Fencing thrust / THU 1-22-15 / Part of Scottish accent / Nonlethal ammo brand / Quaint preposition / Lab assistant for Dr. Frederick Frankenstein / James Bond portrayer / WWII noncombatant

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: FIFTH / COLUMNS (15D: With 45-Down, subversive groups … or what the answers in the circled squares comprise?) — all the circled Downs (five "columns" in all) have an implied / missing "Fifth" at the beginning of their clues:

Your "Columns":
  • JUPITER (1D: Planet) / BORON (46D: Chemical element)
  • SOL (4D: Note on the musical scale) / DEUTERONOMY (25D: Book of the Bible)
  • PIERCE BROSNAN (6D: James Bond portrayer)
  • AUGEAN STABLES (18D: Labor of Hercules)
  • ALAN SHEPARD (9D: Man who walked on the moon) / MAY (59D: Month)
Word of the Day: BURR (46A: Part of a Scottish accent) —
  1. 1
    a rough sounding of the sound r, especially with a uvular trill (a “French r ”) as in certain Northern England accents.
  2. 2
    a rough edge or ridge left on an object (especially of metal) by the action of a tool or machine. (google)
• • •

Well this is certainly the nicest puzzle of the week thus far, and far and away the best filled. There's a groaner here and there, but way too much solid, interesting stuff for the lesser stuff to become a real distraction. Themewise, I like that the pentacular (it's a word now) theme has two components—the missing "Fifth"s as well as the five total "columns" that are involved. The main problem, as I see it, is one of entertainment value. The cluing offered no opportunities for anything but the most literal approach. Most of the time, the missing "Fifth" wasn't relevant or even noticeable; I got all the longer theme answers with virtually no crosses in place (though having the "AU-" in place on the Herclues one definitely helped) (also of help—having some longstanding familiarity with that guy's labors). Cluing was just blah, and missing "Fifth" wasn't noticeable / couldn't be registered in any kind of compelling way. So I love the idea, and the look of the grid, and I think it's nicely filled, but between the puzzle's overall easiness (under five minutes?!) and the aggressive straightforwardness of the cluing, there was somewhat less scintillation that I would've liked in my Thursday puzzle. Still, I'll take it over any of this week's M-W stuff.

I only learned the term "fifth column" a few years back, when I was looking for theme answers for my marijuana / "THC"-themed puzzle "Inside Dope." That puzzle also contained BIRTH CANAL. Edgy! Anyway, knowing the term allowed me to get the revealer without even looking at the clue. I got COLUMNS from crosses and then … I dunno, I just never even looked at 15-Down. My main issue up there was going with RADII for 19A: Neighbors of ulnae (CARPI). CARPI is probably my least favorite thing in the grid (and keep in mind this grid has ESS and YERS). It's a real plural, but I've never seen it (that I can remember). TARSI, I've seen. CARPI sounds like it would describe a fish-like odor. At any rate, I was playing around with my dog's FOREPAWs earlier in the evening, so that answer came to me easily and helped me straighten out that corner (the only part of the puzzle that gave me the slightest trouble). Stuff like NIA, ENYA, NAOMI, OREO, all just came too easily. Middle of the grid might've been harder had not the long themers there been a total cinch. PASSADO and GAG RULE make a really lovely center "column." This puzzle definitely has more pluses than minuses.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    George Barany 6:37 AM  

    Good morning, @Rex. If you typed Herclues on purpose, that's brilliant! (as opposed to His_clues). I enjoyed both Tim Polin's puzzle and your analysis.

    Danp 6:56 AM  

    Not nearly so easy for me. If the clues had included "Fifth", I would still have known only 3 of 8. So the revealer didn't help me.

    That said, talk about theme density. Six whole columns of seed answers? And 10 vertical 7's needed besides. I'm impressed.

    Mohair Sam 7:15 AM  

    What Rex said, except it played medium for us - the West and East filled in minutes, but the middle took a while. Proof that we know nothing of Hercules' Labors and had to do a lot of filling there. On the other hand we got our Bondian PIERCE off the E in MESA and the S in LSAT.

    Never understood the theme until we were finished. Loved the clue for APP. Fun Thursday.

    Anonymous 7:16 AM  

    I filled it without being aware that they were all fifth somethings, which makes me have less admiration for the theme.
    But tell me: why are three dots "ess"?

    Mohair Sam 7:21 AM  

    @Anonymous 7:16

    Morse code ... = "S"

    GILL I. 7:31 AM  

    Can I have my money back, please?
    I promise I won't tell......

    Whirred Whacks 7:38 AM  

    Outstanding puzzle — one of the best of the year! The fifth element in its set organizing theme only became apparent to me toward the end. What fun! And very clever.

    @Rex: if you watch a few WWII-era movies that deal with life on the home front, you'll hear FIFTH COLUMNist referred to quite a bit.

    Sad fact regarding the "Alan Shepard" clue: no one born after 1935 has walked on the moon.

    GILL I. 7:40 AM  

    Oh, can you tell the manager that the subtitles that the marquee promised didn't show up in the row where I was sitting...

    joho 7:54 AM  


    I did not know what FIFTH COLUMNS are so having that in place meant nothing to me. I didn't think to apply FIFTH to each COLUMN.

    Huge DNF. Maybe I should just plead the FIFTH and keep my mouth shut about how stupid this puzzle made me feel.

    Dorothy Biggs 8:01 AM  

    OREO is not a snack. Don't snack on them, they have too many calories. They are a treat that you might have when you're snacking.

    53A Cut-rate worker? Talk about your tortured cluing. And speaking of tortured cluing, 8A Go with the flow? is equally bad. And while you're at it, add 31A Second coming? These three clues go one notch beyond where they should be. Cut rate worker...is the starting point (with the double entendre present, but to add the hyphen goes one step too far. Go with the flow isn't exactly what wafting is...an odor may waft in a room with no flow...so the oder itself can be the flow. And second coming...for a TV show...what??

    I get the ? part of the clues in these, but the three taken together add up to shenanigans...deliberate and gratuitous deception that isn't clever, it's just deliberate and gratuitous. Bad form, contributed to my not liking the puzzle.

    I thought Elysium was Heaven? When you die you go to Elysium, yes?

    Not a Hercules expert, did not know AUGEANSTABLES.

    EMEER, aMEER...you say either, I say neither.

    And please, in the name of all that is holy, retire ENYA from her good work as fill. Her music has served its purpose and we've all moved on from the 90s. Let's take a moment to mourn the passing of her service to xword puzzles and move on from here as well.

    Unknown 8:02 AM  

    Enjoyed this, even though I had never heard of the term FIFTH COLUMN and did not get the connection to the highlighted answers. I'm never think of going back and looking at the clues...if I had, I might have figured it out.

    I also had tARsI before CARPI, but knew something had to be wrong because FOREPAW had to be right.

    On the easy side for a Thursday fill-wise, but fun.

    evil doug 8:12 AM  

    1st mistake: Never noticed the "5" significance of the verticals beyond the fact that there were five columns.

    2nd mistake: I read the last clue as "Mouth" instead of "Month", happily plugged in "MAW", and presumed 'WERS' could be some kind of hayseed rube possessive. So I'M the rube....

    Also tried 'raft' for 'waft', but managed to at least fix that one.


    Moly Shu 8:13 AM  

    Pretty sure Leeloo is the fifth element, not BORON. Thank you Bruce Willis. That aside, very interesting puzzle that played medium-difficult here. Put MESA in and out 3 or 4 times, sPy before APP and nsA before CIA really bogged down the north central area. Never heard of the Herculean feat, but ultimately sussable. Didn't get that they were all 'fifths' of something until reading @Rex. Liked it

    Aketi 8:29 AM  

    I filled it in without using the fifths, untl I got to May. I didn't really know all the 007 actors, so I looked them up afterwards and found this link which show Pierce Brosnan as the seventh, not the fifth. http://actofrage.com/entertainment/james-bond-actors/

    Is that list correct?

    @george Barney, I love HER CLUES.

    I can't really figure out how it is possible to fill in all the blank squares in a mere four minutes even if you instantly know the answer.

    When I do the completely mindless crosswords in the free papers that you pick up at the subway stops that are instafills for just about everyone who can read Enlgish, it still takes me more than four minutes to write the letters in. It usually takes three to four subway stops even when I do get a seat.

    I tried filling in the answers on the iPad for a puzzle that was easy and that I already solve and it takes me 20 minutes to fill it in on the iPad.

    Improving my solve time is definitely not on my bucket list even if I thought it was possible.I like to sip my coffee slowly in the am. Finishing the puzzle means it's time to get up.

    I want a video of Rex solving the puzzle so t see how he can write that fast, Do you think he'd ever do a selfie with the 1812 Overture as background music?

    @nancy, I wasn't the least bit offended by your post a few days ago that caused the stir. I disagree, however, with your assessment about the potential for noticeable improvement. At best, I'm only likely to improve marginally because I don't have the kind of mind that retains trivia. The only advantage I see to persisting through the harder puzzles as the week progresses is that I get to sip my coffee longer.

    chefbea 8:30 AM  

    Got the theme right away but still had to google before I finished. Didn't understand ess...thanks @mohairsam for explaining

    AliasZ 8:33 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    AliasZ 8:35 AM  

    I don't know, I have mixed feelings about the theme revealer. I loved the idea of FIFTHs, but COLUMNS of FIFTHs would be more accurate than FIFTH COLUMNS. Of course, the former is an even less common expression than the latter, so forget it. I did miss a FIFTH of vodka to make the theme -- or my eyes -- shine.

    It was definitely odd to see the clue for 10D: "What a dog 'shakes hands' with" and DOGS at 40A. Is that allowed?

    The NERF of Timothy Palin to hide so many other numbers in his puzzle! I could barely keep count them all: 12A: 1-2; 38A: 8; 58A: 0; 62A: A-1 (and a-2, you know, like Lawrence Welk); 2D: 1-TIME; 10D: 4-PAW; 39D: 3-SON. There were 27 of the FIFTH letter of the English alphabet as well. Not only that, but we also have GUSTAVE Doré, the first and second notes of a major scale, SOL being the FIFTH.

    I could have kept counting TILDE EWES came home, but who cares.

    Speaking of count, I forget which of the Dumases wrote "The Count of Monte Cristo," father ORSON.

    Never heard incense called a "JOSS stick" but now I know that the word "joss" is derived from the Latin deus (god) via the Portuguese deos through the Javanese dejos, through Chinese pidgin English. And now you know too. Never heard of Har-TRU either, whose origins are much less lofty -- it's a brand name, for gosh's sake.

    I would love to view the sunrise on the island of CARPI right about now.

    I was going to select a John CAGE piece, but I think Samuel BARBER is a much better fit. The one presented here is NOT the "Adagio for Strings" which is way overdone. He composed three essays for orchestra, this being his original one called simply Essay for Orchestra, Op. 12 (1937). It later acquired the prefix "(First)" after he added a Second (1942) and a Third (1978). He never got to the FIFTH. Maybe he got tired of essays.

    Happy FIFTH day of the week (or fourth, if you are a working stiff).

    Bird 8:55 AM  

    Not easy for me. Got the revealer and 6 of 8 themers. No clue on 18D and misspelled 25D. I disagree with the clue for 38A (I had RAN, as in "RAN down the street")

    SPY at 5A and ANARCHY at 39D were eventually fixed.

    @Aketi - The first 2 on the list (Barry Nelson and David Niven) are not officially licensed Bonds.

    Leapfinger 9:16 AM  

    @Rex, here's a handful that orthopods and physical/ occupational therapists use without batting an eye:
    Flexor CARPI Ulnaris (FCU)
    Flexor CARPI Radialis (FCR)
    Exensor CARPI Ulnaris (ECU)
    Extensor CARPI Radialis (ECR)

    Thought this was a fun solve with just enough crunch, even though the circles filled in pretty easily. Thought I had the planetary theme with JUPITER - SOL, but Not So. Also caught the revealer with only C_L_M__ filled in. Unfortunately, my interpretation was that the theme comprised 1/5 of the columns. Forgot that 5/15 = 1/3.

    [FIFTH COLUMN is a phrase with a history. I was reminded of 'Viva la Quince Brigada', the song of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. I'm having trouble copy/pasting on this new Chromebook, but if any former hippie/radicals want to reminisce, U-tube has several versions. (Pete Seeger & the Almanac Singers, late 1930s; also Seeger in Barcelona, 1993)]

    Anyway, I agree with @Danp and anyone else who thinks this had fabulous theme arrangement and density.

    Also found it wicked clever to have so many places with good [to me] alternatives:
    RADII-CARPI, of course

    Notable hotspot: crossing BURR with TREASON.

    Next up: a theme with horizontal 12-15s, each one a Very Bad Pun.
    The reveal can be CORN ROWS.

    Thanks, Tim P!

    Aketi 9:18 AM  

    @ Bird, thanks for the explanation. Of course now I want t know what constitutes "officially licensed". But maybe instead I'll see if the very old Bond movies are available on Netflix.

    Unknown 9:18 AM  

    Toughie. I quit after an hour with the N and NE mired in wrongness: rAdiI for CARPI and sPy for APP were the roots of error. Ultimately, 12 wrong answers, but all of the themers came through unscathed, except for AeGEANSTABLES. I had wanted VERSUS, but had to settle for VERSeS as AUGEAN seemed quite wrong. Now I know.

    Every thing was off last night. __R_PAW was a mystery. Rhubarb=SPAT? NERF needed ever cross. Igor for INGA. BURR?? EMEERS? YERS? BRUNO was a blank for a long time. I tried but couldn't remember the damned name of the Irish Bond PIERCEBROSNAN for a good 30 minutes.

    And apotheosis. Well. I know it as divine ascendance. In four letters? Beginning with s and ending with ME? After deep thought: soME. Sigh.

    Aketi 9:28 AM  

    @leapfinger, speaking as someone who refers to physical and occupational therapists, "CARPal tunnel" is the first thing that popped into my mind after radii was a fail. I work with breastfeeding moms and it is a huge problem when moms don't position themselves well as they are learning how to feed their babies.

    Tita 9:32 AM  

    @AliasZ - bravo! Fabulous post in every way...
    Especially noticing that this puzzle runs on the FIFTH day.
    Re: Portuguese, days of week are easy to learn - M-F are literally Secondday, Thirdday, Fourthday dot-dot-dot
    Do any other languages do this?
    (Sabado and Domingo are the Christianity-related exceptions.)

    GUSTAVE also designed the rail bridge between Spain and Portugal.

    Yes to rAFT, sPy.
    In spite of that feeling of "doesn't sound right", I popped in AeGEANSTABLES. So I DNF'd with PASGADO(?) and VERgeS - plausible - something that VERgeS on something else is up against it...?

    Anyone else drop in orbITER for Planet?

    Liked this one much. Thanks Mr. Polin!

    Charles Flaster 9:34 AM  

    Medium and never applied " fifth", to the columns.
    Played it as if it said--" name a month" , " name an element", " name a James Bond", etc..
    Had a few writeovers -- etc for ESS, spy for APP, MCAT for LSAT and my favorite Igor for INGA.
    This slowed my solve.
    My one mistake made me wince --Pierre for PIERCE and of course should have been a gimme.
    Liked cluing for BARBER and GAG RULE.
    Last to fall was PASSADO as I am not up on fencing but do enjoy watching it.Easy for Rex???
    Thanks TP.

    Suzy 9:37 AM  

    @ NCA President-- snack time! A double-stuffed Oreo
    will surely improve your temperment!

    @Aketi-- why the rush? Enjoy the solve!

    Thanks, Mr. Polin, for a very nice puzzle!!

    Charles Flaster 9:38 AM  

    Just read your post after I write mine.
    Igor is beyond hilarious. Spy made sense too!

    Sir Hillary 9:42 AM  

    Nice puzzle, which I made harder with three errors: rAdiI/CARPI, rAFT/WAFT and, most significantly, tAiloR/BARBER. All three fit the clues well, so kudos to TP/WS for the misdirection. No clue about HERCULES, so I feel lucky not to have entered AUGEANSTABLEt.

    Agree with @DanP that this is a very impressive construction. That the fill is as clean as it is speaks volumes for Mr. Polin's prowess.

    DBlock 9:45 AM  

    How is JOSS a type of stick??
    Would someone please explain.
    I got it from the crosses but still don't get the reference
    thanks, DB

    Steve M 9:46 AM  


    Z 9:49 AM  

    Not knowing INGA was Frankenstein's assistant, rather than Igor, and having never bothered with Hercule's Labors, I DNFed in the SouthCentral.

    @WhirredWhacks - I was looking for Leeloo, too. Milla Jovovich is like Daryl Hannah, her best roles are never of humans. I bet either of them would make a great INGA. Or maybe Milla could do a 21st century remake of Hercules. I'd watch that.

    I was hoping JOSS sticks would be the WOD the day so I wouldn't have to look it up. But No. Rex goes with Scottish BURR.

    Anonymous 9:52 AM  

    That would be prowESS, yess?

    So what makes that prow a lady?

    Bob Kerfuffle 9:55 AM  

    Really liked this puzzle, Medium for me, but ultimately finished with one wrong letter.

    Stumbled a bit with a write-over at 50 A, left the first letter open while waiting to see if it was IGOR or YGOR - neither, INGA - but failed at 8 A, had RAFT, never thought of WAFT; I was pretty sure that 8 D, RAC (the Royal Automobile Club) was a noncombatant!

    Sir Hillary 9:56 AM  

    @Aketi - In this case, the so-called "officially licensed" Bond films are the ones most prominent in popular culture -- with the famous musical theme, the gunbarrel opening, "shaken not stirred", etc. They started with "Dr. No" in 1962 and continue to this day with "Spectre" which is currently in pre-production and will be the 24th in the series. All of these have been produced by Eon Productions, spearheaded first by Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, then just Broccoli, and today by Broccoli's heirs. The lead role sequence is Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, Craig.

    Barry Nelson actually was the first James Bond portrayer -- in a 1954 teleplay of "Casino Royale" (Ian Fleming's first novel and the only whose rights he sold before the striking a deal with Broccoli/Saltzman for the rest of his work). However, that version called him "card sharp Jimmy Bond" and portrayed him as American. It's not considered an "official Bond film", and rightly so.

    David Niven portrayed Bond in the 1967 version of "Casino Royale" which was also outside the "official" canon. That film is a psychedelic-era farcical comedy, and again is not considered part of the series.

    Hope that helps. Sorry to drone on about this -- you can tell it is a passion of mine.

    BillyC 10:00 AM  

    Ah-h-h, the Dougster is back to the trash-haulin' C-130s that he actually flew. Nice pic, Doug.

    Gabe Tuerk 10:07 AM  

    I was irked with the clues for Jupiter (I had orbITER) and May, thinking it was missing something (one of...). Fifth tied it together - should have had a liquor bottle measure as a nice throw in clue with the theme. Pleased whenever Heracles finds his way into the puzzle

    George Barany 10:22 AM  

    A few seconds on google reveals this 4 minute clip, entitled "Watch Rex Parker Solve a Puzzle." Enjoy!

    John V 10:25 AM  

    So, we got three puzzles for the price of one, left, right and middle. The heavy vertical segmentation provided no help in solving the middle puzzle. I got the right and left, but DNF the middle. Got the revealer but had no clue what it meant.

    I see now that this is a clever puzzle but, IMHO, a bit of an unfair grid.

    OISK 10:37 AM  

    I was sure I would see unanimous praise for this brilliant puzzle! I also thought "fifth column" was familiar to most people, but I think European history was more heavily emphasized when I was in high school than it is now. Knew all of the themed answers, but it still took a while. Best Thursday in a long time!! (But I still have no idea who the oft-used Enya is, and never remember whether it is Enya or Anya..)

    Anonymous 10:39 AM  

    Only in Rex's bizarrely childish mind is "birth canal" edgy. Pot references and anything to do with human anatomy also ruffle his feathers. Poop jokes, anyone? Right up his alley. No pun intended.

    Nancy 10:44 AM  

    As I raced through the top and bottom of the left-hand side, I was grumbling: too easy for a Thursday. But it got more challenging as I went along. I thought the construction was awesome -- clever, difficult to accomplish, and a completely fresh theme. Once I got COLUMNS from the crosses, I thought of FIFTH immediately. Enjoyed this after the fact even more than during, actually, because during much of the solving, I didn't see the theme, hence couldn't appreciate it.

    Steve J 10:50 AM  

    DNF for me. I don't remember the AUGEAN STABLES (the particulars of Greek mythology haven't really stuck with me all these years), and I struggled with some of the crosses, leading to some unfillable gaps.

    DIdn't grok the theme until reading explanations afterwards, even with getting FIFTH COLUMN early on. Clever, but I wonder if it's maybe too opaque for many solvers?

    Agreed that the nature of the theme didn't leave room for much in the way of playfulness, although the clue for APP definitely helped fill that gap.

    Nancy 10:55 AM  

    @Alias Z --
    I hate the use of brand names, too, but as a diehard tennis player, I don't think of harTRU that way. It's now used as the default word for green clay by just about all tennis players. Think "Kleenex." as a parallel; no one says "tissues" anymore.

    Fred Romagnolo 10:56 AM  

    @Alias Z:How did you miss ESSays? @Leapfinger: as I have understood it the FIFTH COLUMN was the insidious pro-Franco civilian groups working to undermine the Republican government from within. there were four COLUMNS marching on the city but the FIFTH was already there. Not to be confused with the brigade. "Cleaning out the Augean Stables," has always been used as a metaphor for a stupendous task. Hercules accomplished it by diverting a river through them. Hands up for sPy and rAFT and rAdiI, but eventually corrected so not a DNF.

    wreck 11:00 AM  

    I had to google AUGEAN STABLES as well, but the rest came fairly easy. I figured out that each of the long columns must be related to the "fifth" of a group, but was no help in the solve (i.e. BROSNAN the 5th Bond, SHEPPARD was 5th Astronaut to walk on the moon etc.).

    RooMonster 11:14 AM  

    Hey All !
    Cool puz, I actually sussed out FIFTH first, which got me most of the themers (didn't know AUGEANSTABLES, though). It wasn't Easy, as Rex rated. Difficult for me. Actually a DNF as S central had me flummoxed. Had BAnkER for BARBER, and plum gave up on 61 & 63A. Had etc lightly in for 63. Oh well. Actually had to Goog INGA, as had Igor like a lot of people.

    GUSTAVo, I guess that would be Italian instead of French. Gave me YoRS, not YERS. Eh, same ballpark!

    Overall, nice. The NYT online puz had green shaded themers, thought at first that would play into the theme, but no.

    I see my STEELERs made the puz! And before anyone retorts it, I'll be the first: "Yes, they made the puz, but not the Super Bowl."
    Hey, can't win 'em all every year! We still have the most, 6! :-D


    Joseph Michael 11:20 AM  

    Was only vaguely familiar with the term FIFTH COLUMN so it took me a while to grok the theme, but thought it was an excellent puzzle. Liked the aha of realizing that "Fifth" was missing from each of the theme clues. When a puzzle is this good, it shouldn't be subject to nit picking.

    Unknown 11:21 AM  

    A modern incarnation of Fifth Column is the "12th Man." You should note that Seattle Seahawks claim "The 12th Man" practically as a trademark, and certainly as a team meme. Google "12th man" as an image and note the prevalence of Seattle-sourced pictures and motifs, said this Patriots fan.

    Fifth column:Spanish fascism :: 12th-man:Seattle fascism!!!

    OK, now that I've gotten the Seattle fans all pumped up, allow me to deflate you.


    We're good at that here.

    jberg 11:24 AM  

    @Fred Romagnolo beat me to the punch on FIFTH COLUMN. One of Franco's generals, advancing on Madrid, told the press that he had 4 columns, plus a fifth column inside the city.

    This was tough for me until I got a few of the themers. AUGEAN STABLES and DEUTERONOMY I knew, PIERCE BROSNAN took longer -- don't think I've ever seen a Bond film, don't know who was in them after Sean Connery, but once I had the ERCE there wasn't much choice. My real problem was jAil before CAGE, so I didn't get that erce until I got AUGEAN.

    Meanwhile, up in the nW -- am I the only one who plopped in pOGo for my stick? It seemed so obvious it kept me from seeing SOL (I mean, I saw it, but thought something must be wrong.) It took the revealer to help me get out of that one.

    @Casco, a rhubarb is an old baseball term for a big argument, maybe a little short of an actual fight. SPAT doesn't seem quite right, but it's in the ballpark.

    old timer 11:29 AM  

    Didn't get the "fifth" theme until coming here. Now I see it, and it makes the puzzle shine. Do re me fa SOL!

    The reason I know about the AUGEAN STABLES is that Agatha Christie wrote a book of stories called the "Labors of Hercule[s], in which Poirot duplicates the labors, in order, though of course the tasks Poirot is set are much more mundane.

    I thought at first that a Ravens rival would be a Seahawk. STEELERS are *so* 20th Century.

    wreck 11:30 AM  

    @ Casco

    Actually, Seattle stole the "12th Man" moniker from Texas A&M!

    noone 11:41 AM  

    Only saw the FIFTH theme for the "circled" columns when Rex pointed it out. The NYT laptop app doesn't show the circles!
    Wonder why they don't update their apps. . .
    Easy start with MESA, BROSNAN fell right in after BOAS, and is there any other long name for a book of the bible? (DEUT)

    noone 11:41 AM  

    Only saw the FIFTH theme for the "circled" columns when Rex pointed it out. The NYT laptop app doesn't show the circles!
    Wonder why they don't update their apps. . .
    Easy start with MESA, BROSNAN fell right in after BOAS, and is there any other long name for a book of the bible? (DEUT)

    Z 11:47 AM  

    @John V - Agree 100% on the Grid. VERSUS/VERNE/TEAR and AMBER/NEAP/BARBER means the four single square access points to the middle are in just two words (VERNE and AMBER). For VERNE you have the tricksy clue for TILDE and a variant spelling in AMEER. AMBER is crossed by a movie that is probably the clue's third best known work and a tricksy clue for BARBER. I managed to get these but can see how they might give people problems.

    I got the theme relatively early (at MAY, which was early in my solve since I did the NE/SE first) which takes the sting out of my DNF a little.

    ENO, ONO, and UNU walk into a bar and see ENYA at the piano...

    MDMA 11:50 AM  

    According to XwordInfo, the only semi-new entry in today's puzzle is DEUTERONOMY, and even that appeared in a pre-Shortz era NYT puzzle. Even AUGEANSTABLES appeared in a Shortz-era puzzle, in 1994.

    I like the use of the old-fashioned "Moslem" in the clue to hint at the alternate spelling of EMEER. Cleverer than the usual "Var."

    Today I learned that tImothy daltoN has the same number of letters as PIERCE BROSNAN, and that made the center a lot harder for me than it needed to be. I also learned that I can't count. The across clues in the vertical center strip seemed much tougher than those for the left and right sides, and that didn't help.

    More Leeloo, less BORON? Count me in.

    Does anyone else here hit Wikipedia and dictionary.com after the puzzle is done, to look up previously unfamiliar terms? I find it helps with mental retention for future puzzles.

    And a parting snobbish remark for those of you who hadn't heard of the term "fifth column". Consider yourselves, well... thoroughly sneered at. Nyah.

    Z 11:52 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    mathguy 11:52 AM  

    Loved this one! I remember Fifth Column as the title of a Hemingway short story.

    I wish Rex would drop saying that the puzzle was easy or hard. He's so good that these comments don't mean anything to me. It was crunchy for me because I only had two short gimmes.

    Sir Hillary: Thanks for the excellent description of the James Bond franchise. I never saw the Barry Nelson. But I remember being annoyed at the Woody Allen movie Casino Royale. I was a big fan of the Bond novels and didn't like 007 being played for laughs.

    RooMonster: I made the same mistake.

    Numinous 12:00 PM  

    I loved this puzzle, it was all getable. No googles. I had jail for a while but once I erased that, BROSNAN penetrated the fog in my brain. I couldn't think of any STABLES in the AeGEAN and VERSeS was just plain wrong so I went with a U our favorite Masked Man(iac). Obviously I too have no recollection of the details of Greek mythology.

    I kept looking for some sort of cell for the FIFTH COLUMNists but ALOOF put me right. Hand up for rAFT. It occurred to me that if one were, like Huck and Jim, rAFTing on a river, one would be going with the flow. I also had tARsI for a whle and rAt didn't seem unimaginable for noncombatant. After all, they are ship deserters! TOsRATE made no sense though. I had originally considered WAC and visualized cigarette smoke WAFTing on the air currents stirred by the AC. Then I recalled CARPal tunnel syndrome and all was well in the NE.

    And so went the rest of the puzzle, try a little of this–try a little of that. Some worked and some led to realizations of better guesses. It all finally came together and I got the congrats box. I really enjoyed the workout.

    Z 12:02 PM  

    @MDMA - I was taught early by my Muslim friends that "Moslem" is insulting. When I hear someone on Fox News use "Moslem" I always wonder if it is out of ignorance or to be intentionally insulting. I'm guessing most Americans have no idea that it would matter, so why not say "Muslim" and not offend 2 to 6 million Americans?

    BTW - The theme squares are gray in the paper and on the website, not circles. The revealer is not highlighted in any way other than the cluing. I don't know about the iPad app

    Anonymous 12:10 PM  

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre - Rex has moved from disparaging the work of others to bragging about his own... What a mean-spirited, sad little life he leads!

    mac 12:14 PM  

    Excellent Thursday!

    I stumbeled over several of the words in Leapy's list, and I also though the middle part was tougher than the rest, although my last entry was the W at 8A.

    I did not go back to figure out the "fith" component of the clues, even though I wondered about the vague clues for sol, May and Jupiter.

    Leapfinger 12:17 PM  

    Admitting I initially plunked in GaSpard; aucune idee as to what prompted that. Also had the temporary SouthCentral mess with pSAT/LSAT, igor/anna?/INGA, etc.

    @Numi (f/u from yesterday): I'll ArGUE that AGUE should rhyme with plague; nobody says 'catalog-yoo', do they? However, did discover, to my disMAY, that even AGUish [a real word, btw] doesn't rhyme with AnGUish, as I wish. (sigh)English!

    @GeorgeB, 'His_clues' a lovely catch!

    @CascoK and friends, The AeGEAN STABLES would have been more wet than filthy, lol. Must go back to remind self about why they needed so badly to be mucked out.

    @aketi, interesting risk factor for CARPal tunnel.'In my experience', however, the worst one has to be chicken-plucking, 8 hours a day on the factory line. Still, the clue was a huge misdirect, since a neighboring bone is usually of as being alongside, and it's humorous to think of it at either end.

    @AliasZ, you certainly put your time to good use. Some outstanding presticerebration today!
    I knew about JOSS sticks from various voodoo rituals, but not nearly as much as I know now. Your 'Isle of CARPI' will keep me laughing TILDE EWES come home, Mares si beaucoup!!

    @FredRom, absolutely right! I thought of that song because of the historical setting, and the title word Quince (Spanish, not the fruit!)

    Returning now to your regularly scheduled broadcasting.

    dick swart 12:22 PM  

    I looked at this puzzle as i poured a cuppa and thought "this is going to be a slog".

    Then I started, saw Deuteronomy, Hercules and his stables, Alan Shepard, Pierce Brosnan, and Joss Jupiter right away.

    Fast, easy, and a relief from the usual Thursday!

    Steve J 12:27 PM  

    @Sir Hillary: Thanks for explaining which Bond films are canonical and why. I was about to write the same thing when I saw your post. The way some people geek out on Star Trek or Lord of the Rings, I geek out on James Bond.

    @Casco: 12th man and fifth column mean exactly the opposite things. A fifth column is a clandestine base that undermines the existing regime. The 12th man represents an especially vociferous level of support for the home team. (And it's a label that's been around for years, applied to many teams. It's hardly unique to Seattle, even though their fans seem to think they invented it.)

    CAGEr 12:45 PM  

    Sixth man

    Anoa Bob 12:49 PM  

    With CUE TIP in a recent grid, it was no surprise that we would see the other foot fall and get a cue stick clue, here at 1 Across, "Kind of stick". JOSS has been one of the top cue makers since the late 60's and they are still in business. Here's one that was used in the movie "The Color of Money": Joss Cue Stick.

    Got all the five "columns" filled in and knew what FIFTH COLUMNS means, yet still didn't see that the column entries were each the fifth in a series. Kudos to all you smart cookies who did. Treat yourselves with an OREO.

    Anonymous 12:50 PM  


    Do you now know everything you want about JOSS sticks? You got everything from A[lias] to Z!

    [altho Z gave the broad incense, didn't specifically JOSS]

    Masked and Anonym007Us 1:07 PM  

    har! TRU!

    Cute theme, altho I'd have to plea the fifth of bourbon, on knowin most of the themers, after I got past yer planet, note, and month.

    Actually, I thought this was a pretty darn clever Week for puzthemes. Sure, the fill was all over the place, but shoot -- I gotta admit, I'd get bored, if every grid with a cool theme played it safe. There are some nice, smoothly-filled themeless puzs every weekend, if that's yer thing. Got yer PB1 fix, lots of Fridays. Let's review the themed grids that stuck their necks out a little, this week...

    * SunPuz: Horizontal word ladders. With such faves as BESILENT TUNGOIL.
    * MonPuz: Snow capped stuff. Starring PLOWMAN CRABBALLS.
    * TuesPuz: Comic relief. Graced by PHIAL IRONER.
    * WedPuz: T Times. Haunted by the INUTILE EDILE.

    Great stuff! It's all fresh in my mind, cuz I just finished playin catchup on all of em. Bet y'all had them words in a lot of the Comment Gallery messages. They gave the grid somethin edgy, weird and... Desperate! Well done, all U down-trodden constructioneers! QED.

    And bravo, PASSADO JOSSstick. The EMEER-ITEs of the world salute U. thUmbsUp to the whole gang, this week. Keep it funky! (And don't U go away, either, PB1.)

    "Keepin It Real"

    MN Plump 1:11 PM  

    @AnoaBob, the other 'foot fall'? Cute, but I thought it was a shoe that fell.

    Interesting about the JOSS cue-sticks; wonder which one the cluer had in mind.Maybe both?

    Martel Moopsbane 1:15 PM  

    First theme answers for me were ALANSHEPARD and AUGEANSTABLES, so I immediately began looking for an A---S---- format for all of them. Luckily I abandoned that before too much time elapsed. Also luckily, getting the theme was not necessary to getting the answers.

    Anonymous 1:23 PM  

    Rhubarb is more of an altercation, man on man; spat implies at least one woman, maybe two.
    Gender bias? Mebbe so.

    Does NCA Pres ever say something good about a puzzle?

    Anonymous 1:25 PM  

    Wouldn't the fifth James Bond be Timothy Dalton? Must have left out David Niven in Casino Royale.

    Charles Flaster 1:26 PM  

    Sorry --wrote mine.

    Anonymous 1:28 PM  

    Rather surprised that there's been no discussion of alignment of BURR with TREASON, and mentioned but once in passing.

    @OISK, it seems American History is overlooked as much as European.

    Lewis 2:19 PM  

    Terrific theme idea, finding things that are the fifth in a series, with a great reveal. I liked the clues for ADLIB and APP, and, like Rex would have liked more less-straightforward clues, and I believe more could have been made. For a long time I had AEGEANSTABLES and couldn't believe that the NYT let VERSeS mean the same thing as VERSUS. But I came to my senses. I just love the look of the puzzle and the focus on the downs, which is a nice change of pace.

    Carola 2:19 PM  

    Ingenious. And tough. Ended with an "Oh, I give up" in the NE when rAdiI and non-combatant "nor" weren't going to work.

    But lots of fun before then. As an indifferent housekeeper, I keep the AUGEAN STABLES in mind (as in, "at least not as bad as"). Knew FIFTH COLUMN from British spy scandals (I think). But...connecting that reveal with the theme answers took me a few minutes - my first thought was to look within them for words referring to subversive groups, with NULL result. Eventually the light went on: "Oh, not any random planet or month!"

    Thanks to commenters above for background on Bond, stable-cleaning, and FIFTH COLUMN.

    @Leapfinger - Maybe from Ravel's "Gaspard de la Nuit"?

    Tita 2:20 PM  

    Thanks, @Z. JOSS was a WOE, but your link (I was too lazy) showed me that I have a drawer-full - of the conical variety - to fuel my German räuchermännchen.

    @Moly re: yesterday re: me day-before-yesterday...thanks! You too - especially now that you are so controversial!

    @Nancy - I wasn't going to do it, but you leave me no choice... While traveling in a remote corner of Portugal, stopped at a store to buy tissues. I racked my brain, but couldn't come up with the Portuguese word. As I described it - "a handkerchief made of paper", the light bulb lit over the clerk's head, and he smilingly said "Sim sim - a senhora quer Kleenex!"
    (Sorry @everyone else who's not Nancy and has heard that one a million times - I'm like Roger Rabbit with "Shave and a Haircut...")

    Lewis 2:25 PM  

    Factoid: NERF stands for Non-Expanding Recreational Foam. (Wikipedia)

    Quotoid: "It is better to make a piece of music than to perform one, better to perform one than to listen to one, better to listen to one than to misuse it as a means of distraction, entertainment, or acquisition of 'culture.'" -- John CAGE

    LaneB 2:33 PM  

    Finally got the "fifth" part, and even though avoided a DNF with some Google help, still have trouble with some of the clues vs. fill, e.g., TILDE (an El Niño feature?), LEM?, ONETIME (Ex?). Never heard of a NEAP tide and had to go to Google to find out what it was. Hardly an "easy" one for me.

    xyz 2:33 PM  

    Stupid, too clever by half. CARPI are neighbors of RADII not ULNAE, anatomical shit clue as is too often allowed by Shortz. Deception created by incorrect subterfuge. Puzzle far from prestidigital. Graded D-

    xyz 2:38 PM  

    BTW, there were too many James Bonds in the Casino Royale spoof to include it in the Bond oeuvre of films, plus it was not a Broccoli production, do at least that part was correct. God I hate these "oh so clever" deflection clues

    Over the Limit Z 2:43 PM  

    @the redanman - They seem pretty neighborly to me.

    @Tita - You are welcome, although I like @Anoa Bob's answer just as much. As for your räuchermännchen, may they never appear in a puzzle. I don't think I've ever seen one before. They look to be close cousins of nutcrackers.

    jae 3:30 PM  

    Mostly easy for me except for the part where I spend a long time trying to make sPy work somehow. Add me to those heaping accolades. A fine Thurs.!

    Anonymous 3:59 PM  

    In Medical School we learned "carpal bones" or "carpals", never "carpi". Likewise tarsals. Also I know Emir but I have never seen it spelled "Emeer". Ever. I guess that's allowed if you're transliterating Arabic.

    Hartley70 4:03 PM  

    Like @Tita I began confidently with rAFT, spy and orbITER. And I threw in pogo for good measure. Yikes, that'll slow ya down! I saw FIFTH COLUMN right away and thought it went well with my spy error. The long downs were fairly easy but I got stuck in the center bottom because I never considered LEM. Why? Because I have no idea what a LEM is!!! Can someone LEMme have the definition?

    Hartley70 4:07 PM  


    Numinous 4:10 PM  

    Lunar Excursion Module

    Tita 4:23 PM  

    What irony!!!!
    I just realized - Mr. Polin used Apollo 13 to clue LEM - the only one that never succeeded to fulfill its main mission - an excursion to the moon...
    It was used instead as a "lifeboat" to allow the astronauts to abort the mission and return safely home.

    That, together with ALANSHEPARD and Planet had me thinking maybe there was a NASA theme going on.

    Thanks, @Hartley - it was your question that got me thinking about it.


    aging soprano 5:07 PM  

    I was sure you would send us somrthing emphasizing the circle of fifths. Now there's an interesting idea for a grid.

    Anonymous 5:25 PM  

    Clearly, I'm in the minority, but I believed almost from the beginning that this was an unremittingly dreadful puzzle. The reason is simple: the meta- theme or challenge is not connected to the solution itself--if, for example, the word "fifth" was necessary to solve the vertical/columnar clues, then the meta theme would be integral. But it's not, and in fact, it's only after completing the puzzle than you can really see how "fifth" is a component of those disparate answers (and how truly arbitrary they are in every conceivable way).

    I expected this puzzle to be condemned heartily (in the way that unreasonably hard Tuesday puzzle a few weeks ago was). But to each his own.

    I love the Times crossword puzzle. I have done it faithfully for 30 years, and will continue to do so. But there have been moments in the last year or so when I thought that Shortz had lost the plot in terms of what solvers want--instead of what he and constructors want. I'm surely/clearly wrong, but had to say my piece.

    aging soprano 5:32 PM  

    Maybe some people are too easily insulted...

    Martel Moopsbane 5:32 PM  

    Anyone else get a chuckle from the SHEPARD/EWE cross?

    dk 5:37 PM  

    🌕🌕🌕 (3 mOONs)

    OK 5D made my heart flutter.

    Upon filling in JUPITER and MAY I got the other fifths. Perhaps a fifth of rum might have helped.

    Big deal for me was my misspelling of ALOOF. I put a U in. I seem to recall a tun rate has meaning so the Northeast was making no SENSE.

    Constructing this puzzle took some thought and I appreciate the result.

    Thanks Tim

    Also a balanced post day. Coming here at the end of the day has its merits.

    SenorLynn 6:03 PM  

    Leeloo Dallas, MultiPass.

    Hartley70 7:01 PM  

    Thanks @Numie Never in a million years was that buried in my brain, so no duh moment. Happy to fire you up @Tita!

    Teedmn 7:38 PM  

    With most of the SE filled, I put eUSTAcE in for 43D. MAGIC eventually fixed it, but I think many years of getting the New Yorker had me thinking of Mr. Tilley.

    Wrote in TOPRAsE as a typo, which gave me HAst so although I wanted FIFTH, it wasn't making SENSE until I realized I was INERROR.

    oMBre briefly before AMBER. Wanted something like a Ti-DE for the El Niño clue - foiled by the TILDE again, though not for long.

    I agree with those who thought the center was by far tthe toughest but it was a great Thursday. Thanks Mr Polin.

    CaseAceFos 9:47 PM  

    Regarding the Bond issue, "All this and Niven too?"

    Nancy 10:33 PM  

    @Tita" Tissues, schmissues. Anyone who can say "a handkerchief made of paper" in Portuguese is one hell of a linguist in my book!

    Hands-on Experience 11:31 PM  

    @redanman, @anonyMD 3:59

    Let's not get too hung up on the fine technical aspects.
    A. The 8 carpal bones constitute 1 carpus. By the Law of the POC, carpus (pl.)= CARPI
    B. So the actual articulation of the wrist is between the distal radius and the proximal row of the carpus, specifically the lunate and, to varying extents, the navicular and triquetrum, depending on the degree of radial and ulnar deviation, respectively. However, is there any bony structure intervening between the ulnar styloid and the triquetral-pisiform area? No? In that case, speaking skeletally, the ulna and the carpus could be called neighbors.

    Anonymous 12:15 AM  

    @Hands-on That's all well and good, but a simpler argument is that "neighbor" isn't that specific. We have next-door neighbors and neighbors. My favorite neighbor lives 5 houses away.

    Hands-on Etcetera 12:39 AM  

    Anony 12:15

    Neigh not so.

    Simpler, yes, but unfortunately inadequate as argument. Your favorite neighbor 5 houses away is a neighborhood-only neighbor. A "real" neighbor must be adjacent or abut. No ifs, ands or abuts.

    Aketi 3:04 PM  

    @ George Barnry, thx for the link to the video clip. Loved the double eraser pencil

    @ leapfinger, having had to pluck chickens in Peace Corps I can definitely see how it could lead to carpal tunnel

    spacecraft 12:15 PM  

    First and foremost: kudos to whoever filtered out those #$*&^ spellcasters! May they never return.

    On to today. After reading the revealer clue (haven't I told you guys that an unusually long clue is gonna grab my attention?), I was thinking FIFTH COLUMNS right away. Accordingly, I started in the NE and filled in my anchor gimme: RADII. Come on. Neighbors of ulnae?? No question! That turned out to be a misdirect of "Herculean" proportion--in fact, to my mind, flaggable. The entry very nearly unraveled the whole solve.

    A bit hazy on my astronaut history here--I didn't know ALAN SHEPARD walked on the moon. I thought he was way earlier. I also lack OFL's familiarity with Herky's labors; that one had to go in all on crosses.

    Now, about those "straightforward" (?) clues?? You kidding me? CIA is a decoder ring, for short? "Bean, for one" turns out to be ORSON--a guy whose chief claim to fame was being a Hollywood Square?? And, of course, the already flagged armbone one. My friend, if you think these clues are "straightforward," I hope you don't get stopped and asked to walk a straight line, or you'd be "put behind bars."

    All of this is to refute the "easy" rating. True, once one realizes that they're asking for fifths in series, most of the themers fall in. But other problems make this one about a medium. By the way, no fewer than three of the Bond portrayers have 13 letters; Besides the erstwhile Remington Steele, there were George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton.

    I kinda liked it; theme and fill both better than recent efforts--and that's not saying much. B+.

    rondo 1:30 PM  

    Gotta agree with @Spacey about not being easy; never got the FIFTH COLUMN idea, seems obtuse.
    Like so many others I did the left side, then the right, then the struggle in the middle where tImothydaltoNwas of no help except on top and bottom. Also hand up for rAdiI. Again, not easy.

    Still say EMEER ain't correct, says Emirates on their planes.

    The wife thought BRUNO hilarious, I laughed a little.

    YERN?! that's urine.

    NAOMI still more a looker than Wynona. Dated a NAOMI once; nympho almost killed me.

    Miss ACME.

    Didn't know the Hercules deal, all crosses. Struggle of a puz until the right Bond guy appeared.

    I am not a robot.

    rondo 1:32 PM  

    JOSS Stone would have been a better clue for me. A lotta soul in a white gal.

    Burma Shave 1:52 PM  

    ORSON on NAOMI and ENYA,
    CAGE on EDEN too,
    then BRUNO and VERNE and INGA
    YERN for someone to do.

    rain forest 3:30 PM  

    Puzzle easy in some places, and difficult in others. I worked down the entire West side first, and that was the easiest section. Then, I asked myself, "self, why that planet? Why that note? Why that element and that book of the Bible?" That's when I stepped on the ping pong ball!

    Most of the rest of the puzzle was rather more difficult than the West though, and many crosses were needed for the other themers, except for MAY. Who would know the fifth Bond guy, or, in line with @Spacey, that ALAN SHEPARD walked on the moon? But, he said, that's why it is a *crossword* puzzle. And a good one whose traps (radii, spy, raft, etc) i fell into and dug myself out of.

    DMG 3:53 PM  

    Found this one a bit of a workout. got FIFTH COLUMN.
    Have always believed that referred to some kind of spy network, but couldn't figure out what was nefarious about JUPITER, etc. So much for a little learning. I toyed back and forth with sPy and APP, but neither was any help in supplying a fencing term, and as for "apotheosis"- I,m off to look,it up as soon as I'm done here. In the end got all except for the decoder ring thing. Wanted old time radio's Little Orphan Annie, or was it Jack Armstrong, where for a box top or whatever you could get a magic ring to decode the message at the end of the show. sometimes I wish I had a ring to decode these puzzles!

    NotZ 4:32 PM  

    ALANSHEPARD crossing EWE. Har.

    BS@ 5:04 PM  

    He did STEELER, we know that it’s TRU,
    But UNTO him we paid TOPRATE
    For the mutton that we ATE
    INERROR, beFOREPAW knew.

    Anonymous 6:08 PM  

    The Women's Air Force did not exist during WWII. It was formed in 1948. A few weeks ago, the WASPS were listed as combatants, they were not. Is anyone actually editting this stuff?

    re: noncombatants 6:29 PM  

    @ Anon 6:08 - from Wiki
    The Women's Army Corps (WAC) was the women's branch of the United States Army. It was created as an auxiliary unit, the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) on 15 May 1942 by Public Law 554,[1] and converted to full status as the WAC on 1 July 1943. Its first director was Oveta Culp Hobby, a prominent society woman in Texas.[2][3] The WAC was disbanded in 1978, and all units were integrated with male units

    check your own facts 6:32 PM  

    The WFTD and WAFS were merged on August 5, 1943, to create the paramilitary WASP organization. The female pilots of the WASP ended up numbering 1,074, each freeing a male pilot for combat service and duties. They flew over 60 million miles in every type of military aircraft.[1] The WASP was granted veteran status in 1977, and given the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.[2][3]

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