Home of Team Coco / WED 12-31-14 / Muslim princely title / Firth of Clyde island / Pioneering sci-fi play / Actor with movie line Me I always tell truth even when I lie

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Constructor: David Woolf

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: PRNDL (68A: Quintet representing the ends of the answers to the five starred clues) — theme answers end in PARK, REVERSE, NEUTRAL, DRIVE, and LOW

Theme answers:
  • THEME PARK (18A: *Legoland, for one)
  • DOUBLE REVERSE (29A: *Tricky football play)
  • GENDER NEUTRAL (34A: *Like you or me?)
  • INTERNAL DRIVE (44A: *Essential feature of a PC)
  • SWEET 'N' LOW (57A: *Equal rival)
Word of the Day: EYRA (41A: South American wildcat) —
The jaguarundi or eyra cat (Puma yagouaroundi), is a small, wild cat native to Central and South America. In 2002, the IUCN classified the jaguarundi as Least Concern, although they considered it likely that no conservation units beyond the megareserves of the Amazon Basin could sustain long-term viable populations. Its presence in Uruguay is uncertain.
In some Spanish-speaking countries, the jaguarundi is also called gato coloradogato moroleón breneroonzatigrillo, and leoncillo. The Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation of its common English and Portuguese name is IPA: [ʒɐɡwɐɾũˈdʒi]. It is also called gato-mouriscoeirágato-preto, and maracajá-preto in Portuguese. Jaguarundi comes from Old Tupi yawaum'di. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a simple, almost retro theme—a "last words"-type theme that is pretty well executed. Theme answers are solid, interesting, nicely chosen. My only real criticism today is that the puzzle is overly ambitious at 74 words. What I mean is, the fill might've come out a lot cleaner and more pleasing if the grid had been a more generous and forgiving 76 words. Sounds like a minor distinction, but the difference between driving one eight-letter word down through three (!) themers and driving two (!!)? It's major. In the NE, the long Downs are OK, and the resulting surrounding fill consequences really aren't terrible; only ARRAN and ETH rate as sub-optimal (from my POV). In the SW (the other area with 2 eights crossing 3 themers), things are quite a bit worse, starting with RRR (never good) and EYRA (an answer that has never been in a Shortz-era puzzle before, and has, per cruciverb.com, been in only one crossword from a major publisher … ever. One.). O'MARA and PLAT are mildly wobbly, and then there's NAWAB (50D: Muslim princely title), another answer of EYRA-like obscurity (it's been in only one NYT puzzle since I started blogging 8+ years ago). On the plus side, I actually like those parallel 8s in the SW (DETECTOR and EYES ON ME). But I think the puzzle would've been better overall with a higher-word-count grid that allowed the themers to breathe a little, and took some of the pressure off the short stuff.

  • 37D: School basics, in a manner of speaking (RRR) — Should've put this in right away, but resisted, both because I had PUMA for EYRA (grrr…), and because I felt sure there was some other expression that would've fit that I was forgetting. But I think I was thinking of ABCS, which, of course, wouldn't fit.
  • 40D: Big name in jeans (LEVI) — wrote in LEE'S. Then, as if to taunt me, LEE showed up with the same clue (47D).
  • 49A: Art house showings (INDIES) — I love that this answer is over MALL COP, since it makes me think of "Paul Blart: MALL COP" and "Paul Blart: MALL COP 2" (!!?), which are, let's say, not INDIES.
  • 1A: Manual (STICK) — I guess this is a theme answer too, now that I think of it. Or an anti-answer, since PRNDL really applies only to cars with automatic (non-STICK!) transmission.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:05 AM  

Easy-medium for me.   REMains before REMNANT was my only erasure. 

Liked the Conan mini theme. 

WOES:  ARRAN (if I've seen it didn't STICK), OMARA, EYRA, NAWAB, although I see that O'MARA was on The Good Wife for a few episodes.

Pretty solid Wed.  I'd much rather meet NAWAB on Wed. than on Tues.  Liked it.

wreck 12:14 AM  

The theme reminded me of Lisa Douglas on Green Acres who when learning to drive asked Oliver what the "pernendal" does.
Found this as medium only because of a few WOE's: (EYRA, NAWAB,ARRAN,and AIOLI.)
I got them with crosses and guesses.

Anonymous 12:17 AM  

What's so terribly wrong with eyra? Just because it has not appeared frequently in crosswords is no reason to damn it.
Is jaguarundi more preferred?

retired_chemist 12:29 AM  

Liked it. No problem areas. Just steady albeit not terribly fast progress all over.

Hand up for pumA - I bet a lot of us had that.

Before MALL COP, had wALL Cam and hALL Cam. Readily fixed.

Liked Arran. Confused it with Aran, which is of the west coast of Ireland.

Thanks, Mr. Woolf.

Charles Flaster 12:30 AM  

Easy but lucky to get NAWAB as I never heard of Team Coco.
Also never heard of ARRAN or EYRA.
Liked cluing for EYES ON ME, GENDER NEUTRAL and MAIDS.
Caught theme at DOUBLE REVERSE.
Loved how PRNDL was last clue (across).
Thanks DW.

r.alphbunker 12:30 AM  

Not surprisingly my last entry was the B of NAWAB/TBS. TBS is enough like CBS and NBC to make it a good guess.

My wife once asked one of her students if he knew how to drive a standard and he said yes thinking she meant automatic. He was thinking of standard as normal and perhaps automatics are now normal and manual transmissions are the exception.

Unknown 12:36 AM  

Medium Challenging/Unsolvable. Quit with a complete grid and innumerable errors at 35 min. It turns out there were only 6.
1. PLoT/OMoRA Well. That's what makes this unsolvable in my book, but it is good to know PLAT is a synonym for PLoT. It is however nothing to know Jason OMARA, a journeyman actor whose career is a sum of guest-starring roles on TV hour-long dramas.
2. R[aeiou]T/[aeiou]RRAN. I tried them all but couldn't get the web app to take any of them. Errors 1 & 3 were blocking acceptance. I ended up throwing in the towel here. Geography is always fair game. I'll grant that there's novelty value in knowing that Michael Jackson contributed to the sound track of a B-grade horror movie.
3. EYRe/REMNeNT is a dope-slap for misspelling REMNANT. EYRA is fair. It looks a bit like a Madagascar fossa. Nice to see that EYRA are not endangered.
A better than average David Woolf offering as it contains a) useful and b) accurate information. There's no E=mc foolishness, and we aren't inventing ARIZONIAN. That's a step forward. But PRNDL? TRANSMISSION FLUID running vertically to connect the states would have been cool. Yeah. Otherwise, it's a Monday theme stuck in P.
@jae, Re AVC: It seems I can't assume anything about diagramless puzzles: not squareness of grid, not regularity of dimension, not absence of cheater squares. Indeed, it may well be that words can be 2-letters long or that many letters aren't checked. Tausig isn't talking. A wide open rule set will make for a wide number of candidate grids to solve. Great.

It will take days to work out this diagram-less puzzle. There are many theorems to prove, first. Not sure I'll even try the rest of the puzzles. The second one, e.g., looks totally undoable.

Steve J 12:44 AM  

Nice Wednesday puzzle. Liked the theme (even if i had gears instead of PRNDL for a while; never mind that neutral's not a gear) and its constituent phrases. Those pieces, along with EYES ON ME and MALL COP, outweighed the bits of shaky fill that were scattered throughout.

Anonymous 1:14 AM  

Pretty surprising to me that PRNDL has been used five times now in NYT puzzles, all in the Shortz era.

Meanwhile AIOLI has been used a couple of dozen times, not surprising in hindsight for vowel-saturated crosswordese.

AliasZ 1:36 AM  

My favorite part of the puzzle was the STICK as the first entry and its symmetrical counterpart, PRNDL. I found the end-of-the-phrase theme fairly clever for a Wednesday, since none of them were automotive-related. Unfortunately it was downshift from there, evidence of stress caused by the large number of theme squares: NAWAB, ARRAN, OMARA, IBN, PLAT, RRR, EYRA (should be "EYRA cat").

Some nice entries do stick out though: LIMA, PERU, RACEDAY, AIRWAY, EYES ON ME, DETECTOR and a few others.

We have a REMNANT from yesterday's HERAT: a GENDER-NEUTRAL RAT. MIRA, que lindo!

Funny how SEX & DRIVE intersect. Coincidence or intelligent design?

There are two IBN's I am familiar with from high school history many decades ago. One of them is IBN Sīnā, better known by his Latinized name Avicenna (980-1037), the Persian polymath and writer of a philosophical/schientific encyclopedia, as well as many other works in numerous scientific fields: mathematics, astronomy, geography, psychology, logic, physics, etc.

The other one is IBN Battuta (1304-1368/69), the Moroccan explorer who wrote a book about his extensive travels called "Journey." He is considered to be one of the greatest travelers in history.

But I won't bore you with details. Have a wonderful last day of the year, and a good year to follow.

chefwen 1:57 AM  

I am a member of the "Crazy Cat Ladies of America" and thought I knew every cat name in the book. Not so EYRA, of course I had Puma first. I have heard of Jaguarundi. Anyway puma was my only write-over with this enjoyable puzzle.

Caught on after the initial PARK & REVERSE and filled in all the PRDNL easily.

EYES ON ME was fun, as was the whole puzzle. Thanks David Woolf!

Now that all the annonamooses know that @Rex doesn't read the comments maybe they will cease and desist, we can only hope.

Thomas808 5:03 AM  

I liked the multiple mini themes in the clues: 17A, 40D, 47D with jeans theme; 4D, 6D with Mad Men / Mad HATTER; 26A, 32A fairy tale; 66A, 62D Conan; and even 42A, 44D Does something / Do nothing. It's a whimsical touch that adds a lot.

From the crosses I learned that BEN was a RAT. Somehow I always thought that song was about Gentle Ben, the bear from the movie and TV series. Checking on Wiki I see that BEN the RAT was not so gentle. I also learned that BEN was Michael Jackson's first solo #1 hit. Wow.

There's a hot dog place in Honolulu called Haute Dog that offers garlic AIOLI. To me it sure looks, feels, and tastes like regular mayo with garlic mixed in. Not healthy but mmmm!

GILL I. 6:01 AM  

And all this time I thought PUCE was green.
HELLO...Show me the Money! Was that PACINO?
Cute puzzle with a few head scratchers. Tennis court determination was LINE instead of LONG??? TBS doesn't mean a thing to me and EYRA could be a savings account for all I know.
Did you know that Dom GUWOP goes by the name Prurient? Is there a singer named concupiscent?
NEWAB to you David Woolf...fun Wednesday!

Hartley70 6:36 AM  

@Gill I. Me too! Sort of a yellow sickly green. I wonder if my brain can process a new color at this age? It's so subjective anyway. Maybe my red is bluer than someone else's red. Hmm.

My app is behaving today. Maybe it works better in the dark. Whatever makes it happy. Yesterday it was a bear.

I only felt stuck at TBS/NAWAB but I took a lucky guess at the B. To get the little jingle I had to reexamine my answers and I changed plot to PLAT. It made sense to me since my neighborhood as a kid was called a plat

I really liked this one. It felt like a perfect Wednesday. Some difficulty at first glance but once started became fair and do-able. The theme was simple but charmingly nostalgic. This is the first time we don't have a manual transmission vehicle around the house, and I miss the stick. However knees must when the devil drives and you're over 65!

Anonym, but not rude 7:08 AM  

Are yesterday's leftovers allowed?

@Leon, @Ted Vann --
Here's what I had in mind. I know it isn't exactly LOOP DE LOOP, but I don't know a song that is.

Here we go looby loo
Here we go looby light
Here we go looby loo
ALL on a Saturday night
You put your right hand in
You take your right hand out
You give your hand a shake, shake, shake
And turn yourself about.

I showed you mine; now it's your turn.

@Zeke, do you really think most people missed the orderly click-over from one LOOP to the next? I thought that was the most obvious feature, caught it for #3. Except that, on account of the direction I was solving, I made it a CCW change. Oddly, it seems harder to produce CCW than CW changes. Must be the old-fashioned clocks and telephone dials I grew up with.

Um... with which I grew up.

Apologies if looking back is frowned upon.

Søren Kierkegaard 7:33 AM  

RE Trolls:
Showing that they don’t care about me, or caring that I should know they don’t care about me, still denotes dependence… They show me respect precisely by showing me that they don’t respect me.

chefbea 7:43 AM  

Got the theme right away but DNF..too many words I did not know - eyra,omora, nawab.

Z 7:52 AM  

4 minutes faster than yesterday, even with the symmetrical ARRAN/NAWAB, so pretty easy Wednesday/Typical Tuesday puzzle.

Isn't all AIOLI garlic? I noticed I was served "mustard AIOLI the other day. It tasted like mustard with a little garlic added.

@but not rude - the only issue is not everyone does puzzles sequentially. Whenever the need to talk about some other puzzle arises, special care not to spoil the other puzzle should be taken out of politeness to other solvers.

INTERNAL SEX DRIVE FIX - is that a Viagra clue?

Danp 8:00 AM  

PUCE came up at a trivia party a few years ago. Everybody there thought it was green (including me). I can't find any word we might be confusing it with, unless maybe chartreuse. Or maybe we are conflating chartreuse with something in the Exorcist?

Lewis 8:00 AM  

I learned NAWAB, PARR, EYRA, ARRAN, and OMARA, thanks to the fair crosses. I like the answers EYESONME and DRUMUP. The puzzle woke my brain up for this last day of the year.

PUCE to me is such an ugly word. I would have replaced ALP with ALF and ONCE with ONME. (Making FUME instead of PUCE.)

@aliasz -- great catch on the cross of SEX and DRIVE!

Have a terrific Eve, all!

Danp 8:03 AM  

@Z - Ai is garlic. Oli(o) is oil. Aioli is basically mayonaise with garlic.

Dorothy Biggs 8:18 AM  

Got NAWAB and ARRAN completely from crosses. I've never seen them before in my entire life. I mean seriously, how can I be sure of anything when I come to this point in my life and discover there are still lots of things not only that I do not know, but that I've never even conceived as possible to exist? A life lesson, to be sure.

Once I sussed out the theme (somewhere after PARK and REVERSE), I just filled in the blanks at the end of the phrase (NEUTRAL, DRIVE, and LOW)...from there the first part of the phrases fell, and since the puzzle wasn't ridiculously hard, the rest fell into place quickly.

Didn't care for REUP and RETRY along with DRUMUP and REUP in such close proximity, much less in the same puzzle. Seems um...inelegant or something.

I did like that DENIM, LEVI and LEE were in the same puzzle. I also had LEes first. For what it's worth, I'm a Levi's man.

I remember when BEN came out. Relatively scary at the time...not so much these days...sorta like Swamp Thing or The Blob. Old movies just aren't that scary any more. Except for Night of the Living Dead. That still freaks me out.

Danield 8:22 AM  

Thank you, Mr. Woolf, for your enjoyable puzzle. Thought I had it knocked until I erred with plot v. plat. Cross didn't help me because, once again, ignorance of television shows/actors (and rap music titles/artists) was my Achilles heel.

Lewis 8:22 AM  

Factoid: While rental cars and taxis in the US are nearly universally equipped with automatic transmission, in Europe they are mostly equipped with STICK.

Quotoid: "A computer ONCE beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing." -- Emo Philips

AliasZ 8:23 AM  

[Those averse to pretentious pedantry, please skip this comment.]

PÉCS is a city in SW Hungary, population 156,000, the birth place of Győző Vásárhelyi (1906-1997) better known as Victor Vasarely, the grandfather of the op-art movement. Next time you see OPART in a puzzle, you will know.

LIMA, PERU, has a remarkably rich cultural history. Allow me to give you two musical examples:

Juan de Araujo (1646–1712) was a musician and composer born in Villafranca, Spain. By 1670 he was nominated maestro di capella of LIMA Cathedral, PERU. In the following years he travelled to Panama and most probably to Guatemala. On his return to Peru, he was hired as maestro de capilla of Cuzco Cathedral, and in 1680 of Sucre Cathedral (then the Cathedral of La Plata) in Upper Peru (now in Bolivia), where he stayed until his death. The Magnificat by Araujo is a lovely, moving work.

Roque Ceruti (Milan, c.1685 - LIMA, 1760) was an Italian composer in PERU. He was recruited as conductor of the Viceroy of Peru's private orchestra, and served as maestro de capilla of Trujillo Cathedral from 1721 to 1728, and then maestro at LIMA Cathedral, like Juan de Araujo six decades before him, until his death. His Beatus vir is well worth a listen.

You can distinctly hear what a difference one generation makes between their styles, perhaps similar to that between Dietrich Buxtehude (c.1638-1707) and J. S. Bach (1685-1750).

[As you were.]

Mohair Sam 8:33 AM  

Played easy/medium here. Would have said easy because we finished as quickly as any Monday, but there were four new-to-us words (ARRAN, EYRA, NAWAB, OMARA) that had to fill - and TBS was a logical guess off the unknown Tean Coco.

Liked the puzzle a bit more than @Rex. And Rex taught us something about word count and puzzle construction, always good to learn. Good write-up.

RooMonster 8:42 AM  

Hey All !
On the fence on this puz. I did enjoy the theme, but some of the fill that resulted is not good. From personal experience, I'm surprised that a puz with this much iffy fill made it in. As noted above, two UPs crossing, PLAT (!!), EYRA & NAWAB. Just sayin.

Was fairly easy-med for me. Only had two writeovers, rEpS for PECS, MALLCam first. DNF with a shot-in-the-dark N at NAWAn/TnS.

Oh, RRR & RUR are bad, also.

Well, another year gone, these years need to slow down a bit. Hope everyone is safe tonight, and here's to a bigger and better (and slower!) year for y'all in 2015! 5...4...3... and all that.


Ludyjynn 8:57 AM  

I had to learn how to drive a STICK shift in one day, as I bought my Toyota Celica from my brother in NJ and needed to drive back to Balto. the next day in time for school. This was in the early '80s, when manual transmissions were commonplace.
So we practiced in a local parking lot over and over until he thought I wouldn't kill anyone, and off I went.

I am proud to say that I got through all the toll plazas along the way in NJ, DE and MD without stalling out! But as I exited the ramp off 83S which dumped right onto N. Charles St at UB, I had to stop for a red light, and for the life of me could not get the car back in gear when it turned green. Several of my law school classmates watched in bemused disbelief as they crossed the street on the way to class. I was mortified, but to their credit, not a single person ever razzed me about the incident after I finally got the car parked and skulked in late!

Shortly afterward, my roomie also learned to drive a STICK and got stuck at a red light at the top of a steep hill near our apmt. No matter how she tried, she could not get the car in gear and kept sliding further back down the hill as all the cars which had been in line behind her went around her to escape being hit! Finally, when she reached a level spot in the road, she managed to get us going again. She never drove on that road again (ironically, named Providence Rd.)for FOUR years after that, taking a different exit off the Beltway to circumvent it! We still laugh about the episode all these years later.

This was a nice, easy Wed. puzz. for me despite a few crunchy words others have mentioned. They were all fairly crossed, IMO. I esp. liked IDLERS to go w/ the theme.

Off to lunch w/ a dear friend to celebrate the new year's approach. Best wishes for health and happiness to all in 2015!

Thanks, DW and WS.


mathguy 9:11 AM  

I didn't really get Rex's point about REMNANT crossing three central across theme words. OK, it is difficult to do. But what is the advantage of avoiding having to do it by replacing it with two shorter entries? The more long entries in a puzzle the more fun and difficult it is, no? A long entry could be defined as one over half the length of the grid. In this case eight squares. This one had nine of them. Is that a lot?

Anonymous 9:12 AM  

Hey, Rex managed to give a balanced and non-vindictive review of a puzzle! See, Rex, you CAN do it! Perhaps he's started his NYE drinking early? Maybe a resolution to be more constructive in 2015? Maybe he took his meds today? Or maybe just random variation...
This was silly easy for a Wednesday.

Unknown 9:17 AM  

I woke up thinking it was Thursday, so the puzzle seemed easy :-/ I liked the mini-themes of DENIM and Team Coco. Plopped in ovErherE before EYESONME...that slowed me down some.

joho 9:18 AM  

I thought this was a delightful Wednesday DRIVE in the PARK. It had some bite for sure with EYRA and the B in TBS which I totally guessed. But the theme was tight, the crosses fair and the added opening STICK and ending with PRNDL were icing on the cake!

Fun! Thank you, David Woolf!

(@Lewis, nice change but then you'd have two ONMEs. I loved EYESONME, BTW.)

Anonymous 9:24 AM  

Fun puzzle with a good theme and interesting fill. EYRA is a great word--a real cat, if rare, and quite cute. R.U.R. is a real play, and an important one. So no, these aren't "crosswordese" words. They are interesting and useful additions to one's knowledge base. RRR is a real thing too. I'd say the only true crosswordese entry is 7d. Not bad at all. Is it time to start drinking yet?

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

Played easy for me. Fastest Wed. time ever. Slight problem in lower left -- not familiar with NAWAB or OMARA, but crosses got it.

On to 2015!

Arlene 9:32 AM  

I had a nice drive through this puzzle. Except for PLOT/OMORA and NAJAR/TRS.
Comforting to see I'm not the only one.
I put STICK in almost last - easy by then!

Mohair Sam 9:44 AM  

@Ludyjynn - so that was you jamming up N. Charles! Know that area well (son is Loyola grad), people are red hot after coming off 83 or 695 and show just no patience at the first couple of lights. Lucky you survived.

Teedmn 9:49 AM  

What, no complaints about SNL? I saw that and said, "It's BAAACK"! And I don't hear people say I'M SET as equivalent to "no more for me, please". But it was an eminently solvable puzzle, even with the WOEs that many had. A third faster today than on Tuesday for me so I was somewhat surprised at @Rex's rating of medium challenging.

I think I know with what people are conflating PUCE but it doesn't pass the breakfast test so I will refrain from spelling it out :-) .

Thanks, Mr. Woolf, for a nice Wednesday solve. I wish everyone a safe New Year's Eve and we'll see you all in 2015.

Lewis 9:49 AM  

@joho -- Oops! Good catch! I guess we could have SUZE (as in Orman), ALS, and ONZE (11 in French), but that to me is less elegant than keeping PUCE in. I hope you have a great Eve and Day, Ms. Jo!

Teedmn 9:55 AM  

Whoops, I think the puzzle was immanently solvable. Sorry for the poor vocabulary.

joho 9:55 AM  

@Lewis, so many squares so few great solutions! Wishing you the same! :)

RooMonster 10:11 AM  

Did anyone notice 11D & 44D could be themers? No starred clues, but the answers ROADIE & IDLERS.

DRUMUP was a good-un for M&A!


Dshawmaine 10:13 AM  

Did not know the same words mentioned by Rex and others: EYRA/ARRAN etc. But thanks to crosses this was also my fastest Wednesday time ever - very enjoyable.

Have a safe and happy New Year all.

'mericans in Madrid airport 10:18 AM  


Pretty much agreed with @Rex today, who managed to write his commentary without even one single virgule. Nice.

Completed the top TIER very quickly, and then got bogged down in the deep south. Got thrown off by entering MALL Cam. Also had EYES at ME crossing it. Finally changed those to MALL COP and EYES ON ME, but still couldn't see the answer to "*Equal rival". RETRY, RETRY, RETRY. Since I don't use any sweetener -- artificial or otherwise -- it nEVER occurred to me that one could interpret that clue in any way other than literally never occurred to me. But then Mrs. 'mericans took it over, figured out 57-A, and she swept through the rest in no time. FIXed.

Didn't notice the symmetry between STICK in the NW and PRNDL in the SE. Clever!

BTW, stick shifts are indeed standard here in Europe -- e.g., on the Renault CLIO. I think they keep drivers more alert, and they are also more fuel-efficient (by 5-15%) than the same vehicles with automatic transmissions.

Been there, done that 10:18 AM  

This theme has been done before- and not so long ago.

And probably with better fill.

Thought Rex would rip this one to shreds...

Rummy's What we don't know we don't know 10:20 AM  

@NCA Prez, here's something I never conceived of as possible:

If you were in a spaceship that managed 'somehow' to travel fast enough to reach the leading edge of the expanding universe, and if that spaceship could then travel at the same speed that the universe is expanding, the spaceship could exist 'within' the leading edge of the universe because (get this) the edge of the universe has 'thickness'!

Do not ask me how someone figured this out.

@Søren K, I have a memory like a steel sieve, and I believe that quote has appeared here before.

mac 10:26 AM  

Cute puzzle, mostly easy but with a few barbs. Certainly needed crosses for a couple of words.

Write-overs were remains and mall cam. Nice to have the two jeans companies in one puzzle. Are they still big? Designer jeans seem to be it these days.

Shocked that Ben was a rat. I guess I've never really listened to the lyrics of that pretty song.

Happy New Year to all!

jberg 10:27 AM  

Nothing wrong with PUCE - I thought it was pinker than the clue, but it's a fine color.

But NAWAB? I didn't know that, figured Team Coco must be associated with the Chanel fashion house, and TjS was some club where they put on impromptu shows. So this was a failure to end the year.

I knew pumas were not South American, but didn't know that jaguarundis were sometimes called EYRAs. Fortunately, the crosses were clear on that one.

We're off to England for 10 days, and since I solve in the paper, I won't be back here until Jan 11. Meanwhile I will have either improved destroyed my brain by trying to do the cryptics in the Guardian. Happy New Year!

Questinia 10:30 AM  

As an inveterate STICK driver I was actually thrown off by PRNDL.

PUCE and chartreuse are easily confused. I've actually thought about this. Maybe because PUCE is close to pus? But chartreuse is really the color of new spring foliage so not a sickening color at all.

To help clarify or obfuscate, an experimental film from 1949 made by Kenneth Anger called Puce Moment

Bob Kerfuffle 10:43 AM  

I never met an EYRA I didn't like . . . in fact, I've never met any EYRA, ever.

Happy New Year to Everyone!

quilter1 10:44 AM  

Maybe found this a little easier than others although while I know I've seen NAWAB before it did not immediately come to mind, so a little struggle in that corner. Glad for the crosses that gave me the wildcat. Everyone have a safe and happy new year's eve. I'm going to a basketball game--woo hoo, coke and popcorn. Champagne later.

Horace S. Patoot 10:45 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Kerfuffle 10:48 AM  

BTW, the poem in today's Writer's Almanac is called Crossword.

Not terribly cheery, and I am nagged by the thought that I have seen it before.

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

Seriously??!! Am I the only one who has never encountered "IBN" as a part of name before??? I mean....how would one even BEGIN to pronounce that? Jeez.

dk 10:59 AM  


Not much to say about this one.

Both of my rides are manual.

Joseph Michael 11:04 AM  

Decent puzzle despite EYRA, NAWAB, and ARRAN. Liked the payoff of PRNDL. Didn't like RE UP and DRUM UP in the same puzzle.

Liked SEX crossing DRIVE. Wanted NUDIES for art house showings, but did a RETRY and settled for the more high brow INDIES.

Favorite themer: GENDER NEUTRAL.

Bird 11:06 AM  

Big fat DNF as I drew blanks at 59A (I blame the "!"), 65A (totally unknown as clued), 56D (again unkown as clued) and 60D (brain was idling).

Good them though

No gripes about the 2 UPs crossing each other?

Guess what day it is…
Happy New Years Eve!!!

Anonymous 11:06 AM  

Just wondering what happened to San Fran man?
It was fun to see his ratings - which, by the way, usually demonstrated Rex's uncanny ability to rate the puzzles.

Leapfinger 11:06 AM  

@Alias, 'a Good Year to follow'! Ho ho, that's Good and Rich; I never Tire of your punditry.

@ralph, I drove stick for about 45 years, till I decided it wasn't worth holding on to my zippy little '88 Acura Integra. Found out at that point how much harder and more expensive it is nowadays to get a manual transmission. Driving an automatic has changed my life, and not for the better: it's a lot like wearing sensible shoes, but much less pleasurable.

Hand up for hoping for a GEARS shift. Thought the theme selections excellently non-automotive, with RACEDAY and ROADIE nice extensions.

Knew PUCE because of having read years ago that Pogo was that colour, and never even saw ARRAN during the solve. Knew NAWAB the samee way I know words like Garam Massala, and thought Team Coco was something like Manchester United. For that reason, was first thinking of place-names for 66A. Having realized that a TV station was wanted, it really should be Channel 5, bien sur.

First thought that clue 'Level' was TIEd instead of TIER, but even though I'd heard of 'dumb down', I doubted D-DUM UP. Full disclosure demands I admit olDIES before INDIES. Given the SWEET'N'LOW MAIDS, should perhaps have been uNDIES. Crossing SEX-DRIVE? May be time to go LONG.

Nice Wednesday, Mr Woolf. Would like to see you back PRN.

RnRGhost57 11:09 AM  

A pleasant way to end 2014. Wishing ev1 in Rexland a Happy New Year.

Elephant's Child 11:13 AM  

One problem with the general shift to automatic transmissions (other than the increased laziness of drivers) is that the language will lose such colorful phrases as 'Double-clutch me, MF!'

And what's with the EAR IBN?

old timer 11:45 AM  

Some Inside Baseball (or xword) from the Rexter today. Knowing his (claimed) fondness for the sauce, I wonder how he will mix doing tomorrow's New Year's Thursday with quaffing champagne at midnight. But I'm sure he'll manage.

I thought it was an OK. NAWAB is one of those words that makes you run all the way through the alphabet to see if you've heard of it. I *have* heard of it, but also thought there was a "NAWAL", so I needed the cross to get it for sure.

Last to fall was the SE where I was looking for gears and not letters. And yes, I confidently wrote down "puma" and have never heard of an Eyra. Have now, though, so that's a plus.

r.alphbunker 12:01 PM  

I vastly prefer a stick. To me, the only time that an automatic transmission is useful is at a toll booth in sub-artic weather because it allows me to roll up the window and drive at the same time without using my knee to steer.

Sir Hillary 12:12 PM  

Mondegreen + Homophone + Anagram = ABBEY GNU EYRA

See everyone in 2015!

Fred Smith 12:17 PM  

I used to have stick-shift sports cars in college and thereafter. TR-3 and TR4. (Fun to drive, but mechanically pieces of British automotive junk.)

When we bought out Florida condo I bought a Toyota Highlander for lugging stuff like golf clubs, and a Nissan 350z roadster for fun. To my subsequent regret, I bought an automatic shift on it, thinking that my wife would occasionally need to drive it. Sh hasn't. Gr-rrrr!

Tita 12:18 PM  

Driving is a pastime for me...
RACEDAY is any day I'm behind the wheel, and my favorite THEMEPARK is Lime Rock, that Grand Prix track where I have sometimes raced!

I still drive a STICK, and hopefully always will. My dream is that all other cars will be self-driving ones, but I'll still have my fun little car, and can then drive unfettered by distracted, or just plain clueless, drivers.
Until my knees, shoulders, and vision give out - then I'll have to accept my lot.

Hey - is IDLE-R part of the theme?

@Ludy - I feel your pain. At 16, I rented a VW stick so I could learn to drive a stick w/out destroying any cars that were important to people. Not having that pressure really helped!

I liked the puzzle fine, as it reminded me of those fun days blasting past the 911's through the ESS-curves.

Sure, it played hard for me, and in fact, I DNFd, with OMoRA/PLoT and NAWAh/ThS.

Rex, thanks for the construction details today - my solving skill, and puzzle-appreciation levels, went sharply higher once I started coming here regularly. Not just from you, but from the commenters too.
And why I look past all the not-so-great commentary.
I don't give a hoot that you're sometimes an ass. I am too. Sometimes.

THanks Mr. Woolf.
Happy New Year to all!

Masked and Anonymo5Us 12:24 PM  

Totally agree with @63, on this 74- vs. 76-word question. Only difference is our ultimate conclusion: I say lower the max word count to 72 words (68 on themelessers) for a month, and generate some really spectacular moments of desperation.

Even at 74 words, this lil eyra had its moments. Havin 7 themers might have also helped nudge things along in a trapped-like-a-Ben-Rat direction.

Knew what Team Coco meant, so NAWAB bit the dust. Also knew the whole BEN/RAT thing, so ARRAN was no prob. EYRA was the biggest holdup, and was no doubt originally caused by a misspell of REMNeNT, which got a quickfix in editing.

Seems like I, too, have seen many puzs over the years, that have sported automatic transmissions for their gimmick. No big puce matter. Fun and feisty puz, so plenty heap ok by m&e and Tento,
.esrever ni tesnus eht otni ffo edir ew sa...

"Nawab Eyra ibn Ben-Rat von Arran"

Anonymous 12:27 PM  

@Anon 10:52, have you managed to avoid everything Arabic until now? As for how IBN is pronounced, just say IBsen without the S-sound.

@ralph b, I couldn't agree with you more!

lol, @Sir Hillary, ABBEY GNU EYRA right back to All within EARshot, and may the coming EYRA start with a Winter with less Diss Content!

Lewis 1:00 PM  

@sir hillary -- good one!
@m&a -- you consistently crack me up. That name at the end of your post is priceless.

ANON B 1:50 PM  


What does "pemendal" or
"pernendal" mean?

Note: Sometimes when "n"
follows "r" it looks like "m".

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

Is EYES ON ME accompanied by the two-fingered pointing at the listener's, then at the speaker's own eyes? I'm not aware of ever having heard the phrase, but have seen the gesture, which seems a marginally reasonable accompaniment.

Initially was guessing O'HARA, but EYES ON HE made little sense.

REUP boys, a-Wimoweh.

Fred Romagnolo 2:18 PM  

@Alias Z: You left out Offenbach in music and Thornton Wilder in literature. Perichole is delightful, and San Luis Rey was scary. I knew NAWAB from that BBC Indian series in the 70's. "Jewel in the Crown" (80's?). I always want an "er" ending over an "or" one if it's not a person, and didn't know OMARA but logic helped out on that one. EYRA was a new one on me because I figured Pumas were North American. I drive a stick so I was totally thrown by the last across. I wanted "oldies" for INDIES, not too familiar with I'M SET . I was familiar with BEN the RAT from the scary movie, didn't know the Jackson song. Luckily I finished. Generally, I liked the puzzle.

LaneB 2:22 PM  

Sailed along until the SE corner where despite filling DAD, SNL and PARR, I never could see the full answer ti 68a. Had to guess IBN and URBAN and blew the N. These early week puzzles are definitely getting harder.

Phil 2:22 PM  

Wasn't STICK a good opportunity for theme related clue, say '68a not found in this (informal)'.

Or is it better just seeing the subtleness of the opposite corner being opposite of other corner?

foxaroni 2:42 PM  

Enjoyed this one. I've been served tartar sauce with fish and seafood. Is AIOLI sauce the same thing?

Conan's production company is "Team Coco" and his late-night show airs on the TBS cable channel. I learned about Team Coco from a previous NYT xword.

The full title of Karel Capek's play "R.U.R." is Rossum's Universal Robots. It's where the word "robot" originated. (Go ahead--prove you're not a robot!) It's not crosswordese, and is worth knowing.

Happy New Year to @Rex, @M&A, @Leapy and all of you who make this
blog a (usually) enjoyable read. Come back @ LMS! We miss you--and @Acme, too.

wreck 2:54 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
wreck 2:56 PM  


Lisa saw the "PRNDL" in the car and was pronouncing it as "per-nen-dal"

RooMonster 3:02 PM  

Wow, I'm shocked how many people here drive a STICK. I thought most cars are now automatcs. I happen to have 2 man-trans cars myself, but only because they are special editions that didn't have an auto choice. Also have auto autos!

ANON B, "perendel" is P R N D L sounded out.

Got some flurries here in Las Vegas today!


Whirred Whacks 3:11 PM  

This puzzle was pretty straight-forward for me. The solve came when I changed PLOT to PLAT.

Been driving a stick for the past 40+ years (currently an Audi S5 which is a really fun way to tool around in the hills). This "skill" is always handy when I rent cars in Europe because most rentals in my experience have manual transmissions (others have mentioned this).

@HCA President @Steve J: Heartily agree with your comments yesterday about this blog.

M and Auld L. S. 3:29 PM  

Happy NeUU Year back, @foxaroni, et al.

@Roo--congrats on yer flurries. Climate change! There's a funny-named scientific organization that just passed thru town on their laboratory bus. They say that the sun is startin in on a coolin down cycle, and we are about to experience another Ice Age. Looks like it is hittin Vegas first -- what are the odds?!?

Hey there! LABBUS! New puz-fill word.


**happy new gruntz**

OISK 3:31 PM  

I got caught on Omara, leaving it as omora and plot, which made sense enough. Have no idea who Jason Omara is. Nor do I know what "Team Coco" is, but I guessed TBS correctly. That gives me two midweek DNF in the last two weeks; last week it was Tuesday. Except for my two guessed squares, I found this one easy and pleasant; went much faster than yesterday. But yesterday I finished correctly. Also never heard of Ben the rat (or any other Michael Jackson song other than Thriller)

Melodious Funk 3:39 PM  

I posted this once before as the ultimate mondegreen, but in case a few haven't seen it, here's Ladle Rat Rotten Hut.


He missed one word, you'll see it.

SenorLynn 3:43 PM  

I've got a car with an optional shifter, little paddles on the steer-wheel when you can have a little fun on the road, but you gotta have auto when you're on the Dallas North Tollway, going from zero to 20 & back for miles.
Or you could stay home, like we'll do tonight.
Bring on '15!

Rebel RooMonster 5:03 PM  

Har! They were laid 8 to 1. (The odds, that is, get yer mind out the gutter!) :-)
2015, where are the flying cars, like in Back To The Future II?


Anonymous 6:45 PM  

Happy New Year Rex!!! Thank you for a great year of puzzle commentary. Your write ups have been a welcome daily read.

Garth 7:01 PM  

I found @Rex's write up to be of a much higher quality than yesterday's. HIs criticism was measured and explanatory, not vitriolic. Nice job @R.

Garth 7:01 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 9:25 PM  

Teedmn: "eminently" was correct. Your second guess is not even a word.

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

Apparently, how you classify the color puce depends on where you grew up. In certain areas people do think of puce as green.

When I finally earned enough money to buy a brand new car as opposed to the dilapidated wrecks I could afford in grad school, I was thrilled Togo back driving with a stick, I sadly sold that car when I moved to NY City because the thought of having to get up in the morning and move it thrilled me as much as the thought of getting up to walk a dog, not in my morning repertoire. So now I hate driving and it probably has a lot to do with the fact that all the rental cars are automatics.

Anonymous 6:21 PM  

RP forces himself to be polite on occasion, just to throw us off.

spacecraft 11:01 AM  

For almost the entire puzzle, I shot through like grease through a goose. ARRAN was in on crosses before I even noticed it. Then I came to the SW corner. Luckily the clue for EYESONME left little doubt, or my woes might have extended northeastward. No, just right there in the corner was where I had trouble. NAWAB I had to accept; turns out it's a native variant of NABOB, who knew? And IMSET does not exactly jive with "No more for me." We don't say that. We say "I'm good," or "I'm OK." IMSET sounds like a talking glob of glue announcing that it has hardened.

I liked the offsetting STICK to open in the NW; I also liked the twin jeans companies and BEN the RAT ("Tear 'im up!"). I feel that BEN lives on as RAT in the comic "Pearls Before Swine."

The theme was gimme-loaded, which made most of this easy-peasy. Were it not for that SW, that'd be my rating, but I guess I have to call it easy-medium. Rare that I rate one easier than OFL.

And by the way, Mr. Kramden, just what IS a "PRNDL?" A peekaboo dirndl, perhaps? Ooh, prurient!

rondo 1:10 PM  

Hey, Monday called and wants its puzzle back! EZEZEZ. I'm sure I did this one faster than Mon and Tues.
Lotsa black space and the toughies easily sussed by crosses. Only near miss was the B in NAWAB, but figured the cross was TV related, and me w/o cable.

Did everyone remember the CARAT v, karat thing?

MIRA Sorvino a true yeah baby. HELLO!

Took more time to post this than to solve the puz. Liked it just fine.


DMG 2:33 PM  

This one left me with a question and an error. . Though I "knew" NAWAB in sme deep recess of my mind, I still have no idea what Team Coco is. A TV show? My error was in misspelling REMNeNT, and wondering why the clue had called for a relatively obscure cat rather than our old friend Jane on a Wednesday. Wanted the beast to be a pumA, which, oddly enough, would have given me the A I Naticked(?) on.

@Rondo: yep, the c(k)arat thing crossed my mind. but I think (hope?) it's been solved for me by whoever it was that reminded me that my jewelry is marked 14K or whatever.


leftcoastTAM 8:02 PM  

One thing about RP's critique that I don't get: why are EYRA and NABAB so objectionable when they are pretty accessible via crosses?

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