Last of 1973 murder mystery / MON 4-6-15 / Stone Age tool / Second-largest city in Kenya / Press conference danger for unguarded comment / Relatives of violas /

Monday, April 6, 2015

Constructor: Finn Vigeland

Relative difficulty: Challenging (*for a Monday*) (time: close to 4:00)

THEME: DAY BREAK (68A: First light … or a phenomenon suggested by this puzzle's seven sets of circled letters) — abrrevs. of days of the week (in circled squares) are "broken" (i.e. interrupted) by black squares.

Word of the Day: "The Last of SHEILA" (37D: "The Last of ___" (1973 murder mystery)) —
The Last of Sheila is a 1973 mystery film that was directed by Herbert Ross and written directly for the screen by Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim, It starred Richard BenjaminDyan CannonJames CoburnJoan HackettJames MasonIan McShane, and Raquel Welch.
The original music score was composed by Billy Goldenberg. The song "Friends," sung by Bette Midler, can be heard during the final scene of the film and the end credits. (wikipedia)
• • •

Bizarre. The theme is OK, but you get into some big trouble trying to make this thing a Monday. First, the theme is dense, so you end up with some tougher vocabulary. I'd put NEOLITH (39A: Stone Age tool) in that category. MOMBASA (54A: Second-largest city in Kenya) as well (though I'd heard of / seen both before). Also, grid is structured such that it has rather large stacks all over the place—very tough to pull off smoothly; or, rather, tough to pull off smoothly while still keeping yourself in Easy puzzle territory (which Mondays are supposed to be). Try to be clever in the cluing (as this puzzle does), and the difficulty ratchets up quickly. HOLLOW—Saturday clue (9D: Like jack-o'-lanterns or meaningless victories). HOT MIC—very unexpected answer (9A: Press conference danger of an unguarded comment). MWAH—unusual, never easy (54D: "Love ya!"). I like *all* those answers (incl. the clue on HOLLOW), but they aren't Monday-easy. You can be clever and smart and still stay Monday-easy. Monday is entry-level for many solvers, and that should be respected. This thing seems like a Wed. or Thu. that got brutally beaten into an ersatz Monday. As I told Finn just now, I wish this thing had been let loose to be a Wednesday. Puzzle feels like it's being forced to be something it's not.

The kind of weird no-man's-land this puzzle ends up in, identity-wise, is best exemplified by the clue on SHEILA (37D: "The Last of ___" (1973 murder mystery)). My solving joy was brought crashing down by this 40+-year-old *nothing* of a film. I teach crime fiction and can name a passel of '70s crime movies and this … isn't one of them. It's not my not knowing it that's the problem, however. It's simply a terrible, ridiculous, hyper-obscure way to clue SHEILA … I repeat: On. A. Monday. Seriously, I keep staring at this puzzle going "How did that clue pass?" It's Fill-in-the-blank, so you can't say it's good / imaginative / clever. Is it because it involves a scavenger hunt, so maybe puzzle people will like it? Is it because Sondheim was involved and he likes puzzles?  Or puzzle solvers like Sondheim? (And please, Sondheim mafia, spare me your "How could you not know…?" stuff on this one). What kind of b.s. insidery nonsense allows this clue into existence on a Monday. This is an editorial issue. Even if constructor submits that clue, if it's Monday (and it is), that clue's gone. Gone. It's a Fri/Sat clue, and again, even then, not great. Worth something only as an obscurity-leavening agent.

Good things:

  • "LIFE OF PI" correctly offered w/o the def. article "THE," unlike in that train-wreck of a recent Sunday puzzle. Still shaking my head over that one (has SMH been in a puzzle? I like it). 
  • Lively grid overall, with very little true junk. I just had a disagreement with Finn about MADEA v. MEDEA. He likes the freshness of MADEA, I prefer the classics. So I'm supporting MEDEA / MEL / PLANK, while Finn stands firmly by MADEA / MAR / PRANK. I think MAR / PRANK is better … but not better enough to justify the awkwardly-spelled (and less Monday-worthy) MADEA. We both agree that ENOTE / NEL / PLANK would've been terrible. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:12 AM  

Tough  for me too.  @Rex I never heard of the SHIELA mystery (Aussie lass on the other hand...) either and thought it was a book,  NEOLITH did not leap to mind,  MOMBASA/MWAH seems like a tough cross...not an easy Mon. 

Clever theme, interesting fill, liked it.

Whirred Whacks 12:26 AM  

Interesting that the constructor has stacked two Ang Lee films on top of one another:

ICE STORM (1997 with Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver)

I remember HOT MIC from the time in March, 2012 when Barack Obama told Russian President Medvedev "to give him some space because he would have more flexibility after the election." To which Medvedev replied, " I will pass this information on to Vladimir."

Steve J 1:12 AM  
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Steve J 1:13 AM  

Always interesting how widely perceived difficulty can vary. I flew through this one, even with a couple margaritas under my belt on what turned out to be a gorgeous afternoon/evening after some rain. The allegedly problematic areas noted by Rex weren't even noticed by me, as the crosses completely took care of anything I didn't know on its own (like SHEILA as clued).

Lots of good fill, no bad fill that jumped out at me outside of forced-plural I DOS, and some really nice cluing - loved the clues for PRIUS and HOLLOW, in particular. Nice Monday.

Anonymous 3:09 AM  

I thought that the 1st Monday, of each month, was the puzzle Rex got that young girl to describe?

chefwen 3:21 AM  

Yet, again I'm with @Steve J. Flew through this one, Jon found it more difficult. Only problem was UNbuckle before UNFASTEN, easy fix.

Enjoyed it Finn, thanks.

Z 3:42 AM  

DIETcOlA, incorrectly assuming that since both pops in the clue were colas and it's Monday .... Still, only in my medium-challenging range.

A fine Monday, with just a little more meat than we are used to getting. No complaints here, even with the obscure SHEILA clue.

Loren Muse Smith 5:06 AM  

I'm with @Steve J and @chefwen – I flew through this like a bat out of hell, shamelessly filling in all the circles after I got MON. Ahem, solving from on high, ELITIST solver's EGO and all that, I kinda wished there had been no circles. (In that spirit, I did an impromptu Easter egg hunt and fond a broken NEMO going down again.) When I saw the revealer, I grinned. Bravo!

PIMP crossing EASY MONEY. How edgy, Ms. Grey Lady.

SHEILA – again I'm with @Steve J – avoided that hurdle by completely missing its tough clue because of the crosses.

Any kind of riddle pleases me – loved WHO AM I.

Rolled my eyes at HOT MIC – I bet Andrew Harrison wishes unsaid his little goof after the game.

How would you use MIC as a verb in the past tense? Miced doesn't work, does it?

Anyway – time to start the day. Breakfast, here I come! Here's hoping for a double yolker!

Anyone else ever do Easter egg hunts in a grid (or post) just for fun? ;-)

pfb 5:13 AM  

I has MEDEA for MADEA for a while. I agree the some of the cluing was well beyond what one expects on a Monday.

John Child 6:05 AM  

I thought this was an excellent, easy puzzle. Not a Monday? Well, it took me almost exactly what I expect on Mon, so I think I would have been disappointed to see it on Tuesday and *irate* ;-) on Wednesday.

Is Annabell on spring break or did @Rex forget again?

Lewis 6:23 AM  

@rex -- I'm in favor of MeDEA over MADEA, simply because we would have had a MEL PLANK cross.

@lms -- I know you hid something in your post, but I can't find it! You almost had "doorpost"...

I only got held back by putting in DIETcOLa; easy crosses took care of other unsure-of answers. Liked HOTMIC, LIFEOFPI, and MWAH, and the clue to TENT.

This year, Mondays have had more bite than ever before, but not beyond entry level, I believe. This is a good thing. It's not a throwaway puzzle anymore. Keep this up, Will, and I enjoyed it, Vinn!

Lewis 6:30 AM  
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Lewis 6:32 AM  

One nice thing that Finn did, I just noticed, is make the theme answers alternate how they're split, so that in M-ON, the single letter is to the left, and on TU-E, it's to the right, and all the way down to S-UN. Well done!

Thomaso808 6:37 AM  

Fairly tough for a Monday. OEIL? MWAH? The crosses worked out so OK but yeah, it was a challenge for a Monday.

The theme held up and the fill was solid. Good Monday puzzle!

GILL I. 6:40 AM  

I too enjoyed this Monday. I'm sure it took me longer than 4 minutes but still, it went pretty fast.
I love it when a Monday brings back a memory or two. In this case it was MOMBASA. Back in the 80's an old boyfriend and I went to the Masai Mara Reserve on a photo shoot. The experience was overwhelming. We watched the wildebeest migration and tasted first hand what it's like eating lots of dust and sand. We then spent several days on the beautiful beaches of MOMBASA. So incredibly sad what's happening now. The Kenyans are wonderful, warm people....
LIFE OF PI was quite possibly the worst movie I ever saw.
MARTINI ! Happy there and of course seeing RIO again. Dad lived there so I was able to play on the Copacabana beach. [sigh]...I've had such a miserable life!
Thanks, Finn (whose name I love) good Monday for moi...

imfromjersey 7:11 AM  

Nice puzzle, seemed more tile a Tuesday. No offense Rex, but what happened to Annabel? Was looking forward to seeing her view of this puzzle.

CFXK 7:34 AM  

Isn't this the first Monday of the month? Annabel?

Name that tune 7:35 AM  

I despise Will Shortz so much that I'm going to focus on the poor editing choice of publishing this on a Monday rather and barely mention whether I liked the puzzle or not. In fact, I am so upset about this that I am going to usurp the first- Monday right of Annabel to write the blog--she would have probably given it a rave review and displayed her generally happy personality, which I just. Won't. Tolerate.
I will, of course, show off a bit by mentioning I'm on a first name basis with the constructor, and I'll mention how the puzzle took me 12 seconds (MUCH longer than my usual Monday--more like a Saturday time for me), and although Finn is no you know who (Patrick Berry!! <3 <3 <3), he has, under my tutelage, evolved to the point where he has a hope of someday earning my highest praise: "acceptable work."

Glimmerglass 7:44 AM  

Everybody: AnaBEL, AnaBEL, AnaBEL!

Dorothy Biggs 7:47 AM  

MWAH? That's even a thing? I'm guessing it is the sound you make when you blow someone a kiss? Wow.

From SHIELA (which I've never heard of in my entire life) to LENNON (which is probably the easiest clue on record), this puzzle swung wildly from one extreme to the other...which is why I completely agree with Rex's assessment that it was forced into being a Monday puzzle from somewhere in the Wednesday area.

Interestingly, this day of the week quibble is part of the theme...maybe some kind of meta?

Only real nit, I think a microphone is actually abbreviated as a mike, or at least that's the way I've usually seen it.

I liked the PRIUS car of many colors. Heh. Clever.

Sondheim Mafia 7:52 AM  

Tom Hagen: When I meet with Vigeland's men, should I insist all their drug middlemen have clean records?

Don Corleone: Mention it, don't insist. But Sondheim will know that without being told.

Tom Hagen: You mean Vigeland...

Don Corleone: Vigeland is a PIMP. He never could have out-thought Parker. But I didn't know until this day that it was Sondheim all along.

Aketi 7:54 AM  

@WhirredWhacks, I missed noticing the movie ICESTORM in the movie stack corner until you pointed it out.

I too had my EGO stoked with instafills until I got to DIETcOlA. My Monday experience is typically the inverse of Rex's opinion of what those of us whose skills are at the Monday/Tuesday Should be able to solve

MOMBASA was a gimme since African cities and odd animals are in my extremely limited wheelhouse.

@ GILL I, how wonderful that you were able to see the Masai Mara Reserve back in the 80s. Apart from the excursion to Virunga for a brief glimpse of the gorillas in the distance when I did my Peace Corps training, I had been traveling back and forth to Africa for at least 15 years before I saw anything other than cockroaches, army ants, and mosquitos. Actually I did see a few birds, goats, and camels. I finally attended a conference in Arusha, Tanzania and go on a tour of the reserve just a few years before the embassy bombings in the 90s. I was never able to bring myself to watch any of the movies about Rwanda and only recently tried to watch the documentary Virunga and gave up. Just too sad.

Lewis 7:59 AM  

So... LMS does have a cool hunt in her post... worth the search!

Aketi 8:02 AM  

Oops, I think the Grammar Nazis are going to catch me on switching tenses mid sentence. Haha. My excuse is that I went to school in California during an era when English teachers thought it was great to teach "stream of consciousness" writing, I was only taught grammar in French class.

Lewis 8:09 AM  

Factoid: 50% of the United States population lives within a 500 mile radius of Columbus, OHIO.

Quotoid: "Before I came here I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture I am still confused. But on a higher level." -- Enrico FERMI

F.O.G. 8:18 AM  

Fast solve for me, too.

I felt uncomfortable entering CELLI because the plural is normally "cellos," but oTINA on the cross wouldn't work.

If Enrico had bet me on a DARE as to the correct spelling, FERMI would have made some EASY MONEY.

Generic Solver 8:18 AM  

@NCA President - surely you of all people have heard of "mwah". It's the desirable tonal characteristic of a fretless bass guitar as one slides around the fretboard, a la Jaco. The word itself pretty much describes the tone I'm referring to better than any description I could come up with.

F.O.G. 8:31 AM  


Leading up to the last general election, a friend who votes in South Dakota was upset by news reports that OHIO would determine the Presidential election. "What's so special about your state?" I had no good answer.

And as a Cornhusker fan, he was very distraught when OSU won the Big 10 football championship (not to mention the national title).

Anonymous 8:39 AM  

Where's Annabel?

Questinia 9:11 AM  

This puzzle was like tadiq. Persian rice redolent of saffron with a crunchy top. Easy to eat, easy to solve, not that easy to make. Finn did a great job making it.

jberg 9:12 AM  

I'm in the "harder than most Mondays" camp, but I don't really care about that. What made it hard for me was the paucity of connections between sections of the grid. I got the NW corner right off, but the only way down from there was the T in SLIT. I did consider "TELL OF," but that was too generic to be certain. Fortunately, SAXON was a gimme--but it went on like that.

But none of that kept me from liking the puzzle, which was great with lots of fresh long answers.

@Loren, I give up!

Steve M 9:13 AM  

Excellent solve

Norm C. 9:16 AM  

I hate to think that John LENNON might be remembered merely as "McCartney's songwriting partner" instead of the composer, artist, musician, and author that he was "In His Own Write."

grammar nazi 9:25 AM  

Norm, was that "write" supposed to be a joke, or did you mean "In his own RIGHT?"

quilter1 9:30 AM  

I was looking forward to Annabel's write-up. Where is she? The puzzle was very easy and I thought fresh and clever.

I would do anything for crosswords, but I won't do that 9:31 AM  

LMS--nice Meatloaf reference. Do you know what you use to hit a ball pitched my Meatloaf?

A Bat Out of Hell!

Relatedly, this is worth a read:

Nancy 9:36 AM  

@Leapfinger (from late yesterday): I'm assuming your knowledge of the Reuben James comes not from history books but, like mine, from The Weavers. Yes? (Or did you prefer the Kingston Trio?)

@GILL -- I read the book, LIFE OF PI, several years before I saw the movie. I absolutely loved the book and thought the movie was a big yawn. I highly recommend the book to you.

Today's puzzle? Didn't do much for me.

chefbea 9:36 AM  

Tough for a Mon. but I plowed through it

I mentioned Annabell last week...that we look forward to her being here on the first Mon. of the where is she?????

RooMonster 9:39 AM  

Hey All !
Thanks @Lewis for pointing out the days are split 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, 1. Adds more excitement to the overall coolness of this puz!

No hidden message in my comments. I'm not that clever!

Liked this puz, it's like 6 Runtz! Some writeovers, Psalm-> PAEAN, UNbucle-> UNFASTEN, MeDEA before MeR wasn't clued as the sea! Also put in Dare for 59D until saw I already had it at 32D!

Good 'un Finn. A bit more challenging for a MonPuz, but that's ok. Think @Rex was a tad harsh, just sayin'.

GAIN-LOSE (Seems like more gain...)

Doug Garr 9:46 AM  

This is so puzzling. Wow, you just never know. I finished this thing so fast -- thought it was one of the easiest Mondays ever. I just clicked with the constructor. That said, I'm way below most of the people who comment here in solving ability. I never even attempt Fri. Sat. I saw Life of Pi and didn't even remember the title. The downs were so easy to get it. My only snag was ITINA because I thought the plural of cello was cellos not CELLI.

grammar nazi 9:48 AM  

Mic v Mike:

"The grumbling over mic emerges from its seeming violation of English pronunciation rules. Bicycle is abbreviated as bike, after all, not bic. But we do occasionally allow a mismatch between the spelling of an abbreviation and how it looks like it ought to be pronounced. Vegetable is shortened to veg, and Reginald to Reg, but the final g is not a "hard" one as in peg or leg. So let the musicians and broadcasters have their mic, but as for me, I still like mike."

Everyone seems to agree that the past tense is "miked."

I'll take either 9:54 AM  

I guess the question is, does the phrase HOTMIC refer to a good-looking Irishman or to #23 for the Bulls?

Name that tune 9:56 AM  

Stop insulting me. As always, I was aiming for MUCH more than "a tad" harsh.

mac 9:58 AM  

Yes, hard for a Monday, but still very quick for me.

I like the combinations, lose and gain, and also Life of Pei and Ice Storm. You need that martini after watching the latter, it is chilling.

SE was a bit of a stumble, I thought the Tyler Perry character might start with Mad, of course.

Don McBrien 10:01 AM  

Have to agree with Rex Porker. When you're griping about the day of the week the puzzle appears on instead of the substance of the puzzle, you're just looking for something to complain about. I know it's been hashed to death by people here a lot longer than me, but I can't fathom why someone who clearly dislikes the NYT puzzle so much devotes so much of his time to it. I've given up on TV shows, walked out of movies and put down books that I enjoy more than Rex seems to enjoy the NYT puzzle.

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

Ha mac @0958: Was that first movie a documentary about the architect?

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

I would have called it "I am Pei."

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

O come ON people, that's GOLD!

Norm C. 10:22 AM  

@grammar nazi - The quoted phrase in my post is the title of one of John's books. John was also a punster, apparently. One of his other books was "A Spaniard in the Works." Keep in mind that "spanner" is Brit-speak for wrench.

RooMonster 10:26 AM  

Anony x 3, dum-dum-tish! (That was my lame attempt at a rim shot!)

Porker, nice...


grammar nazi 10:32 AM  

Norm, I love it!

Mr. Benson 10:33 AM  

I got a good laugh from Rex Porker's comment and basically agree with it. The routine swipes at Will Shortz are increasingly gratuitous. And although I found today's puzzle to be mildly on the challenging side for a Monday, it was by no means misplaced today. (For example, I didn't know about that SHEILA movie either, but all the crosses were extremely fair.)

Riorita 10:48 AM  

Harder than usual for this 80 year old! Think age has anything to do with it? 80 year olds please reply! Riorita

Riorita 10:48 AM  
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Arlene 11:02 AM  

Some interesting comments about HOTMIC and the abbreviations for microphone. Having used hearing aids and now cochlear implants for many years, I've used both terms - "mic" and "mike" - and they both seem to be correct. As a verb, MIKED is my preferred spelling (as the other implies rodents).
And on my current cochlear implant processors, there is a patented and innovative "T-mic" - which offers some enhanced listening possibilities. Here's the link -
Pretty cool stuff.

mathguy 11:03 AM  

@Rex Porker. Good one!

@Whirred Whacks: Nice catch of the two Ang Lee movies.

I agree that Last of Sheila wasn't much of a movie but it got quite a bit of attention when it came out. SHEILA was a gimme for me.

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

You apparently disagree with Rex' s assessment of what his job is as a crossword critic. I.e., to apply standards that he believes should be adhered to by constructors and editors. Either that or you don't think he does it fairly or correctly. In any case, this is his domain and nobody is forcing you to remain in it. If you do choose to stick around, why not state reasoned bases for disagreement instead of the ad hominem criticisms of a man you never met!

Anonymous 11:09 AM  

Anon @ 11:04:
Did you even read the comments criticizing rex's post? Because I'm not sure I saw a single "ad hominem" criticism except for Porker's jokey response to Roo @ 0956. The criticism, at least today, has pretty consistently been "stop being obsessed with Will Shortz and please discuss the puzzle" in some form or another. Despite what you may think, these are most definitely not "ad hominem criticisms." They are criticisms of the way rex discussed this puzzle on what is supposed to be a crossword blog.

Hartley70 11:16 AM  

I just did the Sunday puzzle before I tackled this Monday beauty and let me tell you, I am puzzled out this morning! Sunday's itty bitty SW corner was a bear. It was a great day for comments though, xoxo @Nancy. Oh and I have begun retina issues too @Mathguy and @Benko. Is it old age or too much prolonged crosswording.. at, no that's an old wives' tale I'm sure.

SHEILA, SHEILA, SHEILA! I'm happy as a quahog to report that SHEILA slid in there with no trouble. It was a wacky movie, but I remember liking it and there was a time when it was in the late night tv rotation I think...long before video on demand existed, which I adore btw.

I thought the only tough entry was MWAH, which I've seen before in online posts but never really grasped. I'm sticking with xx xx myself.

old timer 11:25 AM  

Although I actually had a Mondayish time solving the puzzle, it did not *feel* like a Monday, and has two answers that simply do not belong in a Monday: MWAH (never seen it in a crossword) and SHEILA. What in Hell is a SHE ILA? I was asking.

It strikes me that only Rex could have properly analyzed this puzzle. Let's hope that Annabel comes back and does tomorrow's.

The puzzle was well constructed, other than that. Rex took exactly the right line here, pointing out the clean fill. He clearly likes Finn, and thinks the puzzle would have played better on a later day in the week.

Never heard of MADEA, but that's my loss, I think.

Kell 11:26 AM  

Interesting... I just starting doing crosswords last week so I'm still pretty bad (I can complete a Tuesday with a good amount of difficulty and that's about it), but this was one of the fastest Monday's I've had for me. Often there will be something I'm stuck on at the end and have to look up, but this one just flew by. Maybe I was just lucky and it happened to fall into my range of knowledge.

PuzzleMom 11:36 AM  

Loved this puzzle and thought it a perfectly appropriate Monday. Solved it smoothly with crosses helping in every case where I had no idea what the answer might be (as in Sheila, for example). Isn't that what crossword puzzles are supposed to do? Help you find the answers you don't know by using the ones you do know? Good work, Finn. It was a pleasure.

GILL I. 11:39 AM  

@Aketi. After reading Ruark's Something of Value, I knew I had to see Kenya at least once. I want to go back again to see the Samburu National Park and then lie on Diani beach....Such a rich history and so incredibly beautiful. Oh, and were you also fortunate enough to be taught Ebonics?
@Nancy...If ever you get to this part of the world, you'll have to have lunch (or dinner) with @Ellen S and me. We're a bit like oil and water. Ellen is a vegetarian, a devout leftist and prone to wearing Che Quevarra tees. I'm a middle of the road, pig eating lover who wears linen in the summer. But we both love Margaritas, enjoying the same books and we always have fun!
Oh, I read The Life of Pi - that's why I wanted to see that godawful movie....

Whirred Whacks 11:55 AM  

@Gill @Aketi
I spent three weeks in Kenya in 1988 and visited those gorgeous places you mentioned. Also visited Mombasa and body surfed in the Indian Ocean there. Glad I've been there; no desire to return with the current unrest. Sad.

I loved the novel LIFE OF PI. I never thought anyone would be able to translate it to film, but Ang Lee did an admirable job with the project. I saw it in 3D in a theater and found it to be a wonderful experience. "Different strokes" as they say.

Carola 12:13 PM  

Lively and fun, interesting from top to bottom. I wondered how the "split-screen" days of the week were going to be dealt with and loved the reveal.

"The Last of SHEILA," which I saw when it came out, is memorable for me in teaching me not to try to talk people into doing something they know they don't like. I twisted the arm of an old college friend visiting from out of town, who "hated" mystery movies, to go with me because "this one will be really good." She hated it and the rest of our weekend was somewhat MARred by resentment and guilty feelings.

More movies: EXODUS and BABE.

I liked AWE x WOW and the contrasting DUD. Also MORN + DAYBREAK.

AliasZ 12:16 PM  

Lovely puzzle by Vige Finnland today, clean and elegant despite MADEA and SHEILA. For the latter, I would have preferred the Indian politician SHEILA Dikshit. She would have not been any more obscure than "The Last of" her. I especially liked EASY MONEY, MOMBASA, HOTMIC and HOLLOW victory among others.

"I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn't, than live as if there isn't and to die to find out that there is." - Albert CAMUS (1913–1960).

Brazilian composer Heitor Villa Lobos (1887-1959) was more than a little obsessed with the rich, dark and often melancholy tone of CELLI. A prime example is his hauntingly beautiful Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1 (1930), scored for an orchestra of "at least 8"[sic] CELLI. In recordings and live performances they usually use 16-20 of them. The three movements are: I. Introduction - Embolada; II. Preludio - Modinha; III. Fuga - Conversa.

Easter Monday reminds me of the old Eastern-European tradition of visiting all the girls and ladies you knew and sprinkling water or cologne on them, for which you were rewarded with pastry, often beautifully decorated and painted hard-boiled eggs, and plenty to drink. If you found your way home after a day-long eating and drinking, you did real good.

Masked and Anonymo5Us 12:37 PM  

MonPuz-level theme, definitely. Once I saw the MON in the first set of circles, and saw seven sets of circles, the theme was history, except for the revealer. But then, I also guessed the revealer, after readin its clue. Cool theme, but it's over before the fat lady clears her throat.

Plus... since U have to break each themer up with a black square, U either end up with 90 words, or U have to really beef up the non-themers with some loongish stacks.

The overall result? No Blue'bel on First Monday. She probably wouldn't answer any emails or phone calls, after she saw them stacks of eights. Miss yah, 'Bel. Hurry back soon.

fave moo-cow Monday EZ clue: "Football six pointers, for short". Easy score.

instead of

Then U could clue up SHEILA as {Tommy Roe on a 1962 52-Down}.

Bullets and weejects and weeject bullets:
* OEIL? And M&A thought *he* couldn't spell.
* MWAH. Desperate. Like.
* IMS. As in: U's spellin it OEIL, I'M'S spellin it OIL.


** gruntz **

nick 12:49 PM  

Loved it. I know it's hard for Monday but as a daily solver it was such a pleasure to get something fun and with a bit of grit after Sunday's tedious bomb. So, sorry novice puzzlers, but this was pretty great.

old jew 1:11 PM  

Oeil vey!

Joseph Michael 1:19 PM  

Liked the theme a lot and agree that it feels like gratuitous complaining to focus the critique around what day of the week the puzzle should have appeared. Occasionally shaking things up helps keep things from getting stale.

That said, this was for me a tough Monday due to answers like MOMBASA, NEOLITH, and UNITARD and the 1973 reference to "The Last of SHEILA."

Lost clues:

Offspring who is a member of the LGBT community: BI SON

Habitat of prostitutes: HO NEST

Anonymous 1:34 PM  

@Joseph Michael 1:19,

How about:

stupid single person: UNI TARD

Anonymous 1:39 PM  

Embryo Starter: Cell I


For the first time in recorded history I beat Rex's time. That's it folks, I'm outa here!

anonymous 2:06 PM  

Agree with Rex re Sheila (which I've never heard of although crosses gave me the answer) and never heard of MWAH but pulled out Mombasa. Definitely some weird stuff for a Monday in terms of having a clean sheet.

John V 2:33 PM  

I dunno. I thought is was easy/medium, maybe more Tuesday-ish, but what the hey. Loved the NW, having read and loved LIFE OF PI and having two PRIUS' in the garage. The NW could have been good bait for a themeless, IMHO. Good, fresh Monday.

Anonymous 2:55 PM  

Couldn't agree more

JTHurst 3:13 PM  


Just like Brer Rabbit and Tarbaby. Monday - easy, you got one paw stuck, Tuesday a little harder, but you think you can do it. Wham the other paw is stuck. Then comes Wednesday and you grapple until you have that taste of success. Your foot is stuck. The eels and eddas and other standards start becoming easier. Thursday you wonder, what is a rebus and how can you have a cell with more than one letter and then you come to Friday stacks and the gnashing of teeth begins.

And just when you think you are free they drag you back in, as Al said.

Let's face it Kell, you are a goner. Welcome to the 84 lakh karmic wheel of cruciverbalism. Remember it is an 'ism' not a 'wasm'.

Where Rex is a god or a demon who gets everything right or nothing right and where commentaries are extruded like so much sausage.

But occasionally you will read a comment, which will tickle you and make you laugh. And if nothing else happens to you that day, that laugh will carry you through.


Anonymous 3:45 PM  

@rio rita

I have been a lurker for a while, but since you received no other replies, thought you would like to know there is at least 1 other 80 year old doing the NYT crossword. I, also found this just a little more difficult than usual, but fun.

Anonymous 3:47 PM  

When you have to come up with 365 puzzles a year I think you have to give the editor some leeway. For most of us the crossword is a pleasant diversion and up to a few weeks ago so was this blog. But lately, what's up with all the hostility to the puzzles? 365 totally new and different puzzles a year? Really?

Anonymous 4:09 PM  

Another 80-year-old here. The puz was not simple minded, like the usual Monday, but it was simple. Liked it.

Anonymous 4:12 PM  

And my wife is a Sheila, so that was a gimme even though nobody else seems to have ever heard of it.

Bob Kerfuffle 4:21 PM  

I like mike!

But the puzzle is pretty good, 9A notwithstanding.

Aketi 4:37 PM  

@Whirred Whacks, I figure I would be pushing my luck to return to some of the places I so cavalierly visited in my youth without recognizing the dangers. So I too am not really for a revisit to some parts of Africa I used to visit before until tensions calm down,

@Gill I, Peace Corps gave me 11 weeks of french immersion and offered a bare minimum of 6 weeks of Lingala instruction. Ebonics would have been useless there.

When I was sent to my post, a five year old neighbor really taught me Lingala, a Bantu Language (spoken by about 5 million native speakers if you believe Wikipedia). She thought it was hilarious that a grown up didn't know how to speak and I became her project.

The grammar is very strange. There are ten different ways to make a plural using a prefix at the beginning of a noun. Fortunately you could cheat by using the "bo" prefix for most everything. For instance, MOninga mend friend and BOninga means friends.

There were some odd words that clearly drifted to the Americas such as nzambe (pronounced zombie) which means God and nguba which of course means peanut. There were also words which made it into Lingala from other languages such as mesa for table from Portugese, motuka for car from English. They adopted soki olingi as a literal translation from the French s'il vous plait because they had no word for please.

Can you tell I'm procrastinating about finishing my taxes?

Z 5:12 PM  

@john v - one Prius, two Prii.

smalltowndoc 5:16 PM  

I for one like "The Last of SHEILA". Thought it was a good mystery with several red herrings and a nice twist of an ending. And of course, Raquel Welch! Enjoyed the puzzle. Wasn't thrilled with MWAH.

Anonymous 5:29 PM  

- a Sondheim mafia member

ps - it's an awesome movie!!

chefbea 5:44 PM  

In today's wilmington newspaper..the daily puzzle had in it.....mic

RooMonster 6:50 PM  

And speaking of movies, I just came across one from 2003 called ... wait for it ... Masked and Anonymous. Really! Starring Bob Dylan, Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Penelope Cruz, Angela Bassett. Watching it ad I type. Who knew?

Had a movie "star" here in M&A and never knew!


OISK 9:33 PM  

Pimp my ride??i almost put in unutard to make it "pump" instead of pimp. No idea about Mwah, never heard of Andy Samberg, A slow Monday for me.

When the clue said "old MTV series, " I tried to recall ANY program I had ever seen on MTV . Came up empty.

Mike 11:11 PM  

I'm chiming in way late but the HOTMIC clue was great in light of the recent UK players gaffe at the post game press conference.

Tita 9:46 AM  

Even later...
Liked the puzzle, thought it clever.
Evokes plenty of side stories - here are 3...!

When I was about 8, parents said "Let's EATOUT tonight." I was soooo excited! When we all piled out of the car at some nearby restaurant, I started crying. I thought it was going to be a picnic. (Mon's always been an great cook and entertainer - we never ate out!!)

Was waiting for my car being serviced in the dealer waiting room. A 10-year-old boy was changing channels on the TV, and stopped at PIMP my Ride.
The young dad got incensed - grabbed the remote and changed the channel. The boy argued - but it's just about fixing up cars! The dad held fast, saying "No kid of mine is going to watch a show with PIMP in the title."
I thought - yay - So does that make him and me prudes? I dunno - I have a hard time with words that are directly linked to abuse and abasement becoming run of the mill.

Friends had a huge gray parrot. THe boys watched lots of WWII movies. Parrot imitated bombs - the long arcing whistle, followed by the explosion. Every so often, he would throw in a DUD.

Laurence Hunt 1:40 PM  

Let me say this. I am a novice, and prefer the Mon-Wed puzzles for this reason. I found this one very easy on balance, though I certainly didn't know the "Sheila" movie.

ZenMonkey 6:26 PM  

I'm catching up, and had to check here to see that my impression of its difficulty is shared. I thought it was quite fun and not difficult, with a cute, organic-feeling trick, but absolutely not a Monday.

I've lured a couple of people to the NYT puzzle by suggesting they start with Mindays only. I don't think I'd have been successful if they had encountered this!

Unknown 10:00 PM  

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Unknown 9:22 AM  

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spacecraft 11:32 AM  

MWAH? Please tell me you're kidding.

Nope, he's not kidding. Oh boy. (That's not "Oh boy!" as in "Dad just said we're going to Disneyland!!" but Scott Bakula's "Oh boy." on that old time-travel show.)

Oh well. Yesterday we had INONE; today it's ONEIN. That's ONE I'D 'A left out. Along with PIMP. Can you even say that? And right in there with EATOUT? Ohboy.

Well, before I become all UNFASTENed here, I should TELLOF my solving experience. I make it, not WED or THU-ish, but maybe more of a TUE puzzle than a MON. BTW, when I clicked on "syndicated" I got sent to a blank page with the message "This blog does not exist." Had to dredge it up out of April's list. Weird. But no weirder than MWAH. I didn't find it that tough, but there were some strange entries. HOTMIC was another one that needed every cross. Once all the letters were there, I could see the point, but it JDLR: Just Didn't Look Right. "Comic Sans??" That's a FONT? Where DO they get these names?

The theme? Dense, clever. The fill? Ohboy. C.

I do enjoy @Rex Porker.

We seem to be getting back to number captchas, mine was 699; 6 I guess. Meh.

rain forest 12:41 PM  

I was looking forward to Annabel and ran into the "this page does not exist" thing that @Spacey mentioned. Did @Rex co-opt her usual time slot? Too bad.

However, the puzzle was great. I really don't care if it "belongs" on a Monday or some other day. It was pretty easy on acrosses only, which made SHEILA a non-issue, as well as MADEA.

The theme was cute and well-executed, and I agree with whoever said that the puzzle was "simple but not simple-minded".

Yes, it's your blog, @Rex, but please just stop with the Shortz harangue.

917 Could be...

rondo 1:42 PM  

Same experience as @rain forest and @Spacey with "does not exist". Also agree with the idea that this was tougher than usual Mondays, but I'm more than fine with that, prefer it actually.

Had the WA sot tried sWAk, but of course it turned into MWAH!? C'mon now, that's just . . . just . . . not right. And OEIL besides!? C'mon again.

Situation after scoring the first run . . . ONEIN. (perhaps INONE, and maybe they'll leave ONEON, or maybe more MENON). Lotsa that stuff lately it seems.

OK pux. I'll make my EXODUS.

Burma Shave 2:27 PM  


while for EASYMONEY the BABE had LIMES with DIETSODA.
I asked, “May I DARE UNFASTEN your UNITARD, please?”
“HONEST? What if by DAYBREAK you CANT make my quota?”


BS2 2:45 PM  


We couldn’t RESIST having SAXON the AIRBUS,
and ONEIN the MORN in the PRIUS.
EATOUT your heart, how often CAMUS.


DMG 4:15 PM  

Monday strange, but do-able. Had sWAk until HONEST made it go away, and the weird MWAH forced its way in. My other hang-up was "violas". I love them and have several types growing in my garden! But I never heard of a variety called CELLI! Fortunately the discussion, somewhere above, about the proper plural form made it evident I should have been shopping in the music store, not the plant nursery. What a wonderful language ours is, especially for puzzle creators. MADEA anyone?

Wow 225

William Heyman 9:27 PM  

For the 80 yr. solvers I am 77 and do most of them and this was nice, and I appreciate them all, even with obfuscating clues. It's part of the game! I take my time and enjoy the verbiage, and then I enjoy the blog critiques of the verbiage, and the critique of the people doing the critiquing. It's all fun, or should be, and if we meet at some crossword tournament we can have one of 007's libations, but stirred not shaken. I can be stirred but too old for shaking.

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