Heroine princess of Mozart's Idomeneo / TUE 1-26-16 / Compton's state to hip-hoppers / Antidiarrheal brand

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Constructor: Sam Ezersky

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: DAVID / BOWIE (35D: With 43-Across, singer of the lyric formed by the first parts of 20-, 24-, 40-, 51- and 58-Across) — A tribute puzzle that spells out the opening lyric of his song "Space Oddity" (1969): "GROUND / CONTROL / TO / MAJOR / TOM"

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: ST. LUCIA (4D: Caribbean island whose capital is Castries) —
Saint Lucia ...  is a sovereign island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 617 km2 (238.23 sq mi) and has a population of 174,000 (2010). Its capital is Castries. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a decent, basic Bowie tribute. That lyric certainly makes a nice cohesive unit, and you've got Bowie's name in the middle there, however awkwardly staggered ... Bowie's work was itself so visionary and strange that I can write off any wonkiness as appropriately thematic, I think. Today, we'll just call it "artistic" or "avant-garde." First-words quote themes aren't the most exciting things in the world, but it's a Tuesday, so why not? Very accessible, and gives Everyone a nice "aha" moment, as well as an opportunity to fill in lots of grid real estate very easily. I wrote in TO and MAJOR and TOM without even reading their respective clues — strangely, this did not seem to help my solving time much. I was a little on the high side, even. I blame ST. LUCIA (4D: Caribbean island whose capital is Castries), for which I drew a complete blank (that clue was zero help). Not getting that meant rounding a corner in either direction (into the N, into the W) got somewhat harder. Later, ILIA slowed me right down, because WTF? (37D: Heroine princess of Mozart's "Idomeneo") I just changed ILIA DKNY to IDEA DUTY and already like it better. And then NUMLOCK, yikes (46D: Key near the upper-right corner of a PC keyboard). Have not seen that. My keyboard has a "caps lock" and that's it. So despite the lyrical giveaway, my time was no better than average for a Tuesday. Slightly worse, actually.

I like the loose, colloquial feel of this grid, all those KINDAs and I HEAR YAs and NO LIEs. I also like that you might carry DAVID / BOWIE music on your IPOD NANO, and that Bowie sang about TABLOIDS in "Space Oddity," at least indirectly ("And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear..."). So the theme is basic, and there are rough patches in the fill, but it's hard for me to be anything but pleased with a Bowie puzzle.

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Lewis 7:07 AM  

@rex - Nice fix on ILIA/DKNY.

While I wasn't a huge fan of David Bowie (nor did I dislike his music), I enjoyed the solve. This was a beautiful piece of puzzle construction, with abutting theme answers abounding, and clean fill despite a high theme density. It was also fun to solve, because it had a little bite. I loved the clue for TABLOIDS and the answers TOMFOOLERY, TOTASTE, and CONTROLFREAK. However much a downer IMODIUM might be was easily made up for by the glorious clue for MINDS ("They may be blown by a magician").

Loren Muse Smith 7:10 AM  

Rex - good call on the "idea" and "duty" change.

I hesitate to say I didn't know the song; I've been feeling pretty uncool that I'm not too familiar with BOWIE's work, but I've enjoyed the tributes I've been seeing, and I applaud that he really pushed the envelope. I guess I always figured that my music tastes weren't cool/honed enough for BOWIE to be accessible to me. My husband, and now my kids, mentally dismiss me when the conversation turns to BOWIE, Marley, Hendrix...

But I appreciated this puzzle nonetheless. Two pairs of seriously-stacked themers, two entries running through three themers. Cool.

The symmetrical FADE and TEAR being shed feel themish, too.

Two goofs, and I bet we're legion here, were "strike" before GROUND and "nuts" before OATS.

Tita – loved your "canified!" And I meant to add Sunday that the thought of the smell those airport confiscators had on their hands made me laugh. Unpasteurized Limburger? Sign me up, man. I'm all about stinky cheeses.

I looked on my keyboard, Rex, and my NUM LOCK key just has a picture of a lock with a number in it. I guess that's the key. I've never used it. NUMLOCK looks menacing in the grid. Like a weapon. Jarl missed Harald with his lance, Hrolf totally tanked with his Bowie knife, but ole Snorri got him right in the yang with his numlock. Guy's a beast with that thing.

I appreciated JELLO right next to IMODIUM. Mom always whipped up some JELLO when one of us had that kind of trouble.

When my son was in eighth grade, we went to an Indian festival. First table as you entered – Henna Your Hands. My son promptly paid his two dollars and got his hands decorated with henna. No one stopped him. So it was to his considerable horror later on that Ansh K, a teammate, told him at basketball practice that it was mainly for women. That stuff stayed on forever, longer than it took his eyebrows to grow back after the expert threading. ;-) Talk about your YUKS.

As tribute puzzles go, I liked this a lot more than the perfunctory list of famous works. Nice one, Sam.

Rob 7:43 AM  

I'm always surprised how differently Rex and I feel about difficulties. I thought this one was really, really easy.

I had no idea what the capital of St. Lucia was, but by the time I got to it I had ST L, so how many possibilities were there really?

I appreciated the Bowie tribute, but I would have liked one a. to run the day after his death instead of on the 26th for no reason and b. a bit more interesting. How much more fun would it have been to have the theme answers be the names of Bowie's personas over the years?

Unknown 7:43 AM  

MAJOR TOM, indeed:

“I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring.”

RIP Mr. Bowie.

Dorothy Biggs 8:02 AM  

Puzzle was medium for me. STLUCIA, ROCCO, ILIA all gave me fits. But the crosses were easy, so it all balanced out.

I'm hoping there will be a Glenn Frey tribute soon. While Bowie was a huge influence to pop music (at the time), so was Frey and the Eagles...maybe more so.

rant to follow...

I sometimes read the outpouring of sadness for Bowie's passing as very hipster-like...I don't recall him ever being truly mainstream. He had fans, for sure, but nothing like his similar-in-style contemporaries Elton John or Freddie Mercury...much less The Beatles, Wings, and The Stones. And his foray into 80s music, while popular, was still not block-buster stuff compared to other bands in the 80s (Huey Lewis, Phil Collins, Duran Duran, etc).

Glenn Frey, along with Henley and company, were far more mainstream and arguably more influential because of that. But The Eagles are less likely to be adopted by the hipster crowd because of their commercial success and because they aren't nearly as cool to ironically remember over a PBR as Bowie.

Don't get me wrong, Bowie was an amazing artist...but he was, IMO, fringe/cultish for much of his career vis a vis his contemporaries. And I would point to Bowie himself for this...his look, his redefining his identity, even his musical style were always on the edge and by definition kept him out of the mainstream. He may have found a resurgence recently just because he is so iconically 60s and early 70s...but again, this constant sorrow over his passing is more about the hipster retro fascination and less about Bowie per se. I might add the rock and roll intelligentsia to this too...the same people who came out of the woodwork to mourn Frank Zappa who, like Bowie, marginalized himself on purpose, and who, when he was alive, didn't really pay much attention until his death.

Ah, such is celebrity in modern music.


Doug Garr 8:18 AM  

I liked this puzzle because I started filling in all over the place with no plan. I thought it would be harder than it was until I got the theme -- David Bowie right after Ground. And the more I think of it the more answers like Silks, Henna, No Lie and Camo are peripherally, distantly Bowie-relate. Was it intentional that To Taste was in the middle? Neato puzzle.

George Barany 8:19 AM  

Congratulations to @Sam Ezersky for his tenth New York Times puzzle. I enjoyed reading the backstory over at xwordinfo.com, and found @Rex's review to be fascinating. Published tribute puzzles are far and few between these days, which makes this one extra special.

Late last night, I posted the following, which I would like to repeat now in its entirety, for those who might care:

Quick note to @puzzle hoarder. MINYAN made its New York Times debut in Sunday's puzzle by @Francis Heaney and @Brendan Emmett Quigley.

@Jim Horne established, and @Jeff Chen maintains, an incredible database of answer words for the entire history of the NYT puzzle, both under the editorship of @Will Shortz and -- in an effort spearheaded by @David Steinberg -- all the years before. The URL of that site is xwordinfo.com ... and I urge anyone who is serious about crossword puzzles to check it out.

chefbea 8:26 AM  

Had the BOW and knew the puzzle theme right away.
This puzzle was to my taste what with all the goodies...snack, lamb, jello and oats....think I'll eat breakfast now.

Hungry Mother 8:48 AM  

A lot to like, but very easy.

Tita 9:18 AM  

Along with TEAR, FASE, HENNA, are SILKS,, blown MINDS, AURA, even kNELL...part of the tribute? Was he into TAROT?

Nicely done tribute, Mr. E.

cwf 9:25 AM  

@Loren Muse Smith: I see what you did there with your avatar.

Z 9:31 AM  

As you can probably tell from my avatar, I'm going to like. BOWIE tribute puzzle even though I don't much care for tribute puzzles. Consistency is for small minds and all that.

@Rob - Based on what's been reported here in the past about submission to publication timelines, a 16 day turn around is a miracle.

@NCA President - I'm a former middle school principal - the very definition of "not hip." How do you explain me? To your arguement, though, the Eagles are very popular. Their songs get covered all the time by a wide range of artists. Still, they never really pushed the envelope, their music is safe. Pleasant. Enjoyable. But it never really moves your soul. Never makes you go, "Huh!? What!? Oh, wow." Listen to any Bowie album and you hear a guy contending with life, love, and what it means to be human, what it means to live. He never had a #1 album until he died, but he always challenged while he entertained. Watch that Glen Hansard video of Ashes to Ashes. A guy, his guitar, and the simple question, "who do I want to be." The Eagles wrote music for people not cursed with self-awareness (to steal a line from "Bull Durham"). Bowie can be enjoyed by them, too. But for everyone who goes Up the Hill Backwards it is reassuring to know that it will be all right.

Nancy 9:41 AM  

I was sure that what "may be blown by a musician" was RINGS. I couldn't quite figure out WHY a magician would blow RINGS, but there it sat until gPLUS at 66A made me change to RINGS to MINDS for the D. (GPLUS sounded like some sort of Google offshoot, but it didn't go with the clue.) However, not a MAJOR PROBLEM for me.

At 54D -- Look, I didn't even know they were married, much less that they had a son. And I certainly didn't know that his name was ROCCO.

Likewise, the theme went right over my head. Didn't know DAVID BOWIE, nor the song that is formed by some of the clues. Didn't need to. The crosses were easy. Is the song GROUND CONTROL TO MAJOR TOM? What an odd song title! I'm headed to Rex right now to find out for sure.

Nancy 9:42 AM  

So I see it's not the title, it's the first line. Well, that's A BIT less peculiar, I'd say.

quilter1 10:02 AM  

Enjoyable and current, yet gettable for older people.

Unknown 10:08 AM  

Wait, you people don't know numlock?

Maybe you were all avoiding computers when they used to actually spell it out on the key? Now I believe it's an icon.

Hartley70 10:23 AM  

Somehow David Bowie's music passed me by, although not his unusual style nor his wife, Iman. I have never heard the song or its lyrics but it was still fun to figure out the theme.

I was happy to see LADIDA and TOMFOOLERY because to me they were unexpected choices, as was NUMLOCK since I'm a "Mac"-oholic. Actually I still have that hot pink IPODNANO stashed in a drawer and I use it every night while I wait with closed eyes for the glaucoma drops to do their magic. It doesn't have a speaker so it's useful if others are sleeping, as long as I don't curse when the ear buds fall out. So hard to find when your eyes are closed!

STLUCIA was an easy one. Back in the mid-70's we did a bareboat charter down through the Grenadines and started there. It wasn't much of a tourist destination at the time, nor was St.Vincent the next island, nor was Bequi after that. By then 4 out of 6 crewmembers bailed on the last island. There were pirates involved.

Malsdemare 10:23 AM  

"Got him right in the yang with his numlock." I'm gonna be laughing all day!

Failed at IMOnIUM. The trots are usually not my problem; more likely the balks. But fun nonetheless.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:24 AM  

I usually try to avoid seeing the reveal early, so I can guess at what is going on in a puzzle. But this morning as I was settling in to breakfast and puzzle, my eyes alit on 35 A. Therefore, when I had filled the far NW corner and had only the letters GROU at 20 A (and this never happens!) the whole puzz was over for me. I filled in all the other theme answers with no crosses (OK, I held off on the end of 51 A, not sure what would be MAJOR, and I needed the B of LAMB, 26 D, to determine where the equal-length name segments would fall.)

I am not a great fan of any genre of pop music, but the ubiquity of Major Tomhad pounded it into my brain!

A good Tuesday puzz!

BTW, a few days ago, whilst I was snowbound, I downloaded that crossword contest offered by George Barany. The puzzles weren't that hard, and I took a stab at the meta answer and sent it in. Might have seemed too easy; I may have missed something and come up with the wrong answer. But prizes are offered, utterly unspecified, and with that recent $1.6 billion Powerball prize fresh in mind . . . well, a guy can dream! And the only cost to enter is a few minutes of puzzle solving, so what's to lose?

thfenn 10:26 AM  

Struggled at first, but puzzle fell into place once the theme clicked, and that's always fun. TIME before PACE, UNI before SCH, OLE before YAY, PATCH before HENNA, NUTS before OATS all slowed me a bit. And I thought it was LADEEDA which didn't fit, not sure why LADIDA didn't leap to mind. I don't happen to think GROUNDOUTS are unexciting, or that a snafu is a MAJORPROBLEM (tho in trying to find out if others thought so I learned it's a WWII acronym for Situation Normal - All Fucked Up, which was new to me). And hey, you'll probably never see Paul Anka and David Bowie linked anywhere but in today's puzzle, so that's KINDA NEATO.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:29 AM  

Madonna's son crossing Compton's State (to hip-hoppers) ?!?

I once heard David Bowie sing something like O Holy night on a Christmas special, and said, hey, that one's a musician. But didn't pay much attention. I someone for whom the Idomeneo clue was a gimme.

old timer 10:29 AM  

Very hard here. I just solved the puzzle top to bottom, and never used the revealer. Though "Space Oddity" is the one Bowie song everyone -- well, almost everyone -- knows. It was constantly on both AM and FM radio back in the day.

I was stymied by the ILIA/BLURAY/NUMLOCK cross. It's been a couple of decades since my keyboard had a NUMLOCK. I've never used BLURAY. And I certainly did not know ILIA. Had to look it up on Wikipedia. At which point, I knew the others.

Did anyone else write in MAJOR and wonder if the next four letters were F, U, C, and K?

xyz 10:34 AM  

59down & 65 across cross = ughly, otherwise very easy

EBAN peeee yew

Howard F 10:47 AM  

Great puzzle, and kudos to Sam Ezersky, but I'm going to strongly disagree with @NCA President, dude are you serious?! I'm actually a fan of the Eagles, but they're a pop band that was designed to sell lots of records. Glenn Frey wrote some great songs and has an important part in music history, but it's ridiculous to compare those two. David Bowie changed music more than once, he's up there with Miles Davis and Dylan. People like that don't come around that much.

Believe it or not I almost didn't want to continue that puzzle today when I realized it was Bowie tribute. He's had such an impact on me that it felt trivial.

Joseph Michael 10:53 AM  

YAY. Like the theme and colloquial feel of this one. Feels fresh and has enough bite to make it KINDA interesting even to someone who was not a huge BOWIE fan and didn't know the song referenced. My favorite Bowie memory is not a song but a film: "The Man Who Fell to Earth."

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

Bleck to Bowie. The most over-rated musician in my life time (and I'm 62). Sure a couple of tunes were of interest. Still Ground Control to Major Tom, while likely his most famous song, gave us one of rock's truly awful lines "Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do". Seriously? That should have never left the studio.

And we get yet another whitewash of Mao in some obscure and cheerful quote. How about "Once the struggles of the masses are crushed and murdered, my miracles are possible"?

kitshef 11:13 AM  

Mixed feelings here. On the plus side, happy just to get a paper today (first time since Friday), and love the Bowie tribute. We were in Trinidad when he died and basically cut off from any news, so missed any obits and tributes following his death. Plus the puzzle has some nice stuff such as STLUCIA, TABLOIDS, IPODNANO, and IMODIUM.

ON the down side, MAJORPROBLEM is not a thing (though NUMLOCK certainly is, I'm staring at it now), and there is way to much "using quotes because I can't think of a clue" going on: "Well, aren't you something", "Keep ___ the D.L.", "Dead Serious", "Yep, that's clear", "Yes 'n no", "That hurt!".

So, despite the warm feeling and gratitude for the Bowie/Space Oddity nostalgia, not really a good puzzle.

deerfencer 11:15 AM  

Enjoyed the puzzle and tribute to the Duke.

Glenn Frey more influential than Bowie?! Please. Bowie was a force of nature in both his creativity and generosity, almost single-handedly reviving the careers of Lou Reed, Mott the Hoople, Iggy Pop, and many others by giving away some of his very best songs to them, and often helping to produce them. Look up open source and you'll find a picture of Bowie grinning. In reading various tributes after his passing from fellow musicians, it almost got to the point where one wanted to ask, was there anyone who WASN'T influenced by this guy?

Simply put, Bowie is high in the pantheon of rock and roll gods and cultural icons, right up there with Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen. Glenn Frey? Maybe a minor saint.

jae 11:20 AM  

Easy-medium for me. Delightful and in the news. Pretty much every coverage of BOWIE's passing had a MAJOR TOM clip in it. As @George Barany mentioned Sam's remarks at Xwordinfo are worth reading so here they are for those of you who don't have access:

Sam Ezersky notes:
First of all, a big shout-out to my father and stepmother, who are huge David Bowie fans, and thus indirectly inspired this puzzle by turning me on to such excellent music at an early age. When Bowie passed away on 1/10/16, all I could do to honor his legacy was play my favorite hits nonstop. His early "Ashes to Ashes." His late "Lazarus." And, of course, his timeless "Space Oddity."
Well, naturally, I had noticed during this time that DAVID/BOWIE could be a symmetric pair in a crossword, and I whipped up a quick mini** around the entries. But the idea of making a larger tribute puzzle began to eat at me … so I experienced quite the "aha" moment upon hearing the opening lyrics of the last song mentioned above. Construction fell simply, as I had flexibility with pretty much all of the answers, although I really wanted TOMFOOLERY since it didn't employ the name "Tom" in the same sense as the song. As far as the fill goes, I didn't design my grid for many longer non-theme answers, so I tried to make the most out of the 6s, 7s, and 8s available: NUM LOCK, BLU-RAY, ST. LUCIA, IPOD NANO, etc.
To me, this puzzle alone was dear enough to my heart, and I was *this* close to cluing it up indie-style and posting it on my site. However, just for the heck of it, I shot Joel Fagliano—who I was already in contact with regarding mini** puzzles—a quick email that displayed the unclued grid, asking if he and Will wouldn't by chance have any interest in running the timely puzzle. To my surprise, I received a "Yes!" response from both individually, and excitedly reversed course. You know the rest!
Who knew that my 10th puzzle in the Times, a personal goal in itself, could be such an adventure? So. Incredibly. Grateful. :)

Really liked this one, made me smile!

Andrew Heinegg 11:23 AM  

This was what a Tuesday puzzle should be. Lots of easily filled in things and, for those answers that do not hand themselves over e.g., St. Lucia and Cali(for me anyway), the crosses take care of it for you. And, there is still enough fun stuff to make the puzzle enjoyable.

Bowie was a true renaissance man, with a significant art collection and he was a thoughtful critic of modern art. His music was sometimes just fun as in 'Let's Dance' or thoughtful and tuneful commentary like 'Space Oddity'. He had a decent voice that was so expressive and it was very much his own. RIP.

GILL I. 11:33 AM  

I know very little about DAVID BOWIE except for maybe Ziggy Stardust.
Too bad the zig or zag clue answer wasn't Ziggy.
This was a prince of a tribute puzzle. I like that it started with YUKS since it got me in a LADIDA mood. Like the clue for TAROT and TOM FOOLERY is a great word.
Good puzzle for a Tuesday Sam Ezersky.

archaeoprof 11:58 AM  

55Down OMAHA could have been clued as "city frequently mentioned by Peyton Manning."

Carola 12:22 PM  

I was interested to read in @Rex that the puzzle gives everyone a nice "aha" moment, as after finishing it I'd wondered if I was going to be the only solver who has never (to my knowledge) heard a David Bowie song. But the puzzle was a treat even without getting the theme. I also enjoyed all the colloquialisms and the grid's span between YUKS and YEOW.

AliasZ 12:34 PM  

As much as I enjoyed this clean, well executed puzzle, I couldn't warm to its theme, not being familiar with what GROUND CONTROL TO MAJOR TOM was, that it was in B-FLAT, and why it was worthy of a NYT puzzle. But that's just my personal bias or handicap.

I thought LADIDA was lah di dah.
Sunday YELLO, today JELLO. CELLO and HELLO can't be far behind. Bello, bellissimo.

I personally liked Sam Ezersky's choice of DKNY and ILIA. Let's listen to ILIA's aria "Se il padre perdei" (if I lost my father) from Idomeneo by Mozart.

Happy Tuesday.

mac 12:42 PM  

Easy but very nice. Maybe I like fringe/cultish art and music, I have always loved David Bowie as a wonderful artist of long standing and a class act.

Our lawn/landscaping company is called Ground Control!

Anonymous 12:45 PM  

I have suffered, suffered, I say, through the morass of proper names i've never heard from, not the least of which was Dan Savage and Tim Cook on Sunday, both of them in theme answers. Thus, on behalf of all of us who are here in Natick, thank you, thank you for 4 down, with its reference to Castries. Now the rest of you, who know who Tim Cook and Dan Savage are, can be less smug.

Teedmn 1:16 PM  

DAVID BOWIE - I've been a big fan since the "Station to Station" album came out in '75. "Golden Years" was just the coolest song ever. I then ordered the double cassette live album "David Bowie at the Tower Philadelphia". I didn't know anyone else in my small hometown who had any Bowie, and I'm still an outlier amongst my friends. I haven't kept up totally with him because I hated 'Modern Love' and 'China Girl' for some reason (but loved 'Ashes to Ashes', the 'Space Oddity' "sequel").

Needless to say, I loved this,puzzle and thought it was quite timely, given the usual turn-around on NYTimes puzzles. I loved the clues for 69A, STOMP, and 41D, TABLOIDS but had a big groan for 51D, MINDS, not sure why.

For me, "Blackfish" was briefly a documentary about OshA (the EPA would be more likely :-) ), and the beginning I of IMODIUM had me thinking Ipecac (don't try that!). My keyboard, on the numbers keypad, has a key plainly marked NUM LOCK (sounds like something disparaging you would call someone, "No, NUM LOCK, it opens like this !)

Thank you SE and WS, for the great tribute

Master Melvin 2:01 PM  

GROUNDOUTS can be quite exciting if the play is close at first or if the infielder makes a good play. Baseball aficionados love to see a ground ball hit to the deep shortstop hole, watch the shortstop backhand it, plant and make a long, strong throw to nip the runner at first. It's the play that separates the men from the boys at shortstop. Some of us would rather see this play well executed than watch a 260 pound gorilla hit the ball over the wall. The people who run baseball (and Mr. Ezersky) seem to disagree.

Chronic dnfer 2:08 PM  

Had helicopter mom before control freak. Nailed St Lucia as I've been there although did not know the name of the capital. Wanted St. John's. I would rate it easy-medium. Dnfed at oloe/Elan. All In all enjoyable and a victory (for me).

Masked and Anonymous 2:10 PM  

Cool tribute. Take yer protein pills and put yer helmet on. "Let's Dance!"

Actually, my fave David Bowie song was the one from a schlock flick called "Cat People". "Puttin out fire
with gas-o-line …"

Wow. I counted 6 U's and 61 squares of themer-prose. Day-um. thUmbsUp, on the constructioneerin, Sam.
Commencin countdown, engines on!



Chronic dnfer 2:18 PM  

Also had d flat before d plus, deal before draw And time before pace. Oh well. Going to the driving range to hit some golf balls.

UncleJohnC 2:42 PM  

Back in the day, when I was around seven or eight years old, my sister used to play "Space Oddity" on our hi-fi and it always unsettled me - made me quite nervous for some reason.

But I did enjoy this tribute.

Count me with those who see/use the numlock key every day.

Looking forward to next week's tribute puzzle to Abe Vigoda - R.I.P.

Unknown 2:52 PM  

I thought that this was a wonderful puzzle. Doubly so when considering the quick turnaround.

The theme answers are solid: GROUND OUTS, CONTROL FREAK, TO TASTE, MAJOR PROBLEM, and TOM FOOLERY. With DAVID BOWIE, there are seven theme answers spaced out over nine rows, yet the fill is solid.

I didn't know ILIA (shame on me), but the crosses were straight-forward. Personally, I prefer ILIA, DKNY, ELK, and NEIN to IDEA, DUTY, EDU, NEET. The former packs a bit more punch.

Only dislike is IMODIUM. Ew.

Strongly agree with Rex on enjoying the colloquial feel of the grid. Besides, KINDA, I HEAR YA, and NO LIE, there is LA-DI-DA, YUKS, NEATO (Quaint cousin of "Suh-weet!"), MINDS (They may be blown by a magician), and IT ON ("Keep ___ the D.L." ["Don't tell anyone"]). That last clue really makes the best of a mediocre answer.

LindaPRmaven 3:31 PM  

Medium for me. Don't know Bowie rep but tribute was fitting and enjoyable. I agree NUMLOCK is forced. ILIA in my book is not obscure because Idomeneo is my favorite Mozart opera. (Yes, even more than Figaro or Cosi.) But "obscure" is in the mind of the solver. Had Tattlers before TABLOIDS. I must be watching too many episodes of "The Knick."

Anonymous 3:34 PM  

For me this was Thursday level difficulty. Got DAVID BOWIE. but I could name a song if my life depended on it.
Just filled 1/3 of the open space before going to Google.

elitza 4:32 PM  

Incredibly easy for me, came in a full two minutes under my average Tuesday.

I started the puzzle before my husband did and therefore hit the revealer first, but we reacted with the same sad "...oh."

The outpouring of grief for David Bowie came, in my peer group (late 20s to early 40s), from many, many people whose first image of gender nonconformity was Ziggy Stardust, and who were vastly reassured by it. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that David Bowie saved lives by demonstrating that it was okay, maybe even cool, to throw off societal expectations.

His duet with Bing Crosby was recorded right before Bing's death--The Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth. Gorgeous.

Rabi Abonour 5:03 PM  

The Bowie theme is executed perfectly fine, but "hip-hoppers" is so incredibly terrible that it completely ruined the entire puzzle for me. I hope they changed that clue at the Times, because I want to believe that Sam wouldn't pull that crap.

Leapfinger 5:14 PM  

Guess I was otherwise occupied cuz I missed out on David Bowie till many years had passed. Oh well, I didn't know about Woodstock till after the fact, either. Thanks to Continuing Ed, I caught the theme when CONTROLFREAK came hard on the heels of GROUNDBALL. (Yeah, I found out that was wrong.) Nice work to construct such a clean tribute and get it through production in record time. And who KNEW NEWT would be back today?

Confused by 26A, thought LA DIDA was Yin to El Nino's YANG.

Noticed that, if you spare the ROD, GROUND CONTROL becomes GUN CONTROL. I'M ODIUM that we can't get reasonable with that.

Have to go STOMP some ice on the driveway now. No CHAINs, y'know.


ZenMonkey 6:38 PM  

Loved this tribute. It actually put Bowie's voice in my head while solving, which was kind of lovely.

A wonderful coincidence with the mention of Peter and the Wolf. The day of Bowie's death, I discovered by accident that he had narrated this with the Philadelphia Orchestra. (Give it a listen and see if you don't chuckle.) So there's another connection for you, Rex!

Norm 6:44 PM  

You only get NUMLOCK with a full-size keyboard that has a numeric keypad on the side, so anyone using a laptop or tablet or Surface or the like will not find one. It toggles the number/calculator functions on & off, since those keys otherwise operate as navigation keys. I never understand why that was so, but I love my numeric keypad at work and miss it when I'm working at home on the smaller keyboard. I would have clued it differently, since it's not present in many of the machines that people are using these days.

Dorothy Biggs 7:48 PM  

@Z and Howard Flax: both of you need to reread my post. I didn't say Bowie wasn't innovative or even amazing, I was simply musing on when Frey would get his due.

Bowie was fringe. Frey was not. Both were exceedingly good at what they did. Both died last week. Hence the comparison. And yes, Bowie did sell out. Have you heard his terrible stuff from the 80s? He, like all 70s artists, we're trying to cash in on the post-disco pop music in 1984 and on.

I raise my PBR to you both and doff my fedora! Now I'm off to UO to buy me some flannel.

Phil 9:19 PM  

i think desktop or non-laptop would have been a better qualifier than PC. Those are always separate keyboards and always have the number keyboard and lock.

OISK 11:03 PM  

Slow Tuesday for me. I knew the name and the face, but I was, until very recently, completely unaware of any recordings by David Bowie. However, shortly after his death, we had some friends over, who insisted that I listen to at least one of his songs. It was "Ground control to Major Tom." That made the puzzle a lot easier.

Anonymous 11:05 PM  

My Apple keyboard has separate navigation and number/calculator keys so the Numlock key is there but not functional. It is functional when I open a Windows or Unix virtual machine on my computer.

Z 9:01 AM  

@NCA Prez - I thought I did address your point about the differentiated response. The Eagles are very good at what they do, but they don't inspire a deep, passionate response. They made music for a day in the sun, lounging with a Bud, hoping to get laid. This is good stuff, but there is a lightness to it. Bowie, on the other hand, writes about what it means to be a hero, what it means to screw your life up and then make good, biting political commentary to a plastic soul beat. Consider:
You shouldn't mess with me
I'll ruin everything you are
You know, I'll give you television
I'll give you eyes of blue
I'll give you men who want to rule the world

Ziggy Stardust? Thin White Duke? Nope, China Girl, a song that is not about being in love with an Asian-American. This last being the point. No one ever listened to Lyin'Eyes and on the tenth listen went, "Oh wait... That's what he's singing about‽" That ability to get someone to relisten with freshness, sometimes about some very dark stuff, is what drives people to be passionate about an artist.

I do get what you're saying about Bowie being more "Fringe" than Glenn Frey, but I think that's a bit of a misperception. A Christmas special appearance with Bing Crosby, appearing on The Dick Cavett Show, lots of MTV videos, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, super model wife before Tom Brady was in college... how much on the fringe was he really?

Diana,LIW 8:31 PM  

Hi @Rainy

To continue the gerundical conversation...

I believe I buried the headline, once again. Mea culpa. My overall thought was that "being" was a participle, and not a gerund, in LMS's post. See:


Here's LMS's post, for those not following it:

(@jberg – anything I mention that happened in Innsbruck is just me being a smart donkey. And, yeah, me being, not my being. If I'm going to be on board with the singular they, then I'm totally ditching that possessive there that I think you still like.)

I think you both got (sic) it wrong. I believe, and I could be wrong, of course, that "Being" is a participle in her sentence. "It IS me BEING a smart donkey." "It IS me RUNNING my mouth." "It IS me LOOKING at you."

In other words, "being" is part of a verb, and not a noun. A gerund acts as a noun. ie, "It is my BEING A SMART DONKEY that gets me into trouble when I write about Innsbruck."

Sew, methinks youse guys was overcorrecting. My guess is that, as you Canadians are more proper (and polite!), you are more likely to use the possessive/gerund combo than we Yanks. Thus, the (IMO) greater possibility of overcorrection. As a child of a born grammarian, I often overcorrect was/were constructions, so I know this territory.

What sayest thee?

Diana, The American Friend (aka, peaceful Quaker)

Burma Shave 9:05 AM  


ABIT of SILK’S KINDA nice, but YEOW, if her SLY MIND’S on jewelry,
it’s a MAJORPROBLEM, so no dice, you’re on PACE for no TOMFOOLERY.


spacecraft 10:31 AM  

My experience was similar to @Bob Kerfuffle's. I mean, c'mon, what other lyric begins with GROUND? The whole theme--including artist--was one big "duh."

I question whether MAJORPROBLEM is in the language as a familiar phrase. I guess it's OK, but it was the only spot in the theme entries where I needed more letters.

As to the wail over David's passing vis-a-vis the apparent lack of same for Glen: I am an Eagles fanatic, so please add my wail on the latter's behalf.

Despite the store being given away, I KINDA liked this one. As OFL said, it's hard to NOT like a tribute to the fantastic BOWIE. So I took my protein pills, put my helmet on, and polished it off. I liked the crunchy feel of the fill, with its plethora of NON-one-pointers.

TSK isn't the greatest bleedover ever, and there are indeed "rough spots" in the fill, but it's still way better than DPLUS. A couple of nice memory jogs: MTA always makes me think of the Kingston Trio song, where the M stands not for Manhattan but Massachusetts; and BFLAT reminds me of the key of "Sing with me and find the key" from "Jumpin' Jack Flash." OK, so I'm a Whoopi fan. So sue me. B+.

leftcoastTAM 1:14 PM  

Played more like a Wednesday for me.

Writeovers: rifle before LANCE, hands before MINDS, pale before FADE, Eben before EBAN.

Needed most of the crosses for DAVID BOWIE, not knowing the song lyric, also revealed by crosses.

So, KINDA slow on the DRAW today.

rondo 2:01 PM  

I KINDA liked this puz a lot. But I am puzzled by @NCAPrez’s attempt to pretend to be the conscience for why DAVID BOWIE is missed. I’ve been a fan since the beginning. I’ve also been an Eagle’s fan since their beginning. One need not be a hipster to mourn BOWIE’s passing, nor a simple-minded mainstreamer to mourn Glenn Frey. Both BOWIE and the Eagles have been a big part of my music awareness for the past 45 years, or thereabouts, for different reasons. The one thing in common - their music is good. And this comes from a guy who once opened for Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. Real music appreciation does not have boundaries nor need labels. Good is good. The genius of all kinds of artists is under-appreciated during their lifetime. And you can hardly label all BOWIE mourners hipsters.

The next best thing about this puz is that both the first and last name of a coworker appear in it. Made her day.

Serious lack of a yeah baby today. Maybe NELL Fenwick?

Nice tribute puz to a great artist. NOLIE.

rain forest 3:40 PM  

A nagging question about tribute puzzles (and this is a good one) is: do we have to wait until the person passes on before we have one. I certainly wouldn't mind a tribute puzzle to a living person, celebrity or not. Another thought: how do we determine who should be tributed? Re: the Eagles - I have conflicting thoughts, but I will say when I think of that band, I think, Joe Walsh, Don Felder, and Glenn Frey. Tribute? Maybe not.

Anyway, as I said, I liked this tribute, and it IS well-deserved. The guy was an icon. Also, lotsa good stuff in here, very little to pooh-pooh, a nice mix of colloquialisms. Fun.

@Lady Di - I've been accused of being polite, but rarely proper... Quaker, eh?

Diana,LIW 3:49 PM  

Agree with Spacey - the store was given away - for me at the "Starman" clue. I jump all over the puzzle in no particular order, and came upon that pretty early. Then began filling in at "Rex Speed."

Still, I had ipAd instead of IPOD, didn't know the movie, and didn't get the TAROT clue. So it was easy until I dnf.

Who the heck is Mozart? ;-) Every one of the (purchased this year) keyboards in our house has the NUMLOCK key. Mr. Waiting uses his calculator regularly. I? Never. I pull out a real calculator when I get all mathematical. And how on God's good earth could anyone not have heard Major Tom, over and over? I'm always astounded to see the various opinions and unknowns (and knowns) when I come here. But hey, that's what makes America great.

A final note - we have DKNY, another designer, to start off a new month of puzzles.

YAY. NEATO. Then YEOW, foiled again.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for her next perfect solve

Cathy 6:37 PM  

So we have DAVID BOWIE, Paul ANKA, ACDC, and even JelLO! What a concert! Singing obLADIoblaDA.

I STOMPED through this with ease as having been a BOWIE fan in my youth. Ah, the Ditto and Chemin de fer pants, one quarter 3 game 5 ball pinball, one quarter 5 song juke box blaring fame. Bully for you, chilly for me. Got to get a rain check on, fame.

I was once a - Young American

leftcoastTAM 7:30 PM  

@Cathy, indeed weren't we all? Today's puzzle brings it all up.

Diana,LIW 8:47 PM  

@Rondo - I, too, wondered about @NCA's caste-like post. (IMHO) Good is good. And "planet earth is blue..." is genius in my book. You go write something better, Anon! (The usual coward without a name.)

@Cathy - still laughing :-)

@Rainy - nagging at me, too. Perhaps we should jump into futureland and ask if anyone remembers tributes to living persons. Seems like there must have been. I'm firing up the deLorean.

Diana, Time Traveler

rondo 9:44 PM  

@Cathy - Let's Dance. I think we grew up in different locations together. Quarter for the box, quarter for pool or pinball, quarter for a beer, quarter for the next beer, rinse and repeat. Spend another few bucks, and leave a nice tip for the waitress/barkeep. Find a girl for Modern Love. Then life Changes.

Mark M 3:49 PM  

The things I learn on this site. I always thought that the lyric mentioned by Rex was "and the papers want to know who shot you where".

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