1970 Santana hit — WEDNESDAY, Dec. 23 2009 — Fail Irish coronation stone / Extinct cousin of kiwi / Frequent Canadian interjections

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Constructor: Jonathan Porat

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: What's BLACK, WHITE, and RE(a)D ALL OVER? — theme answers begin with BLACK, WHITE, RED, and ALL OVER, respectively, and all of them tie into NEWSPAPER (72A: Answer to an old riddle alluded to by the starts of 17-, 32-, 42- and 64-Across)

Word of the Day: USLTA (2D: Org. that used to bring people to court?) — United States Lawn Tennis Association — since 1975, just "USTA"

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This puzzle is noteworthy for a couple things. First tons of theme squares. Very high theme density. This makes the other noteworthy feature even more surprising — those corners in the NW and SE. Stacked 9s over (and under) a 15?! So weird to see that kind of white space in a Wednesday puzzle. Toughish to construct, though I'm guessing the constructor got a nice assist from the cruciverb database (via constructing software) — JUST TRY ME (1A: "I dare you"), AS WE SPEAK (15A: This very moment), and ANAHEIM, CA (70A: Part of a postal address for Disneyland) (!?) are all in the database, and were (I'm guessing) suggested by constructing software (which is usually fueled by an imported word list, such as those available at cruciverb). Nothing wrong with that — everybody uses software. It's just that this puzzle screamed it with the fill in those open corners. ANAHEIM, CA is a sorry enough answer that it made me go check the database (which I normally don't do). But here the non-theme fill clearly doesn't matter. This puzzle's all about the theme, which is cute. Problem with the grid is that you pay for the theme density and huge NW/SE corners with a tidal wave of 3-letter answers (never a good thing — you end up with stuff like ABT next to SAE next to HRH, for example). Overall: B for concept, C for execution.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: 1970 Santana hit ("BLACK Magic Woman")

  • 32A: Evidence in the Watergate scandal (WHITE House tapes)
  • 42A: Macho types (RED-blooded males) — now that's original (theme answers usu. are the most original things in the grid)
  • 64A: Varying wildly (ALL OVER the place)

I've got holiday preparations to get to, so I'm going to make this quick.

  • 10A: The Hawks of the Atlantic 10 conference, informally (St. Joe) — Hmmm. Only ever heard ST JOE'S, since the school is St. Joseph's. In college basketball commentary, it's ST. JOE'S.
  • 28A: Kind of pit, briefly (Bar-B-Q) — not sure why I have trouble accepting this spelling. I just do.
  • 58A: Extinct cousin of the kiwi (moa) — I heartily approve MOA. Still fighting for more exposure for KEA (the parrot, not the volcano name part).
  • 3D: Stretch of grass (sward) — well, that's an ugly word. Unusual too. ULSTA/SWARD is what happens (sometimes) when you stack long answers.
  • 13D: Animal with striped legs (okapi) — more odd fauna. Hard not to like OKAPI.
  • 51D: 1935 Triple Crown horse (Omaha) — I'm kind of partial to the name of the owner/breeder, BEL AIR STUD.
  • 53D: Finnish architect Alvar ___ (Aalto) — his name always feels like a Hail Mary pass to me. When you absolutely, positively need to cram a lot of common letters in weird order into the puzzle, he's your man.
  • 61D: Midwinter phenomenon, sometimes (thaw) — I had, predictably, SNOW.
  • 68D: ___ Fáil, Irish coronation stone (Lia) — Ne'er heard of it. Appears to be a giant stone phallus. Because nothing says power like a giant stone phallus.
  • 66D: Frequent Canadian interjections (ehs) — HA ha. Canada. Most of us down here seem to think that it's one big Bob and Doug McKenzie show up there.



There will be a guest blogger tomorrow, and I'll be back on Christmas Day. See you then.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. my wife is quasi-irate about 14D: Start of a counting rhyme. "Counting? There's not counting going on! It's a choosing game! You're CHOOOOSing." She's actually not irate at all, but she did say those exact words just now.

96 comments:

d 8:08 AM  

How is TEC a Sam Spade type? Isn't a TEC (deTECtive) a policeman?

DvN
Oldsmar, FL

d 8:10 AM  

I also agree that BARBQ is dysfunctional. It is either BBQ, BARBECUE, or BARBEQUE, but never BARBQ.

DvN
Oldsmar, FL

Bob Kerfuffle 8:12 AM  

I found this puzzle extra-interesting because the theme might suggest a trend in the future. (No, not the death of newspapers!) We often seem to say of a puzzle, "That's been done so many times before!" But could this be new? The theme only alludes to a familiar riddle; it doesn't spell it out completely. Perhaps we are on the way to referring to themes and answers just by number (Say, from BEQ's list of BS themes.) Or perhaps just by key words -- supply your own structure.

Fasting for a blood test, I did this puzzle without my usual breakfast routine, and found that it took me 15 minutes, not bad for me.

Just one write-over: Had JUSTTRYIT before JUSTTRYME.

Elaine 8:20 AM  

@D
Private eye? Private detective?
MY beef is: no one ever, ever says, "Lat's call in a Tec," meaning detective. They say the whole word.

SWARD is a very GOOD word! "He measured his length on the greensward." (Howard Pyle's _Robin Hood_)...My book was not illustrated by NC Wyeth, but wish it had been! If you read good books, you learn totally cool, if archaic, vocabulary. A murrain seize those who would disparage SWARD!

I am also fine with Bar-B-Q. Make the solvers tinker!

Got RED BLOODED MALES first, then ALL OVER THE (map?)... but I had PINCH for 22A, along with an attempt to start the riddle with WHAT IS BLACK AND.... so needless to say, I had some back-tracking to do.

Nice little puzzle that was fun to solve. (Since I do not know Santana-- or any rocker's--songs, I had to do my solving the old-fashioned way...with write-overs!) I enjoyed this! Happy Christmas, everyone, and safe travels!

Anonymous 8:39 AM  

Back in Sam Spade's days - I belive they did refer to a private eye as a tec.

ACC web site does not have St Joseph listed as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

joho 8:41 AM  

Today the MOA ate the GAR. And Jonathan Porat SAWTOIT that we all had a jolly good time with the theme. Well, at least I did. Seemed original. To Rex's point, though, some of the fill was automatically contrived i.e. ANAHEIMCA. Not good.

Enjoyable Wednesday!

Bozo, Joho

JannieB 8:42 AM  

Thought this was easy until I hit the SW corner at the very end. Nothing was looking right and I spent well over 2 minutes three lines blank (MOA, HATER & ANODE). But then, I'm still on my first cup of coffee.

I actually liked this puzzle - enjoyed the long theme answers and the level of difficulty. Nice.

RPS 9:03 AM  

Anon: The ACC and the Atlantic 10 are different conferences. The name of the school, however,is most definitely Saint Joseph's. So the actual answer makes as much sense as "University of Texases". Or is it Texaces?

David 9:07 AM  

Often I look at a mid to late week puzzle right after I wake up - and mostly draw a blank. Then an hour or so later I return, and the puzzle begins to behave and fall in place.

Indeed when I returned, BLACKMAGICWOMAN instantly started playing in my mind - and the rest just flowed.

A nice Wednesday puzzle; I give higher marks than Rex on this one.

(Hmm, does PARTB divide the Medicare recipients here us others? BOCCE however made that easy. But it does remind me that I'm 6 months away.)

SusanMontauk 9:13 AM  

Rex, I agree with your wife! Also didn't like barbq, but think sward is a great word. No accounting for taste.

I felt disappointed when I got to the end of this puzzle, which was an easy one for me. The theme left me feeling, so what? But yesterday's was so right for me, that having a good one today was a very tall order.

treedweller 9:20 AM  

Well, color me gobsmacked. I was expecting the highest of dudgeon over ADASH. Am I that out of touch? Am I just bitter because I found the crossing abbr. incredibly obscure (not to mention ABT)?

I was sure it was not generally acceptable to include random definite articles with the fill in crosswords. No constructor I, and most of what I know about it I learned here, but I would have sworn this was going to spark a mutiny.

Anyway, it sure chapped me good. Incidentally, google reveals Oregon Ballet Theatre, which makes "skosh" look much better than ADASH to at least one man's eyes.

But, @d, in Texas, it's hard to drive five miles without coming across a BARBQ joint--sorry. There's also a Bert's BarBQ in Austin with an unfortunate sign that always makes me think it should be called Q-Bert's barbie, but that's probably just me. Oh, wait, I should say was. Despite being three doors down from a fire station, and despite the fact that several people reported a fire at Bert's to said station, Bert's burned down a couple of years ago ("Oh, they always do a lot of smoking a night.").

Glitch 9:24 AM  

@Elaine

RE: "MY beef is: no one ever, ever says, "Lat's call in a Tec," meaning detective. They say the whole word."

You may be technically correct, but as discussed in previous blogs, Sam Spade / TECH is just fine :)

.../Glitch
,

dk 9:29 AM  

When "Nun in a blender" did not fit in 72A I knew I was in trouble.

Had pinch for ADASH, but 2,3 and 24D fixed that.

Grad School in Southern Cal, old college dj, and living in DC during the Watergate trail made this an easy and enjoyable Wednesday.

*** (3 Stars)

Some wag in d'hood has a sailboat named Ms. N. Thrope, sorta dumb IMHO.

@D, read all of Rex's pulp fiction titles and you will use TEC 24/7/365 (leap year you get a break). I prefer continental operative.

Last minute picture framing today and preparing for the storm of the century. We are expecting between 2-20 inches of snow. Methinks the weather and airline folks attend the same school of approximate results. Ski Patrol tomorrow and sledding on suicide hill for Xmas, so whatever we get will be fine.

Step twins are cheesed off as we have required helmets for the sled run. Narrow iced path between trees and a 20-40% grade... I am so unreasonable... of course I never would have worn one.

@elaine, see if you can find the first Fleetwood Mac Album (Barbed Wire Blues)... wait here it is:

BLACKMAGICWOMAN

PIX 9:29 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle with its lengthy answers and fun theme.

Question: I’ve never fried anything in my life, but…is ZAP really used to mean “instantly fry”? I always thought ZAP in the kitchen referred exclusively to microwaving. Maybe that’s why I have such a low success rate in the kitchen.

Smitty 9:35 AM  

I had DO IT OR DIE before JUST TRY ME.

I'm sitting here in Canada for the holidays (EH?) next to my copy of "The Most Glorious Crown", but I didn't have to crack it to remember OMAHA.

I did however have to Google Alvar AALTO to Finnish the puzzle (Shameful for a Wednesday)

JannieB 9:40 AM  

@Pix - I thought of those mosquito-killing devices that zap bugs dead in the summer.

mac 9:44 AM  

Wonderful theme, but the whole tec, tsk, rpm, abt, sae, hrh, hre, itd and str area was just awful. I had such a good time until I reached that area....

I do like sward and groupie, but I don't know why 31A would be vin when the clue doesn't say Bourgogne.

BEQ @ LAT!

Safe travels to all of you celebrating away from home. I'm on way to return something already, something I rarely do!

mac 9:46 AM  

P.S. Poor CrossCan is not going to like the "eh" much. Had to get that one from crosses.

Elaine 9:48 AM  

@Glitch
AHA! (pouncing)--your using TECH is just why no one would say TEC for detective nowadays... There are Techs all over the place, checking for DNA that detectives can't even SEE!

@treedweller
Using a SKOSH instead of a PINCH or A DASH....see, that is why your cookery turns out badly. Tsk.

@dk
You are one sick pup, Boyo; so am I, which explains my laughing out loud at the computer.

Oh, thanks for the link....That is SO cute that you think I would actually listen to something that has a passing relation to rock (or skat, heavy metal, emo, ANYthing close to hard rock.)

@PIX
NEVER? FRIED? ANYTHING? EVER??? Not even an egg?
Remember--the clue-guy's job is to be a bit tricky, eh?

the redanman 9:57 AM  

Very clever little theme that I got right away and for my kind of solving helped a lot. Yet ... not an official solve for me.

I was lost in SW as I don't know triple crown winners, didn't know MOA or AALTO, couldn't see ANODE and must agree BARBQ was kinda UGLI. Can we expect BBEEQ or BARBEEQUE, maybe BBQUE, ick to me ...

Anyone else not too fond of HRE?, but I did get it with cross.

@mac VIN for Burgundy and Chablis is just fine, excellent in fact as each is a very specific wine region (Domaine) in France, protected by law (like Champagne) even though they are plagiarized and disrespected as complete crap wines in America.

Stan 9:59 AM  

Nice to see this joke -- one of the first I ever heard. It required an explanation from my father before I 'got' it.

Great holidays to all! (I'll be reading, but not in real time)

hazel 10:14 AM  

Liked the concept, but that's it. Didn't really like the phrases that much - except Black Magic Woman. And the other fill - well, Wade Jr. could have probably made a few improvements.

Several thorny areas for me - @Treedweller's ADASH/ABT/SWARD but also MAGE/SENAT. I've heard of Gandalf, but not a MAGE - had MAGI -being ignorant. Changing it was the final tweak which opened the PLAYAGAINSTTHECLOCK door, its matron finally (albeit graciously) letting me in.

Insulted Canadian 10:22 AM  

Another answer to the riddle is "an embarrassed zebra." Groan,eh?

Van55 10:24 AM  

Good challenge for a Wednesday.

This one felt more like an LAT puzzle than NYT. And vice versa with todays BEQ entry in the LAT.

PIX 10:24 AM  

@JanieB...thank you for the response. Perhaps this summer I'll get my bug zapper and "instantly fry" some bugs!

@Elaine: I don't eat eggs...besides you didn't address the question...when you "instantly fry" your eggs, do you consider yourself zapping them? I've just never heard the expression used that way but as I readily acknowledge my culinary skills are nonexistent.

OldCarFudd 10:27 AM  

Doesn't the constructor get extra credit for a pangram?

@Elaine - I'm with you on SWARD (and old-fashioned words in general, but not too many in one pzzle, please!) and BARBQ, which is often seen as the name of a bbq joint.

@dk - Some boat names make you scratch your head. I know a fellow whose last name is Ill; his boat is Ill At Ease.

@mac - I agree that the clue should have hinted that the answer was French.

I enjoyed this. Way above average for a Wednesday. We're having a good week. It must be Will Shortz's Christmas present, for which he saved up his best submissions.

retired_chemist 10:33 AM  

Agree with medium-challenging. Agree the theme is fun and the slap in the face to OOXTEPLERNON bad. I wonder if s/he has powers to accurse the constructors... (today's koan: what is OOXTEPLERNON's gender?)

Two real slowdowns, both caught before I peeked. One, AYES @ 7D. My bad. The other, MISER for 69A "Misanthrope." Also my bad, especially since it doesn't even fit the clue, but I did like O MAMA for the racehorse, coupled with A ALSO (ran) @ 53D.

@ David: Medicare PART B pays doctors, PART A pays hospitals. This was easy in any case, but especially a gimme for us geezers.

Crosscan 10:35 AM  

How did you get my home movies, Rex?

EHS? JUST TRY ME.

BARBQ is just fine.

darkman 10:49 AM  

Had OMAmA for OMAHA and miser for HATER. Oh, well.

Rex (relay to Sandy): In 'choosing games', when you are landed on, you are 'counted out'. That was the terminology when I was a child. Maybe that's what JP was referring to.

Had fun with this puzzle. It started out mean but turned into a lamb.

Two Ponies 11:04 AM  

@ Rex, I agree with Sandy. However, I wrote eenie without hesitation. Symptom of too many crosswords.
Dam up gave me St. Doe (short for Dominic? What do I know or even care?) Other than that I enjoyed this one. Some fun word play so I forgive the three-letter strings. Getting the theme early helped.
I never thought of Gandalf as a mage but fair enough for a Wed. and seasonal.
I'm going to have to look into the Venus clue. That sounds like an interesting factoid.
The wintery miserable weather everyone else is suffering through manifests itself in Vegas as wind. It is blowing like the devil right now. I'm glad I'm not traveling.

Neglected A (cousin of THE) 11:08 AM  

Aw, c'mon. Can't I come out to play every once in awhile?

Wade 11:22 AM  

As somebody who'll go to great lengths to set up a joke or pun that amuses nobody but me, I ought to appreciate puzzles like this more, but I get real bored slogging through stuff like ABT. When I saw what the riddle and answer was, I filled in the letters to complete that and didn't go back and work through a few random squares I'd left blank (probably having to do with USTLA or ABT or MOA.) Makes me feel cheap, but it takes two, baby.

(P.S. Thomas enjoyed the P.S. yesterday. That one was probably at least a medium-challenging for most people who don't live in this house.)

JC66 11:24 AM  

Wasn't the BAR BQ ranch the one that started and made famous this type of cookout? If so, then BBQ, barbecue, et al would be derivatives, no?

Where's @Wade when we need him.

JC66 11:26 AM  

@wade

Timing, timing.

Wade 11:30 AM  

JC66, nice to be sought after. I don't think I'm your guy on this one. I always thought barbecue was a French word. As for personal experience, I've seen it spelled and abbreviated every which way in Texas, but I wouldn't offer that as any evidence of any particular authenticity, just general expediency and/or illiteracy.

Off to do my Christmas shopping.

OldCarFudd 11:45 AM  

@wade et al - I believe barbeque is derived from French. When you put a whole beast on a spit to roast, you're cooking it "barbe a queue", from beard to tail. That's where the Brits get queue for line.

Ulrich 11:49 AM  

When I looked at the grid, I saw a face, and as I was doing the puzzle, I recognized him: It's a stylized image of the god of bad fill, as recently discovered on an ancient Maya ruin.

Elaine 11:57 AM  

@piX
Sorry, but...I was not trying to address the question, just kind of amazed at "never fried anything in [my] life." But perhaps you are as yet young...
IMHO, clue-makers are allowed some fudge-space, so ZAP was in the scope. "Instantly" was a hint.

@BBQ origin questioners

BARBACOA (Spanish)--or that is my understanding. Now we'll all have to go look it up. Beware of WIKI!

John in CT 12:09 PM  

Clunky, awkward, difficult, but not pleasingly so. I did NOT like this puzzle.

Doug 12:13 PM  

I liked this puzzle a lot, and it took me a long time to solve, despite the TEC clue being totally out of whack. I knew AALTO and OMAHA which got me jumpstarted in the SW.

Did you ever notice that the great race horses also have great names -- Man O' War, Omaha, Whirlaway, Citation, Secretariat, Affirmed, Seattle Slew?

treedweller 12:16 PM  

@Elaine
I have actually made four batches of pralines this year, an annual family xmas favorite that calls for ADASH of salt, and they all turned out fine. But I thought we couldn't have articles (and realized later that A is indefinite, not definite, FWIW) just tossed in willy-nilly to make a four-letter word into a five-letter one. Kind of like when Rex complained about THE PO recently. This seems much more egregious to me, since PO couldn't make it on its own, but DASH could.

And "pinch" didn't work any better than "skosh" with the crosses. Though I see there is a Northern Ballet Theatre out there. What is it with ballet companies and the pretentious British spelling of theater?

Clark 12:20 PM  

My article complaint, as long as that’s what we’re doing today ;) , is SENAT. SENAT would never pass une loi. LE SENAT would. Or? Actually, article or no article doesn't bother me much. I think the article rule would be tough to state. Anyone want to try?

I enjoyed this one, partly ‘cause I was on the right frequency today. Everything just came to me. Except, I had kOA/OkAHA (you can call a horse anything) and AWArE/OrAPI. I will never remember MOA and OKAPI. Never.

Hitting the road today with the two cats. We'll see how they feel about seven hours of icy driving.

Noam D. Elkies 12:23 PM  

Yes, nice and ambitious theme. The 9/9/15 stack at the NW was forced by the 15- and 9-letter theme answers at the SE (unless one is to split the punchline into two entries, NEWS and PAPER).

28A:BARBQ at least makes phonetic sense; "barbeque" is the spelling I can't grok — looks like it should be pronounced "bar-beck".

Does 51D:OMAHA really need to be clued via a racing horse of three generations ago, and on a Wednesday!? Give me a breaque. Or should I say, FÁIL. At least for 68D:LIA there was hardly any choice (and "Lia Fáil" is a palindrome).

NDE

retired_chemist 12:23 PM  

@ Doug - I bet some bad horses also have great names. We just don't remember them like we do the great ones.

I'd put War Admiral on your list too.....

Ulrich 12:27 PM  

@treedweller: PINCH worked for me for a long time: US lawn tennis Professionals, SwarI (never heard of sward, so my guess is as good as yours), National Ballet Theater, CAE (if it's not SASE, it must be something else that can be looked up with Google, which I never did)--which only goes to confirm that this one was tough, in spots, for a Wednesday...

Geezer 12:49 PM  

Another possible clue for MOA, might involve the frequent use of those initials for Museum Of Art

Geezer 12:55 PM  

Being old enough to have read Sam Spade, TEC was one of my first fills. Entered STR right off, but it didn't work with SWATH.

I had ADOUbT now and then ALL OVER THE PLACE, and found JAMUPs now and then, but was able (with help) to CARVE out enough answers to enjoy some VIN at the BARBQ

william e emba 1:13 PM  

Hah! Despite living across the street from a ST JOE's dorm, and two blocks from its main campus area, and seeing Hawks paraphernalia everywhere, and being aware of their sports existence from their fairly recent basketball perfect regular season, I only got this one from the crosses. It never occurred to me that "Atlantic" meant something.

Meg 1:25 PM  

@ Treedweller I fer sher didn't like A DASH or BARBQ.

I also had ST DOES, which I guess is a school for deer or students who want to remain anonymous. Besides, DAM UP is perfectly reasonable,

And what about SAE??? Isn't the standard term SASE? How you gonna get a reply without a STAMP?

This puzzle didn't thrill me. Maybe it's because there is so much to do and so little time.

Doc John 1:25 PM  

Sward?

SueRohr 1:27 PM  

When my son was little he came in from playing to tell us that his friend had told him a funny riddle:" What's black and white and black and white and black and white? - A nun rolling down a hill." Then, because we're Jewish, he looked at us and asked, "What's a nun?"
I enjoyed the puzzle and actually thought it was a little difficult for a Wednesday. And I agree that a dash is just wrong.

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

@treedweller - why is it pretentious to spell theatre in that fashion? Are you saying the Brits are pretentious just because they spell differently? I object to your generalis(z)ation

Did not have to look up anything just slowly worked my way through the puzzle - so a really good challenge - but what does HRE stand for?

Rex Parker 1:38 PM  

@Sue, that made me LOL ("What's a nun?" specifically). Thanks,

rp

Sarah 1:40 PM  

BLACKMAGICWOMAN was a gimme for me -- one of the first songs I learned to play on my guitar. MOA totally stumped me. On an unrelated note, every now and then, I'm struck by the NY-centricity of puzzles (FLATBUSH as a clue for the avenue that intersects the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens a couple of weeks ago, ABT today [American Ballet Theatre, housed at the City Opera space]). As a Brooklyn dweller, I tend to get these clues right away, but they do seem a bit unfair for people living, well, anywhere else in the country or the world.

Sarah 1:41 PM  

Oh, and another possible answer to the riddle is "a penguin with a sunburn."

treedweller 1:47 PM  

@anon 1:32
It isn't, if you happen to be British, and especially not if you happen to live in Britain. If you are an American organization spelling it that way, I find it pretentious. Maybe that's just me.

HRE=Holy Roman Empire

And I also found "What's a nun?" quite funny.

Anonymous 1:52 PM  

Good puzzle and a pangram to boot.

retired_chemist 1:57 PM  

Heard all versions of the riddle ages ago and didn't think I could get a chuckle out of it anymore - but "What's a nun?" did the job.....

Mary 2:02 PM  

@Meg

SAE is as common in the publishing world as SASE. Generous publishers send their subscribers an SASE, while those not so generous just send an SAE. Also if you get bills by mail, the companies used to send SASEs when stamps weren't so expensive. Now they send SAEs if they send any envelope at all. But I certanly agree that if you want a publisher to reply to your submission of a manuscript, you're not likely to get one unless you send an SASE!!!

Clark 2:16 PM  

Readers of Tolkien should know SWARD. There are swards aplenty in the Lord of the Rings. 'Parth Galen' is 'green sward' in Sindarin.

Jim in Chicago 2:24 PM  

I agree that EENIE is for choosing, but my bigger problem with the continued use of that phrase is the wording of the original version as I learned it as a child. "eenie, meenine, minnie moe, catch a n*gg*r by his toe". I still cannot bear to use this rhyme with any words. The substition of the word "tiger" doesn't make in any more acceptable to me.

I also have real problem is with ADASH. It is now OK to add an "a" to the front of any random answer? If ADASH is OK, shouldn't we also have AGROUPIE or ATEX or AMOA, etc. You can add a "dash" or a "pinch" or a "tablespoon" or a "cup" or "a pound". Would the answer ever be APOUND??? I think not.

Also, the whole rhyme is wrong. It is What's black AND white AND red all over. Where are the "ands"? I also intensly dislike that the first three parts are a single word apiece "black, white, red" while the fourth answer contains has two words "all over". Sloppy.

mac 2:30 PM  

@John in CT: have you signed up for Westport yet?

@Noam: now that's a word, "grok".

edmcan 2:47 PM  

I found this puzzle to be a great conceit, but too clever by half

lit.doc 2:55 PM  

@dk and @Elaine - the theme answers came unusually easy for me on this one, but I was disappointed when the colors led down to the wrong answer. I ask, you...wouldn't a 15-letter theme answer across the bottom have been an elegant construction? Sign me up for the sick puppy squad, since the moment I saw what the theme was I counted out "NUN IN A MICROWAVE".

@treedweller - sounds like you're also an Austinite, yes?

Was able to get through this one, though I agree with several above that SW was pretty much Natickville today. Though I worked through it with the crosses (slooowly), three five-letter names stacked side-by-side seems questionable.

OldCarFudd 2:57 PM  

@elaine - Webster's Second Unabridged, published in about 1948 (at least two weeks before WIKI) agrees with you about BARBACOA. It also says the term means a raised platform for cooking. Larousse's Unabridged Spanish-English dictionary, published 2002, also gives barbacoa's first definition as a utensil, and the second as what you cook on it. So I stand corrected. My source was much less authoritative (although she would have disagreed with that statement!) My mother, who was born in Belgium, raised in England, and tri-lingual (Flemish, French and English, but no Spanish), gave me the French story many decades ago.

chefwen 2:58 PM  

@OldCarFudd - That was very interesting re. the BBQ, it's amazing what one learns at this blog, thank you.

Thought the puzzle was good and fairly easy until I reached the north west. Of course I had pinch in first and had never heard of USLTA or SWARD, so I had a whee of a time up there, put it down for 1/2 and hour, then it all fell into place.

Loved the nun joke SueRohr, very funny.

Received an early Christmas gift two days ago, spotted my first Humpback of the season, very exciting.

Mele Kalikimaka to all.

treedweller 3:06 PM  

@lit.doc
yes, since 1986, when I moved from Burleson, home of American Idol Kelly Clarkson (which beats just saying "Fort Worth" like I used to).

4 and out (but none yesterday--that's fair, right?)

babslesley 3:13 PM  

Agree with Rex's wife about Eenie. Also take issue with the spelling. You never see BARBQ in Texas (world's best BBQ).

Totally out of nowhere--who's ready to retire "oater"? Never in my life has anyone asked me if I enjoyed that oater with John Wayne.

Rube 3:46 PM  

I too will (probably) never remember moa & okapi. Have heard of all of those triple crown winners EXCEPT Omaha.
Have no trouble with A DASH since if it appears in a recipe it will always use the article, e.g. "a dash of bitters" in your Manhattan.
In 8 mos of NYT xwords had never run into utne. Good. To me, an xword is a waste of time unless there is something new to learn. Although there is almost always something new to learn from this blog. Thanks all.
@Chefwen, I've been looking for 2 days at Po'ipu and have not seen any. Where are you?

chefbea 3:56 PM  

Liked the puzzle. Had trouble in the SW but then it all came together

Years ago my daughter had a guinea pig. His name was Eenie. We still talk about him

@Treedweller - forgot all about the praulines I usually make. Gotta go see if I have the ingredients and whip some up for Xmas dinner

Elaine 4:57 PM  

@Sarah
I was in Brooklyn once, for a day and a half. No, but seriously: I got FLATBUSH off the _USH; and I don't know precisely where they are, but SOHO and TRIBECA would not stump me; and there are so many movies and books set in NYC that I think more people "know" about cultural venues and events and various sites than you might suspect. I read "The New Yorker"--freebie table at the library--yet, GASP, I live in Darkest Arkansas, practically not even on the same continent with the Great and Powerful Center of the Universe! But seriously--I ask you: how CENTRAL can it be if Rex doesn't even live there?

@Jim in Chicago
My mother taught us "Bunny by the toe." Eventually we kids learned the original rhyme and were appalled...but until that moment used it, all unknowing. Loss-of-innocence stories are always sad.

@babslesley
Jim in Chicago is Rex's wife? I am pretty sure that is incorrect...

@treedweller,
Well, WE have Kris Allen banners all over town. He's newer than YOUR Idol.

@OldCarFudd
Thanks for looking it up. Now I'm hungry...

Over (four) and out!
Elaine in the Rain

Guy Who Likes Barbecue 5:02 PM  

@babslesley
unless you count Stubbs, Rudy's, Great Texas, Bill Miller, Mikeska's, Luling . . . well, you get the point.

retired_chemist 5:32 PM  

You want barbecue? GOOD barbecue? No, GREAT barbecue? Come to Huntsville TX and try the "Church of the Holy Barbecue," AKA the New Zion Missionary Church. You have to scroll down to see the squib. They do not have a real web site. No need - without ads they sell all they want to to locals and to people who hear about it - like you are right now.

Anonymous 6:06 PM  

@r_c the link is bad. for others, to view it, right-click the link, copy the address, paste it, and remove the quotation mark at the end.

JC66 6:09 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
darkman 7:27 PM  

babslesley: I repeat my post of this morning. In 'counting games', when you are landed on you are 'counted out'. Those are the literal words used by us kids in the Bronx in '50s.

Scott 9:21 PM  

Mage? What is that? Don't remember that from any of the Tolkien books.

Two Ponies 9:26 PM  

@ OldCarFudd, BBQ is acceptable to me in all of it's myriad forms but your explanation is cool whether it's true or not. However the beard part makes the most sense if you are roasting a goat.

deerfencer 9:48 PM  

Agree with John in CT: "clunky, awkward, difficult, but not pleasingly so. I did NOT like this puzzle."

This one made me feel stupid, especially since it was a Wed.

Sfingi 9:50 PM  

The theme was easy, but I found
the puzzle difficult. Did not know STJOE (sports), toi (French), MAGE (thought the singular was "Magus"), LIA, had "dodo" for BOZO, "swale" for SWARD. Did not like ADASH. Also, do not like it when puzzlemakers make up any old abbreviation.

The MOA is no longer thought to have been related to the kiwi.

Nor do I believe frying takes place in a microwave oven.

That little section, 23-25 down, was dreadful. Thank you, Rex, for explaining why. And thanx for the Great White North.

My mother never could get a BBQ like the ones she had in FL in the '20s. Wasn't BarBQ originally a steer branding iron with a bar across the top of the letters BQ?

@Noam - Palindrome! Thanks. But let's hope Sara Palin doesn't "come back again."

@David - it's wonderful to have one's Medicare card! Got mine this month.

Glitch 9:52 PM  

Have been traveling all day so just a couple of comments:

@Elaine --- kudos on a succesful diflection, won't toss another barb until I have enough time to check for typos ;)
___

In electronics, when you ZAP a component, the circuit is [suddenly] fried. Usually accompanied by sparks and smoke.
_____

No problem with A DASH as an amount/measure/instruction. "Add DASH of salt" is somehow incomplete, "add A DASH ..." sounds more better ;)

.../Glitch

Glitch 9:55 PM  

make that deflection [grumble, typo, small screen on travel unit]

retired_chemist 10:27 PM  

@ anon 6:06 - you are correct. My typo. Sorry.

Charles Bogle 11:23 PM  

Agree w @mac, @johninct, @deerfencer: great theme; awful, stupid fill...btw, have never heard it referred to as anything other than STJOE'S. IT'D stinks; so does JUSTTRYME esp as opening answer. Pps am reading a wonderful anthology of "Pulp Fiction," ie great stories and novellas by the likes Raymond Chandler, Cain, Hammett et al. Not once are any of the detectives referred to as TECS

sanfranman59 11:40 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 6:38, 6:56, 0.96, 42%, Medium
Tue 11:00, 8:44, 1.26, 94%, Challenging
Wed 13:46, 11:58, 1.15, 86%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:35, 3:41, 0.97, 50%, Medium
Tue 5:31, 4:28, 1.23, 92%, Challenging
Wed 6:46, 5:52, 1.15, 85%, Challenging

I'm typing this sitting on a cot in O'Hare Airport where I'm stranded for the night. I've been trying to get from here to NE Ohio since about 4:30 this afternoon and kept watching various flights' status go from "Delayed" to "Cancelled". With each cancellation, I got to wait in a mile long line to try to book my next flight while 3, yes 3, United "customer service" agents were on hand to "help" hundreds of frazzled customers. I'm now hoping for an 8am departure. Unfortunately, the weather report is calling for more of the same tomorrow ... rain/freezing rain/sleet 32 degrees. Woe is me!

edith b 11:54 PM  

@ Elaine & SWARD-

When I was in middle school, I read "The Open Window" by H H Munro (Saki) and became aware of the luster that was part of my native tongue. Good books, like those by Pyle and Saki, do present you with an interesting slant on the language.

totally cool, if archaic, vocabulary. I like that.

Anonymous 12:20 AM  

another answer to the riddle is "a zebra with diaper rash"

CoolPapaD 12:38 AM  

Had to get my order in before the kitchen closes - GREAT debut! I totally enjoyed it, even though I had to Google for the first time on Wednesday in eons (the SW beat me up like 'Bama did to the Gators). Keep up the excellent work, and I look forward to your next!

Elaine 3:03 AM  

SWARD-- when you focus on a word, THERE it IS!

Patrick O'Brien's "The Ionian Mission", pg. 312--having to slightly paraphrase to spare a trip downstairs:
"The smooth path led over the mountain, up and down and down at last to a fine, springy sward..."

Utter sympathy to all travelers, users of eensy keyboards, and snow shovelers: be safe! and see you on the flip side!

Jim in Chicago 2:09 PM  

Although no one is probably still reading this thread, I'd like like to make it clear that @Elaine is correct when she says she thinks I am NOT Rex's wife.

Although I'm sure she's lovely in every way, she belongs to another, and to take her away would break one of the 10 commandments. Now, lusting after her in my heart? That's apparently OK.

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Waxy in Montreal 3:24 PM  

From syn-city: Great mid-week puzzle, EH?

Had SWALE instead of SWARD for far too long which complicated matters. Also, IMHO to define the HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE (33D) as a realm is a vast over-simplification. At best, the HRE was a federation of hundreds of quasi-independent duchies, principalities, free cities and the like, never a true realm. (Yes, I know - it's just a crossword puzzle clue.)

Nullifidian 9:47 PM  

In from syndication-land:

Like you, I noted the clumsy fill of ABT, SAE, and HRH right next to each other. 28A had me for a few seconds, since 30D was clearly QUADS, so that suggested some variant of BBQ.

ANAHEIM, CA was one of my gimmes (at least after I had TRAMP and YEAR in place), so I can't claim to be too bothered by it, even if it does have a strong autofill feel.

All in all, I'd have to agree that this puzzle was cleverer in its concept than its execution. Still, a decent solving experience, so I'd rate it a 7/10.

John T 4:43 PM  

Really good puzzle, too difficult for me though

Pahlbod Tehranian 10:16 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle with its lengthy answers and fun theme.

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