One-named author of Dog of Flanders / MON 5-20-13 / So-called crime dog of public service ads / Stereotypical airhead of old / 1960s chess champ Mikhail / 2008 Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy / He's priest per Ogden Nash / First explorer to sail directly from Europe to India

Monday, May 20, 2013

Constructor: Tim Croce

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: AMA (68A: Professional org. ending eight answers in this puzzle) — just what the clue says

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Caribbean resort island (GRAND BAHAMA)
  • 20A: 2008 Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy ("BABY MAMA") 
  • 29A: Many a 1930s soap opera (RADIO DRAMA)
  • 34A: Desert of Chile (ATACAMA)
  • 36A: 3-D art project (DIORAMA)
  • 43A: White House girl (MALIA OBAMA) 
  • 54A: "He's a priest," per Ogden Nash (ONE-L LAMA)
  • 58A: First explorer to sail directly from Europe to India (VASCO DA GAMA)
Word of the Day: OUIDA (30D: One-named author of "A Dog of Flanders") —
Ouida (1 January 1839 – 25 January 1908) was the pseudonym of the English novelist Maria Louise Ramé (although she preferred to be known as Marie Louise de la Ramée). [...] She moved into the Langham Hotel, London in 1867. There she wrote in bed, by candlelight, with the curtains drawn and surrounded by purple flowers. She ran up huge hotel and florists bills, and commanded soirees that included soldiers, politicians, literary lights (including Oscar Wilde, Algernon Swinburne, Robert Browning and Wilkie Collins), and artists (including John Millais). Many of her stories and characters were based upon people she invited to her salons at The Langham. Ouida was described by William Allingham in his diary of 1872 as of short stature, with a "sinister, clever face" and with a "voice like a carving knife." (wikipedia)
• • •

Not much to say. Cute idea, but not a very strong or complex or thoughtful one, so the puzzle gets by by sheer brute force—we get a truckload of theme answers, which ends up compromising the fill a bit, in a completely predictable and probably unavoidable way. OUIDA is terrible on any day, but on Monday? (And by "terrible" I mean it's high-end crosswordese that no one but no one intentionally puts in their puzzle—it's desperation fill, no matter how interesting this OUIDA person may be). I already wrote about how dog-tired I am of all the Nash lama nonsense, but here, where you gotta build up the number of theme answers ... why not? It's Monday, it fits the theme, it's not offensive, OK. ATACAMA is also not in any way Monday fill, but who cares? So it's a Monday-type theme w/ Tuesday+-level difficulty. It happens. Singular DORITO always looks weird to me (31A: Piquant triangular snack chip). The NE corner is kind of dreck-full. I didn't even see TAL til just now (16A: 1960s chess champ Mikhail). Not good. Then the plurals of crosswordese ELI and ARIA, and then CLASSA (13D: Minor-league baseball level). But again, this is what happens when you have So Many Theme Answers. Only thing I found genuinely off-putting, though (besides OUIDA, an author I've never heard of in real life, whose works I've never seen in print, who never came up ever not once even in conversation during my entire time getting a Ph.D. in literature, etc.) was the revealer. It assumes that the solver is an idiot (DUMB DORA asked, "Uh .... what's the theme?") (3D: Stereotypical airhead of old). Also, you don't pronounce it "AMA"—it's an initialism, not an acronym, so you say the letters individually. So A.M.A. is both comically superfluous and just ... off.

Also, SLATY. Just in case you missed it: SLATY. That's right up there with SUETY in terms of curb appeal. (52D: Dull blue-gray)

The end.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


JFC 12:12 AM  

Kind of like the way Grant won over Lee. Not all that bad....


jae 12:22 AM  

Medium-tough for me too.  Quite a bit of non-Monday stuff... TAL (on a Mon. really?), OUIDA ( a WOE for me), ATACAMA, DUMB DORA (that cross could be a problem as I haven't heard DUMB DORA in several decades), MALIA ( no idea how to spell it @lms looking for an h), AYERS (I only know this from crosswords)...  though, kinda fun to see crosswordese turned into a theme.  So, I guess I liked it more than Rex did.

Anonymous 12:27 AM  

How can one not love OIUDA? She was the, let's say "peculiar", younger sister of the famous seer Ouija.

Timmy 12:33 AM  

Lots of crosswordese on Monday seems to be a theme.

Is it just me, or do the Tuesdays of late seem to have easier fill than Mondays?


Mallory 12:35 AM  

McGruff? WTF???????

Brian B 2:14 AM  

Worst part, though, is 35D, "'Be on the lookout' alerts, for short." Those are not APBS (all-points bulletins) but BOLOS, a step below APBs in urgency as I understand it. Letting such an elementary mistake through is just sloppy.

chefwen 2:30 AM  

A little dicier than your usual Monday fare.

Had Mr.GRUFF in at 4A. YOGIC was a new one for me, had YOGIs, didn't know the desert in Chili so ATAsAMA looked fine. Hate an utter fail on Monday. Dang!

Benko 2:51 AM  

Hated: OUIDA, but most especially SLATY, which cost me a lot of time, too much for a Monday, when I couldn't see why slate was wrong.

Unknown 4:55 AM  

Easy with just the downs, except OUIDA which led to a DNF on the U.

The down clues didn't contain too much junk. OUIDA, SLATY, CLASSA, and maybe YOGIC. Also potentially RAVEL could be tough but not in an unfair way.

I go to about 40 MLB games a year, and at least a few times a year I go to single-a or triple-a games. On TV or in person, I watch about 200 baseball games a year at least. I have never, ever, in my life, heard anyone call it CLASS A baseball.

I enjoyed RAVEL because it is one of those fun English words that is almost always negatively prefixed. I try my hardest to work "couth", "ruly", "wieldy", "chalant", "vincible", "requited", "gainly", "bridled", and "gruntled" into everyday usage. Even if some of them aren't real words. I will not use "plussed", though. No idea why.

@lms - thank you for your kind words last week. I'm just a computer geek in the Bay Area and I enjoy both a good crossword and a good blog. I tried to track down a copy of the LAT this weekend but nobody in Berkeley seems to sell it. I look forward to finding your puzzle; it received good reviews in the comments here.

Jack Lee 5:02 AM  

Figured out most of the toughies identified above from crosses, and fell into the SLATY/*SLATE trap too. Thanks for explaining ONE-L LAMA ("Huh? One llama?).

The Bard 5:31 AM  

Hamlet , Act III, scene IV

HAMLET: Not this, by no means, that I bid you do:
Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed;
Pinch wanton on your cheek; call you his mouse;
And let him, for a pair of reechy kisses,
Or paddling in your neck with his damn'd fingers,
Make you to ravel all this matter out,
That I essentially am not in madness,
But mad in craft. 'Twere good you let him know;
For who, that's but a queen, fair, sober, wise,
Would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib,
Such dear concernings hide? who would do so?
No, in despite of sense and secrecy,
Unpeg the basket on the house's top.
Let the birds fly, and, like the famous ape,
To try conclusions, in the basket creep,
And break your own neck down.

Z 6:26 AM  

DUMBlond anyone? Have to agree that AT--AMA is a tough finish. YOGIC logic prevailed, but still took a few moments.

Evaded the SLATe trap by having no idea then getting all the crosses. Never looked again until OFL mentioned it.

I have heard CLASS A but "single A" is at least as common.

Gareth Bain 7:14 AM  

Slaty is a frequent descriptor in bird books. See e.g. . I'd never have even questioned putting it in a crossword, even a Monday. That's probably a personal blind spot, but I still don't think its anywhere near suety, it's a real colour!

Bill 7:14 AM  

Ouida was a snap for an old guy like me, who read her books as a boy. I get stuck on modern movie and rock band names.

Loren Muse Smith 7:16 AM  

I like the different idea for a theme. And, wow – 75 theme squares, with two pairs of partial stacks. Nice job, Tim!

I found this pretty easy, the only hiccough for me being MAGMA, CERA, AEROSOL. It took me a while to figure out that all spray cans aren’t AEROSOLs? The “certain” threw me. There are *spray cans* that aren’t AEROSOLs?

Six palindromes: ANNA, MAAM, EYE, PEP, DUD, AMA. Suddenly I have to urge to go air an ARIA.

When Rex was talking about the theme compromising the fill in a predictable way, I thought he would be pointing out the plethora of A-final entries, not counting the eight themers: COMA, GRAMMA, CLASS A, OUIDA, FLA, MAGMA, CERA, MANANA, ANNA, SPA, ALAN ALDA, DOA, FDA, ET ELIA, and DUMB DORA. WhoA ! But I got a kick out of’em!

YOGIC reminds me of the DONNISH flap awhile back.

LENSES crossing EYE. Nice. Mini political theme – RENO, SEN, OBAMA, RONALD, MLK, DAN. . .

Ok, OUIDA is a pseudonym. So this person *had* to have been copying the Ouija board name and just switched the German “yes” to the Russian “yes?” M & A – you gonna start a list of other possible pseudonyms following this pattern? I’ll start you off:

OUIsi – Mr. Jefferson’s wife

@ Keith H – I’ve often thought the same thing about those words. As I was reading, I immediately thought plussed! To your quite ane list I would add abashed, ert (Class, can anyone list the ert gasses?), sipid, promptu, ept (My daughter was always quite the ept student), kempt, and etheless. ;-) You might get a kick out of this short piece:

AMA get ready for work now. Hasta MANANA!

Doris 7:19 AM  

Also, from Macbeth, "the innocent sleep that knits up the RAVEL'd skein (wasn't SKEIN in yesterday?) of care."

Sooner or later, the Man From Stratford provides most of what is needed.

Doris 7:20 AM  

Oops! It's "RAVEL'd sleave (sleeve) of care." SKEIN was somewhere recently, and I got confused. Should have left well enough alone, but WS is still alway a big help.

Milford 7:22 AM  

It's scary to almost DNF on a Monday, but the YOGIC/ATACAMA cross was almost just that. Never heard of the desert, and after running the alphabet decided that YOGIC at least seemed plausible.

Only times I ever heard DUMB DORA was from Gene Rayburn on Match Game: "DUMB DORA was so dumb...(how dumb was she?)".

Love TAPAS, and MARVEL comics, but SLATY is not good.

OUIDA sounds pretty messed up.

Anonymous 7:35 AM  

Came here to say exactly what Milford said: YOGIC/ATACAMA/DUMBDORA had be stuck.

elitza 7:50 AM  

I actually found today to be pretty easy--finished in under 5, which is a good Monday for me. OUIDA just about got me, and I initially had YOGIs until the clue's tense clicked in my head, but that was it in terms of real sticking points.

Can't wait for Michael CERA to show up on my Netflix in new Arrested Development episodes.

Notsofast 8:21 AM  

I suppose if one doesn't have the space to write "yoga-like" or "yoga-ish", one would be forced to write "yogic"; but damn, that's ugly.

Mitzie 8:22 AM  

What Rex said.

Naticked by ONELLAMA crossing SLATY. Gah!

Anonymous 8:34 AM  

My father had a cousin named Ouida - born in 1898, I assume she was named for the novelist. That was an easy one for me. But yogic?

Anonymous 8:47 AM  

It's nice to see Tal's name, he was a very special chess player -- with wild flights of imaginative and daring play on the board, who wrote two thoughtful books that are great fun to read.

jackj 9:11 AM  

Tim Croce tipped his hand many months back that he had a Monday puzzle in the Times queue and here it is. Was it worth the wait?

The theme is interesting, with the AMA doing extra duty as the hind end of eight theme entries and one gets the distinct impression that if he could have pulled it off there would have been a dozen more.

Tim seems to have lapsed into Saturday mode from time to time, giving us the likes of ATACAMA, OUIDA and YOGIC, hardly early week answers, even for the more seasoned solvers among us, but Will’s dispensation rules the day and cleared the way, so they stay. (But, also, how about the inclusion of TAL, a chess champ from 50 years ago; he could have at least included a more recent master that we all know like KASIMDZHANOV).

Still, the puzzle had a unique excitement to it as other entries like BABYMAMA, MCGRUFF, MALIAOBAMA (only her second mention in a Times puzzle, unlike sister Sasha who has had at least ten mentions), PINENUT (the pesto one, not the fruitcake from the wilds of Germany who fell in love with a dwarf mugo pine), DUMBDORA, SAMIAM and even Ogden Nash’s ONELLAMA, make for a truly lively solve.

Seeing the previously unknown ATACAMA, “Desert of Chile”, led me to learn a bit more and Wikipedia didn’t disappoint when it prominently featured the wonderful factoid that ATACAMA is the driest desert on earth and receives only 4” of rain every thousand years. (A tough market for a bumbershoot salesman).

TOOEASY? Not a chance and Tim would likely be offended if anyone said so and it’s another arrow for his quiver as he seeks entry into the “cycle” club, short only a Tuesday and a Sunday.

Thanks, Tim.

jberg 9:12 AM  

TOO EASY for me -- all the tough onew were on my wavelength -- and I liked the theme-o-rAMA (someone had to say that). And @Gareth is right about the bird books, but still...

Actually, I got DUMB DORA right away (it does say "of old," after all)and was looking for an alliteration theme, but no.

@Loren, I think you're right about AEROSOL -- the literal meaning is particles suspended in air, which is the result of any spray can. But abashed? I hear that all the time, as in "I stand here abashed as I realized how wrong I was."

Somehow I knew ATACAMA and OUIDA right away (only 4 years of English study before I switched to poli sci, but weird 19th-century romantics were my specialty). Never read her, though.

Random thoughts: the theme answers are vowel-heavy already, so such answers as SAM I AM are probably inevitable. I had another random thought, but forgot it already, so I'll quit here.

Unknown 9:13 AM  

OUIDA in the same puzzle as "Creature that goes "ribbit""....facepalm.

Jeff C. 9:19 AM  


That's all I'm saying.

chefbea 9:24 AM  

Three naticks for me so DNF.

Dip your dorito in some pesto ...mmm - I would say yumm.

pffft 9:31 AM  

@Loren & @jberg

In these eco-friendly days, many spray products come in non-aerosol cans, i.e. have a pump.

Carola 9:38 AM  

Definitely a challenging Monday for me. On first pass, I had a lot of white space at the top and actually needed the reveal to see what was going on. Loved writing in VASCO DA GAMA. "Knew" the ATACAnA Desert, which the reveal then fixed. Fun to go through and read all the theme answers when I'd finished. Or, "finished": like @chefwen, I had Mr GRUFF.

@Sandy K, from yesterday - Blue and while only. Shoulda remembered my red flats!

John V 10:00 AM  

Nice to see Tim early in the week. Crunchy Monday, but a Monday nonetheless. Worked for me.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:43 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Kerfuffle 10:50 AM  

SLATY/SLATE surely reminds us of CHOCOLATY/CHOCOLATE, but, alas, this time yields no memorable RYAN/REAN!

Sorry, but I thought the ATACAMA Desert was fifth grade geography.

Re: 23 A, "______ good deed," DO A, to me was Dead On Arrival. (If the partial is supposed to refer to the Scout Slogan, the correct wording would be "Do a good turn daily."

mac 10:51 AM  

Crunchy but very enjoyable.

Anyone else think the clue to 37D ravel is incorrect? To ravel is to come undone, as in knitting.

Anonymous 11:06 AM  


1580s, "to untangle, unwind," also "to become tangled or confused," from Du. ravelen "to tangle, fray, unweave," from rafel "frayed thread." The seemingly contradictory senses of this word (ravel and unravel are both synonyms and antonyms) are reconciled by its roots in weaving and sewing: as threads become unwoven, they get tangled.

retired_chemist 11:17 AM  

Took a long time for a Monday but seemed mostly easy. Rex's rant on OUIDA seems excessive to me - I didn't know it but the crosses were easy. OUIrA/rNA LAB wouldn't make much sense since RNA isn't used AFAIK in forensics. CERA - also unknown, also easy crosses. M?GRUFF just HAS to have a C.

The theme revealer was quite a help - my favorite part of the puzzle. It reminded me of several theme answers. ATACAMA, DA GAMA, and GRAND BAHAMA would have been slower and BABY MAMA might have remained BABA WAWA until the end.

BABA WAWA was a silly mistake on my part - never heard of BABY MAMA and I saw two SNL alumnae and a famous Gilda Radner SNL recurring skit. In fact my last letter, requiring some 60 seconds of searching, was the Y.

Liked it a lot. Thanks, Mr.Croce.

retired_chemist 11:18 AM  

@ Tita - is BABA WAWA a Hall of Shame candidate?

quilter1 11:42 AM  

I knew OUIDA somehow and the rest of the puzzle I blew through. I think age is the deciding factor. I liked it.

wa 12:01 PM  


How about garlic?

16Msasked and Anonymo4Us 12:39 PM  

Woulda, shoulda, ouida.
Man, after finishin this puz, but pre-Rexville, instantly had several thoughts...

1. Cinnamon roll.
2. Stereochemistry.
2. Scarlet Johannson [Simultaneously with the other #2 above. Freakin weird image]
3. For a snark demon like 4-Oh, today's blog oughta peg the meter . ATACAMA crossin debut word YOGIC on a MonPuz. Household names MCGRUFF/CERA. MMM. [New world NYT record of 16 M's, by the way.] OUIDAJA, or somesuch. TAL. I knew for sure they had him, at TAL. har.
4. Got this image of 4-Oh just leanin back, sippin some herbal tea laced with who-knows-what, with a kinda smirky grin, just watchin the blog write itself. Wishin he had an 8-o'clock lecture to get to...
5. Cinnamon roll.
6. Is it DUMBDORY? DUMBDORI? DUMBM&A? YOGIL? YOGIN? YOGII? YOGISH? Elected the latter, goin with the rare MonPuz "SH" rebus. They like people bein quiet, in the doctor's office. Chilean desert got the leftovers it deserved: ATYSHAMA.
7. Chilean desserts. MMM.

Sorry, @lms. Couldn't think up no lists, today. But I'll be thinkin simpathetically of y'all, havin to go to work on reboot day. Think I'll brew up some nice, herbal tea, and some who-knows-what...


joho 12:47 PM  

@Gareth Bain, it tickled me that you defend "slaty" saying, "it's a real colour!" Both words look wrong to me!

The theme was super easy once you got it but the fill wasn't, esp. at YOGIC/ATACAMA.

Theme also reminded me of that really old rhyming song ... fo fana, banana ...

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

I can always tell when Rex is either hung over or in a foul mood. Hope your day gets better before you really make an ass of yourself.

syndy 12:55 PM  

I'm assuming the dog was a Bouvier (des Flanders)? I had heard of the book but OUIDA-non!I have been hijacked trying to figure out the opposite of inertia.One hand clapping out the uncertaimty principal?

Kim 1:01 PM  

@Milford: Only times I ever heard DUMB DORA was from Gene Rayburn on Match Game: "DUMB DORA was so dumb...(how dumb was she?)".

Thank you! I knew I'd heard it somewhere & that's it!

JHC 1:19 PM  

I'm curious about Rex's classification of ARIA(S) as crosswordese. I always thought "crosswordese" meant not just a word that appears a lot in crosswords, but a word that appears ONLY (or primarily, for non-specialists) in crosswords. No?

I mean, I wouldn't expect non-opera-buffs to know the names of many of the arias that show up from time to time ("Eri tu" comes to mind), which might as well be clued as [random Italian words]. But I would think any reasonably educated person should know what ARIAS are in general. Curious to see if anybody else weighs in.

Bird 1:28 PM  

I must be a DUMB DORA because I never heard that term or the name of that desert in Chile. Today is Monday, right? SLATY cannot be a word. And what @Rex said.

I’ll have to check, but I don’t think my wife grinds up the pignoli before it goes into the pesto.

Writeovers include . . .
YUM before MMM
TOAD before FROG

I thought YOGIC was shorthand for Yogi Berra Logic.

John V 1:30 PM  

@JFC I do not think ARIA is crosswordese. However, I am an opera buff.

M16 and A41 1:48 PM  

@Susan McConnell: har. I loved the FROG clue, too. Gotta be the Shortzmeister thinkin', "Day-um, this Croce dude is blasting these poor beginner solvers with stuff like OUIDA and ATACAMA. I gotta lighten this thing up a few."

M&A always looks forward to seein a few over-the-top "Animal that goes moo" slo-pitches, on Mondays. Primo.

Keep 'em comin, Tim. Enjoyed the curve balls, today. U ever heard of "yogic flying"? Thanx to you, I learned that, on the carom, today.

Benko 1:54 PM  

I guess I have a blind spot for YOGIC the way Gareth does for SLATY. I have studied a lot about Asian religions, and the word is most definitely the adjective form of yoga and yogi.
@JHC--I would think anyone interested in classical music would know the word ARIA.
@BOB--I wouldn't expect the typical 5th grader to know it, but anyone interested in geography should know ATACAMA.

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

Quite difficult for a Monday. I usually don't have to resort to any Googling for the first few days of the week, but had to for the Chilean desert and the Dog of Flanders author. YOGIC not a common word and TAL crossing with SAMIAM caused delay, too. It did take me a while.

Anadaraea Carala Maiacahaeaaalasa 2:01 PM  

How could I not love this puzzle!!!

SO bouncy and poetry across anddown...with all the MANANA BABYMAMA SAM I AM/MAAM sounds and all the palindromes I missed that
@Loren pointed out...

Tough but I learned a lot. ATACAMA...

And altho I wrote in OUIjA before looking at clue but having OUI?? I liked learning about OUIDA...I'm assuming OUIDA was a childhood nickname from perhaps she or a sibling pronounced Louisa...

Seems like she should be up there with feminist literature with Coco or whomever.

All the As were phenomenal. So I thought this was CLASS A all around. Toughh tough tough for a Monday, but great!

As for AMA being initialism, I see what @rex is saying, but for me,it was an extra dollop...crowning touch.
I think those of us who lik epangrams, etc like dollops...
Others apparently feel it undermines. I liove dollops and this one was loaded with them.

Tons of fun andvery impressed and for the record, noticedthe hard waythat mAliA and sAshA bothare five letters with As in second and fifth position.

LaneB 2:06 PM  

I'm not really bAnonymous. The comment immediately above is mine.

Lewis 2:07 PM  

Just as Gareth thinks of SLATY as in the language because he brushes against it often, I, who teach yoga, hear and use YOGIC -- never questioned it in the puzzle, not thinking that its probably out of common language.

@jhc -- I don't think of ARIA as crosswordese, ELI yes.

Never heard of DUMBDORA, poor woman, or that desert, but I like that it is the driest desert on earth, a thought that never entered my mind before (relative dryness of deserts).

Ran crunchy for Monday, and I enjoyed it. MMM out!

Nameless 2:21 PM  

@Benko - That's the point of most of the discussion around ATACAMA and YOGIC and DOMBDORA. You need to be interested in geography, yoga and be old to know those answers without all the crosses. Hence the Natick argument.

Puzzle was meh for me. I could live with less theme if the fill was better.

chefbea 2:24 PM  

@Bird all ingredients in pesto get ground up (or pureed) in the blender or food processor and then you slowly ad the oil a small bit at a time.

Acme 2:31 PM  

@susan Mcconnell
I had same feeling about OUIDA andthefrog def in same puzzle, but in retrospect, I think Will & Co did the"ribbit" think to add to the funsounds this puzzle was creating...
Again, sort of an aural dollop to a bouncy, rhymy theme.

@bob kerfuffle
I'd say vast majority of people are not that interested in geography, esp women wouldn't know ATACAMA but then i get bonked over the i won't say it! ;)

ANON B 2:31 PM  

If you Google AMA(no periods)you get the American Medical
Association with their logo
AMA(no periods).

Social Studies Teacher 2:32 PM  

According to, which is correlated to State Standards (heard of them, have you?), certain South American geography is appropriate for Grades 3 - 6. (scroll down to South America: Geographic Regions.)

Bird 2:35 PM  

@chefbea - Thank you. What I meant to say was that I didn't think she added pignolis until the end. I thought pesto was basil, cheese and oil then topped off with nuts. As you can tell, I don't cook much. Though my wife does love my Cajun Shrimp.

Sfingi 3:05 PM  

Very cute puzzle.

But, on a Monday, had a Natick at AYERS crosses IROC.

Several answers I got but did not actually know: TAL, ATACAMA, USD (yuck), OUIDA, GRAND BAHAMA.

I always add more pignole (PINE NUTS) to my pesto dishes, unground.

@John V. - My baby sister went to Fairfield, IA to learn to "fly." When My father heard it was without a Cessna or a Piper, he blew a gasket and cut her off.

@Kartoffel - I think the reason people my age (war babies) hated history and geography was it was all about men, conquering this and that, blah blah blah. Now that their are videos, it's a little better. I'll never forget a teacher asking a class who our heroes are. Ever feel invisible? I do hope the young women don't have to deal with all of this.

Anonymous 3:51 PM  

I have only heard the word "aria" once in my entire life outside of crosswords, and that was in the film "Match Point".

But I'm sure there's a fairly large audience of opera-goers, and 3/4 letter crosswordese is something that's just not very easy to avoid.

Now as for ARIAS and all the other 5/6/7 letter crosswordese...they should just be blown up. MCGRUFF, PINENUT (WTH is a pine nut), YOGIC, TAPAS, MANANA (I know it but do you?), OUIDA, RAVEL, CLASSA...just throw them in an abyss so we can never see them again.

GRAMMA I will single out, because not only is it crosswordese (obscure variation of "grandma"), but it's a little too closely related to the theme entry it CROSSES. gramMA/babyMAMA

Just no.

sanfranman59 4:28 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 (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 7:21, 6:14, 1.18, 97%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:27, 3:46, 1.18, 97%, Challenging

Anonymous 5:27 PM  

"Ouida"? Heard of her, vaguely, mostly in NON-MONDAY c'words. "Dumb Dora"? This was slang for what we (politically incorrectly) in more recent times call a ditz, an airhead, a dumb blonde. Turns out it was 1920s slang. For perhaps five minutes. In other words, before my mother (1931-2003) was born, and perhaps my father (1926-2005). I agree that "slaty" is about as stupid a fill word as one can imagine. And then there is a the ridiculous crosswordese, like "Elis," "arias," etc. "Atacama"? My girlfriend is Mexican-born, has a Ph.D., and TEACHES Spanish and Latin American studies at the college level, and SHE barely knew this one. A ridiculous excuse for a puzzle, especially for a non-holiday Monday. Someone should have told Croce and/or Shortz that, if they wanted to get cute (and it is a stretch to call this puzzle cute or clever by any means) on a Monday, they were one week early: Memorial Day is NEXT Monday.

Z 7:30 PM  

Crosswordese includes any word that disproportionately appears in crosswords when compared to its appearance in typical language. ARIA definitely fits this definition.

jae 9:13 PM  

Just finished yesterday's LAT by Merl Reagle which included the clue "Ouida novel, "_______ Flanders". Odd coincidence?

Tita 9:47 PM  

@Bird - Yogi Berra Logic - lol!

@ret_Chem - indeed - I think so! In spite of just pulling into the driveway 30 monutes ago, a quick thawed leftowver, and a 6am wakeup, it is indeed tiem to update the Hall of Fame!

(It is most certainly NOT a Hall of *Shame*. I think that our nutty answers are quite creative and indicative of the delightful intricacies of the human mind!)
I think I need another glass of wine...

The puzzle...oh...
Was fun and tough - finished last might,
I gotta love VASCODAGAMA in the grid.
Though I wonder about the "directly" in the clue. He actually bounced off the coast of Africa all the way 'round.
It is how I justify my own love of sailing - I say it's in my blood, but it's also in my blood to never be out of sight of land!

Hence most of my sailing experience being lakes, bays, and estuaries.
@Diri - I have the feeling you've done more than that...

Tita 10:00 PM  

Oops - once again, I see that my post was not yet long enough.
So, let me tell another tangential story.

When my Mom was a schoolkid in Lisbon, they went on a class trip to the Manueline Torre de Belem. In one of the rooms, the tourguide said "...and this window, above Vasco da Gama's desk, has not been opened since he left on his journey."

Mom wondered, "Why not, is it stuck?" And helpfully went over and opened it. The papers that flew off his desk into the Tejo were not too important, she tells me.

Old Oskar 10:03 PM  

Disagree about "slaty." while definitely not a Monday type answer, it is legit unlike suety. The slaty-backed gull is a type of bird known by birders. Either way, junky puzzle.

sanfranman59 10:03 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 7:18, 6:14, 1.17, 96%, Challenging (8th highest ratio of 179 Mondays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:21, 3:46, 1.16, 94%, Challenging

This one sets a new low water mark for the number of Monday solvers with 415, eclipsing by a relatively wide margin the previous low 7 weeks ago of 440.

Clearly Claire 10:09 PM  

So, none of you ever heard of the Slaty-backed Gull then? It's a legit species and that's it honest-to-gosh real name. It's on my life list so slaty was a pretty good clue for any birders out there.

Z 10:34 PM  

@sanfranman59 - I bet ATACAMA has something to do with the low count.

Anonymous 12:27 AM  

Seems like these Monday crosswords are really beating people up lately, huh?

ACME 2:04 AM  

Re: Your Mama... lololol

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spacecraft 10:47 AM  

I'm very disturbed by the last four entries in this blog. Where are the filters? Are we wrestling with wavy captchas for NO REASON?? As Roy Neary said (just finished watching CE3K again): What the hell's going ON around here? WHO THE HELL ARE YOU PEOPLE???

To the puzz. I was put off right away by the mess in the NW: let's see...three consonants, three vowels, three consonants. Is there no way that can be improved upon? The biggest surprise: seeing a (supposed) veteran's name on the byline. And it didn't get much better.

Once I saw the -AMA theme, I thought, "Well, just don't bring Nash into it. You wouldn't. Not you." Oh, but he did. TOOEASY? Yeah, but even so, I had an incredible four writeovers!
iNALAB (well, that's where they analyze evidence, right? In a lab?)
TAcoS (I don't know from Sp. cooking)
And of course SLATe. That's the color. It's what the entry SHOULD be. SLATY is b.s.

But it did remind me of a funny memory: I was six, the family was around the breakfast table, and "The Romance of Helen Trent" came on the radio. The announcer read the slogan: "Can a woman find happiness after 35?"

The innocent little 6-year old I piped up "After 35 what?" Cereal sprayed all over.

I had to go through three captchas before finding a legible one. How are these hackers getting through?

rain forest 12:54 PM  

Go sit in the corner, Rex. This is the most fun Monday puzzle in quite some time. I proved it by slamming DUMBDODO (a phrase from my childhood) out of the gate. Tsk tsk on me. Bouncy, did someone say? Yes. I cannot believe that so many people did not know ATACAMA which is the absolute ACME of deserts and should be a gimme for everyone. MCGRUFF, not so much, at least for me (had to guess the C). SLATY is fine in my book. I've heard the terms PINKY BEIGE, YELLOWY GREY, etc., mostly from my girlfriend, but I'm sure she's not the only one.

Anyway, point being, this was a nice way to start the week, and kind of ironic in that Tim Croce has been lambasted by Rex for 15 stacks on Saturday, and now, in an easy puzzle, is still being roasted. Perhaps he should try a Wednesday.

By the way, I knew OUIDA, having read A Dog Of Flanders, and also seen the movie. Touching story. What's wrong with Mikhail TAL? If Bobby FISCHER appeared, would that be unacceptable too? Jeez.

Ginger 1:59 PM  

@spacecraft & @Blogger How oh how do those hackers get through?

@Tita Your Mom's story made me spray my coffee!

Loved this puzzle. Fun, Bouncy, and yes, Crunchy. Usually on a Monday I just write in answers, but today took some criss-cross thinking (That's why we call them crosswords LOL) and the necessity of digging back into the less used part of the brain. That's where I found ATACAMA (flora and fauna get their only moisture from dew off the ocean!) Did want iNA LAB, fixed.

Captcha flatesx include HUH?

Thanx Tim Croce, enjoyed it.

DMGrandma 2:16 PM  

Not many problems with this one. I did have to change my original "E" at the end of SLATY, and the AMA helped me choose BABYMAMA over BABYMONA. I've never heard of the movie or the crossing actor. Learned that pesto contains PINENUTS. Something new every day,

@Ginger. YES, it tennis time. Couldn't believe what happened with Nadal this AM. Wonder what surprises the rest of the week will hold?!!

My Captcha tells me of a smotelyz romantic. Wonder if it's anyone I know?

Unknown 6:04 PM  

Totally agree! Its how I got confused with Obama ending... I thought it should be Olama!

AquilaAquilegia 7:29 PM  

Guess I can understand the dislike of 3 consonants followed by 3 vowels followed by 3 consonants... Half the world can't figure out how to pronounce my surname (2 vowels, 2 consonants followed by "lie"). On the other hand, I can ALWAYS tell when somebody's just calling to sell me something.

Enjoyed the puzzle. Enjoyed the comments. Thanks, everybody.

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