Khrushchev's impromptu gavel / WED 6-16-10 / Send tickler / Margaret Mead interviewee / Bovine in ads / Word on biblical wall

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Constructor: Joe Krozel

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Letter+Word Letter+Word phrases:

  • 20A: Sporty, powerful auto (V-EIGHT T-BIRD)
  • 26A: Racy, low-budget film (R-RATED B-MOVIE)
  • 47A: Undergarments that show a little chest (V-NECK T-SHIRTS)
  • 58A: Messages on an Apple device (iPHONE E-MAIL)

Word of the Day:
NOUSE (24A: "It's ___!" ("I give up!")) —
Nouse is a student newspaper and website at the University of York. It is a registered society of, and funded by the University of York Students' Union. Founded in 1964 by student Nigel Fountain, some twenty years before its rival York Vision. Nouse is printed three times a term and has an estimated readership of 10,000 with frequent website updates in between print runs.
• • •

Theme=approved, but ... I'm wondering how much of the lame (if not LAMEBRAIN33D: Knucklehead) fill could have been avoided if this puzzle had been 76 instead of 74 words.* This would have made the grid much easier to fill cleanly and interestingly. Are (wrong verb tense) DID NO HARM (17A: Followed the Hippocratic oath, in a way) and EXIT POLLS (63A: Some Election Day surveys) really worth it? The latter answer is just fine, but what's not just fine is ... where to begin? Let's take *only* the NW corner, which had me not liking this puzzle from the jump. Random Roman Numerals (or RRNs) are weak but acceptable at 3, grating at 4, and virtually unbearable at 5+ letters. That MCDVI is your 1-Down (Early 15th-century year)!? The first thing (or nearly so) that I encounter? Ugh. At the same time, I'm asked to recall a one-hit wonder who hasn't been heard from (on a major scale) since he won the cursed Best New Artist Grammy (MARC Cohn, 1991 Grammy winner for Best New Artist), and then (much worse), asked to accept that REDIG is, in fact, a word (3D: Make even deeper). If I make it "even deeper," I just *continue* digging. I don't fill the hole back in and then REDIG! Lordy. Then I hit the (again, wrong verb tense) DID NO HARM and thought "so it's like that, is it?" And it was. To be fair, the rest of the puzzle isn't nearly as bad as that patch of land, but I'm not sure that's a bar you want to measure anything by.


[this is not the original version of the song, btw]


Theme is cute, though. Pretty solid. I mean, all the answers feel forced except V-NECK T-SHIRTS, but maybe that's part of the theme's charm — you wouldn't say these phrases, but they describe real things, and they're playful-sounding. Some of the cluing was cool, e.g. 15A: Khrushchev's impromptu gavel (SHOE); 5D: Common car door fixtures, once (ASHTRAYS); 32D: Scissors, for "cut," on a PC (ICON). But what the hell is up with 8D: Send a tickler (REMIND). Well, it seems that it's simply my ignorance about what the hell "tickler" means. I inferred that it had something to do with "tickling" one's memory, but before that assumed a "tickler" must be a joke, and that the clue had something to do with forwarded emails that are supposed to be funny (but almost always aren't). "Tickler." Even after looking it up: "a file of memoranda or notices that remind of things to be done" I'm having trouble picturing it as an object in physical space (or even virtual space). How is it different from a simple to-do list or, I don't know, appointment book? The clue is using "tickler" in the sense of ANY aid to memory, it seems. The very word "tickler" feels quaint and cloying. I realize that this is a highly personal and idiosyncratic response and one I might not be having (as strongly) were the rest of the puzzle up to SNIFF (38A: Check for freshness, in a way).

ANOD, ACAR, ACAD, AORB

DID NO HARM, OH NO, NO USE

etc.

Bullets:
  • 19A: Either of two peaks in Greek myth (MT. IDA) — IDA is important crosswordese, even in with the MT affixed to the beginning. Other important Greek peak = OSSA (or MTOSSA), the namesake of which can be found on Tasman as well.
  • 61A: Youngest-ever French Open winner Michael ___ (CHANG) — a very memorable tournament run in 1989, during which he beat Ivan Lendl in an epic 5-setter (he came back from two sets down). Was this the match where he was cramping up and actually (sneak-) served underhand one time? Yes, it was.


  • 65A: Word on a biblical wall (MENE)Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin —the mysterious riddle written by a hand on the wall at Belshazzar's feast. (answers.com)
  • 50D: Margaret Mead interviewee (SAMOAN) — she wrote "Coming of Age in SAMOA" (1928). Apparently, 50+ years later, there were some questions raised about the validity / credibility of her findings. You can read about the controversy here.
  • 55D: Bovine in ads (ELSIE) — it's always ELSIE. Unless it's ELMER.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

*by which I mean 1. turn the "O" in DID NO HARM into a black square, 2. turn the "P" in EXIT POLLS into a black square, and 3. take *everything* but the theme answers out and rebuild. Actually, your E/NE and W/SW could remain largely unchanged, as the seriously sub-optimal parts of this puzzle are only in the vicinity of the squares in question.

85 comments:

Leslie 7:57 AM  

Man, do I agree about REDIG. It bugs, for exactly the reason Rex gave. If you're redigging, it's because the flippin' hole's been filled in and now has to be started from scratch again.

Easy puzzle, with my favorite answer being V-EIGHT TBIRD. Some blasts from the past put it right at my g-g-generation: Kruschev's shoe and the swooning over the Beatles. The MENE answer is another one that I'll always, always have to get from crosses. It does. not. stick.

My captcha word: hiessli (Heidi's younger, lesser-known sibling)

Greene 8:08 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greene 8:10 AM  

I mostly liked the puzzle and thought the theme was a good idea which led to some interesting letter combinations as I filled in the grid. I completely agree with Rex about the ugliness of the NW: a five digit Roman numeral crossing with MARC Cohn? Shudder.

I initially had an X-RATED B-MOVIE which kept me from sussing out the CONGER EEL for a minute or two. I guess I just like the idea of peppering the grid with Xs. Since I don't want my comment to be X-rated, I won't bother to go into what I thought a tickler was.

I think the main reason to like the puzzle, though, is the big fat shoutout to our own EdithB at 28 down. How's that for some puzzle love?

foodie 8:15 AM  

The puzzle felt uneven. The theme was cool, and there were some fun areas with fresh fill, such as DUMDUMS on one side and LAMEBRAIN on the other. There was a mix of old fashioned-- ASHTRAYS in car doors and SWOON to the Beatles-- and modern-- ICON, CHAT room, IPHONE. But there were these unfortunate patches Rex described. Rex, it was fun to watch you think analytically about how to fix them.

The passage about REDIG? LOL literally.

And a shoutout to Edith B!

PanamaRed 8:15 AM  

Yup - REDIG is awful. MCDVI is, too, but was easily gettable by the crosses.

I remember having a "tickler file" a long time ago - about the time of Kruschev's gavel. Haven't used the term since.

Loved Kruschev's gavel, and I did not DALLY with this one - thought it on the easy side.

dk 8:35 AM  

Agree REDIG is odd.

The rest of the puzzle was fine by me. Racked my LAMEBRAIN for an eel whose first name ended in x and wondered if it was a U (scoop) neck until I stifled myself.

R RATED story: About half a score or more ago my law partner friend calls me (then a practice leader for big 6 consulting firm) over to his house to show me a naked picture of Sheryl Crow he found on this new fangled internet thing. We had a SWOON, an oink and then returned to helping our mutual client with some leventy trillion dollar deal. Meatheads rule!

There coulda been a hat trick if 36a was clued bad ladies man.

*** (3 Stars) Almost 2 as this one was very easy for a Wednesday in my piggish opinion (IMPO)

Anonymous 8:41 AM  

I think everyone is being kind in only mildly complaining about MCDVI - it crosses with a theme clue at the single letter portion. I assumed that they were trying for a specific model, and just turned my brain away from that section, so the V-8 never occurred to me.

At least ?ARC only really yields MARC.

John V 8:41 AM  

Nice puzzle, easy for Wed, IMHO. Agree that NW was gnarly. Initially had 26A as XRATEDBMOVIE, which puzzled me for 4D. But all's well now.

Rex Parker 8:48 AM  

Maybe this will play differently for speed- and non-speed-solvers. Speedy I talked to last night said it played more like a Thursday than a Wed, and it did for me as well. But many of you are finding it "easy." Odd.

gubdude 8:53 AM  

I found this one kind of hard for me to attack iniitally but after looking at it for a bit the pieces started to come together.

Which do you think is more egregious: The MCDVI today, or the AAAA yesterday?

nanpilla 8:55 AM  

Love Marc Cohn, so that was a gimme for me. Cute that Silver Thunderbird, one of his songs, is alluded to in the same corner, with IN GEAR right below. He is married to Elizabeth Vargas, of ABC news.

Other than my own particular knowledge of that singer songwriter, have to agree with Rex on some of the fill. I did like all of the theme answers, and FERRETED, LAMEBRAIN, and DUMDUMS.

SethG 8:57 AM  

How long have I been solving puzzles? Probably long enough that I shouldn't have stared at CONGEE/E-RATED B-MOVIE for so long before figuring out why it looked wrong. CONGEE...is not an eel.

The NW was horrid, and I'd include the V-EIGHT. If there exists someone who calls the engine a v-eight, that person calls the car a Thunderbird.

No problem with TICKLER, though. Can I add MTIDAS to my word list?

joho 9:04 AM  

Did you see the RRATEDMOVIE, shot circa MCDVI, starring Richard Burton as MARC Antony and Elizabeth Taylor as his beloved CLEO? for most of the film he'd SWOON over his object of desire as he strutted around in his body-hugging VNECKTSHIRTS worn with bulging tights. He was a true ROMEO, a lusting STUD. He sang SONGS to his love and flashed her OKSIGNS as he eyed her ONION rings. Once he even FERRETED out a COT, the most BASIC of beds, to further pursue his lascivious ENDS. But, CLEO said, "OHNO! That is of NOUSE." With a loud SNIFF she OPTed out of his LAMEBRAIN plan of seduction. She didn't DALLY for even TEN seconds to CHAT before exiting the scene, every inch the queen, an ICON to her minions, in a souped up VEIGHTTBIRD disguised as a Trojan horse.

hartless 9:18 AM  

I felt this was more difficult than the average Wednesday. I just couldn't get a rhythm going. Some snags...vets for ncos, egad for ohno. I wanted clerk for 2D and then thought, who's Cohn? Some rapper like Hammer? Did he change his name? Ugh.

CaseAceFos 9:18 AM  

ALLI can say is I have to give ANOD to J. Krozel, for this rather ingenious offering, plus the fact it was simply MARV and decidely on the MARC... in the SCHEMA of things!

mitchs 9:25 AM  

Great video, thanks! I really enjoyed this because I thought there was a lot of great, fresh cluing and fill. I would say medium/challenging for this non-speed solver. VEIGHTTBIRD, for me, immediately made up for the slog in the NW.

PS, I was inspired to Google Borg/McEnroe and found some good, though short, clips.

Shudda Ben 9:25 AM  

3D - Move a hole

Jo 9:36 AM  

O.K. but took a bit long for a Wednesday. NE and SW came last because of some problems with DOVES, MT IDA, CHANG etc. Didn't mind MCDVI but brain was not yet INGEAR so forgot to correct ECTO to ENDO. I hope UPHARSIN gets to be in a crossword one of these days.

Aaron 9:47 AM  

Yeah, I think from a speed-solving perspective, it was tougher than usual (especially for a Wednesday), because so many entries required crosses, tons of partials cluttered the grid, and traps "abounded."

OldCarFudd 9:51 AM  

C'mon, guys. The only part of MCDVI that had had to be sussed out was the VI, and that wasn't hard. 15th century means 14-hundred-something in Arabic numerals, which is MCD in Roman. The only early year two-digit Roman numerals are II, IV, VI, IX, and maybe XI. The only eight-cylinder engine configurations that ever saw serious production were straight-eights (which you could, I suppose, call I-eights, although I've never heard the term) and V-eights, and the straights were long obsolete before the T-Bird was even dreamed up. That corner was a big, fat, gimme!

OK, the V-eight wasn't quite a gimme if you don't speak car. But if you made it through grade school, the MCD was.

Oscar 10:03 AM  

So much to dislike, so little time.

ANOD & REDIG were particularly egregious, even worse than the made-up theme entries.

Usually this constructor has a jaw-dropping moment somewhere along the way that somewhat justifies the shoddy fill words, but we didn't even get that this time.

It's days like today that make me really miss Manny.

Re-Phil 10:06 AM  

How about APAR (On ___ with) crossing PHAT, instead?

Tobias 10:11 AM  

Ok, I am about to ask a dumb question in a room full of smart people. Why is the verb tense wrong on the "did no harm" answer/clue pairing? Good lord I feel like Kellie Pickler...

Bob Kerfuffle 10:21 AM  

Oh, darn, @OldCarFudd beat me to the punch on 1 D: any "15th-century year" has to be 60% a gimme, even without the specification of "early" (except, I was going to add for the ultra-purists, for the possibility of MD.)

How times have changed! We really must be a nation of soccer-watching, Prius-driving, non-automovistas when "V-eight" can sound strange! ;>))

retired_chemist 10:28 AM  

At least the D in MCD wasn't a gimme here. I started with MCCCC.

Agree it was medium-challenging. Couldn't figure out why, but @Aaron 'splained it. Until I caught on, the theme answers were less than obvious. Thus I had to slog through crosses more than I usually do. The crosses were mostly straightforward, though, which helped. What didn't help was the pair of golden retrievers who chose to nudge for attention instead of napping, as is normally their wont at puzzle time. Oh well, if I had to choose between a life with goldens and crossword puzzles, it would be sayonara to this blog.

Had X RATED B MOVIE, which made 4D CONGEX. My traps: BUY-OUT for OPT-OUT. DIED for 34A "Checked out." GENT for 41A "Ladies' man." Actually STUD seems oddly inappropriate for the clue. Ever hear an Emcee say, "Good evening, ladies and studs?" And more.....

Smiled at READ ME. If Lewis Carroll were writing today he would have Alice come upon a computer with a READ ME file open on the desktop.

Thanks, Mr. Krozel.

retired_chemist 10:30 AM  

@Tobias - the tense was correct in the AL puzzle.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

Not every lady is a Lady...

Bob Kerfuffle 10:35 AM  

I did a bit of research, hoping to give @Tobias a simple answer to his question, and found that First, do no harm does not come directly from the Hippocratic Oath. But wherever it comes from, the point here is that the well-known phrase is "Do no harm" rather than "Did no harm", and even though the clue and answer are of the same tense, they still grate on the ear. (At least, that is my understanding.)

retired_chemist 10:42 AM  

V-8 T-BIRD sounded to this geezer like a redundancy. I had to Google to convince myself that there were EVER six cylinder T-birds. But there were:

"Significantly, though failing to generate any new interest for the Thunderbird, a six-cylinder engine was made available for the first time in the Thunderbird's history in 1981, the 200 cu in (3.3 L) Thriftpower Six."

Thus, for the first 36 model years, there were only V-8 engines for the Thunderbird.

Cohnhead 10:44 AM  

Loved the puzzle, but mostly gotta spread some love for Marc Cohn. Rex is not incorrect to refer to him as a one-hit wonder, but I don't think Cohn deserves the connotation that term probably has for most people. He's a talented, hard-working musician who just got lucky with one particular song (and it's a great song). So, he's closer to the Richard Thompson end of the one-hit wonder scale ("I Feel So Good") than to the Vanilla Ice end. Plus the guy got shot in the head by a stray bullet a few years ago while in his tour bus, so there's that.

chefbea 10:47 AM  

I agree - hard for a wednesday. Gave up and came here.
Off to the farmer's market!!!

Zeke 10:50 AM  

They really must have been referring to the TBIRDS of the 50s, 60s and 70s, because the 00s TBIRDS could hardly be called "Sporty, Powerful Autos". They were Tauruses without the panache. This should have been made clear.

rolin mains 10:52 AM  

i was okay with the roman numeral clue, i mean, it can only be so many letters, right? and really, by deduction, it could only be I or V. not too bad.

i forgot that there used to be ashtrays in car doors. i used to put my candy wrappers in there.

i didn't like V-NECK and V-EIGHT being in the same puzzle. i get the theme and all, but are there no other letter-words? and if not, maybe ixnay one of the V-words.

and "tickler" files, IIRC, are for salespeople to remind them to call certain clients about certain things. you may be a flooring salesperson who called on a client and they were out, so you put them in the tickler file to remind you to call them back later. or you may keep a tickler file with new leads in it that you check into once a day. i've had just a brief encounter with tickler files in my day.

i guess i'm kind of a rube when it comes to judging puzzles (and wines!)...i like them all and there are some i like better than others. the ones that make me go "ugh!" are part of the big puzzle picture.

this one wasn't one of those, IMHO.

ArtLvr 10:54 AM  

Thumbs up, OK SIGNS and positive VOICE VOTE for ingenious Joe Krozel from me... I didn't know MARC Cohn and didn't quite remember Michael CHANG, but crosses made everything relatively fun and easy. The DUMDUMS and LAMEBRAIN just added icing on the cake!

Re SAMOAN and ACADemia, I knew a prof in the same dept. at Yale who never got over his jealousy at Mead's fame... His scholarly topic was less exotic: Anger!

∑;)

@joho -- your narrative really tickled me.

OldCarFudd 10:58 AM  

There was even a 4-cylinder T-Bird in the 80s. If I wanted a large, rusty boat anchor, I might give you 5 bucks for one.

shrub5 11:07 AM  

Surprised to say I rate this puzzle easy. Liked the theme phrases with two single letters once I finally parsed VEIGHTTBIRD. ?VEIGHT? Didn't know "Fake-book contents" = SONGS. I thought for a moment that the clue was a typo and should read Facebook.

@RP: Throwing a virtual SHOE at you for Word of the Day.

Two Ponies 11:21 AM  

Put me in the "easy" crowd but I never play against the clock.
@r_c, I had the same Lewis Carroll thought.
@Rex, Your WOTD cracked me up.
My only question is What is a fake-book and why does it have songs?

Zeke 11:23 AM  

@Two Ponies - Any lounge piano player/singer has a fake-book. It contains the chord progressions for all the standards, so he can Fake it.

Greene 11:45 AM  

@Two Ponies: Zeke is correct. Fake-books are a God send if you have to play a broad range of songs and don't have a lot of room for music. Each lead sheet in a fake-book contains notations for the tune without any accompaniment, just chord symbols to note the harmonic progressions. The musician usually improvises the accompaniment around the written melody (i.e. fakes it). The advantage here is compression: a song that might normally comprise 3 or 4 pages of sheet music can be reduced to about half a page in a fake-book. Having played a fair amount of cocktail piano in college, I can attest that it's a great space saver and keeps one from having stacks of music books all over the keyboard.

syndy 12:02 PM  

really liked the puzzle except for the afore mentioned roman numeral-and decided thar what i did not likewas the randomness of it-so i googled it! okay how about Year Dick Whittington became major of London?no? Year James ii became king of Scotland at age 12? wouldn't help solve but we'd learn something! Idug a hole to plant a rose bush no use too small redig it! BUT i did no Harm!

Two Ponies 12:04 PM  

@ Zeke and Greene, Thanks. That was a new one to me. Not in my lingo I guess but it sounds like a great help for working musicians.
That is my WOTD.

Dough 12:11 PM  

Fun little puzzle. I liked EXIT POLLS, but agree that DID NO HARM is not so good. Cute theme, some nice fresh clues, as noted. Here are better clues for REDIG, but that have all been used already.

* Make a new hole
* Fix, as a trench
* Make a new excavation
* Do further archeological work
* Use the spade again
* Make even deeper
* Excavate again
* Make another hole
* Lousy word that will never be clued well

Anonymous 12:11 PM  

I agree with you completely, except the comment on Marc Cohn. Interesting that he is picked as well as bullets because after his one-hit wonder, he was shot in the head in a car-jacking after a concert, but survived and is not retouring. Turns out, he's a great live performer, no pun intended.

Ultra purist 12:16 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle

MD (1500) is the last year of the 15th century to us purists ;)

P>G>

Bob Kerfuffle 12:51 PM  

@Dough - for REDIG, how about something like "Communist Police Official"? (as in Inspector General).

@Ultra purist - Well, yes, that is what I meant!

lit.doc 12:56 PM  

This puzzle put up more resistance than did the Celtics last night (meaning no offense to @shrub5 or others, just glad to get a seven-game series). Half an hour to finish on Wednesday! And in the fairly brief time I’ve been puzzling, I’ve make it all the way from being oblivious to the presence of a theme half the time to apparently needing to up my med’s.

I’d just gotten home from watching game 6 of the NBA playoffs, so I wasn’t in the best condition for solving, ok? But I was still totally in WTF mode re the theme when I got here. I’d seen the pairs of “naked” letters: 20A V and T, 26A R and V, 47A V and T (again), and 58A I and E. No problem. But what did it mean?? What was I missing?? Brain seized up on certainty that there was something extremely clever that I just could not decode.

I really, really hate when this happens, because the postmortem obviousness of the answer (or lack thereof, as here) always seems to be in direct proportion to the magnitude of my befuddlement.

your average blank 12:59 PM  

i agree the speed vs non speed has an effect on the rating...being slow and not too bright I found today quite easy as were monday and tuesday. Also some puzzles fit older people better.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

I still don’t see what the problem is with the clue for 14A.

Instead of the Hippocratic oath, let’s say the clue was “Obeyed the traffic sign”, and the eleven-letter answer was “DIDNOTENTER” – You had to infer from the crosses that the sign in question was “Do Not Enter”. Is this a case of wrong verb tense?

The sign can’t change its tense, but I can refer to obeying it in the past.

Chris.M

Shamik 1:30 PM  

@gubdude: I ring in on AAAA being more egregious. I've never seen AAAA batteries. But then I've never seen a black hole, either.

Liked the theme. Bored with some fill. Rex's write-up dead on for today. But I did have SMELL for SNIFF. No one says, "Here, SNIFF this." or "Hey, let me SNIFF that." And chances are if I'm checking for freshness of a food, I probably "took a whiff." IMHO.

6:29. Medium for a Wednesday for me.

Jeff 1:41 PM  

Spot on, Rex. I loved the originality of the theme, but the fill left a lot to be desired. As a solver I don't really notice 74 vs. 76 words, unless something like DIDNOHARM rears its ugly head.

Jeff

The Big E 2:05 PM  

I think I fall into the category of people for whom this puzzle did not seem particularly challenging. I got "did no harm" right off the bat and it flowed quickly from there.

@mitchs - there was a great moment years ago at a Charity Tennis Match (I think hosted by Agassi) in which Agassi was playing against John McEnroe, and when a ball Agassi hit went wide, he stormed up to the Judge and screamed at him (a la McEnroe) "How can you POSSIBLY call that OUT???" The imitation was so good that not even did the crowd AND McEnroe start laughing, but the Judge was hard-pressed to keep a straight face! Wish I could find that on YouTube...

Greg

mac 2:31 PM  

I usually like Joe Krosel's puzzles, and I liked this one.

I had no problem with the NW, in fact I like it. I wrote in MCD immediately after I got Cleo, the rest was easy, and I didn't even know Marc. I like 17A as well, clever.

Never heard the term "tickler" and thought it was something like a promo.

PuzzleNut 2:36 PM  

@Zeke @Greene - Thanks for teaching an old dog a new word. Would have never guessed the meaning, although that didn't stop me from entering SONGS.
Did this one diagramless and really didn't have much trouble for a Wednesday, which rates it on the easy side. My only write-over was oneup for UPONE. REDIG isn't very elegant, but easily solvable (another clue might be "What to do when the outhouse is full"). Loved the ASHTRAYS clue (seems like ages ago). I remember as a kid that our house had many ashtrays scattered about, even though no one in our family smoked. Times sure have changed.

Rube 2:41 PM  

Had trouble in the SW with waveoNS instead of OKSIGNS. Thought MCDxx was perfectly gettable. Didn't know Albert's last name until the crosses gave me his first name. The fake-song-book is my fact OTD. MENE is my WOTD.

Otherwise, except for the theme answers and being Thursdayish difficult, IMO, I found little about this puzzle to be of interest.

edmcan 2:53 PM  

I want to like this puzzle, but I found it a real slog and very contrived. Embarrassingly, I was blocked in the NE f.o.r.e.v.e.r.!

Anonymous 3:00 PM  

To add fat to the fire of 24A, if you were born in Scotland, but lived in central North Carolina and pronounced this, you might confuse the locals into believing you were referring to the river that that flows nearby and which is the longest river contained entirely withing the state, the Neuse (nae use). In the native Piedmont pronunciation, that certain portion of it near Raleigh and Durham called The Falls of the Neuse always has had, for me, the connotation of a "necktie party."
Maybe that's why I got hung up here.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuse_River
Party on, Garth.

mitchs 3:08 PM  

@The Big E - tried Agassi imitates McEnroe - no luck, but some good impressions by Roddick.

Howard B 3:42 PM  

Well, as far as speed, there's plenty of bumps in there - one of mine was my lack of auto engine knowledge, so I had to stop and think which Roman numeral fit in the final square. Overall, there's nothing ungettable or unsolvable, which makes the overall experience easier. Finding the theme also helped to uncover the remaining answers.
Not my favorite puzzle, overall, but pretty challenging for a mid-week offering.

As far as REDIG, it's an ugly word, agreed. But if it simply means "to dig again", just digging, stopping, then resuming digging would probably be enough to make it work. If you were to "redig a hole", however, then that action would imply both filling and redigging. Doesn't make it good fill, but just my 1.9 cents (unleaded). Of course, I may just be redigging myself another hole.

Mark 3:50 PM  

I used to work in retail banking. We had a tickler file with separator cards labeled from 1 to 31. If a loan was coming due, say, on the 1st of the month, we'd have some sort of coming-due notice in the file to remind us to have the borrower come in to renew the loan. Whatever we knew had to be done that specific day we'd put in the tickler. This was way before computers, but I'd bet many banks still use tickler files.

PurpleGuy 3:51 PM  

Leter+wordletter+word is a theme ? Really ?
When two of the letters are used again ?

Big effing woo !!!!!!!!!!!!!

I would REDIG and bury this poor concoction.
Easy to finish, but just a BIB MEH !!!!!!!!!

PurpleGuy 3:53 PM  

That should be just a BIG MEH !!!!!!!!!

abide 3:54 PM  

I liked this theme--but wasn't sure why there were two V-T combinations. The NW didn't bother me that much, but I don't think you need to black in those two extra squares for improving the fill. I spent a few minutes on Compiler and came up with this NW:


S W I M . A M B I
I O N A . S E A N
L O A N S H A R K
V E I G H T T B I
A R R E A R


The only iffy entry is SILVA but it's made two previous NYT Wednesdays.

sanfranman59 4:33 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

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

Wed 12:57, 11:50, 1.10, 78%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:51, 5:48, 1.18, 90%, Challenging

deerfencer 5:07 PM  

I started the puzzle this morning, did 60%, went off to work, wife finished it. Liked the theme in general. Disagree about the verb tense disagreement charge but agree REDIG is both silly and lame. In the fencing business we only redig a hole if the first one was misplaced/off-line or poorly sited (so usually a completely separate hole). All in all not a terrible Wednesday but not especially memorable either.

Citizen Dain 5:39 PM  

You forgot to mention the horribly obscure CONGER eel. What? That one meant nothing to me, and I had no idea who the singer was (I was born in 1987 and have never heard of this person). I had MAR_ and had to take a gamble. yONGER, kONGER, and cONGER all seemed equally nonsensical, so I took a roll of the dice on MARy Cohn. Wrong again. Three days in a row I got one square wrong. Arghhh

Anonymous 6:21 PM  

Am i the only one morbid enough to have written in "DIED" for "Checked out"- totally befuddled me on OHARE (was getting __ORD)

retired_chemist 6:31 PM  

@ Anon 6:21 re DIED -

no, you are not. See my 10:28 post.

retired_chemist 6:59 PM  

It's happy hour and I will have another glass of wine, encouraged by my CAPTCHA potables.

Anyone else?

Tobias 7:01 PM  

Bob Kerfuffle ; Thanks for taking a moment to explain. I have to say it was my favorite answer of the day.It just seemed so clever to switch tense like that. Did not occur to me that others would not like it.

CoolPapaD 7:10 PM  

I really loved it - by far my fastest Wednesday in ages, and a clever theme to boot!

Thanks, Joe!

Two Ponies 8:08 PM  

@r_c, Oh yes, we're in happy hour here too! Cheers!

retired_chemist 8:29 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
retired_chemist 8:32 PM  

Wonderful! However I claim a CAPTCHA that is untoppable with potables, given the time it arose.

And my Belgian friend Prof. DeSchryver thanks this blog for the shout-out in my current CAPTCHA frans.

Anonymous 8:37 PM  

Found this to be nice and easy with no writeovers, but I'm not a speed solver. Average 10-15 mins for Monday through Wednesdays, this took just over 10.

JenCT 8:42 PM  

Had V EIGHT TURBO for the longest time - just couldn't see TBIRD - anyone else?

Couldn't get I PHONE EMAIL either.

Definitely challenging for me today.

PuzzleGirl 9:00 PM  

I really enjoyed the theme, but only three of the theme answers (V-8 T-Bird is just yuck to me).

When I worked for a litigation attorney we had a tickler file. It just looked like a recipe box with index cards in it. Every morning, I'd sit down with him and we'd go through the day's ticklers to see what we needed to get done. Litigation attorneys have a lot of freaking deadlines.

"Walking in Memphis" is on my Favorite Songs of All Time list.

Stan 9:13 PM  

Really liked: the ASHTRAY in the V-8 T-BIRD, The LAMEBRAIN in the V-NECK T-SHIRT, and the two crossing Asian-American sports stars: OHNO and CHANG.

Sfingi 9:34 PM  

I thought REDIG meant to fill it up and do it again, exactly the same, but different; something we all do all the time, huh?
We REDIGgers.
Or, d'ya DIG? or REDIG?
Clued as: Hippy term for "understand once more."

Wanted Squeal for SWOON, but insufficient spaces. Which left me rifting on a piggy "S" theme: SOW, sty, snout, swill, swine, squeal. Sports clue: pig----. Double entendre clue: cork----- tail. Saturday word: stifle (a pig part).

In the theme: I didn't like VT, then RB, then VT again, but not RB again. What's that about?

@Anon621 and RetChem - I had "diED" for AYED; believe it's an improvement. Also, thunderBIRD for VEIGHTTBIRD.

Never heard of this MARC. Let's see. It's in that part of my brain where I memorize Grammy winners by year.

What's a DALLY without a DiLLY?

@Anon841 - Jean D'ARC. Grammy winner 1988, I think.

@PanamaRed and Mac - Updated definition -
A tickler file: Something to grind those annoying ridges off the condom.

VNECKTSHIRTS could be said to still hide too much male fur. The Italian Stallion ribbed sleeveless undershirt (they call it a muhtuh-shad) with or without classy tomato spots, is best.

Actually, there was some really good stuff. SAMOAN, SCHEMA, MENE, FERRETED.

My motto is, "One sees what one brings."

sanfranman59 10:09 PM  

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

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

Mon 7:09, 6:55, 1.03, 69%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 8:22, 8:49, 0.95, 44%, Medium
Wed 12:55, 11:50, 1.10, 78%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:40, 3:41, 0.99, 50%, Medium
Tue 4:33, 4:31, 1.01, 60%, Medium
Wed 6:37, 5:48, 1.14, 84%, Challenging

The difficulty ratings for this one surprises me. I actually had one of my better Wednesday solve times. I guess I was just in the zone with the constructor this time around ... a rare enough occasion that I shall savor ... probably until about the time I see my solve time for tomorrow's puzzle.

Two Ponies 11:05 PM  

@Sfingi, Welcome to Happy Hour (I think) and funny post.
@sanfranman, Thanks as always for the stats and personal comments. We know you're not just about the numbers!

lit.doc 11:06 PM  

@Sfingi, you've really outdone yourself. Your clue for REDIG is priceless. Same with your definition of tickler file. Just when I think I'm the only who goes that far south!

CoolPapaD 12:18 AM  

@Sfingi -funniest comment of the month. Tickled me!

andrea tries to do no harm michaels 5:30 AM  

loved the theme...
JoeK always has inventive themes but really rough borderline icky fill (ACAR over AORB)...but this one seemed easy and enjoyable.

Did no one discuss SEAM vs SEAt?

Hand up for questioning a second V phrase (I tried A line first thinking he wouldn't repeat a letter) but forgiven given the real-ness of the T-shirt phrase.

Learned Tickler and Fake song books today which is good!

Was reading an article about the brain in middle-age and it said crosswords were good but it only asked you to recall words you already knew...and one should task the brain a bit more...but here is a case in point that you aren't just calling up words you already know but learning new ones and stretching your brain to parse things or have to logically figure them out (like with the Roman numerals) so I'm really pleased with today's offering on a lot of levels.

Anonymous 7:12 AM  

Is Rex a day behind?

Also, I don't think Krushchev used a shoe (at the UN at least). I only remember seeing him pound his fists on the table.

Waxy in Montreal 6:00 PM  

@Anonymous 7:12 AM
But according to Google, "the Krushchev shoe-banging incident happened during the 902nd Plenary Meeting of the UN General Assembly held in New York on 12 October 1960 when the infuriated leader of the Soviet Union pounded his shoe on his delegate-desk". Memory can be so capricious...

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