Band with 2007 #1 album We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank / TUE 12-10-13 / 1978 Bob Fosse musical / Annual Vicksburg pageant / Aperitif with white wine

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Constructor: Bill Thompson

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: M AND M (55A: Plain or peanut candy) — not sure why this isn't clued as a revealer, because I *think* that's what it was probably designed to be. Theme answers are two-word phrases, where both words start with M—vowel progression takes you from MA- MA- phrase up top to MU- MU- phrase down low:

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Pen with a fat felt tip (MAGIC MARKER)
  • 31A: Aboriginal healer (MEDICINE MEN)
  • 36A: Annual Vicksburg pageant (MISS MISSISSIPPI)
  • 45A: Band with the 2007 #1 album "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank" (MODEST MOUSE)
  • 59A: Pooh-bah (MUCKETY-MUCK)
Word of the Day: MODEST MOUSE 
Modest Mouse is an American indie rock band formed in 1993 in Issaquah, Washington, by singer/lyricist/guitaristIsaac Brock, drummer Jeremiah Green, and bassist Eric Judy. Since their 1996 debut album, This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, their lineup has centered around Brock, Green, and Judy. Guitarist Johnny Marr(formerly of The Smiths) joined the band in May 2006, along with percussionist Joe Plummer (formerly of The Black Heart Procession) and multi-instrumentalist Tom Peloso, to work on the album We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Guitarist Jim Fairchild joined the band in February 2009. Their name is derived from a passage from the Virginia Woolf story "The Mark on the Wall" which reads, "I wish I could hit upon a pleasant track of thought, a track indirectly reflecting credit upon myself, for those are the pleasantest thoughts, and very frequent even in the minds of modest, mouse-coloured people, who believe genuinely that they dislike to hear their own praises." (wikipedia)
• • •
[DEAR SYNDICATED SOLVERS (if you're reading this on Sunday, Jan. 12, that's you). Please listen to the following pitch. Also, feel free to write me with any comments or concerns. You're well over half my total audience, and yet I hardly ever hear from you. Thanks!]

THE PITCH — [You can scroll down if you've already read it]

So … it's January, the time when I make my annual week-long pitch for financial contributions to this blog. Actually, I didn't make the pitch last year. I used last January to raise money for other causes instead (and it was my pleasure to do so). But this year I once again ask you (especially you regular readers) to consider what the blog is worth to you on an annual basis and give accordingly. As I've said before, as much as I love writing this blog, I treat it like a job— answers and commentary go up every day, without fail, usually at 12:01 am, but certainly by 9am at the very latest. This has been true for seven straight years. I know that some people are opposed to paying for what they can get for free, and still others really don't have money to spare. Both kinds of people are welcome to continue reading my blog, with my compliments. It will always be free. I have no interest in cordoning it off, nor do I have any interest in taking advertising. I value my independence too much. Anyway, if you are so moved, there is a Paypal button in the sidebar, and a mailing address here:

Rex Parker
℅ Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton NY 13905

Maybe I'll stick a PayPal button in here for the mobile users. Let's see...

I think that worked. Cool.

For people who send me actual honest-to-god (i.e. "snail") mail, I have this great new set of thank-you postcards that I'm hoping to burn through: "the iconic Pantone color chip design in 100 brilliant colors." Who will be the lucky person who gets … let's see … Pantone 19-2025: Red Plum? Ooooh, elegant. It could be you. Or give via PayPal and get a thank-you email. That's cool too. Anyway, whatever you choose to do, I remain most grateful for your readership. Now on to the puzzle …

Update: I got my first snail-mail donation —look at the cuteness:

• • •

Many of you will never have heard of MODEST MOUSE. You are forgiven.

The theme is pretty simple but at least we get some interesting answers out of it. I'm not sure how legit it is to have "MUCK" be your second "MU-" "word," but I have a hard time disliking MUCKETY-MUCK, wherever and whyever it might appear. MISS MISSISSIPPI is not really much of a thing, any more than MISS ANY STATE is. Also MUCKETY-MUCK and MISS MISSISSIPPI don't just do a vowel progression—their second words basically double-up on the first *four* letters of the initial word. So it's simple and loose. But not unenjoyable. Fill is gunky in places (CAN OF, MCII, etc.), but no more than is usual for the NYT these days. The banks of 6s in the NE and SW are pretty well done. I can't tell if M AND M was rejected as a revealer, or if it's trying to be all … subtle and low-key and cool over there in the sort-of-corner. [Update: I am told that Will Shortz called the MANDM answer "a little distracting" because it looks like a revealer but doesn't fully express the puzzle's theme (specifically, the vowel progression part). But if something's "distracting," then why not change it? Ditch it. Easy fix. Change two letters. Any of you can do it. No sweat. I guess the answer wasn't "distracting" enough to merit minimal editorial intervention.]

Difficulty level felt normal. Took me forever to get BLOUSE, and yet I spelled MUCKETY-MUCK right on the first go. Had TASE instead of LASE (29A: Zap with light), SURE instead of SOME (39D: Certain), TEASE instead of TEMPT (54D: Entice), and (best/worst of all) SPHERE instead of "UP HERE!" (48D: Higher calling?). There are SPHEREs in the heavens. They are higher … than you? And you "call" them SPHERES? I don't know. Felt plausible. Perhaps because I had -PHERE and I thought "S" was the only that made a word (and, technically, I was right about that—it's just that the answer was two words).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:06 AM  

Dang! A tough Tues. after tough Mon.  Makes me wonder about the rest of the week?

ALGREN was WOE although I'm pretty sure I've run across that clue before.  Just didn't stick.  

MODEST MOUSE came on the scene long after I stopped paying attention to what's current musically, but at least I've heard of them.

Hopefully KIR is familiar by now.

Me too @Rex for tASE before LASE.

Not sure about spelling MUCKETY so had to correct it when the down made no sense.

Like Amy I missed the vowel progression. 

Nice Tues.  liked the theme answers and the subtle reveal and the smattering of zip...REAMED, DANCIN, PORN...and the fill wasn't too bad either.

Aero Cleric Mimics 12:28 AM  

Needless to say, I did NOT miss the vowel progression ;)
When I saw the repeat of MISS/MISS, and MUCK/MUCK I secretly wished it could have gone even one more step and had all of them be that way...
(Will let you know if I think of one!)

Hand up for
a) Not having heard of MODEST MOUSE, I tried MOoSE! (And I'm a huge Virginia Woolf, and a namer, so loved learning that in WOD. Do not like the name itself tho. EEK!)

B) TEase before TEMPT
(also Dose/DRAM and Bo??? before finally realizing I could do BOG if I changed the WBc to the WBA.
Unlikely one would be stepping on a BOa.

I wasn't distracted by M AND M, but was wildly distracted by those 10-letter DREAMTEAMS and SERPENTINE.

I mean DREAMTEAMS for sure seems like some sort of theme answer.
I thought it was going to be some sort of Basketball thing...
MAGIC and maybe someone is called "The DREAM", right?

Anyway, liked that it was a vowel run, hidden as a double letter phrase thingy, and liked the theme answers but still wanted a tiny bit more.
(Nope, still haven't thought of another first four letter double double other than MASSAPEQUA MASSACHUSSETTS? oh wait, MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA!!! Where it's only ONE degree tomorrow! ONE! At least it's one...above!
DOn't miss being UPTHERE.

okanaganer 12:44 AM  

I did miss the MA-ME-MI-MO-MU progression. I would have preferred MISSUS MISSOURI just 'cuz the rhythm is so much nicer than MISS MISSISSIPPI. (but the wrong number of letters, I guess). Nice puzzle, except again too many abbrev's for my taste.

I had 23D: Apothecary unit = GRAM...that works. And 23A: All-star lineups = GREAT TEAMS...perfect! Which makes 18D: Ways and Means = COTM... uhhh, what??

George Barany 12:57 AM  

I appreciate the explanation provided here of a theme beyond M&M, insofar as the vowel progression was not readily evident even as the grid was rather readily filled. I did notice that this is the second week in a row that ORANGE has shown up as an answer word, with a nominally interesting but not altogether surprising clue. BLOUSE was clued in a manner that evoked memories of a misogynistic high school physics teacher riffing on how the world was stacked against left-handers. Examples included the use of screwdrivers, and (in pre-digital days) the spring mechanism used to rewind watches. Our teacher continued by observing how easy it was for a right-handed male to unbutton his own shirt, and (said with a smirk) how easy it was for a right-handed male to unbutton the blouse of a female of interest. Not that any of us nerds had the slightest idea on how to capitalize on this lesson.

chefwen 1:10 AM  

@okanaganer - Same thing with GRAM and GREAT. @areo cleric - Same thing being disturbed with DREAM TEAMS and SERPENTINE, wanted more M'S there. @jae - Same thing with MUCKiTY - rendering UP HiRE, senseless.

On an aside note, got a great little book from my Bro and SIL. I know there are a few dog lovers in Rex's audience. I could kinda tell by the Avatars. I thought I would mention it as it would make a cute little stocking stuffer for the doggy people in your family. It's called "THROW THE DAMN BALL" Classic Poetry by Dogs. I was trying to link it to the puzzle, the best I could come up with is one of the poems "The Mighty Mound". Cute book with wonderful pictures.

MetaRex 1:16 AM  

Was also distracted by the long Acrosses...also missed the vowel progression. Nope, MISS MISSISSIPPI isn't a thing...she is the Belle of Vicksburg!...anyway, was fond of her, as well as of MUCKETY-MUCK.

Have had some thoughts in my time away from the daily fun and fray about including positive features as well as ESE in a CW stat...if you're interested, the thoughts and numbers for today's puzz are at PIEDMONTESE

Steve J 1:34 AM  
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Steve J 1:35 AM  

Didn't notice the vowel progression, and normally I find them to range from dull to nondescript. But combined with the M AND M motif, I rather liked this one.

(Btw, Rex, it was Jeff Chen who said he found the M AND M at 55A distracting, not Will - assuming the source is from the comments at Xwordinfo. I completely disagree with Jeff on that point. It's absolutely a subtle - and quality - theme revealer.)

I liked the non-theme long accrosses best, particularly SERPENTINE (trivia: despite the claims in the city's tourism materials and various guide books, Lombard Street is not even the crookedest street in San Francisco, let alone the world).

The grid geometry is a bit unusual, and as a result there's lots of three-letter fill that's mostly unfortunate to bad (ARG and KYL being the worst), and the CAN OF partial is especially unpleasant. But it wasn't enough to diminish an overall positive impression.

Benko 1:55 AM  

My wife and I spent many happy hours listening to the first two MODESTMOUSE albums in our car, when we were much younger.
We also drove to VICKSBURG once not so long ago to see the National Memorial there.
So this puzzle evoked happy memories for me. Hard not to love it.
@ACME--The DREAMTEAM, usually, refers to the 1992 USA Olympic basketball team and its amazing lineup.
I think MANDM should have been changed to MANDA, giving us our own @m&a and AMES, Iowa.

Billy 2:50 AM  

I had never heard of muckety-mucks, and Kyl was awful. Otherwise nice puzzle.

Acme 4:02 AM  

Yes, yes...i know the Olympic ref... I just mean having a long horizontal entry, but one letter short of actual theme entries, combined with being a rhyming phrase made me utterly convinced it was going to be an actual theme answer.
And I was surmising perhaps like Earl "The Pearl" Monroe that there was some player known as The Dream, (like Magic is a nickname).

And if I played a sport, I'd rather have a nick name like A Dream (almost an anagram of my name) than, say, "The Stilt" or "Goose"...

George Barany 4:53 AM  

Well played, @ACME. One of the all-time great basketball players: Hakeem "The Dream" Olawujon. He was born in Nigeria and was in the NBA from 1984 to 2002. He was not a member of the "Dream Team" that represented the USA at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. If you are looking for a sports nickname for yourself, it might help to either rhyme or be alliterative.

Rex Parker 6:26 AM  

@Steve J,

I just checked Wordplay, where the "distracting" comment is attributed to Shortz.


GILL I. 7:12 AM  

This was hard for me. Never heard of MODEST MOUSE (wanted Mickey in there) and had cANCaN instead of DANCIN. I now know that NSFW doesnt mean PORk. I always want to spell LASE with a Z and I'm too LAzy to look up CGI for that special FX thing.
Didn't know ALGREN nor KYL. But I guess this was worth the price of entry just to see MUCKETY MUCK.....

Anonymous 7:22 AM  

Am I the only one who puzzled for a bit over Rex's comment that eliminating MANDM was an easy change of two letters? After a while I saw that MANTA was a good replacement for MANDM. As a bonus I like AMES better than MMES.


distracting 7:36 AM  

Will Shortz notes: This puzzle has an unusually specific theme — familiar phrases in the form MA- MA-, ME- ME-, MI- MI-, etc. I hope solvers don't notice just the M and Ms, especially with the M AND M entry at 55A, which is a little distracting!

Jeff Chen notes: ………
A bit distracting to have the M AND M entry in the grid (which led me to think it was a not-so-subtle revealer for a straightforward M AND M type puzzle) but I can overlook that. Overall, a neat idea to combine two theme types to form something new. That's hard to accomplish in this day and age of so many ideas having already been used.

jberg 7:55 AM  

Hand up for missing the vowel progression. My mental procedure seems to be "look for the theme, spot it, and then stop thinking about it." I'll have to work on that.

The Man with the Golden Arm (about Frankie Machine, a blackjack dealer who gets addicted to heroin) is a great novel, from which a great movie with a great theme tune were made. Well worth getting to know. (Algren also wrote A Walk on the Wild Side, and probably more). All very 1950s, though.

Hand up for thinking DREAM TEAMS was a theme answer, as well, at least after I changed it from ALL AMERICA. Other writeovers: INcS before INTS, and BLOUSa (all from crosses) before BLOUSE. The B was the last cross there, so I was really puzzling over that garment!

So who was first with the "distracting" comment, Will or Jeff? I see a plagiarism suit coming...

chefbea 8:22 AM  

I too did not see the progression. I too have never heard of Modest Mouse.
But I of course have been using lots of M and M's in my xmas baking. Have you all tried the mint ones??? Very addictive!!

Zwhatever 8:22 AM  

I have a playlist made up entirely of Pink Floyd and MODEST MOUSE albums, so I guess I am not forgiven.

@Gill I.P. - My work place is 40% Muslim and the Associate Superintendent is Jewish, so PORk is NSFW for me.

@jberg - Rand Paul.

Didn't time myself, but, except for SurE and wondering which "Ring Org." it would be, this played like a Monday for me.

I have to agree that if M AND M isn't meant to be a revealer it should be changed.

The Lonesome Crowded West

Danp 8:33 AM  

Never heard of Modest Mouse, but learning about them makes this puzzle (and blogpost) worthwhile.

AliasZ 8:34 AM  
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AliasZ 8:37 AM  

This puzzle MIMICS other MANDM-themed puzzles, but with a dual vowel progression to boot that I didn't notice at first. What opened my eyes was the plural in MEDICINE MEN. Why not MAN? Oh, wait, let me see. Aha! So that's it, a double trick. MANDM and AEIOU too, albeit no Y. DREAM TEAM and SERPENTINE threw me off the scent because they looked like they should be part of the theme. But no~O~oh.

Too bad the neat idea was marred by less than stellar fill, especially the number of clumsy threes (DRE, NOS, URI, WBA, CAL, KYL, KIR again), and some out-of-tune partials and abbrs. (CAN OF, DRAW ON, AIMS FOR, ARG, CEOS, COMM, INTS, INC, SEN). ARG. There is nothing wrong with two or three of these in a 15x15, but in such abundance they are a bit disconcerting.

When I saw the word SERPENTINE, I could think of nothing else.

Enjoy your Tuesday.

joho 8:38 AM  

My question is, does MODEST MOUSE wear a MODEST BLOUSE?

My favorite theme answer was MISSISSISSIPPI because is brings back childhood Minnesota memories of me learning to spell M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I!

MUCKETYMUCK is fun, too.

Thank you, Bill Thompson, I enjoyed it.

(Now I'm going to find a MAGICMARKER and DRAWON something!)

Unknown 8:40 AM  

Fun! I too was distracted by DREAM TEAM and SERPENTINE. I also had trouble with MUCKETY MUCK. In my neck of the woods we say MUCKY MUCK, and those extra couple letters threw me. M AND M - could it have been clued to indicate it was a partial revealer?

Mohair Sam 9:00 AM  

A fun Tuesday solve. I flat out loved MISSMISSISSIPPI, tickles a funny bone from 3rd or 4th grade when you learned to spell the state and giggled when you got it right. Methinks Mr. Thompson realized he had a 15 letter answer there and built a puzzle around it.

The MOUSE band is new to us so we made the @rex mistake of believing in sPHERE for far too long.

Very clever with the vowel progression, had to be tough to do. Close call on the great MANDM debate - but I'll vote with Mr. Shortz.

mac 9:02 AM  

Real Tuesday puzzle to me.

I hadn't heard of Modest Mouse, and it caused some problems: 47D could easily be CanCan, and isn't' INC (incomplete) a gridiron stat as well? After the other Inc. I fixed that mess.

Mucketymuck is fun, much nicer than fat cat, and serpentine is one of my favorite words.

It's snowing in Manhattan, it looks like a Wengenroth city scape outside my widow.

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

39D - certain/some?

Just Joe 9:37 AM  

Enjoyed doing this puzzle. Either I'm getting more better (sorry @ LMS) at this or the puzzles are getting easier - another progression. Saw the M theme but didn't get distracted by MANDM as I filled that in late. Hand up for not noticing the progression. Was scratching my head over dreamteams and serpentine - nice word. @joho learning to spell Mississippi when I was a young Virginian went like this: m-I-double scribble-I-double scribble-I-humpback-humpback-I. And for some reason my parents took me with them to see "The Man with the Golden Arm" when I was about 9. Guess they couldn't find a baby sitter. I kept hoping odd job from 007 was going to show up soon. Knew of Modest Mouse but not familiar with there music. Have to give them a listen.

Unknown 9:37 AM  

I couldn't see the band name for too long, due to some fill errors and thinking the name was MODE something, with something starting out STR. So, completely out to lunch until I 'saw' MODEST'.' I don't know their music, but I at least know the name. Puzzle seemed easy but time was average. Failing to see MM theme didn't help. Overall? No complaints.

Milford 9:38 AM  

@okanaganer and @chefwen - so relieved that others were tripped up by the gRAM/gREAt area. I finished the puzzle and was completely flummoxed by my DNF! I also couldn't spell MUCKiTY. But I did see the vowel progression, so I feel a little better.

The NSFW clue for PORN was a good one, gave me a smile. I wonder if there is PEDI PORN? I'm sure there is.

Also liked the clues for ORANGE and WOK.

BLOUSE is a word I dislike, and I can't say why. Maybe too girlie? Also dislike "slacks".

I have heard of MODEST MOUSE (I really just know the one song @Rex posted, "Float On") so that was helpful.

Haven't posted in a few days, and I feel a little out of the loop! Good to be back in the rhythm of puzzle and blog - feels normal.

A balmy 17 degrees here today.

leah712 9:41 AM  

Anyone else misspell it as MUCKITY MUCK, leading to UPHIRE, which sort of made sense as a higher calling?

Jana 9:54 AM  

mac thanks for the wegenroth ref.. had to google ..really liked what I found.. clean simple.. remiscent of Wyeth and hopper..

rex thanks for the blog.. I learn something every day from it..

lawprof 10:02 AM  

My initial thought as I completed the puzzle was that this is a mildly clever theme with an appropriate revealer in MANDM (which I fail to see as "distracting"). Then I came here, learned about the vowel progression and thought again: this is really good stuff! I simply missed out on the fun, but in retrospect I can see what might have been had I been more perceptive.

First had MISSion poSSIble (before I picked up the M&Ms), thinking that Vicksburg might have a festival themed on an old TV show (like Truth or Consequences, NM).

Hand up for sPHERE before I pulled MODESTMOUSE out of a long-slumbering sector of my brain -- or somewhere.

Lots of fun. Thanks, Mr. Thompson.

Anonymous 10:03 AM  

Didn't notice the progression either but a very fun Tuesday. And enjoyed the Nelson Algren clue and answer; he was de rigeur for all wanna-be bohemian types in the late 70s- early 80s.

retired_chemist 10:04 AM  

Blew it. DNF and several Googles, mostly in the SW. Good puzzle regardless.

Thanks, Mr. T.

Steve J 10:16 AM  

@Rex: My apologies. I don't know how I missed that Will said that in a very short statement.

I still disagree with the assessment from both Will and Jeff that it was distracting. And agreed that if the editor found it so, it's odd that he didn't have it edited out.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:22 AM  

Fine puzzle, lacking only the MYTHIC MYCELIUM, the world's largest living organism. (Sorry, no time to post a link.)

quilter1 10:31 AM  

A couple of things I didn't know, such as MODESTMOUSE, and also had sPHERE before UPHERE. But altogether pretty enjoyable.

AliasZ 10:43 AM  

On second thought, this puzzle was a decent effort of MEdiocre MErit, I'd say "MEzzo-MEzzo", that was not MAchine MAde, nor was it made by MArcello MAstroianni, MInnie MIñoso, MItch MIller or MAry MAgdalene, but most likely by a MEnsa MEmber and MArketing MAnager in charge of MEdia MEtrix suffering from a MYsterious MYopia. When he gets up on MOnday MOrning, his favorite activity is running the MIracle MIle, then watching MErrie MElodies or a MOnster MOvie.

He is a happy-go-lucky MOtor MOuth with a heart of gold, who has never been convicted of MUltiple MUrders. He is a regular visitor to the MUnicipal MUseum who would MOve MOuntains and use all MIlitary MIght in defense of what he believes is right. I MEant to MEntion: he loves MInor MImes like MArcel MArceau, and M-and-Ms.
[Note to self: MArcel MArceau was no minor, but 'major mime' doesn't meet the strict rules of the theme]

Carola 11:16 AM  
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Carola 11:17 AM  

Lots of "me, too's" - Was so smitten by MISS MISSISSIPPI (which I spelled out grade-school style) and MUCKETY MUCK that I didn't see the vowel progression. Very nice! Made myself believe that sPHERE made sense...somehow. I considered M AND M a reveal, and also thought the MM in MMES fit in with the theme.

@joho - I also liked that MODEST MOUSE - BLOUSE rhyme.
@Milford - I thought it was cute that "I SEE" is next to PEDI PORN (for those who have foot fetishes, I think).

I thought it was a very fun puzzle - lots of treats.

Master Melvin 11:31 AM  

@Acme, @George Barany, et al.: Hakeem was preceded by Dean "The DREAM" Meminger. Marquette great who went on to play for the NY Knicks in the NBA. Just died recently.

Lewis 11:54 AM  

Usually people complain about Tuesday, but today the reviews are good. From me as well. This was fun and had spark.

If they wanted to keep the reveal subtle, that's one thing, but the argument that it doesn't fully reveal the theme -- I think the same could be said for a lot of reveals.

I liked seeing Ms. Quindlen in the grid, as I enjoy her work.

Is the magic marker's tip a PEN NIB?

dickiebong 11:58 AM  

53A I had switchback which totally screwed up the SW corner...

LaneB 12:42 PM  

More challenging than medium this Tuesday. Had trouble in the SW corner after filling cancan instead of DANCIN. Thus got MODESTMOUSE, ORANGE and CGI all fouled up taking a DNF two days in a row so early in the week. Merde! And as usual, didn't see the theme until reading Rex. Better start paying more attention to such things.

Notsofast 12:43 PM  

We don't need no stink in' revealer rules! Loved it.

MikeM 12:55 PM  

I thought it was kind of easy. I've heard of Modest Mouse but cannot name one of their songs.

@LEAH712, Same here for UPHiRE

MUCKETY MUCK reminds me of Morton Downey Jr, he used to use that term all the time. Anyone remember him? Hard to believe he died over 12 years ago.

Anonymous 1:25 PM  

Certain special FX = CGI, I don't get it.

Anonymous 1:38 PM  

I'm so embarrassed. I did the same thing.

Questinia 1:38 PM  

Special effects (FX) in films use CGI, or computer-generated imagery.

@ Lewis... Yes! PEN NIBS ROCK!

Found this one easy and fun. Mind you the NYT's xword is the only xword I do so it may be like I'm living in a vacuumm.

Amm I?

Anonymous 1:42 PM  

I think it means computer-generated imaging.

gifcan 1:43 PM  

There is something pleasing about MISSMISSISSIPPI, four letters across 15 squares, spelling out two words.

A DNF with MODESTMOUSE but, what the heck, it was fun.

ahimsa 2:21 PM  

The puzzle theme was quite elegant (shall I call it a MInor MIracle?) so kudos to Bill Thompson! I confess that I only saw the M/M pattern while solving. I noticed the vowel progression only after I was almost finished.

I recognized MODEST MOUSE (did not know the album name tho), and I've always loved that band's name, but I had no idea where it came from. Thanks, @Rex, for the word of the day info!

I thought the MANDM at 55A was a cute extra, not distracting. It meant getting MMES but I'll take that trade-off. But I understand the point that it could cause some solvers to miss the vowel progression part of the theme.

Bird 2:36 PM  

Never heard of MODEST MOUSE and since artist’s names can be anything I left SPHERE in place without ever thinking it could be anything else. Damn.

I’m guessing 55A was not a revealer because 21A was not part of the theme. Shame. Should have been changed.

NOS is awful, especially as clued.

CROOKEDEST also fits at 53A. SERPENTINE is good though. @AliasZ – Me too. Funny how certain/some words/phrases trigger those thoughts.

Missed the vowel progression and the partial repeating that @acme pointed out.

Ooh, picture captcha!

Sandy 3:29 PM  

No one else had trouble with FX? I always thought that meant Foreign Exchange, not special effects!

Anonymous 4:22 PM  

@Sandy: Go back upstairs and read the other comments.
A concerned citizen.

retired_chemist 4:37 PM  


Bob Kerfuffle 4:38 PM  


Anonymous 4:44 PM  

Massapequa is in New York, not Massachusetts

dk 4:47 PM  

Greets from Cafe Crudo on Mulberry Street (cafe trieste of NYC). Watching football (aka soccer) with subtitles in Italian..... As the sun sets on Little Italy... Sometimes life and Tuesday puzzles are good.

No problems with the reveal. Just spelled Pooh's friend with an i but even I could correct that.

The Italy Turkey match was called on account of snow....

Must stay focused!

** (2 Stars) so close to 3 nice work Mr. Bill.

sanfranman59 5:31 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)

Tue 9:38, 8:12, 1.17, 89%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 5:33, 5:09, 1.08, 68%, Medium-Challenging

George Lucas 5:46 PM  

@retired_chemist - FX (Special Effects) = CGI (Computer Generated Images or Imaging)

Tita 8:13 PM  
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Tita 8:14 PM  

A chance to tell my story of why 46D was a gimme...
Singapore Air flight from Frankfurt to NY - just completed the steep take-off. Just as it leveled out, it suddenly got real quiet - all 4 engines died!
Being the jaded traveler I am, it barely registered- but everyone else, including my 2 stepkids, were reacting in a very wide variety of colorful ways. Within a couple of minutes, those babies were spun right back up.

After 90 minutes of circling over Heathrow while dumping fuel (making ourselves light enough to land, or simply reducing the size of the fireball when we hit...), we safely landed.

The ORANGE black box was quickly carried down the aisle past us.

We took that very same plane on to NY after several hours.
When we debarked, a smiling Singapore agent was there to greet each of us - handing out mugs. I fully expected them to say "I survived SIA flight 11"...

(BTW - that was the #1000th Boeing 747 built...)

Puzzle - meh of a theme, that I enjoyed more after coming here.

Was DREAMTEAM also part of the theme?? Has the M&M...
Off to watch Kind Hearts and Coronets, and to read up on Wegenroth - thanks @mac.

retired_chemist 8:15 PM  

@ George Lucas - I got that from @Questinia 1:38. I just meant that both acronyms are in-group jargon the I doubt many knew. FX is a type of lens or a TV network to me. CGI seems to be an acronym for several other things as well.

I could conjure up a bunch of chemical jargon, very much in the language if you are a chemist, but it would not be good fill. Neither is this.

mac 8:24 PM  

@jana: the snow looked so much better from the 17th floor! When I got outside I had to go back to get an umbrella, it was mostly sleet and rain….

Anonymous 8:28 PM  

Wasn't there an M&M puzzle not long ago, earlier this year?

George Lucas 9:20 PM  

@retired_chemist - Sorry I missed @Questinia's post. But, I disagree. CGI usage is not as limited as you might think - lots of movies have at least some computerized special effects and lots of talk about them.

And it's not that bad of fill either.

sanfranman59 10:14 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 7:35, 6:07, 1.24, 98%, Challenging (5th highest ratio of 207 Mondays)
Tue 9:34, 8:12, 1.17, 87%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:41, 3:46, 1.24, 99%, Challenging (3rd highest ratio of 207 Mondays)
Tue 5:24, 5:09, 1.05, 63%, Medium-Challenging

Sfingi 10:58 PM  

Difficult for a Tues. for me. Eventually got it.

Had: excOn before MINOR, cANcaN before DANCIN, sPHERE before UPHERE.

Still don't know the band or the senator, but I think some more Tuesdayish cluing would have helped. I would have seen sooner what a tight puzzle it was.

I drove "down" Lombard St. in the '70s (in a Superbeetle), but I hear it's not allowed anymore.

@Carola - Pediporn - haha. I had a friend who met a fellow on a train who claimed to be a designer of her Papagallos. He proceeded to oil the shoes, massage her feet, and finally drink out of one of the shoes. Now, is that molestation?

Steve J 1:31 AM  

@retired_chemist: Both FX and - especially - CGI are common terms in articles, reviews, etc. about movies. For people who pay attention to that genre of entertainment, it's common enough terminology. Since movies are pretty mainstream, I think it's in the same acceptable level of jargon as, say, sports jargon.

@Sfingi: There's no restriction on driving down Lombard Street. You'll cause significant problems if you drive up it, however.

Mike who solves days later 12:00 AM  

@acme, a Sunday event in Boston could be MASSACHUSETTS MASS

A statistician could work on MODE MODELING

A MEDIEVAL MEDIC matches the first four, but isn't quite right.

spacecraft 11:32 AM  

@Milford said "The NSFW clue for PORN was a good one..." I'm mystified. Never heard of...what, Not-So-Fat Women?? Had POR_ and was surprised when SERPENTINE completed the word.

Unfortunately, this was not my only mystery today--and the other one was fatal. By any but the most restrictive standard, MODESTMOUSE is uber-obscure. Like OFL I too had SPHERE, but left it because UPHERE just didn't OCCUR to me, and because for all I knew, MODESTMOSSE could be right. Thus DNF. On a Tuesday.

I need not rant about M&M, which is the only way I will type it. As a revealer, I thought it unusual to have a clue independent of any reference to the theme--the vowel progression of which I didn't notice till I came here.

Also, I was SurE of the answer to "Certain," giving me big problems in that area. CANOF took a while to parse, and got no love from me when I finally sussed it out. Perhaps it was these "distractions," rather than the atrocity at 55a, that made me miss UPTHERE.

Add to all this a Romanumeral, and KIR and KYL, and I'll just say, tomorrow is another day.

Yuck, 2 pair, 6's up! I fold.

Zwhatever 11:40 AM  

Not Safe For Work

Nines over Eights.

Anonymous 12:25 PM  

I hate it when I don't notice things like the vowel progression, or the almost revealer.
I do love Modest Mouse and a favorite line is, 'Their ideas held no water, but they used them like a dam'.

Unknown 1:19 PM  

Here's an example where certain/some are interchangeable:

The first Noel the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepards in fields as they lay

Rico 1:35 PM  

I thought that jealosy was the green-eyed monster, not ENVY.

DMG 1:53 PM  

Never heard of MODESTMOUSE and had cANCaN so, clearly a DNF! Thanks to @Z for explaining DSFW and to all who unraveled FX. did catch the vowel progression, but missed the double M words thing. Can't have it all!

Captcha : a full house 9's and 8's,

Dirigonzo 3:16 PM  

Hand up for the SurE/SOME confusion complicating that whole area, and got UPHERE only by running the alphabet. Nice to see KIR back for an appearance after learning about it just afew days ago.

My house if full but nines over eights beats it.

Anonymous 3:17 PM  

Dam, I should have googled Modest Mouse. The only thing I got wrong. Shame on me. I was quite certain I had aced this one. Humble Pie is best eaten alone.

Ron Diego 12:15 PM PST 1/14

Solving in Seattle 3:44 PM  

He's in so many xwpuzs I'm gonna have to YouTube Dr DRE and listen to his rap.

Love the word SERPENTINE.

Got Mr. Thompson's clever theme on the ME..ME, although I had MEDICINEMaN at first.

Truth be known, I've never heard of MODESTMOUSE until today and had to google to finish this Tuesday puz. That cleared up cANCaN and sPHERE.

Go Hawks!

Read em and weep, folks, four nines. Nice to take your money, @Z. Welcome to the table.

Waxy in Montreal 4:28 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Waxy in Montreal 4:30 PM  

From the controversy at the time, knew CANCAN dated from Krushchev's 1959 US visit but hoped (in vain) that Bob Fosse had remade it in 1977. As for many, MODESTMOUSE, CGI, DANCIN, and NSFW caused me MAjor MAyhem. And still prefer SPHERE to UPHERE.

Great to have started the week with Monday & Tuesday C-rated puzzles. Only hope the rest of the week remains as MEmorably MEaningful.

Ginger 7:14 PM  

cANCan, MOcSTrOUSE, UPHiRE, uncorrected wrong answers and I didn't even get close to finishing this Tuesday??? puzzle! That said, I think this vowel progression is clever, just not for Tuesday.

Cycled through five captchas, if you read this, 6th one is the charm. Bring back the jokebook..

strayling 7:17 PM  

Enjoyable, right up until I had to admit I'd heard of Modest Mouse.

Red Valerian 7:26 PM  

Didn't see the progression, didn't know Algren (but WBA seemed reasonable enough), and (I don't know whether to be proud or embarrassed) had never heard NSFW. But I'm an academic. It's all SFW. ha ha.

Vaguely troubled by 1A. Clue: "Czech or Pole" Answer: SLAV. Google's not helping much, but isn't "Slav" some sort of ethno/genetic/linguistic category? And "Czech" or "Pole" a political one? Can't there be Czech citizens of recent Chinese descent? Who don't speak Czech?

For you Canucks in the crowd, reminds me a bit of "Québécois"= "pure laine"

Okay--enough deep thought. Fun puzzle.

Cary in Boulder 8:11 PM  

Posting before I even looked at the blog because ... I just got done with Sunday's puzzle. Too much football, must-see TV and other distractions. Got a DNF because I was naticked at the AKELA-NALA crossing. Do I REALLY have to rent a copy of "Lion King" if I want to get ahead in X-word world? I was a Cub Scout once upon a time and AKELA means nothing to me. And how is URN a "makeshift ballot box"? OK, on to today's puzzle.


Cary in Boulder 8:56 PM  

OK, that didn't take long. After all the rap and crap "musicians" I've endured in these puzzles, it gave me immense pleasure to see SAM Cooke, one of the great voices of the 20th century. While he had lots of pop hits, not everyone knows that he was also one of the greatest gospel singers ever. Check this one out if you don't know or don't believe: [URL=]ANGELIC VOICE[/URL]

Is NSFW common parlance? Not by me, but then I spent most of my work life toiling from home, where anything goes.

Enjoyed the puzzle, but blitzed right through it and totally missed the theme.

Outlaw Syndy Z 10:52 PM  

NSFW generates almost 20 million hits on the Google machine, so, yeah, pretty common parlance.

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