Stephen War of 1812 naval hero / THU 8-27-15 / Land bordering Francia / Birthplace of Paddington bear / Educational institution near Plano informally / A Team character played by Mr T

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Constructor: Joon Pahk

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: names that begin with two initials that descend sequentially ... that are reversely sequential ... you know what I'm saying ...—Puzzle note reads:

Theme answers:
  • CB RADIO (8A: Box with handles?)
  • HG WELLS (17A: "The Invisible Man" author) (just too easy)
  • DC UNITED (22A: Washington M.L.S. team)
  • BA BARACRUS (uh ... ?) (35A: "The A-Team" character played by Mr. T)
  • UT DALLAS  (49A: Educational institution near Plano, informally)
  • PO BOXES (60A: Some return addresses)
  • TS ELIOT(64A: "Four Quartets" poet) (again, just too easy)
Word of the Day: E.D. Hirsch
Eric Donald Hirsch, Jr. (/hɜrʃ/; born March 22, 1928) is an American educator and academic literary critic. He is professor emeritus of education and humanities at the University of Virginia. He is best known for writing Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (1987), and is the founder and chairman of the Core Knowledge Foundation. (wikipedia)
• • •

E.D. Hirsch is way, way more "common" in my world than B.A. BARACUS (what the actual #$&^?), so that was weird. Also, there's also an E.D. Hill who is an anchor for CNN. Wikipedia tells me she went to UT AUSTIN, which I have to believe was the preferred entry at 49A, but was just too difficult to accommodate while keeping the fill reasonably clean. Aaaaanyway, leaving E.D. Hirsch aside (seriously, "Cultural Literacy" was a big deal book when I was in college), this crossword is more a very interesting curiosity than it is a satisfying / entertaining puzzle. Fill is reasonably clean, but almost completely unremarkable. Joon is an exacting craftsman, but there's nothing here outside the theme that's going to turn your head, and the theme answers themselves really aren't inherently interesting—they just have that initial initial thing going on (yes, I meant to write that word twice). The deep irony is that the most interesting thing in the grid By Far is B.A. BARACUS, which I've never heard of, and which strikes me as, among the theme answers (and, again, By Far), the least in keeping with the Note's stated guidelines, i.e the least "common" (honestly, I thought that answer was one name: BABARACUS (like Barbarossa or Barbarella), or else two names: BABA RACUS) (thank god all the crossings were fair and unambiguous).

Don't have much else to say about this. INKLESS is my least favorite thing going on in the grid, in that I don't buy it as a real thing one might say. Relatedly, the INKLESS region took me the most time, partly because I thought the clue on INKLESS (13D: Empty, as a fountain pen) was a verb, partly because I've never heard of Stephen DECATUR, War of 1812 naval hero. In inferred his name from ... well, from Georgia, I guess. Other than that, only good ol' B.A. gave me any trouble. On to tomorrow...

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Steve J 12:03 AM  

So, so bland. Nothing stood out, nothing felt clever, nothing brought in the slightest hint of smile or chuckle. It was just words without distinction.

wreck 12:10 AM  

This absolutely solved as a themeless - didn't catch the conceit until I read the write-ups. I DID know BA Baracus, but it took me awhile to remember (not THAT obscure as Rex thought.) This was faster than Wednesday for me (sans solving the conceit.)

jae 12:10 AM  

What, no circles?  Easy puzzle again but, unlike a previous Thurs.,  I read the note after I finished.  So, now I'm staring at the puzzle....(15 min. later) it. 

BA BARACUS was a gimme for me, but then The A-Team came on in 1983 when Rex was likely in high school or starting college and interested in things other than cheesy TV. 

Smooth grid, very clever observation, a tad too easy, liked it.

Vladdrac 12:12 AM  

KJ Choi.

wreck 12:13 AM  

....... oh yeah, the conceit reminded me of Lewis's old "puzzle within a puzzle" which I used to really enjoy!

Da Bears 12:24 AM  

A. E. Staley was a Decatur, Illinois based processor of corn founded in 1898. It changed its name to Staley Continental in 1985. Staley founded a company football team, the Decatur Staleys, in 1919. The players worked as semi-professionals in his factory. The team was a charter member of what became the National Football League in 1920. In 1921, Staley turned the team over to George Halas, who moved it to Chicago, changing the team name to the Chicago Bears a year later.

travis 12:33 AM  

I put in BABARACUS without any crosses. The A-Team was pretty big in the 1980s, and I'm not even really old enough to have seen it when it first aired. I feel like the crossword routinely has more obscure stuff from earlier decades. And I frequently have no clue on stuff that you think are gimmes. :)

Mr. T 12:43 AM  

I pity the fool who hasn't heard of B. A. Baracus.

Hays 12:45 AM  

I put Ellison in before HG Wells, forgetting the "the" makes a difference there.

Rex, tell me you've at least heard of Mr. T? The A-Team??

Anonymous 12:57 AM  

On right now is "T.S. Erika could head to Florida"
So could have had a clue "weather disturbance headed to Florida the day this puzzle was published"

My initials follow the pattern, too, so could have clued "Anonymous commenter who once lived in Plano and took some classes at UTD"

Dang, I never felt so personally connected with a NYT puzzle before.

Back in the day, UTD had tons of Texas Instruments employees taking classes, and we called it TI Tech, or TIT. That's my version of yesterday's dics joke.

LMS could have gotten in if her first and middle names were switched.

okanaganer 1:00 AM  

Rex figured out the theme, and I didn't... what else is new. Is he ever at a loss? How does one make that leap?

For "The Invisible Man author", I had ELLISON. (Google "Invisible Man", without the "The")...

jp flanigan 1:02 AM  

BA Baracus was a gimme for me. I have no idea who ED Hirsch is. I guess you're not a Mr. T fan?

ghkozen 1:05 AM  

Interesting how our knowledge differs. I've never seen The A Team, and was not even alive when it was on TV, but got BA BARACUS immediately, without a single cross. Most notable thing for me was slightly obscure clue for TS ELIOT on a Thursday. I'd say "Four Quartets" is more a Friday clue in my book. Easy to work around though.

Anonymous 1:23 AM  

Rex, I think you're wrong about BA Baracus not being common. That's an EXTTEMELY famous character. It's from The A-Team, a hugely successful show! Played by Mr. T! I got it right away with no crosses.

Seattle 1:47 AM  

How can I be first? I take hours to do puzzles you solve in five minutes. Another exception that is commonplace in this context is "xwordese". While I have the floor, let me ask why loosening the constraints on grid symmetry would not make it easier to insist on higher standards for fill?

chefwen 1:58 AM  

Rex said it all for me with one word in his write up - Unremarkable!

Didn't see the note (as usual), didn't need it.

I have been without Internet and cable for the last day and a half. Thought I was going to go nuts. No puzzles, no blogs, no comics. AAACK! Actually had to read a book, thank god it was a good book.

Anonymous 3:09 AM  

As a fan of the podcast Comedy Bang Bang, I first heard B.A. Baracus as a verb. It comes from Mr. T's character name in the A-Team and he was so afraid of flying that the only way for his compatriots to get him on a plane was to render him unconscious somehow. You'd be surprised how frequently B.A. Baracussing someone can be worked into conversation when one has a fondness for the term.

Ellen S 4:26 AM  

Oh, do read up on Stephen Decatur (Jr.). He was a dashing naval hero of the early 19th century who spent his whole career being a role model for Errol Flynn. The part I like best was how during the Barbary Wars (where the infant United States was fighting the Tripolitanian pirates, millions for defense but not one cent for tribute, and maybe that was the XYZ affair, but I'm not sure) -- the USS Philadelphia sailed into Tripoli Harbor and got stuck on a reef. (Tide tables not so good in those days?) This ship wasn't under Decatur's command; he and the rest of the navy were hanging out in the Mediterranean, or maybe beyond Gibralter. The problem was the Philadelphia was loaded with cannons, which our guys didn't want the enemy to get hold of. So Decatur brought his ship, the Intrepid, into the harbor, fooled the Barbarians, and set the Philadelphia on fire, sinking it so the guns were unavailable to the enemy.

All kinds of derring-do and swordplay, but the best of it is about the Philadelphia: it was pretty venerable by that time, having been in service during the Revolution, under command of Stephen Decatur, Sr. That is, Junior, the hero, got most famous for sinking his daddy's ship.

Daddy was retired by that time. One account I read said that Commodore Decatur "resigned his commission to spend more time with his family." Did that mean the same at the end of the 18th century as it does nowadays? That he resigned to avoid indictment, or at least scandal? If anyone knows, please share. .comThe Wikipedia article on Stephen, Jr. has gotten even more colorful and exciting than when I first read it. And that's the only source I've tapped. If I've got it wrong, I don't know if I want to be corrected. The myth is so much more exciting than the reality. By all accounts (haha, I mean various revisions of the Wikipedia article), the Tripolitans were decent folk, captured the crew of the Philadelphia when it got stranded, and treated them respectfully, and how Decatur got close enough to the Philadelphia to recapture and burn it was by telling the Tripolitanians that he was having engine trouble, I mean a broken mast or some similar falsehood and needed to tie up somewhere to make repairs. And the Tripolitanians said, sure.

These were the bad guys that we had to send the Marines to destroy, to protect our national honor. I guess some things never change.

Unknown 4:28 AM  

I have not been doing crosswords long, but Alan Alda has already made more appearances in the New York Times than on 30 Rock.

Loren Muse Smith 4:37 AM  

I missed the note, and even after I saw it, I could not see the reverse descending sequentially trick. Cool. I was sitting there thinking there Had to be more to it than just phrases that started with two-letter initials. I was wondering if they were all symbols for elements or some such.

Because of the "e.g." in the clue, I had "asst" before AIDE, and RAIMENT was tough. Liked that it was right over UNPACKS.

Favorite clues: ELLS and ANTENNA.

Come up with viable phrases with backwards initial initials (good one, Rex) And get symmetry – this had to be tough. I liked this unusual theme.

Charles Flaster 4:44 AM  

Very EZ>> Mondayish.
Liked cluing for ARBITER and ANTENNA.
" The Invisible Man" is an old b and w movie that should be a must see for everyone!
Thanks JP

George Barany 5:39 AM  

@joon pahk's Thursday puzzle, including the meta, was quite easy, as @Rex has already pointed out. I had to hold my breath at the BOHO/THEREAT cross, though. My only other hiccups were initially slotting ELLISON ("Invisible Man" author) where the puzzle calls for H.G._WELLS ("The Invisible Man" author), and ALETA (Prince Valiant's love) ahead of ARIEL (Prince Eric's love). I wonder whether these traps were set intentionally, or whether any one else fell into them.

The central entry, B.A._BARACUS, brought to mind a spirited debate I had a few months ago with @Martin Ashwood-Smith as to whether or not a fictional role in a hit TV show from the mid-1980's was NYT crossword-worthy (BTW, I have no qualms about using MR_T or A_TEAM). Obviously, we now know the answer.

AliasZ 5:50 AM  

The VU METER in my world is more common than B.A. BARACUS, the three KJ's and ML that Jeff Chen offers, or Rex's two ED's, ignoring all the E.D. CURES in my spam folder. Not only that, but VU METER is seven letters long, thus a perfect themer for today's puzzle. Not that there is anything wrong with the seven already there.

There are also BA DEGREES, LK BENNETT, ON RAMPS, QP DOLLS, SR MANAGEMENT, NM and WV States, ZY GOTE, FE FIFOFUM and many others, I am sure.

An expertly constructed puzzle with very clean fill, if a little short on cleverness for a rebus day. Favorite entries: ARBITER, REGENTS, RAIMENT, and the AL DENTE HATPINS. The THU self reference was also very cute. However, the ERST INKLESS NWA plus the BOHO-chic ANO & UNO were less cute THEREAT.

BABARACUS - Calculator for a young elephant.

The march I am offering here is "Crown Imperial" composed by Sir William Walton (1902-1983). It was recorded in the early days of stereo (1959) on a 3-channel tape machine without any further mixing or editing. The VU METERS had to be watched carefully not to overload the electronics. The Eastman Wind Ensemble was ready, the recording was perfect on the first take. Not so the march itself. It was intended to be played at the coronation of Edward VIII in 1937, but as we all know he abdicated the year before. The coronation occurred on its originally scheduled day, but the crown fell on George VI's head instead. The march was also performed at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011.

All this because the conductor on this recording is Frederick FENNEL (1914-2004).

AliasZ 5:53 AM  

Here is "Crown Imperial". Sorry about that.

evil doug 7:33 AM  

Weak tea aitch you are ess dee a why.
Why? Because it's a theme only a constructor could love, or notice, and the resulting wordplay is soft.

Glimmerglass 7:42 AM  

Boston Celtics fans will remember player, coach, and designated towel-waver ML Carr. Not a basketball fan myself, his name instantly came to mind.

Lewis 7:53 AM  

@aliasz -- Your clue for BABARACUS is priceless. Bravo!

It's a cool looking grid for sure, but it's basically two puzzles, East and West, with B.A. connecting the two.

I liked the clue for ANTENNA; none of the answers particularly stood out. The solve wasn't easy for me because I didn't know some of the names and while there were some easy clues, there were others, sometimes right by each other too vague for me to act immediately on. I didn't figure out the property of the seven words, but I feel like I should have -- it's just the kind of thing I'm always looking for. I did find a backward IROT to go along with RIPENS, and the anagrammed answers REST/ERSE. The puzzle didn't feel lively, but I had to work to solve it, and as long as I have to work at it, and it's fair, I'm a happy solver. And I am.

r.alphbunker 8:02 AM  

Puzzle report

I enjoyed figuring out the theme. Got the six shorter ones and knew that BABARACUS had to be the seventh but had to google to see that B.A. were initials.

I have nothing to RQ with about Rex's writeup.

John V 8:04 AM  

Way, way too easy. Conceit was obvious. Never saw the A team, but got that babababa thingy anyway. Joon has done better, IMHO.

chefbea 8:17 AM  

Never heard of B.A. Baracus. Didn't understand the puzzle. What is the property?? What is reversely sequential???

Love fennel sautéed on top of some al dente pasta.

Lobster11 8:32 AM  

Naticked at RAIMENT/AMATI and THEREAT/BOHO. Maybe I should know better, but I didn't.

Personally, I have no use for themes, no matter how clever or creative, that contribute nothing to my actual solving experience. No fun for me.

Mohair Sam 8:35 AM  

Easy and not terribly interesting Thursday made enjoyable by a trip here to read @Rex's rant about another piece of common knowledge he'd missed in his life's journey (BABARACUS). Rex can be counted on to do this once every couple of months, and it adds considerably to the fun of the blog.

Speaking of fun of the blog. @Alias z's clue for BABARACUS (Calculator for a young elephant) is a classic. And @Ellen S's description of DECATUR as spending his career being a role model for Errol Flynn was as succinct as it gets. No need to read the biography.

stillkidz 8:40 AM  

B A Baracus is super easy.....if you were in High School in the 1980s......

Dorothy Biggs 8:40 AM  

The "theme" or the meta-theme (?) falls apart miserably here in the comments section.

"Seven Across answers in this puzzle have a highly unusual property for which we can't think of a single other common example. What is the property?"

Evidently, there are a lot more answers with this property. VU Meter (@AliasZ) being one very common in the recording industry or anywhere that audio is measured. MLK, Jr. is one I thought of initially (get it? initially?), and while it doesn't exactly fit the pattern, it is at least three letters and would work in the grid instead of say, USO or CSI or NWA or any other random string of three letters.

I know Mr. T as only Mr. T. In fact, I figured his name was something with a T in it. Wasn't he even Mr. T in that Rocky movie?

BOHO chic is new to me, and THEREAT as an "adverb" should be, (to me) THEREATly.

Otherwise, funny that wordplay makes a big deal about the theme being revealed tomorrow and yet the online applet has the answer hidden under a link. Poor paper and pencil solvers...

stillkidz 8:43 AM  

P.s. My husband wants to ad that B A stands for "bad attitude". We have not had a TV in 20 years so we are thrilled when we actually know a TV based clue.....

joho 8:52 AM  

How very clever of Joon to write the alphabet backwards and then find the initials that could be worked into this very dense theme!

To me this puzzle gets more interesting the more you think about it. Did Joon consider J.K. Rowling? A short hidden bonus answer could have been MLK.

I missed the note (I always do) so my aha moment was late in coming but well worth it and much appreciated when it did. Original and interesting, thank you, Mr. Pahk!

chefbea 8:54 AM  

@NCA, what is the property?????

Elle54 9:10 AM  

Mr T was a famous around here for cutting down all the mature trees on his property with a chain saw. Hahaha!
Never saw any theme...

Airymom 9:17 AM  

Decatur was a gimme. I have a condo in Ocean City, MD and the local high school is Stephen Decatur High School. Wonder where those kids go for "senior week"? I think UT Dallas is a poor theme answer. It's totally arbitrary. UT could be for many schools in Texas, Tennessee , etc., while all the other answers are specific. But I liked the puzzle.

Nancy 9:17 AM  

What a huge disappointment on a Thursday. Much too easy and much too blah. I'm with @Evil Doug: a meta theme only a constructor could love. Who cares? Who even noticed? Surely not I. I'd like to coin a new acronym: NOOOBW. (Not one of our better weeks.)

jberg 9:18 AM  

I didn't see or need the note; didn't know BA BARACUS (I just knew that guy was Mr. T), but it's fair enough -- I only watched the show once or twice in various waiting rooms. I did like DEBT (well, "like" is the wrong word, but I admired the clue as a clue), ARBITER, RAIMENT, ASTERN, FENNEL. SEA MILE troubled me -- never heard anything but "nautical mile," but apparently it's a thing.

Didn't we learn about Stephen DECATUR in high school U.S. History class?

This puzzle's problem is that it's by Joon Pahk, which raised all our expectations too high.

@chefbea, probably you have been answered many times by now, but just in case -- the property is that the two initials follow each other in the alphabet, only backwards.

@aliasz -- Hard to believe that march is by the guy who wrote "Facade."

Leapfinger 9:20 AM  

Yup, solved as a themeless here also; the tiny note I now see in XWORD only says "Seven Across answers in this puzz", so not much direction there, anyway

Found the grid a bit segmented and the solving slow, but having "Grand Hotel" and "Camille" going on may have had something to do with it. I know the A-Team andMr T, but
BABA RACUS, noisy disciple of Ram Dass?
BABAR ACUS, the only Elephant whose suits are Savile Row?
BABARA CUS, CoUSin to Streisand?

OK, I can't name Geo Peppard's character either.

Soho, Noho and now BOHO (Bohemian) Chic... Put that together With Geo Halasz cropping up in the comments, and I suspect a continuation of a Chicago-based discussion of yesterday.

Some cute wordplay with the theme today in the comments -- you know who you are -- (I know a QP doll, even a WVirginia one) but only @r.alph's RQment really made me grown.
@Alias, I thought we'd have A_STERN (Isaac) instead of FENNEL salad ;)

Did notice a couple of other theme candidates in the grid:
BA WLOUT, a Polish-Dutch Beat poet
ON BAIL, a felon on parole
Having a BAWL OUT ON BAIL? Live it up while you can...

Bottom line on the theme: Seemed to me like reaching your right arm behind you to dip into your left pocket after giving your pants a quarter-turn hitch counterclockwise, and pulling out a nickel.

Gotta run, enjoy the day!

Anonymous 9:22 AM  

Very clever and so I was glad it was also easy. I am not clever in the morning. I also balked knowing HGWELLS, but thinking there was a second E in WELLS. Serves me right for thinking! Quilter1 here still working on the new computer. I'll get everything straight soon.

pmdm 9:28 AM  

I rarely watch commercial TV, so while I was aware of Mr. T's role, I had no clue of the name of the character. I'm happy to learn I'm not the only dunce in the world.

The way things work now, many comments might be posted before mine, so others may have answered Chefbea's questions before me. If so, sorry for the redundancy. The puzzle's theme is this: seven entries begin with two initials. The initials are two letters that appear next to each other in the run of alphabet letters (A B C D etc.). The two initials appear in the entries in the reverse order than they would if they were arranged in alphabetical order.

Very odd note considering that B. A. degree is certainly a common example of the property. As is V. U. meter. As is D. C. Comics or D. C. Metro. If somebody like Will Shortz couldn't come up with these examples, I have to think that we are all missing something about the theme. Can't imagine what it could be, but our common examples certainly show the note to be inapt concerning what we think the property is. We'll have to wait until the answer is published with tomorrow's puzzle to learn if Mr. Shortz has egg on his face.

By the way, Leapfinger, I thought the reason for the inconsistency I mentioned in yesterday's comment is exactly the reason you posted. I don't know if in my mind the justification is proper, but I agree with you that it's exactly what's behind the inconsistency.

Generic Solver 9:33 AM  

Got derailed a little by entering UNESCO instead of UNICEF. No idea exactly what either of them do, except that we used to "Trick Or Treat For UNICEF" on Halloween with little orange coin boxes as kids.

Ludyjynn 9:33 AM  

Confidently wrote in 'Ellison' right off the bat,(hi, @Hays, @okanagener, @gorgebarany), but saw the error of my ways when 1 and 2 Down wouldn't fly til I changed it. Only other writeover was 'Spartacus' for Mr. T's moniker. TSELIOT was NOT a gimme for me, Rex, but was fairly deduced via crosses.

I liked this solve more than some of you due to some fine words: RAIMENT, ARBITER, HATPINS, ALDENTE ETAL.

@NCAPres, BOHO is short for bohemian chic, a clothing style exemplified by the rock icon, Stevie Nicks, from Fleetwood Mac. In fashion, what goes around comes around, but she has consistently worn these RAIMENTs for EONS.

IMO, THEREAT should be BANned from legal pleadings, along with 'thereto'.

Thanks, JP and WS, for a SOLID Thursday.

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

@hoffelt, @joho

KJ Choi works, except for length, JK Rowling has the initials the wrong way.

Got through the puzzle without getting the pattern of the initials being in reverse alpha-order.

Only write-over was the last vowel in the central themer, as I thought it was spelled -CAS.

Not very challenging for a late-week puzzle, but nothing egregiously bad either.


beaglelover 9:42 AM  

Why is E.D. Hirsch Rex's word of the day?

Jon88 9:48 AM  

G.F. Handel, call your agent.

mathgent 10:00 AM  

Damn it, Shortz! Where's my rebus?

RooMonster 10:05 AM  

Hey All !
Puz was surprisingly on the easy side for THUrsday. Except for NW corner, where I had H h munro. My initial (:-P ) conceit of the theme was Two Initials Before, not seeing they were reversed alphabetically, and as you all know, not being well read, H h munro was the first writer to pop into the ole brain. Got stymied up there, so had to cheat to get H G WELLS. After that, finished up nicely. Then saw the reverse-thing happening. Aha, said I.

So a neat theme to me, plus a funky looking grid, and very clean fill considering the restraints. And add me to the people who said to Rex, How could you not know B A BARACUS? That was an awesome show as a young-un in the 80's. Rex and I are almost the same age, so theoretically we should know the same stuff. The A-Team was also funny for the fact no one died on the show. There was one scene where a helicopter flew into the side of a cliff, blew up, fell to the ground, and the bad guys came crawling out of it!

Liked clue for CB RADIO, ANTENNA. The CRU/RAIMENT crossing was tough, but managed to guess right on the R. For ELDEST, wanted on deck, up next, or next up, but once I cheated for HG, figured it out.

So give this puz a SOLIDLY AL DENTE rating!
Whatever that means! :-)

Pirate eating?

Sir Hillary 10:19 AM  

Kinda boring theme.

All three of my children attended F.E. Bellows Elementary School in Mamaroneck, NY.

Gubdude 10:24 AM  

This played pretty easy for me. I'm only 29 and BA BARACUS was a gimme, although probably from the movie more than the TV show.

I don't really understand how this theme works as these don't seem to be the only common examples. DC Comics comes right to mind, Rex mentioned others and Hoffelt mentioned KJ Choi.

Having said that, the puzzle seemed fine to me.

Carola 10:25 AM  

I found the puzzle easy and sadly joyless, but then, I didni't see the note and scoured the grid in vain for a theme. Thanks to @Rex for expaining it. Add me to the group knowing E.D. Hirsch but not B.A. BARACUS. My husband made an attempt (thankfully short-lived) to use Hirsch's book to pound some cultural literacy into our kids - also not easy and sadly joyless (facts out of context, as I recall).

I did like learning who the Decatur cities are named after, even before reading @Ellen S's rip-snorting account of Decatur's expoits. Fantastic - thank you!

cwf 10:35 AM  

@stillkidz: "Bad attitude" 'cause that's why he was kicked out of the military. But in reality we all knew it stood for "bad ass".

I inked out the note before solving but in this case it wouldn't have helped much; often the notes make the theme too easy. But I still don't understand what @Rex means by "descend sequentially". Don't see any vertical sequence?

How would anyone not residing in New York know what a REGENTS exam is?

Joseph Michael 10:36 AM  

The theme improved considerably for me when I realized that the initial consonants were in reverse sequential order. The fill seemed decent enough and the difficulty of the solve felt right for a Thursday. So no complaints, though I do miss a rebus.

The entry that stands out for me (in a bad way) is THEREAT which looks like either THE REAT (whatever that is) or a typo for THREAT.

Z 10:40 AM  

@Chefbea - TS ELIOT has initials in reverse alphabetical order. Same for the other themers.

Nothing to add on the puzzle so let me rant about ED Hirsch and Common Core. Some bad ideas never go away it seems, they just change some words and flip political parties. Go read all the left wing criticism of Hirsch from the 80's and then recognize that almost all of it applies to the concept of a "common core." The notion that there is a single canon for the polyglot that is the USA is farcical. The notion that political processes should be used to determine the content of this canon is dangerous. /rant

Bob Kerfuffle 10:47 AM  

Initial reaction: Huh?

Reaction after a bit of consideration and grokking the theme: joon, maybe you have been doing too many Matt Gaffney metas. Something different is usually welcome, but this falls short.

Reaction after reading some of the above comments: Is it possible that there really is more to this theme than anyone has mentioned? Is this a Week 5 meta?

Randomly: To those citing Martin Luther King Junior -- there's a four letter string: MLKJ > JKLM.

@beaglelover: E.D. Hirsch is Rex's word of the day because he is a very well known example of someone who could have been a theme answer but wasn't.

cwf 10:57 AM  

@beaglelover Because in his opinion the constructor should have used that as a theme answer in place of BABARACUS. See sentence #1 of the blog post.

chefbea 11:00 AM  

@Jberg thanks for the what!!! Would have been better if the whole alphabet had been included.

Richard Alpert 11:34 AM  

@Leapfinger, genuine LOL @ "ABA RACUS, noisy disciple of Ram Dass"

Hartley70 11:48 AM  

It's a small nit, but TILE really annoyed me. I knew the answer but it cheesed me off. Maybe I'm just grumpy because seriously....Mr. T? I know what he looked like in the role, but it's not a look or a show I wanted to watch or remember. I never heard his character's name, probably because I wasn't hanging with a gang of preteen boys at the time. It's fair, but it upped my grump again.

I'm a Joon admirer, so I'm thinking there will be a reveal tomorrow based on the term "property". It feels scientific, not fee simple, so I'm anticipating something like a "colligative property". How's THAT for fancy googling!

Tyler James Young 12:01 PM  

So that he can be right about everyone knowing who that is.

Gene 12:01 PM  

Although it would duplicate one answer, CB BUCKNOR is a well known MLB umpire.

GILL I. 12:14 PM  

First puzzle I've done in a few days. BO HOmbug...
Where is my favorite crafty THU?
I keep staring at USA UNO USO USE which looks a bit like OTS DOT ALA and STY...
I like Joon better when I hear him casually answer Alex's "Who was the War of 1812 naval hero?"

Tyler James Young 12:19 PM  

I had the same confusion until I read someone else's comment. The theme answers all begin with two-letter abbreviations where each pair of letters is reverse-sequential in the alphabet.

REGENTS held the last two blank squares in my puzzle, and I got them from the crossing answers. I don't mind having no chance at knowing an answer as long as it's an inferrable, pronouncible word and the crosses are fair.

Molson 12:22 PM  

ED Drugs (Viagra, et al.) came to mind as an example as well.

And there's golfer KJ Choi. And some guy name M.L. King, Jr. who's pretty famous. Actually you could do a quadruple descending letter there: MLKJr.

Masked and Anonymous 12:27 PM  

har. Well, not yer usual ThursPuz. This, as others have noted, played more like a Meta puz. Solve it, then figure out its purpose in life. Different. Works for m&e. (But, disclaimer: has 8-U Immunity.)

What? -- no J.I. CASE farm equipment? Did John Deere pay pahk off?

Actually, I've been findin people over at Wikipedia for every appropriate set of initials, so far. Tried E.D, F.E., G.F., I.H. and J.I., before satisfying self that NOT findin anything would be the surpriser. So maybe I just don't understand the "we can't think of a single other common example" stipulation in the puz's note. There is some room for wiggle, in that there phrase. Who is "we"? What is "common"? What is "other"? What is "think"? But, I digress …


1. BA-BA RACUS. Didn't know. Never beheld a single episode of that show.

2. DECATUR. Knew it. Also been to this Illinois city, one time.

3. Luv the funky grid layout. Thought we were gonna be dedicatin this puz to the letter "L", somehow. L-yes!

4. I'm with pahk on saving on ink. He eschews yer capitals, while M&A leaves off unnecessary G's. Y'all don't wanna end up INKLESS, in yer puz solve. That'd be BA-BA D.

5. F.E. NNEL. B.A. WLOUT. This list goes on … (dependin on what "property" means; and what "is" is).

6. Twenty weeject bonanza. fave = NWA. Thanx to them rapper dudes, about every 3-letter combo will eventually be constructioneer paydirt. Highly recommended, for next in line: UUU. (pronounced "U-all")

7. fave clue: {Duckbill's tail?}. It's sorta official … This puz has now been designated an aphrodisiac for platypuses by the FDA.

Thanx U, mr. pahk.


** gruntz **

joho 12:38 PM  

anon. RT 9:41 ... you are correct! I got all carried away when I read JK going backwards in the alphabet & didn't remember to reverse it.

As you can see finding the themers for this puzzle was a lot harder than it looks!

Anoa Bob 1:03 PM  

ALUMNI (47D) is a rare case where using a plural of convenience (POC) reduces the letter count of a base word, ALUMNUS, in order to make it fit a smaller slot in the grid. The usual case is adding an -S or -ES to a base word in order to make it fit a larger grid slot. There are quite a few of those today also.

What the heck is a ÑEW DEAL (44D)?

Anonymous 1:05 PM  

WVU (a threefer!) Jackson's Mill would span the grid.

OISK 1:12 PM  

NWA? I thought the rap group was NEA. Or was it NIA. The name of a rap group can be any combination of three letters, which is why I dislike rap clues even more than I dislike rap. And Babaracus? Never watched A team, although I have heard of it, and of Mr. T., whose character may have been the reason I never watched it. Didn't know the poet from the clue, until I "got" the theme, and then TS Eliot was obvious.

Unlike my friend @Nancy, I don't think this was a bad week at all. And this was a very pleasant, if somewhat easy for the day of the week puzzle.

Old timer 1:24 PM  

Did not get the reverse initials bit so was tempted to think
A UN PACK could be wolves introduced to a country as part of some UN project.
I liked the puzzle which was not easy if you did not know that TV show. OTOH TSELIOT went in right away.

Anonymous 1:36 PM  

Mr. T in Rocky 3 is Clubber Lange i believe

Martel Moopsbane 3:40 PM  

Does Joon Pahk live in Hahvahd Yahd?

Tita 3:44 PM  

Not a bad puzzle, just...ummm...unremarkable.

Heard of Mr. T? Yes.
Heard of BABARACUS? No.
Exact same thought process as Rex, thought it was either one word or two, though figured that would make it too much of an outlier.

Nit... Is SEAMILE a thing? NauticalMILE, Yes. Knot, yes. When I google sea mile, every single hit comes back as nautical mile...without even the usual polite nudge of "Did you mean...?". It did cross ASTERN, so there's that. Maybe back in DECATUR's or Errol Flynn's day it was a thing.

I solved without the note. Got that there were words with inits. Opened the note, and did figure out the backwardness as the property, but that didn't register as cool.

Thanks for a Thursday twist, Joon. It was nice to see you at Lolla.

El Lobo Solitario 4:48 PM  

Skateboarders most popular foot apparel company....DCSHOES

Anonymous 5:40 PM  

As far as Mr. T esoterica goes, BA BARACUS is a heck of lot more well known than DC CAB, which has popped in the puzzle a few times (and happens to be another example fitting the theme pattern).

Rabi Abonour 5:59 PM  

Really easy Thursday, but I enjoyed it. Fill was unremarkable, but I thought there was some pretty clever cluing and little in thew ay of total clunkers. "Ellison" instead of "H.G. Wells" tripped me up in the NW; needed the theme and "regents" to realize my mistake.

Howard 6:12 PM  

A total snoozer. Took 5 minutes while talking to my partner. Adequate for a Tuesday puzzle. Maybe.

Teedmn 7:54 PM  

Ack, this played hard for me, possibly because I DID see the crummy note and read way too much into it, thinking, as Hartley70 said, that something 'scientific' was being referred to. So I kept looking for a trick. When I saw the reverse sequenced initials, I at least thought there must be some formal term for such things, one that @LMS would pull out of her bag of grammatical tricks, but instead we get @Rex's convoluted description and that's as good as it gets. Humph.

After I went to college in '78, I pretty much remained ignorant of all ensuing network TV, with a few weird outliers. So while I knew Mr. T and his catch phrase, I thought he played on the A Team as Mr. T. Glad to see it wasn't just me. An example of my TV ignorance - on a visit home, I was listening to my Mom and brother talking and my brother says, "It's just like 'Who shot JR?,' " and when I asked "Who's JR?", you can imagine the look I got.

This puzzle wasn't what I expected from Mr. Pahk but since it was the source for @Alias Z's and @M&A's great comments, it was worth it.

Ps: off topic, new portmanteau - styched. Local college DJ was trying to say psyched and stoked and got tongue-tied. You heard it here first.

Pps: also off topic, new crosswordese I expect to see coming soon to a puzzle near you - Tuj Lub is a Hmong game played on a court with spinning tops. Imagine the potential for partials - move over Jai Alai! I know this because the mayor of St. Paul wants to build a court for the local Tuj Lub league.

GILL I. 8:00 PM  

@Jete belle...You'll probably never see this because whenever I post, everyone seems to be happily having a drink somewhere or they've gone to bed.
Anyway, I wanted to mention how much I enjoyed your poem post yesterday about the humped camel and his night of fevered passion. My absolute favorite Gnarly Head Zin took a splash on the computer (at least it didn't come out of my nose).... I was flabbergasted that you weren't the original author... (it does sound like something you would write!!!)
Never mind.... It brought lots of laughter and I enjoyed it ATON more than these puzzles.....

cwf 8:32 PM  

Note: today is Kelly Freas's birthday. He painted @Rex's avatar:

Since I can't put images in here I leave just this <a href=">annoying link</a> to a twitter post, which no one will ever see, because tomorrow's puzzle is available in T-minus 1800

["And so forth: abbr."]

Z 9:19 PM  

'@Anoa Bob - think FDR.

Amy 12:28 AM  

My thoughts exactly

Marymom 1:11 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 5:33 PM  

K.J. Choi was the first example I thought of. M.L. Carr was next. How about a B.A. degree? No worse than U.T.Dallas IMHO. Does a V.U. meter qualify?

Bea 9:26 PM  


Torb 11:32 AM  

Brutally simple. Filled it in w no issues. Oh well, guess they can't all be challenging.

Sharon from Calgary 11:35 AM  

Fun one! How about UT Infection (Urinary Tract Infection).

Burma Shave 11:48 AM  


I wanted a MINIMAL NEWDEAL now THAT I was out ONBAIL,
but ASTERN ARBITER DECREES, “Pay your DEBT like the REST, back THEREAT the jail.”


rondo 12:11 PM  

Initially, I liked it. Har. Didn’t cross my mind that the inits were in reverse sequence. And I never saw The A-team, so that was all by crosses.

I suspect there are other UT locations, but they probably don’t fit the schematic.

Do people still use CBRADIOs? Or HATPINS for that matter?

TORI Amos, a musical yeah baby in a certain light. A developed taste required. Best in the STUDIO.

MINIMAL trouble with this one, SOLIDLY completed. At least there were no circles to chase down, or across.

spacecraft 12:15 PM  

I must admit I never noticed the descending pattern of the initials; of course my paper not being the NYT, there was no message to look for it. I will contribute another, though fictitious, possibility: S.R. Haddon, the gazillionaire in Sagan's "Contact" who deciphered the plans for--and then financed the building of--the interstellar transporter.

I agree this one was easyish for a THU, despite NWA and BOHO being WOEs. [LOL, @M&A, let's hear it for "U-all!"] The single blemish on my finished grid was my misspelling of BARACaS. Ah, Fearless One, you missed a joyful time if you missed the original "A-Team" series. The heavily-chained, super-tough B.A. ("Bad Attitude!") was nonetheless deathly afraid of flying--possibly because most of the time the pilot was a character called "Howling-mad" Murdock, whom the boys occasionally had to break out of the insane asylum for a gig. Fun times.

I was annoyed by the severe compartmentalization of the grid. Those big "L" bars allow MINIMAL access to the corners. I thought for a moment I might not get into the SE because of those daggone rappers, till I remembered the very old NEWDEAL. The theme was made interesting after the fact by that undiscovered layer of difficulty, the sequential thing. Grid is SOLIDLY filled, for the most part. B.

Anonymous 1:52 PM  

An Easy & enjoyable Thurs. puzz. I couldn't understand the gimmick until reading the comments. Kinda clever but not needed to solve the puzzle. Had Free and Fri wrong but soon wrote over That. Hey, I'll take an easy Thursday every once in a while.

Ron Diego, La Mesa, CA (Notice the LM fits in with today's gimmick.

D_Johnson 9:08 PM  

I didn't read the gimmick until I completed the puzzle, but I quickly thought of M L King and J I Case, the former agriculture equipment company (now Case International).

Anonymous 5:18 PM  

I, too, had to work it as themeless. When I saw the theme answer, I immediately thought of the following:
- FE Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming
- J.I. Packer is a well-known author in some circles
- How about the SR-71 spy plane?
- Also, ML King appears on many street signs that bear his name

So I'm a bit disappointed that this was published with "all seven examples that I could think of." He must not get around much.

BTW, I loved the A Team, but I had no idea Mr. T's character's name. I, too, thought it was Mr. T.

Anonymous 7:44 AM  

"A HIGHLY UNUSUAL property(?) for which we can't think of a single other common example(?)." There are 25 possible initial combinations, and 7 were given as examples. But exemplars can be found for all 25, some obviously more obscure than others, but arguably there are at least another seven as common as B.A. Baracrus, and I'm sure others can come up with better examples.

1.B.A. BARACRUS ("A-Team" character played by Mr. T)
2.C.B. Radio (Box with handles?)
3.D.C United (Washington MLS Team), also DC Comics
E.D. Hirsch. (Author of "Cultural Literacy"), also E.D. Drug
F.E Warren (Wyoming Air Force Base). (also F.E. Moran (Illinois Fire Protection Company) and F.E. Exam (Test for Mechanical, Civil, Electrical and other specialists[Fundamentals of Engineering test])
G.F. Handel (Composer of Music for the Royal Fireworks)
4.H.G. WELLS ("The Invisible Man" author)
I.H. Mississippi (Moline, IL Credit Union)
J.I. Packer (Theologian Emeritus of the Anglican Church in North America)
K.J. Choi (Asia's most successful Golfer [Korean])
L.K. Bennet (designer shoes company) also L. K. Comstock (large transit electrical contractor)
M.L. King (Famous Assassinated Civil Rights Pastor) also M.L. Carr (Coach during Boston Celtic's worst season)
N.M. State (Las Cruces University, informally)
O.N. Hirsch (Highly rated Fremont, CA Elementary School)
5.P.O. BOXES (Some return addresses)
Q.P. Jewelers (Famous British Gemstone Purveyor)
R.Q. Construction (Carlsbad, CA Builders)
S.R. Crown Hall (Chicago National Historical Landmark designed by Mies van der Rohe)
6. T.S. ELIOT ("Four Quartets" poet)
7. U.T. DALLAS (Educational institution near Plano, informally)
V.U. Meter (Loudness monitoring device)
W.V. University (Mountaineers Football team school) also W.V. Grant (Dallas Televangelist)
X.W. Fairmont (1970s Ford Australia luxury version of the Falcon)
Y.X. Games (Flash-based computer programs that includes Asteroids and Space Invaders)
Z.Y. Fu (Chinese Tycoon who gave Columbia University $26 million in 1997)

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP