Surname on financial weekly / WED 9-2-15 / Japanese toon with red bow / Japanese genre with voice actors / Lollipop-loving character of 1970s TV / Classic Duke Ellington tune / Margret Hans who created Curious George / Composer with horn named after him / Oblong tomato / College prank popular in '50s / Ooky cousin on TV / Nearly worthless old French coin

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Constructor: Kevin Christian and Bradley Wilber

Relative difficulty: Easy (well ... for me ...)

THEME: NORSE GODS (58A: They're hidden in 17-, 25-, 36- and 47-Across) —

Theme answers:
  • PANTY RAID (17A: College prank popular in the '50s)
  • MOOD INDIGO (25A: Classic Duke Ellington tune)
  • TRUTH OR DARE (36A: Slumber party game)
  • HELLO KITTY (47A: Japanese toon with a red bow)
Word of the Day: "TELL MAMA" (36D: 1968 Etta James album) —
Tell Mama is the eighth studio album by American singer Etta James. The album was released August 21, 1968 on Cadet Records and was produced by Rick Hall. Tell Mama was James's first album since 1963 to enter the Billboard 200 albums chart and contained her first Top 10 and 20 hits since 1964. It was also her second release for the Cadet record label. (wikipedia)

• • •
So ... this is gonna get a little (read: a lot) Inside Crosswords for a bit, but I think you'll appreciate it. At least I hope so. OK, so perhaps you've heard me talk about how I learned a ton about making crosswords from a single rejection letter I got back in '08 from Patrick Berry, when he edited the Chronicle of Higher Education crossword. That rejection is a touchstone moment in my crossword life—made me realize what a thoughtful and helpful editor Berry was, and made me realize what my standards ought to be for theme excellence. Honestly, the best rejection experience I ever, uh, experienced. Well, I just dug up that rejection letter. I'm going to reproduce for you now the entirety of my Patrick Berry correspondence from seven years ago. See if you notice anything ... familiar. (The first message is my puzzle pitch, the second is his response)

Hi Patrick,

"Divine Intervention"

TRUTHORDARE (11) - *1991 documentary about Madonna's "Blond Ambition" tour
MOODINDIGO (12) - *Duke Ellington composition originally titled "Dreamy Blues"
HELLOKITTY (12) - *Iconic feline character seen on many pink products
BETTYRUBBLE (11) - *Bedrock brunette
AESIR (5) - They reside in Valhalla ... and in the answers to the starred clues of this puzzle [circled squares could be used as well]

Thanks for your consideration,
Michael Sharp [5/18/08]
Hi Michael,

This is a nice idea, but unfortunately we've already run a puzzle very similar to it ("Leading Ladies," 02/01/08 -- the hidden words were all goddesses' names). So I'm afraid I'll have to pass.

If you decide to send it elsewhere, I might recommend replacing the first entry...I think hidden-word themes are always stronger if every word in the theme entry is involved in the concealment, which isn't true of DARE in entry #1. DRAFT HORSES or LOST HORIZON would be possible replacements.

Thanks for your interest in submitting to the Chronicle, and I hope you'll try me again.

Patrick [5/26/08]
So ... yeah. That happened. There's more. I also have an email from Joon Pahk, from August of '08, telling me that he, too, had submitted this theme to Patrick at the Chronicle, and that he, too, had gotten a rejection letter. Joon, however, persevered, and found a home for his puzzle with Peter Gordon at the then not-defunct, indisputably great (crossword-wise) New York Sun (RIP—man that puzzle was good; see Joon's puzzle of 8/27/08 here). Then—THEN—I learned just today (just now) that this theme eventually *did* run in the Chronicle after all, five years later (Oct. 2013), when the Chronicle puzzle was no longer edited by Patrick Berry, but by Jeffrey Harris. That hidden Norse Gods crossword was by Zhouqin ("C.C.") Burnikel (which you can see here; seems lovely). Oh, and it's probably worth noting, just to bring this whole weird saga full circle, that the *current* editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education crossword puzzle is ... [drum roll] ... today's co-constructor: Brad Wilber.

So I have a very strong, weird, personal relationship to this theme. Also, this is the fourth incarnation of this theme That I Know Of (three of which were actually published: Joon's, CC's, and now Brad and Kevin's). And Brad (co-constructor of today's puzzle) is my friend, so I have a strong, weird, personal relationship to him too. Weirder, I had lost all my old email correspondence back in '12 when I had a hard drive meltdown ... until about a month ago, when a family member restored all the data, which allowed me to go back down crossword memory lane, which allowed me to find the old correspondence with Patrick Berry and Joon, which Joon and I were *just* talking about last week ... and now this puzzle comes out. It's just an avalanche of coincidence and nostalgia for me right now. I just wrote Brad and told him all this. I showed him my old grid (also recovered in the hard drive data restoration). He said nice things, because he is Brad. Here, you can judge for yourself. This is my version of this theme from way way back:

 [Note ACME at 1-Across—that's a nod to Andrea Carla Michaels, whose hilarious story about Will Shortz not knowing what HELLO KITTY was led directly to my making this puzzle.]
[Not sure why I thought I could put TYRE in a puzzle where TYR is one of the hidden gods ... that corner needs redoing anyway ... gah, why am I still mentally re-working a puzzle that I'll never publish that's already been done three times!!!]

Annnnnnyway, this is all to say that this theme has been done, though not quite like this. Brad and Kevin's puzzle is 74 words, which makes for some pretty wide open corners. Still, the fill is reasonably clean. I was mildly wincing at ITT and INATIE, figuring I might be in for a crosswordese/iffy fill-fest. But no. Once you get out of the NW (past SOU) the fill evens out considerably. Since it's not an Olympic year, I had trouble with SHANI. I also don't really know what a HEELTAP is. That is, if I saw that word, I would assume it referred to one's tapping of one's heel, not a material object. And I didn't know "TELL MAMA" was an Etta James album. But I picked all this stuff up easily nonetheless.

So thanks, Brad and Kevin, for the surreal solving experience, and the chance to go down my own personal Crossword Memory Lane.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:14 AM  

Easy-medium for me.  

No erasures.  

I knew BIONDI but not SHANI.

Skewing old? I count two and a half (is 2000 this century?) proper noun answers from this century. 

@Rex - Loved the trip down memory lane.  Thanks for the insider look. 

Fun/clever theme for me because I missed or forgot the other published incantations, plus not much cringy stuff. 

Liked it.

Da Bears 12:25 AM  

I liked the puzzle.

wreck 12:32 AM  

It was new to me........ I thought it was a pretty solid. I did enjoy the write up though.

Steve J 12:40 AM  

Nice theme - never would have picked it up without the revealer - but this puzzle made me understand when people complain about too many proper names or feeling too much like a trivia contest. If I count correctly (including theme answers MOOD INDIGO and HELLO KITTY), there are 19 proper nouns in this puzzle. That's a quarter of this puzzle's answers, and it seems quite excessive.

Ultimately, things were gettable without too much effort - I finished this in more like a Tuesday time - even when I was confronted with proper names I didn't know or couldn't possibly guess from the clue alone (SHANI relied entirely on crosses). But it detracted from my enjoyment of this one.

Anonymous 12:59 AM  

If ever there were a puzzle that demanded EDDA as an answer, it was this one. Or Michael's. Or joons. Or CC's. If any of the others had it, they were the clear winner.

chefwen 2:32 AM  

Thanks Rex, that was fun. More please.

Puzzle was very easy for me too. I paused at BIONDI and SHANI, two unknowns, but the crosses were very fair so it wasn't much of a pause. The only God that I didn't know was TYR but with all the letters in PANTY RAID those were the only string that made sense and deserving of my pink highlighter.

Cute puzzle, two thumbs up.

Charles Flaster 2:48 AM  

Liked this EZ Wed. and Rex review.
Liked cluing for DWARF, ARMOR and SPANK.
CrosswordEASE--TTOPS and ITT.
Rex's submission seemed quite comparable but thanks to KC and BW.

Chim cham 5:37 AM  

I don't get "What is it?" = YES
What am I missing? Please help. Thanks.

Phil 6:07 AM  

I finished and said how will rex ever complain about this puzzle. ITT or SOU ok but seemed clean o me.
Then after reading his review i thought how could rex not complain more about this puzzle. If not a friend i suppose the review would be a little less tactful

George Barany 6:53 AM  

Thanks, @Rex, for the fascinating trip down memory lane. I've met both @Kevin Christian and @Brad Wilber at the two ACPTs (2014, 2015) that I've attended. @C.C. Burnikel is a friend and fellow Minnesotan. I've been lucky enough to have puzzles published in the Chronicle of Higher Education under all three of its editors, @Patrick Berry, @Jeffrey Harris, and @Brad Wilber--each wonderful to work with in his own unique way. Yes, this happens, that talented people come up with the same theme (and even the same theme entries, in part), and yet it's OK to run all those puzzles, especially in different markets.

First, today's puzzle. What a fun romp, and it was all over too fast (at least by my personal standards). What I didn't know was inferable and/or fun to learn: the clues for PIANO and EEL stand out, and those for LAW_FIRM and ARMOR brought big smiles. Then, there were old friends like the REYS (love that Curious George), SOUSA, and ELMORE Leonard. I had the puzzle almost entirely filled in before I had to use the theme, but it saved me on the I in SHANI, which overlaps with the I of the hidden LOKI.

Now, one more piece of name dropping, closing with a recommendation. Over the past few years, we've all watched @David Steinberg grow up from wunderkind constructor into arguably one of the superstars in the field ... and it's still another few weeks before he shows up as a freshman at Stanford University. By all means, try @David's current Chronicle crossword, edited (appropriately enough) by @Brad. The puzzle, dated September 4, 2015, but available on-line at the CHE website, is called "Off With Their Heads" and has a jaw-dropping theme. Be sure to read the puzzle's "Notepad" before starting it ... and after you solve it (get Mr. Happy Pencil or whatever), it's best to still print it out and write down a few things on the hard-copy printout. Trust me on this, it's amazing!

ZenMonkey 6:56 AM  

I solved this in a more usual time for a Monday, so yeah, easy for me too.

I listened to Ella Fitzgerald singing MOOD INDIGO pretty much on a loop for a couple of my college years, not because I was an emo kid but because it was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever heard in my life. I was learning all about big band music at the time (feeling that I'd been cheated despite my parents' wide-ranging musical tastes). The title of my thesis screenplay was even "Ella Sings Mood Indigo," though it had little to do with the Queen of Song.

Anyway, Rex waxed nostalgic and then posted a clip that led me to do the same. I definitely enjoyed today's blog more than the (fine-seeming) puzzle.

evil doug 7:07 AM  

If you haven't read Elmore Leonard, you need to. Westerns early on, then crime stories, and the best dialogue extant. If you're an aspiring fiction author, his writing rules are required reading.

We tried to reignite the panty raid craze on sorority row in 1973. The cops and administration were not amused, but the girls in their sleeping dorms seemed to enjoy our salute to the past.

beaglelover 7:16 AM  

@Evan Jordan: When you are inquiring what a person wants, sometimes you just say,"Yes?"

evil doug 7:27 AM  

Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. 
6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Lobster11 7:40 AM  

Two of my longstanding pet peeves are (1) themes that I can't see until I've finished the entire puzzle, and thus do not contribute to the solving experience itself, and (2) an overabundance of proper names. For some reason I liked this puzzle a lot anyway.

Evan: If someone calls out your name, you might respond by saying "What is it?" or "What do you want?" -- or simply "YES?".

Anonymous 7:42 AM  

Evan, "What is it?" Is equivalent to saying "Yes?" when someone is waiting to talk to you.


Loren Muse Smith 7:46 AM  

Rex –fun to read about this theme's history. Agree that that's a really nice rejection letter from PB. I have to say that Joel sends nice No Thanks letters, too, on behalf of Will. So you had a 1A nod to Andrea! Cool. I wonder if any other constructors put names in grids as a way to say "hey" to someone.

Two initial thoughts that I didn’t write in: "goose" for SPANK and "jazzed" for JOYOUS.

Liked HOSTS sharing the grid with CARVE. The canny host will be very careful when bestowing this honor on someone. Very, very careful. Ask Grandpa Jack, and you've got another good 45 minutes before there are enough paper-thin portions on the platter to pass. Ask my dad, he'll accomplish it much more quickly, with dark meat and white meat neatly separated and presented. Ask my husband, and he'll gauge the meat with a squinted eye, count the number of guests, and divide the entire bird/roast/ham into troglodyte-size portions evenly among the six of us so that we're all suddenly starring in our own private Flintstones episode. It’s actually quite endearing.

I adore a theme that has entries disguised in between words, and since the puzzles Rex cites aren't among CHEs I've done, I'm with @jae – liked it.

Z 7:55 AM  

Evan: Hey, Marc!
Marc: Yes?

Pretty easy here. I haven't done the other puzzles, so fresh and new to me.

Wm. C. 8:09 AM  

@EvanJ --

"What is it?" Is something you'd say when someone motions for your attention. You might alternatively say "Yes?"

RAD2626 8:36 AM  

Liked the puzzle. Solved as themeless until revealer. Amazing that other constructors labored with same concept. Thought write up was fascinating, especially PB suggesting alternative answers that spanned all words. Played easy for me although had total brain cramp. Knew SHANI but filled in SHANe and tried to read HELLOKeTTY as one word. Duh.

ArtO 8:47 AM  

Flew through the top half but found the bottom stickier...did not know HELLOKITTY, HEELTAP or TELLMAMA. But worked through it with crosses.

Enjoyed Rex's write up.

Ludyjynn 8:53 AM  

Thoroughly enjoyed the alternate theme of eclectic musical clues/answers:

Clues: Alicia Keys, the Duke, Etta James
Answers: REM (one of my favorite songs, to boot); the Boss (as in Bruce S.); Sousa, Kansas, Yes, Goo (Goo Dolls), (Alana del)Rey, Mood(y Blues), Mama (Cass). Did I miss any?

Plus, any puzz. with FRITOs can't be all bad and I actually learned something about the ubiquitous EEL!

Interesing backstory, Rex. Thanks for an easy but engaging Wed., KC, BW and WS.

AliasZ 8:54 AM  

Very interesting coincidence, @Rex. Now the hidden Norse god theme can be retired from crosswordom forever for sure. Or at least for 25 years. I also think that TRUTHORDARE was the weakest of the themers because DARE is left hanging in the breeze, and I hate dangling DAREs. BasseTHORns would've been better. Besides, "hidden Norse gods" is sort of silly, considering that it is not a standard expression anyone uses. Hidden treasure, camera, agenda, damage, danger, etc. etc. makes more sense for hidden-word puzzles.

But still, I did like the puzzle as a whole, and the fact that the theme entries seemed to have nothing noticeable tying them together until the revealer. I like that. The theme fails when you already know what it's going to be after the second theme entry. This one didn't. BOSSMAN, LAWFIRM, ENVOGUE and JOYOUS were also nice, but T-TOPS is yet another one in the endless list of random letter + BAR, BEAM, BOLT, NUT, TOP, STRAP, CLAMP, etc. phrases that I have grown to dislike.

A little too many trivia names for my taste, usually two or three in a 15x15 is the most I can take. I am looking at you, SHANI. But I sincerely appreciate running into heavenly Sophia anytime of the week or day.

Hey, I found another god hidden in PANTYRAID. So confusing...

PANTYRAID: Criticize severely any assistance given to the god of war.
TRUTHORDARE: Capote's challenge to the thunder god.
MOODINDIGO: Cow noises adore omicron.
HELLOKITTY: The male editor will approve your "tiny" synonym.

How do you pronounce RHÔNE, "rown" or "rawn"?

Happy dromedary day.

mathgent 9:01 AM  

Rex, thanks for telling of your experience with this theme. Enjoyed getting an inside look. Too bad that your puzzle didn't get published. It seems superior with AESIR in the mix. And only 8 three-letter entries.


Matt Williams 9:17 AM  

I don't mean to be the sycophantic fan, but this commentary blew my mind as a representation of Rex's breadth of knowledge/experience in CrossWorld. For those of us who don't attend competitions, construct/submit crosswords, etc., this blog is a window into that World.

@Evan, the key to the YES answer to "What is it?" is the quotes. Both are responses one makes when called (e.g. from another room).

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

FYI: C.C. Burnikel and colleagues write a daily blog for the LA Times Daily Crossword.

Anonymous 9:22 AM  

@Evan Jordan
Person A: "I have a secret to tell you.."[eternal pause]
Impatient Person B: YES? (What is it?)

chefbea 9:27 AM  

Not a fun puzzle. Too many people I did not know. Hope tomorrow's is more fun. @Rex..great trip down memory lane

Whirred Whacks 9:52 AM  

Any puzzle with Matt BIONDI with an answer is just fine with me. Matt's probably the third greatest male swimmer of the past 70 years after Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz. And as a person, he's probably tops -- everyone in the swimming community respects him. I've met him a couple of times, and he comes across as a genuinely nice human being.

quilter1 10:03 AM  

Enjoyed both the puzzle and the write up. Got the reveal before finishing and surprised myself when I did finish. Like, Oh, I'm done already. Good Wed.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:03 AM  

Great story, Rex! Seems to prove that this theme has had enduring appeal, and by extension that it should be no surprise when other themes show up repeatedly.

I enjoyed this particular iteration of the theme, ignorant of the others. I caught on with TRUTH OR DARE, cited as the weakest entry.

How times change: Rex's puz had ACME; this one has LOREN.

(Full disclosure: I sat next to Brad Wilber at Lollapuzzoola 8. Actually, I was sitting a lot longer trying to complete the puzzles; Brad always finished way ahead of me!)

mitchs 10:17 AM  

Evil, if you haven't seen the Elmore Leonard inspired "Justified", you need to. The dialog is terrific, and season 2 is about my favorite tv since "The Wire".

Joseph Michael 10:19 AM  

I think I liked Rex's history of the theme more than the theme itself. An entertaining example of nothing new under the sun.

It was fun to unearth the Norse gods, but 28% of this puzzle consists of FRIGGing proper nouns. So too much of the solve is about remembering names rather than wordplay.

I did like HELLO KITTY, PANTY RAID, and the clue for LAW FIRM. Also appreciated the shout out to the great Etta James.

PJ 10:30 AM  

Love Norse mythology and without the their Gods interspersed I would have flunked this puzzle. Never heard of, maybe vaguely, HELLO KITTY. But I could spot LOKI often paralleled with SATAN which he is not. Norse mythology certainly has some similarities to Christianity but ultimately is more pessimistic, seeing the Gods defeated in the end. You might feel the same way if you lived in often extremely frigid Scandinavia. Getting out alive might seem like a pipe dream. And the Nords are more intertwined in our lexicon than many realize, giving us 4 days of the week: Tuesday - TYR's day, Wednesday - W ODIN's day, Thursday - THOR's day and Friday - FREYJA's day. But I'm betting a smart crowd like this all knew that.

GILL I. 10:33 AM  

Fun puzzle, terrific write-up and thanks @George for the Steinberg heads-up.
We never played TRUTH OR DARE (I never really went to many slumber parties) but when I did the first time, the so-called hilarious thing to do was freeze as many bra's as one could find. I think most of the (girls) either wore them to bed or weren't big enough to have one. Ha Ha such JOYOUS moments.....Was PANTY RAID that thing where you ran the BVD's up the flag pole?
Loved listening to both TELL MAMA and MOOD INDIGO. Now those were JOYOUS memories...
I don't mind repeats at all as long as they are clever - and this one was!

Carola 10:53 AM  

Liked it a lot! Super theme answers and, for me, a truly hidden theme. Getting to the reveal, I had ?ORS... and thought to myself, "Well, it's not going to be NORSE, so maybe mORSE or hORSE...?" Ha!

Medium for me - there were some names I didn't know and more that needed quite a few crosses before "oh, YES."

I liked that complementing ze PANTY we have ZE BRA. For some reason I'm also taken by ST. LUKE dependent on the BOSSMAN.

Leapfinger 11:10 AM  

ODIN HOD his GANG 'N' RADical group of hangers-on in ASGARD, AE-AE-SIR, he did. Still, he was FULLA suspicion that some BOR him ill, and VALIant though he was, he adopted pseudonyms FREYAly on his travels. There must have been something in the EIR. His hangers-on were HONIR-bound to keep this LOKI ruse a secret. Even though it was no SYN, they couldn't BURI the fact that it made them THOR, as they felt it was neither NORNothing less than a MODIsh ruse to FORSETIquette on them. Oh well, wottheHEL, all ODIN really wanted was to reTYR to his VERANDI and have his drink of KVASIR. As they say, what's IDUN is IDUN.

All this from the SAGA of BALDURdash.

Remarkably good fill, beautifully enhanced by LOREN and understudy DIAZ. Was working my way down to where I knew the reveal would be, so looked back up to see could I catch the theme. Saw PAN and HEL, which put me on the track of mythic GODS, but did not immed catch the central vision. After being set straight, am wondering if the theme wasn't diluted by including a couple of Greeks, viz to wit, RHEA and the abbrev'ed ACHillES?

First-rate cluing kept me on my toes. For 22A, thought of Smith BARNEY. For 42A 'Parochial school teacher?', I was thinking of a rebbe, mebbe. Minor quibble with 60A: 'breaks' made me think of TAMES, but as soon as I read 'stallion', my mind went to GELDS. Gold star goes to 'Craft for couples'=ARK.

PANTYRAID: when the bugs get into the Victoria's Secret drawer
PANTIRADE: when everyone goes off on a major rant

Couldn't ask for amore enjoyable solve, and glad I didn't know it had been done, redone and reredone.

btw, @Evan, you have it figured out now, YES?

Lewis 11:41 AM  

Is TAMES pronounced "temms" in France?

It solved like a themeless for me; I'm not too up on my Norse gods, although I did recognize them after my solve. Now lets do an ARCANE one on Incan gods.

The puzzle had spark; it's quite scrabbly, only missing Q. I loved the ironic clue for DWARF, along with those for SPANK, ARK, and LAWFIRM, and the answers TRUTHORDARE (used only once in the NYT before), ELMORE, HELLOKITTY, TERRA, MOODINDIGO, and ARCANE.

Adding to the fun, the RISER is appropriately on top, NAP is next to a backward KNAPS, and the W in MOW is part of a Boggle-style LAWN.

The proper names I didn't know were all fairly crossed and I found this to be a JOYOUS solve. Thank you gents!

GAR 11:45 AM  

Given that Rex is usually critical of puzzles that skew older, while solving this I thought that he was really going skewer this one for that reason. My sense was that this puzzle had many more older references than recent puzzles that he has criticized for this reason:
50’s College Prank
Classic Duke Ellington tune (1930)
Ooky cousin on TV (1960s)
Perlman of Cheers (1980s)
Lollipop loving character of 70’s TV
Leonard who wrote “Get Shorty” (1990)
Game console pioneer (1970s)
Eliot’s cruelest month (From The Waste Land -1922)
Margaret and Hans who created Curious George (published in 1941)
En Vogue (1990s)
“Losing My Religion” Group (1991)
Matt with 11 swimming Olympic Medals (1980s)
Nearly worthless old French coin
1968 Etta James Album
Setting for Capote’s “In Cold Blood” (1966)
Best Actress for Two Women (1960)
The other two theme entries also skew older to me, but that may just be me. Hello Kitty was first introduced in the 1970s. To me the term “slumber party” was from the 1950s-70s. I haven’t heard that term used in recent times, but maybe it is still.
I don’t have the same problem with older-skewing puzzles as Rex does (I have more problems with puzzles with a lot of more recent cultural references), and I wasn’t pointing this out to be critical of the puzzle. I was fine with it. I was just surprised that Rex wasn’t critical of this puzzle for being older-leaning as he has been for some recent NYT puzzles. That said, I thought that his write-up about the history of this theme was very interesting.

old timer 11:59 AM  

Easy enough to solve top to bottom, so I too did not find the revealer early. Not that it would have helped. PANTYRAID, TRUTHORDARE went in right away and MOODINDIGO took only a minute or so to discover. Writeovers: "Horrific' before HORRIBLE and "Shana" before SHANI. I suppose every parent of girls is familiar with HELLOKITTY.

Question: does any sailor position his sails ALEE? I know if you turn through the wind your boat moves leeward, and the skipper warns, "Hard ALEE!" But it is hard to think of sails being positioned ALEE.

MIEinMA 12:37 PM  

@Rex, great, interesting blog today. Enjoyed reading it.

Fun, easy puzzle today, more like Monday time. Anything I didn't know had easy crosses so didn't slow me down much. Just two writeovers, plum before ROMA which led to elated before JOYOUS that slowed me down slightly in the SE before AMIDST made me see the light.

Enjoyed it.


Nancy 12:42 PM  

I dropped this puzzle halfway through to pack for a vacation to Bermuda beginning tomorrow. It's lucky I started packing early, because very loud overhead hammering began at 10:30. Fortunately I was mostly finished and pleased to see that I could actually close my two 21" suitcases. I then camped out in the bedroom for the next 90 minutes, where it was quieter. I bring this up because when I came back to the LR to post here, I realized that I hadn't even finished the puzzle. So obviously today's puzzle was not of much interest to me.

I do remember that when I began it, I was cursing that there was such an easy, straighforward puzzle on a Thursday. Grrrr. Then I realized it was Wednesday. So all was well, sort of. It was pretty easy, except that I thought Acts was written by ST Paul, not ST LUKE. And HELLO KITTY seems like a strange name indeed for a Japanese toon or a Japanese anything else. Nor did I know EN VOGUE or TELL MAMA. I could have skipped all the names. Interesting that Rex also wanted to use Norse Gods in a puzzle of his at one time. Wonder why it's such a popular idea? It didn't do much for me.

jae 12:53 PM  

@mitchs & Evil - and if ELMORE had been clued with Justified we'ed have one more clue/answer from this century.

Masked and Anonymous 12:58 PM  

yep. I never Tyr of them Norse god-themed puzs. I guess BALDERdash don't pass the PB1 test.

Cool slant on the write-up, @009. And very nice 2008 grid. What's a MANON? Liked CRABBY crossin REDO, somehow …

Havin GOO dangling from the G in NORSEGODS struck me as funny, someweirdhow. Are NORISK and NORSE distantly related?

Thanx for the fun solve, U guys. Any grid that scores a word combo like KOJAK right under LAWFIRM is playin with the house's money, after that, imo. Who did that SE area? Or does one dude put in a word, and then pass the grid back, for the other dude to add one word, etc.? (Kinda like Russian roulette words with friends.)

@evil: Interestin Elmore Leonard list of writer's tips. Are U sayin that U are writin some fiction?

Masked and Anonymo4Us


Oh…Oh…Nine... MAN ON? = { One ___, nobody out}? Cute.

xyz 1:05 PM  

It was easy for me, to. Fascinating write up/discussion as I find the rigidity of puzzles design relatively arbitrary and pedantic at times. I guess I prefer themeless puzzles. Some fill sub par only alliance, very fast time today.

RooMonster 1:23 PM  

Hey All !
Liked it, seems as though I've seen either this theme, or just a Roman God theme before. But still good.

Personal story about same type puzzles. Submitted a puz on a Tuesday (mailed it out on Tue.), with empty squares as a Space rebus, when lo and behold, that Thursday puz was an empty square space rebus. Missed it by that much. Will's rejection was "Just had a theme like this. "


Chip Hilton 1:32 PM  

StANK instead of SPANK. I figured HEELTAt was some modern inker term. Silly me. Otherwise a breeze.

Melodious Funk 1:39 PM  

Can Mr. Barany post a link to David Steinberg's CHE puzzle? I like to try it.

Leapfinger 1:46 PM  

S'more TYRful details:

LOKI had three monstrous offspring which were deemed dangerous to the GODS. Two were disposed of and rendered harmless, but the great wolf Fenrir easily broke every chain used to bind him. Finally the Gods requested a magical DWARF-manufactured restraint. Though it looked like a simple silk ribbon, it was made of 6 impossible things -- the sound of a cat's step, a woman's beard, a mountain's roots, a bear's pity, fish's breath and bird's spittle. This made the ribbon Gleipnir magic and therefore unbreakable. While Fenrir had previously allowed himself to be bound with all the chains he was certain he could break, he was suspicious of this frail ribbon, and would permit himself to be bound only if someone -- anyone -- would put his hand in the wolf's HORRIBLE mouth as a sign of good faith. For the good of all, in order to be safe from this menace, TYR placed his hand between Fenrir's jaws, and of course lost it when the wolf found he could not break free.

Thereafter and for the rest of his life, TYR won every battle single-handedly.

Anonymous 1:59 PM  

I'm confused about 32 down (answer St Luke). St Luke was an evangelist - one of the four gospel writers. The Acts of the Apostles (or epistles) are usually attributed to St Paul. Am I missing something or is this a major error? RT

bwalker 2:33 PM  

I think HEELTAPS were popular in the '50s to tack on penny loafers. The little metal wedges make noise when walking. Dress code prohibited them at my school, but you could still buy them at the boot repair shop in the '70s. One of the guys bought some and nailed them on, but the principal made him remove them before lunch the next day. I'm sure they're still a dress code violation along with tank tops and parachute pants.

I enjoyed today's puzzle. The northeast was trouble as I had AguE for ACHE, LoirE for RHONE, and teRRIBLE for HORRIBLE but managed to suss it out.

Steve J 5:24 PM  

@Anon 1:59 pm: The Acts of the Apostles and the epistles are not synonymous. Acts is the book after John, while the epistles begin with the book of Romans. The various epistles titled by their addressees (e.g., Galatiants, Ephesians, etc. - but not Hebrews) are attributed to St Paul. Acts, however, which is a narrative rather than epistolary book, has long been attributed to St Luke.

Malsdemare 6:24 PM  

@George Barony. I loved the CHE puzzle, got it finished, but can't for the life of me figure out the "hidden" part. Got one half, but the other? Can you help (email me so we don't spoil anyone's fun)?

This one was fun and I really enjoyed Rex'x writeup. I never talked about sails being ALEE, though that usually where they are if they're not backed.

I hope someone chimes in on the STLUKE/STpaul conundrum.

Norm 6:34 PM  

I had FALSEGODS before NORSEGODS since I was solving fropmback to front for some reasons, so there's a theme that I toss out there for anyone to use. Many options: BAAL, ASTARTE, etc., although I guess you'd have to limit yourself to the really old ones in order to avoid offending anyone. Oops, I bey I just pissed off the Phoenicians.

Teedmn 7:35 PM  

Anyone else have Forbes at 22A? It was making me think HaRbIngE was a word (11D).

I had ST Paul at 32D also, like @Nancy.

The company I work for is a wholesale distributor of laundry and dry cleaning repair parts and we do a lot of international sales. For a while we had a customer in Indonesia who would order HELLO KITTY collectables online and have them delivered to us to include with their shipment of parts. I thought it a weird hobby, though maybe they were reselling them.

Nice puzzle, and a strange one to have been a recurring theme, I think. Thanks, KC and BW.

RooMonster 7:40 PM  

Roman God, Norse God, Incan Gis, whatever....


Bob Kerfuffle 7:42 PM  

Since the puzzle is rarely wrong, I was puzzled by the assertion made more than once that the clue for 32 D was incorrect. ("Acts of the Apostles writer, by tradition" for ST LUKE.)

My first thought was that this was simply a case of the old crossword ploy relying on the fact that the first word of the clue is always capitalized. Thus, Luke could have written about "acts of the Apostles" without having written "Acts of the Apostles," which would be true in that the Gospel according to Luke does refer to things done by the Apostles.

But when I went to Google to check my shaky knowledge of the Bible, I found that the clue author had added "by tradition" because experts don't believe Luke wrote the Book of Luke, nor did Paul write the book ascribed to Paul. All very confusing! You can read the Wikipedia article on the subject here.

Or a Biblical scholar in our midst could explain it all.

Mohair Sam 8:17 PM  

@Rex - Fascinated by the inside baseball look at the adventure in constructing. Thanks for the tour.

Agree with @GAR that Rex's surprise at the theme may have caused him to overlook the once again ancient skew of this puzzle, or maybe Rex has given up on the cause.

Also agree with Evil Doug on Elmore Leonard, one of the best. The "Justified" TV series was spun off of one of his stories - fun TV that managed to hold your interest through many seasons, no mean trick.

Had HEELTAPS on a pair of shoes for a few days when I was in High School, they sounded cool and really pissed teachers off. Fell flat on my butt when strutting accross a slippery tile floor. Humiliated, I pried them off and never wore them again.

Nancy 10:07 PM  

@Mohair (8:17)-- Ah, how wonderful to be no older than a high school student. Back then, when you fell down on a slippery floor, the only thing that ever got hurt was your pride.

old timer 12:31 PM  

Of course St. Luke wrote his Gospel, and also Acts of the Apostles. In fact, Acts begins with a reference to the former work, and there is *no* respectable Bible scholar who does not believe that both books were written by the same person. The two books are often referred to as Luke/Acts to emphasize the point. Was the author really the same Luke who is mentioned in Paul's letters? That is the big question, because the Luke who wrote Luke/Acts puts himself into Acts as Paul's companion, but the chronology seems wrong to some.

The bigger problem is the identification of the other Gospel writers. I think most scholars do not believe that the author of Matthew was the apostle Matthew, nor are the confident that the author of Mark is the same person mentioned briefly in some of the other Gospels. Nor do most scholars believe the author of John was the apostle John, though in my opinion the fourth Gospel has to have been written or dictated by the Apostle, because it is so clearly the work of a very old man, the last of the Twelve to die, who wanted to remind the world that *he* was the one Jesus loved best. (The other Gospels make it clear that John was, along with Peter, part of Jesus' innermost circle of followers).

Chim cham 2:41 PM  

Ohhhh. In the comedic sense of handing a menu back and saying, "I'll take it!"
Now I feel a little like a cheesy sci-fi robot having "Hyoo-more" explained to him.
Ha. Ha. Ha. Beep. Borp.

Anonymous 9:12 AM  

Couldn't sleep so picked up the paper early. At first scan I thought there were too many proper names and titles to bother. I dug in anyway and lo and behold all fell into place, without any look-ups or Wiki. I did guess at Shani (Never heard of Hello Kitty}

I rate this an Easy for Wednesday and really liked the theme.

Thank you K.C. and B.W.

Ron Diego, La Mesa, CA

Jaime 10:52 AM  

Am I the only cynic here whose first thought regarding the theme, with identical theme answers to Rex's prior submission, was no coincidence? I'm sure it's frowned upon to point out the possibility that the constructors of this puzzle were not solely working from their own original ideas, but I'll play the devil's advocate. I can't imagine that this thought did not cross others' minds. Per usual, I'll open my big mouth! ~Jaime

spacecraft 11:34 AM  

Is it Wednesday already? Doing this, it seemed more like yesterday--or even the day before. Today is usually when the mindbending starts--BUT there's nothing. Bunch of gods' names spanning phrases, and...that's it. This isn't HORRIBLE; it's just, well, not JOYOUS. Apparently this puzzle REHEATS a few older ones, so we can hardly call it fresh--though TELLMAMA stands out in exception. There is even a (nother? This must be the week for 'em) direct bleedover: MESH.

To extend the "god" theme, KOJAK's first name was Theo. Who loves ya, baby? There is some fill GOO here, notably TTOPS (grrr!) but not too bad. I'm liking DIAZ between PANTYRAID and SEXES. C.

rondo 8:04 PM  

Indeed @spacey, same thoughts about yeah baby DIAZ twixt PANTYRAID and on top of SEXES. I expect that @BS tried but failed to get that in. And of course LOREN, need I?

Also agree that this filled in like a Monday. Whizzed through it while eating breakfaast on a biz trip.

Don't know the Etta version, but once had an album by Savoy Brown called TELLMAMA. ELMORE could have been another James who wrote The Sky is Cryin', famously covered by Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Pretty good wake-up puz for me, but near bedtime now.

rondo 8:17 PM  

Sorry, the album was Street Corner Talkin', but the best tune was TELLMAMA.

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