1978 Bob Fosse Broadway revue / SUN 1-6-13 / Blond bombshell of 50s TV / Kardashian spouse Lamar / 1942 Bette Davis film / James Bond's childhood home / Ladderlike in arrangement / Remove from mailing list informally / W.W. II marine threat

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Constructor: Dan Feyer and Andrea Carla Michaels

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Puzzle Envy" — theme answers are all two-word phrases where first word begins with "N" and second begins with "V"

Word of the Day: DAGMAR (3D: Blond bombshell of '50s TV) —

Dagmar (born Virginia Ruth Egnor, November 29, 1921 – October 9, 2001) was an American actressmodel and television personality of the 1950s. As a statuesque, busty blonde, she became the first major female star of television, receiving much press coverage during that decade.
Born in Yawkey, West Virginia, she went to high school in Huntington, West Virginia where she was known as Ruthie. She attended Huntington Business School and worked at Walgreens as a cashierwaitresssandwich maker and soda jerk. (wikipedia)
• • •

Hey, nice to see Dan working at construction again. In case you didn't know, he is the current and gajillion-time champion of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (coming back to Brooklyn once again this March). He is a pianist, and so I was on the lookout for musical answers—and I was not disappointed. Sadly, some of the musical answers got by me. But more on that later. This is a pretty straightforward theme—I've seen this ("envy" -> NV) pun in different contexts a million times before (OK, more like a handful than a million). The context that most readily comes to mind is the "Scott Pilgrim" comics series, where the title character's ex-girlfriend assumes the name "Envy" because N and V are her first two initials. Anyway, there appear to be a number of "N.V." phrases in the world, many of which are here in this grid. My favorite part of the theme isn't any particular answer—it's the stack of three theme answers at the center of the grid. Nice little feat. With a theme this straightforward, it would've been nice to see a little more sparkle in the fill, though I Really like all the 7- and 8-letters stuff in the SE corner—everything from PLAXICO (94D: The N.F.L.'s ___ Burress) east to DO-GOODER (89D: Well-intentioned activist).

For a number of reasons, I found this puzzle much harder than most Sundays. This is both because of and in spite of the theme. It took me forever to figure out, largely because the second theme answer I came to was completely befuddling. I hate hate hate it when [enemy] is used in a clue and it's just *assumed* to be [enemy of the U.S.]. It's ridiculous. Say what you mean. Anyway, I had no idea what the answer was there because the Downs that could've helped me in the NW and the North were either total mysteries to me ("DANCIN'"??? DAGMAR???) (1D: 1978 Bob Fosse Broadway revue + 3D: Blond bombshell of '50s TV) or were all screwed up. I knew "Les TROYENS" (9D: "Les ___" (Berlioz opera based on the "Aeneid"), but I could not get a spelling down. Started with TROI- but then 28A: ___ minute seemed sure to be IN A, so that's what I went with (it's ANY). [Moonstruck] means INSANE??? I love that movie, but it's about being IN LOVE, so I made no headway there. Strangely, despite having a weakness in the arena of musical answers, I had SPINETS nailed down fast (8D: Downsized uprights), but its neighbors, ugh. No idea what to make of the "Old" part of 32A: Old lad's wear (KNEEPANTS). How old? What is an old lad? You're a lad or you're not. A lad would wear KNEEPANTS, wouldn't he? I thought "old lad" was some technical term, so KNEEPANTS took a while to accept. Whole North was rough. Just couldn't get into it. E BOAT? Yikes (21A: W.W. II marine threat). There is a whole lot of what we call "Scrabblef*cking" going on in this puzzle (this is where you shove high-value scrabble letters into your grid in order to be showy, thereby resulting in drecky, compromised fill—some people have a propensity for this). The Scrabble-f@ickingest corner I've ever seen has to be the NE corner in this puzzle. AZERI??????? That is a tiny little corner that could've been filled any number of lovely ways, and that's the answer we get. This makes yesterday's ADENI seem common as dandelions. I would never have known that a resident of Azerbaijan was called an AZERI (and I'm sure a lot of folks won't even have known that Baku is *in* Azerbaijan (it's the capital)). JEJUNE is also a bit of Scrabble-f&cking (11D: Immature), but even though E BOAT is truly terrible, the other surrounding answers are solid, so no major harm done.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: What some goggles provide (NIGHT VISION)
  • 36A: Onetime enemy (NORTH VIETNAMESE)
  • 65A: Wine taster's destination (NAPA VALLEY)
  • 70A: Bad sign for a traveler? (NO VACANCY)
  • 74A: 1942 Bette Davis film ("NOW, VOYAGER")
  • 99A: Home of the world's largest naval base (NORFOLK, VIRGINIA)
  • 118A: "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" writer and star (NIA VARDALOS)
  • 16D: 3.14159..., for pi (NUMERICAL VALUE)
  • 47D: Hit 1944 film starring a 12-year-old actress ("NATIONAL VELVET")
  • 38A: Reggae's ___ Kamoze (INI) — er ... yeah. I forgot about this guy. Totally. I might've gone with the pasta suffix, or something else, esp. as this crosses the less-than-lovely and not-universally-known UNSUB (35D: Remove from a mailing list)
  • 45D: '60s prez (ABE) — hands up for LBJ ("confirmed" by BIAS) at first! Anyone? Just me? OK. 
  • 87D: Kardashian spouse Lamar ___ (ODOM) — this is a very harsh way to clue a very accomplished professional basketball player. 
  • 95D: James Bond's childhood home (SKYFALL) — no idea. That's what I get for waiting to see the film on Blu-Ray, I guess. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:24 AM  

". . . E BOAT is truly terrible . . ."

Hardly. The E-boat, better known as the S-boat outside of an allied-centric viewpoint, was a fantastically developed and exceptionally effective craft.

And wouldn't you know it, that is the entry that brought me down. Ha! -1. Grrr. I threw down U-BOAT instead of the correct E-BOAT crossing J(u)EJUNE. Drats. I'm familiar with E-boats and we just saw JEJUNE not even two weeks ago (for the first time since 1998). Oy vey!

NW fell last. Threw my only needed dart on the ARA / DAGMAR cross. Wanted 'I' going Across and 'A' going Down. I guessed right, thought I was set, and then saw the mistake that sank my ship.

RATED R before R RATED had me for awhile.

Shockingly, for a Sunday I had no idea what the theme was for three-quarters of the puzzle. I was making decent progress, so wasn't looking too hard. The theme did help crack the NW.

UNSUB makes its first appearance. Google gives all the top results to 'Unkown Subject' and it probably would have been better clued that way.

INANER, sad to say, we've seen before.

All in all, I liked it.

Finished grid. (1:19:36)

Anonymous 12:59 AM  

Rex, totally agree. This puzzle sucked.

Carola 1:03 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carola 1:06 AM  

Like @Rex: found it challenging for a Sunday, was slow to catch on to the N-V, thought there could have been a better clue for 36A. Gotta learn PLAXICO - the cross with XFL did me in.

Loved the two theme movie titles. Nice that NIA VARDALOS gets her full name in for a change and that the head of London for once isn't a loo. Pairs I liked: EAGLE over SNEAD, JEJUNE crossing KNEEPANTS, UTAH over SLALOM, the classical TROYENS and ECLOGUE, and STERLING v. DROSS.

DAGMAR! As a grade-schooler, I'd hear the grown-ups talking about her appearing on TV shows I wasn't allowed to watch. Never saw her, never forgot the name.

Thanks, @acme and Dan - I enjoyed the workout!

Good Job Andrea (and Dan too) 1:07 AM  

As soon as I read the title of the puzzle, I knew the theme involved the letters N and V. Seemed quite obvious. Napa Valley, a gimme, established how the theme worked. The number of proper nouns I'm unfamiliar with made the SE and NW corners not much fun. I believe ACM has expressed pleasure at pangram grids, of which this is one. It seems to me,in contrast to the what was said in the write-up, the constructers were not trying to be showy but were interested in creating a pangram. Other than my quibble with the overuse of propers nouns in the two corners, I thought the fill was much better than average. I love words like pilcrow. And many of the clue were very clever (although one never knows if that is the work of the constructor(s) or the editor). Overall, the puzzle put a smile on my face. Well done.

jae 1:32 AM  

Very nice easy-medium Sun. for me.  Got off to a rough start by dyslexically reading googles for goggles, plus the NW corner is a tad tricky with DANCIN, DAGMAR, ARIOSO (which I only know from crosswords) and ISAAC, but the rest was pretty smooth as I caught the theme early.


Tough area for the non sports and non movie minded: ECLOGUE, XFL, PLAXICO, SKYFALL.

Seems like a boat load of theme answers with not a lot of clunkers.  Well done  Dan and Andrea! 

crackblind 1:36 AM  

I was with you on LBJ for quite a while. I actually kept JuJUNE as I was so confident in uBOAT that I figured I forgot how to spell it.

Had no problem with DANCIN or DAGMAR though. Still remember the TV ads for DANCIN from aw back when (actually, I think it was the first Broadway show to do commercials). And being a huge John Waters fan, I know way too much about DAGMAR for someone my age.

Richard W 2:18 AM  

A fairly easy, still fun solve - once I'd twigged the theme. Worked in two parts - before and after work on Saturday evening.

Now I'll ask the co-constructor and contributor here what I was hinting at yesterday- was it merely a coincidence that "Les Troyens" was on the Met Opera radio broadcast the day the puzzle arrived (for those who get some of the early sections with the Saturday Times)? The broadcast was in the intermission after the second act when I got to the clue for 9D.

Thanks for the puzzle!

Anonymous 2:50 AM  

XFL crossing Plaxico was just mean. Merriam Webster has immature (well, juvenile)as the third definition of "jejune"--also kind of mean, especially since I had only heard of the first two.

acme 2:58 AM  

@richard w
Total synchronicity as it was written this summer!
(You can read whole backstory on WordPlay blog and Dan's blog) :)

Richard W 3:04 AM  


Thanks for the info, will check out the blogs.

r.alphbunker 3:06 AM  

Post-googling revealed that a sidebar is a conference between a judge and the lawyers out of the presence of the jurors. Did anybody else know that? And are burners tightly coiled? All I can think of are burners on an electric stove and they don't seem to be that tightly coiled. It took a long time to go with COUNCIL/BURNER and I was surprised that it was right.

Davis 3:21 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Davis 3:24 AM  

I had fun with this one, until I didn't. Picked up on the NV theme pretty quickly, which only got me so far on the theme answers. I liked the theme answers overall, though. And some other good words popped up — SENESCES was fun, as was PILCROW (which I had only recently learned the name of) and NIXON ERA.

Generally a good puzzle, but it seemed gratuitously hard in a few places. I'd consider the NYRO/ODOM cross a Natick. And the PLAXICO/ECLOGUE crossing was a personal Natick — apparently I must not watch enough sports. I also thought the ARA/ARIOSO/DAGMAR crossing was brutal — it's news to me that ARA is the name of a constellation (and I'm too young to know who DAGMAR was), so that was a shot in the dark.

chefwen 3:28 AM  

@Carola - Yeah to us, although, given the circumstances, I feel like we kind of cheated. But I'll take it, I have little pride.

Puzzle was not on the easy side for me and my PTPP, but we got the job done. Took a while for me to get the NV schtick, I'm a little slow on the uptake, but when I did, it was helpful.

Nice one Andrea and Dan.

jae 3:39 AM  

@r.alph -- Yes, I knew the "sidebar" reference, but attorney (my first thought) wouldn't fit. Knowlegde source is/was lawyer shows on TV...The Good Wife, Suits, Boston Legal, LA Law, The Practice, L & O...

Bob Kerfuffle 6:12 AM  

Another hand up for failing to get the PLAXICO/XFL crossing.

53 D, PILCROW, was new to me, but completely revealed by crosses.

YontifSadie 6:30 AM  

I was wondering if 28a was meant to be ANY minute or A NY (New York) minute, which, as a NYer, never understood. In ANY case, I got it wrong, having IN A minute!

Doris 6:55 AM  

This sports clue-hating person knew Plaxico Burress because he shot himself in the foot (actually the thigh, but the former follows the usual joke and is therefore funnier) in 2008. I'm proud that I can always get these sports clues while knowing virtually nothing about sports. That's what makes a real puzzle fan. BTW, the opera and ballet clues are ridiculously simple-minded. At least they had "Les Troyens," which is not in the Standard Repertoire and which was just broadcast and telecast worldwide yesterday, in the grid. Vive Berlioz!

OTD 7:24 AM  

Easier Sunday than usual for me. Enjoyed the theme answers, but had to think a while on NIA VARDALOS and SKYFALL. Actually did them mostly on crosses. First time I've seen PLAXICO in a puzzle.

webwinger 7:49 AM  

Odd solving experience. Came in under an hour, better than my average for Sunday. Got all of the theme words before recognizing the theme, which I ended up kind of liking (especially nice in the middle, as per Rex). Had a lot more trouble filling in the top than the bottom of the grid, possibly because of having theme answers pretty much all in place before attacking the latter. Being confident of pristine where STERLING belonged, and totally unfamiliar with KALE for cash held me back up north; didn’t help that JACKS is the last game anyone (at least any guy) would associate with a ball. NIXONERA was my coming of age, making me just barely old enough to remember DAGMAR and Sammy SNEAD (though his clue seemed way more appropriate for Sosa, which I fortunately was unable to misspell, as a long-suffering Cubs fan). Way too young for KNEEPANTS, but that clue seemed fitting, in an odd way. Clue for BURNER, on the other hand... Actually got PLAXICO and NEALON without googling, entirely from crosses. Ditto PILCROW (always wondered if that thing had a real name). SKYFALL was a gimme if you get out to the movies like you should. For me word of the day was “scrabblef*cking” (or is it scrabble-f@cking?) Well, time to get back to work…

Glimmerglass 8:05 AM  

KNEEPANTS were worn by lads until they became old enough for long pants. Probably before 1930, so "old[time] clothing."] I knew what a PILCROW is (a P with an extra line), but had no idea what it is called -- and now I see neither has my spellchecker, which doesn't recognize it. Got it all with crosses. My Natick was PLAXICO (knew the name but couldn't spell it) and XFL. I had CFL, even though that's of course still in operation. Nice, hard puzzle.

Campesite 8:10 AM  

If Scrabble**cking gives us interesting and unusual words rarely seen in the grid, then I'd like to Scrabble**ck more often. This was a simple theme, elegantly and smoothly executed. Thank you Andrea and Dan for a wonderful puzzle.

Ken Wurman 9:23 AM  

Did anyone else have a problem with "senesces" (85d)??

MetaRex 9:35 AM  

Since Rex has to be respectable here compared to on twitter, let me suggest the following..the good salacious title should have been followed up on by sneaking a penis anagram or two like SNIPE or PINES into the puzzle.

PILCROW was great.

More here

Shamik 9:39 AM  

Easy at 15:38 for a Sunday. A few sticky words that I didn't know: PILCROW, ECLOGUE, AZERI. But a lot of fresh stuff, too: TAGUP, LENSCAP, BOLSTER, DAGMAR, PLAXICO, SKYFALL.

Thought this one would be more difficult than it was when first started it, but then the rest of the puzzle just fell nicely into place.

JC66 9:53 AM  

Hand up for JuJUNE/uBOAT.

Didn't know any of the following, and had to rely on crosses to finish: NYRO, ECLOGUE, TROYENS,


Love your WOD!

Tita 10:28 AM  

Slayed me! DNF!
All-in-all, I liked the dense theme, the triple-stacker (the fact that I even notice things like that is thanks to you, Rex, and others here), and some really fun and new words.

Though I don't expect such a rough workout on a Sunday...
Andrea - I just wasn't on your wavelength today - were all those sports clues Dan's fault??

Agree with the moans about sneaky XFL/PLAXICO. That part of the puzzle was the absolute hardest for me -
started with aFL, changed it to cFL (hey - maybe Canada got a football league??) when I figured maybe there was a footbal player named PLAcIdO.

Hey @Richard W - I would have liked to know if I would have gotten TROYENS on my own (knowing that it was going to air Saturday), or if it was because of your spoiler yesterda.
Wait till the day! Waah...

@Acme@Dan - when I saw VOLVOS, was also hoping to find a NENE or NONO or NOTNOW in the grid!

@Campsite - LOL! I agree...

@Good Job - are you being snide? This is no Rex-baiting pangram - missing a Q, no?

SNEAD under EAGLE - umm - those are both golfish things, eh?
(I had Sousa for the longest time.)

Didn't like SPAYER.

Sorry for the lengthy post.
Thanks for a fun / frustrating struggle.

Z 10:42 AM  

"Generally a good puzzle, but it seemed gratuitously hard in a few places." - Very accurate description. The LORD MAYOR region and the DANCIN region both seem harder than the rest to me. In the south you have the sports Natick "X" (not an issue for me, but I can see where non-sport fans would have an issue), the spelling issue with SENESCE, the potential for tripping on Sammy Sosa(s), Rated R for R RATED, and the potential for a card game misdirect with Solitaire. That's a lot to work out down there. In the NW you have a pop culture collision with DANCIN, DAGMAR (inGMAR anyone?) and ISAAC Mizrahi. Then there are a couple of other interesting spots: NYRO was from crosses, INI/UNSUB looks like nonsense to me, and EBOAT (I seem to remember a lengthy discussion about this word the last time it appeared). Other than these areas I pretty much BLEW through this puzzle. Oh - I did have KNEEbrace since I tend to see a lot of old lads wearing them.

Other than those struggles I really like the puzzle, and it's really only the NW that I found to border on the unfair for me. I got the theme from the title the only question was whether it would be phrases or NV in a single square. NUMERICAL VALUE answered that question. Scrabbly is generally good and didn't cause me any problems. However, I am deeply offended that @Rex did not put the Z in the posted grid. I take this as a personal slight.

(for the sarcastically impaired - let me add, "Ha")

Unknown 10:45 AM  

Medium for me, but high on fun. Loved the eNVy theme, and needed it to get a couple theme answers (NORTHVIETNAMESE especially). Loved the tightly coiled clue, and wanted some kind of snake for a long time. Loved shot blocker for LENSCAP, and the clue for & answer DOGOODER? Had RR for a long time before finally seeing RRATED :-/. Didn't care for UNSUB, Lots of sports clues for acme: PLAXICO, SNEAD, ODOM, DPS, ASSISTS, SLALOM, KINER, TAGUP.

Enjoyed it!

jackj 10:52 AM  

I think it is extremely thoughtful of our Andrea, aka Acme, reigning co-Queen of the Monday puzzles to take a newbie constructor, some guy named “Dan”, under her wing and mentor him in the art of crosswords, though as a Neophyte Verbalist one might have thought he would start on a Monday puzzle until he gets a sense of the nuances and rhythms of puzzling.

Oh well, it seems a Noble Venture and since Acme is known to be as protective as a Nesting Vireo, she won’t let him dabble in Nonsensical Visions.

The theme was great fun, NO VACANCY and NATIONAL VELVET hit the spot for me and fortunately the DANCIN devilish duo, Andrea and Dan, went all out in filling the grid with superb wordplay, cluing gems like “ ’60’s prez” for, guess who, the 1860’s president, ABE and then nearby asking for “Shot blocker” and clever, clever it wasn’t looking for a goalie but it was seeking a LENSCAP.

With other beauties such as SAVORY, SPAYER, SLALOM, INTONE and THERE, the grid was like an Easter egg hunt with prizes in every quadrant, though there will surely be grousing over PLAXICO Burress, NFL wide receiver whose name is forever painfully carved in the gray matter of New England Patriot fans as the arrogant dude who, though injured, caught the game-winning touchdown pass for the NY Giants against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

My favorite clue of all closes out the puzzle, asking for “Miss identification?” and while the answer is that crossword staple, NEE, it is clued so brilliantly as to make it seem unique, not like something that has been in Times puzzles 365 times since 1/25/87.

Wonderful job, Andrea, it seems like you’ve got that Dan fellow pointed in the right direction if he wants to be good at crosswords.

(Nice that Rex gave a constructing shout-out to Dan; not so nice that he failed to mention that Acme was an equal partner in creating this puzzle).

JenCT 10:54 AM  

Yup, definitely harder than the usual Sunday.

PLAXICO a total gimme (Giants fan here)

Great clues/answers: LENSCAP, DONOVAN (was looking for Madonna, Beyonce, etc.); tons & tons of stuff I didn't know. Maybe I should start playing Scrabble, ACME?

@mac: are you still having trouble posting? If so, send me an email.

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

MOONSTRUCK meant insane long before the movie of the same title. It's why we have LUNATIC and LUNACY.

Milford 11:26 AM  

Pretty tough Sunday, feels like I kept circling through the same 20 clues at the end. Got the NV idea early on with NATIONAL VELVET. Best part of the puzzle was the stack of three themes in the middle - a nice surprise of symmetry.

My Natick was at PILCRO? / ?END - no idea what letter to put there. But I really love learning what that backwards P is called.

Had season tickets for Michigan State football when PLAXICO was there, so that was easy for me, but obviously not for others. He was amazing to watch.

Didn't notice that the Z was missing until @Z noted it. Definitely a jab at him.

baja 11:31 AM  

Quite liked this one (dnf tho) tough but crunchy

ArtO 11:35 AM  

Fun to find DAGMAR after 60+ years. Brought me back to the early days of late night TV when Dagmar's rather extraordinary endowment stimulated a male teenager's imagination.

Also reminded me of the line in a song that further dates me..." My mama done told me when I was in knee pants, my mama done told me son, a woman's a two faced, a worrisome thing who'll lead you to sing the blues in the night."

GILL I. 11:36 AM  

I too found this difficult for a Sunday. I figured out the theme pretty early on but actually thought the NVy's might be movie related. NIGHT VISION was my first entry and it's some sort of horror film. NO VACANCY is another horror movie and then NOW VOYAGER could be considered a horror if only because the role of Charlotte Vale (Bette D.)is considered one!
NAPA VALLEY straightened me out... (drats, I was having fun with those movies)
Came to a big halt in the basement area. Same as others with NYRO ODOM DPS PLAXICOL XFL SKYFALL. Yikes said I. Couldn't remember ECLOGUE and didn't know NEALON.
Couldn't get passed DOG for DO GOODER at 89D. At one point I had DOG OF NED which looked just fine to me.
After lots and lots of erasures, and some Google (for those sports thingies) I finished (phew)
I'll add my two cents by saying I didn't like the cluing for NORTH VIETNAMESE. I mean really, there could be a host of country names.
Aside from that one nit I enjoyed this; I love scrabble and I learned some new words...
Good job Dan and Andrea.

Sandy K 11:42 AM  

I had a lot of fun doing this theme-loved all the NVs!

Had a few Negative Vibes trying to work out PILCROW, ECLOGUE, and E-BOAT, but all was gettable from the crosses.

Nice Venture- Dan and Andrea!

Norm 11:52 AM  

This played hard but fair, in my opinion. I have no problem with EBOAT (it was in another last week, I think, maybe LAT) or JEJUNE or SENESCES or NORTHVIETNAMESE. They are all legitimate words/terms and were honestly clued. Yes, there can be lots of enemies. So? That's often the case. The mere fact that a clue does not point inexorably at one answer does not make it unfair or incorrect. I liked this puzzle a lot.

chefbea 11:52 AM  

I agree - harder than most sunday's but a great puzzle. Had to google a bit but got the theme right away.

What is NWT=yellowknife capital??

Loved the clue for spinets!!!

football dummy 11:55 AM  

Plaxico Burress made the news a lot in 2008 for shooting himself in the thigh while in a club. His unique name stuck with me...no idea even what team he played for.

JenCT 11:56 AM  

@chefbea: Northwest Territories

Carola 11:56 AM  

@chefwen - i'll take it, too! 🏈🎉

r.alphbunker 12:00 PM  

@anonymous 12:24AM

I loved your annotated puzzles. I have some ideas about doing this sort of thing on a tablet. Please email me at rbunker at crucimetrics dot com

JHC 12:03 PM  

I know Dan as a musical director first and a puzzle guy second -- I've had the privilege of him MD'ing two of my short musicals over the years -- so not only were the musical answers gimmes for me (my employer has announced and then cancelled a Broadway revival of DANCIN' twice in the last few years), but I detected a few that probably weren't (for example, I know COOK County from dialogue in the musical "Chicago").

Everything else I have to say has already been said. I enjoyed this puzzle.

Richard W 12:46 PM  


I tried to be vague enough that unless someone was already listening or watching, or knew the sked for the Met, it wouldn't help - but you're right, I should have waited. My apologies.

Mel Ott 1:00 PM  

@Acme: Thanks for a nice, enjoyable Suday puzzle (except for a couple of proper name crosses).

I was surprised at all the jock stuff: the esteemed Messrs. KINER & SNEAD, DPS, ASSISTS, ODOM, SLALOM, TURN PRO.

And the unlamented PLAXICO who helped derail the Giants' run for a Super Bowl repeat a few years ago when he shot himself in the ass while nightclubbing with a gun stuck in the waistband of his sweatpants. Genius.

C. Ross Word 1:54 PM  

@Mel Ott Think you're being overly harsh on Plaxico! It could happen to anyone packing in a crowded nightclub. Duh!

Rube 2:01 PM  

I guess that I'm alone in not knowing that Solitaire refers to an engagement ring. That, and having no idea who Scott CAAN is and not knowing SENESCES stumped me last night as the only two blank squares in the puzz. Stared at those two squares this morning and finally made a wag on CARAT as the onloy sensible word and voila, solved w/o Googles.

Got DONOVAN, ECLOGUE and PILCROW entirely from crosses. Thought SPINET ended with another "te". Also thought UNSUB was terrible. Liked KNEEPANTS and much of the other long fill.

HOWEVER, was shocked to see OLY clued as a "West coast beer". As I ranted the last time a Pacific Northwest beer appeared in a puzzle, Oly used to be a much loved local brew, made in the town of Tumwater, Washington, near Olympia, using water from "Artesian Springs". Their slogan was "It's the water". Sometime in the last 30 years, this venerable beer got bought and sold several times by conglomerates and is now made in Irwindale, CA, (just outside of LA). For those of us who grew up with Oly, Rainier, Lucky Lager, and the Weinhard beers, all we have left are fond memories. (And canned, (gasp), cheap versions of those beers shipped in the dead of night from LA in unmarked trucks.) Except for some superb craft breweries, there is no longer any such thing as a "West coast beer"!

Congrats @Chefwen on your Packer win. Unfortunately, next week will be the end of their season.

Ellen S 2:20 PM  

Totally Naticked around 87 D. Never heard of this Laura NYR_, and would go to any lengths to avoid knowing the name of a Kardashian spouse _ _OM. Plus no idea of the baseball "twin killings" and never heard of _LA_ICO Burress.

Couldn't get the sports org, and no idea of James Bond's birthplace -- thought it was likely SKYHALL, but for all I could tell from the (empty) sports org crossing, it might as well have been SKYmALL - what better place for a fictional spy to grow up in than an airplane seat pocket?

@Kenneth Wurman -- I had no trouble with SENESCES -- got it from one or two letters. I'm doing it faster and faster these days...

Never heard of an EBOAT (or S-Boat for that matter), but got the E off JEJUNE so, whatever. Same like REX, LBJ before ABE; that was a fun one. AZERI not so much. Never figured out the theme. But I got all the stuff I got with no google or other props, so I'm fairly pleased. Thanks Dan and ACME.

Ellen S 2:23 PM  

Late breaking news for people whose comments disappear when they post them: I concocted my comment in OpenOffice, then copied and pasted into the comment box. It pasted, and when I clicked on Publish, my text vanished. This happened in Mobile View. When I went into Web View, it worked fine.

Don't know if my first (two) tries got emailed to subscribers. I don't get an option to subscribe until my second post. Anybody got a clue on why that is?

LoriS 2:24 PM  

Well, once again my opinion goes against the tide that really enjoyed this puzzle - sorry to say, I did not. Although many of the answers seemed fresh and I loved some of the cluing ("shot blocker" for LENSCAP, "Land of Zion" for UTAH) I found the theme to be a one-joke pun on the title of the puzzle and when the theme answers fall easier than the fill, it's just not fun for me.
I did learn a couple of things, though—most notably that Rembrandt's last name, that I had always learned was "RIJN", is also spelled RYN. Who knew?

syndy 2:32 PM  

If I had ever known PLAXICO it left no echo in the back halls and aFL,cFL never found it's way to XFL-and whose bad idea was that? What was fair about this puzzle was that there was something for everyone-If you have a weak a area in your data base they found it!ECLOGUE PLAXICO DECIR SENESCE SCALAR RYN etc something was gonna trip you up!almost enough to yoller Uncle! and ask for some crosswordese. thanks Dan and Andrea

Anonymous 2:35 PM  

SENESCES is not a word.

Sparky 2:42 PM  

Caught on early with NATIONAL VELVET. Misspelled NIAs last name VARVAdOS but finally realized the BideAWee contributor NEALON belonged there. Triple stack in middle very nice. Good run for the money Andrea and Dan.

Alas, DNF. PLAXICO/XFL got me. Changed FDR to tDR somewhere along the line, thus NORth--V-R--NIA. Doh, light never dawned. After a fair amount of time, just stopped and came here.

I remember DAGMAR being on Jerry Lester show. He was big too. Love Moonstuck. In the scene Rex shows, Olivia Dukakis keeps dishing up the oatmeal. She must have cooked enough for an army. "Shnap out of it!"

Sparky 2:46 PM  

MAC has let me know it is a cookie problem and will be fixed soon. Thanks to the helpers. I am sure she will chime in as soon as she can. Be well one and all.

joho 2:56 PM  

First off, I loved the title. Nice to start off with a smile.

I'm glad to hear others, too, took a while to see the theme ... even with the title!

Like @Rex, I really admired the NAPAVALLEY, NOVACANCY, NOWVOYAGER stack smack dab in the middle.

My favorite clues were, "Quarter back?" and "Miss identification?"

Most enjoyable Sunday puzzle in my book. Oh, and I really don't like the term Scrabblef*cking."

Thanks, Andrea & Dan!

JenCT 3:12 PM  


se·nesce (s-ns)
intr.v. se·nesced, se·nesc·ing, se·nesc·es
To reach later maturity; grow old.

(From the Free Online Dictionary)

chefwen 4:03 PM  

Ooooh @Rube - Just for that you're buying lunch!

Lewis 4:27 PM  

I was tempted to use Google but kept fighting it as things became clearer, and never used it. My only mistake was at the intersection of Greek Wedding and Weeds, where I guessed R instead of L. I loved the clues for LENSCAP, ASSISTS, EAGLE, NEE, BAM, PAWS, SITAR, OOHLALA. I learned where the largest naval base is, what the hell a pilcrow is, what London's elected leader is called, that a Maltese can be a dog or cat, and ECLOGUE (which I'll probably forget). What's there not to like about this? I would call this puzzle a medium. For me, just right for a Sunday. A strong Sunday puzzle. Bravo!

OISK 5:03 PM  

Too much pop culture for me to enjoy this one. I never even noticed the theme, which adds nothing to the puzzle (IMHO in any case. Since I don't know Nia's last name, and never heard of 'Kevin' of Weeds, there was one pop culture Natick. The other was mentioned by others, Laura Nyro - never heard of her, and Lamar Odom, never heard of him either. Nor Scott Caan, although it was gettable from the down clues.

Odd week for me, as I missed four squared on Thursday after an hour of work, had no problems with Friday, and sailed through Saturday.

My personal distaste for pop culture notwithstanding, I thought this was a well constructed puzzle, but that the NYRO ODOM cross and Vardaros Nearon ought to have been avoided. Better clue for someone my age...Former A;s pitcher nicknamed "Blue Moon". (remember him?)

Anonymous 5:15 PM  

Not mentioning Andrea was Rex's way of needling Andrea. He loves to do that.

PLAXICO did me in. Really liked the LBJ/ABE misdirect.

Airymom 5:30 PM  

Completed the puzzle while watching my Ravens beat the much hated (in Baltimore) Colts. So, the puzzle was meh, but the game was great! Plaxico, therefore, a gimme. Still have my Playbill for "Dancin'"

Anonymous 6:04 PM  

It just depends on what you know. This one was easy for me - one of the first clues my eye fell on was for "National Velvet" - a movie I know and Iove.

That gave me the N-V theme and I was done in 50 minutes (very fast for me.)

BUT the last clue stumped me - 15%-er - and I didn't know the term eclogue, so I had a missing G.

Rex had a missing Z so I guess we're even!

sanfranman59 6:04 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 5:45, 6:12, 0.93, 18%, Easy
Tue 7:31, 8:37, 0.87, 14%, Easy
Wed 14:17, 11:52, 1.20, 87%, Challenging
Thu 22:43, 17:05, 1.33, 91%, Challenging
Fri 19:54, 20:49, 0.96, 43%, Medium
Sat 18:13, 24:28, 0.74, 7%, Easy
Sun 32:04, 30:47, 1.04, 68%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:43, 3:39, 1.02, 58%, Medium
Tue 4:33, 4:57, 0.92, 18%, Easy
Wed 7:54, 6:34, 1.20, 90%, Challenging
Thu 13:38, 9:27, 1.44, 91%, Challenging
Fri 10:47, 11:47, 0.92, 29%, Easy-Medium
Sat 10:20, 14:32, 0.71, 5%, Easy (8th lowest ratio of 152 Saturdays)
Sun 21:55, 20:46, 1.06, 62%, Medium-Challenging

With all the sports answers, I had to keep checking the by-line to confirm that I read it right. An enjoyable Sunday challenge from the Queen of Mondays and the King of ACPT.

Dan 6:10 PM  

Thanks for the comments, all! It's Dan, ACME's protege. I am glad to have provoked a long and interesting post from Rex today, because that's always better than short and indifferent.

I will defend the NE corner with AZERI all day long, because I think it's a word worth knowing (and sharing with others by putting it into a crossword). The problem with pangram pursuit/Scrabble-you-know-whatting is when it lowers the quality of the surrounding fill. I would plead innocent, because the short answers up in that corner are clean as a whistle.

Sorry about the PLAXICO/XFL crossing, which is the very definition of Natick. I had to keep it, because that section is so cool overall... if Will felt that it crossed the line, he could reject the puzzle or ask for a rewrite. Overall, we were definitely going for a harder vibe than a typical Sunday, because there's not much challenge or fun involved in the theme.

See you at the ACPT!

Anonymous 6:41 PM  

Could someone explain 119D 15%-er? Thanks.

Tita 6:46 PM  

@6:41 - An agent (AGT) typically gets a 15% fee. That one took me forever...

@Richard W - no hard feelings...thx for being so gracious. There are far more egregious things one can do...

@Dan - thanks for stopping by, I still need to go read The Rest of the Story at WordPlay.

Anonymous 7:42 PM  

Googled my way through it after getting the theme answers and stumbling on knee pants...I had kneesocts at the

guruarchieroth 8:37 PM  

I knew Azeri from playing the video game Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six back in ninth grade. I thought it was a common (enough) word. I may have been wrong.

brian 9:30 PM  

As the one-time owner of a '55 Ford and a former, gear-head, DAGMAR was actually the first answer I clued in - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dagmar_bumpers

Anonymous 10:46 PM  

Thanks for your note, Dan! I saw ACME as coauthor and thought wow, Great, easy sunday, but it was indeed a workout. Easier as it went along, but a workout still. Yay ACME!!!!

Annet 10:35 AM  

Am I the only one who thought there were too many names in this puzzle?

Dave 9:03 PM  

I had three Naticks! - PILCROW/WEND which I guessed right (but FEND seemed reasonable there as well), ECLOGUE/AGT which I guessed wrong having never heard of this 15%er before, and ARIOSO/ARA which I also guessed wrong. I ended up thinking I must not know how to spell JUJUNE, so I got that one wrong too. 3 mistakes :(


nurturing 8:50 PM  

Quite difficult, but satisfying.

@OISK: It's not "Vardaros Nearon". It's "Vardalos/Nealon".

I'll never forget Nia Vardalos after Greek Wedding. I think it's the first answer I got.

Learned a new word with "eclogue".

Spacecraft 11:20 AM  

@ArtO: Right with ya on the "Blues in the Night" lyric earworm. This I got after trying to stretch KNICKERS into nine letters...three times! I kept thinking I must be missing a letter somewhere.

I gotta get me a new reference book; my old Scrabble dictionary just isn't cutting it. Neither PILCROW nor SENESCE appears in it.

Congrats, constructors, on managing to clue the wonderful UNSUB without mentioning "Criminal Minds" at all!

NW was last to (SKY)FALL; I didn't know the Fosse work, so when I had __NC_N I assumed CANCAN. Now what is C_D that means "Pop?" I guess some "pops" are cads, but...eventually I figured that the double-A name had to be ISAAC, and DANCIN (') came in. Hi DAD!

It almost seems as though there's a constructors' War of the Scrabblies. I'll see your COCCYX and raise you a JEJUNE and a PLAXICO. What tomorrow, AXOLOTL? Try this one: SYZYGY. Hah!

Nice, medium (thanks to some convoluted cluing) solve, containing two of the most iconic films in Hollywood history: NATIONAL VELVET and NOW, VOYAGER.

ECLOGUE DOES appear in my Scrabble dictionary, so I'll list that one as my newly-learned WOTD.

Red Valerian 4:17 PM  

DNF because PLAXICO was PLAcIdO, which made XFL cFL (silly me) and ECLOGUE EdLOGUE. (I agree @Spacecraft--good word to learn.)

@Tita "maybe Canada got a football league?" Why, yes, we did. Back in 1958.

@Rube--you were right about the Packers! (I don't follow football, but a friend is moping about because of the loss.) Guess @chefwen is buying lunch this weekend, once s/he's recovered, eh?

@Kenneth--I have no problem with "senesces," but I do have a problem with senescing. sigh

According to Wikipedia (that endlessly accurate site), the Maltese cat is not a breed. "Maltese cat is a name that is often given to any cat whose fur is either completely, or primarily, gray or blue and is of indeterminate breed."

But a fun puzzle. Even funner that Rex didn't mention Acme. Too bad ED doesn't comment on Sundays...

Tita 8:23 PM  

@Red...I'm as ignorant about American football too... no offense intended!

Dirigonzo 9:19 PM  

I really wanted to love this puzzle - I tried hard to love it, but in the end there were just too many WTF clues for me. If only I'd known PLAXICO and ECLOGUE I might have stood a chance, but I didn't so DNF.

But I still love seeing DOGOODER in the grid as that's my self-professed avocation. And the Patriots beat the Texans today, so life is good.

Anonymous 1:33 PM  

I'd just like to point out that "on end" (110 Across) does not mean "Seemingly forever." The setter has been misled by expressions like "days on end," in which a long time IS often indicated, but that's sloppy thinking. "On end" means "consecutive" or "uninterrupted." No fair making up your own definitions.

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