Three-stringed Eastern instrument / THU 4-3-14 / Young-adult fiction author Darren / 1942 title role for Rita Hayworth / Chorus starter in 1972 David Bowie song / One side 1967 war

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Constructor: David Benkof and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: CH- CH- CH- CH- CHANGES (58A: Chorus starter in a 1972 David Bowie song … or the theme of this puzzle, phonetically)— four theme answers all start with "CH-", but each one is pronounced differently from the others (hence "changes")

Theme answers:
  • CHANUKAH MENORAH (17A: December display)
  • CHAOS THEORY (24A: Mathematical field that includes the so-called "butterfly effect")
  • CHARLOTTE BRONTË (36A: One of literature's "three sisters") (thought this might be OLGA, IRINA, or whatever the other one is called…)
  • CHAIN-SMOKED (44A: Went from butt to butt?)
Word of the Day: FANBOY (9D: Many a sic-fi devotee) —
  1. 1.
    a male fan, esp. one who is obsessive about movies, comic books, or science fiction. (the definition that comes up when you Google [define fanboy] … I have no idea how to cite that or who, exactly, the authority is…)
• • •

I mostly enjoyed this. I very much enjoy Bowie, so that reveal was a lot of fun for me to fill in. It was also a nice revelation re: What The Hell The Theme Was. I was like "hmm … starts with CH- … that's a little thin." But the reveal nicely articulates what the theme is all about; and it's snappy in its own right. Nice. Super-segmented grid means lots of 3- 4- and 5-letter entries, i.e. a mostly easy solve. They squeeze a lot out of the few 6+- letter answers they do have, with COP CAR, "GET THIS," and FANBOY all winners in my book. Why you clue FISH that way I have no idea. I guess the puzzle was playing very easy, so they decided to use this one clue to toughen it up. I doubted FISH for a while because I thought "no way they go to *that* guy for such a common word" (35A: Hamilton ___, two-term secretary of state under Grant). Kept trying FISK. Kept getting AKEAD in the cross. Eventually stopped trying FISK. Did have problem with AVIAN FLU / UVM. I didn't even blink at AVIAN FLU, and then tried to rationalize UVM as some … veterans? Virginian? … thing I just didn't know. USM is terrible (7D: Mil. branch). If you google [Define "USM"] you will get jack squat. It's USMC. USM should be thrown in the trash along with other things we never use (and ENISLE; I mean, if you're throwing things away, why not?).

If you solve on paper, you might wanna check your LAILA ALI / SHAN crossing. I have this weird feeling that some folks will have LEILA / SHEN. Seems a not unreasonable guess.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:05 AM  

Easy-medium for me too only because GET THIS came slowly and STIHL was a WOE.  Skil, Black and Decker, Craftsman...yes, STIHL not so much.

Lots to like here..HO HUM, NUFF SAID, DUHS, NARC, FANBOY... plus a clever sound play theme and not much to cringe at, although let me be the second to say it's USMC not USM.  Nice one guys!

Steve J 12:09 AM  
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Steve J 12:11 AM  

"Mostly enjoyed" is a good way to describe this one. Loved the revealer, found the other theme entries to be solid, and there were some great clues, like for ARCS and RIBCAGE. Liked FANBOY (great word) crossing BUOYS, too.

A couple things kept this only in "mostly enjoyed" rather than "completely enjoyed" territory. The USM thing was one (as was hashed out several weeks back, and as Rex mentioned, it's USMC; USM is not a thing, at least as clued). More crucially, SHAN/LAILA is a coinflip cross. I had E rather than A. Never heard of SHAN, and LAILA is often spelled LeILA (as well as Layla). DNF there for me.

By the way, I don't get 23A: Sin relative? = COT? Is COT a trig abbreviation that I no longer remember?

wreck 12:12 AM  

Very quick Thursday for me ... my only hang-up was trying to put CHA CHA CHA CHANGES before shortening it to simply CH. My fault!

Mike in DC 12:14 AM  

@Steve J: Sin as in sine. Cot as in cotangent.

red[x] 12:17 AM  

Easy Thursday I thought. I now know exactly one city in Kyrgyzstan.
Was inspired to google 'Frieda Kahlo and David Bowie'. Two great artists.

Unknown 12:23 AM  

I flew through this in a lightning 30 minutes and ended with 3 errors: Naticked at SAMISEt/AtKH and TpA/OmH and then failed to check verb tense at CHAINSMOKEr/AHEAr. I'd gone back and forth on Tampa Airport TLA. Was it TmA or TpA? I had to google for the Kyrgyz city in the post mortem to see TSA. 30+7 minutes to fix the errors after a spate of combinatoric resubmissions and a google frenzy to get it right.

I think my performance will be like this going forward. There will always be a couple of Naticks per puzzle where the cross isn't strong enough to drive the right choice. I won't dwell on them.

Was there any more to the theme than the 4 CHs? Nothing metamorphic a la Bowie?

USM has been clued badly before. I'm still waiting for it to be clued as University of Southern Maine, Tony Shaloub's alma mater and the "big college" here in Portland.

Steve J 12:32 AM  

Thanks, Mike. I remember sine, cosine and tangent, but had forgotten about cotangent.

wreck 12:39 AM  

I had trouble with SIN = _OT as well - but CRAB worked, so I trudged on!

Colin 12:51 AM  

Great theme, great revealer, and lots of good fill -- but I am unashamed to have DNF'd due to LeILA/SHeN because come on. Natick'd again!

retired_chemist 1:03 AM  

Hand up for LeILA/SHeN and also for not being ashamed about it. IMO a true Natick.

Lots to like. The cluing for COT, FANBOY, the fact that "CHristmas lights" is the obvious answer for 17A but is wrong, OSH, and more.

A bit to dislike - USM (better clued as Hattiesburg school, for short),the aforementioned Natick, and not. much. else.

Thanks, Messrs. Benkof and Chen.

Mark 1:12 AM  

Kept trying to get some theme traction from CHA, since all the themers started that way, and for a while even thought that Bowie might have been singing, "Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes," but of course that direction didn't quite work.

RnRGhost57 1:27 AM  
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RnRGhost57 1:28 AM  

Bowie is a fave, so loved this one. And to Benkof and Chen:
Aaaaaahhhhhh, wham bam thank you man!

David Benkof 1:32 AM  

Hey everybody thanks for your comments. Casko Kid, part of the theme idea - the "CHANGES" if you will - refer to the four different ways to pronounce "CH" in the English language. I have Jeff to thank for the brilliant David Bowie revealer.

Mark, I initially just had some random phrases of proper lengths that started with CHs (with all four pronunciations, of course) but Jeff pushed me hard to get four sparkling theme answers with the different pronunciations that all had the same third letter (the vowel A in this case). It took forever, but I came up with "CHANUKAHMENORAH" (I make a Jewish puzzle every week for the Jerusalem Post) and "CHAOSTHEORY" and "CHARLOTTEBRONTE" after a lot of work. That left Jeff (who took the lead on the grid) with lots to choose from for the fourth CHA since that was the one with the most common pronunciation, "tch."

I'm glad many of you enjoyed it!

Jisvan 2:17 AM  

Loved the reveal, which was almost my last entry. What on earth could be spelled with so many CHs and no vowels- Sounded it out and AHA! (Now it will be my new ear worm.)

Had one zodiac symbol as CRAB and the other as RAT, and thought I was so clever to know two different zodiacs. CHAINSTOKED seemed fine to me, but I was worried about already having another LABRAT loose in the grid. Couldn't submit until I figured that one out.

It wasn't ASNAP for me, but a non HOHUM Thursday where I can GET THIS is nothing to turn up my SNOUT about!

SEC 2:36 AM  

Fastest Thurs ever for me in a year and a half of regular solving (and a full 20 min quicker than my avg Thurs)....immediately wrote in Charlotte Bronte and the Bowie reveal which gave me lots of traction. Didn't get the theme in the sense of the four pronunciations of CH until reading David's comment above, but still liked it.

chefwen 2:42 AM  

Had the same trouble as @wreck and & mark did with the CHA, wasted a lot of time and Wite out fixing that. Had a difficult time spelling CHANUKAH,which is pretty embarassing for a Jewish girl. Wanted mesas before CACTI, UNpaired before UNSORTED, mooS before BAAS. finally got it SORTED out. Phew!

Liked it, thank you David and Jeff.

Moly Shu 4:17 AM  

Got the bottom third finished first, then the middle, then like @RetiredChemist confidently entered CHristmas in the top. That kept me busy until I sorted out MENORAH and said " DUH ". No problem here with LAILA,, always remember the spelling thanks to puzzles. Really liked RIBCAGE and GETTHiS.

@LMS, after your extensive explanation on lay/lie/lain, how come I couldn't enter LAY in the grid without crosses??? Not your fault, you tried to teach me, I failed to learn. Please don't give up on me, I promise I'll get it eventually.

Liked it a lot, thanks David and Jeff

jae 4:50 AM  
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jae 4:52 AM  

@Moly Shu -- Me too for knowing LAILA from puzzles, unlike NSFW from yesterday. SHAN, of course, was a WOE.

John Child 5:26 AM  

The theme didn't thrill me much, but to each his or her own CHA CHA CHA.

jberg 6:59 AM  

AHEM! HOHUM? HAHA! OOHS to this one.

Just thanking my lucky stars I'm up on cities in the former USSR.

Elle54 7:08 AM  

Had Laila so Naticked. Now I'm gonna be singing "Changes " all day!

Susierah 7:23 AM  

After my first pass through the clues, I had thought "uh oh, I don't know any of this!" Second pass through, Changed swine flu to Asian flu, got ims, cacti and Laila Ali. Kept plugging away and finished in 25 minutes, with no errors or googles. A good day, and a fun puzzle.

Anonymous 7:23 AM  

I don't know where my comments go. I posted last night and saw my post. When I came back later it disappeared. Maybe I need to make a dummy account somewhere but I see other anonymous posts?

Mark 7:27 AM  

Fans of the recent write-up by Rex's BFFs might imagine what they could write about the Seinfeldian story arc traversed by our favorite city MINSK in the subtitle of "Rochelle, Rochelle," especially the Bette Midler episode.

Unknown 7:52 AM  

Super easy for a Thursdau, and I loved everything about it. NUFF SAID.

Matty 8:04 AM  

YAHOO instead of WAHOO
AVIAN instead of ASIAN
LEILA instead of LAILA

Mohair Sam 8:10 AM  

Zipped thru this Thursday, but we naticked on Ms. Ali - just not where Rex predicted: LAInA/KAHnO.

Agree that the theme was nifty and very nicely done. Lost some time with my lifetime error of forgetting the C in CHANUKA - but it filled easily. FANBOY a new word here, always good to learn. And we had CHAinTHEORY for a while but figured there couldn't be a lot of ladies named nAL.

Didn't pay much attention to Bowie when we were young, but we've rediscovered him via Pandora and have become big fans.

Finally: I am not a Marine, but there is something annoying and a little insulting about the NYT's refusal to heed the corrections of USM.

AliasZ 8:13 AM  

HOHUM. I expected the theme to be crunchier with circles, rebi or some other graphical depictions. Where is Liz Gorski when you need her? Tuesday's Schrödinger puzzle and this one should have been switched. OOHS, Now I get it. Will's April Fool's joke was that he gave us a Thursday puzzle on Tuesday and vice-versa. And this, ladles and gentlemints, is why I am not the NYT puzzle editor.

The FANBuY/CuT, RAt/StOKED and LeILA/SHeN Naticks aside, this one played easy. HOHUM under HAHA made me CHuckle, the big brassy clue for TUBA took some CHutzpah, and a USMarine 'CHute jumping into the grid without a taCHometer was a fine touCH and it didn't kick my tuCHas. TouCHé, David / Jeff!

Now I will CHill out with a glass of CHianti in my CHiffon gown. Chip, chip, chooray!

Happy Thursday.

joho 8:14 AM  

CHCHCHCHCHANGES ...what a delightful way to start the day!

Interesting theme with a brilliant reveal.

Although, am I the only one who pronounces CHANUKA and CHAOS with the same CH sound? The "A" is pronounced differently but not the CH.

LAILAALI looks great in the grid.

I keep parsing LAB RAT as LA BRAT.

Fun puzzle you can really dance to ... thank, David and Jeff!

Danp 8:21 AM  

The revealer definitely justifies a theme puzzle, but four sounds of "ch" didn't move me. I would have preferred something like BRAINREACTION, FARMOFFENSIVE, THEBIGSPILL, PLANTSMEETING, BLUEBEESDRESSING, etc.

The Thin White Duke 8:35 AM  

Build a theme around TVC15, and then I'll be impressed.

Evan 8:38 AM  

I had the same trouble with AVIAN FLU/UVM, and also had to really look over LAILA ALI/SHAN (I can simply never remember how to spell Muhammad's daughter's first name....I should just use the A in ALI as a mnemonic to remember that the first vowel of LAILA is an A).

But my favorite initial wrong answer, and perhaps my favorite initial wrong answer of all time -- FAT BOY before FANBOY.

Gubdude 8:45 AM  

I liked it. Fell pretty easy for me.

LAILA ALI went in right away, which gave me KAHLO and COPCAR.

Like FANBOY a lot, and the movie of the same name (add an s to the end) entertained me.

Nice theme answers, nice reveal = a very nice Thursday.

BobF 8:51 AM  

Rex was right. I had the cross Leila Ali (didn't know how to spell her name) and never heard of Darren Shan so I thought Shen was correct.

DBlock 9:01 AM  

This is why I come to this site--last two days, filled puzzle with no errors but had no idea what was up--seriously concerned about my general cluelessness in life--and you are all here to explain--knew that COT was the answer but had no idea why--also actually realized that all four CHs pronounced differently and still didn't see it, even though I got the reveal easily
Unless the subjects are literature, film, history--beyond my wheelhouse, so thrilled to have such good explainers--thanks and Rex, really nice to have you back at the helm-DB

Ludyjynn 9:05 AM  

@Rex, I would have loved to have the constructors use AVIAN/UVM at the 16 cross, since UVM is a more apt answer to my proposed clue, "educational inst. located in Burlington", that is, my alma mater, the University of Vermont, than the unlikely USM abbreviation selected.

That complaint aside, @David Benkof, any puzzle that includes CHANUKAH MENORAH in the grid is a winner in my book, as well as a great misdirect from the knee-jerk Christmas response! Job well done.

And David Bowie, to boot! Thanks, guys for a satisfying Thursday.

OISK 9:10 AM  

A puzzle built around a 40 year old song from David Bowie (he sang???) is never going to please me. I remembered how to spell Laila, although I think crossing that with Darren Shan (who?) is pretty bad. I actually got a DNF (two in a row after four perfect weeks!) when I sloppily wrote "Chances" instead of "Changes" and so got Acra instead of Agra, although I certainly do know where the Taj is. Of course, had I known the song, I could not have made that error, so I can partly chalk it up to pop culture. (like the NSFW that beat me yesterday). Two unrewarding (for me) puzzles in a row, as far as I am concerned, but yesterday's was worse.

Hartley70 9:16 AM  

Been lurking here for a long time and thought I'd drop in and say "Hey!" I loved this puzzle cause it started my day with a victory that wasn't too easy but wasn't too hard. I'll have another Thursday piece of cake please!

Dawn 9:20 AM  

Great puzzle.

Ali has seven daughters BTW, and two sons. Ive seen Laila spelled differently, with an extra letter, so that messed me up for a while.

Kudos to the authors!

MountainManZach 9:20 AM  

Seconded on UVM/AVIAN being better. is even Vermont's URL.

Ludyjynn 9:24 AM  

Just for yucks and chuckles, I Googled USM, which Google refuses to recognize; it gives you USMC. BUT when I Googled UVM, an entire page of appropriate responses pertaining to the University of Vermont pops up. Click on the first one and you will get to the beautiful UVM homepage. Sorry, can't help myself; I love the place so much after all these years!

Andrew 9:26 AM  

Eventually got OSH/TSA cross, but not until I did an alphabet run of T?A in an effort to come up with a familiar airport code.

Slipped and took a DNF with UvM / AvIANFLU despite my neurons stumbling upon USM and recalling the whole USM-USMC imbroglio on the blog a couple weeks back. Wasn't the 'Asian Flu' outbreak also referred to as the 'Avian Flu' in the media? Or am I getting my flu scares mixed up?

ltux 9:30 AM  

A true FANBOY would know to whom to attribute the phrase NUFFSAID.

Katzzz 9:37 AM  

Seemed more like a Weds. than a Thurs. I enjoyed it though. But why "e.g." in clue for 44d: "54. e.g. in old TV." As opposed to 54 in some other context?

Z 9:38 AM  

I still don't know what I was waiting for and my time was running wild.

With such a great theme with a perfect revealer, why let three fill crosses take up so much of the solvers' attention. LAILA ALI was easy for me, but don't make people play Pick-A-Vowel (maybe Whack-A-Vowel would be a better name). FISH clued as a secretary of state from 125+ years ago? Fine for a Saturday but really distracting here. I had to CH CH CH CH CHANGE SMOKEs to SMOKED before that finally fell. And then USM. UGH to the Nth degree raised to infinity. UGH UGH UGH UGH UGHLY. I DNFed here because, while UvM looked wrong, it was early and I planned to come back to it. Then I got hung up trying to fill A-EAs and forgot to come back. No need to rehash the uhgliness of USM for the Marines - that was done well the last time - please either clue it differently or tinker a little more. An otherwise great construction shouldn't have these off notes.

Beer Rating - Bell's Java Stout - The puzzle feels a bit light on the tongue, the tobacco and bitter coffee tastes cling to the mouth in a mildly oily way. Generally a great puzzle with a couple of off notes.

BTW and apropos of nothing - Corona Light's new tag line, "You can actually taste it," makes me laugh every time I see it.

Questinia 9:41 AM  

It's nice to see Ziggy, that chameleonic, charismatic, charmer of the cha-cha-cha, in a puzzle.
Moved through this like a tiger on vaseline.

Z 9:44 AM  

@Laurence Katz, Could have been "Adam-12, e.g." too. Both are examples of COP CARs in old tv shows.

@Casco Kid - ANKH and TSA should both be locked up in your crosswordese database, now. They will be back.

John V 9:47 AM  

A fun puz -- until the SW. Yep, @Rex, I got snagged at the LAILAALI/SHAN crossing, plus did not know NCIS, so I made hash of that spot. Or, did I get CHCHCHCHAPPED?

Like the phonetic progression, David. And, yes, Jeff does magic with revealers.

mac 10:04 AM  

Easy-medium Thursday, but a good one.

I like nuff said and especially "get this". Had the most trouble with TSA/Osh, that S fell last. Didn't know the term fanboy, so I seriously considered fanbot, SciFi term.

With the socks just out the dryer my first thought was static, then "unpaired". SMS instead of IMS until the cacti fell into place. While puzzling I received a Whatsapp from my sister, wonder when that will show up in a puzzle.

Loren Muse Smith 10:05 AM  
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Loren Muse Smith 10:06 AM  

Highlighting different pronunciations for CH and including spoken gems like NUFF SAID, GET THIS, AHEM, HA HA, DUH. . .well, I loved it, of course. I agree with @John V – Jeff is a master at pulling a great reveal out of a hat.

@Hartley 70 – good for you! Stop by again. It'll get easier and easier.

I, too, found this one really easy, especially once I fixed my ridiculous "cribs" for ARABS. Anyway, that gang war was between the Bloods and the Crips, right? The Bloods could beat the heck out of any gang named the Cribs I would imagine.

I also wondered vaguely where those two dots go on BRONTE. When I was waiting in the body shop for the estimate that, yes, I had totaled my car hitting a deer, I noticed a calendar that said something like WV Farmers Feed Coop. So while the owner was on hold, and we were just sitting there, I couldn't resist pointing out the problem with the word coop with no warning sign not to pronounce those two O's as a long U. He saw that there could be a problem, and I had him. I told him you needed those two dots over the second O or at the very least a hyphen. The guy was enthralled. Changed his life. I'm sure he's still grateful to me. Sigh.

I also initially had "wear" before GEAR – makes more sense to me for the clue.

@Molly Shu and @jae – I know LAILA from Dancing with the Stars.

@Andrew Gordon – I stumbled at that OSH/TSA cross, too.

@chefwen – me, too for "mesas" first.

@joho – I know, right? My eyes kept being drawn back to LAILAALI. And LA BRAT and AS NAP.

UNSORTED socks. I've addressed this here before. That's a very optimistic descriptor for socks coming out of my dryer because it assumes they're pair-up-with-anotherable. Not so. I have the Burmuda Triangle of Socks dryer.

@Molly Shu – I smiled when I saw I LAY. Sheesh. The problem with that phrase is *not* the LAY; it's the me. I guess it should be Now I lay myself down to sleep. I don't know if it's an archaic practice – to use "me" instead of "myself" for the reflexive – or if it's a rhythm/meter issue?

Jeff, David – really nice offering. Congrats! Mazel tov!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:07 AM  

Nothing new here: Felt Easy; AVIAN/ASIAN (fixed); LEILA/SHEN (not fixed); failed to sound out the varied CH's.

Good puzzle, but I would prefer that Will went back to Rebus Thursdays.

Unknown 10:16 AM  

@lms Concurrence here on "I lay myself down to sleep." Reflexive. It was one of the bits if English grammar that I had to learn Spanish to appreciate.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:20 AM  

@LMS - Nice story, but beware: If you are ever in Cambridge, Mass., you may see one of the three outlets of the Harvard/MIT Coöperative Society. Each of the stores is called The Coop and that name is pronounced as one syllable, as it was when I was there 50 years ago and maybe from the founding in 1882.

Steve J 10:40 AM  

@joho: To answer your pronunciation question: I'm guessing you are the only who pronounces the two words with the same initial consonant. I've always - literally always - heard CHAOS with an initial K. And CHANUKAH gets either an H or the soft ch sound like in the German ach or Scots-English loch.

Mark 10:41 AM  

At Yale in the '60s (fifty years ago), one of the pieces of evidence of our superiority over Harvard was that we pronounced co-op correctly, not like a home for chickens.

Mohair Sam 10:46 AM  

@Mark - Have a friend named Rochelle whose husband enjoys annoying by saying her name twice. She despises Seinfeld.

OSH a gimme here. One of our sons was stationed in Kyrgyzstan and you'd be surprised how much you learn about a distant country when you get family there.

Two Ponies 10:56 AM  

Okay puzzle but nothing too exciting. My favorite part was being reminded of Car 54 Where are you.

JTHurst 11:32 AM  

Somewhere I lost track of my flu viruses. All of them fit in the space, avian, swine, and asian. Now if I remember correctly avian is H5N1, while swine is H1N1 and asian is H2N2. Of course we are not counting their subsets.

First Schrodinger's cat, then Heisenberg's uncertainty, today Lorenz's chaos, and I suppose tomorrow we will have a string theory puzzle with a collection of intersecting vertices of a crosses and downs.

Would someone please help me and explain the following: EKG and ECG are abbr. for the same thing, Why? Is it to help puzzle constructors? How does sin relate to cot? Tell me it is not the butchering of sine and relating it to cotangent - tell me it ain't so. How do I distinguish between 'oohs' and 'aahs'? Is it an 'ooh' when you have flashing lights and an 'aah' when you have a cool beer on a warm day? Is it always assumed if zodiac signs are the clue then we are talking about the Greek zodiac and not the Chinese zodiac or the Hindu zodiac, etc.? How do you 'narc' on?

Oh well, as that famous philosopher from Marvel Comics, Stan Lee stated, "Nuffsaid!"

Unknown 11:37 AM  

This has been said a lot already, but I am going to vent my spleen anyway. USM as clued is a TRAVESTY, especially since there are other perfectly fine alternatives. USN is a 3 letter military branch abbr. but USM??? Makes me vomit it is so bad. OK, I feel better now. Otherwise it was not a tough puzzle for the most part. I was lucky with Laila, because I remembered SHAN is an answer from other puzzles. One I fixed the e to an a I recognized that Laila was the right spelling for her.

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

Chanukah menorah for December display? I believe the month is Kislev, no? After all, the miost recent Chanukah began last November if my Gregorian calenadr isn't on the fritz.

Noam D. Elkies 11:40 AM  

There's a Hamilton Fish Park in Lower Manhattan with a public library and a municipal pool/gym; it happens to be a few blocks from where I used to live, so I recognized 35A:FISH with one letter to go. Otherwise, no idea. At least parallel 30A:MEA wasn't clued "___ Shearim_ (Jerusalem neighborhood)".

Anyway, neat theme, even if I knew nothing of the revealer beyond its existence. The grid has the curious property that every single column has 3 words, so the 74-word count is achieved entirely by having all but two of the rows contain only one or two entries.


Jisvan 12:00 PM  

@JTHurst, the EKG ECG dilemma stems from the common practice of oral orders, either live or dictated, being confused. ECG sounds too much like EEG, and next thing you know you've got electrodes on your head while you are having a heart attack. And yes, there will be a charge for that!

Master Melvin 12:01 PM  

Since I read the sports pages I have seen Ms. Ali's name in print, so I was pretty sure it was LAILA.

But I realized why I have a lot of trouble with pop culture names. Even if I have heard the name, I don't read any pop culture stuff, so I may have never seen the name in print. An especially difficult problem when coupled with the idiosyncratic spelling of many pop culture names.

It wasn't too long ago that a descendant and namesake of Mr. Fish was a congressman from NY.

Kim Scudera 12:21 PM  

Double- Naticked today: TpA (Tampa) instead of TSA (and BTW I am very not up on my Eastern European or former SSR cities) and LeILA/SHeN instead of LAILA/SHAN. Argh.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed watching all the different CH's emerging from the grid, and loved the reveal. "CH-CH-CH-CH-CHANGES!"

Kim Scudera 12:22 PM  

And thanks, @Evan, for a great way to remember LAila Ali!

nick 12:39 PM  

Lots of fun, even though I Naticked at Leila/Shen, couldn't bring myself to accept USM, and still don't get the sin/cot answer.

Facts, Scmacts! 1:12 PM  

Yeah, the great Stan Lee coined the phrase NUFF SAID. That is, if he were born about 50 years before he was born.

Alby 1:38 PM  

I wanted BIRDFLU so badly, I went for AVIANFLU at first chance. D'oh. (What the heck is UVM?!)

Fred Romagnolo 1:57 PM  

Didn't DNF, but only because I accepted that certain things I didn't know were right: "tsa", "ncis", "mini". "Wear" is much more accurate than "gear," but then you don't get ribcage.

Anonymous 1:58 PM  

Theme of this puzzle phonetically . . . NOT! Phonetically each of the "ch" beginnings is different!

Fred Romagnolo 1:59 PM  

Also, never heard narc used that way.

Goyboy 2:02 PM  

Is there another kind of menorah?

Lewis 2:20 PM  

CHANUKAHMENORAH seems superfluous. You don't get out the Chanukah menorah, you get out the menorah. A Christmas tree IS a Christmas tree, but a Chanukah menorah is a menorah.

This is picky because the puzzle was fun and crunchy enough to give my brain a decent workout. Some clever clues have been pointed out. I didn't catch the the CH's all had different sounds, which makes the theme really good, IMO.

Anonymous 2:22 PM  

@Goyboy - Yes, a CHANUKAH MENORAH is distinct from a regular menorah. The regular menora has 7 lights and (some would say) may only be used in a temple. A CHANUKAH MENORAH menora has 8 lights, one getting each night each night of Hanukah, plus one which serves as the source fire.

Anonymous 2:24 PM  

Non-Chanukah menorah:

Anonymous 2:30 PM  

Several of Hamilton Fish's descendants (and namesakes) have served in Congress, most recently ending in 1995. Hamilton Fish III was an ardent anti-FDR Republican who lived to be 102, dying in 1990; his son Hamilton Fish IV, a more moderate Republican, served 12 terms in the House. Hamilton Fish V, a Democrat who is involved with publishing The Nation magazine, ran twice for a seat in Congress but was unsuccessful both times.

Ludyjynn 3:22 PM  

@Alby, read my TWO earlier posts. In Latin, UVM is short for Universitas Viridis Montis, which stands for University of the Green Mountains, a/k/a Vermont. Get it? Got it? Good. Put a fork in me; I'm done!

C.J. from Green Bay 3:38 PM  

USM actually gets lots of hits on Google, but not so much as a mil. branch. Why is ANKH considered a "key"? I thought it was an ancient Egyptian cross. COT/FANBOY killed me, as a crossing. Knew LAILA ALI, from previous puzzles. Theme was good, but surprisingly easy, for a Thursday.

@M&A: I second Bob Kerfuffle's assessment, on yesterday's Easter-themed mini-crossword, by you. Best, so far. HAR variations are always crowd-pleasers. Looking forward to more, once your tax problems are ironed out.


sanfranman59 4:11 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)

Thu 13:20, 18:33, 0.72, 7%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Thu 8:07, 10:44, 0.76, 9%, Easy

jae 4:40 PM  

@lms - I had Garb before GEAR.

And, for those who missed it the first time SIN and COT are both trig function abbrs.

Tita 7:53 PM  

In good company with Avian flu.
@mac - I thought of FANBOt too...
Hey @Hartley!
@BobK - nothing beats a rebus for me too, but this was awfully nice...
And adding @LMS to the one-or-two-syllable question - after a year at Wang Labs (yes, Wang), I could no longer read "coax" as anything but a 2-syllable word, it being short for co-axial cable, which of course, always keeps the hyphen, though its shorthand never does.

My mother has many volunteer SOUS chefs, hoping that her mastery and inventiveness rub off.

And the theme song of Car 54 Where Are You is now happily the test pattern of my mind.

Thanks you Mr. Chen & Mr. Benkoff. I really, really loved it!

Tita 7:56 PM  

The SOUS-chefs are those hoping for the rub-offs, that is. Clarification not really all that important, but forgot to check the 'send me email' box.

Did I mention, Jeff & David, that I loved this?

Anonymous 8:31 PM  

Sometimes, Hanukkah is in November.

retired_chemist 8:38 PM  

@ Bob K - I can believe Coop was pronounced as all us Tech Tools do all the way back. I can only attest that, as far back as 1957, the one syllable pronunciation was how it was said. My first purchase as a freshman was a Coop Crate. Even before textbooks.

TachyJacky 9:30 PM  

This is the best thing to happen all week! Not only did I finish a Thursday, but with no mistakes- it just filled in like a Monday for me. It's the little things.

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 6:04, 6:12, 0.98, 38%, Easy-Medium
Tue 9:09, 8:32, 1.07, 69%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 10:57, 10:19, 1.06, 69%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 13:16, 18:33, 0.72, 7%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:02, 3:58, 1.02, 56%, Medium
Tue 5:39, 5:11, 1.09, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:51, 6:17, 1.09, 75%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 7:40, 10:44, 0.71, 4%, Easy (10th lowest ratio of 223 Thursdays)

Anonymous 10:48 PM  

Sorry EKG, ECG has nothing to do with oral orders. EKG comes from the German kardiogramm, and since they were the dominant medical presence in the early 1900s it carried over to the US, where it's presence still lingers, (despite pleas from current organizations for uniformity with the Americanized "cardiogram", which perhaps is why I still use EKG)

Grams 8:06 AM  

BTW Chanukah sometimes falls in November.

David Benkof 6:14 PM  

Hey guys, on a rare occasion there's a November that contains a day or more of Chanukah, but every December contains several days of Chanukah.

spacecraft 11:05 AM  

Alas, if I must be brutally honest (cue the Vaudevillian "You MUST be!") I have to COP to a DNF today, 'count of Ms. ALI and that are-you-kidding-me Mr. Obscurity fellow going down. That is a brutally unfair cross,and I'd throw the flag even if, SOMEhow, I had ever heard of him. And who doesn't confuse the spelling of LeILA/LAILA? Bah!

And another Bah! for USM without the C. The Corps will forgive you once, David, but...don't let it happen again. Jeff, you should know better.

Now. The Bah!s out of the way, I liked this. I took my protein pill, put my helmet on and solved (almost) this baby in ASNAP. Clever theme, even to the four different sounds made. My only w/o was the tip receptacle; it went from JAR to CUP to HAT.

FANBOY is not really a word, but I got the idea readily enough.

Deuces full, probably not good enough.

Waxy in Montreal 1:29 PM  

Great syndi-synchronicity today (at least for Montreal Canadiens fans) as CH (for Club de Hockey Canadien) is the team's famous logo.

Very easy-peasy Thursday today providing lots of time to enjoy the glorious weather that has arrived here at last.

NUFF SAID. Go Habs Go!

Solving in Seattle 3:02 PM  

This puzzle started to come together pretty quickly for me with CHAOSTHEORY. I learned the concept reading Jurassic Park with the butterfly flapping its wings in China, etc., etc.
Can't say the word CHANUKAH without picturing Adam Sandler singing.
I had swIneFLU before I had ASIANFLU.
MINSK is a popular city in the NYT these days.
I once knew a misbehaving French kid - I called him LA BRAT.

Go CH!

Fold on two pair.

Dirigonzo 3:50 PM  

I spent too much time trying to figure out how to spell CHANUKAH so that area is a mess but of course my OWS lies elswhere. The nifty theme more than made up for any iffy fill.

Nines full of eights - worth a raise, I think. I'm all in.

DMG 4:04 PM  

Never heard of Darren the writer, so StAN seemed reasonable. Then I missed on spelling the artist KAlLO. Add to this mess a slang word (NAR_) and an unknown tool brand (STI_L), and I had no chance of getting a pop song I've probably never heard. Couldn't make it follow the "CHA" pattern, and given what I had, wondered if there was some reference to "orANGES". Time to quit!

Eights ans twos. Time to leave this table, too.

Anonymous 6:01 PM  

The easiest Thursday ever!

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