Climactic musical finales / FRI 4-16-10 / Crookes tube emission / Clandestine maritime org. / Rialto attention-getter

Friday, April 16, 2010

Constructor: Eric Berlin

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: STRETTI (36A: Climactic musical finales) —

The term stretto (plural: 'stretti') comes from the Italian past participle of stringere, and means ‘narrow’, ‘tight’, or 'close’. In music the Italian term stretto has two distinct meanings: (1) In a fugue, stretto (German: Engführung) is the imitation of the subject in close succession, so that the answer enters before the subject is completed. [...] (2) In non-fugal compositions, a stretto (also sometimes spelled stretta) is a passage, often at the end of an aria or movement, in faster tempo. Examples include: the end of the last movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony; measure 227 of Chopin's Third Ballade; measures 16 and 17, of his Prelude No. 4 in E minor; and measure 25 of his Etude Op. 10, No. 12, "The Revolutionary."

• • •

Like two puzzles in one — train wreck up top, cake walk down below. Not knowing STRETTI killed me, as I couldn't foresee the Italian "I" plural, and thus couldn't see GNARLIER (18D: More difficult, in slang), and so on, and so on, and so on. Also, really, desperately wanted TAPAS something for 17A: It has a lot of small dishes (TASTING MENU), so everything after "TA-" was empty for a while once I realized TAPAS wouldn't work. Had EGYPT at SINAI (9D: Six-Day War setting). Later, had JOIN at OLIO (15A: Mix). Didn't know "COULDA Been the One" (2006 Rihanna song) and took ForEvah to get the (to my mind, yucky, and yuckily clued) IDENT. at 25A: Security need: Abbr. Clue on ANIMAL PELT was so oddball that it took many crosses to turn up (21A: Forest cover?). So, essentially, everything west of PARENTHOOD (11D: Pop's condition) was rrrrough up there, even with ILLINI (14A: Marching ___ (Midwest college band)), ASLAN (23A: Narnian guardian), and SCARECROW solidly in place.

The rest of it — about a Wed-Thu level for me. Minor hesitations here and there, but nothing major at all. LETTER N? (42D: End of discussion?)?? Can you do that? With any letter? I tried ET CETERA in that slot, I think. Then possibly LECTERN, but that made no sense. Finally acquiesced to the improbable LETTER N. It may surprise those of you who are aware of my math / science ignorance that I took CATHODE RAY (27D: Crookes tube emission) down off just the "C"; I also took SCARECROW (26A: Its purpose is frightening) down off just the "W," but that didn't feel as impressive. Overall ... well, I've seen more inspired work from Eric. This was Just OK for me. Solid. Fine. No big complaints. COULDA been worse.

  • 16A: Post-Manhattan Project agcy. (AEC) — Atomic Energy Commission. Learned from xwords. Often want NEC, which is ... a Japanese IT company.
  • 19A: Guilty, in a legal phrase (REA) — as in "mens REA"
  • 33A: They're checked for life (PULSES) — sooo good, this clue. I couldn't get beyond coats and hats for some reason.
  • 58A: Women who may break people up? (COMEDIENNES) — had the ending and was briefly wondering if there was an opposite of YENTAS...

[yeah, there's some profanity in here]
  • 64A: Rialto attention-getter (NEON) — "Rialto" = theater. I was thinking more along the lines of "AHEM" or "Turn off your cell phone you #$$%ing *%!@"
  • 2D: Offerer of the Matmid frequent flier club (EL AL) — no clue, but didn't matter. Entered EL AL with no crosses. This clue is kind of awesome in its attempt to be fresh. See also the clue on OMOO (52D: Novel with the chapter "Farming in Polynesia").
  • 5D: Clandestine maritime org. (ONI) — Office of Naval Intelligence. I really want ONI to be clued as [Creature of Japanese folklore]. ONI is also a comic book press, which is how I know the Japanese monster meaning.
  • 7D: Company with the stock symbol DPZ (DOMINO'S) — wow, makes a lot of sense in retrospect. In prospect, however, it looked like a drug company.
  • 8D: I, for one (ELEM.) — Iodine is an ELEMent. I was like "I is ELEMentary how?"
  • 26D: Longtime human "Sesame Street" role (SUSAN) — Could remember only GORDON. Then got some crosses.

  • 47D: Michael with the memoir "work in Progress" (EISNER) — back-to-back media exec clues, with 49D: TV executive Arledge (ROONE).
One final announcement: The Crosswords L.A. Tournament is coming up in just over 2 weeks (May 1, 2010, at Loyola-Marymount University). If you live in the general vicinity of Southern California, you should strongly consider coming. I'll be there, but that's probably not the biggest selling point. You should go to enjoy the company and competition in a *very* low-stress setting. You can even solve in a team with a partner if you like. Many constructors you know and love (or hate) will be there — Tyler Hinman, Doug Peterson, Andrea Carla Michaels, Alex Boisvert, etc. My fellow xword blogger PuzzleGirl will be there. It's inexpensive, it's for a children's charity, it's very professionally run by the lovely Elissa Grossman. Seriously, it's all good. You should go. More info here. If you do decide to go, let me know. Thanks.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


syndy 12:49 AM  

had fatherhood for parenthood and just couldn't move that corner at all. Had animal---- and it just sat there.finally rea (yes from mens)took down father and i was moving again but i spent way too long staring at that corner. I also did try to shove that tapateria in for a little.Ive never seen a tasting menu-a new york thing?

fikink 1:42 AM  

Thanks for the always real Kathy Griffin, Rex. Cannot believe the Robert Palmer line - hilarious!!
More tomorrow on the puzzle, Eric.

A hot, well-paid SOB'S thoughts 1:53 AM  

(stock symbol DPZ) DOMINOES was an answer on Celebrity (dumbed-down) JEOPARDY! Thursday night. Doogie Howser crushed everyone.

All the 3 and 4 letter words made this one easy for a Friday.


edith b 1:55 AM  

I flirted with ANIMALSCAT for about a second but couldn't imagine the NYT bending its standards quite that far and, besides who deals in scat anyway besides ambergris which is not technically scat at all and is not found on forest floors but in the ocean and along beaches but I had a good time while it lasted.

The only problems I had were in the Midlands where I tried to cross FINANCIAL with YELLAT but PULSES finally reared its head and I slowly, slowly was able to piece together the rest with SEPT producing STRETTI as my final entry.

I was glad I was doing the puzzle in Across Lite as I would have erased holes in my newspaper and my husband would have been angry.

newspaperguy 1:55 AM  

Forest cover? Yikes.

JF 2:15 AM  

Wow--a near train wreck for me. South was fine, mostly easy, but I had CARBONATED for "Pop's Condition", and it worked with a few crosses just fine, but I couldn't bring myself to erase it. Eventually I figured OED was more likely than EED.

Didn't know lots of the words, including STRETTI, TASTING MENU.

CoolPapaD 3:22 AM  

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - any time I can finish a Fri or Sat with no errors (even if it takes the equivalent of a fruit fly's gestational period), I love the puzzle! Other than OMOO, there was little if any crap-fill, and some cute cluing. Overall, this felt considerably easier than most Fridays.

Susan has been played by the same actress (Loretta Long) for more than 40 years (when her image really did come out of a cathode ray tube)! When my four-year-old started watching the show about two years ago, I was blown away by the longevity of several of the humans still hanging around the hood. Sadly, Mr. Hooper and the "Ten cherry pies" man are nowhere to be found....

jae 3:37 AM  

My take on this one was easy-medium before coming here and it was nice to see Rex agreed. That said, I finished with an error. I stayed with LECTERN with a rationale I really don't want to go into. In retrospect I knew TARSI so I've no one to blame but moi. Only other problems were trying IDTAG for 25a and TASTINGROOM. All that said, I liked this one because of stuff like ANIMALPELT, CATHODERAY, and STRETTI (which, of course, I didn't know).

chefwen 3:41 AM  

My train wreck was on the east coast, the west went down just fine. Had aid at 11A which screwed me up for a long time.

Thought the clue for COMEDIENNES was a little off, I kept trying to squish in home wreckers. Should have been women who make people crack up, but, it's Friday. I'm just happy that I was able to finish.

Love TASTING MENU's, the more you order the smaller the portions so you can taste a plethora of items and not feel like you are going to burst while leaving the restaurant.

Did end up with one error, plopped in UAr at 32A and didn't know my aerometers from my arrometers. Oh well! (another exclamation point stolen from Andrea)

mashe - isn't that a billiards stroke?

andrea coulda michaels 5:57 AM  

Hey! how did creepy @evision spam (above) get thru the captchas?!!

With you on the TARSI thing...I hate those LETTER N type clues, fell for it again too. Left it LEcTERN.
(changed TARSI to CARPI, then when I got SOTS (There are so many loaded things, guns, questions, etc, didn't Paula G just do a puzzle on loaded things?) I just left CARSI and thought what the hell.

I have no Kathy Griffin story!!!

Since I was convinced it was a PASTY complexion, I had AESOP instead of ASTOR for quite awhile.

Never heard of mens REA...I had mEA in there for a moment, thinking MEA CULPA...but it's the CULPA part that is guilty, not the MEA...

And I thought it was SHIVA not SIVA.

I too really thought Eric went the extra mile for his ELAL and OMOO clues :)

Steal away the exclamation's time for me to calm down, 'sides it's 3 a.m.

Is everyone really coming to LA?!

Falconer 6:34 AM  

Excited to announce that I finally finished a themeless Friday puzzle. It's taken me two years of regular Sunday-Thursday NYT solving, but I finally did it. I recognize that this is no great accomplishment for most of you but it's a big step for me. At first I thought it would be too tough again, but it came to me incredibly fast via the NW -- Illini, Kit Car, Final Cuts ... then Animal Pelts, Astor, Pulses and Comediennes.

Astor trivia: John Jacob Astor IV died on the RMS Titanic. He packed his newlywed 19-year-old pregnant wife and her maid on a womens' lifeboat, then stood aside until it was time for a men's boat to be loaded. He didn't make it. He was later found floating not far from the wreckage. He was wearing a blue serge suit that had his monogram JJA on the back collar. His gold watch was on his body, and claimed by his son, Vincent, who wore it forever after. You can visit JJA IV's grave at Trinity Church Cemetery in NYC.

Eric Berlin 7:30 AM  

PARENTHOOD was one of my seed entries, because years ago I smiled at the tagline on the movie poster: "The greatest adventure of them all!" Even though it was still a dozen years before I would have children of my own, I recognized this as a powerful statement of truth. I badly wanted to believe that any life -- EVERY life -- was an adventure, and here was no less an authority than Hollywood telling me it was so.

So I wanted use that tagline in the clue. Just one problem: I could get no verification from the Internet (not even Imdb) that the tagline ever existed. This was impossible. I remembered it so clearly! What was going on?

I went so far as to call Imagine Films, where a very nice young person tried to help me, and he too couldn't find any evidence that that had EVER been the tagline for the movie.

I was baffled, and still am.

So I made the clue [1989 movie with the tagline, "It could happen to you"], which was at least still sort of cute.

And of course the clue got changed, anyway, which anybody could have predicted.

Eric Berlin 7:39 AM  

@andrea: My clues for ELAL and OMOO were, I see now, embarrassingly dull. (OMOO: [Melville title]. Really? I allowed myself to get away with that?)

So thanks must go to Will and his crew for giving the clues a much needed polish.

nanpilla 8:02 AM  

Am I the only one who first thought Depends for DPZ?

Great puzzle, Eric!

jesser 8:14 AM  

I am thanking the Gods for my addiction to Jeopardy!, because the DOMINOS stock symbol saved my tuckus! With that in place, I was able to muscle my way through the thorny north.

I am about 50/50 on liking/hating the clue/answer pairings in this puzzle. Loved 44A. Hated 42D. Loved 21A. Hated 25A. Etc.

The clue for PULSES made me happy, but I've never heard anyone say, "That's A HOT one!" What was it? A jalapeño? Around here, we say, "I believe someone injected napalm into this one!" I'm not sure how you'd clue that.

In any case, it was a good Friday romp, and I remain RUDDY. Within 12 hours, I shall be RUDDY and bourbonated.

Naliticr! (A clock made from the wood of the Nali Tree?) -- jesser

SethG 8:24 AM  

I entered LETTER N from the first T. Knew TASTING MENU (but not chefwen's version). Learned Matmid/ELAL in an LAT puzzle last year, REA from Elle Woods, and DEFCON from WarGames. STRETTI? Not so much.

Andrea, I even got ETATS with no crosses. Je parle puzzle French now!

Judith 8:27 AM  

Too bad I didn't watch Jeopardy the other night -- had to google domino's!

Loved the Sesame Street clip, reminded me of when my kids were little so I had an excuse to watch kids' tv. PeeWee's Playhouse was the best part of Saturdays! It was a good thing my daughter loved it too.

joho 8:37 AM  

@jae and @andrea coulda michaels --I did the same thing regarding LEctERN and cARSI. I knew it wasn't right making a lectern into an end table! And, of course, it's TARSI, but new bones are discovered every day, right? I like @andrea fall for the LETTERN answer/trap everytime!

Congratulations @Falconer!

Thank you @Eric Berlin for stopping by and for your interesting, fun Friday puzzle.

ArtLvr 8:59 AM  

@Elaine B -- your comment about animal scat just cracked me up!

The puzzle was a good one by me but not easy -- tricky and tough but gettable. I even resisted looking up the symbol for Dominos' stock because I knew it would come back to me, as it did.

Neat clues, like PULSES being "checked for life". That's A HOT one! No complaints... Thanks, Eric.


p.s. @Seth G, congrats on your progress in puzzle français!

Anonymous 9:02 AM  

This was NOT an easy puzzle. Flowerlady9

fikink 9:31 AM  

I ran hot and cold on this one. Liked much of the long filL, SCARECROW, REPUTEDLY, SETS FOOT IN, but I can't go with ANIMAL PELT for "Forest cover?"

Loved the clue to PULSES, "They're checked for life," probably because I was thinking in terms of checking a coat so when PULSES emerged, mine quickened

I take some exception with the questionable partials/abbreviations, however: DESC, A HOT, EIN, IDENT, OCAT, ELEM, and LETTER N??? Boo, hiss.

Appreciated learning STRETTI.

Thanks, Eric.

And congratulations, @Falconer!

Elaine 9:35 AM  

Edith B IS my long-lost twin sister, and your mixing us up is one more proof!

I had an experience eerily similar to Rex's-- I had filled most of the puzzle, all of the South--and despite having RITE, ELAL, ELEC, and --CAR, just could not make progress in the upper North. TAPAS...just could not let it go. One O CAT? Really? Later, I googled it, and I see it's street base-ball. So why not call it baseball? Before giving up, I googled and looked at a list of Rihanna's songs--and this one was NOT on it.

I threw in the towel, feeling GNaRLIER than an old tree. Third week in a row, DNF on Friday.

dk 9:46 AM  

Under the category of One Mans Meat: I found the ELAL and OMOO clues to be boss (in the gnarly mood). Eric, Thank you for your comments and puzzle.

@CoolpapaD, Sat next to Yoyo Ma on a plane, told him I recognized him from Sesame St.

I like the mini film theme with ASLAN, SCARECROW, NEON, EISNER, etc.

Started with horrorpic for 26A. Never thought of projectors as REELTOREEL only tape decks, and I was in AV club in high school so I know what I'm talkin about.

I liked the shout out to Andrea except I kept putting in femmefatale at 58A ;).

Just between us... worked with Disney as a strategy consultant some years back. Lets just say 47D could be a clue for tyrant.

*** (3 Stars)

captcha: hougheti-the preferred pasta of johns

Bob Kerfuffle 10:07 AM  

Good puzzle; medium verging on challenging for me.

I had a personal eyesight failure which slowed me down: Kept reading 23 A as "Namian guardian" instead of "Narnian . . " Couldn't think of any Greek, Roman, or other figure called Namian!

Aunt Hattie 10:24 AM  

I held on to take-out menu far too long--too bad it fit. And, next time you need a Sesame Street clip, try Wanda the Witch, who lived somewhere wwest of Washington and lost her wig on a windy Wednesday. A family favorite!

mac 10:32 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle a lot! Followed Rex's route more or less, with the tapas and the lectern.
I too wanted to wrest homewreckers into 58A, and had ID tag for a while.

I had a personal Natick at Kit/Illini, I thought they had an E in it. Those Illini do sound familiar, is there a basketball connection?

Nice to be here; I should have been in Holland by now, though. Am grounded, luckily at home, because
of the Icelandic volcano.

Anonymous 10:36 AM  

i'm a sunday thru wednesday kinda girl [rarely thurs] so this friday hardly felt like any wednesday to me. always feel happy when someone admits googling....i needed rex to get me started today but was able to do most in bottom half after a jump start.

retired_chemist 10:41 AM  

@ Bob K - I very often read a small type rn as m. And vice versa. Age......

A nice, medium puzzle. No complaints. Like @fikink, I enjoyed learning STRETTI. 26A began as GHOST MASK, which has NO letters in common with SCARECROW. So that took some time to fix. Similarly, 29D was WELL TO DO, leading to similar problems.

Last fill was the S in EISNER, since I had penciled in DIVA for 53A, I suppose subconsciously imagining a Hindu apotheosis of grand opera.

Thanks, Mr. Berlin. And thanks for stopping by.

Two Ponies 10:50 AM  

Thanks to Eric for a nice meaty Friday and for dropping by.
I loved kit car the pulse clue.
My stickiest area was the little intersection of Sesame Street, the unknown musical term, and the OPEC clue. Again I could not remember that damned lion! Grrrr.
@ mac, I wondered about your travel plans. I don't know what would be worse, being stranded at home or over there. With all of the frequent fliers here I wonder if anyone else has been affected.
Foodie is in Turkey and did Ulrich pack up his avatar? He hasn't been here lately.

Moonchild 11:03 AM  

Drat! Foiled again.
I don't know my Mr. Rogers from my Sesame Street so that proper name eluded me. The OPEC clue stumped me as well because I think its members include S.American and African nations. That's too big a net to cast for me.
I so wanted 57 & 58A to be tied together in some infidelity theme. Home wreckers probably do a fair amount of telling lies in bed.
Favorite answer today - Saturnine. What a great word. I always thought it meant something much darker than merely gloomy though. Perhaps I have my myths mythed up.

Anonymous 11:09 AM  

The whole northeast killed me today, all because I wanted camouflage for animal pelt. I suppose it would have come to me eventually, but. . .I'll take having the entire NW NE NCentral and South.

Nice, having parenthood and Sesame Street in the same puzzle. Too bad Eric couldn't fit Snuffaluffagus in.
Another day, perhaps.

jae 11:37 AM  

@napilla -- DEPENDS was the first thing that came to mind for 7d but it just wouldn't fit with the crosses I had.

@mac -- The marching ILLINI are the U. of Illinois's (not really a college and also my grad school alma mater) band. They put on pretty impressive half time performances.

Ben 11:56 AM  

I liked it. That may have been colored by the fact that I also like Eric, but I found it suitably challenging and enjoyed the unusual fill (LETTERN, ANIMALPELT).

Moving from seasoned pro constructors to rank amateurs, please oblige the following self-indulgence (with apologies to Rex for the shameless plug):

After a year or two of solving NYT puzzles every Friday and Saturday and frequently commenting about them here, I recently constructed my first crossword. Sent it around to a few puzzle pals including our own Rex Parker, all of whom provided generous and valuable feedback.

Although I'm gratified that my expert panel liked the puzzle, I also understand that it's not newspaper material. So I posted it here. All are invited to give it a try.

gih 12:23 PM  

What do you a forest cover?

Ben 12:31 PM  

@Eric: I liked the clue for ELAL, actually. Like the other day, when ASTA was clued via Skippy, the dog actor, it's fun to get a fresh take on cluing a familiar word.

william e emba 12:51 PM  

For 22D "They might be smoked out", I had "butts" originally, filled in off the ---TS. And my 21A at that point was --IMA--ELT, so I filled in "clIMAx bELT". I have never heard the term, but it certainly makes sense: in an old forest, the biota is mostly "climax" trees and the like. That certainly delayed the NE for me, turning what should have been an easy-medium Friday into a hard-medium Friday.

My introduction to ROONE as crosswordese happened about eight or nine years ago. I was stuck on the Sunday NYT in some corner because of a clue for Arledge. So I put it down and worked on that Sunday's Merl Reagle puzzle. I made good progress, until I got stuck again. On a virtually identically clue for Arledge! Well, I compared the two puzzles, and what do you know, I had different crosses to help from the two different puzzles. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! I was able to finish both at that point rather easily, beamish the whole way.

So, is that considered cheating?

retired_chemist 1:00 PM  

@ EMBA - since nobody is the poorer, however you solve puzzles, no, I'd say it isn't cheating. Bur I WOULD say it's clever....

obertb 1:00 PM  

Anyone else like the clue for SOBS
[Doesn't just tear up]? I ran the alphabet twice with -OBS in place, thinking that it was "tear" as rhymes with "bear."

Moonchild 1:03 PM  

@ w.e. emba,
I have no idea what you were thinking when you guessed "climax belt"??!! Is that like the complete opposite of a chastity belt?

Sunchild 1:21 PM  

@Moonchild - Here's a nice explanation of the term "climax forest."

william e emba 1:24 PM  

Retired_chemist: I've also gotten key words off the actual NYT page. Anything from some ad, or a TV listing, or an article about some entertainer, right there next to the puzzle. So far, the M-Th Jeopardy clue has not given away anything.

Moonchild: I was thinking of forests and ecology. "Climax" is a totally tame word used to describe the end-stage biota of forests and other ecological systems. So I was thinking of a "belt" across a forest that consisted of climax trees between two younger areas.

I seemed to have created a wacky theme answer for a science geek's dream puzzle.

joho 1:27 PM  

@william e emba ... I think that would be considered resourceful.

Parshutr 1:58 PM  

Going to have to lay off doing these for a while. Anytime I just throw down NIECES, OMOO, ILLINI, ELAL I'm way too into this whole thing.
And I'll be out of touch for a week, playing golf (no, not golfing, golf is not a verb) in sunny Calabasas CA.
MI can suck it! Two days ago, high of 45. Yesterday 84. Today, in the 50s, tomorrow...maybe 50.

Shamik 2:01 PM  

My only quibble with this puzzle is that it went too fast.

@nanpilla: Depends crossed my mind, but didn't go in the grid!

Now better get packing.

Howard B 2:07 PM  

Had LECTERN for a while too. Took a bit until I was able to solve CARSI and mentally let go of the C.
You'd think I would catch on to those meta-clues by now 'SILENT E', etc..., but I suppose I'm a creature of habit, in that case. Well-played, Eric.

Moonchild 2:35 PM  

@ w.e. emba,
I was 100% sure that there was some factual information behind your guess.
I just couldn't resist some silly fun.

ArtLvr 2:39 PM  

@Elaine, forgive my mental haze, please? I guess I was barely awake.

@mac, I hope you get a safe flight to Holland soon. Son-in-law is supposed to fly to Russia on Monday via London, and I worry...

@dk, interesting that you worked at Disney a while back and found EISNER a tough boss. I know he was controversial, but I think it was thanks to him that "Aida", the musical, was backed by Disney -- a super deal for my son-in-law, the director.

And WOW, the latest news is that Disney bought the film rights to my daughter's book "Dark Life", which comes out in May. Fingers crossed that it all comes to fruition without hitches!


lit.doc 3:10 PM  

Felt like Saturday to me. Epic fail, fueled by a bumper crop of High-Quality Wrong Answers.

In pretty fair Friday time, had NW filled (correctly) and NE filled (with alphabet soup): 11D CARBONATED next to 12D REARSCREEN next to 13D O’CAT and 31D OLIVE (complexion). Finally noticed 43A OED and started over. Adding to the fun were 29D AFFLUENT next to 34D DEPRESSED (or even SATURNINE, which I’d jotted in my notes…), until I finally read 50A “Tibiae” as something other than an obscure, possibly Roman tribe.*

An hour in, I ran up the motley fläg of google in surrender, though Check All would have been way more help. Checked Rex’s grid for a few answers and done. Biggest single problem was “22D is WASPS and no effing way am I even going to think about changing it”.

*Full disclosure: a while later, I noticed that I had unaccountably keyed in ULNAE instead of whatever mutant form of FIBULA today’s plural turns out to be. Doh! Wait—TARSI?! If we’re going that direction for “neighbors”, isn’t the next bone down the TALUS? Is there a doctor in the house?

Back after I read Rex’s write-up and the posts.

Rube 3:20 PM  

Like @jesser, I too have a love/hate relationship with this puzzle. After getting the entire middle and south, I was looking at a virtually empty north. Was getting tired of this so started Googling. Didn't know Rihanna. Like @Elaine, could not find COULDA in her Wiki discography. This Reeks of the same obscurity as what's-her-name Clijsters, (Kim's sister), that we had a few weeks back. OCAT? eh. IDENT? boo. ANIMALPELT? gedoudahere. Even ASTOR didn't sound right.

Then again, loved ELAL and OMOO. Think LETTERN and ELEM are "cute" clues.

Too many bad clue/answer combos... one thumb down.

retired_chemist 3:22 PM  

@ lit.doc - I am not a doctor and i don't play one on TV. In fact, I haven't played doctor since....well.... maybe 60 or so years ago.

But the TALUS is one of the tarsal bones acc. to Dr. Wikipedia.

Anonymous 3:22 PM  

Or you could read the entry and the comments before commenting.

archaeoprof 3:25 PM  

Like yesterday, I found this one delightfully off-beat. Favorite answer: SATURNINE.

Plus, there's a connection with country music: before the Alan Jackson concert the other night I had dinner at a restaurant with a TASTINGMENU.

Go Illini!

Ben 4:08 PM  

Busy day at work so I read @Eric's post too quickly. Now I see that Will et al. get credit for the gloss they put on the OMOO and ELAL clues.

sanfranman59 4:11 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)

Fri 24:11, 26:27, 0.91, 30%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Fri 12:20, 12:50, 0.96, 45%, Medium

foodie 5:07 PM  

Can you say Eyjafjallajoekull???

Well, it's stranding me in Istanbul, as all flights through Germany are canceled. I'm working on a crazy detour to get me home. Much as I love this place, I've got to come home and catch up on my taped Jeopardies...

DOMINO'S owner lived in my neighborhood but I still had to work hard to get the full answer.
The puzzle was not easy for me, but I was having a tough time focusing, given my travel travails.

@Eric Berlin, thank you for stopping by. You're so right about parenthood being "the greatest adventure of them all"-- sometimes a Hawaiian double rainbow, and sometimes an Icelandic volcano eruption, but always breathtakingly unexpected.

chefwen 5:30 PM  

@SethG - I have experienced that type of TASTING MENU at The Inn at Little Washington and Gary Danko in San Francisco. Both places to DIE for.

My husband looked at my finished puzzle last night and asked me what a LETTERN was, I told him that it was LETTER N as in the last letter of discussioN, he said, and I quote, "that's b#ll sh*t, can they really do that? I said "yeah, but we don't like it."

JenCT 5:43 PM  

LOVE Kathy Griffin - thanks for the clip, Rex.

Had INTENT instead of ENRAPT for the longest time; also FIBIA instead of TARSI, A NEW instead of A HOT, etc. Another DNF for me - oh well.

@Falconer: congratulations!

Ben 5:54 PM  

@Chefwen: The billiards stroke you were thinking of is a MASSE shot. You can see one here.

@Mac: As Jae mentioned, the University of Illinois' team name is the Fighting Illini, named after the Illini tribe native to this region. (I'm writing from Chicago.) Hence the Marching Illini are the marching band.

Taking it one step further, Chief Illiniwek was for decades the mascot at U of I football and basketball games. The forces of political correctness brought his era to an end, despite his widespread popularity among alumni and vocal support for the Chief from many Native Americans.

Finally, the Flying Illini was the nickname for the talented, athletic U of I basketball team from winter 1989 starring Nick Anderson, Kendall Gill, NCAA slam dunk champion Kenny Battle, Marcus Liberty and Steve Bardo, several of whom went on to solid pro careers. The Flying Illini were upset in the NCAA Final Four by a last-second shot from Michigan's Sean Higgins.

andrea N michaels 7:07 PM  

that's "felcitations a toi!", as you know)
Plus cool extra info about Astor, which was interesting bec I think yesterday or the day before was the actual anniversary of the Titanic.

@wm e emba
That's not cheating, it's mystical and fabulous!

@joho, @chefwen
I tried to think why I dislike the LETTERN clue-type so much
(I'm speaking purely as a solver here)
a) it fools me EVERY time
b) I think it's bec I don't feel like you can say LETTER N. Wouldn't you would say "THE letter N"?
So Letter N feels so off that I can't get it... ever.

Maybe they could have tied the Sesame clue in with this puzzle being brought to you by THE Letter N...

However, it's time for me to accept it, I guess...instead of writing every time how much I dislike it as a type of clue! But I'm sorta in chefwen's husband's camp!

Your insane, borderline- nonsensical shout outs to me continue to make my day! Not to totally encourage you, but thank you. ;)

Speaking of which "homewrecker" never occured to me! ;) I got right away it was COMEDIENNE but somehow kept miscounting the letters and deciding it didn't fit!
I used to have a business card that read COMEDIENNNNNE with five N's just bec I thought it odd that they were always pointedly differentiating between the sexes of the comics.
(Funny is funny, no?)

There could be five men on the bill, but if there was even ONE woman, the club owners would say "Oh, we already have Rita (Ellen, Paula, Elayne) performing so we don't need another gal".
('sides, I tend to think of COMEDIENNES as actresses, and female standups as comics. E.g. Julie Louise Dreyfus is a comedienne, whereas Kathy Griffin, despite her occasional film/TV appearances is a stand-up comic.)

Wonderful puzzle and thanks for dropping by and giving credit where credit was due...I sometimes forget how much Will/crew does ;)

Odd bleed over...the lead singer in the band O NEGATIVE just died.

rebook thru San Fran!!!!!!!!!
You could hang out till the LA tournament! Road trip!!!

mac 7:43 PM  

@Foodie: I guess I should feel lucky to be stranded at home! Unfortunately, my sister from Oregon has now cancelled her trip, so the 4 de Gier sisters are not reuning....

@chefwen: sometimes I read a particularly clever clue to my husband. His response: that's just cruel!

@Ben: thank you! Love tidbits like that.

@Andrea: I didn't get the animal pelt until I had Astor - then it was immediate.
Even funnier: how about the answer: an N? ANN?
Like Kathy Griffith, love Julia L.D.

Two Ponies 8:39 PM  

I'm considering the LA tourney.
PuzzleMate is excited about plans of his own so it looks like it might happen.
Can I handle meeting Rex and Andrea in person?
Any other regulars coming?

archaeoprof 8:42 PM  

@Ben: and now Steve Bardo does commentary on college basketball for ESPN.

Archaeoprof (U of I, 1976)

mac 9:32 PM  

Christina Applegate is engaged to be married! Good news.


fergus 9:33 PM  

Going from BAR to PUB and back again and again made me one of the SOTS. Lots to like in this puzzle. REPUTEDLY and SATURNINE were two good new xword entries for me.

Tinbeni 9:40 PM  

"Letter WTF" got me again.
I'll never learn, damn.

Last Friday was a GNARLIER offering but I can't bitch.

Any puzzle with a BAR and SOTS is OK by me.

WOD STRETTI was totally new. OCAT, huh?

Liked the mini theme ASTOR & ANIMAL PELT.

"the greatest adventure of them all"
Just wrote in HEDONISM II, there wasn't room for the Negril, Jamaica. But what do I know? Only been there 34 times.
Really wanted 'those twins' but I figured Eric doesn't know them. Cognizant reasoning told me he therefore couldn't clue them.

foodie 12:33 AM  

@Andrea, you're a genius! But we knew that... I think heading East would have been an interesting option. But puzzlehusband, also a genius, remembered Jordanian Airlines flies directly to NY, so I'm coming through Amman (an Airport I know well).

@mac, I too wanted hOMEwrecker and the fact that the OME matched made it hard to get rid of. I bet the cluing misdirection considered this...

And yes being stranded at home is nicer :) I have a friend/colleague from US currently stranded in Holland. Too bad about your sister though.

@archaeoprof thanks for thinking of us!

@Tinbeni, I need some of what I see in your Avatar, and it's before 8:00 am my time...

@Rex, sorry for the non-puzzle related chatter. You're a port in my storm.

andrea unpaid michaels 12:38 AM  

34 times???!!! Really? I went to Sandals there once as a chaperone with the All New Dating Game...over 20 years ago...been dying to go back since! ALL couples on their honeymoon and me and the boy whose date had stood him up!
Wouldn't that have been funny if the answer WAS THOSETWINS???!!!

was NEON a neon for you?

sanfranman59 2:00 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 6:44, 6:55, 0.97, 48%, Medium
Tue 6:40, 8:49, 0.76, 7%, Easy
Wed 12:50, 11:52, 1.08, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 19:25, 19:37, 0.99, 52%, Medium
Fri 24:52, 26:27, 0.94, 36%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:34, 3:40, 0.97, 48%, Medium
Tue 3:32, 4:30, 0.79, 11%, Easy
Wed 6:05, 5:49, 1.05, 70%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 8:49, 9:23, 0.94, 36%, Easy-Medium
Fri 12:06, 12:50, 0.94, 38%, Easy-Medium

Tinbeni 2:31 AM  

Well, it might actually be more than 34 times to Hedonism II.

A buddy of mine and I were talking about our up-coming trip and we went over the years ... and that was all I could definitively remember,

There have been more trips to Jamaica, but I'm ONLY counting the Hedo ones.

Now the "Twins" ... or should I say the "quads" ... they are two chapters in my bio. LOL

We went to Kindergarden through College together.

Waxy in Montreal 6:52 PM  

From Syndcity -
Great Friday puzzle. Saturday-like in complexity and enjoyment. Committed to PATERSMOOD for Pop's condition (11D) for way too long which delayed things...

Sudsy in Chicago 1:05 PM  

Started solving in the SE and got the "paid" part of 29-D first. I SOOO thought the other half would and should be "over" and couldn't wait to see if that was the case. As I already had "saturnine" in mind for 34-D, however, I knew the chances were slim . . . a missed opportunity for a bit of snark. Aside from that, I enjoyed it.

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