Former Portuguese colony in China — WEDNESDAY, Nov. 4 2009 — 1941-42 Allies vs. Japanese battle locale / Cousin of cassowary / Blessing elicitor

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Constructor: Ricky Ini Liu

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Tic Tac D'oh! — "X" is changed to "O" in familiar phrases

Word of the Day: CERES (54D: Dwarf planet in the asteroid belt)Ceres, formally designated 1 Ceres, is the smallest identified dwarf planet in the Solar System and the only one in the asteroid belt. It was discovered on 1 January 1801, by Giuseppe Piazzi,[17] and is named after Ceres, the Roman goddess of growing plants, the harvest, and motherly love. [hence the word "cereal]

-----

This is a weird, thin theme that yet results in some pretty funny answers. I don't understand the logic of changing "X" to "O" — usually there is some hook, some logic, some rationale somewhere for a letter change. Don't see it here. "Tic tac toe" is the only context I could come up with, and since you don't change "X"s to "O"s in that game, that hardly seems right. I guess you have "X"s and "O"s on chalkboard when football coaches draw up plays. Don't think that's right either, but it's something. So the concept seems pretty weak (simple change-a-letter, with no clear rationale, and the letter change *diminishes* the Scrabbliness of the puzzle ...), but OENOPHOBIC and BOOING MATCH are kind of amusing. Also, grid shape is very cool and unusual, from the parallel-bar theme answers of equal length in the NE and SW, to the Ridiculously deep NW and SE corners, to the little "+" sign in the middle. Really inventive. Thumbs up to that stuff — but overall, marginal thumbs down.



Theme answers:

  • 18A: Three-ingredient breakfast serving? (Trio cereal) — doesn't really work. Maybe [Breakfast for the Dixie Chicks?] would have been better.
  • 24A: Afraid of wine? (oenophobic) — from "xenophobic," nice.
  • 53A: Foreboding cartoons? (Omen Comics) — by far the hardest for me to get, and I read comics. I don't think of OMEN COMICS as a self-standing phrase. There are many, many X-MEN titles. That is not one of them. But together, I see, they are X-MEN COMICS. OK. I had RIA for RIM (44D: Canyon area), and the whole area in and around COMICS in general was tougher than the rest of the grid for me to pick up.
  • 60A: The way of government? (Federal Tao) — again, not thrilled with the base phrase. Speaking of government ... margins in two biggest local races are currently 61 and 1 (that's ONE) vote, respectively. Hey, jackass in Johnson City who thought his vote didn't matter? Guess what?
  • 3D: Film that been speechified? (O-rated movie) — clue / answer pairings feel more clunky than zingy. I can't even imagine what a "film that has been speechified" might mean.
  • 26D: Shout of disapproval exactly like another? (booing match) — "MATCH" should have been clued as a "contest" here, for many reasons (it would lead to a funnier clue, all the other theme answers' unchanged words have the same meaning in clue and answer, etc.)

Two dwarf planets? CERES is a perfectly good goddess (as is ERIS — 46A: Largest dwarf planet in the solar system). Maybe the double-dwarfing was supposed to create a cool subtheme (and by "cool" I mean "arousing to astronomers"). Also, two "MA-" places in Asia (MALAYA— 2D: 1941-42 Allies vs. Japanese battle locale + MACAU— 33A: Former Portuguese colony in China). That's not a problem. Just an interesting doubling.

Bullets:

  • 17A: Stop talking, with "up" (clam) — SHUT
  • 20A: Word before mail or crime (hate) — depressing clue.
  • 32A: TV character who jumped the shark, with "the" (Fonz) — "Ehhhhhhh!" I like this. Technically he jumped "a" shark. It was not until his jump came to symbolize the point at which *any* TV show starts to go downhill in quality that the phrase "jumped THE shark" was coined.
  • 64A: Volcano that devastated Catania (Etna) — volcano in four letters, hmmm.
  • 12D: Constellation south of Scorpius (Ara) — this will sound weird, but I didn't know you could describe stellar positions by earth-oriented terms like "south."
  • 47D: Blessing elicitor, sometimes (sneeze) — cover your mouth with your sleeve, or better yet, just go home and stay there til you're better.
  • 51D: Dotted-line user (signee) — yeah, that's not a great word.
  • 61D: Cousin of a cassowary (emu) — this clue for EMU needs to be put out to pasture. How 'bout [Mate of a moa]? ("mate" in Aussie sense of "friend"). [Reallygoodfriend of a rhea]?
  • 38D: '63 role for Liz (Cleo) — daughter went as CLEO for Halloween (after we nixed the "sexy French maid" costume. She's 9, so ... no. Somehow, going as the suicidal lover of a Roman general seemed more wholesome).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

77 comments:

joho 7:55 AM  

Great write-up, Rex. However, I think your trying to give this puzzle a Tic Tac Toe (Doh!) theme is stretching it. I think it's just a change a letter theme.

Speaking of D'oh, boy, did I feel dumb after finishing. I got everything right but still didn't pick up on the X/O switch until reading the write-up. Obviously I'm slow on the uptake this morning. Some of the theme answers are fun and new, but they also don't make a lot of sense.

I liked seeing SIR DYLAN in the grid. Perhaps he should pick up a RAPIER and challenge ZORRO to a duel.

Anonymous 7:58 AM  

Easy, dumb puzzle. Didn't like it. Had Booingmatch within the first minute and didn't understand the theme. Finished puzzle and still didn't understand the theme. Is it something deep that I am missing? A question that I regularly ask myself..

Sara 8:01 AM  

I like ORATED MOVIE. I imagine some guy in a toga reading pompously from a screenplay.

just scot. 8:03 AM  

Didn't think of tic tac toe when I figured out the X/O deal. I tied the X/O swap to 1A: Amor.

JannieB 8:07 AM  

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

tptsteve 8:24 AM  

Nice write up.Perhaps a little more difficult than a typical Wednesday. NW corner killed me- wanted EROS for AMOR, which threw me off for a while. SIGNEE (51D) is a pretty weak word. I picked up the letter substitution after 18A and 24A fell, and looked in vain for a tic-tac-toe clue or football clue.

treedweller 8:44 AM  

Damned AMIR! I went with 'emir' on the first pass and failed to catch the mistake until long after I tried to submit my solution.

Otherwise, I thought this was okay. I like the idea of X/O being tied to AMOR, though I certainly never thought of it (nor any other justification for the switch). I guess I'm in a charitable mood today, because that didn't really bother me, nor did the rather clunky-sounding theme answers.

How's that for a rave review?

Van55 8:45 AM  

Meh.

Van55 8:46 AM  

To expound a bit, this one utterly pales next to this morning;s LA Times puzzle, which I found to be refreshingly original.

Sandy 8:46 AM  

I found this clunky. I was all over the place, trying to figure out what the heck was going on. Where's my reveal!

Vincent Lima 8:57 AM  

I finished it without getting the theme, and did not enjoy it. I would have thought there would be one clue, somewhere, that would point to the theme, as in "and a hint to the theme of this puzzle." Not because I needed the hint to get the answers, but because it would somehow justify or tie together the theme.

Jim in Chicago 8:58 AM  

Had to come here to get the theme, probably because the replacement didn't come at the same place in all the answers.

I was hoping that OENOPHOBIC would be the word of the day, since that was the only thing in this puzzle that made me smile.

nanpilla 9:03 AM  

I thought of the theme as hugs and kisses, but was expecting some sort of payoff, which never came.
The theme answers just aren't good enough to justify a simple substitution puzzle.
@JannieB : there certainly were a lot of ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZs!

joho 9:05 AM  

@Sandy ... BE A TIDY KIWI: great button!

Karen from the Cape 9:05 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle, although I didn't see the theme until I had finished it. Unlike Rex I thought they were all solid entries, and I count clever reasons for letter swaps as bonus, not necessity. I loved having the multiple astronomy clues (which I know better than sports clues). My biggest slowdown was having DECLINE for DECEASE.

dk 9:08 AM  

Lame theme, fun fill except for WC that should be loo not LAV.

Rex, Cleo is also the cat in that wooden boy story that sounds like a card game. My LOL moment was thinking of Liz as a cat in a whales belly as opposed to on a hot tin roof. NASH has a beautiful mind: mine olio.

@sandy, great little picture.

Elaine 9:09 AM  

Hand up for Sara's interpretation: ORATED MOVIE

I got the theme, O = X, and then thought, "But why?"....so I see I have plenty of company. There was one clue/answer bit that seemed especially fun in the way it worked, but I don't remember which it was, and it's not worth going back to find it. Too bad.

The asteroids are new to me, but I don't feel like counting them as "new words." Maybe the LAT puzzle will cheer me up! Here's hoping!

pednsg 9:11 AM  

I really liked this- c'mon guys! I found it clever, though theme was elusive for a while. Only weirdness was RADII and radial in the same puzzle.

I too got hung up on EROS!

Norm 9:27 AM  

Maybe this puzzle should have been saved to run on Valentine's Day. Then you'd at least have a reason for X's and O's?

XMAN 9:28 AM  

I'll just repeat what Vincent Lima said, which makes the puzzle halfway beyween a meh and a meh-.

Leslie 9:29 AM  

Oh, thank goodness I'm not the only who had to come here to get the X-to-O explanation. I never saw it, even with the puzzle completed.

That said, I don't dislike the puzzle just because I didn't see the substitution; I feel as though I fell short. C'mon--"O"Men Comics, and the penny still didn't drop? Maybe I need more coffee.

Glitch 9:34 AM  

Per the Old Saw "If you can't say anything nice ...":

" "

.../Glitch

deerfencer 9:40 AM  

TRIOCEREAL? FEDERALTAO? Agree with Rex's thumbs down on this one overall. OENOPHOBIC was the one stroke of genius here. C-

poc 9:44 AM  

I wouldn't have bothered commenting today but I just had to get in a reference to Isaac Asimov's article on one the minor planets, entitled "The World Ceres".

Bada-bing!

Also, you can use South in reference to constellations. They are completely artficial constructs of no astronomical significance except as reference points as seen from the Earth, so there's no problem in giving them an orientation.

Stan 9:54 AM  

Pretty cool diction, including CLAM up, COPPERY, RAPIER, and CHOLER (clued as a humor). I even liked SIGNEE because I was expecting the 'er' form.

Plus, theme basically worked for me, esp. ORATED MOVIE and OENOPHOBIC.

So, one in the plus column. Thanks Ricky!

Brendan Emmett Quigley 10:01 AM  

Well, I for one liked it. Didn't love it, but man, for what I'm guessing is Ricky's debut. Ballsy construction, and for the most part filled with lots of fun stuff. More please.

ArtLvr 10:03 AM  

Well, I thought Ricky's puzzle was wonderfully wacky. OENOPHOBIC was the best, but even the FEDERAL TAO tickled my funny bone, recap of inscrutable election results.

∑;)

retired_chemist 10:07 AM  

A fun puzzle, even though I made two uncorrected errors. MACAO - I suppose that that was changed to MACAU when Peking became Beijing. (MARCEAU - D'oh!) Put SIGNER without a thought at 51D and checked sloppily. SIGNEE seems odd. Dictionary agrees with constructor however so my bad.

Hand up for EROS @ 1A, LOO @ 42A, SPLEEN @ 38A, and DECLINE @ 45D. Poor time, partly as a consequence of these.

Ulrich 10:20 AM  

I'm with Rex (et al.) on this one, including, and especially, w.r.t. the attractiveness of the grid. Got the theme early enough to be able to use it later on, and oenophobic almost saved the day, but no cigar...

@Rex: I presume little Cleo did not carry asps in her basket, no?

Andy Rooney 10:28 AM  

Ever wonder why it's always "Drug Czar," but it's "Tsar Nicholas"?

Two Ponies 10:34 AM  

Maybe today would be a good time for the contructor to join in, introduce himself, and tell us WTF is the theme.
Has the H1N1 infected our puzzle? An awful lot of sneezing going on two days in a row.
Starting my day with a sexy Dylan song running thru my mental juke box is a good thing.
Oenophobic was the only fun theme answer to this oenoholic.
@ Rex, I like your emu clues much better except I think moas are extinct.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:39 AM  

Sorry, I loved this puzzle. Sure it's letter substitution, but what words result!

I had to work my way through TRIOCEREAL and OENOPHOBIC down to BOOINGMATCH before I understood the theme:

O for X, to be read as "oh for ten".

Could be political, or civil rights related, or some team's record, but I'm sure that somewhere someone is 0 for 10.

william e emba 10:44 AM  

Rex did not know that stars come with compass directions? I am shocked. Surely Caesar's lines "I am constant as the northern star/Of whose true-fix'd and resting quality/There is no fellow in the firmament" ring a bell?

There's a Vachel Lindsay poem "The North Star Whispers to the Blacksmith's Son". VL is not as famous as WS or even WBY, but he was certainly popular in his day.

Actually, there have been a few OMEN COMICS! There was a three issue miniseries in 1989 from an independent titled Omen, and a five issue miniseries in 1998 from another independent titled The Omen.

In addition, DC has a very minor character named Lilith Clay, who was sometimes with the Teen Titans. Postcrisis she showed up after a long absence and took the name "Omen". She was killed, and her corpse is one of the legions of Black Lanterns infesting the current Green Lantern story lines. DC has no plans for giving her her own book, though.

Ooh, was I happy to see John NASH in the puzzle. I'll even forgive the lame popular culture clue, instead of something significant like his embedding theorem or his Nobel prize winning equilibria. He was the ghost of Fine Hall back in my day at Princeton, hanging around the math department but afraid to actually talk to anyone, writing his weird but fascinating graffiti all over the blackboards when no one was looking. One time I got on the Princeton Junction and Back train (a short shuttle that connects to an Amtrak station) at the same time as Nash, and he seemingly had a brief struggle as to whether to stay or run after he recognized me, before deciding to stay. And I was friends with his son John, also a math major, and was much saddened to learn years later that he too came down with his father's illness.

Normally I don't see any point in commenting on the word of the day, but I'm just amazed that CERES got picked. Maybe it's way humdrum ordinary to scientists and weird exotica to everybody else? But what about the dwarf planet competition from the notorious ERIS? Or what about CHOLER? Or even the SIGNEE? (Surely the fact that everyone knows the word isn't a disqualification! Neither is its ugliness.) Or how about BIP from the clues? Or better yet, the rather unusual DECEASE! It's use is almost entirely the participle, right? I found it peculiarly difficult to fill in. Logic said it was the correct answer, but my hand sometimes refuses to believe in logic.

Glitch 10:53 AM  

@Andy Rooney

All Tsars are Czars, but not all Czars are Tsars!

TSAR: a male monarch or emperor (especially of Russia prior to 1917)

CZAR: 1) a person having great power; 2)a male monarch or emperor (especially of Russia prior to 1917)

.../Glitch

Crosscan 11:08 AM  

What's with the BOOING MATCH? I liked it. Got the theme on OMEN COMICS. X is the opposite of O in tic-tac-toe) so we're swapping one for the other. Perfectly fine Wednesday theme. And Z's galore!

MARCEAU is an Olaf. "Mime" is all you need.

Nice debut!

PlantieBea 11:18 AM  

This was an OH SO unusual Wednesday for me. I didn't get the theme until I came here, even after staring at OENOPHOBIC, OMEN COMICS, etc. I had no trouble with CERES, but like WE Emba, I found CHOLER and DECEASE more unusual in usage/cluing. Hand up for EROS, RIA, SIGNER, and LOO in the first pass.

Badir 11:19 AM  

I was excited to see Ricky's name on the byline, since he's a friend of mine. I think this is his debut. As a fellow mathematician, I appreciated NASH and RADII and NINTHS, as well as the two dwarf planets. I wonder whether FEDERAL TAO is a shout-out to recent Fields Medal (math "equivalent" of the Nobel Prize) winner Terry Tao. I also took a while to figure out the theme, but eventually got it.

Elaine 11:21 AM  

@dk
I put LOO also.

@Andy Rooney
TSAR/TZAR/CZAR-- I've seen them all, and if I were a constructor, I'd enjoy using words that had multiple correct spellings in order to throw the solvers off for a bit...

OENOPHOBIC was my fave, too, and the one that gave me the theme early on...Since my hubby is a talented winemaker, will try to work this into the conversation.

I didn't find the LAT much of an antidote; moving on to BEQ's puzzle now...

archaeoprof 11:23 AM  

I agree with BEQ. Innovative, off-beat puzzle.

Anonymous 11:30 AM  

The mysterious Mr. Elba again amazes. Comic books, Princeton ghosts, poetry, and Nash encounters. I noticed that you never acknowledged that you were the focus of some later entries on the blog the other day. You are quite a character.
I noticed today that the dictator Lon Nol is a palindrome.
Remedial and panaceas aren't words you see every day.
I'm glad you nixed the French maid costume Rex. 9 year old No, 19 year old is another story completely.
Squeek the Anonymouse

ArtLvr 11:38 AM  

@ w.e.emba -- I enjoyed your recollections of the Nashes and Princeton. I got to see the interior of the Einstein house when a friend was house-sitting for Einstein's daughter, but I don't recall any blackboards!

∑;)

MikeM 11:42 AM  

Yes, EROS for me too and ORATEDMOVIE meshed so it took awhile to unbake the cake.

I loved this puzzle and am kind of surprised I am in the clear minority.

Higs 11:52 AM  

I'm definitely in the + column on this puzzle. Impressive layout and fill. Theme that kept me guessing far longer than the usual. Had fun solving. Thumbs up, Ricky Ini Liu.

@Rex: Thumbs way up on your choice for a comic panel extract referencing OMEN COMICS! Don't know how you find the time to do it all every day. KUTGW.

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle. Rex needs to lighten up; he complains about every puzzle and I've never seen him rank a puzzle's difficulty above "Medium-Challenging". He has a broad audience; not all of us are "the 44th Greatest Crossword Puzzle Solver In The Universe".

Greene 12:13 PM  

I too give this puzzle thumbs up for clever use of an old theme, wonderful construction, and Scrabbly fill. I feel like an idiot in that I could not discern the theme during the solve. The lightbulb finally came on as I studied the finished grid. In retrospect, this is a very straightforward theme so I blame my own stupidity rather than the constructor. If this is indeed a debut puzzle for Mr. Liu, it's a dandy.

PIX 12:22 PM  

Did not enjoy the puzzle: triocereal anyone? Not me.

Hey, Rex, how come no link to Dylan doing "Lay Lady Lay"? Song was originally intended for use in the movie Midnight Cowboy but Dylan didn't finish it in time.

"Ora Pro Nobis" = pray for us.

As noted above Lon Nol was one of the few world leaders whose name was a palindrome. Even Obama can't claim that honor.

Clark 12:29 PM  

I thought this was a fine Wednesday puzzle.

So how did the word SIGNEE come to mean 'signer'? Usually the '-er' (or '-or') means the one who does something (the doer) and the '-ee' means the one to whom it gets done (the doee?). "Sign him!" said George Steinbrenner to his assistant. The one who gets signed is then the SIGNEE. Is that it?

jeff in chicago 12:41 PM  

I had to look at this one for a while after finishing. Even as I type this I'm not sure how I feel. But I'm going to give it a thumbs up. OMENCOMICS really works for me. And TRIOCEREAL does feel better after Rex's suggested clue. We have a nice-looking grid and interlocking theme answers.

We have bit of downer fill - HATE, CHOLER, ANGST, DECEASED. But the puzzle kept me thinking all the way through. Gotta love that.

mexgirl 12:42 PM  

Gee....is it me or is this blog becoming increasingly exigent?
I liked this puzzle and thought it was fun.

retired_chemist 12:44 PM  

Let me be the first Jeopardy fan to rise from his TV set and report that Lindsay OXX was a contestant today. perhaps the puzzle theme was a shout-out to her....

mac 12:49 PM  

To my shame I never even stopped to figure out the theme, let Rex do the work....

Not a hard one, with only loo for lav and shut for clam for a few seconds, but plenty of wonderful words: amor touching "archer", remedial, Marceau (is Marcel still alive?), rapier, choler, panaceas, and, very funny, "Oh so".

Love oenophobic, although I'm more of an oenophile. Very nice debut, Ricki Ini Liu!

Anonymous who's getting tired of Anonymity 1:09 PM  

Anonymous, whatever dude. It's not like Rex is the only person who didn't like this--other commenters from just the first hour found it dumb, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, meh, clunky, and the like. By comparison, does "marginal thumbs down" really put him that far out of the mainstream?

A quick search shows that 4 puzzles in October alone were rated "Challenging"--given that the ranking is "relative to the typical difficulty for That Day Of The Week", how much more often do you want?

If you disagree with his opinion, fine. Say why you disagree, we can discuss. But if you don't like it because he said it, why are you here?

bluebell 1:25 PM  

I had fun doing this one. It's a Wednesday and I got it pretty much all by myself (this is my measure). But I now must plead guilty to panecea/emir. Sigh. Some day I will be perfect.

I really really really like Federal Tao, and I can't explain why. Something about the often labyrinthine (sp?) operations of government, perhaps.

Didn't see the x/o substitution until I came here. Sigh and double sigh.

Doc John 1:28 PM  

"Ehhhhhhh" is what Rex would use to describe this puzzle.
"Ayyyyyyy" is what Fonzie said.

I thought it was a cute puzzle overall. My biggest sticking point was RADII in the answer and "radial" in one of the clues.

Sandy 1:36 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin 1:46 PM  

Not one complaint about CERES and CEREAL in the same grid? Even after Rex documented that Ceres is the etymon of "cereal."

RogueKnits 1:54 PM  

Didn't we have KEG yesterday? checks Yep, and I think it was clued exactly the same.

andrea czarina michaels 1:57 PM  

maybe the O for X swap was a shout out to OOXteplernon?

Yes, I think if there were a reveal like HUGSANDKISSES it might have taken it off the meh-scale. Or if the X's replaced O's it wouldn't feel as limp.

@Wm E Emba
Totally interesting story.
Do you know that THE Patrick Blindauer was an actor in the film "A Beautiful Mind"?!!!!!!!
He had one line where he asks if they can open the window bec it's hot in there!!!!!!!!!!
I wish I had a clip!!!!!!!!!!!!

(On a less crunchy note: perhaps the word of the day was to alert us that both CERES and CEREAL were connected...and both in the grid)

I had MALAGA before MALAYA bec I think the first piano piece I learned was "Memories of Malaga" and got excited that it might be some sort of place that had some significance in WWII.

Even tho HATE crime and HATE mail are downers, I love those clues about "Word that follows/precedes (whatever)" It's a really fun way to think.


@jannieb
I loved all the Z's and thought you made good use of them!

@mac
As an OENOPHOBIC, totally non-drinking gal, I have two dear friends who defied my no-gift plea and inexplicably gave me items I'm now dying to re-gift:
one heavy sculptured arty ashtray- looking thing someone told me was a wine bottle holder (?!!) and a bag/purse, umbrella cover-looking item that I'm told is a wine tote. I'm an ungrateful bitch.

andrea keg michaels 2:00 PM  

@RogueKnits
I meant to note the bleedover of KEG but they were clued as a beer thing and today as a powder dynamite thing as far as I remember
(in addition to being an ungrateful bitch, I'm a lazy one!)

retired_chemist 2:02 PM  

Q@ RogueKnits -

One cannot have too many beer kegs, but powder kegs.....

Greene 2:17 PM  

@Andrea: You slay me.

Anonymous 2:53 PM  

AMOR is not an ARCHER -- EROS is.

And I had LOO, too.

chefwen 3:02 PM  

I'm going with the hugs and kisses theme to go along with AMOR and ARCHER, but, then again, I am a die hard romantic. I did get the X/O trick last night but it wasn't without a whole bunch of staring after I had finished the puzzle, finally, I had the AHA moment.

So far, this week has been a little more challenging than most. I hope that is not a sign of things to come.

william e emba 3:26 PM  

@ACM: I did not read the book on John NASH (title irked me, I did check it out for information about son John and the bean spilling about the infight behind the Prize) nor see the movie based on it. I had not heard that PB#2 had a bit part. Thanks! (PS, I'm an OENOPHOBE also.)

@12:06PM: The toughest rating Rex ever gave was "Infernal", for one of the notorious "Wrath of Klahn" puzzles. Believe me, Rex's ratings are usually spot on. I mean, I Google maybe once a year tops, and on a good day I'll finish a Friday/Saturday in 20-30 minutes, but overnighting one of them still happens. (Although oddly, usually just for Fridays. By Wednesday, all cultural clues are at the edge of my awareness, while more science or lesser known comic trivia seems to elbow its way into Saturday, making it much easier for me!)

@Higs: The panel Rex posted is one of the most famous in comic book history! It's Bruce Wayne, contemplating how can he strike terror into criminals (a cowardly, superstitious lot) when a you-know-what flew in through the window, and the rest is Gotham City history.

sanfranman59 3:32 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)

Wed 12:06, 11:47, 1.03, 61%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:16, 5:47, 1.08, 73%, Medium-Challenging

@Anon (2:53pm) ... Amor is the Latin name for Cupid and he is often depicted with a bow and a quiver of arrows. So it's a reasonable clue for ARCHER.

mac 4:02 PM  

@Andrea: for a sec I thought you were giving away scarves and Tuscan foodstuff. These two are easy, though. Just get 2 bottles of wine and you are set for the next two dinner parties you are invited to. Do people do that still in SF? It seems a lot less so here.

@william e emba: Do you compete at the Brooklyn tournament? Under which name?

chefbea 4:23 PM  

put me in the group of not knowing the theme til I came here. Also had shut up and Loo

Oenophile 4:46 PM  

It's almost 5:00. Is the happy hour crowd getting geared up?

R_C

fergus 4:55 PM  

The grammar geek in me had to look up DECEASE. As a noun, it is simply the equivalent of Death. As a verb, it is intransitive -- so is perfectly accurate in the puzzle -- then in its past participle, it becomes the familiar adjective, Deceased. Throw in a definite article and we've got a noun who needs not be named.

Does this pattern operate in German and Dutch, too?

Another (Seriously) Oenophobe 5:05 PM  

@Andrea - If they knew you were totally non-drinking, they weren't very dear friends to give you wine related gifts. Bet you were re-gifted in the first place.

Sfingi 5:28 PM  

The planets conspired to make this puzzle my downfall.

I totally didn't get the theme. I stuck with Amor rather than 1A EROS, "shut" rather than 17A CLAM, "jon" then "loo" for 42C LAV, "Macao" rather than 32A MACAU, and "booing match" rather than 26D BORINGMATCH. Did not know 59A CAGE and 37A ORA, or 39D HARM ("no harm no foul" - wha?), or 63D LOU Piniella, or that the 2nd "i" isn't pronounced (why?). Note 3 are sports - big yuck.

I like seeing palindromes such as 19A Lon NOL - also nice - "Seles"
"Max Reger." Something more that "Able was I ere I saw Elba," which is everywhere.

@Rex or is it REO -
Love CERES - the same broad as Demeter of Sicily who had to descend to Hades via ETNA to get her daughter Persephone back for planting time.

@Mac - Marcel died in 2007.

@Anon 11:30 - What, are you jealous or what?

@Anon 2:53 - Agree

@Bluebell - for some reason I LOL'd at FEDERALTAO, and don't know why. This without getting the theme. "The TAO of the feds grinds slowly, but it grinds exceeding small." I recently had to submit my mother's marriage license and birth certificate to the SS, even though she's 90 and has received it for 27 years. Doh to them.

@Poc - wonderful!

broccolophobe 5:30 PM  

@Fergus; I feel called upon to answer your question. It works that way, in principle, in German, too, but the case is obscured somewhat by the various endings that become necessary and make the whole enterprise look less "natural"--I won't subject any reader to examples...

SFman59: Right you are about the archer!

edith b 6:48 PM  

Boy, did I ever overthink this one. My first theme answer was BOOINGMTCH/ORA and I thought it was X one way and O the other and tried to tie it to AMOR/ARCHER 1A/1D and turn the puzzle into a Love theme - you know, Xs and Os, love -but I couldn't see it consistently and just went ahead and solved it assuming I could come her in the morning and figure it all out.

I felt like a fool when I found it it was just a simple letter substitution Wedensday puzzle but I did enjoy the struggle a little.

sanfranman59 10:02 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 5:48, 6:57, 0.83, 14%, Easy
Tue 9:38, 8:39, 1.11, 77%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 12:16, 11:47, 1.04, 64%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:07, 3:42, 0.84, 15%, Easy
Tue 4:56, 4:26, 1.11, 80%, Challenging
Wed 5:55, 5:46, 1.02, 63%, Medium-Challenging

Lurker0 10:57 AM  

Better one day late than never:

U Nu

Singer 2:10 PM  

From syndiland:
Put me in the liked it column. I thought finding that many phrases/words where you could substitute O for X and get a recognizable answer was cool. Plus Oenophobe, Federal Tao and Booing Match are really funny.

The fill wasn't bad by any means - all the threes are perfectly good, plus there is not a lot of crosswordese in the puzzle. I think it was a worthy Wednesday.

My troubles: Eros (AMOR), Shut (CLAM), Signer (SIGNEE), Loo (LAV), Bon (FAT).

BassManPDX 10:28 PM  

I had started thinking of X's and O's with the first clue I read - 1a: Valentine's Day figure. I thought, "Hmm, four letters, a 'figure', how about XXXX, as we often sign VD cards. That would also be the 'figure' 40 in Roman Numerals."

Well, that was not to be the case, obviously, but X was still on my mind when I got to OENOPHOBIC, and the other theme answers came much more easily after that.

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