Idaho motto word / THU 3-2-17 / Winger of "Shadowlands" / Muslim minority / Ice hockey's Robitaille / Deck with a Justice card / Issa of comedy / Ancient Iranian

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Constructor: Peter Gordon

Relative difficulty: Relatively easy, with something extra in the clues


Word of the Day: MEDE (60A: Ancient Iranian) —
The Medes[N 1] (/mdz/Old Persian Māda-Ancient GreekΜῆδοιHebrewמָדַי‎) were an ancient Iranian people[N 2] who lived in an area known as Media (northwestern Iran) and who spoke the Median language. They mainly inhabited the mountainous area of northwestern Iran and the northeastern and eastern region of Mesopotamia and located in the Kermanshah-Hamadan (Ecbatana) region[5] Their emergence in Iran is thought to have occurred between 1000 BC to around 900 BC.
This period of migration coincided with a power vacuum in the Near East with the Middle Assyrian Empire (1365–1020 BC), which had dominated northwestern Iran and eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus, going into a comparative decline. This allowed new peoples to pass through and settle. In addition Elam, the dominant power in Iran, was suffering a period of severe weakness, as was Babylonia to the west. (Wikipedia)
• • •

Laura here, guest-posting for Rex, who is under the weather. (Perhaps he needs a 17A: Muscle maneuverer [OSTEOPATH] to give him a 42A: Checkup imperative [SAY AH].) For the record, I'm not generally a fan of Q&A themes, given that you often have to get the question from the crosses, since the clues are usually something unhelpful like "First part of question..." and "Second part of question..." However, there's something more interesting going here, in that the clues for the themers (and... wait for it...) are, like the answer to the question in the grid, also double dactyls. A dactyl is a metrical foot of three syllables, with the stress on the first syllable. A double dactyl is two of those feet next to each other in a line of poetry: EM-il-y DICK-in-son. Now look at the clues: 20A: START of a QUEST-ion is; 25A: MORE of the QUEST-ion is; 43A: END of the QUEST-ion is. Now, look at ALL the clues: 1A: PLACE known for PAMP-er-ing, 2A: I-da-ho MOT-to word ... get it? Cool, huh? It's like you're waltzing your way through the clues. (And because you also needed to know: The dactyl is the opposite of the anapest, which is a three-syllable foot with the stress on the final syllable. Dr. Seuss wrote in anapestic tetrameter: "But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches/ Would brag, "We're the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.") This might have been even more fun if Dickinson herself had written many poems in dactyls; generally she wrote in common or ballad meter, which is alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter. That's why you can sing many of her poems to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" (or the Gilligan's Island theme song). (Full disclosure: I used to teach Introduction to Poetry.)

There is a specific verse form also called the double dactyl, a kind of doggerel in the same general wheelhouse as the limerick. John Hollander (his last name is a dactyl!) wrote a famous one:

Higgledy piggledy,
Benjamin Harrison,
Twenty-third president
Was, and, as such,

Served between Clevelands and
Save for this trivial
Didn't do much.

... which is how I felt about the fill itself -- higgledy piggledy, idiosyncrasies, like 62A: Argentine footballer (MESSI) or 31D: Thomas the clockmaker (SETH), that I hadn't heard of, and some that I had, like 64A: Wife in "The Godfather" (KAY) and 48A: Issa of comedy (RAE). I'm glad that we're starting to see the brilliant and hilarious Issa RAE more often than the crosswordese staple Charlotte RAE (clued as a double dactyl: "'Facts of Life' governess").

Signed, Laura Braunstein, Sorceress of CrossWorld

[Follow Laura on Twitter]

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Mike in Mountain View 12:16 AM  

Thanks, Laura. Totally missed that all the clues are double dactyls. That explains why this was considered Thursday-worthy.

Pete 12:43 AM  

I've spent the past hour or so trying to think of a conceit for a puzzle less interesting than double dactyls. I failed. Actually, technically I didn't because I fell asleep in the middle.

thursdaysd 1:05 AM  

Not knowing what a dactyl was I was lucky to finish this. It left me cold while solving (which took very little time for a Thursday). I am even colder now I've read the explanation. No doubt the constructor was patting himself on the back, but the point of a crossword is to entertain the solver. I was not entertained.

puzzle hoarder 1:34 AM  

By the time I figured out the theme I'd nearly finished the puzzle just using the fill. MESSI was the only thing I absolutely have not seen before and unsurprisingly it's a debut. Even with the handicap of using a tablet this only took just under 21 minutes. On paper this would have been in the teens so yes I would call this easy. I enjoyed brushing up on the poetic meaning of DACTYL. I'm much more familiar with it's taxonomic use. While the poetic DACTYL as an entry was more common in the pre-Shortz era the two clues that have been used for it under Mr. Shortz are much livelier. Surprisingly they were both on Wednesdays.
Today's review was a nice break from our host.

chefwen 1:36 AM  

We had a kitty "Paddy the Wonder Cat" who was polydactyl, that's the only thing I know about dactyls. Never cared for poetry, don't read any poetry, skip over it when cited in the blog. Sorry @Owen.

Finished this without any problems, but had to look up DOUBLE DACTYL afterwards to find out what I was looking at. Even after that and reading the write up, I was still confused. I'm sure that is my problem, not the puzzle. Oh well, I will continue to bypass poetry, not my forte.

jae 1:37 AM  

Too easy for a Thurs. even with the double dactyl conceit, which I did not grok (is this the dreaded @lms DNF?). That said I did write a "higgelty piggelty" double dactyl verse back in the mid '60s while serving our country aboard a US Navy guided missile cruiser. I wrote it shortly after I read an article about the double dactyl verse form in Time magazine (at least I think it was Time, it may have been Newsweek). Our Commanding Officer was Capt. Sappington (see the double dactyl potential?). The verse rules required one line of verse to be a single double dactyl word.

Here goes:

Higgelty Piggelty
Last minute Sappington
Ordered impossible
Things to be done.

All of his men felt that
He should be placed in a
Vat full of dung.

OK, it's not perfect but you need to know I was just a kid and that the reason I was aboard Navy cruiser was that I'd been kicked out of college for not living up to my potential.

Kinda liked the puzzle for the nostalgia factor, but it was still to easy.

Moly Shu 1:52 AM  

What a mess. One thing I dislike more than opera is poetry. Give me rap and sports. Same reaction as @chefwen, looked up DOUBLEDACTYL, and still have no clue. Luckily I knew how to spell DACTYL, or the "troubador offering" would've caused me a DNF. LAY? What's a LAY? At least BOLT and MESSI were gimmies. Guess I'm just not very cultured.
My casco was utilE before OFUSE. Decidedly in the "did not like" camp.

Anonymous 1:54 AM  

Sincere thanks to Laura for the explanation/refresher!

But I must agree with some of the others--I didn't pick up on the DD cluing, and even after solving, I couldn't care less that Emily D's name is one. In fact, I think the forced-DD cluing is what made this too easy for a Thu.

I'm surprised MESSI was a debut, but I'd argue against any complaints by saying that he is (or was a few years ago) the most famous footballer on the planet, up there with Pele and Beckham in terms of name-recognition.

Dolgo 1:59 AM  
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Moly Shu 2:02 AM  

Darn it, troubadour. See, not cultured (a nice way of saying I'm stupid)

Paul Rippey 2:07 AM  

Wow. I liked this puzzle as I was solving it in about half my usual Thursday time, and I loved the write up. Thank you! I totally missed the DDs in the cluing which were delightful.

Singing the Emily Dickinson poem to the tune of Yellow Rose of Texas is a wonderful sacrilege. My brother would sing Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening to the tune of Hernando's Hideaway. Half of me would be crying out Stop! That's not okay! while the other half was laughing out loud.

Moly Shu 2:11 AM  
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Dolgo 2:13 AM  

Yep, of course. You will notice I thought better and deleted my comment. Hugs!

Larry Gilstrap 2:26 AM  

Feeling distracted and solving on a laptop, come on Amazon with the Black 61, hunted and pecked my way to 21:09 which seems fast to me, not that I have any frame of reference. Missing my pencil and paper solving experience. How does OFL make notes about the solve while he's typing like a madman?

Now to the puzzle, as I remember. Something about EMILY DICKINSON and DACTYLS, but I can't find a copy of the completed grid to save my life. Name an American poet that is greater than the Belle of Amherst. Take your time. Sure she is almost primitive and the rhyme and rhythm work only in her terse verse, I can't imagine an epic work in that format. Well, actually Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner fits the Gilligan's Island theme pattern, as well. Anybody who reads this blog digs the English language and poetry is language at the highest level. Gawd, I'm almost ranting.

I hear from Twitter that OFL must have eaten a bad bean, and that is a miserable experience that we all have shared. Might I suggest the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, and tea.

W. B. Yeats 2:28 AM  

We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.

Dolgo 2:30 AM  

If you want to remember your poetic meters (I.e., if you're a weirdo like me), Coleridge wrote a short poem using each of them. I read it as a boy. I don't know it by heart, but I remember snatches. Like "TFOchees TRIP from LONG to SHORT," "With a LEAP and a BOUND the swift ANapests THRONG," and "DACtyl tri SYLlable.
PS Loved the puzzle but, then, I'm a lover of poetry. Too bad it's almost completely disappeared from the world. I blame that partly on forced memorizations of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" which, if you really get into it, is a pretty darn good poem. Much of "high" culture, I fear, has been staled by overuse!

Gerrythek 2:30 AM  

Used Sherlock Holmes logic: when you have eliminated all else, whatever remains, no matter how unlikely, must be the truth. And that's how I got TBILISI. Hope Rex is feeling better.

Jeremy Mercer 3:08 AM  

Fantastic, insightful write-up. Thanks Laura!

manitou 4:04 AM  

under the weather? or maybe just shrewd to enlist the services of a poetry maven? thanks for the write-up! easy puzzle but i didn't see that the theme applied to the clues as well as the revealer. after reading the review, i sang my way down the list of clues. well done peter gordon! feel better rex.

Loren Muse Smith 4:12 AM  
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Loren Muse Smith 4:14 AM  

Laura – thanks so much for stepping in.

A Peter Gordon puzzle – treat! Just the appearance of the clues was kind of an alert, but I forgot that as I started solving.

That LAY/DACTYL cross was killer for me as like @Moly Shu, I didn’t know that meaning of LAY. But only the Y made sense and then I finally got it. How cool. @Dolgo - poetry doesn’t really do it for me, but the exercise of looking at its meter is something I can get my mind around.

Jacqueline Bouvier lost a dactyl with her first marriage, but she assumed second one. Whew. She ended up marrying an amphibrach, though. (Amphibrach is a dactyl; dactyl is a trochee – someone should look into this.) And, yeah – I had to research to find amphibrach.)

Is there a word for a four-syllable word with the stress on the 1st and 3rd syllables? No? I suggest pterodactyl.

I laughed at the clue for SKUNK on a Thursday, but knowing Peter had to clue it with a double dactyl – that explains it. “Clobber the other team” or some such woulda been too vague. And this thought adds to my appreciation of this cluing, er, feet.

When I learned last year that you could sing most of Dickinson’s poems to the tune of Gilligan’s Island, her oeuvre became much less intimidating to me. Kind of the poetry-study equivalent of imagining your audience all sitting there in their underwear.

@Bill Feeney from late last night – your suggestion made me laugh.

Peter – terrific job. I disagree with @thursdaysd - this is a quip/riddle/quote puzzle that delighted me.

teevoz 4:15 AM  

I loved it. Peter Gordon is terrific - check out his Fireball puzzles including the news series. This one was easy for me but fun.

Marty Van B 4:24 AM  

Wow, this ranks among the worst offerings in a puzzle that I've seen in a long while. Multi part themes are universally almost always terrible. Check mark here. The pay out is almost never worth it. Check mark here. This offering goes well beyond that with some bullshit metered syllabic reward. Awful. Peter Gordon, never ever ever do anything remotely like this again.

BarbieBarbie 4:52 AM  

See, THIS is why I'm so happy to have found this blog. I would just have thought, hmmm, easy puzzle, if not for Laura. I love learning something first thing in the morning! Thanks for the extra dose of puzzle insight. Now, I love this one. Of course, there's a penalty: I will now spend the rest of the day with a G&S earworm:
If you want a receipt for that
Popular mystery
Known to the world as a
Heavy dragoon.... (Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!)
Take all the remarkable
People in history,
Rattle them off to a
Popular tune...

Or something like that. You're welcome, everyone.

Roberta 5:21 AM  

Wow. Love learning something at 5 am. Thanks for this. PS Messi is super famous in the soccer world ie everything outside of USA 😉

Anonymous 5:50 AM  
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Lewis 6:47 AM  

As a wordplay lover, the theme enchanted me, and double-dactyling the clues was the perfect touch. I like how the appropriate title MISS crosses EMILY. There is a single single-dactyl answer in the grid, best as I can tell (CAKIER). There's a lovely mess of ESSES in the SW. I loved the clue for TAXI, and the theme reminded me of "jiggery pokery", which the late Antonin Scalia reawakened. My only nit is that while delightful in their meter, the clues weren't Thursday tough. But the puzzle so won me over that I don't care. This puzzle will put a bounce in my step all day today. Excellent excellent!

pauer 6:50 AM  

Pretty cool. Peter's also got a news-based crossword Kickstarter campaign with only a few days left:

Wm Martin 6:52 AM  

This puzzle seems to engender polarized and intense feelings. I loved the write-up.

Unknown 7:06 AM  

omg. thanks for explaining. now i'm very impressed with the puzzle's construction.

Mr. Fitch 7:12 AM  

I found this extremely easy, as many others did. I finished the puzzle, looked at the answer to the question, and thought, "that's it?" Emily Dickinson's name is a double dactyl?

Then I came here and the full story emerged: that every single clue is a double dactyl.

This should be an impressive feat, and in some ways I think it kind of is. In some cases, though, the double-dactyl constraint isn't that tight. I mean, SoHo metropolis could just as easily be NoHo metropolis or Chelsea metropolis or a bunch of other things.

In the end this falls for me more in the category of "huh, that's interesting" than "wow, that's amazing." It's more impressive than I initially thought after solving, but the overall experience wasn't too difficult, fun or rewarding.

evil doug 7:14 AM  

I dozed off about halfway through Laura's essay. Used to happen in my English Lit class, too. Anybody got the Cliff's Notes?

Cruised through the puzzle without breathing hard, and with zero idea of the gouge. If nobody notices the trick, does it carry any value? If you have to explain a joke, it's not funny....

I was sure TOTS would have to be in the Idaho motto.

SAY no.

kitshef 7:30 AM  

I also normally dislike question and answer (QANDA) themes ... and this was no exception. The extra dactyling in the clues adds absolutely nothing for me.

The fill is quite nice: USAIN BOLT, ARGYLE SOCK, OSTEOPATH are pretty great.

Was expecting 'lains' for 16A after yesterday.

Hand up for LAY being previously unknown, and for me, KAY and RAE also. An appropriate rhyming triplet of WoEs.

Glimmerglass 7:48 AM  

An easy puzzle with an arcane theme. I got off to a bad start by writing ATrACtED instead of ATTACHED, which gave wrong letters in the first two theme aswers. Once I fixed that, the rest went in like butter. I'm guessing the the editors dumbed down some of the clues because the theme was probably known only by old English reachers (like me). By the way, @Laura, unless you pronounce "question" as three syllables (QUES-tee-un) the clues are not double dactyls, but the more common pattern dactly-trochee. But you are correct about Dicinson's verse form. One can sing most of her poems to the tune of Amazing Grace (which is usually rather pleasing).

Leapfinger 7:56 AM  

Reminded me of Irish Spring: MESSI, yes, but I liked it. Thought we had a rebus with 3D AT[Tr]ACtED TO, sigh.

-or- An Exercise for Two Fingers
Born on a Saturday
Wished for a petting zoo
Knitted an ARGYLE SOCK
Never could settle which
OSTEO PATH to take.
Hope was that feathered thing
Bought in the marketplace
Hot off the shopping cart,
Tuppence a bagatelle.
Such was the passion of

Well, you can call me KAY, or you can call me RAE, but you sure can't call me a J. Hollander. (btw: Thanks @LauraB, for including that Benjamin Harrison gem.) At least @jae got past the not living up to his potential, eh?

@chefwen, isn't the Hemingway house in Key West supposedly overrun with polydactylous cats?


Ellen S 8:01 AM  

@Glimmerglass, the themer clues come out double dactyls because of the "is" --
START of a/
QUESTion is


I thought the puzzle was okay when I was solving it (I don't time it because I typically start at night, fall asleep, finish in the morning), but then upgraded it to delightful after reading @Laura's writeup. Usually I don't give extra points for a construction gymnastics, agreeing with @thursdaysd that the point is to entertain the solver not prove how clever the constructor is. But this cleverness entertained (and educated) me, so bravo Peter and thanks, Laura.

Knitwit 8:02 AM  

Liked the puzzle, loved the write up. Thanks for adding to my enjoyment on a Thursday!

r.alphbunker 8:03 AM  

When I opened the blog I saw "Relative difficulty: Relatively easy, with something extra in the clues" and I immediately understood that all the clues were also double dactyl. It was a nice aha. I should have known that Peter Gordon had more up his sleeve than just a Q & A.

Details are here.

Sir Hillary 8:03 AM  

I didn't notice the clues until I came here. Clever little trick by Mr. Gordon, but seems more to the constructor's benefit than the solvers'. I'm with @evil doug: if the "joke" needs explaining, well...

Side note: I would come here every day just to see @lms's avatars. Love today's!

The only higgledy piggledy I can ever remember is:

Higgledy piggledy,
Marcus Antonius,
What to you think of the
African queen?

duties require my
presence in Egypt -- ya
know what I mean?"

Tita 8:09 AM  

Usually, when I think "meh", or downright hate a puzzle, I come here and get my mind changed.
Today is an odd one, though.

Of course, I didn't know what a dactyl was, other than a finger or something I learned in the 5th grade along with iambic pentameter.

Of course, I didn't know that ALL the clues were DDs.

Came here and learned about the clues. Thanks @Laura!
Then read @Pete, and thought he summed it up perfectly.
Anyhow, I have so far agreed with every single solitary poster.

@lms - might be your best overall post ever. Entertaining at every turn.
@jae - thanks. In my 52 seconds of post-googling on DDs, none of the examples were helpful. Yours is by far the best.

59A is a bit odd...seems like ESSES are a *requirement* for cornering, not just a challenge.

SO - boring for a Thursday, but oy what great banter here!

chefbea 8:10 AM  

Didn't know what dactyl don't care that all the clues are dactyls. Found the puzzle on the easy side for a Thursday. No time to read all the comments...have to get ready to go to our NARFE meeting.

Punctuated equilibrium 8:15 AM  

I found this puzzle to be tedious and the reveal to be ho-hum. A few bright spots were MESSI (as the mom of a soccer playing kid, I've forked down way too much money on MESSI jerseys, but my son was delighted to hear the clue and fill), OSTEOPATH and USAIN BOLT. Still don't get LAY, or for that matter, ARGYLE SOCK until I looked up lozenge post-fill. Kept wondering what a throat lozenge had to do with a sock!

mathgent 8:18 AM  

As @evil doug just said. If you have to explain a joke, it's not funny.

Jeff Chen said that it would have been better if the puzzle had hinted that every clue was a double dactyl. I agree. It was a letdown to have missed that.

I enjoyed reading about meter. One of the articles I read gave examples of the different meters in classic poems.

As a lyricist, Nancy is probably an expert in writing and recognizing different meters. I was just humming some of my favorite songs and trying to identify the meter. One of my favorite Sinatra songs, The Summer Wind, seems to be written in four-syllable feet. Short-long-long-long, etc. With maybe a cheat in the third foot.

The puzzle was pretty easy but a good learning experience.

Hungry Mother 8:18 AM  

Very easy Thursday. I kept waiting for some surprise trick, but none came.

Kathy 8:26 AM  

@Ellen S (et al) - I agree that Laura's excellent write up was a bonus, but I do not feel that it redeemed the puzzle. What percentage of solvers read this, or any other crossword blog? What percentage of solvers are still going "huh"? If your display of compilation virtuosity is so esoteric that a large swathe of the solvers have to have it explained, the crossword has failed.

Punctuated equilibrium 8:42 AM  

Books featuring literary figures as vampires and zombies were trendy a few years ago. Now I'm picturing Emily Dickinson as a pterodactyl. Or perhaps pterodactyl hunter.

Anonymous 8:43 AM  

Love your poetry, JAE!

Loved the puzzle. Nice write-up Laura.

Z 8:46 AM  

Quote puzzles are the worst. So overcoming that takes A LOT. I don't know about you, but I read clues silently, so the sound part of Sound and Sense was totally lost on me. Does realizing after coming here that if I had said all the clues aloud while solving I would have heard that they were metrically alike overcome the quotiness of the theme? No.

QuasiMojo 8:57 AM  

I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle (and indeed it was an enigma wrapped up in a riddle wrapped up in a dactylograph!)

Thank you Laura for your cogent and articulate explanation.

Sherm Reinhardt 9:07 AM  

I thought it was a toughie, but then looked up at my time and it was a record Thursday.

If I'm going to pick a nit, it's going to be SPA as the 1A clue. That's no fun. Don't you want an unusual word for the start of a puzzle?

I'm a poetry guy, so once I had POET in the first clue and CTYL in the second, I figured we were dealing with a DACTYL. But if you do have POET and you get EMILY, DICKINSON is pretty automatic, right, even without knowing what a dactyl is?

Anyway, it's true that the theme isn't going to intersect with everyone's knowledge set. But that's what the NYT is for, wordies who want to be intellectually stimulated.

CDilly52 9:08 AM  

What a fun day for me. As a student of Renaissance music, I successfully thwarted the LAY/DACTYL problem and as a self proclaimed language and poetry nerd the conceit was fun. But to top it off, Laura's review was just stellar. As was @jae's delightful "Higgledy-Piggledy." Thanks everyone!

Stanley Hudson 9:16 AM  

Enjoyed the puzzle but really liked Laura's illuminating write up. Thanks.

Anonymous 9:18 AM  


That was the best write up this blog has ever had. By a good margin too.

Thank you.

Fountains of Golden Fluids 9:19 AM  

Does anyone remember laughter?

Hartley70 9:34 AM  

I'm really impressed with this one. The theme is totally unexpected and delightful to me, so much so that I don't mind having the clueing portion explained. I was aware something unusual was going on and thank you to Laura for her assistance. I'd like to pretend that if I wasn't solving at 4am I would have grasped the meter of the cluing all by myself, but that's a pipe dream. I'm too used to a different sort of trick on a Thursday and the elegance of today's puzzle passed me by. That's my fault, not the constructor's. I just think this is a work of "puzzle art".

As I was solving I kept thinking this is strangely easy and tough simultaneously. It was a vocabulary test of LOZENGE, DACTYL, VOLTA, MESSI, RAE, LAY, OSTEOPATH (since I think of them as interchangeable with MDs). Other clues seemed way too simple like those for ASK, SHOWN, ATEASE, ISEE, and ACTS. Of course I wasn't reading the clues out loud.

I'm very glad @WBYeats took the time out of his busy schedule to chime in, so succinctly put. It's of a voice with Frost's epitaph.

RooMonster 9:46 AM  

Hey All !
Put me in the not-knowing DACTYLs, DOUBLE or otherwise bunch. Also in the crew who had no idea that all the clues DOUBLE DACTYLed. Tres cool. Really raises the level of the construction feat. But agree it should've been pointing out somehow. Puzzlers are smart, sure, but I'd bet 85% at least missed that.

I actually wrote quite a few poems in my younger days. Maybe someone will find them when I'm no longer on this Earth, and then I'll become famous!

N center was brutal. DNF there. ESTO, SHIA & TITO as clued, and ESPANA were all WOEs. Did figure out eventually, but just threw some letters in there to hit Check Puz feature to see what was wrong. Ugh.

LGBT missing the Q today. HAITI again. (@LMS) USAIN BOLT can be parsed as USA IN BOLT, make up your own clue for that one. ARGYLE SOCK. Fun! In High School me and some friends used to wear them along with our Chuck Taylors. Too bad Nerd Chic wasn't vogue then. We were just weird. :-)

ANTSY ACTS (correct?)

GILL I. 10:08 AM  

This puzzle made me feel like TBILISI. It pretty much came out of nowhere.
I think of flying reptiles when I see a DACTYL. I know I must have slept during my advance poetry reading class higgledy piggledy. I hate poetry unless it's a a limerick that starts with THERE.
I'm so glad EMILY has two toes and I would have just loved SHIA to have been Labeouf. ESTO not clued as ESPANA this and UNA that.
LUC LAY KAY...Huh? I don't think I've ever had any doctor ask me to SAY AH.
I wish I could've enjoyed today's little gimmick but I didn't.
@Aketi from last night.... Did your bush pilot eat Pili Pili and drink Pal Wine before flying?
Oh...Thanks for filling in, Laura and the poetry lesson and @jae.
I'll remember everything.

gruffed 10:13 AM  

Higgledy piggledy
Our fearless leader was
Not feeling well enough
To write his blog

Laura, guest-posting Rex
Made life much less complex
Lifting the fog

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

W-R-E-T-C-H! Obscure poetry crap. Love literature. Hate poetry. I know. Very UN-PC. My take on poetry is if you have something to say, say it. Don't hide it in some arcane slog of words.

And then there's:

"Medical sorcerer" should have been DR.OZ

And leave me OUT on all things and references to LGBT I'm feed up with the relentless brow beating by the PC police and NYTimes

John V 10:31 AM  

Admirable construction feat but a quote puzzle is still a quote puzzle; not my cuppa. DACTYL/CAKIER cross gave me DNF. Otherwise, agree that the fill was pretty easy stuff.

Mr. Benson 10:39 AM  

After reading this write-up, I'm noticing double dactyls in everything I see and read. Even in little things (hey, I just did one). "Jefferson Beauregard" is in the news today....

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

Puzzles that are snoozefests: when you have to turn to Rex for an explanation of the theme after you have solved the puzzle it in half your normal time regardless. I want more from a Thursday. I look forward to the fun.

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

Hey, Fountains of Golden Fluids:

Were you at those Russian parties with Trumpf and his prostitutes?

OISK 11:01 AM  

And a heavy dragoon is the residual ---the end of @Barbiebarbie's dactylic ear worm. Unlike Molyshu, with whom I share a love of sports, I love poetry and opera, and dislike rap. So of course, I know what a dactyl is, and am disappointed that I failed to notice it in all of the clues!! Glad I came here and discovered what I missed. Great puzzle! Historical clues like Medes, and geographical clues like Tiblisi, and Oahu are right up my elderly alley.

Thought I'd replace Barbie's dactylic ear worm with a G and S anapestic... On a tree by a river a little Tom-tit... Isaac Asimov entertained the G and S society once by singing "Tit Willow" to the tune of "Tennessee Waltz."

One of my friends, responding to some of my attempts at humorous verse, told me "You are a gentleman anapest. "

Masked and Anonymous 11:03 AM  

Oh man … M&A learns so much, here.

Pre-blog-read ThursPuz takeaways:
* Emily Dickinson was a twin-engine pterodactyl?
* Long, easier than snot clues, for a ThursPuz.
* fave weeject: LAY [Them was evidently horny scalawags, them troubadours ... or "badours", after they dropped trou.]

Then Laura educated m&e. Thanx, darlin.

And thanx U, Mr. Gordon. Are U a troubadour?

MASKED and a NON y m8Us (yo! … Well, day-um … enjoy my day!)


abalani500 11:04 AM  

I managed to finish in record Thursday time not ever knowing what a dactyl is (double or otherwise) - hence not much of a challenge. And now that I know I'm wondering whether to roll my eyes at the conceit or simply not care at all. I choose the latter.

Anonymous 11:05 AM  

I enjoy poetry and meter but found this puzzle a big yawn. It is like the composer is sitting there making up what he thinks are clever clues and laughing by himself in a room full of people who get the joke but just don't think it very funny. The write-up explained the conceit well but did not add much analysis of the puzzle. As I had already read about the conceit in the nyt blog, I could have skipped reading L's review. On to Friday!

Nancy 11:05 AM  

Oh, no, no, no. Not on a Thursday. Not clues like "payment for tenancy" for RENT and "bad-smelling animal" for SKUNK. Monday easy and a huge disappointment. But, I do have some skin in this double-dactyl game. I was at the publishing house where the DOUBLE-DACTYL compendium by John Hollander and Anthony Hecht that Rex refers to was published. I saw the manuscript early and thought: I can write something as good as these. I wrote one, I took it to the book's editor, he took it to Hollander and Hecht, and it was published in the book. Here is my DOUBLE DACTYL:

Higgledy, piggledy,
Nic'laus Copernicus
Looked at the Universe,
Spoke to the throng:
Give up your Ptolemy,
Rise up and follow me,
Ptolemy's wrong.

Jane Thorne 11:09 AM  

The names of the poetic feet themselves exemplify the rhythms: iamb, trochee, anapest, dactyl, spondee , , , ,

Sir Hillary 11:11 AM  

Forgot to mention...I enjoyed Laura's tutorial. Knew some of it, but she explained more. It just so happens that my two favorite stories/poems about Christmas -- Clement Moore's A Visit from St. Nick ("'Twas the night before...") and Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas -- are both in anapestic tetrameter.

old timer 11:11 AM  

(The) ever reliable Laura librarian
Came in to rescue this blog from the dump
(Her) knowledge is awesome, the comments amazing, she
Saved us from drowning in old Rex's sump.

(Hey, how many words rhyme with dump?)

Seriously this is the best writeup I've seen in ages. Thanks, Laura.

I did not get the trick until I had EMILY DICKINSON and realized DOUBLE DACTYL fit. Before that I had _AKIER and did not have ARGYLESOCK or ATTACHEDTO. Which was badly clued as "Really quite taken with". I did not then understand that all the clues were DOUBLE DACTYLs too which explains why some of the clues seemed a little off.

I had no trouble with LAY though,

Carola 11:16 AM  

My thought after finishing the puzzle was that it provided a pretty thin gruel of Thursday nourishment. But then, I didn't know that a DOUBLE DACTYL is a verse form, and I totally missed the doubly dactylic clues. Some of the wording had seemed odd - Really quite taken with; Blends or conglomerates - but I just didn't pick up on that...clue. I did love the unmatched ARGYLE SOCK - typical that the one that you can't reasonably pair with another in the drawer is the singleton.

Carola 11:17 AM  

@Nancy - Brava!

JC66 11:22 AM  

Where's @Rex when we need him?

Wick 11:22 AM  

Great write up!! Thanks Laura

QuasiMojo 11:47 AM  

@Nancy, wonderful! Solar power to you! Touché!

Laura 12:02 PM  

Bliggety bloggety
Rex Parker's commenters
Thank you so much for your
Kind words and reactions

Solving at 10pm
Blogging late thru the night
Can sometimes lead one to
Post-facto retractions

(but not today!)

If you want to read more about prosody, John Hollander's Rhyme's Reason (find it in a library!) is the place to start. Interestingly enough, the students who found the study of prosody most compelling were never the ones who were "into poetry," but instead the engineers taking the course as a distribution requirement. They loved that language had an intelligible structure, and that poetry was about building things with language that made it mean more than it said. (Which is one thing that crosswords are about, right?)

Chip Hilton 12:02 PM  

Thank you, Laura. Poetry and I don't get along so your write-up helped greatly. My last letter in was the Y in LAY and ....DACTYL. I was clueless in both directions. Otherwise, this went quickly and was fun.

Few are the matches that MESSI and his team post NIL on the TALLY sheet. They'll be operating under a new coach next season as Barca's current head just announced he's had enough. Three seasons in the pressure cooker sufficed.

I disagree with those who said that needing an explanation means it's not funny. After Laura clued me in to the dactylius (?) nature of the clues, I chuckled. Out loud, even. I also cracked up at several of the higglety pigglety offerings in the comments. Yes, you want me in the audience when you debut your stand-up routine.

thursdaysd 12:02 PM  

"The names of the poetic feet themselves exemplify the rhythms: iamb, trochee, anapest, dactyl, spondee , , , ,"

This may be another UK-US difference. Back in the dark ages I took the UK GCE "A" level in English literature, and got an A. My understanding is that this is about the same level as a US university sophomore year. Of course, my memory is not what it was, but I have no memory at all of encountering any of these. I looked them up in my OED, and most of them are just defined as "metrical foot". (Did you know that "spondee" also means "solemn drink offering?) We didn't diagram sentences either.

Warren Howie Hughes 12:04 PM  

I HAITI to SAYAH, but now that the final TALLY has SHOWN, and all the VOLTAS are in, this DOUBLEDACTYL ditty by Peter Gordon was a doozy, but alas, in the HIND when it got down to the bottom line, it became just a tad MESSI and made for a RUE awakening!

Malsdemare 12:15 PM  

@Nancy, Excellent! I was in my youthness a double major, English and speech, and I remember nothing of poetry. Oops, one thing. Had I not been such a nerd and thus in honors English lit as a freshman, I could have been entertained by our eminent professor, Dr. Peck,, reciting "Ode to a Grecian Urn" with a lampshade on his head. I was devastated. My class was quite forgettable. I did write some poetry (didn't all teenage girls?) and recall sending one memorable piece to a boyfriend, whose family found it and raced through their giant house reciting my over-the-top paean to love at the top of their lungs. There was something about "in screams, in flames." Thankfully those verses are lost with the dactyls.

My fallback position is, as always, this was fine, made finer by Laura's lovely explanation.

Religion Joe 12:36 PM  

Muslim clues 2 days in a row? Can sharia puzzle law be far behind?

Anonymous 12:36 PM  

Stopped by to see what Rex hated today and instead found the only person on the planet who does not know Leo Messi's name. But great entry, thanks!

Warren in Seattle

Warren Howie Hughes 12:42 PM  

Laura, You've rightfully received beaucoup praise this day, however, my dear lady "You're are only a dream"

Anonymous 1:07 PM  

This comment removed by the author's inner child

Anonymous 1:08 PM  

The word "wheelhouse" doesn't mean "vicinity".

jberg 1:11 PM  

Alfred Lord Tennyson

wgh 1:27 PM  

Oh. So all the clues do that too.

Charley 1:33 PM  

Double dactyl is awful enough. But I looked at Merrimack Webster for a definition of lay that fits. Crickets.

Teedmn 1:33 PM  

After reading about the clue "trick" at, my admiration for this puzzle bloomed. I am an aspirational poetry lover - I currently get a poem emailed to me every day by; most of them sail right over my head but I have a folder for those which speak to me. I also own the book, "Ode Less Travelled" by Stephen Fry. I bought it because I thought it was supposed to teach how to read poetry - instead it was about writing poetry. Because the book is interactive (it instructs you to write something and then come back to the text) I never got past the first section on iambic pentameter. But Stephen Fry is a funny guy so I recommend it to any budding poets out there.

Count me among those who didn't know EMILY DICKINSON had double-joined toes :-). And I had no idea the ARGYLE SOCK design was referred to as lozenges - I thought they had intersecting diamonds.

Charley 1:34 PM  

Merriam Webster, darn spellcheck.

Aketi 1:35 PM  

@ Laura, I read your explanation in the wee hours of the morning after the pain meds from my knee surgery wore off and I mistakenly double dosed myself. At that time it just reminded me of the "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo" puzzle which was beyond my comprehension. Now that I've had a good nap and I'm dosed more appropriately it makes much more sense. Thank you. I grew up in California during an era when my English classes consisted of "stream of consciousness writing and satire" and managed to miss grammar and metered poetry entirely.

@ M&A, now I'm always going to think of Emily Dickinson when I visit The American Museum of Natural History's fourth floor and see thanks to you.

@Nancy, loved that poem.

@ Gill I, the bush pilot did eat Pili Pili but since we were in the big city of Bukavu he drank whiskey while we drank Beer. I wouldnt have put it past him, though, to have taken a quick nip of palm wine in Goma before we flew out of that airport in the morning.

Obtuse Otto 1:44 PM  


I hate gimmick Thursdays, but tolerate the occasional rebus. I blasted right through this, oblivious to the Thursday gimmick. As the final Y went in, I was like WTF? That's it?

So I came here to see what the big deal was. Good write-up by Laura, and very interesting info on poetry.

Having said all that, I still don't get the LAY thing. I've been to multiple online dictionaries. The only thing that makes sense about troubadours offering LAYS is if the troubadour is actually a trobairitz, then it all makes sense!

Would someone please enlighten me?

Shelby Carpenter 1:56 PM  

@Warren Howie Hughes:

Wrong Owie! Laura is that face in the misty light, tromping down the hall in her damned high heels! Drunk Again!

Anonymous 1:59 PM  

@Larry Gilstrap
The BRAT diet is bananas, rice, applesauce and TOAST.

Mohair Sam 2:09 PM  

Would have positively naticked had I not known LAY somewhere deep in the memory banks, cannot tell you why it resides there. Loved the ARGYLESOCK clue, didn't y'all? KAY - Michael should have married a nice Italian girl, would have avoided a ton of heartache.

@Laura - Thanks, seemed like a strange puzzle until you shined your light. I learned a lot, always a good thing.

@Nancy - Neat stuff. Kudos.

For those who don't follow sports - To most of the world Lionel MESSI is Tom Brady and Lebron James all in one.

Leapfinger 2:17 PM  

Alfred, Lord Tennyson? All right...

Anapaest, Anapaest, Anapaest onward/ All in the Valley of Death Row the 600
Iamb sure poetic feet themselves exemplify something, and thankyou, Jane Thorne!
Spondee low list thesis

Also, thanks @Laura for making MEDE the Word of the Day. In a peripheral way, I'd known of the Medes and Persians, but had no idea the Medes didn't live in Medina or Medea or some such. Is the place the true Medes lived the place aka the The Dishonest Media? I also learned they spoke the Median language; I mean to say the Median language was all the mode. Very Farsi-ing of them.

HairyNosedWombat 2:41 PM  

The only interesting thing about this puzzle was reading Laura's analysis/description. I had no idea that the entire puzzle, including clues, was all about double dactyls, even after finishing!

Anonymous 2:52 PM  

Must comment on yesterday's "fuck you Will" comment. Not offended, however, I thought that your fearless leader edits this stuff. Obviously not, when he can pile on the Will bashing. SAD!

Joe Bleaux 2:54 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
okanaganer 2:56 PM  

I mis-remembered a dactyl as being a word that sounds like letters (Google says that's unofficially called a grammagram).

The not so famous poet Emily Ellerby would be a perfect example, except I just made her up.


Anonymous 3:13 PM  

26D, are, make in arithmetic? Can someone explain please?

Teedmn 3:33 PM  

What I found in the online Merriam Webster dictionary - about halfway down the page:

4 lay play
noun \ˈlā\
Definition of lay

: a simple narrative poem : ballad

: melody, song

Mohair Sam 3:33 PM  

@Joe Bleaux - Love - that - song

Britt 3:43 PM  

What is the meaning of LAY here? I mean I know what a troubadour is and does and I'm still confused...

Nancy 3:44 PM  

Anon 3:13 -- Two and two are four.

Mohair Sam 3:53 PM  

@Britt - From the O.E.D. (3rd definition of LAY) Noun: A short lyric or narrative poem meant to be sung.

GILL I. 4:35 PM  

Never was a king so-----,
Never was a king so courtly.
You are full of surprises!.....

Dolgo 4:37 PM  

As in "The Lay of the Last Minstrel"

Dolgo 4:38 PM  


chefwen 4:50 PM  

@Leapy - Hemingway and Key West, Polydactyl kitties as far as the eyes can see. Loved it!

Obtuse Otto 4:56 PM  

@ Teedmn:

Guess I didn't check enough dictionaries? That LAY thing was driving me crazy.

Merci beacups!

puzzle hoarder 5:38 PM  

@anonymous 12:36 pm, I don't know if you meant me in your MESSI comment but thanks you just in case. Not only did I not know it was a player's name I took it for an Italian team's nickname, totally missed Argentina, didn't slow me down a bit. I just write slow anyway.

Unknown 6:15 PM  

I know it's been said, but Messi is the best active player of the most popular sport on the planet. Someone said Tom Brady and LeBron James rolled up into one. That's probably about 1/4 of how famous he actually is. He also plays for the third most valuable sports team on the planet, Barcelona (behind the Dallas Cowboys and Real Madrid), and quite possibly (forgive me if there are any Ultras out there) the most storied. Doesn't mean you should know his name (though now you do) but as fill, he hits a bunch of sweet spots. Also, even if you don't watch soccer, I encourage you to dial up a highlight reel of his work on YouTube. He's a magician.

Last bits of trivia:

1) he's pretty small, and his nickname is La Pulga. Look it up.

2) when he was young his coach used to give him a cookie for every goal he scored. He scored way too many, so the coach changed the rules: he would get two cookies for every goal he scored by heading the ball into the net. Next game, he dribbled the ball through defenders and past the goalkeeper, chipped the ball up with his foot and headed it into the net.

Peter Strauss 6:33 PM  

As a deceased friend of mine wrote, many years ago:
"Yesterday unicorn is a double dactyl. Double dactyl is a twin trochee. Twin trochee is two bangs and a sqush. Or a rush of air."
Rest ye easy, Peter Howe.

jberg 6:42 PM  

@Leapfinger, no, those are dactyls, as is the word "anapest." Anapests have the stress on the last syllable. But anyway, "Lord" is not really part of Tennyson's name, although I thought so until I was about 30.

I was going to make a joke about getting a LAY from a troubadour, but @M&A beat me to it.

I utterly failed to notice that the clues were double dactyls; then I read @Laura and thought it was only the theme clues. I like Jeff Chen's suggestion, via @mathgent, that it would have been a better puzzle if there had been a hint of that -- but still, once I knew, I liked it a lot.

Two things, though -- don't OSTEOPATHs maniputlate bones? And isn't the Idaho motto "Famous potatoes?"

@chefwen, pretty clever to give your polydactyl cat "Paddy the Wonder Cat" a double dactyl name, even though you pretend you didn't know what you were doing!

Norm 7:11 PM  


A Listener 7:14 PM  

The writeup was brilliant.
The puzzle sucked.

Space Is Deep 9:20 PM  

DACTYL? WTF.? I finished this, despite not knowing what a dactyl is.

Pete 9:46 PM  

You can't swing a dead cat around here without hitting someone wearing a Messi shirt. My "nephew" even named his fish Mess I

Oldflappyfrommississappy 9:58 PM  

@Pete, "nephew"? Wonder what Milo calls his "nephews"?

spacecraft 11:21 AM  

Higgledy piggledy
What were we thinking of
When we elected him
President Trump?

Soon he will do something
Then they'll impeach the guy
Out on his rump.

Sorry folks, couldn't resist. No more political stuff. The late great Isaac Asimov, in his monthly Science Fiction Magazine, ran a contest for those DOUBLEDACTYL poems. Like many of the examples here today, each one had to include one line consisting of a single, six-syllable word--in rhythm, of course. Pity The Donald hadn't yet risen to national office.

No, I didn't spot it either. Filling in the grid was a CAKIER (ew!) piece of cake than Thursday-usual, but the thing in the clues flew right over my shiny head. I did wonder about those "is"'s, but I guess I didn't wonder hard enough. So, did I F or not? Perhaps extra credit might tip the scale toward yes.

I did enjoy doing this, and it includes a very fine DOD in DEBRA Winger. As the Masters begins, give him a birdie.

Burma Shave 12:13 PM  


when ASKing with which AIDE he LAY and/or SLEPT.



Diana,LIW 1:25 PM  

Usually, long quotes or Q&A puzzles are not my favorites, for the reasons Laura explained. But once I got going, this was not half bad. Had two possible Natick places - MEDE and ARCADE (don't play Centipede...), and ESPANA and UNI. Guessed on the latter, ARCADE finally jumped out at me.

DACTYYL was lurking in a remote corner of my brain that is dedicated to my English Major undergrad days - long, long ago. In fact, if you'd asked me out of context what a DACTYL was, I'd guess it was some kind of web-footed creature. Or a webbed foot. Or some such.

So a completely solved Thurs. Off, soon, to a luncheon. Whoo hoo!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rondo 2:04 PM  

Waltz through those clues is right. I’ll have that ¾ time beat in my head all day. Damn clever stuff.
One write-over spelling the fastest Olympian USeINBOLT at first. Don’t know why.

Some of my socks and sweaters have lozenges?

I was scheduled to visit TBILISI (I’ve seen it spelled TBLISI) in September ’06 with a certain Azerbaijanian MISS, but I had to cancel due to surgery to put my left arm back together. Nevermore SLEPT with that one THERE.

Agree that DEBRA Winger is of yeah baby status.

Fine puz and only one MESSI square. I could play along to those clues with my TUBA.

leftcoastTAM 2:32 PM  

This was unusually simple and easy for Thursday, and liked it because it features EMILY DICKINSON.

Expected some interesting, tricky gimmick, and the absence of one was a misdirection in itself.

Otherwise, there was the tricky spelling of TBILISI, and the stray ARGYLE SOCK.

My Natick was the ...DACTYL/LAY crossing. Had "i" instead of Y for a dnf, but I can COPE with that.

Anonymous 3:43 PM  

Ignore themes, take clues with a grain of salt, and hope the fill answers what you don't know. WORK THE PUZZLE, HAVE FUN.

Surprising how many dactyl lovers there are in the lunatic wing of puzzle solvers.

leftcoastTAM 4:25 PM  

Okay, so all of the clues were double dactyls. Would I have had to notice that in order to legitimately finish the puzzle? I hope a legitimate answer is no.

SharonAK 11:00 PM  

I'm with those who enjoyed the puzzle and LOVEWD the write up.

Amazed at how many did not understand "lay". Have heard or read it used about troubadours, etc. many times over many years.

sdcheezhd 5:37 PM  

I never see Mede without thinking of "one man's Mede is another man's Persian."

wcutler 10:07 PM  

@Mr. Benson: "'JEFFerson BEAUregard' IS in the NEWS today...". YES indeed, EVERYwhere.

@Nancy, another fan of your poem.

I was impressed that I finished the puzzle knowing so few of the answers. And now I find that that's not all I didn't know. I'm so much wiser now, almost insufferable.

I loved the write-up, the reader contributions, and now I'm enjoying the puzzle. So glad I came here.

Anonymous 4:21 PM  

I agree with Pete's assessment. This was one of the most boring NYT solving experiences I've had in a long time. I cringed when I saw the multipart Q@A clues, but was hoping for some sort of payout to make up for it. There wasn't. Even had I noticed that the clues were all double dactyls at some point, that wouldn't have made it more enjoyable. If there is something interesting going on in the grid that makes the solving easier once you see it, that can make it more fun to solve. However, a constraint imposed on the clues makes no difference in the solving experience... if you don't see it, you suffer through what appears to be unimaginative and boring cluing, and if you do, you just say "Huh, that's interesting", and continue to slog through it. I agree with thursdaysd, the point of a crossword puzzle is to entertain the solver. This didn't.

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