Muhammad's resting place / WED 7-31-13 / Sleuth played by Lorre / Bathroom fixtures slangily / Bow-toting god / Madeline who played Lili Von Shtupp

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Constructor: H. David Goering

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: City/State combos that can be produced through ONE-HANDED TYPING (52A: See 20- and 34-Across) —

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Southern town whose name is the longest example of 52-Across [on the left] (SWEETWATER, TEXAS)
  • 34A: Midwest town whose name is the longest example of 52-Across [on the right] (UNION, OHIO)

Word of the Day: MASSIFS (1D: Mountainous expanses) —
  1. A large mountain mass or compact group of connected mountains forming an independent portion of a range.
  2. A large section or block of the earth's crust that is more rigid than the surrounding rock and has been moved or displaced as a unit.
[French, massive, massif, from Old French. See massive.]

Read more:
• • •

While this is an interesting bit of trivia, it's not much of a puzzle. Also, the wording on the theme answers feels incomplete. These aren't "the longest/shortest example(s) of ONE-HANDED TYPING";  they're the longest/shortest examples of American towns whose names can be rendered through one-handed typing. Grammatically, this is important. I mean, is SWEETWATER, TEXAS the longest "town" name that can be so formed? Longest *U.S.* town? Or longest "Southern town," as it says, in which case ... ??? The other theme clue features a town that isn't "Southern" at all; it's "Midwest." So parallelism and clarity are lacking. Cluing should be precise; this is sloppy. But even if it were precise, again, the puzzle is weak as a puzzle. Fill is pretty bland and creaky. Feels like it was made on graph paper, and not worked on enough. DARER and ASPIRER? One I could tolerate. Two is absurd. There's also a sense of repetitiveness—SENSATE and SEAGATE are 5/7 identical. ARSENAL is just ARSE without the last three letters. There are OOHS but just one AAH. Lots of R, E, A, S, N, T. SKIRMISH is cool, and the quaint ATHWART has a nice thwacky sound to it. I'm actually happy to learn MASSIF(S) (1D: Mountainous expanses), which I can't remember seeing before.

My "pigs" in blankets were always sausages (not WIENERS, which I think of as hot dogs). But I've only ever experienced them at IHOP, which, as we know, is classier than everywhere else.

  • 19A: Madeline who played Lili Von Shtupp (KAHN) — love her; Lili Von Shtupp was her character in "Blazing Saddles."
  • 25A: Muhammad's resting place (MEDINA) — sounds sort of familiar, but the only MEDINA I know is funky and cold.
  • 32D: Sleuth played by Lorre (MOTO) — That's *Mr.* MOTO, to you. Mr. MOTO is Japanese. Peter Lorre ... isn't.
  • 37D: Bathroom fixtures, slangily (THRONES) — I'm torn. I love slang, but I also love not thinking about someone sitting on the toilet, so ... torn.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Steve J 12:12 AM  

Thread brought about a "oh, that's interesting" fleeting reaction, but it didn't help me with the puzzle. (Other than helping me catch a brain-dead mistake where I put in MASTIFS instead of MASSIFS; not only are misspelled dogs not mountains, there couldn't possibly be a place called Tweetwater, Texas.) And MASSIFS is a nice crossword word; I'm surprised it doesn't pop up more, especially with all of the integral S's.

I'm a huge ARSENAL fan, and ARSE was so excellently clued, I'm more than happy to overlook that near-redundancy. Agreed, however, on the bleh-ness of DARER and especially ASPIRER.

Very fast Wednesday for me. There really wasn't anything here that offered any resistance.

Bill 12:15 AM  

I'm either getting the hang of this or this was the smoothest Wednesday ever.

jae 12:25 AM  

Easy-medium for me mostly because MASSIF was a WOE and I had elem briefly for ATNO.  That, and ATHWART did not immediately come to mind. The rest was pretty much fill-it-in as I read the clues.  I did need to erase IRAte for IRKED.

Clever theme but I think I've seen it before.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  So, apart from cringes like ASPIRER, DARER, ANAEMIA...this was fine for a Wed.  Plus, it's got the town I grew up in MEDINA, about an hour or so NE of UNION.

Evan 12:26 AM  

I too was a little confused by the clue for the revealer. It would certainly be a neat bit of trivia if those two towns were indeed the longest examples of U.S. town/state combos that you could type out using only one hand, but that's not really specified in any of the theme clues.

In fact, looking at the ol' QWERTY here, it seems like OHIO and TEXAS are the only states that you can spell out with just one hand, as long as they're in the standard typing position -- because technically, you can spell any state with just one hand. But whatever....I'll buy that those are the two longest towns in those two states that can be spelt with ONE-HANDED TYPING. So, okay.

The fill doesn't do much for me, though. It's not bad, it's just not very lively. I don't see any multi-word phrases in the fill at all, unless you count I AM and maybe SEA GATE. Rex has already hit a big pet peeve of mine (verb + -R or -ER = bizarre noun), but I have to think that northwest corner could have been way, way snappier than it turned out: MASSIFS, ATHWART, British spelling of ANAEMIA, crossing ATNO? I wish the clue for ISLANDER had been a reference to the member of the NHL team -- just a preference; the clue as is alright. Other than that, not too difficult a puzzle -- only write-over was CAJOLING before COAXING.

I will say this, though: I was very pleasantly surprised that the NYT finally broke the ARSE barrier. It's a 4-letter word with nothing but Scrabble-friendliness and slangy prepubescent humor written all over it, so I say, well done on that, back.

Evan 12:28 AM  
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Evan 12:31 AM  

That's *spelled*, not spelt. All that British spelling in the puzzle transferred to my own typing.

.....and now I notice that CAJOLING is one letter too long for 11-Down. Great. Can't even get my wrong answers right. Whatever, I got the right answer in the end.

Steve J 12:41 AM  

@Evan: My inner 12-year-old nearly spit wine out of my 43-year-old nose at "broke the ARSE barrier".

It's a great word, leading to one of my favorite expressions: "I can't be arsed" is so much better than "I can't be bothered".

Unknown 1:04 AM  

failed the Wednesday level test miserably... this is easy-medium? back to the drawing board ;)

IaStateGirl 2:18 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle, though have never heard of massifs or athwart, so that corner was a killer for me. Also had tESTS instead of RESTS. Couldn't figure out what an ISLANDEt was, but with ATHWART was a WOE, I figured this could bt too. I thought the theme was cute, though I got the towns long before the revealer popped into place. I kept thinking it had something to do with politics, given the "on the left" and "on the right" hints. I must be crazy to get out of bed at midnight to do a crossword puzzle, but waiting for teens to come home will do that to you.

chefwen 2:31 AM  

Sped through this one so quickly it my head reel. Like Jae - my only write over was IRate before IRKED.

Color me stupid, but what does SCHWA have to do with ONE HAND TYPING? I've looked up the definition and I just don't get it. Help... I know I'll be kicking myself in the morning.

chefwen 2:33 AM  

Note to self "read before publish" Made MY head reel.

Ellen S 2:40 AM  

@Chefwen, SCHWAS don't have nothin' to do with one-handed typing -- they have to do with the pronunciation of the beginning and ending vowels of "ANAEMIA". (And in my opinion, as fill, SCHWA "fills" a bit tired to me.

@Steve J, Maybe tWEETWATER, TEXAS is one of those high-tech boom towns cropping up in low wage areas.

Ellen S 2:46 AM  

p.s. imagine a closing parenthesis after ...a bit tired to me.)

"Fills" for "feels" was on purpose. Did I have to say that? Oh, wait, this is better. "In terms of fill, SCHWA fEELs a bit tired."

But I liked the clue for ELOPE. It wasn't a perfect puzzle, all the things @Rex says, but I liked it. Perfect end to a not at all bad day.

mac 2:47 AM  

Very easy Wednesday, but I have to agree with Rex's critique. Disliked the Oohs and Aah, and the darer and aspirer, but I very much like the massifs, athwart, coaxing and skirmish. Don't talk to me about Wieners.

Once again I will have to look up the full meaning of "schwa".

Eejit 2:51 AM  

Ok, so WTF is SCHWAS?

Nice ARSENAL logo you have there, it was the wallpaper on my phone for a while until I went a bit more 3D. I love the ARSE, no Suarez though, please.

syndy 3:32 AM  

since ALL my typing is one handed nothing about this puzzle made much sense.I am however aware of the Massif Central in France so that was a gimmee. I had the same reaction to Carlos Danger huddling in a pancake as OFL! NOOOO! but heyo ATHWART is pretty cool!

Anaemia Coaxing Massifs 3:57 AM  

Super fast for a Wednesday...My only typeover was ATHeART, but three EEEs in a TEXAS town seemed unlikely!


Oh, two other writeovers taRT/PERT and I misspelled WeiNERS, but still took only ten minutes. I think that had to do with the nice smoothness to the grid, not the lack of theme.

LOVE the video of "Funky Cold Medina" and how self-deprecating Tone-Loc is, esp for a rapper.

And it is funny to know MEDINA only in context of Funky Cold Medina, not Muhammed's resting place, tho I'll remember that now!

That whole video could be a testament to the '80s. " "DEF, my Threads were fresh, crib, get wit' me, fly"...
prob none of them I knew prior to 1989.
(Moment of transgender bashing, but pretty tame as it goes).

Finally, I love that ONEHANDEDTYPING is a perfect 15 across, if only you could type ONEHANDED with one hand, that would be cool!

jae 4:13 AM  

My best take on SCHWA is that it occurs with vowels in unstressed syllables  of multi-syllable words. It's kinda between a hard and soft vowel sound, hence the "mid-central vowel" definition, and is determined by mouth (unrounded) and tongue positions.  @lms ..... ? Examples.....?

Loren Muse Smith 6:47 AM  
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Loren Muse Smith 6:50 AM  

@IaStateGirl – I took your ISLANDEt and raised you one. I had ISLAND st.,feeling bad for the constructor. I rationalized “slope” and “tests,” again, just feeling pretty bad for David.

@jae and @IaStateGirl - me, too for “irate” first.

@Evan – thanks for the ARSE factoid. My first thought was “cajoling”, too.

I’m with Rex – “toilet” or “commode” is one thing, but the minute it’s a THRONE, well, heck. ARSE gets involved.

I was bound and determined to get a Q due north, first trying to misspell SKIRMISH and then going for “squeak” before CREAK.

PERT over ARSE. TONED, TRIM. Sigh. It’s no fun getting old. I even CREAK when I get up in the morning.

I have always loved the word THWART. It packs some punch. I’ve *never* seen a SCHWA out front, though! I guess we could use it here: I initially thought the 9 ATHWART the middle of the grid would be “Onion Ohio.”

@jae – My daughter recently read me something from a magazine. . .”Mom – listen, ‘If you ask a linguist (of course you don’t have to ask a linguist – he’ll tell you anyway). . .’ “ She said, “That’s so true.” Poor kids. They have never been interested in any linguistic observation. Ever.

Anyway –all you SCHWA haters – it’s the most common vowel sound in English. It’s the a in sofa, the first and last sounds of ANAEMIA. “Uh.” The SCHWA phenomenon is one reason English is so difficult to spell – you can’t hear most of the vowels. In

Methodist Episcopal Church

you can hear the e in Methodist, the i in Episcopal, and that u. That’s it. The rest of the vowels are SCHWAS, so how the heck do you spell them? Methudest Episcupul works, too. (Many non-native speakers didn’t get this memo and pronounce all those vowels, giving them their foreign accent.)

English is a stress-timed language, meaning, very roughly, that

Dogs eat bones.

takes about the same amount of time to articulate as

The dogs are eating the bones.

Both sentences have three stresses. Three good, clear vowels. The other vowels are reduced to SCHWAS (and the like).

Test tomorrow.

Jonathan 7:06 AM  

74 words is nice.

You could stick "American" into the thematic clues.

The actual SE vs. PACE-ASPIRAS-CART-ESSE is a good little litmus test. My line FWIW: It'd be good to get rid of ASPIRER, but a bigger shame to lose PERT ARSE.

Anonymous 7:26 AM  

@loren muse smith - Well, MY nerdiness includes that I could listen to linguistic observations all day long. I learned and never forgot about the schwa from Miss Hudson in 5th grade--greatest teacher ever--and why I've always been able to identify my spelling disability. So when 12D was materializing before 20A I had to ask my lady, "how do you spell ETH_NOL?" Happens at least once a puzzle. But even Miss Hudson never taught us stress- versus syllable-timed languages. Explains a lot! Thank YOU!

John V 7:35 AM  

Congrats, David Goering, on your NYT debut!

Fine puzzle here, if quite easy for a Wednesday. I'm finding puzzles to be easier if I do them in red pen; who knew?

dk 7:40 AM  

Maxwells in NJ is closing . Image you are a young lad from upstate NY whose idea of diversity was Catholics and who was surprised to learn that people of color were of color all over their bodies. In short a naif. This naif found himself living and working in NYC as a photographer of many of the acts he only dreamed of in places like Maxwells, CBGB, Max's and the Fillmore. All because of AV club, a stint on our High School news paper and a friend of my dads whose photog bailed at the last moment (1967ish Dave Clark Five and Chubby Checker). Now you find yourself sitting at the round table in the back room of Max's KC listening to Janis Joplin lament about some guy who blew her off for some lame hippie chick. Sorry wool gathering.

A puzzle made on graph paper??? Excuse me they are all made on graph paper. That said, if on this one if you replaced the light squares with the dark ones…. just sayin!

Are not MASSIFS those big dogs? Is not ATHWART what one does from one's ARSE after eating lots of beans? Sorry Mr. Goering this one is outside of my wheel house and floating done the river.

I liked FRISK and the whole porno thing in the Southeast with PERT WIENERS, etc.

🌟 (One Star) Is ONEHANDEDTYPING where Mr. MOTO lives?

dk 7:42 AM  

down the river….

a perfectly good rant spoiled by a typo

John Child 7:42 AM  

Too easy for Wednesday, and the short across fill was bland. But I did like a lot of the downs, so color me satisfied.

John Child 7:54 AM  

I'm interested n Rex's criticism that the puzzle seemed done on graph paper. Wouldn't constructing without software to tell you what to enter be an admirable positive point?

Milford 7:56 AM  

A tougher feeling Wednesday, words and theme-wise, yet it solved very fast, so I guess I agree with the rating. The corners were full of long downs, but only the NW took some time to detangle. And I had not heard of SENSATE before.

I found the phrasing on the theme clues distracting, and couldn't imagine stumbling upon this trivia naturally. Like @Evan, I realized that you can narrow the two states down quickly (Illinois is oh-so-close), but then the thought of going through all those cities

Liked ARSENAL, COAXING, SKIRMISH, and SCHWAS. I learned about SCHWAS, the upside-down "e", and everything else about vowels, consonants, proper syllable dividing and stressors in first grade with Miss Milbeck. Still sticks with me today.

SWEETWATERS is a small donut chain in Kalamazoo, Michigan that makes THE BEST apple fritters. In college, the store would swap out their day-old donuts for the fresh ones around 11PM. The employees would throw all the "old" donuts in a clean trash bag with no other trash, and carefully place it just outside their back door, to be taken out to the trash later (in theory). Students from the two nearby campuses would then help themselves and bring them back for free study breaks. Good times :)

Joe The Juggler 8:02 AM  

Eejit said...
"Ok, so WTF is SCHWAS?"

A schwa (symbolized by the upside down "e") is about the most common vowel sound in English. It's the sound that is the first and last syllable in ANAEMIA. It's the sound speakers make when they're trying to think of a word: uh. . .

evil doug 8:09 AM  

Like IaStateGirl (I'm a Drake boy), I started in the top-left, and was nearly a-thwarted by 'massifs', 'I am', and Brit anemia. Much easier after that, but I still found the fill kind of fun.

And I didn't get the theme until late in the game. If Evan is right--and I'm not going to type 48 states to prove it--the lack of one-handed states is a nice trivial bonus.

Been to Sweetwater---just down the road from my USAF base---and they have a big rattlesnake roundup every year with guys milking 'em for the venom to be used for serum, I think. (That's a lousy sentence; geez, I'm starting to sound like Jack "no periods required" J....)

And my son lives in Union Township--sorry, both hands necessary---Ohio, just outside Cincy.

A good Wednesday in my book.


evil doug 8:22 AM  

Hey, Milford--Maybe that's where Seinfeld got the idea:

Elaine [in an alley with her poverty-stricken new boyfriend, Glenn]:
"So, what are we doing in this alley, anyway?"

Glenn: "It's a surprise."

Elaine, giggling: "Oh."

[a nearby door opens, and a cook throws a garbage bag out into a trash can; Glenn immediately goes for the bag]

Elaine: "What are you doing? What is that?"

Glenn: "It's a bag of donuts."

Elaine: "It's garbage."

Glenn, looking in the bag: "No, no, no, no, no. When they make the new ones, the old ones come out right here."

Glenn, still wading through the garbage bag: "It's a bear claw! You have no idea how rare this is!"


Glimmerglass 8:29 AM  

I was feeling smug that this puzzle was so easy for me, until I came here and found it was easy for others, too. @Joe. Right. A schwa is just an unstressed vowel of indeterminate sound -- it can be an a or an e (or probably any vowel). Not only is arse in today's NYT puzzle, but so is Madeline Kahn's character SHTUPP. It shouldn't surprise anyone that Mel Brooks chose a name which is a Yiddish word for having sex. Shtup also means "to push."

jberg 8:35 AM  

ATHWART! One of my (many) favorite passages in all of poetry:

"But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill ATHWART a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover! ...

Coleridge, "Kubla Khan"

I knew the DARERs and ASPIRERs to puzzle greatness were not going to give this one many OOHS and AAHs, and I can see their point -- but between ATHWART, SKIRMISH, and ARSE, I liked it. Very easy, though.

Also, the theme cluing isn't that bad -- true, ONE-HANDED TYPING doesn't quite work with the clue, but the other two are clued unambiguously as the longest Southern and Midwestern town names with that characteristic.

I think tWEETWATER, TEXAS must be a social media theme park.

joho 8:35 AM  

To @Acme's last point, I was startled to see that ONEHANDEDTYPING shared the "T" in SWEETWATERTEXAS until I realized it's the reveal and not part of theme. It would have been too much to ask to be able to type the reveal with one hand but super cool.

UNIONOHIO looks cool.

Today I learned MASSIFS and was tickled by ATHWART.

@dk, that PERT/WIENERS cross is funny and something Madeleine Kahn could have gone off on, mention of ARSE included! She died way too young.

I enjoyed it, thanks, David Goering!

Unknown 8:37 AM  

Felt kind of blah to me. Might have been more fun if solved using a standard keyboard instead of AcrossLite.

Funky Cold Medina was my favorite song to dance to back in the day. And, oh, Madeline KAHN! What a great talent, and a great clip.

John V 8:38 AM  

Congrats, David Goering, on your Times debut! A fine puzzle, if only Monday-easy, but okay.

I am finding the at the puzzles are easier when I use my trusty RED Pilot FriXion pen; who knew?

Zwhatever 8:46 AM  

Is ONE HANDED TYPING another Anthony WEINER reference?

Speaking of WEINERS, church socials in Holland, had sausage wrapped in dough. It wasn't until I moved to east Michigan that I ran into the sausage in a pancake style. I've never seen a weiner, AKA a hot dog, as part of the recipe.

Tita 8:51 AM  

Pigs in a blanket are most def tiny hot dogs - not sausages.
Puz spouse and I both love to cook, and always delight guests with creative appetizers.
We decided one time to give the little kids a break, and included "homemade" PiBs.. (You know, you buy the mini franks, and the Pillsbury Crescent rolls in that awesome tube that you THWAck on the counter...)
Well - the adults swarmed all over them, so now they too are part of our regular repertoire.

@lms - thanks for the lesson!
Your comment about accents.. I love how my Italian colleagues speak English. "Report" becomes "REEport", and "answered" becomes a long drawn-out "ahnsswurredd" - a fully stressed 3 syllable word, including pronouncing that "w".
Maybe English came to me so readily because the Portuguese are rather sloppy (linguistically)...
My mom often reminds me "The Portuguese are so poor, they eat half their syllables."

Hand up for loving the clue and the word at 64A... We will be in Derry in a few weeks...

Sean Dobbin 9:02 AM  

A few things:

1) I liked this idea. Something different, and the theme helped with the solve, just perfect. Good "aha" moment.

2) Thank you to @Rex for a very good explanation of the major problem with this puzzle. This was exactly my feeling. I'm still feeling a little empty inside.

3) @chefwen's comment at 2:31 is a good example of why cross-referenced clues should be avoided for non-theme fill when the theme entries are also cross-referenced. It gets confusing. I'm thinking that @chefwen's issue is that she simply misread the cross-reference, incorrectly assuming that the clue for 5-Down was referring to 52-Across (just as 20- and 34-Across did), rather than 3-Down.

Heck, I'm getting confused just explaining it!

Lewis 9:24 AM  

@z -- your first comment: very funny!

I would have preferred as the clue: London derriere.

A good workmanlike puzzle. Some grid gruel (ETAL, ANAEMIA, ASPIRER, DARER, TEM, SENSATE, MOTO, ATNO), and some spark (ATHWART, FRISKS), and Tuesday level cluing.

But a good mental workout! Thanks H.

chefbea 9:32 AM  

Easy wednesday. No time to read all the posts. Going to make bread...a great recipe...2 hours ,start to finish.

Carola 9:50 AM  

I was quite TAKEN with this one, liked the bit of trivia and the way the reveal slowly revealed itself to me. Enjoyed writing in CREAK, MASSIF, COAXING, SENSATE, SEA GATE. Nice nod to to Britain with ANAEMIC, LITRES and ARSENAL. UNION + REUNITE, ICES v. THAWS.

One do-over: Stack before SHELF.

Love the comments. @Lewis - "London derriere" - terrific!

OldCarFudd 10:15 AM  

@Tita - I once heard Portuguese described as "Spanish spoken with a mouthful of mashed potatoes".

Teenage Boy 10:18 AM  

I don't understand the theme - I do all my on-line typing one handed. HUGEHOOTERS.COM - one hand, and my off-hand at that. What's the point?

quilter1 10:29 AM  

Most of my comments have been made already. I learned MASSIFS, and hope I remember it. I enjoyed the British words and laughed out loud at some of the comments.

GILL I. 10:43 AM  

I enjoyed this minor SKIRMISH except that I couldn't figure out the gimmick. I mean I type with all ten fingers like god intended so all this ONEHANDEDTYPING business was lost on me.
Had What FOR instead of IAM at 23A Mien instead of MODE so that upper left area was a MASIFFs mess. Finally worked itself out and I went merrily on my way.
@Loren thanks for the SCHWAS. Great word by the way. Loved the PAPA PERT ARSE AREA. AAH MOOS OOHS CREAK eek....
Good Wed. workout.

Steve J 10:44 AM  
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Steve J 10:50 AM  

@Z: I'm pretty sure you'll never see a wEIner in a pancake (unless the man stoops even lower). You could see a wIEner in a pancake, however.

Incidentally, aside from the man himself, the whole Anthony Weiner thing bothers me incessantly because "weiner" and "wiener" are not interchangeable in pronunciation, and his surname should not be voiced as "wee-ner", like the sausage/hot dog/phallic euphemism. Setting aside that in German the W is pronounced as a V, his name should be pronounced "wine-er". I recognize the humor potential is greater with "wee-ner", and I recognize that he himself pronounces his own name the wrong way (and it's a common thing in English to shift the "aye" sounding German EI into an "eee" sound), but it still grates every time I hear it.

Back to pigs in a blanket: I have indeed seen a WIENER/hot dog used (and, since wieners/hot dogs are in fact sausages, the answer/clue combo used in today's puzzle is correct, if a bit atypical). Not in the more-typical breakfast variation of the dish, however (where a breakfast link would be used). Growing up in Minneapolis, there were also post-breakfast variations of pigs in a blanket that had a hot dog wrapped in cheese and a slice of white bread. Or maybe my mom imported that from the Dakotas. Anyway, they existed.

Anonymous 11:09 AM  

Here's a factoid about Sweetwater, TX....

It was home of one of the few Army Air Corps pilot training bases during WWII. My mother-in-law Donna was a Woman's Air Service Pilot (WASP) trainer there. Her trainer, an AT-6, was called "The Washbucket" because she had the highest washout rate there. She always later defended this, saying that these fighter pilot trainees had to be the best, since they would escort lightly-armed bombers over enemy territory.

After the war she was a commercial airline stewardess, the only aviation job available to women at the time. Often was the time, though, during stormy weather, that the pilot world swap places with her prior to landing, carrying her drinks tray around. Sh joked that the company would make more money off the white-knuckled male passengers at these times than the made from the ticket purchases. Little did the passengers know, though, that they were fare safer with her at the controls than they would have been with the pilots there. ;-)

Tita 11:16 AM  

@Lewis, @Carola - while your alternate clueing is also great, it is evocative of the local "dispute"...
I have been trained by my Irish in-laws to call it Derry, that being the (anglicized) original name.
Google "Derry/Londonderry name dispute" - it is described there as the shibboleth that it is.
(Yeah, I know - it's just a song (Londonderry Aire, right?)

@OldCarFudd - I'd be insulted were I not LOLing so hard...!

Well, I mostly came back just to check the email box.
Great coments today!

Noam D. Elkies 11:33 AM  

Rather 26A:FRISK[S]Y fill here, not only crossing the 64A:ARSE barrier but featuring the word at the tail-end of a grid that starts with 1A:MA'AM, and then inserting the tip of 43D:WIENERS. Rather a 57A:DARER of a puzzle. [Plus isn't there some humorous British poem that describes the 37D:THRONE[S] (as clued) room as an "39D:ARSENAL"?]

I enjoyed the left/right typing trivia, and was not bothered by the alleged imprecision in the cluing, nor by the presumption of standard touch typing on a QWERTY keyboard (I have such a keyboard and can still easily type "Sweetwater, Teaxs" right-handed, as I just did).


Noam D. Elkies 11:34 AM  

(Oops, make that Texas, not "Teaxs" - still right-handed - and ARSENAL.)

John V 11:37 AM  

NDE, does your typo suggest an XS of TEA in the Lonestar State? Curious minds need to know.

Jim in Chicago 11:57 AM  

While I will gladly eat a wiener wrapped in a crescent roll, that dish is a corruption that bears only a passing resemblance to the original. They come from Holland and the Dutch word is


It's a fairly normal pastry (like for pie crust) that you wrap around raw pork sausage and bake. here's a recipe complete with pictures but note that it makes 6,000!!

The picture of the completed pigs shows the ends open with sausage peeking out. In my mother's version - made by the boatload at our Dutch Reformed Church - had the ends sealed with a fork.

Absolutely delicious

Rob C 12:03 PM  

Played about medium Wed for me. Not thrilled by it, but didn't dislike it either.

As almost everyone else, I didn't like the DARER ASPIRER duo. I didn't like two British spellings either at 3D and 47D. But I'm an ARSE man too - strange how that didn't bother me. And OOHS and AAH I liked.

I also liked the clue for SELF-starter (resume cliche). I see a lot of resumes and it made me chuckle. If everyone is a self-starter, why do we need so much coffee?

FRISKS seems current with all of the discussion going on about NYC's stop and frisk policy.

@LMS - you certainly have a schwa de vivre for this subject ;)

Joe The Juggler 12:17 PM  

FWIW, when I grew up (midwest '60s and '70s) the "pig" in a pig-in-a-blanket was always a hotdog.

Joe The Juggler 12:20 PM  

I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous.

Zwhatever 12:20 PM  

@Jim in Chicago - Yep, that's the Pig in a Blanket I remember.

Joe The Juggler 12:29 PM  

Glimmerglass said...

"@Joe. Right. A schwa is just an unstressed vowel of indeterminate sound -- it can be an a or an e (or probably any vowel)."

The schwa can be spelled by almost any vowel (or pair of vowels as with the "io" in "nation"), but it's not an indeterminate sound. It's a specific phoneme.

Let's see, the "a" in "about", the "e" in "the" (when followed by a word beginning with a consonant sound), the "io" in words like "nation", the "ou" in "couple", the second "o" (when pronounced) in "chocolate", and the "u" in "up".

I'm sure there are other spellings. This is what I could think of off the top of my head.

Nancy 1:05 PM  

Easy,easy,easy! No erasures I think I'll frame it
Schwa was a term of insult that my kids called each other. Don't ask me why! It has a certain ring to it

mac 1:08 PM  

@Z and Jim in Chicago: I can't believe I see a saucijzenbroodje mentioned here, and a Holland church social?

I don't think there are a lot of church socials in Holland, except maybe after a funeral, and it would entail lots of coffee and then some port and jenever.

Saucijzenbroodjes are very rich, made with buttery puff pastry and fresh, well-spiced sausage without a skin. I have many friends who adore them. I go for the kroketten.

@Loren: wonderful explanation of schwah. Hope this one will stick....

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

Rex never heard of Medina Saudi Arabia?!! That's hard to believe. Mecca and median are the two holiest cities in Islam; they're almost always describes exactly that way. At least when Medina is mentioned. Anyway, I'm betting we've all heard it many times and not paid especially close attention.

DK-- Maxwell's closing is a huge loss. huge. I share your pain and nostalgia. I'm about 70 miles south of it and am half tempted to take a run up tonight for the last hurrah.

loren muse smith,
Nice job on schwa. My parents were fascinated by the schawa; I vividly recall explaining it them--no doubt poorly--one evening in the mid 1970's. Phonics classes were all the rage. good times.

Jim in Chicago 1:47 PM  


In my case, they were made as a fund raiser, as well Apple Dumplings (which likely also have a Dutch origin??) People would line up around the block and buy them by the dozen, I think unbaked allowing one to freeze for later use, although my memory is vague. I also remember that you could buy the sausage mixture premade in the local grocery stores, special mix for the pigs. Wonder if you still can...

Bird 2:03 PM  

Didn’t care for today’s puzzle too much. The theme is too loose – arbitrary towns from arbitrary geographical regions. Longest and shortest US towns might have been better, though symmetry would have been lacking. The NW corner is ugly (ATHWART?!). Then, as Rex pointed out, there is SENSATE (which can’t really be a word anybody uses) above SEAGATE and DARER (I think the courageous one is the DAREE, if he accepts the DARE) and ASPIRER. I like THRONES.


Madeline KAHN was also great in The History of the World Part I.

@Z – LOL. I made the same observation.

Happy Humpday!

Sandy K 3:09 PM  

This puzzle made me re-evaluate yesterday's and appreciate it much more. Yesterday's theme and
5 songs, now in retrospect, gave me much more SATISFACTION.


Lyric from Funky Cold MEDINA:
"I don't fool around with no Oscar Meyer WIENER."

jae 3:16 PM  

@lms -- Thanks. I'm going to put SCHWA in my "I think I've got it" file right next to SERIF.

Doc John 3:16 PM  

It's twue, it's twue!

Turn your head and cough 3:24 PM  

@Doc John - Stop bragging. It’s unbecoming a man of your profession.

LaneB 4:12 PM  

@lms Thanks for the complete explanation of the SCHWA--a term unknown to me. I filled 5d but didn't quite believe it. I felt that the constructor ended up with the letters SCHWAS and lucked out when they actually had a meaning. I also agree that fill like DARER, ASPIRER are a tad desperate, but any port in storm.

Carola 4:54 PM  

Following links in the comments....

@Tita - Interesting! I actually thought Derry and Londonderry were two different places.

@jberg - Majoring in German from high school on, I missed out on such treasures as "Kubla Khan" - thank you.

sanfranman59 4:58 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)

Wed 8:32, 9:43, 0.88, 23%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:08, 5:35, 0.92, 29%, Easy-Medium

Anonymous 5:28 PM  

Just because I am in a cranky mood, I am going to make cranky comment.....

I don't understand all of this discussion about Schwa....if people don't understand it, why don't they simply GOOGLE or BING, or whatever.
The internet is filled with explanations, definitions, etc.

Sorry for cranky comment, especially coming from anonymous.


eepy 5:41 PM  

You said "Feels like it was made on graph paper..."

As opposed to what?

I've been solving these things for a very long time, and I'm thinking I might
like to try constructing one.

chefwen 5:42 PM  

@Mitzie - Thank you, I was feeling pretty foolish, but that's exactly where my confused mind went last night.

retired_chemist 6:24 PM  

Medium. Decent, better than meh, but not outstanding. Seems I have seen the theme or something like it before.

We have friends who live in SWEETWATER. If that is teh most interesting comment I can make, I should shut up.

Tita 6:25 PM  

@Jim in Chicago, @mac...
YUMMMM! (Another schwa?)

I think that recipe makes just the right amount, actually...

Anonymous 7:15 PM  

My only contact with "massif" is in the movie "Hunt for Red October" where there is an underwater massif that they head for at flank speed before veering off at the last second. Do I correctly remember trailing torpedoes...?

"Weird" Al Yankovic has a song called "Isle Thing", a spoof of Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" about "Gilligan's Island", which contains the lyrics...

"Mrs. Howell had it goin' on
But Mr. Howell was meaner,
Ginger and Mary Ann coulda used
Some Funky Cold Medina."

ahimsa 7:26 PM  

I think this puzzle was kind of cute. It brought back memories of my touch typing class back in middle school. I remember starting out with drills of "a s d f" and then "j k l ;"

Is anyone here old enough to remember those classes? And, if so, did your class have mechanical machines or electric ones? :-) (hand up for mechanical machines even though it was 1972 or 1973)

I took the class because I thought it would help me with high school and college papers. I never dreamed how much it would speed up everything from email messages to computer programming (when I took the class I had no idea I'd go into computer science later). So, it's a very practical skill even though it has chained me to the QWERTY layout forever (never tried a Dvorak keyboard).

Back to the puzzle, yes, there were several parts that weren't so great. Since they've already been listed I'll skip them and simply offer my congrats to David Goering on the NY Times puzzle debut.

joho 8:32 PM  



@ahimsa-NYT ... you are so right, learning to type opens up all kinds of doors.

jae 9:27 PM  

@anon - tc? -- I tried the google route and found explanations that seemed to be written by linguists for linguists.  So, terms like "unstressed", "mid-central", and "unrounded" were not all that familiar to me.  Loren's post was clearer and more informative than what I was reading on line. 

To put it another way, I could expound on assessment strategies vis a vis a task-content matrix derived from Bloom's and Gagne's taxonomies for quite a while (there is even a book), but you would need schooling in the technical jargon and underling theory/research to have a clue. 

sanfranman59 10:04 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 6:01, 6:04, 0.99, 47%, Medium
Tue 8:49, 8:13, 1.07, 70%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 8:35, 9:43, 0.88, 24%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:46, 3:45, 1.00, 49%, Medium
Tue 5:29, 4:57, 1.11, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 5:02, 5:35, 0.90, 26%, Easy-Medium

August West 2:43 AM  

Just did this one on catch-up after breezing through Thursday. Man, when you're a regimented quadrant solver and don't have any clue as to 1 or 2D, you're pretty much screwed right off the bat. MASSIF(S) was a "ya-learn-sumthin-new-every-day" for me. Ditto, ATHWART. And I know everything!, or not, I'm happy to say. Compounding my ignorance with the reasonably guessed, albeit wrong, ELEM at 14A made the NW nothing more than a blank white triangle to be stared at. Oh, and who knew Brits dont only throw unnecessary "U's" and "D's" into otherwise perfectly fine English words?

The rest of the puzzle was no trouble. I went "around" it, clockwise from North Central all the way back to the bottom of that mocking NW abyss. Worked "up" the area, with FRISKED, STALE, I AM and SHAD finally coming to the forefront of my grey matter. SHAD begat MODE, which jettisoned ELEM for ATNO. The W" in SWEETWATER was my last entry, at nearly double my "Thursday" solving time.

Pigs in a Blanket are li'l cocktail hodogs (wieners) wrapped in dough. Period.

And there was only one Sweetwater.

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No one in Texas thinks it is in the Midwest, Rex

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spacecraft 11:33 AM  

Aaargh! From spellcasters to escorts! Get out! I feel like Rod Taylor, trying like crazy to grab that %#*&@ shutter handle and pull it shut against The Birds! Captchas, wake up! Do your jobs!

Anyway, as to today's entry, I experienced a refreshing change: the therme was NOT a gimme, not till all the letters in the reveal line were filled in on crosses. I had NO CLUE "WHATSGOINGON" as I started in the NW: with ATH_ART in place and forgetting about the little-used but perfectly okay ATHWART, I put an E in there, figuring that maybe "crosswise" was meant to convey that someone was crossing his heart, and so: AT HeART. Then I had start 20a, so thought the "longest" might be "...string of E's..."

Yeah, I was dazed and confused, till I fleshed out the rest of the fifteener, and the AHA! of W became obvious. But what in the world was SWEETWATERTEXAS the longest in? or at? or of? (Now I know why they tell you you shouldn't use a preposition to end a sentence with.) The answer eluded me until the last few letters of 52a fell in.

The grid itself was easy enough; I wouldn't be as hard on the construictor as OFL, but hey--if you please HIM, you're way ahead of the game. One other writeover, IRate for IRKED. The last entry will always evoke a great movie moment for me: Eliza, all dolled up for Royal Ascot, yelling "MOVE YER BLOOMIN' ARSE!" at a recalcitrant nag. God, I loved Audrey.

This captcha is TOTALLY illegible. How in the HELL do these idiots make it through?

rain forest 1:11 PM  

I find it typical that the constructor assumed everyone would know the town/state entries are in the USA. I was desperately hoping there would be a Canadian example, but, alas, only Yukon is "one-handed", and I know of no towns there that fit the bill.

Didn't like ASPIRER (marginal) and especially DARER. Otherwise, a reasonably smooth Wednesday.

@Spacecraft - you seem to love quite a few celebrities: Sela Ward, Geena Davis, Audrey Hepburn -- what about Madeline Kahn? She's great.

Waxy in Montreal 1:27 PM  

@Spacecraft - especially an idiot insensitive/ignorant enough to name himself after the Nazi angel of death, Josef Mengele.

Le Massif is also the name of a ski resort here in Quebec, northeast of Quebec City overlooking the St. Lawrence River. (Think I've noted that before which must mean MASSIFs has appeared in the NYT puzzle relatively recently.)

ATHWART was my only real problem here despite not being familiar with SWEETWATERTEXAS and UNIONOHIO. Easy even for a Wed.

captcha=SURVCHA which must be a var. of SCHWA.

Dirigonzo 2:57 PM  

Shorta/SCHWAS, IRate/IRKED and hotdogS/WIenERS made for a messy grid but didn't detract from the overall fun, and at least we got REUNITE instead of the often used but much reviled reune.

DMG 2:59 PM  

Cute puzzle. Only pause was MASSIFS, but It seemed vaguely familiar, so I moved on. As for pigs in a blanket, I think it must be a regional ( national?) thing. My mother, using her English mother's recipe, rolled little (Farmer John style) pork sausages in pastry dough. They were sooooo good. A few years ago I was invited to a party at the home of a lady newly arrived from England, and she made them the same way. Brought back good memories!

Think those "pigs" might have something to do with my Captcha : ingirth

Solving in Seattle 3:16 PM  

First time I've seen ATHWART without the suffix "ship." Cool all by itself.

Like @space, wasn't able to figure out the theme until basically the last letter of 52A.

DARER & ASPIRER are total groaners.

Fun solve, David.

capcha: ofullio. How would @LMS pronounce this? of ullio; awfull eeoh; offal eee oh...

Ginger 3:24 PM  

@spacecraft Thanks for the Audry Hepburn reference at the race track. and thank you @Rex for the Blazing Saddles clip.

Soooo much easier than yesterday. I was slow to get the reveal, and when I did it produced a prolonged groan. Don't have a problem with the DARER/ASPIRER duo, to me the meanings are quite different, however adding the 'er' to them is pretty lame.

Back to the OPEN for this addicted tennis junkie.

strayling 7:16 PM  

I enjoyed this one as a bit of easy-going fun. As a Mancunian, I have to (almost) agree with Rex about ARSENAL just being ARSE. City and United prove it with great regularity, so to speak.

Smita Sen 9:37 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
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