Pen name for Angela Lansbury's character on "Murder, She Wrote" / TUE 2-4-14 / One-named singer with 2006 hit Too Little Too Late / Viscount's superior / Joe Namath Mark Gastineau

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: J. be smoove — theme answers are people with two first initials, the first of which is "J."
  • JK ROWLING (17A: Author of the best selling book series in history)
  • JP MORGAN (20A: Founder of U.S. Steel)
  • JS BACH (9D: "The Well-Tempered Clavier" composer)
  • JD SALINGER (11D: Reclusive best-selling novelist)
  • JB FLETCHER (27D: Pen name for Angela Lansbury's character on "Murder, She Wrote")
  • JJ PUTZ (47D: Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher who was a 2007 All-Star with Seattle)
  • JM BARRIE (57A: "Peter Pan" author)
  • JC DITHERS (62A: Dagwood Bumstead's boss)

Word of the Day: JJ PUTZ —
Joseph Jason "J. J." Putz (/ˈpʊts/; born February 22, 1977) is an American professional baseball relief pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks of Major League Baseball. […] In 2007, Putz continued to improve his game. He made his first All-Star appearance, where he was given a save opportunity. He converted 40 saves in 42 save opportunities with a 1.38 ERA, .698 WHIP, 82 strikeouts and 13 walks in 71.2 innings. On July 6, 2007, he was named the June 2007 winner of the "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Month Award," recognizing the top relief pitcher for the month and on September 25, 2007, Putz was named as one of 10 finalist for the "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award." On July 14, 2007, Putz broke Eddie Guardado's Mariners' consecutive saves record. The streak ended at 30 consecutive saves. In 2007, he also became the first Mariner ever to win the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award. […] Putz stands 6’5” tall and weighs 250 lb. Affectionately nicknamed "The Big Guy," by Mariners broadcaster Dave Sims. Putz shared a dorm with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady while at the University of Michigan. (wikipedia)

• • •

Weird is good. I like weird. This is a little weird. There's not much rhyme or reason for this one—just J. [initial] [name], over and over. There's one thing this theme ensures, and that's a hell of a lot of Js. You don't usually see this many Js in *any* puzzle, let alone an early-week/easy puzzle. And yet here we are. I enjoyed solving this, despite wincing here and there at the fill (OOOH, OOOLA!), and looking sideways here and there at some theme answers (Mr. Dithers has two first initials? People know that?). Actually, the themers are mostly solid. I'd say the real outliers are the fictional J. folk: J.B. FLETCHER, who will be the least familiar of all of the themers, probably; and J.C. DITHERS. I never really read "Blondie." I did not know Mr. Dithers was a J.C., although I *did* know that Mr. Dithers's wife's name is CORA (thank you, crosswords).

EX-JET is tenuous / made-up (want proof—just imagine EXSEAHAWK in your grid), but kinda sorta timely, given Joe Namath's (in)famous coin toss appearance at this past weekend's Super Bowl. Also, I've definitely seen EX-MET before, so there's precedent, however horrible. HAJJ looks wrong to me—want it to end -DJ, not -JJ. Is that an alternate spelling? Yes. Yes it is. Glad I cleared that up. There are some ridiculous plurals in here (ZOES? ACHOOS!?), but still, as I say, I give this one a pass, as it was entertaining and not disastrous (that's currently my bar for Tuesdays).

See you tomorrow,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Billy 12:10 AM  

Hods? I learn something every day.

wreck 12:14 AM  


PK 12:24 AM  

So, same reaction to HAJJ.. It's definitely HADJ, but then again, JK Rowling is probably the most famous one of the bunch, so....

The first 4 themers are fine, the second half, not so much.

Only thing I really loved about the SuperBowl was the Budweiser commercial with the yellow lab puppy. Love Her When You Let Her Go.

Steve J 12:24 AM  

Oof (or should that be ooof?). Tons of problems with this one.

I suspect that there will be people who note the theme density. Yes, it's dense. However, theme density in and of itself is not a good thing. Especially when it leads to the following: OOOH, OOOLA (I've come to the conclusion that if your puzzle includes OOOLA, something's gone horribly wrong), SODOI, ARB, ILIE, CROCI, ONE LB, MMDII, JCTS, ESTE, ERS. That's an awful lot of junk brought about by the desire to jam as much theme fill as possible into one puzzle. Theme density is not a good thing if it leads to too many sacrifices. I think that happened here.

That said, I liked this more than I didn't like it. I think the puzzle's extremely problematic and should have been dialed back, but I still worked through it pretty quickly and enjoyed most of the theme answers (even if I had no idea DITHERS had a forename that wasn't "mister", and that Jessica FLETCHER had a middle initial - that one was particularly fiendish with the lousy ARB crossing). Figuring out (most of) the names was reasonably fun.

jae 12:33 AM  

Dang, tough Tues.!  It's extremely rare that I need to guess on Tues., but the BROZ/PUTZ cross was tough.  I'm pretty sure I've seen BROZ before in crosswords, but I was flipping a coin between S and Z and guessed right.  


I'm with @Steve J on this one, I liked the theme but it took some compromising, especially the NE corner.  That's a boat load of Os and not in a good way.   This felt more like a Wed. to me. 

retired_chemist 12:39 AM  

Tough for a Tuesday IMO. Liked the J theme and knew all of them except J. J. Putz. Really? That surely is a pseudonym. Or the product of onomastically incompetent patrilineal ancestors. (I love big words....)

Had carnegie instead of J. P. Morgan at first,before I saw the theme. A better answer for the clue IMO - Carnegie was the steel man, Morgan the financier. But the answer is correct.

I find myself liking David Steinberg puzzles much better than I did his early oeuvre. Maybe he has changed his style or maybe I have just learned something. Anyway, thanks, Mr. Steinberg.

okanaganer 1:04 AM  

Sorry: Too many middle name initials here:
j-J-Putz (huh? Putz? that's a joke, right?)

For the love of mary-T-moore!!!!!

Thomas808 1:16 AM  

When I realized which way the the theme was going my first thought was this could be tough because if you didn't know the second initial of the person you would be stuck relying totally on the cross. But the crosses were all reasonable and I got the theme words pretty easily -- except for JJPUTZ. But even there it was not the second letter, which was helped by JOS. It was the side by side of ARCO and JJPUTZ crossing BROZ, of which all three I new not. I could get ARC_ and JJPUT_ by the crosses but the side by side double NATICK (for me) kept me working a long time. Reminded me of my last DNF caused by last month's infamous BUSHWA (aargh all over again!). I picked a couple of likely vowels for the third letter (BRa_, BRO_) and starting running the alphabet on the last letter. Figures it would be a Z the second time through. Couldn't have got it without the check answer feature on the download version because PUTZ would have been very low on my list of guesses (really, PUTZ?), so probably it should count as another DNF. But at least I got my iPhone to play my victory song and tell me "We'll done!".

chefwen 1:27 AM  

Loved it. I knew that if anybody could do it, David Steinberg would be able to put a little bite into a Tuesday, and so he did.

HANKER when you really wanted yearn, but what to do with the extra square? Ditto at 15A, good old JS BACH fixed that. The second initial was a little stretch at times but as Thomas808 said, crosses were most helpful.

MAHALO Mr. Steinberg.

Anoa Bob 1:29 AM  

Usually when I see a grid with such low albedo (40 black squares), I expect the worst. Lots of 3 & 4 letter BILGE.

But Mr. Steinberg's byline held out hope that the theme might redeem the dreck. And did it ever.

Eight people whose names all begin with two initials, the first of which is the letter "J", all in a 15X15 grid? That's quite an accomplishment right there, in my book.

Notice that the across themers are stacked directly on top on one another. And the other four are downs. That's an challenging, innovative arrangement, if you ask me.

I rather liked the OOOH and the OOOLA stacked alongside JDSALINGER. Looks cool in the completed grid. Also liked HAJJ and BAR HOP.

Pretty SLICK, Mr. Steinberg. MAHALO!

Unknown 1:29 AM  

I motored through (with my own little quarter horsepower jobbie) before I struck the double Natick at JsJr/ sOOH/rOOLA. Total roll of both 26-sided dice on that one, and the outcome was statistically probable: DNF.

But, what a great puzzle! I moved far faster than usual, pausing only to consider middle initials. All crosses were fair, and whatever I needed to remember floated forth from the depths with relative alacrity: Morgan, Rowling, Bach, Barrie, Dithers! The ones I've never heard of -- Fletcher and Putz -- unrolled like a welcome mat. And to top it off, James Garfield's entire middle name, with full presidential aplomb.

And the fill was delightful. CROCI are a subject of conversation between strangers in Maine these days. "Can't wait for that first crocus." "Yuh. Yuh."

Also, "a real hottie" crossing "a pleasure to take in" was two scoops of sweetness.

In defense of the killer Natick, all those Os was quite a feat, but JOS was already in play elsewhere, so JOJO seemed like a rules violation.

Nevertheless, the puzzle leaves me in a good mood. Will sleep well tonight.

Matty 2:10 AM  
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Alias Croci Mahalos 2:22 AM  

Nine JJJJJJJJJs!!!!!!!

eight themes, JJJJJJJJJam packed!

What a fabulous little puzzle.

What's with this EXMET, EXJET think?
Fool me once...wait, it fooled me twice!!!!

When I got to OOOLA and then tried to figure out OOOH (since I didn't know JOJO ) I thought "OOOOOOOOH, no he di-int!" but he did!

Right on young, david!!!!
Loved it.

No way JJPUTZ is a name tho...

JBFLETCHER and JCDITHERS is a little easier if you are une certain age...
Again, tho, the only place I think David still has a tiny bit of room to grow in is having a better sense of what is totally obscure vs sort of obscure vs kinda known.
but still fun watching a boy genius do his thing!

Wait, no Q??????!!!
Too bad his name wasn't Josip BroQ Tito.

RnRGhost57 2:25 AM  
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RnRGhost57 2:27 AM  

A fine Tuesday, Herr Steinberg. May your Tuesday morning be clear skies.

Lee Coller 2:27 AM  

I call Natick at the the Jos/JJPutz crossing, 1/2 Natick at the JJPutz/Broz crossing (I had Bros, couldn't remember if it was an s or a z and never heard of JJ Putz), and at the ARB/JBFletcher Crossing. Crossing initials with an acronym is just cruel, especially when that acronym isn't a commonly used one.

JTHurst 3:40 AM  

Thought it was pretty good for a Tuesday. Hoped someone would tell me who JOJO is and still don't understand arco (with a bow, on a score).

Hajj or Haji is absolutely correct as I live in Malaysia, the trek to absolution. Never seen Hadj used over here.

John Child 5:01 AM  

Clever and different, with more than a third of the grid being theme material. Those pluses earn a bit of leeway for the fill, I think. Liked HANKER especially as I had AYUP at first for the [rural affirmative].

LAHTI was a WOE. Not really Tuesday material is it?

I'm of the right age to remember Murder, She Wrote, but otherwise ARB would have been tough to come up with.

Felt harder than Tuesday as I did it, but a very typical Tuesday time, so medium here. But new solvers might not agree.

Danp 5:50 AM  

Also, I've definitely seen EX-MET before

Good memory. It was Saturday - four days ago.

Leon 6:57 AM  

Julius Caesar Dithers
Jessica Beatrice MacGill, known as J.B. Fletcher
Johann Sebastian Bach
Joanne K. Rowling She adopted her pen name, J.K., incorporating her grandmother's name, Kathleen, for the latter initial (Rowling does not have a middle name.)
John Pierpont Morgan
Jerome David Salinger
Joseph Jason Putz
Sir James Matthew Barrie

Milford 7:38 AM  

What, no JR Ewing? I know, wrong number of letters.

I liked it, even though I DNF from the BROt/PUTt crossing - I don't know if statistically that's a natick, but it sure felt like one.

I appreciate that all the middle initials are different.

Liked HANKER, SNOOZE, and BARHOP. I have absolutely no clue who JOJO is or this song.

I imagined @Z shaking his head at MMCII. Sunday night my 16-year old asked me what number this Super Bowl was. I told her to look at the title on TV to figure it out. She rolled her eyes and said, "It's 2014. Can we be done with the whole Roman numeral thing yet?" I told her I wasn't in charge of that.

jberg 7:41 AM  

@Leon, are you making that up about DITHERS? I guess it's funny, and he's in a comic strip, but let's have a link!

I don't get all the hate for ARB, a common word these days as they work hard to destroy our economy. It's not an acronym, @Lee, but an abbreviation of Arbitrageur -- folks who try to make money by noticing when something is selling for $.001 more in one market than in another. Mostly they do it with computer programs that periodically screw up and bring everything to a halt.

I basically liked this one-- but it would have been cleaner if the proper names could have been limited to the theme answers -- or at least the proper names that had J_ for initials, such as Tito's. Nehru had the J, but I don't think I've ever seen a middle name or initial for him, let alone for his jacket.

My first crocus are due just about now -- but if they are up, they are covered with snow. Something to look forward to as it melts.

John V 7:55 AM  

Played hard to me at Westport, where there was much kvetching about the NE.

Dorothy Biggs 8:01 AM  

I've said this before and I'll say it again...David's puzzles consistently seem filled with words that seem to have been mined from a dictionary or some kind of remote reference book. Read Rex's entry again and see how many times he wonders if it's a word...and then, yes (!) it is!

This kind of construction reminds me of those relationships you get into where the person's quirks seem really charming at first but after a while those things become insurmountable annoyances that drive you insane.

I have not done one puzzle by D. Steinberg that I've enjoyed solving. Too remote, too convoluted, too forced. I rarely, if ever, look at the constructor's name on a puzzle. But recently, I find that when I do a puzzle and don't like it, it's usually a Steinberg puzzle.

Yeah, I get he's a kid. But seriously, I believe he uses words that adults don't use because he isn't aware that those words aren't ever used.

There is no virtue in using arcana for its own sake...which is what his puzzles seem to do far more often than not.

Leon 8:03 AM  
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JC Dithers 8:11 AM  

Julius Caesar Dithers

Loren Muse Smith 8:20 AM  

Everything @Anoa Bob and Andrea said. Really, really impressive construction. Those two stacked J-initial themers – I can’t even imagine. I, tOOO, liked the OOOH, OOOLA pair.

@NCA President – HODS and BROZ were the only words in the grid I was not familiar with. (Those and the alt. spelling of HAJJ.) Everything else was accessible to me, whether from crosswords or from Life. I’ll take some arcana to see this many J-initial themers any day. To each his own, huh?

@Milford – JR Ewing – I had the same thought, but I guess that R is not an initial in and of itself.

David had to have been smiling with the other J names he deftly threw us:

James A Garfield
Joe W Namath
JOJO Levesque
Josep B Tito
Jerry W Adams. Ok. Well, it’s Gerry Adams, but still.

Bask in your day, David. ‘Twas a jazzy, juicy jaunt.

Loren Muse Smith 8:22 AM  

Oh, and I didn't know PUTZ. Sorry.

K9doc 8:25 AM  


(music) A note in string instrument musical notation indicating that the bow is to be used in the usual way, usually following a passage that is played pizzicato.

OldCarFudd 8:44 AM  

I go back far enough to remember listening to Blondie as a radio show. Whenever Cora was sufficiently exasperated with Mr. Dithers, she'd begin to lecture him with "Julius Caesar Dithers!" So, a gimme for me.

GILL I. 8:46 AM  

Well, I suppose most of you will want to throw some tomatoes at me because I really wasn't thrilled by this puzzle. Maybe because I didn't know ARB or JCTS and thought OOOH had one O too many.
I remember calling someone a PUTZ once when I really meant klutz. I got that same look I always get when I mispronounce a word.

Anonymous 8:53 AM  

Personally I hate any puzzle I have to google two people I have never heard of to fill in the last letter, especially on Tuesday. Yugoslavian statesmen are not in my wheelhouse. At all.

Z 8:53 AM  

@Milford - What? No mention of that horror classic CROC I? The early Coca Cola formula SODO I? How about the first issue of the Latin American Herald Tribune. LAHT I was a classic. Your daughter is a genius. Granted, M and D are parts of the themers, but I and I give us A TIT and IS IS. Woo Hoo.

John V - Hawaiian, a really old comic strip, a moan, and Battleboro's most famous 20-something. Kvetching? SO DO I.

Does the theme density justify the NE and the RRN? Mostly.

Unknown 8:55 AM  

Didn't realize Mr. Dithers had a first name, and had to guess on the author of Peter Pan, but basically an easy Tuesday. Relied a bit on incidental pop culture knowledge for LAHTI (that is, I am aware that there is an actress by that name but I have no idea what she looks like or what she has done.)

chefbea 9:33 AM  

@JohnV I agree..NE was terrible. I didn't know mahalo and never heard of Jojo so DNF.

Love JB Fletcher!!!

Balkanite 9:34 AM  

Tito was a "statesman"? More like a dictator.

FearlessKim 9:41 AM  

@JTHurst, @K9doc et alii,

ARCO is bow in Italian, from Latin arcus. Source of common English words like arch, arc, archer. I sing with a jazz band whose bass player uses the term ARCO on his sheet music for the (rare, in jazz) occasions when he plans to use the bow, so this is a familiar term. A wheelhouse is an interesting and often unpredictable thing...

quilter1 9:50 AM  

Did not know Jessica Fletcher's middle initial so DNF. But everything else fell into place and I enjoyed the solve, with the exception of multiple OOO's in the NE.

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

Jos and Jojo in the same puzzle?

OISK 9:53 AM  

I actually wondered, right here on this blog, about a week ago, what a David Steinberg Tuesday would be like. And here it is! And unsurprisingly, it is brilliant, inventive, and flawed. If you are going to have middle initials as part of a theme, the other clues have to be gettable, and since it is Tuesday, they ought to be fairly easy. A singer named JOJO? Come on!! I guessed right on that one, not really knowing OOOLA either, and having started with GO ON, for "I'm intrigued," which is a better answer than the really contrived OOOH. I get a DNF for JM Barrie , JC Dithers and JCTS. Can't really blame David for that. I didn't notice that all of the names began with "J", So i had IM Barrie, and INTS, for interstates, with JN Dithers. Not a suitable Tuesday puzzle, as far as I am concerned, because of the NE corner, even though I did manage to get it right. I also had to guess on ARB with JB Fletcher, another pretty poor crossing, I think. (sort of ironic that I solved David's last two puzzles, a Saturday and a Thursday, correctly, and got snagged on this one.)

ludyjynn 9:53 AM  

My brother went to elementary school w/ an athletic kid named Jack Putz, who disliked him and would never pick him to play on his softball team after school. My father let my brother in on a little "secret" about the definition of "putz" in Yiddish. One day, when Jack dissed him, yet again, my brother whispered in Jack's ear that if he was not selected, he would tell everyone on the field what Jack's last name meant. After that, my brother was always picked first!

Carola 10:00 AM  

I usually can't complete a late-week David Steinberg puzzle because of the RAFT of proper names they include, so it was nice to meet him on a Tuesday with a group of familiar personalities (except for JJ PUTZ and JB FLETCHER). Impressive construction, ENJOYED filling it in.

Looking out on a landscape of white, black, and gray overcast, I HANKER for the sight of CROCI. Meanwhile, I liked the little exchange "I LIE" next to "SO DO I."

Lewis 10:08 AM  

I had two Naticks because I didn't know initials, but I'm not complaining. As Rex says, this one is weird, that is, out of the box, and I always love that spirit. For those not familiar with crosswordese, this will be difficult, I believe, and for those who don't like crosswordese, this may irritate. But it didn't irritate me. It just didn't. Loved it.

oldbizmark 10:16 AM  

GARBAGE. Absolute garbage.

I knew J. J. Putz but J. J. Putz should never be an answer to a crossword puzzle. Ever.

BROZ is fine but not as a cross with ARCO.

ARB? What the heck is an ARB? Crossed with J. B!!! FLETCHER. Seriously, this is garbage.

ILIE? OOOLA, JOJO, HODS? What happened here? This is absolutely terrible fill and this puzzle should have been on the scrap heap not in the NYT.

Am I allowed to swear on here?

Paul Noble 10:21 AM  

Mr. Dithers was referred to as JC especially on the Blondie radio show rather than the comic strip. A memory for old-timers only.

MetaRex 10:22 AM  

Will semi-apologized in Westport for the PUTZ/BROZ semi-Natick.

Three questions for the millennia:

Can funky fill be redeemed by weirdness?

Are we primed for EXNET (Erving, e.g.) and EXSET (Billie Jean King, for one)?

If painters were constructors, what would we in Rexville say about them?

Bob Kerfuffle 10:23 AM  

As noted by @John V above, this was our puzzle #2 at Westport. I enjoyed it. Post-solve commentary in the hall there is very well reflected in the comments here.

Did the LAT puzz this morning; it might make some people wish they had stayed in bed.

lawprof 10:25 AM  

Naticked at the JJPUTZ/JOS crossing. Ran the alphabet on the Alcott novel and finally decided it was either "Los Boys" or "Dos Boys" (even though it seeemed doubtful that she ever set a book in a Latin American country). Otherwise a nice workout for a Tuesday.

I was a big baseball fan in my youth, back when there were just eight teams in each of the major leagues. But after expansion I lost track of who was who to the point that I can't even tell you whether the Arizona Diamondbacks are in the American or National League, and couldn't come up with JJ Putz, notwithstanding his all-star status.

dk 10:31 AM  

O (1 moon)

I like js as well as the next aging hippy but this puzzle was a little too Bevis and Butthead for me.

And, while one may carry ore in. a HOD they are more often used for bricks.

The rest of the fill was a little strained.

AliasZ 10:42 AM  

Cool puzzle (with reservations), but tougher than a Tues should be. I can imagine a novice solver giving up at the JOJO/OOOH/OOOLA or JOS/JJPUTZ or ARB/JBFLETCHER crossing.

What I liked about the theme is that David Steinberg runs the alphabet with the J_ initials without one repetition: JB, JC, JD, JJ, JK, JM, JP and JS. However, some of the missing letters could give a theme for at least two more puzzles: JA Banks, JF Kennedy, JG Wentworth, JN Hummel, JQ Adams, JR Ewing, JT Walsh, JW Marriott, JX Lefèvre, JZ Knight.

The less we discuss the fill the better. The main problem with extreme theme density is that there is no room for interesting longer-than-4-letter entries to hang one's hat on. Outside SNOOZE and BARHOP, today we have to make do with MAHALO, ACHOOS, HANKER, INCAPS, EATSIN, RANAT and MEANIE, some of these not all that pretty. Arbitrary Roman numerals and candy bag weights don't count. Lots of BILGE. Favorite word today: CROCI.

But I still liked it. I did not know JC DITHERS, and forgot I knew JM BARRIE. I knew all others including JJ PUTZ who had a cup of coffee with the Mets in 2009, when he looked more like his namesake pronounced the correct way. He qualifies as an EXMET.

JC DITHERS reminded me of the prolific Austrian composer Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739-1799), and his Concerto for Harp in A major. J.S. Bach or J.C. Bach would've been too obvious.

Two Ponies 10:45 AM  

Favorite fill : hanker. Yes'm I said hanker.
Least favorite : croci

Natick at the Z of Broz/Putz. Who?
Double who.

This kid has a way to go before I find joy in seeing his name on top of my grid.

Notsofast 10:47 AM  

A real nice puzzle, so D.S. gets cut a little slack for HAJJ and EXJET. OOOH was strange, but there's a lot to like. Like MAHALO, HANKER, JJPUTZ, BARHOP and YESM. David is just a kid, so he knows celebs I don't ( like JOJO and LAHTI ), but I'll take one of his puzzles any day! Tip o' the Hatlo Hat!

Masked and Anonymo9Js 11:01 AM  

J's are pretty cool. Kinda like U's that never quite turned up, in the end. Speakin of which, thank heavens for that pUtz dude forcin the issUe.

Weejects AnonymoUs: In honor of this puz theme, gotta go with JAI and JOS. Which sound like real neighborly greetings, in some countries or another.

Oh, man, @Bob K. and John V. Bummer. No NYT puz for U to work today. That's j-j-just plain awful. Speakin of which...

Try this:


Sfingi 11:06 AM  

JB FLETCHER is common for oldsters.
As is BROZ.

JC DITHERS - the J is Julius. Is the C for Caesar? (My ggpa's was John Carlton.)

Where's James Cash Penney? At the mall, I guess. His grave is in the Bronx. Saw it. Quite grand.

My father-in-law was a mason as a young man. The hod held the bricks.
The man did the carrying -and had to be seriously strong.

ARB - arbitrator.

Was fun. My hang-up was MAHALO. Someday I'll visit the Prez's home state, or maybe that's where good people go when they die

@Kerfuffle - ophidiophobia?
Lists I still need to memorize in proper order: the Greek alphabet, the Jewish calendar, the books of the Bible, etc.

JenCT 11:57 AM  

@Milford: LOL about the "...the whole Roman numeral thing...."

As mentioned, this was the "hard" puzzle at the WCPT - saw lots of mistakes on 16 D (I'M IN instead of I'M ON), 17 A (J D ROWLING for JK), and most often, 30 A (ARP instead of ARB.)

I agree about there being Naticks all around.

A reminder to check your puzzle before handing it in...

Anonymous 12:02 PM  

I absolutely agree with JTHurst. As an Arabic speaker, the spelling "HADJ" seems completely ridiculous to me; spelling the word HAJJ or HAJ is far closer to the normal transliteration of the Arabic word, and much closer to the Arabic pronunciation. I get to the point where I want to call and complain every time I see it spelled with a "d."

efrex 12:27 PM  

I'm surprised not to see more comments like @oldbizmark's here. Either I'm getting grumpier in my old age, the folks here are getting more tolerant, or stuff ARB, ARCO, LAHTI, CROCI, BROZ, OOOLA, and MAHALO are better known than I thought. That's not even including the snoozier fill all over the place and the ever-popular Random Roman Numeral.

As a sometime Scrabbler, HAJJ doesn't bother me (HAJ, HADJ, HADJI and HAJI are also legitimate variants, as I recall), but almost everything else did. Theme density is impressive, and I love having theme answers in both direction, but the fill suffered way too much to make this an enjoyable solve. Better luck next time, Mr. Steinberg....

Steve J 12:28 PM  

@Anon 12.02 and @JTHurst: In Arabic, is the last J in Haj (the spelling I'm most accustomed to seeing) a hard J, like in "judge", or a softer J like the second G in "garage"?

If it's the hard J, I can see where the "dj" spelling comes from, as it's fairly common in transliteration into English from other languages using non-Roman alphabets (for example, a book I'm reading currently about the buildup to World War I uses "dj" in that context when transliterating names from Cyrillic-using countries).

oldCarFudd 12:29 PM  

@sfingi - Arbitrator? Really? I always thought it was a short form of arbitrageur, someone who makes money by capitalizing on small differences in the price of something in different markets.

Numinous 12:46 PM  

Christine LAHTI is an actress I should know about but I don't. She's been in a ton of films none of which I've seen. I may have seen her once in an episode of L&A SVU but who reads the guest star credits and remembers them?

@ludyjynn: and the Hollywood ending to that story is that they actually became good friends and nobody ever found out what a PUTZ, Jack PUTZ really was?

I always thought ONE carried bricks on a hod and that scuttles were used for carrying the coal I filled the stoves with the winter I spent in Genève. But then, what do I know?

Was the POT hiding in the SW the inspiration for all the JJJJJ?
Could not, for the life of me, remember Jessica's initials until I looked her up (GGGGG, that was a long time ago) but now J B FLETCHER rolls off my mental tongue like I'd been watching day before yesterday. Wasn't it a Sunday show?
Never in my life have I wanted to know Martial Tito's middle name. At least it wasn't clued "Photographer Monika." or "Average Gym" or "Froz ____". I can google to figure out if BROZ means anything too. I'd guessed J J PUTZ but refused to believe it until I looked up Tito.

So, DNF for me but I enjoyed this even though I was half asleep and hadn't had coffee yet. The only downer after all those JJJJJ was not finishing a Tuesday Puzzle.

David Steinberg has terrific research skills and, hopefully, with maturity and world experience, he'll create brilliant puzzles without a hint of arcana.

Z 12:48 PM  

For the HAJJplainers:

"The standardized written Arabic is distinct from and more conservative than all of the spoken varieties, and the two exist in a state known as diglossia, used side-by-side for different societal functions.

Some of the spoken varieties are mutually unintelligible, both written and orally, and the varieties as a whole constitute a sociolinguistic language. This means that on purely linguistic grounds they would likely be considered to constitute more than one language, but are commonly grouped together as a single language for political and/or religious reasons." -Wikipedia

Just in Dearborn we have Lebanese, Iraqi, and Yemeni variations of the spoken language, all of which are being homogenized into some weird Arablish. Wallah, I wouldn't lie to you.

EdFromHackensack 12:50 PM  

Sorry this one never should have been accepted. Next.

LaneB 12:54 PM  

Saw the Steinberg name and figured I'd have to Google something somewhere. And I did: OOOLA in the NW corner. That didn't close the deal, however, what with OOOH, MAHALO, IMON and LAN present, hardly one's "easy" fill. BOSOM buddy doesn't come immediately to mind, either. That's the kind of thing expected of the constructor even on a Tuesday.

The rest proceeded smoothly enough, although some of the initials were not as familiar as the names themselves. But saved by the crosses. Temporarily stalled by putting nyJETS rather than EX.

Who creates the words to prove that one is "not a robot"? The cursive stuff is often impossible to decipher. What's the point of such obscurity. And why should we have to prove anything?

Airymom 1:40 PM  

How about if the clue for 9A had been "he left his home in Tucson, Arizona"?

For those of us who've read "Little Women", Jo's Boys was a gimme, so no problem with that clue/answer.

Thank you "Lilo and Stitch" for 21A.

Good job, David.

retired_chemist 1:42 PM  

@ LaneB - Since the bots can't readily read them, the CAPTCHAs pretty much keep this blog from getting spam - online Viagra without prescription, fantastic mortgage rates, inheritances from Nigerian princes,..... a CAPTCHA is IMO a small price to pay to avoid almost all of that.

If you can't read one you can refresh. They usually get easier to read the second and third time. I had to do this one twice.

Anonymous 1:48 PM  

Yuk! I can't remember when I couldn't finish a Tuesday puzzle without Googling, but I chose to go down in defeat rather than Google today. JCDITHERS was easy, Rex. So was JPMORGAN. I even got JJPUTZ even though I doubted that anybody could really have a name like that, because I knew BROZ. It was some of the other J's that killed me. NE corner was murder -- crossing comic strip names with Hawaiian? Give me a break.

I run into (pun deliberate) either RUNAT or RANAT frequently in these puzzles. Is there really such an expression?

Mohair Sam 1:49 PM  

Medium solve for us, finished about when we normally finish a Tuesday.

Didn't care for this one. Clever theme for sure, but cluing seemed like a Monday with the occasional Friday clue thrown in. Although the crosses gave it away, shouldn't HAJJ have had a (var)? And, using Rex's definition, the Z at the bottom was a natick for sure (fortunately I love baseball and knew JJPUTZ).

Didn't know Marshall TITO had a first name, much less a middle.

On the verge of ranting here, so I'm signing off. Just wish this theme had been worked into a Thursday or Friday.

Pete 2:21 PM  

Why I think it's pointless to critize themes and or theme entries: JJPUTZ.

If David wanted to construct a puzzle that had JJPUTZ in it just because, well, one has to doesn't one?, he succeeded admirably. If JJPUTZ was an entry necessitated by the theme, it's an unforgivable obscurity.

None of this excuses the OOOOO mashup in the northeast.

Benko 2:24 PM  

BROZ isn't Tito's middle name, it's his last name. Tito is not actually the guy's name, just an alias.
Again, nice to see tons of people blaming the constructor for their own lack of knowledge. Just because you don't know it doesn't make it bad.
Although, OOOLA/OOOH is a debatable area.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:45 PM  

@M&A - Must be getting into your mindset (Oh, Lord, hope that's a good thing!) Got your latest offering done in 8:45, though since I haven't seen Walter Mitty and don't know Greenland geography, I needed a helping hand from Wikipedia to get 1 D.

Thank you again!

Mohair Sam 3:54 PM  

@benko - Don't know if you were scolding me or someone else. But your statement was my point (with an attempt at wit), the clue was framed as if TITO was a last name. It was not. He went by TITO or Marshall TITO. His real name was terribly obscure for a Tuesday (I never knew it), and wasn't clearly indicated in the clue.

David IN CA 4:00 PM  

If enough people don't know an answer then it is bad. If enough of the fanatics who typically comment on this blog don't know it, especially early in the week, it is really bad.
Perhaps your idea of the perfect puzzle is one that shows off the solver's trivia knowledge - I'm in this for the wordplay, with the wonderful depth of ambiguity possible with the English language.

sanfranman59 4:23 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 10:34, 8:18, 1.27, 95%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 6:57, 5:14, 1.33, 98%, Challenging

Gee, a David Steinberg puzzle that I wasn't cursing at by the time I got to the end of it. I never thought I'd see the day. I ripped right through this thing (comparatively speaking ... my time slotted in the middle of my Easy-Medium Tuesday range). But judging from the stats, it looks like my experience was not typical.

GILL I. 4:32 PM  

@Benko...Not to jump on the bandwagon and fry you to hell, but I don't agree with the "blame the constructor because I don't know the answer ergo I don't like the crossword" theory...Phew - that was a mouth full.
There are plenty of constructors that leave me wordless and yet I jump for joy when I do their puzzles. To name a few: BEQ, Francis Heaney, MAS and so on. I rarely - if ever - can finish their puzzles but they sing to me.
I think something like JJ PUTZ, JB FLETCHER and JC DITHERS is over the top for a Tuesday puzzle. It felt very show-offy to me and not at all newbie friendly. Plus, who the hell is Mark Gastineau?

Ludyjynn 5:20 PM  

@Numinous...No happy ending, sorry to say. Jack really was a p/Putz, but noone knew. A little leverage goes a long way!

JenCT 5:22 PM

I remember him as a JET, but also for his marriage to Brigitte Nielsen (can't explain why, exactly)

retired_chemist 5:27 PM  

Stalin's name at birth was Ioseb Besarionis dze Jugashvili (Wikipedia). Apparently it was the fashion for strongmen of that era to take an assumed surname. Somewhere I read it means "Steel." What does Tito's name mean?

Benko 5:49 PM  

@mohairsam: Wasn't intending to scold you with my comment. Was intended more as a general remark.
@retired chemist: As far as I know, Tito didn't mean anything in particular. It was an alias BROZ used before he came into power, at a time when the communist party was illegal in his homeland, so that he could carry on his communist activities after having spent time as a political prisoner. The name stuck.
There are various theories as to why he chose the name as an alias, but no one seems to actually know.

Rob C 6:28 PM  

Challenging Tues for me b/c of all of the OOOOfy stuff in the NE pointed out already. I also had nyJET for EXJET. And BRaz for BROZ. Took a while to correct.

Knew JJ PUTZ b/c he pitched for my NY Mets (poorly) for a year. So, he could have been clued as EX MET.

@Ret Chem - Tito means "taco sandwich" in Croatian. ;)

August West 6:54 PM  

As often happens, Steve J's impressions most closely approximate my own. It's rare that I enjoy a puzzle *less* than Rex, and I (incorrectly) anticipated this thing being BAH-lasted. On further review, it's not such a bad little puzzle, but what ugly fill.

Anonymous 7:03 PM  

Deb over at the wordplay blog explains the pronunciation of jj putz

Unknown 7:24 PM  

Jessica FLETCHER from Murder, She Wrote was a clue/answer on Jeopardy tonight.

skua76 11:19 PM  

Did. Not. Like. As has been said, I refuse to google on Tuesday. My real problem was that I missed the main part of the theme. I foolishly dropped in HAdJ early, and could not think of BARRIE's first initial much less DITHERS' middle one. Eventually put in inTS for 57D and kept wondering about this strange theme of a bunch of last names with 2 initials. But I did know JOS (no, haven't read it) and so somehow guessed JJ PUTZ right. Time to go back to NZ and do some more of the Kiwi cryptics in the Christchurch Press.

andrea carla michaels 1:08 AM  

@Leon 6:57
THanks for the spelled out list! And Happy Birthday (belatedly)

@AliasZ, @Milford, @Sfingi
Good lists...for the record JCPENNY and JREWING seem to be the same length for your future magnus opus...

But I like that David went a bit more obscure... and JDSALINGER certainly was timely, timeless!
(Just watched that JDSALINGER film on PBS and everyone seemed to call him Jerry which I don't associate with the vision I have of "JD".)

@Balkanite 9:34
Good point. If he had been called a dictator would that have been too biased a clue? Statesman seems to be the literal middle of the road answer.
Like we seem to be able to say "Dictator Amin" and not even allowed to have Hitler, so at what point does a "statesman" become a "dictator", crossword-clue-wise???

And no one brought up the whole day that TITO is in the Venn Diagram overlap of the conjoined circles of Yugoslavian dictators and Jackson 5 Brothers.
(My fave New Yorker cartoon...and I think the subject of the first comment I made on @Rex probably five years ago!)

sanfranman59 1:23 AM  

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 6:04, 6:22, 0.95, 27%, Easy-Medium
Tue 10:30, 8:18, 1.27, 94%, Challenging (13th highest ratio of 217 Tuesdays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:01, 4:00, 1.00, 47%, Medium
Tue 6:33, 5:14, 1.25, 96%, Challenging (9th highest ratio of 217 Tuesdays)

... and another new low for the number of online solvers ... as of 6pm Pacific, there were 301 (I wasn't able to check the count at the closing bell this evening). The previous Tuesday low was 357 for Tim Croce's puzzle of three weeks ago. Methinks these low numbers are the new reality in my research sample. For now, I think the ratings based on the Top 100 solve times are more reliable, even for early week puzzles.

Leon 8:48 AM  

Thanks ACME, made my day.

MaharajaMack 12:34 AM  

My favorite Steinberg yet. Imagine, at his age, and his last name is a synonym for a work famous because of who did it. A Renoir. A Matisse. A Steinberg.

Anonymous 5:51 PM  

@airymom..21 across I thank Forgetting Sarah Marshall. way to comment days after the puzzle, Claire! (that's me, never late in real life)

Anonymous 12:23 PM  

"...Despite wincing here and there at the fill..."???? Yougottabekiddingme! Beside the double-triple-O's in the NE: ONELB JAI JCTS MMDII...and who the *&$#@ is JJPUTZ? There's really some family with that name--and they DIDN'T change it? This guy must've been a PUTZ; I never heard of him.

Had a moment there, filling in the acrosses in the SE, when REMO popped up at 58d before I even saw the clue. I was let down when it didn't refer to that weird "pilot" movie that never spawned a follow-up, "REMO Williams: The Adventure Begins," featuring a very forgettable title hero but a most memorable tour-de-force by the great Joel Gray.

David: stay away from early-week. Would Emanuel Ax play Chopsticks?

This was neither Renoir nor Matisse. A Dali? Closer.

spacecraft 12:26 PM  

Don't know why the above says "anonymous; it was I.

DMG 12:30 PM  

What a conglomeration of odditys! Eventually slogged through it once I got the J connection, only having to replace HuNgERS with HANKERS. But, I ended up with plenty of ?? where it seemed my answers were too weird to be real, only they were! Wonder how much Google research was required to put this thing together? I prefer my puzzles involve word play, not trivia. Maybe tomorrow.

@Ginger: Thanks for the hint. I found a free download for my iPad, something new at Paribas this year. Now I can at least keep more current than yesterday's scores in the paper. Can't believe how fast the big names are falling!

Another nothing hand, unless you can count three pairs!

Dirigonzo 3:53 PM  

OOOnA in the NE and JJPUTt in the SW seemed plausible so a DNF for me. If I lived in WA or CO I might be tempted to smoke a "J" to console myself but I don't so I'll have a beer instead - Perhaps @Z can recommend on appropriate for the occasion?

@DMG - My pairs are 2, 3s and 4s; how sad is that?

Z 4:34 PM  

@Dirigonzo - Momentarily confused because we're having a fun cannabis "discussion" five weeks in the future. Let me recommend a Monkey Fist IPA.

rain forest 4:48 PM  

Consider this a tentative return to Syndiville. I'll admit I have lurked (twice, actually) and on both occasions I could see that @Rex is still on his "the NYT puzzle/Will comes up Shortz (har)" thing, @Steve J continues to point out what he sees as bad fill (and therefore IS bad fill), and @lms isn't running out of random memories anytime soon.

However, I had to comment on today's puzzle because, and I don't care what day it is, I found it tremendously enjoyable and, well, different, in a good way. Perhaps because JJ PUTZ, Josip BROZ, JOS Boys, and JC DITHERS, were gimmes helped, but I'm pretty sure I would have liked it anyway. Lovely to get something out of left field once in awhile.

Btw, today's constructor is the namesake of a very funny Canadian comedian who used to break me up.

Who knows? I may be BACH.

GILL I. 6:35 PM  

@rain forest...You CRACK me up. You and Diri (well all of you syndies ought to pop into our time zone every once in a while - you know, pep thinks up and all ;-)

Dirigonzo 7:01 PM  

@rainy - nice to see you back even if it's only "tentative". As to your observations, I suspect some things will never change, but there's a new puzzle every day and I, like you, can always find something to like and I've found that if I skip all of the really long posts I can arrive in syndiland with my good humor intact.

@Z -I can hardly wait to see what the "discussion" is all about. In the meantime I decided to go with bourbon, but thanks for the recommendation.

@Gil I.P. - OK, your avatar needs some explaining.

GILL I. 7:47 PM  

@Diri...You don't speak Chinese???? I'm shocked, truly shocked...

Waxy in Montreal 8:18 PM  

@rain, welcome home. The "other" David Steinberg is currently the subject of an excellent TV biopic "Quality Balls".

Only JoJo I know is/was the (in)famous Canadian TV medium or psychic who enjoyed her 15 minutes about 20 years ago.

To complement JJPUTZ, too bad SPARKY LYLE wasn't clued instead of Lovett.

Even though I've read Blondie for over 60 years, took the longest time to arrive at JC for Mr. Dithers. Julius came readily to mind as did his wife's name, Cora.

Have long thought Tito's original surname, BROZ, would have made a great name for a rap or hiphop artist as in BRO-Z (ala ICE-T).

Dirigonzo 9:03 PM  

@Waxy - you continue to amaze with your mastery of arcane facts (which I wanted to call "arcania" but apparently a video game has pre-empted that term) and original insights.

@Gil I.P. - You have discovered yet another of my innumerable inadequacies. I suspect a working knowledge of Chinese will be more important to future generations than it was to mine.

I was dealt four 4s, can I play this hand?

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