English-born cabaret singer / THU 8-18-11 / Bless us and splash us my preciousss / Onetime NASA booster / Epithet for mouse Burns To Mouse

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Constructor: Kevan Choset

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: SIX DEGREES (40A: Often-cited distance between things ... or what's hidden in this puzzle) — rebus puzzle with SIX educational DEGREES crammed into squares throughout the grid


Word of the Day: MABEL / MERCER (5D: With 52-Down English born cabaret singer) —

Mabel Mercer (3 February 1900 – 20 April 1984) was an English-born cabaret singer who performed in the United States, Britain, and Europe with the greats in jazz and cabaret. She was a featured performer at Chez Bricktop in Paris, owned by the hostess Bricktop, and performed in such clubs as Le Ruban Bleu, Tony's, the RSVP, the Carlyle, the St. Regis Hotel, and eventually her own room, the Byline Club. Among those who frequently attended Mercer's shows was Frank Sinatra, who made no secret of his emulating her phrasing and story-telling techniques. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was a toughie. Usually SIX DEGREES is attached to the phrase OF SEPARATION, and I've never heard it used of distance between "things" (as the clue indicates), only people. I've seen educational degrees used as the basis of a puzzle theme before, but probably not quite like this. The fill in this puzzle is kind of strained, but that's somewhat to be expected in a rebus puzzle, especially one with a couple of tough squares to pull off (BFA and MBA). Puzzle seemed slightly over-reliant on mild esoterica—plus it uses STAR twice (DOG STAR and S-STARS) (14D: Its rising signaled the flooding of the Nile in ancient Egypt + 74A: Cool red giants) —but I mostly enjoyed it. Seems about an average Thursday rebus puzzle.

Picked up the rebus at ICE MAKER, though I didn't know if EM or MA was the rebus square at first. With MA in one square, I thought maybe there'd be some kind of family or kinship theme, but then SIX gave me SIX DEGREES, and I knew what was up. Even so, finding five more different degrees was tough. Helps to know they're out there, but when you don't know what degrees they are, or where they are, you still have to flail around quite a bit. Had some trouble in the SE, around NERD (?) (63A: Creature in Dr. Seuss's "If I Ran the Zoo") and TRUDGER (??) (48D: Weary walker) and BEASTIE (47A: Epithet for the mouse in Burns's "To a Mouse"). Had more trouble at the end of the solve, in the NE. ANIMIST (29A: Nature worshiper, of a sort) was tough to come up with, and that was one of the only ways into that section. AN ARM and CDS helped, as did partially remembering ERNESTO Zedillo's name (I had ERNEST ... not sure why I hesitated on the "O") (13D: 1990s Mexican president Zedillo). Last letter was the "S" in DOGSTAR / ARLES, I think.


Theme answers:
  • CABFARE / ABFAB (6D: Hit Brit sitcom)
  • ICE MAKER / MAINE
  • CMDR / EMDASHES
  • VJDAY / JD SALINGER (67A: Writer featured in the memoir "Dream Catcher")
  • BATOR / BASS HORN
  • SLAMBANG / ZIMBALIST (12D: Notable violinist) — best degree square of them all

Bullets:
  • 1A: Traditional keikogi accessory (OBI) — I stupidly thought LEI at first.
  • 17A: "Sleepers" co-star, 1996 (DE NIRO) — No idea. I probably saw this, but have no recollection of it. That's pretty back-catalogue, as DE NIRO movies go.
  • 18A: Literary source of "Bless us and splash us, my preciousss!" ("THE HOBBIT") — read it as "precsiousness," so did not pick up the obvious "LOTR" reference.
  • 33A: Pill bug, for one (ISOPOD) — absolutely no idea what "pill bug" is. Oh, it's one of those armadillo-type bugs. Used to see them in CA. Haven't seen them since moving east.
  • 49A: Aegean island near Naxos (IOS) — stone cold guess that happened to be right.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

78 comments:

hst 12:05 AM  

Liked it but this is the second day in a row with a repeated word (Wed: Bad; Thu: Star). Also, kept looking to see how PhD was going to be squeezed in....alas, it wasn't.

Matthew G. 12:39 AM  

Loved the theme. Big thumbs up. One of my longest Thursday times in months, but totally worth it.

Sadly, I got Naticked on AGENA/NGO. Just flat out didn't know either one.

syndy 12:46 AM  

Lotta fun but flat out DNF -tried CDR and CMR for 51 across but for some reason cmdr escaped me _even after having to change BRASS to BASS and SLAMMING TO SLAMBANG!EN dash and em dash got me last time too! but NEXT TIME for sure!WHENCE my surety comes I know not.

Anonymous 12:59 AM  

@Matthew G.: I almost got Naticked by the same crossing, but NGO was within educated guessing range for me, Ng- being a Vietnamese sort of phoneme.

Tobias Duncan 1:02 AM  

Tough one, but I am getting better at the rebus thing.Now much better but better. DNFed with a few naticks including @Matthew Gs.
Did enjoy this one though.

chefwen 1:45 AM  

Enjoyed this one as far as I could get it, which unfortunately wasn't very far at all. Ended up looking the same way I play golf, ugly. My renter came in and asked how the puzzle was tonight, showed it to her and she remarked that there sure was a lot of white that needed filling. It kind of remained that way.

Omniart 2:10 AM  

I'm guessing that "Sleepers" was chosen because it also stars Kevin Bacon, as in SIXDEGREES of.

jae 3:06 AM  

A bit tougher than the average Thurs. Nice rebus challenge. Had some river problems in SE, OISE, OYSE, ... finally OUSE. Plus the NERD clue was a WTF.

@syndy -- I had the same problems with CMDR except I started out with abbrs. for ADMIRAL before I started in on the wrong ones for CMDR.

Saw Sleepers long ago and remember things like the VW Bug that still ran but not DENIRO or Bacon.

jae 3:18 AM  

OK, so I just realized I mixed up two movie titles that have everything but an "S" in common. No wonder KEATON wouldn't work!

andrea crazed michaels 4:23 AM  

Finished after an hour and made every one of the mistakes mentioned above and in @Rex...except the LEI thing!

@Jae
I also did the whole kEaton thing!
@Omniart
If you are right about the Sleepers DENIRO/Bacon connection, my respect and enjoyment for this puzzle just increased another 39850 times!

The only ZIMBALISTs I know is Efrem and Stephanie. ZIMBALIST sounds more like someone who was SLAMBANG things together than play a violin.

CAbfaRE was the hardest for me, as I thought there might be some British show called APB.

And that the mouse might be a BEAuTIE!

Hey, not only are there two STARs in this five-star puzzle, there is SETArecord and SETS/collections.

But the SIXDEGREES was so well done!
JD SALINGER!!!!

JaxInL.A. 4:42 AM  

Very hard to find a way into the NE and SW corners. Thought there might be a rebus when DDAY crossed DSALINGER. Eventually HTG to get critical mass, though. Very tough clues for me,

My favorite clue/answer? State of Grace for MONACO. Turns out there is a city called Grace in AZ, ID & OR, but none of them worked (of course).

How old is Mr. Chosen? Mabel Mercer deserves wider renown, but she's pretty obscure.

shrub5 8:11 AM  

Got my initial toehold toward the bottom of the puzzle, so JDSALINGER was the first indication of a rebus.

Didn't know that the word NERD came from Dr. Seuss. And just now learned that CROSSE is the stick in lacrosse! Was puzzled at ICON for 'folder, sometimes' -- until (oh!!) computer icon. Fave today was ON KP.

I had gArMENT for awhile causing me trouble in the SW before correcting to RAIMENT.

Seeing that pillbug picture brought back childhood memories of my sibs and I flicking the poor rolled-up creatures around.

dk 8:15 AM  

Very slow Thursday pour moi.

Just thinking of rereading Great Day For Bannafish so JD was a gimme. The rest -- not so much.

No fan of the rebus but this one is clever. I was looking for the PhD as well. I found the inclusion of MENSA in the grid humorous... if only pompous showed up.

*** (3 stars) Decided not to hold a grudge: today.

Any tips on killing creeping charlie besides Borax (idiot cousin of the NERD and Thorax)

Glimmerglass 8:17 AM  

Great puzzle. Really hard for a Thursday. I loved it. CMDR was my last square. (And as a copy editor, I know what an EM DASH is.) BFA was next-to-last, because I'd never heard of ABFAB.

Smitty 8:29 AM  

Any criticism on my part would be sour grapes. Nothing here that wasn't fair nuff - but a real TRUDGER --(is that an EMDASH?)

I finished all but the N in NERD/ENLAI.

jesser 8:55 AM  

Kicked my ass, it did.

I was (mostly) fine except for down in the Deep South, where I knew not from Lacto- vegetarians, and I was stupidly sure (in retrospect) that 62D was DDAY, which made me think that, ok, it's not beyond the realm of imagination that dilLINGER could have authored something. What a mess.

I caught the theme at ICE MAKER, even though I initially put in ICE tray.

At 42D, I first had EArn, thinking the RN was a degree, but it was making for an odd Judo move. That worked itself out.

What did not work itself out was up in northern California, where, for 31A, I wanted AthENA to be the rocket booster. I kept it, thinking, 'What the hell kind of degree is a TH?' Bah.

All that carping aside, I had fun solving the parts I could solve, and it was cool to see my two degrees (BA in journalism and MA in Comm Studies, both from NMSU) show up.

BEASTIE of a puzzle, but the fail was completely on me, not Kevan.

Back to the grindstone, having failed once again to win the Powerball...

MaryBR 9:00 AM  

Wanting to put in ABFAB off the A was what first clued me in to the rebus. Prior to that had ICEtray instead of MAKER. Was able to guess NGO/AGENA off the Vietnamese-ishness of it as well, but DNF with SLA_NG/ZI_ALIST. Ironic, as I'm currently getting my MBA, but I kept wanting to put in something that ended with i (slamming? slapping) even though I know there aren't any degrees that end like that.

I skip M-W 9:03 AM  

— is an em dash. - is an en dash. Ngo was a gimme for all old enough to remember 1963 clearly. Got Salinger from the JD, Ouse from just having read Wilkie Collins's "Woman in White." thought of BAndar Seri Begawan before Ulan BAtor, but it didn't fit.

@ACME I think the violinist was Efrem Zimbalist, Sr.
Liked AbFab and CabFare, whence, and basically the whole puzzle. Wanted Ph. D. as well. Can anyone think of any good crosses with that? GraPH Design? and?

btw, who is E A P?

I skip M-W 9:05 AM  

Oh, sorry, Edgar Allen Poe
Nevermore!

Tommy Duncan 9:09 AM  

I can't imagine a childhood devoid of the noble roly-poly bug.

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

Efrem Zimbalist was a well-known violinist and married opera star Alma Gluck; the actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., was their son and father to Stephanie, one deduces.

Buddy 9:26 AM  

"I didn't want any degrees if all the ill-read literates and radio announcers and pedagogical dummies I knew had them by the peck. "
— J.D. Salinger (Franny and Zooey)

David 9:36 AM  

Much spicier Thursday than usual, and that's saying a lot, as there've been some wacky rebuses and directional-themed puzzles of late. That said, didn't take away from my enjoyment at all. Like others, picked up the rebus at ICEMAKER. The SIXDEGREES was almost a gimme, with the SIX part easy to get from Down crosses.

By far my favorite was MBA, with BFA a close 2nd. One writeover, before I got the rebus, was NINA for MAINE.
And I haven't thrown in a Grateful Dead reference lately - DOG STAR is part of a line in an obscure and very forgettable Dead tune called Lost Sailor, but it did help me get the 14D today. I had zippo idea that it had anything to do with the Nile, and without it I don't think I get SLAMBANG/ZIMBALIST.

Sparky 10:18 AM  

Just couldn't hack it today. Had BEASTIE and OBI, even had JDSALINGER. Little bit in SE, RAIMENT in SW. Was looking for symmetry but that is a fool's quest as THE HOBBIT proved. So DNF bigtime. Congrats to the solvers.

Better late than never: @acme yesterday-LOL. How about XPTS--crossword print too small. @Purple Guy-glad to see you are back.

archaeoprof 10:26 AM  

Wow, that was fun! Way to go, Kevan.

Agree that "State of Grace" is a fabulous clue.

But really, is it right to put a NERD in the zoo?

solasoletta 10:28 AM  

I had to google the violinist before I figured out what the deal was--and then everything kind of fell into place. Except for CMDR and EMDASHES--I still don't know what that means.

Larry 11:06 AM  

@solasoletta - @I Skip.. had an example of an emdash above. In printing, there are (at least) two widths of dashes, the emdash and endash, the emdash being wider than the endash.

Epic fail for me, even with expecting a rebus, getting the reveal so that I knew what the nature of the rebus, got [JD], but for the life of me couldn't force [BFA] into CABFARE/ABFAB even thought I knew that CABFARE and ABFAB were the answers!

I sure wish someone could explain to my how my mind works from time to time.

captca: rementi Crossword made up word for signing up once again for a mentor.

quilter1 11:15 AM  

I caught the rebus at JDSALINGER and then it all fell into place. I knew ABFAB (love it, love it) and suspected a rebus, but solved most of the south first.

Great puzzle, great idea, ditto on the state of Grace clue. Agree on the medium to challenging rating, and proud I finished.

tptsteve 11:19 AM  

Really a creative puzzle- it makes we wish I'd done better.

Knew Zimbelist, but couldn't make it fit. Wanted cabfare, same problem. Got the Dash, couldnt' figure out how to get em in the box and be consistent with JD, which is where I picked up the rebus( JDSalinger and VJDay). I desparately wanted the same letters in all the other clues.UGH!

My hand's up for NINA as well.

I need to start making my box smaller, so I can think outside it more.
Live and learn

Zach 11:27 AM  

Maybe I'm just too young, but it seems to me a WAY more common use of NGO is an abbreviation for Non-Governmental Organization. Really would've helped me, as AGENA was complete esoterica.

On an unrelated note, does anyone else use the Magmic app to solve on an iPhone, and do you have the latest version? If not, DO NOT download it, it's buggy, unreactive and sluggish. My times have tanked since I updated simply because there is very frequently a several second delay between entering letters and them appearing (meaning they all appear at once, and you often have to make several attempts due to the unreactive keyboard). Has anyone had this problem and solved it? The customer service is being quite unhelpful.

thursdaysd 11:30 AM  

That was a major DNF, even though I got the theme at BATOR. Wanted ASTER but didn't know what it had to do with China, and had doubts about AGENA even though I knew NGO. But the real trouble was in the north, where I never did get BFA or MBA.

Agree that State of Grace was a great clue, and getting it was a big help.

Mel Ott 11:39 AM  

The fact that some of the rebuses (rebi?) are two letters and others three letters made this one challenging for me.

Got the rebus but not the theme at ICE [MA]KER/[MA]INE. States?

Had CA[RFA]RE at 16A for awhile and stared blankly at [RFA]. Didn't correct until I got the reveal.

Also struggled with EM or M DASHES because like others I had CDR at 51 A.

Quite a workout.

mac 11:43 AM  

Nice, hard Thursday! My solve was very similar to Andrea's this morning. For some reason I started doubting DeNiro, thought it might be DiNero, and that took too much time.

Favorite: slam bang!

David L 12:02 PM  

I was disappointed that this puzzle didn't include my degree, the BFD.

Masked and Anonymous 12:20 PM  

Came close, but lacked the academic credentials to overcome the NE. So, did some research on "Sleepers" (never saw it) and Zedillo (didn't vote for him), and the rest fell into place, even without knowing the "notable" violinist. Har -- "notable", in the sense that he stands between us and the finish line, I reckon.

Abbrs and a partial Mongolian city in my theme answers? Yowcho, Shortzmeister. How such a sweet, kindly soul can show so little mercy.

To the good, had a real fun time incurring six-degree puz burns. Administering 57-A treatments, with cinnamon roll chasers, as we speak.

Anonymous 12:23 PM  

I had Nina at 21A....Remember the Nina????...Then the aha moment and the rebus revealed itself. Besides star being used twice, I had to second guess myself on set at 43A since it was used at 8D. Thought the puzzle was clever.

Anonymous 12:35 PM  

I liked this a lot. Only problem was I wrote HOTNESS for HIPNESS, ONPT for ONKP, so messed up the NW corner a bit. Otherwise it all fell into place nicely.
I'm newish to the blog, so please explain the meaning of natick - whence cometh it?
And what is China Aster? I deduced it but don't understand.
Thanx
afroqwn

hazel 12:37 PM  

When I was in school, there were lots of sorority girls proud to admit they were just there pursuing a MRS degree. and this was the 1980s. We had supposedly already roared!

Reading the comments, I can't believe I found this one kind of easy. Stars must have been aligned. got the gig pretty late at SALINGER but then it was dominos after that. Interested to see the liberal arts so well represented - [endash] except MD, no science degrees!

600 12:41 PM  

First, though it was hard and took me almost twice as long as most Thursdays, I loved this puzzle. It was entirely worth the struggle. Like Rex, I caught on to the rebus at ICEMAKER, but that was minimally helpful. Neither EMDASHES nor China ASTER meant anything to me, so I sat and stared at that corner a long time, knowing I lacked a degree and trying every one I could think of. I thought the rebus was after the A--took a long time to go up and add MD where it belongs. It felt like a victory when MHP showed up.

It's a good thing I guessed right on NGO, because I had no idea what AGENA is until I finished and Googled it.

Hands up for being sure PHD would show up somewhere, though I couldn't really figure how those letters could occur in a phrase, much less a word. Morph down? Ralph Doe? Caliph deacon? (Okay, I just read above--I Skip M-W actually came up with a decent one!)

@Omniart--I agree with acme--the Kevin Bacon connection makes the puzzle even better! And @Buddy--another step up for this puzzle!

I'm sure it helped to be a big, big fan of ABFAB.

@Anonymous, 12:35--I'm sure other Rexites can be more specific (I'm rather new myself) but a Natick refers to a crossing where both words are obscure and can't be expected to be known by most solvers. I think Natick is a city in Massachusetts that once appeared in a puzzle crossing some other equally obscure answer.

600 12:46 PM  

@Anonymous 12:35--China Aster explained and with picture (I had to look it up too)--http://www.webindia123.com/garden/flowers/aster.htm

Anonymous 1:13 PM  

@Anon 12:35/afrqwn - Natick is explained in Rex's FAQ (top of the main page) towards the bottom.

Matthew G. 1:27 PM  

@Zach: Yes, I had the same thought. If NGO had been given a clue relating to Non-Governmental Organizations, the Natick would have disappeared.

And while I appreciate that the G might sound plausible in a Vietnamese word, plenty of other letters would too, and there's nothing about AGENA that looks plausible unless you know it cold.

Arby 1:31 PM  

We always called pillbugs "Potato Bugs" for some reason. Is that idiomatic only to the midwest? Or was I just raised oddly?

Got stuck EMdash/cdr instead of eMDash/cMDr, assumed we were talking about an Engineering Masters. My NERD bias.

Two Ponies 2:31 PM  

Very tough for me.
Could not let go of garment and adm
for way too long.
Slam bang was great but also hard to see. Knew Zimbalist but wasn't sure which square had the rebus.
By the time I was done my grid was a real mess. Now I'm trying to remember what TV show I associate with Zimbalist Jr. An old cop show?

retired_chemist 2:31 PM  

DNF. Couldn't shake NINA @ 21A, knew I needed two more rebus squares, and thought E-DASHES and CDR were OK. Would have taken me many minutes to see that error, and I gave up.

Nice puzzle. Thanks, Mr. Choset.

andrea still crazed after all these years michaels 2:34 PM  

@Arby
I grew up in the Midwest, but only ever heard them called Roly-poly a la @Tommy Duncan 9:09
But now that I think about it, we lived in Gainesville, FL for a few years when I was really young and that's where I first saw them.
ZERO idea what a Pill Bug was, or if that was even an insect...I couldn't get Jackie O's Pill Box hats out of my mind!

@Jaxin LA
Agree MABEL MERCER seems long in the tooth/obscure to warrant two entries in the puzzle...but at least she's female, and perhaps a bit of an "unsung" heroine, ironically, to balance the baseball pile-on!

Now to Google AGENA which gave me AGITA

Waiting for constructor Choset or Will to ring in about the "Sleepers" Kevin Bacon connection...still think that would be beyond cool and a lovely touch.

jackj 2:34 PM  

The knowledge that the puzzle was a rebus came early on, with ICE(MA)KER/(MA)INE, but then I had to sort out whether the rebus was looking for Ma, Pa, and other kith and kin; cellists we have known; zip code state abbreviations; academic degrees or something even more obtuse.

When SIXDEGREES showed up, that pointed to academia and V(JD)AY/ (JD)SALINGER confirmed it was so.

Lots of fun from the ever clever Kevan Choset; terrific theme and excellent fill, giving us such goodies as RAIMENT, WHENCE, BEASTIE and the ever-so-sparkly-clued MONACO, ("State of Grace").

I agree with others who wrote that Will should retire the vague Vietnamese cluing for NGO and just clue it as "Non-governmental organization". Why make people sweat over a throw away 3 letter answer.

Thanks, Kevan for a fun Thursday.

Sarah 2:58 PM  

ABFAB was by far my favourite clue here (esp. as a Brit) and, I think, the cleverest. Got the rebus fairly quickly with JDSALINGER, then the main challenge was working out where they are. I would have loved to have seen PhD squeezed in somewhere! Lots for the fanboys here: Narnia, LOTR, YETIS. My only major delay was misreading "Sleepers" as "Sleeper" and thinking "there's no way I can fit Diane Keaton in there." Ultimately I had to Google "Sleepers" -- I think that was during DENIRO's fallow period, and, proabably, to earn him Kevin Bacon points. Fun but hard today...

Lewis 3:03 PM  

@twoponies -- 77 Sunset Strip???

M and A and watchin' way too much TV 3:29 PM  

@Lewis and Two Ponies--Yep. Also "The FBI", I believe. And...He was Dandy Jim Buckley on "Maverick", I think.

M&A

Two Ponies 3:42 PM  

@ Lewis and M&A,
I think you're both right but
77 Sunset Strip was what I was thinking of. I can still recall that catchy theme music. Thanks.

sanfranman59 4:04 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Thu 25:46, 19:14, 1.34, 94%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 15:07, 9:22, 1.61, 98%, Challenging

Noam D. Elkies 4:52 PM  

Part of why this puzzle might take longer than usual is the oversized 15x16 grid (forced by the even length of the central 40A:SIX_DEGREES).

Perhaps the original 12D:ZI[MBA]LIST played the cimbalom (a kind of hammered dulcimer), not the cymbals. I see that the cimbalom Wikipage corroborates this guess to an extent, saying "the surname Zimbalist means 'one who plays the cimbalom'" but attaching a "[citation needed]" tag to this claim.

NDE

Chip Hilton 4:58 PM  

Defeat in the SW!

I ran into the same problems as many others with CMDR, ASTER, EMDASHES. I, too, couldn't release ADM and GARMENT took forever, so finally threw in the towel.

However, I loved this puzzle. Made the breakthrough with JDSALINGER and when ABFAB fell, I laughed out loud at the memory of that brilliant show. Thanks, Kevan.

joho 6:03 PM  

This is a test .... don't know if it will work, but just in case it does ... I thought today's puzzle was fantastic!

Jim 6:21 PM  

Hard to like this puzzle, because of the endless esoterica, among proper names and regular words. RAIMENT? On a Thursday, when you're trying to suss out rebus squares? C'mon. Vestment, yes. RAIMENT, no.

Ahem, excuse me...is this the same crowd so flummoxed by FLEERED they just about imploded?

Whatever. Clearly, I'm not well-versed enough at rebus puzzles to walk and chew gum at the same time. This would've been hard for a themeless.

retired_chemist 6:25 PM  

@joho - your msg received:

This is a test .... don't know if it will work, but just in case it does ... I thought today's puzzle was fantastic!

santafefran 8:38 PM  

Not ROFLMAO; this puzzle kicked my ass. Just don't think I have a rebus compartment in my brain pan.

Among a zillion other issues, I was fixated on Sleeper and remembering the house where it was filmed which is just a bit outside of Denver heading west on I-70 so a big fat DNF.

Growing up in Missouri, I do have fond memories of those little BEASTIE roly-poly bugs but they don't seem to inhabit the high desert.

Anonymous 8:52 PM  

Fuck rebuses and the horse they road in on.

Anonymous 8:54 PM  

Fuck rebuses and the horse they road in on.

CoffeeLvr 9:17 PM  

They rode in on the horse, but don't blame the mare or stallion or gelding.

Stan 10:22 PM  

Tough but fair puzzle (in two corners no less -- NE and SW). CABFARE and SLAMBANG were outstanding.

Once again we get bad flooring advice from the NYT puzzle. Previously we've been told to use GROUT as a bathroom adhesive -- today our tiles are RELAID: not an easy trick.

Have never heard the word 'pill bug', but from the photo it seems I've seen thousands in my woodpile. They look prehistoric, which I'm guessing ties in with ISOPOD (non-segmented bodies?)

Sfingi 10:29 PM  

As I said yesterday, yesterday's crossword was easy- no Google just to trick me into doing today's which was 9-Googles, DNF.

I'm sure Choset is a fine fellow, but apart from Burns, his literature choices are dreck to me. But I'm sure he's a genius, too, also.

Didn't get the theme at all. Wanted the shortest distance to be a straight line, Euclidean; but even when I got SIX DEGREES, no go.

Thought the violinist might be Zingaro (Italian for gypsy). That's the sort of answer I had. Still had ICEtray when I gave up.

nycscott 10:34 PM  

Why all the complaining about Mabel Mercer? What with the enormous popularity of cabaret in the US today (you can hardly turn on FM radio without hearing, say, Hildegarde belting out "Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup"), I don't see what the problem is.

Anonymous 8:30 AM  

Got the rebus with icemaker and emdashes, but alas, only found 3 degrees. Entire east side of the puzzle beat me.

Aaron B 9:35 AM  

I like rebuses, and liked the rebus of this one, but too many things were obscure to me, resulting in my worst NYT Thursday in ages (DNF).

Got hopelessly off track in the SW by crossing MDASHES with ADM. Despite getting ZIMBALIST could not convert
S_AMBAN_ to SLAMBANG.

william e emba 1:52 PM  

Tough bit of a slog, many of the same mistakes (ICETRAY/NINA/CDR/GARMENT). On the other hand, NGO and NERD and ZI[MBA]LIST and ISOPOD were all gimmes.

One sticking point with regard to the CA[BFA]RE: I have zero knowledge of the British sitcom, both before and after finishing the puzzle, and while MFA and CFA came to mind, for some reason, even knowing it had to be CAB, I couldn't come up with BFA. I kept thinking C[AB][FA]RE. (I went to a snob school, that gave out ABs, not BAs.) I'm thus also thinking, so maybe the singer's last name is MABBAL, and MERCER is her first name, or something? It was only getting ICE[MA]KER, turning NINA into [MA]INE that enabled me to finish.

I find it a little bit disappointing that so many don't know of NGO Dinh Diem. His assassination was remarkably major news for a third world country, and it had a humongous US repercussion for the next decade (the Vietnam War). It came after the notorious Buddhist protests (including self-immolations), and right before Kennedy's own assassination. By all rights, it should be as well-known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, say.

In contrast, I'm amused so many NERDs here aren't NERD enough to be aware of the origin of NERD. Heck, I even suspect some geeks here don't know the original meaning of geek. (Not pretty!)

ISOPODs are crustaceans, not insects. The "same-foot" meaning of the name refers to the fact that their legs are all quite similar looking, unlike crabs and lobsters with their diverse assortment of legs.

Cheerio 2:02 PM  

This may be like a tree falling in the forest with noone around, but I wanted to comment because late last night I found myself sipping a gimlet with ice, listening to my icemaker clack away, and befuddled by what could produce ice cubes other than an ice tray. In my defense, my ice maker produces citrus sectional shapes, not cubes.

Juicepit 3:36 PM  

Has anyone actually watched that Beastie Boys video that Rex posted? Pretty weird stuff. Specifically the pee-fight that starts at about 22 minutes in.

Anonymous 11:46 AM  

This puzzle was completely a bust for me. Had no idea it had a "rebus", whatever that is. When the constructor wants to cram three letters into one square, they should give us some warning or clue. Trying to work this one was a total waste of time.

Waxy in Montreal 4:01 PM  

Like others, once the theme was revealed I was on the lookout for PHD - LYMPH DUCT would have a possibility.

Puzzle was fun but never having heard of ISOPOD and early commitments to GARMENT, ULAN and KEATON (wrong flick) made it a trudger rather than a treasure...

Anonymous 4:25 PM  

I couldn't find all six degrees even after knowing they should be there. I was happy to see all three of my degrees there: BA, MD, and finally an unmentioned answer: MABEL (Master of Arts in Biblical Exegesis and Linguistics)

Deb @ RoomscapesDecor.com 6:48 PM  

@Stan - Ha! No kidding about the bad flooring advice.

I'm sure glad my son's degree wasn't included as it definitely wouldn't have passed the breakfast test. (Bachelor of Music)

This one was a big, fat DNF for me. I got the theme quite early on but, like Rex, I still had a hard time dredging up the correct degrees to fit.

Anonymous 7:08 PM  

Oops! What? No Ph.D.?

Stan 10:19 PM  

@Deb: It's so nice to get an acknowledgment from syndication-land! Being familiar with your comments, I had a feeling you might agree on this.

Dirigonzo 10:31 PM  

Knew a rebus was afoot but alas couldn't see the degrees no matter how hard I looked. I'm especially upset that I stuck with nINa when MAINE might have given me the key to the whole puzzle.

@Deb, I had no idea that one could earn a degree in BM!

Anonymous 2:27 AM  

Spacecraft here. Knew I'd have a long wait at Dr.'s office today so I tucked puz & pen in pocket. So no reference material, nothin' but mah grey matter. And I got it--before our name was called. Stared at it a lot, took most of a couple of hours, but I prevailed.
Had a lot of trouble at 67a, not because of the obvious reasons, but because for a long time I couldn't figure out what degree a "JD" was. Then the oh-yeah hit me and I was all right. Had CDR and EDASHES when the grid was filled in, and counted only five degrees. Hmmm. I honed in on the SW, where there wasn't one, and finally saw it. I'm not really up on my Morse code. Writeovers: joined a large group with NINA, and guesses INLAID as a way into that brutal NE. Kept trying to work Diane Keaton somehow into 17a, confusing the given movie with the one, in singular form, by Woody Allen. Escaped the potential Natick at NGO/AGENA by remembering the old Atlas-Agena rockets that powered our earliest efforts into space. Excellent puzzle of just the right difficulty. Enjoyed it.

Maredyl 2:12 PM  

Two pill bugs in marriage counselor's office, one is rolled tightly. Female bug says "He just won't open up to me."

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