Business TV newsman Ron / THU 2-3-11 / 1980s hairstyle long strand in back / Excellence as virtue ancient Greeks / King international prominence 1922

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Constructor: Matt Ginsberg

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: What's next ... ? Blank clues are supplied by the clue that follows (either Across or Down), e.g. with 17A: -- / 18A: Held up, [Held up] works for both clues; instructions for solving are in the grid itself: IF A CLUE / IS MISSING USE THE / NEXT ONE (Advice for solving this puzzle)


Word of the Day: Ron INSANA (35A: Business TV newsman Ron) —

Ron Insana (born March 31, 1961) is a reporter for Market Score Board Report with Ron Insana, syndicated by Compass, and a former Senior Analyst at CNBC. He was Managing Director of Insana Capital Partners from inception to collapse. He was the anchor of CNBC's "Street Signs", which aired weekdays during stock market hours. Until December 5, 2003, he and Sue Herera co-anchored CNBC's then flagship nightly financial news program, Business Center. He is a resident of Tenafly, NJ. (wikipedia)
• • •

Clever, but a pain in the ass to solve, especially in AcrossLite. I have never ever solved clues in order—highly inefficient. I'm always working crosses, going back and forth quickly between Across and Down clues, so the notion of "Next" was not instinctive to me (though it makes perfect sense on paper). Also, the middle of this grid was full of concepts and names that were absolutely foreign to me. Never heard of INSANA. Never heard of P AND L (28D: C.F.O.'s concern). Crossing two specialized business finance-related clues like that seemed kind of ... not great. Had to look up what "P AND L" even stood for: profit & loss. But you probably knew that. FLAUNTER!? (26D: Exhibitionist) I lost much time simply trying to will the word FLASHER to be longer. I typically do not like puzzles with instruction-answers, but I liked this one OK. It's pretty ingenious. Not the most fun for me to solve, but nicely put together, with some cool, unusual fill (e.g. SINISTRAL, WET SPONGE).


I actually got the NW corner pretty quickly despite the blank clues. I had no idea why RAKES and BORNE were there, but they fit, so I just moved on. Then there was just stoppage, all over the place. North was almost empty, even after I got SPONGE. Middle, as I say, not happening. I know the hair style as a RAT TAIL, not RAT'S TAIL (44A: 1980s hairstyle with a long strand in the back), so I was all messed up over there. It was very late in the game before I even looked at the clues for STYX (40D: Frightful river to cross) and TYS (46A: Baseball's Cobb and others), both of which were gimmes. Not sure what took me so long to see them—they really would've helped get the "USE" part of the instructions, which was a mystery to me for a while. Had CASTE for NASTY (49D: Rank). Wanted AIR for SOW (43A: Broadcast). TANS for SUNS (48A: Goes for the bronze?). ATTAR for ESTER (67A: Perfume ingredient).

Got APERTURE before I ever had the theme. Thought I might have to solve almost the whole damn thing by just intuiting the answers, but I finally broke the post-MISSING part of the instructions and then things weren't so bad.

Bullets:
  • 10A: Longest river entirely in Switzerland (AARE) — Educated guess / gimme. Crosswordese. Comes in handy.
  • 19A: Slaughter who dashed home to win the 1946 World Series (ENOS) — another gimme. This is how I pieced together APERTURE.
  • 32A: There is a "super" one every four yrs. (TUE.) — Nice clue, though I want "Super" to be capitalized...
  • 58A: Earl of ___ (Sir Anthony Eden) (AVON) — no idea ... but guessed correctly.
  • 1D: Official traditionally seen in a black hat (RABBI) — no idea why, but this was the first answer that popped to mind (when REF and UMPIRE came and went, that is).
  • 21D: Like the poem "Tam o' Shanter" (BURNSIAN) — Easy, but weird. Why does he get his own adjective? I mean, that's some Shakespeare / Chaucer STATUS right there. You'd never say a poem was ANGELOUSIAN. In fact, do any women have adjective status? AUSTENIAN? No. DICKINSONIAN ... I think that's a word. Not as common as DICKENSIAN, but real nonetheless. I think. Moving on.
  • 33D: "Choice" agcy. (USDA) — Tricky. Beef! Had to get "Pro-Choice" out of my head.
  • 45D: King who gained international prominence in 1922 (TUT) — stupid TANS kept me from seeing this for Far too long.
  • 22A: Excellence as a virtue, to ancient Greeks (ARETE) — that's going pretty far out of your way to hide your crosswordese...
  • 4D: Harem guard, typically (EUNUCH) — good-looking word. Do harems still exist and are they still guarded by EUNUCHs? Seems like something I learned from western caricatures of eastern potentates. No idea about historical validity or persistence. I do, however, know that ODA is the name of a harem chamber. You don't see it that much any more, thankfully, but it's still handy to know.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

95 comments:

Danny 12:15 AM  

I'm with Rex--typically dislike instructions puzzles, but this one was actually a lot of fun. Though I will say this: if you're going to clue ELSE as "In addition," you'd damn well better cross it with at least one English word that is not a relatively obscure proper noun, so that it's not mistaken for aLSo. Alternatively, it would take about 3 seconds to come up with a better clue. I knew arete, but second-guessed myself as that terminal O seemed like a total lock. (Plus, according to wikipedia, Aare in English is properly spelled Aar. Just sayin', if you want a German spelling, clue it that way, Shortz!)

syndy 12:20 AM  

Okay, STYX got me NEXT which gave me the general gist;but since I had put in RUTH for bambini and thus changed ROCK to TUCK (tuck and roll-right?)Plus all of rex's air tan attar so I stared at APE-TUTE without a clue for a very long time and since I went with AFC Ialso had -OLCUTES clued as fouls//IDEA clued as fancy??Pfft!tough puzzle-loved it

Cathyat40 12:27 AM  

What Danny said! I aLSo didn't like the cluing for ELSE, and unfortunately didn't know ARETE or AARE, so wound up with AARa and ARETo.

Other than that, things fell in place. I got the "advice" without much trouble; then took it :)

Anonymous 12:43 AM  

How about zolaesque. Saw that on wordplay.

Anonymous 1:12 AM  

Jay Andres died last year at the age of 86. He was a longtime Chicago radio host and hosted the Chicago version of the "Music 'Til Dawn" program, which ran overnights on major stations nationwide. Jay mixed classical, show tunes, jazz/torch songs and soft pop during the wee hours of the morning.

Jay’s voice was melodic, a baritone with soothing sounds for the early morning hours. I would often listen to him after a date while driving home during my college days.

This puzzle reminded me of Jay because he would often start his show with “How do I love you? Let me count the ways ….”

However, in the case of this puzzle my twist on Jay’s signature opening is: How do I hate you? Let me count the ways….

1. Clues with nothing but dashes.
2. Extended answers with no clues.
3. BLTS that are never cooked in a toaster oven, though the toast might be toasted there.
4. Baseball variants on words that nobody knows.
5. Profit and Loss truncated to PANDL.
6. RABBIs referred to as officials.
7. BORNE when used as a past tense for bear.
8. PFFT as desperation fill.
9. SINISTRAL because I don’t know that word and don’t want to know that word.
10. ENUCH because Jay Andres would never use it.

Otherwise, I loved this puzzle….

insana carla michaels 1:28 AM  

I think there was a puzzle (JoeK?) where it was the same clue twice in a row...
I guess leaving the first blank makes this Thursday-esque, tho I don't like instructions inside a grid personally, but it was a fun challenge.

@Cathyat40
Hand up here for finishing (incorrectly) with aLSo/AARa/ARETo
even tho they all felt wrong, but I was so proud to finish!

@Danny
I should have definitely known AARE, but bec I too thought it was AAR, I rationalized that AARA was how the Swiss spell it. Dumb!

Oh! Damn! A third mistake:
I have INmANA/mINISTRAL, tho now I see how insane and sinister that looks!

Happy to feel in sync with Rex again. Had EVERY one of his missteps: taNS, trying to stretch FLAshER, being stuck that it had nothing to do with pro-choice, getting RAKES and BORNE but not knowing why...

Plus, am VERY unfamiliar with PANDL
(Wanted an abbrev for PERSONNEL at that point.
PANDL looks like PANHANDLE which I suppose many a CEO is doing these days...)

I too thought RAT(no S)TAIL. I even sported one! (How un-PC is it to say it was very, um, unheterosexual looking?)

Octavian 3:14 AM  

First time I had a DNF on a Thursday puzzle in years.

Strangely -- I actually figured out the theme AND put in INSANA and PANDL without hesitation -- but still couldn't finish. Just was not on the wavelength here.

Messing w/ my mind were ALSO instead of ELSE, could not see BORNE, had EDAM and then BRIE before finally getting BLEU in the cheese department, couldn't see INDENT ... did not know this meaning of ARETE.

Actually thought this was harder than the last several Saturdays and Fridays.

Evgeny 4:06 AM  

Agree with Mr. Parker on the puzzle as much as I disagreed yesterday. However, P&L is not "specialized business finance-related". It's pretty much "standard, general, business finance-related". Can hardly think of a more common term / abbreviation in accounting (B/S, maybe :-D)

imsdave 5:27 AM  

This is a gem. Hardest Thursday in a loooong time, but totally enjoyable. Post puzzle google for INSANA. eLSe/aLSo is in my book of "put in the letters you're sure of" and wait for the crosses.

Looks like no snow until Saturday - I can hardly wait.

r.alphbunker 6:11 AM  

The computer programmer in me refused to think of ELSE as meaning "in addition.". Curiously, the first online dictionary I consulted had that as the first meaning as in no one ELSE. The same dictionary had SOW as the third meaning of broadcast. I feel lucky that I did not think of attar instead of ESTER and caste instead of NASTY. This reminds me that there is an element of luck in solving a crossword puzzle that goes beyond knowing some obscure fact. I was lucky not to think of cASTe which in my mind is a "better" answer for "rank". However, on a Friday or Saturday I am always suspicious of the first answer that pops into my head.

Wanted an "a" after MISSING instead of a comma.

I like Matt Ginsberg puzzles.

Greene 7:10 AM  

Devilishly tricky puzzle, but very enjoyable. Put me in the camp that doesn't know how to spell the AAR(E) river. An E? Who knew?

I feel sure I've seen P AND L in another puzzle because it made me think of PRNDL. They're both pretty ugly answers.

Had my usual spelling mishap, this time with EUNUCH which I misspelled as EUNICH which gave me BLEI cheese. Ugh.

The idea of a BLT in a toaster oven is not very appealing. Can't wait to see what the foodies have to say about that one.

Mark 7:32 AM  

28D: CFOs Concern: What the H is a PANDL?

Anonymous 7:42 AM  

There's a restaurant in Milwaukee called PANDL's - and that's the only thing I like about this puzzle.

In fact, I hated it even more than Rex hated yesterday's.

Go Pack!

christelb_devlin 7:43 AM  

I had a hard time with this one and had to peak at a few answers, and Google others, in order to finish. I appreciated the theme, which I got from Wheel-of-Fortuning the theme hint.

For you non-corporate types, profit and loss is usually abbreviated as P&L. I've only seen it spelled with an AND instead of an ampersand in crossword puzzles. Same place I've only seen NENEs, NEFs, and EFTs.

Looking at the early stats for people who do the puzzle on their iPads, this took waaaay longer to finish than usual.

ArtLvr 8:02 AM  

Fabulous! I'm totally ecstatic about today's puzzle, Ron INSANA being my first entry, crossing clever BURNSIAN... I agree it was challenging, but hoped that Rex would be happier with a tough one than the too-easy type. Not? PFFT!

Congrats to constructor Matt Ginsberg, and to Will Shortz for a Super waker-upper.

∑;)

Blue Stater 8:27 AM  

I didn't think we could get a worse puzzle than Wednesday's. I was wrong. There's a place for this sort of word-game, but it isn't in the space reserved for a crossword puzzle in the New York Times.

David L 8:34 AM  

I figured out the instructions but still struggled to make sense of them. INSANA/PANDL was a guess for me, as was AFL/ARETE. Ditto with everyone else on RATTAIL being the correct term. And I don't really buy PFFT as 'kaput' -- if it means anything to me, pfft means 'no biggie, whatev'.

Had ALSO at first, changed it to ELSE because it's a familiar crossword thing. I don't see how 'else' means in addition, but pfft...

Oh, and can we retire OCAT? Please?

Anonymous 8:38 AM  

@David L - What ELSE do you have to say about this puzzle?

David L 8:42 AM  

What 'other things' do I have to say? In contrast to the things I've already said?

Not much. I thought this was a puzzle where the cleverness factor outweighs the fun factor...

Anon 8:38 8:47 AM  

@David L - Previous post was about how ELSE means in addition. What ELSE do you have to say = is there anything in addition to what you've already said that you may want to say?

joho 8:49 AM  

I figured out the trick but DNF just the same. PANDL, INSANA,INDENT, the SINI of SINISTRAL plus ARETE did me in.

I respect the ingenuity of this puzzle but can't say I really enjoyed it. And that's not because I didn't finish, it's because it didn't seem to be totally fair in the middle section. I mean, even with P_N_L I couldn't get it!

David L 8:53 AM  

@Anon: I know. I was trying to be cute. I am forced to admit that you are right: in that expression 'else' means 'in addition.' I have spent ten mins trying to convince myself there is a subtle difference, but it's so subtle it has eluded my grasp.

3 & out...

mmorgan 8:57 AM  

I hated doing this puzzle because I was "clueless" (pun intended) about what I was doing. I somehow got major chunks of it (e.g., the whole SW) and could not see what SCOOT, ROWS, IDEA, and SEND had to do with anything. Changing AIR to SOW at 43A was a big break. But it wasn't until I only had about a half dozen blank squares left that I *finally* saw what was going on. I guess if the theme should be a "puzzle" then it was certainly hidden from me! But it's strange how much I got down before I caught on.

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

Will someone please explain how a summer cooler is and icee? Thank you.

mac 9:25 AM  

Now this one was clever! Tough, but in the end a lot of fun. I got the theme quite early, but still had trouble in several areas. Since when is a summer cooler not ade(s)? I got the BLT, but I would like to see Matt crisp the bacon in the toaster oven!

I got stuck on top because I had hoes for mows. Actually got the ocat this time. A wet sponge is the most bacteriaridden thing in a kitchen. Love sinistral, aperture and Burnsian. I used to see little kids with ratstails, creepy looking.

Snow until Saturday?? I'm afraid to return.

mmorgan 9:25 AM  

@Anon 9:19 -- do a google image search on icee!!

Samantha 9:36 AM  

Does anyone else think that having RABBI next to ADOLF is slightly wrong? I guess if your name is Ginsberg, you're allowed to get away with it?

I failed at this puzzle. Sigh.

Howard B 9:39 AM  

Great theme with brutal fill. Like a sinister Fig Newton.
That is all.

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

@mmorgan - Thanks!

GenJoneser 9:47 AM  

The "icee" "pool" connection gave me the theme before I got the instructions. Felt very proud...

Lindsay 9:49 AM  

Hand up for Inmana/ministral. Of course ministral is properly ministerial, but having recently seen "egoistic" in a (non-NYT) grid, I wasn't standing on too much ceremony. Though there is the issue of answering to the clue.

And Band-Aid removal! Does this pass the breakfast test? I'm very glad Rex chose not to post a graphic.

Enough procrastination. I'm heading outside to shovel away the hillock I hope contains my car.

JaxInL.A. 10:01 AM  

This is a puzzle that I can admire academically but really dislike as a solver. There was simply nothing here for me to work with. Between missing clues and really tough, obscure clues, I could not get enough letters to begin guessing, which appears to be how Rex made headway on this.

Without so many missing clues, I might have really enjoyed SINISTRAL, EUNUCH, BURNSIAN, and even that Super TUE and USDA Choice. But in the end I got tired of beating my head against this particular grid-shaped wall and came here for hints.

Glad this one is over.

No BS 10:16 AM  

Made a couple mistakes (emit crossing usma; misspelled lei to get ensana) but worked it out basically which made me proud. With all the blank clues and the follow the long instruction theme there was a strong temptation to throw in the wet sponge. Gimme Styx led me to Next, which led me to the theme, which... I thought it was fun, in the sense that it rewarded persistence and mental flexibility. So glad that there was prorexia on opening this site! It really was a challenge.

Matt 10:16 AM  

All interesting. To those of you who loved the gimmick, thanks! To those of you who hated it, I'm sorry. :(

A couple of specific points. I'm not an accountant, but I've certainly heard of P&L and my understanding is that things like RANDR, AANDP, AANDE, etc are completely acceptable fill. I put PANDL in on purpose because I *liked* it. (At least, if memory serves -- it's about two years from pillar to post for many of these.)

The BLT clue wasn't mine. I didn't even own a toaster oven until my mother-in-law got us one for Christmas this year. My clue was [PB&J alternative]. I'm not sure I like that any better, though ...

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

As one who normally struggles on Thursdays and needs help I got quite a bit of the puzzle solved before going to Google. I got most of it solved in the end. The NW corner is logical but I had trouble thinking of RABBI as an official even with R, A and I filled in (stupid me).
Like Rex I had TANS in 48A for far too long so could not see TUT and wanted to force IT'S TOO BAD in 39D.
I am not a fan of instructions type puzzles and this one did not change my opinion of them. I want to forget this puzzle. There were also too many words that only a walking encyclopedia can possibly know. And intersecting clues were no help.
Instead of the "aha moment" I had the "so what? moment". There is some satisfaction that I eventually cracked the theme even though I needed some help.

retired_chemist 10:20 AM  

While this one was a slog until I got enough of the "advice" clues to figure out the idea, it was a pleasure to solve. Most challenging Thursday I can remember, yet by the same token the most rewarding.

Made many of the mistakes mentioned by Rex and posters above (AIR, CASTE, TANS, ATTAR, and more). Also had IT'S ROUGH, then IT'S TOUGH @ 39D for a while, plus HOES @ 6A.

Rejected BLTs for a while - didn't want to think of what the toaster oven would do to the tomato and mayo.

Thanks, Mr. Ginsberg. Well done.

captcha fulkar. Enough said....

retired_chemist 10:30 AM  

@ Matt - I think "PB&J alternatives" would bave been a better clue. Both take me back....

Also, unless I get energetic and dig out a sloping driveway with an inch of glare ice, not to mention the gate that is frozen shut at the top of the hill, PB&J will be a daily staple until it thaws enough to make the deicing easier. I DID NOT expect Dallas to have this. Icing always before has been a one day thing. This weather sucks.

quilter1 10:39 AM  

My first entry was EUNUCH. Eunuchs often rose to positions of power as they were no threat to the king's gene POOL. See Acts 8: 26-40 for example.
Once I got NEXT ONE I tumbled to the theme and things went pretty quickly after that.
Thanks, Matt, I enjoyed the tussle. But I agree that BLTS are not made in toaster ovens. :)

SethG 10:49 AM  

ALSO. Also much trouble with the Ss in TOTx/xOW, INxANA/xINITRAL, and RATTAIL.

I understood the theme early, got the reveal way quickly, still had trouble finishing. I knew which clues went with which words, I just couldn't solve them that easily.

balto 10:52 AM  

Sometimes I just look at an xword and know -- I just don't have time for this.

deerfencer 10:57 AM  

Fail. Not a Thursday puzzle IMO; not even close. Had trouble finishing even with Googling and peekaboo cheating here and there.


The main problem: Given the paucity of clues, the clues that do exist deserved to be clearer and not so willfully obscure or misleading, e.g. referring to a RABBI as an "official;" "Held up" as a clue for BORNE; PFFT clued as "kaput," etc.

In the end this was a moderately clever concept poorly clued/executed/edited IMO. (When experienced solvers like SethG get the theme and still have trouble finishing, to me that points toward lousy or awkward cluing.)

Two Ponies 11:01 AM  

Tough brutal puzzle.
Thanks Matt for the challenge and for dropping by.
Whoever wrote the BLT clue can't be much of a cook.
That NE corner did me in.
No one else had fracture for 10D?
That blinded me until I threw in the towel.
Really wanted mullet to fit for that hair style.
Started with Ruth but then thought it was BambinO so waited it out.
Agree that rabbi next to Adolf made me flinch.

PuzzleNut 11:13 AM  

Everything Rex said, plus -
Two silly mistakes. Didn't know INSANA and I was thinking about FLOUTER, even though I had the N in place, so my FLAUNTER was spelled with an O. Pretty sloppy. Same problem with USMA. Had the nearby EMIT in my brain and thought the marines were supposed to be the best choice, so I screwed up there as well.
I only knew ARETE as a mountain ridge, so I learned something new today. Since I was sure the answer wasn't ARETE, the only thing it could be was CRETE and CFL. Not.

Noam D. Elkies 11:17 AM  

Yes, ingenious but really tough for a Thursday.

I think the clue for 25A:PFFT is pffine: went kaput = went pfft. Some of the other entries (enumerated already by others) I couldn't give a 44A:RAT'S_TAIL for, including that one...

—NDE [captcha = monte; is this a shell game, or as in 57D:ETNA?]

Noam D. Elkies 11:21 AM  

P.S. You probably wanted "Dickinsonian", not "Dickensonian". Going a bit further back in time there's "Sapphic".

—NDE

monkistan 11:26 AM  

wow. that's really all I can say. for me, the easiest part (almost) was the themed answers. the rest of the puzzle really vexed me. too many things out of my frame of mind. I have no problem with pandl, just could not think of it at all. same issue as others with else and blt. I see that else is in addition, now, but too much programming: if/then/else for me to get it.

anyway, fun thoughvexing puzzle. and yes I needed to cheat a little.

jae 11:42 AM  

I finished but it was a slog. Rex pretty much covered my experience. Over all I liked it but the middle section was brutal. Very tough Thurs.!

hazel 11:51 AM  

wow. took me forever to get the drift. what a toughie. i'm a lefty so like SINISTRAL. My grandma tried to get my mom to tie my left hand behind my back when i was little so i wouldn't grow up to be sinister, I suppose. My mom ignored her, thankfully.

PANDL is legit in my book - although I first tried bonus, audit, a whole bunch of stuff - certainly not some abbreviation for personnel, though. The CFO's I've worked with - the last thing on their mind is the employees!

Can't decide if I loved or hated this puzzle.

Sparky 11:54 AM  

Hand up on BLT. Maybe grilled cheese without the butter on the bread could work in a toaster oven. Agree @Samantha. Too close for comfort. Plus I don't think of a rabbi or a priest or a minister as an official. Counsellors, authorities, leaders, not officials. Anyrood, @Seth G, same problem. Once I spelled out the directions I still couldn't get 10 and 11D. Almost gave up about 10:20a.m. but stayed with till had most but DNF. What a week. Good luck to all the snowed ins.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:54 AM  

A genuine "puzzle", to be sure.

I struggled mightily in the NE, with multiple write-overs, because, like @Two Ponies, I started with FRACTURE instead of APERTURE.

Also wrote over from WHIM to WANT at 63 A.

But finished with one wrong letter, had 6 D as SILLE instead of MILLE (a Frenchy name for a Minnesota lake? Could be anything. At first glance I thought it was FONDU, which must be a mis-spelling.) which made 6 A SOWS instead of MOWS, both legitimate examples of yard work.

Of course, just as I was waiting to connect to the blog, I noticed that 43 A was SOW, which would have made SOWS unlikely!

eHow 12:00 PM  

"Choosing a rabbi to officiate your wedding is one of the most critical choices you make.

Read more: How to Choose a Rabbi to Officiate Your Wedding | eHow.com"

If a Rabbi officiates at your wedding, does that make him or her an official?

Vega 12:01 PM  

I was deliriously delighted with the challenge of this one. Like many others, the NE did me in. What Rex said about ARETE -- and yet, it's the first definition at dictionary.com. Who knew!

I'm wondering if those of us who are queer (and of a certain age?) know SINISTRAL because back in the day (when we sported RATSTAILS) one way to challenge the "abnormal; unnatural" camp was to demonstrate the analogy to left-handedness: similar proportions of a population; similar inability of science to explain; similar stigma and insistence by parents/society to change; similar association with abnormality/sin/unnaturalness/possession. It's no coincidence that "sinister" is evil and "dexter" is good. AND YET today in most places in the world, left-handers are no longer shunned or stigmatized. I don't know if the argument worked, but it made us feel better.

I think "PB&J alternative" works way better.

John V 12:05 PM  

Short on time today -- in part cause the puzzle took soooo long. Challenging, for sure.

Everything Rex said, esp the center, Insana, pfft (me no likey). Wanted 28A as Violaters, so stuck there for a long time. DNF, but just barely so.

treedweller 12:11 PM  

I generally hate puzzles with instructions, quotes, etc., because there is no moment where you can click to a known phrase and fill in the blanks--even with the first and last words, I still tend to find myself blanking on the middle. Today, I caught the theme early (@ ICEE) and filled in the instructions all the way through--hesitantly, but correctly, it turns out. I still never finished the NE or center until I cheated for INSANA and ARETE.

Liked that, even with two answers per clue, it was rare that the most obvious answer was correct for either (particularly "Rank", which made me try "stinky" instead of STATUS till I got NASTY). Didn't like the extra S in RAT_TAIL. Thought "Bambini" should have had an Italian answer.

Anonymous 12:16 PM  

Remembered Mr. Insana from his reporting days (NBC Nightly?). Had no problems except the upper right. Had FRACTURE, ONEA....
Didn't think of APERTURE, prolly cause it's more of an opening that is intended than not (as a crack would be) but I'm picknitting cause I didn't get it. ENOS and ROOT in and out, Rain for 16A because of the first R in Fracture.
Googled "longest river..." and chose WIKI list of Swiss rivers. AAR was there but no map so I tried to fit in the 2 with 4 letters, but both started with "T".
Grrrr. I know crosswordese AARE and thought of it but couln't squeeze it in.
ARETE=TOR=CRAG in my book. Never heard of the ancient Greek angle.
RATTAIL not RATSTAIL.
Toast in a Toast-R oven. You dont put the lettuce in to cook. I'm no cook but even I know that.
First puzzle I haven't finished myself in a LOOOOONG time.

TimJim 12:20 PM  

Tough. Liked the theme, which I figured out, the fill not so much. DNF due to INSANA/SINISTRAL/PANDL, which struck me as unfairly obscure. Wanted PRNDL for a CFO driving an old car.

Matthew G. 12:36 PM  

Loved it, but ouch. This one took me just shy of an hour to finish, and I still had to Google Mr. INSANA to get it. Hardest Thursday in I-don't-know-how-long.

The theme didn't take me much time at all, and I enjoyed it a lot. Picked up the theme early when RAKES jumped out at 1A, and after I saw the clue for 6A, I was able to just write all three parts of the reveal in with few crosses.

So, that was fine. All of my difficulty came from fill words in the NE and NE center: INSANA (who?!?!), PANDL, PFFT (I wanted a vowel of some kind where that first F was), and, oddly, SOW, which took me forever to see as a synonym for {Broadcast}. I had most of the grid full in respectable time, but Could. Not. Finish. the Northeast. After an eternity of struggling, I gave in and Googled.

A humbling puzzle that reminded me how far I still have to go in Crossworld.

OldCarFudd 12:39 PM  

Wow! Impressive! I made several of the same mistakes as others, but eventually found and fixed them. Agree with the criticisms of BLTs as clued.

christelb_devlin 12:44 PM  

ARETE for virtue is pretty much a gimme if you're familiar with Greek philosophy. And you are familiar with Greek philosophy, aren't you?

william e emba 12:46 PM  

Challenging, but well worth it. I got the theme almost immediately off of STATUS crossed with NEXT ONE in the SE. While it helped, the cluing was mostly Saturday level.

In addition to the popular mistakes (like aLSo instead of ELSE, which prevented me from putting in AARE automatically) I somewhere had the idea that since the Super Bowl dates from the NFL/AFL merger, Joe Namath was either in the NFL or AFC. Silly me, the Super Bowl was begun immediately, while the AFL existed separately while the merger was in progress for a few years.

I don't think I could have finished the NE without ENOS as an absolute rock-solid entry. My mind kept trying to go with fracTURE for the crack.

On the other hand, once I had --NDL, P(rofit)ANDL(oss) came to mind immediately. I'm astonished that there are people who have not heard of P&L.

Off the RA--I, I was stumped who the black hatted official was, despite living amongst the black hatters for the past fifteen years. Boy, was that embarrassing.

poc 12:51 PM  

I liked this one, despite not knowing INSANA. However i feel TUT should have been flagged as an abbrev. Pace Steve Martin, his name was not King Tut but Tutankhamun.

Masked and Anonymous 1:06 PM  

Liked it. Made you think outside the box. For some reason, had the "advice" entries filled in fairly early, with oceans of white space still all around them. Seemed to make solving the rest of this one a walk in the park, with a few heel-nipping exceptions.

Wanted hOeS for 6-Across. Pfft. Finally tried sOdS. Pfft II. Even with S- locked in, had a piiiitiful time figurin' out SEE (9-D); and I play poker. Had vaguely heard of Ron INSANA, so had him tentatively (lightly) written in pretty early. Otherwise, no problemo.

Nice U count. thUmbs Up.

Oh, yeah. . . 1:24 PM  

Almost forgot to mention -- a missed cluing opportunity, pointed out by constructor friend Erul:

7-Down. Mexican chow coming back up.

Har. That guy never misses an opportunity. Stay warm, Houston.

Anonymous 1:25 PM  

To anonymous 919am

An icee is a slurpee, often sold at movie theatres under this private name instead of the 7/11 product name.

chefbea 2:27 PM  

didn't understand the puzzle. Couldn't do it. Now that I know what it's all about I'm still not going to finnish it

CFXK 2:39 PM  

The hairstyle is "rattail," not ratstail. Unless one is willing to accept "ponystail" as a variant of "ponytail," one should not accept "ratstail" as a variant of "rattail." Instead, it is an error in the puzzle.

miriam b 2:52 PM  

I had to mince my way to the curb over lumpy ice so as to retrieve a very late-arriving NYT. My efforts were rewarded, in spades. What a great puzzle. Wish I could say the same about world news.

fergus 2:52 PM  

Cumulative time for Wed-Thu this week must be highest in a while. I seldom go on the clock but I would guess more than an hour for these two combined.

My white-out conditions today roughly matched the coverage of the blizzard, from NE New Mexico clear through Maine.

Never seen APERATURE used for other than a camera ...

Anonymous 3:08 PM  

"P AND L" is a very common biz phrase -- used to describe the "Profit & Loss Statement" (e.g., "what's your P&L look like?" or "I'll show you my P&L if you show me yours."). Okay, maybe not that second one. The P&L is also called the Income Statement. (Apologies if I've posted a version of this 2x.)

dk 3:33 PM  

Err, I had King TaT and its to bad. I also thought it was add in or out. So I took a hit to the right shoulder and thigh.

I really wanted to fill in mullet...

Nothing to add. I am on the fence.

** (2 Stars)

sanfranman59 3:47 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)

Thu 27:40, 19:05, 1.45, 95%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 14:49, 9:12, 1.61, 98%, Challenging

ArtLvr 4:08 PM  

@ fergus, first you have to spell APERTURE without the second A (see your post), then google "flute apertures" and you will discover much discussion of the small hole on the instrument and also the lip aperture a beginner may need for control, etc.

I think users of other types of instruments, like cameras and telescopes, speak of apertures in detail too!

@ miriam b, I'm glad you were able to mince your way over the ice without mishap! "Mince" would be a yummy clue for a puzzle with double meanings!

∑;)

Rube 4:19 PM  

Got the NW & SE giving me IFACLUE...NEXTONE which was enough to figure out the gimmick. Got the NE with ENOS and the crosswordesey AAR/AARE and erasing aLSo in favor of ELSE, (which I, like some other programmers here, did not like, but can accept). ARETE sounded vaguely familiar after it was all filled in. Made me think of Aristotle's Eudaimonia, a WOTD for me a while back.

Nevertheless, there was too muck white space in the middle and had to Google for INSANA, which broke open the rest of the puzzle. Got PANDL from the _A_D_, a gimme if you've ever tried to get a small business loan from a bank, CFOs be damned.

Not a great fan of PFFT, but there are other answers here that require similar stretches of the imagination, (e.g. IDEA for fancy). Not knowing OWEN Wilson caused the SW to be the last to fall.

Thanks Matt for chiming in. You produced a great puzzle here, even if the lettuce on your BLT got "toasted".

fergus 4:23 PM  

Still looking for APERTURE (this time posted correctly) used outside optical instruments. An aperture appeared in the wall after the earthquake? Mind the Aperture!? Stand clear of the doors please -- an aperture might betide betwixt them.

davko 4:48 PM  

I was nonplussed by just how much of this puzzle I filled in with a fair degree of confidence, only to have to "eat my words" later. First, like our host, I was suckered into ATTAR for ESTHER, TANS for SUNS, and CASTE for NASTY. But then came SOWS for MOWS (6A), WISH for WANT (63A), and even MUFTI for RABBI (1D).

Before I caught on to the puzzle's delightfully satisfying theme, there were even more wild stabs in the dark, the worst of which was MOUNTY for harem protector (instead of EUNUCH, 4D).

Before solving the instructions, I correctly lucked into APERTURE (10D), but thought at the time the dashes were representative of some kind of slit! All part and this puzzle's genius and charm.

retired_chemist 5:01 PM  

There are many kinds of apertures, and anyway I just thought it was a 2 dollar way of saying opening.

Sean 5:08 PM  

Did anyone find "sow" as a synonym for "broadcast" unusual? I still don't understand it. You reap what you broadcast?

William 5:28 PM  

Aren't any of you classicists? Sigh. Got "sinistral" and "arete" immediately, as well as Styx, which revealed the solving method. Only a medium in my book, but a fun one.

Look Up Guy 5:31 PM  

Definitions of broadcast on the Web:

•air: broadcast over the airwaves, as in radio or television; "We cannot air this X-rated song"
•sow over a wide area, especially by hand; "broadcast seeds"

[Continuing a tradition of FWIW search results, without further interpretation]

Elwood 5:41 PM  

No sir. We're musicians.

DJG 6:04 PM  

Solid theme idea, but for me the annoying-ness of solving it (obscure middle, shaky NE corner, and required clue jumping), slighty outweighed the pleasure of solving it -- just slightly though.

Anonymous 6:40 PM  

i tip my lid to those of you who solved this.

michael 8:59 PM  

I almost always finish Thursdays, but not this one. The SW did me in. But I liked it. Took forever to figure out the gimmick.

I'll have to look at Wednesday's puzzle sometime. i do the puzzles with pen [perhaps a mistake] and paper and the snow prevented newspapers from getting to my town yesterday, I'm curious because it seems I missed a hard Wednesday (it is difficult to conceive of such a thing) that at least some people really disliked.

acme 9:00 PM  

@anonymous 6:40pm
Have we met? ;)

Sfingi 9:35 PM  

Way DNF.
Did not get the theme at all. Even after Rex. Had to come to comments. The only real words, besides a little crosswordese, were SINISTRAL and EUNUCH. SINISTRALity was the subject of my masters.
Otherwise, I ATE IT. Had only 76 letters (42%) filled in.

This is the sort of puzzle about which one wonders if the creator would have been able to solve.

For said masters, read a paper called "Rates of Testicular Sinistrality in a Rural Population" (in China). Of interest to tailors, I guess; not reading teachers.

@Michael - I liked yesterday's, and it was clean and clever.

JenCT 9:53 PM  

Had FRACTURE before APERTURE, HOES before MOWS, BLUE before BLEU, NFL before AFL.

Loved PFFT, USDA, ECHO. Thought the puzzle was pretty brutal - more like a Saturday.

miriam b 10:01 PM  

@sfingi: I surmise that the subjets of the thesis did not include EUNUCHs. Sorry

sanfranman59 10:02 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 5:46, 6:54, 0.84, 1%, Easy
Tue 8:00, 8:57, 0.89, 21%, Easy-Medium
Wed 14:47, 11:46, 1.26, 94%, Challenging
Thu 28:24, 19:06, 1.49, 97%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:07, 3:41, 0.85, 1%, Easy
Tue 4:14, 4:35, 0.92, 28%, Easy-Medium
Wed 7:32, 5:48, 1.30, 95%, Challenging
Thu 14:29, 9:12, 1.58, 97%, Challenging

fergus 1:50 AM  

Here's hoping Fri will continue in Wed-Thu vein. Should take at least an hour ...

I skip M-W 6:27 AM  

Mistakes in NE , same as ACME, even though I had Aare in there to begin with. Then tried Jura. Arrgggh. didn't have a clue as to blanks until got instructions, but those seemed pretty easy. thinking of having my nephew's wife officiate at my wedding even though she's not a rabbi yet, but she doesn't wear black hats and wouldn't be an official. I still don't think aperture is a crack, despite its many meanings, but that fill was unavoidable. Never heard of hair style called either rat tail or rat's tail, but clue was pretty obvious.

Julie 11:59 AM  

Hardest Thursday ever. Had to bring the hubby as a closer; he was stumped too. But satisfying, even though I didn't understand PANDL until I read Rex's post. We just thought it was some businessy thing we didn't understand!! Hope today's will be easy by comparison.

Anonymous 2:26 AM  

Uncanny how almost everyone of the initial wrong guesses made by Parker read like a map of my own thinking, I mean almost every single one. It shows not so much mind meld but the culture/language/expectation of crosswordese starts to set its own mindset even as it tries to stretch and destroy old ones with its clever wordplay. Such is the contradiction of good puzzling. It relies upon certain inside conventions to destroy those conventions and get a pleasurable, novel experience. Felt this was a fun and interesting mindset tweaker (not so much destroyer). Loved the way you had to trust you word sense in the absence of clues and logic backward to a clue that you could then use forward. Great stuff. --- Citizen Zeus

Dirigonzo 3:40 PM  

This puzzle landed in syndi-land on March 10 and guess what - it had not mellowed with age! Managed to get through it but I'm probably the only one who finished with Ron INvANA sitting in the middle of the grid. Had aLSo in the northeast corner, too, but nothing ELSE by way of mistakes.

@ICM (aka ACME) frets that many CEOs are panhandling these days - she needn't worry about them I think, as it seems the "recovery" which has so far eluded most of us has taken hold in corporate boardrooms. Bonuses are back, baby!

SharonAK 4:39 PM  

I'm with Bluestater
This was puzzle, a word puzzle of sorts, but not really a crossword puzzle.
Now, maybe, just maybe, if it had the title What's next" to give us a clue to start with, as the Sunday puzzle's do...
In syndication there is never a title except on Sundays


Missed Wed.
Hope Friday is better.

Marc 5:31 PM  

Nice trick puzzle, although the trick wasn't that hard to get. However, overall the puzzle was very difficult for a Thursday --- felt more like a Saturday. There were too many clues that I had no way of knowing without googling.

I have never heard of Ron INSANA, PANDL (oh ... P & L ...), SINISTRAL (I may have seen that word before, but had no idea it had anything to do with left-handedness.) And so forth.

Cluing was fairly difficult for me, perhaps just the luck of the draw. Still, I like challenging puzzles, even if I don't finish. There was a time when I wouldn't have been able to finish even half of a puzzle like this; I wouldn't even have tried. Now I can get most of it, so the exercise is worth it.

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