Ramsey 1970s western / TUE 12-14-10 / English king crowned 1100 / Rapper's entourage / Dairy case bar / Swabbie's handful

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Constructor: Mark Feldman

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: EXERCISE ROOM (51A: Where one might 20-, 26- and 45-Across?) — phrases begin with what sounds like a kind of exercise (?) and end with a part of a room (??) ... with the possible exception of CLIMB THE WALLS, none of the theme answers can possibly be understood as an actual "EXERCISE," so ... I don't know, *you* decide what it all means.


Word of the Day: AURIST (22A: Ear doctor) —

n. ("rĭst)[L. auris ear.]
One skilled in treating and curing disorders of the ear. (answers.com)
• • •


This will be short, mostly because I have very little nice to say about this one. I don't think I see how the theme ... works. Since you don't literally do any of the theme answers in an EXERCISE ROOM, I guess that simply the fact that they *sound* like EXERCISEs and involve room parts (figuratively) somehow makes it all work out. You know what else fits in EXERCISE ROOM's space? INSANE ASYLUM. Theme feels extremely convoluted and not the least bit cute to me. Throw in AURIST (yuck) and "HEC" (on a Tuesday?) (49A: "___ Ramsey" (1970s western)) and you've got a puzzle I have a hard time liking. Very easy overall, though AURIST held me up something awful. I think I tried AUTIST and AUDIST before hitting on AURIST. The [Catchall category] is usually OTHER, not OTHERS, so that was weird. Don't usually see STEROID in the singular in sports contexts (41D: Olympian's no-no), so that was interesting. Liked the contrasting intersecting answers ICES IN (46D: Strands during the winter, perhaps) and SUN STROKE. The double set of triple-7 Downs (in the north and south) is an interesting architectural feature—very unusual, as those wide-open banks are usually relegated to the corners. Otherwise, there's not much else to like here.



Theme answers:
  • 20A: Make a legislative speech, e.g. (HOLD THE FLOOR)
  • 26A: Go ballistic (HIT THE CEILING)
  • 45A: Be stir-crazy (CLIMB THE WALLS)
Bullets:
  • 40A: Rapper's entourage (POSSE) — Before there was "Baby Got Back," there was...


  • 2D: Dairy case bar (OLEO) — does OLEO still come in "bars?" I see tubs, but the bars I see are butter. Maybe I'm not looking closely enough.
  • 30D: Swabbie's handful (MOP) — "Swabbie." There's a word you don't see that often.
  • 52D: More, in adspeak (XTRA) — Also a site dedicated to "Canada's gay and lesbian news," it turns out.
  • 53D: "Letting Go" novelist Philip (ROTH) — Never heard of this title, but no matter: [Novelist Philip] alone would've got me ROTH.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

70 comments:

Anonymous 12:02 AM  

I‘m trying to figure out why I liked this puzzle as much as I did not like Monday’s. Maybe it was because I figured out the theme first and then used that to finish the theme answers? Maybe it was because I liked PEW where I used to sit with my Bible and toy gun? Maybe because I now shoot with a Canon and not a NIKON? Maybe it was because I used to play CHESS? Maybe it was because I used to get SUNSTROKE playing tennis in the summer heat in Bethesda, Maryland? Maybe it was because I liked AURIST as a new word? Maybe because I remembered Norma Jean in Some Like It Hot? Maybe because I like A TEAT. No, I think it’s because I didn’t want ACME on my case two days in a row....

John whom the puzzle ATE AT because I INHALE a STEROID for my asthma

Anonymous 12:16 AM  

Hate to hog but, Rex, I love that cover with Richard Boone whom I remember in Have Gun Will Travel as Paladin (from San Francisco, Acme) aand have the Paladin theme song as a ringtone....

John, I really need to get a life....

SethG 12:20 AM  

Oleo still comes in bars. Sticks.

Maybe @Aurist will have a crossword tweet this week when he realizes he's in the puzzle. He's a ghostwave pioneer, tea, shota with a snail-shell backpack, illuminatus, glitterpunk, tea, tea, ghostmodern internet gen y[z] shithead, also tea. In the puzzle, TEE in a gym isn't a nice extra, it just muddles.

D_Blackwell 12:29 AM  

Another rocket sled ride. Just 17 seconds off my best Tuesday, which is like 2 seconds for everybody else.

I do not like HIGH TECH spelled as HITECH. Just so you know.

I feel like deductions should be made for crosswords with 22 three-letter entries. That's like, a lot. What are the M - T - W averages for threes? Somebody knows.

I'm really hatin' on Roman numeral cheats for fill.

HEC Ramsey. OMG. IMDb shows a pilot and ten total episodes in the early 70s. But it was probably a gimme for somebody. I don't know how many americans would know the HEC business schools, but I would have much preferred that reference.

Still, it was a nice puzzle. I'm not saying it isn't good. Oh, and there's a theme too. Cool beans. No doors or windows in this room; but a PEW to sit on.

I thought the theme was okay, like it fine. Over-reliance on the revealer was a big mistake today though. It suckity-suck-sucked. Just clue it straight and most everybody will get the theme, no reference needed: FLOOR, CEILING, WALLS, ROOM. I don't mind that ROOM seems a titch off. As the last entry it works to tie the first three together. SHOWS THE DOOR would have been excellent in its place I think. (TAKE THE FLOOR would have been good [better?] also.)

Agree that clues for OTHERS and STERIOD sucked; as if they got little thought.
.....................................................

I have gotten in the habit of being aware of the quantity/density of proper names. Like corn-derived ingredients in processed foods, they are omnipresent in crosswords. They taste good, but should we be chowing down so many?

foodie 12:49 AM  

Someone exercises very actively! Good for them! Me, I exercise the little gray cells, mostly.

I went through the top like a hot knife through a stick of OLEO. Same for SE Corner. But there was a stretch there in the SHACKLE neighborhood that slowed me down, relatively speaking.

Felt generally solid, WELL SET, but it did not make my heart sing.

chefwen 12:54 AM  

Had a slow start out of the gate with this one, when I HIT the quarter mile marker things began to MESH, at the far turn I cranked it up and finished in fine form. Good Tuesday puzzle, no complaints.

Anonymous 1:02 AM  

OK, I am 3 and out, but, as much as I hate to say it, I think Rex missed the theme. It is not EXERCISE ROOM as in a gym. It is a combinatuion of being exercised (riled up) with various parts of a room. The theme is one humoungus pun and I now I realize why I liked this puzzle....

John the Baptist.

retired_chemist 1:17 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
retired_chemist 1:18 AM  

Spent 2 full minutes chasing down a typo, most of which was spent debating the validity of AURIST. do they ever caption their HS yearbook photos as "A Portrait of the AURIST as a Young Man?" The typo BTW was elsewhere.

Meh.

Anonymous 1:34 AM  

The theme could be about all the exercising that is needed to do things to the room. What a great puzzle. How could anyone not like this puzzle? The more I am exercised over it the more I like it. It reminds me of Peter Gabriel's Kiss That Frog....

andrea all ears michaels 2:40 AM  

D_Blackwell
I think you totally nailed it...
Change that last one to SHOWSTHEDOOR, fits exactly!!!!

(Too bad GETAROOM! is too short!
Or how about WORKSTHEROOM?)

Yes, was loving this puzzle (except RET DET) till the "reveal"...and then spent too much time trying to tie it together...
but I still liked it.

Even tho HITECH was a bit freaky, I loved the HIT/HIT crossed each other but were pronounced ENTIRELY differently!

Started with a HUGE booboo.
1A "End of fable" I put in AFTER
(as in "Happily Ever AFTER") which gave me TSOS for 3D...only to have it malapop at 33D!
Plus is everafter one word? Like hereafter?

I must have something for EARs. Thought it was yesterday's theme...and today for 22A
"Ear doctor" had - - RIST and actually considered EARIST.
At least I didn't think 43D was EARIEST!

Falconer 4:22 AM  

Liked the puzzle as it just felt sort of dizzying w/ those bizarre vertical sevens.

The only thing that didn't work for me is the geometry: FLOOR above CEILING seemed a bit sloppy.

I had the feeling that some constructors would have thrown this version OUT THE WINDOW until the symmetry of the room in puzzle-space was correct.

pauer 6:40 AM  

Of course XTRA is a site for gay and lesbian news: TRA is a gay syllable. Or so I've heard.

smk4 7:20 AM  

I'll admit it, I'm the person for whom Hec Ramsey was a gimme. Ever since it was used as a riff on an episode of MST3K, it's been my curse word of choice. "What the Hec Ramsey is going on here?"

And while I agree that this was an unchallenging puzzle, I liked the solve. Maybe just because I got an early start to the day, so I wasn't interrupted during it, but still.

Anonymous 7:43 AM  

John, how is HOLD THE FLOOR riled up???

dk 7:51 AM  

Shudda been: RUBBERROOM.

** (2 Asterisks)

Not quite PEW, but I ain't working on an ODE.

As an homage to The Owl and the Pussycat once painted a tender (nutshell pram) PEA green.

dk

joho 7:53 AM  

@pauer ... very funny.

@andrea all ears ... and "To ear is human."

I knew NAN and WES but HEC and KAL not so much.

AURAst is an interesting word.

WELLSET seemed archaic to me.

Loved seeing LESTAT appear. He may be one of the EERIEST literary characters who will never suffer SUNSTROKE.

mmorgan 8:20 AM  

Exact opposite of @Anon 12:02 AM -- yesterday was swell, today was meh. Yes, it was very easy and fast, but I couldn't put my finger on what I didn't like about it until @Rex told me what was wrong with it.

The "WELLSET AURIST was in the EERIEST EDIFICE" sounds kinda cool.

Don't like ROLL and ENROLL together.

efrex 8:52 AM  

Between the postponed Giants game last night and this morning's Monday-easy puzzle, I feel like I'm a day behind in the week.

I'm not particularly incensed about the theme: you look like you're HOLD(ing) THE FLOOR when you use push-up handles, and you might HIT THE CEILING if you do overhead lifts... no, it's not great, but I find it plausible.

I found the tired fill well-distributed, which minimized annoyance.

Ulrich 8:54 AM  

@St. John: What anonymous said at 7:43.

What @dk or @d_blackwell said. IOW the revealer could be improved upon.

On the upside: The first thing I noticed were all those cheater squares forming a room and then was pleasantly surprised that the theme indeed involved a room, however strenuously. It almost looks as if those squares were not a constructor's convenience, but there by design--or so this designer hopes...

More HUH than AHA 9:26 AM  

Finished in a good time, knew all the words, but much like @SethG's 12:20a post, did not understand [appreciate?] the author's intent.

P>G>

chefbea 9:40 AM  

easy puzzle though never heard of Lestat or Hec but got them from crosses.

Got to get ready for our trip North. Maybe it will be warmer in Ct. than NC. Its sooo cold and windy here.

quilter1 9:43 AM  

HEC no problem, AURIST no problem, PEW no problem. Finished fast and easy.
@Andrea Carla Michaels, I finalized my quilt themed word search. Thanks again for that idea.

Anonymous 9:45 AM  

One could tie in this puzzle with Jane Brody's personal health column today regarding safety while working out. There are other sections in the paper worth checking out.

David L 9:47 AM  

Is it WELLSET or WELL SET? It doesn't sound like a real word or phrase to me (therefore it's inadmissible...)

And does anyone use the word OLEO outside of xwords? Or OLIO, for that matter.

I was liking this puzzle OK until about half way through, then it made me grumpy. Or maybe I'm just grumpy in general this morning.

Look Up Guy 9:57 AM  

@David L

Definitions of WELL SET on the Web:

•well-knit: strongly and firmly constructed; "a well-knit argument"; "a well-knit theatrical production"; "well-knit athletes"; "a sailor short but well-set"- Alexander Hamilton
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

Martin 10:04 AM  

Didn't Hamilton say "a sailor short but well-set, tra"?

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

So, I admit, LESTAT was a gimme for me (I may have made some bad decisions in my early teens, and fortunately Twilight hadn't been invented yet) but ... really? It seemed to come waaaaaaaaay outta left field for the NYTimes ...

Van55 10:27 AM  

It may be that the temp is only about 20 degrees here in VA, but this puzzle left me cold.

@D_Blackwell. You're a little late to the proper name party. :) Today there are 15 by my count. That's a bit fewer than normal, I think.

Two Ponies 10:40 AM  

I read the revealer as a two part theme. Hold, hit, and climb are all sports related. The second parts are the room. I agree with @ Ulrich about the visual cues of the room in the grid. So, for a Tuesday, not too shabby.
Notes in the margin: aurist almost sounds mystical. Cool new word.
Sobber? Not so much.
Sun stroke is a woe alright. It can kill you.
Richard Boone was almost handsome in a rugged way as Paladin but as Hec, what happened to your nose?
@ pauer, Very funny.

D_Blackwell 11:02 AM  

Van55 - You invited me to the party. I thought it was just a 'drop in whenever' thing. I didn't intend to be late, but did bring a gift for the hostess:))

Mel Ott 11:10 AM  

Relating the activities in the theme answers to exercises is a bit of a "stretch". Sorry.

Not familiar with this usage of WELL SET. I wonder if it's a Britishism?

archaeoprof 11:24 AM  

Tuesday puzzles often disappoint.

Except the one by Michael Sharp, of course.

19 degrees this morning here in upstate SC.

syndy 11:26 AM  

Gold's gym: punching bag-weight room-maybe there is more to exercise than a tread mill?liked todays puzz much better than yesterdays.Don't know why I wanted Hubris for 41 down

Masked and Anonymous and Dense as Cement 12:00 PM  

Desperately read thru all the (mucho entertaining) comments, tryin' to figure out the puz theme. Still don't quite feel I'm completely gettin' it. But I don't hang around the gym much anymore; more of a SUNSTROKE guy. That, and I'm pretty easy to fool.

Thumbs up for the mysterious theme, maybe.

mac 12:37 PM  

Nice Tuesday puzzle that didn't budge as easily for me in the NW because I had put in Hold a hearing. I too wanted "after" for 1A.

@dk: the thought of a padded cell crossed my mind.

@pauer: LOL.

NATE 1:08 PM  

@ULRICH at 8:54
What are cheater squares?

Guy who knows where things are 1:29 PM  

@Nate - Cheater squares, among other things, are defined at Rex's FAQ link right up top.

NATE 1:45 PM  

GUY...at 1:29

I read the explanation of Cheater Squares several times and I still don't get it. I don't see the room that ULRICH at 8:54 was talking about.

mmorgan 1:56 PM  

I don't usually read it, but today's Wordplay on the NYT site has an interesting commentary on this puzzle by Liz Gorski.

Rex Parker 1:59 PM  

I would not call the black squares on either side of theme 2 and theme 3 "cheaters"—placement of black squares around Theme answers is very different from throwing a black in to make filling the grid easier elsewhere. Why? Theme answers are your base. You build grid around them. If you like look of those two answers centered, more power to you.

I also don't see a "ROOM" in the black squares of this grid. At all.

HERE are real cheater squares (after "JADA," before "IBERT," etc.)

rp

retired_chemist 2:03 PM  

@ Guy - see the following black squares today: below the H in 1D,
Below the Y in 13D, above the S in 57D, above the M in 56D. If they were white squares, the word count would be unchanged but a longer D word would be needed. If ther is more to it than that i hope Rex or another savant will clarify.

I read it that Ulrich, as an architect, sees the grid as a floor plan with the rectangular areas in the corners resembling rooms. I wouldn't answer for him except I think he usually isn't around mid-day.

captcha scent - again, is a common word acceptable as a captcha?

Guy... 2:05 PM  

@Nate - I don't know whether you don't get cheater squares, or don't get Ulrich's room (is that like Shroedinger's cat?), but here goes.

In this puzzle, the black squares to the left and right of HITTHECEILING are cheater squares (among others in this puzzle). If sHITTHECEILINGs were a word (phrase), and sMOP as sTSO were words, we would have a puzzle with the exact same word count, but with three longer words.

Ulrich's room? I'm guessing that he envisions the big blocks of black forming right angles at the left and right of the puzzle kind off mark off a room. Bit of a stretch to me, not so to him.

Anonymous 2:09 PM  

@r_c
definitely unacceptable. Report it to the captcha police.

Matthew G. 2:27 PM  

I'm increasingly a believer in omitting "reveals" and letting a theme speak for itself. This is an instance where the constructor might have been better off taking that approach. HOlD THE FLOOR, HIT THE CEILING and CLIMB THE WALLS work just fine as theme clues (although I would have found it more elegant if HIT THE CEILING were at the top, HOLD THE FLOOR were at the bottom, and CLIMB THE WALLS were in the middle). But EXERCISE ROOM is just a bizarre and unworkable reveal for the reasons Rex cites, and that makes the whole theme feel weak even though it could have been fine. So find another theme clue or just skip the reveal! Crossword solvers by definition have the ability to intuit patterns, no?

Otherwise, there was a decent amount to like here. "End of a fable" is a fun clue for MORAL. AURIST is hard, sure, but perfectly legitimate and a good word to have learned. Never read any Anne Rice, but LESTAT's name crops up everywhere in titles, so I knew it.

Like the idea of the black squares making a "room," but even if it was intended it doesn't do all that much for me.

ArtLvr 2:37 PM  

@ Ulrich, I saw a rectangular ROOM right away too, even if slightly atilt. Also, at the end, the three central horizontal black areas looked like a very abstract representation of a person nearly prone or supine depending on the exercise, push-up or leg-lift, so the oddity of the whole appealed to me.

As to the theme phrases, I took EXERCISE to mean any physical exertion in general, POWERED by STEROIDs or not, and the parts of a ROOM I saw as examples of "metonymy" (thanks for the recent reminder, Jim H.) Good fun, anyway...

@mmorgan, I hardly noticed ROLL and ENROLL in different areas of the puzzle, but I did smile at the combo of 26A and 26D both starting with HIT, and HITched together.

I'd say this was WELL SET! Thanks, Mark F.

∑;)

p.s. R.I.P. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who SHONE in diplomacy and will be sorely missed.

NATE 2:39 PM  

I started reading Rex's blog a few weeeks ago just to get the answers to puzzles I couldn't finish and soI wouldn't have to wait for thenext day's Times.
I became curious, so I looked at
the COMMENTS. I got hooked. But
after awhile the nitpicking got to
me. A good example is today's
battle over what Cheating Squares are and whether an exercise room
is visible.
At any rate, I am going to try
to detox. Try not to miss me.
P.S. I am looking forward to the demeaning remarks that will follow,
and then that's it(I hope)

Sfingi 2:43 PM  

Easy. Much easier than LA Times'

Though I didn't know the 3 guys:
HEC, KAL or WES, got them on crosses.
Had Peeps before POSSE.
Never heard of ICES IN despite living in Upstate NY. I'd say that actually happened to me twice in my life, but I didn't stay in. As my father-in-law said, when the radio claimed that the roads were impassible, "We'll take the Chevy."
That's our expression now, when we get feets of snow.

But - AURIST - whatever that is, and WELLSET, whatever that is were a Natick. I finally put the S in, thinking WTH.

@SethG - WTH RU talking? Do I have an Ice Headache?

@DBlackwell - I like corn. Heck, the Americas used to live on it. And, I really love Candy Corn made of corn syrup.
Looks like you're late to Vans I hate Roman Numerals party, too.
My club is the I hate SSN, other stupid abbrevs, and additions of RE and ER.

No problem with the theme. Thought the guy was going to pray in bEd, though, as he lay him down to sleep after all that exercise.

@Anon102 - who would know if you're 3 and out?

@Andrea - I almost put "after," but that's for fairy tales.
This overexercised fellow might find the trap door. Now I'm getting visions of Inglorious Basterds. Don't go down there!

@Pauer - Haha. you gotta do the puzzle regular to get that one.

@DK - are "tender" and "nutshell pram" Brit expressions?

@Ulrich - I didn't see those corners. Wow!

Single digits here. Has to be warmer for an icestorm in which the ice freezes when it hits the trees.

Rex Parker 2:45 PM  

By which I assume you mean "thank you for taking the time to answer my incessant questions in detail." And you're welcome.

rp

dk 2:59 PM  

sfingi, Nope I am not that cool.

A tender is the small boat that takes you out to your moored boat. Usually operates in a marina although one may carry a tender on ones boat. Often they are inflatable.

A nutshell pram is a very small sailboat that looks like a walnut shell.

pip, pip old duck... anchors away

sanfranman59 3:23 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)

Tue 7:59, 8:55, 0.90, 22%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:08, 4:35, 0.90, 19%, Easy

andrea lotech michaels 4:16 PM  

@matthewG
Very interesting comment!
I'd love to respond as a full time solver/part-time constructor...
If only we could title our daily puzzles, then they would have a nice extra dimension and a punchline of sorts and wouldn't need a revealer.
Sunday puzzles of course have titles and the NY Sun has them, but in the Times you have to either sneak them in or hope that more doesn't dilute or make it less, somehow, or completely collapse it, like a house of cards.

Now that four is the new three, we've been sort of pushed to have an extra 4th (or 5th or 6th!) word or phrase to "reveal" the theme when a nice title would have sufficed (or made it cleaner or whatever), so in some ways I'm totally with you.

The thing is, if it were just the three answers
HOLDTHEFLOOR 12
HITTHECEILING 13
CLIMBTHEWALLS 13
it wouldn't work bec HOLDTHEFLOOR is 12 letters, even number, so it needs a match, which is why I also assume it was less elegantly placed at the top, "above" the ceiling.
Usually it seems that Will would insist on CEILING, WALL, FLOOR order (or viceversa) to make it more elegant...
and the attempt to get a "matching" 12 (+ be a reveal when not right on) threw the whole thing off-kilter a bit, as @Rex perfectly explained...

That is why I thought maybe WORKSTHEROOM (12) might be a better fourth answer...but then you have the problem of it having an S on WORK, whereas HOLD, HIT, CLIMB do not, so it becomes imbalanced that way.
(Plus, of course, the whole bottom half fill would be totally different and maybe even impossible.

Sometimes, selfishly, I think it's good when something is slightly off and everyone expresses concern bec it means
a) they even noticed and took the puzzle seriously rather than the "Oh! Was there a theme?" and
b) can appreciate a little bit more just how hard it is to construct.

When it all comes together, then it feels like a minor miracle... and then if people love it on top of that, yay yay yay.

Now to read what La Liz said!

Ulrich 4:34 PM  

Just back from a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to do some Xmas shopping and find several comments addressing me one way or other. So, briefly:

@ret._chem. et all: Yes, that's what I meant. The fact that some people do not see what I see does not surprise me--it essentially defines the tragedy of my life. [sigh]

As to "cheater squares"--I did not invent the name. But since I knew the def., I used it b/c it's a hell of a lot shorter than saying "the squares along the edges that form corners with the squares extending from the edges toward the inside".

Glitch 5:01 PM  

@r_c

"Dictionary" words ARE allowed in captchas, the one you "received" is proof.

As was mentioned in a long exchange on captchas in Rex's 08/10/2010 blog:

"Like the proverbial infinite number of monkeys at typewriters, a "dictionary" word is bound to be created from time to time."

It doesn't diminish the effectiveness.

.../glitch

Van55 5:21 PM  

@sfingi -- I intentionally refused to comment on LXI today, lest I continue to be disdained as a one-trick pony.

D_Blackwell 6:44 PM  

"If only we could title our daily puzzles,. . ."

I get dizzy from shaking my head about this. I've never heard a good reason for no titles.

Having a title wouldn't mean that there wouldn't be a place for a neat revealer, or that they couldn't work together. My objection to revealers is the propensity for the NYT to go a bridge too far, as with today. It just makes the whole thing look stupid. I feel bad for the constructor on this. As with Ben Pall's crossword last week, I feel like my objections all point to the editor today. I like this puzzle. Rewriting one clue would have fixed it right up. (Though there were numerous superior entries there, IMO.)
..........................

". . .we've been sort of pushed to have an extra 4th (or 5th or 6th!). . ."

Some of the crosswords that are chockablock with theme squares are pretty neat, but 'a bridge too far' often applies here also; the theme more important than any other consideration.
..........................

". . .but then you have the problem of it having an S on WORK,. . ."

Not a problem for me. The demanding of absolute 'consistency' with the theme, at the expense of a nice crossword, loses me in the logic.

Symmetry of blocks and theme entries both seem to be Commandments of some sort and I wouldn't mind seeing them broken. Sometimes it seems that more is being lost than gained while following tradition without question.

Cupcake. 7:37 PM  

I had MADHOUSEROOM for the theme which, hilariously, made me CRAZY and ultimately caused me to abandon this puzzle for a few hours of my own EXERCISE (swimming) before returning to solve.

Sfingi 7:44 PM  

@DK - I'm landlocked. The sea might as well be a foreign country. By the way, did I ever tell you my theory about the Marianas Trench....

@Andrea - USA Today has titles.

Anonymous 8:06 PM  

Anon at 7:43 -- HOLD THE FLOOR might not be "riled up" in the same sense as the other two but if a speaker is riled up on subject he will hold the floor. I stand by my interpretation and the thought that the grid repsents some sort of slanted room is an even greater stretch than my interpretation. I don't buy that HOLD, HIT and CLIMB are forms of exercise and I haven't seen a better explanation.

I will miss Nate as I share his impatience with nitpicking....

John who does not get enough exercise

acme 8:09 PM  

@sfingi
Really? Every day?
Are they 15 x 15 or Sunday-sized?

La Liz had a very charming guest stint on the other blog, she should chime in here! She could do it every day! Plus she had a better
4th answer as well: RAISETHEROOF

The thing is, if half the people didn't get it and the other half think it's a "stretch" at best, then it didn't quite work... but wildly applaud the attempt.
(Or at least smatteringly! knowing how hard it all is...sigh)

Anonymous 8:58 PM  

Acme,

Nobody knows what the smile on the Mona Lisa means but that doesn't mean it doesn't work....

The Hillie

Rex Parker 9:18 PM  

To compare this puzzle to the Mona Lisa is to misunderstand puzzles and insult the Mona Lisa simultaneously. If there is not clear and immediate consensus about what the theme of a puzzle even is, then the puzzle is a failure thematically. There may be a great germ of an idea in this puzzle's theme, but its potential is not realized in this incarnation.

rp

NATE 9:30 PM  

I'm going to hate myself, but...
Rex: Would it be possible to get
Mark Feldman to explain what he
meant by the theme?

Kendall 10:12 PM  

I accidentally read 1A as "End of a table" instead of fable. That made MORAL not stick out at me until I had MORA- and realized something was wrong. Silly me.

I very much liked the construction of this puzzle. The fill didn't do much for me but there was something nice about the number of middle-length answers for a Tuesday.

I agree that it's possible there is an ulterior motive for this puzzle but I highly doubt it really made the difference in solving for anybody who frequents this blog.

Only clue I didn't like was 56D: 9-Across ending, because it made me want something I add to the end of the word chess. Chessmate is not a thing as far as I'm concerned, so I didn't see this one right away. (I'm aware of what the author was getting at with checkmate, just now how I first interpreted it.)

Sfingi 11:42 PM  

@Acme - USA Today is 15 squared and has a title. Today the title wasn't very applicable, but the puzzle was easy. But I just glanced at one called "Tabby of Contents" which had a cat theme.

It doesn't run on the weekend. They just keep selling the Fri.
Rarely, it's surprisingly difficult, but it's frequently clever. I call it all week Wed.

It follows the rules of what some foreigners call American Crossword - the symmetricality, crosswordese, occasional foreign word. It rarely has 15-long words.

The answers can be found at
crosswordheaven.com/crosswords/usa-today/
But, I think you have to pay to get the blank puzzle with clues.

sanfranman59 12:48 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 6:04, 6:55, 0.88, 8%, Easy
Tue 8:03, 8:55, 0.90, 24%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:19, 3:41, 0.90, 10%, Easy
Tue 4:00, 4:35, 0.87, 9%, Easy

Anonymous 2:02 PM  

Rex @ 9:18 - LOL. I guess I managed a twofer. I agree with your first point (because I intended an outrageous comment to make the point) but not sure I agree with your second as it applies to this puzzle. All the theme answers are more or less consistent but it is the statement of the theme that causes the issue. So I am not sure the theme is the failure or the description of the theme that fails, but, whatever, the puzzle certainly provoked a lively debate and there is something to be said for that....

BobL 2:34 PM  

Thanks for the "Fur Elise" clip. It was an encore, and the audience reaction is amusing, as the piece is known to almost everyone who has taken piano lessons, and I think they were expecting the usual showpiece. But few could play it as beautifully as Lisitsa. If you want to hear her in full flight, go to YouTube and her performance of the last movement of Beethoven's Appassionata sonata.

the redanman 10:22 AM  

Would be stupid easy without the ugly parts.

No love, try harder to make a good puzzle next time Mr. Feldman

AURIST, ICEIN, WELLSET, cr*p theme that makes no sense?

I just had to add $0.02

Dirigonzo 4:26 PM  

I found this easier than most Wednesday puzzles - after my first run-through I had only a few blank squares in the NE to contend with. MORAL appeared when I reread the clue correctly (I originally saw "table" as did at least one other), OLEO went down fom there and I was left with only the SELE_/LE_TAT cross to resolve. Alas, my knowledge of U.S. Opens and vampires is lacking, and even by running the alphabet I was only able to eliminate "q" with any degree of certainty, so DNF.

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