The Square Egg author / WED 2-24-10 / Former Minnesota governor Carlson / Rat race casulaties / German admiral who went down with Scharnhorst

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Constructor: Kenneth J. Berniker

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: TRIPLES (36A: 20-, 26-, 46- and 56-Across, homophonically speaking) — wacky three-word phrases where all three words are homophones of one another


Word of the Day: Mobutu SESE Seko (30A: Zaire's Mobutu ___ Seko) —

Mobutu Sésé Seko Nkuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga (14 October 1930– 7 September 1997), commonly known as Mobutu or Mobutu Sésé Seko (pronounced /məˈbuːtuː ˈsɛseɪ ˈsɛkoʊ/ in English), born Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, became the President of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) after deposing Joseph Kasavubu. He remained in office for 31.5 years. While in office, he formed a totalitarian regime in Zaire which attempted to purge the country of all colonial cultural influence and entered wars to challenge the rise of communism in other African countries.
• • •

Unimpressed with today's fare. The idea seems tired, worn, reheated, etc. I kind of like the first TRIPLE (not the greatest theme-revealer, btw): KNICKS NIX NICKS has a ring of possibility to it. Plus it has the "X." The rest — implausible and kind of bland. Yep, those are homophones. . . OK, so ... yeah. Uh ...

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Hoopsters turn down singer Stevie? (KNICKS NIX NICKS) — just finished listening to some woman butcher Stevie Nicks's "Landslide" on "Idol" this evening. A very, very weak night for the ladies, frankly.


  • 26A: Misplace comic Costello's privies? (LOSE LOU'S LOOS) — yeah, that could happen. Because LOOS are easy to LOSE. So tiny ...
  • 46A: Apportion hamburgers to track runners? (METE MEET MEAT) — I might have gone with the adjectival meaning of "MEET," i.e. "fitting, appropriate."
  • 56A: Compose the appropriate ceremony? (WRITE RIGHT RITE)
This was easy to solve — for the most part. I was better than half a minute faster today than I was yesterday. Still, there were some sticking points. [Bust ___] brings to mind only BUST A GUT, which I'm quite sure I've said before in exactly this context (i.e. the context wherein the puzzle wants A RIB). No idea what to do with 25A: Taxonomic suffix (-OTE), and seeing it now, I know why. . . ??? I guess it's better than [Capri follower] or whatever the standard clue is, but better not to have it in the grid at all. Three short names I didn't know, couldn't see, or didn't know in this particular incarnation today. SESE is a new one on me. Haven't seen SEKO before either, so I guess I should brace for that. The other names in question cross one another in the same thorny little portion of the grid (the far west). I know *of* SAKI (31A: "The Square Egg" author), but I couldn't name anything by him, which is why this clue meant nothing to me. Lastly, I'm supposed to know former governors of Minnesota!? If his name isn't Jesse "The Body" Ventura, I don't know him. ARNE is a famous, crosswordesey composer. This ARNE (32D: Former Minnesota governor Carlson) feels forced, perhaps because the puzzle came back from test-solvers running at a Tuesday time and this clue was some attempt to slow it down. It worked, a little, I guess. Still, this guy doesn't seem crossworthy to me.

Bullets:
  • 53A: Secretary Geithner (TIM) — again, what is going on? He is Secretary of SOMETHING (namely Treasury). Just calling him "Secretary" feels weird. Especially since ... it's not like omitting his proper title is making his name harder to get. Clue just seems incomplete is all.
  • 67A: German admiral who went down with the Scharnhorst (SPEE) — You can stop at "German admiral"; I know my crosswordese pretty well.
  • 9D: Rat race casualties (BURN-OUTS) — now this, I like. I also like the odd, interesting clue on the next Down clue, 10D: Alternative to "Continue" in an online order (CANCEL)
  • 48D: Heckle or Jeckle of cartoons (MAGPIE) — I had no idea. I figured they were just general, generic cartoon birds. I think I get them confused with the Spy Vs. Spy guys for some reason.


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

91 comments:

atomsforpeace 12:16 AM  

Not the greatest puzzle, but happy to see ITALO Calvino in the fill today. One of my favorite authors. Read Cosmicomics.

CoolPapaD 12:45 AM  

Nice, not too tough, pleasant in some areas, too many proper nouns in others - can't complain.

Hand up for A GUT - this slowed me way down, and the North was the last to fall.

What I've learned from prior puzzles + this blog recently - NEAP, SAS, ITELO, ACELA (very recently). Never heard of SPEE, TATI, or SESE, but all getable from crosses. Loved that someone was just commenting earlier today about the plethora of papal LEOs!

Knew WIEN from well respected Austrian medical journals - tough answer, otherwise.

Wanted IN SEX REHAB for 55D, but couldn't make it fit.

andrea amok michaels 12:48 AM  

After I got KNICKSNIXNICKS I got very excited and just raced down to put in the other theme answers and I was done and happy!

Then I remembered I had to do the rest of the fill.

So, it's official...theme = everything to me...
and then I had an epiphany...
WHO CARES WHAT I THINK?!!!

Ha!

I mean I too put in AGUT and turned to my friend Maria and said AGUT is exactly how I know I didn't write this puzzle...and ha ha on me, bec...I was wrong! But Turnouts seemed odd but plausible...you get turned out of your work...whatever, I was wrong.

And, of course I wanted ORYX not IBEX, nevermind that ORYX is African not Alpine, why SHOULD facts get in the way?!

Loved MAGPIE and Rex's comment about Spy vs Spy is exactly why I will continue to read him every day of my life :)

Loved ITALO and AMOK.

Anyway, easy peasy bec of the theme but I liked it lots...
Not happy only with REAP crossing NEAP and I feel justified bec Maria who is quite a good solver asked what NEAP and SPEE were which is proof enough for me that you will never hear of them outside of a puzzle. That however will never stop me from using them!

Steve J 1:23 AM  

Were there a player named "Nicks," I could totally see KNICKS NIX NICKS as a NY Post headline. Otherwise, the theme answers flopped.

While there was nothing that obviously should make this tougher, this was actually a bit of a slog for me. I certainly wasn't helped by the same gut/rib problem others had (I've never heard "bust a rib" as an expression, except maybe in the context of football injuries). That slowed me down for a long while, until the theme finally hit me (which also took a while, especially since I kept wondering how to fit Stevie Wonder into 20A) and I realized that the odds of a goat called an UBEX (when I had U--X) were highly unlikely.

Names slowed me down, too. Although, ARNE came quickly, only because I grew up in Minnesota and lived there until the early '90s, when he was in fact governor (and became governor in one of the most bizarre elections I've ever seen: he wasn't even on the ballot a month before Election Day).

Hated the answer TIM, for the same reasons Rex said. However, the Replacements album of the same name (and excellently referenced by Rex) is fantastic (and is another thing familiar to any Minnesota kid who was in high school in the 1980s).

chefwen 1:29 AM  

@CoolPapaD - Snorted out loud with rehab and Woods. Veery Funny.

Thought the puzzle was a bit of a yawner, a little too corny for me. Had bust A gut before A RIB, never heard of bust A RIB, sounds painful.

WIEN was a gimme for me as Dear Old Dad HANS was born and lived there before the Nazis made him think that it was better for him to get the hell out of Dodge
before he ended up in a concentration camp, like his dad did. Sad times.

Elaine 5:11 AM  

Hand up for 'bust A GUT'--agree with everyone!
How about ARNE Duncan, your Secretary of Education?
Stevie NICKS is a girl?!! Who knew? (Everyone but me-- I know, I know.)

@Steve J
If the clue had been 'Replacements album' I would have been stumped. Much prefer cabinet members, here.

Re SAKI-- "Sredni Vashtar"-- wasn't that his? Loved that one.

You were up late, eh, Rex?
By buy bye, for now.

I learned non-Anglicized place names from living in Europe, reading road signs and maps. Highly recommended. (I had friends who drove all over seeking 'the beautiful blue Danube;' on their search, they crossed the muddy Donau four times.....)

Bob Kerfuffle 6:43 AM  

We disagree somewhat in our evaluations of the puzzle.
It is meet and right so to do.

I liked it. Fun and easy, all the culture and history references in my ken for once. And, yes, wasn't that some coincidence with someone having mentioned so recently that there were 13 Popes Leo?

Only one question: What exactly is the meaning of 41 D, Cause of a turnover: Abbr? I'm assuming that INT stands for "interest", and I may ROLL over my CD to continue receiving interest, but the clue says "turnover". What am I missing?

edith b 7:01 AM  

I didn't care for RATS defining the Witness Protection Program. It may be accurate insofar as the clue is concerned, but it certainly maligns a lot of people who put their lives on the line.

I guess corporate whistle blowers could be defined that way, too, but the culture would be worse off without them.

I tend to dislike puzzles where when the theme is revealed, one is able to fill in a lot of squares with a minimum of thought

My hand is up Bust a Gut although Bust ARIB was in a Sunday puzzle last year so I guess it has a pedigree of sorts. SESE also has appeared in the puzzles as that it how how I learned who he was but since I solve a lot of puzzles, I may have learned about him from something other than the NYT puzzle.

Oscar 7:08 AM  

Wish the theme clues had been more oblique; I filled in every theme answer without any crossings. Too bad.

Monday theme + IBEX/STRIATE = Wednesday puzzle, I guess.

BURNOUTS was nice.

John 7:35 AM  

@BobKerfuffle, INT is short for INTERCEPTION, as in an intercepted pass in football.

Had BUSTAGUT also. knew something was wrong when the G wouldn't work, but thought there could be a UBEX for a moment.

Otherwise a fairly smooth solve.

Lorne 7:37 AM  

Bob, INT is an interception, a football turnover.
Crappy puzzle, especially after yesterday.

ArtLvr 8:02 AM  

Ah, SAKI... Google "The Open Window Saki" and you can read the entire short story online -- a classic in ironic endings which is often used in schools. Or "Tobermory Saki" about the cat who not only learned to talk, but who caused huge embarrassment to his owner because of the scandalous tidbits he'd let drop about the humans around him. H H Munro aka SAKI is a must-read!

And WIEN, which brings back the lilting waltz-time song "Lied Aus Wien", music by Franz Schubert, which starts "Was Schön'res Könnt's Sein Als Ein Wiener Lied …" (What could be more beautiful than a Viennese song?) One of my all-time favorites!

Other than those, the puzzle didn't do much for me. And wow, we're finally snowed in with the major snowstorm which we'd been spared so far this year in Albany NY!

∑;)

fikink 8:06 AM  

I enjoyed all the Vs. EVINCE is a word that is not used enough.
Yes, Rex, "It is right and MEET so to do," another memory from catechism class.
I can understand your conflating Heckle & Jeckle and Spy vs. Spy guys, Rex, implicitly!
@andrea, I care what you think.

tptsteve 8:23 AM  

Didn't like it; don't know why. I suppose I could say Noknow.(only a double)

Did like that IBEX made it into the puzzle, though. Saw lots of Nubian ibex's- yaelim- in Israel last year- they look like they're wearing tube socks.

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

I Don't know where Mr Berniker hails from but its bust a gut. Me thinks this was just a quick way to finish constructing a puzzle and the hell with being accurate. Same goes for rats as in witness protection. Like the new look Rex. Golfballman.

lit.doc 8:55 AM  

So what’s tomorrow, Monday? Today felt like Tuesday, and yesterday felt like Wednesday. I’m so confused.

Might be the fastest Wednesday ever for me, and it was certainly the fastest theme-answer fill I’ve ever done. As soon as I had NW filled to KNICKS, I was able to fill in the theme answers with just a couple of crosses each to check the first word. Cute concept, though. Just too (for)gettable for Wednesday.

@andrea nicest person in the world per reports from acpt michaels, me too re shredding the theme answers and then almost forgetting to do the fill.

“What it took to make the first woman” for BUST A RIB would at least be lame, instead of totally wrong. Had the editor already fallen asleep by the time he got to 6A?

Stepped in DOO-DOO right at the end, but cleaned that up with no problem.

jesser 9:05 AM  

I have nothing to add to what's been said except this: Yesterday wanted to be a Thursday, and today (for the most part, with the xceptions already noted) wanted to be a Monday. This week is wack.

Progg! -- jesser

retired_chemist 9:06 AM  

OK puzzle. Agree it's A GUT. Never heard A RIB. Also hand up for getting ALL theme answers instantly without needing crosses. Also hand up for easy. Despite which, my time was a good 2-3 minutes over what I thought I should have done. I will continue with Black Ink for another week but I am not (so far) thrilled.

PITA for TACO @ 24A, PEP for VIM @ 51A, ILEX for IBEX @ 8D. ILEX is a holly or a Holm Oak. Malaprop alert: picture THEM bounding over the Alps. Oh, wait, that's kinda like "'Til Birnam Wood shall come to Dunsinane."

Crosswordese gimmes: AVILA, ACELA. Does the ACELA need LYSOL routinely?

Did LEO IX yesterday lead to the admission of polyleosity @ 12D today? Just askin'.....

bransub - lunch at a Missouri tourist attraction.

Doug 9:07 AM  

Got stumped a bit because of BUSTAGUT like everyone else. Did anyone reverse the last two homophones on 46A? I thought the logic was METEMEATMEET?

PIX 9:13 AM  

@ Andrea {Whatever} Michaels: I, for one, care what you think...your comments are always the most interesting and informative and I have learned an enourmous amount of information about puzzles from you...thanks...

@25 Across: Cells that do not have a nucleus are ProkaryOTEs vs. cells with a nucleus are EukaryOTEs...so I guess the clue is correct; just seems a bit unusual.

Puzzles like this make me more deeply appreciate puzzles like yesterday's.

Sandy 9:18 AM  

@Elaine: am I going to have to quote Stevie Nicks song titles at you in order to trigger some memories of her voice? ;)

GenJoneser 9:20 AM  

@Doug absolutely agree on 46A. It broke form. Also don't track runners participate in or at a meet, but aren't really the meet itself? I busted a gut here as well, but my ribs are okay.

retired_chemist 9:25 AM  

@ PIX - Agreed re cells, but I can't think of another example of the suffix. I think the clue is marginally correct, rather than unusual. JMO.

PlantieBea 9:42 AM  

Easy theme entries, but too many proper names in the fill for my liking. Add me to the GUT crowd. Favorite answers included EVINCE, STRIATE, MAGPIE, and BURNOUTS.

What is Maximillian's HRE?

Bob Kerfuffle 9:45 AM  

@Doug - I think the clue for METEMEATMEET would have to be something like "Competition in distributing hamburger." As the original stands, METEMEETMEAT seems to mean simply "Giving out hamburger at a track meet."

Glitch 9:52 AM  

If you google "bust a rib", startting on the second page or so, are lot's of refrences linked to laughter.

So, it's "in the language", not wrong, didn't "get past the editor", etc.

It's also not the first answer that came to my mind either, but good or bad, it's what makes a puzzle. Write-overs are our own fault.

.../Glitch

Bob Kerfuffle 10:02 AM  

@shamik - Congrats on the additional BEQ/ACPT win!

@Everyone else - you must read BEQ's blog today. (Skip to the very end if you are planning to do BEQ's puzzle #5 from the ACPT.)

Anonymous 10:03 AM  

Well, as a native Minnesotan, I appreciated ARNE as payback for all the New York politicians (CUOMO, PATAKI, KOCH, and even DINKINS) I've memorized the names of for the sake of solving crosswords, despite the fact that they've affected my life in fly over country probably about as much Arne Carlson and his school-canceling ways have affected the people of New York.

Maximillian 10:03 AM  

@PlantieBea - Holy Roman Empire

OldCarFudd 10:07 AM  

After yesterday, any puzzle would be a let-down. This was OK. The theme answers were easier to get than some of the others. Sese was a gimme. The bad combination in a puzzle is tired fill clued in a tired way; this puzzle was pretty free of that, in that all the old standbys were clued rather freshly.

@Elaine - LOL about Donau. On our first driving trip in Europe, Joan and I were at Lake Constance, trying to go into Switzerland. I was driving, looking at cars instead of signs; Joan was navigating. I asked which way to turn and she said: "I don't know! All I can see are signs to some town I can't find on the map. It's called Schweiz!" After we got home, we started taking German lessons.

PlantieBea 10:12 AM  

@Maximillian: HRE...D'oh! Thanks.

Methinks I have a case of crossword BURNOUT.

Van55 10:21 AM  

I count seventeen proper nouns in the puzzle, including NYSE and SAS, but not including LOU and KNICKS in the theme answers. A couple of weeks ago I counted 21 in a puzzle. Both numbers are excessive, in my opinion.

Don't care for OHMY and OROS.

Agree with bust AGUT. Had NCO for ENL temporarily.

Tuesday-ish for sure.

addie loggins 10:25 AM  

I too, wrote AGUT. I also had RANK for REEK, but OPEC straightened me out. Ended with one mistake: what is HRE (Maximillian I's realm)?
I usually like the puzzles where figuring out the theme early helps, because I feel so dang clever when I break the code. This one was pretty simple, though.

Still, a great confidence booster after yesterday: I was nearly 10 minutes faster today than yesterday (yes, I started a spreadsheet -- must be some genetic anomoly).

As a long-time (former) Minnesotan, it was nice to see ARNE in the puzzle. He had his flaws (they were myriad!!), but he was also, in some way, the prototypical Minnesota (wearing U of M sweaters all the time, the accent, etc.). True story: Several years after Arne was out of office, a judicial candidate changed his name from "Greg Wersal" to "Greg Carlson Wersal" for the ballot. He lost anyway, but the incident does show that Arne was thought to have some coattails.

An ok puzzle, nothing to write home about: I liked CANCEL and BURNOUTS, but the rest was less than interesting.

Addie (a/k/a PuzzleSister)

SethG 10:32 AM  

Two minutes slower than yesterday.

My friend Karen actually broke her rib while laughing. I don't know anyone who's ever busted a gut doing anything. It's just that...she didn't bust it, she broke it. I stared at GAVIOLI for a _long_ time.

Sese Seko gave himself the name. The full version meant "the all-powerful warrior who, because of his inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest leaving fire in his wake". No word on how many holes-in-one he got his first time golfing.

If you liked the theme entries, enjoy this. If not, you're like me.

PIX 10:33 AM  

@Retired Chemist:"sym·bi·ont n.
An organism in a symbiotic relationship. Also called symbiOTE."(...but I'm not sure if classifing an organism as a symbiote really counts as "taxonomy.")

Fully agree: clue is "marginally correct" at best.

Aunt Hattie 10:42 AM  

But didn't you all love all those Ks? I thought it would be the theme, which, by the bye, I liked. I thought Heckle and Jeckle were crows, so that didn't help.
@Elaine--Shredni Vashtar! Scariest story ever, read it when I was about 10 and never got over it.

Elaine 10:47 AM  

@Sandy
Tee-hee! Feel free to try that, (and it would certainly serve me right,) but you will be sadly doomed to failure. Stevie Nicks is in a segment of popular culture that has passed me by; I stopped listening after The Beatles. I am the despair of the music industry. (I can't explain why I enjoy 'American Idol,' but I do watch that. Except last night I fell asleep.)
See you on the blog!

Two Ponies 10:53 AM  

Way too easy theme answers + crappy obscure forced fill =
Fail.

Elaine 10:53 AM  

@Aunt Hattie
I was about ten years old, too, when I discovered "Sredni Vashtar!" My sister and I both read it, and I am sorry to tell you that, bloodthirsty savages that we were, we both LOVED it. Fifty years later, occasionally we still say, "Do this thing for me, Sredni Vashtar." heh heh

Three and out!

matt 10:55 AM  

man, I had trouble with all the 4-letter names: SPEE, TATI, SAKI, ARNE, SESE...
I actually had a massive error box in texas, putting REEL for REAP, SLEE for SPEE, and TETI for TATI. Now that I see it, Tati does sound vaguely familiar.

@Elaine: I agree on ARNE Duncan making a lot more sense. Would even provide some symmetry with Secretary Geithner. (May it originally WAS that way, thus resulting in the clue that perplexed Rex?)

slypett 11:15 AM  

I'm sure the constructor meant no offense, but ELEMENTS are in the periodic table, not on it.

Not another word.

the redanman 11:22 AM  

Easy if ...
experienced puzzler
very hep on crosswordese
early theme reveal
if not, medium

cwe:
34A, 35A, stacked 64A, 67A, 32D x 31A ... etc.

crossing of TACO and RAVIOLI for same clue (cute construction?)

STRIATE vs. STRIPES


Made me laugh:
stacked words yielded
VIVID KILT REEK (3D vertical)
Scotsmen are cleaner than that!

Dreck (look at me using Yiddish) fill was minimal.

Don't get me wrong, overall I mostly liked puzzle, finished puzzle 100% correct & no Googles or other cheats I'm happy. (Better than I would have done prior to this current attempt at improving my puzzle skills. But I would personally endorse yesterdays puzzle as 2 orders of magnitude overall easier, it's all relative.

I think this a medium and did not mind the theme.

p.s. 1A should have been somewhere in today's LAT!

the redanman 11:31 AM  

@CoolPapaD 55D woods would need to be Woods for SEX REHAB; I personally had trouble fitting in TITANIUM. :-) (not really)

Who did NOT put AGUT in 6A at first? I rest my crossword experience need case.

And since she's always been so spacy would the
KNICKS NIX NICKS KNICKER?

Also I forgot first post, wouldn't TRIPLET be better than TRIPLE? as in musical TRIPLET since we're referring to a "homophone?

joho 12:05 PM  

Formerly 44th Greatest Crossword Puzzle Solver ruins "Mad Men" taping?

REXWRECKSRECS.

Anonymous 12:14 PM  

So in one 15x15 puzzle we have:

ARIB
OTE
OROS
HRE
WOP
TATI
SPEE
ENL
TABU
ETH
ILES
SESE

Many of these could have easily been edited out. Sheer laziness.

lit.doc 12:19 PM  

@Glitch - re BUST A RIB vs. WHAT THE CLUE CLEARLY SIGNALED, Rex recently discussed at some length the difference between a "technically correct" clue vs. a "good" clue. Your retort that the phrase is "in the language" misses the point. No one said the phrase has never been used, only that it's so rare or obscure that it was poorly clued. So yes, the editor ought to have emended it.

"billys" I now have my very own captcha!

PlantieBea 12:19 PM  

@joho: Good one. Or it could be clued "Mr. Parker spoils student's grad school applications."

Steve J 12:33 PM  

@Elaine: Sorry if it wasn't clear, but I wasn't suggesting the Replacements' album as a clue. I was just commenting on his inclusion of the album cover in his commentary. The problem with the answer TIM, as Rex noted, is that he mostly goes by Timothy.

@OldCarFudd: Chuckling at "Schweiz." My favorite one personally experienced was when I was living in Munich, and a visiting Scottish friend asked why the town "Zentrum" was so popular, since signs for it were everywhere. (For those not knowing German, it's "center," the signs pointed to old town center.)

And Germans themselves are fond of telling a possibly apocryphal story about the American/British/Australian/Irish tourist who got so blotted in the beer halls he forgot the name of his hotel when he got into a taxi. When the driver asks him if he remembers the street, he gets excited when he does remember it: Einbahstraße (which translates to one-way street).

CoolPapaD 12:39 PM  

@retired_chemist - polyleosity is spectacular!

@tptsteve - Ellie = nubian ibex? AWESOME!

andrea carlson michaels 12:47 PM  

@edith
same thought re: RATS. Good call.

@addie, @steve j
Isn't it funny how many of us on this blog grew up/spent serious time in Minnesota?!
(@litdoc
The part of me that is nice is directly related to having gown up in MN. TI mean, after all, my folks are NY jews...that permanent smile on my face is that it was frozen into place circa @1969. ;)

@fikink
Thanks! It was meant rhetorically in a burst of self-doubt, but you can see it didn't stop me! ;)

dk 12:51 PM  

Had gut as well.... sigh.

I guess now everyone knows how nice and smart Andrea is... my days are numbered (cue Boz Scaggs Somebody Loan Me a Dime).

I am disappointed in this Wednesday puzzle. The theme is trite, actually tripe, and does not pass my Wednesday bar. I would, as someone said, have switched yesterday and today.

To the above who asked about 41d: INT = interception which may cause a turnover.

Favorite fill is EVINCE, ASTRAL and LYSOL (I had towel at first).

So, interesting puzzle but on the wrong day.

** (2 Stars)

secret word: WETIV=Saline Drip

deerfencer 12:51 PM  

Liked it despite some of the subpar fill noted above.

Parshutr 12:54 PM  

Rib-tickler/tickling, yes. Bust a rib? No way. Just wrong.
Liked REAP crossing NEAP and TACO crossing RAVIOLI, but the rest, just boring. Although recalling Jacques TATI brought a smile to my face, it didn't make me bust a gut.
So, on the whole, ITSOK.

Noam D. Elkies 1:34 PM  

The puzzle was not as ambitious as yesterday's offerin but I think it's still a creditable Wednesday. Yes, 6A:ARIB is deceptively clued, but that doesn't make it any worse than standard dodges like the 62A clue "rushed" that suggest an -ED ending or "toy" in the 66A clue. Note too the heaping dose of midrange Scrabbly letters — a bunch of K's (even outside 20A), and way more of BMPVWY than we normally see.

Yes, the 31A/32D crossing is out of left field (a.k.a. Natick) with this clue for 32D:ARNE. Another alternative would be SEKI/ERNE, the first being a standoff in the game of Go, which would be legitimate (though unknown to xwordinfo) if ERNE were clued straightforwardly.

@Andrea Amok: (-: I too used to, and sometimes still do, regard a midweek puzzle as "done" when I've figured out the theme and every theme entry even if I haven't dotted every T and crossed every eye.

NDE

chefbea 1:43 PM  

Found the puzzle very easy and really liked. Didnt know Arne. Loved the clues for Taco and ravioli.

George NYC 1:54 PM  

My biggest question of the day is how did @rex know about the Chinese egg cuber?

Glitch 2:09 PM  

@lit.doc

For the reasons cited, I don't think BUST A RIB was a "badly" clued, but rather feel some solvers are miffed that their first choice wasn't correct. (See also RP's comment on this in his writeup).

Following your reasoning, NEAP was pooly clued as *most" people (not necessarily solvers) would enter HIGH.

In short, if a first choice is corrrect it's easy peasy, if not it goes up a notch, or two. Rare and obscure are not necessary *bad*, but do make for *challenging*.

@slypett has a better nit re: ELEMENTS --- although one might say the elements appear ON that Periodic Table over there, on the wall ;)

.../Glitch

slypett 2:20 PM  

Sorry, Glitch, they appear (with)IN the table (which hangs) ON the wall.

obertb 2:25 PM  

I was pretty sure RP wouldn't like this puzzle. I'd have to agree. Just no joy in Mudville. Once I had KNICKSNIXNICKS the others just required reading the clue and filling them in. Too easy, too uninspired for a Wednesday. Too uninspired for any day, really.

Clark 2:25 PM  

I’m with @glitch (and @Noam D. Elkies) . ‘Bust a rib’ is in the language; it’s just not the first phrase that comes to mind. One person’s rare and obscure is another persons -- Oh whatever! I think coming to crossword puzzles not knowing anything about sports has made me quite accepting of rare and obscure.

Count me Minnesota born.

Charles Bogle 2:45 PM  

Puzzle reminded me of very famous headline in July 17, 1935 Variety: STICKS NIX HICKS PIX...common country folk didn't like Hollywood's always showing them as country bumpkins...30 years later we got: The Beverly Hillbillies..anyway, loved the theme and fill like ASTRAL, LYSOL, MAGPIE (had YENTA yesterday); did not care for OTE, LEOS (had one yesterday), SESE, some others...though now without flaws, puzz"e A-OK w me because it was clever, fun and do-able. OVER

sanfranman59 3:15 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 10:58, 11:53, 0.92, 33%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:37, 5:51, 0.96, 43%, Medium

mac 3:54 PM  

I must have puzzle fatigue, because this one didn't go as quickly as Wednesdays usually do. I needed the Ibex to get rib, because I could only think of busting A VEIN, which didn't fit.

To me theme answer 1 and 2 are better than 2 and 3, but there was still enough to like in this puzzle: rivet, cancel, Peke, striate. The clue about the Witness Protection Program reminded me of the Dutch speed skating coach.

I have "Tobermore"; great story! Also happens to be a pretty version, which closes with a ribbon.

@OldCarFudd: to make things more complicated, Lake Constance is called Bodensee on the other side. I remember it well, my husband made a fool of himself on a luge in that area, and we had a party in a saltmine.

mac 3:55 PM  

Theme answers 1 and 2 better than 3 and 4, of course. Just typed it wrong again!

Bob Kerfuffle 4:01 PM  

Room for one more German Road Sign Story? (And I swear this is true.)

Years ago, when I would be on a bus filled mostly with high school students traveling the highway between Munich or Zurich and our ski-town destination in Austria, the first two or three signs pointing to the little German town of Ausfahrt would elicit teenage giggles.

(Of course, Ausfahrt means "exit.")

David 4:01 PM  

Heh, yeah, A GUT was definitely the first answer I put into the puzzle.

I didn't really have a problem with the cluing on ELEMENTS, though. It's hard to figure out which word I'd normally use, now that I'm already thinking about it, but "on" at least doesn't sound wrong to me.

My personal goofy moment: having __K_MO_ for 40A, I definitely tried out POKEMON for a while. Yup'ik sounded way too plausible. Thankfully, this weekend taught me the value of looking back over my answers...

Stan 4:04 PM  

Would have liked to see writer Anita LOOS in the puzzle, but I think she has an unvoiced final consonant.

Joe 5:43 PM  

Heckle/Jeckle is an answer to a trivia question because most people think they're crows.

RE: Spy vs Spy
According to Wikipedia:
"In Japan, the two spies have the names "Heckle and Jeckle" and are often assumed to be related to the Heckle and Jeckle from the 20th Century Fox cartoons."

So, you're NOT crazy.

Cheers to the late Antonio Prohias.

sanfranman59 5:55 PM  

@Stan ... something like "Misplace comic Costello's copy of "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"? That certainly makes better sensing than misplacing a toilet!

HudsonHawk 5:58 PM  

@BobK, I would giggle at "ausfahrt" nearly every time I saw the sign, even though I knew what it meant. My brother (he was stationed at Sembach for 3 years) and I joked about taking a picture in front of the sign holding our noses...

Shamik 6:03 PM  

Thought this one a medium...but the fun part was coming to the write-up and comments.

@BobKerfuffle: Thanks for letting me know about the BEQ win!!!! I had to hurry over there and complete his puzzle for today (still not in top half of BEQ time postings...my new goal in life...besides get a life), skip over the write-up on the armageddon of #5...and see my smiling face. I was one minute after Elizabeth Saindon snapped her picture so I thought Mr. White would be inundated with flash bulbs all weekend.

BTW...if you haven't gone to BEQ's website for his puzzle of the day...do so. It's easy and is in atonement for the #5 bloodbath. Although I still didn't make the top half of times for one of his puzzles on his site.

Glitch 6:11 PM  

@slypett

As in the classic song, "You say *potato(e)*, I say *potato(e)* ...." (hmm, it doesn't work as well in print) ... anyway, I ended that comment with ;-), as I do this one ;-)

.../Glitch

Stan 6:21 PM  

@Joe: Great Wikipedia find.

@sanfranman59: Exactly! Not a strict homophone, but I like your version better.

retired_chemist 6:26 PM  

OK 4. Then out.

Stop & Go apparently has (had? It has been a while) franchises in Germany - named Halt und Fahrt. That one cracks up adults as well as kids.

When first in Texas, I was amazed at how so many towns had a street named "Frontage Road." No, seriously. I thought it was a street name. But Schweiz, Donau, and Einbahnstraße this Yank has seen and knew. Go figure.

JenCT 7:09 PM  

@HudsonHawk: LOL about taking a picture in front of the sign while holding your noses...

@PlantieBea: I, too, have crossword BURNOUT after the ACPT last w/e.

Sfingi 7:27 PM  

Got the theme clues, but a comedy of errors for the fill. As @Andrea says, it was a slog.

Another "A gut" for ARIB, "towel" for LYSOL, "FIFA" for OPEC, "gefillte" for RAVIOLI, "Dana" for TABU.
The Dana Co. did make a perfume called Forbidden.
Can't believe I went for a sports clue before an oil clue.

I knew UNIX was something my son worked with, but I couldn't think of the goat.

Had a hard time thinking of MAGPIE. Went through raven, blackbird, corvi, corbie, cuervo, crow. After I Googled TATI and SPEE, I got it.

Didn't know: SPEE, TATI, ARNE, EVINCE (hope I never actually used the word, since it sounds like twisting someone's arm. Like, He winced.)

@Retired Chemist - Polyleocity studies: Pope LEO II was Sicilian. The 9th was German, the rest Italian, mostly Roman. The first 3 and the 9th were saints.

@Joho - good funny, too.

Yes, ITALO Calvino's best stuff is in the fabulist style, as the heretofore mentioned Cosmicomics. He also tried to avoid and evade the Nasties and was in the Resistance in N. Italy.

@Sandy,Elaine - Always thought Stevie Nicks had an unforgettable voice. But @Rex, those feeds where you don't get it all at once are annoying and frustrating.

@ArtLover - What is more beautiful than a Wiener Lied? a Neopolitan canzone, of course.

@EdithB - have you ever known anyone in the witness protection program? I have. To speak more gently, let me put it this way. If you would give up your friends and family and being able to reference your degrees or work record, well maybe you don't really have these things. Just sayin'

the redanman 7:56 PM  

errrrrrrr one more German Road Sign True Story (GRSTS)

@Bob Kerfuffle und ALLE!

Going via Auto from Davos to WIEN my wife and I had my father along on the trip. Driving through Deutschland auf Der Autobahn, my pop quietly noted all the Ausfahrt signs and near the border of Osterreich he noted in all seriousness "That Ausfahrt is a helluva big town."

100% True story!

Clark 8:30 PM  

Here's a picture of an IBEX. Somehow 'goat' doesn't do it justice.

Joanne 8:37 PM  

When I took a train into Frankfurt, Germany, I jotted down the name of the station where I got on the train so I would know when to get off the train on my return trip. When I saw the same name at every station that I passed, I realized that I wrote down the name for "ticket machine."

edith b 8:38 PM  

@sfingi-

Perhaps I am not reading you correctly, but you seem to be saying that people who go into the WPP are losers with nothing to lose in the first place and that may very well apply to a subset of people with Organized Crime connections.

But there is another group of people - accountants, bookkeepers, people who witness crimes - innocent people who may need protection from people who would harm them.

My point was that to generalize that people who go into the WPP are RATS besmirches the reputations of the people the Program was designed to protect, not what it seems to have morphed into which is a "safe haven" for OC types who turn on their fellow criminals although Law Enforcement people do think that the Program had a lot to do with the end of Omerta.

To answer your question: did I ever know anyone in the WPP? I lived most of my life in the burrough of Queens and knew of a couple of different families who simply disappeared without a trace and they were not Organized Crime types as far as I know.

Wrong place, wrong time, poor choice of friends, desperate circumstances - all not RATS.

Big Reader 8:56 PM  

Elmore Leonard wrote a pretty good novel about a couple who ended up in Witness Protection. Even their "protectors" assumed they were 'dirty' and made disparaging remarks. No, I don't remember the title, but if you read everything he wrote (and, frankly, you won't be sorry) you'll come across it eventually.

Just sayin'

John 9:52 PM  

To anybody who cares(and I know of Two of you) HRE stands for "Holy Roman Empire"

edith b 9:58 PM  

@Big Reader-

The novel is called "Killshot" and deals with an iron worker and his wife,a realtor, who find themselves with knowledge of an extortion scheme and end up in the WPP where they find just as much corruption there as in the outside world. They are good people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in the WPP.

Robin 10:03 PM  

Thanx, Rex, for Stevie Nicks link. I love that song and am going to go play it again. I tried to make it Stevie Wonder for a while.
Hand up for confusion re German/Austrian road signs.
@ACME - enough with the angst - everyone (lurking or otherwise) loves your posts!

Anonymous 10:19 PM  

A couple of people today (and many at other times) ended their comments with the sentence "Just sayin'." (dropped G and all). Please someone explain what people who say "Just sayin'." are trying to say, so I'll know whether to say it myself in the future.

My guess is that they are trying to distance themselves somehow from the gist of their remarks, which seems a bit cowardly to me.

Just sayin'.

I'll take the Fifth 10:22 PM  

I am currently in the CPP, the Crossword Protection Program.

I am not a RAT but I did once comment about the next day's puzzle and here I am.

Sfingi 10:37 PM  

@EdithB - All I can add is that I'd rather face the world than give up my identity. I'm also unimpressed with the program. The innocent would have been better off moving to Iowa on their own and taking their chances. And when kids have to give up their identities they get more messed up than if they see their parents standing up to evil. Perhaps, and it is hoped your Queens neighbors worked this out on their own.
One thing that killed the Mob was the length of sentences for criminals. The Mob could take care of your family for a few months, but not 20 years. Another thing that killed the Mob was the education system. If your kid went to engineering college, he wouldn't need to stay in the family business. That's where Gotti messed up, raising his kid to be a bum.
Henry Hill is the very worst in WPP. He drags his family out there and then creates another organization. I think people are getting wise to WPP anyway.
And yes, Elmore Leonard is definitely a good read.

@Anon1019 - To me, it means I expect some disagreement, but I didn't want to repress my opinion.

slypett 11:25 PM  

Why don't they ever clue ITALO as ITALO Svevo? It's a bit more obscure, but it would allow some solvers to stretch.

slypett 11:32 PM  

Hand up for Emore Leonard, probably the most entertaining of thriller writers. Very hard-assed. He said, "If a writer can't turn out a book a year, he shouldn't call himself a writer."

Anonymous 2:10 AM  

Admiral Spee is not mentioned in any of the articles I read about the sinking of the Scharnhorst. The admiral in charge was Rear Admiral Bey, according to Wikipedia and several other sites.

Free Lunch 1:38 PM  

I like the new blog design, but it would be nice if the day of the week (e.g., "Tuesday") for each puzzle were easier to spot. I'm sometimes a few days behind, and I don't want to accidentally see a puzzle I haven't hit yet.

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