St Louis Blues composer / WED 9-3-14 / 2013 Tonto portrayer / 1960s TV show featuring cross-eyed lion Clarence / Worked on trireme / Get Smart adversary / Mobster's gun

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: HEAD STARTS (59A: Race advantages … or a hint to 17-, 23- 38- and 49-Across)— theme answers start with words that can also mean "bathroom" or "restroom" or "toilet" or what have you:

Theme answers:
  • CAN OF WORMS (17A: Metaphorical mess)
  • PRIVY COUNCIL (23A: Monarch's advisers)
  • W.C. HANDY (38A: "St. Louis Blues" composer)
  • JOHN F. KENNEDY (49A: Only president to win a Pulitzer)
Word of the Day: LANTANA (42D: Showy flower) —
Lantana is a genus of about 150 species of perennial flowering plants in the verbena family,Verbenaceae. They are native to tropical regions of the Americas and Africa but exist as anintroduced species in numerous areas, especially in the Australian-Pacific region. The genus includes both herbaceous plants and shrubs growing to 0.5–2 m (1.6–6.6 ft) tall. Their common names are shrub verbenas or lantanas. The generic name originated in Late Latin, where it refers to the unrelated Viburnum lantana.[2]
Lantana's aromatic flower clusters (called umbels) are a mix of red, orange, yellow, or blue and white florets. Other colors exist as new varieties are being selected. The flowers typically change color as they mature, resulting in inflorescences that are two- or three-colored. (wikipedia)
• • •

For a large handful of seconds there at the end, it was -C. WYETH all over again. I was just staring at -OOF and -C. HANDY, having no idea what letter could go there. I've heard of W. C. HANDY before, but only from puzzles, and I certainly couldn't remember his first initials. And [Scares a cat, in a way] made no sense to me initially. Required me to run the alphabet until I hit the dog noise, WOOF(S). One other proper noun ("DAKTARI"), and the Word-of-the-Day plant genius I'd never heard of, helped keep this one well on the tough side. I thought I knew what "DAKTARI" was, but it turns out I was thinking of "Hatari," a John Wayne movie set in Africa. When I saw [1960s TV show featuring the cross-eyed lion Clarence] all I could conjure up in my mind was Lamb Chop and Sheri Lewis and … wait, no, I was thinking of Kookla, Fran & Ollie. But somehow in my mind those three hang out with Lamb Chop and Sheri Lewis. Anyway, my point is I clearly never saw any of these puppet shows as I was not alive in the '60s much, and the time I was alive (about 35 days) is not terribly memorable. It occurs to me now that perhaps the show "DAKTARI" didn't involve puppets at all–that I just assumed that, based on the deep unlikelihood of an actual cross-eyed lion's existing, let alone auditioning for TV roles. Anyway, it turns out I know the "word" "DAKTARI" as a 10,000 Maniacs song that appeared on an album I used to (and maybe still) own called The Wishing Chair. It was the album just before In My Tribe, i.e. just before they became college rock royalty. Anyway, I never understood what she was saying on the song—how was I to know it was about a cross-eyed lion.

I like the theme—it's tight and has a nice revealer. The fill is a bit wobbly for my tastes. ASAN CANTI TROI EVAC OSHA SOYA DEE SDS NEAPS (plural!?) EDEMA YADA OCTA SRTA OARED YETI ATIT (!) ETAS OCULO PENH ENTS … there's just a *lot* of dull and/or subpar stuff. But KAZAKHSTAN does ease the pain a bit (28D: Former Soviet republic). That's a spectacular long Down. This puzzle is all about the theme, and the theme is good.

I'm quite tired from my first day of teaching. I am not in match shape, as they say. So I'm off to bed. Until tomorrow...
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    jae 12:03 AM  

    Medium for me.  No real erasures, but the the crosses for KAZAKHSTAN seemed tough.  If you are iffy on the spelling needing to know KAOS, LIZ, ITALO, DAKTARI, and SEAN might be troublesome.  Not to mention LANTANA right next door. 

    I guess YADA and YADDA both work in crosswords, but in the Seinfeld episode it's YADA.

    Zippy theme, some interesting fill, liked this a lot!  Nice one Peter.

    wreck 12:10 AM  

    On the medium tough side for me, even knowing DAKTARI and KAOS as well as sussing the theme fairly quick. I had CUMIN before CURRY which slowed me down for a long time. CAN OF WORMS was fair, but I don't associate the phrase as a "mess" - more of "stirring up trouble." Again, there were a lot of proper nouns and iffy fill. Overall, I still liked it!

    Zeke 12:26 AM  

    Initially I saw ___WORMS, ___COUNCIL and when the next themer didn't end in DIET I knew I was on the wrong track, themewise. Not that I ever gave a crap about themes. Which, as it turns out, kind of justifies my not caring about thimes, at least in this case.

    Whirred Whacks 12:44 AM  

    I knew ROSCOE because I remembered a late 30s Cary Grant film in which he playfully used the term to describe his pistol.

    This had a 60s/literate feel to it. 60s because of KAOS, DAKTARI, and JOHN F KENNEDY. And "literate" because of Umberto ECO, ITALO Calvino, and ISAAC STERN.

    I solved this in an unusual way (for me): I had to work my from the bottom up to the top. (Somewhat of a slog, but worthwhile when I got there.)

    Enjoy your Wednesdays everyone!

    Whirred Whacks 12:49 AM  

    The first syllable of LOOFAH would have also worked as a theme answer.

    John Child 1:57 AM  

    Wednesday DNF because I had no idea who played Tonto last year and couldn't see SCHMO, DOCS, or EVAC without it.

    SCHMOe was the common spelling in the 1950s: the no-E version googles much better now.

    The W that @Rex mentions was a guess, but it was mostly a Wednesday. I liked the theme and long answers enough not to be annoyed at the short drek.

    chefwen 2:56 AM  

    Got it, kinda. Messed up in the same areas as Rex. Didn't know W.C. Handy, VICHY or DAKTARI, guessed at a few of the letters and pretty much fell flat on my face. Oh Well! Everything else fell into place rather nicely.

    Like Rex, had to run the alphabet to get the W in WOOFS, that was embarrassing.

    Speaking of embarrassing, Jon did not catch onto the reveal. He is known as the "KING OF TOILET SALES" been selling those things for 40 years, but he got the puzzle done. (he's not big on themes)

    Fugu 3:03 AM  

    Downs only report: Couldn't close this one without across clues in the west and northeast. My first pass left tons of white space, but I did get ANTON, DICE, TROI, YADA, and PAYDAY, forming the unambiguous OC-A-IA. From OCEANIA I got EDIT, and that plus SKIHAT, JESSE, and OARED made 49A into JO---K--NEDY. First theme answer complete.

    Mix in OREO, OSHA, and SDS, and the bottom theme answer is H---STAR-S. Infer that theme answers begin with synonyms for toilet, add WOOFS off the F from JOHNF, and WCHANDY falls into place. (If you went to elementary school in Memphis, TN, you've heard of Mr. Handy.) CANOFWORMS follows easily, as does PRIVYsomething. (Never heard of PRIVYCOUNCILs.)

    Things slowed way down after that. In the end I couldn't get DECOR, LIZ, or ITALO without checking their clues. For MAGENTA I had a similar-sounding but completely fake word that I imagined meant aunt or something in French. But all the crosses worked!

    It was fun using the, uh, LOOLOO of a theme to make this one downs-only-able (mostly). I was also amused by my reactions to certain across answers as I inferred them, which felt like Rex's voice interrupting my inner monologue: "ASAN? IDOSO? Surely not!"

    JTHurst 4:59 AM  

    A working stiff is a schmo. Excuse me. I guess we are all schmos. Of course he could have meant shmoo. Now that is a different story.

    A shmoo is shaped like a plump bowling pin with legs. It has smooth skin, eyebrows and sparse whiskers—but no arms, nose or ears. Its feet are short and round but it is dextrous. They lived in the Valley of the Shmoon. Some of their attributes were:

    1. They reproduce asexually and are incredibly prolific, multiplying exponentially faster than rabbits. They require no sustenance other than air.
    2. Shmoos are delicious to eat, and are eager to be eaten. If a human looks at one hungrily, it will happily immolate itself — either by jumping into a frying pan, after which they taste like chicken, or into a broiling pan, after which they taste like steak. When roasted they taste like pork, and when baked they taste like catfish. (Raw, they taste like oysters on the half-shell.)
    3. They also produce eggs (neatly packaged), milk (bottled, grade-A), and butter—no churning required. Their pelts make perfect boot leather or house timber, depending on how thick you slice it.
    4. They have no bones, so there's absolutely no waste. Their eyes make the best suspender buttons, and their whiskers make perfect toothpicks. In short, they are simply the perfect ideal of a subsistence agricultural herd animal.
    5. Naturally gentle, they require minimal care, and are ideal playmates for young children. The frolicking of shmoon is so entertaining (such as their staged "shmoosical comedies") that people no longer feel the need to watch television or go to the movies.
    6. Some of the more tasty varieties of shmoo are more difficult to catch. Usually shmoo hunters, now a sport in some parts of the country, utilize a paper bag, flashlight and stick to capture their shmoos. At night the light stuns them, then they can be whacked in the head with the stick and put in the bag for frying up later on.

    Most of them were hunted and exterminated by shmooicide squads hired by the capitalist J. Roaringham Fatback “The Pork King. They were ruining the economy so they had to be eliminated, of course. But a boy and girl shmoon (though gender neutral) were rescued. They were required to run in the annual Sadie Hawkins Day race, which if you are old enough and from the right part of the country was once upon a time a tradition in lower level schools that was bigger than dressing up for Halloween, but that is another story. The shmoon thus joined by ‘Marryin Sam’ are seen retreating back to Shmoon Valley. Maybe someday we will deserve them.

    Or maybe we are all schmos. Who knows.

    GILL I. 5:14 AM  

    WAMERU Study Center? Do people still drink their morning coffee out of Spode?
    A bathroom cute! In keeping with said theme why not WC FIELDS? And since we have all these K's, I really would have appreciated seeing KARZI somewhere in here.
    Thanks Peter Collins for this enlightening puzzle. EDEMA indeed!

    Hartley70 5:35 AM  

    I finished this without understanding/knowing a good bit of it. ROSCOE, IROC, WCHANDY, ITALO, and I really disliked the clues for IDOSO and YEAH. I never figured out the theme until I came here and went "Blah". On the bright side I did love SCHMO because my departed MIL used it as her favorite criticism of impending action. "Don't be a SCHMO!" was her catchphrase.

    Susierah 6:15 AM  

    A big dnf for me, after a 33 minute solving time. Just couldn't get privy, Vichy, daktari to come together. The cross eyed lion made me also, like Rex, think of Shari Lewis. I was alive in the sixties, but I really think I remember watching her in the fifties. Anyway, a very challenging Wednesday for me!

    wordie 7:00 AM  

    How are ENTS wizards of aahs? How can an OREO, which is a cookie unless I am mistaken, be a traditional ingredient in cookies? Liked it otherwise. . . .

    Bob Kerfuffle 7:18 AM  

    Liked it!

    Was a big relief when it all worked out, because many entries required more than the usual thought (MAGENTA, LANTANA, etc.)

    @wordie - The complete clue is, "Traditional ingredient in cookies and cream ice cream," so I think OREO is a fair answer.

    Glimmerglass 7:18 AM  

    Medium for me, but I'm old enough to remember most of the old pop culture names. Consequently, I thought this was a great Wednesday puzzle.

    wordie 7:23 AM  

    Thanks, Bob. Guess I skimmed that one too quickly. Still wondering about the ENTS.

    Bob Kerfuffle 7:28 AM  

    @wordie - In truth, I wondered about the ENTS also, but since Wikipedia says, "Physicians specializing in otolaryngology are called otolaryngologists or by the nickname "ENTs" or "ENT doctors" and often treat children with persistent ear, nose, and throat conditions to include surgery. Adult patients often seek treatment from an otolaryngologist for sinus infections, age-related hearing loss, and cancers of these regions," I'm guessing they say, "Say 'aah'" more than the average doctor.

    wordie 7:34 AM  

    Ah. Ok. Seems a bit weak to me. But thanks.

    Glimmerglass 8:02 AM  

    I used to watch Daktari with my children. The hero was a veterinarian in Africa on a wildlife preserve (Daktari is Swahili for "doctor"). We used to make up gag scenarios for a spinoff to be called Dentisto (Dentista if the main figure was a woman). Dentisto would handle dental emergencies among African wildlife.

    pmdm 8:07 AM  

    For those who enjoy the links to musical performances that some comments include, here is a link that should keep you busy today. Anton Bruckner music creates problems for conductors because a number of his symphonies exist in many versions (for various reasons too involved to explain here). Too many interpretations of these works tend to the pompous and/or ponderous and turn off listeners.

    Here is the general link.

    Here is a good place to start.

    jberg 8:19 AM  

    @wordie @bob_Kerfuffle, it's not that Ear, Nose, & Throat specialists say aah more than most, it's that they make you say it while they stick a tongue depressor down your throat.

    Easy for me; I got the theme with WC HANDY, but it didn't really help. Never heard of DAKTARI, although I was very much alive in the 1960s (but mostly occupying buildings with SDS, not watching kids' TV); and no idea what IROC is, but a vague memory of seeing it on a race car somewhre. I'll call that one a lucky guess.

    Worst part of the puzzle was the vague EAST SIDE clued as specific to Manhattan crossed with the horrible OARED. But KAZAKHSTAN, ISAAC STERN saved it.

    As for WC HANDY, give a listen here,\.

    Arlene 8:28 AM  

    My newspaper was delivered late today, so I solved online! YIKES! I think I need some more practice on navigating the clues and such - felt like a KLUTZ! The puzzle was too big - anyway to reduce the size?

    As for the puzzle - I was around in the 1960's and never heard of DAKTARI - and I also didn't know ITALO or how to spell the beginning of ----KHASTAN. Or LIZ of 30 Rock. So another learning experience for me today.

    Generic Solver 8:34 AM  

    Wow I nailed this one. Totally in my wheelhouse. Growing up, my sister was given W C Handy songs to play by her piano teacher, and I can still see that sheet music for "St. Louis Blues" in my mind. Daktari, sure I watched that. Lantana, that's also a town in S. Florida not far from me, so at least the word was recognizable. Just one of those days to gloat a little after getting schooled other days recently.

    Unknown 8:34 AM  

    In the spring, nurseries here in CT sell a variety of LANTANA that has a wonderful fragrance.

    "W.C. HANDY, won't you look down over me/Man I got a first class ticket but I'm as blue as a boy can be/ And I'm walking in Memphis..."

    Dan Akroyd's Ray Zelinski addressing Chris Farley's Tommy Boy regarding Capitalism:

    "You've seen "Daktari"? The weaker animals always go. So the kids cry when you tie an old tiger to a tree and shoot him. But that's life!
    America's in a state of renewal. We've gotta have the strength to tie a few factories to a tree and bash 'em with a shovel. Meanwhile, if i can grab your share of the market, put a little coin in the pocket, by being the asshole? Well, what the hell, you know what i mean?"

    Salemhill 8:41 AM  

    W.C.Handy mentioned in the lyrics of the popular 90s song "Walking in Memphis" ....

    Healingmagichands 8:47 AM  

    I'm rather astonished that no one has caught that HEAD start is one of the theme answers. Guess that rex was so tired he left it out of his list? Anyway , HEAD is the Navy's word for the toilet...

    joho 8:48 AM  

    I loved this! Who knew a bathroom theme could be so much fun!

    This is one instance where the theme really helped me out with the "C" in WCHANDY.

    I tried to come up with a LOO themer with no success and wonder if Peter did, too. For one thing LOO doesn't fit the pattern as all the others start with a complete word or initials. But half the fun of this puzzle was trying to participate:

    Anybody get one that's the right length?

    Anonymous 8:54 AM  

    I don't know, Rex - for someone doing the puzzle over breakfast, the theme's kinda gross

    RooMonster 9:02 AM  

    Hey All!
    Got through the S fairly quick and easily, but the N kicked my butt! Had to look up (read:Google) 3 answers, DAKTARI (which I never heard of), ECO (also haven't heard of), and ITALO, (which I could have sussed out, but was getting antsy!) Also Googled 3 to-make-sure answers, PENH, which I had spelled Phen, 24 & 25D, IROC &VICHY (had them both right!)

    A couple of nice clues, 26D and 55D. Always remember 49D from Blazing Saddles! "And now for my next impression, Jesse Owens! "

    @JTHurst, wow! What an imagination! Those schmoos sound like an interesting species! Maybe I'll run across one (looking hungrily at it!)

    Writeovers: Had SKIcap at first for Waldos HAT, lEts for YEAH, till PAYDAYS cleared that up, hands up for CUmin before CURRY. Didn't quite suss out the theme until I read Mr. Parkers comments. (I realized I'm as old as Rex, after his 60's comment! Aug. 69 here)



    dk 9:04 AM  

    🌕🌕🌕 (3 mOOOns)

    @GillP, Limoges cretin. Spode only for the holidays if you are a member of the kitsch set.

    @JThurst, Thanks for the Schmo/shmoo info. Lil Abner along with Prince Valiant were always strangely enjoyable as they contained mysterious things like shmoos

    My only complaint is DOCS. I keep thinking of DOCS my boat or DOCS in a box anything but official paper work. I know it works, just not for me.

    Nice potty puzzle to start the day…….. OMG a turtle head - gotta go

    Anonymous 9:14 AM  

    Loved this! First two long answers were Head Starts and JFK so I thought there was a coin theme. Had Daktari with crosses- only remembered it after the answer appeared. A truly enjoyable morning. Thanks Peter and Will!

    Al Capp 9:17 AM  

    Don't you folks believe in credit where credit is due?

    Perhaps JTHurst thought that just everyone knew I created the Schmoo, but RooMonster's comment suggests that they don't!

    Al Capp 9:20 AM  

    Sorry, Shmoo, of course. Fat fingers.

    Al Capp 9:22 AM  

    Sorry, Shmoo, of course. Fat fingers.

    Norm 9:25 AM  

    I think one skewed pretty old, so it played easy-medium for this old-timer.

    Mohair Sam 9:26 AM  

    @arlene - Don't be so down on yourself. In today's puzzle you are not a klutz, but rather a
    SCHMO. Sounds like a step up to me.

    Speaking of which: Thanks @JTHurst for the reminder of Al Capp's Shmoo characters. Loved L'il Abner, best comic strip ever.

    Played medium/challenging here and thought it was a lot of fun. Playful theme and a few fresh long words (PRIVYCOUNCIL ISAACSTERN KAZAKHSTAN). What's not to like?

    Was in Europe through the late sixties, hence never saw DAKTARI. Wondering how the casting director found a cross-eyed lion.

    Luckily we knew ITALO (but not LANTANA) - both kind of tough for a Wednesday, wondering how many naticked on that L.

    Ludyjynn 9:28 AM  

    My LANTANAs are glorious this time of year, attracting ruby-throated hummingbirds, butterflies and bee pollinators daily. I have seven of them in various colors of pinks/reds and oranges/reds, planted in pots so they can be brought indoors and over-wintered in the sunroom once they're pruned back in Oct. After the last frost, they go back outside in Spring and the process repeats itself. Aint Mother Nature grand?!

    Very nicely themed med. Wed. puzz. Thanks, PC and WS.

    Steve J 9:36 AM  

    Got through this in a bit above average Wednesday time, but I never felt comfortable while doing it. Never heard of DAKTARI, and it looked wrong, but the crosses worked. Never herd ROSCOE in this context, but again the crosses worked (well, once I determined that OCULO crossed better than OCULa). Don't know WC HANDY, so I needed the theme to validate that one.

    Theme was nicely done and actually helpful. Fill was a little flat. Good puzzle overall.

    Leapfinger 9:49 AM  

    All y'all got a HEADSTART on me, but I thought this was one NATTY puzzle, groaned when I saw where we were heading [after two].
    Had to re-do COUNSEL, COUNSIL, COUNCIL. Wasn't PRIVY to the Brit/US distinktion.
    PRIVY COUNCIL is what the ladies leave the restaurant table en masse to do.
    Could just visualize Gary Larson or Gahan Wilson drawings of CAN OF WORMS; could hardly sit still.
    Agree that it's central to have a WC HANDY, esp for those long-line arena intermissions.

    @JTHurst, I still have my little Al Capp History of the SHMOo. It was falling apart when I got it years ago; it's pretty much a loose-leaf now. loved he reCapp.

    If LANTANA = Verbena, why the blank not say so? That was a plant. EDEMA is for people too, used to be called'Dropsy'. Drop-C as in Ctenphores

    No idea what VICHY's was trying to say down there in the middle; I finish that schoup with Vichy's SCHwa. Just SCHayin'.

    Wreaked a little KAOS, what with my preference for CUMIN [heh] and dredging up an xtra H to make KAZAKstumper fit, but I DO SO enjoy a WedneSCHallenge. [Jes' takin' advantage of typo here.]

    DAKTAR Questinia, eh? Q fore Qure, for sure.

    Anonymous 9:59 AM  

    I suppose Rex likes this constructor, because "despite weak fill, this was a good puzzle" rather than "there were a few good answers but the fill was really weak so it's a terrible excuse for a puzzle." Pays to be in Rexhole's good graces I guess.

    bswein99 10:01 AM  

    I feel like I've seen this bathroom joke several times before. But what I most object to is the clue for "schmo." Does the constructor really think that is a synonym for working stiff?

    quilter1 10:03 AM  

    Agree this one was maybe for older solvers. It gave me no trouble and I enjoyed the long downs. And for the record, @Rex, it is Shari Lewis, not Sheri. She was very talented and funny. Puppets for grown-ups.

    Mr. Benson 10:04 AM  

    I suffered the indignity of a Wednesday DNF. I don't know what a PRIVYCOUNCIL is (and have never heard of "privy" as a synonym for toilet, so I couldn't get it even after seeing the revealer), and I've never heard of DAKTARI or WCHANDY, and thus couldn't infer VICHY with all those big blank spaces.

    RooMonster 10:04 AM  

    Oh, sorry Al Capp! To the real Al, and the "Al" who posted here.

    Something else I never heard before, obviously. ..

    (AsI yank my foot out of my mouth. ..)


    chefbea 10:09 AM  

    Tough puzzle!! Didn't get the theme until I came here.
    Wanted cumin instead of curry. Got oreo...made ice cream this week but with out the choc-chip!!! Yummm

    Carola 10:27 AM  

    Witty and fun! After CAN and PRIVY, I saw where we were "going" (bonus theme ans. = EVAC, right? Maybe RUNNY, too. Sorry). Was looking at a DNF but guessed right at the DAKTARI/ IROC cross. ROSCOE was also new to me.

    I liked the stack of "Where the heck does the H go words" - PENH and KAZAKHSTAN, and thought the mirroring MAGENTA and LANTANA was lovely.

    Thank you, Peter Collins - I always enjoy your puzzles.

    AliasZ 10:39 AM  

    I wasn't able to flush the theme out immediately, YETI was able to finish it faster than yesterday. Thank goodness there is now Smell-o-web service in my neighborhood.

    Toilet paper was the only thing missing from the W.C. HANDY accessory indeed, when dispensable. I am waiting for the automatic one that does it all for you. I hear one intrepid Asian entrepreneur by the name of Liu Kma is working on it. It will be called LIU KMA NO HANDS!

    I hate potty humor almost as much as puns. I look down on people who enjoy it and find it funny.

    There are a number of musical references today, from the obvious ISAAC STERN and the National Anthem of KAZAKHSTAN as interpreted by Borat, to the FOR-A Requiem, to ANGEL Romero and many others.

    But let me finish instead with this lovely Tromba LANTANA by John Adams.


    Leapfinger 10:59 AM  

    @SteveJ, Have just this a.m. reviewed yesterday's comments, and take PENH in hand to say how pleased I am that you agreed TrockenBEERNUTauslese is an odd whine pairing. Woeno, whether we're Kipling or not, we can Riesling out our small differences; as basically rieslingable persons,we shouldn't be pressing the juice of the gripe. [Yes, I heard that through the gripe-vine.] Sauternes another page in the life of the blague.

    @OISK, It was not apocryphal. Place: McGill. Date: Sept 1960, and years pre & post. The reason, allegedly: Displaced anger due to wife's abandonment. A cadaverous-looking dude, didn't keep track of what happened to Prof H.

    @Quest, as noted, you GO indeed, and keep on tracking. I do admire the lib-femme who can snap-turn in stilettos, replete with lime-green boa construction, yet.
    I've tried on those platform suckers, could barely stand upright.

    re the various Al Cappery today: He knew he hit it right when the Shmoon concept was viciously attacked by both the Right and the Left.

    These comments do take off in some interesting directions, don't they?

    jdv 11:02 AM  

    Easy-Medium. I spent the last 40 seconds staring at the DAKTARI/IROC cross. Finally said screw it and threw down the hail mary 'r'. In general, I find Collins' puzzles to be too naticky for my taste. If I didn't have such a strong aversion to errors, I might enjoy his puzzles more.

    Anonymous 11:07 AM  

    Good Wednesday but would have preferred WC Fields

    Numinous 11:13 AM  

    Hardly slept last night so I got to this one early. For some reason I was thinking a cars theme around the time I figured out HEAD STARTS. Then I looked up and saw all the LOO references and had to laugh.

    I couldn't figure out 9D from the R until I got CAN OF WORMS which instantly brought ROSCOE to mind. I was reminded of S. J. Perelman's wonderful essay where he parodies pulp detective magazines, Somewhere a ROSCOE. You can find it here as the second essay in the collection.

    Thanks to @JTHurst for reminding me that when I was a small boy we had a Shmoo in the house. It was a vinyl blow-up bowling pin looking thing as tall as me that you could punch and, thanks to sand or something in the bottom, it would always spring back upright. I'm sure it amused me for more than ten minutes.

    For some reason I associate LANTANA with Australia. I didn't realize they were from North America.

    I didn't find this puzzle particularly hard or challenging though I did need crosses to get some of the solutions.

    Leapfinger 11:16 AM  

    Creepin' Jeez, @Carola, 'sorry' isn't enough. Had to look carefully to see if you had any colons hiding in your comment. Guess I'm grateful there was nothing about 'the friend of your enema'.

    That showed guts, if not logorrhea.

    Guess that's my 3; went pretty fast.

    Darryl 11:23 AM  

    @Anon 9:59 - In the past, Rex as excoriated Peter's puzzles to the point where your fellow Anons have hypothesized that he had personal animus towards Peter. This one he didn't rip to shreds, now you're hypothesizing friendship between the two.

    Why do people have to do this? Just take each review at face value, agree or disagree as you will, but this overlay of background influences is nonsense.

    mac 11:28 AM  

    Very good Wednesday, and crunchy too. I had to do the East side first, couldn't get a foot hold at 1A/1D at first.

    Roscoe had to end in an E, but I had to come here to find out what those aah wizards were.

    I plant lantana in pots every spring to attract the ruby throated hummingbird, but this year we have so many hawks around that the small birds made themselves scarce.

    Z 11:36 AM  

    Lots of WOEs but the crosses all worked, so no Naticks. WC HANDY being a theme answer means that besides the crosses the WC is also inferrable.

    DAKTARI missed my notice back in the 60's. I was thinking "cross-eyed lion Clarence" was more likely to appear on Saturday mornings cartoons. IROC was a little confusing to me. I've seen the IROC Camaro's, International Race Of Champions is right next to DAKTARI in the list of stuff I dodn't know before this morning.

    I'm thinking the infamous audio of LBJ talking to his tailor (while sitting in the loo?) gives whole new layers of meaning to PRIVY COUNCIL. Hardly Pulitzer worthy.

    A change of pace Wednesday, put up a decent fight. Fine work in my book.

    That math class must be keeping @LMS busy. We haven't heard much from her lately.

    Elephant's Child 11:41 AM  

    On a recent a birthday dinner out, our friendly wait-guy Zeke told us our GROUPON menu included a Tomato VICHY-swah. As my lips parted, The Daughter fixed me with a Very stern look, so I zipped it. Reluctantly.

    Had to sneak back to correct what I wrote in backwards at 9:49. Don't anyone try to tell me it's not VICHYswozz.

    Paul 12:02 PM  

    I assume that you are still teaching at my Alma mater Harpur College.. SUNY Binghamton or whatever they are calling it these days. Try teaching third grade as I did for many years and you will learn what tired really is.

    Evan 12:08 PM  


    Amen. Not a single week (day, perhaps) goes by without someone performing amateur psychoanalysis on Rex -- it's probably the most tiresome aspect of his comment section.

    I've never understood why people take his criticisms of puzzles so personally. I mean, yes, I get that constructors don't want to get negative reviews, but solvers can still form their own opinions about a puzzle and enjoy it even if he doesn't. That, and the possibility of getting harsh critique is the risk one takes for putting your work out for mass public consumption.

    Z 12:18 PM  

    @Paul - Dr. Phillips in my first Ed class asserted that there is a direct inverse correlation between the level of instruction and the quality of instruction (Kindergarten teachers being the best instructors, doctoral programs having the worst). After 25 years in the field and experience with all levels I can say with some certainty that Dr. Phillips is still correct.

    Fillard Millmore 12:57 PM  

    Solid puzzle. Loved the clue for WOOFS

    Unknown 1:00 PM  

    Bean staple: bOot! Naturally.
    Scratched at SOfA/STAf. Kidney-bean shaped SOfAs weren't a staple of the disco ERA?


    LaneB 1:13 PM  

    Challenging, indeed. Problems with DAKTARI, ROSCOE (?), ITOC, IDSO, TAE and CANTI--but managed to finish with a bit of help from Google. NEAPS and EDEMA side by side seemed unfair at the time for a Wednesday. I was left in a good mood, however. Liked Rex's write-up,too.

    Gardiner Harris 1:19 PM  

    @Gil I.P., Anonymous 11:07, and any others who said they would have preferred to have their W.C. in the FIELDS rather than keeping them HANDY, have you considered the possible consequences?

    Anonymous 1:30 PM  

    @Gardiner, hee hee, I guess I'd rather keep the WC HANDY

    Anonymous 1:31 PM  

    Good grief, Gardiner H, the most basic pH (Public Health)!

    What a waste! --- and no pun was intended.

    GILL I. 1:55 PM  

    Holy crap Gardiner. Thanks for the lingering image!

    Carola 1:58 PM  

    @Numinous - Thank you for Perelman's ROSCOE.
    @Leapfinger - LOL at your colon search.

    Anon -1:31 2:00 PM  

    Say, hey! In keeping with the theme, [Burgundy relative] could have been LAV-ENDER!

    @Anon-1:30, that 'hee hee' gives U away, I think. If that's right, I'm answering: no Spode, but the them-ish Herend. Not the new stuff, but the fine Old Hungarian, as are some who regularly appear in our mix.

    Doc John 2:02 PM  

    Good thing I'd heard of DAKTARI otherwise I never would have finished. Lots of very weird fill in this one, as Rex pointed out. A bit of trivia- Joanie from "Happy Days" played a young girl on a few episodes of Daktari. Oh, and it was by one of our favorite crossword guys, Ivan Tors.

    Oh, and there's this: Shmo board game

    Benko 2:03 PM  

    @Z-- Your professor's theory about inverse correlation seems right on to me. I'm thinking it's because most kindergarten teachers have a love of children and genuinely want to teach them, while doctoral classes are usually taught by jaded academics who only teach because they have to (generalizing.).

    john towle 2:09 PM  

    Everything's up to date in Kansas City! You can walk to privies in the rain and never wet your feet. They've gone about as fer as they can. go,

    Oklahoma lyric



    Anonymous 2:29 PM  

    Sure hope no-one was incommoded by today's theme. Har!

    Anoa Bob 2:53 PM  

    On a more prosaic level, you couldn't put WCFIELDS in that center slot because it has an even number of letters, 8, and you need either an odd number, like 7 for WCHANDY, or a grid 16 squares wide.

    Always the tyranny of the letter-count. Always! That's why we so often see letter-count manipulation in the grid, like adding -ER, -ED, -ING, or removing an A from PLASMA, etc. Oh, yeah, and POCs.

    jdv 3:44 PM  

    What do Joe Pesci and Jimi Hendrix have in common? They both played guitar for Joey Dee & the Starliters (according to wikipedia)

    Quo Vadis 4:21 PM  

    W.C. Handy I'm rich and I'm fay
    And I'm not familiar with what you played.

    (Joni Mitchell, Old Furry Sings the Blues)

    sanfranman59 4:53 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)

    Wed 11:56, 9:31, 1.25, 93%, Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Wed 7:41, 6:08, 1.25, 93%, Challenging

    Masked and Anonymo2Us 5:05 PM  

    Lots of unusual words, which kept the solve fun and feisty. This must be one of those deals that just tears a constructioneer to shreads in two directions:
    1. Must create lotsa different, non-boring words.
    2. Must not be *too* different -- solver needs to have a fightin chance, etc.

    Umyeah. Thought this WedPuz caught it pretty good. Did not cross the dreaded Pewit of No Return Line. Good job, to all. Done with admirable "facility", tho the U's were kinda prairie-doggin it, today.


    Former TA 6:24 PM  

    Elementary school teachers actually go to school to learn how teach. In CA for example it takes 2 years of teacher eduction after you get a batchelor's degree to get a teaching certificate. The only requirement for a university prof is an advanced degree, usually a Ph.D. The result is that many of them don't have a clue about effective teaching.

    L 6:35 PM  

    Sorry but schmo is not the same or even close to working stiff.

    Anonymous 6:47 PM  


    In most modern browsers you can hit Ctrl+the minus key (or Command/Apple+the minus key on a Mac) to shrink the text of a selected browser window. Or you can go into your monitor settings and raise the resolution of your screen a bit.

    Anonymous 6:49 PM  

    BaTchelor? How about spelling degree?

    Anonymous 6:49 PM  


    Scratch that text size trick. It no longer seems to work for me with the new (blech) online puzzle format. It used to. Your best bet is changing your screen resolution.

    Chaz 7:50 PM  

    Oh, boo hoo hoo. Teaching is sooo hard. Yes, your particular niche in the teaching world is so much harder, yet you're so much better at it than all the others, but still, boo hoo hoo.

    You want to know what's hard? Being a somewhat long in the tooth dissolute trust fund child. You've no idea how hard. Just waking up every day with your 1000th +1 sequential hangover - all you teachers would die then and there. You all just try doing that. Then you all try keeping up to date with, no, staying ahead of every damned trend in clothes, hot new vacation spots, new designer drugs. You all would fall by the wayside within a week.

    As I said, boo hoo hoo.

    Posterior Sulcus 8:31 PM  

    Perhaps they could work on a captcha to prove you aren't stupid.

    Leapfinger 8:50 PM  

    @AliasZ, you are finding Special ThankYou present from Kazakhstan Bureau of Tourism in mail box very very soon. Leader of Kazakhstan say he grasp you same way you grasp him.

    Charles Flaster 9:11 PM  

    EZ in 15 minutes.Proper names were all in my 70 year old wheelhouse.Wife and I lived on East Side of Manhattan when first married and started doing NY Times puzzles right there.
    Crosswordese--Anton Chekhov or Bruckner,Ent and Soya.
    Crosswordease---Srta,Edna(Ferber), Eta or Etd and Italo.
    Get Smart was a great spy tongue in cheek comedy of the sixties.Most of its "Gadgets" are commonplace today-----cell phones, computers, high speed elevators ,Skype etc...
    Great job PAC.

    Zeke 9:38 PM  

    @Posterior - Then what would you do?

    Seriously, there's such a thing as satire. Chaz's offering wasn't exactly Shavian, but was good enough for this page.

    sanfranman59 10:07 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 7:40, 6:02, 1.27, 98%, Challenging (5th highest ratio of 243 Mondays)
    Tue 8:11, 7:54, 1.04, 61%, Medium-Challenging
    Wed 12:10, 9:31, 1.28, 93%, Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 5:20, 3:57, 1.35, 100%, Challenging (highest ratio of 243 Mondays)
    Tue 5:27, 5:24, 1.01, 52%, Medium
    Wed 7:25, 6:08, 1.21, 90%, Challenging

    A Posteriori 10:52 PM  

    That's damning with faint praise. Which I elected not to do.

    The fact that you liked it does not necessitate your defending it, but if you have time to fill...

    Captain Obvious 11:35 PM  

    @A Post.. The fact that you didn't like it doest not necessitate your damning it, but if you have time to fill...

    I too am wondering what you're going to do when the invent a captcha that necessitates actual intelligence to get past it.

    Anonymous 4:39 AM  

    I've been staring at the theme answers for 5 minutes now and I don't get the revealer.

    What does HEADSTARTS have to do with bathrooms? Was it the clue to look at the head of the words? I would have never gotten bathrooms at all.

    spacecraft 11:12 AM  

    @anon 4:39: You were never in the Navy. Aboardship, the bathroom is called the HEAD. Origin? That's another story.

    W.C.'s claim to fame is Jack Paar's iconic reference, which somehow rattled the censors of the day. Ended his career. "Go" figure.

    YEAH, I "enjoyed the go," as the Charmin bears would say. Some of the cluing looked like it was trying to get a HEADSTART on the weekend, which put this one in the medium, leaning a bit toward chalenging, category. Agree that KAZAKHSTAN is no less than a tour de force, but that the price for all this is lots of iffy fill.

    Again, early grokking of the theme helped a very great deal. No clue on CANOFWORMS, of course, but as soon as gimme PRIVYCOUNCIL went in, the jig--as KAOS' foe Maxwell Smart once said--was up. (BTW, this appears to be the earliest recorded example of someone scolded for being PI.)

    For any who missed me yesterday (both of you!), I did post, but it vanished for some reason, and as it was somewhat lengthy, I had neither the time nor the inclination to start all over.

    Now to see if I can find something other than a solid gray bar in the captcha...there's one: 1801. Missed it by THAT much!

    Anonymous 11:42 AM  

    Anon @4:39 HEAD (Bathroom) STARTS: Can Privy, W.C., John.

    Got it?
    Ron Diego

    Anonymous 11:47 AM  

    I found this one sorta easy except for the Daktari and Iroc cross. Never heard of Daktari and have no idea what Iroc means but I guessed at the right letters.

    Agree with someone above who said Schmo is not synonymous with working stiff. No way.

    Ron Diego 10/8/14

    Anonymous 12:00 PM  

    Hey, just looked up the word schmo in Wictionary. Its from Yiddish and means stupid or obnoxious person.

    Working stiff?? No way.

    Ron Diego

    Solving in Seattle 12:56 PM  

    Been kinda busy lately, but when I saw this morning's puz was a Peter Collins I sat down for the solve. Fun theme and worth the time.
    Likewise, no clue on DAKTARI - completely on crosses.
    Great clue for 38D - WOOFS.
    EDNA's "GIANT" still one of my favorite novels.

    Hey, @Z, sorry about the Tigers. I was rooting for them. Strange playoffs so far.

    4385- nada.

    DMG 2:05 PM  

    Good puzle, wirh a surprise revealer that nearly pulled a seemingly strange assortment of answers into "coherence". Is that the word I want? Anyway, aside from the fact that I always have to wait to see where the H goes in that town, and only got that Z because it seemed a better choice than S for LIZ, this one was pretty much a breeze. I was a bit surprised about ISSAACSTERN, as I would have thought he predated the Medal of Freedom, but I do remember well how famous he was when I was growing up. Don't much remember DAKTARI having a crosseyed lion, but it did star Marshall Thomson, a "dreamboat" in his day. Wonder why he disappeared from sight ?

    975 At least it beats @SIS.

    Z 2:20 PM  

    @SiS - I really don't like the current playoff system, and not just because the Tigers bullpen embarrassed themselves in Baltimore. To me, after 162 games, only teams that finish first should be in. If it is KC v SF in the World Series I won't watch a game. As for next year - Let's hope for a Seattle v Detroit ALCS.

    SharonAK 3:43 PM  

    @ Wordie and Bob Kerfuffle
    I had trouble with ent at first, but once I realized it meant what Bob suggested I found it quite humorous - not weak.
    I COULD NOT understand as an ingredient in cookies and in cream ice cream. Looked up "oreo" to see if it were an ingredient (for which cookies were named)
    Now that I get it- DUH!
    I had thought the cream ice cream was misprint.

    Dirigonzo 5:00 PM  

    I had a couple of anxious moments, notably at the confluence of ITALO with KAZAKHSTAN and LANTANA but I managed to intuit my way through those intersections and eventually finished with only one write-over, CANwe/CANTI.

    @Ron Diego - several sources cite the example of Joe Schmo as being a regular guy or working man, so I suspect that, not the original Yiddish meaning, is the source of the clue (maybe an attempt to keep it from being too negative?).

    2541 - I can dream, CAN'T I?

    Anonymous 5:29 PM  

    Di @5:pm Well, perhaps I misunderstood about Schmo. If the answer contained the entire spelling of Joe Schmo I would agree with "working stiff." But where I come from (and I'm not Jewish) Schmo was a derogatory word meaning nitwit or dumbass, or obnoxious..

    On the other hand Joe Schmo can be synonymous with Joe Sixpack or John Doe. So...........maybe we're both just a little bit right. Thanks for the feedback.

    Ron Diego

    Anonymous 9:40 PM  

    I used to shrink with embarrassment when my Minnesota bred Mom used to call the loo a "biffy"! Left that one out!

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