1983 sci-fi drama / WED 11-26-14 / Old galley / Willow shoot / Like Toves in Jabberwocky / Sci-fi author Stanislaw / Letterman's favorite activity? / Doo-wop group with 1963 hit Remember Then / Biblical debarkation point

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Constructor: Michael S. Maurer

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: WAR GAMES (58A: 1983 sci-fi drama … or a possible title for this puzzle) — theme answers are terms related to the military and … I guess the clues are playing "games" by being wacky (?):

Theme answers:
  • M*A*S*H UNIT (17A: Potato?)
  • SHORE LEAVE (24A: Ebb tide?)
  • PRESENT ARMS (34A: Inoculation order?)
  • FIRING LINE (49A: "Clean out your desk!"?)
Word of the Day: LAVALIERES (9D: Some microphones) —
lavaliere′ mi`crophone n.
a small microphone that hangs around the neck of a performer or speaker.

• • •

Had my fingers crossed for a decent birthday puzzle, but this one didn't quite come through. I'm not even sure I fully understand the theme. I don't see the "GAMES." I see wacky clues—are those the "GAMES"? I can only guess. Also, "WAR" is inapt in the extreme. Only two of these themers are related to war (M*A*S*H UNIT and, possibly, FIRING LINE). The others are military, but have no necessary connection to war. The whole "possible title" makes very little sense. Seems awfully tenuous. In the revealer clue's defense, though, it just says "possible title," not "appropriate" or "good title." Puzzle played hard for a Wednesday, largely because the themers were not easy to pick up even after you grokked the theme. PRESENT ARMS took me forever. I ended up solving this in very unusual fashion—closing in on the middle from all sides. I think my last letter in the grid was the "R" in PRESENT ARMS / LAVALIERES. I'd never heard of the latter. Not that I could remember. Other crosses for PRESENT ARMS were hard to pick up as well. SALESMAN was not easy to get from 37D: Infomercial figure. I'd never heard of the EARLS (did they wear LAVALIERES? (which I keep wanting to call LEVOLOR, like the blinds, which I only just now found out was spelled that way). STEP INSIDE, also tough to get to from [Words of welcome]. Bit of a toughie, and a bit old-fashioned-feeling, overall. Outside LISTEN UP and STEP INSIDE, the fill is pretty musty/creaky. All DAR and BIREME (43D: Old galley) and ELIA and OSIER and RMN. This puzzle might've felt fresh during the RMN administration.

From a purely aesthetic standpoint, I don't like the "?" clue on ANAGRAMS. In a puzzle where the themers have "?" clues, you don't give "?" clues to other long answers that run in the same direction. That's just confusing. Getting the "?" clue there, in an answer that's as long as the themer in the NW corner, made me think theme clue. Then when I got ANAGRAMS, I tried to see how it was thematic, only to discover it wasn't. OK, fair game, my fault for not noticing it wasn't precisely in a theme position. But I would've avoided the "?" clue there. The clue itself doesn't really make sense. Is the idea that a "Letterman" is someone who enjoys … letters? But … why would that mean you enjoyed *rearranging* them, specifically? There's just a ton of slack in the logic of this puzzle. IOR IOR IOR. SPLAT. Maybe next year I'll get the birthday puzzle I've always wanted. This year, I'll have to settle for cake.

I'm also not convinced "WAR GAMES" is a "sci-fi" movie, even though wikipedia says it is. Everything was supposed to be plausible, right? It's not like aliens inhabited the computer. "Joshua" wasn't like Hal—it didn't develop a kind of human sentience. Did it? Maybe I'm misremembering the level of Joshua's anthropomorphosis. Anyway, "Star Wars" was sci-fi. "Blade Runner" was sci-fi. "E.T." was sci-fi. "WAR GAMES"—I'm less sure.

Travel safe if you're traveling, especially in the NE.

See you on Thanksgiving.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    jae 12:04 AM  

    Medium-tough for me too. I know what a LAVALIERE mic is, but spelling it....  NW was the last to fall as I had ISt for a while so MASH UNIT was not going to come easily. Also BUd before BUB and OUR before IT'S. 

    Rex is right, theme is kinda loose, but there is enough zippy stuff to move this into the liked it column.

    Anonymous 12:13 AM  

    There is no apostrophe in the possessive pronoun form of "its".

    Anonymous 12:20 AM  

    All involved know that tides never leave the shore, right? That firing lines only exist on a firing range, or on Sunday Morning TV? Maybe the guys (sorry ladies, I just attribute more more sense and decency to you than men) in a firing squad form a firing line.

    JFC 12:20 AM  

    @Rex, maybe it’s the bourbon, or maybe it’s the vodka, but I’m watching someone give Jay Leno the 17th Mark Twain Award to him. I remember when you said you didn’t think he was funny. All I can say is you were wrong and here are a lot of people who agree with me.


    Anon 12:20 12:21 AM  

    I'm not the douche Anon to saw fit to point out a typo. Just for the record

    Zeke 12:24 AM  

    @JFC - You are wrong, dead wrong. Leno was the basest of all comics, he made a living out of calling innocents stupid. Maybe he still is, but fortunately he's been invisible lately.

    Z 12:31 AM  

    Star Wars is fantasy. Blade Runner is science fiction doing its best to be noir. Wargames would be near-future science fiction. "Science" fiction usually is grounded in some sort of extrapolation from known science. Occasionally the "science sufficiently advanced will seem like magic" clause will be used to justify things like FTL travel and jumping through wormholes to save humanity. But good sci fi will often pose a simple question like "what happens if a learning computer wants to play games."


    OSiER crossing a microphone brand name seems just a little naticky (which@casco kid informs me I've been mispronouncing in my head). I only got it because I've seen OSIER in puzzles before. Even now I don't remember what it means. I wonder if Queen OSIER IV ever ruled an eel kingdom.

    Unknown 12:31 AM  

    A thrilling, white-knuckle, 63-minute solve, ending with a W for the home team. There is joy in Mudville tonight. This puz had it all: a theme essential to getting the more opaque theme clues, subtle cluing throughout, and a Natick of dramatic proportions that set up the last second Hail-Mary: [Willow shoot] crossing [Some microphones]. It was Flutie-esque.

    After a 20 minute sprint around the grid, I had the low hanging FRUIT and still too much white space in SE, NW, N, and NE. MASHUNIT/BANISH/ALTHO was a toughie. I had MASHU_I_ and no where to go. [Exile] was strangely opaque (expel? sendoff?) and [E'en if] drew a blank. WARGAMES and a little free-association elicited MASHUNIT. A similar slow suss was necessary for SHORELEAVE off SHORE_E_ _ E. This time RELIVE and ANIMAL were the blind spots.

    But it came down to OSIER and LAVALIERES, two new words, crossing. They pieced together so slowly and so uncertainly that the final E was a prayer.

    I'll attribute today's success from good karma picked up Monday at the Jolly Pumpkin restaurant in Ann Arbor, where I was schooled on beer, Ultimate frisbee, and crossword technique by Mr @Z, himself. The Principal is IN. @Z is the guy who looks like he could stop an 8th-grade food fight by clearing his throat. My Rexworld IRL count increments. (Hi @r.alph!)

    What does this mean for you? Two things: A) if you make it to greater Detroit and you are lucky enough to catch him on a slow day, be wise enough not to let the opportunity pass, and B) Expect me. I'm on my way over. ;)

    Whirred Whacks 12:35 AM  

    Medium for me. Liked the fill; thought the theme was so-so.

    Delighted to see LEM clued as "Sci-Fi writer Stanislaw" rather than "Lunar Explorer Module." One of my top 50 all-time favorite films is Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 version of Lem's "Solaris." Mesmerizing!

    Happily remembered that "toves" were SLITHY.

    Smiled at LAVALIERES. Often wore one during my speaking career.

    Enjoy your Thanksgiving prep.

    Unknown 12:40 AM  

    @Z Right! NATICK is pronounced NAY-dick. Rather like CITY is pronounced siddy. If you don't believe me, ask my fellow New Englanders: @jberg, @hartley70, @dirigonzo.

    Ravini 12:52 AM  

    Lavaliere comes from the term for pendant jewelry, as in something worn around the neck.

    All in all, I liked it, maybe cause it went down easier than expected. Seems like Rex needs a few days off -- maybe a nice shot of turkey tryptophan and a long nap will do the trick. A little to much snark lately, like 52D.

    Hope I never have to use the word slithy after a couple of drinks...

    Ravini 12:56 AM  

    I saw Jay Leno do standup in Boston early in his career and he was hilarious -- thought I was going to faint from laughter. But, alas, The Tonight Show ruined him -- or maybe it just wore him down. Sorry -- he just wasn't funny anymore. Never seemed to be really enjoying himself -- and it showed.

    retired_chemist 1:16 AM  

    Challenging for a Wednesday. I finished but with a Fri/Sat time.

    Did not know LAVALIERES even though I had heard the word. Put it in as a guess after I had about 6 crosses and lucked out. That plus prIMAL (?) for 11D made the NE a SLOG. Thinking the nBA started the 3 point shot made 42D a hassle and the SW also slow.

    But it was fun. Thanks, Mr. Maurer.

    chefwen 1:32 AM  

    Jon gave me a sweet, little necklace when he was in college with his Fraternity initials, at that time they called it "getting LAVALIERED" Don't know if they still call it that, it was long ago.

    O.K. puzzle for me, a little tough for a Wednesday. You're fired at 49A before I got the trick and changed it (a lot of Wite Out was sacrificed for this one.

    Young Bucky thought he was being very HEROIC today when he took out his first Rooster. One down, five million to go. Keep at it Buck!

    Anonymous 2:07 AM  

    Came here to grumble about the LAVALIERES + OSIER Natick only to find two people already did. The saving grace is that E is the only plausible letter, on general linguistic grounds.

    Andy 3:02 AM  

    Anyone else having issues with the iPad app update?

    I'm finding the app to be very sluggish . I'm not the fastest typer in the world and the app still lags behind what I enter in the grid. Then when you finish the puzzle, the app freezes for up to a minute before it lets you move to another page

    It is really annoying

    Charles Flaster 4:23 AM  

    Easy except for upper right.Clue for TRADE seems to miss its mark. Don't like ANIMAL either.
    Remainder was fine and theme was well taken.
    War Games was an eerily realistic movie but very well done.
    Great cluing for SPITBALL and PRESENT ARMS.
    EARLS was right up my alley and does contain many ANAGRAMS.
    Happy birthday Rex. You and Bob Hope and the Brooklyn Dodgers will have to "wait till next year".
    Thanks MM.

    Charles Flaster 4:24 AM  

    Easy except for upper right.Clue for TRADE seems to miss its mark. Don't like ANIMAL either.
    Remainder was fine and theme was well taken.
    War Games was an eerily realistic movie but very well done.
    Great cluing for SPITBALL and PRESENT ARMS.
    EARLS was right up my alley and does contain many ANAGRAMS.
    Happy birthday Rex. You and Bob Hope and the Brooklyn Dodgers will have to "wait till next year".
    Thanks MM.

    Charles Flaster 4:26 AM  

    Sorry for hitting Publish twice!!
    Now a third time.

    Unknown 5:15 AM  

    LAVALIERE gave me fits. It is a peculiar use, certainly a not modern (it's French obviously) spelling for a lapel or neck microphone.
    Happy Birthday, Rex.

    Anonymous 5:26 AM  

    The war theme was not amusing. Aden and Afghan were truly tone deaf.

    evil doug 6:21 AM  

    The Earls: One of the last great street-corner doo-wop groups. If you haven't heard "Remember Then", you need to check it out.

    I usually solve Wednesday puzzles in my head while freeloading the Times at sbux. But I got zero traction today. Almost spent $2.50 so I could dig into it with my pen. Almost.


    Lewis 6:58 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    ZenMonkey 7:22 AM  

    I didn't mind the theme clues, but I wasn't wild about WAR GAMES, for both Rex's reason (neither word is apt) and the one expressed by Anonymous and Lewis. "A little uncomfortable" is my feeling as well, not outrage or offense. I think the WAR vs "military" thing annoys me more.

    Hungry Mother 7:22 AM  

    It felt tough, but my time was on the easy side for a Wednesday. I thought the LA Times was tougher.

    Lewis 7:22 AM  

    @rex -- agreed with you on every point today, except the point about WARGAMES not being science fiction. I'm not disagreeing with you there, I just don't know. But everything else was spot on.

    There are only four double letters in the puzzle, very very low. I would have liked more clever cluing, as befits Wednesday. I like KNOW in the down low, SSW in the east, and the inclusion of CAT and ARF.

    Finally, I just felt a little uncomfortable with a puzzle that is so cavalier about war. "War games" is certainly more acceptable than "rape games", but to me it is far away from "ball games". FWIW.

    evil doug 7:34 AM  

    "Rape games"? Pretty sure that's not a thing.

    "War games" are a thing, though: Practice exercises that prepare troops for real battle. It doesn't suggest that war is a game--and those of us who have participated in war games can tell you that they're taken very seriously, because they may well save your ass when the real flag goes up.

    Let's try to save our indignation for actual problems instead of looking for trouble and trivializing them on a crossword blog.


    r.alphbunker 7:39 AM  

    Spent all my energy verifying that the crosses of LAVALIERES were correct (it had to be CARNEY) and didn't check the crosses for tIREME.

    And did you know that there is a Rex Parker tribute puzzle?. Don't wait until he is 100, try it today!

    Dorothy Biggs 7:48 AM  

    I finished the puzzle but didn't get a happy pencil. I scanned the puzzle several times looking for a mistake/typo and couldn't find any.

    The CARNEY/ACA looked suspicious because I think of "Obama Care" as The Affordable Healthcare Act...or AhA. But hARNEY?

    The next suspicious spot was the ABA/BIREME crossing. I don't know what BIREME is...even with the answer (Old galley) right in front of me....but I knew the 3-point shot had to be basketball related so the B had to stay.

    Finally, the next odd crossing was IOWAS/STS. I insisted that the "Midwest Tribe" be adjectival: IOWAn. Which meant that the A, B, C in DC were nTS...which seemed plausible given how certain I was that the midwest tribe was IOWAn.

    So after staring at all of the suspect spots, I thought the only spot that could be changed would be the N to an S...IOWAS. Done!

    I stil don't like IOWAS though. You have your IOWA tribe, your IOWAn tribe, and then, way down the list of possibilities, you might have several tribes falling under the Iowan nation and therefore becoming the IOWAS. Me no likey.

    I concur with Rex that there were some "more difficult than your average Wednesday" places which made the puzzle definitely challenging for me. As for the "WARGAMES" theme...meh. I hate war and all glorification of it...while this doesn't exactly "glorify" it, it gives it far more attention than it deserves.

    What's going on in Ferguson right now is dangerously close to war...we need to drop our insatiable need to gain control of situations through jack booted heavy handed militaristic means. War is passe, IMHO. And while the protesters in our country are wrong to resort to violence, our police forces are wrong to incite the violence by trying to pretend to be the American military. It is a mess that feeds into itself and it's probably going to get worse before it gets better.

    That said, let's leave references to war out of our everyday life, shall we? This isn't 1952 when that crap was de rigueur.

    Anonymous 7:49 AM  


    It may help to restart the app. To do so:

    1. Be in the crossword app.
    2. Double-press the home button at the bottom of the iPad (i.e., press twice in rapid succession)
    3. In the resulting horizontal array of images, you will see the image of the crossword app (scroll horizontally if necessary)
    4. With your finger, drag the image of the crossword app upward until it disappears
    5. Press the home button at the bottom of the iPad

    This might help a bit, but there's no doubt that this app is less responsive than previous versions.

    Unknown 7:57 AM  

    Newest NYT app is still missing Puzzazz-style grid annotators. Too bad.

    Happy birthday, @Rex. Maybe Ben Tausig has something nice for you.

    RooMonster 8:05 AM  

    Hey All !
    Agree with Rex on the difficulty level. Only had one writeover, however, 20D, AshoT for AREST. Still a DNF, had RuN/DuR for RAN/DAR and IOWAn/nTS. Figured nTS had something to do with A B C levels of transportation!!

    SLITHY was a new one on me. Jabberwocky was a bizarre film, I think I only saw it once. Terry Gilliam has had some odd movies, but that one wins out as tbe oddesr.

    Theme ok, but revealer seems off.


    Danp 8:24 AM  

    @evil doug - Really, you think its the blog that trivializes and not the puzzle itself?

    Josh 8:32 AM  

    My longest time for a Wednesday in a long time. I just couldn't get my brain on the same wavelength as the cluing. That's not to say that the puzzle isn't clued well, but I could never get on a roll.

    The NE was a killer for me. I just kept bouncing the cursor around, waiting for the answers to start coming.

    It's been well covered here already, but yeah, LAVALIERES crossing OSIER. Very ugly.

    It's worth re-watching "War Games" simply for the hilarity of it--Matthew Broderick is able to hack into the government's computer system using what looks to be a TRS-80. And there's nothing more thrillingly climactic than a game of Tic Tac Toe.

    Anonymous 8:34 AM  

    Seems there's always one blogger who finds the tougher puzzles (as acknowledged by our leader and most every blogger) "easy". Really?

    Lewis 8:35 AM  

    Factoid: The surrealist leader André Breton coined the ANAGRAM Avida Dollars for Salvador Dalí, to tarnish his reputation by the implication of commercialism.

    Quotoid: "To keep your marriage brimming, With love in the loving cup, Whenever you're wrong, ADMIT it; Whenever you're right, shut up." -- Ogden Nash

    joho 8:38 AM  

    First of all, I liked the movie, "WARGAMES" so remembering that was a nice blast from the past (or is the use of blast too violent?) I don't like war, either, but this is a crossword puzzle, for heaven's sake, with some clever answers related to WARGAMES ... emphasize on GAMES in my head.

    I liked figuring out the wacky clues which added some humor to the solve.

    SPITBALL is nice. IOR is not.

    The NE almost did me in but I got it in the end.

    I would have liked it if ANAGRAMS were replaced by an actual ANAGRAM instead.

    Onward to Thursday! Will it be a Thanksgiving Day puzzle? Hoping for a rebus!

    joho 8:39 AM  

    Oh, I forgot: Happy Birthday, Rex!

    Mohair Sam 8:41 AM  

    What @Rex said today, right down to solving from the edges in.

    Also agree with Rex on having Sci-Fi genre problems with "WAR GAMES." I know, I know, I've read above - but it just doesn't feel right.

    Our LAVALIERES framingham was just above everyone else's - the I in ELI. OSIER being remembered from other crossword puzzles.

    Mohair Sam 8:45 AM  

    Oh yeah - great post today @CASCO. Thanks for sharing the pic too. And you're dead right on NAY-dick, first time I visited a customer there my "t" pronunciation was corrected.

    mathguy 9:02 AM  

    Happy birthday, Rex! You're a cool dude. You add a lot to an old man's days.

    I agree with your criticism completely although I would have been tougher. L O O S E is the word.

    Sir Hillary 9:03 AM  

    Interesting puzzle, which I found quite hard for a Wednesday. Theme doesn't hang together, and there's too much crosswordese, as pointed out by @BirthdayBoy. On the other hand, the NE and SW corners are real beauties, and I admire the preponderance of long (8+) non-theme entries. The grid layout and thin theme almost made this feel like a themeless, and not a bad one at that. So, lots to like despite the flaws.

    @evil - Thank you.

    mac 9:07 AM  

    Happy Birthday, Rex!

    My experience was very similar to Rex's. That MASH unit was hard to see.

    My husband helped me with "slithy", he knows the thing by heart. To me it's just jabberwocky.

    I think in Europe the War Games are called exercises. Huge, international events, and certainly very important.

    mac 9:09 AM  

    P.S. Interesting talk about sci fi. I just watched the movie "Her". Where does that one belong?

    Bird 9:22 AM  

    Happy Birthday @Rex!

    Agree with on problem with theme, but disagree that the movie is not sci-fi. In 1983 smart computers were a thing of fiction.

    9D indeed tough, but my issue was it crossing 16A.

    Steve M 9:28 AM  


    Fredd Smith 9:32 AM  

    Casco --

    Maybe some Bostonians call it "Na-dick," but not many. Originally a mill town just west of upscale Wellesley, Natick has become quite gentrified by now.

    And on the subject of Flutie and "hail marys," do you know where Doug played his high school football? BTW, he still lives there.

    -- Fred

    Anonymous 9:58 AM  

    I'm just so grateful to finally get the app to sort of work that I loved the puzzle. Any puzzle! I'm running iOS 7 on an iPad 2 because I don't have enough memory for iOS 8. I deleted the app and downloaded it again and finally got the puzzles. But after I did the mini I had to turn the iPad off and on again to get to the big puzzle.

    chefbea 10:02 AM  

    Happy birthday @Rex. If the weather wasn't so bad I'd make you a cake and drive it up to you!!

    Puzzle was too tough...couldn't get it and DNF. Now I have a lot of prepping to do!! Hope tomorrow's puzzle is easier than today's. Lots of cooking to do

    Lewis 10:02 AM  

    @doug -- You know my posts well enough that I'm not one who looks for trouble in my comments. After I did the puzzle, there was just a little bad taste in my mouth because this puzzle was playing word games with war terms. It felt like war was being trivialized to me, and I just expressed that.

    jberg 10:10 AM  

    @casco, I grew up in Wisconsin, and you can still hear it, although I've lived here for 72% of my life though. That said, I think I say 'nay-tick;' however, the English would deny that I am pronouncing that T at all, more like "Na'ick." But the important part is the long A, not evident from the spelling.

    As for the puzzle: I don't mind POCs as long as they are clued that way, but both IOWAS and TETRAS had clues suggesting the singular. Deception can be good, but not that kind.

    My opinions of war (and much else in politics) are probably the opposite pole from @evil_doug, but I'm with him on this. First, there's nothing trivial about WAR GAMES; and second, wars are real events, and very important ones, and as such belong in puzzles as much as anything else.

    @Rex, many happy returns!

    jberg 10:13 AM  

    Almost forgot -- here's a nice photo of a stand of red OSIER dogwood. Once I knew the plant, I never forgot the word.

    pmdm 10:23 AM  

    Science fiction is not a genre about aliens and space travel. Yes, it would include those topics, but it is much broader than just that. Think back to the great Rod Serling Twilight Zone episodes. It can simply involve a simple object with special powers (like a tossed coin that lands on its edge) or a fortune telling machine in a diner (which may or may not have special powers). Or it can be simply a fictional story in a futuristic setting, the The Obsolete Man. If you accept this broader definition of science fiction, War Games was certainly a story that would be classified as science fiction.

    In his comments in today's WordBlog entry, Mr. Maurer makes some very interesting comments. He rightly admits that today's theme is really not war games but things military, so 58A should probably have read "a hint to theme of this puzzle" but that really wouldn't have been a good clue either. Probably, the remark about the title would have been best left out of the clue. Anyway, it's interesting to note that Maleska had accepted 6 puzzles of Mr. Maurer's before his death that Shortz rejected when he took over as editor. Not a nice thing to do.

    RnRGhost57 10:26 AM  

    Happy b-day Rex. Analysis spot on today.

    Z 10:28 AM  

    @mac - I haven't seen Her, but based on what I've read and heard, it, too, is "near-future science fiction." The conceit seems pretty similar to WARGAMES, what happens when our computers start to evolve. This is actually a fairly common sci fi theme explored in works like I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream and Star Trek. The only difference is how far out in the future the work is set. I think people have been conditioned by the film industry to think sci fi is about space ships and distant planets or dystopian futures. These are really just a subset of sci fi.

    I'm with @Evil on being surprised at the upset. Recognizing that we are all pattern seeking creatures, I still have to ask, "seriously?"

    Apparently I've worn LAVALIERES, but have only ever called it a "mic." Thanks @chefwen, for the jewelry origin. No one has ever lavaliered me. Confession time, looking at LAVAL----- I wondered if LAVALampes were a thing.

    @RooMonster - Your first thought on SLITHY was Gilliam's film? Now I'm wondering if you and I grew up on the same planet. Wowser. Might I suggest finding a kid to read to and choosing Alice in Wonderland followed by Through the Looking Glass.

    @Fredd Smith - I am reminded that some long time Michigan residents will pronounce "Mackinac" to rhyme with "knack." Hopefully they have a friend who will correct them in private. The city solved the confusion by spelling it the way it sounds in English.

    Z 10:32 AM  

    @Lewis - I see you answered my question while I was cleaning up multiple typos. Okay. I did not get that same bad taste.

    chefbea 10:42 AM  

    @chefwen - meant to say this earlier... I remember lavaliers and being lavaliered. ...way back when

    AliasZ 10:43 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    AliasZ 10:48 AM  

    This military puzzle was bordering on Thursday-ish difficulty level, but I had great fun solving it. Then I read @Rex's write-up to find out that I didn't have any fun with it at all.

    War is hell. ALTHO's in agreement say eye.

    So let's focus instead on the juicy bits, starting with Art CARNEY almost giving Ralph Kramden a cardiac AREST.
    I loved the multiple ANIMAL references with CAT, AFGHAN, ARF and the ARA RAT, which is a fancy rat related to the lab rat, but not yet recognized by the American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association.
    Yesterday we had I CAN'T NOW, today we have I DON'T KNOW. How about some positivity here, huh?
    I loved the pretty feminine names TABITHA (from the Arameic, meaning 'gazelle') and AMANDA (from Latin, meaning 'worthy of love'). Anyone looking for AMANDA Hugginkiss? STEP INSIDE my den, let me show you my collection of LAVALIERES.
    I am unable to sense any additional urgency or enhancement of meaning when one affixes UP to the end of LISTEN. Is "LISTEN UP!" any better, stronger, more attention-getting or more emphatic than "LISTEN!"? Would people ignore you if you yelled "LISTEN down!" or "LISTEN sideways!"? It reminds me of people in the service industry who affix "guys" to the end of every sentence when taking orders. "How are you guys?" "What would you like to drink guys?" "Any dessert guys?" especially when I am sitting there with two ladies, TABITHA and AMANDA. It may be their way of appearing chummy and caring, and it is a little more endearing than BUB, but it drives me insane.

    @Rex, allow me to offer you a beautiful birthday card: this superb recording of the Dance of the Seven AVAILS from the opera "Salome" (another lovely feminine name, from Hebrew, meaning 'peace') by Richard Strauss.

    Quotoid: "What do you expect to find in a pincushion, chicken noodles? - Ed Norton. [Sorry Lewis, I couldn't resist].


    Questinia 10:56 AM  

    LAD (mag)

    + all the wargame terms. The testosterone is enough to turn poor AMANDA into a A MAN.

    I accuse Mr. Maurer of cruciverbal sexISM.

    Yes I will use anything to justify my awful solve time.

    RooMonster 10:59 AM  

    Never said I was learned in the classics! (Or sentence structure or word tense!)


    Ludyjynn 11:01 AM  

    Speaking of WARGAMES, it was apt to have Fort Ticonderoga in this puzz. If you are traveling North in New York state, a detour to the Fort is a must. Beautiful scenery and a well-maintained historical site. Then you can take the cutest little nearby car ferry across the bottom of Lake Champlain into Vermont. Follow Route 7 all the way upstate to Burlington and you will end up at the University of Vermont, founded by Ira Allen, brother of ETHAN.

    AMANDA Bynes is a former chld star whose recent mental health problems have been too scrupulously reported via tabloid media frenzy. Give the young woman and her family some privacy, IMO.

    @Lewis, your Ogden Nash quotoid is similar to a remark a very nice man once told me after I asked him what the secret was to his long and happy marriage. He said, "After a disagreement, I readily admit: you were right, I was wrong, I'm sorry."

    Happy B-day, Rex.

    This puzz. was a toughie for a while and I wondered whether I was going to end up like Humpty Dumpty and go SPLAT, but it finally came together. I guess I was distracted watching the rainfall outside turn into snowflakes. For those of you traveling today, stay safe!

    Thanks, MSM and WS.

    Elaine2 11:04 AM  


    When I got "anagrams" on the "Letterman" clue, I wondered if it had to do with David Letterman -- does he do anagrams on his show (I don't watch it...)

    Otherwise -- ok puzzle, not wild about the theme.

    Happy Birthday, Rex!

    wreck 11:04 AM  

    This was a medium-challenging Wednesday puzzle for me. The theme was too loose for my taste, mostly solved it as a themeless.

    I have to agree that the new ipad app was sluggish - I thought it was just me until I came here!

    My first trip to the Boston area, I was quickly corrected on my pronunciation of "Peabody." I was saying "Pea-Body" where it actually should be "Pea-Ba-Dee."

    Questinia 11:07 AM  



    [[[ looks at photo ]]]

    well alrighty, then.
    never mind.

    Anoa Bob 11:23 AM  

    Dang! Yet another movie I've never seen turns up in the grid. Everything I know about Star Wars & Harry Potter, I've picked up from crosswords. At least I've heard of those but not WAR GAMES. I do better with European rivers, Ancient Abyssinian fertility goddesses, and old galleys.

    Another thing I'd never heard of was the expression ON THE DOWN LOW, in Monday's puzz (28 Across). Last night during a break in our poker game, one of the players was telling us about having to close three of his stores in Mexico because the narco-cartel thugs began insisting that he adopt a "better business plan". He was still trying to sell the buildings, but was afraid the cartel would muscle in on that too, so he was selling them, in his words, "ON THE DOWN LOW". Synchronicity? Nah. Just a very low probability coincidence, methinks.

    Mohair Sam 11:29 AM  

    @Questina (11:07). Good stuff.

    Bob Kerfuffle 11:44 AM  

    Happy Birthday, Rex, and give my regards to Michael, too!

    I thought this puzzle was better than the average Wednesday, but I must admit I felt a bit let down when I got to the "reveal." (But now I read above that the constructor himself wasn't completely happy with it either.)

    At least there is a shout-out at 61 A to "a M&A".

    Hartley70 11:52 AM  

    When I read that @Z went to Natick pronunciation class I stopped and had to wonder if there is any other way to say Natick? When I got to @Casco I was talking to myself, saying Natick and laughing because of course it is NAY DICK! In my defense, it is nevertheless a very very soft D! It's an Eastern Mass and Little Rhody root thing, and dems my roots! And yes it's Pee b'dee and my personal fav Wusta!

    I remember sweet fraternity lavalieres, but they were just before my time when SDS ruled the campus world.

    Oh the puzzle, right. Like the majority I agree with Rex, mostly because it's his B-Day PARTY and he can etc. etc,.....you know how it goes. If not see Lesley Gore.

    Hartley70 11:58 AM  

    @JudyLynn, you know your Rte 7, a road after my own heart!

    Arlene 12:27 PM  

    I didn't seem to have any trouble with this puzzle - must be because I know about LAVALIERES. Funny what vocabulary finally becomes useful eventually.
    I didn't know BIREME, but got it from the crosses.

    I'm not a fan of WAR anything - but understood that WAR GAMES does refer to practice runs in the military, to be prepared for the real thing.

    Some excitement is building over the movie "The Imitation Game" - with crosswords at the center of attention. Following Facebook and Twitter pages about it.

    Questinia 1:07 PM  

    ❆❊✺❄︎❅ I was planning to go up Rte 7 on my way to Natick today .❆❊✺❄︎❅❆❊✺❄︎❅❆❊✺❄︎❅❆❊✺❄︎❅❆❊✺❄︎❅
    ❆❊✺❄︎❅ NOT happening .❆❊✺❄︎❅❆❊✺❄︎❅❆❊✺❄︎❅

    Z 1:48 PM  

    @Q - I, like every school administrator ever, have a "cafeteria voice" at my disposal. The "Cafeteria Voice" is the closest thing to "the Force" one can find in nature. It is especially scary to me when it works on a roomful of adults. To my knowledge, this is the first time ever that it has worked at a distance on the internet. That it worked without my actual employment of it should concern everyone. I promise to use my new found internet power responsibly.

    @Anoa Bob - At this point WARGAMES is an interesting cultural artifact. Dial-Up modems, pay phones, hackers as good guys, and the "classic" scene of the guard being distracted by the beautiful secretary allowing the hero to escape (and save the world by getting the super smart computer to play tic-tac-toe).

    @Roo - If ever presented with the choice of, say, Jane Eyre or Alice I recommend Alice. Others may disagree. So much to read, so little time. More importantly, do not pick Jane when reading to children.

    Looking at the weather reports it sounds like much of the eastern seaboard is having a Buffalo sort of day. Stay safe.

    dick swart 1:50 PM  

    Slithy toves always welcome here!

    Step inside!

    Masked and AnonymoUUs 1:57 PM  

    Congrats to @Q, for authoring the first known literally snowed-in comment. har. Drive safe, if U change yer mind, darlin.

    A very Happy B-Day to @63. I take it IOR didn't quite blow out yer candles? (Sweet wittle weeject.) Well anyhoo, may yer most special B-Day wish come true, dude.

    I probably woulda classified the "WAR GAMES" flick as Fantasy, but I can be generous around the holidays and go with Sci-Fi. Really liked the MASHUNIT clue.

    @Evil is 100% balls-on correct: "Remember Then" is a great little tune. The Earls were pretty much a one-hit wonder, but I also love (and own) their "Life Is But a Dream" and "Looking for My Baby" 45 rpms. Primo.

    Best wishes, for y'all's travels and digestions.
    A M and A. (yo, @BobK.)

    **turkey gruntz**

    LaneB 2:08 PM  

    Toughest Wednesday in my experience. Got lots of stuff wrong due to horrible cluing and DNF'd miserably. STS? SETS meaning Goes down? LAVALIERES? MASHUNIT? OSIERS? No Thanksgiving treat, this one!

    Anonymous 2:29 PM  

    Mr. Caldwell,

    Lavaliere is perfectly modern. I'll grant that it's specialized. But those of us in film and video production know it well. But, if anyone cares, we don't use it much, if ever. When ever anyone speaks of that kind of mic it's always, awlways, called a lav.



    Anonymous 2:37 PM  

    @ LaneB

    Sun sets.

    L 3:41 PM  

    Love this.

    L 3:45 PM  

    War Games is simply not a sci-fi movie do it took me forever to sort this all out. Tough Wednesday and not satisfying.
    FWIW, Leno hasn't been remotely funny for years. The Tonight Show sealed that deal.

    Anonymous 3:51 PM  

    Wargames is definitely sci-fi, in that its plot revolves around a super intelligent computer endowed with artificial intelligence. Yes, it's dated and cheesy, but it's still sci-fi--an extremely broad genre, by the way. I read sci-fi nearly every day (currently Norman Spinrad) and the variation between stories is enormous. Some is super hard science, aliens and spaceships. Some takes place in a nearly identical parallel world. Some of it is about adventurous heroes and some of it is about impoverished drug addicts. The mind and it's universe is a big place to explore.

    Benko 3:52 PM  

    That anon scifi post was me, sorry didn't post my name.

    old timer 4:20 PM  

    I really had no problem with the puzzle this morning. Every answer fell into place, with the help of crosses. And I immediately thought of lavaliere in reference to microphones.

    I have read Alice in Wonderland more times than I can count. Jabberwocky is as wonderful in French as English ("Gardez le Jaseroque, mon fils! And if you ever go to an oyster-eating party, the Walrus and the Carpenter should be recited to the assembled party.

    Unknown 5:51 PM  

    Lavaliers were also Art Deco jewelry c.1920s. My aunt used to have some. Very collectible now.

    ZenMonkey 5:52 PM  

    @Evil Doug & others:

    I'll have to remember that on this blog, "a little uncomfortable" = furious indignation.

    My husband is a veteran. I am extremely well versed in mílitary culture. I target shoot for fun. And I'm entitled to express my *slightly* negative feelings about the revealer.

    Save your inaccurate lectures for something more important, how about. You do not get to decide how other people feel about things.

    Teedmn 7:30 PM  

    Happy birthday @ Rex.

    I had WARGAMES before SHORELEAVE and shook my head at the tenuousness of the theme. And I agree with @Questinia on the testerone-heavy clues; I make a point at work to use "salesperson" which is accurate, albeit unwieldy.

    Bit there were a lot of clues to like. 8A, 17A, 30A, 34A, 6D and 13D made up for a lot.

    Science fiction/Fantasy is overwhelmingly my genre of choice for reading, and I would say "WARGAMES", the movie, fits the category. But the term itself is not something I'm comfortable with. Sure, it's a thing, but it also seems to be something political leaders do with other people's kids.

    On that downer thought, I will close, looking for a nice rebus puzzle for Thanksgiving. Speaking of, thanks, Mr. Maurer, for a bit of a Wednesday challenge.

    Anonymous 8:48 PM  

    War Games is not sci-fi. Worst clue in a while...

    Questinia 9:14 PM  

    @Z, I reckon since not everybody has access to a "cafeteria voice" that school administrators are born and not made.

    &others Z 9:30 PM  

    @ZenMonkey - My intent was not to tell you or @Lewis or anyone else how to feel. I do want to point out how the day has progressed- "A little uncomfortable" --> "indignation" --> "furious indignation." This is how flame wars escalate. For what it's worth, here's the definition that appears when you google "indignation:" "feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment." That is how I interpreted your post and several others on first reading, hence my expression of surprise. Rereading now, I think my impression was at least in part because there were multiple posts saying the same thing, perhaps suggesting more "indignation" than any single post alone would have.

    Vanessa 6:22 PM  

    I had recently looked up lavalier(e) while watching Chicago and hearing Roxie Hart sing about having one down to her waist. Serendipity, baby!

    rondo 1:27 PM  

    Lots of thin skin amongst the posters. For a xword blog.
    Found this one on the EZ side again, just a little slow in the NE, apt since it's where apparently most of the posters seem to live.
    I was once a member of the BSA.
    Someone's first reference above when given a Jabberwocky clue was a film? Dear, dear, dear.
    Fittingly, AMANDA Bynes (as a yeah baby) was on the cover and inside of at least one of the LAD mags - Maxim.
    WARGAMES as clued was not the most apt, but not offensive to me (see my first comment).
    Puz was decent enough even if most of the very abundant 3s were abbr.s

    2015 captcha = Happy New Year to all syndis

    DMG 2:25 PM  

    A little slow to start, but I stayed witth it and managed a DF. Just don't understand the clue for LAD. From other posters I gather it's a magazine, but what are "Maxim" and "FHM"? Knew OSIERS from the Maleska days. as for LAVALIERES, think of all those painting of long ago British Duchesses with jewels hanging to the waist.

    Wonder if this will post. Last time Imhad a good Captcha my comments vanished into space, and this one is 306

    rondo 2:32 PM  

    @DMG - Magazines such as Maxim are aimed at young men (LADs i suppose) and feature photo layouts of popular or up-and-coming actresses,etc. who are invariably scantily clad. And "dating advice", features on extreme sports, and such.

    eastsacgirl 3:29 PM  

    A tad tough for a Wednesday even though WARGAMES came pretty easy. Happy NY to all the syndis!

    spacecraft 5:42 PM  

    Boy, was this EVER not in my wheelhouse! I finished less than half of it. No clue how to proceed further. Some days I feel so dumb.

    Next year I'll be smarter. I hope. The bod's gone, guys; if the mind leaves I got nuthin.'

    5147: is 8 enough?

    rain forest 6:54 PM  

    Really liked this spunky little puzzle. Of course, the BIG question remains: Is WAR GAMES sci-fi or fantasy? This is apparently really important.

    continuing to be a non-baccarat-playing robot. No fun.

    rondo 8:00 PM  

    @spacey - I think my 2015 (appropriate, no?) Some days are like that. Sorry

    rondo 8:02 PM  

    This commentpy sometimes box is jum

    Gaming Desks 10:46 AM  

    I guess the clues are playing "games" by being wacky (?): Theme answers: ... igamingdesks.blogspot.com

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