy 9:11 AM  


Loren Muse Smith 9:21 AM  

The mother of two former DING DONG DITCH enthusiasts (who targeted only friends’ houses – it was not meant to torment strangers AND, mercifully, ED, no poop was ever involved), I didn’t have trouble with the theme answers and actually, *for once* saw the whole gimmick when I went back and questioned WROTE and GO ON.

I didn't parse NO SECRET right for a while. Kept wanting NOSE CRE_????

Hand up for LO CAL before NO CAL. Liked the pairs of NO CAL/SLIM, ATRA/ CLOSE CUT, and of course the PLURALS/SCHWA cross. (@DanP – different strokes and all that. . .)

@Nancy - schwa is an unstressed vowel sound. @Sue McConnell - wasn't it clued as "Alaska?" @Anyone Who Cares- it's NO SECRET and SO SAD: I harbor a full-blown SCHWA fetish.

I think Andrea called it the “glue” that holds puzzles together (or something to that effect), and I say that I’ll take a whole lot of LVOVs and UNAS to be shown a trick this cool. Really.

Sam DELIVERs big here, and I’m SOO impressed!!

GILL I. 9:21 AM  

@Anonymous 12:15. My sides are hurting from laughing so hard. My dog will scratch and sniff...
Fun puzzle. That's why I love Thur. so much. I'm always looking for the "catch" and I caught it right off the PONG.
@Ataris: UNAS is ugly. Would have preferred algunas, un poco even unos.
Like @Milford, Deli did not want to give his seat up for CAFE and LVOV could have been any Roman Numeral. Speaking of ugly, FOCI is pretty bad and I always mispronounce ANNAL.
Loved the final ZOLA/SCHWA.

lawprof 9:32 AM  

My "aha" moment came when I realized that both RHINE and RHONE worked at 52D. Then all the other theme answers made sense. Thursdays are usually toughies for me; today not so much. Clever rebus.

joho 9:33 AM  

@Rex, thank you for enlightening me! I, too, lhad just about every square filled in (failed at LVOV/FOCI/CAFE/EVENS... 'cause it was supposed to be deli and LVOV doesn't exist!) but never got the theme until coming here. In retrospect I love it but in reality as a solving experience it was so convoluted? subtle? as to be unrecognizable! Besides DONGDITCH, KONGLIVES and PONGTABLE all sound like they could be things as is. Not SINGVOICE but I had given up in that corner so never saw it.

@Danp ... I also thought PLURALS/SCHWA was overkill on the grammar!

I especially admire how GOON/GOIN, MOTE/MITE, RHONE/RHINE and WROTE/WRITE were constructed but, again, I never saw it so it was wasted on me.

Carola 9:36 AM  

I was way more than a MITE slow to catch on to the rebus, but I was determined to look for the missing "halves" until I found them. It happened that I had SING and KING on the left and PONG and DONG on the right, so I thought some sort of alternating thing was going on. Not. Anyway, finally saw that I/O worked both ways for all. Had paused earlier over RHINE or RHONE, never seeing it could give me KI/ONG.

Overall found it challenging, especially in the area around the DITCH (never heard of that prank). Happened to know LVOV, though, through Sister City activities.

@chefbea - Thanks for last evening! I have emailed you (maybe twice - some emailing glitches this morning).

dk 9:39 AM  

We survived 12/12/12 for this.

Ack, as Cathy (Rex's favorite toon) might say.

PING/PONG and KING/KONG alerted me to the trick but fill like NOSECRET, NONLEGAL and ARTROOM left me longing for a puzzle SWAT team.

Not a joy to solve by half. Although ILLER in the house caused milk to run out of my nose.

⛄⛄ (2 snowmen) A little clever for my taste.

Tonight go out side between midnight and 4AM (early breakfast hour) and look up. Massive meteor showers -- not the end of this world anyway.

jberg 9:49 AM  

SO SAD! I came here ready to complain about the French math and the SCHWA, but with no idea there was a theme at all!. I had the I for everything but PONG TABLE (a thing that actually exists, maybe even made by ATARI), with no idea I needed anything else (although DING DITCH did puzzle me). To make things even worse, I had TEGRIl/lOCAL (not noticing that LOCALS was elsewhere in the puzzle) - shampoo brand names are not my strong point.

In retrospect, this is a nifty puzzle, just too clever for me.

Lojman 10:08 AM  

Phonetically, the word "agenda" begins and ends with a SCHWA.

DI/ONG DITCH is in fact a real thing, Anonymous's complaint notwithstanding. It has many other (and some horribly offensive) names.

Highly enjoyable rebus. Bravo!


Unknown 10:51 AM  

I like the theme, but I wish that there was a way to know how to fill it in on the app. I went with all O's as well, partly because I didn't notice that all four crosses worked both ways.

Bonus themish answer: Lvov is the Russian word name for Lviv. Fici is not a substitute for foci (which as Rex points out, isn't really a substitute for focus or focal point).

Two Ponies 11:07 AM  

Liked the rebus, hated the rest of the grid. Comments today are much more entertaining than the solve.
Yes @ ED, the flaming bag of dog poo is the only trick I know.

Sandy K 11:25 AM  

"Where did SING, PING, KING, and DING go?"

Exactly! Did not dawn on me til reading Rex.

Finished without seeing the rebus at all...SING-SONG should've rang a bell, but no DING-DONG went off in my head. Put in all the Os, never considered the Is.

This would've DELIVERed a good theme, had I seen it...SO SAD!

John V 11:35 AM  

Not even close; complete train-wreck. Too clever for my addled brain. Humbling to have such a DNF on a Thursday. I kept thinking this was going to be a theme-less Thursday.


Anonymous 11:46 AM  

Is "ding dong ditch" regional? Where? Grew up in northern NY and live in NH and have never heard it, which did not help in trying to solve this one.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:57 AM  

Caught on to the rebus and completed the puzzle correctly, but only after wrestling with most of the difficulties everyone else has mentioned.

Took me some extra time, though, because, as a life-long resident of New Jersey, the only MENLO Park (40 D) I know is the location of Thomas Edison's laboratory in Edison, NJ.

baja 12:00 PM  

Very clever - only had the O version. Never heard of ding dong ditch. We called it nicky nicky nine doors (no idea why)

EphJo 12:10 PM  

I would say that this puzzle was totally ill, but I can't remember if "ill" used to be bad and now is good or used to be good and now is bad. In any event, I loved this puzzle, maybe because I did it on paper, which had no trouble accepting my scribbled notations for I/O, and because I got the trick fairly early on. Finding 4 words that can be clued identically whether the second letter is I or O is so clever and brilliant. Thanks for a great puzzle.

Carola 12:13 PM  

@Bob Kefuffle -
Me, while writing in "MENLO": "Gosh, I didn't know Thomas Edison worked in California. I always thought it was New Jersey." Seems I didn't catch on to the "two-way" theme after all :)

Just noticed that in the grid MENLO Park mirrors its location in NO CAL.

And, meant to say above: super clever puzzle, Sam Ezersky - I look forward to your next one!

Ed 12:18 PM  

Neat, I guess, but I probably would have liked it better if I weren't solving on the iPad app. Because I was, though, I had no idea what I was supposed to do, even though I understood the theme straight away. I had to check the comments here to learn to do an IO rebus.

Which, BTW, doesn't really make sense. 99% of the rebi are not either/or - or, this is the first one that I've seen - they're for cramming a longer word into a shorter spae. RHIONE isn't a word; RHINE and RHONE are, but that's not what a rebus does.

Ahem. Anyway.

Rob C 12:22 PM  

Thought it was clever how the short crosses at the rebus were clued to fit both o and i words. I think that added to the number of people who didn't fully get or completely missed the theme.

Also interesting how the grid is almost completely segregated into 3 sections with only one "outlet" to each other section.

RI Squasher 12:28 PM  

This was one of the rare rebus puzzles where even after I figured out the trick I had trouble before finally finishing.

No one has a problem with SKOAL or ENBLOC? Those seemed quite obscure to me. As did GO WIDE as the answer for "attempt to get a mass audience".

I thought 51A would be ONE ROOM, which slowed me down.

Growing up in NYC we called it "ring and run" and would take great pleasure in ringing the bell, running around the corner and trying to peek and see if we could catch the person confusedly looking around the hallway for the phantom ringer.

Ellen S 12:28 PM  

DNF big time, lots I would have had to look up and would have but they wouldn't have helped where I was just stumped by the combo of inexplicable answers (which turned out to be the themes) and what seemed sublime dumbth like NONLEGAL for "not law-related".

I didn't remember TEGRIN and had aWAy for 1D and lOCAL for 21D. That gave me y_ _RIl (sans serif makes that as much nonsense as my grid: I mean I had Y_ _RIL, I'm thinking, "who would wash their hair with Yggdrasil?"

Figuring I'd never be able to determine if it should be RHINE or RHONE and everything else was wtf, I gave up and came here.

Have I ever confessed that I used to ESCHEW the Mon-Weds puzzles as too easy, and then often not be able to do Friday or Saturday?

DigitalDan 12:38 PM  

Menlo Park, CA was named in 1860 after a place in Ireland. It is likely that the New Jersey Menlo Park, an unsuccessful housing development where Edison set up his laboratory, was named for the California town. This feels counterintuitive, but for what it's worth.

JFC 12:41 PM  

@Acme, I am guessing you and I are among the very few who knew Lund because Casablanca is our favorite film. I might have had the same initial reaction to the clue as you, but Ingrid doesn't fit, so the only other logical answer would be Ilsa's surname Lund, so I filled it in. I can't tell if Rex's ignorance of Lund is feigned for humor or real. Can you?


Masked and Anonymo4Us 12:47 PM  

Understood the theme, after PIONGTABLE in the NE, which was first territory conquered. LOFAT (21-D) BRIE (2-D) really constipated the NW campaign, but finally retrieved TEGRIN from brain archives, which helped some. Had TITAN at 39-A, so assumed NOFAT, and once more headed into a ding dong ditch.

KIONGLIVES is big time schlock, so SW was a cinch. Then I plowed unsuspectinly into the merciless SE. Where 55-A was obviously LEAD, so... trouble. DIONG___ and "___ Chair" got stared at for a mighty mighty long time. How to cram DIONGSCHOOL into one box short of exciting parting gifts? Solved the BEQ puz while contemplating this.

Came here with tail between legs. A victim of that ding dong SE son of a ditch. Made me feel like one of them there goin' goons...

@Sam Ezersky: Dude. U really left a sack of somethin' out front, dionged my doorbell, and took off. What a scamp. An M&A don't forget. What's yer ad-dress there, son? snort2.

Notsofast 1:19 PM  

"SCHWA" just pisses me off every time I see it. It's a smart-ass answer. This was a fun puzzle except for the SE. Kind of a smart-ass corner.

Mz.D 1:20 PM  

Whooie I think I set an all time personal "best" for write-overs:Lofat;lo-cal;no cal etc.I'll spare you the rest.Never heard of Laram and so assumed Menlo Park was wrong and on I went;Eventually figured out the theme and in retrospect think it's really fun,clever,fresh etc but the solve was a slog for me.It's a beautiful day here.I hope everyone is out enjoying themselves.

Davis 1:21 PM  

Like Rex, I only figured out the theme after the app complained at me. Had I done this on paper, I never would have caught it -- not a good theme, in my book.

Even if I had caught onto the theme sooner, I don't think I would have enjoyed this puzzle. Too much unfortunate fill: LUND may as well have been a random name; no amount of Camembert-eating helps you get ORNE; TEGRIN may as well have been random letters; I get EN BLOC, but it sounds forced; UNAS is just ugh; I've seen SOO a couple of times recently, but it still makes me cringe.

Other than the theme answers, none of the longer fill sparkled for me here. NO SECRET? Okay, but not great. SHUT AWAY? Big meh. INERT GAS we just saw a few days ago, and it didn't do much for me then, either. And SPACE JAM is definitely not something worth being reminded of.

As a sidenote, it looks like a record low number of people successfully completed this puzzle on the Magmic app today.

Sparky 1:25 PM  

I got the PING/PONGTABLE right away. Then the whole NE. Came to a schreeching halt after that. A nibble here and there is all. CAFE, PAGO, SOO and ran at bottom of 34D. SOSAD, sigh.

On the plus side, the computer is fixed. I would do the Gangnam Style but I don't want to break a hip.

Norm 1:33 PM  

Very clever. Agree that it's not technically a rebus (just that you need to enter the multiple letters the way you would a rebus). In one direction (e.g., write/wrote), it's an alternative letters puzzle. Seen that many times before. In the other direction, it's a "repeat the word with different letter" puzzle. Not sure I've ever seen that. Given that my child goes to Dartmouth, I was willing to accept "PONGTABLE" as an answer for a long time, and I'd never heard of 34D by name, so that one didn't bother me, but the other two showed me what was going on. Liked it a lot.

Arby 1:39 PM  

Seems like I had to Google half of the clues in this puzzle to finish: Lund, King Kong Lives, Lvov (!), Tegrin, Iller, Orne.

Lvov. Yuck.

Anonymous 1:42 PM  

"but that's not what a rebus does."

'Rebus' has always been extremely loosely defined with crosswords. Its meaning is bent however is convenient to suit the moment.

I don't know how this crossword is solvable without getting the gimmick and am amazed at how many people didn't.

Bird 2:04 PM  

Did not like this at all. SO SAD really because I liked the theme, which I got at 18A, and appreciate that it works for the Acrosses and the Downs. Too many WTFs spoiled it for me.

I can’t recall where the bygone NFL team LARAM played. I had TITAN. Oh, the L.A. RAMs. That’s a 15 yard penalty for unsportsmanlike construction – the RAMs moved to St. Louis.

There’s a Greek letter SIGEP?

ONE A is a prime window seat? Is there a non-prime window seat?

Never heard of DING DONG DITCH. I played RING AND RUN as a kid and that first R messed a lot of things up.

21D was LIGHT before LO-FAT. Didn’t even think about LO-CAL. Or TEGRIN.

I put in TRIO for T-Rex (turns out they were a quartet).


@Danp – Ditto

Re: to rebus or not to rebus – just call it a gimmick puzzle

PS. The captcha number is 23 and it's white on red. This Knicks fan does not appreciate the coincidental connection between Mr. Jordan’s uniform number and SPACE JAM.

wordie 2:10 PM  

I had no problem with UNAS, but NOCAL???? What is NOCAL except water and air? I am on my second day of horrible food poisoning, able to have nothing but NOCAL things, so perhaps it's more me than the puzz, but I hated, hated it. I knew that Camembert is a cheese from Normandie, but that was no help. And what everyone else said about the cluing and the answers generally. Because I'm too tired to say more.

John V 2:18 PM  

Late in the day and I've not read all the comments but .... On looking at the @Rex' solved grid and the theme answers, I ask if this really works, in some themes are I and O, others I OR O, e.g. PINGPONGTABLE -vs-RHINE or RHONE. Help me if I miss this, 'cause I do feel a sea on this one, but does seem inconsistent.


Bird 2:38 PM  

@John V - So it's an I/AND/O and/or I/OR/O theme? Wait, what did I just put to (virtual) paper?

John V 2:40 PM  

@Bird: Am I right that that's the theme or am I, as I fear, really at sea on this one?

Lojman 2:42 PM  

An ellipse had two FOCI, both of which can be found on its long axis.

John V: the across answers are two words with the I and O alternating. The down answers can be either.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:45 PM  

@Bird asks, "Is there a non-prime window seat?"

I ask, "Have you ever flown across an ocean in seat 28 H?" :>)

John V 2:48 PM  

@Lojman: Thanks, so I understand. Taking my final comment for now then, to just say that, cleverness aside, this theme does not seem to pass the consistency test.

Three and out.

Tita 2:59 PM  

@Bird - Try 36A on an Alitalia Airbus...
I spent 11 hours yesterday crammed into this seat. Brought my backpack as carry-on so I could work on my laptop - but where I should "place my carry-on luggage under the seat in front of me" was a large metal box. So instead, I did crosswords on my tablet, and watched 3 really bad movies.

There are also "window" seats that in fact, have just a blank wall, no window.

BTW - the food on Alitalia is the worst airline food I have ever experienced. Thanks for giving me a sideways excuse to vent!

Bird 3:09 PM  

So . . . there is no regular crossword symmetry AND no universal application of the theme?

Now I really don't like it.

@Bob K. - What makes 1A prime if 28H is also a window seat? Oh, wait. Now I get it. Duh. I was thinking A vs. H.

BTW - I'm 6'6" so if I have to sit in coach I choose an exit or bulkhead row. If that's not available then I choose an aisle seat so I can get up and stretch my legs without disturbing my neighbors. I sat in a coach window seat once going to England and did not like it.

3 and out

Sandy's Wine Blog 3:31 PM  

I always print the puzzle to do at bedtime, so didn't have the problem with the rebus that others had. Got the gimmick off Pingpong. Got all the rebus clues but had some problems in the SE with Lund, enbloc, orbitz. Felt pretty good about my effort in view of everyone's comments.

GILL I. 3:31 PM  

@Tita - Hah, then you haven't flown British Air recently.....
Unless you fly First Class, all the seats suck.
@Anonymous 12:34 - Another good laugh! Is that Bocelli's per lei song?

Lewis 4:33 PM  

Wow! Great theme. My feeling is that Sam was being clever not for the purpose of showing off, but to create a puzzle that was entertaining for us solvers.

Never heard of DINGDONGDITCH. I was thinking it was going to be DINGDONGBITCH, but then went naaaah...

PuzzleGirl 4:44 PM  

jackj: Have you ever thought about writing your own blog? Every time you comment it seems like you haven't even read the post you're commenting on.

Lojman 4:45 PM  

This isn't the first time the rebus worked differently in different directions. Remember the EXCUSES EXCUSES rebus? Maybe 15 months ago or so?

Merle 4:45 PM  

Haven't wanted to even check in on Rex's blog all week, the puzzles were so easy, but this one drove me to the blog. Theme isn't interesting enough to care about. Again, cultural frame of reference and knowledge bank is the name of the game. Orbitz, schwa, Turin, Esso, Zola, Libra, Orne, SWAT, tin ears, Mavis Staples, Menlo Park, all obvious or easily derived from crosses. In my wheelhouse.

I haven't scrolled through the other posts yet -- just the first few -- and 78 is lot to scroll through. Someone asked about tin ears. Tin ear is colloquial for tone deaf.

What I wouldn't have known -- Tegrin, LA Ram -- I didn't even recognize the team when I finally filled in the box -- I thought Laram was a football player's name. Go know. I know who Eminem is, but you'd have to pay me millions -- or at least six figures -- to listen to his music -- but iller was very easy to figure out. Say Eminem, think hip hop, and it's no one's iller. And Ding Dong Ditch -- never heard of it, and I'm glad. Sounds just plain mean. Little kids where I grew up didn't do that kind of mean stuff. Ring a bell and then run away, I assume? No, we wouldn't have thought that was funny.

I liked some of the clever stuff -- plurals for dollars and cents, for instance.

But -- a puzzle worth thinking about, talking about, is a puzzle worth solving. Pleasant, not brilliant, but -- having read about what puzzle constructors get paid, I will never dis a puzzle ever ever ever.

Merle 5:05 PM  

Not so fast, Notsofast, re the schwa. What's wrong with schwa? I was a Speech and Theater major in college about 50 years ago, and when I studied phonics I learned to love the schwa. Useful concept. Useful sound. Re Ilse Lund -- well, she wasn't Ilse Lazlo, was she?

Yo, Bird, Seg Ep is Sigma Epsilon. I don't know diddly about fraternities, except that they often have a two Greek letter name. Once that g turned up, but the p in plurals made sigma impossible, and just plain sigma was highly unlikely, then Sig Ep seemed right, Sig Ep as street tag for Sigma Epsilon. I've just been overtaken by Bad Pun-itis -- highly unlikely and Haile Selassie, Sigma Epsilon as King David sighed, Epsilon my son my son, would that I had died for thee, Epsilon my son. OMG, pundits, save me from myself. It's a bad pun day.

Acme 5:36 PM  

@ johnV
Glad it was a trainwreck, not a planewreck!
It is wonderfully consistent but on a different level.
You will see this one will grow and grow on you and will be long remembered...
I get what you are saying that you needed it to be AND going across and OR going down,but think of the theme as the across, and the downs still worked with either.
Look at the downs as tho they were crossing an n enya (i don't know how that is spelled or how to make one on this ipad) as an ANO or with an accent on one across word but not the other one going down.
So even tho I missed MITE/MOTE I can see how brilliantly this works, he was able to make the nonthemes that were crossing going down still consistent!
Try and think of the downs not as the same theme but as making the grid work with the across entries.

It is marvelously consistent!
(If you want to still discuss inconsistencies, i'd be more likely to look at the NO CAL, NO SECRET, NONLEGAL area.
I still suspect that having LOCAL already in the grid led to NOCAL which may have led to arewrite and even be responsible for the UNAS/SOME mistake)

But over all clever and brilliant even tho I needed the extra layer explained to me here...

Your query may be a catch-22!

sanfranman59 5:54 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 22:04, 17:03, 1.29, 88%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 13:17, 9:23, 1.42, 91%, Challenging

Grouch guy down the road 6:19 PM  

Me, I love DINGDONGDITCH. Playing it, not necessarily as an entry in a puzzle.

To be played properly, DINGDONGDITCH has to have two sets of participants. One, of course, is the punk kids being a nuisance. The other is the cranky old bastard who lives in the house. Who lives in the house with two pit bulls. Who, when there's no one at the door when the bell rings, just lets the dogs out.

I can't tell you how much I love hearing those punk kids screaming as they're trying to climb a tree or make it over the fence.

Good times.

geordiegirl 9:32 PM  

Did anyone else start off blithely with "pooltable" and then have to painfully find their way back?

jackj 10:03 PM  

@PuzzleGirl wrote-

“jackj: Have you ever thought about writing your own blog? Every time you comment it seems like you haven't even read the post you're commenting on.”

Guilty as charged. My habit is to solve the puzzle when it comes on line at 10PM (or6PM) Eastern Time, write out my thoughts and put it away until posting it the next morning.

I have no interest in a separate blog and appreciate Rex giving me the opportunity to post the type of commentary that I regularly submit.

I am looking at the puzzles strictly from a solver’s point of view, which often spawns a quite different take on a puzzle than that of a constructor/solver.

The readers of RexWorld are familiar enough with my type of post to be able to choose to read them or not, as is their pleasure.

Although my post always reviews the puzzle, not our blogger’s post, I am an avid reader of Rex’s comments and think he is without a doubt one of the cleverest of the crossword critics and with his jabs and barbs, his ever-present humor and his sharp analytical skills he doesn’t often disappoint.

This is a wonderful venue in which to participate.

sanfranman59 10:04 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. 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 5:56, 6:16, 0.95, 22%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:13, 8:57, 0.92, 20%, Easy-Medium
Wed 10:02, 11:45, 0.85, 15%, Easy
Thu 21:12, 17:03, 1.28, 88%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:33, 3:39, 0.97, 30%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:50, 5:03, 0.96, 34%, Easy-Medium
Wed 6:03, 6:32, 0.93, 29%, Easy-Medium
Thu 12:48, 9:23, 1.36, 88%, Challenging

Acme 3:38 AM  

Synchronicitously, on Judge Judy this old school guy in Lake George who was suing kids who used his restaurant picnic tables as a skateboard park, referred to these two "Youts" as "Ding and Dong".

Elle54 6:14 AM  

I just finished. But sadly I didn't get the rebus... Had gone with ONGs until I checked app for errors. Tried I/O and it worked.
Ding Dong Dirch is definitely a thing here in the Midwest. Happened to us 2 weeks ago, then the next night we got egged.
We also call it Ring and Run.

Andy54 11:30 AM  

Had singsongy, ninelives (made up my own unknown bad movie), dingdongs (Hostess on my mind)...pongtable was the reveal to this great theme.

Though I stayed with Nine Lives (as in cat's), None Lives (grammatically incorrect, but hey - if is none of us live, who cares?)

First time I've left a comment here - but had to give Sam Ezersky kudos for such a clever concept...

methatsall 10:30 AM  

We called ringing the bell and running "Nicky nicky nine doors". No, I don't know why or where that came from.

Space(jam)craft 10:31 AM  

Epic fail; DN even come close to F-ing. Bird prefix had to be AVI, but if 42a is EVENS that makes _V_V. To me, impossible. Something was wrong but I couldn't see what. That there exists a place named LVOV is a 100% ungettable fact, IMO (without Googling). How in Hades would you even pronounce the thing? No such conglomeration of letters should ever appear in a crossword; it is the very definition of impossibly obscure.

Too much other stuff I didn't know. There's an actual NAME for that doorbell prank? You're kidding. Words/expressions I've never heard:


No help were totally off-the-wall clues. Establishment that may display a chalkboard for CAFE? T.Rex, e.g. for DINO? What, then, are Desi and Billy? Raptors? And the winner: _____Chair for MADAM??

I had a few spots filled in; got the NE but figured maybe they were referring to the old ATARI game PONG, which was produced on a TABLE. Never did get the I/O theme.

This thing is too tough even for a Saturday. What's it doing in a Thursday slot?

rondo 1:40 PM  

@Spacecraft, Lvov was SOOOO easy; ever travel? Or look at a map? A city of 1.5M is hard to miss, certainly not obscure.
Left the O/I space unfilled the first time through because of wprries about past/present; turns out I was onto (not on) something.
Not that tough, all said.

Waxy in Montreal 1:46 PM  

Sussed out the I/O theme without a great deal of difficulty but then hit the shoals not knowing that Sigma Phi Epsilon is (now?) called SIGEP and also not being familiar with SCHWA (ALTHO it's appeared before) and ORBITZ. Also, couldn't figure out how to shoehorn LAZLO into 55A (never knew Ilsa's maiden name).

Must be robotic today. Taking way too long to DELIVER this...

Ginger 2:57 PM  

Wow, this was a toughie. Lots of white space that I just kept plugging away at. I solve on paper, so my grid looks like the bag @ED was talking about. Held up by TINitus, isolAtes, iOTa, and more.

Did not fully get the theme until coming here. This blog has hugely increased my solving acumen and pleasure. Thanks Rex, and thanks to commenters.

DMGrandma 4:45 PM  

Struggled with this one, and it bested me! Just didn't catch on to the I/O thing, even after my POolTABLES morphed into PONGTABLES. I just thought that sounds like something that could exist. Similarly, why not a movie titled KONGLIVES? Thought SINGVOICE sounded silly, Ilsa was a LeaD part, and on and on, Did get MENLO and was reminded that in younger years I had wondered how Edison could live back east and work here in California! Hope to have my brain in better working order tomorrow!

Solving in Seattle 6:02 PM  

I got the i/o concept after googling the 1987 Razzies and learing KING KONG LIVES was nominated. I had ----------ves at that time and thinking back to PONGTABLES where I had the thought "is it PING PONGTABLES and you drop the first word, or is Sam referring to just a pong game table that you used to find in bars. So I stuck in KONGLIVES and then the light bulb went off. I had thought of the coincidence that a major Euro river could be RHINE or RHONE. Then saw that coincidence happened at the other -ONG answers.

So, I haven't been here in awhile, mainly because I'm pretty busy, but I had to see what the blog's comments on this CW were.

@Spacecraft, I agree with much of what you wrote, but I still think this was an unusually clever CW by Sam.

@Andy54, welcome.

rain forest 6:03 PM  

In agreement with @jackj and @loren muse smith: brilliant puzzle. At 3D I wanted singsongvoice, so I thought a rebus was afoot, and then at 18A, ping pong table was shouting at me. So I looked at the crosses and saw that they could be parsed with the i or the o. So a different sort of rebus, but so satisfying to figure out. I don't know how one actually can complete the puzzle without doing that. I'd say OFL dnf'd if he just put in "o"s. This took a while because of slowness with many non-theme answers, but I did get it, and enjoyed the grapple.

Dirigonzo 6:18 PM  

Finished, but only half understood the theme - I actually saw that either I or O would work in the down answers but the idea of having them both in the square never occurred to me, so I went with all O's and figured the I part of the phrases were assumed (you know "assume" makes an ass out of u and me). So once again I was doomed my a failure of imagination.

It's nice to come here and see that every mistake I made was made by somebody else - it's less nice to see that I made just about every mistake that everyone else made.

It's NOSECRET that I believe that not all NRA members should have access to all of the weapons available to SWAT teams - will the FEDS make some types of guns NONLEGAL? The answer will be recorded in the ANNALS of history.

Anonymous 9:54 PM  

All these comments and no one mentions that SWAT is an acronym, but is not clued as such? SOSAD.

Not-quite-quotidian Dad 10:44 PM  

Bravo on the theme. I especially liked how the clues crossing the theme answers fit with both I and O.

Tyler Young 9:55 PM  

The second thing does have a name, though. It's called a droitwich. Look it up!

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