Girl in Byron's Don Juan / MON 1-6-14 / 1988 Best Play Tony winner inspired by Puccini / 2007 Stephen Colbert satirical book

Monday, January 6, 2014

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: MMXIV — the ROMAN numeral version of this mostly still new year, each of which is the initial letter of a theme answer (67A: ___ numerals (what the initial letters of the answers to the five starred clues all are))

M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN (17A: *"The Sixth Sense" director)
M. BUTTERFLY (23A: *1988 Best Play Tony winner inspired by Puccini)
X-ACTO (39A: *Craft knife brand)
"I AM AMERICA" (47A: *2007 Stephen Colbert satirical book)
"'V' IS FOR VENGEANCE" (58A: *22nd in a Sue Grafton series)

Word of the Day: LEILA (35A: Girl in Byron's "Don Juan") —
Don Juan is a satiric poem by Lord Byron, based on the legend of Don Juan, which Byron reverses, portraying Juan not as a womaniser but as someone easily seduced by women. It is a variation on the epicform. Byron himself called it an "Epic Satire" (Don Juan, c. xiv, st. 99). Modern critics generally consider it Byron's masterpiece, with a total of more than 16,000 lines of verse. Byron completed 16 cantos, leaving anunfinished 17th canto before his death in 1824. Byron claimed he had no ideas in his mind as to what would happen in subsequent cantos as he wrote his work.
When the first two cantos were published anonymously in 1819, the poem was criticised for its 'immoral content', though it was also immensely popular. […] [In Canto VIII], Juan and John join fearlessly and bravely in the savage assault on Ismail. They scale the walls of the town and charge into battle. The conquest of Ismail causes the slaughter of 40,000 Turks, among them women (a few of whom are ravished) and children. Juan nobly rescues a ten-year-old Muslim girl, from two murderous Cossacks intent on killing her, and immediately resolves to adopt her as his own child. A noble Tartar khan valiantly fights to the death beside his five sons, just as instructed by Mahomet, presumably to be rewarded with houris in heaven.
Juan is a hero and is sent to Saint Petersburg, accompanied by the Muslim girl, whom he makes a vow to protect. Her name, Leila, is only revealed in Canto X.
• • •

Mixed reaction to this one. The theme felt oddly inconsistent as I was putting it together. The first letters are initials … but then they're not? "I" is just … the pronoun? "I"? "X" is part of a hyphenated brand name? Insofar as you pronounce the letters as letters, there is a kind of consistency, but it's thin. Also, it's January 6, so this has a belated feel to it. As a themeless puzzle, though, I kind of like it. The theme answers are interesting, and then there's the eerie KG thing going on with the long Downs: KELLY GREEN and KIRK GIBSON (29D: Dodgers slugger who was the 1988 N.L. M.V.P.). YOGA MATS (4D: They may be unrolled before meditation) also adds some relatively contemporary zing to this thing. And then there's MILEY, who sang "Wrecking Ball," which kind of recalls the ball dropping on New Year's Eve, which brings us back to the puzzle's theme, which might be genius after all, I guess.

A word about LEILA (35A: Girl in Byron's "Don Juan")? This is one of those answers that has been grandfathered in from the Maleska era, i.e. it's a kind of low-level crosswordese that gets treated as if it's common or easy, when in fact it's pretty arcane and most contemporary solvers will have no frame of reference for knowing it. None. There is no good clue for LEILA that does not involve centuries old poetry (in this case) or opera (in the other common clue for LEILA: ["The Pearl Fishers" soprano]). And it's not like she's a title character in either "Don Juan" (where she is decidedly minor) or Bizet's opera (though there she at least has a major role). I am in no way saying it can't be a crossword answer. But it should go behind glass marked "Use Only When Necessary," and there's really no way it should ever be a Monday answer. I finished this puzzle in 2:46, so clearly getting LEILA from crosses was no problem. But still, clues like that give crosswords a bad, musty name. The problem is, once it's in the database, constructors think "oh, others have used it, I can use it," instead of trying to rework the grid a little to allow for something fresher or at least more solid and common. LEILA was *never* important enough to be in a crossword puzzle. She is desperation fill. Treat her that way.

P.S. if you are thinking "but there are other LEILAs," let me stop you right there and tell you you are thinking of Eric Clapton's LAYLA, LAILA Ali, or LEELA from "Futurama." There are, actually, a few other LEILAs (an old-time actress, a character in a novel here and there), but they make the Byron girl seem Meryl Streep-famous by comparison.

P.P.S. Apologies to opera buffs, but come on.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Steve J 12:15 AM  

Very easy - other than time lost by blindly putting in Billy instead of MILEY Cyrus (never mind that he's Billy Ray). Never even noticed LEILA because it was all filled in with crosses.

Theme was completely unobserved by me, and when I saw the reveal, my thought was, "I don't like random Roman numerals (RRN) in puzzles as it is, now you want me to go find some kind of meta-RRN? No thanks." Now that I see the RNs weren't terribly R, I'm still not terribly interested. Maybe if it showed up closer to New Year. No, probably not.

At least a Grafton novel got the full treatment instead of a partial. What is she going to do after she runs out of alphabet, by the way?

jae 12:29 AM  

This was about average for me for a Mon. , but when I checked my printout  for spelling errors I noticed I'd goofed up SHYAMALN.   So, factoring in erasures, it was probably on the tough side.  Plus, @Rex as a "contemporary  solver" (i.e. way post Maleska)  LEILA was most definitely  a WOE.   And, because 4 of the theme answers are pop-culture trivia questions this might be difficult for the early week solver.

Mostly liked it as it was pretty zippy for a Mon., but perhaps a tad trivia heavy...ISAO, MILEY, EMILE, EBERT, DEEN, ONCLE...

Anonymous 12:30 AM  

Leila ...

"Mad About You" actress Kenzle
ZZ Top song

Garth 12:37 AM  

Enjoyed the theme a lot. Was confused at first by the opening letters of the first three answers (MMX). Why would two of the letters be the same, but the third be different? But that made the modest "aha" moment even nicer. And it seems pretty rare for a Monday to have an "aha" moment, so that seems pretty good to me.

different topic:

"But still, clues like that [Leila] give crosswords a bad, musty name."

"That's silly. Just some trivia that derives from a different era. I enjoy learning stuff like that."

NeilD 12:42 AM  

I really don't like that there are two M's and no C.

Questinia 12:50 AM  

Rex's extensive LEILAn comments are
a propos to me as I got it wrong. I merrily went with kEILA thinking that kARAM Abdul Jabar was a variant to Kareem after he started playing football for the RAMs. Much like Michael Jordan should have changed his name after he started playing golf.

Consequently I done got

♨ Burned by La Burnikel♨

Questinia 12:59 AM  

Can someone explain "zip, crunch and scrabblef-ing?" to me.

Also is there something other than zip and crunch? Like crackle?

Carola 1:15 AM  

After finishing, I wondered why C and D had been left out (I thought of "D.C. Comics"), and then, aha, got the year. I liked the arts-related theme answers - a director, a play, two books and an X-ACTO knife, for collages, maybe. Besides the M-M duplicate, there's also LEI over LEILA, and MILE appears in MILEY and EMILE.

@Questinia - I'll take a stab: zip = fresh answer(s) with some wit; crunch = high difficulty level for day of week; scrabb... = showing off with how many q's, j's and other less commonly used letters you can include in the grid. Will be interested to read what others say!

Benko 1:53 AM  

My wife's name is LEILA (pronounced the same as "Layla"). It is Arabic for "night", which is perhaps a better clue. Although I don't think Don Juan is any more "dated" now, really, than it was during the Maleska era. I guess they just expected people to be more literate then.
@Carola--nothing else to say! You nailed it!

Spell it out 1:56 AM  

@Neil D: There are two "Ms" and no "C" because the theme letters are intended to spell MMXIV!

travis 1:58 AM  

Isn't the name of Colbert's book "I Am America(And So Can You!)"? I felt like the answer was a partial, but not clued as such.

phage 1:59 AM  

@NeailD, the roman numerals, taken sequentially, give the current year.

jae 2:01 AM  

@Carola - Benko's right, you did. That said, zip can be somewhat subjective.

Benko 2:06 AM  

Sorry, didn't mean to imply that people aren't literate if they don't know a minor character from Byron's epic...sounded snarky in retrospect. Just wanted to make the point that what solvers are expected to know has certainly changed over the years.
I think the cheesecake/gam slang is probably a bit more dated and difficult for younger solvers, though. LEILA is just a bit of arcana that someone who has studied Romantic poetry, young or old, would be the only one to know.

chefwen 2:13 AM  

The only way I got 17A was by downs. Never heard of the guy/gal and that is one long ass name.

Had the same feeling as Rex with the first two RRN being initials and the others not. Husband had to bail me out with 29D KIRK GIBSON, other than that it was O.K. Won't rank it up with my favorites.

To all of my cyber friends in the path of the arctic devastation, please stay warm and safe.

chefwen 2:16 AM  

I wish I were clever enough to embed, but I'm not. Everyone needs to check out Andy Capp on Go Comics today. I know, I can relate!

Andrea Carla MNightshyamalans 3:02 AM  

THIS was perfectly timed as it's the first Monday of the New year!!! Loved it, CC...
esp bec I fell for the trick of filling in the other Ms only to discover they were not all Ms nor random AT ALL!!!!

The fill was sort of off for a Monday, between the difficulty of MNIGHTSHYAMALAN, LEILA, ONCLE, KIRKGIBSON, RPI, OHMS, ANIM, VISFORVENGEANCE
and very very heavy on names:


Interesting that @Rex noted the two KGs long downs...would have been freaky if ECG were EKG also!

There was an IM HOT and an IAM AMERICA...

@Travis, I don't think it's a partial if the rest is in parentheses.
(Too bad I, CLAUDIUS or I, TINA were the wrong amount of letters, to avoid the question, but they still would have been capital I's but would have avoided I'M/I AM)

Structurally this was very nice with 15, 10, 10, 15.

And I liked the sly ref to PING-pong for youknowwho!

I have to say I loved it, bec of it's Zip, Crunch, and New Year's theme perfect!
But unofficially, Monday seems to be the new Tuesday...
which is fine bec I spent this past week thinking Wednesday was Sunday. This has been the longest Christmas-New Year ever!

jae 3:37 AM  

@Benko - Thanks for the clarification.

Rube 3:45 AM  

MNIGHTSHYAMALAN was totally new to me, but the wife recognized it. Not Monday fare in MOP.

Only write over was DEEN/DEaN.

LEILA from The Pearl Fishers is perfectly acceptable crosswordese. From Byron, not so much, but then I'm an opera buff. for lunch.

Sorry, but have not been contributing lately. Much going on. The kids have returned home so have time to comment now. Am on island, so will see if Chefwen and Jon are available for lunch.

Rube 3:48 AM  

MNIGHTSHYAMALAN was totally new to me, but the wife recognized it. Not Monday fare IMHP.

Only write over was DEEN/DEaN.

LEILA from The Pearl Fishers is perfectly acceptable crosswordese. From Byron, not so much, but then I'm an opera buff.

Sorry, but have not been contributing lately. Much going on. The kids have returned home so have time to comment now. Am on island, so will see if Chefwen and Jon are available for lunch.

Loren Muse Smith 5:53 AM  

I blew through this like a bat on a wrecking ball. (By the way, I'm as quick, quicker, than anyone to pick up a People magazine and peruse it while watching Top Chef. . .HOWEVER I have seen PLENTY of MILEY'S tongue, so THERE. Can she not take a picture with that thing secured and all tucked away in her mouth? Talk about eclipsing Gene Simmons. Sheesh. Permanent PANTing pose.

Like others, I finished, wondering, "Hunh?" And I, too, scurried off to come up with the missing D H LAWRENCE and CD ROM DRIVE. But deep down I knew I was missing something. I've done too many of CC's puzzles to think she just threw together some random ROMAN numeral initials and called it a day. I can't believe I didn't investigate enough.

I am really impressed that y'all saw that date. Really. And really impressed with the theme/execution now. One thing that would have made it more elegant for me would be to have had X FACTOR instead, to go along with the entertainment vibe of the other four.

I would wear KELLY GREEN before TEAL any day. I'm a Winter.

One slight hiccough – 40 D – I immediately went to Do You Know the Way to San Jose? and actually put "the way to" first, feeling old and weary that I remember that song.

So when does a LEG become a GAM? Under a short skirt? On a poster? I guess it has to be long, toned, and tanned to rate GAM status? I'm fairly certain that even under a short skirt, mine are still just LEGs.

I bet @Amy Reynaldo would kill right now to be able to say, "I'M HOT." PANT. Good luck all of you suffering these arctic temps. I'm actually jealous.

I was the queen of correcting MIMEOgraph stencils with a razor blade. And I can still smell a freshly-MIMEOgraphed page. I never could resist the urge to sniff one. And then another. Surreptitiously, guiltily, head lowered slightly, eyes darting right and left.

Hey – liked the KG vibe. How 'bout "cagey athletes" – Kevin Garnett, Ken Griffey, KIRK GIBSON. . .one more 12 and boom, THERE you go.


Ok. Let me assert, affirm, avow here that I never know if it's "avow" or AVER. Like I'm the only one. I guess "avow" is more public maybe, but could we just vote one out of the lexicon?

Clever theme – well done, CC!

Glimmerglass 7:09 AM  

@LMS In the first half of the last century, chorus girls (and women built like them) had gams. Men and other women had legs. In the century before that "leg" was judged too scandalous for polite conversation. Even tables had "limbs."

Rob C 7:47 AM  

Medium-Challenging Monday for me. What everyone else said. Actually, when I was done I wondered why the revealer and clue made no reference to the fact that, as Rex and others have pointed out, the Roman numerals spelled out 2014.

Mohair Sam 8:21 AM  

LEILA. So when Clapton's group made "Layla" I was told that the song was about his unrequited love for Patti Boyd. Having just read "Don Juan" at the time I figured that he saw her as a tease, and hence took a little liberty with the spelling of LEILA.

I was totally wrong of course, but LEILA has been a crossword gimme here ever since. Don't let it die Rex!

George Barany 8:21 AM  

Greetings from the Northern frozen area (currently -20 degrees F, uncorrected for wind-chill), where C.C. and I live within 15 min of each other. I guess it makes sense that with initials like C.C., she would have ROMAN numerals on her mind. Over on, Will Shortz is quite explicit:

"I debated for a long time whether or not to "explain" the significance of the puzzle's Roman numerals (M-M-X-I-V) in the clue for 67A ... and decided against. For one thing I couldn't think of a smooth way to do it. Also, most Times solvers are smart enough to get the point of the puzzle without a sledgehammer from me (right?)."

So it seems to me, asked and answered.

MetaRex 8:28 AM  

Strongly agree w/ OFL on the principle that WS's or another editor's allowing LEILA (or ERI or THA or DREW U, etc.) in a particular puzz should not be taken as carte blanche for constructors to treat the given fill as AOK across the board. That presents a practical problem for establishing published metrics of fill quality of the kind MR has been tinkering with...if ya give ANISE a tiny 1-pt ding as not so bad fill and LEILA a mongo 10-pt ding as awful, yer constructors are gonna give ya too much ANISE flavor in yer puzzes relative to LEILA flavor. More broadly, yer gonna homogenize things too much if ya establish fixed criteria of fill criteria as an editor...that should be a job for outsiders like OFL and the rest of us here...

On the specifics: It doesn't look like LEILA is a Maleskan holdover. It appeared only 7 times from 1982 to 1992, and has appeared 22 times from 1994 to today. Compare ERI of the other day...there WS has indeed cut back, w/ 60 entries from 1994 to 2014 compared to 102 from 1979 to 1993.

Another interesting case is the THA the other day. THAT appeared only twice in the ETM era, both time clued as an Arabic letter. After a slow start in the WS era, w/ one letter clue in 1994 and one rap clue in 2004, THA picked up the pace w/ eight consecutive rap clues from March 2011 to May 2013. Since then it's been clued as an Arabic letter and then the other day, for the first time in xword archive history, w/ the King and I. With three meanings now available, it looks as though WS is grooming THA for the evergreen status of fill like ESE and ERI that have multiple acceptable definitions.

chefbea 8:29 AM  

Just did the puzzle. Will read Rex and the comments later. Off to Curves with Gillian Michaels!!!

Oh, the puzzle, found it very easy!

Unknown 8:33 AM  

I'm proud of myself for spelling MNIGHT's name correctly :-). Always thinking of food, I put GOB as my bit of cheesecake, but the error became obvious pretty quickly.

Am hoping and praying that the pile of slush that is my driveway here in CT melts before the big freeze moves in. Until then it is fog city.

AliasZ 8:41 AM  

@Rob C -- See Will's comments at xwordinfo to get a glimpse into his decision making process, and an answer to your question.

I wonder which is worse, LEILA, ISAO or MILEY. Of these LEILA is the only one that has possibilities for classical literature or musical reference cluing. It has been used 29 times in the NYT, including such great constructors as BEQ, both PB's, Peter Collins, Byron Walden, Joe DiPietro, Sam Donaldson, Paula Gamache and Bernice Gordon, and clued as the pearl fishing priestess, the Don Juan orphan, the 20's-30's actress Hyams, and novels by Bulwer-Lytton and Antonio Fogazzaro. On the other hand, ISAO has two reasonably accessible clues, Aoki and electronic musician Tomita, not counting its five-or so different meanings in Japanese. But MILEY - anyone else besides Cyrus with the tongue?

Fine puzzle, CC. I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out MMXIV, and the epiphany that followed, which took me all of 15μS.

Speaking of epiphany, today is the feast day of Epiphany, the day our good crossword friends, the MAGI came calling.

Anonymous 9:10 AM  

Easy Monday after a rough last week. At 4:37 my first sub-5 in a while. In the Top 100 fastest finishers out of over 5000 ... Ahh ... soothes my poor ego a bit. You all can go back to trouncing me the rest of the week... Or at least from Thurs/Fri on.

Milford 9:22 AM  

The top half of the puzzle flew by, but I feel like I got bogged down by the lower half. Finished as a slower Monday. I did see that the non-RRN did show us the year 2014, and liked it.

Got MILEY easily, I see her way too often. I can appreciate weird, but Miley is just trying too hard.

Liked the long downs, especially the EVIL YOGAMATS. There's a hidden New Year's theme.

@Carola - perfect definitions.

School cancelled, even husband's business closed today. Yesterday was lovely, lots of snow, but today it's windy and temps are dropping all day.

FearlessKim 9:27 AM  

Andrea Carla MNightshyamalans said "...would have been freaky if ECG were EKG also!"

Dear Acme, in my grid, it was! :O

Whether the puzzle was great or flawed -- and I enjoyed today's puzzle, BTW -- every day I come to the blog and find a new reason to come back the next day. Yesterday it was the discussion of plussed, kempt and their allies -- last night my husband came up with whelmed :) Today it was @Alias Z's use of mu in his post. First, how often do people think in terms of micro-seconds, and second, how do they know how to access the symbol for mu on the keyboard? Love this "place"!

Today we're going from a high of 42 to a low of 3. Probably seems balmy to Dr. Barany and Ms. Bournikel, but GGGGG!!

Dorothy Biggs 9:54 AM  

I had MissSaigon instead of MBUTTERFLY to start...clearly Rent was too short. But at least Saigon is in the same time period neighborhood as Butterfly.

EkG instead of ECG...which I've never heard of before.

I agree that there were lots of names, but most of them seemed in my "wheelhouse," as it were.

LEILA should not be in the same puzzle as LEI, no?

And while I appreciate WS not hitting us over the head with a wrecking ball "sledgehammer," I would have liked a small shout out to the meta-theme. Just because I got "ROMAN" doesn't mean that the MMXIV is self-evident. I probably should have looked deeper, but as it was, I was confounded by how many other answers in the grid started with "ROMAN" numerals. So, yeah, I get it now...

quilter1 10:06 AM  

I rate it easy. I know LEILA better than MILEY, whom I know only from Jay Leno monologues. I thought lots of the fill was quite familiar, crosswordese with a couple of fresher answers. Nice Monday.

Beaglelover 10:14 AM  

Is Laram famous? He is as obscure to me as Leila!

quilter1 10:15 AM  

The wind chill at the moment is -37. I'm going to do another puzzle.

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

@Beagle Lover - Thats LA Ram, as in the Los Angeles Rams, the football team of yore.

bigsteve46 10:34 AM  

I am a genuine, admitted and certified 67-year old geezer. Is the name M NIGHT SHYAMALMON something that a normal contemporary American is supposed to know? I'm cool with Miley Cyrus and numerous rappers, a fair number of Kardashians - but this one was news to me. Even if you know who this guy(?) is, still pretty rough for a Monday.

Sandy K 10:46 AM  

A very fun Monday puzz! Like @Carola- had that aha moment- I got the theme at XACTO following MNIGHT and MBUTTERFLY- filled in the remaining I and V...

And thanks for the deft defs @Carola!

This felt very fresh due to clues including "Wrecking Ball", Stephen Colbert's book, and Honey Boo Boo-(I am a fan of just one of the three.)

As @Acme pointed out- this is the first Monday that one can say Happy MMXIV!

Dorothy Biggs 10:48 AM  

@beaglelover: the Los Angeles (LA) Rams were a team in the 60s and 70s...until they moved to somewhere else and then eventually landed in st. louis. There was, for a time, the Los Angeles Raiders, but they left in 1995.

According to Wiki, LA is the largest US market city without an NFL franchise.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:49 AM  

My slightly grumpy disposition may be due to the fact that I had just one write-over, wherein I carelessly put 61 D as ERE before EER, which slowed me down on entering 67 A, ROMAN, but:

While last week we had a puzzle (the neverENDING one) where I thought a reveal would have strengthened the puzzle, today I thought the reveal weakened the over-all effect, since it only applied quite tangentially, as Will Shortz seems to admit in the quote given somewhere above.

@bigsteve46 - I will still be 67 for the next six weeks myself. Would you be more familiar with M Night Whatever if the clue had quoted, "I see dead people"?

Dorothy Biggs 10:52 AM  

@bigsteve: M Night's first WTF film (at least that caught my attention) was The 6th Sense (1999) with its amazing twist ending. After that he did several other eerie films with twist endings, which is kinda what he is known for.

I know him better has M. Night Shamalamadingdong. The spelling of his name is a bit counterintuitive to its pronunciation.

But, if you haven't seen his films, you should. The early ones are best...after a while they just become derivative of the early ones. Turns out, when you're expecting a twist it's not really a twist any more...

GILL I. 10:55 AM  

Good morning from balmy California!
I am ambivalent about this puzzle. One one hand it had way too many names for my liking but on the other this puzzle felt fresh and lively.
I had no problem with the MMXIV but good lord M KNIGHTSHYAMALAN on a Monday! I don't even know how to parse the name...M KNIGHT SHY AM ALAN?
I love the name LEILA - maybe because she was my best friend in 10th grade.
Justin Bieber and MILEY should get married. They're made for each other.

Unknown 10:56 AM  

Scary! My husband calls him that, too. I didn't know it was a thing, I just thought it was him being a goofball, as usual.

Evan 11:03 AM  

I'm with others in failing to notice the ROMAN numeral pattern until after finishing. MMXIV doesn't make for a great meta answer, but that is generally how an easy meta gets done, so I appreciated the puzzle on that level. Was not crazy about some of the short fill, however -- LEILA, RPI, IN A, ELOI, SCH., ONCLE, MILE and MILEY (and EMILE) in the same grid, T-NUT, E'ER, ISAO, ANIM.

Interesting opportunity to go more techno-modern: instead of the old copy machine MIMEO, that cross could be VERGE/VIMEO, VIMEO being the video-sharing website that isn't really a rival of YouTube since YouTube is pretty much in a league by itself. Looks like VIMEO has made an appearance in only a couple of Ben Tausig-edited puzzles -- I wonder if and when the NYT will ever consider it grid-worthy?

And if anyone wants to see scientific evidence for how M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN's movies have gotten worse over time, behold this pretty funny graph. Who doesn't like graphs?


To address one of your comments yesterday, yes, you can count on me to be in Brooklyn in March.

Benko 11:07 AM  

Note: LEILA is the same name as Layla and Laila (as in Ali), as Arabic is phonetic rather than alphabetic. That's why you can get so many variations in spelling. They're all right as long as they sound right.
@Fearless Kim, regarding "whelmed", etc:
Thought you might enjoy the following dialogue from an early Oasis press conference, between the Gallagher brothers:
Liam: You've got to progress, but it doesn't mean you've got to go forward.
Noel: Eh?
Liam: You can progress backwards. Or sideways. I'm right. Tell me I'm not.
Noel: Progression is going forwards. Going backwards is regression. Going sideways is just gression.

FearlessKim 11:16 AM  

PS-- you may enjoy Gene Weingarten's piece in yesterday's Washington Post magazine, titled "Watch Your Language -- Gene defiantly recommends it"

FearlessKim 11:17 AM  

PS-- you may enjoy Gene Weingarten's piece in yesterday's Washington Post magazine, titled "Watch Your Language -- Gene defiantly recommends it"

Steve J 11:19 AM  

@NCA President: The LA RAMS stayed LA until they moved to St Louis in the mid-90s. They just moved from the LA Coliseum to Anaheim for about 15 years.

@Evan: That M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN graph is hilarious. And accurate. It's amazing how much he gets progressively worse with each film. I guess he gets credit for having about the longest run a one-trick pony could hope to have.

@Benko: Thanks for the Oasis dialogue. I could not stand their music, but the Gallagher brothers were always entertaining.

FearlessKim 11:20 AM  

Thanks, @Benko! "Gression" :D

Nick 11:24 AM  

Not being an NFL fan I got naticked by the leila/laram cross. Not inferrable at all.

John V 11:42 AM  

Well, given that I only knew the Colbert theme answer, it's a wonder I finished. Very challenging for a Monday.

Greetings from San Diego airport.

Rob C 12:00 PM  

@AliasZ and George B - thanks for the info. I usually check in at xwordinfo, but not always.

However, I don't buy his conclusion. If you're going to explain the theme, then explain it. It seems odd to partially explain it. I would equate it to having a bunch of bird names in the theme answers and explaining the theme as animals.

Also, for Monday level solvers, why not be very clear and specific on the theme. Mondays are geared toward beginners who may not even know there are themes in the NY Times puzzle. Especially since there's no title.

Masked and AnonymoUUs 12:30 PM  

@4-Oh. When I google LEILA, I noticed that you can buy leila on So, she may not be popular, but she sure is easy.

Moocow moocow where art thou: "1/500 of the Indianapolis 500" oughta get it.

Two U's. Sorry, sports fans -- not symmetrically placed. Well, some good things do indeed come in pairs...
* one teardrop from each eyepit.
* LEI and Miss Amazon of MMXIV.
* Miss Amazon and LARAM. (combine with prev. bullet, for the meta bullet of the day)
* M and NIGHT.
* M and A. (well, six out of seven ain't bad)

Liked LEG and GAM, symmetrically placed. Weeject placement award winner of the year.

Fun little MonPuz, C.C. It was anim.


EdFromHackensack 12:40 PM  

RobC, Mondays are not only for beginners, they are for the rest of us too. We neednt hold them by the hand, they will find their way. Just like we did.

EdFromHackensack 12:40 PM  

RobC, Mondays are not only for beginners, they are for the rest of us too. We neednt hold them by the hand, they will find their way. Just like we did.

Ellen S 12:47 PM  

@NCA President, I call him M. Night Shmegeggi. Autocorrect doesn't like that (but Hebrew is transliterated, like Arabic; spelling doesn't count); I can't pronounce it either. And I don't like M. Night's movies much -- thanks for the validation @Evan.

I enjoyed the puzzle more than most Mondays; didn't know LEILA but got enough of it on crosses and inferred the rest. Never realized the Roman Numerals weren't Random until coming here.

Ellen S 12:49 PM  

So, M&A, forgive my ignorance, but what exactly is a weeject?

Noam D. Elkies 1:06 PM  

Neat theme idea, but this early in the week I call BS ON 29D:kirkgiBS ON. 1988+N.L.M.V.P. = W.G.A.S.A.. That _and_ this M.Night dude (as a theme entry!) on a Monday?! Easy enough to get from crossings, but still not Monday or even Tuesday fare.


chefbea 1:27 PM  

@Benko Then what is agression????

OMG! 1:29 PM  

Could these be the Weejects?

Bird 1:34 PM  

Liked this one. Similar experience as Rex in thinking “inconsistent” during the solve, but 67A wrapped it up nicely. Too bad it's not balanced with something at 1A.

Learned another definition of GAM today.

LaneB 1:37 PM  

I actually got the ROMAN numeral 2014 "theme", an unusual event for me.
The rest fell into place reasonably fast [for me] except that I didn't know MILEY and the GAM cross was not all that obvious. Also I didn't know the exact spelling of SHYMALAN and still don't know why DIY are a handyman's initials. Perhaps someone will enlighten me.
Actually, I didn't know quite a few of the answers [XENA, LEILA, SELA] but the fill saved me from a DNF.
A good start to the week.

Two Ponies 1:37 PM  

I was confused a bit because I have never seen Madame Butterfly abbreviated. Is it commonly known that way?
I was shocked to find out Honey Boo Boo is on The Learning Channel? What sort of education will I get from watching that???

Bob Vila 1:42 PM  

@LaneB -

DIY = Do It Yourself

LaneB 1:43 PM  

Your Facebook page includes a photo of you dancing the cha cha. They look like GAMS to me!

David Henry Hwang 1:47 PM  

M. Butterfly is a 1988 play by David Henry Hwang loosely based on the relationship between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and Shi Pei Pu, a male Peking opera singer.

It is not the same as Madame Butterfly, the opera.

Think of the difference between French and Italian.

Ellen S 1:48 PM  

@OMG - so those Weejects - like Pokemon things, My Little Ponies, or something that didn't make the cut?

Read the Gene Weingarten article @FearlessKim recommended. Nothing could be further from the truth! Weingarten thinks professional writers proofread and know how to spell. Which is why, with the apparent demise of the "copy-editor" position, starting maybe 20 years ago newspapers and, increasingly, books -- in print, on paper, look Ma! no Internet! -- were embarrassingly marred by misspellings and misuses. Pheh. Autocorrect at least provides a lot of laughs.

Almost forget -- @LMS - are you sure you weren't thinking of correcting Ditto masters with a razor blade? MIMEO stencils I used to correct either with a kind of goo that could be painted onto the errors, or, lacking that, kind of gently smudge together the edges of the erroneous cutout with a ballpoint or other blunt instrument. Dittos you had to scrape off the blue stuff from the back of the master; tiny flecks would become airborne and settle on the person doing the correcting. The secretaries of those days must have been the inspiration for Smurfs, or maybe Weejects.

ANON B 1:56 PM  

What is the picture of the Brooklyn Net #82 supposed
to represent? I clicked on
it and got the same picture.

M and A Help Desk 1:58 PM  

@Ellen S. I believe that Magnificent Beast @Z has at some time masterfully pontificated on the basic definition of the weeject. hattip.

Anyhoo, bearin in mind that most of what I say normally defies exact definition, here are my ever expandin thoughts on the subject...

Weejects are the little stuff in a puz grid, that help glue the big stuff in place. There are several classes of weejecta:

1. Minor weeject. Includes black squares, one and two letter words, and PEWIT.
2. Major weeject. Three letter words that at first appear uncomprehensile, but are readily accomodated by double-?? cluing.
Example: UUU. ["Hoof prints of a 3-legged pony??"].
3. Deluxe weeject. Three letter strings that have the strongest fragrance of desperation. Often these are oddball initials and such. Example: DIY.
4. Benign weeject. About any other 3-letter word.
5. Mammoth weeject. 4-letter major weejects, that M&A just couldn't resist makin up an alternate clue for. Often these are benign weejects, plus an xtra letter.
Example: OCAT. [Down clue: "Mexican chow comin back up"]
6. Outlaw weeject. Short word formed by weird constructioneer sheenanigans, such as rebus, writin in the margins, wraparounds, and what-else-have-you-got.
7. UFO weeject. Stuff that the mind of M&A cannot comprehend, but he knows is out there.

Hope that helps,

ANON B 1:59 PM  

What does the picture of the Brooklyn Net represent? I clicked
on it and got the same picture.

chefwen 2:01 PM  

@Gill - Mahalo!

Lewis 2:01 PM  

Hard for a Monday, but too easy for a Tuesday. Crossing MNIGHTSHAYAMALON is IMHOT next to RESET, which seem appropriate for this director.

Fun puzzle. I never heard of an ECG.

For those wanting more on the reveal, how about "_____ numerals (what the first letters of the starred clues are, revealing an apt number)" ?

Evan 2:17 PM  


That's Kevin Garnett. One of his nicknames is K.G., to go along with the other K.G. entries in the puzzle.

Z 2:29 PM  

OMG - A RRN Themed Monday - Just what I needed after my 28 hour sojourn home from Mont Tremblant (where it was -28° F on Thursday morning) back to metro Detroit (where it is currently a balmy 1° F). Since RRNs are, IMHO, somewhere below where EELs rank for @EllenS and even below a Uless puzzle for M&A, I will waste no more breath on this one.

I do have two questions for our Canadian friends here: WTF were all those people doing on the 417 at 10 a.m. on a Sunday? and WTF were all those people doing on the 401 at 4:00 p.m. on a Sunday? That extra three hours getting through Ottawa and then through Toronto (on a Sunday - did I mention that?) was the difference between hitting the border around 6 and calling it a night in Woodstock. The OPP dispatcher was very nice when we called in the car in the ditch that we passed. She didn't actually call us stupid for still being on the road, she only gently implied it.

Signed - Magnificent Beast Z

GILL I. 3:17 PM  

@Z...I hope this helps
your weather forecast

Last Silver Miley 3:18 PM  

@OMG--Primo example of the UFO weeject. thanx U.
@Z--har. And, Congrats on gettin home safe. Shoot, at -28 F-in degrees, my whole right leg would refuse to start up. And thanx for the IFUF awards feedback respect.
@Ellen S.--Make it "Hairy mammoth weeject", on Class 5. See? Ever expandin.
@Z--U-less puz? (shiver). Let's all make a New Years Times resolution right now, outlawin that. I'm talkin to U, @Sir Shortzmeister. (har. Sure not hard, pleazin everybody, huh?)

@acme--Like how U likes the puzs. I'm with U -- haven't met too many puzs I don't admire, one way or another. Could say the same, to @muse, btw. U gals surely brighten up the place. Like a breath of fresh AIRS.

@4-Oh. LEILA's pretty much beaten into submission, dude. U can call off the pitbulls, now. Great ode to @Benko's wife, tho... Well, anyhoo, I'm suitably inspired; yer blog is like a breath of fresh wreckin ball ... a sizeable check, signed "M&A", is in the mail!

M&A and a few bucks poorer.

ANON B 3:30 PM  


Thanks. I went back to the picture and Rex's comment.
I wouldn't have figured it out in a million years. Rex does that a lot. I guess I'm not as smart
and knowledgeable as he and the
commenters are.

David IN CA 4:10 PM  

What the hula troop came to So. Cal. to do?


What a horrendous pile-up of proper nouns masquerading as a crossword puzzle. Sigh.

One More Gression 4:17 PM  

Aggression is going at it.

AliasZ 4:46 PM  

Transgression is going across it.

retired_chemist 5:20 PM  

OK, medium Monday. No particular problems.

We just got the registration papers back on a puppy we named "Bookmark's Madame Butterfly." Then 23A today appeared - timely, even if not identical. We are calling her Puccini.

GAM surely derives from the French jambe or the Italian gamba, each meaning leg in English. I think GAM is WWII slang. Why it also means a collection of whales, dolphins, or porpoises, none of which have legs, is one of the great mysteries of life.

Wanted roncO for 39A for a while. Thought better of it when XACTO crossed my mind.

58A was a gift based on ""22nd in a series," From her titling algorithm. you knew it started as "V IS FOR V...." even if you didn't actually know what V was for. V, 9 letters, murder mystery: what else could it be?

Good puzzle, Ms. Burnikel. Thanks.

acme 6:54 PM  


Like the synchronicity of Puccini!
Pooch-ini? From the Italian for little dog...

And I agree with you on GAM is from jambe/gamba.
I thought groupls of whales, etc. were pods.

I saw M. Butterfly starring John Lithgow about 30 years ago and I'd like credit for not using it as an excuse to tell my John Lithgow cheating at Scattergories story!!! ;)

I know we are not supposed to ask "How could you have never heard of..."
but MILEY Cyrus, really???? I stick my tongue out at you!

Questinia 8:03 PM  

@Carola~ Succinct and perfect thank-you. Now I'll be better able to understand @ jae ;)

retired_chemist 8:12 PM  

@ acme - vandalism, yes, but not as a murder mystery title. But better than viscosity. :-)

Pod and gam seem about the same, cetaceously. I think pods are smaller.

I like pooch-ini.

OISK 9:24 PM  

DNF. On a Monday. First time I can recall, EVER, but if you've never heard of Mnightshyamalan, and you don't remember how to spell Isao (is it Iseo) , and don't know what letter goes before the nut…

sanfranman59 10:02 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 6:54, 6:22, 1.08, 81%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:02, 3:58, 1.02, 55%, Medium

Tita 10:19 PM  

Did not notice the date part of the theme - simply thought how lame that there are 2 Ms and no D's, C's, L's...

Lots of X-ACTO knives of every shape and configuration in this house.

My grammar school uniform was forest green. 8 years of wearing a forest green a-line skirt and matching bolero, white blouse with Peter Pan collar, made me allergice to green - to this day I own about 2 pieces of green clothing.
Those 2 were acquired after marrying my Irish husband - I didn't realize that in the fine print of the marriage contract was the St. Patrick's Day clause - I am required to march in the NYC parade every year!!
Some of you may have met puz-spouse at the 2012 ACPT that took place on St. Patrick's Day - worked out great - he marched, I got special dispensation not to.

I'm getting kind of tired of hearing about the old ""Maleska-era mustiness". 15 years AWS (after Will Shortz), posters here will compain about his mustiness.
Where is that moving window pane of mustiness - somewhere between "classical" and "fresh" - with the added dimension of "just-past-fresh = dated".

I retain little pop, but maybe it is hte oddness of his name, bit MKNIGHTSHYAMALAN was a gimmme. (Well, wasn't entirely sure of the spelling, but crosses helped.)
BTW, The Sixth Sense was on TCM yesterday.

Thank you Mr, Burnikel.

Acme 10:50 PM  

I remember that! We had just met. It was super warm...
At midnight it was still going on... I'd never seen so many drunk people in my life. St Patrick's Day in SF pales.

MaharajaMack 12:27 PM  

I'm late to this party, but I'll comment anyway. It felt like it should have been published 10 years ago.


Plus it seemed heavy on the more obvious crosswordese.


An the clues for these seemed to come out of the stock clue for overused words list. If the answer is going to be junk, at least have some fun with the clue!

spacecraft 11:15 AM  

I agree with @MaharajaMack about all the crossword cliches, and with @lms about AVER/AVOW (also AVOID/EVADE/ELUDE and SCAB/SCAR).

My poor remembery butchered M.NIGHT's name, so I had to w/o a few squares. I also put in dATE for information on a ticket before reading the down clue there.

Interesting that the long downs (both boffo, BTW!) begin with K, the Greek thousand. Kind of balances with the ROMAN M's.

I mostly liked it. Two theme entries are a little weak, neither the X nor the I being actual initials. XACTO is just Exacto with the E lopped off. But most of the rest is Burni-cool.

One of the cliches, ISAO Aoki, is a strange story. An obscure journeyman most of his career, he got on the map with a single shot, a hole-out eagle from 100 yards. The fact that it happened at the 72nd hole of Pebble Beach (still Bing's "clambake" in those days) to win the tournament by one stroke made him the constructor's friend forever. Weird. That ball lands an inch away in any direction, we are denied that cruciverbial crutch.

Oh baby, could I play liar's poker with this one: five 8's!

Solving in Seattle 2:08 PM  

The SiS lol award of the day goes to @M&A for his Weeject explanation. How does a mind work like that?

Zhouqin, what a fun monpuz! Thanks, and if you ask nicely maybe @M&A will part with a "u" for you. And thank you again for reminding me of Lucy Lawless, my fav warrior princess.

Liked TNUT crossing MBUTT.

Stephen Colbert's recent pistachio ads crack me up.

@Spacy, I call six eights.

Ginger 2:44 PM  

17-A Originally thought 'What kind of name is that?' and 'How on earth do you pronounce it?', Daughter and Grandson say he's well known, and parsed it for me. So, I guess it's fair.

This former Dodger (now Mariner)fan Remembers THE KIRK GIBSON home run against the dreaded A's. He was injured, limped to the plate from the tunnel, hit the HR, could barely make it around the bases and won the game! Pure drama!! AAH, the memories.

Puzzle seemed tough while I was doing it, yet I had no write overs. BTW, ECG (or EKG) is Electro-cardio-gram.

Little house; 4s over 3s

DMG 3:12 PM  

Thought the racer was a GOcART and left it that way, cause some athletes have strange names, e.g. ISIO Akio.
Other than that, a good solve, once I realized from the RRN connection that 17A could actually start MN..., and accepted ANIM as a word.

@Sis: I agree that M&A's mind works in mysterious, fun ways. Wish I could be that clever. As for Colbert, those commercials are just part of the laughter he brings to,this house! I particularly like his Spanish/Mexican macho man!

How many 8's in this deck? I got 4, to go with the previously reported 5 and 6. If they were 9's, I'd suspect someone picked USA pinochle deck by mistake!

rain forest 3:31 PM  

Takin' an indefinite break from the blog, guys. I've been Leila'd to death, and am increasingly uninterested in whether certain terms are crosswordese, crap fill, or the glue that holds a theme together.

I'll miss @M&A's quirky comments, @ACME's irrepressible contributions, and of course the little village of Syndicity.

I guess I won't be able to stay current with the ongoing stream of conscious emanating from @LMS, but I'll get over it.

Curmudgeonly, it's au revoir, not adieu.

Solving in Seattle 3:52 PM  

@Rainy, totally understand, and we'll look forward to your return. Have a nice break.

@DMG, in liars poker it's the total of all of a number that's in every players dollar bills. E.g., if you and me and @Spacy are playing liars poker (you can only see your bill) and he calls five 8s and I'm next to play and I believe him (which I wouldn't because five 8s among the three of us would be a lot) and say I had an 8, I would call six 8s. Let's say you call us and @Spacy calls me, then I would win with his five 8's and my one 8, total six eights. I snatch up your dollar bills and I'm two bucks richer. That's liars poker.

Dirigonzo 4:09 PM  

Had I not seen ISAO in the grid enough times for the name to be etched in a memory cell somewhere (and thanks for the back story @spacey) the director's name, which went in entirely on crosses, would have been a problem.

@Rainy - What @SiS said.

@SiS - You carry cash?

Whichever game you're playing, it's too rich for me.

Waxy in Montreal 4:39 PM  

@Rainy, thanks for all your contributions to syndiland and, of course, you're welcome back anytime.

DEEN/DEAN writeover, else found this very straight-forward, even for a Monday. Liked the theme which can be used again with minor variation for the next few years.

Ginger 12:01 AM  

@Rainy I'll miss you, and your comments, though I do understand. When things get too pedantic I tend to skip down to our own little corner. I'd love to see you pop in now and then.

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