It has ringers on its team / WED 9-1-10 / French CD holder / Irish county north of Limerick / Restraints for writer Flagg / Number after sieben

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Constructor: Michael Torch

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: ADD A PINCH OF SALT (61A: Cooking instruction hinting at this puzzle's theme?) — "NACL" is added to familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: CLARE (31D: Irish county north of Limerick) —

County Clare (Irish: Contae an Chláir) is one of the twenty-six counties of the Republic of Ireland and one of the thirty-two counties of Ireland, being located in the province of Munster. Located on the west coast of Ireland, Clare is northwest of the River Shannon covering a total area of 1,215 square miles (3,147 km²). The population of the county is 126,194 according to the 2006 census. Clare is the 8th largest of Ireland’s 32 counties in area and 19th largest in terms of population. (wikipedia)
• • •

Without the theme, this thing's D.O.A. Dull as a post. But the theme is clever, with some nice, long, weird answers, so it's not a total loss. Very slow getting started as I had No Idea what to do with that first theme answers. Needed virtually every cross to make any sense of it. In fact, I needed Every cross, as I recall thinking, briefly, "BARNACLE CRESTED?" Second theme answer was almost as weird, but for whatever reason, I could see the base phrase clearly (i.e. SCOTCH PINE), so I could see "NACL" had been added, and the theme was mine! Second half of the puzzle went Much faster as a result. Once again, we have a puzzle with a surfeit of short stuff, which makes for some rough, unpleasant, and overly familiar fill. Plus the longer stuff isn't doing anyone any favors. Both ONE NAME (43D: What Shakira or 25-Down [CHER] goes by) and SENT COD (4D: Not yet paid for, as a mailed package) are less than great. Didn't get SENT COD at all — every letter from crosses — and when I first saw it on reviewing the puzzle, I thought I had an error. Since when is mailing fish a gridworthy activity. Then I got it: not COD. C.O.D. Ah (so). I see.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Like a sunken treasure? (BARNACLE-CHESTED)
  • 28A: High place near Aberdeen? (SCOTCH PINNACLE)
  • 46A: Restraints for writer Flagg? (FANNIE MANACLES)
6-letter or shorter answer that gave me the most trouble: NUCLEI (8D: Centers). Why!?!? Well, many reasons. Vague clue, non-"S"-ending plural, etc. Also, I completely blanked on ERIN's name despite being a regular viewer of "The Office" (26A: Secretary on "The Office"). Wondered if JENA was spelled thusly, but then remembered that she hasn't been the secretary for a while. I was just having a conversation with someone about whether or not "Real Genius" was a movie one could reasonably ask puzzle solvers to know. With today's 6D: Kilmer of "Real Genius" (VAL) and with that wacky '70s chase movie no one had heard of a few Sundays back ("The Gumball Rally!?!"), I think that question has been answered. "Real Genius" is an important movie in my life. First, I loved it, and second it was filmed largely on my college's campus, and third, I'm not sure VAL Kilmer has ever been better. Highly recommended for light '80s college movie fun.

Did not have a great day on Tuesday— feeling both explicably and inexplicably blue— so I'm going to play a song that makes me exceedingly happy. Warning: the title, and chorus, *is* profanity. So just Don't Press Play if that sort of thing bothers you, OK? OK.

Coincidentally, a new live-action video for this song was released just today. Same song, same warning:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 12:12 AM  

Amber for Umber caused 15 minutes of pain. Barnacle chested is quite clever I think playing on barnacle encrusted....

Doug 12:13 AM  

Theme: Check. There was one. Enough said.

I'd put money on my guess that Will did not write the clues for this. Either that or the lack of gimmees encouraged him to go with very straightforward ones. After the 2A "Ringers on its team" clue, the cluing went to missionary position.

des 12:16 AM  

Although I knew right away that 4D had to end in COD it still took me a while to finish the NW corner. I just wasn't that happy with adding a second word to a phrase that in and of itself means "mailed but not yet paid for," i.e., COD.

Rex - maybe your Tuesday blues comes from your first week of school - or it could come from the truly weak puzzles from this week (is there a cause and effect here?) It feels like Will is on vacation.

PurpleGuy 12:39 AM  

Agree with Rex'z writeup.
This puzzle really didn't do much for me one way or the other. Rather easy, and finished quickly.

Hand raised for Will being on vacation.

redicing- add some blue, and you get my favorite cake topping.

Happy Wednesday, all !!

andrea carnacla michaels 12:51 AM  

ADDAPINCHOFSALT at a perfect 15 is exactly what some were complaining was lacking from Monday's TWOHANDS puzzle.
Here is a perfect phrase, in the language...
to add FOUR letters and totally crazy ones at that is amazing! Esp bec the first phrase played on as @anon 12:21 am said:
Barnacle encrusted AND Bare Chested and even (as I mistook originally) barrel-chested...

so even tho it was a 'wacky" phrase, it was amazingly smooth.

I mean it's one thing to add an I and get funny things, but an N + an A + a C and an L????!!!
And still have it make sense?!!! OHWOW.

Makes me double dribble with envy!
(Loved the clue for 1D)

So altho the fill was a bit blah-ish and clued very straightforwardly, I think the construction was wow-ish with two 15s and 2 14s.

Only two writeovers: NUgats for NUCLEI (nevermind that I'd spelled Nougats wrong!) and eat/USE.

Interesting (to me!) that ACHT/OCTO were side by side.

Hoping @Rex will be cheered by week's end.

If I were blue and writing the blog, I would have posted the Beatles' video that had the last clue 70A YEAH YEAH YEAH in it!

Tobias 12:57 AM  

I so wish I would have tried harder to figure out the theme but after struggling through that crappy puzzle I was in a rush to end my misery. Pinch of salt NACL is of course very very cool. But I stared at the completed puzzle for about 30 seconds and declared it bullshit and gave up, perhaps seconds away from the payoff.
Rex , between yesterday's TMBG and today's Cee Lo Green , your stock is up a solid 10% in my book.

BostonKen 1:39 AM  

Found the puzzle to be fairly easy in spite of the fact that I did not "get" the theme even after I solved the reveal. (Didn't spend much time trying to since I knew Rex would tell us.) "BARNACLE CHESTED" made NO SENSE to me at all (I thought "BARNACLE (en)CruSTED"??); it took a lot way from the goodness for me.

After seeing the theme, what are "Fannie Maes" - in plural? I thought Rex abhored gratuitous plurals and I had expected him to balk at that.

Steve J 1:46 AM  

I could not get the theme for this one, even with ADDAPINCHOFSALT staring me in the face. Never picked up any of the NACLs until reading Rex.

Neat idea, but for it to work, don't you have to use phrases/names that actually exist? If so, FANNIEMAES fails. The mortgage reseller is Fannie Mae. No S.

Maybe because I never picked up the saltiness of the theme, this took me a bit longer than an average Wednesday, and I never felt like I was in any sort of groove.

And regarding whether "Real Genius" is a movie puzzle solvers can be expected to know, I don't reckon today's clue really answers that. You could put any movie title in there. How many Kilmers in any movie, let alone three-lettered ones, are there? I'm pretty sure there's just the one (and IMDB seems to confirm).

chefwen 1:54 AM  

I'm sure we are in for a WHEE of a time Thursday through Saturday, somebody has to make up for the weak Monday - Wednesday. I mean really, barnacle chested??? Scotch Pinnacle, I get. Fannie Manacles???
Add a pinch of salt was the only long one that made any sense to me, am I missing something?

ArtLvr 2:06 AM  

Okay, I got it -- but thought it was rather silly...

BIBS for dribbles and drools, but why say double dribbles? Is that a sports term, meant to mislead? Then there's EAST crossing NCAA and OTS, huh. And MAGS, plus POR favor and Third of December, all TWIT-ish.

Also weird: "Like some textbooks" cluing ELHI. One would think either elementary or high school or college, but none suitable for just grades 1-12 inclusively.

Funniest was the 29D clue Bonk, which is slang across the pond for copulation... Salty indeed!


ArtLvr 2:30 AM  

@retired_chemist -- Thanks for the link yesterday to vestibular disorders, something I'll check out further!


Jeff 2:30 AM  

Hmm. Neat theme reveal, but I agree that the resulting wacky phrases are... wack?

Sorry to hear that you're feeling blue, Rex. If it's any consolation, your blog is a happy part of my morning ritual.

Rube 2:34 AM  

Agree with ArtLvr re BIBS and ELHI, both between stretches and wrong.

Had trouble in SW where wanted jAGS for MAGS and didn't know who Flagg was. Worked it out eventually. Only other overwrite was ISei for ISAO, had too many of the "other" generation Japanese in mind.

Would someone enlighten me as to how an ETUI is a CD holder? It's apple juice squeezing time at our household and I get a little tired this late.

chefwen 2:52 AM  

O.K. I reread Andrea Carnacla's post and NOW I get it. Isn't a weak puzzle anymore, I'm just a little weak in the head today.

@Rube - ETUI, french for small carrying case.

chefwen 3:03 AM  

I just went back to reread Rex's write up and now feel entirely stupid, in his theme answers all I saw was the NACL and not the wacky phrases. Color me red and I am now signing out for the day.

Rube 3:16 AM  

@chefwen, But where/how/why does a CD fit into an ETUI? Aren't these for pins & neddles, etc.?

Falconer 3:45 AM  

Very cool idea, so inventive. These kinds of puzzles make you realize again and again how marvelous our language is -- how flexible and vigorous.

If you go all semiotic and deconstruct some of these in terms of their inner signalling, you can see that "mannacled Fannie Maes" was appropriate given the sad state of the benighted federal mortgage lender. Also we get a "barrel-chested Barnacle [Bill]" -- an appropriate "old salt" for the top of this puzzle.

Loved the Charlie Brown reference. As a cultural icon, he really does not surface enough. If you totaled up all the cartoon references in NYT crosswords, I think "Peanuts" would be near the bottom of the list, with "The Simpsons" at the top. I have nothing against Apu, Moe, Homer and the gang, but it's nice to have a tip of the hat occasionally to the most lovable loser in our childhood hagiography.

kate and anna 6:39 AM  

NaCL always makes me think of this song, so I appreciated the theme

pauer 7:27 AM  

Adding 4 letters is no easy feat. Well done, Mike.

FWIW, there's a new free monthly puzzle at my website (java and pdf):

redhed 8:20 AM  

Hey, I was feeling blue, yesterday, too. I usually have no direct reason, so when folks ask me why, I just say, "bad brain chemistry." Anyways, didn't get the theme until I came here and RP 'splained it. Now I really appreciate it! Loved the song, too, quite catchy but not one I can sing a bit at work, although it would certainly fit at times. I'll just sing it in my head and walk around with weird little smiles all day.

Doug 8:24 AM  

I kind of disliked this puzzle. I didn't get the theme until I read the blog. I hate it when I get the main theme answer before the other ones and it still doesn't help me. And I once aced high school chemistry so that's no excuse.

joho 8:53 AM  

Like @andrea carnacle I thought ADDAPINCHOFSALT was a great phrase to set up the NACL theme.

Unlike @Rex, SENTCOD was one of my favorite answers.

I really didn't like CHOC ... again! I was thinking what's next, VAN for vanilla?

Thank you, Michael Torch, for the best puzzle yet this week!

Bottom Feeder 9:06 AM  

In the real estate biz, "What's available in Fannie Maes?" is a common phrase for the listing of its forclosures.

Wrong in so many ways, but not unheard of.

Anonymous 9:07 AM  

ERIN is the receptionist at Dunder Mifflin, not a secretary. (She replaced Pam, played by Jenna Fischer.)

chefbea 9:08 AM  

We know Tenbini will love this puzzle as well as I do!!!
Did not get the theme til I got here!! A great feat.

Notice that Chef crosses a pinch of salt!!! And B is the first letter of the puzzle.

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

Come on everyone, I got a D+ in high school chemistry, and even I know that salt = NaCl. The theme isn't that opaque.

I do have question though: why do people on this blog tend to solve from top to bottom? Do competitive puzzlers find it faster? (disclaimer: I buy an actual newspaper and solve for amusement, not speed, so tournament strategy is alien to me). But as the theme is usually revealed at the bottom that seems to me a logical place to begin. Today, for example, I started with bric/etch/yeahyeahyeah, and salt pops out of nowhere, and there's the theme. Or do the speedsters just race along to quickly to bother with the whys and wherefores of phrases like "barnacle chested" (which I very much liked, btw)?

Lindsay 9:11 AM  

Anonymous @9:09 was supposed to post as @Lindsay

jesser 9:16 AM  

This puzzle had a high crunch factor for me. I was clunking through it and never saw the theme until Rex explained it and Andrea highlighted its elegance. With the solid exception of CHOC, I think I like it after all is said and done.

Sorry to hear you're feeling blue, Rex. I find that playing with the dogs helps. When the Yorkie (Toby) licks my nose, dog breath and all, the world seems to brighten up a bit.

I have yet to see 'Real Genius,' but I'll be surprised if Val Kilmer's work in that film comes anywhere near his performance in 'Tombstone' as Doc Holliday. Captivating.

On second thought, I also object to ELEM and ELHI in the same puzzle *and* one cross-referencing the other.

My mind is flitting about like a flutterby. OH WOW.

That will be enough of my babbling.

Kaguas! (Pat Sajak's pet name for his testicles? I dunno...) -- jesser

dk 9:19 AM  

Ha! The young dk and his brother bk often referred to our sisters as BARNACLECHESTED. It was very effective when they were in their early teen years.

Those of you who are Flapjack fans know barnacles as a much favored curse word.

Some of the fill for this one felt strained to me (e.g., CHOC, ELHI) and the rest seemed easy for a Wednesday.

I want those Spanish bears to be oro o-so much.

My favorite bye bye song: Just about to go

** (2 Stars) Must be the humidity?

Zeke 9:24 AM  

Nope, sleeping on it didn't help. Neither the "wacky" phrases, nor the base phrases worked for me.

I decided to sleep on it because I was watching Football Tonight while solving, and somehow bare-chested took on a different meaning for me than otherwise it might have. I wanted to reconsider when the imagery in front of me wasn't that of 350+lb linemen. In the clear light of day, bare chested isn't nauseous, just kind of blah.

The Big E 9:27 AM  

For anyone who has yet to see "Real Genius," the theme of this puzzle is also somewhat apropos to the ending (maybe it is my inner child, but I still like this movie - I grew up with it).
And for those of you wondering, this is vintage 80s Val Kilmer -
not "Willow" Val Kilmer, though. Similar to the character in the underappreciated movie "Top Secret," Val's first movie ever, though.

But I digress... For any who have seen the movie Real Genius, you will understand why adding a pinch (or perhaps a plethora of pinches) of salt is so appropriate! :-p

@Rex - Thanks for adding the Real Genius poster to your blog for a bit of nostalgia for me! :-)

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

i did it but i still don't get it. fanniemanacles?

Van55 9:36 AM  

I agree withe Andrea about the theme. Not easy and very well executed. I didn't take too much issue with the fill. I thought ACHT and OCTO crossing CHOC was awkward.

I am so over the Third of December = SOFTC gambit. There must be a better way.

Best puzzle of the week so far.

The Big E 9:42 AM  

@anon 9:29 - all three of the big answers (per the instructions in the fourth big answer: "Add a pinch of salt," have the letters NACL added to them to turn them from every day words/phrases into kitchy answers:

bare chested becomes barNACLe chested/
scotch pine becomes scotch pinNACLe
Fannie Maes becomes Fannie MaNACLes

perhaps Fannie MaNACLes is a wee bit of a stretch, though, as you wouldn't really ever see Fannie Maes written unless it was in the possessive, would you? It is invariably the singular "Fannie Mae."

OldCarFudd 9:58 AM  

Until I saw dk's hilarious (even though horribly juvenile) use of barnacle chested, I had no idea what that might mean. Until Bottom Feeder chimed in, I thought there was no plural of Fannie Mae. So I initially thought the theme was ambitious, but badly executed. Now I realize it was very cleverly executed.

But there was still some pretty horrible stuff in here. Arc as an answer and arch in a clue in the same puzzle? Ugh! And I also can't visualize using an etui to hold either compact discs or certificates of deposit. Unless the something French with the initials CD that would reasonably go in an etui, I think this one is just plain wrong. And, like ArtLvr, I boggle at a textbook suitable for use throughout the elhi range.

I did like bibs and sent COD.

Anonymous 10:12 AM  

Got ADDAPINCHOFSALT before the actual theme answers, which then made them much easier. Loved the "Ringers on its team" clue.

nanpilla 10:14 AM  

@Lindsey - I find that if I am solving for speed I will look for a reveal first, in case the theme helps with the solve. But under ordinary circumstances, I'd rather see if I can figure out the theme before I get to the reveal. Particulary with early week puzzles, anything that can add a little extra challenge is fun.

Two Ponies 10:34 AM  

Perhaps this one could have used a little pepper with it's salt but I thought the theme answers must have been difficult to come up with. Getting the theme helped me along mostly with Scotch because Clare had me distracted and thinking about Ireland by mistake.
My nits echo some comments above esp. etui, choc, and soft c.
Too easy for a Wed. but I should be careful what I wish for.
Like jesser I loved Val in Tombstone.

John V 10:39 AM  

Very strange. Got the theme/61A right away, as I saw NA, but missed the CL until @rex rode in to sight, so 17A et. al. made no sense, at first. Had EAT for 9D for a bit, which caused some gas. Overall, save for 8D, nuclei, which I got, puzzle more pain than pleasure, maybe caused by too much late night tennis.

Zach 11:09 AM  

I am so happy the Cee-Lo song was posted! I can't believe we had to wait until late August for the song of the summer. Try to not listen to that song 15 times today.

retired_chemist 11:25 AM  

How can a chemist dislike such a theme? Very cute IMO.

Agree the fill is less stellar than one might hope. Had LEGO @ 3D ("confirmed" by I SEE @ 14A) until I got 32D. Is this what is meant by a a malapop?

archaeoprof 11:46 AM  

What @Andrea Carnacla and @ChefBea said.

I liked it even though it didn't have any country music in it!

PS: Reds now lead the Cardinals by 7 games.

Clark 12:01 PM  

I liked this puzzle a lot. Saw the theme about half-way through: What do these ___acle____ answers have to do with Salt? I might easily have missed it, and then I would have not liked it much.

@Steve J, et al -- Fannie Maes (with an ‘s’) are agency bonds. They are the securities issued by Fannie Mae. Very much in the lingo of the investment community.
(See, e.g., "What are Fannie Maes and Freddie Macs?" and "What is an Agency Bond?".)

Really? 12:13 PM  

archaeoprof, do you really judge a puzzle by how much country music appears in it?

ileen 12:26 PM  

"I completely blanked on ERIN's name despite being a regular viewer of "The Office""
Me too Rex. I went with DAWN immediately. Old school, baby! I went so far as to open IMDB because all I had was the I and it wasn't coming to me, but ERIN appeared in my head before I opened The Office page. That doesn't count as cheating, right?
This was definitely much longer than a usual Wed for me, about 20 min.

CaseAce 12:27 PM  

Here at the Mt. Sinai Crematorium, we make money the old fashion way...we URN it!

Twice Burned 12:29 PM  

@Clark - You want me to accept that citation as authorative when it contains the sentence:
"Yet many investors continue to purchase Ginnie Maes, Fannie Maes, and Freddie Macs, attracted by their respectable long-term performance and low risk of default." C'mon man!

Anonymous 12:49 PM  

Sent COD?? not in the US mail
Sent "postage due"

CaseAce 12:50 PM  

Who could ever forget the novel and subsequent 1940's movie "Forever Umber" that told the thrilling story of the founding of U.P.S.?

JenCT 12:59 PM  

@Rex: feeling a little blue myself, so the Cee-Lo song provided a welcome laugh!

No need for condescending comments, people - you know who you are.

Anonymous 1:07 PM  

this was weird. i seem to be headed for a record place--inside the top 20--but never saw the theme. i didn't even get it after i finished. i think i would have been slowed considerably if i'd kept trying to figure it out.

i have a daughter named clare. i also have a daughter named shannon. my wife and i didn't realize until many years after naming them that the shannon river is the border for much of county clare. on a trip to ireland a few years ago, we made sure to cross the shannon river on the way into county clare.

as it happens, i once got stage fright and, after qualifying for the regional spelling bee in grade school, managed to misspell 'limerick' in an early round. so the link between limerick and clare gave me the answer in a nanosecond but produced decidedly mixed feelings.

Masked and Anonymous 1:11 PM  

These darn little puzs sure are F-U-N. Always a hoot to see how fast I can suss out the theme idea and IX times outta X, finds myself marvelin', "How do these guys dream this stuff up?" Probably why solvin' the FriPuz and SatPuz usually feel more like stress-tests to me. No clever themes to tickle yer fancy.

Now enter 44. Here's a guy that really likes yer long, freaky lookin' words. Sure nothin' wrong with that, per se. Just don't get as many highs from yer typical puz thataway. Maybe on Fri-Sat, if you're lucky. High in his scorin' system. Low in mine. I get a buzz 4.44 days a week. 44 gets the blues a lot. I like U's. He likes HOGCALLs. Go figure.

Anyhow, @jesser's got it pretty much right. Ain't nothin' like a good dog. Most are pretty happy, even when the NYTpuz has no U's (or HOGCALLs) at all. Just give 'em somethin' to lick.

Caveat Emptor 1:19 PM  

Nice to see that at least a couple of people here recognize the elegance of this theme. The puzzle fill is solid, with not too much (of the inevitable) crosswordese. The clues have undoubtedly been polished by the editor and are appropriate for the day's difficulty.

One can only wonder what people who are new to this site must think. Coming here for an explanation of the theme is harmless. As for the critical commentary, let the buyer beware. This is a blogger you're hearing from and not a voice of authority.

There is an overarching disdain regularly expressed for early-in-the-week puzzles. Think of sour grapes as you read. If you are familiar with the reputation of the editor, then perhaps it would be useful to look at a puzzle with a view to understanding why he thought it was worthy of being accepted for the Times, as about 90% of puzzles submitted are not accepted. Or simply wonder to yourself if the blogger has an ax to grind with the editor.

Anonymous 1:20 PM  

Agree with others: theme interesting, fill blah. EDAM, AGA, ILIA, RAGU, EERIE, ETTA, SOFTC -- it feels like all of these have been used within the past few days. On the other hand, I am in awe of the complexity of puzzle construction in general, so I am trying not to feel shortchanged by today's fill deficiencies.

CoffeeLvr 1:24 PM  

I enjoyed the puzzle, and like Andrea, I am amazed Torch could find three phrases to stick NACL into. Perfect Wednesday, required thought and ability to see things from a skewed perspective (e.g. AVON), but I could solve it on my own with only three erasures.

Like seeing NERF, GIZMO, and LEGOS. Brings back memories of my son's childhood. We definitely had all three of these in the house at the same time!

@Rex, hope the explicable part of your blues is solvable, and the inexplicable shifts away like storms into sunshine.

@RetChem, my sympathies on your Bree's illness. I rushed to the vet yesterday after finding a hard new lump on my cat Tabby. Turns out it is just a vaccine reaction. Whew. That doesn't compare to your experience, but is similar in that it should go away.

@CaseAce, thanks for two LOL moments today.

Chip Hilton 1:28 PM  

I'm stunned at how quickly I 'got' this one. FANNIEMANACLES was a gimmee and the NACL just popped out, leading to a really speedy Wednesday fill. Whether they're receptionists or secretaries, all I can say is the geniuses at 'The Office' replaced the most desirable woman on television with one right in the same ballpark. ERIN, the character, really cracks me up.

Sparky 1:28 PM  

Finished, which is always a plus. Don't get MAGS. Tried to fit in hogs and jags but they didn't work. Don't like BARNACLECHESTED. Think BARNACLEdCHEST would make more sense. High ozone warning today. Limit breathing folks. Sorry you are blue, Rex. Good song, though I would say Fx@k Everybody some days. Try singing Good Day Sunshine. Have a nice afternoon.

Mel Ott 1:33 PM  

Nice theme, but badly executed.

I agree with @BostonKen et al. BARNACLE CHESTED makes no sense whatsoever. How is that like a sunken treasure? Sunken treasure might have a chest and it might have barnacles. But BARNACLE CHESTED?

And I don't like pluralizing Fannie Mae to make 46A work.

Cathyat40 1:37 PM  

ELHI? Really? That's a real thing?

OMG, I LOVE the Cee Lo Green videos.

calamp = diet pill

Tinbeni 1:48 PM  

I'm never a speed solver, so I always search out the theme reveal.

Hmmmm, a puzzle with Avatar.
Yup, my fave today was SCOTCH PINNACLE. Cheers!

Pretty much liked everything about this FUN Wednesday.

Rex, thanks for the touching Cee Lo Green ballad.
It almost brought me to tears.
Such sentiment should be in more songs.

Falconer 2:00 PM  

@melott et al -- the plural "Fannie Maes" is a completely common term in the investment community. ... refers not to the institution per se, but to the mortgage-backed securities that it sells to investors. ... collectively the securities issued by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae are referred to as "agencies" because the 3 mortgage issuers used to be considered quasi-agencies of the federal government, though now they are wards of the state ... agencies differ from Treasurys, or Treasury bonds, or T-bonds (for some reason, we never use the "ies" as plural for Treasurys) in that they are higher risk, so investors earn a higher yield (in the form of dividend payments) to compensate for the greater potential for default.

archaeoprof 2:01 PM  

@Really?: I like this one, even thought it didn't have any country music in it.

In my spare time I'm trying to construct a country music theme puzzle. Not making much progress.

But three phrases with NACL embedded?!? I'd say that's pretty good.

Sfingi 2:01 PM  

Had "eat" before USE.

@Sparky - MAG wheels - magnesium alloy wheels. Are they old now.

What's the connection between SASHA Cohen and SAcHA Baron Cohen?

That's OK; this puzzle was puzzling to me. Had no trouble finishing, but It wasn't until I read Rex that I had any idea. FANNIEMANACLE popped up and I thought, what a disgusting image. And what's with the last one? I suppose it's clever, but it all seems creepy, if not EERIE.

Mini theme: 8 (ACHT, OCTO)

At an Irish fair last summer, one booth was selling hats with the name of one's Irish county. The trouble is, my only Irish ancestor was from County Down, and I wondered what sort of questions I'd get with a hat that said, "Down" on it.

Cathyat40 2:02 PM  

From Wikipedia:
Magnesium alloy wheels, or "mag wheels", are sometimes used on racing cars, in place of heavier steel or aluminium wheels, for better performance.

Cathyat40 2:21 PM uses ELHI in a phrase:

"the elhi textbook market."

Reviewing the clue, it says "some textbooks," so, I guess "some" could mean a group consisting of elementary texts as well as high-school texts.

Masked and Anonymous 2:23 PM  

@Professor 2:00 PM: Re: country-themed puz.

Ain't nothin' to it, but to do it, prof. Just start with 4-5 theme answers with DOG, TRUCK, BEER, GUITAR and maybe DING-A-LING imbedded in 'em. Then have some cool thing that connects 'em all up, like "I GIVE MY EX THE HOUSE, BUT SHE CAN'T HAVE MY ___". Then add some symmetric black squares around, tryin' not to get over 38 or so. The rest is just like solvin' a puz with no clues, followed by, of course, thinkin' up clues that'll rile up old 44, so that the blog will be fun to read.

P.S. Thumbs up on today's puz!

PuzzleNut 3:04 PM  

I liked this one a lot. A number of places could be criticized, but overall it was clever with a very impressive theme.
Started with BARNoCLECruTED and aMBER, leaving me to wonder what the hell an aSu was. Fixed that and thought the theme might convert it to BARREL CHESTED. The SCOTCHPINNACLE gave me the theme and the rest fell pretty easily. Thought the reveal might be ADD A PINCH OF nacl, but the crosses quickly confirmed the much better answer.
I must have watched enough Office reruns to have seen them all a dozen times, but my brain froze when PAM wouldn't fit. With the N in place, I wanted ryaN for a while, but the E finally jogged my gray cells. Trivia question - who else took a turn as the receptionist?
No problem at all with FANNIE MAES, but BARNACLE CHESTED doesn't quite work. Given the difficulty of creating this puzzle, I'm happy to let that pass. I am familiar with ETUI, but that clue just isn't right.
Answer - when Pam left to join the Michael Scott Paper Company, Kevin was a pitifully incompetent receptionist for a short time before Kelly Erin Hannon was hired.

Two Ponies 3:22 PM  

I'm still puzzled by the clue for etui. Every reference I have found describes it as a woman's small purse or case for personal items. Why in the world was it clued as a CD case? My feeling is that the etui is an antique and popular long before the era of CDs.
The crosses made it easy enough but still ... ??

fikink 4:02 PM  

Not solving for speed, I traversed this grid much like Billy in Family Circus - went all over the place just to see if I could do it in one continuous line. It was fun.

Agree with @Andrea about the lovely misdirections to BARNACLECHESTED and with @Falconer about everything else, FWIW.

@Rex, despite your blue funk,
"Since when is mailing fish a gridworthy activity?" made me smile.

Doc John 4:03 PM  

I love that song!

The Big E 4:05 PM  

questions for all constructors:

1. Is it typical nowadays to use software to construct puzzles?

2. If so or if not, is there a good book/class/e-class/video/etc. to look at to learn more about constructing one's own puzzle?


sanfranman59 4:05 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 11:45, 11:44, 1.00, 57%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:14, 5:46, 1.08, 75%, Medium-Challenging

Evgeny 4:23 PM  

I don't get the problem everyone has with etui. The clue goes "French CD holder" and you keep looking for the English meanings of the word? In French, etui applies to many a smallish container, starting with the good ol' pen and pencil case up to a medicine package. So, the constructor picked the CD holder - maybe a bit arbitrarily, but certainly not falsely.

Tinbeni 4:24 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve J 4:34 PM  

@Clark: Thanks for the reminder on the bonds. Obviously, I had the agency on my mind.

Regarding ELHI: Somewhere in the fuzzy recesses of my memory is recollection that the textbook market is generally split between college and K-12 markets (which would be ELHI). So I would think that the term doesn't designate textbooks designed for the full K-12 range, but to separate it from the college market. Definitely jargony, but by Wednesday I think jargon is fair. Especially when it was gettable with the crosses.

All of which is not to say I didn't stare at it thinking I had to have done something wrong.

Tinbeni 4:52 PM  

Somehow, I just can't get that tune out of my head. Boy is that catchy!
I hope it is acceptable to listen to Cee Lo Green more than 15 times.

"Hey Dick, the kids like to dance to it. I'd rate it a 95!"

Seems to be the perfect anthem for this blog

joho 5:10 PM  

I loved the upbeat Cee Lo song and many of the comments here today are just plain funny ... @Rex, I think your followers are trying to cheer you up. I hope it's working. I know I feel happier having visited here today.

@archaeoprof ... go Reds!

Rube 6:21 PM  

It looks like @Evgeny has solved the ETUI mystery. According to on-line French-English dictionaries, an ETUI can be a: glasses case, revolver holster, violin case, umbrella cover, case for binoculars, etc. Did try to look up the French for "jewel case" and got "ecrin". Any of you French speakers know if this is a good translation, (Google translator does).

Shamik 6:32 PM  

Puzzle: meh and medium-challenging for me

Write-up: good

Song at end: not pc. Not suitable for singing out while strolling down the street. But doesn't it strike you as a great 60's soul song with new milennium freedom of unacceptable language? Very catchy.

Dogs may help, but missing my cat today. Got the end of the season good-bye blues.

dk 6:36 PM  

@oldcarfudd- horribly juvenile... I resemble that remark.

Rex, both versions of that song: Priceless.

CoffeeLvr 7:59 PM  

@BigE - just do a Google search, and follow the links within the best sites shown, then an Amazon search for books. I am far from being a constructor, but I do dream about it.

lasiona=sounds like dinner after the secret affair (OK, that's redundant.)

pauer 8:27 PM  

Best book on construction (by far) is Patrick Berry's "Crossword Challenges for Dummies" and here is a link.

And, yes, I have updated my profile and picture (those are the jack-o-lanterns my sweetie and I carved with my family in OK last year).

sanfranman59 10:03 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 7:08, 6:58, 1.02, 63%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 7:09, 8:52, 0.81, 3%, Easy
Wed 11:51, 11:44, 1.01, 61%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:54, 3:43, 1.05, 82%, Challenging
Tue 3:49, 4:34, 0.84, 6%, Easy
Wed 5:59, 5:46, 1.04, 69%, Medium-Challenging

Stan 12:50 AM  

[Nothing original here--just keep meoving]

Jeez did I love the Cee-Lo clips!!! Every bit as good as Gnarls Barkley.

I second (or third or forth) Andrea on this theme: Wow! Adding or deleting a letter is one thing; adding NACL is almost impossibly difficult. And still it worked as a not-killer Wednesday puzzle.


Stan 12:52 AM  

oops I meant 'moving'.

Anonymous 3:33 PM  

So you went to Oxy? When did you graduate? I graduated in 82.

Sue 1:30 PM  

Regarding etui for a CD carrying case, it is legitimate. Take a look at (not .com) and look up "etui CD" and you'll find several pictures. It is le mot juste!

Concerning SENTCOD, I think sending COD means that upon delivery the postage and the article in the package will be paid for. Wasn't this a system used by Sears and other catalog companies? If you send something "postage due" only the postage is paid at delivery.

I am embarrassed to say the I do not understand "Third of December" = SOFTC. Can someone help me?

Sorry this is so late, but I don't always finish a puzzle the day it comes out!

The Big E 1:34 PM  

@Sue - the third of December means that the third letter in December ("c") is a "Soft C" (as opposed to a hard c, with respect to pronunciation.


Sue 1:37 PM  

I had just about finished a comment to say that I had finally understood "Third of December" when yours came up! Thank you.

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

Okay, I didn't get NaCl right off, but agree with above poster that Kate and Anna McGarrigle's NaCl is SO appropriate. Here's my link (song starts about 39 seconds into clip):

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