Predecessor of Ariel Sharon / THU 1-10-13 / Queen of Denmark, 1947-1972 / Moravian capital / Longtime Ritz competitor / Heavyweight champ after Carnera / Crumhorn, e.g. / Commander of Saul's army, in I Samuel / The British Museum's ___ Marbles / Ural River city

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Constructor: Kevan Choset

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: WH--L OF FORTUN- — The three E's from WHEEL OF FORTUNE have been replaced with BLANK spaces, resembling an incomplete puzzle phrase on the game show. The phrase can be completed by saying "I'D LIKE TO BUY AN E."

Word of the Day: WAUGH (37A: Novelist whose first wife had the same first name, curiously)
Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh (28 October 1903 – 10 April 1966), known as Evelyn Waugh, was an English writer of novels, biographies and travel books. He was also a prolific journalist and reviewer. His best-known works include his early satires Decline and Fall (1928) and A Handful of Dust (1934), his novel Brideshead Revisited (1945) and his trilogy of Second World War novels collectively known as Sword of Honour (1952–61). Waugh is widely recognised as one of the great prose stylists of the 20th century. (Wikipedia)
• • •

[Hello from Real Time, where it's Valentine's Day and I have an important announcement!]

Happy Valentine's Day!

Here's something to get for your sweetheart, or yourself, or anyone you know who likes puzzles—"American Red Crosswords." It's a collection of all original puzzles (24 of 'em) to benefit the American Red Cross's Disaster Relief Fund. After Hurricane / Superstorm Sandy hit the NE late last year, I noticed that a friend of mine had offered to donate an original / custom-made puzzle to an auction that was raising money to help support people in affected areas. Seemed like the kind of thing a lot of crossword constructors might be willing to do. So then the potential title "American Red Crosswords" popped into my head (Red Cross + Crosswords), and instead of just mulling it over for a bit and then forgetting about it, the way I do with most ideas that pop into my head, I uncharacteristically pitched the idea to other constructors, and then to the head of the Red Cross (who is a crossword solver herself). Enthusiasm all around. Virtually every constructor I invited to participate said 'yes.' Patrick Blindauer took over puzzle-editing. Will Shortz agreed to write the intro. And now it's done and available for download (as a .PDF) from Rather than selling it, we're giving it away and asking people to make a donation. There's a link to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund right there on the page. Please go get the puzzles, and give whatever you can. And if you could spread the word in whatever way you have available to you, that would be fantastic. Thanks! P.S. These are mostly easyish puzzles (think Mon-to-Wed. NYT), with a toughie or two thrown in for good measure, so don't be afraid ...

[And now, back to Five Weeks Ago...]

Hello, CrossWorld. Evan Birnholz here, subbing in for Rex while he takes care of an unusual situation. How unusual? Let me put it this way: You know how some NFL play-by-play guys like Al Michaels tend to describe injuries to players by mentioning only the body part and omitting the word "injury" (for instance, "Andre Johnson is out with a knee")? Well, Rex is out with a dog. No really, it's true -- his family picked up a stray yesterday and....I don't really know any more than that, except that the dog requires some extra attention right now. Hopefully it will all work out okay, whether they decide to keep the dog or not. And hopefully I won't cause a bigger blog-related ruckus in Rex's absence.

"I'd like to solve the puzzle" is pretty much a perfect mantra not just for Wheel of Fortune, but crossword solvers everywhere. This puzzle was a pretty fun and inventive way to pay tribute to the classic game show, which debuted almost 38 years ago to the day. Patrick Merrell had a similar idea in September 2003, but I like the execution of this one a little more since the blank spaces accurately illustrate what a Wheel of Fortune puzzle would look like.

Theme answers:
  • 1A & 63A: One of a popular TV game show duo (WHITE / SAJAK)
  • 25A: Request that would complete 42-Across (I'D LIKE TO BUY AN E)
  • 42A: When completed, popular TV program starting in 1975 (WH--L OF FORTUN-)
  • 34D: Something to fill in (THE [BLANK])
  • 43D: Sign of an absent mind ([BLANK] STARE)
  • 44D: Nonrhyming poetry ([BLANK] VERSE)

Despite the tough cluing in some precincts -- like on ABNER (18D: Commander of Saul's army, in I Samuel), INGRID (22A: Queen of Denmark, 1947-1972), and who knew that a crumhorn was a REED instrument? -- I actually found this mostly easy for a Thursday. I say mostly because what held me up for a while, not surprisingly, was the gimmick. I initially dropped in the entire game show name at 42-Across, E's included. That made it especially difficult to understand later on how on earth 43D: Sign of an absent mind could possibly be ESTARE. I wrote in I'D LIKE TO BUY AN, leaving out only the last letter. I thought it could plausibly be an A, E, I, or O, and I didn't have a clue on ELGIN (30D: The British Museum's ___ Marbles). Raised as a basketball fan in a suburb north of Chicago, I knew of ELGIN as a Chicago neighborhood and as the NBA Hall-of-Famer Elgin Baylor, but definitely not the whatever-the-hell-those-are Marbles in London. Actually, it turns out that they're pretty amazing, and in fact, I've seem them with my own eyes before -- here's a photo I snapped of one of the Elgin sculptures at the British Museum in May 2005:

To make matters worse, I started looking for some hidden gimmick to the puzzle that didn't even exist. I thought, maybe the grid forms a wheel of whichever missing vowel completes I'D LIKE TO BUY AN -? If so, how come I don't see any circled spaces? Even when I eventually caught on to the trick, I didn't land the a-ha moment cleanly at first. Here's more-or-less what my inner monologue was mid-solve: Oh! It's [EMPTY] STARE! It's E one way but EMPTY the other! By George, Evan, you've done it again, you plucky detective, you! It's a good thing I didn't think that THE [EMPTY] was a legitimate phrase for 34D: Something to fill in.

As much as I liked the puzzle, the theme, and the a-ha moment that followed, I do have some quibbles. First, that combination of WAUGH crossing both ELGIN and NAURU (29D: Pacific nation) was a little frightening. I've never heard of the author's name and so I needed every cross, and outside of puzzles, I know nothing of NAURU. I guessed that G was the most reasonable option for the WAUGH/ELGIN crossing, but it wouldn't shock me if others may have been tempted to go with WAUTH/ELTIN or WAUCH/ELCIN, if ELGIN didn't ring any bells. Second, among other constrictions in the fill, I was confused as to why (Pat) SAJAK was in the southeast corner, forcing the J and K to serve as terminal letters rather than beginning ones and generating the less-than-ideal AMAJ (52D: Key with three sharps: Abbr.) and ORSK (54D: Ural River city) as a result. Presumably it would have been easier to fill those corners if (Vanna) WHITE and SAJAK switched places, but who knows what that would have done to the surrounding fill? Last, and while this isn't really a criticism of the puzzle, I still think it would have been apt if WHITE were situated right above or below the blank spaces. She has to be ready to turn those letters, so what's she doing sitting in the corner of the room? Incidentally, if you solved this puzzle on your computer screen, neither Across Lite nor the New York Times website will accept the solution as correct if you left those three spaces in 42-Across as blank. You have to enter either the word BLANK or simply the letter B in each space before it will tell you that you got it right. In fact, I sympathize with all those who solved the puzzle in ink. It's not uncommon to correct a wrong square using a pen, that is, if it's an actual letter -- you'd just write over it and make the correct letter bolder than the wrong one. But if you started filling in WHEEL OF FORTUNE in ink, only to realize later that the E's were supposed to be BLANK, there's not much you can do about it except color in the whole square.
  • 10D: It's a mystery (ENIGMA) — "Nimrod" from Edward Elgar's "Enigma Variations" was my wife's entrance music at our wedding ceremony. Really great music for such an occasion -- I highly recommend it!
  • 14A: Many a "Today" show sign (HI MOM) — Cute clue, but I couldn't help but wonder if the people in the live audience would actually write that on their signs. If this picture is any indication, the evidence says that they do.
  • 23A: Moravian capital (BRNO) — I had EURO at first, thinking they were going for MONEY (41D: Some Monopoly game equipment) rather than geography. That would have been wrong even if the clue had referred to money; the currency in the Czech Republic is the koruna.
  • 31A: One looking down (POUTER) — I've mentioned this in a previous post, but I'm still not a fan of turning just any verb into a noun simply by adding -R or -ER at the end, because sometimes, you'll get a word that nobody uses and the definition is just [verb + R or ER] = One who [verb]s. A pouter is one who pouts. They do a similar thing with FINDER (45D: One earning a fee, maybe); for that, I would have preferred a more modern reference to the search tool that people use on a Mac.
  • 46A: Man's name meaning "young man" (SVEN) — My name means "young warrior." That means that my name could totally kick Sven's name's ass on the battlefield.
  • 48A: Meeting place for mathematicians? (VERTEX) — Excellent clue.
  • 56A: Military protection (BODY ARMOR) — Anyone who's ever played the classic James Bond video game "Goldeneye" for the Nintendo 64 will tell you just how helpful it was to find the body armor located in most levels. On the highest difficulty setting (007 mode), you couldn't get any armor. Yup, busting into extremely dangerous combat situations where at least 50 trained soldiers are firing on your most valuable agent at the same time, and he doesn't even get minimal protection. Brilliant strategy, MI5. I guess that's just how 007 rolls, but the repercussions of that are still being felt to this day.
Signed, Evan Birnholz, Earl of CrossWorld


Rex Parker 7:49 AM  


Rex Parker 7:56 AM  

Had OMSK, which made the [Military protection] something-MOM. . . "intriguing," I thought.

Evelyn WAUGH is pretty famous and his less famous brother ALEC is in the puzzle from time to time. But yeah, that mash-up was a little harsh.

Ditto ABNER WTF? and ditto "Crumhorn!?!?!"

Solid puzzle.
Thanks, Evan

P.S. there was no way we could've kept the dog. A. It clearly belongs to somebody and B. it was, uh, let's say "very very overly friendly" w/ my dogs in ways they did not appreciate (despite the dog's apparently being neutered). But the dog is off the streets and in good hands.

Anonymous 8:01 AM  

You HAVE heard of a FINDER's fee, haven't you, Evan?
NAURU is new to me, but the ELGIN marbles? They're pretty famous AND controversial, and there is poetry you should have been made to read that is about them. You've heard of Keats, perhaps?

My spirit is too weak—mortality / Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep, / And each imagined pinnacle and steep / Of godlike hardship tells me I must die.

Likewise, Evelyn WAUGH is more than well-known....there are even movies of his books.
Nice write up, but I'm betting on SVEN.

Evan 8:01 AM  

Happy to help, Rex.

I'm glad the dog is in a new home!

r.alphbunker 8:01 AM  

I second that

Loren Muse Smith 8:03 AM  

What a coincidence that SVEN and INGRID, the two winningest-ever contestants on WH**L OF FORTUN* share the same last name. . . Yeah, right.

Really, really cool theme!!! Similar to @Evan, (thanks for pinch-hitting – great write-up) I had that last E firmly printed in place and was trying then *forever* to figure out how “free” VERSE works in when I finally saw through my INKY, OOZY, INANE thoughts and LURCHed clumsily on to finish.

With BAER and IRAE, I wanted Stephen Rae.

I agree - That WAUGH/NAURU/ELGIN spot caused my biggest *STARE and was the last to fall.

The word ENIGMA invariably pleases me. And I always get Hydrox and HIHO confused. HI MOM!

Bar or DEBAR? Bone or debone? Press or depress? That is DE question. . .

@Rex – hope your stray didn’t BITE, ROAR, or ARF too much. I gather he was more of a lover than a fighter. You’re a good man to help a lost dog; I know you won’t get a FINDER’s fee.

Glad to be back here; tough holiday season, I MUSt say – long WORKDAYS and lots of SoIREEs!!

Thanks, Kevan, for the fun!

Anonymous 8:09 AM  

I don't know how many of you do the puzzle on the Magmic app for iOS, but how are we supposed to submit a puzzle with blanks in it? It seems a shame to lose my current streak of completed-in-time puzzles over something like this.

Anonymous 8:11 AM  

@Anon 8:09 - As Evan mentioned in the writeup, enter the word BLANK where you have blanks.

Anonymous 8:15 AM  

Sorry and thanks, Anon 8:11!

evil doug 8:15 AM  

As you can see, Loren and I are back from our honeymoon. She told me she hated you all so much that she really didn't want to post again, but so many of you morons were pestering her that she felt she had no choice.

The Disney mini-theme detracts from a rather small maxi-theme.

Like Oprah and Cher, Ms. White goes by 'Vanna'. Vanna White? Okay. But 'White'? No frickin' way.

Li'l 'Abner' and Jethro (Max 'Baer', Jr.) are country cuzzin's.


Anonymous 8:21 AM  

I deeply enjoy the differences we see as puzzle solvers. None of Evan's woes affected me, but I found it to be a challenging Thursday, even after dropping in the two long theme answers (and later erasing the three "E"s) on just a few crosses. The bottom went down painlessly after that, and the middle fell quickly. But the whole north part, especially the NE was hard, especially as I had no clue that Disney was involved in Tron or whatever movie might have included a fox named Tod.

joho 8:24 AM  

Fantastic theme well done!

I love a puzzle that makes me feel stupid. I was happy to realize that the "E" stood for "empty" and convinced myself that "empty stare" and "emtpy verse" were actual things. That's why I couldn't make sense of "
THE"empty." I blanked out.

Great puzzle, Kevan, thank you!

Rob C 8:42 AM  

Had Evan's experience almost exactly. Right down to looking for another trick that wasn't there. Except I wasn't able to complete the WAUGH ELGIN nexus, so DNF.

Wow, just looked up Elgin marbles.

Fun puzzle. Fair for Thursday. Waiting for a Match Game theme.

Evan 8:48 AM  

@Anonymous 8:01:

Yes, I have heard of a FINDER's fee, and thus it wasn't hard to get the answer. I still don't really care for FINDER as a singular answer in the puzzle because the definition is basically limited to "one who finds."

As for the other stuff you've heard of that I have not, I'll plead ignorance. But as a former chemistry major in college, recently turned doctoral student in American history, I don't know where I would have gotten much recent exposure to either Evelyn WAUGH or the ELGIN Marbles. I only know about the latter because I looked up some pictures and remembered that I had some snapshots of my own from my semester in London in 2005. Would never have known them by name!

No BS 8:53 AM  

Every now and then the crossworld throws us pencil users a bone. The clue and answer at 55A tell us what we need to do before the puzzle is done: the one ting you can't do in a 47A situation. I forgave Bill Clinton for everything he did but telling the world the NYT puzzle must be done with a pen!

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

Hi, all, Fearless Kim here --Longest Thursday time ever for me, at least half of which was futzing around with the blanks trying to get Mr. happy pencil to appear. Good thing CrossWorld exists, for without it I'd be DNF. Well, technically, since I had to come here to figure out how to finish, I guess I am DNF... Nice puzzle, Kevan, and many thanks to the Earl for stepping in for the King!

jberg 9:03 AM  

Rats! I just wrote a brilliant comment, and deleted it by accident! Let me try again -- @Evan, no need to apologize or justify yourself! You solved the puzzle without knowing all those things, which is even better! On the other hand, I've occasionally played a krumhorn, so I get no credit at all for knowing it has a capped REED.

On the other hand, Evelyn Waugh is one of the great writers of the 20th century - I envy you, not having read him yet. "Decline and Fall," "Brideshead Revisited," "The Loved One," and all those novels about Stanley Crouchback during the war -- you have so much to look forward to!

I'm with @Rex on wanting OmSK and some sort of Army MOm.

Reading up the middle, I see that I shouldn't write any more until ARF TOR my NAP, so I'll quit here.

Unknown 9:06 AM  

Well wasn't this fun? Nice theme and trick with the blanks. I agree though, if I didn't know Evelyn WAUGH that NAURU crossing would have done me in.

jackj 9:30 AM  

This was a very special, clever treat from Kevin Choset, a long-time puzzle maker who we don’t see around these parts very often.

He “dropped in” with a theme but it required “drop-outs” to make its gimmick work and knowing that we haven’t yet achieved an E STARE or the ability to write E VERSE or that the Quakers weren’t needed to fill in THE E, we were required to “drop” the letter we wanted to buy in 25 across and go for BLANK STARE, BLANK VERSE and THE BLANK. Huh.

Non-theme-wise, aside from some devilish fill, the trickiest thing for me in the puzzle was trying to figure out what DISNEY and the TRON and TOD entries (that were referenced to DISNEY) had to do with the theme but, apparently I was taken in by a strange ploy best described as a red herring and my puzzlement was just a time-wasting bit of over-think.

The proper nouns like BRNO and NAURU, EHUDBARAK and Max BAER were demanding, but the real joy of the fill was in regular prose cleverly deployed such as LURCH, VERTEX, POUTER and WORKDAYS and little treats like BIS, DOC and NAP.

And, for those who consider WHEELOFFORTUNE an unfortunate stop on the road to receiving “Jeopardy!” and who might have felt slighted at seeing Vanna WHITE and Pat SAJAK being credited, Kevin gave them the ultimate compliment by bringing ALEX into the game.

Thanks, Kevin; certainly a puzzle to remember.

Norm 9:36 AM  


B Donohue 9:54 AM  

Hahaha. Phenomenal theme!

DNF- I failed to appreciate that 3 crosses I didn't have for WHeeLOFFORTUNe shared something in common! I should be better at expecting tricks such as these on Thursdays...

Like Evan, I had trouble with NAURU/ELGIN/WAUGH in the east.

chefbea 9:55 AM  

Loved the puzzle. Love Wheel of Fortune however DNF. Didn't get the blanks!!

Remember HoHo crackers???

@LMS and @ED glad you are back.

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

I though "BIS" (56D: Ones sexually flexible, for short) was a bit squirm-inducing. I'm bi myself (though, thankfully, not by myself... you're welcome for that one), but I don't know that I've ever referred to myself as "a" bisexual, let alone a "bi." It also may sound weird to me because the corollary clue for "STRAIGHTS" would be "Ones sexually rigid," which I don't think would ever make it into the puzzle.

Dan Ruby 10:34 AM  

Enter BLANK as a rebus.

Courier-News 10:38 AM  

One Chicagoland point - Elgin is a city west of Chicago, rather than a Chicago neighborhood.

Two Ponies 10:44 AM  

I thought this was a slog.
I also agree with @Evil Doug that the Disney mini-theme was distracting. Welcome back, by the way. You too @Loren.
Maybe I'm grumpy because I hate Wheel of Fortune. It also is the most annoying slot machine because it constantly screams its name above the din.
Thanks Evan and way to go Rex.

retired_chemist 10:46 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sandy K 10:47 AM  

Terrific theme! I do solve in INK and I did put in the EEEs, but I used Wite-Out when that aha moment sunk in.

It OOZed with cleverness- whereby the I'D LIKE TO BUY AN E actually helped solve 42A, included SAJAK and WHITE (with what I'd like to think was a shoutout to ALEX Trebek) as well as an ARF (not a BARK or BITE) for @Rex doing his good deed!

retired_chemist 10:51 AM  

LOVED it. Tricks, lesser-known names, and all. Similar experiences to others.

Nine letter Sharon predecessor was GOLDA MEIR until crosses did that in. once EHUD BARAK was firmly in place _ER___ for 6D was CERISE. Different sort of red. EBON for 47A gave me fits with the crosses and I should have given up on it sooner than I did.

Favorite error, resulting from the usual OMSK @ 54D, OOZY @ 51D, and the consequent partial _O___RMOM: SOCCER MOM. If you have been to a youth soccer game you will understand the sort of military protection I had in mind.

In AL, Mr. Happy Pencil doesn't emerge for the three real blanks, but if you check all letters with them blank you get a congratulatory note for finishing without errors.

Thanks, Mr. Choset. You are so far the highlight of a good week.

John V 10:57 AM  

A MAJOR DNF. For better or worse, other than Jon Stewart, there has been no TV on my radar for the last 40 years and not much different for movies. A puzzle that relies heavily on both is a sure-fire train wreck. Too many blanks/mistakes to ennumerate. Per @Evan, a touch too many tough crossings. WAUGH atop MORRIE? Someone explain ALT-weekly; pretty ugly partial. ALT crossing NAURU?

Sorry, not my cuppa.

jae 11:00 AM  

Liked this one a lot and had pretty much the same experience as Evan with the blank squares although empty never occured to me. So, medium works for me.

And, @Evan, I learned NAURU and ELGIN from crosswords, although the diputed ownership the marbles has been in the news recently. WAUGH on the other hand...

Erasures: Atit for ANTI, din for ADO, and, of course, the three Es.

Nice to see Loren and you know who back.

evil doug 11:01 AM  


You are absolutely right about those damn slots. The first---and really, only---thing we'd hear between our flights in Vegas was that fake-audience 'Wheel! Of! Fortune!' cry from their machines.

What's to stop other slot-makers from making their own screeches? They finally passed some rule about commercials having volume boost limitations over that of the shows they interrupt; muting some of these slot come-on's must be addressed as more timely problems than the deficit and gun control.


Carola 11:50 AM  

Mama MIA - talk about BLANK! Even after getting the STARE and VERSE, I ran the alphabet on _HEE for "what to fill in" - thankfully, the ON/OFF switch finally activated and I had my last BLANK.

Terrific puzzle! Found it challenging - much LURCHing around the grid from an ELOI here to a HIHO there. Me, too, on OmSK and the protective ....MOm. Thought a crumhorn might be some sort of mountain goat with a curly horn, almost wrote in dEEr.

@LMS and ED - thanks for the extra smiles.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:55 AM  

Sorry I don't have time to read comments - going away for a long weekend.

Liked the puzzle, kept me guessing, and, yes, I had entered the first two Es in 42 A, just blacked them out.

Tita 12:00 PM  

Asolutely loved this one! Thank you Mr, Choset.

Different generation of game shows...When I saw WHITE, figured it had to be that guy with white hair and black glasses Betty was married to who did "Password".
That held me up.

Throwing in daRKDAYS meant I would never, ever, get the author from dA_ _G_.
Oh yea was sure it was MaRtIn or MaRvIn, and not even Evan's Natick resolution algorithm would make NAURU appear. So that little section had a few BLANKs too many.

It took me ages, but finally eVERSE made it happen.

My mom loves Wh__l of Tortur_, as puzzle husband calls it. (There is no faster Pavlovian reaction in our house when one of us forgets to turn the tv off after final Jeopardy and we start hearing that chant!)

@Evan - great writeup. And though I'm usually never aghast at differing wheelhouses,I will add my voice to those telling you what you should know... ELGIN Marbles, really?
BTW - we all agree they belong back in Greece, right?

@Rex - congrats on doing the right thing by that puppy.

Tita 12:02 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tita 12:11 PM  

Here is how I handled the
BLANKs in my grid.

lawprof 12:20 PM  

Got off to a slow start when I dropped in WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE A MILLIONAIRE at 42 & 25A. Believe it or not, it fits(although now that I look it up that's not really the name of the show). The word "request" in the clue had me thinking that the program's name was a question.

The error was soon fixed (sort of), but it never dawned on me that the E's were to be left blank, so a DNF today. Gotta admit, though, it was a clever gimmick, and I'm a bit disappointed in myself that I didn't stick with it long enough for the bulb to flicker on.

efrex 12:47 PM  

Very much outside my comfort zone. Missed the whole "blank" concept, never heard of NAURU or ELGIN, and the general crud in the fill just made for a non-fun solving experience. Also not at all a WOF fan, so the theme didn't do much for me. Now that I see it, I see the cleverness, but this one just didn't do it for me. Ah, well: there's always Friday...

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

Got started okay; had it mostly done in 35:00, but then spent another 25 minutes sorting out the theme. Clearly there was something going on with those downs. I had wanted EMPTY STARE and FREE VERSE, which didn't help. Finally cracked THE BLANK (one of the better revealers that we've seen in a while) and I was good except for five agonizing minutes on the BRNO / ABNER cross. That was my only dart. Somehow, to my amazement, I brought myself to go with the N and finished the crossword. With that cross, that's a Saturday clue on ABNER.

Finished grid. (1:04:15)

syndy 1:21 PM  

I'll secold the WTH on ALT weekly? I have read "MIstress of the Marbles" a biography of Lady Elgin(and a fabulous read)so That was a gimmee and a godsend in that area.I did not like the scavenger hunt type cluing but the puzzle was ultimately worth the effort!!Meanwhile Waugh"s first wife was WAUGH WAUGH????

Anonymous 1:52 PM  

@Syndy - No, two Evelyns. The were differentiated as Shevelyn and Hevelyn.

Anonymous 1:56 PM  

kinda surprised there aren't more comments about the disney sub-puzzle. two commenters mentioned it was a distraction...and it was. i was wondering if disney somehow owned wheel of fortune, or if there was some arcane connection i was missing.

very surprised evan and rex both didn't comment on it.

FWIW, i didn't have any problem with the blanks (in the end, mind you) since it was a thursday and i was looking for some shenanigans. but i have to admit the disney part threw me off the scent a little...i so wanted that to be a part of the greater whole.

chefbea 1:58 PM  

@Tita Alan Luden

Anonymous 2:00 PM  

Since I don't know how to remove my comment, I just won't make one

Bird 2:04 PM  

Excellent write-up Evan. And I am on the same page regarding noun-to-verb conversion.

Great idea, but poor construction, IMO. I could not finish the mid-east section with the obscure junk and difficult cluing.

ALT-weekly is a thing?
Never heard of NAURU or the ELGIN Marbles (now I think I may have seen it in a CW once. Once!) or MORRIE.
34D gave me fits until I got the BLANK part of it, which I do appreciate.

But you gotta give folks a fighting chance to solve a Thursday.

Same experience as Evan with 25A, 42A and 43D. Very confusing (ESTARE?) until I remembered the cluing for 42A.

Write-overs include YES @ 20A, EBON @ 47A and OMSK @ 54D (mommy is protecting her little soldier).

OOZY is cute, but not worthy of NYT puzzle.

@Rex – Thanks for the doggie update. That is good news.

mac 2:12 PM  


mac 2:17 PM  

Hey!! I'm here through Safari now, my new Mac.
Nice puzzle, but I didn't get the gimmick...
I did know Evelyn Waugh and the Elgin Marbles, though. Wondered how thee could be filled in.

Good news about the dog, Rex!

Evan 2:28 PM  

@Anonymous 1:56:

I thought about including an item on the TOD/DISNEY/TRON triplet, but felt my post was getting long enough, so I settled for the Tron lightcycle video.

I too am not crazy about cross-referencing in multiple clues, but I never really saw them while solving. Once I had a four-letter movie ending in -ON, I dropped in TRON with no hesitation. I had ---NEY and then threw down DISNEY, although I actually knew about the Tron-Disney connection. TOD came entirely from crosses.

I don't know if the cross-referencing was done intentionally as a connection to Wheel of Fortune -- the game show is broadcast on ABC in a lot of markets, and Disney and ABC are part of the same television group....that's all I got.

Andr-a Carla Micha-ls 2:38 PM  


Highlight of my life was winning a motorhome on

Really thought this was tricky and great!
Loved WHITE up top and SAJAK below but do agree that despite nonparallels of first/last names, I think it WOULD be more fitting to have 1A be VANNA.

(Ran into her on the plane when I had to fly to Chicago to do my day 2, as it was back in the day when you could win more than one day. She couldn't be nicer, and it's true her head is the size of a horse)

Thought the DISNEY thing was also distracting and I don't know if they own the show now, it used to be Merv Griffin, who held "Jeopardy!" hostage to syndicators unless they also bought "Wheel", which is business savvy/corporate creepy.
Maybe Kevin Chosat had to contractually include ALEX as a result!!!

Hand up for OmSK and trying to figure out how MOm fit into miltary clue, esp when she was up above in HIMOM.

Fun fact about Evelyn and Evelyn WAUGH. WOW!
(We had to read "The Loved One" I think in 9th grade, loved it, but I remember we all thought the author was a woman.)

(@Evan, your SVEN vs EVAN note was a kick!!!)

Always like a dog tail with a happy ending! AMAJ karma point towards doggie heaven for @Rex.

Evgeny 2:44 PM  

Good write-up, thanks Evan!

representing the mac aficionado community, I gotta say that FINDER is the file management system. Mac's search tool is called Spotlight

Anonymous 2:51 PM  

"kinda surprised there aren't more comments about the disney sub-puzzle. two commenters mentioned it was a distraction...and it was. . . ."

I did not mention it in my earlier post, but yeah, it was a distraction, and it stood out. The puzzle was so good, that I didn't say so before.

I know some folks generally dislike cross-referencing. I think it can be pretty cool, so am open to it. There is a lot of creative ground in cluing the most editors leave unplowed. I did think that it took something away from this puzzle, however. It was like a piece from another puzzle; what's it doing in this one.

Brooklyn College graduate 3:01 PM  

Evan and Rex, do youse mutts know anything that indicates you went to college? You didn't know Elgin Marbles, Evelyn Waugh? Jeez Louise, your wheelhouse is Wheel of Fortiune? And all the angels wept....

Davis 3:44 PM  

Really nice puzzle, except that the aforementioned east (ELGIN, WAUGH, NAURU, MORRIE) was downright sadistic, especially since I was struggling to come up with ALT. Despite the rough cluing, I figured out WAUGH. Somehow ELGIN just sounded right, so I went with it (which also gave me ALT), and then I straight-up guessed the R at the NAURU/MORRIE crossing.

Like everyone else, I had filled in WHEEL OF FORTUNE first. I caught on at I'D LIKE TO BUY AN (as yet unknown vowel), which cleared up the confusion I was experiencing in the SW (where I really really wanted BLANK STARE). I actually thought this made for a nice combination of long theme answers, with one giving a major clue to what's going on with the other.

Milford 3:50 PM  

Loved the puzzle, although I completed probably 85% of it before getting the BLANKs. Put in WHEEL OF FORTUNE knowing there was something extra/wrong/funky about it. It looked complete so why would I need to buy a vowel? Aha!

Didn't exactly remember what the name was, but I know of the controversial ELGIN marbles (husband's family is Greek). The island and Russian city were a mystery to me, once again reminding me that my geography knowledge is lousy.

Still don't understand ALT-weekly. Is it a publication term?

Welcome back @LMS, @ED, and @mac! Thanks @Evan! Glad the dog has a (new?) home, @Rex.

Vanna White 4:04 PM  


Clarkson University Alumnus 4:07 PM  

@Brooklyn College graduate - I are an edumacated mechanical engineer from Clarkson University and I never heard of these marbles. Do the Royals play Ringer with them?

Wiki 4:09 PM  

"An alternative newspaper is a type of newspaper, that eschews comprehensive coverage of general news in favor of stylized reporting, opinionated reviews and columns, investigations into edgy topics and magazine-style feature stories highlighting local people and culture. Their news coverage is more locally focused and their target audiences younger than those of daily newspapers. Typically, alternative newspapers are published in tabloid format and printed on newsprint. Other names for such publications include alternative weekly, alternative newsweekly, and alt weekly, as the majority circulate on a weekly schedule."

I guess it's a thing.

OISK 4:34 PM  

Loved this one! I am a Brooklyn College grad as well, and I teach chemistry there now. Elgin marbles - I have seen them - Nauru, easy for me. Didn't know that Albom wrote anything, but once Morrie began to take shape, I got it. Figured out Waugh once I got the "W". Saw the blanks at the very last moment. Aha!!!! Not e verse but BLANK verse! Great! My favorite Thursday in a long time. And I did struggle for quite a while.

Anonymous 4:44 PM  

A Thursday puzzle is supposed to be relatively challenging, with a tricky theme.

So if YOU did not know the ELGIN Marbles, or Evelyn WAUGH, or Tuesdays with MORRIE, and YOU could not work out ORSK or BRNO from the crosses, and YOU like Jeopardy but not WH**L OF FORTUN*, and YOU like Vanna better than WHITE, and YOU
think that the constructor put a plug in for DISNEY, THAT diminishes the puzzle?

Uy! There's just no pleasing YOU, SVEN!

Rube 4:51 PM  

It's always good to see my avatar in a puzzle, and now all of you know the origin of the name.

Hand up for OmSK and putting (free)VERSE in before realizing the theme. Knew WAUGH and ELGIN, but was at a loss for MORRIE and NAURU. Still, ran out of time and ended up cheating on a couple of squares, so DNF.

evil doug 4:52 PM  

So if YOU think we're going to pay attention to the comments of an(other) anonymous goof, and YOU think your opinion means a whit to us, and YOU continue to waste our time with your inferior nonsense, and YOU don't leave before we beat you senseless?

Then please this, moron.


Clark 5:13 PM  

That the crumhorn is a REED, that there is a guy named WAUGH (I can hear the theme from the 1981 Mini Series), that those controversial marbles are the ELGIN marbles -- those were the no-brainers for me. That someone is "out with a knee" -- that I have never heard.

Ellen S 5:13 PM  

@Evan -- don't let them pick on you. When I was in college, the chemistry TAs who had been chem majors as undergrads were the most poorly socialized people I ever met (until later when I met engineers). Once there was a party for my lab section; the one TA who had been a math major played the piano and taught us some "interesting" songs. The rest of the TAs stood around with BLANK STAREs. You seem fine to me; besides, nobody here knows everything. I dropped in EHUDBARAK as a pure guess -- it fit and it seems like there are only about three or four Israeli high officials and they keep trading places with each other, prime ministers, defense ministers, presidents, round and round it goes. (I just checked Barak and Sharon on Wikipedia, and it looks like I'm right.)

@Rex, so had the dog been microchipped? As a lesson to all, collars with tags are the best chance that if your dog gets lost he will be returned. But since collar and dog can become separated, microchip is a great backup (if you keep the contact phone number up to date with the registry).

I found the puzzle easier than I should have -- AcrossLight pro version told me it was a rebus so I was only stuck for a little while on "e-STARE" and "e-VERSE". I probably would have DNF (is that correct usage? ...would have done not finished?) without the boost, but I would have liked an option to figure it out for myself. Like, have the rebus thing turned on for all puzzles so I wouldn't know to which it applies.

GILL I. 5:16 PM  

Blank blankitty blank. Ayeee. Did not get it. Couldn't wait to come to the blog late last night to find out about ESTARE and whether it was another Latin word I didn't know. Then I read about @Rex and his dog rescue efforts and I almost started to cry since we too are in an ARF bind.
Our down-the-street neighbor who is 87 fell, couldn't get up and NO ONE knew it until this morning when Mrs.(thank you very much) "Nosy Parker" checked in on her. Her ONLY daughter has nothing to do with her and all of us are scrambling to get her help. Her insurance doesn't cover the $25,000 a night urgent care she needs. What do we DO NOW? Finally, the only ones helping are our dear sweet firemen(women) coming to the rescue. She didn't want to go because of her little chihuahua "Tessa."
We now are caring for this little thing. Her mom probably won't make it out of hospital so we're making her as happy as possible.
Our two spoiled brats just sensed she needed some extra lovin and they are showering her with kisses. Unbelievable how animals sense distraught and know just when and how to give some hugs when they are needed.
Loved, loved the puzzle...

Ellen S 5:18 PM  

Oh -- @Mac, congratulations on taming the Blogger dragon!
@ED, you remind me of my brother.

and thank you for a fun puzzle, Kevan.

evil doug 5:39 PM  

Ellen S,

Studly guy? Very bright? Heroic?

Sounds like your brother's a good man!


sanfranman59 5:48 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Thu 20:30, 17:05, 1.20, 82%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 12:58, 9:34, 1.36, 87%, Challenging

There are far fewer online solvers today than is typical of a Thursday (only 205 so far vs. a median of 506 over the full 3-1/2 years I've been recording data and a median of 392 since the new subscription policy went into effect this past July). I'm sure that most of the explanation is that people didn't know what to enter for the blank squares. But part of it is that the number of online solvers has been on a rather precipitous downward trajectory since the policy change. If the numbers continue to dwindle, at some point, there won't be enough to warrant continuing to track the solve times.

Evan 5:49 PM  

@Ellen S:

I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm not worried about being picked on by fellow crossword solvers. The image of that is actually quite funny to me.

Besides, I'm sorta taking a cue from @jberg: So what if I didn't know who WAUGH or ELGIN was? I still got 'em right. Grid don't lie!

Ellen S 7:07 PM  

@Evil -- my brother is well-read, e.g., knows the name and bio of every elected official and candidate, listens to podcasts all across the political spectrum, teases out the gold and throws away the dross (I don't know if you do all that); similarity is he considers himself to be a person of integrity and everybody else (no exceptions) to be unprintable. And does not hesitate to tell them. A former supervisor of mine noted once that I "don't suffer fools gladly." True, that, but I am the very essence of tolerance compared to my bro. He is absolutely sincere in his contempt, and I don't think happier for it.

Studly? Depends on your taste. He looks like the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse from "Raising Arizone".

evil doug 7:15 PM  

I listen to oldies and classic rock on satellite radio, collect dross, am absolutely insincere in most everything and happy for it, and will gladly suffer you.

And, I'm studly!


Z 10:31 PM  

@Evil - You left out modest.

Didn't get to this until tonight. DNF because I've never read and have long forgotten Evelyn WAUGH. I got that the squares were empty, but (free) verse and my ignorance stopped me from grokking (blank).

For the record, there are far more books of good, medium, and poor quality that I haven't read than I have read. Anyone who feels superiority because they've read something I haven't is welcome to the feeling and all that comes with it.

sanfranman59 10:32 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 7:19, 6:12, 1.18, 98%, Challenging (5th highest ratio of 160 Mondays)
Tue 9:58, 8:37, 1.16, 83%, Challenging
Wed 7:49, 11:52, 0.66, 1%, Easy (lowest ratio of 159 Wednesdays)
Thu 20:13, 17:05, 1.18, 81%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:09, 3:39, 1.14, 94%, Challenging
Tue 5:49, 4:57, 1.18, 86%, Challenging
Wed 4:37, 6:34, 0.70, 1%, Easy (lowest ratio of 159 Wednesdays)
Thu 11:59, 9:34, 1.25, 84%, Challenging

Stephen Hero 11:52 PM  

Loved this theme!

Was very surprised to get a "well done" from the iphone app w/ my first submission attempt, given that I made a slew of blind guesses at the end on ABNER/BRNO, DEBAR/BAER/REED, and MORRIE/NAURU.

Also feel lucky to have guessed right that the BLANK rebuses would be preferred over actual blanks.

acme 12:08 AM  

oops, I got that backwards (as I am wont to do these days) Merv Griffin held "Wheel of Fortune" hostage since it was so popular, so if they wanted to air "WofF" they HAD to take " Jeopardy!" which had been perceived to just be for eggheads. Now they are both popular.

Elle54 12:13 AM  

I'm from northern suburb of Chicago! Did you go to NT?

Evan 5:23 AM  

Cool! I didn't go to New Trier but it was right around the corner. I went to North Shore Country Day.

chefbea 7:20 AM  

@elle54 and @Evan my room mate in college went to New Trier

MIKEinABQ 9:30 AM  

To support the easiness of Friday's puzzle, I smashed my old Friday time. While it might be Wed/Thurs in difficulty, the grid reads like a Friday. Excellent layout.

Notsofast 11:52 AM  

Last one in! Great Thurs puzzle! Great! Tough cluing. Fun!

Red Valerian 12:32 PM  

Not so fast, @Notsofast! You forgot about the Twilight Zone.

Loved it, though DNF--I had ElUDBARAK and HIlO.

Hilarious discussion today (and yesterday, as I just had a quick look to get a little caught up). I gotta retire (or take whatever Rex takes) to have time for this blog!

Spacecraft 1:14 PM  

Some brutal cluing and an inexplicable delay in sussing the theme made this one a "challenging-to-easy" puzzle for me. I knew the proper term for 44d was "blank verse," so was sure there was some funny "rebusiness" going on. Blanked on the BLANKSTARE, however, so it took a while.

Yes, I knew the WAUGHs, both [long E] Evelyn (distaff Evelyns begin with a short E) and Alec, and remembered the marvelous and touching "Tuesdays With MORRIE."

Lots I didn't know. Leave it to the NYT Crossword to give me a comeuppance at least every week. I thought I knew pretty much all the instruments there were, but I have never in all my born days ever heard of a "crumhorn." I get an image of R. Crumb playing "Keep on Truckin'" on it.

Once I "got" the whole thing, it kinda "tipped the cow" and went from desperately difficult to easy-peasy. That's the only trouble with a theme like this. Otherwise, I think it extrememy clever and well done. Some of the cluing, though: unnecessarily obscure. I dunno; maybe a reference to Doubleday or Yokum would seem too easy for ABNER on a Thursday, but commander of Saul's army? Wow. That N, incidentally, was my last letter entered. Haven't had time to get used to BRNO yet, so that square loomed as a natick. I spun the wheel, and guessed N. The lovely Ms. WHITE touched the square with a wide smile, and I said, "I'd like to solve the puzzle. ABNER crossing BRNO." "Yeah, that's it!" replied Pat SAJAK as he awarded me my prize.

Uh, what IS my prize?

Bob Kerfuffle 2:16 PM  

@ Spacecraft -

I've never seen the word "rebusiness" before. It looks like a wonderful addition to our vocabulary!

You should get another prize, whatever that prize is, for its creation, if you are the creator.

Ginger 2:44 PM  

@Spacecraft - Bob Kerfuffle beat me to it, but your word 'rebusiness' looks good to me too. You get a gold star!

Clever and unique, just right for a Thursday. Vaguely remembered the ELGIN MARBLES and NAURU, but it took a few crosses before they showed themselves. Got REED (crumhorn) from the crosses, but parsed it as a swamp growth of some sort. Post solve google cleared that up. Also had the OmSK s*&*, until mom got her ARMOR.

@Acme et al - Enjoyed the discussions about Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. BTW, that show has been on forever, and Vanna still looks the same.

When a puzzle has so many referral type clues, not to mention the 'blank squares', I think the solve is easier on paper than on a CW App.

DMGrandma 4:12 PM  

Because I solve puzzles in a haphazard way, I had the _STARE and _VERSE early on, so I kept looking for "blank" as I solved, which slowed me down on the tricky clues. Came here thinking ALT must be something with a blank that I couldn't see. Turns out it was right, So my sole error was at the cross of a Disney fox and an unremembered Israeli. Left that space blank as nothing seemed to fit in both directions. One blank too many!

Happy Valentines Day!

Waxy in Montreal 4:30 PM  

Clue referencing a rather obscure queen of Denmark? Even on a Thursday seems to be a bit of a stretch for INGRID.

Thought for the longest time that the theme somehow involved the letters "BAR". Why? 3A-deBAR, 17A-ehudBARak, 56A-BodyARmor, 5D-emBARked, 11D-BAeR, 24D-iBAR. Not to mention actual theme answers 43D-BlAnkstaRe & 44D-BlAnkveRse.

15-letter alternative answer for 25A: PATIVANNABUYANE.

Dirigonzo 4:57 PM  

@Spacecraft - Great new word!
@Waxy - That is a REALLY bad pun - I love it!

I had the grid mostly filled in and I sat for a long time with what must have looked like a BLANKSTARE on my face, wondering what vowel I wanted to buy at 25a. The resulting aha! epiphany grandly satisfying and well worth the wait. But of course I had OWS as I decided the Moravian capital must be BRzO and ABNER never came along to correct the mistake.

Five week late shout out to Rex and @Gil I.P. for stepping up to help dogs in need.

And now I'm off to check out the American Red Crosswords that Rex came all the way to syndiland to promote.

rain forest 6:04 PM  

"Obtuse"-thy name is "rain forest".
Yes, yes, filled in the E's in WOF, and a lot of other stuff (but not ELGIN, or ALT-), and couldn't see the essential move of taking out the E's; hence, not EEzy, in fact, a DNF. Now, of course, I'm thinking I should have figured it out, but I have to say, what an inventive, unique theme, even if I did not get it, and do not like the show.

DJ Stone 6:39 PM  

Small nitpick on Evan's comment. James Bond worked for MI-6 (Britain's CIA), not MI-5 (Britain's FBI, and a great show as well).

Regarding clue for blank verse (nonrhyming poetry), is there really any other kind of poetry anymore? Wanna have some fun with modern poetry? Take a non-rhyming poem, such as one found in the New Yorker, take out all funky line breaks, and just type it up as a paragraph. Surprise! It's really just prose now, isn't it? If there's a dead art in this world, it's definitely poetry.

A quote from Robert Frost: "Writing poetry that doesn't rhyme is like playing tennis without a net."

Spacecraft 6:48 PM  

@Bob K, Ginger & Diri: Thank you all for the coined word mention!

@Waxy: the clue for INGRID was part of what I meant with the brutal-cluing remark. I guess a queen who reigned for a whole generation ought not to be THAT obscure--but after just having watched "Notorious" on TCM, ANY non-Bergman Ingrid is obscure to me!

PS. Welcome back LMS!

Joshua 10:56 PM  

DNF here. I failed to catch on to the E/blank gimmick and wound up baffled in the SW corner.

By the way, Disney has no direct connection to "Wheel of Fortune"; they don't produce or distribute the show.

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

I don't know nothin' about no Waughs or Elgin Marbles or Brnos or Himoms, but put a puzzle in front of me and I'm going to do my damnest to solve it.

Pen. A number of writeovers, but blank blanks. Check please.

Writing poetry that
doesn't rhyme is like playing tennis without a net
- Frost

Ya gotta have balls to do that.

Anonyrat 8:31 AM  

I assume the Elgin "marbles" are the parts that should be censored in the sculpture of the centaur attempting to teabag the naked guy?
Liked the theme and had no trouble with it (other than having to white-out the E's in Wheel...), nor with Waugh. Instead, got (double) Naticked by the Nauru ("the world's smallest republic, covering just 21 square kilometres (8.1 sq mi). With 9,378 residents, it is the second least-populated country after Vatican City" - Yeah, I should know that one...) and Elgin/Morrie crossing - especially annoying since I first had Morrie and then over-thought it and changed it to something wrong. Derp ...
I have to say I'm really surprised by all the carping about Waugh - I'm not an "English Lit" type at all, and I got it immediately off the WA---, so I expected that to be a total gimme for most of the folks here, who generally seem to know a lot more about lit than I do.
Overall, way too many pop culture proper nouns in the fill for my taste. Took away my enjoyment of the theme and made the puzzle a real "trivia quiz" type slog for me.
Oh, and re the Disney/Tron mini theme - took me a long time (until I had enough crosses to get Disney) to get that one - I was sure at first, after getting Tod (the "fox") that it was a Tod and Lisa Lubner (sp?) SNL reference, but couldn't remember there being a spin-off movie ...

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