Ex-Runaways guitarist Ford / WED 3-10-10 / * d'amore instrument / Penguin's hangout / Terrier in whodunits / Selena portrayer familiarly

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Constructor: Gary Steinmehl

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: WITHIN COST (55A: Reasonably priced ... or a hint to 17-, 19-, 26-, 34-, 42- and 51-Across) — six theme answers all begin with CO- and end with -ST, thus putting the rest of their letters literally "WITHIN COST"


Word of the Day: GESSO (13D: Painter's undercoat) —

Gesso (Italian pronunciation: [ˈdʒɛsːo]) is the Italian word for "chalk" (from the Latin gypsum from the Greek γύψος), and is a powdered form of the mineral calcium carbonate used in art. Gesso was traditionally mixed with animal glue, usually rabbit-skin glue, to use as an absorbent primer coat for panel painting with tempera paints. It is a permanent and brilliant white substrate, as long as it is used on wood or masonite. This mixture is rather brittle and susceptible to cracking, thus making it unsuitable for priming canvas. In Geology, Italian "Gesso" corresponds to the English "Gypsum", as it is a calcium sulphate compound (CaSO4·2H2O). (wikipedia)
• • •

Quick write-up today, as I have to go receive an award for ... well, for merely staying put for ten years with the same employer, but hey, hardware is hardware. Actually, I think I'm getting a tote bag or an umbrella or something. Who knows? What I know is that the ceremony is at 8 (^&@!ing) 30 in the morning. So, moving right along...

Very jarring to go from my slowest Tuesday of the year to my fastest Wednesday of the year. I filled this one in with almost no hesitation. I think this must be my fastest time ever for a puzzle whose Main Theme Answer Was Unfamiliar To Me. I mean, I can infer what "WITHIN COST" means, but it's not a phrase I hear often (ever). "Under budget" I've heard. "WITHIN COST" kind of sort of rings a bell, but I just had to piece it together. From where I sat, it could have been [anything] COST. In fact, that tiny piece of real estate in the far SW took me longer than any other section, by a long shot (still not that long). Wasn't *positive* about NUNCA (49D: Never, in Nogales), and so was missing the "N," and the little answers in the SW were clued unobviously (except for IBM56D: Big Blue — which is how I began unraveling it). If I've seen OBOE d'amore (instrument) before, I've forgotten. I wanted VIE for WOO (55D: Try to win) (note: VIE would need "for" to be an appropriate answer). And TOG (57D: Dress (up))... well, the less said about that, the better.

I am impressed by the theme density, and the quality of some of the theme answers, but not so much by the theme itself. The only thing "WITHIN COST" in these answers is a bunch of gibberish. UNTAGAIN! ASTTOCOA! Also, the grid was a bit ... dull. Here's a weird fact: this grid has 25 "O"s, but only 21 "E"s. "O"s on every line but the top one. Even if you discount all the "O"s necessitated by the theme ... that's a lot of "O"s.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Key building support (CORNER POST) — had a tiny bit of trouble here with "CORNER." Could think only of NEWEL at first. Then wrote in CENTER ...
  • 19A: Across the entire United States (COAST TO COAST)


  • 26A: Unable to run (COLOR FAST)
  • 34A: Boomerang, in a way (COME HOME TO ROOST)
  • 42A: Publisher of The New Yorker (CONDE NAST)
  • 51A: Be disadvantageous to (COUNT AGAINST)

Bullets:
  • 15A: Bone connected to the supinator muscle (ULNA) — crosswordese gets dressed up in fancy-clothes
  • 58A: Ex-Runaways guitarist Ford (LITA) — Knew this was LITA before I ever saw the clue, but boy was I glad to see the clue. Best clue of the day. "Runaways" movie comes out soon, featuring ... Dakota Fanning (as you've never seen her before ...). It's not getting good reviews, but I think I might have to see it anyway:



  • 63A: Name registered at many an escort service (ALIAS) — well that's a depressing clue. Student of mine gave me the complete run of Brian Michael Bendis's comic "ALIAS" to read recently. Just started, and it's fantastic.
  • 1D: Drug for a poisoning victim (IPECAC) — Vomit! Enjoy your breakfast.
  • 6D: Chicago exchange, for short (MERC) — short for "Mercantile Exchange." I've only seen MERC with a car clue before. Interesting.
  • 9D: Selena portrayer, familiarly (J-LO) — Her very name already reads as totally dated to me. I suspect she's never going anywhere, grid-wise.
  • 18D: String after Q (RST) — :(
  • 27D: Penguin's hangout (FLOE) — I did not know this. I got it easily, but ... all the penguins I've seen have been in water or on land. Even in "March of the Penguins." Oh, wait. There's this:


  • 43D: Simon and Diamond (NEILS) — you can't give me NEIL Diamond and not expect me to play something.


  • 46A: Tennessee gridders (TITANS) — "Gridders" : football :: "Cagers" : basketball
  • 53A: Terrier in whodunits (ASTA) — Remember that time that ASTA came running up with the ULNA in his mouth!? A clue! Good boy!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

82 comments:

chefbea 7:21 AM  

Easy puzzle but did not get the theme til Rex told me. Loved unable to run!!!

Anonymous 7:21 AM  

I had the same problem Rex had swooshing through until I hit the SW corner. I think Will got tuesday mixed up with wednesday. Well off to the golf course. Golfballman

jesser 7:42 AM  

I really liked this one!

Like Rex, I breezed through it with only a few pondering areas. Also wanted vie at 55D, and for some reason my brain thought 13D would be GESSe.

GENII is a funny looking word.

My last square to go was the F in COLORFAST, and that's because that pesky e in GESSe was in the way, coupled with the fact that when I see _LOE, I want Aloe Vera, but penguins on aloe? My brain would not accept it, of course. So I resorted to running the alphabet and when F appeared, I said "Aha!", and that was that. The lightbulb went on for GESSO and the puzzle was finished!

I just can't find much about this one to COUNT AGAINST it!

Calon! (where the poison accumulates if you don't get some IPECAC into your system pronto) -- jesser

joho 8:04 AM  

What this puzzle taught me is that I'm not impressed with theme density when I don't like the theme. WITHINCOST?????

Only bump was a funny one: read 27D as Penguin's handout and answered Fish. This was easily fixed to FLOE.

Well, I'm off to TOG up my dog.

PanamaRed 8:08 AM  

Anyone else think of Jeremiah Wright with answer to 34a, "come home to roost?"

Started with Smith at 63a.

I've see 21a "aviso" several times in crosswords, but alway seem to forget it by the time I see it again.

Glad gesso was the word of the day - never heard of it.

John 8:13 AM  

Not a very difficult puzzle for me, but it just felt... meh. I liked...
JEB, KOSOVO, HOSANNA, and UPTEMPO (because it's a word in the English language, and not an Italian musical direction.)

I did NOT like...

GENII- (yecch.)
TOG - I've never heard anyone say this, and certainly never used it.

and especially the theme of "WITHIN COST." No one says this. I've only seen, "at or below cost", or "near cost."

Anyhow I hope no one needs any IPECAC this morning... ugghh...

Anonymous 8:32 AM  

It would be interesting to see the scribble of the speed solvers, or do they just imagine writing. After all, should the actual solving time be hindered by legibility? How has a few second become an eternity? Tense.

Norm

mac 8:35 AM  

Nice Tuesday puzzle. I had to dance around that "corner" post as well. Learned a few new expressions: tog up and within cost (maybe a marketing expression?). Little Conde Nast felt like a little extra thrown in.

I think I still have a large pot of gesso in my painting cabinet - totally forgotten since I started spending more time on puzzles (and jewelry making).

@chefbea: hope you had a good move, and that the new house has a great kitchen!

@Rex: congratulations on the award!

Elaine 8:35 AM  

I wanted HIDDEN COST, but couldn't make it work. Sat and stared at the ugly little tangle (hand up for putting down VIE) which included DON (we now our gay apparel) and could not recall what [Big Blue] meant. Even with DON in the way, OBOE came along, but there went VIE... I sat and sat and started to bring up AcrossLite and use Reveal, when WOO came to mind, and the rest unraveled...OMG! but it does seem awkward. (I, too, tried to read something WITHIN the CO and ST bracketing letters.)

Did anyone else try COME HOME TO MOMMA? That was the only thing that slowed me down...for a second...other than the SW corner.

Well, wikipedia... I've prepped plenty of newly-stretched canvases with GESSO, usually several successive diluted coats. And the Aubrey-Maturin novels from Patrick O'Brien bring one AVISO (along with xebec, snow, sloop, frigate, and the rich and varied vocabulary of sailing ships...)

This did seem a bit too easy for Wednesday. Maybe BEQ has a good puzzle to start the day!

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

Google gives 342,000,000 hits for within cost... So, what's the problem?

tptsteve 8:41 AM  

Theme was ok in my mind, but the puzzle just didn't do much for me.

SW corner and COLORFAST had me staring for a while.

Never heard of AVISO at 21A before. Can anyone clue me in on what a dispatch boat does-- is it a communication vessel or is it a rescue boat that's dispatched?

Pet peeve at 10D, another 'letter'/phonetic answer. UGH

nanpilla 8:47 AM  

@chefbea I also loved the clue for COLORFAST.

I was impressed by seven different downs that crossed three theme answers. Despite high theme density, there was little to hate in this, and lots of good fill.

Definitely felt like Tuesday and Wednesday got flipped this week.

Darryl 8:48 AM  

@Anon 8:37 - Actually, Google gives only 157k hits for ["within cost"]. A brief scan of the first 40 or so seem to be restricted to phrases such as within cost limit/targets/specifications.
With my cost limit of $250,000 for a new car, a Ferrari Testarossa may be within my cost limit, but not necessarily reasonably priced.
The point is reasonably priced and within cost are not remotely synonymous.

Van55 8:50 AM  

Easy breezy for the most part. Knew AVISO immediately from crosswords. Hated the aphabetic run. Don't know why SRS make homecoming floats. At Penn State where I grew up, the fraternities built the floats and members were from all classes.

OMG this was far from my favorite puzzle. LOL

PIX 8:55 AM  

Ipecac is no longer recommended to be kept in your house...it should not be used in case of poisoning (call Poison Control instead)...it mostly lives on in crossword puzzles...

Much easier than yesterday's puzzle and not nearly as interesting.

Elaine 9:06 AM  

@tptsteve

You have it via the clue--an AVISO would carry dispatches; it might also assist communications between ships in a fleet, if the ships were not close enough for signal flags to be read.

metiluge-- really?

OldCarFudd 9:07 AM  

If Darryl hadn't said it, I was going to use the same example, but with a Rolls-Royce instead of a Ferrari. If "within cost" means reasonably priced, then this is a fine puzzle. If it doesn't - and I'm in the "doesn't" camp - then it could still be a fine puzzle were the theme differently clued.

dk 9:10 AM  

Best comment ever heard at a gallery show: "Nothing a good coat of GESSO couldn't cure."

Rex, you now have me thinking of giving ASTA some IPECAC to cough up the ULNA. I hope I can get the IPECAC at COST so I can stay WITHIN budget.

Can we please keep Bush and Palin clues/fill out of x-words? Just use TOAD, we would all know what we meant.

This one is not in my TOPTEN for Wednesdays but it clears the bar.

** (2 Stars)

the redanman 9:21 AM  

WITHIN COST is very awkward.
COLOR FAST clued Unable to run, dunno, need a "?"
COUNT AGAINST just no very elegant
CORNER POST key FENCE support maybe

Generally not a fan of this puzzle, theme was very forced as I see it and was devoid of any elegance.

Slightly harder than EASY but not quite a medium.

NYT Puzzles clunky lately so they must be great puzzles to the Geek Squad.

Now to read Rex and other comments.

SethG 9:25 AM  

[Within oboe d'amore] gets 245,000 Google hits, but ["within oboe d'amore"] gets just one. I finished the puzzle, and all I could picture was Pepe Le Pew talking about the oboe of love. I cannot believe that actually exists.

Cathyat40 9:27 AM  

OMG ROTFL at your ASTA/ULNA joke!

the redanman 9:30 AM  

Seriously, GESSO?

If you've ever taken an art class in College - all hands up in this clan?
Done a CW - Have the recent GESSO 's all been in the LAT?

GESSO = slam dunk

Maybe it was word of the day because there were no other semi-elegant words? OK, TAMPA for Bay City was slightly clever.

OK

WITHIN COST?

more ungainly than a 14-year old.

Glitch 9:41 AM  

WITHIN COST seems to be relatively common on non-USA sites meaning "included in the price".

Perhaps that would have been better (tho not great) cluing.

TOG(up)as a verb was new to me, I'll leave further discussion to the "Its in the dictionary but ..." crowd ;-)

..../Glitch

Parshutr 9:47 AM  

@PanamaRed...1st time I heard "chickens coming home to roost" was Malcolm X referring to the JFK assassination in November 1963.
I think the constructor meant "90 degrees from SUD" ; 90 degrees from SUR = AVEC

As for the puz as a whole...meh. But didn't require IPECAC.

Its in the dictionary but crowd 9:48 AM  

it's in the puzzle more.

Parshutr 9:51 AM  

Also, "AVISO" is a word I learned from reading Hemingway. Parts of a bullfight ... After ten minutes, if the bull is still alive, the presidente will order an aviso, a warning given with a trumpet...

Filled it in this puz with crosses only.

twangster 9:52 AM  

Panama Red -- the phrase chickens coming home to roost is most notably associated with Malcolm X (although it did get a reprise with Jeremiah Wright).

Aaron Riccio 10:13 AM  

Oh man, Alias is a treat. I'm sort of bummed that he stopped that to work on New Avengers, but I won't hold it against him.

Almost my fastest Wednesday, too. But my average for the day is about 8 minutes, so that's not all that hard for me.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:13 AM  

Wanted to like the puzzle; great theme fill, . . . but . . . as many others have noted: Got the theme after the first three examples ( CO . . . ST), but got more and more curious as to what the reveal at 55 A would be, then was disappointed by the answer. After a year plus reading Rex's blog, I have become sensitive to things "in the language," and this one didn't seem to pass the test.

Aside from that, really a good puzzle!

Its now in Google 10:14 AM  

@SethG - As of tomorrow, ["within oboe d'amore"] will return two Google hits. You've just created a phrase. Oh wait, now it will be three hits. Will this madness never cease?

CoolPapaD 10:22 AM  

Mr. Gesso was my 7th grade Ohio history teacher - his mug kept popping in my head when I needed to fill in the last two letters of the grid - the "E" and the "S." I never knew his name was a real word, but today, I just had to guess-o, and I was right!!

John Denver 10:23 AM  

Hey, I'm in the puzzle, too: 44 D, Annie's Song.

Rex Parker 10:25 AM  

@Aaron — 8 minutes! That's not shabby at all. I'm so (inexplicably) proud.

Thanks to all those who explained to random Anonymous commenter how Google works.

DB Geezer 10:28 AM  

I've heard of TOGs as a noun, but never as a verb.
Got INCOST promptly, wanted LOW but could think of no four letter synonyms. Then I got the H but couldn't understand that HIGH wouod fit the clue. Hands up for yecching at WITHINCOST

Wanted CORNERSTONE, Don't see how any post at the corner can be a key building support.

Understood the opening COs as theme right away, but didn't tumble to the STs till King Rex UTTERED the AVISO and the theme CAMEHOMETOROOST, and I was able to feel ATEASE having SEEN the light.

Stan 10:31 AM  

A bouncy, uptempo puzzle. Theme revealer not great, as noted here, but it does make sense.

Liked the crunchy letters at the top (IKE, TAMPA, JEB, PONG, GESSO, MERC). Did not like seeing both OTTO and ASTA--there should be a one-per-day limit on fictional dogs.

I knew that Rex would post a Runaways video! Was not disappointed.

driving the porcelain bus 10:36 AM  

"Within cost" literally means

"a number between ZERO and the COST" therefore sold at a loss. Not a term used in retail nor in common day human interaction.

Just hideous!!

ArtLvr 10:37 AM  

Besides the white GESSO primer coat under paintings on wood panel etc., there's also a gesso-like coating on a carved wood frame before gilding is applied. Often this is tinted red or blue, peeking pleasingly through after years of wear...

Other than that, I found this puzzle rather boring, with too many words containing the combo "TO" including a double stairway down and left from 32A where TOPTEN crosses ROTO through TOAD, TON and SEE TO/ TOAT. I COUNT fourteen in toto, and am basically AGAINST too much repetition!

∑;(

DB Geezer 10:39 AM  

@artlvr, I hope it's ok to post in today's blog, my thanks for your lesson yesterday on the proper understanding of the opening lines of Inferno.

Two Ponies 10:46 AM  

This one was well-constructed but boring. Cornerstone came to mind before corner post but wouldn't fit, of course. Posts are for fences.
Rex's write-up and all of the comments were a lot more fun than the puzzle itself.
Oboe of love sounds like a pet name a man might invent for his favorite "instrument."
@ dk, Love the gesso comment. I'm going to keep that one tucked away for just the right moment.
I can't believe we used to be entertained by Pong.
After seeing Eres Tu umpteen million times in xwords I still have never heard that song.
@ Rex, I hope you get more than a tote bag.

Zeke 10:46 AM  

I really need help in keeping my fictional/mythical spirits straight. How am I supposed to differentiate between Genies and GENII? One's Arabic, one's Roman, there seems to be an overlap in functionality, WTF? I got really hung up here trying to fit in JINII, thinking that was one of the dozen variants of GENIE.
Never knew of TOG as a verb, and it seems to be exclusively British.

lit.doc 10:48 AM  

Nice Monday or Tuesday puzzle, but it just wasn’t challenging enough for Wednesday. I fixed that by fixating on HIDDEN COST, just so I’d have something to do after I filled in the rest of the blank squares. Still think it makes a lot more sense than WITHIN COST, which does use the correct alphabet to form actual English words, but WITHIN BUDGET is the meaning that it’s trying futilely to achieve.

SW aside, I was glad that I’d sunk an AVISO some months ago, and that LITA had good crosses. Never heard of Lita Ford (oh, I see, started out with Joan Jett, cool), but the name’s gotta be a Spanish diminutive—Lolita/Lola/Lita = “little Lola”, like Guadalupe/Lupe/Lupita. And Ford’s an acronym for “fixed or repaired daily”. Or “found on the road dead”.

Blame the Guinness speed-solve training regimen for the foregoing remarks. Or Canada. Take your pick. Clearly, I’m having to work pretty hard to find much entertainment with today’s (er, tomorrow’s) puzzle.

On to Rex’s write-up and the comments, back later.

PlantieBea 11:04 AM  

The GESSO/AVISO crossing was a personal natick for me. Not a fan of the theme at all, but did like seeing the OBOE d'amore. I first entered the maladay of PINK EYE for which our household has required he most medicinal drops. Meh.

Glitch 11:18 AM  

@In the dictionary ... (9:48)

I've probably done all 27 of those puzzles without having TOG as a verb make it into the memory banks.

The equally useful OBOL only took 3.

Thanks,

..../Glitch

lit.doc 11:19 AM  

@Parshutr, 16A’s clue was Spanish, not French.

@Two Ponies, in support of your thesis re the functional meaning of “oboe of love”, I adduce a clue from a recent puzzle (can’t remember if NYT or LAT or Other): OBOE = “High Italian wood”. Seriously.

A good dose of “Prolon” would have helped me to feel more positive about this puzzle.

Martin 11:19 AM  

Here are some DOE awards given for "completing a project within cost and schedule." It's fine to not like the entry but it seems a bit much to say no one uses this phrase.

snowmaiden 11:24 AM  

The four CORNER POSTs that escaped plastering in my converted barn (POST and beam construction) are within view every morning as I solve the puzzle.

Rex Parker 11:27 AM  

Martinize (v.) — to act as an apologist for the NYT crossword puzzle, usu. by providing data (which may or may not be convincing)

rp

Toto 11:35 AM  

@ArtLvr - Sorry, there are only two "to"s in "Toto". :>)

At lit.doc, 10:48 - I have been hearing "Ford = Fix or repair daily" since I was a pup. And as a good Xword dog, I always want to bark, "Don't you mean 'Ford = Fix or replace daily'?" Otherwise you belong in Bill Safire's Redundancy Squad Squad.

@Rex, 11:27 - Shouldn't be any waiting toime, as many drycleaners offer "24 Hour Martinizing."

Woof!

Bev 11:36 AM  

55's hint is that first letter and last three letters of 17,19,26,34,42 & 51 all spell COST

jesser 11:41 AM  

@Bev. Um, no they don't. Better look again. It's the first two and last two letters. Rex essplained it real good up there in the blog. You've read Rex, right?

pecous! (the act of being picky) -- jesser

Martin 11:49 AM  

I don't know why citations of a phrase should be convincing that a phrase exists. I guess they could be plants, like the Obama birth announcements.

hazel 11:59 AM  

I would offer a definition for Rexize, but I believe I once read (here) that commenting on people was the lowest form of commentary....

The puzzle - fast fast fast and already forgotten.

mitchs 12:07 PM  

@Martin - not sure that two words next to one another necessarily constitute a "phrase". If that the case, OBOL SMIFF could appear as next Wednesday's theme.

Rex Parker 12:08 PM  

@hazel, do your worst. Outright hostility beats tiresome, self-righteous tut-tutting.

Unlike some, Martin has a sense of humor and knows I'm (affectionately) teasing. And if he doesn't, now he does.

rp

Jesse 12:13 PM  

Once again, I finished the puzzle and never caught on to the theme. :(

I've definitely heard "tog up" used to mean get dressed, but not in ages. Since I was raised in Ireland, that means it might be either UK english or just archaic (yes, I'm old!)

Thank goodness for crosses - never heard of LITA or the Runaways.

ArtLvr 12:19 PM  

@ TOTO - very funny, bless your poiny-nose icon!
Just don't mess with my cat unless you're a FOO

∑;)

hazel 12:21 PM  

@Rex - I'm actually really glad to know you were just kidding around with Martin! Now were you just teasing me too?

Steve J 12:41 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve J 12:43 PM  

@The redanman: I took art classes in college, and GESSO either didn't come up, or it didn't lodge in my memory. Of course, those were art history classes, not painting classes.

Also, for whatever it's worth, XWord Info finds 22 occurrences of GESSO in the last 17 years, and exactly one since 2007: today's puzzle.

Another case of how one person's slam dunk is difficult for someone else. Including me, where I had a Natick-ish moment with GESSO and AVISO (the latter of which I've never seen used in context of a boat). I left that as my last open square, since I didn't know either word. I guessed at S, thinking it made the most sense phonologically.

As for WITHINCOST, I have heard it occasionally in the context of procurement and project management (although I have never used it myself in 10 years of doing project management). I had all of the theme answers filled in, with that hanging out there as --I-HI-COST, and I still had to sit and stare at it for a minute before anything came to me. It was definitely a bit of a letdown as a theme revealer. Don't know if it would have been helpful at all had I got it before I had all the other theme answers filled in.

Ended up being an easy Wednesday for me as well, a couple minutes faster than my average. Even with my personal psuedo-Natick.

william e emba 1:08 PM  

With the "Cost" theme on my mind, I filled in "Coste Nast" unthinkingly, and then I noticed I was staring at TOAT crossed with TOAT. It took me a whole minute or two to unwind that.

Bill from NJ 1:15 PM  

My boss in the sheet metal business always used the expression WITHINCOST and within budget as interchangeable synonyms. They may not be technically synonymous, but that was how we understood them so I had no problem undertstanding what was being conveyed in this puzzle.

As @Elaine said this one gave no trouble except for the tangle in the SW which seemed to take as long to sort out as it took to complete the rest of the puzzle. Slight exaggeration, perhaps, but it sure felt that way.

Charles Bogle 1:23 PM  

am w @tpsteve, @redanman, some other minority members...definitely not a fan of this puzzle. Loaded w partial and theme struck me as weak (translation: I found it challenging)

@Rex: congratulation!

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

I hope Will Shortz has hit his limit of 'string' clues for a while. Really dispiriting.

lit.doc 2:03 PM  

@Toto, duly noted. I shall hereafter replace mine daily. :)

andrea genii michaels 2:35 PM  

I think HIDDENCOST would have been better, but then it would need to be more "hidden" like in TEXACOSTATION or something.
I kept looking for SPLITTHECOST, but then SPLITTHETAB even would be better there.

WITHINCOST sort of gave me an earache.

That upper NW corner was awfully spiffy with IPECAC (even tho I'm not sure what that is or how to spell it) next to the elegant KOSOVO!

Damn! I see that despite breezing thru this in my fastest time ever (I think, I was competing against the sweet boy downstairs and he was at a major disadvantage, as ANNIES song would be my generation)
I put TETANS! I didn't even consider GENII. :(

Best part of the puzzle experience was having my delightful Italiana roommate, Silvia, who is an Art History major, come in and give us an elaborate impromptu explanation for GESSO.
Nick ended up with a serious crush and I had to admit a charming Italian accent will get you anywhere with me, male or female.

my captcha was moopie. Is that like bullshit? or is it closer to an endearing nickname for your over that will make everyone else sick?

andrea type-o michaels 2:38 PM  

nickname for your Lover. oy. Will my typos never end?
now i'm moopie.

dk 2:45 PM  

@two ponies, my inner 14 year old (albeit ungainly) is ROTF. Oboe of love. I can just hear the comebacks. For example: 2 reeds on that thing: No way!

I would be remiss if l did not wish Barbie a happy fifty first birthday. She can be found in the latest addition of Art Doll Quarterly where she appears wrapped in string coaled with... drum roll - GESSO.

Note to fellow former art students: Back in the day we would coat a blank canvas with GESSO or a product called GESSO. On wood we used white shellac.

miguel 2:48 PM  

@moopie

All isa forgivena. Coma ona homa to Guido.

I liked the puzzle and sped thorough it. Why do I think there are multiple ways to spell Hosanna?

dk 2:49 PM  

that should be coated not coaled. I must of caught the typo disease from my obois... never mind

chefwen 2:54 PM  

@dk - Have you booked your trip to Shanghai to visit the Barbie flagship store? You probably would think that you had died and gone to heaven.

Puzzle was super easy, I guess we got our workout yesterday. Only write over was FLOE over berg. Wasn't crazy about GENII, but what the hey.

Elaine 3:05 PM  

@SteveJ
Hand up for both art history and art classes (minor in art); only in the latter did we go into detail with the media and methods, and that's where I met GESSO. Art history focused on the flowering of new techniques and styles and covered vastly more territory. My art classes were very narrowly defined--entire semester of drawing, and only drawing, for instance.

@Zeke
What about the djinns?

captcha is 'plorts'--drops of spilled gesso

Zeke 3:23 PM  

@Elaine - Djins = Djinns = Jinns = Jinnis = Jinis = Genies depending on how it's translated/transliterated/misspelled. All part of what I was getting at looiing for as a variant of Genie which fit the terminal NII, not knowing my GENII. Which apparently have nothing to do with Djins, Jinns or Genies.

sanfranman59 4:27 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 9:52, 11:47, 0.84, 11%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:01, 5:47, 0.94, 17%, Easy

As anticipated, today's puzzle is playing quite a bit easier than yesterday's.

bookmark 4:34 PM  

Just got my NEW YORKER in the mail (March 15 issue). The Talk of the Town has a piece on the crossword tournament.

edith b 5:56 PM  

I don't make distinctions among early-week puzzles although this week there were distictions to be made, particularly to the newcomers and the inexperienced solvers.

Rex's system of "relative difficulty" takes a beating when weeks like this one happen but it remains the best way to approach the easier puzzles.

Apparantly, it was Will's system that broke down this time as the puzzles didn't conveniently lend themselves to categorization.

Oscar 7:57 PM  

This would've been better with entries that don't have ambiguous COST breaks. Fr'instance, CORNERPOST could be C-OST or CO-ST. Things like CONDENAST are better since no such ambiguity exists.

Elaine 8:34 PM  

@Zeke
I know-- I was just trying to tweak you for discriminating against the Djin(n)s.
You have everything else but the kitchen sink in there. I hate when I try ALL of the possibilities and still don't get it.
Well, heck: it's almost Thursday!

Better luck tomorrow!
your friend
e

Sfingi 10:26 PM  

@Rex totally agree on your comments of the theme density. And the puzzle was as easy as Tuesdays. No Googling. What did you think of the TO-TO-TO stairsteps (32 38 40A)?

Did not know who Miss LITA is. I got TITANS this time.

By AREAS, I guess they mean under a curve.

Never used TOG as a verb, or even as a noun in the singular.

Was it AT EASE, or A TEASE?
I had a gym teacher in 1st grade, who shouted AT EASE at us babies. We were never AT EASE with him. He later became a football coach. We were all happier.

CENTO. There's an Italian toast, "Cent'anno," meaning may you live 100 years. At my mother's nursing home, such a toast would be a curse, since many are so close to 100 already.

Of course, with Sicilian hubster and previously touted sister Art Prof. Dedree Drees at Catonsville CC, I knew GESSO. I guesso.

KOSOVO. Utica is now 10% Bosnian, and mostly it's a blessing. They have fixed up many a previously disreputable building, including making old churches into mosques. Some of their kids have excelled, and a couple have gone native.

@Bookmark - I'll make a note. I read the New Yorker on the internet, and it's a week later.

@PlantieB - may I recommend Blephamide for your eye infections?
By prescription. I've been told redheads and other pale-faces are prone to this.

@PanamaRed - funny about Smith and AVISO.

Zeke 10:41 PM  

@Elain - Don't worry, I know better than to f**k with the Djinns. Something about the unnecessary D makes them a bitch to deal with

sanfranman59 12:57 AM  

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 6:35, 6:55, 0.95, 40%, Easy-Medium
Tue 11:47, 8:53, 1.33, 97%, Challenging
Wed 9:57, 11:47, 0.84, 13%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:36, 3:40, 0.98, 49%, Medium
Tue 5:24, 4:31, 1.19, 88%, Challenging
Wed 4:43, 5:46, 0.82, 11%, Easy

Southern Ma'am 2:36 AM  

Disappointed no "Eres Tu" video. Love that song!
Nice to see oldie but goodie crossword mascot
ASTA.

tim 8:59 PM  

Should ASTA be retired? I saw it recently when watching season 3 (or 4?) of the sci-fantasy drama Heros. The cheerleader asks her mom for "Thin Man Pooch" (or some such) and Mom instantly answers ASTA.

Of course, as a novice, it's relatively new to me and now that it's a gimme for me, perhaps I should keep my mouth shut!!

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