Nixon White House chief of staff / MON 9-29-14 / Hit 2002 film with talking sloths / Racking vehicle on small track / Actor stand up comic Foxx

Monday, September 29, 2014

Constructor: Eric Sydney Phillips

Relative difficulty: Challenging (***for a Monday***)

THEME: HOME TOWN HERO (60A: Local success story) — a series of words / phrases related to a hypothetical "Local success story."

Theme answers:
  • I KNEW YOU WHEN (18A: Words to a local success story)
  • CELEBRITY (24A: What a local success story achieves)
  • HUMBLE BEGINNINGS (39A: What a local success story comes from)
  • MAKES GOOD (49A: What a local success story does)
Word of the Day: H.R. HALDEMAN (3D: Nixon White House chief of staff) —
Harry Robbins "Bob" Haldeman (better known as H. R. Haldeman; October 27, 1926 – November 12, 1993) was an American political aide and businessman, best known for his service as White House Chief of Staff to President Richard Nixon and his consequent involvement in the Watergate scandal. His intimate role in the Watergate cover-up precipitated his resignation from government; subsequent to which he was tried on counts of perjury,conspiracy and obstruction of justice; found guilty and imprisoned for 18 months. Upon his release he returned to private life and was a successful businessman until his death from cancer in 1993. (wikipedia)
• • •

The grid is 16 wide, so the fact that this played slow is not that big a surprise. But it played Very slow for me. Nearly 4 minutes. That is a Monday-eternity. I don't much care. This feels like it should've been a Tuesday, but close enough for government work. Is that the expression? I'm not sure. That expression feels at least as old as I would've had to have been for H.R. HALDEMAN to have been a gimme. As it was, I needed, no joke, every cross. Of course I've heard of him, but he's one of those "names in the air" that I can't place accurately, and I certainly didn't know (off the top of my head) his first two initials, let alone how to spell his name ("HALDERMAN?"). So my Nixonian ignorance might've played a role in my slowness today as well. I don't really understand themes like this, possibly because you so rarely see them—they're just a loose collection of phrases associated with a very general idea. There's a kind of progression (kind of) from past ("I KNEW YOU WHEN") to present (HOME TOWN HERO), but not really … CELEBRITY appears early, and BEGINNINGS is in the middle. It was all a bit too arbitrary and blah for me. The fill didn't help matters—very generic, except that HRHALDEMAN outlier there. Clue on NINE MONTHS is kind of cute (31D: Pregnant pause?). But I'll take last Monday's puzzle over this any day. I'm sorry I said anything critical about it at all, Ian Livengood. Come back, Ian Livengood, come back! Livengood! … Shane!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


George Barany 12:11 AM  

Any puzzle that can conjure up remembrances of 1983's wonderful "Local Hero" (link is to a review of the film by the late great Roger Ebert) is a winner, in my book. Lovely review of the crossword, by @Rex.

Lee Coller 12:17 AM  

I thought this one was easy. Then again H.R. Haldeman was a gimme (and I'm only 52).

Steve J 12:19 AM  

Found the theme odd. Sort of like a quote or quip theme, but not. But not a theme with any wordplay at all.

This was definitely slower than a typical Monday for me too. Maybe it was slowness in trying to figure out what was in common with the theme answers. Maybe it was just a bit tougher than a typical Monday.

Whatever the reason, the puzzle was just kind of there. Nothing remarkable pro or con.

(I was slowed slightly by the Nixon thing. I knew who the answer was straight away (despite being something like 2-3 years old when all the Watergate stuff started going down), but the clue didn't indicate anything other than a surname was required. Shouldn't the clue have been R.M. Nixon, instead of just Nixon for consistency?)

Zeke 12:35 AM  

I defy anyone to justify the clue for 1A to me.

That followed by my having to enter HRHALDEMAN, giving rise to my hatred of all things Nixonian. I once thought my Nixon hatred was complete, until I read a credible, authenticated article about his activities while a candidate in '68. It seems the peace talks were going well at the time between North and South Vietnam, which would prove disasterous for the possibility of his being elected should they succeed. He contacted the South Vietnamese to inform them that they would receive a far better deal whith him as President than they would under Johnson, at which point they essentially walked out of the talks. When I told my wife about this her reply was "Oh, so he did kill my brother". Yes, most likely he did.

The moral of this story is never assume that your hatred can be complete, there's always room for more. That's probably true for love too, but we're talking Nixon here.

Ellen S 1:09 AM  

@Zeke, I was going to say something flippant about the puzzle, but your story kind of dampened my enthusiasm for that.

Well, I'll go back to your opening question. "Miles Per Hour" for Highway Speed makes just as much sense as NINE MONTHS for Pregnant pause. Like nothing is going on during that time?

Okay, my flippant comment. Last thing I filled in was 7D. I got it on crosses, can you believe? I couldn't understand how someone would be Greatly Bothered by A TEAT. How very Victorian.

Haldeman, on the other hand, was a gimme. So, Zeke, your comment is going to Eat AT me for a long time.

Questinia 1:40 AM  

There's *later gator* for when you're on the go, this puzzle however suggests *loiter goiter* for when hypothyroidism makes you too sluggish to leave.

I too, @ Ellen S, parsed it as A TEAT. During our HUMBLE BEGINNINGS most all of us at ATE AT A TEAT.

jae 1:48 AM  

Tough for me too.  Mostly because I needed crosses to get the theme answers.  Plus ESME, YEGGS, NOUS, BIEL, and yes HR HALDEMAN (I also thought it had an R and I was protesting on at the time) are not exactly Mon. fare.  And I had Amain before APACE. 

@Zeke - I always thought those guys were pure evil, but until 30 seconds ago had no idea Nixon sabotaged the peace talks.  Damn, now I'm pissed again 46 years later.

As to the puzzle, liked it.  Pretty smooth with a refreshing theme.

@lms - I hoping the only thing keeping you from showing up here more regularly is your dedication to teaching.  It's a tremendously demanding job.  I know as my daughter has been doing it for the last 18 years.

John A. Ellis, JO3, USN 1965-1967.

Anonymous 2:55 AM  

Did anyone else temporarily mix up John Dean and HowArDdeAN (five crosses match!) Trying to race the clock leads to strange mental lapses. Rex is a poor role model.

John Dean was White House counsel rather than chief of staff. Howard Dean is a man of many accomplishments who will nevertheless probably be remembered best by posterity for his eponymous scream.

jae 3:17 AM  

that should have been "protesting on campus..."

chefwen 3:59 AM  

Thought it was very easy, hey it's Monday, but I really enjoyed the theme and the entire puzzle.

Try to stay away from politics (bores the tears out of me) HR HALDEMAN filled in nicely with the crosses, so no problem there.

Cute puzzle! Thanks Mr. Phillips.

JTHurst 4:20 AM  

I also, like some of the ladies, thought 'A Teat' but before I got the 'e', I (and probably most midwesterners) had 'go-cart (the 'K' is a west coast thing), which made me question whether I had the right Delhi language.

I do wish LMS was here as I wonder why nod gets a 'd' added to its past tense as nodded and gild just has the added 'ed'. Does it have something to do with vowels in front of the consonant or what? So you have giddied (with and 'i' added, I guess because of the 'y' ending) and gadded and kidded but then you have glided. Oh where, oh where is LMS when you need her.

Yesterdays discussion on Taney brought up the Dredd Scott v San(d)ford Supreme court case and I wondered, “Did Redd Foxx use this name for his Sanford and Sons TV show?” dRedd Scott’s protagonist was Eliza Sanford Emerson (also her brother John F. A. Sanford) and the character fRed Sanford was married to, Elizabeth Sanford, to whom he used to invoke religiously with the words, “This is the big one Elizabeth, I’m comin’ to join you honey.” Or maybe I am just over thinking this, as usual. Though I did enjoy the legal posits and rebuttals. Who’d thunk we have so many legal cruciverbalists.

r.alphbunker 4:43 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
r.alphbunker 4:49 AM  

It appears that we are exact contemporaries unless you went to college first. I spent 1965-1968 in the Army.

Today's puzzle did bring back those days but it also brought to mind the puzzle Cryptic Tribute which is a cult puzzle for me. I have done it at least 5 times and redid it last night after doing today's puzzle.

Every time I solve it I have the same anticipation of its punchline as I do when I watch the Big Lebowski waiting for some of the classic lines (e.g, "Yeah, well that's just like your opinion, man")

Here is the PDF version for people who prefer paper.

Gill I. P. 5:27 AM  

I liked the theme but everything in between felt so OLD. From NAH BLAH to SPECK PECK. Toss in JAMIE JULIE and add BESS ESME ABEL ALI. Even HR HALDEMAN died 21 years ago and NINE MONTHS is an eternity...
Liked NCO crossing HOME TOWN HERO though.
I think there should be a contest for who best clues an OREO answer.

Lewis 5:59 AM  

The theme was cute and unusual. "Unusual" can turn out to be weird or fresh, and this felt the latter to me.

I will never forget the day I was sitting in a college class and the instructor came in and announced that the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Nixon tapes had to be released. One of the biggest fist-punping "yes!" moments of my life.

I like ESME and ENZO in the same puzzle. Would like for them somehow to have been in one of yesterday's theme answers.

LHS 888 6:35 AM  

Downs-only report: too hard to complete. Needed crosses to get er done.

Missteps before looking at A's...
3D Tried all sorts of spelling of HALDERMAN before acrosses showed me HR was required first.
7D irate before ATEAT (amused to use IRATE later at 46D)
11D http before IMHO (should have paid attn to the"?")
12D lang before BIEL
53D inane before DOPEY
55D racE before LOPE
31D Couldn't see NINEMONTHS at all without crosses
54A prepARe before CroPART before CLIPART

I did enjoy the challenge. Thanks ESP/WS!

RAD2626 6:36 AM  

Interesting how one clue can resurface so much almost 50 year old pain. Haldeman was a bad guy - one of many. Spent 1969 in Phu Bai courtesy of Nixon's predecessor, who does not evoke warm and fuzzy feelings either.

YEGGS/ESME ceossing pretty hard for Monday. Had same parsing problem with ATE AT as others. Did not look right. Wanted Shocked...SHOCKED to be the casino scene from Casablanca. Thought theme was impressive for a debut. Congratulations Mr. Phillips.

Casco Kid 6:43 AM  

Faceplant at OsARK/ENsO. No excuses.

As I grew up inside the beltway, HR ("Bob") HALDEMAN was a gimme. Bring on EHRLICHMAN, DEAN, RODINO, MITCHELL, and the irrepressible SAMERVIN. We didn't have baseball in DC back then, but we had All the President's Men vs. an independent press vs. a pre-Hastert rule functioning Congress! And we still had Richard Nixon to kick-around, after all.

Casco Kid 6:52 AM  

@Gill IP [Sweek dreck bounded by black] OREO

Mohair Sam 7:35 AM  

Easy/medium Monday. Filled in quickly here. No problem with the theme, it was fine - and the fill was pretty good for a Monday.

Isn't there an ARGO corn starch or something? Just looking for a change of clue.

Susan McConnell 8:20 AM  

I got HRHALDEMAN off of the HRH, but it did strike me as kind of funny that anything Nixon related starts with HRH.

Felt tougher than the average Monday to me, but not overly so.

Andrew Morrison 8:46 AM  

Makes me chuckle when I see all the President-hate for a given admin. Nixon rage. FDR rage (my grandfather hated him), Reagan rage. Clinton rage. Bush II rage. Obama rage.

I'm a mere lad of 48 and I thought HRHALDEMAN was a gimme, and I am no political junkie. Heck I was living in Poland during Watergate.

Kind of a blah theme, played med-hard (for a Monday), no real complaints. LOCAL HERO, though, what a great film! One of my favorites of all time.

Z 8:48 AM  

{deleted rant here - I'll leave it at RMN and GWB were bad Commander's-in-Chief and BHO's failure to force Congress to vote is wrong}

Agree on the challenging rating. I haven't needed to wait for crosses this much on a Monday in quite a while. Dang before DRAT was my only writeover, but had to wait on the c/K decision, briefly forgot ESME and YEGGS (the latter is pure "learned from crosswords" for me), needed half of CLIP ART before I made sense of the clue, forgot whether Ferrari was ENZO or ENri, etc. etc. No faceplant in the end, but I would agree that it played more Tuesdayish. Still, I liked it fine and I thought the theme was cute. I just spent the weekend in St. Ignace, a teeming metropolis of 3,000 souls recovering from the summer tourist season (favorite sign seen in a bar - "If it is Tourist Season why can't I shoot 'em"), where the Awards Ceremony Announcer knew what all the local winners excelled at in high school. Great timing for me on the puzzle theme.

quilter1 9:11 AM  

Dead easy for me. Just whipped right through and could have gone quicker if I hadn't sipped coffee. I never go for speed, preferring to savor the experience. I thought the theme was cute and a little different for Monday. Now to tackle BEQ.

chefbea 9:21 AM  

Good puzzle..and I remembered H.R. Haldeman

@Mohairsam - yes, there is Argo cornstarch and speaking of that I worked some dough yesterday...yummy bread..but didn't knead mixer did all the work...home made bread in 2 hours.

Arlene 9:22 AM  

I saw that 3D started with HR which I knew had to be right - and since 1968 was my first presidential election - I knew HRHALDEMAN. My take on Nixon, by the way - anyone who says "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore" to the press in public (1962), was the tip-off to me that this guy was a sicko. Oh boy, was I right!

And now that all you speed solvers have me timing myself - I have definitive evidence that this puzzle was harder than the usual Monday.

pmdm 9:29 AM  

Zeke: I side with you. The clue should have read "Hwy. speed unit." I am also irked at the answer to 13D, which really refers to Send Button. But I suppose some people do say "hit send" instead of "hit the send button." And indeed yes, Ellen S, I too would like to know what the "pause" refers to. Perhaps the absence of a woman's period, which would seem to stretch the limit to what clues can refer to in a Times crossword puzzle. That does work. Ugh.

Lewis 9:30 AM  

Factoid: In late November 2005, the original Hollywood Sign was sold on EBAY for $450,400.

Quotoid: "If countries were people, England and France would be OLD MEN. Italy would be dead. Compared with them, America is in its 20s." -

Andrew 9:39 AM  

@Zeke: Do you have a link or a citation for your credible, authenticated article? That's a pretty steep charge that I've never heard before, so I'd like to dig into myself. Thanks in advance!

Z 9:42 AM  

Deconstructing Clue 1A: "Hwy." is in the clue to indicate that the solver needs an abbreviation - not a full word, "speed" is used to indicate that the solver is looking for something related to rate of speed. If there had been a "?" at the end the solver would need to disregard the common meaning of "speed" and consider it as slang (drugs) or a punny answer. MPH will be the answer on most early week puzzles, KPH is a possibility later in the week. The absence of "unit" is not a fault, these are "clues" not "definitions."

Zed the Answer Man 9:44 AM  

@Andrew - You can start here.

Hartley70 9:54 AM  

I arrived here to say I found this a nice crunchy Monday, and all I needed was HR, no clue, to add Haldeman to the grid. But today the comments sobered me right up fast. That's a dreadful revelation @Zeke that brought me right back there. Most of us seem to be of an age to get a chest pain when we think of that war and it's losses. My condolences to your wife.

JFC 9:59 AM  

I've said this before and I will repeat it here: Rex should not critique Monday puzzles. It's not in his DNA. This was a refreshing change of pace Monday puzzle. It reminded me of Janis Joplin.


Steve J 10:12 AM  

@JTHurst: In general, consonants are doubled in English to indicate a "short" sound in the preceding vowel. Meanwhile, the presence of an E at the end of a word usually indicates a "long" vowel: e.g., nod vs. node. Nod gets the double-d in its past-tense form so as not to be confused with the past tense of node (if it indeed had one).

Meanwhile, gild already has a shortened vowel, therefore it doesn't need to be shortened via a double consonant in its past tense (and there's little chance for ambiguity with the E present, as a pronunciation of guile-ded is highly awkward in English phonology). Conversely, glided has a long I, so a double-consonant would incorrectly shorten the vowel and give you glidded, which would sound like you're further adding past-tense to an already past-tense word.

While English spelling is horribly inconsistent - if either of us thought long enough, we'd certainly find counter-examples to the norms I just noted - there is some method to the madness.

@Z: KMH would be a likelier late-week answer, since km/h is the standard abbreviation for kilometers per hour. Although, given that the NYT holds a policy of "we found it in use at least one time out there, so therefore its acceptable" when it comes to answers, KPH could very well show up.

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

Rex doesn't critique any puzzles well. His "blog posts" all boil down to the same analysis: bad theme, poor cluing, bad fill, crosswordese, the constructor is my personal friend and he (almost always HE) can do better, puzzles were better back in the day, poor grid construction, obscure references (the definition of "obscure" being anything rex doesn't know off the top of his head), I finished in 32 seconds which is slow for me, etc. A robot could write this blog.

Moly Shu 10:17 AM  

I'm with @MohairSam and @Quilter1, easy with no missteps. Well, just one, DeO before DIO. Damn foriegn languages. Now if it had been clued as, former lead singer of a horrible incarnation of Black Sabbath, it would have been a breeze. Hello @RonnieJames.

dk 10:20 AM  

OO (2 mOOns)

As Zeke has written the appearance of 3d (part of the trio that shall not be named) ruined my breakfast.

I was a part of the Fed Gov (yeah State Department thats the ticket) for many years and what I know about he who shall not be named would spoil your milk. The only thing that comes close is the most recent Bush in terms of hubris, conceit, sloth .

Sadly my adopted States of WI and TX are governed by the afore referenced Devil's spawn.

How does that song go "Oh, when will they ever learn?"

Sorry for the rant the appearance of 3d along with any reference to 60a gets my dander up.

AliasZ 10:22 AM  

A GHAST, A TEAT, A PACE and A BEL walk into a bar. I don't remember the rest of the joke, but it ended with Mae West saying to Cary Grant: "Would you PEALE me a grape?" while she KNEAD him in the groin. At the same bar a power cord runs into a young woman and introduces himself: "I'M AC." "Pleased to meet you, I'M HO, short for Hortensia."

I really ADA MIRE this debut puzzle by Eric Sydney Phillips. I RATE it a solid A for honoring a HOMETOWN HERO who MAKES GOOD. Was it completely free of gunk? That's ANO, but except for ITLL, TRYA and a couple of others, I OED and AAHED at how clean the fill was. I only wish DOPEY had his six co-dwarfs with him.

I strongly urge everyone to take a crack at the "Cryptic Tribute" puzzle created by our good friend GEORGE, to which @r.alphbunker was kind enough to provide a link. You will not be disappointed.

Let me HEREBY yield to Dutch composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) and his setting of Psalm 23 "The Lord Is My SHEP."

Whirred Whacks 10:43 AM  

Fun, easy puzzle.

The HR HALDEMAN answer seems to have awakened some bad memories in some folks here.

I came of age during the Nixon presidency, and at that time I thought he was the worst ever. I was joyous on August 8, 1974 when he resigned.

Looking back on that era, however, I can say the current president is the worst of my lifetime. And yet, you don't hear me complain every time OBAMA is used as a x-word answer (which is usually about once a week).

Some of you may even grow to like the "HR" moniker (that's if HR Clinton is elected in 2016).

Andrew Heinegg 10:46 AM  

The type of tactics Zeke references the Nixon political machine using in the 1968 election is consistent with the methodology of the Nixon campaign in the 1972 election and the Watergate scandal that followed. Nixon was a brilliant man but, his paranoia rose to a level that seemed indicative of a profound mental illness. I cannot pretend to have liked him but, by comparison to Dick Cheney, he seems almost angelic. All of the information we have available to us in this time we live in should serve to remind us that politics is a dirty business and you cannot expect saintly people to be successful at it! Machiavelli had an insight into politics that is one that is likely to be forever true.

Meanwhile, this crossword was a walk in the park albeit a blah one.

Barklestork 10:54 AM  

I enjoyed the long clues furling themselves out as the crosses were revealed, and each one adding to a depiction of a particular image of the home town hero. It was fun.

Thar be riddles in the comments. (I think so anyway)

@ Ellen S — It seems to me that the word “pause” in 31D is the time between two events that, depending on the context, can seem to stand out as significant, without the word “pause” suggesting that there is nothing going on in any other context. If there were no pause at all between conception and birth, babies would be born instantly, at inappropriate moments of intimacy between parents, and (in some cases) first breaths might include unwelcome amounts of second-hand cigarette smoke.

@Zeke, on the highway speed signs are posted as miles-per-hour. Hwy. is an abbreviation, and so is “MPH. Speed is expressed in distance per time. Feet per second, inches per year … Speed is a “rate” or a relationship between two things, so a “unit” of speed might be hard to separate out — “a unit of distance” in a particular relationship to “a particular unit of time”? Or you might say the two units of “speed” are “space” and “distance”. All told, the clue for 1A it seems on its face justified. Why wouldn’t it be?

Ludyjynn 11:00 AM  

What @Quilter1 said; a pleasant walk in the park despite memories of Watergate goons.

@dk, the song is "Where have all the flowers gone?", a poignant anti-war manifesto.

Thanks, ESP and WS.

Zeke 11:11 AM  

Apologias are not justifications. If a clue is a verb and the answer is a noun, one and all would be up in arms about the disconnect between the two. Well, we'll really never know that, as Will doesn't permit such things. It's only in science that Will permits the puzzle to get sloppy, conflating units with what they measure. 1A: Hghwy units would be scientifically consistent in the way that we demand linguistic consistency, and give the solver at least a nanosecond of pause between MPH, and whatever abbreviation we would make up for lanes, miles, etc. As it stands, the clue for 1A has no more logic to it than would 1A: Breakfast drinks (abbr) cluing OZS. Our beverages all get measured in ounces, right?

old timer 11:12 AM  

Played super-slow for a Monday, but I really liked the theme, so no complaints.

I watched almost every minute of the Watergate hearings -- and of the later impeachment hearings,so HRHALDEMAN was a gimme.

As for sabotaging peace talks, Reagan certainly did, in Iran. Nixon may have tried, but peace with even a semblance of honor was impossible for LBJ and for Nixon. After he took office,the war dragged on. So much so that if you look at The Wall, you see that almost half the deaths were after Nixon took office.

JTHurst 11:25 AM  

@SteveJ Thanks for the succinct and helpful comments

Bomaka 11:29 AM  

As I was in Africa, I missed all the "fun" of the late 60's. When I heard the Sargeant Pepper album in 1969, and then saw 2001-A Space Odyssey in a theater in Egypt, I knew the world I was soon returning to was truly changed. But, home during PREGANCY PAUSE, I was here to enjoy the HRHALDEMAN fiasco, so that was a gimme.

I agree with @SteveJ re doubling consonants - there are always exceptions. Additionally, the final consonant in a single syllable word ending in consonant vowel consonant is doubled (grok). The final consonant in a multisyllable word is doubled if the last syllable is stressed (prefer but not alter), but not if the last two letters are both consonants. And you never double w or y. Etc etc.

Nice, straightforward, early week puzzle. No face plants (thanks @CascoKid) or Naticks.

Carola 11:50 AM  

Easy puzzle, likeable theme. HRHALDEMAN's grim visage is forever etched in my memory. Interesting that the name crosses CELEBRITY (more like "infamy") and HUMBLE (not).

@Susan McConnell - I also noticed an imperial echo in 66A HRE.

@Gill I.P. - Beginning of an ode to an old car? O REO.

FrankW 11:56 AM  

WW -

Agree on Obama, but it's hard to beat Dubya in the "Poor Recent Presidents" category.

Leapfinger 11:57 AM  

@r.alph, thanks for the link. Holy See-Oh-Doubleyou, that was a fun solve! But I was hoping for Rosalind Franklin.

RooMonster 12:25 PM  

Hey All!
Agree it was harder for a Monday, but still flowed smoothly. Only one writover, threw in Heinz for STEEL quickly, wrong corporation! Not sure if 4A needed the extra SHOCKED!, but visually cool. Theme felt loose, but consistent. Wonder how many clues Shortz changed...

Nice to see YEGG back, it's been a while. Another fun word is spelunk(er), cave exploring.

ALLTOLD, ITLL be at LEAST an ICEAGE before a DOPEY OLDMAN like me will be ABEL to TRYA STEEL TUBA. HEREBY, if you're AGHAST at that, then I SAWTO the REALM of being IRATE! And NODDED to the SKY. Just IMHO...


joho 1:55 PM  

Late today, just say to say thank you to Eric Sydney Phillips for a fun Monday that brought back wonderful memories of watching "Local Hero" for the first time ... LOVE that movie!

Also, mucho congrats on your debut!

Gill I. P. 1:55 PM  

@r.alph....THANK YOU for the link to a brilliant puzzle. I haven't had this much fun in a while. Wow, just wow...

Joseph B 2:13 PM  

HRHALDEMAN wasn't why this puzzle was Monday-challenging. That fill was a gimme for me, and I still came in with a Tuesday time. I think it was more the looseness of the theme.

Two complaints:

1. How can one complain about being too young to know HRHALDEMAN, yet not complain about YEGGS? You'd have to be in your 90s to know that word outside of a puzzle context.

2. There should be a higher bar for non-standard grid sizes than HUMBLEBEGINNINGS!

sanfranman59 4:38 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 (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 7:10, 6:03, 1.18, 96%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 5:00, 3:57, 1.27, 98%, Challenging

If you're a glutton for punishment and want more gory details about Nixon meddling in the 1968 Vietnam peace talks, here's a link to a recent article on Politico.

john towle 5:38 PM  

Tubas are not used in marching bands, consequently they are played in concert bands, symphonic bands & orchestras. That's why the Sousaphone was invented. Tubas are upright, hard to carry & march with, whereas sousaphones rest on the left shoulder.



Anonymous 5:48 PM  

Dang, we hadn't heard "crunchy" to describe a puzzle in quite some time, I was hoping it had died.

Sfingi 6:30 PM  

Was it A TEAT, AT EAT, or ATE AT - or all three.

Unfortunately we have to pay attention to politics (boring) or be royally screwed. I'm Skidmore '66. Happy philosophy major. Then I went to Columbia. Many marches, including one in which Wall Streeters dumped lye on the crowds below - never mentioned in the press.

Anonymous 8:20 PM  

What does the Red Square in the answer indicate? Also no one commented on Yeggs? That's Blah!

RooMonster 8:32 PM  

Two things, 1) it doesn't matter whether we pay attention to politics or not, whoever gets elected is crooked and is goirto screw things up, and 2) I actually did comment on YEGG :-)


Andrew 8:45 PM  

Interesting piece, but hardly damning evidence or "real proof" as the subtitle indicates that Nixon persuaded South Vietnam to delay peace talks. It's based on one 70+ year old ex-Nixon staffer's oral history. And the piece does as much of a disservice to LBJ (the man on whom the majority of the blame of the war's failure should be placed) than it does Nixon.

Not calling Nixon a saint, by any stretch. But this charge is far from being irrefutable fact.

Z 10:00 PM  

@John Towles - Wikipedia disagrees. Of course, the Tuba article calls the sousaphone a variety of a Tuba while the sousaphone article says it is a related instrument. I'm no expert in this area, but I was always heard those bass horns in marching bands called "tubas." Is this in the same category of debate as the "is a taco a sandwich" question? Or the recent research done by the sabremetricians at Baseball Prospectus on the issue of whether or not a Hot Dog is a sandwich? Inquiring minds want to know.

(note - If you can only read a part of the Baseball Prospectus article - the conclusion was "yes" and the following was provided at the end:
The Data:

Initial Noes: 24
Yes Men: 1

Among those properly interviewed on The Question:

No Crowd: 5
Changers: 5


Hot Dog is in a Class of Its Own (included in No Crowd): 6

Hot Dogs eaten during the creation of this piece: 3

Hot Dogs eaten at ballparks by the author, lifetime: So, so many.

Ideal Hot Dog preparation for the author: An irresponsible amount of brown/spicy mustard, Heinz ketchup if available (no ketchup if not). [Ed note: Ketchup? Oh, brother.]")

@Andrew - What constitutes "real proof?" Why isn't The Nixon Library releasing the oral history of the guy who did the initial report for Nixon on why someone in the Nixon campaign was under surveillance by the FBI good enough? And what, exactly, is the relevance of Mr. Huston's age? It's the kind of irrelevant point that suggests the memories of a 70 year-old are somehow less valid than the memories of a younger person. Less forgiving readers may conclude you are a bigot if you include such irrelevancies when making a cogent argument.

Jessica 10:55 PM  

I might be way off, but wasn't the "home town hero" thing here a really subtle hat tipping to jeter's last game? I'm not a baseball fan, but I thought it sweet in a naive sort of way for that reason. But maybe I'm just making things up....

30 Seconds of Internet Searching 11:54 PM  


From a BBC Report

Sourced by the Vietnamese

British Reporting, 2000

Andrew 12:46 AM  

Easy to use revisionist history to explain Vietnam. Even easier after Watergate exposed Nixon as a paranoid criminal. I'm just not convinced this episode is as straightforward as you folks are making it.

Sure, Nixon was playing politics, but that means that LBJ and Humphrey weren't? This also plays into the fallacy that the Vietnamese were meek without American intervention; you don't think they had any input into the final peace negotiations? What if the "deal" that LBJ was offering up wasn't up to snuff, and simply manufactured so as to assure a Humphrey victory?

All I'm saying is you can't rely on a few embittered sources decades after the fact to prove something is unequivocally true. Vietnam has become one of the biggest bugbears for American historians because of the underlying theory that historians are tasked on finding fault for the failure.

All I will say unequivocally is this: ALL politicians are crooked. Some are merely better than others at covering up their graft.

Jeffrey Winer 7:45 PM  

For a great play on the Pregnant Pause play-on-words, see April 12, 2000 NYT

spacecraft 11:26 AM  

Let us just put the ATEAT-parsing confusion to bed. That, and its brother EATAT, are too crutchy and WAY too overused to escape the penalty flag from now on: 15 yards from the spot of the foul and loss of one letter grade.

And this zebra has another hankie to toss. Read the 15er clue. Does it not say "What A (emphasis mine) local success story comeS (again, my cap) from?" Singular? Yet we have a plural entry. Guys, if you're gonna have BEGINNINGS, then they have to end in storIES!

I started writing it in, then stopped when I realized I had a square left over. Eventually I realized it had to be a plural--but geez, don't DO that to me! The LEAST you can do on a Monday is make your clue and entry agree! 5 yards for carelessness.

No, this one didn't play easy. With no fewer than five techy-related entries, I felt like one of the 19d. Not to mention JAMIE Foxx (who??).

Theme: what OFL said. Fill: I'm AGHAST! When YEGGS is the funnest answer in the grid, you've got a problem. Another D-; sorry, Patty.

624. Yeah, the numbers are back, but this one? NAH.

DMG 12:32 PM  

No problem with this one, except for a fairly easy guess where two unknowns, BIEL/JAMIE, crossed. Is he Redd's son? Also, wanted sometime of number for 1A, but that's about it.

463 beats @Spacecraft by a whisker.

rondo 1:48 PM  

ALLTOLD this puz wasn't hard, but then I don't keep track of solve time. Didn't notice it was 16 wide until after. Prefer ADA when clued as Nabakov novel, maybe not on Mondays? Used to be thankful that Nixon and HRHALDEMAN stopped the draft and kept me out of Nam, but now I wonder if they are resposible for deaths of friends? I'm practically a geezer, but JAMIE Foxx and Jessica BIEL (yeah baby!) were gimmees.

3315 - BLAH

rain forest 4:28 PM  

What an amazing amount of retroactive hate that has been spewed today (five weeks ago)!

Gosh, @Spacey, a little testy today (today). I think that the phrase "he comes from HUMBLE BEGINNINGS" is correct. No one says "he comes from a humble beginning". Doesn't work, does it? Anyway, you calls 'em as you see 'em.

I found this EASY (***for a Monday***), and possibly set a record. The theme phrases all hang together, and you could write a mini-story relating them in the order they appear in the puzzle.


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