SATURDAY, Nov. 22,2008 - Frank Longo (Italian port with ruins of an imposing Aragonese castle / Anne Nichols title protagonist / Bog youngster)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

I have a 9:00am appt. this morning (on a Saturday!?) so this will be brief.

Love the grid shape. Honestly, I thought it was an Obama puzzle when I first saw it. That, or an Oprah puzzle. I rated the puzzle "Challenging" even though it's actually been made slightly easier since I test-solved it a couple weeks ago. Still, I think it's tough. Tough but good. I really enjoyed the struggle, despite running into several words I'd never heard of. Started off so happy and strong when I laid AMERICAN TABLOID in the grid right away. First thing. No crosses. That is one of my favorite books of the last century, which is weird, because the first time I picked it up, I thought "this is annoying as hell - I'm not reading this." Then I persisted. The brain-pounding tabloid style of writing never relents - for 500+ pages - and yet I think the book is Beautiful. Oh, I should add that it is essentially historical fiction (with actual historical figures imagined as characters throughout), which is a genre I typically avoid like beets.

After my AMERICAN TABLOID epiphany, it was slow from there on. Well, the bottom of the puzzle ended up being very tractable, but I was not able to move into the middle easily - you think 35A: A firefighter at work may be in it (immediate danger) is tough, try the original clue: [Peril that's upon one]. Ugh. Eventually I rebooted in the top section, starting with the gimme PTL (27A: Old TV ministry), guessing CATSUPS off of that (1D: Fast-food restaurant packets), and then working W to E from there. But the Center was where I made my Last Stand. Huge open space in the middle was tough to get ahold of, even with STAEL being a gimme for me (though I spelled her name STAHL to begin with - 46A: Author Madame de _____). The real toughies were SPRITES and BOTNETS. Despite currently teaching Shakespeare, I completely repressed the identity of Robin Goodfellow (Puck), as I (unlike many) can't stand that play and don't teach it if I don't have to (42A: Robin Goodfellow and others). And BOTNETS - just unknown to me. I know what BOTS are, I know what NETS are ... but this hybrid, no. I'm pretty sure cracking STRUDEL (25D: Cobbler alternative) was the primary key to finishing this puzzle off.

The 15s:

  • 1A: Vis-à-vis (compared against)
  • 16A: Age-old retaliation (a tooth for a tooth)
  • 17A: Having no inaccuracy whatsoever (true to the letter)

Of those three, only A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH feels very solid. The others feel like phrase where someone meant to say a better known phrase but got confused.

  • 31A: Fix things (solve the problem) - straightforward
  • 35A: A firefighter at work may be in it (immediate danger) - we covered this; it's good

  • 51A: James Ellroy novel that Time magazine named best fiction book of 1995 ("American Tabloid")
  • 57A: Suitable for all (General Audience) - Like the movie-oriented adjectival use of this phrase here
  • 58A: Idolizes (sets on a pedestal) - well, I had PUTS, initially, of course, but that's OK
The real krusher in this puzzle, as far as I was concerned, came with the THREE CONSECUTIVE OPERA-RELATED DOWNS. All 7 letters, all completely new to me. OK, so MORDENT isn't specifically opera-related - still, it's in the ballpark. Obscurity is one thing, but tightly packed obscurity all from the same field of knowledge. That's a kind of violation I haven't invented a name for. Caused me to have to guess at CEO (41A: First suit?), because that "E" and "O" could have been anything from my perspective, and I didn't have the benefit of [First suit?]. I had [Suit of an outfit]. I was like "well ... it's CIA or SUIT, but either way, I don't get it." Oh, the opera crap in question:

  • 36D: Writer whose novella "Carmen" is the basis of Bizet's opera (Merimee)
  • 37D: Musical ornament using tow quickly alternating tones (mordent)
  • 38D: "La Traviata" lover Alfredo _____ (Germont)

And the rest:

  • 43A: "Blood hath been shed _____ now": Macbeth ("ere") - coincidence - this is the play I'm currently teaching in Shakespeare. Not that you need to know the play to get this. This answer should have been a gimme for most of you.
  • 2D: Italian port with ruins of an imposing Aragonese castle (Otranto) - Know this place because friends of mine had to read the Gothic "Castle of Otranto" when I was in grad school. And I knew TORONTO wasn't Italian.
  • 3D: Longtime Arizona congressman who ran for president in 1976 (Mo Udall) - I think two more UDALLs were just elected to the Senate. Yes, in New Mexico and Colorado.
  • 4D: People who deal with stress successfully? (poets) - clever
  • 5D: Quintillionth: Prefix (atto-) - mystery to me; don't use quintillionths very often.
  • 6D: Pythagorean character (rho) - it's a Greek letter, and it fit
  • 7D: Bog youngster (eft) - little newt
  • 11D: Amenhotep IV's god (Aten) - having seen this in a recent puzzle Really helped
  • 15D: Time for an emergency phone call? (three a.m.) - LOVE this answer.
  • 33D: TV bear (Ben) - love this answer too. This goes out to Serena. Rest in peace, kitty:

  • 50D: Anne Nichols title protagonist (Abie) - hard to recognize this piece of crosswordese without "Rose" or "Broadway" nearby.
  • 55D: Shrovetide concluder: Abbr. (Tue.) - Ah, "concluder." That's the stuff.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


miguel 8:16 AM  

Although they sound like some of the missing Marx Brothers, the following list has to be memorized for scientific notation.

yotta 10 to the 24th power
deci (starts the negatives)
yocto (10 to the negative 24th power)

Enjoy the list crossword constructors. I have taken the plunge and entered the Blue and Orange world but adding an avatar may require yottamore brain cells.

imsdave 8:43 AM  

The grid scared me a little right of the bat. Some quick downs, POETS, EFT, DOH, GAL, and ATEN and the north was history. Looks like an easy Saturday.


I didn't have the Rex advantage of knowing the novel which was crippling with the opera downs. Finally googled it and managed to finish in about forty minutes.

It more then made up for yesterdays fast little romp.

JoefromMtVernon 8:56 AM  

Morning all:

I've come to the conclusion that when a puzzle has to be googled, not to check an answer but to find an answer, the enjoyment goes out the window. I liked the quantum leap of seeing "American Tabloid" jump at me after 7 or 8 downs even though I never heard of the book.

So, to remember Mo Udall, or to google 12 sites before finding Otranto, is ridiculous. So, does Frank Longo have family there? Did he buy a timeshare. Without those two, who gets "compared" or "true" for the long answers? And Catsup? Both Heinz and Stew Leonards call it Ketchup. So did my HS english teacher, who took points off for catsup. UGH..Variant..I wish I could put a video of Donald Sutherland at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers here.

As for the "opera high-brow" section (in the lower left), I guessed on errs; but had bet on instead of bid on...I look at the right answers and say "what's the difference."

I did complete it in under an hour...not my estimate of 90 minutes of yesterday...

My wonder is whether my senator (Ms. Clinton) got the request from our president (Mr. Obama) for the Sec of State nomination at 15 down?

Time to pay bills...


ArtLvr 8:56 AM  

Beautiful design! Awesome content! I solved this slowly but without major hitches. Agreed with Rex -- the more common phrase for accuracy in 17A would be (right) Down to the Letter, while TRUE TO THE LETTER (of the law -- but not the spirit) got mixed up with the former, but I got it anyway.

The authors MERIMEE and Mme de STAEL came back to me, as did GERMONT in La Traviata, but those would be tough for solvers who hadn't any French! I didn't know the PTL, so my one error at the end turned out to be Mo Udahl for MO UDALL.

@ miguel -- thanks for that list but "femto"? Sounds like a fetish. I could not have arrived at ATTO [Quintillionth] without crosses... I also felt that [Shreds] for IOTAS was a poor clue in the plural, since I can't think of a phrase it fits. Not a shred of sense, like not an iota of sense, yes, but plural?

On the other hand, [Do a summer's work?] for ADD was quite amusing, as were several fun clues. And the long strings were fantastic, overall! Thanks, Frank Longo.


Ulrich 9:34 AM  

I also loved the puzzle, starting with the pattern of black squares: They do not only have the usual rotational symmetry, but also mirrors about the two center lines.

All the literary clues were gimmies, which greatly eased my initial apprehension. Prosper Mérimée, together with Kleist, is my favorite writer of novellas: Those guys really knew how to raise sex-and-violence to hight art. I've been a fan of Mérimée ever since a substitute teacher in high school, instead of doing the lesson of the day, read to us "Matteo Falcone", a truly gut-wrenching tale, set in Corsica, of a father killing his son out of a sense of honor. Carmen, the story, BTW, is much darker than Carmen, the opera.

Loved the clue for THREE AM: When I finally got it, the upper half opened up beautifully, with 1A the last to fall--I find this answer a (minor) fly in the ointment of an otherwise great puzzle.

Alex 9:49 AM  

I know what BOTNETS are but I never considered it because I thought the clue was a gimme for MALWARE, and the M giving me MEETS for "Compromises" (as in MEETS in the middle) reinforced it. That pretty much blocked me from getting anything else in the middle except for the long 15.

Otherwise I was able to slowly but surely build out the rest of the puzzle. Fortunately Ischia is one letter shorter than Otranto because the only Aragonese castle I know is in Ischia, Italy. If that were one letter longer it would have gone and been unmovable.

Immediately put in -EE for "Pythagorean character" assuming it would be either BEE or CEE (as in, A^2 + B^2 = C^2) but fixed it without too much trouble.

jannieb 10:10 AM  

Had my first true "malapop" in this puzzle. Since I guessed "Peppers" at 1D (catsup is just wrong with the var, IMOO) I had "Poets" say - at 18A. Once I gave up on Peppers, things started to fall into place - as did "Poets" at 4D.

This puzzle was really a hard slog for me - the bottom was finished early - would never have filled in the center without googling for the Madame - and having googled her, she's still a WTF, along with Merimee. Very few gimmes - although I did get icebags and add without any help,

Beautiful grid and lots of interesting fill - a perfect Saturday.

Greene 10:30 AM  

I had this really great post this morning. Not sure how I lost it, but here goes again.

I loved this puzzle from start to finish. I generally like puzzles which offer lots of open grid space. Like Rex, I wondered if this puzzle was going to have an Oprah tie in. Mercifully no, but she does seem to have her hand in just about everywhere these days.

I confidently wrote in BURNING BUILDINGS for 35A. Unfortunately this did not jibe with the "opera downs" in the neighborhood, so out it went. Got the MM from MERIMEE and MORDENT and the G from GERMONT, so then wanted IMMINENT DANGER, which of course doesn't fit. Eventually INERTIA supplied the T, IMMEDIATE DANGER fell into place, and all was well with the world.

MORDENT does not make me think of opera at all. It's really just a bit of musical ornamentation in which a tone is rapidly alternated once with a nearby, neighbor tone (often the next note in the scale, although sometimes a composer might pick a minor third or perfect fourth just to spice things up a bit). It's a very pianistic effect, although just about any instrument, including the human voice, can execute one.

You would think that me of all people would get 50D in a heartbeat. No, for some reason I wanted ROSE in that spot. When that didn't work, I went searching for other Anne Nichols protagonists (there aren't any, well none that fit). Finally realized that ABIE is a character in the play as well. D'OH.

@docjohn: when you saw the clue for 26A, peau de____ did you immediately think peau d'orange? For nonmedical types peau d'orange is a skin condition which looks exactly like a deeply pitted orange peel, but unfortunately is a marker for inflammatory breast cancer.

bill from fl 10:35 AM  

I'm glad to see Rex rated this one Challenging. I thought I'd never get a foothold. It was especially hard if you didn't just know the proper names, because they had such unfamiliar spellings. The SE came first, then the whole South; I finally broke through in the North went I saw FOR, then TOOTH FOR A TOOTH. Whew.

dk 10:42 AM  

Sailed through the south but K is for katsup and poundforapound killed the north. I finished in the fullness of time.

@miquel, you can change up those avitars like socks if you wish.

dk 10:42 AM  


joho 10:46 AM  

Thank you, Frank Longo for a fantastic Saturday puzzle!

I didn't end up with a perfect score but loved every minute I struggled to get there.

Not knowing MERIMEE or MORDENT I left in bet on instead of BID ON convincing myself that it made total sense.

Like Rex I had Stahl and puts instead of STAEL and SETS, but those were easily corrected.

Now I'm going to have to read AMERICAN TABLOID because I did not know it and it sounds like a must read. ABIE should have been a gimme and I was just plain dense on ADD. I was thinking summer odd jobs. Oh well.

What's interesting to me is that certain people on the blog come to mind at various clues. All the French clues reminded me of SethG. STRUDEL, Ulrich. REMODEL, dk.

Oh, and I loved the Michael Jackson clip singing Ben which reminded me what an amazing voice he had back then.

Glitch 10:49 AM  

I'd like to nitpick 28A BOTNETS.

Short for Robot(ic) Network(s),
A BOTNET is the *result* of generally malicious PC apps (usually a *trojan*), where many compromised computers (a network) are then controled (robotically) for generally nasty tasks.

BOTNET is not the app[lication]itself.

The word *often* is properly included as there are good botnets too.

rcb 10:50 AM  

Nice Ben post. Mordently American Tabloid to do so.

chefbea 10:58 AM  

The bottom part of this great puzzle was easier than than the top and middle.

why is three AM time for an emergency phone call?

Our Stamford firemen were indeed in immediate danger early Friday morning when one of our favorite restaurants went up in flame. The name of the restaurant Fireside. Hope they can rebuild it.

john in nc 11:00 AM  

This crossword was a killer. I'll admit that I did a lot of cheating in order to finish it. Totally unsatisfying, but now I can try to forget all the pain it has caused...

Janie 11:00 AM  

rex -- if you've never read it, you may want to check out james ellroy's my dark places, a memoir about his mother's murder its similarity to the "black dahlia" case. grim stuff, but compelling to say the least.

loved this puzzle! i'm another who saw that grid and was flat-out scared. but persistence paid off and ultimately i felt that its bark was worse than its bite -- and a whole lot more fun!



Norm 11:02 AM  

Very nice puzzle. MO UDALL was a gimme (one of my first votes in a presidential primary), which confirmed my guess on A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH and got me started. Had less trouble in the middle than the SW. Have to agree that some of the phrases were clunky. I would expect that PUTS ON A PEDESTAL is far more common than SETS, and DOWN TO THE LETTER more common than TRUE, and GENERAL AUDIENCE needs FIT FOR in front of it. At least, I don't think I've ever seen it used as a compund adjective. Those are just nits though. This was a tough puzzle but doable and enjoyable.

Sancho (newbie) 11:26 AM  

A very challenging, but satisfying puzzle for me, which I picked at for a couple hours between other tasks but managed to solve without cheating (googling or wikipedia-ing). That said, some of the answers I'd never heard of (Stael, Otranto, Merimee, Germont). Guess I need to read more. Atto? Mo Udall? I came up with Moudall. Whatever...

The bottom half fell first, helped by the gimme "ere" and the intuited "erotica". Wasn't sure if it was "mordent", music theory having long ago been lost in the haze of misspent youth, but I thought it likely. "General audience" and "sets on a pedestal" followed, and eventually "American Tabloid" appeared. How about that!

PTL was another gimme, and "catsups" followed. I figured 6 down was a Greek letter, so put the H (not Eta) in there on a guess. Got majorly hung up thinking 13 Down was "not good" which compounded the difficulty of finishing the devilish center portion. Although I know that "nacre" is mother-of-pearl, I didn't think of it as a necklace decoration (not the best clue, in my opinion), so -- having overcome inertia -- that C and L ended up the last squares filled. At which point I had solved the problem.

A treat!

Ulrich 11:34 AM  

@chefbea: remember the--now infamous--Clinton ad about being ready to take a 3am emergency call, as opposed to the other guy whom I need not mention?

jae 11:52 AM  

Frank Longo authors the "easy" puzzle in the San Diego Union Sunday paper (the other one is the NYT syndicated). His easy ones are usually delightful and fun to solve, but I've run across his tough ones in NYT puzzle books. This one was a superb example of the tough ones. The top half was pretty easy for me (I knew MOUDALL, the CATSUP variant, UNAS, and PTL), the middle a bit more challenging (e.g. STRUDEL, BOTNETS, STAEL), and the bottom tough (MERIMEE, MORDENT, GERMONT, and AMERICANTABLOID were all unknown). The beauty of this one for me was that it was doable while being tough. Most of the crosses were not gimmies but they were gettable enough to solve the puzzle without looking stuff up. Excellent job Mr. Longo!

chris 12:23 PM  

Does Ben refer to the talk show host?

Doug 1:13 PM  

@chris How do you embed the link like that? My ISP is in Canada and Hulu restricts itself to Amercian ISPs only. How about that? Have you got some secret club going on down there???

Had to draw deeply from the Rex well this morning as I got clobbered as usual. Note to self: Memorize EFT, ATTO and ATEN. Off to library to get A. Tabloid and perhaps CANDY is in the EROTICA section?

Really enjoyable puzzle though. SUMMERS and POETS cracked me up!

chris 1:32 PM  

Doug, the general format is (a href=URL)link text(/a), except instead of parens you use < and >.

Orange 1:35 PM  

Doug, see the Hypertext paragraph in this Wikipedia section for instructions. What goes between the quote marks is the full URL, including the http:// part. The text that shows up as a clickable link (like Chris's "the talk show host") appears before the final bracketed "/a" code. Standard HTML codes use the angle brackets, a.k.a. the less-than and greater-than symbols.

Orange 1:36 PM  

(Cross-posted! I always enclose Chris's URL part in quotation marks after the equals sign. Don't know what happens if you omit those.)

kevin der 2:04 PM  

got owned by this grid and googled several answers, but great puzzle. knew there'd be lots and lots of hard words, even with just a few it would have been run on a friday probably. OTRANTO, MERIMEE, GERMONT, STAEL, etc, made it tough for me.

edith b 2:56 PM  

You are looking at that rare American Bird - the opera buff and James Ellroy fan.

The three opera clues MERIMEE GERMONT and less so MORDENT were neon as was AMERICANTABLOID and I built the entire South from there.

MOUDALL is how the gentleman was known and was a neon in the North that started me on my way. As others have noted, there was a certain awkwardness about this section that held me up for quite some time. I had THREEAM for a long time before I entered it because it seemed too easy for Saturday, even after TOOTH became obvious as LETTER for the ending to 17A was not forthcoming.

Once I got away from animals as possibilities for the barn clue and got GAL I entered LETTER and THREEAM which was the mortar that held the North together.

This left me with a huge void in the middle where I had the twin mini towers of BEN and VIE and two wrong answers top and bottom bracing the middle - TRACE for HAIRS and STAHL for STAEL and IMMEDIATEDANGER swimming all the way across.

INERTIA finally jumped off the page at me(because of the terminal A)and that finally got me away from TRACE which I had thought to be a neon. INTERLUDE and STRUDEL were next and BOTNETS ended up being last, totally by way of crosses.

This nut was tough to crack but crack it I did and if opera and literature had been some other areas of knowledge, say rap music or contemporary TV, maybe I wouldn't have been so lucky.

So I chalk this one up to the luck of the draw and do this WHEW

poc 3:20 PM  

@Glitch: I'm with you on BOTNETS. The app is the BOT (short for ROBOT of course), and a BOTNET is a network of cooperating BOTs. This is simply bad clueing. I tried MALWARE, SPYWARE, VIRUSES and TROJANS before getting this on crosses. Very annoying.

For the rest, I enjoyed it because it was hard. I tried TREMOLO and VIBRATO before getting MORDENT and just had to Google for GERMONT. Also had FAIRIES instead of SPRITES for ages. Ditto ESOS and ESAS before UNAS.

Definitely an improvement on last Saturday I thought.

jae 3:38 PM  

@edith b -- I got the south without knowing either of the opera clues or MORDENT. I had a vague feeling of recognition for AMERICANTABLOID after I had pretty much filled it all in. Again, the beauty of this one was in the crosses. CEO, ERRS, NIRO were gimmies and the rest were sussable (?if that's a word), e.g. after IFYOU didn't work for 50a AIMTO was pretty much all that was left.

meotch 3:42 PM  

ok, now I finally understand the phrase "yotta, yotta, yotta"

foodie 4:37 PM  

@miguel, thank you for the full list. I've diluted samples down to the femtomole concentrations, and purchased many terabytes of memory. Our IT guys are talking thousands of petabytes (which would be exabytes... never heard that!). Can yottas be far behind.

Anyhow, ATTO, along with GAL, ARE,and EFT helped open the north, and SETS ON A PEDESTAL just revealed itself in the South. But in the end, I needed a couple of googles to finish this baby. I'm in awe of the construction and the stacks of 3x15 at the top and bottom. Is this near the record in terms of ration of black to white squares?

This thing looks like an open mouth, sort of like edith b's avatar..

Alan 5:06 PM  

Absolutely best Saturday puzzle in months. They should all be like this. Looking forward to a Frank Longo Sunday puzzle. Now that would truly be something to occupy your weekend with.

Chip Hilton 5:14 PM  

It's only fair that I admit defeat when appropriate since I like to crow about my successes. This one proved to me, yet again, that I have yet to cross the gaping Friday/Saturday divide. I just couldn't get a foothold anywhere, came here, took a few solutions from the grid and still struggled.

My fifth graders used to take a standardized test called the DRP in which words were left out of passages. The students had to use contextual clues to choose the best fill-ins. The test had several passages which increased in difficulty as you went along. Most of the class hadn't a clue with the last page which seemed to be written on an 11th or 12th grade reading level. I told them that there were exceptional readers who were able to rise to the challenge and complete it.

To those of you who are able to complete such a puzzle as today's, I salute you.

kalaala 5:31 PM  

@foodie, agree the grid looks like an open mouth, my immediate thought was a shark.
@Norm, I also think that GENERAL AUDIENCE needs a modifier to make it fit with the adjectival clue.
Nonetheless, great puzzle, very satisfying; thanks Mr. Longo!

fergus 5:58 PM  

A couple of immediate fill-in errors were DO AS I ... say, and MALWARE instead of BOTNETS. Otherwise, no problems, but that doesn't mean I was anywhere near swift with this one. A proper Saturday work-out on a impressive grid. My only little quibble about the theme entries, aside from what Rex mentioned, was that GENERAL AUDIENCE and Suitable for all don't quite seem interchangeable as adjectival phrases. Of course, they work well enough, but just enough off to note.

Did this virtually back-to-back with yesterday's puzzle. Since I retired sort of morose last night, I wonder whether it had anything to do with missing the daily crossword meds? I guess you can miss a day without lasting ill-effect, as long as you catch up the next day.

MERIMEE's "Colomba" is another good read. My HS French teacher got us to read it, along with "Candide" as an introduction to the literature. Took a while before any English teacher had any comparative impact.

PuzzleGirl 6:15 PM  

I just finished this beast. It took me all day, several Googles, and an SOS email to Orange. Oh great. Time for tomorrow's....

fikink 6:23 PM  

Whew! Began scared, shifted into confounded, had to take a couple hours off to argue with Mr. Fikink which apparently cleared my head because I returned to finish the puzzle finally. I, too, had Stahl at first - are we all thinking of Leslie?
A very enjoyable puzzle, worth all the effort (and cross words, heh!), Mr. Longo.
Would cookies have been a possible answer for BOTNETS clue?

fergus 6:37 PM  

fikink, SAD TO sayI don't think Cookies would qualify as apps -- I think they're only markers. I was pretty sure that answer was going to end in ___WARE, though.

mac 6:39 PM  

Hi Bill!

Loved this one. Not easy at all, and I got sort of panicked trying to get a foothold this morning, but after many errands and wreath- and Christmas shopping I got back to it and finished it except for: bet on instead of bid on..... I got the Moudall answer, but had confused my husband reading the clue and he said: Udall. I said: no, it's got to be longer, like Goodall. He was watching a game, so no more interest in the question.

Lots of troube along the enjoyable way:
-I was disappointed an eye for an eye didn't fit, and it took a long time to think of tooth!
-Never heard of botnets, had cookies (probably showing my ignorance in things computer).
-Of COURSE I thought of catsup, but didn't think that was acceptable in the U.S.
-Just trying to envision/hear the clue for 37D I thought of "torrent".
-I don't think nacre is properly clued; I thought cameo, as a pendant, which is how you normally decorate a necklace. Nacre may be the material you use to make a necklace.

I think the answer General Audience is fine, it's a ratings term for movies.

Welcome to the blue world, Miguel. No capital? How can we print this list?

@Rex: You said the b-word! Just bought some today.

chefbea 6:51 PM  

@mac rex said the b-word? I missed it!!! Heavens.

Actually I bought some B-veggies today also. Brussel sprouts. Have a great recipe for them also.

Deborah 6:58 PM  

I know I'm gonna hate myself for asking, but I still don't get the "add" answer to 56D.

I'm pre-kicking myself, because I'm sure it's something obvio that I'm just not seeing.

Gentle Deb

mac 7:09 PM  

@Deborah: A summer (someone who does sums) adds things up. It's funny how we all have a blind spot every once in a while. It took me ages to get the CEO; we call it a head-slapping or D'oh moment.

Deborah 7:50 PM  

Thanks, Mac. You're right about the blind spots. 41A (CEO) was opaque to me despite having an MBA.
I'm just not tuned into
Will Shortzwave (ugh).
Still miss Weng and Maleska.
Have a good weekend.

foodie 9:38 PM  

@mac, I too thought of AN EYE FOR AN EYE and when it did not fit I had this total brain freeze on what the other body part was-- An ear for an ear ? (Images of van Gogh). I had to get a few more downs before TOOTH popped in my head. Sometimes I think it's better to have no idea than to have the slightly wrong idea...

In general, while I give the puzzle itself an A+, I give the cluing a
B+. Rex said that some of the long answers sounded like phrases "where someone meant to say a better known phrase but got confused". I understand his impression, but the way I saw it, the phrases are fine but the cluing was a bit off. For example, "TRUE TO THE LETTER" suggests to me that something is literal (e.g. in contrast to conceptual), not that it contains no inaccuracy. In fact, when you google TRUE TO THE LETTER, you get over 300,000 hits, but with statements like "Thompson's screen adaptation of Anna Sewell's 1877 novel is true to the letter and to the spirit of this classic children's story".

Similarly, I totally agree with mac about the cluing of NACRE, and with fergus, re the cluing of GENERAL AUDIENCE.

Doc John 11:29 PM  

This was a very challenging puzzle. Had to let it go and come back to it several times, finally finishing it on the crossword app on my iPhone (man is that a handy thing!). Turns out I missed a few, though. Both MERIMEE and MORDENT were new to me so "coo" for [First suit?] seemed a stretch but still a fit. I also had "bet on" instead of BID ON; hey, that fits too. I'll definitely have to try to remember those (good luck with that, John).

Nobody's really mentioned it (except maybe Deb) but I'm guessing that [TV bear] is referring to Gentle BEN, starring none other than Ron Howard's younger brother and filmed in my hometown of North Miami, FL (which I think I've mentioned before). BTW, the Ben of which Michael Jackson sings is a rat.

@ Greene- yes, that was one that flashed through my mind but it was a bit long.

Campesite 5:01 AM  

This puzzle reminded me of an ex-girlfriend: I had to come back to it many times before I was absolutely finished with it. I could continue the analogy along love/hate lines, but I'm tired and it's time to sleep.

Geometricus 8:51 PM  

GENERALAUDIENCE should have been clued "Weekly Papal get-together."

WWPierre 5:29 PM  

I think it would be entirely possible to make a silver necklace and decorate it with nacre. This puzzle took me 'till Tuesday morning, but I finished it with only one google. (I was fixated on Walter Mondale, who shares letters with Mo Udall.)

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