Cause of death in Sherlock Holmes novel Sign of Four / THU 7-16-20 / Classic MTV show that launched a film franchise / Classic leading lady honored on both US and Swedish postage

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Constructor: Evan Kalish

Relative difficulty: Easy (untimed, but there was almost no resistance)


THEME: DARK ART (68A: Witchcraft ... or what each block of three black squares in this puzzle represents?) — just what it says—you have to imagine that each set of three black squares represents the letters ART in order to make sense of the answers leading to/from those squares:

Theme answers:
  • ARTICLE I (29A: Part of the Constitution establishing the executive branch)
  • POISON DART (20A: Cause of death in the Sherlock Holmes novel "The Sign of Four")
  • ARTIFICIAL HEART (21D: Lifesaving prosthetic device)
  • FLOW CHART (47A: Diagram at a business meeting)
  • ARTHUR DENT (55A: Protagonist in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy")
Word of the Day: MATCHA (33D: Powdered green tea leaves) —
Matcha (抹茶Japanese: [mat.tɕa], English /ˈmæə/ or /ˈmɑːə/[i]) is finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves, traditionally consumed in East Asia. It is special in two aspects of farming and processing: the green tea plants used for matcha are shade-grown for three to four weeks before harvest, and the stems and veins are removed during processing. During shaded growth, the plant Camellia sinensis produces more theanine and caffeine. The powdered form of matcha is consumed differently from tea leaves or tea bags, as it is suspended in a liquid, typically water or milk. (wikipedia)
• • •

People will be warmly disposed toward this puzzle because it is Very Easy, and crushing a Thursday feels good. They will also like it because it's essentially a themeless with ... just some missing pARTs. I figured out ART was missing very early (ARTICLE II) and then just had to look out for missing ARTs and that's ... it. No wacky cluing or forced punniness of any of the junk that you sometimes encounter in themed puzzles. At first, I didn't know why the ARTs weren't there, they just weren't. Then I hit DARK ART, finally, and ... YES, I SEE. Not really an aha or OHO moment. More just ... an explanation. OK, fine. But it's ultimately a one-note "theme" that leaves a bunch of gibberish in the grid. I do now wish that FLOWCH was a word, though. It's vivid and sounds amazing when you say it out loud. Could be a verb or noun, or both, not sure. Anyway, themewise, this is a shrug, but there's some good fill here and there, and it wasn't unpleasant to solve.


It's a very bro-y puzzle right from the jump (1A: Classic MTV show that launched a film franchise = "JACKASS"). There's a very incidental reference to George Eliot (and GARBO!), but otherwise, solidly puzzbro (and slightly juvenile) in its focus. Also, I think the puzzle and I have *very* different notions of what "Classic" means—not a word I'd apply to either "JACKASS" or "BAMBI Meets Godzilla" (22A: "___ Meets Godzilla" (classic film short)). I think you just mean "old." "Classic" comes back again in the GARBO clue, where it's apt, but that's at least three "Classic"s in one puzzle; maybe vary your cluing language a little next time? I love STORY ARC (34A: Narrative through multiple TV episodes) and MATCHA (33D: Powdered green tea leaves), and that SW corner has a pretty nice Across stack. The rest of the fill is mostly common and familiar—nothing ugly, nothing scintillating (to take just one corner: RASTA SNEER INERT etc.). The only part where I struggled was with GROUPON. Is that still a thing? (43D: Company with a great deal of advertising?) The "?" clue did nothing for me—needed GROU- before I saw it. Oh, and POISOND ... that one made me squint a bit because I thought the answer was POISONS, and then thought, "really, they used more than one?!" The "D" was actually my last square, when I remembered "Oh, yeah, right ... there's a theme."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

151 comments:

HT 6:27 AM  

My quickest Thursday yet (as far as I know) at a little over 10 minutes. Would probably have been less if my cat didn’t get on my chest in the middle and blocked my view of my phone! I don’t usually care about time or track it too closely, but I was surprised by how quickly it went with literally zero resistance.

Today and yesterday were both very straightforward and simple. Maybe to make up for Tuesday? Either way, it makes for a sort of lackluster week IMO. But that works just fine with me. My stress has been off the charts lately so these past two days were kind of nice!

smalltowndoc 6:44 AM  

My fastest Thursday as well. But I thought the theme was clever and fun. Only trouble I had was in the NE; I had a rough time coming up with the Y in NEWAGEY/NAY cross. Funny, my spellchecker just underlined "NEWAGEY".

Xcentric 6:45 AM  

I liked the puzzle not because it was easy, but because it was a nice mix of fill.
Some science, sports, art and literature, business, pop culture, etc.
Almost no dreck or crosswordese. No eke, nice to have a day without eke.
Nice puzzle Evan.

Lewis 6:49 AM  

I love a Thursday puzzle with TRICK smack dab in the center. Perfect!

This theme made great use of those "fingers" that jut in from the four sides of a crossword grid. They're always there, but not often made use of, and props for that, Evan! Black squares have often been used in tricky themes, but I don't recall a revealer punning on "dark" to refer to them, so good originality there. I bet it was a joyous moment when you thought of that, Evan.

I liked this puzzle a lot, but would have even liked it better with a few less gimmes, making the mountain a bit taller. I live for those taller mountains on Thursday through Saturday.

But, while it lasted, I had a great time with this, complete with a lovely aha when the theme hit me. Thank you, Evan!

Unknown 6:52 AM  

While not a great puzzle I thought the flow of the solve was enjoyable, and it's ease helped me keep my longest solve streak going!

Snoble 6:52 AM  

Funny how the brain works. I caught on to the missing ART fairly quickly but filled it in as a rebus and registered disappointment that it didn't work in both directions. Didn't connect it at all to the three black squares until I got to the revealer. And even then I was confused when I got the "puzzle solved" --what the heck is "TIFICIALHE." My brain simply had a bias of only seeing the horizontal squares, no matter how long I looked at the puzzle. I had to come here for an explanation. I expected some trickery, some word witchcraft, not simply another example of my closed mind.

OffTheGrid 7:09 AM  

I usually don't care for puzzles with letters hidden in black squares but this was neatly done and a lot of fun. It didn't hurt that I grokked it early at POISOND(art). I had POISONt at first (thinking tea). Maybe that was the gimmick, words that could be expressed as a letter? Discarded that idea shortly. The revealer told us why it was "ART". Clever.

kitshef 7:16 AM  

Yeah, this worked for me. MA( )CHA crossing ( )BAR was a little scary. I ruled out J, but I or T seemed about as likely. It has been years since I’ve been skiing. Guessed correctly.

Agree this was easy.

Never heard of WIIMOTE, and I think the corner with that and OKCUPID is the puzzle's weak spot. I loved having (ART)HUR DENT, but millions won't.

GILL I. 7:25 AM  

Why do I feel like a JACKASS...Here I was, about to say that ICLEII was about the worse answer I've ever seen in a puzzle and it turns out to be some ART thing missing its ICLE.
Well I saw some of this ART at POISOND and another one at FLOWCH but that was about it. I wouldn't know ART HURDENT from a snow ball in hell. Same goes for OK CUPID and WII MOTE. First of all, and even if I were desperate, I'd never go to an online dating company with anything cupid in its name. Visions of a fat little cherub flinging an arrow at me.
I can't imagine BAMBI meeting Godzilla. What did BAMBI do to deserve meeting a gorilla sitting atop the Empire State building ? Then you throw a STORY ARC at me? Hell, I even hate CORN DOGS. One day I will count the ways you clue OREOS.
DARK ART? I prefer spell casters...but that's just me.
Five oofs and counting....

MarthaCatherine 7:26 AM  

Why do I ever enter aHa in a crossword puzzle? In real life, 999 times out of 1000, people say AHA. But in crossword puzzles, 999 times out of 1000, they say OHO.

Lesson finally learned.

pabloinnh 7:29 AM  

Went west to east across the top, then north to south, winding up in the SE, which was fortunate, because I ran smack into the revealer at DARKART, started putting ART in the three black squares, and Bob's your uncle, all done. Very helpful, because I was having a harder time than I should have remembering ARTHURDENT, and it was nice to see him again.

Easy enough, but when your eyes see something like "Film, in a way", and your answer is ALDENTE, well, you suspect a misreading. Happens all too frequently.

Thanks for the fun, EK. Agree that this felt like a Beginner Thursday, but I think all of us were beginners at some point, so that's fine.

amyyanni 7:31 AM  

Flowch! I have a not very polite idea for its usage: when one belches and farts simultaneously. 《Sorry》
Agree this was a tad light for Thursday but also agree when you can master a Thursday with no look ups and get the theme you are more likely to be pleased with the puzzle. So I'm shallow. At least am still here in the epicenter. Wonder if we'll get a mask themed puzzle soon.

BZZZZZ 7:32 AM  

I'm working on the BEE while waiting for more posts to read. The pangram jumped right out at me. I love when that happens. BTW, I'm a genius. So says SB.

Anonymous 7:35 AM  

@Gill. It's ARTHUR DENT.

TTrimble 7:41 AM  

Oof, took me far too long to see the gimmick, hence the puzzle didn't feel easy (much less Very Easy), and I wasn't nor am I now "warmly disposed" toward this puzzle. Actually, Rex didn't seem that warmly disposed himself in his review, despite saying this is how people will feel.

Oh, what the hell. I'll just lay the blame on the Glenlivet Nadurra I had had shortly before doing this puzzle a little after midnight last night. I've learned from a master that this is an acceptable excuse. I guess, in addition, it made me "warmly disposed" before I started doing the puzzle. (Seriously, it's nice hooch. A birthday present from a few days back.)

The answers were unexciting but also unobjectionable. As word constructions go, I find WIIMOTE about as ugly as they come, but blame Nintendo for that.

---[SB Alert]---

Yesterday's answers were a bit heavy on the Latinate plurals, weren't they? CIRRI, COCCI, CROCI, LOCI. Not to mention other vowel endings. The last to fall for me was WILCO, which was a lucky surmise (I've only ever heard "Roger Wilco", never WILCO on its own. It's sort of like the xword INDEEDY from yesterday in that respect, which I only ever hear in "yes, indeedy".) Anyway, was pleased to reach QB. Let's see what today's crop brings.

Anonymoose 7:41 AM  

OHO or aHa? ATAD or Abit? I went to school with a guy named Al Dente.

albatross shell 7:41 AM  

Two no-cheat Thursdays in a row. The SW was a concentrate of pop culture. Actor name, character name, 2 company names, computer game product. You may throw in CIA (the company) and OTOH too, but I don't. You need a little luck there. I did love the clue for HUMS. I prefer making up random words or syllables though.

The top of the puzzle reminded me of one of those quiz problems; Match the the three words on the left with their best partner on the right.

JACKASS SODACAN
ALDENTE EROTICA
CORNDOG NEWAGEY

And one last reminder:
Sewagey rhymes with NEWAGEY.

Be safe out there.

TJS 8:03 AM  

"People will be warmly disposed toward this puzzle..." Not everybody.

RooMonster 8:06 AM  

Hey All !
@Gill I
Har! You've mixed up your mutant creatures. Godzilla is the giant lizard, King Kong is the giant Ape on the Empire State building.

I thought this a very clever puz, we need @LMS here to fetter out the details of the tough construction. Not only did Evan have to make a coherent puz, but he also needed to use the blocks-of-three-black-squares as ART, And still make everything else fall in line. Plus, not have any other three-black-square-blocks elsewhere. Did you notice that? Only one or two-blocks of black squares. AND there is very very light junk, if any. So applause, and Bravo Evan.

Can you tell I liked this puz? Both from a constructor view and a solver view.

Cracked up at "BAMBI meets Godzilla". Did Godzilla just chomp on poor BAMBI? Ten second movie!

Almost my one-letter DNF, had NEWAGEd, but couldn't get NAd to work as clued. Erased the d, and saw the Y. Success!

Figured everyone would get a kick out of JACKASS at 1A. Nice way to start a puz. Maybe the clue was what no one liked.

Feel like there should be a line of books ala "For Dummies" titled "OK STUPID." 😋

Two F's
FLOWCH FODDER
RooMonster
DarrinV

Frantic Sloth 8:15 AM  

Got to POISOND and thought it was a rebus, but then ATADART made no sense. Advanced to where ICL emerged, figured it was (ART)ICLE_ _ and the rest was more or less full in the blanks. But, I didn't know why I was doing all that until the end of the puzzle where the revealer sat. (And should sit, IMO - Thank you!) Ha!

I enjoyed this one. The theme was okay, but once again the fill was the thrill. You might even say it was a "Thrilla in the Filla." (And then they would come and take you away to a punsentration camp, which is what you deserve.)

Still....a. (Well, it was just sitting there - I had to!)

I liked entries like NEWAGEY - which is weird, but it works because oddly enough, it's something people say - and JACKASS, STORYARC, WIIMOTE (wheelhouse word), GROUPON, and GARBO (as clued).
ARTHURDENT. ARTIFICIALHEART. Both of which were interesting as stand-alones, let alone themer winners.

Even the threebies were clued with some imagination.

The more I write about this one, the more I like it!

What's that you say? OREOS is in the grid? Who cares? It can just go on sitting there in its little corner of the room, playing the plain Jane wallflower while the rest of the grid dances around and par-tays! Woohoo!
No one will notice. 😉

I guess I liked it.

🧠🧠 (very easy for a Thursdee)
🎉🎉🎉🎉 and a 🛢 of 🐒 🐒 🐒

Z 8:15 AM  

Spent yesterday sanding a floor, so feeling the “you ain’t 30 anymore” aches this morning. Actually, I sanded a floor about 3 years ago and I am appreciably achier today. I blame finishing my 60th orbit on Sunday. Anyway, not feeling easily amused today which definitely skewed my reaction down. I do not like the look of IFICIAL HE in the grid. As negative rebopodes go this is pretty good, it just didn’t land for me today.

@amyyanni - I like your definition, but would want to use it to describe any time either covfefe or BS speaks (yes, I have almost as much contempt for left wing charlatans as I do for right wing ones). Everything they say is the auditory equivalent of belching and farting at the same time.

@kitshef - Despite their rarity at actual ski resorts, every lift in a puzzle is a T-BAR.

@albatross shell - So some sort of odd psych test or SAT test? My mind wandered towards trying to imagine NEW AGEY EROTICA. I assume Enya is playing in background.

Anyone else imagine Joe Strummer’s RASTA SNEER?

Hungry Mother 8:26 AM  

Big fail today. Couldn’t see NEWAGEY and missed GROUPON. The themer was easy, but didn’t help me where I needed it.

ChuckD 8:30 AM  

ARTIFICIAL HEART down the center is a perfect entry. Overall it was easier than the tough Thursday I always look for - but the trick was elegant and the fill was clean. Not a JACKASS fan but liked AL DENTE on top of CORN DOG. Also liked the DOWNTON/EROTICA crossing thinking maybe Carson and Mrs Hughes could experiment with hot wax and ropes in the next movie.

This is a good puzzle - it pretty much checks all the boxes so the shade from Rex is questionable.

kitshef 8:33 AM  

@Z - many happy belated returns. I used to get very achy following gardening sessions. Since I took up yoga, that does not happen. It's like my back got 15 years younger.

Mr. Cheese 8:35 AM  

I knew all the answers but could get the trick. My brain just couldn’t get the DARKART clue.
Some days all the synapses don’t close. Streak snapped... sigh.

webwinger 8:39 AM  

Maybe not a great Thursday, but a very good Thursday. A bit too easy. Theme was clever in concept, and individual entries were all pretty strong IMO, especially the vertical grid spanning ARTIFICIAL HEART. Solid revealer. Not quite the jewel that @Nancy’s similarly conceived Black Hat puzzle was, but very few reach that level.

Fill was fine too. Excellent clues for BIRDIE, AL DENTE, AREA CODE. WIIMOTE, OK CUPID, GROUPON (nicely clued) and NEW AGEY made it feel up-to-date. And how can you not really like a puzzle that references BAMBI vs. Godzilla? (By all means find and watch if you haven’t seen it.)Two 👍🏼s today. Kudos to Evan Kalish!

Not a Doctor, But I Play One on Blogs 8:44 AM  

FLOWCH is a process for removal of SLOP ITCH

LeaveItToYourGoat 8:50 AM  

I get the disappointment that comes with catching the theme early and realizing, "oh, just keep doing X." So I understand where Rex is coming from. But today I absolutely needed the revealer to get what was going on. I had almost every answer filled out except for 2 or 3 letters in each of the theme answers and their crossings, and the revealer did its job marvelously for me.

Really enjoyed this one...

Nancy 8:51 AM  

Lots and lots and lots of "Aha" moments for me when the trick finally dawned penetrated my thick skull. That's because the theme answers were so well protected by surrounding fill that I don't think got a single one prior to knowing the theme. I was baffled by that part of the Constitution that began with IC; baffled by the cause of death that ended with OND. And so forth. And then -- finally --everything made sense.

I loved this puzzle. Well, I almost loved this puzzle. Because there's a big difference in the quality of the "Aha" moment when it's ARTICLE II or POISON DART or ARTIFICIAL HEART (!) coming in than when it's ARTHUR DENT. Who he? That suddenly unearthed name that I'd never heard of brought no "Aha" moment at all. But everything else is terrific. An inspired Thursday -- just the kind of puzzle that makes Thursday my favorite puzzle day.

Pamela 8:51 AM  

Well, I liked it. And I didn’t find it all that easy, either. After seeing the revealer and counting the dark squares, I shrugged, disappointed in another mostly themeless puzzle, or so I thought. Yes, I FLOWCHed (excuse me for the rude noise🤭). But then the lightbulb went on, ICLE found its other half, and all was well. I did think IFICIALHE, the day’s double, was very clever. Good for you, Mr. Constructor!

I also liked ALDENTE EROTICA, and how the STORYARC was SNARED.

It was nice to see GARBO again. The first year I lived in NY, I shared an apartment on 50th St between 1st and 2nd Aves. Garbo lived on Sutton Place, practically just around the corner, and she had been spotted many times walking alone on 1st Ave. My roommate, who had had the apartment for a couple of years already, had seen her once or twice, hat pulled down so you couldn’t see her face, hands in pockets, striding along. I was never so lucky, but still felt that the neighborhood had an exotic air because of her. Now I live 3 blocks from there, after many years elsewhere, and see my young self coming and going, looking for Garbo.

Now to SB. Two QB’s in a row, 3 total so far. I wonder how today will be?

JD 8:55 AM  

It's been a week of puzzles that made me feel smarter than I actually am, yet I've let myself be done in by one or two squares anyway by losing patience. Today it involved Artificial Heart/Arthur Dent.

But what joy I can glean from the world as it is comes from Flowch and @amyyanni's suggestion. If you look at it as simultaneous noxious off-gassing from multiple sources, it's the perfect word for a election year. Shorthand for gas bag given free rein.

pyroclasts 9:05 AM  

Finally, I’m back to disagreeing with Rex! I was scared for a bit there when I had agreed with his assessment like 5 days in a row

It seems to me that his reaction to puzzles is based more on his attitude that day than the theme’s merits, this one being a good example. When I got to DARK ARTS, I mentally went OHH (my initial answer for 19A), since I too had been confused by trying to fit ARTICLE II into 5 squares

Funny also that if any clue trips him up, or if he deems it too easy, Rex criticizes the puzzle. Quite a narrow sweet spot he expects! Life seems like it’s more enjoyable If you lower sky-high expectations a bit.

Nancy 9:06 AM  

Oh, @webwinger, I just saw your comment!! Thank you so much!! I love you!!

CS 9:09 AM  

I liked it .... nice use of the "dark" squares and creating themed answers both vertically and horizontally.

And agree that the fill was varied.

Happy Thursday!

-- CS

Frantic Sloth 9:09 AM  

@pabloinnh "Bob's your uncle" is now at the top of my list of stolen phrases.

@TTrimble Happy Birthday "from a few days back." 😉🎂

@Roo (Grand Poobah Most High Of the One L DNF) OK STUPID just happens to be my autobio, but thanks for the plug!

@JD You just took @amyyanni's brill FLOWCH definition to a whole new level. Politics indeed.

Amy 9:10 AM  

solved in print with an extra fine green marker, and so was able to literally write in "art" in the dark squares and have it be literally a dark (yet visible) art. found this satisfying.

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

Surprisingly easy Thursday, which helped make up for the surprisingly challenging Tuesday. I enjoyed every minute of it, especially the ARTIFICIAL HEART running right through the heart of the grid.

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

Are you confusing King Kong and Godzilla?
The short film has as a soundtrack part of Rossini’s overture to William Tell!

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

King Kong wasn’t a mutant, just big. Godzilla, on the other hand, was a mutant caused by atomic bomb radiation (watch the original version, not the Raymond Burr Americanized version) who actually “stomped” on Bambi, not chomped.

Whatsername 9:43 AM  

Well I really liked this, a nice little Thursday trick but not the usual rebus. It was relatively easy to figure out but I thought that the long down with the hidden letters at each end was an especially nice touch. Loved the clue for BIRDIE, took a bit to decipher that one. Very nicely done! And thank goodness an ART theme without any gimmicky grid ART.

If you have not read Fifty Shades of Grey or seen the movie, be advised that classifying it as EROTICA is a matter of opinion.

@Z (8:15) Happy belated birthday, and I feel your achy breaky pain. With the passage of each orbit, I am learning that some things are well worth paying someone else to do.

William of Ockham 9:46 AM  

Slow me, I missed the three in a row top and bottom for a bit

EdFromHackensack 9:49 AM  

Oh God.... IFICIALHE made zero sense - was also looking at ART only horizontally. Duh. Got the whole thing no errors, but geeeez.

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

Interesting, considering today is the 75th anniversary of the first atomic bomb test.

Banya 10:01 AM  

Overall easy for me and while I'm enjoying Thursdays more, I'm still not great at them.
I got the top 3rd all filled in easily with POISON_ and couldn't figure out the last letter. Then I knew Arthur Dent's name right away but I started typing ARTHUR in and there was an extra space, so I thought it had something to do with a D in the last letter....a rebus, what? Then I put Ford's name in there but couldn't remember his last name. Finally figured it it out with GROUPON and TRITE down and reading the revealer clue. It was a nice OHO moment for me, anyway. That helped me get the DARKARTs and then filling in the rest was pretty easy.
At the end, I was wondering what a IFICIALHE was for about two minutes before I realized... Less of an extra OHO moment that moment, and more of a "oh, duh."

egsforbreakfast 10:13 AM  

It was pxxxly due to my xxxhritis that I became an xxxist. To stxxx, I had the bxxxender pour me a quxxx of xxxificial Cxxxagena Beer. Not smxxx! What on exxxh was I thinking? A pxxxy soon broke out in my apxxxment, which stxxxed to feel cathxxxic. Not to be a braggxxx, or a mxxxyr, but bxxxtering for xxxichokes was not a quxxxer as weird as pxxxaking of those txxx mxxxinis. Well, that apxxx, I feel like I was thwxxxed by a bunch of pxxxisan wxxxhogs.

So there, smxxxasses!

Frantic Sloth 10:14 AM  

@Z! "I blame finishing my 60th orbit on Sunday" was apparently too sciency for me to notice it was your birthday! (Do you share one with @TTrimble, I wonder...?) Don't worry - it's all downhill from here! 😜
Happy Birthday! 🥳🎉🍾🥂🎂🧯

🦥

bauskern 10:20 AM  

I'm actually skipping Rex's critiques now - so no idea what he said, but in general they are too depressing in a nit-picky sort of way and just take the shine off the morning. I loved this one. Clever theme and great construction, especially 21D which had the "theme" on both ends. And very little of the standard fill (INERT). My only critique is that 8A might have been better clued as a common "returnable," not a "recyclable." I'd like to think that folks are still returning their soda cans and getting their 5 cents back.

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

name a use of TERAwatt in common language?? even Doc needed only giga-watts to move the DeLorean.

stickler 10:30 AM  

I think I would have liked it better if each of the 3 black squares took A R T for the crosses.

puzzlehoarder 10:31 AM  

This played hard until I got the reveal. Once I knew the theme the rest fell much more easily.

I had a good start in the NE. I thought something must be going on with POISOND but couldn't be sure.

The middle east was next and this is where I screwed myself up by entering GABOR at 26D. That bit of name dyslexia cost me some time. I was so blind to my own mistake that I was trying to make a scrambled version of NABBED work at 37A with 37D possibly being BLUR.

After I finally spotted my GARBO mistake I wound up filling the SE and got the reveal. Things were much easier after that.

@TTrimble, WILCO was also my last word to get the QB last night.

Anonymous 10:36 AM  

xxxfully dune, Egs

Canon Chasuble 10:50 AM  

No Baker Street Irregular would use That title in the clue for 20 A. Doyle himself called it “The Sign of Four.”

ghthree 10:52 AM  

Evidently, nobody else put in SORCERY for 68 Across. I did this early, then checked it against 57 Down (KILO) 63 down (SIR) and 53 Down (SNEER). It wasn't until much later (after I found out that ART fit all four examples, including 7 Down) that I had to abandon SORCERY. My wife Jane and I both remembered ARTHUR DENT, which killed KILO for 57 Down, and eventually forced the agonizing re-appraisal. DARK ART is in retrospect much better.

We both loved 21 down. I was fitted for an artificial heart after waiting in hospital for 18 months, but the timely arrival of the real article made the point moot. I got a transplant in the spring of 2000, and it's still working fine today.

Both Jane and I agree with Rex and most others that "NEWAGEY" is a sign that the Times is slipping. NEW AGER makes more sense. Changing SODA CAN
to SODA CAP (with appropriate changes in cluing) would have fixed the problem.

JD 10:54 AM  

@Bauskern, Several days ago, I suggested that the blog add a page for comments that are oft repeated by people new or newish to the blog.

Now I'm thinking p'raps it should be a page that follows Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's model for the five stages of grief on death and dying.

You may've just entered Stage II, Rex Depresses Me and I Won't Read His Critique Anymore. We must bear in mind though that he's the generous host of the house and think of him with, at the very least, grudging affection. Good for the soul.

Stage III appears to be arguing with trolls (don't read them either). The rest is a work in progress.

@Fran, Thanks. Love your monkey, might have to get one. Kidding! 🧐

Nancy 10:59 AM  

@Pamela (8:51) -- Never saw GARBO in the flesh. But as a native New Yorker, I've seen some celebrities. Would have seen more, I'm sure, if I were the least bit observant. In a long lifetime here, here's who I've seen:

Katherine Hepburn (in Turtle Bay) walking past me from the other direction. I recognized her, but didn't trust my eyes because she was so, so short. Just about my height, for heaven's sakes! Admittedly she was old and might have shrunk and I hadn't shrunk yet. But didn't you always think of Kate as tall? She was so NOT tall!

Alistair Cook in a grocery store on Madison and 97th Street. Very, very shy. Very, very short.

Susan Sarandon on the Reservoir path in Central Park. Coming in the other direction. Dressed better than anyone else on the Reservoir path. But very little makeup. And much, much shorter than she looks on screen. Not as short as Kate. Not as short as me. But short.

Frank Langella, who boarded a bus going up CPW in the pouring rain at the same stop I did. (He had an umbrella; I didn't) Stared at him (subtly, I hope) the whole trip uptown, thinking: Actor. Stage. I've seen him. Who? Who? By the time I get off this bus I'm going to remember! And I did. As I exited the bus, passing him with his dark shades (in the rain, yet), I said: "Stay dry, Mr Langella!" He looked at me with amusement and, seeming not entirely unpleased, said "You, too." He was pretty old at that time, but I immediately felt the charm and enormous magnetism that had made him a reputed swordsman and catnip to so many women. Oh, and he was tall.

And before all the others: Harry Belafonte. I was in my 20's and in a very unprepossessing cafe on the UWS. A man -- a very, very tall man -- walked in and took all the air out of the room. I felt the charisma, the effect he had on the room, before I saw who it was. When I did see who it was, I thought he was the handsomest man I had ever seen in real life.

Oh, and Cate Blanchett. In Central Park, walking a wonderful big dog. Think it was a Golden, my favorite breed, but I'm not entirely sure. No makeup, not especially beautiful, at least not right then. I only noticed the dog. Tried to flirt with the dog. She was not amused, was cold as ice, and (with her back already to me) said something about having to go. Immediately I recognized the voice but couldn't place it. An actress. Movie actress. British or Australian. Who? C'mon, Nancy, who??? Halfway down the hill to the tennis courts, I got it. (Told you I'm a voice person). She probably was miffed that I didn't recognize her and was only interested in her dog. But still -- didn't like her.

I think that covers every celeb I've ever spotted in NYC in my long lifetime of living here. Any one of you really observant people would have spotted more, I'm quite sure.

TTrimble 11:00 AM  

@Whatsername
I have to agree. One would think Fifty Shades of Grey has a lot of erotic potential. I didn't read the book, but the movie with that title was a complete dud. Too hesitant, too self-conscious, too contrived. Too little on-screen chemistry between the principals. What did John Oliver say? "My penis yawned."

@Frantic Sloth
Thanks! My birthday was on Monday, so one day after Z's.

@Anonymoose 7:41 AM
C'mon, you must have made that up! Hilarious!

BobL 11:12 AM  

Nice one, Egs

WeesaSuzi 11:14 AM  

Personal best for me AND Queen Bee, all on the same day? I believe I shall buy a lottery ticket!

Carola 11:17 AM  

This one gets an unqualified "challenging" from me. In this case "theme density" refers to the blockhead of the solver rather than to the construction of the puzzle. And somehow, the initial no-idea cross of JACKASS and JACOB established a "this is all going to be too hard" mindset, rather than my usual "lemme at it" Thursday attitude. Anyway. In spite of the early POISON D, I couldn't see the missing ART so groped my way blindly through the grid down to the reveal clue, which triggered my "aHa" of "black ART!" So, a double ERRor there, but it set me on an eager hunt for the rest of the hidden ARTs, and an exercise in frustration became a very enjoyable treasure hunt. I loved discovering each gem. ARTIFICIAL HEART in the heart of the puzzle x (thank you, @Lewis) TRICK - genius.

Kathy 11:19 AM  

FLOWCH was my entree to suspecting the missing ART. I looked around a bit and OHO! the game was afoot, POISON DARTS and all. I found the puzzle easy for a Thursday but it had its rough spots nonetheless.

Fave AREA CODE

My bar is still set relatively low. I’m very happy just to finish with no help on a Thursday, but I’ll never achieve those 10-15 minute times! Same low bar with SB. In concert with my hubby, we strive for Genius and pangram every day; QB is almost always a bridge too far. The QB reveal is usually an anti-climax anyway when we see the oddball words that are acceptable while quite a few perfectly valid words are not.

Now if I could just expunge the DARK LADY ear worm that has been bugging me for over 24 hours. Seriously.

jberg 11:21 AM  

So Ice Planet Hoth is ICY; makes sense, but I just put in ICe, but the STORY ARC saved me. It was still hard to figure out ICLE II--since it started with a Roman number, I was looking for some tricky II.4.02 or something. Once I got it, my only problem was that I had the idea that the vertical black bars were four squares, rather than three. Oh, and OK CUPID. My daughter met her (second and current) husband through OK Cupid, the officiant at their wedding read some of their initial messages -- but I still misremembered it as "Hello CUPID."

The revealer made the puzzle a lot better, although I think Black ARTs is the more common expression.But having the revealer be the last across is worth the inability to make the revealer longer. Excellent Thursday!

jberg 11:23 AM  

Darn, looks like Blogger at my comment! I'll come back later -- I'm in a Zoom conference right now.

jae 11:23 AM  

Easy. Caught the theme early and just kept on going. It helped to have read The Hitchhikers Guide. I’ve also seen the movie but all I remember is that Zooey Deschanel was in it.

Cute, liked it.

Pamela 11:24 AM  

@egs- 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
Also @Not a doctor- Ditto, for the treatment for SLOP ITCH.

It’s shaping up to be a great Thursday on here- who needs a perfect puzzle, anyway?

Crimson Devil 11:25 AM  

Birthday boys/gals: not such a surprise. Doesn’t take many in a group for odds to favor two having same b’day! Guess.
I’s all set to pounce on Rex when I read his first reference to Executive Branch as Article I (sic) but saw he corrected that typo in balance of review and in grid solve. Some (current admin) would have it otherwise.
Fine puz: two inarow of smooth-sailing. I’m sure to be flummoxed t’row.
Subpar good.

johnk 11:27 AM  

Rex, you correctly have "Article II" in your narrative, but "Article I" at the top in Theme Answers.

Newboy 11:29 AM  

Read Rex and first two posts and they seem to have covered my experience nicely. I follow Across Lite where it leads and today 68A was highlighted early, so that was fortunate as the DARKART allowed several entries to emerge from memories like magic. Never have seen more than a JACKASS clip, but BAMBI was never the same after meeting Godzilla — decades ago, sure resonates in a Trump meets Fauchi OHO moment. Still puzzled about why that final Y took so long to drop for 14D to close the day. Thanks Evan for an easy Thursday to ease us toward another staycationing weekend 🤒 Now it’s off for a stroll, a final book chapter and lunch before I return to enjoy the brilliance of the greater commentariat and see all that I have missed.

CT2Napa 11:31 AM  

Here it is

Bambi meets Godzilla

mathgent 11:34 AM  

As @webwinger (8:39) noted, this is a happy reminder of Nancy’s BLACKHAT puzzle. And very enjoyable on its own.

I begin solving by going through all the clues, writing in gimmes along the way. So when I got to 68A, I saw the expected Thursday gimmick. That helped a lot.

I hadn’t seen BAMBI Meets Godzilla for years. I just found it on the internet.

Lewis mentioned that there were too many gimmes. I hadn’t noticed, so I just counted. 22 for me, a lot I would guess. On the other hand there were nine mysteries and I needed the gimmes to guess them.

Lewis has a unique style here on the blog. I just found a way to describe it. It’s like Lewis is in a room with the constructor and all of us. He announces some impressions to the whole room and also says some things directly to the constructor (Thank you so much! My brain is still a-tingle!). But he makes his comment to the constructor loud enough so that we all can hear. That’s an effective form because we all like to eavesdrop.

@egsforbreakfast (10:13). Brilliant!



Anonymous 11:38 AM  

Crimson Devil,
I think you need around 26 people in room to have a common birthday. I think. Certainly less than 30.
The Trump admin. has a lot of problems. None is with article ii.

Anonymous 11:44 AM  

about the last time I saw/presented a FLOWCHART in a business meeting was about 1975, and it was a programming workup. haven't seen one since.

Z 11:44 AM  

Hey all, thanks. I’ve never been all that into celebrating completing orbits, but this was going to be a great year to bring all the offspring home for a long weekend. Unfortunately the ‘Rona turned it into an extended Zoom meeting instead. C’est la guerre.

@JD and @bauskern - The last stage, which really seems to frighten lots of people, is discovering they agree with Rex more than they disagree with him. The journey from “why is he so negative” to “Oh, that’s why” varies in length, but seems fairly inevitable.

Pamela 11:56 AM  

@TTrimble, @Z- Happy Birthdays!

@Nancy- You’ve seen a lot of celebs for an unobservant person. I’m extremely unobservant, to the point that I don’t even recognize close friends on the streets. So the only famous people I’ve seen have been the ones I worked with, and it’s amazing how many are short. I’ve always thought that was one reason why so few models become known for acting- their height is a handicap, so they have to be much more talented. Short pretty girls become actresses, a dime a dozen. It’s so much easier for them, because so many of the men are short.

SB ALERT——-

Wilco was my last word yesterday, too. Today flowed quickly for a while, pangram early, now only 2 away from the honeypot. A very familiar resting spot.

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

So, famous people on one's birthday. That I've heard of, and born 1940 or later.

If I did the arithmetic right, @Z is 7/12 (or he could mean that 13th is B-day?). Here's the wiki list of famous people:
Richard Simmons

Mine is 7/13. Here's the wiki list of famous people:
Harrison Ford
Roger McGuinn (nee. Jim)
Erno Rubik (I can't do the Cube)

Anonymous 11:59 AM  

D’oh! Sorry red dev. It’s. 50% chance of a shared B-day when 23 people gather. It’s 99.99% with 75 people.

old timer 12:00 PM  

I knew it had to Article II, but could not for the life of me figure out how to jam the letters in the space provided. And POISON something up near the top. FLOWCH rescued me. Led to the FLOWCH(art), at which point the rest of the puzzle fell in line quickly, thanks to (art)IFICIAL HE(art). My only hangup was thinking (art)HUR DENT was an (art) stUDENT, but GROUPON saved me in the end.

Nice to think about the Midtown East part of New York. For maybe 20 years, our home away from home in Manhattan was the Hotel San Carlos, because with three kids, we needed a two-room suite, and they have plenty of them. A pleasant old place, though I suppose the old owner has moved on by now. He was, in a nice but pretty obvious way, totally smitten by my blonde daughter. I always thought he marked his list of former guests with a "give them the lowest possible rate) notation. We repaid his kindness by renting a vast, two-bedroom suite for a few nights when my wife's mother and sister came to stay with us.

The location just can't be beat -- a very short walk, via a little-known exit, from Grand Central. And therefore from the Oyster Bar, my favorite hangout in the City. Also a short walk to the UN, Central Park, and a fine old church that had Bach and baroque music events. Plus the best breakfast in NYC right across the street, though we generally rode the subway or took cabs to eat in the Village, or at the Union Square Cafe.

I would probably like to live in that neighborhood, but my first choice would be near Union Square. Being within walking distance of two Danny Meyer restaurants, plus the East Village, would be pretty close to heaven.

Whatsername 12:02 PM  

@egs (10:13) I hexxxily enjoyed your witty repxxxee! Don’t ever let anyone thwxxx the xxxiculating of your humor. It’s why I always like to pxxxake of your commentary.

@Nancy (10:59) That’s an impressive list. I admire/d all those people, especially Cate Blanchett. It’s disappointing to hear she wasn’t the most gracious, but then again I suppose people like that grow jaded to the attention over time.

@Ttrimble (11:00) I did not watch the entire movie, but I did read most of the book, basically out of curiosity. It was so over the top that after the first few chapters, it became absolutely laughable. Why anyone would read or see a sequel to such drivel is beyond me. Oh, and happy Monday birthday!

Anonymous 12:07 PM  

Z,
I’m going the other way. I disagree a lot more with Rex these days then I did years ago.
His gratuitous shots at people he doesn’t agree with doesn’t help. His virtue signal is repugnant, and his feud with Will Shortz has gone from a mild peccadillo to a pathology. But I find his actual criticism of the puzzle less trenchant. He repeats himself too much to be taken as a keen mind. Too often he’s merely regurgitating complaints rather than providing insight. Substituting his preference for legitimate criticism.

GHarris 12:11 PM  

@Nancy your recounting of celeb sightings moves me to recall a couple of my own. As a young executive trainee at Bloomingdales ( I was an utter failure as a budding buyer) I once interacted with Marilyn Monroe and was enormously disappointed. She had what looked like a towel around her head, was wearing dark glasses, had a acne outbreak and seemed to have swollen ankles. I’m talking 1957. Then I saw Arlene Dahl in the store. She was ravishing in every detail and I was completely smitten. I best remember walking along Madison Avenue and striding toward me was a tall, suntanned man in a very bright blue suit. He walked with a haughty air and looked directly at me seeming to expect some adoring response. When I returned gaze with a scornful (sneering?) stare his shoulders sank and he seemed visibly deflated. The man was Spiro Agnew shortly after his disgraced departure from the Nixon administration.

Masked and Anonymous 12:11 PM  

(Wherefore ART thou / trashed ART hidden in black squares) -type of theme mcguffin. Have seen that kinda trick before, but this one was extra-well done, becuz of (ART)IFICIALHE(ART).

Is neon really INERT? But yet it glows bright in the dark, in them store signs? Confuses the M&A. Is neon sorta like LA-VA, then?

Cool BIRDIE clue.
Didn't know some stuff, especially lotsa SW corner stuff. Mysterious items: JACOB. MATCHA. OKCUPID. (ART)HURDENT. WIIMOTE.

staff weeject pick: ART. Primo weeject stacks in the NE & SW, btw.

fave fillins: STORYARC. CORNDOG. OBLIGE. DOWNTON. JACKASS.

NEWAGEY? har

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Kalish.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


**gruntz**

burtonkd 12:18 PM  

Since no one has mentioned it, the main gag in BAMBI vs Godzilla was the long opening credit roll followed by maybe five seconds of seeing Bambi, then a giant lizard foot stomp on him, followed by a long final credit roll.

I was watching the Great British Baking Show and one of the judges had never tasted MATCHA and dismissed it for tasting grassy. Maybe not a large Asian population or influence in England? Also, I always notice now how they say a bake has TICKED all the boxes - thanks puzzle:)

JC66 12:26 PM  

@TTrimble & @Z

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

SABH 12:41 PM  

Ah, yes, Downton Abbey, 50 shades of gray, and matcha, those bro-iest of answers. This puzzle skewed contemporary, I thought, but certainly not towards bros except in the single reference to Jackass (hallowed be its name). As well, Jackass viewers are now nearly middle-aged, and so have likely to some degree aged out of their “bro-y” past. Unnecessary slanderings today of the puzzle’s constructors, and of Jackass and its audience. Shame on you, Rex!

A Moderator 12:51 PM  

@TTrimble

Happy Birthday. If I had known I still would have killed those SB posts. ;-)

JC66 12:53 PM  


@Nancy

Living on the UWS, I see tons of celebs, but the most memorable was when I'd go to the World Gym across from Lincoln Center before it closed and worked out in the same space as Bruce Springsteen and Nathan Lane. Mr. Lane would try to make his workouts easier by distracting his personal trainier with a continuous flow of schtick. Kept us all in stitches. Mr. Springsteen had two bodyguards and no one when near him.

Wanderlust 12:58 PM  

I had been surprised to find myself agreeing with Rex’s curmudgeonlness lately, especially that awful Tuesday puzzle. But I loved this, especially the theme. ARTIFICIALHEART with the ART on either end made it great. Without that, it would have just been good. POISONDART and ARTHURDENT are also really nice. And none of the dark ARTs was about art. So FOLKART or ARTNOUVEAU would not have worked. Can’t figure out was was so “bro” about this other than JACKASS. I think of “bro” as “frat boy” so a baseball player and EDASNER don’t count. Maybe DOWNTON Abbey and OKCUPID are bro-ish to Rex.

The clue for CIA was excellent. I love a clue that makes me want to look something up to find the back story. (Which I haven’t done yet.) Unless I missed it, no one has yet posted an explanation.

Finally, a while ago, LMS welcomed a new poster and asked them to “get a blue name.” I have no idea how to do that. Can anyone explain?

RooMonster 1:00 PM  

@CT2Napa
Thanks for the link! Funny stuff.

The posts with the xxx for art were bugging out the ole brain. How about "puz was ◾️◾️◾️fully done".

RooMonster Sm◾️◾️◾️Y Pants Guy

GILL I. 1:06 PM  

Gadzooks, @Roo....Why of course. How do I mix up my lizards with apes?
@Nancy...You want short and rude, my vote goes to Yul Brenner. I may have been wearing my platforms but when I went up to ask him for an autograph, he came up to my chin. Never got the autograph. My all-time favorite tall, charming and funny as hell, is Vincent Price.....
Happy happy's to @TTrimble & Z.....

Old Actor 1:06 PM  

@Nancy: You are right about Langella he is a sweetheart. Probably the most dashing figure I have ever met. I've had the pleasure of working with him several times. In
"A Cry of Players" at the Vivian Beaumont" I had a very emotional scene with him in which I was in tears. With his back to the audience, he would cross his eyes as I was acting my heart out. So he can be a bit of a scamp, but I love him dearly

For almost 20 years I lived on East 54th and saw Garbo regularly, also Kurt Vonnegut lived across the street.

On the corner of 54th and 1st Ave was an apartment bldg. 405 E. 54th which was inhabited by many gentlemen of the gay persuasion (Noel Coward had the penthouse) Locals referred to it as "4 out of 5".

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

CIA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kryptos

I use CNN as my homepage, and it had a picture of the sculpture and a story a few days ago. pays to be informed.

What? 1:15 PM  

An example of why it pays to read the reveal first. Without that, solving would be almost impossible. And with that, solving went zoom zoom.

Teedmn 1:19 PM  

What's this "easy puzzle" I keep hearing about? That NW with its JACOB and KEN and JACKASS made it hard for me to break into. And I was one of those people who wrote in a rebus with a slash for the down letter at the theme answers, so the reveal was definitely an OHO for me. Very nice, Evan Kalish, that the reveal was saved for the very end.

I adore the Hitchhiker's Guide books but when presented with __RD E/ART__ at 55A, I was trying hard to see how foRD prefect could fit somehow. Then I realized that Ford wasn't really the protagonist in the series and I remembered poor, hapless ARTHUR DENT!

( didn't know MATCHA though - I don't do tea and it's only been in one other puzzle in 2018 so...

This was fun, my favorite puzzle of the week so far.

webwinger 1:19 PM  

@Canon Chasuble: For some reason it’s very hard not to insert an extra “the” when referring to The Sign of Four. Similar for The Origin of Species.

@Nancy and others: Should be boring to hear about these celebrity sightings but it’s not. One of the things that has always made me feel special when walking the streets of Manhattan is the awareness that any second a living legend might appear right in front of me. Alas, that has never to my knowledge actually happened to me…

@Carola and others: Great observation that (ART)IFICIAL HE(ART) crosses TRICK at the very heart of the puzzle.

ARTHUR DENT (aka ART HURDENT) will never be far from the hearts of fans of Douglas Adams’s five-part Hitchhiker Trilogy.

Speaking of orbits and birthdays: For many years I have tried to convince anyone who will listen that they should celebrate the days when they pass 33 and 1/3 years, and 66 and 2/3 years, respectively one third and two thirds of a century. Almost no one seems interested.

Speaking of little interest: I have been conducting my own blog devoted to Covid-19, with a small but growing number of followers, mostly healthcare professionals. Will be happy to add anyone to the distribution list in response to email request. Yesterday’s post concerned this troubling article recently posted online in preprint version, and the real mask issue.

Masked and Anonymous 1:20 PM  

p.s.

Some quick M&A researchin has revealed that neon is considered *chemically* INERT, becuz U can't make chemical compounds usin it as an ingredient.

Sooo … It's OK to be INERT, and still glow in the dark, when zapped with enough electric(al) juice. M&A would not however choose to remain INERT, if zapped with significant electricity. Just sayin.

Woulda been neat, if the little ARTs in the puz's dark square blocks could somehow glow. M&A tried this in the printed edition xword with white-out fluid, but it got awful messy. Do not try this, at home.

M&A Research Desk

Sir Hillary 1:23 PM  

Simple and breezy. Usually I like my Thursdays with more crunch, but I was pressed for time today so this was a welcome change. xxxTIFICIALHExxx is a great theme answer; guessing it was the seed entry. Not digging the ONLOW/BOOER cross (easy enough, but two crappy entries) but otherwise nothing stuck out as overly bad.

@amyyanni 7:31AM -- Love your definition of FLOWCH, but on the heels yesterday's [TRA]SHART, I'm a bit queasy.

@albatross shell 7:41AM -- CORNDOG EROTICA is the winner by a mile.

I kept thinking of one thing during my solve, and it was reinforced by @Rex saying he was searching for the ARTs, and then further reinforced by @M&A's opening line: Warner Brothers cartoons are the best!

JC66 1:23 PM  

WENT

Anonymous 1:26 PM  

@web:

If you offered one LP for the first marker, and 2 LPs for the second, woke kids would take you up on the gig. Kids are really into vinyl these days; likely will be at least until first marker. Need to offer them something other than 50s opera records, of course.

Unknown 1:28 PM  

Please...see Bambi vs. Godzilla! Though abrupt, I still laugh!

Barbara S. 1:33 PM  

@ Roo 8:06
When I was in the book trade, as I recall, there was a series of books, much like the well-known "For Dummies" books, called the KISS series (i.e. Keep It Simple Stupid). That's pretty close to your OK STUPID library!

That reminds me of the day the Governor General came into the store, complete with PHALANX of grim-faced, black-suited security men glued to earpieces. As representative of the Queen, the GG performs the duties of head of state in Canada, so, yeah, big deal. She was happily browsing hither and yon, seemingly oblivious to the DARK army doggedly tracking and re-forming around her. Cat, one of our managers, was allowed to walk up to her and ask if she could help. They talked about a wide range of books -- the GG was an author herself -- and I think she bought a number of different things (dutifully toted away by the men-in-black). But in many ways, her most memorable purchase was a copy of "Sewing for Dummies." Apparently the GG wanted to brush up her skills with needle and thread. Cat was both lauded and teased for many days thereafter for having sold a Dummies book to our very smart and literate Grand Poohbah Governor General.

Oh, and that further reminds me of another store story. One morning just after opening, a smallish man walked in, accompanied by an even bigger and more formidable security entourage. I tell you, these guys looked like they could snap you in two with their jaws. I didn't recognize the individual they were guarding but my curiosity was piqued, so I thought the only sensible course of action was to march right up to him and see what everybody would do. I swear the whole contingent as one took a step toward me, but when they realized I was just asking their charge if he needed help finding books, they all immediately stood down. He declined my offer with a smile and went on with his browsing in the political science section. After he'd gone I asked a colleague who on earth that was, and was told it was Michael Hayden, head of the NSA. Wow, that explained a lot.

Pamela 1:46 PM  

@Z, @Ttrimble- I meant to say Happy Birthdays! in my last post, but now see I didn’t. Belated, sorry, but well meant nonetheless.

———-SB——-

I got there again, QB! I haven’t been doing this very long, but I’m beginning to see that it develops some secondary skills. Unlike Xwords, where all but theme answers are pretty much stand-alone, SB seems to often cluster in groups. Some outlandish nearly nonsensical guess will pass, and after the initial shock of surprise, it inspires several more in the same vein, some of which also pass. I’ve seen that more than once already. You veteran SBers probably already knew that, but I find it very interesting,

Joaquin 1:53 PM  

@Z - We don't have much in common, but we do share a birthday. What are the odds? Pretty good, apparently.

Belated happy birthday; and even though you're gaining on me, you'll never catch me!

TTrimble 1:58 PM  

Yes, 23 people in a room will make it more likely than not that two share a birthday.

For what interest it may have: it's easier to work out (for N people) the probability of the opposite: that no two share a birthday. Suppose that's the case, and imagine lining them up and having them crossing off their b-days on a calendar, one by one. Person 1 does this, then there are 364 out of 365 possibilities left for person 2 to cross off a day (we'll ignore leap years, okay?). Then after those two, there are 363 out of 365 possibilities left for person 3, and so on. Long story short, one can construct a table like this:

Number of people Prob that no two of them share a birthday*
---------------- -------------------------------------------
2 364/365 = .997
3 (364/365) x (363/365) = .992
4 (364/365) x (363/365) x (362/365) = .984

... .........

23 (364/365) x (363/365) x ... x (343/365) = .493

So with 23 people, the chance that no two share a birthday is about 49.3 percent. That makes the chance that of the opposite, that some pair shares a birthday, 50.7 percent: better than 50 percent chance.

Wikipedia gets the calculation right. The first hit I saw, linking to a site called "Better Explained", doesn't. You can tell because if there are 366 people in a room (or 367 if you count leap days), then it's guaranteed that some two share a birthday. (They can't all have different birthdays, because there are only 365 [or 366] days in a year!) Whereas the "Better Explained" calculation yields a very small but positive probability that no two share a birthday, which is absurd. Caveat lector.

*Assuming a uniform distribution, that any day of the year is equally likely to be a random person's birthday.

Anonymous 2:06 PM  

@ghthree 10:52. But what the hell is a SODACAp?? And then 14D would be pAr, which is part of the clue for 23D.

Pamela 2:07 PM  

@old actor- That’s exactly where I am now. And yes, I knew what it was called. These days we still have those guys, both young and old, along with young families with small children, a fair mix of other types, and about a million dogs. Still a great neighborhood.

sara 2:11 PM  

sightings in Los Angeles in the 80's...
lily tomlin in feminist bookstore -- everyone in the store VERY conscientiously trying not to stare..
and, driving down La Cienega Blvd. past the Tale of the Pup hot dog stand (which is shaped like a hot dog bun) -- noticing filming of some sort going on -- and then seeing it was Ryan O'Neal who was GLOWING with such powerful charismatic energy - lit up my day...

sara 2:17 PM  

and even better celebrity encounter! i used to fly Southwest Airlines Los Angeles to Albuquerque weekly in the 90's. Often saw Bryan Dennehy. I often noticed that the best aisle seats near the front of the plane went unclaimed as people boarded and chose -- if next to a person of color...good opportunity for me.
so i took aisle seat, next to big fat Japanese old man at the window and very tiny very strange looking fellow in middle seat. during the flight he was writing strangely in tiny notebook. is he mentally ill, i am wondering? glanced at his book - it seemed to be poetry! hmm.. omg, it's Leonard Cohen (and his then zen guru) ! of course i didn't dare say a thing...

Anonymous 2:45 PM  

Sara,
I have a Lily Tom.in story too. Flying from LAX to PHl she may, may have taken my seat. I can’t be sure, but almost ready for boarding, I got bumped out of first class. I didn’t balk because I hadn’t anticipated being in first class (my boss had upgraded me). Anyway, I eventually did board and who was in the set across from my boss, Lily Tomlin. I was shocked. I hadn’t seen her at the gate and so, shocke$ at seeing her, I stared, apparently, because she very playfully stuck her tongue out at me.

Not my story, but years ago my parents had finished dinner at The Palm in NY. For some reason my mother was momentarily alone just outside, when Bill Murray walked up to her and, very low key, asked “how is it in threre?”. Ever cool, my mother nonchalantly said “Like it always is”. Just then, here come my dad, sees it’s Bill Murray and goes into the full fan routine. Murray mumbled something and bid a hasty retreat. I definitely got the feeling mom wasn’t happy about dad’s move.

Barbara S. 2:46 PM  

Happy Birthday to @Z and @TTrimble and @Joaquin. I always wanted a summer birthday when I was a kid (more scope for interesting parties and also your BDay would automatically be a holiday). I've largely overcome my summer-birthday envy, but maybe there's still the tiniest twinge.

7D SEGO lily. Never heard of this particular variety -- they're not in my neck of the woods -- but I looked them up and they're SO pretty. Gettable from crosses.

I got the gimmick pretty fast, but there was still a head-scratcher when the murder weapon in "The Sign of Four" turned out to be a POISON tart. (I had Abit for 11D). A poisoned tart? Huh? Who would be cruel enough to go around poisoning something as lovely and delicious as a tart? And, anyway, I don't remember a Sherlock Holmes plot that featured fatally toxic pastries. ...Oh, wait...

And then there was another one. I didn't at first realize that the DARK ART squares also applied to the central down, so I had the inscrutable IFICIALHE for 21D (hi @Snoble and @EdFromH). I needed to fill in a couple of blank squares in the SW and I thought that after I did that, I'd come back and try to fix the weirdness. And then the happy music occurred before I had a chance. What?? ...Oh, wait...

ARTHUR DENT travelling the universe in his bathrobe. Who can forget?

****SPELLING BEE****
I missed QB yesterday by one word, which turned out to be CIRRI. That's a word that's directly in my wheelhouse, and I'm solemnly prepared to swear in a court of law that I tried it and was rebuffed. I guess that's impossible, but it is and will remain an enigma wrapped in a mystery.

WILCO was my entirely new word yesterday -- exactly the opposite experience, where you punch something in, convinced it's nonsense, and they throw points at you.

I got QB before 9:00 a.m. today -- that never happens! But today's set of letters is very close to a puzzle we had 10 days or two weeks ago, and the words just filled themselves in.

sixtyni yogini 2:56 PM  

Don’t care what day it is, ❤️ a 🧩 with a clever trick. 👏🏽😍👏🏽

Lewis 3:19 PM  

FLOWCH (noun) -- A very casual sofa

QuasiMojo 3:32 PM  

I can't beat all of your celebrity sightings but I used to tell people if you want to see a star stand at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue any afternoon and you are sure to see one. A few famous faces I saw there include Diana Vreeland, David Hasselhoff who asked me directions, Charlotte Rampling, Bobby Short, David Hockney and Tommy Tune (not together.) My favorite celebrity encounter was seeing Grace Kelly, then a princess, at a fancy restaurant on the UES.

Anonymous 3:49 PM  

Quasi,
Good list. 57th and 5th is only about 25 blocks from the Carlyle so Bobby Short is only half credit.😉
Saw Meryl Streep and Ed Begley Jr. filming She Devil at 50th and 5th in the Summer of ‘89.

Sir Hillary 3:52 PM  

@TTrimble -- Thanks so much for the probability formula. I didn't look at the Wikipedia page, but oh man, I had a blast with it on my own. Some interesting facts (assuming away leap days and any seasonal or weekly birth patterns):
-- It only takes 41 people for the chances of a shared birthday to exceed 90%
-- By the time you get to 83 people, the chances are basically 100%.
-- You have a better chance of winning both the Powerball and the Mega Millions jackpots than you do of gathering 156 people who do not share a birthday.
-- The likelihood of gathering 365 people who do not share a birthday is far less than winning both lottery jackpots ten times each.

Anyway, this was a fun trip down the rabbit hole. Happy birthday to the recent celebrants.

Citizen Dain 4:11 PM  

Very happy to see my favorite pitcher, JACOB deGrom, make what I can only assume his crossword debut. Odd that it was for his common first name and not his unusual last name.

For a time a few years ago, the Mets had three players on the roster whose names started with a lower-case 'D' at the same time: deGrom, Travis d'Arnaud, and Matt den Dekker. Equipment staff were forced to use upside down capital-Ps for all three jerseys.

Nancy 4:59 PM  

I'm so happy I posted my celebrity-sightings comment earlier because it's produced an absolutely fascinating blog today -- with celebrity info I bet you can't find anywhere else. Among the surprising, knock-your-socks-off details I saw today:

@GHarris's description (12:11) of what Marilyn Monroe looked like in 1957 in real life. Yikes!

@Old Actor's hilarious recounting (1:06) of the mischievous way Frank Langella tried to distract him when they were playing an emotional scene together. Wonderful! I bet no bio has ever given insights into Langella as good as this one. Also, what an interesting look at the apartment house where Noel Coward lived.

@Whatsername: I don't think Cate Blanchett was annoyed at being recognized. I think she was annoyed at not being recognized.

@GILL -- I remember your Yul Brynner rudeness story in greater detail from an earlier post. Didn't you say he was squeezing the tomatoes? Or the avocados? Or maybe you were?

@GHarris's many celebrity sightings in Bloomingdales reminds me of one celeb sighting of mine that I left out. It was on the Designer Floor of Bergdorf's. (I was quite early for my dentist appt on 60th and Madison; it was winter and freezing; where to go if you don't want to spend extra time in a dentist's office?) I thought the Designer Floor at the most expensive department store in NYC would be amusing. Once again, I recognized the voice (as how could anyone not?) before I saw her...

Dr. Ruth!!!! Sitting in the middle of the floor in an enormous padded armchair. Being waited on by an army of salespeople presenting an enormous array of over-the-top gowns. She never moved from her chair; they all came to her. And that awful, awful voice -- like chalk on a blackboard -- barking orders as though she was a princess. If I'd been a saleslady, I would have despised her. Now, mind you, Dr. Ruth Westheimer has always seemed like a caricature to me, anyway. I could never take her seriously. But this scene was right out of "Downton Abbey" and she was playing Lady Grantham. A role for which she was completely miscast. It was one of the most obnoxious and ostentatious displays of entitlement I've ever seen.

But deliciously entertaining. And much more fun than the dentist.

Anonymous 5:01 PM  

Okay, I've got you all beat time-wise anyhow. In 1935, at the age of two, I was playing Little-ball-pass-along by myself in Central Park, and two guys strolled up. One squatted down to play with me, which I considered very nice. Later I told my mom, "he said his name was Joe DiMaggio and the other one was Joe Page." It never got better than that. And of course cemented my life-long devotion to the Yankees.
M

Lewis 5:08 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 5:10 PM  

Way back when I worked as a waiter at a tony little restaurant on the Upper East Side, one of our regular customers was Andy Warhol, who would always come in with a wild mob of about eight people. And every night he came he ate the same thing for dinner -- a mountain (and I'm not exaggerating, think a foot high) of French fries, on which he slathered ketchup, probably a full bottle's worth, then came the endless shaking of salt, all the while an almost childish look of anticipation before he dove in.

Joe Dipinto 5:21 PM  

I may have you all beat for quantity of celeb sightings in NYC. When I worked at Sam Goody's: Buffy St. Marie (I told that story), Jennifer O'Neill (from "Summer of 42" – slightly embarrassing story), Linda Lavin, Charles Durning (he was annoying), Joni Mitchell, Lauren Bacall (she was having a bad day), among others that I'm not remembering at the moment. Also: Sylvia Miles (many times), Joel Siegel (many times), Ric Ocasek (many times – how could you miss him?), Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, Ethan Hawke + Uma Thurman, Al Pacino, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Liev Schreiber...it goes on. I'll have to dredge my brain for a comprehensive list. The Lincoln Center area was primo real estate to celebwatch, as JC66 noted. Also Union Square/Flatiron District.

Crimson Devil 6:05 PM  

Anon 5:01
Wow, Joltin Joe. I have a tale ‘bout him: I’s on a weekend pheasant hunt up in S.D. one October, and one of our group was early, maybe one of first, bonus baby, recruited to Det Tigers right outta h.s., a catcher. We got to watch World Series games in eve with him: Frank “Pig” House.
Pig recounted his first appearance in a game, when starting catcher got hurt mid-game v Yankees. Mgr hollered Pig, you’re in, so he scurried up to squat down behind plate, dared not look up to batter, but noticed on batter’s shoes hand-printed # 5: yup, Dimaggio.
I could go on...one more: wife, sons. probably 8 & 10, and I were on family vacation down at Grand Hotel, Point Clear, Al, and were out on golf practice range, sons each with rag-bag of sawed off clubs. Who walks up, with entourage, but Bear Bryant. Coach looked at boys and said, loudly, to all: “looks like a coupla recruits”. Each kid claims to remember; I sure do.

Chris 6:06 PM  

As far as misreading goes 10D was eye opener for me as I always saw it as DOWNTOwN abbey

Z 6:45 PM  

@Joaquin - Cool. Also my nephew and my cousin. Less noteworthy, we share our day with Julius Caesar, Thoreau, Christine McVie, and Malala Yousafzai. We will just ignore a certain actor/comedian who once played a spy as well as a famous TV doctor/dad.

pabloinnh 6:50 PM  

All these celebrity sightings are making me feel like the grocery store cash register guy in a Bob and Ray "interview". Question was-So, you must have had some famous people come through here, right? A.-Uh, no, not really. Q.:Come on. There must have been somebody. A.: Well, once I thought a guy was Ralph Bellamy. Turned out not to be him though.

I'm sure there was more to it than this, but you get the idea.

Pete 6:53 PM  

@Z You're a proponent of the Oxford comma, no? If not become one quickly and convince us that your nephew isn't also your couy.

pabloinnh 6:53 PM  

****SB Stuff****

Forgot to say that if I am reduced to trying random letter combinations to make "words" in a quest for the QB, that's when I stop. I can throw darts blindfolded, but if I hit a bullseye I don't really feel like I've done anything.

Anonymous 7:15 PM  

How are crystals and incense “new agey”?

Anonymous 7:18 PM  

Joe Dipinto,
I’ve got you beat. I’ve worked with one of your celebs for two decades.

Anonymous 7:31 PM  

Lol!! Caesar and and Thoreau are less noteworthy than z’s nephew. The best part? Not mentioning Cosby as if typing the name would sully him.
Rock on z. Rock on.

Barbara S. 7:38 PM  

I've loved all the sighting tales today. I know I've already told my Teri Garr and Dan Aykroyd stories. Three more I'll mention: Kevin McCarthy in a tearing hurry in a shop on Cape Cod (do people remember him?), Germaine Greer, looking sleek in an elegant grey outfit in the University Library in Cambridge, U.K., and Salman Rushdie in an affable mood at a book signing in Canada. I actually chatted with Rushdie for a couple of minutes and came away with a very positive impression.

JC66 7:38 PM  

@Joaquin

Happy Birthday!

@Z

Many moons ago, a day after Bill Clinton was inaugurated, I was on line to see an exhibit at MOMA (can't remember what it was), Michael Moore (before he was famous) approached me with a camera and asked me "How has the Clinton administration affected you?" I responded "I burned all my Fleetwood Mac albums." He told me to watch Carson that night. I still have the tape.

JC66 7:50 PM  

For those who don't remember, this was Clinton's campaign theme song.

GHarris 8:08 PM  

@Anonymous
5:01 PM
Either someone was pulling your two-year old leg in 1935 or you are pulling ours. DiMaggio's first year with the Yankees was 1936. Page didn't join the team until the mid forties. Still, it's a nice story.

GILL I. 8:22 PM  

@Nancy...It was a tomato...And he did it harm.
I'll add one more actor encounter....I used to interpret for movies that were being made in Spain. My absolute favorite "You're the biggest JACKASS I've ever met" was on a film called "Peppermint Frappe" with Geraldine Chaplin." the first day on the set I excitedly went up to her and told her how much I adored her Father. She screeched "SO WHAT." Twas a good thing she didn't demand I bring her coffee. I might've spiked it with an unmentionable.

Teedmn 9:14 PM  

Most boring celebrity sighting (maybe) story ever - walking with my cousin and his husband on the Highline last August, my cousin wrenched around, staring at someone who had just passed us. “Is that Chris Noth?”, he asked. Staring at the back of the head of the man in question, I could only say “Maybe”. (It was at twilight, so...).

Joe Dipinto 9:22 PM  

@Anon 7:18 – well I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that it's not one of the dead ones. Or one that's under 40. You have worked with them for 20 years, you say. That doesn't sound like an acting gig or an assistant gig. Someone who stretches out into other areas...I sense a couple of possibilities...like maybe someone who's required the services of book publisher since oh about 2000 or so...actually I see exactly ONE possibility.

Unless of course I'm totally off-base.

albatross shell 9:42 PM  

Newage shops sell a lot of them. Therefore I suppose newagers use them.

RPCV Cameroon 9:44 PM  

Late 1970s was treasurer of Doc Films at Chicago. One Saturday (our blockbuster night) we showed Bambi meets Godzilla before the main feature. Main feature -long forgotten. But can still see the foot coming down...splat.

Pdxrains 10:31 PM  

I FLOWCHED this puzzle pretty hard

albatross shell 10:55 PM  

Oops. I posted this 5 hours ago on the wrong day's blog.

My answers to the quiz I suggested this morning are:
CORNDOG And SODACAN. One in each hand at the county fair you are not having this year. For the record I have never tried a CORNDOG. A food of convenience only IMO. Where there are CORNDOGs there are also much better choices.

AL DENTE goes with NEWAGEY. They both involve cooking times. AL DENTE cooked as briefly as possible to be just right while the NEWAGEY tends to be half-baked or overcooked.

That leaves us with JACKASS EROTICA which may be taken several ways. It makes me think of one of my favorite House MD episodes. House is treating a woman who regularly comes in for AIDS tests and has an ailment connected with contact with donkeys. House suspects her of being a prostitute and she does confirm she has been in contact with a donkey in preparation for a performance she is giving and to which she eventually invites him. House is mistaken in this case. You might guess what up if you know it was the shows Christmas episode. Mary had a little donkey.

thefogman 9:49 AM  

Artfully done. Loved the grid-spanning ARTIFICIALHEART.

Burma Shave 10:47 AM  

TRITE TRICK

OK,CUPID, YESISEE,
EROTICA is your DARKART.
SIR, A JACKASS like me
will need an ARTIFICIALHEART.

--- AL DENTE

spacecraft 11:13 AM  

Had trouble starting, because even though JACOB was a gimme, I never in a million years would apply the adjective "classic" to JACKASS. I mean, come on now. So, off I went, finding gimme EDASNER, but not getting anything else there (you start naming tech devices and my eyelids grow heavy). Right then. Over to the SE, which at last I was able to do--and find the mcguffin. OHO! That's what was wrong with the SW: I misremembered the Hitchhiker protagonist as Ford Prefect; forgot all about ARTHURDENT. It's been a while. After that the thing got ATAD easier.

Still, there were enough playful clues and such that I wouldn't call it easy. More of a medium. Some lively, if not always familiar (MATCHA??), fill, and the one true classic: DOD Greta GARBO. Score? You had me at BIRDIE, Evan.

Don 12:43 PM  

I cant believe that Rex let NEWAGEY go by unmolested.

Anonymous 1:26 PM  

A mixture of the occasional pisser added to the lamest, most incomprehensible theme ever made this puzzle the total opposite of enjoyable. Rejected.

rainforest 1:58 PM  

I found this to be an ARTful effort which kept me in the DARK for a while until I did the SE section, and *then* I found it very entertaining with entries covering a variety of topics. There was nothing that ticked me off, and I thought the theme was creative.

@Anonymous (1:26) Why do you even bother commenting? It's all crap.

Diana, LIW 2:11 PM  

After experiencing double froots recently, and learning about Rodan, you can guess who I put into 22A - meeting up with Godzilla again. But no - it was little BAMBI. That little deer gets around, I guess. Little did I know.

But whilst I also knew of WIIs, the WIIMOTE was out of my range, and for some reason TRI_E didn't yield up the T to me. I think I've been home a little too long.

OTOH, I did know OTOH. And I found the conceit of the puzzle fun, once I got its arty little self. Little seems to be my word of the day. I'll let you know. A little later. ALOHA!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting a Little Longer

Anonymous 2:32 PM  

@Z(8:15am):
Regarding the _bar answer, 99 times out of 100, the answer is T. However, once in a great while, the answer is J. It is a very rare bird, but I have encountered it.

rondo 2:39 PM  

Before I got all the way down to DARKART I thought it might be 'black ARTs'. Figured it out somewhere in mid-solve. I may have mentioned before that *classic* yeah baby Greta GARBO was my grandmother's cousin and was at one time mad at her for not returning to Sweden; guess she changed her tune.

I didn't find anything particularly pesky here. Better than 3 or 4 letters in one box.

El Dingo 3:20 PM  

NEWAGEY left me enragey.

leftcoaster 3:52 PM  

First ART to show was FLOWCHART. The rest followed the DARK ART theme.

Relatively easy, I thought, but my ART stuDENT entry didn't work. Alas, cheated to get the unknown ARTHUR DENT. Two other errors: Couldn't associate BAMBI with Godzilla, and never heard of OKCUPID.

Found this is a clever and interesting puzzle, including its longer fill.


wcutler 8:13 PM  

@Wanderlust 12:58 PM: I don't think anyone answered the question about the blue name, and I wish someone who really knew had replied. I think you get a blogger account. It's been so long, I don't remember what happens next, how the sign-in gets connected to this page, whether it happens after you start to do a comment and log in or what. Must be. It always shows my google account on this comment page, so I don't even know if that's all that's required, or if the Blogger account is, but when you click one of those names, it goes to the Blogger page; maybe that's connect to your email address?


Once you get it, you won't even have to click the captcha, just click Publish. Big advantage.

Please somebody, help this person!

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