Old World blackbird / MON 7-1-13 / l'oeil (optical illusion) / Whodunit awards / Furniture finish / "Evil Woman" band, for short / Group for kids of problem drinkers / Regd. names

Monday, July 1, 2013

Constructor: Patrick McIntyre

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SHOWDOWNS — Answers to starred down clues are also names of Broadway musicals.

Word of the Day: MERL (19A: Old World blackbird) —
The Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) is a species of true thrush. It is also called Eurasian Blackbird (especially in North America, to distinguish it from the unrelated New World blackbirds),[2] or simply Blackbird, where this does not lead to confusion with a similar-looking local species. It breeds in Europe, Asia, and North Africa, and has been introduced to Australia and New Zealand. It has a number of subspecies across its large range; a few of the Asian subspecies are sometimes considered to be full species. Depending on latitude, the Common Blackbird may be resident, partially migratory or fully migratory. [Wikipedia]

• • •
I would have preferred the clue "Crossword constructor Reagle featured in Wordplay" for MERL (see Word of the Day). Crossing that with TROMPE (1D: ____ l'oeil (optical illusion)) is why I gave this a medium. I can imagine some might have failed the puzzle there. Perhaps MERL is crosswordese I should know by know, but alas I do not.

Add to that my start with BROKER instead of the correct TRADER (1A: Stock exchange worker), and I had a few minor bumps to overcome.

Tyler (not Hinman) Clark from Youngstown here to walk you through Monday's puzzle. It was an odd puzzle for me; when I wrote the answer RENT (6D: *Torn), I actually thought Hey, that's also a musical. But, when I wrote the theme revealer SHOWDOWNS (21D: Decisive confrontations ... or what the answers to the six starred clues are?) I was going too quickly to not take it literally, and even after writing the other theme answers, I still hadn't put it together. All told, the theme didn't affect my solving experience and was just something to enjoy once I had finished.

Theme answers:
  • RENT (6D: Torn)
  • HAIRSPRAY (8D: Salon supply)
  • CHICAGO (10D: The Windy City)
  • FOOTLOOSE (35D: Partner of fancy-free)
  • CABARET (46D: Nightclub)
  • CATS (63D: Jazz devotees, informally)

I was actually just listening to a live recording of the original 1971 Broadway cast of Follies, so I guess this is the perfect night for this theme for me. I was going to snidely remark that Footloose doesn't belong on this list, but when I looked up its run, it played over 700 performances, so I suppose you have to give it credit for that.

  • KNAVE (53A: Scoundrel) — I just like the word and don't remember seeing it in many puzzles.
  • EAVED (59A: Having a roof overhang) — I filled it in immediately, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
  • YOO (48A: "___-hoo") — I wrote "WOO" before HAIRSPRAY told me that was wrong.
  • BAD IDEA (69A: "Don't even think about it") — I don't know why, but I wrote BACK OFF as the first thing in that corner, with only "BA..." to start me off. Knew from DEA (70D: Narc's org.) that this was ... off.
  • STD (7D: Benchmark: Abbr.) — You'll need to subscribe to The AV Club xwords to get a punchier clue than that.
Wishing you a great holiday week!

Signed, Tyler Clark, Fan of CrossWorld


jae 12:37 AM  

Theme rich Mon.  My time was on the easy side but the NW looks like it might be tough for early week solvers...TROMPE, MERL, PETIT...

Pretty smooth grid for a Mon.  Only DALLIER and EAVED seemed cringy. 

Liked it.  And thanks Tyler.

oldactor 12:49 AM  

I have only blogged a couple of times but read this blog every day without fail. I feel like I know all the regulars.

This is about yesterdays puzzle, but I was so late I felt it would be lost at the bottom of list.

I am writing to defend the Three Stooges who were clued as Hams. Ham is the worst insult one can say about an actor.

The story goes that back in the day actors makeup was comprised of pig fat...lard. When an untalented or novice actor was on stage experiencing "flop sweat" he emitted the aroma of baked Ham.

You can say many things about the Stooges but they were not "bad actors". As for slapstick comedians they were artists. Maybe not your cup of tea but unquestionably masters of that genre.

Benko 12:57 AM  

Just finished BEQ's crossword book. He had clued STD as "Crabs, etc."
MERL has been in crosswords, but I remember it better from living in Europe.
ALATEEN is a good bit of fill which might have been tough for some.

Steve J 12:58 AM  

Like happens on most Mondays for me, I was completely unaware of the theme as I worked through the puzzle. Looking at it afterwards, though, I think this is one of the cleverer Monday themes I've seen. The theme answers are all widely known both as clued and within the theme, and nothing felt forced. And all nicely symmetrical, to boot. Impressive.

Agreed that the NW seems a bit tough for a Monday. I knew TROMPE l'oeil straight away, but I'm sure it's not immediately at the front of many people's minds. I had no idea what a MERL was (outside Mr Reagle), but I was able to get it off the crosses. But relying on TROMPE and the hardly-in-the-vernacular DALLIER to provide the crosses does indeed seem a bit steep for a Monday. Curious to see if any of the constructors here would have a simpler suggestion for the NW.

Rest of the puzzle was solid, too, although most of the three-letter fill was too abbreviation-happy. But the theme makes for a very nice Monday.

John Child 1:10 AM  

A word of thanks to Tyler and all of the other substitute bloggers! It's been really nice to have fresh, enthusiastic ans snark-free commentary whils Rex is away.

retired_chemist 1:28 AM  

Average Monday. Theme not apparent during the solve, so same experience as Tyler.

Had TRADER from the get-go. Lucky. MERL came strictly from crosses, which were all easy.

Ditto Tyler on EAVED also. Went in immediately, still don't like it.

Thanks,Mr. McIntyre. May I call you Trapper Patrick?

An I will echo John Child's thanks to all the guest bloggers. All analytical and interesting without being snarky.

jae 2:24 AM  
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jae 2:27 AM  

@oldactor -- Amen! Thanks for articulating why that answer bugged me.

Evan 2:50 AM  

I hope others will indulge me one moment of sheer joy -- I just found out yesterday that I'm going to be published in the NYT! Will Shortz accepted not one, but TWO of my crosswords for some as-yet-undetermined dates. I'm still walking on air as you can imagine, and I can't wait to see the Rexites of CrossWorld take them on!

Anyway, today was a very strange solving experience -- I thought it started out ridiculously hard for a Monday with TROMPE, MERL, and DALLIER in the northwest corner (and even RELATED didn't occur to me on the first pass). But I was lucky enough to have spotted the theme very early and I ended up with an easy solving time overall.

I think the theme idea is great and done mostly well, but I was little iffy on some of the fill. Tyler's mentioned the TROMPE/MERL crossing (potentially very tough) and EAVED. I'm not crazy about odd nouns like DALLIER and plural first names like RENEES (though it is kinda neat how both RENEE Zellweger and Richard GERE both show up when CHICAGO is in the grid). Felt like quite a few abbreviations too (DEA, ELO, ETA, RAF, SOC, SRA, STD, TMS). None of those things are deal-breakers, obviously, just not my favorite elements of the grid.

@Steve J:

I took a stab at that northwest corner. Here is what I came up with. I think the fill is a little better there.

chefwen 2:57 AM  

We weren't allowed to buy OLIO when I was growing up in Wisconsin. We had to drive to Illinois to get it. Mom used to say "I'm driving to buy some OLIOmargarine" never just OLIO always Oliomargarine. Never did see the attraction, I guess it was because it was forbidden in the Dairy State. One always wants what one can't have.

Guys, don't hurt Rex's feelings, he might just take his ball and go home, and then what would we do?

chefwen 3:01 AM  

P.S. Like guest Blogger Tyler and @ret_chem I didn't enjoy the theme until all was said and done, then it was just icing on the cake.

O.K. I think I'm done!

chefwen 4:09 AM  

Three and out! Congratulations @Evan, our paths must have crossed.

Can't wait to solve your puzzles. I'd be walking on air too.

Paul Keller 5:59 AM  

I struggled with the crossings at TROMPE/MERL and EVA/ALATEEN. Although I guessed correctly on both, I still think this puzzle sucked. The theme is slightly amusing, but there is no reason to even look at it until the puzzle is solved. By combining dozens of no-brainer clues with a few difficult ones whose answers cross, this puzzle manages to have no target audience.

Loren Muse Smith 6:14 AM  

Thanks to this place, I took one look at the grid, quickly made sure it was, yes, a Monday, and then thought, “Oh. Ok. Probably asterisks.”

We’re all such different solvers – Monday through Thursday the theme is forefront on my mind while I’m solving. Sussing it out is my one goal, finishing the puzzle a close second.

Loved SHOWDOWN crossing WAR!

CABARET - Remember I talked about that book Non Campus Mentis, a compilation of actual answers from college students’ essay questions? There was one answering a question about WW II - "Cat berets were a favorite form of German entertainment at this time."

I have a sort of admiration for the spirit of some intrepid spellers who come to a word not used often and soldier on without hesitation. I recently received an email asking what “house devours” would I suggest for her cocktail hour. Kinda makes sense, right?

ON A DIET crossing BAD IDEA. Right. MA’AM, pass the BRATwursts, and then I’ll have some DING Dongs and PETIT fours. And a bottle of YOO-hoo, too.”

Once when I was at the grocery store, and an item wasn’t scanning, I said to the cashier, “I’m not going to say, ‘Well it must be free then!’ because you probably get that a lot.” She stopped everything, turned to me and said, “You. Have. No. Idea.” I was quite happy that I had shown some restraint ( – and all of you out there who *do* say that. . .stop)!

So. . .I will show remarkable restraint and not cheer about a certain college shout-out. TADA ! But that was a shout -out, I guess? And all Cretans are liars? I love those mind-bending questions.

And speaking of cashiers and ROADMAPS (huh?), messing with people feeds my soul, especially when hand-made, hastily-written, angry signs are involved. I was recently driving to my daughter’s lacrosse game in some other town and had to stop and get gas. Taped to the door were three different hand-made signs screaming, “We do not have MAPs of Virginia!!!” I walked straight to the cashier and asked, innocently, earnestly, “Where are your MAPs of Virginia?” What does that make me – a KNAVEtte?

Patrick – excellent, well-filled grid and great theme! Thanks!

Tyler - nice write-up. Thanks!

Magenta Crayola 7:07 AM  

Mr. Child I wonder if you even recognize that your sideways swipe at Rex is pretty darn snarky itself. You don't have to read his blog, you could just look at the picture of the completed puzzle and go on with your day. Making a negative comment about the host of is just a bit

gexhouse2 7:39 AM  

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Bob Kerfuffle 7:40 AM  

Nice, theme-rich Monday puzzle.

Only the slightest bump at 9 D, ARGO, a different SHOW (i.e., a movie) intruding on the Broadway names (all of which have appeared as movies anyway - in the case of CATS, as direct-to-video.)

evil doug 7:44 AM  

It's boring when he's gone.

Muse: So you demand restraint on the 'must be free' chestnut, but you couldn't resist on the equally lame map thing? *poke!*


Sean Dobbin 7:49 AM  

It was a miracle that I finished this with no mistakes. TROMPE crossing MERL and PETIT left me completely guessing the M and the P. That's a weird feeling on Monday morning.

Theme was meh, but fine.

Unknown 7:54 AM  

Nice fun Monday to get the week started. DOWNPLAYS also would work as the revealer.

For those of you outside Pennsylvania who may only vaguely remember , LYNN Swann (with no political experience) ran for Governor in 2006 against popular incumbent Ed Rendell. Rendell DETERGED the floor with him. If I recall correctly, the margin of victory was >20 pts.

@Evan - Congrats. I had a puzzle accepted yesterday also

jberg 8:07 AM  

@chefwen -- I grew up in Wisconsin, too, but in Sturgeon Bay we drove to Menominee, MI to get our OLEO. Why? Because it was a lot cheaper, and in those days that meant something. As I recall, you could but it at home, but it was white - if you wanted it to be yellow you had to stir in a little packet of food coloring.

Anyway, the more-or-less official state painter at that time was Aaron Bohrod, a master of TROMPE d'oeil - so I got that right off, and in fact it saved me from the brokER impulse at 1A. All that made it super-easy for me.

On to the theme: a) I didn't even notice RENT and CATS until Tyler pointed them out (thanks!), and b) I'd have liked this puzzle a lot better if 30 D, TANK, had been clued as "What you don't want a musical to do," to match the theme-related 38D.

I, too, have enjoyed all the guest bloggers, each of whom have done a great job! But now I'm craving a little snark!

Anonymous 8:13 AM  

Medium? For this hopelessly bad novice, one who has never finished a Friday or Saturday puzzle, it was a cakewalk.

Jonesy 8:23 AM  

@Anon 8:13

just for clarity -- medium refers to the difficulty relative to other mondays... so assuming you can do thursday, all monday puzzles should be cakewalks - but this one had a few tricky places (NW) - hence the medium rating)...

PanamaRed 8:40 AM  

@chefwen @jberg -- I grew up in Milwaukee and remember the trips to Illinois to get colored OLEO. It was a state law that "protected" Wisconsin's dairy farmers by not allowing OLEO to look like butter. They repealed in the early '60s.

Enjoyed Patrick's puzzle, and had the same hiccups as others in the NW.

Ω 8:42 AM  

TROMPE went right in, but so did DAwdlER, which has the benefit of being a word my mother actually used. Dally would always follow Dilly, as in ," Don't dilly-dally." So the NW took a little extra time. I had bOO before HAIRSPRAY fixed the problem. Other than that, a pretty straightforward solve. I got the theme immediately, but didn't need it for the solve.

I spent the weekend in Asheville, NC. I did not see a single TARHEEL reference. Not a t-shirt, license plate, baseball cap, nothing. I think I see more UNC paraphernalia here in metro Detroit than I saw there. Of course, I won't be called "sweetie" by every woman I run into here, either.

Ω 8:45 AM  
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joho 9:17 AM  

Loved it, Patrick, this deserves a standing ovation and big bouquet!

I can see how some might have trouble in the NW, though, so that's small nit to pick on a Monday. That and EAVED.

Congrats in advance to @Evan and @Rob C ... my last puzzle was a weeject :( And Rob, PLAYSDOWN is a cool reveal but I think of the theme more as musicals ... )

It's great to start the week out humming!

chefbea 9:17 AM  

Good fun puzzle. Knew Trompe so had no trouble with the north west.

@Z I think all the tar heel stuff is here in Wilmington.

@Evan congrats. look forward to your puzzles.

And lastly..where is @Green. This puzzle is for him!!

quilter1 9:20 AM  

@Evan: many congratulations. I could never construct a puzzle and to have two accepted would truly be an air-walking experience.

@chefwen: A couple of people beat me to mentioning the yellow food coloring in the OLEO. I grew up in Iowa and we had that white stuff with the yellow packet. The old ladies called it "oly." Most of the cookbooks put out by church groups and other organizations called for margarine rather than butter.

And the puzzle: easy, fun, fresh. I enjoyed doing it.

Carola 9:30 AM  

I liked the puzzle A LOT. Saw what was afoot after RENT and HAIRSPRAY, loved the clever reveal and the bonus ACTS. @loren, Thanks for pointing out the CHICAGO cast members.

Liked TADA + OHO and the KNAVE and SATYRS.

@chefwen, @jberg, @PanamaRed - More OLEO memories - I loved it when I happened to be at the neighbors' house just after one of their Illinois OLEO runs. The OLEO was in a plastic pouch with a little button of red food color and the kids took turns, that is fought over, squeezing the pouch to mix in the color. Way more fun than butter.

Also - @jberg - Thanks for reminding me that I learned TROMPE d'oeil from Aaron Bohrod's paintings.

@Z - I also spent the weekend in Asheville. Wonder if we crossed paths :)

@Evan - Congratulations!

retired_chemist 9:44 AM  

Whatever its appeal, oleomargarine is probably worse for you than butter. More trans fats, which send HDL and LDL both in the wrong directions.

The history of margarine in the US includes a "war on margarine" by the dairy industry, clearly for economic reasons. The link notes that, historically, margarine at one time had to be pink in some states while others wanted it black or red. These absurdities were over and done with AFAIK by the time any of us were alive. But we old-timers all recall the yellow packets, which evaded the coloration laws.

jackj 9:46 AM  

When in the course of crossword production, one constructor chooses to include DALLIER to save his bacon by allowing completion of his cherished theme, should the affected populace applaud or revolt in response to this intrusion on the Laws of Nature?

Only applause from this side as the elegance of the SHOWDOWNS theme vastly outweighs any temporary irritation at DALLIER, even though it looks to be an uber-example of a TROMPE l’oeil when it not only “tricks the eye” but addles the brain as well. (A small price to pay for such a special Monday puzzle!)

With six superb theme entries to choose from, it is nigh impossible to declare a winner of the Tony for “Best in Puzzle”, but since my first visit to a Broadway production was to see CABARET, there is more joy for me in that recollection.

The puzzle’s fill was a tad more trying than the usual Monday, but with nothing especially unfair to deal with, it allows for a nice test of wits for early week solvers. TROMPE and DALLIER are certainly two of the more aggressive entries while MERL, SHACKLE, ALATEEN and KNAVE also likely confounded a few people.

Seeing a clue asking for LYNN as the answer causes those of us from eastern Massachusetts to immediately think of the Bay State’s North Shore city of LYNN that had (has) to deal with a bit of a seedy reputation that still prompts local wags to crow:

"Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin, you'll never come out the way you went in, what looks like gold is really tin, the girls say 'no' but they'll give in, Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin".

A terrific puzzle from Patrick McIntyre!

John V 9:58 AM  

A good Monday, yep, medium. I was impressed with the nice, open corners, not common in a 78 word puzzle, if I count right. OTOH, EAVED? Not passing the breakfast test, but forgiven. Nice puz, Patrick.

Ryan M 9:58 AM  

I am very much a newbie to crosswords (about 2 weeks of earnest NYT efforts with very little success after Wednesdays) but am happy to say that this was my first ever 100% completion and I enjoyed the experience a lot!

MetaRex 9:59 AM  

Had SHOOTOUTS instead of SHOWDOWNS...was nicely distracted by that mistake since I thought singer Franklin might be ARETHA somehow shortened...

Congrats to Evan! Long long ago in a puzzle era far far away it it was, but I still remember well when Gene Maleska said yes to me...

Today's reveal with its DOWN reference gives us three NYT puzzes in a row that in one way or another have a focus on the grid not just the words. MR gives a robot cheer to that...think that crosswords at their best are a geometric art form as well as a verbal one. On the specifics: Joe K's fingers/towers of Hanoi/butterflies and Patrick M's simple down reference rocked me more than Alex V and Jeff C's M and W did...would have liked a diagonal shape for the M and the W, more like Jeff's X a while back.

Sandy K 10:03 AM  

Got the theme from RENT. Don't always like Mon-puzzles, but this theme was A-OK with me!

SHOWDOWN as the revealer and the 6 RELATED answers was not a BAD IDEA at all.

Congrats @Evan and @ Rob C- AVIDLY await your puzzles!

Unknown 10:04 AM  

It's Broadway SHOWs that go DOWN! Get it? SHOWDOWNS! Hahahaha! Not a BAD IDEA for a fun little Monday puzzle.

Unknown 10:22 AM  

Nice Monday puzzle. Thanks for the write-up Tyler II.

I agree that MERL just called for a Reagle (regal?) clue.

Chicago is a seriously underrated band!

I've never seen "Rent," but hearing elementary school choirs butcher "Seasons of Love" for the past few years has been distressing.

Ellen S 10:25 AM  

OMG -- best crossword puzzle blog ever! I grew up in Chicago and dimly remember the little buttons of coloring for OLEO (or maybe just remember being told about it), but vividly remember Aaron Bohrod. He was married to my mother's cousin Ruthie and we used to go visit them in Madison in the summers. He was artist-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin. We owned several of his paintings but not any of the TROMPE L'Oeil things, which I loved, that he did mostly for magazine covers. I don't run into people who have heard of him (or realize they ever saw his work) too often. Took a sketching class once from a guy, Robert Regis Dvorak, who first thing handed out immediately-recognizable copies of a sketch of a farmworker. Turns out when he was in his teens he had lived near the Bohrods and Aaron had mentored as well as inspired him. A generous man, but I doubted anyone had ever heard of him. Good to hear he is remembered in Wisconsin. (The Art Institute of Chicago has several of his works but none of them on display.)

I liked the puzzle, too, probably for the pleasant recognition of TROMPE, and Party to the left of Dem ("I resemble that remark") made up for annoyance at EAVED. MERL is an old crossword puzzle word (I think ERNS prey on them?), but maybe hasn't been seen recently, judging from the comments. Only people who put coloring in their OLEO can remember it.

Hey, what I want to know is, when did the dairy people start putting beta carotene in butter and cheese? And was it because the added color in margarine made it even yellower than natural butter? They had to mess up the real thing to make it look more like the fake stuff?

@Evan and @RobC, looking forward to your puzzles.

Unknown 10:26 AM  

And, break open the Andre, @Evan! Look forward to solving them.

Ellen S 10:34 AM  

p.s. Chapel Hill is also full of TARHEEL references.

and my Captcha is "typesrf" -- yes! That was me when I used to do the layout for a community newspaper here in Sacramento. (Since I was paid $400 an issue and everyone else, editors, writers and all got paid zero, I guess I was more lord of the manor than serf?)

mac 10:40 AM  

Very impressive Monday with 6 theme answers, a reveal smack in the middle and Renee and Gere to boot.

No write-overs, although I had to get a cross to put in trader instead of broker. Knew that 73A would start with Ala- but the T came from Cabaret. Yes, where's Greene?

Congratulations to Evan, Rob C. and Tyler, the most modest stand-in blogger! We're all fans!

Evan 10:42 AM  

@Rob C:

Congrats! Looking forward to it.

@Ryan M:

Welcome, and well done on your first perfect solve. Keep at it -- six years ago I couldn't finish Thursday puzzles, and I wouldn't have even dared to touch a Friday or a Saturday. Now the Fridays and Saturdays are my favorite ones to solve.

Two Ponies 10:54 AM  

Nice start to our week.
Thanks for sitting Tyler.
When will Rex be back?
Way to go Evan!

dk 11:04 AM  

Crikey! If all you posters become constructors the discourse here will become so civil…. I shudder to think.

Alternatively, you will post nothing out of fear someone will steal your x-word idea.

Evan, and all whose puzzles get published in the NYT a hardy thumbs up. You may only get one star from me but it is a four star accomplishment.

Nice Monday puzzle. Theme works and only one obscure sports reference.

🌟🌟🌟 (SRO)

joho 11:04 AM  

@Ellen S, but the big question is: do MERLS eat EELS?

Masked and Anonymo... oh, oh...Us 11:34 AM  

@Evan and Rob C... Congrats. Good to have good people pickin up the slack for 4-Oh's apparent pendin retirement from makin puzs. Lookin forward to yer good works.

@lms: Some friends have filled me up a grid of FLEA Flickers. Tryin to write some "decent" clues for it. Are you doin a version? Maybe we good swap hostages, some fateful day. Who knows. In any case, no refunds.

Broadway shows... Clever idea. Enjoyed every dab of it, except for TROMPE/PETIT area, which French fried me. Knew MERL, due to veteran puz solver status.

retired_chemist 11:40 AM  

@Ellen S -see my earlier post for more than you want to know about the color of margarine.

Anonymous 12:00 PM  

@Evan - Big, big improvement with that corner. Much better than what was published. The TROMPE / MERL cross is guessable, but maybe not for Monday level solvers.

@Magenta Crayola -
"Mr. Child I wonder if you even recognize that your sideways swipe at Rex is pretty darn snarky itself. You don't have to read his blog, you could just look at the picture of the completed puzzle and go on with your day. Making a negative comment about the host of is just a bit "

A lot of people come here in spite of Rexy. They come for the commenters. The schtick that everything sucks wears really thin.

Rookie 12:12 PM  

It seems so ungracious to me to make sarcastic remarks about Rex/Michael in his absence while praising the very people HE has chosen to fill in for him. Have you ever considered that finding subs is another part of his icommitment to this blog?

I am grateful to all the guest bloggers and I stand in amazement at what Rex does day in and day out to give us the pleasure of his insights and the companionship of our fellow/sister solvers. The friendships that have come from this blog are no small part of what Rex has given us. Although I post very rarely, I love reading what the rest of you write and love how your personalities have revealed themselves over time. For all that, thank you, Rex!

Benko 12:18 PM  

@Z-- Asheville has its own branch of UNC. Their mascot is the bulldog.
The UNC with the tar heels is on the other side of the state, in Chapel Hill.
Used to live near Asheville, my parents and brother still do. Good time of the year to be there.

Anoa Bob 1:02 PM  

The guest bloggers were great, but I for one am ready for some more of the King's (Rex=King, right?) writeups, snark and all. Sometimes the snark is the best part.

And sometimes the snark is just what's needed to get the hornets buzzing in the comment section.

Congrats Evan! That's a great feeling, the first acceptance, and guess what---the buzz never completely goes away! Waiting for the publishing date can be trying, but when it comes, it just makes for a second flood of endorphins into deep brain pleasure centers. Woo-hoo!

Think I may have found a meta-theme for the last few puzzles in today's 31A ESSES. That undergirds stack neighbors RENEES(!) & ALERTS while TMS, DEMOS & OHMS lurk in the vicinity. The trend continues with ESSES sprinkled liberally throughout the rest of the puzzle.

The meta-theme? Why, it's Chock-A-Block POC, of course. Surprised no one else picked up on it.

Loren Muse Smith 1:06 PM  
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Loren Muse Smith 1:08 PM  

@Ryan M – you’re smart to read this blog and participate. Great job on finishing today! As @Evan said – stick with it and you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll become at these things.

@Rob C – congrats, too!

@M & A – we can never swap hostages because you flat refuse to email me. (I watched Rudy again yesterday, and it looked like Notre Dame scored that last TD against Ga. Tech running a FLEA Flicker. I could be wrong, though.)

@Evil – I completely disagree that my MAP tease was lame; on the contrary the practice of messing with people in this way is truly funny and shows how very witty, clever, and charming I can be. Basically, anything I show restraint in is completely correct and anything I choose to blow on ahead and carry out is completely correct, also.

Once I was standing at the bakery of a grocery store and noticed cupcakes with alarming plastic clown heads sticking out of the tops. They had a sign in front of them (again, hand-written (but not angry)) that said, ridiculously, “Character Cupcakes.” As this was registering with me, the clerk said, “May I help you?” I said, “Yes. Do you have any Character Cupcakes?” He said, “No. I’m sorry, but we don’t.” I have to insist here that this behaviour (hey, Gareth!) is funny and should not be restrained. I do have all the answers on this one. ;-) OK -touché already.

syndy 1:17 PM  

@JACKJ OMG! will we never live it down?Actually I understand the old home town is even seedier than ever!I would like to thank Patrick McIntyre for this show stopping number,Tyler clark for his review and the grear show clips,Rex Parker for providing this venue and My mom who just loved that scurious indictment of her city!

Anonymous 1:20 PM  

Tyler, nice write-up, but do you really mean "a live recording of the original 1971 Broadway cast of Follies"? The 1971 original cast version is a studio recording; the live version was recorded in 1985. (Both are great!)

Masked and No U's Atall -ymous 1:31 PM  

@lms: Well, yeah. But how many hostage swaps usually involve e-mail?

Suit yerself. :(

Good subs, but miss the 4-Oh-larm chilis on top. :(


Bird 2:11 PM  

For a Monday, this was medium-challenging. The NW corner too way too long because of TROMPE (no idea) crossing 19A MERL (vaguely remembered after a minute or so) and PETIT (which is obvious after the fact). I love the theme though I do not like the forced EAVED or DALLIER. I’m sure they’re legit though.

AHA before OHO @ 47A and WOO (thinking Homer Simpson) before YOO @ 48A.

Nice write-up Tyler (not Hinman). I think BACK OFF is the better answer.

Does anybody still have roadmaps in their glove boxes?

@Evan & Rob C – Congrats!

Ellen S 2:11 PM  

@retired_chemist, wow, the Butter Wars were worse than I had realized! So coloring butter to make it more colored than natural is a practice over 100 years old. What is really stunning is the butter industry claiming, what, 125 years ago that margarine is unhealthy, and it turns out to be true (although that would be the modern vegetable oil margarines, not the older animal-fat ones against which the original claims were made).

I don't know if that paragraph made any sense so I'll deal with something more important: @Joho, no, MERLS obviously don't eat EELS. The ERNS, which would eat the MERLS if they came close to the sea, also eat the EELS. We can keep track of the carnage by tallying with Roman Numerals. We can give the scores to @Evan to use in his future puzzles.

Lewis 2:22 PM  

@Z -- Next time you come to Asheville, contact me and we can talk crossword if you'd like. Asheville is four hours from Chapel Hill, and while there is a UNC fan base here, it is modest. UNCA, on the other hand, is huge. I hope you enjoyed your visit!

@Carola -- you too! And either of you can come to my yoga classes!

@evan and robc -- Way to go!!!!

I liked the theme a lot, perfect for Monday. I did not like all the POC's (as Benko has pointed out) and the NW corner, which many here are giving a pass. It doesn't get mine. It is absolutely Monday inappropriate.

Not sure how I feel about STD neighboring with HAIRSPRAY. Or so close to KEN for that matter. Now CATS next to SNOBS is quite nice.

Acts Chicago Merls 2:29 PM  

Wow, six themes, + that beautiful middle reveal!!!

It would have been nice to run this two weeks ago, following the Tonys.

@RobC. I like your DOWNPLAYS observation and yes, congrats to you and @Evan! The excitement of an acceptance never gets old (till it's published then trashed! That gets old real fast!)

GERE RENEE pointout... Nice!
For burgeoning constructors, which this blog has inspired....Here's a good example of entries that couldn't be theme answers as first name vs last name, not parallel letter count, not plays, etc. but they are dollops that add to the atmosphere of the puzzle!

I'd add ACTS to those dollops...and I liked the -GO subtheme: AGO, ARGO, CHICAGO.

I didn't get the theme initially as I had RENd!
I didn't understand the clue for Trademarks, even tho that's my business! I thought REGD was a military abbrev and dMS was something I didn't know!
The theme reveal helped me go back and correct.

For those who only do the down clues on Mondays, (I'm looking at you, Dan!) I'm glad you aren't missing the lovely theme!

It seemed familiar tho as a theme, I feel Caleb Madison might have done one word show titles a year or two ago, or am I thinking of his Woody Allen puzzle? I should look it up...

Speaking of looking it up, I'm glad that @Tyler took the time to a) fill-in and
b) to doublecheck the FOOTLOOSE info, rather than pounce on a perceived inconsistency that wasn't there.

Acme 2:42 PM  

Ps Ok, I looked it up

A 2007 Wednesday puzzle by Lee Glickstein and Craig Kasper with 17 (!!!!!!!!!) theme answers, with RENT , CABARET and HAIR (1/2) as the only overlaps...

I think the clever SHOWDOWNS reveal and structure of today's saves this from being one of those copyCATS, but I think that is why it seemed vaguely familiar.

Loren Muse Smith 3:07 PM  

Hey all - I wish I could take credit for the GERE/RENEES spot, but that was all @Evan. And I was childishly jealous that I hadn't noticed that. Made me feel petulant.

sanfranman59 3:51 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 5:43, 6:12, 0.92, 14%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:34, 3:49, 0.94, 17%, Easy

Anoa Bob 4:42 PM  

RobC, oops, I was too careless reading the comments so I failed to catch the mention of your breakthrough into puzzledom. Congrats also, and what I said to Evan goes for you too. Yowza!

Mike Rees 4:47 PM  

I think what I enjoyed best about this one is that, although I'm no expert solver, Monday puzzles tend to be a little too much on the easy side. This one had lots of good, long fill in the corners, the theme was cute and not overbearing, and not all the answers were necessarily the first word to come to mind. I had DAWDLER instead of DALLIER ... Is that a Canadian thing? Guessed at the M in the NW corner and got lucky. Rest of it took four passes (I do my puzzles in numerical order, across then down until it's all filled in).

Carola 5:41 PM  

@Lewis - Thank you for the invitation! We did have a wonderful time - a double celebration....45th wedding anniversary for college classmates and wedding reception (ceremony was in NY) for their daughter and new daughter-in-law. An especially nice weekend to celebrate that given the SCOTUS decisions. Also had fun exploring downtown and eating in very nice restaurants.

Ω 5:55 PM  

@Carola & @Lewis & @Benko - It was a beautiful weekend. We were there for Weekend at Warren Wilson. I spent Friday at Altamont and Green Man. Saturday was a home brewing lesson during the day then a couple of us went to a Tourists' game (except for one inning, a good game). Drove past UNCA on the way out of town. In Michigan you see Wolverine and Sparty stuff everywhere, even in Menominee. The absence of Blue Devil and Tar Heel stuff was different.

Ω 5:57 PM  

@Anoa Bob - I could be wrong, but I seem to recall that @Rob C had a puzzle not too long ago.

Anonymous 6:12 PM  

@Z I believe Rob C had two puzzles not too long ago.

M and A enthusiastically 6:34 PM  

Rob C had a fabulous, big U-count puz in 2012, too.
Just missed a major, Nobel-like award in the crossword field. mUcho impressive. Moment of respect...


Anybody know a good puz clue for the French weeject LUI?
...Best I could muster was "Duck bro of Hui and Dui".

Unknown 6:36 PM  

Thanks for all of the kind words today. I now have two that are waiting to be published. Without giving anything away, I think one will be well received by this crowd and the other...not so much. I'm sure there will be a lot of good discussion though.

@Z - I've had 2 previously in the NYT, most recently in Aug 2012. I also had one in Jan 2013 in the LAT. That may be the one you're thinking of???

Unknown 6:37 PM  

@M&A - no need to play nice now, I never forget a snub ;)

Anonymous 6:43 PM  

Congratulations, Evan!! Looking forward to seeing -- and solving -- those puzzles!

-- FearlessKim

Anonymous 6:48 PM  

Nice week for another Rexite! Congratulations!

sanfranman59 10:01 PM  

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

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

Mon 5:45, 6:12, 0.93, 16%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:31, 3:49, 0.92, 13%, Easy

Steve J 11:17 PM  

@Evan: Congrats on the puzzle acceptances. And I do like your NW better.

@RobC: Congrats to you, too.

spacecraft 11:39 AM  

Stacked sevens on a Monday..TADA! congrats to (yet another) Patrick for the most open Monday grid in my memory. It all goes fairly smoothly, a couple of sticky spots here and there easily taken care of by crosses. Nice theme and revealer--and great intra-theme with RENEES/GERE/CHICAGO. Who knew FOOTLOOSE was a Broadway show? I can see people playing "Six degrees of Kevin Bacon" with this one.

I'd forgotten all about those silly OLEO pouches. Thanks for reminding me, everyone. Those were the days, my friend, I thought they'd...etc.

Waxy in Montreal 1:37 PM  

In Quebec, the most agro-friendly jurisdiction anywhere, the margarine wars weren't over until 2008! Have only had the opportunity to buy a yellow version of the spread for 5 years.

OHMS can also be On Her (or His) Majesty's Service (when people still actually sent real letters to their Members of Parliament in commonwealth countries, no stamp was necessary if OHMS was printed on the envelope).

Otherwise, a breezy Monday crossword, fit for a mid-summer's day.

Getting a little put-off by the amount of junk email engendered by ticking Blogger's email follow-up box. My captcha today seems appropriate: hakage.

DNGrandma 1:59 PM  

Just dropping by to add a word to the oleo talk. As I recall, it became more of a household thing during WWII. I suspect that was because butter was rationed. Anyone else remember the ration stamps, later "chips", red for meat and dairy, blue for everything else? At any rate that is when I got to squash the little yellow package insert.

Oh, the puzzle. a pleasant solve with, for once?, no write overs.

ahimsa 2:07 PM  

This puzzle was so much fun! Maybe it was a bit harder than other Mondays but that only made it more fun for me. Kudos to Patrick McIntyre.

RENT was the first SHOW that I wrote DOWN (!), and then FOOTLOOSE, and those two helped me to see the revealer and the theme. By then the other starred clues were easy. It helps that I've seen them all, mostly as movies, but I have seen two onstage (CHICAGO and CATS).

I didn't realize that many thought TROMPE [l'oeil] was a difficult entry. I have seen that phrase so many times that even I, with zero ability to speak French, and who is hopeless at French spelling, wrote that in without any hesitation. Interesting.

I don't follow football at all and yet had no trouble remembering LYNN Swann. I don't think I would have remembered STEELER but the crosses made it easy.

@lms, not sure if you follow snydi-land comments, but that was such funny story about "cat berets." My first LOL of the day, thanks!

Dirigonzo 2:26 PM  

It's not often that my first run-through of the clues produces a completed grid free of write-overs - today was such a day. I, too, thought some of the fill had an "old-timey" feel to it but that's fine with me - that's my wheelhouse, after all.

Seems like it was just yesterday that @spacecraft was celebrating an alternative clue for ABS and today the muscles are back, although I do like the "six-pack" reference (I always like a six-pack reference).

AquilaAquilegia 6:18 PM  

As Bugs Bunny said: "Did you ever have the feeling you was bein' watched?"

I clicked on the Chicago video. (Of course I clicked on the Chicago video. I only have most of their albums. I've only been a fan since I was five years old (1970). I mean, what do you expect?) The video comes up... with an pop-up ad from Orion Telescopes.

I mean, seriously, Orion Telescopes? Who do you think I am? Somebody who visited Spaceweather.com before coming to Rexville? Somebody who just received a SHIPMENT from Orion Telescopes? Sorry, guys, I already spent my mad money for the month. If I ever have a spare $2000 or so lyin' around, though, I might bite on that 14" computer-driven Dob you've been dangling in front of me for months. (In amateur astronomy this is referred to as "scope porn". Seems like STDs ought to figure in the name, but I digress.)

The puzzle? Yeah, I guess there was a puzzle somewhere, but I've lost my appetite. I'm going back offline where... they can still find me, but they're gonna have a lot more trouble doing it. :)

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