Old-style hacker / THU 8-24-17 / D in emoticon / Cartoonist who popularized Uncle Sam / British Invasion band that launched Van Morrison's career

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Constructor: Neil Patrick Harris and David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging? (solved it upon waking, got weirdly, possibly uniquely lost...)

 [Now you see him] 

[... now you don't]
[this is the only version in which the Downs all make sense]

THEME: HARRY HOUDINI (58A: Subject of this puzzle (who has himself done a 39-Across)) — Houdini, an ESCAPE ARTIST (20A: 58-Across, notably), has done a DISAPPEARING ACT (39A: Part of a magic show), both in real life and (importantly) in this puzzle (you have to take him *out* of the grid at 58-Across for all of the Down crosses to make sense.

Word of the Day: THEM (36A: British Invasion band that launched Van Morrison's career) —
Them were a Northern Irish band formed in Belfast in April 1964, most prominently known for the garage rock standard "Gloria" and launching singer Van Morrison's musical career. The original five member band consisted of Morrison, Alan Henderson, Ronnie Milling, Billy Harrison and Eric Wrixon. The group was marketed in the United States as part of the British Invasion. (emph mine, just to highlight the wiki-cluing—which is when your clue lifts language directly from a wikipedia article, usually from the first paragraph) (wikipedia)
• • •

This was pretty fun to solve but it's Really fun to look at after the fact. I only just noticed that if you put HARRY HOUDINI into the grid, while the Down clues won't work, all the Downs are real, viable crossword answers. A very belated "wow" on that one. Didn't affect the solving experience, but that is some pretty Next Level stuff right there. Beyond that, this is a variation on the disappearing answer trick (I've seen it a few times before), executed in a very simple but ultimately impressive way. The non-theme stuff is OK. There are some weak patches, but (especially toward the bottom of the grid, where the requirements of the theme are very taxing) they're pretty forgivable. I don't know how anyone is supposed to remember the weird name of a single character from an only moderately popular movie from 30+ years ago, but OK, sure, EDWINA (61A: Lily Tomlin's role in "All of Me"). Beyond that, there wasn't much obscurity, and the gunky short stuff (ETS, ECOL / SCI, RSA, INS, APOP etc.) was not oppressive.

  • THEM (36A: British Invasion band that launched Van Morrison's career) — whaaat is this? This was, strangely, the toughest thing in the grid for me, both because I have never heard of this band, and because OAT fits at 37D: Part of a stable diet? (HAY). I got your little "stable" trick there, but ... no, apparently I didn't get it. THEM! THE "M"? To me, THEM is a pronoun, or a movie about giant, radioactive ants.  
  • STEAL UP (46A: Approach furtively), with "on") — did you know CREEP UP and SNEAK UP both fit here? Yeah, you probably knew that.
  • PHREAK (5D: Old-style hacker) — I *just* learnead what this is this past weekend, so that was a lucky coincidence. Phreaking involves (involved?) hacking phone systems (most notably to bypass charges and long-distance fees, back in the day when those were things). 
  • PAN (17A: Film technique — or a bad thing for it to get?) — this clue is a flop, and a bad one. First, you pan a film, not a "film technique" (?), i.e. not the specific camera action, the PAN. Pronoun "it" must refer to "technique" here, and so ... no. Second, whether it's the film itself or the "technique," it gets PANNED. The idea that the "technique" "gets" a (single, discrete) "PAN" is ridiculous. One other irksome clue: LANAI (26D: Hawaii's ___ City, on an island of the same name). So ... really, [Hawaiian island] is the clue you want here. Just [Hawaiian island]. All the rest is ridiculous. If the place were sufficiently famous, then you wouldn't need the post-comma bit, which itself obviates the need for the pre-comma bit. Come on, editors.
  • OMAN (53D: Country whose national anthem is "Nashid As-Salaam as-Sultani") — this was the only theme-affected Down answer that had a plausible +1-letter equivalent. This is to say, I had YEMEN in here at one point.
  • ADORBS (19A: Like, so cute!) — I like this answer a lot. Very contemporary. Also, it's directly under HEGOAT, and I imagine a HE GOAT (esp. a baby one) could be pretty ADORBS. I also like SEX TAPE, which is directly under OILED ... so that's nice.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. I can't believe this is still unclear, but I'm getting mail, so here's my response to that mail: "I know what "to PAN" means, both in film and in criticism. But you would never PAN a PAN shot. The "it" in the clue must refer to "technique" and you would not PAN the technique of panning. You would PAN the "film" itself."

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


EhrichWeiss 7:17 AM  

Yawner, indeed.

Loren Muse Smith 7:18 AM  

Man oh man oh man! Phreakishly good, this. Funny how really early on, (on Thursdays) you get that little Some-Funny-Business-Going-On-Here tickle in the back of your mind. Unfortunately my thought was that there were some shenanigans in the northeast ‘cause I wanted a ridiculous “toffee” for TRIFLE. The clue “spongy” morphed into “gooey” for some reason in my head.

I never knew there was a HE GOAT, but it went right in, no prob. Same with ADORBS. Never, like, heard that, like, one.

Think this pissed-off bovine (?) is a HE-GOAT or a she-goat?

Rex - I had a big fat dnf because I had “oat” for HAY leading to a band called “Toem.” And a blank on that vegetarian food brand. Never questioned “oat.” Even though they’re haying our fields this week. Sheesh.

Loved the clues for EEK and PAN. Gotta disagree with Rex there.

I keep seeing SEXT APE.

I figured out the trick with O (h) MAN because I happen to know all the national anthems of all the four-letter countries and will sing them with little encouragement.

This is such a cool, cool idea here. Houdini is DISAPPEARING. ESCAPEd the grid. ERASEd. This is the best theme I’ve seen in a while and one I’ll never forget and will probably shamelessly copy but not submit anything. What else could vanish from the page, something that vanishes in real life? Money, brownies, ice cream sandwiches, resolve, dignity, hope, dreams…. just kidding. Tough week, though. (@Ralph Phillips – good luck to your daughter. Tell her it will get easier…!)

Neil, David – did y’all consider cluing the phreaky downs as the word with the letter? So clue them as SLOOPS, AIDES, say instead of SLOPS, ADES? I think for me that would’ve made it a little harder and the aha moment would’ve felt bigger.

kitshef 7:19 AM  

Only three WoEs in the entire grid: THEM, AMYS, PHREAK. Alas, two of them in the same section, crossed by what clearly (I thought) was going to be oAt, meant a DNF.

Also, wow! What an impressive, amazing puzzle. Great fun to solve and an incredible construction feat.

OILED/SEX TAPE/NIP is an interesting stack. Very Steinbergian.

Beaglelover 7:23 AM  

Panning is a film technique! The camera scans a scene, usually from left to right.

kitshef 7:23 AM  

@Loren Muse Smith - bovine:cow::caprine:goat

Ben 7:25 AM  

One of the best puzzles in weeks. Caught the theme fairly quickly with ACHING/ACING but still enjoyed the rest of the puzzle and was pleasantly surprised when the downs were real answers when filled in.

evil doug 7:25 AM  

Guess Michael--and Loren?--were absent when we had a fairly lengthy discussion about Them, "Gloria", Van Morrison, and me singing in my garage band....

File as fog 7:30 AM  

Hated this puzzle. HATED IT. Clues were Saturday-style or worse. Much worse. I'd say something constructive, but I'd be in trlhe minority today.

LisaG 7:33 AM  

Terrific puzzle...fun and challenging! I have loved NPH since his Doogie Howser days...he is ADORBS.

clk 7:39 AM  

Great puzzle. I have nothing but respect for the constructors. Somehow I caught onto the theme pretty quickly, though the EDWINA corner was tough. For some reason I wanted doWNER instead of YAWNER even though it didn't make much sense.
The PAN clue was clever. The it in "A bad thing for it to get" just refers to film, not to the phrase film technique.

Z 7:41 AM  

We all remember that grammar lesson about antecedents, right? PAN is a film technique, or a bad thing for a film to get.

@Loren Muse Smith - SEXT APE - Anthony Wiener?

Once again, I hate the idea of celebrity constructors but love the result. It's almost as if the NYTX gang has stepped up their game whenever a guest has helped construct.

G. L. O. R. I. A.

Passing Shot 7:43 AM  

@File as fog

No, you're not alone. Every time I see David Steinberg's name I roll my eyes, knowing I will have a DNF due to some sort of hipster, look-at-me-I'm-so-cute cluing. For some reason the ECOL/SCI eemed off to me.

Anonymous 7:46 AM  

Terrific puzzle.....Rex's review is the best one I've read in a long time as this puzzle was challenging, fun and well thought out.
Thank you to the celebrity creators: Neil Patrick Harris and David Steinberg. A good collaboration! Really clever.

QuasiMojo 7:48 AM  

I found this a disappointing puzzle for many reasons. First it is far too easy for a Thursday. Second we have had Houdini up the wazoo here. Third some of the clues tried too hard to be funny (like so many award show intros) and the disappearing act was with an elephant, wasn't it? Houdini was an escape artist. Quite a different kettle of fish.

David Stone 7:51 AM  

Fun puzzle with a terrific reveal. I struggled mightily for over 30 minutes on this one, then suddenly realized who was missing from 58A, and then it all made sense!

MEH was tricky for me because I don't usually think of it as an adjective. I got PHREAK right away but struggled with THEM and EMI. Eventually it all came together. Very cool!

Frayed Knot 8:07 AM  

Wow, ADORBS, HEGOAT, and PHREAK were good answers but THEM and PAN were bad/obscure?!?!?

This sounds like one straight out of the theory that if I know them they're good and if I don't they're bad.
Again, Wow!

File as fog 8:09 AM  

A voice of reason in an otherwise self-congratulatory stream. Thank you!

Anonymous 8:10 AM  

This seemed too much like a stunt puzzle but figured Rex would go easy on it since David was the constructor. Too many obscure answers for me-----Pau, Amy's, Them, Edwina, ad infinitum ad nauseum. I really hated 'adorbs'. So I definitely would pan this puzzle or maybe just bin it. I got the trick early on but wasn't really all that impressed.

M. David Hornbuckle 8:10 AM  

Are you telling me you don't know the song "Here Comes the Night" or "Gloria?"




CFXK 8:20 AM  

Wow! We got Doogie Howser - then and now! Great puzzle. Fun

mmorgan 8:34 AM  

I wanted to put in HARRYHOUDINI before almost anything else but something in the clue led me to think it was dealing with a contemporary person so I held off. And I assumed it was an "intentional coincidence" that he just happened to fit there. Also had OAT and YEMEN. Nice aha moment when I realized the down answers just omitted those squares. Couldn't get the S on ETS because I thought the clue was referring to a specific subject area of the test (and didn't know ADORBs). Nice puzzle!!!

Ted 8:41 AM  

PAN was finely clued. It was an easy answer, the pronoun did not trip me up.

Great puzzle all around, had a fun time solving it despite minor annoyances.

puzzlehoarder 8:48 AM  

Crossing a non-word like ADORBS with an unknown acronym lead to a dnf in the NE. This is an inauspicious return to puzzling after our NYC trip. I put in NOOB the other day with no hesitation so maybe it's hypocritical of me to draw the line at ADORBS but this editors love affair with modern slang of the moment is tiresome. People like to deride certain entries as Maleskan and I get their point. I just hope I live long enough to solve in an era when "words" like ADORBS will be sneered at as Shortzian and considered just as outmoded. PAU as a place is no good but as the name of some basketball player it gets the nod? That's a Shortz thing. ETS as an acronym is something I really ought to know. I think its one of those clues that gets overlooked in the torrent of little green men clues as well as the ones for that oddly pluralized French word. I knew 11D was LAB but I thought 19A must end in some kind of two space rebus to allow ADORABLE to fit into its allotted space. I tried to figure out how this was related to the HOUDINI trick and that it would somehow explain that odd looking PHREAK. Needless to say I wasted more time on that than it took to do the rest of the puzzle. Pardon the TMI I haven't had my commenting fix in a couple of days.

Mr. Benson 8:54 AM  

I have no idea how I remembered EDWINA from a so-so 80s movie, and yet I did. It almost felt like cheating to fill that right in without any crosses.

Easy Thursday for me. I saw right through (ha!) the gimmick with Houdini's name, including the fact that those downs were all viable words with the letters added back. Thanks to Barney Stinson for a fun puzzle.

rgards 8:56 AM  

"Disappearing act" came early, and I reckoned "act" was a rebus, taking me down a vexatious path. In the end, Toem did me in. Great puzzle.

Tim Carey 8:57 AM  

THEM was not a problem. HAY was not a problem. The "Disappearing" down letters were a problem. I have no patience for this kind of stuff... I was struggling with TEMPE and GRIN, which I knew but that didn't fit, let alone the other downs... if you are going to make this work, the clues for 61A, 64A, 65A, 66A, 67A, 68A, 69A, 70A, 71A need to be crystal clear... AS THERE ARE NO CROSSES FOR HARRY HOUDINI... wasted an hour of my life before I hit the REVEAL button in anger and disgust...

Nancy 9:02 AM  

Me, too, @puzzlehoarder (8:48), and I am not amused by the ADORBs/ETs cross. Very unfair. I had to guess, and I guessed ADORBY/ETY, ADORBY being no less a word than ADORBS, as far as I'm concerned. (Though Google is accepting ADORBS as I type, while putting an ugly red line under ADORBY, so obviously someone out there thinks ADORBS is, oh, I don't know, adorable.)

The Aha moment, when it came, was huge for me, but it did not entirely compensate for what I found a mostly joyless solve. I left HARRY HOUDINI out of the puzzle, and thus finished with him in the "now you don't see him" position. I loved that aspect of the puzzle. But I didn't love all the three-letter answers, nor did I love PAU crossing AMYS. And PHREAK?????? I'm freaking out over PHREAK. The magic puzzle we had last week -- the CHANGING CARD one where PEKING becomes PEACE -- was a much more enjoyable solve and, to me, a much more successful puzzle on all fronts.

RAD2626 9:03 AM  

Put in the three long answers right away but then ERASED HARRY HOUDINI when I knew TEMPE and AC(e)ING had to be right. Finished puzzle with the whole HOUDINI answer blank but since I did not get congratulated or even told I was close stuck him back in. Never saw how clever it was that the puzzle could have been clued with him in till I read Rex. Very impressive.

Thought clung for the puzzle was very easy overall but gimmick and style overcame that nit for me.

redrube 9:04 AM  

Pan left pan right...that's film technic

Sir Hillary 9:09 AM  

Fun Thursday puzzle, which we needed after some middling fare on M-W. Unlike most of my solves, this one was pure left-to-right, top-to-bottom. That led to a nice reveal for me, because once ESCAPEARTIST and DISAPPEARINGACT were in, I assumed we would get a straight HARRYHOUDINI, period. That would have been a major letdown for a Thursday, so imagine my delight at ACING, which led me to understand that Harry had indeed disappeared. I love when the light goes on like that. I also liked that this one was not accompanied by the silly blurb telling us that it's a celebrity collaboration.

Reading my paragraph above, I'm reminded of how I hate that words like "solve" and "reveal" have become nouns. I would like them to return to purely verb status, but I suppose that would be too much of an ask. :)

Doug 9:13 AM  

Heh, EDWINA was a gimme for me and where I started the puzzle; "All of Me" was a major point of reference in my social circle. But it's admittedly dated. At least ADORBS is fresh!

Mr. Grumpypants 9:15 AM  

Dear Rex,
In 17A, "it" refers back to "film," not to "technique."

Two Ponies 9:19 AM  

I liked the trick, very cool.

@ QuasiMojo, Sly little dig about awards shows.
@ puzzlehoarder, well said.

Recent discussions about the evolution of the NYT puzzles seem particularly relevant today. Will words (or non-words) like adorbs and phreak stand the test of time? I doubt it. Our fascination with current slang is so brief that the ink on the shelf date is barely dry before something takes its place.
The British invasion was part of a true cultural shift whether you were a fan or not but why are children's animated films like Frozen of such importance that I am expected to know this? Lily Tomlin's Edwina role may not be her most memorable but she most certainly is an icon of comedy. Where to draw the line?

OTD 9:28 AM  

Now this was a puzzle well worth the time and effort. Took a while to get the gimmick, but impressive workmanship. Enjoyed it a lot, and kudos to the constructors. Always was a fan of Houdini's.

Madeleine S 9:30 AM  

Long distance charges still exist on landlines in some rural areas. Maybe I should become a phreak or bring in a WATS line for our place in Maine cause cell phone coverage can be unreliable...to nonexistent.

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

Steve Martin, Tomlin's co-star, was quite funny in the film.

Unknown 9:38 AM  

"Put edwina back in bowl!" I've seen that movie a million times. Good one. Good puzzle too. I've been watching the Netflix lemony snickett show with my kids. Neil Patrick Harris is pretty amazing in it.

Anonymous 9:40 AM  

Edwina wasn't just a character in that film, she was the second lead in that film. Prahka Las was just a single character, if you want to be an asshole about. Hell, Rick from Casablanca is just a single character. Sheesh. I'm panning your review for your gratuitous churlishness. Go stick some seed where the sun don't shine.

Tita 9:44 AM  

Impressive! And fun to solve.
I finally got that 58A should be blank, and was then finally able to complete the bottom section.
Then I stared for a while, thinking "that can't be it", and got the AHA when I dropped in HARRYHOUDINI.
I got so exciteed that I never went back to fix that annoying natick at P_U/_MtS, and never realized that I had guessed wrong when confronted with the choice of HAY or oat.

Never heard of THEM, though I know their songs.

While this collab turned out great, I wish that Will would stick to luminaries rather than celebs. Neil deGrasse Tyson was my favorite so far.

The idea for these collaborations is a good one to get increased visibility, and subscribers, so I suppose the decision to use Hollywood as the source is inevitable.
How about some Nobel or Pulitzer winners? Exemplary business leaders? Teachers? MEH, huh?

Oh - the Film's the it.

Happy Pencil 9:45 AM  

Fantastic puzzle. One of the best in weeks! Great aha moment, and even though I went wrong with oats instead of HAY (hello, @LMS), I was eventually able to sort myself out with the help of AMY'S, which I've never heard of but was the only thing that made sense there.

@Quasimojo, you raise an interesting point about Houdini as an escape artist vs. someone who does a disappearing act. But he did have one trick where he "walked" through a brick wall, so maybe that counts? Anyway, this puzzle was so fun that I'm prepared to cut it some slack.

Rex's rant about PAN is silly, but he is correct when he says that "film technique" is the antecedent of "it." The word "film" is acting as a modifier of "technique." You can't separate it out and claim it as a noun on its own.

Stanley Hudson 9:45 AM  

Very enjoyable though I loathe loathe loathe cutesy neologisms such as ADORBS.

JC66 9:47 AM  

I thought this puzzle was great even though I ended up with the
oAt DNF.

Arlene 9:50 AM  

Amazing puzzle to solve - and then to admire when completed. Bravo!

TOCraig 9:54 AM  

Just loved this puzzle. Very clever. All good, tricky, but knowable clues. Solid medium level of difficulty. Great fun. Thank you NPH and DS.

Z 9:55 AM  

@Happy Pencil - Not in actual writing maybe, but in the abbreviated, intentionally misdirectional world of puzzle cluing a word might be a modifier, noun, or verb and one must never assume that the antecedent is what it appears to be, or even that the antecedent appears in the clue. It is a puzzle, not an essay.

Lewis 9:58 AM  

This is an impressive constructing feat. You know it wasn't easy to make because in David's puzzle notes he said he almost gave up on it, and if David almost gives up on making some part of a puzzle, it must be very difficult. Imagine having to come up with finding vertical words for that bottom section that stay as words when a letter is taken out -- and having them ALL WORK TOGETHER.

This is also a high quality puzzle (and not all impressively constructed puzzles are). Hardly any junk, a terrific aha guaranteed, a creative and brilliantly executed theme, with a feeling of fun. This was a wow for me. I loved the clue for EEK, and the answers ADORBS and EMIGRE.

I solved online, and when the puzzle was complete, HARRY HOUDINI indeed disappeared, and those empty spaces rattled my brain; I wanted like crazy to fill them in, but the puzzle wouldn't let me. I need to become more proficient at MINDING THE GAP!

Masked and Anonymous 10:01 AM  

Ahar! But wait just a darn minute, here … How can everybody be so whole-hog sure, that it's HARRY HOUDINI that ain't there? Like, where's yer verification from crosses? It could just as easily be TODDY LOUSNTZ, hidin in there. [snort]

Otherwise, dynamite ThursPuz. Congratz to the celeb on his great debut. Thanx. U, too, Steinbergmeister.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


BarbieBarbie 10:01 AM  

OK ADORBS is slang that won't hold up, but it passes, becsuse since this is Thursday it provided a great misdirect by convincing me this would be a rebus puzzle. I got out of that quickly, though, and found this puzzle great for all the reasons above. Ended on PHREAK which was the hardest one for me. Overall Nedium andvery, very enjoyable. Best one this week.

If you want to talk dated clues, try solving one of the easy-level crossword puzzles from a 1950s book I found at our family cabin. Ready? Five letters. "Supreme Court justice." No Googling. There's a lot of "straightforward" stuff like that!

Ellen S 10:08 AM  

From yesterday: @Robert A Simon -- thanks for the recommendation of "The Art of Racing in the Rain." I have not read it but I will.

@Tita A -- PawSense seems to be only for PCs (and at that, applicable to Windows 2000 through Windows 8) and I'm using an iPad. The worst kitten predation is when I'm lying in bed trying to type. They sit on the keyboard and paw at the screen. Eventually they will write all the plays of Shakespeare.

As for today's puzzle, or particularly, 17A, I thought the antecedent was ambiguous, could be read to refer to the technique or to the film itself, and therefore laudatory in a crossword puzzle. Or maybe I ain't that good at grammar.

Johnny 10:10 AM  

I thought this puzzle was really terrific. When I finally caught on to the "disappearing" gimmick I flew, even though I briefly tried to apply it up top. In the end, I was left with just an answer of blank squares yet the clock is still ticking; I read the clues, filled in HARRYHOUDINI and bang I was done.

kitshef 10:27 AM  

@Stanley Hudson - probably you were being sly, but 'cutesy' was the 'adorbs' of forty years ago.

Frozen won two Oscars and two Grammies and is one of the top ten grossing pictures of all time.

All of Me won no Oscars and no Grammies, and is the 105th top grossing picture ... of the year 1984, just behind Angel (High school honor student by day, Hollywood hooker by night), and two spots behind one of my absolute favorite movies, The Company of Wolves, starring Angela Lansbury.

TooManyJens 10:34 AM  

Agree that ADORBS won't hold up over time, but PHREAK goes back to at least the 60s, so it already has.

I was pretty annoyed with this puzzle until I had the "holy crap" moment of realizing that all of the downs were words with or without HARRY HOUDINI. That's impressive.

Mohair Sam 10:34 AM  

Kinda liked it, then @Rex let us know that the Harry Houdini works when it's there and when it's not. Super impressed. Neat stuff.

Some of the PPP was Saturdayish for us (PHREAK, ADORBS, THEM, ANNA), and I can see how it could be tough for others (AMYS, PAU, REDSOX, EDWINA). If we weren't flexitarians we would have fallen into @LMS's OAT/AM_S trap. AMY'S chow ain't bad if you feel the need to suffer vegan.

I know perfectly well what portmanteau means, but have never ever gotten a portmanteau clue without filling nearly every damned letter. We Casco'd with widTH for DEPTH for a time, until SEXTAPE became obvious. And we refused to accept ADORBS for too long. If anyone uses ADORBS in a sentence anywhere near me I'm screaming EEK and leaving the room - what a god-awful word.

Lots of fun NPH and Steinberg. Thanks.

Hartley70 10:38 AM  

Now this is what I'm talking about! Hellooo Thursday and bye bye string of Mondays. Today's puzzle was worth waiting for, and a celebrity puzzle to boot. I am impressed with these constructors!

I have to admit I didn't love ADORBS because I hadn't heard anyone say it, ever, but now that I have that sneaky S at the end, I bet I'll be using it when my grandson arrives in the next few weeks. Does "We ADORBS you, Sweetums" work, or must it be, "Babycakes, you are ADORBS "?

Hungry Mother 10:41 AM  

Fun puzzle except for my DNF on oAt. I had a very fastr time for a fail.

Bill Feeney 10:41 AM  

@M&A I think I went once to a magic show and Toddy Lousntz was the headline act, so why not!

GHarris 10:44 AM  

Got the concept and just left the boxes blank. Since I was working on paper never got any helpful hints from a happy pencil so didn't even spend time thinking about who the magician might be. Had oat for hay and that screwed me. Adorbs is ridiculous (just had to override autocorrect to write it). Finally, had to Google for Edwina but found the rest of the grid easy and overall enjoyable.

RooMonster 10:45 AM  

Hey All !
Quite cool puz! Took a while for the ole brain to grasp what was happening.

As I was doing the SE corner, knew the Downs were AFES,SORE,TARA, but had the first letter of each in the wrong row, leaving 54A as N___. 'Hmm", said I, already having DISAPPEARINGACT, "there must be various words that have missing letters, but why is everything clued?"

Further messing me up, was thinking Gasols first name was PAUl, so had PAU(block) there, causing me to also think some letters would be "Disappearing" into the black squares. So as I was solving the rest of puz, kept searching for either squares to he left empty, or answers headed into blocks. But as I kept solving, everything fit into where it was supposed to. After a lengthy head scratching session, finally relooked at the South, and said, "Hmmm, if I move the AFES SORE TARA OMAN CAN answers up one row, then 58A would be an empty row, that must be it!" Aha, indeed.

So, finished, and did online today, but didn't get the Happy Music. So hit Check Puzzle, finding my oAt mistake that a bunch of y'all made. Changed that to HAY, hit Check, everything came back OK, but still no music. Hmm.

Before all this, I actually didn't know it was HARRY HOUDINI, I blame my intermittent older man memory loss! So started to fill in the Downs with letters that would make other words, and finally saw HH. Filled it in, finally got the Happy Music, and when I got back to puz, HARRY HOUDINI had DISSAPEARed!! Now that was awesome!

So a very cool, kinda complicated solve today. Could pick out a not or two, but with such a cool puz, why? It put a GRIN on my face today. No TRIFLE, this.


Cassieopia 10:48 AM  


mac 10:50 AM  

Very good puzzle! I had not realized inserting Harry Houdini would also created viable words, another reason to like this one!

RooMonster 10:53 AM  

ADES, not AfES, damn finger-hitting-wrong-letters-and-not-proofreading.

CDilly52 10:54 AM  

1A says it all for me.....MEH.
Got ESCAPEARTIST right away and knew that something was afoot. At TEMPE(R), I just left the R off since the clue was straight forward and the answer clear and soldiered on to see wheat would happen next...

Most enjoyable moments today are @LMS SEXT APE and @Z's identifying said ape!!

Joseph Michael 11:00 AM  

This puzzle did the trick. One of the best celebrity puzzles so far.

I say this even though I DNF due to ADORBS/ETA and THEM/AMYS/HAY/PAU. I thought that Peu from the adorby British band Toem gave an oat to his HE GOAT.

Have always been fascinated by HARRY HOUDINI so it was great to find him doing a DISAPPEARING ACT in the NYT.

Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh starred in a 1953 biopic about the ESCAPE ARTIST called HOUDINI. It got pretty good reviews, except from Rex Reed who was critical of the film's technique and panned one of the pans in the movie.

mathgent 11:00 AM  

Excellent puzzle. 22 red plus signs in the margin, a record for a Thursday. Many of them because of the clever cluing. Also, got a big kick out of seeing that a whole row was blank.

But I think that it has a flaw. There should be something in the puzzle to indicate that the Down words that give HARRYHOUDINI (ACHING, LOANER, RARE, TEMPER, CYAN, OHMAN, SLOOPS, URSA, GRIND, AIDES, SNORE, TIARA) are all unclued.

Whenever I see LANAI, I think of the fact that Larry Ellison owns it. It seems bizarre that an individual owns a major Hawaiian island.

Check out Jeff Chen. He has a cute visual illustrating the blank line.

jberg 11:07 AM  

Wait, was this a celebrity puzzle? What happened to the headnote? I didn't realize it until I came here. Really good puzzle, even if it hadn't been.

Isn't it interesting that we all seem to have put in oat before HAY? I mean, the only places you see oat in the singular are crosswords and Milton's "Lycidas" ("That strain you heard was of a higher mood; but now my oat proceeds...."). HAY is a much better fit, but we're all conditioned by past puzzles.

So I, too, almost with toem (@Ellen), as well as ADORBy/ETy(@Nancy) until I a) remembered the Educational Testing Service, and b) imagined by stepdaughter saying ADORBS.

The AMYS/PAU crossing was just a guess aided by the implausibility of hMYS.

Now the big question: Are the letters in HARRY HOUDINI crossed? My answer would be "sort of" -- by the rule that every down crossing his name has to be a word if you leave him in. I haven't checked other 12-letter magicians, but I'd be very surprised if there's one that works.

Nice misdirect at 55A, DO A, since we had the same clue for uey recently.

jae 11:14 AM  

Easy except for the time I spent trying to figure out why none of the crosses would work after I put in HARRY HOUDINI with no crosses. Nice aha moment when it finally hit me.

Cute Thurs. trickiness. Fun. Liked it. Good one guys!

old timer 11:18 AM  

The top 2/3 was pretty easy if you guessed ADORBS, which I did. My grandchildren have been called ADORBS on Facebook sometimes. But i was lamenting the apparent absence of any Thursday trickery. At the end I could see that only OMAN and SLOPS could be right, and looked back at that DISAPPEARING ACT and decided the puzzle worked fine if I just left those squares blank.

Then of course I had to ask myself whose name fit in the blank squares. It had to be Mr. Houdini, best known as an ESCAPE ARTIST. I mentally filled them in and was very pleased to see that each of the resulting Down answers was a real word.

Today was not, I think, a good one for OFL to pick nits. I loved the clue for LANAI and saw nothing wrong with the clue for PAN. Glad to see that he did think it was a brilliant effort.

boomer54 11:19 AM  

For 58A ... I had ... DANIEL COOPER ...( also known as D. B. COOPER ) ...

this one as a solve ...

old timer 11:27 AM  

I have followed Van's career from the start. It took a minute, and some crosses, to write in THEM but I did remember THEM. Gloria used to be on every jukebox.

I only know TEMPE because we've gone to Spring Training for the Giants a couple of times and one of the Away games was in TEMPE. Both times, we stayed in Scottsdale where the Spring Training stadium is.

Bob Mills 11:33 AM  

You like ADORBS because it's trendy? I dislike it for the same reason. What circles does one have to join to hear people talk like that?

Nancy 11:34 AM  

@Mohair (10:34) -- I chuckled heartily over your penultimate sentence. And I'm running out of the room right along with you.

@mathgent (11:00) -- I think you homed in on the biggest weakness in the puzzle, but I'm not sure what kind of clue -- or even brief blurb -- could be added that would make that aspect of the puzzle clearer and fairer. Anyone?

@Hartley (10:38) -- Re: last sentence. Personally, I hope it's neither.

Aketi 12:00 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aketi 12:12 PM  

@Nancy, the only time I've seen (not heard) ADORBS was when my MMA buddy Rob and I discovered we each had a pair of cats that are almost identical. We have one big fat orange tabby and one slim tawny cat. So when I sent him a picture via text, his response was ADORBS.

@M&A, Just had to check if old Toddy fit the bill of making legitimate downs and he passed the test.

O L M A N (fictional race from Dungeons and Dragons?)
T Z A R A (French Romanian poet Tristan?)

Ethan Taliesin 12:15 PM  

Adorbs is legit, 'nuff said.

mathgent 12:16 PM  

How did ADORBS ever catch on? It's not easy to say. It's not musical. Even "adorb" would be better. I wonder who came up with it, Harris or Steinberg?

Ando 12:39 PM  

Yes, [the art of] film is different than [let's go see a] film. Still a clever clue.

Unknown 12:45 PM  

The genius of this puzzle (for me, anyway, a paper and pencil solver) was that HARRYHOUDINI was a gimme for 58A, and it went right in. When I couldn't get any of the downs to work, I was forced to erase the answer (disappearing act, right?), and then everything fell into place.

Masked and Anonymous 12:46 PM  

There is a real cool Harry Houdini museum in Appleton, Wisconsin. It appears almost daily. Appleton was Houdini's boyhood home.

staff weeject pick: PAU. Entry did have an ending L, but that evidently disappeared as sorta collateral damage, when the Big (L)OUSNTZ dematerialized. PAU is also French for POW. Maybe.

THEM was a pretty darn primo-fine rock group. [So was LOONER, btw.] Them musta been before @RP's time, I reckon. But, then, so was that there "THEM!" schlock flick, from 1954. Too bad, that the schlock movies can live on (at TCM, etc.), but the music often kinda fades from view in a puff of Lousntz dust.

This ThursPuz was real different. As is my wont, thUmbsUp for real different. OH MAN that bottom part looks fiercely hard to construct. But it somehow made it to here, on a TAXCO and an EDWINA and a prayer. Well done, World's Greatest Crossword Puzzle.


MetroGnome 12:50 PM  

Bob Mills asked, " What circles does one have to join to hear people talk like that [i.e.,'adborbs']?" The jerk circle, of course -- what else?

Masked and Anonymous 1:04 PM  

@RP: Superb blog write-up. O MAN, what a great bullets list.


crackblind 1:05 PM  

Once I saw NPH co-created this puzzle, I knew magic would be part of the theme. I had a feeling HARRYHOUDINI had to be the theme answer at 58A but was thrown by the DISAPPEARINGACT that took a letter away from the down clue answers (which wasn't helped by two boneheaded answers,"Tuscon" for 36D & "frown" for 42D). Once I realized those two errors and stuck Erich Weiss's stage name (yes I'm a bit of a magic geek) into its slot, the puzzle eased up for me.

And Rex, while I get your issue with the clue for PAN, I see it more as a poorly worded isdue (editor related maybe) than anything else. I straight up read the bad thing as referring to the film, not the technique but then again, I'm also a film nerd (who says you have to be a dork on only one subject?).

Arden 1:07 PM  

Great puzzle!

crackblind 1:14 PM  

Oh, and bad on you Rex for not knowing your music history. While Them may not have been a foundational 60s band, their version of Gloria is canon and a vital part of Van the Man's history. (Ok, I'm also a music wonk, sue me. Which reminds me of a funny story. Years ago I went to school with someone from Northern Ireland. I was impressed when she told me that she lived down the block from Van Morrison. I was not shocked that he was simply considered the neighborhood's grumpy old, "Get offa my lawn," guy.)

Teedmn 1:21 PM  

O_MAN, I totes ADORBS this puzzle. I fell out of the oAt loft but TEMPE_ let me see the frozen organic vegetarian brand I eat nearly every day (the palak paneer with a chopped tomato on top, yum). AMYS, right.

I loved that the theme was APPEARING as HARRY HOUDINI was DISAPPEARING. And I loved watching the alt words showing up as true words, albeit unclued.

Unfortunately, I went back and forth with TAXCO/ESSEX and TAnCO/ESSEN and the latter won. I just blocked that Anglo in the clue out of my brain and went with the Saxon, rats.

I had the same thought as @Rex on EDWINA - I saw the movie when it came out - 33 years ago - but didn't know Lily's character's name nor Steve Martin's. In fact, I can't think of many movies where I remember the characters' names - "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" would be exceptions. Usually I do when the character's name is in the title (duh). But when I'm describing a movie to someone, I am most likely using the actors' names to outline the action.

Thanks, DS and NPH, not a YAWNER in the least!

Dick Swart 1:26 PM  

What a great puzzle!

I'd show you my grid but I wrote it in disappearing ink.

L 1:30 PM  

Very clever! I struggled mightily with the acrosses but cracked this open with the downs. I knew something was up with TEMPE. This was a challenge but lots of fun.

abalani500 1:47 PM  

But then Houdini wouldn't disappear...??

Rita Flynn 1:52 PM  

One of the better celebrity crosswords. Really enjoyed it, the reveal on the themer was a lot of fun.

Trombone Tom 2:12 PM  

Did the puzzle many hours ago. I like it when our blogger appears early so I can be nearer the front of the line. Not today.

What an interesting and challenging puzzle, I've often pooh-poohed the celebrity efforts, but this one was primo. Like @L I picked up the conceit after struggling with TEMPE for a while.

Hand up for oAt before HAY. I had to read the PAN clue a couple of times before parsing it correctly. I think @Rex is beating a dead horse on this one.

This had some welcome crunch after a few days of creampuffs.

Larry 2:33 PM  

So 39 across also fits: SAWAWOMANINHALF, and it fits 21 down, and 32 down and 42 down which I had.

Never really recovered as you really try to hang on to your first guess, especially since its a Thursday.

Carola 2:59 PM  

Nicely done, fun to solve. I didn't sketch in HARRY HOUDINI's name, so thank you to @Rex for pointing out how those Downs work two ways.
Along with others, I had trouble in the (non) oAt area but did manage to remember AMYS and finish.

Robert A. Simon 3:03 PM  

Nobody else seems to have commented on @Roo Monsters experience, so I will underline it.

You really have to get this. Here's what happened:

I solve on a Mac. I had filled in EVERY SQUARE--HARRY HOUDINI and all--when I got the "You idiot! At least one of the squares is wrong, but that's no surprise, given it's you!" message, so I went over the puzzle and changed WHEW to PHEW, and that cued the happy music, and I was told that I solved a Thursday puzzle in under six hours, so I was happy.

And when I tilted* down just to see the whole puzzle again, the little applet that runs the puzzle had COMPLETELY ERASED HARRY HOUDINI ALL BY ITSELF.

It does not get any better than that, unless one day the clue to 1A is "Complete the picture" and the answer is FILLINTHEBLANKS, and the second you type in the "S," the applet automatically fills in every square right before your eyes, giving you a time of 0:05, which has to be some kind of record...
*A camera tilts up and down and pans left and right. If anybody says or writes "pan down" or "pan up," it is permissible to laugh at them and loan them your copy of Truffaut's "On Cinema."

t-dawg 3:06 PM  

I loved this puzzle. Besides all the things you said, I loved how NPH-ish it seemed with all the nerdy modern answers (like ADORBS and SEXTAPE)

Anonymous 3:28 PM  

@Robert Simon,

You do know what the words pan and tilt mean in English, right? No need to bring the Frog into it. Besides, if you really want to be a smarty pants with tilts go dutch.

GILL I. 3:37 PM  

I'm here just for the dessert.
This cutie patootie was just ADORBS. I want to join @Hartley when she goes to a Baby Shower. Together we can out-do each other in mamby pamby gobbledygook.
I saw "Doogie Howser" exactly one time. I thought to myself I'd never let a child see me naked much less fondle my nethers. I did watch Neil P Harris in "How I Met Your Mother" and thought he was pretty good. I also like him a lot as a non-acting person. Classy guy!
Having said that, I really enjoyed the conceit of this puzzle. Like others, TEMPE got the door to open. DISAPPEARING ACT has to be HARRY HOUDINI...Who else?
No MEH, no YAWNER, Didn't need NAPS, thought this was a VERY different and EPIC puzzle.

Bella 3:54 PM  

It took me waaaaayyyy too long to figure out the trick, but I was pleased when I did.

Blue Stater 4:36 PM  

I don't often disagree with OFL, but I thought this mess was typical of the overthought, overarty junk we've been getting in recent years, particularly on Thursdays. Give me a meaty, intellectually and culturally challenging Maleska effort any day of the week.

Jack Reader 4:54 PM  

Was I the only one to put down LARRY ELLISON instead of HARRY HOUDINI? This came hot on the heels of LANAI, feeling yes, this is a breakthrough, because he did buy it, and his name did fit- and he is often VERY HARD TO GET HOLD OF (re disappearing act clue).
Realizing this mistake gave me the idea that this is what vast riches can do for you- they give you the means to disappear whenever you like- you can even hide behind Harry Houdini himself!

Rob 5:09 PM  

Really great puzzle and a nice level of challenge for a Thursday. I noticed that the Downs still make words with the "disappearing" letters in place as well, and I appreciate the elegance. I'm skeptical of HE-GOAT but it's a small price to pay for the rest.

Nancy 5:31 PM  

How about this as a way of solving the unclued HARRY HOUDINI answers?

47D: [Here] sore; [Gone] crushing, as a test
48D: [Here] the rental; [Gone] the recluse
49D [Here] hard to find; [Gone] "r"in a text
50D [Here] blue; [Gone] recyclable item...

Well, you get the idea. It could be honed so that the two sides of the clue relate better, as in 48D. You could also have [Here] and [Poof!} which would make it harder. Or you could have [Here} and {Not here}, which would make it easier. I'm not a constructor, but I think a good constructor might be able to take this idea and run with it. (Or not.)

Joe Dipinto 5:52 PM  

This was a very enjoyable puzzle, "Edwina" notwithstanding. The disappearing trick, with two different down-crosses in each instance, was very cool and must have been difficult to pull off. (I ended up writing in HARRY HOUDINI in extremely tiny letters so it looked like he was disappearing.)

"Them" was actually my first entry, and while I've never heard anyone say "adorbs!" I've seen it in print more than once, so no problems in either of those areas. A fun solve -- kudos to NPH and DS!

Robert A. Simon fan 6:16 PM  

Your comment today was interesting, thoughtful, and elegantly written. I have found all your comments very much worth reading. The nasty Anonymouse who came gunning for you this afternoon probably envies your way with words. Please continue to comment. You're a real addition to Rexworld and I'm sure I'm not the only one who values and enjoys your input. Wish I dared "out" myself, but then the Mouse would almost certainly come after me.

Unknown 6:34 PM  

THANK you. Cultural tragedy that Them is considered obscure...

Tita 6:46 PM  

I truly hope it's not too late to tell my HEGOAT story...
It is?
We'll, you didn't think that was going to stop me, did you?

On our honeymoon in Ireland, on the Cliffs of Moher.
A nanny goat and her kids ere nestled together, thoroughly enjoying the sunshine on a cool day.
Along comes Billy, gives the mom a gentle nudge with his horns, and as they reluctantly got up, contentedly, unabashedly, took their warm spot!

Geophany 7:07 PM  

Refreshing voice! They should make more puzzles

Rose 7:17 PM  

46A can be neatly fitted with "invisible man." But, say you, that wouldn't work with the crosses, it's just jibberish. But the invisible man doesn't show in the space, so the crosses don't matter. Nifty.

Joe Dipinto 7:22 PM  

@mathgent 11:00:

*There should be something in the puzzle to indicate that the Down words that give HARRYHOUDINI...are all unclued.*

Actually, the way I view the puzzle, it's as if it originally had Harry Houdini ensconced in place, with all the downs clued for the words containing the additional letters that Harry Houdini supplied. Then Harry Houdini decided to escape from the puzzle and completely disappear, forcing the constructors to re-clue the down entries for answers without those letters.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) 8:38 PM  

Adorbs did me in but now I feel smart and with it and can't wait to use it on the next baby or puppy I see! Awwww! Really loved figuring out the disappearing act ...

Ando 8:38 PM  

The thing that helped me the most were the proper nouns in the bottom section -- Tempe and Tara Reid (who, judging by the NYT puzzles, is the only Reid to ever have appeared on film. There should be a crossword version of Six Degrees of Separation -- did she ever appear in a movie with Ione Skye?) They were head-scratchers for a moment -- "Could Tempe possibly be Tempeh?" -- but then they made it clear that row should be left empty. I entered Harry Houdini as an afterthought.

Becky 9:26 PM  

"Put Edwina back in the bowl."
"Back in bowl?"
"Back in bowl!"

OISK 10:28 PM  

Brilliant and awful, both. First of all, if one could not remember Harry Houdini ( after an hour, it popped into my brain,) you were sunk, because you didn't anticipate that the name would then produce legitimate words going down. I saw the "disappearing act" early enough, but I DNF on a brand name (phooey), never heard of AMYS, probably because I don't eat vegetables, tried EDYS, which didn't work because I knew Tempe. Never heard of "THEM", but changed OAT to HAY because "TOEM" seemed less likely, ( though rock groups can have any combination of letters...) and was left with P_U and _MYS. "PRU" seemed a more likely first name to me than "Pau." Could a brand name be RMYS? Not impossible - brand names can be almost as strange as rock groups... So DNF. Adsorbs, Edwina, Phreak... Oh, man.....

Doc John 11:43 PM  

And who says you can't PAN a PAN? If a particularly poorly panned shot or poorly inserted panned shot detracted from a film, a critic would certainly call those responsible out on it.

David W 11:54 PM  


That was fun. "Back in bowl!" came immediately to mind, but I needed the crosses to remember EDWINA.

I especially liked the online version where upon completion, HARRYHOUDINI actually disappears when you enter the last correct letter.


Dawn 12:56 AM  

I found this puzzle tedious to do. ADORBS is plain annoying if you're over the age of 12. But then I came here and found that the weird blank line would have worked with HOUDINI's name in there, so I need to reassess my entire take on the puzzle. And that is why I financially support this blog!

Phil 5:13 AM  

Directors may want it but hate it when they get it.

Makes it 27 references to 'PAN' in the comments

Sam 8:07 AM  

Re: Rex's comment on OMAN having the only plausible +1 letter answer, I initially was torn between SMILE and FROWN for 42D. :D for a smile, D: for a frown. Depends on which way you write your smileys! Luckily I wrote neither, because neither was correct!

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Yemen doesn't have a sultan. Only sultanates left are Oman and Brunei I believe.

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Burma Shave 12:09 PM  


FOR she’s the ARTIST who ESCAPES the GRIND with her AMOR.


spacecraft 12:10 PM  

Lucky to finish this one, but not because of ol' HARRY's ESCAPE. My near-disaster came in the last place: the NE. ADORBS??? Really? that "word" is...not. 12-down is a complete mystery to me, so that S square was a 100% Natick. Could it be " ADORBy? Sure. That's no sillier than the given. This furthers my argument of yesterday, that the English language is growing lazier by the day. You want to save a single syllable? You can't get "adorable" out of your mouth fast enough? I cry for the future of our language.

It would be a while before I'd get MOPED out of "Portmanteau ride," so I cast about elsewhere and found PAU. Not that I'm a basketball fan (MEH), but I happened to see his name on an ESPN show and I remember looking around for the DISAPPEARING "l" for PAUL. There wasn't any. Even NAMES are being elided now! HELP!

Anyway, from there I worked down, and kept being frustrated by having an extra square until finally I said, "IGOTIT! Those are the squares that DISAPPEAR! OHMAN, this is quite a puzzle: I'm guessing 95% David and 5% Neil. Challenging, and because I guessed "S" correctly in the NE, finished--with a very high triumph factor. This could have been run tomorrow--or even Saturday. DOD is the lovely ANNA Kendrick. Birdie.

rainforest 1:03 PM  

I had the mother of all Ahas today, plus a couple of flat-out guesses to finish this.

So, with HARRY HOUDINI in place, I was struggling with the acrosses down there and noticed that AC_ING would work without the 'H', that TEMPE (which I knew was correct) didn't need that 'R', and that SORE was held up by the 'N'. After some pondering, I checked the other downs and voila! I saw what was going on. The elegance comes from the fact that the redacted letters came from actual words. I'd say brilliant.

I had trouble also in the SW and the NE, and got EDWINA by default and just guessed PHREAKER and ETS. Do people actually say ADORBS?

This is a puzzle where the construction feat is impressive, and the solving experience is enjoyable. Joy all round. If I were @Spacey, I'd give this and eagle, though I'd like to know what ETS is. Ethics?

Anonymous 1:42 PM  

Partially good puzzle, ruined by cringe worthy, atrocious clues, answers, and theme.
Went real bad, real fast. Rejected.

rondo 2:06 PM  

Got the ESCAPEARTIST and went immediately to 58a to count out HARRYHOUDINI and of course it fit, but thought, “Is there another Hollywood Reid besides yeah baby TARA? With an I as the second letter in the first name?“ So I continued down past SEXTAPE to gimme THEM, which gave me gimme TEMPE. Realized that HARRY’s second R made a whole new word and . . . Aha! IGOTIT! So yeah baby TARA indeed gets the TIARA. That DISAPPEARINGACT creating other real words is the best Thursday gimmick in a long time, if not ever. This puz was definitely not a YAWNER.

Diana,LIW 2:10 PM  

Brilliant! aDEERable See @Rainy's second paragraph.

At first I thought I couldn't succeed, and then aha, aha, aha, aha. Repeat as needed.

ETS is Educational Testing Services. I know this. I know this well. But did it keep me from putting in ADORBy? Nae. The only time I erred.

Most fun I've had in a Thursday puzzle in a long, long time.

Last to fall was the EYE, opening up the final part of the SW. I feel, like, so smart.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

thefogman 3:58 PM  

Good puzzle. I got carried away when I finished up with wHEW and didn't check the cross - Had AwOP instead of APOP. I also got Naticked when I went with STEALth instead of STEALUP. That one was a little devious, no? 36D and 40D were complete unknowns to me. I am terrible at NBA trivia. Tempe as a soy bean product I get. Arizona university, not so much. Now it all makes sense. Even though I DNF'd, I liked the theme. And the cluing was clever and entertaining. Definitely not MEH this time.

thefogman 4:02 PM  

Correction: Tempeh - the soy bean product - is spelled with an h.

leftcoastTAM 4:15 PM  

Took some time to see the (magic) trick, truly Steinbergian in its cleverness. Did Mr. Harris help with that? In any case, finally getting it helped hugely with the solve.

Also had to deal with some off-beat words and names: PHREAK, THEM, AMYS, EDWINA and--my Natick--the ADORBS/LAB crossing. Even with the B in Chocolate LAB, couldn't accept the

thefogman 4:21 PM  

OFL has no idea how anyone is supposed to remember the weird name of a single character from an only moderately popular movie from 30+ years ago
Well I did. Somehow, that line Steve Martin says "Put Edwina back in bowl" stuck in my cranium all these years and (finally) today it became useful information. All of Me is a really great and funny movie - even if it was only moderately popular according to OFL.

leftcoastTAM 4:22 PM  

[Computer freeze, restart, back.]...couldn't accept the cutesy ADORBS in place of ADOReS. Thus my dnf.

leftcoastTAM 5:29 PM  

P.S. PHREAK is in the current Unabridged Merriam-Webster, ADORBS isn't. (Not that it proves anything except that new ways of garbling the English language will always show up. (Hi @spacecraft.)

JimmyBgood 6:14 PM  

DNF at adorbs, because I had adorbe. I thought the answer was adorable, and the a and l had disappeared up into (chocolate) lab, leaving the letter e.

JimmyBgood 6:18 PM  

Oh, and I'm sorry, but adorbs might be current, but sounds so 70's Valley Girl.

spacecraft 7:04 PM  

As if!

Diana,LIW 7:47 PM  


Lady Di

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Solverinserbia 1:40 PM  

LANAI was a good clue. There is one other five letter island but no Kauai City so if you know Hawaiian geography you'll get it. (Lanai City is Lanai's only town.) and Pan had a good clue too. I'm not sure why you're saying "it" had to refer to technique, I think grammatically it can just as easily refer to "film" which is how I read it naturally and how it works perfectly.

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