Pearl Fishers priestess / WED 5-4-16 / Variety of sherry whose name means little apple / Guitarist Borland / Vocalist known for 1944 song / Muhummad's successor to Shiites / Dante symphony composer / Author of 1841 poem / One-named athlete whose real first name is Edson

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Constructor: Jacob Stulberg

Relative difficulty: Medium (took me longer than normal, but it's bigger than normal (16-wide))

THEME: "INTO / EACH / LIFE / SOME / RAIN / MUST / FALL" — these words sort of "fall" down the grid (in circled squares) and then two more answers in the corners provide examples of where these words have appeared:

Theme answers:
  • 15A: Author of an 1841 poem that contains the line spelled out by the circled squares (LONGFELLOW)
  • 64A: Vocalist known for the 1944 song whose title (and first line) appears in the circled squares (FITZGERALD) 
Word of the Day: KIT BAG (31A: Purchase at an Army-Navy store) —
noun: kitbag
  1. a rectangular canvas bag, used especially for carrying a soldier's clothes and personal possessions. (google)
• • •

Interesting, though I feel like what's driving it is less cleverness than strange quirks of symmetry—the fact that each word in this relative famous six-word phrase is exactly four letters long is itself tantalizing from a constructor's perspective. The fact that the phrase appears in two works associated with famous people whose names also happen to be the same length is just another quirky coincidence. I don't think that LONGFELLOW work is famous at all, though. The title doesn't appear in the clue because it's got "RAIN" in it. It's called "The Rainy Day" and it goes a little something like this (actually it goes precisely like this):

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary. [source]
Is this famous? Not as famous as the FITZGERALD song, which is not really a FITZGERALD song—it's an Ink Spots song *featuring* Ella. I was wondering why the voice I was hearing in my head was a man's and not Ella's. Then I found it and played it, and there it was, just as I remembered it. This may seem impossible, but I forgot she even sang on it. So ... a not-that-famous poem and a song on which the really famous singer is not the lead ... it's not the strongest theme foundation, but it's solid enough.

I want to point out some details that relate (for me) to consistency and elegance, though these details are simply details and you may not see them the same way. First, and not really all that important, is the fact that all the lyric words are buried inside other words where their lyric meaning is hidden (good!) .... except LIFER, where the meaning of "Life" still pertains. To be fair, I'm not sure there's a way to hide "LIFE" inside a word in a way that de-Lifes it. And to be double-fair, that clue was Wicked (and good) (29A: Big house party?). I had LIFE- and still had no idea what was going on (a LIFER is one who is serving a life sentence ... in the big house, i.e. the pen, so ... he (usually "he") is a party (i.e. member) of the big house). Ideally you bury all those words, but you do what you can do.

Bigger issue for me was having non-theme answers of equal length to the theme answers stacked right on top of (or below) said theme answers. MANZANILLA and INFILTRATE are both great words (and I love those open corners in general), but it's weirdly distracting to me that the theme answers have these non-theme twins right up against them. Not sure why grid was made that way. Easy enough to design a grid that isolates the 10-letter themers. Add black square and push FITZGERALD up / LONGFELLOW down. Also, what is ALTA MONTE Springs (!?!?!?!)? I'm not sure wide-open corners are worth enduring such a marginal place name ... part. Altamont is a thing. That, I would've accepted. This feels like a themed puzzle that the constructor tried to give the virtues of a themeless (open corners, mostly nice longer answers), but for that reason it feels a little ragged to me. Fine, just a little conceptually and architecturally messy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:07 AM  

Medium-tough for me despite being over sized. Figured out the theme circles fairly quickly and filled them in, but it was still pretty tough. MANZANILLA was a WOE as was ALTAMONTE and the clueing was more Fri. than Wed., which makes sense if the circles are gimmes.

Interesting theme, some nice long downs, not an annoying amount of dreck, liked it.

Anonymous 12:30 AM  

Surprisingly hard for a Wednesday. Free from fluid was divinely inspired and iOS and isomer crossing non steroid were the last to fall. I thought OSU not ORU. Altamonte can only be that place in CA where the bikers were hired as security guards for a Rolling Bones concert.

Hey good to see Rex back in form after yesterday's meltdown. His review of today's puzzle is why I read this blog (and contribute). We've all had one of those days.


Charles Flaster 1:09 AM  

Liked this one as I was familiar with the song but not the poem.
The odd coincidences mentioned by Rex are truly unique.
CROSSWORDease--ITO, SLR, and maybe ETALIA.
KITBAG seemed to be a contrived compound word but Rex shows otherwise.
Writeover was ONLY for soLe.
LIFER was my favorite answer from a neat clue.
BTW I seem to remember a Steve Martin movie ( My Blue Heaven) that uses today's theme. Well I enjoyed the movie and also the puzzle.
Thanks JS

chefwen 2:27 AM  

As most solvers do, I started in the NW a corner and uncovered INTO EACH. That was a dead give away and I went merrily along and filled in the rest of the circles. Major leg up for the rest of the puzzle and it fell much like stacked Dominos.

Only problem area was in the SW. I have cooked with sherry but am not a sherry drinker and have never heard of MANZANILLA, luckily, the crosses were pretty easy.

Two thumbs up!

George Barany 4:11 AM  

With no disrespect intended to our constructors earlier this week, today's effort by @Jacob Stulberg reminds us what can make the New York Times puzzle so special: an original (and multilayered) theme, some unique aspects to the grid design and fill, interesting vocabulary, and clever cluing. Hats off to @Rex for a superb and enlightening review, right down to the selections of the embedded videos.

Old joke: Denizens of three midsize American metropoli (is that a legit plural?) compare notes on the weather. Tucson is always too hot, but in its defense, the humidity is low, so it's a dry heat and hence tolerable. On the other hand, Minneapolis-Saint Paul is often very cold, but again we can live here because it's a dry cold. Last, it is pointed out that it always rains in Seattle. Aha, but it's a dry RAIN!

This allows me to segue to my adopted hometown, which represented the stomping grounds of LONGFELLOW (sic), FITZGERALD (sic), and the late protagonist of Purple Reign.

Finally, allow me to doff my chemist's cap to the crossing of ISOMER and NON-STEROID, both with clues I can live with. In fact, my students and I have synthesized the hormone oxytocin from amino acid building blocks ... will be happy to discuss further off-Rex.

Loren Muse Smith 4:20 AM  

Rex – Bingo – the utter symmetry of the phrase and of the two people is a great discovery. I was swamped with childish jealousy, the same way I felt with Peter Collins' The Old Man and the Sea puzzle a while back; every word of the phrase has the same number of letters.

And thanks for printing the poem. If it's not that famous… well, it should be. What a great poem. An anthem for me to try not to be so &%$# pessimistic all the time. There is, well, a flicker of hope.

You know what could've been neat? Rotate the grid 90 degrees and flip it so that the circles come down. Like rain.

I was fortunate to go immediately to the right meanings with INFO and LIFER. (I was thinking "dirt" first for INFO. And "inmate" was too long.) I also was thinking "yer on" for IT'S ON.

Fair enough on MANZANILLA. The only fancy cloying alcoholic MA- in my grab-bag there was "madeira." But… as with TRACI and LEILA that I didn't know, it fell right on in thanks to the crosses.

Liked LISZT crossing TOSCA. Little known fact – he collaborated with Puccini; they were big drinking buddies. Were known to flat pound some manzanilla. Ok. Not really.

Also liked the NEZ-NASAL pair and the line that screams at me: SOS! AOUT CLIME. I despise warm weather.

Sometimes I wonder if those internet trolls still read Rex, still try to post nasty stuff. I don't miss all the spineless anonymice, but if I had a vote, I would go back to the old days of more give-and-take here.

So I had a dnf because my Marino was Dan. Crossing the mysterious "dlr." Dopey me.

Jacob – nifty stuff here. Nice one.

Hungry Mother 5:08 AM  

One of the best features of doing crosswords is the discovery of things that I know, but didn't know I knew (ALI, for example).

Aketi 5:39 AM  

This one seemed to fall entirely within in my limited KITBAG as an almost instafill including the poem. Annoyingly I had JUIN before AOUT. I liked NEZ and NASAL accompanying each other in the southern corners,

Anonymous 6:05 AM  

When OFL's right, he's (always "he") right. REALLY appreciated the care and craft that went into this.

Lewis 6:42 AM  

@loren -- I love it when you show up in a puzzle.

Very nice how the theme phrase appropriately falls down the grid. Some terrific answers: TO SCALE, RUMOR MILLS, AFLICKER, BATTEN, NOT REALLY, and TEARSTAIN. Excellent clues for ATLAS and TENSE.

When I first looked at the grid, I was thinking word ladder, so I liked the surprise of the theme phrase, which, appropriately, fell quickly as raindrops do. I like the classical music corner, with LIZST crossing the embedded TOSCA, and the double-L mini theme (7). I would have liked AMF instead of IMF, then it could have been linked with the word above it (PBA). Never heard of MANZANILLA, and I wasn't sure of IMF (my bad, I should have been), so that M was tough for me.

Overall a joy. No rain here.

Z 7:44 AM  

Quote puzzles are not my cuppa tea. That my elementary school was named after the poet does nothing to improve my response upon finding that the shaded squares are a quote from his (morose) poem. Add in the isolated corners (three single squares are better than two single square connectors, but not much) and this was more sloggy than fun. I did like the clue for LIFER and I'm always amused to be reminded of PELÉ's first name. There's also a niggle tickle at the schadenfreude part of my brain at the presumed discomfort of the prudes out there at the inclusion of TRACI Lords in the puzzle. Well, at least there's never been a question about which bathroom she can use.

Pop Culture, Product Names, and Proper Nouns Analysis

How do we account for a hidden quote puzzle? The quote is pop culture, but do I count it as one, seven, or not an entry at all since the entire quote can be gotten without knowing it?

Disregarding the quote, we have 24/77, for a highish 31%. Counting the quote as one entry takes it to 32%, while counting the quote as seven entries makes it a very high 40%. For me it played like a 31% PPP puzzle, but if the PPP and the quote slowed you down you have a case to be made that the PPP should have been turned down some.

Kitty 7:49 AM  

Pack up your troubles in her ole KITBAG and smile smile smile
(Song lyric)

Z 8:00 AM  

LOL. @MUSE's post appeared after I posted. Can there be two more opposite reactions to the same words? Where she sees an anthem and a flicker of hope all I see is an hopeless old grouch convincing himself to get his sorry ass out of bed. A guy who can't see the forest for the rain.

Dorothy Biggs 8:18 AM  

I had another of those "spiritual" moments doing this puzzle that happen fairly often but are still inexplicable. MANZANILLA. I guess I sort of know that word and I guess I sort of know what it is, but I got it from the M and the Z and I have no idea how. I just thought MANZANILLA and it fit. It was that word that filled in the entire SW corner...poof.

My major hang up was the KITBAG/GSA crossing. I had tSA. I actually had to run the alphabet by typing it in to finally get the happy jingle. And KITBAG makes sense in retrospect, but I had no idea what that is.

Given the rainy weather lately, this theme was quite appropriate.

Glimmerglass 8:18 AM  

I know the theme as a saying, but not the poem or the song. After the first two words and the L in LIFE, I took a chance and filled in the rest. Very few problems after that. Give a person enough crosses, and both the poet and the singer jump out of the grid. I dislike sherry, but I could get enough out of "little apple" to complete the crosses. Turned out to be an easy Wednesday for me.

Gerald Harris 8:22 AM  

The ease with which I completed this and the difficulties described by some others made me feel as though I have finally reached the big time. Yea me. Now if I can only be as successful on Fridays and Saturdays.

AliasZ 8:25 AM  

I know MANZANILLA means chamomile in Spanish but had no idea there is a chamomile-favored sherry. True, I am no sherry aficionado, except for an amontillado now and then. Once the bottle is empty though, I avoid going to the basement to get another cask lest I become one with the brickwork.

Longfellow's longfallen rain theme was fun. The way I would have improved on the idea (if it needed improvement) was to enter the seven four-letter as Downs. Rain rarely falls in stair-step fashion. Also, LIFE could have been better hidden in fossiLIFErous, proLIFErate, piLIFErous, et alitalia. (Whenever I see ET ALIA I think of Alitalia. Cannot help it.)

When I saw LISZT right off the bat, I knew I was in for an enjoyable solve. I was vindicated when I found TOSCA LE dangling from LISZT's T, and LEILA from "Les pêcheurs de perles" in the opposite corner.

Enjoy your rainy Wednesday.

Lobster11 8:25 AM  

This was one of those rare days when printing and solving on paper set me at a distinct disadvantage: In the printed version the themers appear as shaded squares rather than circles, and because I use the "ink saver" feature for printing I couldn't tell which squares were shaded. As a result, I had to solve this as a themeless. And lemme tell you, although it might have been a very good themed puzzle -- what with the neat coincidences noted by OFL -- it made for a lousy themeless. Five of my first entries were INTRO, INFO, TGIF, SLR, and SOS. Later there's GSA, ALT, PBA, and IMF. Is there some kind of record for most abbreviations/shortened word forms? Then I ran into several WOES that, of course, crossed each other, e.g., NEZ and MANZANILLA crossing ALTAMONTE, and KITBAG and OLLA crossing GSA. Conseqeuently, DNF and no fun at all for me.

Tim Pierce 8:32 AM  

To be fair, I'm not sure there's a way to hide "LIFE" inside a word in a way that de-Lifes it.

The best bet there is probably PROLIFERATE. There's also any number of -LIFEROUS words that would also work, but they're all obscure scientific jargon. PROLIFERATE would work well, except it would open these big 11-letter crosses in the middle of the puzzle, and would require ----RAIN--- on the other side (RESTRAINING, maybe). Definitely limits the constructor's options and spoils that nice short word symmetry going down diagonally.

Anyone else get faked out right off the bat with MARIA for 6A?

Jlb 8:39 AM  

Altamonte Springs is a suburb northeast of Orlando Florida. It has a big mall!

kitshef 8:44 AM  

Wednesday puzzle of the year so far. The elegance of the grid is what struck me - each word of the phrase starts two squares down and two over from the previous word, a huge constraint, yet everything gets done with almost no ugly fill (I see you ORU) and awesome longs.

I do wish puzzles would come with a warning when there are going to be grey squares. Once again my printout cannot distinguish black from grey, adding a level of complexity to the solve.

Do people really not remember 'Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile'? Hmm... Google tells me it's a World War 1 song, and Wikipedia does not list any recent well-known uses - so the real question is how on earth do I know it?

mariA before ANITA, AFLIttER before AFLICKER.

tb 8:49 AM  

Enjoyable puzzle. I didn't care for INTOO or ALARMBELL.

Looking forward to a disquisition on both ISOMER and NONSTEROID.

evil doug 9:04 AM  

"...if I had a vote, I would go back to the old days of more give-and-take here."

Let me know if it comes to be....

Nancy 9:05 AM  

A stationary front of rain, drizzle, fog, gloom and cold has descended over NY in the last several days and gives no indication of going anywhere soon. Therefore, I would have found the theme even more appropriate if, at 39A, the word MUCH could have been substituted for the word SOME. Other than that, a very nice puzzle, nicely constructed, although I solved it as a themeless, per usual.

This got much better -- i.e. harder -- as I descended down the puzzle, as the NW seemed ridiculously easy. But later on, I had to work a bit. Didn't know that there was a song based on the LONGFELLOW poem, nor that Ella had sung it. (Get me in a weak moment, and I'll admit that I didn't know LONGFELLOW had written those lines, either.) My favorite clue and answer was RUMOR MILLS. I admire the construction here, even though I didn't find the theme necessary to solving.

marysue 9:09 AM  

Very enjoyable puzzle for me. Nicely designed. I figured out the theme early on when INTO an EACH and LI.. came into view. The cluing was pretty tight, with a balance of accessible and challenging words. MANZANILLA isn't in my wheelhouse, but knowing the apple bit made 'manzan...' a possibility (thank you, high school Spanish.) The longer entries (15A, 19A, 60A, 64A, 7D, 30D) seemed fresh. Always enjoy when LISZT is in a puzzle to remind me how that name is spelled. Looking back at the puzzle this morning, I'm even more impressed with it. (Even with ORU, which I lived about a mile from in the late 1970s - early 1980s & used their indoor track when there was icy weather. Strange place in those days. Really strange.) For me, at least, a groan-free puzzle experience with the occasional challenge.

Mel Torme 9:15 AM  

@Rex "To be fair, I'm not sure there's a way to hide "LIFE" inside a word in a way that de-Lifes it."
Podiatrist's diagnosis to Katz's counterman: Deli Feet

Wm C. 9:20 AM  

I didn't have any problem with Altamonte (Springs), having driven to Disney World from my SW FL winter home several times to visit The Mouse with Grandkids, and seeing the highway signs to nearby AS along the way. (Also love the signs to Zephyrhills along the way.)

Nothing beats seeing the joy and wonder in kids' eyes in these visits. I hope to do it this winter, with a 7-year old and 4 year old pair who visited almost 4 years ago, and now will be seeing it again anew.

Me ditto on "Into Each" being an immediate giveaway to a bunch of other fill. But struggled a bit with the long horizontals in the NW and SW, so it all evened out for a good mid-week test.

ArtO 9:38 AM  

Very good write up for a very superior puzzle. Satisfying in every way from LIFER which came quickly despite the really clever clue to ALTAMONTE (springs) to MANZANILLA. Great work from a top constructor. Expected some lavish praise for a change.

chefbea 9:40 AM  

Not a fun puzzle. No aha moment. Got the circled words right away, but still...too much I didn't know.
Had cruet for the longest time for 37 across

Nancy 9:48 AM  

@Kitshef -- I also had AFLITTER before AFLICKER an MARIA before ANITA. (Though MARIA was only there for about 4 seconds; ALI straightened me out immediately.)

@Evil Doug -- If "more give and take" would bring you back, that would be justification enough. I never found you "evil", just mischievous. Of course, "mischievous" is the word that my best friend uses to describe the Donald, so maybe it's not such a compliment after all. :)

George Barany 9:49 AM  

Continuing my analysis of @Jacob Stulberg's fine puzzle, I wrote the following earlier today, but for some computer-related reason that neither @Rex nor I understand, the comment didn't go through:

"Allow me to doff my chemist's cap to the crossing of ISOMER and NON-STEROID, both with clues I can live with. In fact, my students and I have synthesized the hormone oxytocin from amino acid building blocks ... will be happy to discuss further off-Rex."

In the intervening time, I've had the opportunity to exchange e-mails with several of my chemist friends, and our sense is that the last thing one would say about a synthetic peptide is "notice that it's not a steroid." Quite a few peptides are hormones, but peptides (and for that matter proteins) have a myriad of critical biological functions.

The correct contrast is between hormones that are steroids [this would encompass naturally occurring hormones like testosterone and estrogen, as well as their analogues, many of which are medically very important] and a class of small molecule drugs called NSAIDs. The NS in NSAID stands for NONSTEROIDAL (note the extra A and L).

A friend suggested the following admittedly overlong and potentially risqué clue: "Modern contraceptives, as distinguished from estrogen derivatives."

Seth 9:51 AM  

Sort of triple Naticked by ugly abbreviations on the vertical edges:

PBA/BATTEN: I knew it had to be BATTEN, but what the hell is PBA? I wanted PGA ("pins" are the flags, right?). So...what's PBA?

IMF/MANZANILLA: That middle letter might as well have been any consonant in the alphabet.

GSA/OLLA: No idea what either of these things is.

Nancy 9:52 AM  

Oh, yes. To Rex, on hiding LIFE inside an answer. How about PROLIFERATE or PROLIFERATION?

Horace S. Patoot 10:01 AM  

"And others" is ET ALII (plural), not ET ALIA, no?

Anonymous 10:01 AM  

Hand up for AFLIttER (10D). Was scratching my head trying to figure out what a tITBAG was, and why the soldiers might need one. ;)

RooMonster 10:03 AM  

Hey All !
dAN Marino! *Grumble Grumble* OsU! *Grumble Grumble* What in tarhooties is ORU? Also KITBAt/tSA, because a KITBAt
sounds like a weapon. :-)

Like @Lewis, was thinking Word Ladder at first. Guess had to be 16 wide, to get the phrase in symmetrically. Funky looking grid. Surprised no one (yet) has mentioned the isolated NW and SE corners. Neat to see ZZZ. And INTERNET TROLL! That one was funny.

Interestingly the two 10's crossing two 9's. Speaking of the 9's, can someone explain the Sign of a crying jag clue to me? jag?


QuasiMojo 10:07 AM  

Since it is pouring rain here this morning (not far from Altamonte Springs, in fact,) I can't help but feel this puzzle is quite apt! Cheered me up. My only bugaboo was thinking a manzanilla was a Spanish lady's veil, so I hesitated to fill it in. But I was thinking of a mantilla. I saw Ella live once (in Charleston) -- she was definitely a Muse. :)

Ben 10:17 AM  

Ya know I got everything with a little effort except the I in kitbag and Etalia which at that point were both staring me in the face and shouting. I had first though Army-Navy surplus and couldn't transcend.

I have heard that song somewhere I think from old song books but who knows how our brain retains what snippets? I got the theme right off with no idea it was Longfellow or Fitzgerald ever sang it. I swear some of this comes from watching Looney Tunes as a kid.

Hartley70 10:23 AM  

This was a terrific puzzle for a Wednesday, which frequently lacks excitement. I wasn't bored a bit by this. I was challenged throughout. I didn't know the song, the vocalist who sang it, or the poem. The scientific answers NONSTEROID and ISOMER had to be coaxed out letter by letter. The same with ALTAMONTE and MANZANILLA. I recognized them, but they didn't come easily to mind. ESAU was fun to discover.

I had a great time with this. My time was about average but it felt like more bang for my buck. Very nice, Mr Stulberg.

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

I had difficulty getting a foothold. Then got the falling rain and struggled a bit but stayed with it and finally remembered liszt and manzanilla. I realize that too often I Google without giving myself a chance to dredge up the answers thus robbing myself of the satisfaction of the I found this puzzle crunchy and so worth the solve.

Malsdemare 10:38 AM  

Anyone else have KayBAr for 31a? I'm feeling very outside myself, an oldish female, having that be the first thing to pop into my head.

I filled in the quote first, flew through 75% of the rest and screeched to a halt at the MANZANILLA and its surroundings. But then I saw Ella and the rest fell like rain. Pretty nice.

I did not find the poem morose but perhaps I'm seeing it from a different perspective (see "oldish female" above). @Steve Reed. Deli feet indeed.

Lojman 10:40 AM  

@Tim Pierce - I definitely fell for the mariA fake-out at 6A (even belted out the amorous refrain...). And dAN Marino works really well if you can convince yourself that if there's such thing as an SLR camera, then certainly the digital age has brought about a dLR.

ALTAMONTE is poor. Orlando's third largest suburb with population 41,000? Its only saving grace is the reasonableness of the crosses (although Pince NEZ isn't exactly in-the-language, given that Teddy Roosevelt was the last human being to wear them un-ironically).

Enjoyed the chemical clues of ISOMER & NONSTEROID. Isomers are molecules with the same numbers and types of atoms (identical molecular formula), but different arrangements, and sometimes very different chemical properties. Hormones are signaling molecules; many are steroid molecules (4 rings of carbon atoms with various branches), while others are polypeptides (strings of varying lengths of amino acids).

Overall a fun Wednesday!


mac 10:44 AM  

Nice but toughish Wednesday puzzle. I know the song, but in my head I hear Ella. Beautiful.

Very thoughtful and detailed write-up today, Rex! Thanks.

Twangster 10:48 AM  

The Randy Newman song "Follow the Flag" includes an adapted version of this quote:

Into every life a little rain must fall
But it's not gonna rain forever
You can rise above--you can rise above it all
We will follow the flag together

Bronxdoc 10:55 AM  

Nice Wednesday: but of a workout, very solvable. A little nerdy. Elegant design. Thanks.

Sir Hillary 11:08 AM  

When I opened up the paper, I had the dread feeling of, "Oh no, not another word ladder." Thankfully, we got a nice theme instead, owing as @Rex notes to some happy word-length coincidences.

-- Understanding OFL's point on non-themer length, I'll take those gorgeous NE and SW corners every day of the week and certainly on Wednesday. Superb.
-- Love seeing @LMS at 50A.
-- SOFA and
-- The three "?" clues are all quite good today. Seems obvious now, but I've never heard bowlers referred to as pinheads. Funny!
-- SAN and dAN Marino...easy addition to the Schrodinger archive.
-- STIES vs. STyES...gets me every time.
-- It's clued about as well as possible, but AIRE is still weak fill.
-- Easy gettable via crosses, but WES Borland? Seriously, the dude from Limp Bizkit? Are there no other WESes?
-- Even better...TRACI Lords?? Holy controversial past, Batman! Hopefully, Sasha Grey starring in a Soderbergh film does not make her next up.

Anonymous 11:09 AM  

Please tell me how I can find jeff chen's commentary on xword. I see puzzles archives and can open a blog by Deb and see bloggers comments but can't find chen's commentary. Thanks.

Unknown 11:15 AM  

@LMS and @Z (thrice in one spot) are well represented in this puzzle and by inference @George Barany (7d & 39d - I’m guessing those were gimmes for him).

Speaking of @Z, while the PPP count seemed high, I thought most were all fair and knowable. Except for ZORA, TRACI, and LEILA, I never said “Who?” to any others, even amongst the cluster of them in the SW. However, those three who? were easily gettable with the crosses.

While a slow start yielded a smattering of answers, this felt like “Just keep going and you’ll get it.” And I did. I could move right along without a lot of head scratching pauses. That said and then reading the comments of @Rex and others, I’m happy to see it seems this is on the mark.

Except OSU (early guess) for ORU. Should have known better for a Wednesday. NONSTESOID? What do I know about organic chemistry? They (looking at you @GB) use a lot of weird names, so it seemed plausible. My one cheat, a puzzle check (oops: O [not S] U), a close look at NONSTESOID (Oh, a word I DO know) got the R and the jingle. Can you take NONSTEROIDs Orally, administered by Robert the nurse in Oklahoma?

Lots of AEIO vowels but a lack of “U”s (3) which I’m sure will not please @M&A.

NOT REALLY anything that made this TOO tough. It seemed smooth with just the right amount of crunch.

Yesterday’s INTERNET TROLLs who INFILTRATED it with their personal diatribes towards @Rex, like “haughty arrogance,” are the kind of people that simply show their own shortcomings and failings. It’s his blog for which he foots the $$$. He doesn’t have to allow ANY comments. As such, it’s like someone coming into your home and thinking it’s perfectly OK to tell you what they don’t like about you or your attitude, how you should behave in it, and how you should redecorate it to their liking.

If I had the opportunity none would be invited to visit my home anytime soon (nor, I’d wager, to Rex’s).

@Hartley70 9:19 AM yesterday: “The rest of us are invited guests who should remember our manners or make an unobtrusive exit.”. Manners indeed!! And don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

@Z 11:04 AM to LMS yesterday: “Thanks for highlighting the good in every puzzle.” Hear, hear!

@Z 8:00 AM today: LOL!!

TGIw – hump day.


Masked and Anonymous 11:16 AM  

Man-zan-nilla, did M&A ever get rained on, in that big SW corner. Otherwise, pretty eazy-E WedPuz, due to fillin in all the gray areas in auto-masked mode, after seein INTO+EACH, and then verifyin that the next one was probably LIFE.

Thoroughly enjoyed the slight showins of desperation, hither and ylem:

* Corner cheater squares! Several other normally open squares went over to the dark side.
* A-FLICKER. Also admire A-OUT.
* ALTAMONTESprings, Fla. Pop-U-lation = 41,495.5. [Gotta be a story, there.]
* pUz pop-U-lation = 4.0. One lil darlin was allowed to participate in the (gray line's) theme.
* fave weeject: HOI. Hard to come up with a fresh clue, for this puppy. U are always stuck with the moo-cow whole-milk-gimme { ___ polloi } one. {Santa's answer to "who wants more egg nog"}? Thought not.

Masked & Anonymo4Us

old timer 11:17 AM  

I solved the puzzle with no writeovers at all, but it was far from Easy. "Fiendishly clever" I thought. The clues were masterpieces of misdirection.

50 years ago I spent part of Spring Break in Andalucia. Gibraltar, a beach resort near Malaga, Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada. In those days, every bar had a little barrel of sherry, the reason being that the locals drank the local product. I first tasted Malaga wine in Malaga, and came to like the sherry everywhere else -- and it was in fact MANZANILLA I was drinking. Not necessarily the stuff from Jerez de la Frontera where the famous sherry houses are. But I did stop there for a few hours on my way to Cordoba.

I did not go to Altamont, thank God. And have never heard of ALTAMONTE Springs. What occurred to me, as I filled that sucker in on crosses, is how unlikely that name is in Florida. ALTAMONTE is literally, "high mountain", and there are no mountains at all in Florida -- isn't the highest point there about 850'?

At first, I thought "Where legends are born" would have an automotive answer. But then. of course, the clue would have been Legends, not legends. In any case, RUMORMILL is pretty close to being inaccurate. But any weakness there was more than made up for by TEARSTAIN. Richard Thompson's brilliant song, "Tear Stained Letter" came to mind immediately.

La Trina 11:25 AM  

@Z, I think you've become too deeply entrenched in this PPP affair. In lieu of having things come to an unfortunate head, I'd suggest at this time that you merely look for another port-(p)a-potty. Water closets friends for, otherwise?

Your pal, John

[@Z, I don't know ow this ended up in my Inbox, but I thought I'd best forward it to you]

Andrew Heinegg 11:42 AM  

I did not know Altamonte Springs, Traci Lords or kitbag but, I guess I have a philosophical difference with OFL and others on this. It is unlikely that any but a precious few are going to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the numerous subject areas that come about from cross words. My assessment is that if the word is sussable from crosses, that makes it fair game for the crossword. After all, solvers want to see words, places and people they never heard of and can deduce from solving the puzzle. If every answer is one you should have known, you have a vast body of knowledge about a lot of areas!

puzzle hoarder 11:56 AM  

I never very knew the popular phrase was based on a poem until now. I don't have much interest in themes but I consider this one of the better ones. What appeals the most to me are the big NEWS and SW corners that function as fairly late week themeless puzzles. This was harder than your average Wednesday but I did solve last night when I should have been sleeping. I don't understand @Rex's objection to ALTAMONTE. I like how it's paired up with ALARMBELL.It's good to see OFL in top form today otherwise 53D could have been a shout out. Hey @Z is 61D a shout out to you? I don't mean the clue of course.

Larry 12:09 PM  


I wasn't happy about LISZT/LISPS, INTOO/INTRO, STIRS/STIES once I realized that the constructor wasn't going to use this device throughout (I have seen it done). I figured out the gimmick after solving INTO EACH and I wasn't sure it was worthwhile finishing the puzzle, but I decided to complete it just to see what the constructor did.


I get the feeling that once a theme is chosen, some of these grids are completed by a computer program that relies on a large dictionary of obscure words. At least it seems to me that there is a certain mechanical nature to them.

Colby 12:10 PM  

I like a Wednesday with teeth. Surprised Rex didn't mention INTERNET TROLL. ITS ON and RUMOR MILLS added some zing. I would rate this one as way above average for a Wednesday.

Mohair Sam 12:37 PM  

Right smack into my sweet spot with this one. ANITA/ALI my first gimmes, then LONGFELLOW and the poem (a personal fav), them my eye caught the clue for 64a which appeared right under the grid on our AcrossLite printout (FITZGERALD) - my Pop loved the Ink Spots and Ella (me too), so I heard that song off a 33rpm about a zillion times as a kid. Gimmes PELE/ARARAT/KITBAG (you beat me to the song @Kitty) and this puppy was finished.

Awesome clue for LIFER. Thanks to @LMS for the chuckle of the day on the LISTZ/TOSCA cross. AFLICKER a lot better than yesterday's abed, don't you think?

My older sister used to handle travel arrangements (among other things) for the talent at CW Post back in the '60's through the '80's. She caused a travel SNAFU with Ella FITZGERALD one night - it's a long story. But in the end my sister will tell anyone that Ella was the kindest, friendliest, nicest, funniest, and by far the most patient star she ever met.

Fun Wednesday Jacob Stulberg - If I ever got around to constructing a puzzle it might well have been this one.

jberg 12:47 PM  

@doug, nice to see you, even though it sounds like you are just passing through.

I didn't know the song or the poem, but of course I knew the phrase as a saying, and it didn't take many crosses to get the singer or the poet. And once the phrase was in, I just needed to find a way into the SW -- remarkably few openings from one side to the other! So it was a bit above medium for me.

Have to go give an exam now, so that's all. Except that I think that kit bag song was one of those we used to get in movie theaters as we followed the bouncing ball. (You young folks don'w know what you're missing!)

GILL I. 12:49 PM  

All the good stuff about this puzzle has already been mentioned, so I'll tell you my Sherry Story.
My grandmother loved sherry. She was especially enamored with the cheapest Gallo she could find. I was never ever one to drink the stuff - other than maybe a sip before tossing it into my stew. Anyway, I would visit her often when she lived in Riverside and I would ALWAYS bring a bottle of the finest Oloroso or Amontillado, maybe a Fino and for sure a MANZANILLO. She would smile and thank me profusely.
When Nana was about to take her final and peaceful nap, I went to stay with her in the hospital. She had made me promise -years prior- that I would not let the doctors put tubes in her or prolong her departure, but she didn't have a "Living Will" so they weren't going to listen to a little whipper snapper whining that she needed to be in her own home. Thankfully, it didn't take long for her to leave on her final journey.
During Nana's hospital stay, my uncle asked that I look through her belongings. I never asked why. I wasn't even sure what I should be looking for. When I got to the basement, I began rummaging through boxes of "stuff." In one corner there were two neatly stacked up-right cardboard cartons. I had to pry them open because they were taped shut. Inside? guessed it! All the bottles of sherry I had ever given her over the years. Oh how I cried.
I took the two boxes back with me to San Francisco wondering what to do with them because I really did not like sherry. Well, I drank every single bottle. Always on some anniversary; usually on her birthday. I knew she knew I would do just that.
Oh, I loved this puzzle. And I think @Rex's write-up today is quite bodacious.

tb 1:01 PM  

@George Barany, thank you. You never disappoint. Could you please tell us a little about Liszt?

Martel Moopsbane 1:10 PM  

@old timer: Does Space Mountain count as an ALTAMONTE?

Once upon a time (pre-Fast Pass), I remember waiting in an interminable line for that ride, and hearing over and over again this fun fact (which may or nay not be true): "Space Mountain is the third highest "mountain" in the State of Florida."

Wm. C. 1:17 PM  

@OltTimer --

In fact the highest point in FL is WAY less than 850 feet. It's about 350 feet, in the Panhandle. The highest point on the peninsula is far lower than that, only 350 feet or so. And Altamonte a Springs is far lower still. Only about 50 feet.

A bit of global warming, and it's "sayonara, Florida,". ;-)

Teedmn 1:21 PM  

I avoided a DNF today using the reasoning that no one was likely to name their city using a Latinate root for death so ALTAMOrTE was not what I wrote in for 34D (MANZANILLA was not familiar to me). I thought of the clergy when I saw "canon" so 11D was SeR for sermon before LONGFELLOW gave me the camera tie-in. I MUlled before MUSing and and was trying to remember how to spell Juin when UFOS landed in my back brain.

Thanks, JS, nice Wed. puzzle.

rachelrauch 1:28 PM  

This was a fun solve that also resulted in my favorite-ever error on my part....before I had a lot of the SW filled in and realized my spelling mistake, I had MANZANeLLA FITZGERALD stacked down there.

George Barany 2:08 PM  

With apologies for multiple posts, but something I composed during the wee hours seems to be crossing up the software in @Rex's blogging platform. So I'll paste it back in, in parts, and we'll see what "sticks." This is part one.

With no disrespect intended to our constructors earlier this week, today's effort by @Jacob Stulberg reminds us what can make the New York Times puzzle so special: an original (and multilayered) theme, some unique aspects to the grid design and fill, interesting vocabulary, and clever cluing. Hats off to @Rex for a superb and enlightening review, right down to the selections of the embedded videos.

Old joke: Denizens of three midsize American metropoli (is that a legit plural?) compare notes on the weather. Tucson is always too hot, but in its defense, the humidity is low, so it's a dry heat and hence tolerable. On the other hand, Minneapolis-Saint Paul is often very cold, but again we can live here because it's a dry cold. Last, it is pointed out that it always rains in Seattle. Aha, but it's a dry RAIN!

George Barany 2:11 PM  

With apologies for multiple posts, but something I composed during the wee hours seems to be crossing up the software in @Rex's blogging platform. So I'll paste it back in, in parts, and we'll see what "sticks." This is part two.

This (part one) allows me to segue to my adopted hometown, which represented the stomping grounds of LONGFELLOW (sic), FITZGERALD (sic), and the late protagonist of Purple Reign.

George Barany 2:13 PM  

With apologies for multiple posts, but something I composed during the wee hours seems to be crossing up the software in @Rex's blogging platform. So I'll paste it back in, in parts, and we'll see what "sticks." This is part two prime (with some hyperlinks removed; assuming that part two doesn't work but this does, please contact me off-Rex for the missing lynx).

This (part one) allows me to segue to my adopted hometown, which represented the stomping grounds of LONGFELLOW, FITZGERALD, and the late protagonist of Purple Reign.

John 2:16 PM  

Think bowling pins.

Tom 3:09 PM  

Thanks for the Ink Spots number, Rex. Fun to listen to talent like that. Got the shaded words in the first 30 seconds and thought it was going to be a new record for Wednesday, but last entry was ALTAMONTE, which I've never, ever heard of. A little heavy on people's names, nine plus the two theme names, but overall a quick solve save the rather nondescript inclusion of a nondescript suburb of the Orlando metroplex.

Leapfinger 3:28 PM  

@GeorgeB, I didn't think the clue referred to synthesizing synthetic peptides. As I saw it, the steroid hormones (cortico- and sex) are lipids, and generated largely from cholesterol, so the building blocks are fatty acids. The nonsteroid hormones, like insulin, are proteins, so are synthesized from amino acids.

Maybe I just don't have a clue about the problem you are seeing?

Chronic dnfer 3:50 PM  

More like a Friday than a Wednesday. Didn't like rumor mill. Also polio was a woe. Filled in virus at first. Not sure about French months. Oh well.

Anonymous 4:59 PM  

Carmen promises to drink MANZANILLA with Don Jose if he helps her escape from prison at the end of Act I. (Bizet's opera.) Handily, MANZANILLA rhymes with Seville in French.

beatrice 6:03 PM  

MANZANILLA is also the type of olive we often see as the Spanish olive, which is how I know the word - I'm guessing it's the same for some others here.

To LEILA's aria I'd like to add the duet sung by the two men who love her. The piece and this recording of it is the only piece of music I ever recall my mother rhapsodizing about.

Anonymous 10:56 PM  

"I t'ought I taw a puddy tat" was lisped by Tweety Bird. Don't remember Sylvester the Cat having a lisp. Shouldn't the clue be Imitates Tweety Bird"?

Teedmn 11:46 PM  

@Gill I, loved the "Sherry Story", thanks for sharing.

old timer 12:10 AM  

I have little Latin (these days) and less Greek, but I would like to believe that the plural of "metropolis" is
"metropolides". If only because I've always loved that plural form.

rini6 4:29 AM  

S'mores are not chewy. They are gooey. This is all.

Burma Shave 10:05 AM  


MANZANILLA wine does NOTREALLY TAME or make me mellow,


spacecraft 10:55 AM  

@Burma, you are too much! Keep 'em comin'. Once again the NW turned me aside, momentarily at least. Didn't know that symphony or the novelist, and now that I see it the phrase TO SCALE makes perfect sense for proportional--but to get it from scratch, not so easy. Had no idea what all those 4-letter (!) words were from LONGFELLOW until deep in. That was an aha moment, for sure. Nor did I know that that line appeared in any song, despite being old enough. Well, sort of. I was four. My mom played music for me in my infancy, but it was less Ella and more Ludwig and Wolfgang. Bless her for that.

The DOD is DO know how she started out, don't you? We would have the complete name of another, LEILA ALI--except her name is spelled LAILA. The fill is dented by theme constraints: awkward partials INTOO and OFALL were kinda necessary. OTOH, hiding SOME in ISOMER for the centerpiece is a stroke of genius. I liked it. Birdie.

rain forest 2:02 PM  

When I first looked at the grid with those wide open areas, I thought this was going to be challenging, but it turned out kind of medium+. It was also fun+.

I'm not really up on American poets, and didn't know the theme phrase exactly.Thus, LIFE wasn't obvious, and somewhere in my head I thought I knew EACH as "every", and SOME as "a little". Not a big deal.

This was a beautifully constructed gem with all sorts of great clues that had me working hard in spots, and like all really good puzzles, always seemed to be helping via crosses to get it done.

@LMS and @evil doug, let's keep working on getting moderation axed. Maybe @Rex could let us know how many objectionable comments are being removed. That would be nice to know.

Sailor 2:44 PM  

I completely agree with @rini6, with this added proviso: when properly constructed, smores are chewy on the outside, not the inside. You need Graham crackers that have been sitting, package open since at least yesterday, in your tent or cabin, so as to absorb enough atmospheric moisture to take most of the “snap” out of them. Those were the days. Today, the thought of ingesting all that sugary goo makes me just a little queasy.

Another terrific puzzle – the second one this week, IMO. Enjoyable theme, and very low dreck quotient.

Diana,LIW 2:50 PM  

Here we have a fine example of a puzzle that was inexplicably easy for me. Just kept filling in letter after letter. Knew immediately what LIFER was getting at. Got the saying early, and thought "Oh man, this is really easy."

That said, after yesterday's eruption I was certain Rex would crumple up the puzzle and kick it around the yard saying, "Bad puzzle. Bad, bad boy!" because of its easiness factor.

But instead he kinda sorta in a way liked it a little teeny bit. Maybe. Hard to tell.

Loved where legends were born and later appear. Yes to Maria first, but that was quickly fixed. Gotta love that eraser!

I knew Rex would mention ALTAMONTE as being little known. I wonder if he took a Florida/Disney/Salvadore Dali Museum vacation - would he then have a better knowledge of all things Floridial? And then, like ancient Peruvian goddesses and the back streets of Florence, they would become "easy?" Orange you curious? (Floridial reference, there.)

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoastTAM 3:17 PM  

Easy-medium, something like yesterday's, with an easy theme and a couple of tougher pieces of fill.

Didn't realize that Ella FITZGERALD was making her amazing music as early as 1944. ITSON is a new one for me, and the ALTAMONTE/MANZANILLA cross looked tougher than it really was.

I doubt that members of the Professional Bowlers Association would appreciate the "pinheads" tag.

PELE did a nice job of re-naming himself.

Felt ONEUPON today's smooth solve.

rondo 4:11 PM  

Looks Like I made it through with just one w/o dead-center. Should have remembered OsU is not in Tulsa like ORU. Cool that the phrase is all 4 letter words, but with no four-letter words. Haven’t read any comments, so here goes:

I recently gave a yeah baby to a man’s name (nom de plume), and now MUST MUSTER up the nerve to do so for a former adult film star. TRACI Lords had starred in numerous “films” and also a Penthouse gig well before age 18. I presume if anyone owns any of those items the black suits might come a-knockin’.

Track on a Muhammad ALI spoken word recording c. 1963: ”Will the Real Sonny Liston Please Fall Down?” MPR told me that this morning.

Another old song, but not clued, as is the theme: Pack up your troubles in your old KITBAG and smile, smile, smile. Apparently not fresh enough.

Left it _AN Marino before looking at crosses just in case it might have been Dan.

The MN Xword Tourney was given a big plug on the front page of the Life section of the St. Paul Pioneer Press today. NYT puz is inside that section.

Nice confluence of theme material. Back to using the INTERNET for work purposes.

Wooody2004 7:31 PM  

This was a very nice puzzle about the Seattle CLIME. I filled in the theme phrase thinking it was from Led Zeppelin's "The Rain Song".

Traci Lords has an EARTAG hanging on one side and RUMORMILLS hanging on the other.

Trump mentioned PPP (people, places and product names) in his news conference last night! He of course meant TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership). Just shows he's no John FITZGERALD Kennedy (maybe a jelly donut tho).

That's all I can MUSTER up for now. ZZZ.

leftcoastTAM 7:33 PM  

Sometimes I think it would be nice to catch up with with the realtimers who post in the present-past as opposed to us syndilanders who post in the past-present.

Then I think, no, regardless of that time difference, the bigger problem is that we all have the same gap of disjointed or non-communication because of our moderator's time constraints and schedule.

I don't have a solution for this, and many posters have given it a shot. Maybe our moderator will come up with one that works for him and us.

Waxy in Montreal 8:53 PM  

Wondered why the Ink Spots / Ella FITZGERALD 1944 ditty was so familiar until recalling it features on one IMHO of the best soundtracks ever - that of The Singing Detective, Dennis Potter's superb 1986 BBC drama.

Great Wednesday challenge made even more difficult as I wasn't familiar with ALTAMONTE & MANZANILLA. And how many more times will I enter OSU for a Tulsa Sch. instead of ORU? Also couldn't figure out STIES for the longest time either - thought it was spelled STYES.


Diana,LIW 9:36 PM  


My only solution (that I can think of, small lot of solutions) is to keep posting in the future, over and over. And over. And over.

Or, p'raps, OFL will budge on his stance.

Of course, hell could freeze over, you know.


Diana,LIW 9:44 PM  


You are so right. whether you are riding the EL, (or the L), minding the gap, on the metro, or chugging along on the irt, we all must mind the time gap.

"it was moderation, they say..." (fill in the rest)


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