Archenemy of Fantastic Four / TUE 3-4-14 / Rapper with 2002 #1 hit Always on Time / Song girl who's sweet as apple cider /

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Constructor: Bruce Haight and Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: BENJAMIN / FRANKLIN, who is "often credited" with DISCOVERING / ELECTRICITY — then there's a play on the phrase "GO FLY / A KITE," because that's allegedly what BJ was doing and the kite was hit by lightning and, well, you probably went to grammar school, so you know what's going on here…

But wait, there's more:

Black squares form rough figure of a kite in the NE corner, with the tail running diagonally across the center of the grid. I think the little Tetris-like blocks on either side of the kite tail are supposed to be lightning bolts. Not sure.

Word of the Day: IDA (18A: Song girl who's "sweet as apple cider") —
• • •

This was a rare case where examining the grid after I'd filled it in actually added to my overall enjoyment of the puzzle. The physical shape of the grid really matters here—otherwise, it's just a weird, semi-arbitrary puzzle about a persistent American myth (the kite thing's a myth, right?). But with the black squares forming a kite shape, and the theme answers all being balanced two-parters that meet at a 90-degree angle at the kite tail, this puzzle has a cleverness that's hard to resist. It's weird—there was a stretch there a while back where it seemed like every other puzzle was by Peter Collins, and I rarely cared for any of them. Then this year his output seems way down, but his puzzles have been fantastic. Gave him Puzzle of the Week honors earlier in the year, and nearly did so again last week. In general, it seems has game has gone up a notch. This is nothing but good news. I don't mean to give short shrift to Bruce Haight, who for all I know is largely responsible for the good things in this grid. So congrats to him on a fine puzzle, too.

I felt like I was moving through it slowly, but I ended up in the mid/high 3s, which is pretty normal. It helped that the fill was relatively smooth (some roughness, some staleness, but nothing too distracting). The main speed bumps were (as usual) proper nouns. Even though I'm in the middle of teaching my Comics course, I totally blanked on DR. DOOM (1A: Archenemy of the Fantastic Four). Didn't know Buzz was an EDWIN. And nearly got Naticked* at IDA / DARLA, neither of whom I'd ever heard of (Buffy and Bing being both beyond me). I put a "D" there because it was the only letter that made two plausible women's names. I see now that "cider" kinda sorta rhymes with IDA (it *definitely* rhymes with IDA in the song), so maybe I could've gotten it that way, but … from my perspective, it was a guess. But I guessed right, and I don't think there are plausible alternatives to the "D" (maybe "M", but that's a stretch). EDGED IN is not a phrase I'd ever use to describe a comment (31A: Added slyly, as a comment). Someone who doesn't want to be noticed might enter a room that way, maybe, but "I EDGED IN a comment…" sounds weird.

OK time for bed. See you tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*For an explanation of the Natick Principle, go here and scroll down to "Some helpful vocabulary"


Steve J 12:16 AM  

Judging it on the merits of being a Tuesday puzzle, this was definitely more interesting than the norm. It's certainly different, so points for that.

Some nice fill, like SENSEI, RAVISHED, PHENOMS. But a lot of clunky and stale: EVENER, ITALO, STARER, A DAY, ITA. Too many cross-referenced clues for my tastes, but they're obviously vital to the theme, so I cut things slack there.

Highly mixed bag, but a mixed bag isn't such a bad thing on a Tuesday.

Moly Shu 12:19 AM  

Really liked the grid and the theme answers, the rest not so much. Like @Rex, IDA/DARLA a sticking point. ITALO, if I never see him in a puzzle again it will be too soon.
The funky grid shape and theme answers make this a like for me, probably in the 60/40 range, trending towards EVENER.

mathguy 12:23 AM  

Nice Tuesday puzzle.
I was late reading yesterday's comments and I was puzzled by Rex's letter-frequency sequence: RLSTNEA. Is this the letter frequency for crossword puzzles? The letter frequency for general written English is close to the old linotypist's test: ETAOINSHRDLU.

jae 12:38 AM  

Not my favorite type of puzzle.  When I do these I tend to ignore all the cross referencing and try to get what ever is going on from the crosses.  This usually results in frustration and a slow solve.  And that's what happened.  Plus QUietS for QUELLS, not being able to spell GEISHA for the 327th time, not believing EVENER and STARER, and BRight for BRAINY put this in the tough category.   I did like QUID, HACK IT, DR DOOM, JA RULE,, some fun fill with an irritating theme.  Sorta liked it sorta didn't. 

Davis 12:38 AM  

It's not just the kite thing that's a myth--the whole DISCOVERING ELECTRICITY thing is a myth, too. Electricity had been discovered well before old BF came on the scene. However, he figured out that lightning is electricity (and devised a way to prove it), and went on to invent the lightning rod.

wreck 12:46 AM  

Medium Tuesday for me. Took a little longer than normal but, no complaints. I think Rex called it pretty fairly.

Casco Kid 1:16 AM  

Naturally, I went for the 'm' at the ImA/Marla Natick. My rationale supposes that Darla is such an ugly name that Sarah Michelle Gellar would not have allowed it on the show. Clearly, Darla is not so ugly, but maybe Marla is. No accounting for my taste.

My grandfather would pick this nit: two things are either even or they aren't, so evener means still-not-even. "More nearly even" would be his choice of words. Regardless, I had fairER until crosses forced me out if it.

I found this a very fun puzzle. OLEO clued in context of actual use was startling. Terrific grid appeal. Save for the Natick, a terrific Tuesday.

Elaine2 1:18 AM  

The "whole kite thing" is NOT a myth -- Franklin used a kite in an experiment to determine that lightning is electricity (which was not entirely understood at that time.)

This puzzle was VERY cute -- I usually don't like pictures in the puzzle but this was fun.

chefwen 1:41 AM  

Like @Rex I ended up in the mid
3's, Oh wait, you'll have to add a zero onto my 3. Got a little stymied in the south west, but GO FLY finally emerged and I was able to wrap it up and add my "awww cute" to my finish.

Weave before BRAID slowed me down at 13A, but not for long, everything else was pretty cut and dried.

Hated EVENER, never heard of JA RULE, got it from crosses. Could relate to 51A (dang).

Good Tuesday Puzz. Loved the kite.

Ellen S 2:01 AM  

Yup, fun puzzle except for the stuff hat's wrong. I especially liked that I finished it AND Rex had put up his post, AND I get to check in before my brother calls me with some computer problem (which it's apparently my fault that I understand and he doesn't, so I get berated for helping him, after which I lose interest in all things technological, including blog comments).

Oh, so a QUID is a pound plus a shilling in the old currency, and since decimalization, it's a pound plus 5p. Or do they call it 5 pence now that nobody will think the reference is to the old pence? Or some number of pence, but it's not slang for a pound.

And I was thinking the people who believe Franklin discovered electricity probably also think Columbus proved the world isn't flat. He was actually dead wrong -- he only set out on his voyage because his calculations of the circumference of the world were so off that he figured he only had a thousand or so miles to go before he would reach Asia. If the Americas hadn't been in the way, he'd have perished. Probably from being electrocuted by a KITE. (Haha, or an EEL.)

Didn't Franklin invent the lightning rod?

RnRGhost57 2:24 AM  

A fun Tuesday enhanced by a stiff vodka martini. This just might become a late Monday evening ritual.

JTHurst 2:51 AM  

As I became immersed into this puzzle I found my mind melting and becoming reanimated into an 'olio' of puzzle bytes. After the meltdown I really started to enjoy it.

Music clues stretching several decades: a rapper, Beatles, old colloquial - 'Ida', DJ, Geisha, and Ska baby. You have to check out Doreen Shaffer's Golden Love.

Sort of a theme that states 'someone' who does 'something' at 'sometime' with help from 'someone else'.

Two obscure WWI rivers.

Tech talk: IBM PC, DSL, Command p,

Three money references: Abe,euro, and Quid.

Prerequisite foreign word clues.

Sprinkle a few formal names, Edwin, Darla, and Italo.

Add a good chunk of gallimaufry clues like the son of Cynthia Von Doom, the Mustangs in the AAC, Bill Cosby's dessert brand, herring like fish, make into corn rows, and worrisome engine sound (which was pretty difficult if you put discovery of in 16a. I mean does an engine go woof?)

Top it with the direction between two cities of which there are no direct flights and you have this puzzle. Which is summarized in 55a: a tease.

But I still liked it except for the answer to 8d. Dense is a wonderful clue, short and enigmatic. It can imply mass and specific gravity, darkness and foreboding, psychological ramifications and so much more and then to answer it with a 4th grade riposte such as , "He/She is so 'brainy' is tragic.

And for those of you claiming a Natick with Ida give me a break. That is like saying you would Natick with the Erie Canal mule "Sal".

I clicked on Rex's Q & A and laughed throughout the whole list - well done. Some of us 51a people remember when the Boston marathon was open to anyone. And those of us of college age and reasonably fit would join the race somewhere before Natick and would run until Wellesley where we would be consumed by fatigue and have to fall by the wayside to be nursed by the willing collegians of Wellesley with liquid refreshments and cool towels.

Ahi Cds Misstates 3:26 AM  

what a crazy, interesting, bizarre, visual puzzle!

loren muse smith 6:33 AM  
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loren muse smith 6:40 AM  

Just the opposite experience as Rex – I looked at the grid. Thought I saw a kite. Squinted my eyes to find the revealers, and BENJAMIN FRANKLIN were my first two entries, followed immediately by DISCOVERED ELECTRICITY. And I was delighted.

@Davis – I kept trying to fit "harnessing" for DISCOVERING. I figured this whole DISCOVERING ELECTRICITY thing would be today's TacoIsNotASandwichGate. People will be pounding their keys in anger: "electric current is a flow of electricity." "Ah, but are we talking static electricity or current electricity?" "Charge is not energy!" "which kind of lightning. . ." Morning, @Ellen S. Actually, your Columbus talk may just upstage the electricity talk.

And I thought Al Gore invented the lightening rod.

Rex - "I don't think there are plausible alternatives to the "D" (maybe "M", but that's a stretch)." I did. I stretched. @Cascokid – you've got yourself a Natick buddy.

@JTHurst – "two obscure WWI rivers." Are there any WWII rivers that aren't? (Unless you're a solver or history buff.) It's fun seeing your name in a grid, even if it's not really you. I'm going to campaign for my daughter to name my grandchildren MARNE and YSER. And maybe if they're girls, SMU and ADAY.

And @JTHurst - I stand firm. I know that mule, but I do *not* know anyone" as sweet as apple cider." So no break given.

@jae – GEISHA/SENSEI cross. That help? Or will you just put GIESHA and SEN SIE next time? I probably would, and we seem to be a lot alike.

Spanish SEIS crossing Japanese SEI. Poor dad. Andrea and Mike– he liked your puzzle yesterday, by the way, and was successful. Told me he was feeling optimistic about today's. GEISHA, SEN SEI, SEIS, JA RULE, ETAT, IBM PC, AHI, SCALA. . .well, he's a self-admitted OLD TIMER and surprises me a lot of the time. I BET that IDA, MARNE, YSER, AT EASE can pull him through if he's patient.

Like the clue for PHENOMS with no truncate alert. Ya gotta start somewhere embracing these changes. And yeah, I still have my ones I don't want changed so I can show off when I sub. I've never denied being two-faced.

A big confusion came in not reading the clue numbers right and thinking "military command" was the clue for MISSTATE. Wondering if that was the new "oxymoron" and how I MISSed *that" boat.

And that MISS TATE is such A TEASE. (While I'm at it, GO FLY keeps looking like "golfy." "Dear, with those kelly green pants and polo shirt, you just look so golfy. Go put on your Speedo and that cute red Christmas sweater. You want to stand out on the golf course, not blend.")

Hey – parents of two children old enough to cut that last piece of cake in half to split between themselves - -tell one of them to cut it and then the other gets to choose which half he wants. You won't get an EVENER split anywhere.

OK. Here's where I really got hot. Obviously I hardly ever take issue with fill/words/obscurity, but there is an obscure word today that really gets my goat. I'm stunned the constructors used it and it escaped Will's notice. It's a word that's just not fair for beginning solvers like my two kids (speaking of offspring), a word too unknown, foreign, and too unfathomable for such people, that they won't have a fighting chance. . . who knew you put your soaking wet, used towels on RODS when there is a perfectly fine floor right there? They're visiting NC next week. Maybe we can look the word up and it'll have a picture.

Fine, fun, feisty puzzle, guys! Thanks!!

(I credit my avatar to Stan Newman. Cool picture of an artifact from 1925. Stan – I'm going to start paying attention when I grab my butter, but I'm with you – I BET I won't find that word.)

MetaRex 6:50 AM  

At first I looked at the ascending hill w/ the rock at the top and wanted SISYPHUS for 27A. Loved this one...thx Bruce H. and Peter C.!

Elle54 7:25 AM  

I used the grid design to get Benjamin Franklin as instructed. Liked the puzzle a lot!

Glimmerglass 7:38 AM  

Love the visual. Most visuals in puzzles are cubist cartoons. This one really looks like a kite.

Doug 7:53 AM  

When I first scanned the clues, I thought it was going to be an unusually tough Tuesday. Then my brain warmed, I filled in a couple of random spots and then i got going. I never noticed the grid till I read Rex this morning. But when I finished I smiled, noticed no really weird fill and then said to myself, "He's going to like this one, finally!"

Susan McConnell 8:07 AM  

I stared at the grid for a while, trying to figure out what it was supposed to be. I just did not see it. Then when I got to BENJAMIN I said aloud to myself "It's a kite???" Ok.

EDGED IN....groan.

Milford 8:07 AM  

Amazingly, I got that it was a kite right away, too. Would have been cool if there could have been a key hanging from the string.

Yes, I also naticked at IDA, but one column to the left, where I had aDA/aTALO. Don't know the apple song, and ITALO has not taken residence as crosswordese in my brain yet.

Didn't like EVENER either, would look at my kids funny if they said it.

Liked DR. DOOM, QUELL and RAVISHED. As a kid we used to take day trips into Chicago at Christmas time for shopping, and I was always amazed at the number of FUR COATS on Michigan Ave. Thought it was a pure fashion/wealth statement, but really, those must just be incredibly warm coats.

@Z - we've been to both La Pita and La Shish recently for birthday meals. Both were lovely meals I think I could eat good fattoush every day.

Kim Scudera 8:15 AM  

Anyone else slam in earLY tobed in place of GOFLY AKITE? No? This led to a 37D that looked like this: RRAN__. Didn't help that on my iPad the clue for 37D read "Site of 27-Across/32-Down's ambassadors hip" say what now?

Slightly tone-deaf clue for 32Across? Minks everywhere shuddered just a bit when the puzzle went to print.

Otherwise no troubles, and some good clean fun --JARULE, RAVISHED, QUELLS -- on the way to a still-average time, even with all the "erasures" in the SW. Thanks, Messrs. Haight and Collins.

Mohair Sam 8:19 AM  

Recently finished Walter Isaacson's biography of Franklin. Saw the flying kite on the grid (nicely done) and solved this one quickly. And had fun doing it, a nice Tuesday puzzle - very little "ese" and solid cluing.

Warning: IDA is one of those annoying tunes that is earwormable as all Hell. Click on Rex's link with due care.

I sometimes think it must be tougher for constructor's and Will coming up with enjoyable early week puzzles than the Thursday-Saturday's which generally constitute their crossworld. Haight and Collins did a nice job with this one.

btw - A terminally ill Steve Jobs chose Walter Isaacson to write his biography because Steve had read Walter's Franklin bio. I can't think of a stronger endorsement, it is a great read.

jberg 8:19 AM  

I didn't see the kite right away, but once I had BEN--- it all clicked -- even though I tried 'early to bed' before GO FLY A KITE. (Knew it was wrong right away from 47A, which had to be SKUNK). Once I had that, the rest was easy.

And speaking of BENJAMIN, it was nice seeing him crossed with the lower-value ABE.

But jeez, @Rex, you know how to make a guy feel old. I mean, "Ida Sweet as Apple Cider" was an OLD-TIMER even in my childhood, but the sort of old thing everyone knew about. I guess now it's faded away completely. I guess it had to happen -- no doubt there will come a time when kids ask "Elvis who?"

Truly amazing fact: I somehow knew both JA RULE and DR DOOM. No idea how or why.

NCA President 8:20 AM  

Speaking of the kite being a myth, I recently read about Franklin's role in actually starting the American revolution. Seems everything was hunky-dory with the colonists and Britain, what with Britain protecting them from the American indians and all, but for some reason the parliament berated Franklin and it made him angry. From that moment on, as the colonists' representative, he started fomenting dissent.

I don't know how true much of what I've read is, I've only just begun to read about what arseholes the founding fathers were...about how they provoked the French, how they killed indians to take away their land, how the taxes were raised mostly to pay for the cost of defending the colonists from the indians they continued to provoke, and how the wealthy among them (slave owners ironically crying for freedom) were the ones who truly instigated the war. Evidently, the colonists were quite happy with the British protection, laws, and benefits until Franklin got all bent out of shape.

Reading about this reminded me a little of learning the truth about Santa Claus.

Anyway, I just read about this last it was weird to see a puzzle this morning about old Ben. Anyone have any good reads about this?

Z 8:23 AM  

IDA reds made my Bing and Buffy ignorance moot. Having taught AMID the apple orchards of western Michigan helped.

OFL already said it, but let me reiterate (as opposed to iterate) that the themers all turn at the tail. Nice.

I have to worry if any more rivers, especially in eastern Europe, are going to get added to the CrossRiver data base in the next few weeks. Let's hope not.

@Casco Kid - I do think that 50/50 is more even than 60/40, the "nearly" seems necessary only for emphasis. EVENER - not so much.

A wonderful 8-bit Tuesday puzzle.

AliasZ 8:29 AM  

My experience was the same as @Loren's: I taw a kite. I didn't just think I did, I taw it. I did, I did, I did taw a kite. And the two lightning bolts too. I love a visually pleasing and descriptive grid tied to the theme. It reminds me of some of Liz Gorski's work.

This is the first time cross references didn't bother me one bit because a picture is worth a thousand words. Obviously BF was a gimme, as was ELECTRICITY. DISCOVERING could have been discovery of or a few other less common phrases, but it came easily enough. The only theme answer that I didn't think fit was FRANCE - sort of a lonely sore thumb in an otherwise exemplary puzzle.

I liked the diagonal symmetry, I wish I saw more of these either along the SW-NE or the NW-SE axis. I also like mirror symmetry on the horizontal or vertical center fold. These always give the puzzle a cool twist with a novel positioning of symmetrical pairs.

Other stuff:

EVENER is a logical red SHAD. Is it possible that two hockey teams playing to a 1-1 tie were EVENER in their efforts than if the game had ended with a 2-2 score? Would anyone call a 1-1 tie EVENER than a 2-1 win? I think not. They call the team that scored two goals a winner and the one who only scored one a loser. I think in this case the clue would have been better as that long piece of 2-by-4 used to make a freshly-poured concrete sidewalk level and even.

I, like @Loren, thought of Sharon when I saw MISS TATE.

At least IDA was not clued Lupino.

OUT EAT is not the same as EAT OUT. Perhaps it should be.

STARER, ogler, leerer, eyer, peerer. But not quite as bad as NHLer.

YSER, MARNE. Have they become less rivery SENSEI WWI? How about Isère, Saône, Aare, Arno, Eder, Oder, etc? Because crosswords don't allow two-letter entries, the river Po has become completely forgotten. What a shame.

Enjoy this little IBERIAN musical Image by Claude Debussy and have a nice day.

Imfromjersey 8:31 AM  

Nice puzzle, was a bit slow to catch on to the Kite thing until I got to Franklin. Techically 17D is wrong, Buzz Aldrin legally changed his first name to Buzz - from Buzz "What is Buzz Aldrin’s real name?
Buzz Aldrin’s real name is, in fact, Buzz Aldrin. He had it legally changed to Buzz in the early 80′s from his given name Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. The name “Buzz” evolved from his sister Fay Ann’s mispronunciation of the word “brother” which became “Buzzer.” By fate, or by coincidence, his mothers’ name was Marion Moon."

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

Fun solve but DARLA was entirely obscure as a BtVS "girl". Played by Julie Benz, she was a recurring vampire (who was killed and brought back, only to be killed again). I really wanted FAITH to work.

joho 9:01 AM  

I marveled at the odd grid at first, then when I saw the kite and tail became intrigued. I love that Bruce and Peter came up with this unusual concept and that Will embraced it.

The fact that the theme answers follow each other in a perfect right angle added method to the madness of the kite in the upper right corner.

FRANCE is a nice bonus in the kiteless corner.

Original and most amusing!

Z 9:06 AM  

@Milford - Yum. The first thing son #2 wanted to do upon coming home from NC for Christmas was get some local Arabic food.

@NCA President - Doesn't sound quite right, except for the founding fathers being arseholes part. That's the problem with mythologizing people, you lose the nuance and complexity of situations and people. Went looking for a good title or two (I read a nicely balanced one a few years ago, but it isn't on the book shelf anymore and can't remember the exact title) and came across American Revolution: People and Perspectives (Perspectives in American Social History) and A People's History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence (from a Howard Zinn project - Zinn is oft loathed by the political right). Neither are the book I was looking for, but they look interesting.

Danp 9:18 AM  

I might well have been disposed to dislike the puzzle, had I noticed the lack of symmetry right away. But like @Rex, I didn't notice it until the end, so it was a pleasant bonus.

One criticism: If you're constructing a tribute puzzle, FIND SOMETHING INTERESTING!!! Surely there were a million fascinating facts about Ben Franklin besides the kite. My biggest beef about these early week themes is that there seems to be an assumption that inexperienced solvers aren't terribly bright. To which I would reply, "If that were true, they wouldn't be working on a crossword puzzle!"

chefbea 9:36 AM  

When I saw the black box in the upper right I figured the puzzle was going to be about airplanes and flying. Then wondered what discovering electricity had to do with it. Finally when i got go fly a kite...I saw the kite. Very cleaver!!!

Elle54 9:40 AM  

@NCA President. Yes, read John Adams by David McCullough. Excellent, factual, well documented...Adams was brilliant virtuous man.

OISK 9:48 AM  

IDA was a gimmee; I can sing the whole song. I think that Ida was Eddie Cantor's mom, and Margie (I'm always thinking of you…) was his wife. That was fine, as was La Scala. Do those make up for JARULE, DRDOOM, and Darla? I know Darla from the Our Gang films, (Darla Hood, Alfalfa's love) but am not in touch with Buffy characters. This was a very slow Tuesday for me because of the pop culture in the NW, (and my reluctance to write "evener"), but all in all, a clever Tuesday.

OISK 9:49 AM  

Correction - Ida was Eddie Cantor's wife, and Margie his daughter.

Anonymous 10:02 AM  

In the early 1950s (before we moved to Crestmont Road!) my mother would have to add coloring (and perhaps flavoring) to oleo to make it into a "yellow spread."

quilter1 10:07 AM  

I second all the nice things others have said. I knew IDA and the rivers. Did not know DARLA except from Our Gang but it became clear. I really never notice the grid but felt admiration when the kite/lightening was pointed out. Good job, guys.

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

Clue 48-down contains an error. D.C. Does not have an "A" Street or a "B" street, whose space on the street grid are displaced with the National Mall, etc. Fun fact: DC also does not have a "J" Street, and there are also some missing at the end of the alphabet.

dk 10:26 AM  

🌕🌕 🌕 (3 Moons)

Saw the kite -- knew it was not Benjamin Disraeli the rest fell like dominos.

Nice Tuesday. A hard day to provide a BRAINY puzzle.

Having just reread 1984 -- in New Speak it might be EVEN GOOD.

Kazoo 10:29 AM  

Wouldn't it be great if the NYTimes could actually go more than a week without OBAMA as an answer or clue? Sure the letter sequence is useful crossword bailout, but really, enough is enough.

Steve J 10:31 AM  
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Steve J 10:33 AM  

@JTHurst: I also went with DISCOVERY of at first, and wondered what engine sound possibly ended in F. That was the only thing that really slowed me up with this one.

As far as IDA and its being part of a potential Natick: I'm not sure why you're so surprised at that. I'm 43 years old, and today is literally the first time I've ever heard the song that is referenced in the clue. And it's not like I grew up unexposed to Bing Crosby. That's just one song that doesn't seem to have made a lasting cross-generational impression.

And, for the record, I don't know who Sal the Mule is, or his connection to the Erie Canal, either.

@Loren: I'm guessing there's no debating about DISCOVERING ELECTRICITY, because the puzzle took great care not to claim that that's what Franklin did. Kudos to the constructors and/or editor for writing the clue to note that Franklin is "often credited" for doing that, not that he actually did it. (Further signs of attention to historical accuracy: While the kite is not a myth, the lightning's striking it is. Which the puzzle reflects, with lightning near the kite but not striking it. Messrs. Haight and Collins definitely deserve credit for taking care to get all the details right to match the reality of the experiment.)

Mohair Sam 10:40 AM  

@OISK - Couldn't find who you were correcting, but thanks for The Eddie Cantor reference. I'd always connected the song to Eddie, but assumed I "misremembered" when I saw Rex's link.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:54 AM  

Liked the puzzle.

When I first glanced at the grid, I said to myself, "Let's go fly a kite," to the tune from Mary Poppins. So before I saw the Ben Franklin connection, I thought this might be a tribute to blissful early springtime and kite-flying in general, and was ready to complain bitterly about still being surrounded by blackening piles of month-old snow!

The Franklin connection is better, and as @SteveJ points out above, very carefully phrased.

@AliasZ - Actually, some constructors have slipped either the PORIVER or RIVERPO into their grids -- drawing many anguished cries from some solvers!

Ludyjynn 10:56 AM  

Perfect Tuesday. Brought back hilarious childhood memory of Mom, Dad, brother and I strolling along the boardwalk at Belmar, NJ observing a guy on the beach having trouble getting his kid's kite aloft. Dad volunteered to show them how to GO FLY A KITE, and only after he managed to snap three(!) of them into pieces, did Mom persuade him to exit, stage left. Poor guy never knew what hit him. For the rest of his life, we tortured my Dad w/ this story whenever a kite happened along. To this day, kites crack me up.

Thanks for the memories, constructors.

Two Ponies 10:58 AM  

Nice to have a Tuesday puzzle that was entertaining. Well done gents!

I didn't know the song but somehow took the hint of "cider" and sussed it out. The Buffy clue was no help at all.

Anonymous 11:04 AM  


Short shrift on Shrove Tuesday? Well played!

Some Pancake eater

Carola 11:07 AM  

The grid shape was A TEASE - I saw only a black box connected by a dotted diagonal line to a white...? It took getting DISCOVERING and BENJAMIN before the kite snapped into focus. Very fun to then write in the other themers, so nicely attached to and fluttering from the kite string. For me the "But wait, there's more" was GO FLY A KITE, an unexpected extra treat. @Rex, thanks for pointing out the lightening bolts.

Got off to an inauspicious start: a comics character? rapper? OLD-TIMER tech product? this is Tuesday? Finally EDGED INto that corner with DJED and good old OLEO and was on my way.

A STARER's gaze is EVENER.

JTHurst 11:27 AM  

Kudos to @Z. I dusted my Commodore PET off, jammed my soft, floppy visicalc disc into the slot and when it did not work I called the Berkeley Home Brew Club to help solve this 8 - bit puzzle.

@anonymous I remember one of my task as a lad was to take the plastic enclosed ball of Oleo and push on the red dot on the wrapping, massaging it until the color had permeated throughout the Oleo turning it a golden yellow. My mother inspected it to ensure uniformity or I had to keep squeezing it.

Masked and Anonymo5Us 11:42 AM  

Superb puz. Zappy.
Only 72 words. 10 of em with U's. Lotsa good ones, too:
Weirdo symmetry. Lightnin bolts. Black hole eatin the NE. Gloriously goofy.

Showed empty weirdo grid to puzeatinspouse last night. Her immediate comment: "Wild. Is that supposed to be a kite?". Wisdom. And I'd been thinkin curling broom. Nonwisdom again, M&A breath.

So, was this the anniversary of some dude sayin "go fly a kite"? Was the dude Mrs. Franklin?

Historically challenged,

Lewis 11:48 AM  

I too saw the kite right away and filled in the four big answers, then the rest fell like dominos. Cute cute cute puzzle, and pretty darn smooth for 49 theme related squares.

I was taught to say more even rather than EVENER. I learned this from a teacher with a stern face, and I've never even thought about doing it any other way.

Questinia 12:14 PM  


Governor of the Bank of England 12:23 PM  

@Ellen S -- I believe you're confusing quids and guineas. In
pre-decimalized British currency, a guinea was equal to one
pound and one shilling. (In the current decimalized British
currency, that would be the equivalent of £1.05, but the term
"guinea" is no longer used to refer to that amount.) The term
"quid" was, and still is, a slang expression for the pound
under both the pre-decimalized and decimalized British

Z 1:06 PM  

Hey Word Mavens - Check this out.

@Danp - Uh - lots of really smart people struggle with solving crosswords, especially when they first begin. If you do a Venn Diagram of people who know the facts in today's puzzle, for example, the number who knows all of them (heck, JA RULE/YSER) is probably a pretty small subset (not COSET). Now toss in the brain muscle one needs to develop for getting misdirection and PARADIGM changers and, GGGGGus, cut Will some slack.

M and Also 1:11 PM  

@Q: har n har.

Important tourney practice puz:

Self-eval scale:
under 1.5 min: Feyer hears footsteps
1.5-2.5 min: strong contender
2.5-4.0 min: regional champ contender
4.0-6.0 min: future r.c. contender, with practice
6.0-12.0 min: just here to have a fun time
over 12.0 min: slobbering, red-sweatered U-lover


Bob Kerfuffle 1:28 PM  

Dear Mr. M&A,

I am sorry to report that your Self-eval scale is broken. I finished the puzzle in 2:40, which would make me a regional champ contender, which I surely am not.

Hope you can get it fixed.


Last Silver Bull Woot 1:40 PM  

@Bob K. Wowzer. Broke!!? Well sir,
My grandpa used to say even a blind squirrel will find a peanut, once in a blue moon.
Could be a wheelhouse thing.
On the other hand, 4-Oh may be hearin footsteps, here...

Have a really great tourney! Bring back a pic of all them red-sweatered smarties.


Mohair Sam 2:24 PM  

@steve J. Perfect call on the lightning myth and kite fact. Old Ben never claimed that lightning struck the kite, but historians of the period were happy to embellish. He did learn what he needed from the experiment, and lightning rods soon sprung up all around Philly.

Outlaw and Sweater-nymoUs 3:15 PM  

@Bob K. some more:
Could also depend on yer region.
And how hungry U are to win the games.
May the odds always be in yer favor.

The Red Sweaters

Anonymous 3:19 PM  

Thought lightning was electric-
so then
He did A TEST one night
And lightning RODS were invented- AMEN.

retired_chemist 3:42 PM  

The kite was a nice touch, which I didn't see until I came here.

DNF since I has a personal Natick. I thought it was MaRV Griffin and had no idea re JARULE/JARULa. Oh well.

Generally easy, no tricks, solid Tuesday. QUietS before QUELLS, probably one of many who did that, even though only @jae mentioned it above. I BET preceded by "as if," also probably not uniquely, despite no previous admissions.

Thanks, Messrs. Haight and Ashbury (oops - I mean Collins).

sanfranman59 3:43 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 8:14, 8:16, 0.99, 49%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Tue 5:25, 5:17, 1.02, 57%, Medium

Dan 4:14 PM  

M&A -- I saw "Important tourney practice puz" and thought I'd better give it a try. 55 seconds of fun. --Dan F

Norm 4:37 PM  

Cross-referenced clues? Dislike. This theme? Meh. Surprised that Rex liked it so much and didn't gripe about EVENER? Definitely.

loren muse smith 4:45 PM  

@M&A – the clue/answer for 14A cheered me up. Thanks! I needed that! Butt. . .too much information.

@Bob K and Dan F – 6 minutes, but I had to google 1A. FWIW I got 3D, 6D, 11A and 13A off the bat. But then nuttin’. Still too hard for me. My plan remains to gun for the Neatest Handwriting Award.

mac 5:01 PM  

Very cute Tuesday puzzle!

I agree it's a strange word, but EVENER was the first thing I thought of reading the clue.

I didn't read 39A carefully and filled in rail, but Obama saved the day.

I expected the Somme before the Marne.

Fun puzzle!

Benko 5:08 PM  

The kite experiment was real. Real stupid. Franklin is lucky he didn't die of electric shock, as many people who tried to recreate the experiment did.
--(named after Benjamin Franklin)

Gill I. P. 9:32 PM  

@Benko - thank whomever he was around for inventing the urinary catheter - I think....
@Steve J: POOF?
Bruce and Peter - WOW, I mean really WOW. and I loved BRAINY on top of FRANKLIN crossing OLD TIMER. This was ELECTRICal.

sanfranman59 10:04 PM  

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

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

Mon 6:04, 6:18, 0.96, 30%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:07, 8:16, 0.99, 49%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:47, 4:00, 0.95, 19%, Easy
Tue 5:10, 5:13, 0.99, 44%, Medium

JRW 10:37 PM  

There's a weird sort of confirmation bias thing that happens when I viscerally just plain like a puzzle. The theme-y clever stuff here is very well put together, and works on a lot of levels, and there's some good non-theme fill that someone born after 1910 has a legit shot at (DRDOOM and JARULE to open were right in my wheelhouse -- I don't even LIKE Ja Rule -- and my only gripe with DARLA is that I think of her as an "Angel" gal rather than a "Buffy" gal).

But then (like Rex) I look again in the grid and pick out so much other stuff I like. GEISHA crossing SENSEI. MISSTATE crossing DELETE. (This is probably a regional thing, but MISSTATE also makes me think immediately of Miss. State, or MSU... and lo and behold, there's SMU in the grid.) If you're going to have YSER, might as well have ETAT and EURO, but it's nice to see it on the same line as ATEASE. (At ease! Y'sir!) I'm probably giving this stuff more credit than is due, but hey... confirmation bias. I dug it, so I dig for reasons why.

Anonymous 12:02 AM  

I love how the two-part theme entries connect at 90 degree angles.

I think the lightning bolts aren't very convincing, but overall, I think it was an inventive theme - a rare thing these days.

DigitalDan 1:16 PM  

Side comment. A trumpeter would never refer to their sound as a BLARE. Most of what one does to learn to play is aimed at avoiding anything that could be interpreted that way.

Archangel Michael 2:37 PM  

Good enough for God, but not for you?

“God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord”
by Owen Alstott.

Kim Scudera 4:31 PM  

to The Red Sweaters, aka M&A: 4:00 exactly. Kudos to Bob Kerfuffle, and Mr. Feyer has nothing to worry about! although I get to enjoy your nano-puzzles for way longer than 55 seconds :O

spacecraft 11:44 AM  

@Danp: "Lack of symmetry?" Ahem, you might try rotating the grid 45degrees counterclockwise: Voila! Perfect symmetry!

From a recent car ad: "Maybe it's called 'the beaten path' because it can be beaten." I think the path got trOUNCEd today. At places it seemed a bit Thursdayish, using "Best" and "Trumpet" as verbs, e.g., but as the theme was pretty much a dead giveAWAY, not overly so. Those clues, plus having to deal with a rapper and the "real stinker" EVENER, EDGED it INto the "medium" category.

Compare today's Q with yesterday's. How beautifully unforced! OUTEAT FRANCE and DELETE OBAMAS: two things I'd like to see! Har.

Only problem with this grid is: it's missing the KEY!

I keep getting these leaky canoes: 22299.

Richard Walker 1:08 PM  

Ida, Darla, Italo irritatingly. Don't like crosses that require obscure knowledge or guessing.

DMG 1:36 PM  

Bunch of stuff I didn't know (DRDOOM, JARUL....) but it all fell, even the awful EVENER.

Those of a "certain age" will remember the wonderful radio shows of the 30's and 40's, one of which was the Eddie Cantor show sponsored by "Ipana for the smile of beauty and Sal Hepatica for the smile of health", and recall that IDA was his love song to his wife. Those were the days, sweetness and light, not mayhem and murder. Unless, of course, you count the Whistler. I was never brave enough to listen after the ominous sign-on whistle sent me scuttling to somewhere out of hearing range!

@Diri: Thanks for letting me know I hadn't been vaporized.

Only three 5's. sigh!

Dirigonzo 2:47 PM  

DJED - didn't we just have a discussion of another abbreviation (OD, maybe?) being made past tense like that? ABE/BENJAMIN is a nice crossing that describes more money than I ever have in my wallet at one time.
Maybe my boat floats? 333/88

rain forest 3:06 PM  

The first thing I noticed was a kite in the Northeast corner. Then I saw the diagonal symmetry as pointed out by @Spacey (along the NE/SW axis). Just the appearance of the grid was quite satisfying.

As a Canadian, I don't leap immediately to Benjamin Franklin when I see the image of a kite, but eventually figured it out.

I liked the way the three 2-way themers came together on the kite tail, and I thought this puzzle was a clever and entertaining example of how a Tuesday can be fun.

Solving in Seattle 3:30 PM  

The clever and smile evoking elements of this puzzle far outweigh the few "Real stinker" entries. And, as @Spacy pointed out, the symmetry that Bruce and Peter gave this work, albeit requiring one twist one's head to see it, lent it some... well, ELECTRICITY. Loved the lightening bolt touch.
Pita types would like BURN crossing FURCOAT. Japanophiles would like GEISHA crossing SENSEI. EURO/FRANCE. ABE/BENJAMIN. FRANKLIN/PRINT. SKUNK crossing PHEROMONE. Wait, oh, never mind.
Hey @Diri, do East Coast fishermen have SHAD RODS?

Capcha wouldn't let me play today.

Dirigonzo 3:51 PM  

@SiS - I don't know what they use to catch them, but I know they dry them on a Shadrack.

Solving in Seattle 4:04 PM  

@Diri, and they must cook them in a Babylonian oven?

Ginger 7:27 PM  

Saw the kite at first glance, then went to work. At first I bounced around with Benjamin, then POW (thank you XWord Info) it all fell. As a 51-A, IDA was a gimme, but never heard of the Fantastic Four, or JARULE either, so I guessed at the NW.

I've missed Syndiland, and wishing for a good hand everyday. Just been crazy busy.

999 over 88 Yipee

Anonymous 11:17 PM  

Did this while enjoying a beer and watching the Giants' home opener on TV.

Hmmm...looks like a kite. Enter DISCOVERING ELECTRICITY and BENJAMIN FRANKLIN immediately. One cross gives me GO FLY A KITE. An inning and a half later I'm done.

Check please.

Ben Silver 3:44 PM  

Simply untrue -- you're thinking of a guinea. A quid has always meant a pound -- similar to a 'buck' for us here in the States

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