Heavy metal band with killer sound / WED 12-21-16 / Sports entertainment show since 1993 / Skin-care brand whose active ingredients are oat compounds / Simpson who lost crossword contest in 2008 / Faith founded in Persia

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Constructor: Seth Geltman and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: THINK BIG (61A: "Shoot for the moon!" ... or a hint to interpreting the clues to 17-, 25-, 35- and 51-Across) — clues substitute ALL CAPS for the word "Big" ... so that [HOUSE] = [Big house], etc.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: HOUSE (THE CLINK) (not great, as the "THE" means the clue / answer can't be swapped out, are not equivalent)
  • 25A: APPLE (NEW YORK CITY) (another, more minor "the" problem: New York City is *the* Big Apple, except maybe adjectivally ? or in song, perhaps?)
  • 35A: MAC (HAMBURGER) (this one is terrible; you would never clue HAMBURGER as [Big Mac] in an actual puzzle; at best, it would be [Big Mac, e.g.]) 
  • GRAN
  • 51A: CHEESE (GRAND POOBAH) (works, but "Grand" means "Big," so that kind of ruins the effect...)
Word of the Day: MOLDAU (63A: European river that inspired Smetana) —
The Vltava (/vəlˈtɑːvə/; Czech pronunciation: [ˈvl̩tava]; German: Moldau, IPA: [ˈmɔldaʊ]) is the longest river within the Czech Republic, running southeast along the Bohemian Forest and then north across Bohemia, through Český Krumlov, České Budějovice and Prague, and finally merging with the Elbe at Mělník. It is commonly referred to as the Czech national river. // Vltava, also known by its German name Die Moldau (or The Moldau), was composed between 20 November and 8 December 1874 and was premiered on 4 April 1875 under Adolf Čech. It is about 13 minutes long, and is in the key of E minor. // In this piece, Smetana uses tone painting to evoke the sounds of one of Bohemia's great rivers. (wikipedia)

• • •

It's a fine idea, but it isn't executed well at all. The idea is that all-caps = "big," and that if you read the clue that way, bam, it's unlocked. Only in every case, to varying degrees, the resulting [Big ___] clue doesn't work—would not work if you simply replace the all-caps clue with Big ___. In the first case, you couldn't have THE in THE CLINK. You're in the big house, you're in the clink... you can't swap out "Big house" and THE CLINK w/o getting two "the"s. Just doesn't work. Likewise, NEW YORK CITY is *The* Big Apple. Again with the swap-out/equivalency problem. You'd never use something specific like [Big Mac] to clue just HAMBURGER (need an "e.g."). The last one, [CHEESE] for GRAND POOBAH, works best, but it's cheating, slightly, as GRAND and "Big" mean the same thing here. There are lots and lots of [Big ___] phrases in the world—you'd think there'd be enough to pull off a concept like this elegantly / accurately. DEAL => "WHO CARES!?" or SENSATION. [FOOT] => SASQUATCH. Hell, [PAPI] => DAVID ORTIZ. I mean, he's in your puzzle already, why not? (53D: David ___, longtime Red Sox slugger). Etc. Gotta be doable. Hard to see a decent theme get such a weak treatment.

Rest of the grid looks just fine. Lots of interesting answers. I thought Ms. Hemingway was MURIEL (despite "Manhattan"'s being one of my favorite movies), and I didn't check the cross thoroughly (TSU looked like ... a U. of some kind), so I had to hunt down that mistake at the end (19A: Hemingway who wrote "Out Came the Sun"). MOLDAU seems awfully obscure to me, both in general and, more importantly, for this puzzle, which generally plays within the realm of known things (63A: European river that inspired Smetana). I have heard of Smetana. That is far as my Smetana knowledge goes. The idea that I should know this river, a river that has a name that is not even its primary name (?!)—that seems odd to me.* But no DEAL, crosses worked it out. Just meant that that SW corner was the hardest by far. I also had to cross BATHOIL about five times before I saw it (1D: Aromatherapy substance). [Christian supergroup?] made me laugh as a clue for TRINITY. WWERAW is a real thing but looks hilarious / insane in the grid (49A: Sports entertainment show since 1993). I like it. I have "Rosemary's Baby" on Blu-Ray and still haven't opened / watched it (29A: She played Rosemary in "Rosemary's Baby"=> MIA). Maybe watching that will bring some holiday cheer to my life now that my fall semester is over. Seems an appropriate enough way to close out this year.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*OK, I listened to the Smetana and it has some very familiar melodies, so I clearly "know" it, but only AURICally I mean aurally.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Loren Muse Smith 7:02 AM  

Rex – I tried to follow the *The* issue, but I gave up. Hey – I’m off to a faculty breakfast and am a bit rushed.

So I didn’t think overmuch about the theme and liked it just fine! Easy Wednesday. I hesitated on the HAS/THESEUS cross because I speak neither Greek mythology nor Adele, so “had/Thedeus” could’ve worked there for me, too. But I figured Adele would be singing about some current rumor and not whining about one from a while back, so I guessed right.

SYSOP looks like he could’ve been part of that Labyrinth navigating team, too. Ariadne – hold on there a sec. Let’s ask Sysop whether he thinks you should zig here. I think he’s lolligagging back there with Abuton.

Perfect reveal. I’m thinking it would’ve felt more hintishsome if the clues had not been all caps. So you really had to THINK BIG. Still – fun idea.

My “___ wheels” 58A were “hot” wheels before MAG wheels. The theme made me think of my BIG Wheel I had in Chattanooga. Tooled up and down the driveway on that. I was even allowed to pedal two doors down to Alan E’s house if I stayed on the side of the road. But when I crossed the street to Mrs. Troxler’s house to examine the irresistible, huge sea shells in her flower bed, I lost driving privileges.

I liked HAMBURGER/GUT/AGONY. Well, yeah. If you eat two Big Macs and your fries and your daughter’s fries and a chocolate shake. And an apple pie. Talk about yer torpor, man.

SUMO RING made me think of this commercial. Love it.

Seth, Jeff – thanks for the SMILE.

Conrad 7:03 AM  

Got the theme at NEW YORK CITY and coasted from there. This is the third Tuesday puzzle this week. Tried to squeeze "MICHIGAN_STADIUM" into 17A but not even the most vigorous of rebus-ing could get it to fit.

Anonymous 7:17 AM  

Will Shortz is pure cool.

Trombone Tom 7:24 AM  

I didn't pick up on the "The" issue, but that's what makes this blog so worthwhile reading.

Got the theme right away at THE CLINK. Messrs. Geltman and Chen seemed to fit right in my wheelhouse today with the exception of 63A.

I note in Wordplay that Jeff Chen also plays trombone. We play from different music. I never would have come up with MOLDAU without the crosses.

I think this was an interesting concept and fun to work out. Maybe on the easy side for Wednesday.

r.alphbunker 7:33 AM  

I was very worried about 39D {1 1/2-liter bottle} MAGNUM/63A {European river that inspired Smetana} MOLDAU. My reaction to 39D was "they have a name for that?". But that turned out to be right and I messed up 19A {Hemingway who wrote "Out Came the Sun"} MARIEL with MuRIEL. This was an example of not taking advantage of checked answers since TSu for [9D {Screeners' org.} TSA] definitely looked suspicious even if you interpreted "Screener" as a Hollywood type.

Details are here.

[Continuing from yesterday]
To find the next occurrence of the word you are searching for on a Mac, type G (instead of F) while holding down the Command key. On a PC, press the F3 key again. You have to be careful of one thing. When the computer gets to the last word it will loop around to the first word without telling you! This means that you could very easily go into an infinite loop and never be heard from again. I am sure that I am speaking for the commentariat when I say that we hope that would not happen.

Arlene 7:53 AM  

The theme for Smetana's Moldau is the basis for the theme for Hatikva, the Israeli national anthem.

Glimmerglass 7:55 AM  

This played hader for me than for @Rex, though I didn't make his TSu error, so I guess I win. This for me was an unusual puzzle in that the "revealer" actually unlocked the puzzle. I needed THIN. . . . . before I finally got THINK BIG. Suddenly the themers, which had a few crossng letters but made no sense, jumped out of the fog, and the rest of the puzzle fell quickly. BTW, I was not at all bothered by the double the.

I am not a robot 7:58 AM  

@Nancy, what @r.alphbunker has described is known as Infinite Loop Syndrome, first identified by Camus in the Myth of Sysop, the title of which kept me from finishing in the SW.

Moly Shu 8:07 AM  

What, no SLAYER video? C'mon @Rex, best clue/answer in the entire puzzle.

Passing Shot 8:12 AM  

Could not remember the name of the Bond film. I love Daniel Craig but each Bond film has gotten progressively worse. Is ABUT ON really a phrase? Needed every cross (also took me a long time to get ENRAGE). The consecutive Ws in WWERAW also gave me fits, so I lost time in the middle section.

As for Rex's critique, I don't quite follow the "The" (hey, crossword-ese!) argument. Thought the theme was fine. Loved the clue for TRINITY.

JamieP 8:25 AM  

I grew up on Jimmy Snuka and Rowdy Roddy Piper (WWF), but I had to stare at WWERAW for about three consecutive minutes before it finally clicked. First I assumed it was "The ___." Then when I got the first two W's I assumed it was some sort of web site. But 1993? Oh well.

Back in the day my friend Mark and I were watching WWF one Saturday morning. My Dad came downstairs and informed us that it was all fake. So Mark put him in Greg "The Hammer" Valentine's figure four leg lock and made him submit. My Dad was about fifty at the time.

kitshef 8:37 AM  

Well, what I thought was the major problem was the crossing of ORTIZ and IAN, and I say that as someone for whom both were gimmes.

This crossing of two bits of trivia from the same area seems to be occurring more often, and I don't like it. If you know 21st century baseball, you're in. If not, YER out.

I had assumed the MOLDAU would relate in some way to Moldova, but apparently not. Well, it helped the solve, so it was a happy mistake.

Hand up for hot wheels, and my APE was originally an oaf.

Some really nice stuff in the puzzle: SUMO RING, THESEUS, MAGNUM, APROPOS, MALIASE, TRINITY. And who knew there was a KEW Gardens in NY? I only know the one in London, home to the world's largest fungarium (a word which needs to appear in a crossword).

kitshef 8:44 AM  

Oh, and there is a much better clue for AURIC, especially given the proximity to SPECTRE

Anonymous 8:54 AM  

This puzzle lost me right at the starting gate. The top left was for me a gigantic natik. ASHANTI and THESEUS crossing ITUNES, LISA. I knew ASHE but no idea what THE CLINK was.
The theme was cute but with so many proper names I had no chance. Felt like a Thursday.
Rex - For your information. MOLDAU isn't just an obscure river in Europe. The Moldau is the title of one of his most well-known compositions is and familiar to anyone with just basic familiarity classical music.

Unknown 9:02 AM  

Thanks for your review, @Rex, and congratulations to @Seth Geltman for his New York Times debut, in collaboration with @Jeff Chen.

At first glance, looking at theme clues, this looked like it might be shaping up as a commercial for APPLE (its line of MAC products) or McDonald's (CHEESEburgers). In "The Mikado," the pompous character is called Pooh-Bah (compare to spelling in 51-Across). Before he became known as Big Papi for the Sox in Fenway Park, @David ORTIZ toiled somewhat unappreciated for the Twins in the Metrodome. The less said about @AROD, the better (fill in your own noun to follow the adjective "big").

MOLDAU was an absolute gimme, and as @Arlene points out, its signal melody was adopted for the Israeli national anthem. Excellent musical selection--I urge everyone to click on the link. Years ago, my son and I visited Prague and stood on the banks of the river, actually below a spot where it had flooded once. Now that's what I call Prague-ress (Kafka-esque).

The puzzle also has a Woody Allen vibe, with both MARIEL and MIA. The @Hemingway character in "Manhattan" (ahem, the Big Apple) was based on @Stacy Nelkin, who was a student at my alma mater, Stuyvesant High School. Feel free to Google for more.

A final thought that occurred as I was proof-reading this post -- IBM had a "Think" advertising campaign, to which APPLE (@Steve Jobs) countered with "Think Different." Wonder if either of these were the subliminal inspiration for today's THINK_BIG puzzle theme.

Dorothy Biggs 9:03 AM  

THECLINK? JOKEY? "Christian supergroup?"KEW? WWERAW? "Say ____ " Nope...or "NAH" if you will. NOMORE.

This puzzle took me forever. It could be because I was distracted by my host's dogs who, at 60 pounds each, want to sit in my lap. But even then, once I got THECLINK, I was out. There are really no words. THECLINK. Just look at it. Say it a few times. I think the last time I heard that audibly (or otherwise) expressed was maybe 1974 watching reruns of Hogan's Heros.

Most puzzles, even with some groaners, sort of start my day off with some kind of spin. Usually good spin, even sometimes provocative spin that causes me to think about art or language or why Rex likes one word but hates another. But today is one of the rare days that do happen on occasion.

Maybe because of the inclusion of DRIVES (as in drives me crazy), or AGONY, or NOMORE, or GUT (as in "hit in the...") or WAGING war, or MAD or ENRAGE or a wrestling federation or APE or DEATHLY...but this puzzle, IMMHO, sucked. In fact, I wish SUCKED would have been included in the puzzle.

Hand up with Rex at chasing down the A in MARIEL.

In a completely unrelated to the dislike of the puzzle, I had a pretty major brain fart for a musician who claims to know such things, but I threw down Danube for MOLDAU. Having a little :ahem: wine experience, I saw MAGNUM and then I immediately got MOLDAU (also did you notice MAG and MAGNUM in the same puzzle? I mean seriously). Smetana = The Moldau. And the "Battered..er...Bartered Bride."

Truly the tragedy in this whole puzzle was how WEED was clued and how it should have been clued...as medicinal relief from doing this puzzle.

thfenn 9:05 AM  

David ORTIZ, IAN Desmond, and more baseball STATS offer solace for the MALAISE after an unexpectedly early end to my fantasy football season, as baseball can not be too far behind. Agree completely that PAPI as a clue would've been great (and a tribute to one of the sports GRANDPOOHBAHs. Know the cluing referred to the truck, and of course Peter Gabriel is a favorite, but a link to some REO Speedwagon hit would also have been fun. Got held up forever trying to fill in the SW - just couldn't get MAGNUM/NOTE/MOLDAU to click (and and NSA instead of TSA sitting there with another one of those Almost there - "Blimey" messages at the end of the online version until I realized I had SNATS instead of STATS). Enjoyed the theme, got it before hitting the revealer (back with NEWYORKCITY, and GRANDPOOHBAH fell into place with only AROD, MOPPEDUP, ORTIZ, and BAHAI), enjoyed the fill, and wrapped it up on my own in 31 minutes - so still very much enjoying the week.

Good lord Rex, that must've been a bad semester if Rosemary's baby is going to bring some holiday cheer...perhaps WWERAW, SPECTRE, and some blaring SLAYER will lighten things up further? (Talk about AGONY).

Mohair Sam 9:08 AM  

Thought it was a tough Wednesday, but doable. Never noticed the incongruent THE's hence we didn't even burp there and enjoyed this one verily.

Had the @LMS Greek/Adele tense problem at 4A and 3D, but THESEUS sounded so much more Greek than THEdEUS - so no problem. Did the @Kitshef thing and correctly guessed MOLDAU by incorrectly thinking Moldova.

Grudgingly confessing to a dnf today because we had BAHAa for the religion (Arab tongues don't mind two A's together), and you can ZIG or ZaG. Grudging confession because I realized today that you online solvers get to "hunt down my mistake at the end" (I'm quoting you OFL, "TSu" indeed). Harumphhh. Henceforth I'm permitting myself one anticipatory Mr. Happy Pencil per day.

@Nancy from yesterday - You can also right click your mouse and a little help menu will appear that will let you scroll to Find. That menu also offers other little goodies that may provide you with some fun. We'll have you programming a Mars rocket launch before we're done here Nancy.

pmdm 9:13 AM  

I suppose if you over-analyze or over-think crossword themes, most will wind up with a host of programs.For me, figuring out the theme and applying it was an enjoyable challenge, and that's all that matters to me.

Those insulated from, say, rap music would find many of the crossword entries relating to that genre obscure. So be it with any genre, including classical music. Where would you draw the line? Smetana is certainly a popular composer, with some of his music from the opera The Bartered Bride perhaps reaching pops status. The Moldau is one of a set of colorful compositions. The set as a whole is named Ma Vlast, or My Homeland, the the movement in question chronicles a boat ride down the river. It's main melody is enchanting and has been borrowed a number of times and injected into pop tunes. Unless you are totally biased against classical music, seek it out on You Tube and listen to several interpretations. If possible, see if you can find Leonard Bernstein's.

Now if the crossword used the name of the movement in it's original slavonic language, that would be truly obscure.

I am not a robot 9:19 AM  

A couple more things. I don't think of "balks" as a stat, even though I'm sure that like every twitch and itch in baseball, they would be. I knew it was a baseball reference, but thought, "call." Googled MLB balk stats, it doesn't show up on the first page (as far as I was willing to go). So the clue was cute but harder than it needed to be. Just saying.

And yesterday's clue for the fatal Tequila Sunrise answer has been changed on line. It's now, "1988 crime thriller starring Mel Gibson and Michelle Pfeiffer." Someone pointed that out late in the blog yesterday, and it's worth noting.

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

Theme answers very obvious, crosses not so much. ABUTON is redundant, isn't it?

QuasiMojo 9:22 AM  

The "the" thing didn't bother me in "the" least. I got the prison clue for "House" right off the bat which makes me wonder where my mind is at these days. There's a wonderful old movie "The Big House" that shows up from time to time on TCM. It's about Sing Sing which I used to pass by often on my way to work while riding the Hudson commuter line.

This was a fun Wednesday frolic without any serious "agony." (Although I wanted "irony" there.)

Anyone else remember the store "THING BIG!" that used to be on Broadway and I think 79th St or 80th St.? I used to live a block from there. I bought some very funny things there since everything in stock was "supersized." Which brings us back to the Big Mac.

Airymom 9:28 AM  

Kew Gardens, NY 11415--unfortunately known as the community where Kitty Genovese was murdered, more than 50 years ago--but for those of us who grew up there, a beautiful neighborhood in Queens. We attended P.S. 99, one of the best elementary schools in NYC and played at "Forest Park", hundreds of acres of greenery, playgrounds and "dead man's rock". We bought pizza at Danny's on Lefferts Blvd. and saw a movie at the "Austin Theater".

If I could afford it, I would move back in a jif.

Thanks for all the memories Jeff and Seth.

Hartley70 9:29 AM  

I was done in by two sports clues, DRJ and WWERAW. The first is familiar, the second is gobbledygook. I ended with "slugging" for SWIGGING, and if JOKEY's a word, I've never used it, but "pokey" would have worked instead of CLINK.

I didn't look deeply enough to have trouble with the theme. I saw THINKBIG first, so I just popped the themers in the puzzle as I got to them. There was no AGONY involved.

I was a DNF today. "Curses, foiled again!"

@Malsdemare, fondue recipe on the way.
Lots of liquor involved.

Stanley Hudson 9:31 AM  

"The" and "the" and "the" . . . WTF is OFL babbling about?
Maybe a little too much egg nog?

Hartley70 9:37 AM  

Oh I was more wrong than I realized when I posted. Another sports clue? I did not see STATS since "balk" meant "stop" to me and an obscure Christian group could be named anything in Greek or Latin to me. What a Wednesday!

Nancy 9:38 AM  

I would give this a rave, were it not for the excessive use of pop names -- especially in the NW. I was able to finish, despite not knowing any of them except for DR J and ASHE. But they made me unhappy -- in a puzzle that otherwise was making me very happy. I love puzzles that you simply can't solve until you figure out the theme and I didn't figure this one out until I had every single letter of HAMBURGER (35A) and then looked once again at the clue. From there, I went back and filled in each theme answer easily -- all of which had previously seemed like gobbledy-gook. And only after that, did I get to the revealer, which it turns out I didn't really need. So a great deal of fun and challenge, marred by the PPP. Why do you do that, Jeff and Seth?

Phil 9:39 AM  

The 'the' thing didn't bother me I suppose because it was in themers. But Rex is right if he doesn't call NYT/Shorts on it, it may soon be the regular non themer clues. And that would be a shame and cringing sloppy.

chefbea 9:41 AM  

too tough for me...more like a friday puzzle. Stuff I didn't know

Nancy 9:49 AM  

@r.alphbunker )7:33) and @I am not a robot (7:58) -- So let me get this straight. If I press the F3 key twice, I may go into an "infinite loop" and disappear from the blog (and possibly the entire world) forever???? You do realize, people, that I am not a brave or adventurous human being. I'm simply not. And therefore, I will never press the F3 key a second time! In fact, I'm having serious doubts about ever again pressing it for the first time! I'm so grateful to you for the heads-up!

Pete 9:51 AM  

@George B - Your discussion of Big Papi and A Rod reminded me of a brief interview with A Rod I saw years ago. A Rod was asked about Big Papi's prowess at the plate while a member of the Red Sox as opposed to when he was a Twin. A Rod's response was that he had never seen anyone go from good to great that quickly - it was a miracle. My initial reaction was - Oh no, you didn't - you've already been identified as having using PEDs and you're calling out Big Papi?

Turns out the pot called the kettle black quite accurately.

ScreamingEagle 9:53 AM  

Was really hard for me, just because of how there were SO many baseball/sports related words and clues today:

STATS ("walks and balks"), ASHE, YER ("__ out!"), WWERAW, IAN ("Baseball's __ Desmond"), SUMORING, AROD, ORTIZ...

I prefer puzzles that have a more even spread of subject areas. And I mean, STATS and IAN could have been clued in other subject areas.

Puzzles like these are AGONY, and they ENRAGE me, and it DRIVES me to say "NO MORE!"

ArtO 9:58 AM  

What a slog. Toughest Wednesday in ages. NE the last to fall.

BallBoy 10:19 AM  

@Nancy, Arthur Ashe is much more than a "pop" reference. He was a celebrated tennis champion. He won the US OPEN and Wimbledon. The first African-American male to do so. One of the US OPEN stadiums (stadia?) is named after him. And he was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Anonymous 10:20 AM  

Yuck. Too much yuck for a Wed.

Auric Goldfinger 10:25 AM  

I was a member of SMERSH, not SPECTRE.

Nancy 10:31 AM  

I heartily agree, @Ball Boy. But he is a proper name that may have bothered others who are less interested in tennis greats than you and I. No, I was referring to LISA; ASHANTI; SLAYER; ORTIZ; AVEENA; ELI and IAN. As Z is fond of saying, one person's arcana is another's gimme. And vice versa.

GILL I. 10:32 AM  

Reading @NCA Pres and his loathing for the WEED clue and @Nancy and her fear of the F3 gave me a much needed morning chuckle. Thank you.
Yeah, I noticed all the DEATHLY SLAYER GUT AGONY TREMBLE MALAISE words but what got me crazy MAD was seeing JOKEY. It's kinda like okie dokie artichokie. Then there was WWERAW STATS SUMO RING (instead of LAS VEGAS)and ORTIZ that just made me sad.
I liked the theme and all and it was easy to suss but the over-all feel of the puzzle didn't bring me any glee.
@Rex. Right...Watch "Rosemary's Baby" it should just be the thing to get you out of the doldrums.....Wait till the end!

Unknown 10:37 AM  

Enjoyed it. Thought I would not finish but then got the theme and the puzzle fell open. NE was the last to fall.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:41 AM  

What a Times Puzzle should be. There are supposed to be ways in for the educated, I dropped THESEUS and MOLDAU in at first glance. Gave me a decent start in two corners of the puzzle.

And I well remember driving into the Czech Republic with a couple of Austrians on a snowy November day, we spotted that river and started bawling out that tune. I was having a real struggle understanding their variety of German but music is the universal language, I like to think. We ate lunch in a restaurant that served a bottle of 'American dressing' with the salad. We would have called it 'French dressing' I suppose, and the French would have been equally offended.

Crane Poole 10:41 AM  

To the Commentariat:
Many thanks for your kind recognition of my 'morwongers' comment yesterday. It leapt from the puzzle, had to be relayed, and I'm pleased it hit some funny bones. However many months it's been, I'm still a relative newcomer here. I do now read Rex everyday if possible and many or most comments. And I greatly like you and you and you, and especially you. And while I'm here, count me among those who have no problem with Rex's political forays. Were the current climate less abnormal, I might feel differently. I don't. Carry on, Rex.

Malsdemare 10:49 AM  

@Nancy. All the advice assumes you are on an actual computer. By any chance are you using an ipad? If so, I can walk you through that.

@lms you are outdoing yourself. Be careful or you'll find yourself in Edith Hamilton's "Mythology." Your myths are terrific.

I thought this was really easy. I also don't get the whole "the" quibble. However, my job is not that of puzzle analyst ... thank Sysop for that. I knew MARIEL though I needed SPECTRE to get the E. I really like puzzles that make me feel smart so filling in THESIUS, SYSOP, MALAISE, APROPOS, AVEENO was rewarding, though I guess AVEENO just means I know about high end beauty products. And GRANDPOOBAH is just pure fun. I liked this one a lot though it didn't take up nearly enough time which means I'll be at my desk too soon. Damn! Yup, third Tuesday this week.

Good one, Jeff and Seth.

Noam D. Elkies 10:54 AM  

Ha-Tikva (Israel's national anthem) and _Die 63A:MOLDAU_ share a common source, but I don't think Ha-Tikva was actually based on the Smetana tune. (Other similar tunes include Mozart's minor-mode variation on "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman", a.k.a. the Alphabet Song, from K.265 .) But Smetana is suggestive enough of Ha-Tikva that, when the playing of Ha-Tikva was banned by British authorities in what was to become Israel, orchestras would often perform Moldau as a plausibly deniable equivalent!


jberg 11:00 AM  

I didn't mind (or notice) the inconsistent thes. Had I noticed I would have imagined a harried student trying to pad a paper to make it look longer, using the time-honored technique of putting 'the' at the end of one line and again at the beginning of the next.

I really loved this one because of the revealer -- I had no idea (like @George Barany, I was thinking computers or Macdonalds), and suddenly it was all clear.

As they ancients used to say, one man's Mede is another man's Persian; MOLDAU and THESEUS were absolute gimmes (the latter founded Athens, didn't he?), while WWERAW required every cross, and then -- once i had finished -- I had to search for it on the web to see if it was really a thing.

As for ORTIZ, here in Boston he's considered part of the TRINITY -- mostly for his batting, but also for his public statement after the Marathon bombing, which captured how we all felt so precisely.

Genius Mixes and the oatmeal cosmetics, OTOH, required a combination of crosses and guessing.

Unknown 11:02 AM  

I didn't notice the theme issues when solving but now that Rex has pointed them out ... yeah, that's not great. As a digital solver, I was wondering why the theme clues appeared in all caps. On a hunch I checked the PDF version and said clues are in all caps and a larger font. That makes better sense.

The fill was lively but smelt a bit too much of man cave black leather. Let's count the sports answers: DR. J, STATS [Walks and balks], Arthur ASHE, "YER out!", WWE RAW, IAN Desmond, DRIVES, SUMO RING, A-ROD, and David ORTIZ. That's ten sports clues, including five baseball clues. I agree with @kitshef that worst one is the crossing of ORTIZ and IAN. Why clue IAN as IAN Desmond? He is not a well-known player, and his name can be clued in numerous non-sports ways (McKellen, McEwan, McShane, Holm, Fleming). I'm a baseball fan but enough already.

Besides sports, we get two car clues (REO and MAG Wheels), Batman (BATS), James Bond (SPECTRE), a heavy metal band (SLAYER), a drink from a flask (SWIGGED), and a clue WAGING war. At least there was some AVEENO and BATH OIL to help wash off the scent of Axe body spray.

Last Friday we had ANTHRAX [One of the "Big Four" thrash metal bands]. Today we get another: the well-clued SLAYER [Heavy-metal band with a killer sound?]. Should we be expecting appearances from Metallica and Megadeth later this week?

I'm giving the evil eye to the clue for WWE RAW [Sports entertainment show since 1993]. It's the same show, yes, but the name changed to WWE from the original WWF. I've seen little entertainment wrestling, but it is a rather interesting theatrical production: the ring is a stage; there are faces (heroes) and heels (villains) and an involved ringside audience (chorus); there is hubris and hamartia, peripeteia and catharsis. It's a soap opera for men.

I liked seeing Smetana's "MOLDAU." I'm surprised that it hasn't appeared in the NYT crossword more often (only one prior appearance). It has lots of handy letters, and it's certainly among the better known pieces of classical music.

I loved the quotation from Roger Ebert: "I learned to be a movie critic by reading MAD magazine."

@LMS - I laughed at your labyrinth SYSOP riff.

@I am not a robot - I went to Baseball-Reference.com and looked up Félix Hernández's page. Balks are one of the colums in the basic set of stats.

jberg 11:03 AM  

And here's another version of that Smetana tune:

Moldau Song

The original Brecht/Eisler version is better, but I can't find it.

Malsdemare 11:05 AM  

@Hartley70. Got the recipe. My God, woman, the cheese is just a delivery system for a primo hangover! Sounds delicious. Sadly, everyone I know is a senior so I shall probably pass on messing up their plumbing. So sad!

The commentariat is quite funny today. Thanks for that!

RooMonster 11:08 AM  

Hey All !
"The" puz wasn't quite a ONE, but had fun nonetheless. (That is one word, right?) It's got yer YER, and a ZIG thrown in. U full for M&A. Some neat clues for ATMS, SLAYER, even BATS and ELI.

ABUTON looks like a name for a Zippo lighter, or something. "Hey, have you seen the new ABUTON? Way cool!"

I think MOPPED UP UP HELD better than YesterPuz's answer for the ink clue (no spoilers from me!). Had the same U in MuRIEL as Rex. Just following @M&A's advICE, when in doubt, go U. And hot for MAG first, like probably 75% of us.

Got HAMBURGER first primarily off word pattern recognition, but couldn't understand why. Then got NYC as APPLE, and the aha/lightbulb moment. And that helped to get Revealer. You must THINK BIG to make sense of themers. Cool.

Good puz overall, slightly high on the threes, 21. 'Nother de-but, Congrats Seth Geltman.


Hungry Mother 11:26 AM  

Wednesdayish. I expect to be challenged in the middle of the week, but luckily I caught on to the theme early enough to cruise on through. Never heard of the river or the metal band.

jae 11:26 AM  

Tough Wed. for me (and apparently a few others @Mohair et. al.). MOLDAU and THESEUS were WOEs as was IAN as clued, plus I had BATHgeL for too long. So, the NW took a while and the SW was only slightly easier. The east side, fortunately, was pretty easy.

Solid grid, the "THE" issue didn't bug me, liked it. Nice debut.

Tom R 11:31 AM  

I watched the Smetana video for the pics (know the music very well) and was struck by the fact, despite there being many, many pics available of that river, maybe only 3 or 4 of them could have been of that river. You'd think if someone wanted to set that music to pics or video they could at least have used the actual river.

old timer 11:31 AM  

I see no reason why the all-caps can't be translated as "the big". Works for HOUSE and APPLE. Kind of works for CHEESE. Does not work at all for MAC, because "the Big Mac is not in the language. There, it is "a Big Mac", therefore the themers are inconsistent. Another problem: "the big house" means an old-fashioned prison like Sing Sing or San Quentin or Folsom. "The clink" more often simply means a jail.

The puzzle was I thought quite hard for a Wednesday. Would have been harder, too, except I got chicken pox when I was 26, and soon learned the blessing that is AVEENO, if you're itching all over.

Hartley70 11:37 AM  

@Malsdemare, not to worry, the alcohol burns off. It's the wine in your glass that leads you astray.

Charles Flaster 11:38 AM  

Sitting in a physician's office with my completed puzzle( on paper) at home.
I liked the reveal more than the actual themers.
Southwest slowed a bit as MOLDAU was completely foreign to me.
My writeovers also were hard to erase:
MAD for CUE( much more logical) and MAGNUM for coGNac.
JOKEY= huh?
Favorite themer was GRAND POOBAH!
My daughter is a pro wrestling fan so WWE RAW was ez.
Thanks SG/JC

Joseph Michael 11:41 AM  

Fine theme, but nearly 40% of the answers in the grid are proper nouns.

Puzzles like this DRiVES me BATS.

OISK 11:59 AM  

Greatly disliked this one, and not just because I DNF. (second time in 4 days, after 5 weeks of perfection...) I don't know who REO Speedwagon is or was, but OK, give it one clue, I got it. But using this to clue Eli??? That's awful. That would be awful on a Saturday. A big Brooklyn boo for excessive obscurity ( not REO Speedwagon, which I have heard of - I don't know why - but the middle name of someone associate with it??)

I should have finished anyway, but I had a wrong answer and didn't change it. Slugged, (took a slug) instead of swigged. Have no idea what WWERAW is or was, bur WWERAL, and ELU looked wrong. Had I bothered to go through the alphabet, I'd have certainly found swigged, and completed the puzzle. My fault.

But I still object to the clue for "Eli," don't like "balks" as statistics, despite my love of sports found this far too sports heavy, never heard "abut on," just "abuts," and happy I knew it was BAHAI and not BAHAA, since zig and zag are interchangeable. SYSOP??? Yes, I know what it stands for, but still....

A Bronx cheer from Brooklyn....

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 12:05 PM  

The HaTikva / Moldau theme was actually La Mantovana, the city dance of Mantua, in the Renaissance.

wgh 12:36 PM  

Too much baseball.

Anonymous 12:43 PM  

Ha ha Agree with @MartinAbresch : For sure this puzzle needed to "wash off the scent of Axe body spray"
Bored with all the NYT puzz sports/male interest clues. Even mini puzz has four sports clues today. Ugh!

Teedmn 1:16 PM  

So I want to know, if you can have AURIC as golden, can you have "agic" (aggic?) as "silver"?

I remember learning in a Small Business Development class, that there are two types of customers' reactions, when faced with a long line. The people who walk in, stand in line for a while and then leave in disgust are "renegers" and the people who pop their heads in and say, "No way" and turn around are "balkers". I don't remember what you were supposed to do to prevent either from happening (surely not "hire more help"). That said, my STATS were "calls" for a bit until TSA was spotted, which also helped me avoid @Rex's MuRIEL, because that's what I wanted at first.

An oaf of an APE and a NEW YORK logo caused some traffic jams on my ROUTE to the finish and I was in a state of AGONY trying to look past my alimONY, while knowing it was wrong.

Lots of sports clues here put this into a "challenging for a Wednesday" for me. But congrats to Seth Geltman on your NYTimes debut with the ever helpful Jeff Chen. Continue to THINK BIG.

foxaroni 1:35 PM  

@Charles Flaster--great pun! "...MOLDAU was completely foreign to me."

This puzzle was quite hard for me. Not because parts of it were unknown, but because I knew almost all the answers, but couldn't dredge them up from my memory banks (except for IAN and ELI--no idea who they were). By the bye, wasn't the "O" for Olds, the Oldsmobile guy? Oh...WIKI tells me his full name was Ransom Eli Olds, hence REO. I'd always thought there were three individuals involved.

I thought Rex's complaints about the "internal inconsistencies" was sheer nitpickiness, but that's on me. Also on me is my uncomfortableness with the clue "Christian supergroup." Not sure why. I'm going to have to think about it.

One more thing...this puzzle was Friday hard for me, but very enjoyable, especially when the BIG revealer became clear. Nice job, JC and SG.

Numinous 1:36 PM  

@OISK, REO is Ransom Eli Olds, the creator of Oldsmobile and REO automobiles. One of those cars was the REO Speedwagon which some rock 'n roll guys adopted as a band name. That is most of the information required for references to Mr. Olds in crosswords.

MOLDAU was a gimmie. I didn't watch OFL's clip and I can't remember the tune at all but I still knew it. MAGNUMs are not in my budget but that also came easily. I DNFed because I had tOPPEDUP instead of MOPPED. It wasn't untill I looked at it that I realized that a BIG HAtBURGER was just plain silly. It's too bad the iPad app doesn't allow for variable font sizes in the clues. I would have liked if the capitalized clues were larger. I, too, had to get to the revealer to figure out the theme.

Neither did the "THE" issue bother me. I can see big house and realize it might mean THE CLINK without its having to be "the big house". I can see "big cheese" as being a GRAND POOBAH without "the" and a Big Mac is just a HAMBURGER. So, call me a sloppy thinker. I had an uncle, growing up, who overloaded me with pedantry as he was working on his philosophy PhD and working as an assistant professor.

Woody Allen is weird, really weird. Funny though. He makes a movie about dating MARIEL Hemingway as a teenager then marries his step-daughter, Soon-Ye. Tell ya one thing though, he plays a mean Dixieland clarinet.

I found this to be difficult for a Wednesday but I enjoyed it all the same. Cool debut, @Seth.

Leapfinger 1:42 PM  

BIG wheel keep on turning
Proud Mary keep on churning

Some things just lend creedence to Tina Turner, so I had 58a be BIG wheels, but only after SWIGGED nixed the HOT wheels; it wasn't till I looked squinty-eyed at the doubtful BIGoverBIG that doubt was cast, and I got the NUMless East Side MAG.

Enough other doovers (I like the look of it sans hyphen) to make this a Worthy Wednesday:
fast/fire BALL > HANG > LANE
ANGST > AGONY [that was an AwShucks to erase]
GHASTLY > DEATHLY [something Potter is GHASTLY, isn't it?]
ERNEST: thought about it, but knew there wasn't an ERNEST Boatlift
and yes, TRUMPS before USURPS, which was a nice nod in the direction of @M&A

WWERAW: I always got confused between WWF World Wildlife Fund and WWF World Wrestling Federation, so I guess it's a relief that one of them had to change the F to an E. I guess it qualifies as Entertainment as it seems to be theater more than sport.

Quite often, A BUTON is better than A ZIPPER; it isn't often that A BUTON will painfully pinch some belly-skin into the BUTON-hole. Do I hear an Amen?

I was kind of surprised @Rex didn't cavil about 'MOPPED down' being more 'in the language'. Consistency not being one of my hobgoblins, I didn't see the theme construction as trapezoid rather than parallel, so the cuppla THEs SWIGGED down easy. Even got the inferable ORTIZ/IAN Natick wannabes, so I wound up with these us liking all the those them.

Since this is Seth Moneyman's debut, guess you could call it The BIG One. Hope that he's busy S'MORing.

Masked and Anonymous 1:45 PM  

Congratz to half the constructioneers, for the debut. And always good to see the Chenmeister, one of M&A's fave all-pro puzmakers. Agree with @RP, that BIG stuff is fertile ground for themers. Almost as fullsome: CAPITAL stuff. Example: {GAINS} = TAKEOUTOFSTOCK.

MOLDAU ! har. (Better clue: {Mold gold, for short??}.

fave weeject: ELI/REO cwoss-reference. Too bad the REO Speedwagon band didn't have a hit with "Eli's Coming". Many honrable mentions: YER. KEW. ZIG. MAD clue.

Pretty eazy-E solvequest, but SYSOP/MOLDAU/MAGNUM was sorta close to a {PROBLEM} in the SW.

fave oh-so-close to Christmas: SLAYER. SLEIGHER sound-alike. Honrable mention: WWERAW. Desperate WREATH sound-alike. Well, ok … incredibly desperate.

Thanx, SG & JC.

Masked & Anonym007Us


dick swart 1:58 PM  

I liked 'Grand PooBah'!

Also 'Moldau'. Bohemia has a greatly conflicted past but Czesky Krumlof is well-worth a visit as a living historical remnant and home to one of the oldest opera theaters in Europe.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 2:31 PM  

Czesky Krumlov is surrounded by a moat that has bears living around it.

Moly Shu 2:47 PM  

@MartinAbresch, re: "Should we be expecting appearances from Metallica and Megadeth later this week?". Yes, a million times, yes. Please let this happen. One can DREAM.

OISK 2:58 PM  

Argentic for silver.

Wm. C. 3:01 PM  

Several inappropriate pieces of fill for a Wednesday. Usually I don't need to Google 'til Friday, but did so 3x today -- Mariel, WWERaw, Moldau -- WoE on all these!

Only got Theseus from the crosses. And the Sumo Part of SumoRing was slow coming, together with Stats.


Leapfinger 3:36 PM  

Next time I'm at the store, I'll have to czech out Axe body spray. MOLDy, is it?

Apparently some solvers didn't like 'Walks and balks'? [I love rhyme clues!] Perhaps a switcheroo would suit better: Chinese cookery with Derek and Sissela = WOKS and BOKS

Knew REO Speedwagon, but no idee the E stood for ELI. Don't know what use REO for ELI or WWE for Entertainment will be, but ONE never knows. No biggie.

Also confused by SYSOPS, thought that was the mythological giant with the ONE BIG I.

@Nancy will have to be careful: between @r.alph and @MohairS, she could end up in an infinite loop between Earth and Mars.

Hey @kitshef, isn't fungarium another baseball term?

@George, usually, I'm all for Prague-ress, but... groan...

ThanKEW very much, ain't gonna be WAGING war NO MORE (Leadbelly)

[Back to work]

G.Harris 4:40 PM  

Maybe this blog isn't for me. Rex and others seem to focus on structural issues which may be of interest to the many constructors who appear to populate this site but have no appeal to me as a mere solver. Found today's puzzle challenging but doable, especially once I got the theme and then drew on buried memory or well made guesses to ferret out those answers I did not know.

Pdxrains 5:15 PM  

SYSOP? Whhhhatt??? I go on a lot of forums and there are admins and mods (moderators). Never heard of a sysop in my freaking life.

Nancy 5:48 PM  

@Hartley 70 (11:37) -- The alcohol burns off? What a bummer!

@Malsdemare (11:05) -- I'm a Senior too -- just like all your friends --and you needn't leave the booze out of the recipe for me. In fact, I'll be really upset if you do.

To both of you: What exactly is this boozy fondue recipe, anyway, and who is going to share it with me? (I mean the recipe, but if you would share the actual fondue with me, that would be even better.) In any event, I don't plan to cook it myself, mind you, but maybe I can find someone who will. There's only one thing in the world better than Swiss fondue and that's a really boozy Swiss fondue! There was a Swiss restaurant in the theater district back in the day called the Chalet Suisse and its secret was to add, in addition to the white wine, a generous amount of Kirschwasser liqueur. Is that your secret, @Hartley? Am I invited for dinner?

Dorothy Biggs 6:04 PM  

@G. Harris...there are plenty of his here who are NOT constructors, but talk about how we solved the puzzle and, some of us more than others, why we liked the puzzle or [more usually] not.

So jump on in! All are welcome if they behave, while others are tolerated. The beauty is, you can just skip over the posts of posters you don't like or if their posts don't interest you.

Mine are always very interesting.

Noam D. Elkies 6:37 PM  

@Teedmn: surely not "aggic"; Au < aurum corresponds to Ag < argentum (both Latin, with the latter giving rise to "Argentina" because of a legendary silver mountain). So one would expect "argentic", but that's rare and more common is simply "argent" -- granted that even that one's not all that common but at least "argent" beats "auric" on Google Ngrams. (Strangely "argentic" spiked in 1880 and briefly came close to overtaking "argent".)


old timer 7:09 PM  

AURIC I guessed but it is really too tough for a Weds. @NCA, the main reason I love this blog is that I get to mingle with folks who can actually construct these puzzles. My persona on this blog is I hope that of the ordinary solver who has been doing it long enough to somehow manage to complete many Friday and Saturday puzzles. That's why though I solved the puzzle today, I really thought it was too hard for a Wednesday.

SYSOP was very common in my day. Means system operator of course, and certainly a common term in the early days of the Web.

And yeah though it has been a long time since I've had any, count me among those who acquired a fondue pot as a wedding present (or maybe a pre-wedding present), and back when I could eat a ton of French bread without becoming diabetic, I loved it. The wine (and kirsch) lost most of its alcohol in the cooking process. But you know, the bottles of fine white wine you offered yourself and your guests more than replaced it! We did order fondue when we visited Thun, which is not far from Valais, the canton where fondue comes from. But we got the strong impression that the time to order it was not in summer, which is when we visited, but in winter when the passed were covered with snow.

Teedmn 7:45 PM  

Thanks, @Oisk and @NDE. I guess I should have put a :-) next to my facetious aggic (based on the atomic symbol). But argentic never came to mind, a good word to know!

Hartley70 9:46 PM  

Yes, @Nancy, and yes, @Nancy. Aren't those the loveliest words in the language? I got Rog to tell me his process as he paced back and forth. He's our fondue wizard and I leave him alone when he's stirring his cauldron. I'm happy to share it with you.

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spacecraft 11:04 AM  

@Leapy: I see what you did there ("creedence" to Tina, etc.). But despite your shortened handle, you are NOT the 8th elf: JOKEY is! The little guy just wanders around spouting one-liners all day, which caused the other seven to banish him to the hinterlands. Seriously, though, JOKEY? NAH.

I didn't get all caught up in counting THE's, or in dissecting the theme answers for unsuitability. To me the "defects" were a non-issue. Then again, I'm not a perfectionist like our own GRANDPOOBAH.

I thank the late great Dave Zincoff for making 5-across a gimme:

"Forward, University of Massachusetts, #6 captain Julius ERRRRRving!"

Zincy, there'll never be another like you. RIP.

From the get-go, I wondered about BATS/BATHOIL--and later, -POOBAH/BAHAI, but decided I did not want to start picking nits. We have one of those already. I liked the ORTIZ lagniappe. Weird that I don't recognize IAN Desmond--but with AURIC and SPECTRE already in the grid, why not extend the mini-theme? Too elementary for a Wednesday?

I liked this one. DOD ASHANTI gets us going (see what I did there?), and 51-across, for some reason, evokes a picture of Ralph Kramden in his Raccoon hat. Gotta love it. Beautiful fill; another stroke of Chenius. Birdie.

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

Southeast doable, rest not so much. Laden with pissers and a terrible theme. We did manage to hear from all three individuals in the known universe who know what Smetana/Moldau are.


leftcoastTAM 1:40 PM  

Easy+Challenging=Medium. Okay, good one. No, it's more than just good.

THINKBIG revealer worked just fine for me, though I definitely lack Rex's discerning eye for this kind of thing.

Found the upper middle and SE to be the tougher parts. Of course it was DRJ, though I conflated his name with Doc Rivers for a while, so JOKEY came a bit slowly. In the SE, slowdowns were WWERAW and ELI.

AURIC and SLAYER took a little extra time in the NE, but TRINITY clue evoked a quick chuckle. SYSOP in the SW was a new one on me, but Smetana's MOLDAU is one of my favorite short pieces of music.

Overall, liked this one a lot.

Burma Shave 2:01 PM  


and DEATHLY ENRAGEs him for days
WHEN I make NOTE of the STATS
of each ONE of MALAISE.


Diana,LIW 3:00 PM  

I'd agree that some of the uncommon answers (lookin' at you AURIC) and sports trivia made this "tough for a Wed."

However, doable with persistence. The revealer helped a lot. Didn't pick OFL's nits, either.

On a roll, and heading for Thursday.

Diana, a Lady

rain forest 3:09 PM  

I really enjoyed *the* puzzle, while not noticing a "problem" with the the's.
Whoever said that one should imagine "the big" as part of the clue for the capitalized words. It even works for MAC, as in, "When I go to MacDonald's I opt for the MacChicken and eschew the big MAC."

Anyway, nice theme, perfect revealer, and many excellent non-theme words. Good work for a debut effort aided and abetted by a Master.

ELI, eh?

Burma Shave 3:30 PM  


and DEATHLY ENRAGEs him for days
WHEN I make NOTE of the STATS
of each ONE of MALAISE.


Burma Shave 6:33 PM  

Tried posting twice at lunchtime from the Hilton.
Must not have gotten through their firewall.
Had to make other arrangements. Thursday and Friday may be tough.


and DEATHLY ENRAGEs him for days
WHEN I make NOTE of the STATS
of each ONE of MALAISE.


leftcoastTAM 7:29 PM  

@BS: Perfect.

rondo 8:16 PM  

Between the sports and the gimme yeah baby MARIEL, I found this rather easy. No prob here with the the thing. MARIEL's sister Margaux also yeah baby APROPOS.

David ORTIZ was traded by the MN Twins because he didn't hit to the opposite field. Manager Tom Kelly was an idiot for even suggesting that Mr. ORTIZ should do so. Ever see ho he BATS?

I wish MAGNUM P.I. would stop pushing reverse mortgages.

I liked this puz just fine. Nothing ELSE.

Tarheeled 4:28 AM  

The Moldau has been one of my favorite pieces since I was a little boy. I'm 82 now and still love to hear itt. Super-easy puzzle for me.
Notice that I'm a little behind in my puzzle solving. I tend to stockpile them.

Tarheeled 4:30 AM  

The Moldau has been one of my favorite pieces since I was a little boy. I'm 82 now and still love to hear itt. Super-easy puzzle for me.
Notice that I'm a little behind in my puzzle solving. I tend to stockpile them. Today is 5/23/17!!

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