Cartoon title character adapated from Felix Salten novel / THU 11-24-16 / My Orcha'd in Linden classic poem / First tribe encountered by Lewis clark / Biz bigs / Viking character

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Constructor: Brian J. MacDonald

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: fun and pun with STATE / POSTAL CODES (38A: With 59-Across, necessary substitutions, phonetically)  — in familiar phrases, full state names replace words that sound like those states' postal codes when read aloud, e.g. [Bryan Cranston, e.g.*] could be a clue for MAINEWINNER, because he is an "Emmy" winner and "Emmy" => ME => state postal code of Maine.

Theme answers:
  • MONTANA NEST (17A: *Place where kids aren't found now) (Montana = MT = "empty")
  • NEBRASKA TIME (27A: *Whenever) (Nebraska = NE = "any")
  • ILLINOIS SEAT (44A: *Air passenger's request, maybe) (Illinois = IL = "aisle")
Word of the Day: Kings of LEON (53D: Rock's Kings of ___) —
Kings of Leon is an American rock band that formed in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2000. The band is composed of brothers Caleb Followill (b. January 14, 1982, lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Nathan Followill (b. June 26, 1979, drums, percussion, backing vocals) and Jared Followill (b. November 20, 1986, bass guitar, backing vocals), with their cousin Matthew Followill (b. September 10, 1984, lead guitar, backing vocals). // The band's early music was a blend of Southern rock and blues influences, but it has gradually expanded throughout the years to include a variety of genres and a more alternative, arena rock sound. Kings of Leon achieved initial success in the United Kingdom with nine Top 40 singles, two BRIT Awards in 2008, and all three of the band's albums at the time peaked in the top five of the UK Albums Chart. Their third album, Because of the Times, also reached the number one spot. After the release of Only by the Night in September 2008 the band achieved chart success in the United States. The singles "Sex on Fire", "Use Somebody", and "Notion" all peaked at number one on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart. The album was their first Platinum-selling album in the United States, and was also the best-selling album of 2008 in Australia, being certified platinum nine times. The band's fifth album, Come Around Sundown, was released on October 18, 2010. Their sixth album, Mechanical Bull, was released on September 24, 2013. The seventh studio album, WALLS, was released on October 14, 2016.[1] The group has 12 Grammy Award nominations, including 4 wins. (wikipedia)
• • •

Very mixed feelings about this one. I was up down up down, feelings-wise. I think I ended up on the mostly positive side, but things didn't start out so great. That NW corner — my first two answers were SRA and ATPAR, ugh. When the answer I was struggling to see before I got out of there ended up being OTOES, well, my happiness dial was turned all the way down to 1, and my hopes were not high. Too much junk packed too tight into square one (figurative square one—there's like 25 actual squares in my "square one" today ... is "Square One" the name of a breakfast cereal, because if not, it really, really should be...) OK where was I ...? Oh, right. Junk fill party in the NW. Puzzles that begin that way usually continue that way—but, in an unexpected Thanksgiving miracle, not this one. This one cleaned up its act, and fast. With a couple of exceptions, short fill stayed tolerable, but then bam, those long Downs started coming in, and they are all fantastic: RATFINKS! ALL SMILES! SMELL TEST! GO TO TOWN! I mean, dang, that's a grand slam, where long non-theme Downs are concerned. It's weird how once I started enjoying the puzzle, I also started *flying* through the puzzle.

But there was another down turn. Namely, the theme reveal. I enjoyed discovering the theme up there at MONTANA NEST, hacking my way through that Bizarro phrase, then thinking about how it could possibly be the answer to [Place where kids aren't found now], and then ... Figuring Out How. In My Head. No. Revealer. Needed. I thought "Oh, this'll be fun, trying to figure out which states are involved and how ... cool." But then I run into this totally unnecessary, clunky, giant divided revealer, which is not only massively anti-climactic—it takes valuable real estate away from another potential themer. Puzzle buckles under the weight of its own ponderous over-explanation. You gotta have some faith that solvers can work this out for themselves, or else have some other, subtler way of doing the reveal. Maybe STATE alone could've borne that weight if clued properly. Anyway, that was a drag. But the generally cute theme and lively grid win out, I think. Hard to stay mad at a Thursday puzzle I do this fast (almost a minute faster than yesterday).

  • 1A: Male hedgehogs (BOARS) — I had BEARS. I know this makes not a lot of sense, but they look more like bears than BOARS to me. This made my "tribe" (from 2D: First tribe encountered by Lewis and Clark) start with an E, so I thought ERIES. Unfortunately, my "tribe" went on to start ET- so ... unless there were some British boys who formed a lost "tribe" called the ETONS ... yeah, I knew something was wrong. 
  • 48A: Spanish dramatist ___ de Vega (LOPE) — I knew this. Unfortunately, I "knew" it was LUPE. I also thought I knew 8D: Film for which Gregory Peck had the highest-paid performance of his career, with "The" when I plunked down ROBE ... a film that Peck wasn't even in ... the answer is "OMEN."Then there was the small problem of thinking 1D: Cartoon title character adapted from a Felix Salten novel was BABAR (it's BAMBI).
  • 16A: "My Orcha'd in Linden ___" (classic poem) (LEA) — I have no idea what I'm looking at here. Any part of it. It's gibberish to me. "Classic?" "Poem?" If you google this, right now—my orcha'd—you will get an entire page of crossword bot sites (don't click on any of them, they're horrible SEO junkfests). My point is classic shmassic. It's by someone named William Barnes ... of whom I also have never heard. 
  • 46D: Cheats, euphemistically (STRAYS) — great clue. I also liked the basketballness of 51D: Baskets made from beyond the arc, informally (TREYS). Better basketball than Yet Another playing card-related answer. (Note: I'm not really mad at playing cards per se; just bridge; all bridge clues; can't stand 'em; never lead anywhere good? ONENO?! No, thanks) 
Happy Thanksgiving,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. The blog gets mentioned in the New Yorker podcast this week. You can listen for yourself, if you want. 

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Bob C 7:21 AM  

Fun theme with lots of possibilities. Had to start in the SE and work backwards to NW so got the reveal long before any of the themers. Spent an embarrassingly long amount of time trying to rationalize NEalASKATIME with cross NTSa (oops, it's NHTSA) before remembering that NEBRASKA was a thing.

One sometimes needs to californiadoctor (alaskaa one with a marylanddegree) at the virginiaclinic, but instead visits the oregonnurse, which is oklahomatoo.

The maineawards may leave some greenwithnevada at all those GLAMORous stars!

r.alphbunker 7:31 AM  

Got POSTAL CODES from crosses, then {44A *Air passenger's request, maybe} IL_ _ _ _ _ _ SEAT was obviously aisle seat except for those intervening letters, then I saw ILLINOIS and the PENNy dropped. Details are here.

Lobster11 7:31 AM  

"Puzzle buckles under the weight of its own ponderous over-explanation." This is why I come here.

Ted 7:33 AM  

Loved the theme, once I cracked it.

Fill was okay. Not great, but not the worst I've seen. I expect some obscurity on a Thursday.

You made me go to Youtube to watch the opening of Square One. Thanks for those memberberries.

Anonymous 7:37 AM  

I member Square One! Member?

Unknown 7:47 AM  

Hi, I'm at MSP with a very poor wifi signal, and already lost a comment. Happy Thanksgiving to all! (I'll be visiting with a subset of my family in Chicago).

Congratulations to @Brian MacDonald for your New York Times constructing debut. Lots of fun stuff. Thanks @Rex for your interesting review, especially the explanation of the non-inferrable LEON.

Yesterday's constructor, @David Steinberg, observes a personal milestone today. Find out more by solving this unusual puzzle; contact me off-Rex for other formats.

Dorothy Biggs 8:11 AM  

As punny puzzles go, this had zero groaners. Weird.

I enjoyed this one top to bottom.

And for that, I give thanks.

Hartley70 8:15 AM  

Unfortunately the ponderous weight of that explanation didn't 'splain a "thang" to me. The puzzle was fine. The theme not so much. To me POSTALCODES are zip CODES and each state has a POSTAL abbreviation. That's just how my mind rolls and there's too much to do today to worry about it. I would have much preferred a Thanksgiving dinner theme, WS. It's not like you didn't know it was coming.

mooretep 8:29 AM  

Found the reveal enjoyable.
Empty Nest, Anytime, Aisle Seat.
Prefer the window, all the time.
To travel in an aluminum tube at 500 mph, 5 miles above the Earth is an experience that none of our ancestors could have imagined.

Rat Finks, All Smiles, Go To Town, Smell Test.
Sounds like a pending Thanksgiving.

Make America Gobble Again.

mathgent 8:41 AM  

I liked the theme and was happy for the revealer, but I agree with Rex's other criticisms. Like yesterday, B minus.

chefbea 8:45 AM  

Too tough for me even though puzzle husband worked for the postal system...and today is our anniversary!!!!! Gotta go get started on dinner...of course I did a lot yesterday

happy thanksgiving to all...

jberg 8:47 AM  

I might have figured out the theme without the revealer, but I didn't -- or rather, I didn't get it until I had STATE, filled in NEBRASKA TIME, and then thought about it for a couple of minutes. Then I tried to put 'abbreviation' at 59A, but eventually got that from the crosses. I had no idea about TARA, but that was crossed fairly, so no problem.

I guess if we are going to call hedgehogs hogs, then they are going to have BOARS and sows.

Now I have to go start peeling apples. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Charles Flaster 8:56 AM  

Really enjoyed this one , especially the theme and agree with Rex that we could use a fourth themer. ILLINOIS gave me the necessary impetus to look for POSTAL CODES early.
Loved cluing for LOX and LUMPY. Does any old timer remember LUMPY's real name from "Leave It To Beaver" ?
On another personal note--My mathematically oriented grandfather told me the first joke I still remember--"Why is SMILES the longest word in the dictionary?"
Of course , "Because there is a mile between the esses."
He knew every time I saw the word SMILES, I would laugh !!
That was 1950 and it still works today.
Thanks BJM-wonderful debut and hoping for many more.

Teedmn 9:01 AM  

Cute phonetic theme - with different states, kind of Thanksgiving-y. But it took me the whole puzzle to figure it out. Even though at 17A I had NEST and thought "empty", I did not think MT so MONTANA didn't make sense when it showed up, nor did NEBRASKA or ILLINOIS. Could you elide MN into "amen"? Probably, if one was desperate. Minnesota, brother! ("Amen brother" comes up as the 4th Google suggestion when "amen" and a space is entered, so don't yell at me!)

I'm sure the RAT FINK did not pass the SMELL TEST. "Cry on the street" = TAXI and "One going on foot" = SHOE were some of the cleverest clues. I liked how 6D's GLAMOR was trickily not plural. But I thought the clue for CITI at 32D was unnecessarily obscure.

The MANE thing is that we are ALL SMILES for the holiday. Have a great Thanksgiving everyone, and GO TO TOWN on the feasting!

Happy Pencil 9:14 AM  

Really good work for a debut puzzle, especially because RAT FINKS is so awesome. Themers were amusing, but I agree with Rex that the revealer wasn't needed. Fortunately, the wording of the revealer was so overly complicated that I never really took it in and basically solved as if it wasn't there. Filled it in at the end from crosses.

I do call foul on HOSER, which only someone who has never been to a Canada or met a Canadian, or who has just woken up from a 30-year coma, would believe Canadians actually say. It sort of like believing that New Yorkers go around calling each other knickerbockers. Blah!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you south of the border. Here's to no fights over the turkey platter!

Anonymous 9:22 AM  

NonThanksgiving, alas, but I really liked this puzzle, especially the reference to Barnses's poem "In Linden Lea" which gave the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams the text of his first, and still most famous song "Linden Lea." The sheet music is printed in two languages, standard English, and in a phonetic version of the poet's Dorset accent (think Thomas Hardy). The song is still popular in its second century.

PhiskPhan 9:23 AM  

Never heard of Kings of Leon, so made it Kings of Neon. That gave me a word beginning with N for "tons of," and with the down answers, all I could think of was something kind of British: "Not FA." Which doesn't exactly make sense, and FA is probably not a phrase the Times would use!

Ω 9:38 AM  

Happy Thanksgiving.

wgh 9:39 AM  

Liked this one. It does seem like the puzzle is set up for STATE ABBR in the middle, leaving room for a fourth themer.

Nancy 9:52 AM  

Different and delightful. I didn't initially get it (that's a joke, folks), but I saw what was going on -- or rather I heard what was going on at IL (AISLE) SEAT. Then back to the others. Now let's see about 17A: EMO NEST? Nah. EMMEN NEST? Nah. Oh, I see! EMPTY NEST. As you can see, I don't know my STATE POSTAL CODES very well. And while a rebus would almost certainly have been more challenging, this was fun to figure out and did provide its own kind of Aha Moment(s). Even better -- there was no boringly predictable Thanksgiving theme. But theme aside, Happy Thanksgiving everyone, anyway.

QuasiMojo 9:52 AM  

I enjoyed the trick but would have liked another example or two. But not so easy to do, now that I've tried myself. Except perhaps "envy" but try and put that into a succinct phrase. Kudos to constructor. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

RooMonster 9:53 AM  

Hey All !
Interesting theme. Kind of different. Liked it. Just a few hiccups that slowed me down. Had olive for ROSSI first! Knew it was wrong as I was writing in it, but just couldn't stop my hand from filling it in. Does that ever happen to you? Also had Tau for TEE, and really wanted HAr for HAH. The clue for ABEL would've been way better with a question mark. Victim of murder one? - See?

Laughed at the HOSER clue. Eh? Also liked the long Downs like most of youse. TARA Reid of Sharknado. If you've never seen those films (there are 4 of them currently), you're missing out on great sclockness. They are like corny pun puzs! Cause I SAID SO. :-)

LOTSA nice stuff here. Even Spiny Norman made an appearance! Dinsdale (For all y'all MPFC fans!)

Happy Thanksgiving! Don't bust your pants!


r.alphbunker 10:02 AM  

How about Brendan MN Quigley??

Not in KS anymore 10:07 AM  

@QuasiMojo 9:52 --
Clue: Antiquated Freudian concept

Katzzz 10:08 AM  

Challenging for me. Never would have gotten it without the revealer.

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

I think of Linden Lea as a song more than a poem. It's Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Linden Lea
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Words by William Barnes

Within the woodlands, flow'ry gladed,
By the oak tree's mossy moot,
The shining grass-blades, timber-shaded,
Now do quiver underfoot;
And birds do whistle overhead,
And water's bubbling in its bed,
And there for me the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

When leaves that lately were a-springing
Now do fade within the copse,
And painted birds do hush their singing
Up upon the timber-tops;
And brown-leaved fruit's a-turning red,
In cloudless sunshine, overhead,
With fruit for me, the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

Let other folk make money faster
In the air of dark-roomed towns,
I don't dread a peevish master;
Though no man may heed my frowns,
I be free to go abroad,
Or take again my homeward road
To where, for me, the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

Gotta make pie.

Unknown 10:22 AM  

Stocks are not sold at par. Bonds are.

Anonymous 10:31 AM  

Rex, you malcontent. Please define "junk fill" sometime. What in the world is wrong with SRA crossing ATPAR??

Lojman 10:41 AM  

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Rex, I'm very grateful for your dedication to this blog and community. Turns a daily habit into something much much more rewarding.

The LojGirl (9) had to learn all the states and capitals and spell them correctly for her school's fundraiser. Missed Harrisburg (-berg), and got hosed by the teacher for the style of her capital Y in New York (made it like a very big lower-case y, which, frankly, I prefer, and think shows an élan not usually found in grade-school spelling tests). All in all, though, she nailed it.

Be thankful and do good,

Carola 10:51 AM  

Kinda challenging morphing into medium for me: once I saw MONTANA, I was able to write in NEBRASKA and ILLINOIS from the first couple of letters and then get their 4-letter followers from crosses, but I had no idea of what was going on. Eventually, the veil dropped from [aisle] SEAT and then I could see the rest, too. Agree about the GLAMOR of the long Downs. Favorite clue was the one for ABEL. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Trombone Tom 11:01 AM  

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that you, too, enjoy the day with family and friends.

Not bad at all for a first effort. And he acknowledged help (in
Deb's comments) from yesterday's constructor, David Steinberg.

Agree that this was on the easy side for Thursday, but an interesting and amusing theme.

Lots of great answers: MY TREAT, SMELL TEST, GO TO TOWN.

Minor quibble in that I don't pronounce the I-L quite like aisle.

Thank you Messrs. MacDonald and Shortz for a fun puz.

Masked and Anonymo1Us 11:09 AM  

Cool debut. Went plumb postal.

Anyone think of GREENWITHNEVADA yet? thought so.

Happy Thnksgiving to all, and pass the mashed taters, pleaz...

M&A out west

Lewis 11:11 AM  

One of those themes, like yesterday's STER puzzle, that seems so obvious you'd think it's been done before, but not that I can remember. I find it awesome when constructors come up with fun themes like this. Great debut!

I don't think we needed that STATE in the middle. All we needed was the POSTAL_CODES at the bottom, which would have freed the middle for another theme answer. At first I thought that there would be enough answer possibilities to make this a Sunday puzzle, but after looking at the postal codes, maybe not.

That final answer, ANTSY, is close to the code for my state, North Carolina. Wishing all a lovely Thanksgiving. I might just stop at the pub for some ALABAMA.

The Clerk 11:20 AM  

KINGSOFLEON fun fact: every album title has 5 syllables (until WALLS, with 5 letters)

No comment 11:27 AM  

Am I the only one who thought it was SNIFF TEST at first? (And while entering it thought two Fs looked suspect....)

Andrew Heinegg 11:28 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
kitshef 11:29 AM  

Been a good week. Another smooth, well-done puzzle. I, too, would have loved a fourth themer rather than the extra spots devoted to the reveal.

BAbar before BAMBI was fixed quickly. HAr before HAH took a lot longer, and made TVHOSTS surprisingly tough to see.

Only tricky area was the W central, where TEE was a WoE, ABEL was cleverly clued, and CASKS -- well, I don’t know enough about wineries to be sure, but I would not have guessed they produced them.

Malsdemare 11:31 AM  

I filled in ILLINOISSEATS without knowing what I was doing, then went ahead and filled in the other STATES, but, per usual dense self, needed the reveal to know what the heck I had done. I had no idea who the dramatist was, even with OPE, and CASKS just seemed wrong as a winery output; wineries make the stuff in the casks, don't they? I guess it's fair but seemed off to me. So that area took a while.

It took forever for me to guess at BOARS, from the ARS, but I got APNEA in a nano-second, thanks to the past few sleepless nights (ahem, Mr. Mal). Somehow, just when I was sure I was staring at a DNF, something new would fall -- replaced ham with LOX, dOh with NOT, ScRewS with STRAYS. My sole complaint is that it did not occupy nearly enough time this grey morning so I shall need to find another distraction besides the huge scratch a millimeter from my dog's eyeball, inflicted by a very pissed off raccoon Tuesday night.

May everyone find good things to be thankful for today. Me? Family, dogs, and wine.

Hungry Mother 11:46 AM  

Didn't 't need to use the theme, and cruised right through it. A Thanksgiving gift.

OISK 11:50 AM  

I really liked this puzzle a lot. I struggled at first, and of course never heard of Kings of Leon, or Elroy Jetson, but one of the pleasures here was that many of the unfamiliar answers were interesting to me. I didn't know that there were 15 SSRs, or the Canadian "Hoser", or that the Otoes were the first tribe, or that Bambi was based on a novel. I am sure that a more interesting ( to me) clue for Leon was possible, anyone remember Leon Spinks? Leon Uris is pretty familiar. But that's just me. This puzzle was not "at par." It was far better than par.

Blackbird 11:50 AM  

Rex, once more your snobbery is showing. You never came across the poem "Linden Lea", so it can't be important or meaningful. The poet is William Barnes', 19th century, from Dorset, England. He is known for writing in a Dorset dialect. The poem was set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams. If it's not in your wheelhouse, it's irrelevant? Ralph Vaughan Williams found the poem resonant enough to set it to music. I assume you've heard of Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Jon88 11:54 AM  

Seconding Trombone Tom. This was a "one of these things is not like the others" theme for me, as "eye ell" /=/ "eye ull."

QuasiMojo 12:13 PM  

@Not in KS. Good one! Although I did not know it was "antiquated." lol.

RAD2626 12:13 PM  

This puzzle was well done, with a cute gimmick. A terrific debut, Michiganright?

Have a great Thanksgiving.

old timer 12:19 PM  

I needed the revealer. When I had it, I had IL SEAT and the rest was history. Excepett at the end, when having filled in MONTANA I was scratching my head and wondering what an EMMO NEST could be.

It finally dawned on me that MO is the abbreviation for Missouri and therefore MT stands for Montana. MO was the abbreviation even before the two-letter state codes, too, when we used to write "Calif" and "Nev" and for Montana "Mont".

dramawritcomp 12:29 PM  

Congrats ro BJM on a fun debut with a clever theme and some great fill, such as ALL SMILES, SMELL TEST, and RAT FINKS.

Favorite themer was NEBRASKA TIME. Agree with others who would have preferred a fourth themer instead of the clunky revealer.

Tried to imagine other theme possibilities, but didn't come up with much that hasn't already been said, such as "Penis Nebraska" (hello, @Not in KS anymore :-). Two more:

Low budget cinema: North Dakota film

Cockney weather report: Arizona sky

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Time to Los Angeles your fears and have a great day.

nick 12:41 PM  

Happy not to know as much as Rex re: the fine points of xwording. Fun puzzle *plus* ratfink and the Kings of Leon? Starting the day thankful.

RnR ghost 12:43 PM  

I'm a gonna show the way

Nancy 12:48 PM  

@Teedmn (9:0l)and @old timer(12:19), re: MONTANA: It seems that Great Minds work alike. Or, in this case, don't work alike. And also, old timer, I, too, remember Mont and Nev, et al. I actually like them much better because there's no chance of making a dumb mistake. Now, when I'm not sure of the 2-letter abbreviation (which is a lot more often than you might think), I write the whole state name out, worried that neither the computer nor a very young postman will any longer recognize Mich or Ill or Ariz. Sometimes things meant to make life easier actually make life harder. Sigh.

I'm with you, @Malsdemare. I think wineries should focus on making delicious wine and leave the CASKS to the coopers.

Benjamin Dionysus 12:50 PM  

Seriously no one is complaining about "T-MEN"? Is that a standard crossword answer that I've just minded out on? Near as I can tell it's a black and white movie from 1947, apart from that Google had never heard of it!

Leapfinger 12:58 PM  

@BobC, your comment was a classic Pythonesque Confuse-a-Catherine.
@ChasFlaster, love yer SMILES.

Knew Gregory Peck was Ahab in Moebius Dickensii, so thought he might've earned a packet for OMoo. Just becows.

Odd, though, how a LUMPY GROOM can RUNE the GLAMOR of the SKEE SET.

The puzzle was a classic MacDonaldesque Illinois-Vey iz mir. E-I-E-I-O!

Full speed ahead for the groaning BOARd, and Thanks to all for all the Giving.


old timer 1:13 PM  

FBI agents used to be G-men and Secret Service agents T-Men. In my youth the main job of the Secret Service was going after counterfeiters.

While I'm here I'll explain why ATPAR is such a miserable answer. Maybe 100 years ago, stocks were issued with a par value, say $100, and were made available to the public at that price. And chances are that was the only time the stock ever sold at its par value. Nowadays the par value is entirely fictitious. In an IPO, the investment bank that floats the initial sales sets a price that will almost never be "par value". The price is usually a bit less than the big retail brokers have agreed to pay. The brokers then allow their favorite clients in on the deal, so they can make a profit on the first day. Hopefully, the shares will soar in subsequent trading and the fictional par value will never be seen again.

foxaroni 1:26 PM  

Completed the puzzle with no mistakes and just two letter write-overs. Even then, I did not understand what was going on. At first I thought the state names were all made of different state abbreviations: MO = Missouri, NT = New...Tersey? AN = Anizona? Nope, that isn't right.

I think part of my difficulty is that I don't necessarily "hear" what I see. So MT just looked like an abbreviation for "mountain," which led me to a "mountain nest." Oh, sure...a nest where the eagle fledglings (or whatever they're called) have flown, and the kids aren't found there now. "Nebraska time?" "Illinois seat?" Not a clue. (Although Nebraska time reminded me of some really cruel Nebraska cheerleader jokes all my Iowa friends used to tell when I lived there. They were on par with many lawyer jokes you've heard over the years.)

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, and remember to give thanks every day--not just today.

Tita 1:29 PM  

Irish cousin wanted to do a college year abroad in New England. Her counselor, unfamiliar with STATE POSTALCODES, wrote down NE.
Yup, she spent a year in NEBRASKA. And loved it.

I loved the tricksiness of this puzzle. Thanks so much Mr. MacDonald.

Happy Thanksgiving to each and all.

Numinous 1:31 PM  

Mrs. Numi and I had a hedgehog once for a year or two. His name was Spike. He was no BOre and we didn't know they were called BOARs. It goes against all common sense thay they are cuddly, but they are. If ya hold 'em right, they don't prickle atall.

I tried to write aisle SEAT first but that didn't work. Took a bit to figure out ILLINOIS. Then i had to go back up to get NEBRASKA TIME. I was thinking Zip Codes at first, trying to figure out the number values of letters of the alphabet. I also had to read the revealer clue over to figure it out. We are only recently MT NESTers. NE TIME the kids are around is like Thanksgiving. Seems like when we want to see them, one of us has to take an IL SEAT. I prefer the window.

I did appreciate the long downs. SMELL TEST threw me for a bit. Getting RAT FINKS had me ALL SMILES. I'm glad we got to GO TO TOWN on Mr. McDonald's debut NYT puzzle.

Peter 1:51 PM  

Rex, what does SEO stand for?

Anonymous 2:02 PM  

Postal codes are zip codes. State names are abbreviations. So even though I filled it in (finished the state names because of the crosses), I was too dense to get the reveal. I kept thinking it had to do with zip codes. It's a fun idea, well executed I think. But there's a difference between a code and an abbreviation.

mac 2:05 PM  

Enjoyable puzzle, although I tried to make the whole state name work phonetically to get an answer....
Then the penny dropped.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

CDilly52 2:09 PM  

The poor revealer confused me and I worked the entire puzzle without understanding it. Then, whilst talking to my sister in Chicago I lamented that my daughter and son-in-law were spending the holiday with hs family, I commented that the holidays always make me feel my "empty nest" most acutely! Overall a fine solving is experience. Happy Thanksguving to all!

Trombone Tom 2:17 PM  

@Peter SEO=Search Engine Optimization; what those sites @Rex is cautioning us about use to get you to click on them.

Larry Gilstrap 2:39 PM  

I've studied LOTSA British poetry, but like OFL was unfamiliar with both Barnes and his poem. So we get the very common fill word LEA, clued in an unusual way but completely gettable by crosses. Fair enough.

The themers were cool, wish there had been more, but I doubt I could have figured out the fun without some reveal.

Anybody else see a lascivious quality to both STRAYS and GO TO TOWN? As for MY TREAT, I can't hear that too often. Thank you very much!

During the era of our country's extermination of the Passenger Pigeon, people developed various methods to attract the massive flocks. The stool pigeon was a live, tethered, and often blinded bird displayed prominently as a lure to the wild birds. RATFINKS, indeed! Birds can be delicious. I hope yours is.

I have a germ of an idea festering in the creative part of my brain suitable for a Moth Story Slam. It's entitled "How Gregory Peck Broke My Camera." And, yes, it contains an OMEN, not related to that scary, scary movie.

L 2:52 PM  

Omg, I can't get those damn memberberries out of my head, and this isn't helping!! I'm guessing if Rex watched, he'd be saying "Member when the NYT puzzle was awesome every day? Member?"

jae 4:42 PM  

Easy-medium except for the part where I had Eric instead of RUNE and Tecs instead of TMEN for way too long.

LOPE was a WOE and I would have gone with a @Rex U (hi M&A) if I hadn't known IOS.

Cute theme, some fine long downs, liked it.

kitshef 5:31 PM  

Oriole or Bluejay in crosswords: ALABAMAER

Ω 6:03 PM  

OK @Blackbird and @Greater Fall River - If there is an orchard is it a LEA anymore? Also, the poem and song seem quite different:

My Orcha’d in Linden Lea
William Barnes

‘Ithin the woodlands, flow’ry gleaded,
By the woak tree’s mossy moot,
The sheenen grass-bleades, timber-sheaded,
Now do quiver under voot ;
An’ birds do whissle over head,
An’ water’s bubblen in its bed,
An’ there vor me the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

When leaves that leately wer a-springen
Now do feade ‘ithin the copse,
An’ painted birds do hush their zingen
Up upon the timber’s tops;
An’ brown-leav’d fruit’s a turnen red,
In cloudless zunsheen, over head,
Wi’ fruit vor me, the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

Let other vo’k meake money vaster
In the air o’ dark-room’d towns,
I don’t dread a peevish measter;
Though noo man do heed my frowns,
I be free to goo abrode,
Or teake agean my hwomeward road
To where, vor me, the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

G.Harris 8:23 PM  

A line in Rex's review confirms my comment of the other day. If he can finish quickly it's a good puzzle. If he has to struggle to get an answer he has reason to complain. I thought a good puzzle is one that challenges and affords great satisfaction when correctly completed.

Anonymous 8:24 PM  

@Z Linden Lea is the name of a place. Place names often do not accurately describe their geography. Arlington Heights, Il is less than 700 feet above sea level. It is certainly not much more elevated than its surrounding towns. I am sure you know places as well where the name does not match it environs.

Linden Lea might have been a lea sometime before someone planted an orchard. Altering the environment is a human tradition that goes back tens of thousands of years. For some reason we do not adjust name accordingly.

Anonymous 1:20 AM

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

Ugh. Printed off thurs puzzle that I normally avoid. Used completed grid to figure out theme of the clues. Goodbye Thursday, it's been real.

Peter 6:24 PM  

Thanks, @Trombone Tom ! Didn't know that one.

socdem 2:57 PM  

Problem is "M-T" sounds like "empty", "N-E" sounds like "any", but "I-L" does not sound like "aisle". Totally broke the theme for me.

Burma Shave 9:47 AM  




Anonymous 12:25 PM  

Fun, fair puzzle almost ruined by obtrusive theme.

Diana,LIW 12:44 PM  

How to tell I'm "getting" crosswordwise:

I thought of "BeARS" but didn't write it in.

SHOE and TAXI seemed obvious to me. Resisted the ONPAPER/LOTSA crossing for a while, but again, my first instinct was right!

Remembered RUNE, and guessed TREYS basked on other games. (Even b-ball watching Mr. W didn't know that one.)

Had yAlE before MAlE - didn't win 'em all.

Anyway, passed the SMELLTEST.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

spacecraft 2:00 PM  

Late to the party today because this was *NOT* easy. I hate it when OFL does this..."Oh well, you have to be an IDIOT not to figure this out," or words to that effect. Me? I guess I'm an idiot. I had NO IDEA what was going on with the theme answers. I solved down both coasts because I couldn't complete the long acrosses. Then I attacked the middle in a pincer move and was finally able--with the help, thank you, of the big reveal in the south (the STATE part, I concede, wasn't really necessary)--to get it done. And even then, thanks to a good guess at the L_PE/I_S natick. Wanted U, but IOS looked so much better than IuS that I went for the O.

I'm not surprised that I'm so often at odds with OFL: he disses bridge, one of the finest games ever invented--at least up until it became overrun with myriad bidding conventions. It wasn't broke, yet people insisted on fixing it, and fixing the fix, ad absurdium. Though I agree that "ONENO" makes for horrid fill.

Who could argue with the luscious TARA Reid for DOD? I get ANTSY jut thinking about her...Medium-challenging for me; getting the theme was a "HAH!" moment. Like OFL (that ALWAYS worries me!) I enjoyed the long downs. Birdie.

Sailor 3:17 PM  

@Z: The poem was originally published in Dorset dialect, as you have presented it. It was also available in a "common English" version, which Ralph Vaughan Williams used when he set the poem to music. Change the dialect v and z to f and s, and you will see that the two versions are virtually identical.

The question remains, is it fair to call it a "classic?"

I think so. Barnes is to Dorsetmen as Robbie Burns is to the Scots. He was well known and widely published in 19th century England, and Linden Lea is among his best-known works. I suspect he is less well known to Americans than Burns simply because far fewer people emigrated from Dorset than from Scotland.

rondo 3:34 PM  

GeorgiA tricky puz here. Was looking at MONTANANEST and NEBRASKATIME and thinking, “MIchigan an idiot?” Couldn’t IDaho the trick. Did NOT CAlifornia thing. Then STATE popped up and I put on the old thinking cap. SARI, but it took that long to get it. So at first I said HAr and then HAH, the CODES went POSTAL, and it was done. NUnavut think it was hard for me to see? I’ll SasKatchewan Canadian solver what he thought, ONtario to the fact that these codes are NOT from his country . Rainy? Waxy? Some other HOSER?

Only that one w/o to RUNE an otherwise clean grid. The trick cost me time, as if I cared about that today.

Glad to see that yeah baby TARA Reid was not clued as the O’Hara plantation. That would NOT be right.

Better than a bunch of letters in one square. Too bad he couldn’t work in one more STATE.

leftcoastTAM 3:39 PM  

Easy? Not until figuring out what was going on here. Had to see the names of the states first, then seeing the POSTALCODES gimmick, and then two letters sounding phonetically correct.....This was not easy; clever and even fun after getting the revealer, but not easy.

And as for the RUNE clue,....oh, hell, forget it.

rain forest 3:57 PM  

This is one of those puzzles where being Canadian is a distinct disadvantage (Hi, @Rondo). I actually completed the puzzle reasonably quickly, although getting the words following the state names took work. And then I had to deal with the revealer. STATE POSTAL CODES, eh? HOSER! I didn't know the US has POSTAL CODES (zip codes, yes), and for some reason I thought that abbreviations for states were usually the first and last letters (CA for California, HI for Hawaii, etc.). So, the puzzle was finished, but I spent a long time sorting out the theme. But when I did, I thought it was excellent.

In a puzzle like this, particularly a debut effort, it seems puerile to look for "junk fill" of which there was little. The log downs, and the theme itself were enough to carry it, and some nifty clues added to the pleasure.

Because of daughter, I knew LEON, and IOS made LOPE clear, although I too thought that LUpE sounded more Spanish.

Anyway, LOTSA fun with this one.

PS Bridge is the best card game, ever, but how come you talked about it, @Spacey?

rondo 4:01 PM  

BTW - Kings of LEON was such a gimme. "Use Somebody" was on the verge of being overplayed, even on MPR's 89.3 The Current. Though the missus likens Caleb Followill's voice to a frog's on that particular song, the way he RASPS.

spacecraft 8:05 PM  

@rainy: see OFL's blog, last paragraph.

Ooh, a new captcha: pretty fireworks!

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