Magazine opposed to Cuban trade embargo / WED 1-26-11 / 2000 election scrap / Rapper Combs a k a Diddy / River in 1914 battle

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Constructor: David Murchie

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: NEAR / MISS (1A: With 65-Across, the starts of 20-, 26-, 43- and 51-Across taken together) — first words of four theme answers spell out the phrase "CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR"


Word of the Day: GATT (53D: Intl. commerce pact replaced by the W.T.O.) —

The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (typically abbreviated GATT) was negotiated during the UN Conference on Trade and Employment and was the outcome of the failure of negotiating governments to create the International Trade Organization (ITO). GATT was formed in 1949 and lasted until 1993, when it was replaced by the World Trade Organization in 1995. The original GATT text (GATT 1947) is still in effect under the WTO framework, subject to the modifications of GATT 1994. (wikipedia)
• • •

Why am I exhausted. I mean, it was only the first day of class. It's not like I actually *taught* or anything. And yet here I am, totally dead on my feet. Does not bode well. I better get my sea legs back quickly, or I'm in for a rough semester. Relaxing effects of yoga class undone by snarfing half a large pizza immediately afterwards, so ... honestly I have no idea what I'm doing right now. My fingers are moving over a keyboard, forming words ... the words are vaguely coherent, which I guess is a good sign. I was able to do the puzzle in below-average Wednesday time, so that must mean my brain is semi-functioning. Or else I've developed some kind of grid-filling muscle that doesn't require the rational, thinking part of my brain and just operates automatically, by some kind of primitive sense. Who can say? I am not normally a fan of the "first words spell a phrase"-type theme, but I actually like the phrases in this case (particularly "BUT SERIOUSLY..." and "CIGAR AFICIONADO"), so I'm mostly happy. There's a smattering of not-great fill, but it's well spread out and therefore not terribly offensive. LIAISES is a monumentally ugly word, but it's a real word, so I don't feel too good about the legitimacy of my complaint. In the end, this was a relatively fast, relatively fun romp, AROO and ELENI (27D: Nicholas Gage best seller) and INLA and UNIS and ABRA be damned.



Theme answers:
  • 20A: Alien abductions, e.g. (CLOSE ENCOUNTERS)
  • 26A: "All kidding aside ..." ("BUT SERIOUSLY...")
  • 43A: Unwelcome sign for a sales rep ("NO SOLICITING")
  • 51A: Magazine opposed to the Cuban trade embargo ("CIGAR AFICIONADO")
Only one section gave me any trouble, and that was the first one I dipped into (and the last one I finished): the NW. No idea on the theme-related 1-Across at first, no idea on 1D: "Why, of course!" (that's twice recently we've seen "NATCH," an expression I know of but never hear anyone say), though animal (not virus) on 2D: Jungle menace (EBOLA), and had DANG and DARN and who knows what at 4D: "Fiddlesticks!" ("RATS!") to begin with. Not having commanded plow horses in a while, I did not know HAW was a command. Weirdly, I saw HAWS in another puzzle recently, clued as something like [Sounds of hesitation]. That didn't come to me easily either. 3D: You might wait for it at a stoplight was GREEN before it was ARROW. I feel slightly bad hating on ABRA since it was about the only thing up there I got right on the first pass. Rest of the puzzle wasn't nearly as confusing.

Bullets:
  • 15A: "Double" facial feature (CHIN) — that's about as polite as that clue, with that frame of reference, could've been.
  • 39A: Ring around the collar, say (DINGE) — somehow I much, much prefer this word in adjectival form. This is perhaps because "DINGE" is a dated racial slur. "Slang: Disparaging and Offensive. a black person." I know this from reading lots of old crime fiction, I think.
  • 40A: Chamonix setting (ALPS) — Chamonix was the site of the first Winter Olympics in 1924
  • 51D: 2000 election scrap (CHAD) — thought "scrap" meant "tussle" or "fight" ...
  • 31D: River in a 1914 battle (YSER) — a pretty standard YSER clue, I think. YSER and ST. LO are two ultra-common four-letter xword words brought to us (or made famous to us, at any rate) by World Wars (I and II, respectively). Actually, they were made famous to me by crosswords.
  • 26D: Low man at the Met (BASSO) — and not, as you suspected, the guy who has to hand-wash Pavarotti's sweat-stained costumes.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

71 comments:

balto 7:16 AM  

The NW was tough for me -- but I finished without any help so I was happy.

unalakleet 7:30 AM  

NW also the last to fall into place for me.
Re 51D: scrap meaning tussle or fight fits with regard to CHAD and the 2000 election too. There was a big brouhaha about those CHADs as I recall. Plus they are scraps of paper. I took it as the tussle meaning and it worked just fine for me.
Cheers!

Anonymous 7:47 AM  

Had nuTS instead on RATS at first, so that literally gave me a NEAR miss. Fun theme! Fun puzzle!

@Rex - your writeups are starting to concern me.... Get a check up or get an assistant....

Anonymous 7:57 AM  

Not to nitpick, but ST Lo is a WWII battle

mmorgan 8:10 AM  

Same issue in the NW for me. Briefly had a typo on DALhI at 48D which held me up for a smidge, but when I got MISS for 65A, NEAR (1A) became clear along with the rest up there (though I first had GREEN for ARROW at 3D). AHH,BUT SERIOUSLY, at any RATE, this had some PEP.

The Big E 8:16 AM  

@Rex - try some coffee - this morning took me much longer than it should have, likely due to lack of java. :-)

Who is going to the ACPT this year? My wife entered me into it since I have been unable to go for the last three years (despite living 5 blocks from the place).
Very excited to meet any and all puzzlers there!

Greg

David L 8:29 AM  

This went fairly fast, despite some stumbles and headscratching. PEACENIK for PACIFIST slowed me down. I'm no lawyer, but I thought 'Assault or battery' would be crimes, not TORTs -- aren't the latter civil as opposed to criminal matters? Or can a crime also be a tort?

And I don't understand why 'react to mold, perhaps' is RIPEN.

connie a 8:39 AM  

@ Rex: "Had to" -Pavarotti died in 2007. (You probably know what a sad and monumental event this was for opera, but tired people forget things.)

christelb_devlin 8:40 AM  

Fairly procedural, enjoyable completion for me.

Here is a nitpick. 18A - CAN I does not mean please? It means 'Am I able to?' The grammatically correct answer would be MAY I.

mac 8:42 AM  

Quick and easy, although I'm in a hurry to get out before the snow starts to mess up the roads and my driveway again. The snowplower is having a very lucrative winter!

Only write-over was because I didn't know how to spell aficionado. My last letter was the A in 42D; LI-ISES looks really weird!

@Greg: I'm signed up!

mac 8:43 AM  

Too rushed:
I had green first, as well, and also "may I", of course!

Never realised before how close Chad Lowe is to shad roe.

CaseAce 9:03 AM  

Thanks Rex, for the pyschedelic clip of Steve Miller's "Abracadabra"...it was like really rad man!

joho 9:07 AM  

I can never decide if it's eROO or AROO so was happy that CIGAR solved my dilemma.

I was dense upon finishing. I had everything right but couldn't see I was supposed to use the first word of the cited phrases to form the theme. Obviously I need more coffee.

deerfencer 9:08 AM  

Nice puzzle, and a nearly perfect Wednesday. Thanks, David Murchie, and Rex for the write-up!

John V 9:20 AM  

Also had "May I", which is the gramatically correct answer; thus North took a bit longer.

I also think it is not nice to have to remember how to spell aficionado at 7:30 on a Wednesday morning. Sheesh. My spelling was ... close but not cigar, screwed up cross with liaises, which, per Rex is uber-ugly.

jackj 9:29 AM  

I'm a contrarian on this one.

It gave us theme entries which seemed quite obvious, thus, there was little push-back, making the puzzle rather ordinary and unexciting.

ArtLvr 9:51 AM  

I thought this was fun and very well done. For those wanting to introduce friends to the joys of a NYT puzzle challenge, I'd certainly encourage a try on one like this as opposed to one with screwy new palindromes! Green for ARROW is a great teachable example of the minor pitfalls...

@Rex, I sympathize with your discomfort this week in getting adjusted to the earlier schedule! I've heard from friends old and young lately about a lack of normal sleeping pattern, leading to bouts of confusion or disorientation -- I hope you'll find the answer, as I don't have a clue! Cat-napping is my way out, but not everyone can pull it off.

∑;)

JaxInL.A. 9:52 AM  

I loved the puzzle today. Great theme answers, clean fill, fun phrases. I, too, had trouble with the NW but ended with the FAN / ELENI cross. Didn't know the novel and took some time to figure out the phrase "season box". Still went pretty fast, and pretty smoothly.

Also liked the shout out to my city and my handle IN L.A., though I never saw the 1985 movie or heard the 2Pac rap.

Work very stressful these days, and this is a nice break. Thanks, Mr. Murchie (autocorrect wants to change the name to Mr. Muffins!), and everyone here. Good luck adjusting, Rex!

efrex 9:56 AM  

Thought the fill was a bit crosswordese-heavy, but the long answers were individually fun, and the theme combination enabled some nice back-and-forth solving. spelling mistakes for AFICIONADO (kept wanting to throw an extra "f" in there) and LIAISES made the south grid a bit messy with writeovers, but otherwise a nice Wednesday solve). Liked the cluing for DEB, TNT, and BENCH.

I can't see "NEAR/MISS" without thinking of George Carlin's great rant on that phrase: "When you almost have an accident, that's not a near miss; that's a near hit! A near miss is a collision! (*makes sound of explosion*) 'Oops... we nearly missed'"

Overall, the theme answer definitely does not apply to Mr. Murchie: have a stogie on me, sir (just smoke it outside, please)!

twangster 9:58 AM  

I thought this puzzle was clever but somewhat off because a near-miss generally refers to accidents (a bad thing), while "close but no cigar" is usually used for games, guessing, joking around, etc. (fun things).

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

For me Wednesday puzzles are my favorites. Not to hard not too easy. This one was a standard Wednesday fare for me. I liked the theme which revealed itself along the way once I had three theme answers. Had initially GREEN in 3D instead of ARROW but I got that corner right once I got CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. Never heard the word NATCH before and did not know HAW but guessed right.
The center gave me some problems. I had initially NO SOLICITORS and USERS. But a bit of google gave me ELENI and DON HO (I hate those trivia clues that don't add to one's intelligence). Never heard of DINGE.
Nice and enjoyable puzzle overall.

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

The repetition of "rep" in one cue and another answer seemed untidy. Otherwise loved it.

Anonymous 10:19 AM  

pavarotti rip

Two Ponies 10:31 AM  

Fun and clever. Perfect Wednesday.
@ David L, think cheese.
My near miss was the intersection of the composer and the treaty in the SW. Other than that lots of enjoyable clues.
I liked seeing dinge for some reason but I have never heard it in the slang way Rex has.
Now I'm thinking of the different ways near miss can be interpreted.
@ foodie, I just received my copy of On Intelligence. Thanks for the recommendation.

Matthew G. 10:37 AM  

I really liked this one. The clue for CIGAR AFICIONADO is worth a star pretty much by itself.

Good cluing all around, even of the subpar fill. Got a number of grins as I worked through it. Not too much else to say except: very enjoyable.

I finally own a printer again. Did the puzzle on paper for the first time in ages and had forgotten how much more pleasant it is.

SethG 10:39 AM  

Not sure I'd call an edit a job. Not sure I knew that mold can be a ripener. Not sure why I knew Borneo instantly, given that I don't know the world's second largest island. And not sure if I'll ever learn to spell sounds.

Good theme phrases, fine puzzle.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

@SethG - Mold is a ripener if you're discussing cheese.

dk 10:51 AM  

NW was tough for me, followed by tint for TANS at 64a. EBOLA I think of as a disease of caves but jungle works.

The rest was an ok Wednesday (my favorite day as well).

I to am tired this AM. The BBC (my late night staple) is reducing its staff by about 1/3, the MN sixth district congresswoman and tea party darling got air time and who knows what else has laid out and put on my cranky pants.

** (2 Stars) 18a should be mayI because of course you can.

d(knickers in a twist)k

Vega 10:55 AM  

Yep, green, yep, darn and dang. I had to go back and fill in NEAR only after I got MISS at the very, very end. And then I took way too long wondering how "no" and "but" are near misses. Too tired to properly read clues. And seriously, I have No excuse.

David L 10:57 AM  

@2 ponies, anon. 10:41: I figured the RIPEN clue was alluding to cheese, but it's the word 'react' that seems wrong to me. Blue cheeses develop mold as part of the ripening process, but I don't see how that makes ripening a 'reaction' to mold.

It is possible that I may be overthinking this...

Masked and Anonymous 11:00 AM  

By my quick calculation, you had been up 19-ish hours and were jammed to the gills with pizza -- and brews? -- while writing your blog. That would be NEAR-MeSS territory, in my book. Congrats on solving the puz in such good time, and for writing a totally coherent recap.

Extra cool puz fill today. BORNEO, LARYNX, PACIFIST, LIASES, LINC, CIGARAFICIONADO all having nice, wonky letter combos. All that, and ARLO, too!

mitchs 11:04 AM  

LIAISES is ugly? You must mean to look at, because its got a nice lilting sound.

@MatthewG, I'm with you on CIGARAFICIONADO.

retired_chemist 11:22 AM  

On the way to a personal record Wednesday but fell afoul of the LES Enfants/ELENI cross. Took 90 seconds or more to find it and change my M to an L.... Bah. MES is OK French n'est-ce pas? And I had no idea on the Nic Cage reference.

But a solid Wednesday. Hand up for MAY I @ 18A and DARN @ 4D.

Learn something every day. I wondered if assault or battery was a TORT - seemed to me it was a crime, and as a consequence I did not put it in until forced to. But Prof. Google and Wikipedia explain that they can be either.

Thanks, Mr. Murchie.

Nighthawk 11:26 AM  

Had "gee" for 23A HAW. One is command to go left, the other right, but I forget which is which.

Hand up for, yet again, misspelling DALAI. Reminds me of the Alex Chilton tune from the "High Priest" album.

Those odd fruits always seem to escape me. Had "lime" for SLOE. Ugli crossed my mind too.

NATCH and LIAISES needed lots of crosses. Agree, fair words, but somewhat in the tall weeds.

All sorted, slowly but surely, on crosses.

TANS seemed like it would never arrive. Guess I am just so appalled by the idea that I don't think of it.

I thought the theme phrase was just a riot once I put it all together.

Nicely done, Mr. Murchie.

7thecow 11:30 AM  

Enjoyed this puzzle. Skipped the NW, could not see a good foothold. First guess was ACLU, but was just a guess as I didn't think the org. was that old. Swept through the NE and down to BUT SERIOUSLY, thought I saw the theme, went to 43A and 51A, and sure enough, NO CIGAR worked. Liked the clue for 29D, SONG, much better than yesterday's. Had to correct MES Enfants to get MHP.

I too thought TORT dealt with civil actions, Wikipedia explains that Assault and Battery can be torts. The article is actually pretty funny; begins with the disclaimer "This article may be too technical for most readers to understand" then adds
"Not to be confused with torte, a type of round cake.
Not to be confused with tortoise, a type of shelled animal".
The rest of the article includes the words tortious and tortfeasor, in a torturous explanation of the concept. I'm going to keep an eye out for these words in puzzles.

"muterese": what you speak in while solving tough puzzles.

archaeoprof 11:39 AM  

Nice Wednesday!

9A took me back to high school, where I spent my basketball career on the BENCH.

BUTSERIOUSLY, one of my teammates was Jeffrey Immelt. He was kind of a nerd back then.

syndy 11:45 AM  

Found a new way to misspell DAHAI-also naturallyput in May I=Only answer in nw was tort until close through that wide open-Fun Easy but I did not get the theme!( and I'd hand wash Pavaroti"s things in a heartbeat to have him back)

Shamik 12:14 PM  

Medium time for me. Was this a debut puzzle? I found it thoroughly delightful. I'm usually not fond of clues that refer to other clues, but felt this one tied together nicely.

DINGE reminds me of that old offensive ring-around-the-collar Wisk commercial where some sweaty husband had a perennially dirty shirt collar and it was his wife's fault because she didn't use the right detergent. She would get a dirty look and be ashamed. I have never purchased Wisk because of that commercial.

JaxInL.A. 12:34 PM  

Difference between a tort and a crime:

Crimes are prosecuted by a government entity against someone who broke a criminal law. The person in trouble gets put in jail, and possibly might have to pay a fine that goes to the state. (To other lawyers out there, clearly this is a crude, broad-stroke description so please don't pick nits about details.)

Torts are brought by private parties against someone who has wronged them. The person bringing the action claims a remedy from the other party, and can get money, or can have the other party ordered to stop doing something, or give back something. Victims of crimes may bring a tort action against the person who assaulted or battered them (for example) to claim money damages, or other things to make them whole again. Standards of proof are different, loads of other things, but that might help folks to keep them straight.

Clearest example of criminal prosecution and civil case for the same action: the two OJ Simpson trials. Ugh.

retired_chemist 12:38 PM  

@ Jax -

Yup, that's what the Wikipedia reference I gave says.

mac 12:50 PM  

The last page of the NYT Dining section has Paul Giamatti on a "cigar aficionado". Wasn't he on a Wine Spectator after "Sideways"? I think that film did serious damage to the Merlot market...

CaseAce 12:53 PM  

As for the late portly Pavarotti---Luci's in the Sky with Diamonds!
Having never watched 7D, it proved to be the Missing LINC for me.
ARLO point was 51D, just as it was for the entire country!
Roll dem BONES!

Dan 1:03 PM  

ret_chem: I laughed at "Nic Cage reference"! Look closer, it's Nicholas Gage... his ELENI is a crossword staple, and later in the week you have to know that Kate Nelligan played the title role in the 1985 movie.

NEAR MISS is an in-joke for viewers of Ryan and Brian's "Fill Me In" podcast, where they had a several-episode-long argument about what "near miss" means, or should mean, or something. Because of the timing (the discussion came after it appeared in an October puzzle), I doubt this theme is a shout-out, but it made me laugh.

retired_chemist 1:31 PM  

@ Dan -

No wonder I was unfamiliar with Nic Cage's book ELENI. Now I am unfamiliar with both author and book. Learned something else today.

Now I am curious. I believe you, Dan, that ELENI is common crosswordese, but I don't recall seeing it. Would someone post the reference to a crossword word frequency lookup table like several on this blog use and report on? TIA.

DonHo 1:49 PM  

Anon @ 10.16... "I hate those trivia clues that don't add to one's intelligence". That is the essence to solving many fine crossword puzzles!

retired_chemist 1:50 PM  

Answered my own question. Paid my $35 to cruciverb.com and found ELENI gets a couple of uses a year in the NYT. About 4 times since I started doing the NYT puzzle regularly. Maybe I missed ELENI, or maybe I saw it and forgot.

Dan 2:06 PM  

Yeah, ELENI isn't exactly ARENA, but it's good to have in one's back pocket, especially since there's only the one way to clue it. I do more puzzles than anyone so I may be overestimating its crosswordeseyness.

Here's that link that would have saved you $35... (not that the Cruciverb database isn't useful, but the NYT data is available for free)

retired_chemist 2:12 PM  

Thanks, Dan. I like that grep syntax pretty much works for both sites. I guess my $35 a donation to maintain a worthy site is money well spent anyway.

captcha dessert - mmmm good.

aficionado carla michaels 2:46 PM  

I'm sad @Rex is tired, but I like glimpses into his real life...it's the essence of great writing.

Love the idea of CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR
as starters...
(My first collaboration with Patrick B included four versions of that as a tribute to Trip's near miss at the ACPT a couple years back)

NO SOLICITING is wildly interesting given the myriad NO... phrases to be chosen from.

And I normally would not be able to spell AFICIONADO (just had to peek at the grid again!) to save my life, or Pavarotti's!
Luckily it has yet to come to that.

fikink 3:27 PM  

@David L, we are so often on the same wavelength. I. too. had PEACENIK.
@christelb... I had the same thought re: CAN I - very much corrected in my youth on that one.
@Two Ponies - thanks for the 19A clarification
@Rex, didn't know the slur, DINGE - appreciate knowing that, too
@dk, Wednesday is FIL's favorite day, too, at 90. You get Bachmann drivel at night there? Ugh.
@Nighthawk, yes I believe you are right - where "Hee Haw" comes from.
@Shamik, good for you for not buying into the wife-as-glorified-maid bullshit from WISK purveyors.

CHEROOT! This puzzle was a good one! It will BLUNT my appetite until tomorrow's fix.

Howard B 3:28 PM  

Hope you're feeling more rested now, Rex. It is possible to solve in a sleep-deprived, distracted, or generally discombobulated state with enough practice; there does seem to be a subconscious process that kicks in at some point. I can only say that I've solved a good portion of a puzzle online while distracted, or very close to falling asleep, then have been surprised upon refocusing to find some of the grid filled in correctly (or mostly correct) without remembering consciously doing so.
Not what you want to do ideally, and I don't know how this works, but it's possible.
Hope to see and/or meet a bunch of you at the ACPT in March, awake and aware. :)

Neat theme today. Well done.

chefbea 3:30 PM  

Busy day today so just got to the puzzle. DNF

loved sous chef of course.

Know you all are suffering up north. We've had rain and lots of wind today however it was in the 50's!!!

chefwen 3:31 PM  

Shout out to Dear Old Dad at 13D, he would always say, I don't know CAN you? I'm sure every other English speaking parent said the same thing. I already had LINC in place at 7D so I did not fall into that trap. Like @Nighthawk I had gee in before HAW at 23A and had a bunch of missteps trying to spell AFICIONADO.

A most enjoyable and clever puzzle, thank you David Murchie.
My spell check wants to change that to munchies.

sanfranman59 3:42 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 11:38, 11:44, 0.99, 56%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:03, 5:46, 1.05, 71%, Medium-Challenging

Anonymous 4:40 PM  

Who is the gentleman in the photograph at the end of the post and how does it relate to the puzzle?

jberg 5:00 PM  

Liaise may or may not be ugly, but I don't agree that it's a real word - it's a back formation from the French noun, isn't it?

Anonymous 5:17 PM  

That's just some dude with a double chin.

Anonymous 5:22 PM  

How does that origin preclude worditude? Dictionaries include it as a word, so I'm gonna go with them here.

r.alphbunker 5:37 PM  

@RP
One option that lecturers have is to give a lab day if they are not prepared. Your writeup is like a lecture. Giving us a lab day would mean that we would be responsible for commenting on the puzzle. At the end of the day, you could read our comments and grade us.

Just saying.

Anonymous 7:00 PM  

@Matthew G - Best post you've ever made. Like the brevity and the Punch (PI with CIGAR AFFICIANADO) and everything you said is subsumed in what I said earlier this morning....

Sfingi 7:38 PM  

Didn't like DINGE. Another back formation from dingy. dingier. dingiest.

Had CHimeS before CHANTS, rEhab before DETOX, but they were obviously not quite right.

Easy clever puzzle. Just like LA's, I think they both switched Tues with Wed. It's that world-wide conspiracy again.

I always figured you speed demons used a different part of your brain, any way.

Had a heat wave today. 34. Melting. Chance to move havy shovelsful.

Nick Gage's best sellers were mob books. ELENI was about his mom. He was born Nikolaos Gatzoyiannis in Greece.

@Jax is right; torts are civil. As far as the criminal part, how would you like to have your family pay for the rope that hanged you? We're so lucky to live in the USA.

@7thecow - I don't think I've ever confused a torte with a TORT.
Also surprised the ACLU was that old.

Cigars would make a great puzzle theme: cigarillo, stogey, humidor, don Diego, Churchill, hygrometer, el ropo stinko, roach, White Horse, Fidel, Cuaba, band ring.

@Anon440 - who is the fella - too young for me to know, or even admit he's alive yet.

@Artlover - Right on.

andrea cancelled plane michaels 8:31 PM  

it's chad lowe...the ex-Mr. Hillary Swank...as @mac pointed out, "shad roe" is the pseudonym he uses when checks into hotels abroad.

miriam b 8:57 PM  

Isn't CHAD a mass noun? Come to think of it, so is "scrap" in some circumstances, so I guess I won't be able to nitpick.

I share a birthday with DONHO.

It's thundering here (south shore Long Island) and we'll have LOTS more snow overnight.

sanfranman59 10:01 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 6:03, 6:55, 0.87, 7%, Easy
Tue 11:40, 8:58, 1.30, 99%, Challenging
Wed 11:45, 11:44, 1.00, 57%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:15, 3:41, 0.88, 4%, Easy
Tue 5:35, 4:36, 1.22, 96%, Challenging
Wed 5:57, 5:46, 1.03, 65%, Medium-Challenging

Tim 1:05 PM  

Though a gimme, I didn't like the clue on 16A OMAHA, since this was a code name. Perhaps "Normandy beach, once".

NotalwaysrightBill 4:42 PM  

Syndi-late solver.

I love Bachman, all you sooooo-concerned-about-not-being-offensive-lefty-hypocrites. GEE (to the right), CANI?

Was initially alarmed to read Rex's admission that he hadn't commanded plow horses in some time, since, as Tom Waitts says (and everybody KNOWS that), "Ya gotta get BEHIND the mule, in the mornin' and plow." But then when he talked about getting his sealegs back, it all became clear: a sailin' man, NATCH!

I'm not overfond of LIAISES either; but it's shorter than "intermediates," it has fewer political connotations (nowadays) than either "arbitrates" OR "mediates" and it's easier grammatically and carries less conceptual baggage than "goes between;" so, despite its unattractive aspects, I bet we'll see LIASES increasingly over the years to come.

@Dirigonzo: Love to see it whenever you and/or @Cary and/or @Waxy and/or whomever else chimes in also. You gave me a Charlie Sheen moment there the other day, made me feel like a "rock star from Mars." Except in a good way.

captcha:
"pokedam":
Highly fecund parent of all Pokemon, along with Pokesire. Sidenote: Lady Gaga may well be the THE pokedam, since Pokemon is short for "pocket monsters" and she calls all her fans "the little monsters."

Dirigonzo 5:24 PM  

@NarB is a hard act to follow any day, and he's in exceptional form today so I'll just say I thought the puzzle maintained this week's string of fun puzzles with just the right level of difficulty. Hand up for every mistake already mentioned; finished with the mES/EmENI mistake smack in the heart of the grid, so it had a sad ending for me.

Anonymous 8:59 AM  

@Rex I'm surprised you haven't heard "Natch" used; Otto the bus driver says NATCH!

Anonymous 9:07 AM  

He never hears it, not he never heard it

lodsf 9:32 PM  

(1/26 in Mar’11). My dad (b.1923; d.1989) always used to say NATCH for “sure thing”, or, as Mr. Murchie said “why of course”. Maybe it’s a mid-20th century thing. DINGE, on the other hand, I’ve never heard of (‘dingy’ – my first entry here – yes) although it is in fact a word.

Anonymous 3:43 PM  

HAW I knew right away.
Don Ho I knew right away.
Can't say I knew anyone else's names, which made a lot of other stuff hard to figure.
As I am a rookie, and try to solve these with my kids, I am grateful to learn all the ones we didn't know...and feel no guilt in seeing the correct word, as we'd never before heard of each one I did look up!
I'm just pleased with your giving me peace of mind.
Even oneacross.com was no help on most of the ones I'd left blank!! :-)

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