Title location Hemingway novel / WED 12-8-10 / Cartoon stinker / Mrs. Frisby's charges in Secret of NIMH / Motocross racer for short / Screening aid

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Constructor: Mike Nothnagel

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: SECRET AGENTS (53A: Undercover operatives ... or what are hiding in 17-, 20-, 35- and 58-Across?) — the word "SPY" can be found, backwards, inside each theme answer

Word of the Day: SOYUZ (29D: Russian space program started in the 1960s) —

The Soyuz programme (Russian: Союз, pronounced [saˈjuz], meaning "Union") is a human spaceflight programme that was initiated by the Soviet Union in the early 1960's. It was originally part of a Moon landing programme intended to put a Soviet cosmonaut on the Moon. Both the Soyuz spacecraft and the Soyuz rocket are part of this programme, which is now the responsibility of the Russian Federal Space Agency. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was thornier-than-average, almost all over. SE corner was a breeze, but almost everywhere else I had to struggle with vague or deliberately misleading cluing—which I don't mind, but don't expect so much of on a Wednesday. Nothing in the grid is very obscure (except SER. —??? yuck; 31A: It might precede a collection: Abbr.), but the cluing is clearly amped up a notch. Also, I had no idea what the theme was until very late, and there were many clues along the way that suggested a theme that never materialized. This happened largely in the NE, where the long WAR MOVIE was cross-referenced with the central Across, APOCALYPSE NOW, which made me almost certain we had some kind of movie tribute puzzle on our hands. Then there was the cross-referencing of two more clues, both in that same NE section: ALTAR and VOTIVE. So the whole thing felt a mess until I got much further along, and even after I finished, I had to think for a second to understand what SECRET AGENTS had to do with the theme answers. The NE and SW corners were, in general, the hardest parts of the puzzle — felt very open, and contained virtually no gimmes. You race ATVs (43A: Motocross racer, for short)? You wear SHAWLS to pray (49A: Some prayer clothing)? Yes, apparently.

Would've ditched SER. (it's short for SERIES? Maybe?) [someone in "Comments" says "SERmon," which makes sense, but doesn't make me like SER. any more] for SES or SED, which have the virtual of being words, albeit foreign ones. The backwards placement of SPY is an interesting twist on the normal way of "hiding" embedded answers in puzzles—in plain sight, stretched across two words. YPS is not a letter string that wants to be broken across two words, and freedom from that constraint means that there are more possible theme answers to work with. Grid is interesting. Lively. Only SER. and AMUST gave me any pause. Some of the cluing seemed a bit forced (in an attempt to be tricky, I suppose), but overall this one provided an enjoyable challenge.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Home of Eastern Michigan University (YPSILANTI)
  • 20A: Harry Belafonte's specialty (CALYPSO MUSIC)
  • 35A: 1979 film with Capt. Willard and Col. Kurtz ("APOCALYPSE NOW")
  • 58A: Leaf-eating insect scourge (GYPSY MOTH)
Not sure how in the world I did this, but I read 15A: Mrs. Frisby's charges in "The Secret of NIMH" (RATS) as somehow asking for Mrs. Frisby's first name. Weird. Inexplicable. I object to the clue [Universally known] for FAMOUS. COOLIO is FAMOUS (33A: Rapper parodied by Weird Al Yankovic in "Amish Paradise"). I do not believe COOLIO is universally known. In fact, I'm certain at least a handful of you do not know who he is. Santa is universally known. And yet I would not call him "FAMOUS."

  • 57A: Onetime TWA competitor (US AIR) — one of the keys to unlocking the SE. Just couldn't see many of the answers down there, including AS SUCH (43D: In and of itself), and the ambiguously clued CALLER ID (36D: Screening aid).
  • 3D: First of a pair of lists (DOS) — this clue made No sense to me. Feels almost Saturdayish in its oddness. Once you get it, it's easy: "Oh, right, DOS and DONTS." But before you (I) get it, "... lists come in pairs? What kind of lists? WTF?"
  • 10D: North Pacific islander (ALEUT) — crosswordese, but phrased this way, it stumped me at first. When I see "Pacific islander" my mind goes south. The fact that "North" is the first word in the clue did not affect this tendency in the slightest.
  • 29D: Russian space program started in the 1960s (SOYUZ) — wanted SOYEZ, which is the 2nd person plural imperative "Be," in French.
  • 33D: Medical condition treated by thrombolysis (CLOT) — another very non-Wednesday clue.
  • 44D: Title location in a Hemingway novel (THE SEA) — glad this was the first thing that came to mind (given the crosses I had), because this could have been tough. Just like with A MUST, I don't normally expect articles (def. or indef.) in my answers.
  • 51D: Cartoon stinker (LEPEW) — As in Pepe. The only other cartoon stinker I can think of is Pigpen, from "Peanuts." He's more dirty than stinky, though.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 12:12 AM  

Ser = sermon, as in the collection plate after the sermon in church I'm guessing

PurpleGuy 12:16 AM  

Really enjoyed this puzzle, although the "theme" did nothing for me, except marvel at the number of YPS words.
Agree with everything Rex said, and had the exact same problems and experiences. Weird indeed.

Haven't commented in a while due to major remodeling. Dealing with that, and trying to keep 102 yr. old mom in comfort has been rather daunting.
Do enjoy reading everyone's comments when I have time.
I think of you all often, and appreciate the friendship.
When the remodel is complete there should be room for that pot luck party we talked about last year!!

My only write over was Pan Am for USAIR. sigh.

I wish you all a safe trip getting over the hump.
Happy Wednesday !!!!

Shanti -


PurpleGuy 12:18 AM  

@Anonymous 12:10 - good call. I never thought of that, and I'm the cantor at Mass.
Thanks for the tip.

chefwen 1:38 AM  

@PurpleGuy - Give your Mom an extra special hug from me!

This puzzle had some extra crunch which is always welcomed on a Wednesday. Only snag was at 29D where I had SkYUZ, hey it was having something to do with space, why not sky, husband who is more informed with things up in the air (he's a pilot) set me straight. I am not up on my Rappers, so Ck OLIO seemed fair enough. All in all a great Wednesday puzzle. Thanks Mike N.

Doug 2:34 AM  

BEQ yesterday had "Looney Tunes surname" for LEPEW at 51A, so was a gimmee today at 51D. What a coincidence.

Didn't know what the heck the theme was until the whole thing was done. Thought it was clever, but the theme payoff came at the end and not during the solve. I like a puzzle more when I don't have to spend additional time puzzling over what the constructor is puzzling about.

Luckily I used to drive reguarly from Toronto to see my girlfriend in Wisconsin via Michigan, so the "You are entering Ypsilanti" sign is etched into my memory.

Anonymous 2:43 AM  

Hey Rex,

SER is already a foreign word: it's the Spanish infinitive "to be". Peter Collins clued SER in the NYT earlier this year:

Thursday, July 29, 2010 60A:"To be, in Baja"


andrea joy michaels 2:56 AM  

I may still be high from today,
(it's still Tuesday in SF for 4 more minutes) but, I circled YPSI, YPSO, YPSE, YPSY and thought "Undercover operatives" was some sort of math term (Mike Nothnagel teaches Math and all) and it was the letter Y + the Greek letter PSI, and onward.

Then I saw CALY CALY and thought that was short of Cal Poly, where maybe he went to school.

I love Mike Nothnagel (and his puzzles!)

I super liked the KANSAS clue.
Stared at that K ----- for a while!

And totally cool to start with a J, end with an X and casually throw in SOYUZ.

And at one point, I thought Homer Simpson's middle name might be JoY, and that was some sort of weird private joke in some episode, where he shouted out "My middle name is JOY!"

Ruth 6:23 AM  

Well, I feel terrible. For "Cubs' place", based on having the LA__, I immediately wrote in LAST. I feel so disloyal. Sorry, Cubbies. I think it's the result of many years of trauma (Cubs' Coma).
subus=how to get to school in Syracuse

mariaseig 6:46 AM  

Good morning!
This is my second time posting, the first being when Rex randomly referenced his former prof (and my cousin) Peter Allen when discussing the famous (but not internationally known) Peter Allen.
Just wanted to introduce myself and say, "Thank you," to this community. You've made my morning routine a world more lovely during these past few months.
Have a great day.

Ignessa = dense donna

Hungry Mother 7:57 AM  

Easy for me for a change on Wednesday, but didn't get the "YPS" embedding. Just thought "secret" belonged with "agent."

nanpilla 8:04 AM  

Another day when it helped to have gone to school in Michigan.

@Rex, your poster for baby care dos and don'ts still has me chuckling!

Saw the YPS in each theme answer, and have to admit to an embarrasingly long time trying to figure out what that had to do with secret agents!

@PurpleGuy - always love to hear from you and your mom!

glimmerglass 8:12 AM  

SER is the abbreviation for seriatim (introducing a list to follow).

joho 8:17 AM  

This puzzle gave me the YPS. Isn't Mike Nothnagel known for being a bit of a challenge? That's a good thing.

WARMOVIE crossing APOCALYPSENOW is nice. YPSILANTI is just fun to look at.

I really enjoyed it this, thank you, Mike Nothnagel!

(@mariaseig ... nice to hear from you, keep posting!)

efrex 8:19 AM  

Nice, chewy Wednesday. Agree with everybody above on SER. Only real "feh" moment in an otherwise good grid. People two doors down heard my groan when I figured out the theme.

Crosswordese 101 moments: Finally put in AGA on autopilot, but didn't know REATA (I've encountered RIATA much more frequently).

Only writeovers: had HERO instead of GYRO for a moment, and ALIUT for ALEUT (thanks to the aforementioned RIATA error).

flumium - chemical element associated with catching colds.

opus2 8:37 AM  

I had no prob with SER. Got it right away. Also put in PANAM quickly and soon changed it.
My problem was putting in RIATA and then not being able to spot an error in ALIUT.

Jim 8:41 AM  

First time I did puzzle on the computer...interesting dynamic. Mostly, though, I think I'll use it to practice old puzzles to get more practice, and save the current puzzle for the paper.

Rex, evidently you didn't have the same thought with the pair of lists: "today, I will take you through the DOs...and DO NOT DOs...of home foundation repair".

John V 8:51 AM  

Odd how things fall out. Save for the NE (my eyeballs would not see jade and I had/have no idea about Homer Simpson's middle name), this was a pretty easy Wednesday. That said, I finished and had to stare at the theme for a bit to figure it out.

Had PanAm at 57A for a bit, riata at 19A as well, as others have commented. Also, had epos at 4d, as I did not go to school in MI, so Ypsilanti spelling worked out with crosses, not from knowing how to do it.

A fun Wednesday!

Tinbeni 9:02 AM  

WOW, what a FUN Wednesday!

Fisrt I get a Dan Naddor at the LAT.
Then a shout-out to LUTZ!

Really liked the SECRET AGENTS, hmmm, I wonder why? Seems like a lifetime ago, oh well.

PurpleGuy, I'm still (and will continue to do so) "toasting" you and 102yo Mom each and every day at Sunset.

Hungry Mother, Love your Avatar!

We haven't had much rain lately ...
SOOOO they have been fabulous!

Cheers !

Van55 9:06 AM  

I enjoyed it a lot. Loved EPIC for awesome. Loved SOYUZ.

Agree with Rex on THESEA and FAMOUS.

COOLIO and JAY are perhaps too pop culture current for my knowledge base, but they fell from crosses.

Pretty al dente for a Wednesday.

19 proper names. Since I began counting these, I have found little or no correlation between the number of them and either the difficulty level or the day of the week. The average number of proper names seems to be about 20. More if the theme necessitates. I'm done reporting on them unless it seems particularly worthy of comment. (Do I hear a chorus of "thank heaven"?

mmorgan 9:08 AM  

I enjoyed this one. I got a kick out of all the 'YP's but didn't catch the SPY trick until I got SECRET AGENTS.

Had a terrible dilemma for my last letter. I knew of ALEUT and RIATA but both could not be right. So it had to be either ALIUT or REATA, and neither looked like a reasonable alternate spelling. Held my breath and shut my eyes and went with ALIUT. Nope. Okay, so now I know that REATA is a variant of RIATA.

For some reason, I really liked GOAWRY. (Unlike most, I also liked SER.)

I associate GYRO more with mall food courts and Greek pizza places than with Deli's, but no biggie.

Never even saw the clue for 15A (Mrs. Frisby's charges in "The Secret of NIMH") till I read @Rex's writeup!

Clever clue on OVALS but I first read it as MOIST toilet seat. Ewwww.

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

I love the smell of napalm in the morning:


John the Banished....

chefbea 9:31 AM  

Took longer than the usual Wednesday. Never heard of Coolio. Saw the yps in the theme answers and knew it was spy backwards. Also had panam for usair for a while

Gubdude 9:44 AM  

Solved this one while watching Burn Notice. How appropriate.

Had trouble starting but got a few footholds (COOLIO, HATED, LEPEW) to get me started. Love how CALYPSOMUSIC looks in the grid. A very enjoyable solving experience for me.

OldCarFudd 9:46 AM  

What Rex said, almost word for word. Plus the same comment as Ruth except that, having no loyalty to any ball team, I didn't feel disloyal - just amused.

Howard B 9:57 AM  

Can't believe I hadn't seen YPSILANTI written out before (that I could remember). That Y was the last to fall.

Loved the COOLIO clue, in reference to the Weird Al parody. Will leave with this:
"Hitchin' up the buggy, churnin' lotsa butter,
Raised a barn on Monday, soon I'll raise anudder!"

r.alphbunker 10:02 AM  

Not bad for a puzzle that doesn't have a sports theme.

quilter1 10:13 AM  

Solved from the top down and saw the theme about two thirds of the way. Seeing all the reversed SPYs was COOLIO. SER was a gimme as I gave two of them on Sunday followed by collections (guest preacher). I, too, laughed as the calming baby poster--either the good or bad method calms me down, baby. Good, fun puzzle.

PlantieBea 10:21 AM  

Tough Wednesday for me because I didn't know COOLIO and tried to stuff LEAP, LIFT, and LOOP into the skating move spot. Knew YPSILANTI because of living in the Detroit metro AREA at one time. Lots of GYROS served there too. I liked the Catholic NE corner on this holy day of obligation with the VOTIVE, ALTAR, and SERmon preceding the collection.

captcha: culall, somehow related to the troublesome COOLIO

Bob Kerfuffle 10:22 AM  

An advantage of being a slow solver is that I caught on to the theme early on.

Two write-overs: Not a baseball follower, but like @Ruth, completed LA... as LAST before LAIR, and for 22 A, "___ natural", had ALL before ACT.

Great puzzle.

SethG 10:24 AM  

Found the SPYs about 30 seconds in. Figured the YP was important, had to solve more to see if the S was. Otherwise, what Rex said.

retired_chemist 10:29 AM  

Liked it. My Mon Tue Wed tomes were within seconds of one an other, so I guess I should call this easy.

Hand up for (seriously) turning L___ into LAST for the Cubbies.

Did not like the US AIR clue. TWA is the defunct one. The clue suggests that the answer is the defunct airline. Last I saw (last Friday) US AIR was flying just fine. Or else DFW hid my wife for two days when US AIR claimed it was flying her to Yuma.

44D - cute. I was looking for a town. 47A - also cute. I fell for the misdirection. Other nice stuff here too, as others have pointed out.

Thanks, Mr. Nothnagel. No "emergency nail" needed on this one. Check June 10, or Ulrich will explain again.

Two Ponies 10:32 AM  

Great puzzle!
All of the theme answers look crazy in the grid.
Apocalypse Now is in my top 5 favorite movies. Happy to see it here today.
My only stutter was reata.
We get our word *lariat* from the Spanish la riata so this variation seems pretty far off the mark.
The rest of the puzzle and the clever clues made up for it.
@ Van55, Feel free to pipe up on the proper names when they are annoying.

deerfencer 10:35 AM  

Saw the theme early on but in my case this didn't help much, especially in the sticky west corners, where I struggled and eventually had to google.

All in all an excellent challenging puzzle.

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

MI LAI is now just a village?

Anonymous 10:46 AM  

US Air is now US Airways.

David 10:55 AM  

Thanks, Rex, for the interesting info about Stevie Wonder's Pastime Paradise and the album Songs in the Key of Life. I never knew about this album or that Coolio (who I don't really know either) used a previous song for his tune.

Obviously a bit hole in my knowledge base. I think I'll get the album for my iTunes.

Since I'm a small time puzzler, I like doing the Puzzle with Times Reader 2.0 and enjoy looking up intriguing clues on my browser. I have several tabs open right now to look into interesting subjects.

I'm only just getting to the point of not wanting to look up answers but actually solve from crossing words.

archaeoprof 11:01 AM  

Hand up for Cubs in LAst place. It seemed so right.

Taught a course this semester on APOCALYPSE in literature and history.

Allan Sherman 11:06 AM  

Sorry I couldn't find this on YouTube, but re: 5 D:

[parody of "Aura Lee"]
Every time you take vaccine,
Take it orally.
As you know the other way
Is more painfully.

Glitch 11:12 AM  


I read nothing in the clue (54A) that implies the competitor is also defunct. Misleading? OK.

"Ford, at one time, was a competitor of American Motors, but is no longer", can similarly be taken in more than one way. ;)


Look Up Guy 11:26 AM  

@R_C & @Glitch

Anon 10:46a is correct.

Technically, USAir [sic] no longer exists:

In 1996, the alliance between USAir and British Airways ended in a court battle, once British Airways announced its intentions to partner with American Airlines.[17]

On November 12, 1996, the airline announced that it would change its name to US Airways and introduce a new corporate identity in early 1997.[wiki]

retired_chemist 11:46 AM  

@ Anon and Lookup Guy - thanks, wife confirms she flew US Airways. My bad.

captcha nottan - describes a lot of us, particularly at this time of year.

mac 12:13 PM  

Good Nothnagel puzzle! Can't believe I got Ypsilanti, especially that first Y. Had one mistake: Callerod. Had the rod first, figured it was some sort of wand....

I had feta before gyro, and husband messaged on his way to the airport: 57A is PANAM, I think. Not.
With r()ata I always leave the second letter open, a real crosswordese move.

Hip E. 12:22 PM  

SER is short for "serial," like a Charles Dickens book that is published a little at a time and later collected into a single volume.

I also took a bath on REATA / ALEUT.

Two Ponies 12:37 PM  

I feel certain that the ser. is the sermon before the collection plate comes around (as others have mentioned). I also liked the clever misdirection for this common answer.

Shamik 12:38 PM  

Found this one to be challenging at 8:23. Just what I would want for my birthday!

@Rex: Thanks for all the videos today.

Agree with the write-up at 102%. Yes. 102%.

CaseAce 12:44 PM  

I don't seem to recall, while serving in the Army, that KP Duty was necessarily a punishment, as it were, it was merely an assignment during every recruits basic training.

nanpilla 12:53 PM  

@shamik : Happy Birthday!

Look Up Guy 12:55 PM  


Not necessarily but:

In the military, it is often more formally known as mess duty, and is restricted to enlisted personnel. A service member sometimes "put on KP" for some minor infraction committed while on duty, in uniform, or on a military installation, something that would not require an Article 15 or non-judicial punishment hearing. In the British Forces the equivalent punishment is known as Jankers. However, KP is usually assigned out of necessity, not for punishment. In this latter case, all junior enlisted personnel assigned to a mess would be put on a roster and regularly receive assignments to KP duty on a rotating basis.[2][wiki]

william e emba 1:01 PM  

Once I had YPSILANTI and CALYPSOMUSIC I looked for the theme revealer, thought "spy", saw YPS, and got the theme.

Once upon a time, OWIE was in the puzzle and got some negative reaction here. A week later, the very word appeared in this Family Circus cartoon. Googling around reveals that this particular cartoon seems to have inspired an FC-hate page on facebook. Because of the NYT puzzle association, I'm actually in love with the cartoon. (Instead of a captcha, there may be an ad you have to read and then prove that you did in fact read it.)

And perhaps the all-time funniest, or at least meanest, magazine cover ever would be that of the National Lampoon "What, My LAI?" issue. There's Lt Calley, grinning like he's Alfred E Neumann, and the pun just doesn't play fair.

D_Blackwell 1:26 PM  

@Van55 - The number of proper nouns/names can be interesting; in the same way we keep an eye on obscurities, partials, abbreviations, and such. They are all useful, even desirable, but the total number can affect the quality of the crossword.

For me, the guideline for these things is that if I notice them, there may be a problem. I don't mind a horrible three or four letter entry in exchange for the good stuff.

When I see a beautiful woman, I'm not looking to find a pimple. Sometimes I think we look at these things too closely; more interested in making sure that everyone see the bad, and less interested in enjoying the good.

I think that it is easier for a lot of proper nouns to hide in the grid, than for the obscure or the all too oft seen. I didn't particularly notice them today, but I did notice CENTI and ENID. Also the REATA / ALEUT cross. Didn't pay them much mind though. I'm a lover, not a fighter.

ArtLvr 1:46 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
ArtLvr 1:52 PM  

I chuckled to see YPSILANTI -- and was hoping for another Michigan town farther north: Zilwaukee. A Manhattan in KANSAS was cool too. Coolio I'd only heard of, but needed crosses to spell. Loved the CALYPSO MUSIC of Belafonte but egads, CLOT had a very strained Clue and COMA's was only so-so.

NATIVE reminded me of the Cajun discussion here, and LEPEW was mentioned lately too! No problem with SER for sermon and SHAWLS for praying, VOTIVE candles on the ALTAR, etc. Even SOYUZ, GYPSY MOTH and LUTZ flew in easily, somehow.

Thanks, Mike N., I found it on the easy side & very enjoyable!


beysless -- Now that Weight Watchers has changed its point system, can Scrabble's counts be far behind?

Anonymous 3:23 PM  

wow dude, you go gentle on yesterday's lousy puzzle with no redeeming features, and you pan this wonderful offering? maybe you had a lot of pent-up negativity which you could not spout yesterday?

this was a fine puzzle, and i enjoyed the secret agents in the catchy theme entries.

anyways, be well.


Joe 3:31 PM  

Had the same problem Rex had--SW corner.

Had PANAM for USAIR and COVERT AGENT for SECRET AGENT at first. When I figured CENTI, I knew they were wrong.

Could NOT get CALLER ID. Dense!

Didn't like the clue for FAMOUS, either.

Anybody else want to put ROSE at 32A?

sanfranman59 3:34 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 12:27, 11:44, 1.06, 72%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:13, 5:46, 1.08, 76%, Medium-Challenging

Anonymous 3:40 PM  

"overall this one provided an enjoyable challenge."

Yay for reading comprehension!

chaos1 3:42 PM  

Have not posted in a few days. This is a busy time of the year for me. Hunting season. I'm sure many of you don't miss my sometimes tedious and lengthy comments. Lol.

@ PurpleGuy 12:16 AM: God Bless You! I took care of my Grandma till she was 98. After that, she was completely Non compos mentis. She didn't recognize me or her children. We had to put her in a care facility. She lived to be 103, if you can call that living? Your Mom sounds like she is way ahead of that curve. Tell her I said Hi!

@ andrea WOTD michaels 2:56 AM: Belated congrats to you and your collaborator on an excellent puzzle. More please!

@Jim 8:41 AM : Welcome to the world of AcrossLite. If you keep practicing, you may become a convert. It took me about a year, to develop a modicum of proficiency. I'm a poor typist, and it takes a while to learn the best ways to navigate the grid. I had my personal best time ever, for this Monday's puzzle, at 3:33. However, it was a very, very easy puzzle, and I couldn't have typed any faster. Also, the whole grid was almost done on the across clues, so not much time was lost in navigation.

Tinbeni: The sun is almost over the yardarm, at least here on the East coast. Like you, I'm a social drinker. Anytime, any place, any reason, someone has a drink on the planet, Social I ! Lol.

Stan 3:56 PM  

Loved the way the spies were literally hiding in the answers. And the odd YPS words were fun on their own.

retired_chemist 4:09 PM  

Hand up for thinking SER is meant to be SERmon.

PurpleGuy 4:29 PM  

@chaos1 - thank you so much for the kind words.
My mom toasts you with her scotch. She also says "hi."

Thank you to all my friends that expressed concern.
This blog is unusual that way, and I thank you all for your concern .

andrea lalasso michaels 5:27 PM  

@Two ponies
Loved learning that about Lariat's roots!

thanks! (tho it looks like xwd-er 3:23 pm would beg to differ! That was a surprise random smack in the face...and I can assure him/her @Rex would not hold back)

Are you still here?
let's meet up for coffee! I'm at andreacarla.michaels@gmail.com (I'm at the Starbucks downtown right now!)
Are you one of those 30,000 cloud participants who are wandering about town sporting those dreadful name tags that are making everyone look like potentially-lost preschoolers?

RushS 5:53 PM  

Good puzzle, but still puzzled about 34 down.

Straight Line 5:55 PM  

@RushS OneD = One Dimensional

Sfingi 6:08 PM  

Didn't notice the hidden word. Did not know, so was unsure of JAY, LUTZ, ILO. Looked them up afterward. Otherwise, easy.

Could have clued for the show, I SPY inside of YPSILANTI.

Manhattan is in KANSAS like Paris and Cairo are in NYS and Berlin and Milan are in NH.

Chaos1 - get anything? A friend of mine once caught his deer in the first 15 min. and sat there with his dogs and nothing to do.
Also - I understand what you're saying re: nursing homes, Alzheimer's. A new paradigm is needed. At least, more choices for some of us. I'd like a Kevorkian contract for myself, and I'm not the only one who'd like one. (Some other people would like one for me.) I'd be afraid to say that too many places. The pro-lifers (ha) would come after me prematurely.

Anonymous 7:18 PM  

@acme: not meant to be a smack in the face, more a reflection of a new improved rex who seems to have realized he can't peeve all the important players in the xword business via his negativity. so, maybe a compliment that you are a big name in the business. (my opinion of the puzzle notwithstanding!)


mmorgan 7:18 PM  

@Sfingi ("Manhattan is in KANSAS like Paris and Cairo are in NYS and Berlin and Milan are in NH"): There's also a Moscow, Rhode Island. Strange but true.

@andrea lalasso michaels: Enjoy your coffee -- you deserve it after yesterday!

Rex Parker 7:28 PM  

What Anonymous 3:40 said.

chaos1 7:39 PM  

andrea lalasso micheals @ 5:27 PM : You can't please everyone! I found it interesting to learn, that early week puzzles are considered more difficult to construct, as opposed to some of the brain-busters we see after Wednesday. Thanks for including your E-mail, in you last comment. As an Ex-SanFranciscan, I've enjoyed some of our past back and forth on the board. That being said, I hope you won't mind if I take the opportunity to contact you directly. I'm sure we might enjoy talking about the San Francisco of the 70's ? Gough, Gough !

@Sfingi 6:08 PM : Thanks for asking. I haven't really been an active deer hunter in quite a while, but my friends supply me with all the venison I want. It's the passion for water-fowling, that still consumes me, and keeps my freezer filled. Stumbling around in a freezing pitch black marsh, at 5:30 in the morning, when it's raining sideways and the wind is blowing forty miles an hour, is my idea of heaven.

As for your friend who filled his deer tag in 15 minutes, and then just sat there with his dogs, that's what hunting is all about. It's never about the kill. The bond between a man and his hunting dogs, is equal to the most intimate experience I have ever encountered. A good woman is close, but not the same thing. It's a mindset you have to be instilled with, at an early age. I've loved, and been loved by many women. Three of them took up thirty years of my life. Still, I never had a dog who willingly left me, took my house, or proved that " hell hath no greater fury " than a Labrador scorned. To prove my contention, lock your wife and your dog in the garage for an hour. When you open it, which one is happy to see you? LOL.

foodie 8:19 PM  

I am so impressed to see that YPSILANTI ( a neighboring town for me) is not considered too hard for a Wednesday. What a smart crowd!

Some people I run into can barely tell Michigan from Minnesota, or Indiana from Illinois...

Loved the puzzle!!!

mac 8:27 PM  

@Chaos1: you get my comment-of-the-day vote!

Ulrich 8:53 PM  

@chaos1: Exactly--that's what we like in companions--slobbering devotion. A mind of their own? Yikes!

Anonymous 9:39 PM  

Chaos - What is the sex of your dog?

John the Banished

Rex Parker 10:01 PM  

Please return discussion to the puzzle.


Thank you,

Cupcake. 10:17 PM  

After getting Gyro, LePew, and Ypsilanti right away, I figured out the theme pretty quickly. But that didn't make this puzzle any less annoying. "Ser", really? And "The Sea" was just plain mean - I found myself racking my brain for Hemingway titles after ditching "Sea" initially. Oops. On to Thursday...

chaos1 10:30 PM  

Three and out :

# 1. @ Mac: You obviously get it.

# 2. To paraphrase Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption: [in a letter to Red] " Remember Red, slobbering is a good thing, maybe the best of thing, and no good thing ever dies."

# 3. @ John The Banished: All my dogs have always been males. I had one female. She was a great dog, but of all my dogs, She was the least loved and most problematic. Totally headstrong and unmindful. Got pregnant on the sly, but fortunately with one of my other dogs, so I got a nice price for the pups. She outlived all of my favorites, and I had to carry her outside to do her business towards the end. She smiled at me when the vet gave her the final injection, but I did love her. Now you've made me cry !

sanfranman59 10:46 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 6:04, 6:55, 0.88, 8%, Easy
Tue 7:41, 8:55, 0.86, 12%, Easy
Wed 12:32, 11:44, 1.07, 73%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:18, 3:42, 0.89, 8%, Easy
Tue 3:56, 4:35, 0.86, 6%, Easy
Wed 5:55, 5:46, 1.03, 63%, Medium-Challenging

NATE 11:06 PM  


Are you trying to say that this isn't a Chat Room? I've been fooled.

Anonymous 11:09 PM  


RushS 9:58 AM  

thanks for the explanation Straight Line

shannon 11:51 AM  

if "mrs. frisby's charges" is referring to her children, they were field mice. the rats of NIMH are who she goes to consult about solving her family's housing problem. the rats are not her charges in any capacity that i can figure out.

this is an incorrect clue and lazy editing!

clansman9448 3:12 PM  

Yesterday's was sooo easy, 10mins without so much as one letter written over. Then I hit today's. Not impossible, but in comparison, a big jump in a few places. I agree about SER & hate it, but had it already from the crosses. Biggest problems were ALIST before AMUST, & the 18D/27A cross. I wanted(well, expected)cubs place to be LAST, then LAIR, & veer off track to be GOASTRY (wrong!),GOAWAY, until GOAWRY.

Randy Chong 4:38 PM  

Solving from the bottom (as I often seem to do), I got 58A GYPSYMOTH and relatively quickly saw the 53A clue "Undercover operatives". Checking out GYPSYMOTH it was (ironically) easy to spot the SPY hiding as YPS. That made the rest of the theme answers easier for me. Only write over was that I had WOOD for WOOF at 28D "Bark".

I enjoy the banter on this site, even when it goes slightly off topic. But, apparently Rex doesn't and it's his site. Wish I weren't a syndicated solver, but can't afford the subscription to solve online. Oregon solver.

croph=the cough you get with croup?

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