French department in Pyrenees / THU 3-10-11 / Country US goes to war Wag Dog / 1973 nonfiction best seller about woman with multiple personalities

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Constructor: Matt Ginsberg

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: WORDS PRONOUNCED / DIFFERENTLY / WHEN CAPITALIZED (16A: With 36- and 58-Across, what the answers to the starred clues are) — four theme answers fit the bill:

  • READING (1A: *Poet's performance)
  • RAINIER (65A: *Like Seattle vis-à-vis Phoenix)
  • MOBILE (22D: *Not fixed)
  • POLISH (31D: *Shine)
  • [Update: when originally submitted, the puzzle had an asterisk on the clue for DIFFERENTLY as well ...]
Word of the Day: ARIÈGE (45D: French department in the Pyrenees) —
Ariège (French pronunciation: [aʁjɛʒ]; Occitan: Arièja) is a department in southwestern France named after the Ariège River. // Ariège is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4th, 1790. It was created from the counties of Foix and Couserans. // Foix is the administrative capital of the Ariège. It is an ancient medieval town with a fortress Chateau de Foix perched on a hill overlooking it. The fortress has been attacked many times without capture, including an attempt by Simon de Montfort. It has also been used as a prison, and the names of English Prisoners of War can still be seen on the cell walls. Another famous chateau in the Ariège is Montségur, located on a rocky outcrop at a height of 1200 metres (3,900 ft). During the Albigensian Crusade and siege of 1244 AD the chateau was largely destroyed, with more than two hundred Cathar priests burnt at the stake as heretics. The chateau was gradually rebuilt by Royalists over a period of the next three hundred years.
• • •

Early morning tomorrow, so short write-up, which is good, because the only thing of substance that I have to say is fairly succinct. I tend not to like puzzles where instructions or explanations of the theme are a dominant part of the fill. This was especially true today, where 41 squares are used to explain to me what's happening with just 26 other squares. The proportions just feel off. Having only four *real* theme answers hardly seems to warrant the amount of space taken up by the explanation—and yet because the explanation takes up that amount of space, you have a puzzle with a fairly dense 67 total squares of theme material. Normally I'd praise theme density, especially when the rest of the fill holds up pretty well (as it does here, with the long arcane name DEMAREST (36D: William who played Uncle Charley on "My Three Sons") and the whatthewherethe geographical oddity ARIÈGE being the only notable negatives). But long instructions/explanations in my grid just leave me cold. Idea here is clever, but in practice, the whole puzzle feels out of balance, and none of the theme answers have a pop or an aha quality to them. I didn't need the theme and didn't use knowledge of the theme to get any of the four relevant words. Matt's a super-talented constructor, but this one just wasn't for me (that's three in a row now ... hoping the streak breaks tomorrow).

Bullets:
  • 14A: Country with which the U.S. goes to war in "Wag the Dog" (ALBANIA) — I'd completely forgotten this. Took a while to see, as I had THE BAY instead of the correct RAW BAR at 1D: Seafood lover's hangout for a while.
  • 19A: 1973 nonfiction best seller about a woman with multiple personalities (SYBIL) — "SYBIL" was a term to be defined on the midterm I just gave. Not this SYBIL.
  • 40A: Figures on the ceiling of la Cappella Sistina (ANGELI) — didn't take the time to notice that this was in Italian, so had ANGELS to start with...
  • 54A: Bette's "Divine" stage persona (MISS M) — Gimme. A nice five-letter answer.

  • 2D: Nancy Drew's aunt (ELOISE) — uh ... OK. Guessed it from the -ISE. Figured it wasn't Gary SINISE ... although I guess both DENISE and LOUISE were more plausible possibilities.
  • 12D: Flower that shares its name with a tentacled sea creature (ANEMONE) — used this word in a puzzle once and have never forgotten it. My daughter asked me about a sea creature today. Specifically, her question was: "What's a Kraken?"

  • 34D: Burglar in detective stories (YEGG) — one of the all-time great bits of olde-timey crime slang.
  • 15A: Who "saved my life tonight" in a 1975 Elton John hit ("SOMEONE") — I love this clue, and this song. "Sugarbeeeaaaar"

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

99 comments:

foodie 12:13 AM  

I agree with you Rex regarding the proportions.

The saving grace is that the instructions consisted of relatively few words- Five. I don't know why that matters but it seems to. I guess may be because I could not suggest a way to trim them, and so they did not feel unnecessarily padded to fit.

I did not know RAPINE.. And I pride myself on knowing French Geography but ARIEGE only vaguely rang a bell after the fact. By contrast, DEMAREST emerged our of nowhere as a gimme!

In the end, the puzzle merited a little smile...

Pete 12:26 AM  

I know neither my French geography nor my medieval French poetry, so when I had IMINANE as 63A I decided that was such an excellent answer I left it at that, all things Frenchy aside.

Matt Ginsberg 12:35 AM  

For what it's worth, this puzzle was a tiny bit different when I submitted it, but the difference matters: 36-Across is supposed to have an asterisk! That was the whole point of the puzzle, as I originally thought of it ...

Jaunty 12:40 AM  

I like that wrinkle, Matt. I see why Will removed it -- there would have been much complaining and garment-rending among those who didn't get the joke -- but it's a nice added twist. Took me a second.

Thanks for an enjoyable Thursday puzzle!

foodie 12:52 AM  

I'm sorry to be dense... it's been a long day. No garment rending, but I'd appreciate an explanation, so I can go to sleep :)

I'm thinking I wont be the only one needing it

Martin 1:00 AM  

How do you pronounce "differently"?

Martin 1:01 AM  

(when it's capitalized)

chefwen 1:05 AM  

Best puzzle of the week so far in my not so humble opinion. Like @foodie RAPINE was a new one for me and I only got ARIEGE from crosses. Only write over was 41A CAME AS over went AS.

Was going to make Chicken Tortilla soup tomorrow but I think a may switch gears and make my killer PAD THAI. As that wacky Rachel Ray would say YUMM-O!

Good Puzzle Mr. Ginnsberg, thanks.

DJG 1:06 AM  

Differently is always pronounced differently, like any word is always prounced as it's self? Is that the added twist?

I'm not sure if that adds much.

OK puzzle without the twist. I found it brutally hard, actually.

DJG 1:07 AM  

Correction: itself

Anonymous 1:08 AM  

Matt is so right--the asterisk in front of 36-A would have made a world of difference. Funny and clever--"differently" is a word pronounced "differently" whether capped or lower cased. It's a shame that wasn't included in the puzzle.

--kratsman

Albania Cellar Mantles 1:12 AM  

@foodie, @martin
Wha? I STILL need the explanation (just about 36A, I get it for the others).
Esp bec I thought DIF should not cross DIFFERENTLY, should it? Isn't DIF for "difference"?
(Wow, out of context, those don't even look like real words!)

Middle = Mess as I had BArnum, instead of BAILEY, since we had the whole Phineas T thing last week...
or was it three weeks ago?
(I've lost track of time these last few weeks, but judging by the outpouring of support, I think I should take a break more often!)

Since I'm one who likes to go thru and put in my S for plurals, I was caught not once but TWICE with the -i ending (ANGELI, TORI)...
so maybe I should start putting in i's for plurals!
Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice...and you are probably Matt Ginsberg!

I also had a mess with viCinITY/LOCALITY and RAPINg!!! which I felt in my heart of hearts couldn't be right, but that must be where it comes from?
But it left me (briefly) with REDEggS leaving at midnight!

I remembered ALBANIA with no letters, but didn't trust myself to actually write it in, lest it was a made up place like Freedonia.
Did I ever share the story of the Albanians riding escalators with their goats in Yugoslavia circa 1980? An image I'll never forget
(till I do).

And I don't even want to know what Cheese NIPS are.

Clark 1:22 AM  

I had to work to fill this in. I thought the theme was ok. But with 36A starred, I think it is super!

@Albania -- Cheese Nips. Little square cheese crackers. With a little tiny hole in the middle, if memory serves me. That makes them TORI.

foodie 1:35 AM  

@Albania Cellar Mantles, I guess what @Martin and others are saying is that with the asterisk, DIFFERENTLY would play a dual role:

a)for its meaning, which is part of the instructions and indicates a change in emphasis in those other words when capitalized (we all got that)

and

b) for its oral sound. When you say it out loud, the usual way, you PRONOUNCE this word is "DIFFERENTLY". The same pronunciation holds whether or not it's capitalized, so the instructions are still correct.

It would have definitely made it more Thursday-like!

I've probably completely muddled everyone who was mildly confused, while blowing my third post. Good night!

Anonymous 1:52 AM  

When a crossword is just too sophisticated for the NYT, then it should be rejected and given the opportunity to be showcased in a more forward thinking outlet. (That lets out almost all of the mass market outlets. Fine by me.)

Anonymous 3:15 AM  

What the heck is Tori? Puzzle was relatively easy to do otherwise.

Gil.I.Pollas 3:27 AM  

Does anyone ever say ASAMI? What happend to ditto?
And does any one care about Nancy Drew's aunt?

Octavian 3:46 AM  

OK I think I get the joke now, Matt.

It really made me laugh out loud. That is very clever! It's a shame Will did not keep the asterisk.

To those who are still confused, here is what I think he meant:

"Words that are pronounced differently when capitalized" includes all of the currently starred words PLUS the word "differently" because that is itself a word that is capitalized.

I.e., it's not that it has a different syllable emphasis when capitalized. It just sounds like "differently." Because it is.

It's such an amusing use of the language. I love it. And makes the puzzle 1000x better!

CoolPapaD 4:01 AM  

The reason we don't see YEGG so much anymore is that most of them were arrested by all of the TECS out there.

I really enjoyed this one (as I did the previous several days), and thought it was appropriately challenging for a Thursday. I liked it as is, and am glad that the asterisk was removed from 36A - it would have driven me nuts! Thanks, Matt!

Octavian 4:11 AM  

The more I think about it, the more I can't understand why Will would have removed the asterisk.

Without the star on DIFFERENTLY it's like a joke without a punchline.

Here is my impersonation of the editor of this puzzle telling a joke: "A priest, a rabbi and an attorney walk into a bar. The priest turns to the rabbi and says."

Greene 4:51 AM  

I very much enjoyed this puzzle and thought it was just the right degree of difficulty for a Thursday. I agree with others that an asterisk on 36A would have added to the delight of the theme.

Speaking of delight, the whole play on DIFFERENTLY reminds me of a similiar gag cooked up by Kurt Weil and Ira Gershwin for the 1941 musical show Lady In the Dark. The first act has a story song called "The Princess of Pure Delight" which is about a king who must select between three suitors for his daughter's hand:

Her father, the King, didn't know which to choose;
There were two charming suitors he'd have to refuse.
So he called for the Dean of his Socerers and
Inquired which one was to win her hand...

"My King, here's a riddle -- (you test them tonight):
'What word of five letters is never spelled right?
What word of five letters is always spelled wrong?'
The one who can answer will be wedded ere long..."


The answer to the riddle, of course, is the word "wrong" and many stanzas later the princess ends up with the minstrel (with whom she had been secretly in love anyway).

Anyway, long story, but it's the same kind of wordplay, which is probably why I enjoy Ira Gershwin so much in the first place.

Thanks for the puzzle and the explanation Matt. Now, on to Friday!

I skip M-W 6:33 AM  

Enjoyed the joke, @Matt. At first I was completely stumped by puzzle, but then it started filling itself in fast. @Anonymous 3:15, tori is the plural of torus, which seems to come up often enough. I don't like brand names in puzzles so annoyed by Atra. For awhile, I had "I'm an ace" instead of "I manage" which crosses Ariege; I suppose I should have known it as that departement is the locale of Montaillou, as described by LeRoy Ladurie in his book of that title (English subtitle :The Promised Land of Error) about the Cathar "heresy" in 13th c. France. Just terrific. A look at the map of Ariege made me want to visit.

Rex Parker 6:34 AM  

Matt, interesting, but like @foodie I didn't get it at all until someone explained. Not saying it's not clever, but am definitely saying huge swaths of the solving population would have been left shrugging (unless we dense folk are truly outliers).

Smitty 6:36 AM  

north hemisphere was easy
(How could I forget Willy Nelson strumming "Albania" poolside at 3am)

Southern hemisphere, not so easy when I couldn't see past differently THAN bla bla

The french LAI and ARIEGE were greek to me and I flubbed I'M IN AWE (I MANAGE)

Finally got it all figured out.

Anonymous 6:46 AM  

Clever joke Matt!
I hope a lot of solvers come here to get what was originally intended by you before it was edited out.

Matthew G. 7:55 AM  

I like Matt's original concept, though I admit I would probably have scratched my head at it a bit if I saw the asterisk on 36A.

I enjoyed this. I respect the distaste some people have for instruction/explanation puzzles, but I don't have a categorical reaction to them. This worked for me, and would probably have worked even better if published as Matt intended.

I started off strong on this one -- first entry was ALBANIA and I raced through the top two-thirds of the grid. Slowed down considerably in the bottom third. I finished with one dumb error: IMANAcE. I got locked on thinking the phrase began with "I'm" and since I didn't know the crossing French location, went with "I'm an ace."

joho 8:15 AM  

I enjoyed it but didn't get the * at DIFFERENTLY until explained to me. I think the "joke" works better in @Greene's explanation of the right answer being wrong. Regardless, I commend Matt for his clever idea whether it worked perfectly or not. I do think the * should have been left in for all us to ponder since it was the whole reason Matt did the puzzle in the first place!

OldCarFudd 9:16 AM  

I'm with Rex on this. It was a good puzzle without the middle asterisk. It would have been brilliant with the middle asterisk, and I appreciate what Matt was trying to do, and I would have solved it, but the reason it worked would have totally flummoxed me until I came here for the explanation.

OCF, aka Dense Outlier

jesser 9:16 AM  

Crunchy fare this morning. Writeover at 63A, where I wanted 'I MAke do' for the longest time.

Rapine is new to me, and still looks like a captcha.

Had 36A been asterisked, I'd have Never Gotten It. I'd have scratched a hole in my scalp.

But in the end, any puzzle with the Divine MISS M in it will make me a happy camper (pun intended).

Greadis! (Good, according the Wall Street) -- jesser

jesser 9:18 AM  

According TO...
Yeah. Coffee good.

quilter1 9:20 AM  

Thanks Matt Ginsberg for a very enjoyable, fresh and clever puzzle. I agree that the asterisk at 36A should have been left in.

Knew DEMAREST somehow, liked RAW BAR, TORI, and ANEMONE.

We once had a baby in the NICU whose mother had multiple personality disorder. The nurses worried about her taking the baby home, but relaxed when they observed that the personality that cared for the baby was loving and competent. In fact, all her personalities were benign. As my wisest teacher once said, nothing is more fascinating than people.

captcha adflen: when you can't afford Aflac.

PuzzleNut 9:30 AM  

I was looking for more asterisks, but probably would have been flummoxed if 36A had one (but very clever, now that I get it).
I would have objected to the long instructions, but a) the fill was outstanding, and b) like @foodie noted, the words were long and easily inferred with just a few letters. Very solid puzzle all around.
Didn't know ARIEGE or ELOISE, but fair crosses made them gettable. Spent a lot of time watching My Three Sons as a kid, but was unsure of the spelling of DEMAREST. Other minor write-overs were BoNZAI, RoDONDO and cYBIL.

Pete 9:36 AM  

My vote is that the asterik for 36A should have been included, it's a valid mind teaser. I never would have gotten it, but that's my problem, not the puzzles.

chefbea 9:50 AM  

Fun puzzle with or without the * at 36 accross. Found it pretty easy for a thursday.

And speaking of cheese nips...there was a recipe in our paper yesterday for baked chicken tenders encrusted in crushed cheese-its/cheese nips. Will definitely make them

Stan 10:10 AM  

The clue for "tori" could have been asterisked, no?

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

Can someone please explain TORI?

TimJim 10:19 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle. And I'm with the editor on the additional asterisk. Too clever by half.

Matthew G. 10:19 AM  

Yes it could have, Stan! That is, I'm assuming that the plural of "torus" is pronounced "tor-eye" and Tori Amos's first name is pronounced "tor-ee."

Well spotted.

I also think, although I needed the explanation for the asterisk after reading about it here, that if it had been included in the clue as intended many of us (hopefully including me) would have figured it out after a bit of head-scratching. And that would have provided the final "a-ha" moment that tied the theme together, and this one would have been more well received by the time all of us came to comment.

In short, Matt was robbed. :)

Matthew G. 10:21 AM  

@Anonymou 10:16 a.m.: A "torus" is circular surface with a hole in the middle. That is, a doughnut-shaped object. The plural of "torus" is "tori."

Three and out.

Glitch 10:29 AM  

Liked this one, agree the dropped * would have added to "the overall experience".

My longest pause was burglar = YEGG. I always knew YEGG specifically as a safecracker.

Not a problem and no worse than NCO=MSGT ;)

.../Glitch

Ich bin ein Berliner 10:32 AM  

Are 'danishes' lowercased?

Anonymous 10:33 AM  

@Matthew G. Thanks for the explantion. I liked the puzzle and got the theme quickly. I scratched my head over tori but just pushed the button and hoped for the best.

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

OK, but the problem here is that if, say, "Reading" is the first word of a sentence, it is capitalized and yet not pronounced differently than when it is not capitalized.

Two Ponies 10:50 AM  

I liked this one and agree that Matt was robbed. Of all of the explanations I agree with @ joho that @ Greene's illustration says it best.
For those who didn't know tori I suggest you file it away as it pops up fairly often. Good eye @ Stan on that being another theme answer.
I remembered Uncle Charley but my first notion was William Frawley.
He was the first grandpa/butler/cook/whatever on My Three Sons as well as Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy.
Thanks Matt, too bad Will ditched your clever joke.

JenCT 10:50 AM  

@Octavian: thanks for the explanation - now I finally get it! Duh.

DNF for me; got about 1/2 the puzzle before I gave up. Too much to do today.

lit.doc 10:53 AM  

@Matt, hand up for *36 Across making a huge difference. Yes, I would have been sitting there slack-jawed for who knows how long. But it would have been totally worth it when the DOH! moment happened.

Hardest spot for me was NW, as I doggedly stuck with 21A SO AM I for waaay too long.

Thought RAWBAR was used in concrete construction.

Ronald Byron 11:04 AM  

I think if I got as little enjoyment from crossword puzzles as Rex, I'd probably find some other ways to spend my time.

JaxInL.A. 11:10 AM  

I enjoyed solving this puzzle very much.  Felt like I was channeling the constructor and even DEMAREST popped right up in my brain when asked.  (I liked "My Three Sons.")  Myrna LOY is my heroine, I passed through REDONDO Beach recently and just read a few of the  original (slightly politically incorrect) Nancy Drews.  I had my fastest Thursday ever, and expected Rex to rate it easy. I'm always pleased to have a case of positive arexia.

I read SYBIL when it came out and remember Sally Field in the 1976  TV movie adaptation.  Sybil tells a remarkable story of a woman who developed 16 different personalities to cope with traumas and abuse in her childhood, some of which took over her life for a period of years and left her with no memory of their actions. 

The theme did help me to get RAINIER and POLISH.  

Call me dense, but it took three readings of the explanations by both @foodie and @Greene before the lightbulb went on about why DIFFERENTLY should have been starred.  Phew!  Thanks for the Gershwin, @Greene, or I might have wandered through the morning with furrowed brow.  And you are right, it does make the puzzle funnier.  

Thanks very much, Mr. Gaffney!

ksquare 11:27 AM  

@lit.doc REBAR (aka reinforcing rod) is what's used in construction.
Glad to hear from Albania Cellar Mantles again!oosowda

Oldactor 11:38 AM  

Caesar went into a bar in ancient Rome and ordered a martinus. The bartender said, "don't you mean martini?" Caesar said, "If I wanted two I'd ask for two".

Thanks to Wayne and Shuster:)

mmorgan 11:40 AM  

Took me a while to figure out how an asterisk would work at 36A -- ahh, very nice! (Once I got it.) I suspect I would have been utterly baffled if it had been kept in -- but it is very clever.

An enjoyable solve with some bumps -- many of those reported by others here. Just could not see IMANAGE (partly due to having LeI at 60D, and ARIEnE at 45A). And I just stared at WHEN ____TA__IZED forever.

Also briefly had Barnum (but it never felt right) and ANGELs. Somehow, YEGG was a gimme. It's one of those words that stays with you...

Cheez-its are way better than Cheese Nips.

Love 'Lady in the Dark', especially 'My Ship'.

slypett 11:43 AM  

Struggled like a navvy in the rain. Had fun. Matt, my condolences.

Joyally (captcha) yours.

Howard B 11:44 AM  

TORI couldn't be included in the theme because it's not a geographically-related term when capitalized, which seems to be a general trait of the theme answers (except the middle 'reveal'). It also doesn't have a symmetrical partner, though it is closely escorted by the Divine Miss M :). *Nice observation though!

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

Another vote here for keeping the asterisk on 36A. It took me a minute to get it after seeing the constructor's post about it, but that's the kind of "extra layer" to a theme that I enjoy (and expect in the NYT).

I had the puzzle a little less than half filled when I caught onto the theme. I had just filled in RAINIER, and since Mt. Rainier is near Seattle, I was thinking about some sort of geographic theme. But then I spotted CAPITALIZED from the C, P, and Z and DIFFERENTLY from the D and Y.

Still had to pause at READING - grew up playing Monopoly with my siblings, and pronouncing the name of the railroad the way it looked. Only learned the Pennsylvania pronunciation as an adult, and those old habits are hard to break.

jackj 11:56 AM  

I fully support Will's decision to "unasterisk" the clue for 36 across.

The puzzle's other theme clues all become nouns when capitalized, (as people or places), while "differently" does not.

Consistency in theme entries is a sine qua non, ergo, cute it may be but appropriate it is not.

That being said, Matt's desire to have the extra asterisk is totally understandable.

SMS 11:58 AM  

I normally tend to agree with Rex's critiques, but I loved the puzzle today with or without Matt's clever joke. (I didn't get it at first either and understand Will's call...)

I was hard but satisfying. The reveal didn't come to me until very much of the grid was filled and that always makes it better. I had reading and mobile but still couldn't quite figure out what linked the starred clues.

Like another commenter, I also had the experience of feeling like I was on the constructor's wavelength which is also something I like about doing crosswords. Few of the answers felt ridiculously obscure or arcane and I thought the phrase answers (like "I mangage") were better than average--so thanks Matt!

Happy Thursday everyone.

P.S. In case it is not answered above "tori" is plural for "torus" the doughnut shape...

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

All this talk about DIFFERENTLY, but no outcry about DIF/DIFFERENTLY? Not only in same puzzle, but crossing?! How'd that slip thru?

Scott Atkinson 12:02 PM  

Great puzzle, Matt!

Thanks to everyone for the explanation of why 36-A merits a star. I get it now. Very clever. Too clever for me though.

If I had been a test solver I would have given the feedback that I REALLY liked the theme, but would be wondering why the mistaken asterisk at 36-A.

conomit 12:03 PM  

I'm with the crew that liked this one, and with those who feel like the asterisk should have stayed in. THAT would have made for such a worthy aha...

lit.doc 12:16 PM  

@ksquare, sorry for misleading you re RAWBAR. Next time I post a really lame joke, I'll append [cue rim shot].

Masked and Anonymous 12:24 PM  

I'da allowed the 36-Across clue asterisk, if it had been accompanied by an asterisk. For reasons well-expressed by @jackj.

Tobias Duncan 12:47 PM  

I love the idea that the main pun in a puzzle theme is too tough for most people(including me) to get. It seems like a great nod to those of us that come to places like this to discuss the puzzle after solving. Its like an inside joke you have to be let in on.
And lets not forget that even if this was too tough to get, the payoff is pretty good once it is explained to you.
I wish Will had not emasculated this fine puzzle just to keep the hate mail down.

Keith 12:59 PM  

Once again, I am not as down on this as Rex, but I get what he is saying. I finished and thought, that's all the theme answers? Then I looked at how much of the puzzle was the explanation and decided that's a lot of theme density. I suppose I just don't mind explanations of the theme as much as Rex. I may answer that question DIFFERENTLY on another day.

Kraken reminded me of this recent comic.

treedweller 1:01 PM  

well, now I'm getting a third ID. It would really be nice if Google would make it easier to clean up these extraneous accounts. Anyway, Keith was/is me.

Masked and Anonymous 1:30 PM  

More I think about, the more I like the 36-A clue as:
36. **See 16-Across

Cuz Differently is pronounced differently differently than the answers with the one-* clues.

The more I read that last sentence, the more confused I get. Dang, Matt.

Time for a laydown.

ANON B 1:37 PM  

To Matt:

In spite all of the explanations
of 36A, I finally got it. Big smile. In fact, the more I think
about it, the more I smile.
As far as the whole puzzle, I am
always amazed that anyone can construct one. The art of composing
clues is a separate matter. I am
just happy whwn I can see what
the constructor was thinking. It
doesn't have to be perfectly correct.
Hang in there Matt.

bc 1:49 PM  

I vote for keeping the asterisk, for the sake of a good (meta-)groan.

But I appreciate the editor's logic. Like the familiar old groaner, "'Albuquerque' is in New Mexico. How do you spell 'it'? I-T," the joke only really works when spoken, not when written. (Thus, the *meta*-groan.)

(I.e., Differently is not pronounced differently when capitalized. It is pronounced "differently" when capitalized.)

Gil.I.Pollas 1:58 PM  

I don't know, but every time I see Matt Ginsberg's name I go 'gulp.'
I just opened our newspaper and it's just my luck he is featured in the syndicated edition of feb. 03 as well.
After sleeping on it and Reading the comments, I appreciate it that much more. Still don't like ASAMI.
Who is Bruce Vilanch?
@Albania Cellar Mantels - you're right you don't !!!!!!
@Olactor: Martinus...Still laughing

Kendall 1:59 PM  

Thursday is typically my favorite day for puzzles and today was no exception. I really enjoyed this one and had more aha! moments than I expected. Pop -> DAD, Japanese band -> OBI, etc. I thought were all excellent.

Like @Andrea I had BArnum in place of BAILEY but luckily I knew ERN (only from crosswords) and was able to recover from that.

Hardest part for me was in the Northern Central part by SYBIl, OBI, and over to MANTLES. That section took me way longer than anything else.

I'm on the side of those who wish the * had been left in place for 36A, but not a big deal not to have it there. Thanks Matt!

archaeoprof 2:00 PM  

Enjoyed BAILEY instead of Barnum.

36A with an asterisk makes me laugh big time.

I don't know much about construction. After all, I still haven't been able to finish my country music theme puzzle.

But this one was fun to solve.

acme 2:16 PM  

Whoa, now that I get it, I totally sympathize with Matt and would have screamed bloody hell if the original concept was "emasculated" as @Tobias Duncan so aptly put it!

This is the very definition of "Too clever by half" (which is what I wanted to name my naming company before I was properly disabused of that notion!) but since it was the impetus for the whole puzzle, it's a shame to have had it knocked down a star*!

Thank god/rex for this blog so Matt could still let us know and take the appreciation up a whole level :)

Bob Kerfuffle 2:31 PM  

A fail for me, since I finished in the 63 A I'M AN ACE camp. (Didn't feel right, but got no help from that particular cross.)

@Du Bist ein Berliner, 10:32 AM - Am I missing something? As far as I know, Danish is pronounced "Danish" whether upper or lower case, unless you intend it to mean "in the style of my friend Dan," but then I would think it would be spelled "Dannish" . . .

sanfranman59 3:26 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 17:36, 19:07, 0.92, 40%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 9:17, 9:13, 1.01, 64%, Medium-Challenging

Anonymous 3:33 PM  

They should at the very least put the asterisk back in for the syndicated version and for later reprints. Matt deserves that much.

Sparky 3:40 PM  

Finished, which made me very happy. DEMAREST a gimmee. Got the idea with READING and MOBILE. Vaugely thought of Monopoly but 16A fell into place. Torus floated just out of mind. Had Yogi Bear, had deltas, not CELLAR, for a long time.

Actually, differently is pronounced the same when it is capitalized, which is to say it is pronounced "differently." Sort of a double twist, right?

Looking forward to Friday. Time for a nap.

jae 4:58 PM  

I also liked this one. Mostly easy except for SE where STAKE and a failure to get IMANAGE (I too tried IMINAWE and IMINANE at first but LII just didn't seem right) for a looong time pushed it towards chall. I'm with the leave the * in contingent. I'm for stuff that makes puzzles more "puzzlely."

william e emba 5:05 PM  

I had to solve this bottom up. As it is, while I guessed WHEN CAPITALIZED fairly easily, I had no idea that "Rainier" is pronounced differently than "rainier". And ditto regarding "Mobile" and "mobile". So I floundered way too much as I tried to guess the theme and had difficulty filling out the center and top. In the end, I slowly filled out the theme answers and realized my ignorance.

Of course, only then did I get READING. Which I know how to pronounce either way--perhaps because Reading Terminal and its Market are famous Philadelphia landmarks that I usually pass at least once a week, and have known most of my life--I assume everybody else was thinking of the UK city. (Of course I know of it: the Uni there is home of the Beckett International Foundation!) Soon afterwards I got POLISH. In fact, I was hung up on StAkE instead of SHARE (even though I knew there couldn't be a 'k' in the French department), and ANGELs instead of ANGELI, but once I got the 'p', out came POLISH instantly.

Regarding the missing *: I'm all for the original. So what if people are flustered? As it is, I'm speaking selfishly, since I got it as soon as I saw Rex's comment. Although whether it would have messed with my mind while solving, well, I'll never know. I'm familiar with similar gags: Think of words ending in "-gry". "Angry" and "hungry" are two of them. There are only three words in the English language. What is the third word?

mac 5:28 PM  

Great Thursday puzzle, which I finished with I am an ace firmly in place.

I'm so glad to have found out about the asterisk for 36A and its cleverness, but I think Will may have felt including it would have pushed this puzzle into Fri/Sat territory.

@CoolPapa: ...and Asta helped find them!

Martin 5:38 PM  

w e emba,

Language?

Glitch 5:49 PM  

@Martin

Language fits, unless one looks at w.e.e.'s question differently. ;)

.../Glitch

I skip M-W 5:53 PM  

@BC Shouldn't your sentence be:' "Differently" is pronounced "differently" when capitalized.' ? Quite a few other puzzle answers assume quotation marks, so why not the same for "differently"?
@Sparky I assumed that the fact that differently was pronounced the same when capitalized was part of Matt's joke? No?
@william e emba Your joke could make one very angry trying to find the third word ;-)

mmorgan 6:49 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
mmorgan 6:50 PM  

@william e emba: "only"


(Also: I lived in Phila 8 years so I remember Reading Terminal very well.)

mmorgan 6:51 PM  

I mean "the". (Depends where you start counting...)

Julie 6:57 PM  

The asterisk would have been a "don't call me Shirley" joke. Will, if you're reading this, we wish you
MD left it in!

davko 7:02 PM  

What a delight this was all around. The theme fit right into Will's wheelhouse of word play, and had me thinking of other examples. The best I could come up with was mustang/Mustang (the latter is a former kingdom of Central Asia that's pronounced "Moose-tong.")

The northeast was so standalone good, I could have quit right there and been satisfied. ANEMONE is one of those lovely words from both the floral and faunal realms that's been lying in wait to be clued by a savvy constructor. I also liked the way Elton John's hit (15A) had me reaching for a name, and it wasn't until I changed the convincing GNU to EMU in 10D that I discovered I didn't need one! Very nice.

I'll take your Monday-through-Thursdays along with your weekend handiwork anytime, Matt.

william e emba 7:19 PM  

Your joke could make one very angry trying to find the third word ;-)

And by the time you find it, you'll be very hungry to boot!

On Usenet, the -gry puzzle began to overwhelm the rec.puzzles newsgroup in the late 90s, with clueless newbies posting the puzzle at least once a week, usually more. It did not take long for the neologism gry to be coined as the definitive answer (meaning: clueless rec.puzzle newbie).

It was about this time that my mother phoned me, saying there was this puzzle driving everybody nuts at her office, and--and before she could continue, I interrupted, "Mom, there is no third word." Her sky-high opinion of me went into deep orbit after that gimme. Some days you just luck out.

John from Chicago 8:17 PM  

Julie - You and I think alike. I posted this earlier today elsewhere:

I read MG #1 before going to bed and couldn’t sleep all night trying to think if the “I” in DIFFERENTLY is a long I when the word is capitalized. Then I wake up and find out that even Rex didn’t get the joke. Then I finally get the joke and wonder if the puzzle would have been better if Will had left the asterisk on the 36A clue. Finally, I groan (it’s a delayed groan for the joke) and say to myself, Shirley, you can’t be serous…and hear a faint voice telling me I am serious and don't call me surely....

Elvin 8:54 PM  

william e emba, what is Usenet? And isn't aggry a type of Ghanaian bead?

Anonymous 9:47 PM  

I learned "yegg" from an Edward Gorey alphabet. So happy when I saw it!!

sanfranman59 10:00 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 6:55, 6:55, 1.00, 53%, Medium
Tue 7:15, 8:55, 0.81, 4%, Easy
Wed 10:48, 11:43, 0.92, 38%, Easy-Medium
Thu 18:13, 19:08, 0.96, 45%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:41, 0.96, 34%, Easy-Medium
Tue 3:42, 4:34, 0.81, 2%, Easy
Wed 5:33, 5:47, 0.96, 42%, Medium
Thu 9:02, 9:12, 0.98, 58%, Medium

Anonymous 11:21 PM  

It must be annoying to a puzzler when the editor sucks every last bit of humor and originality out of the original creation.

Tori Spell 2:10 AM  

Really liked it. I couldn't let go of gnu and vicinity in the NE, so that was the last to fall. The * should have stayed in.

I'd prefer more weirdness in the Thursday puzzles. I like the feeling of being utterly confused.

OISK 3:12 AM  

Missed "I manage" with lai and Artege, so I had two squares wrong, but it was certainly doable. Found it very slow going for a Thursday. Well constructed and rewarding, I thought, but disappointing to me after last Thursday's Jackson/Johnson puzzle, one of my all-time faves.

ArtLvr 7:37 PM  

Hi all, many thanks to Rexites who wrote to ask if I'm okay! I'm fine, just frustrated with recent posts disappearing. Rex's inserts were just black holes too. I'm trying Netscape now rather than Safari, hoping it helps!

∑;)

Tetu 6:03 PM  

Did fine on this except for "I'm in awe" instead of "I manage"--didn't know the French love poem or the French department in the Pyrenees so the French beat me today....Tina

Anonymous 10:11 AM  

No asterisk in syndication-land. One more vote for leaving the asterisk in. Great puzzle. Am I the only one who has difficulty with ern/urn/earn/Erne. Barnum worked with urn and Bailey worked with ern. Knowing the difference would have saved me some time on this one.

Dirigonzo 4:22 PM  

I too think WS should have at least put the asterisk back in for the syndicated version of the puzzle - kind of a little bonus for those of us who wait 5 weeks to get the puzzle.

Otherwise I liked this one a lot. Saw POLISH and RANIER early on which gave me the theme and that helped with the long theme answers. Had wentAS before CAMEAS (I often do not know if I am coming or going) and managed to initially guess wrong about lots of down answers in the east: gnU/EMU, give/LEND, viCinITY/LOCALITY and shrouds/MANTLES. I finally sorted that all out when I remembered that "SOMEONE" SAVED MY LIFE TONIGHT. Stuck with IMiNAwe for IMANAGE, so my bad.

Bonus points because it was sunny and warm enough to sit in the back yard to do the puz.

And I'm with @Gil.I.Pollas - ASAMI just looks *wrong*!

NotalwaysrightBill 10:17 PM  

*Syndi-late paper* puzzler.*

(Think Bog*ey and Bacall)
C'mon, Will, when a const*ructor wants a*n asterisk, ASTERI*SK fer da cripes s*ake! You do know how to aster*isk, don't ya? It's *like ASSKISS but pron*ounced DIF*FE*RENTLY when C*APITALIZED.

Enjoyed the puz*zle alot. Matt and GARY are* definitely Players.

@A*CME's midnight REDEgg depart*ure would *have *yielded, along with her RAPINg, a "T*hin Man" Myrna LOg. It's no wonder--no wonder at all--that she wound up in Yugoslavia on an es*calator with Albanians and (especially) **goats! Of course t*hat was back in the 80's when t*hey still HAD REDeg*gs flights.

Interesti*ng LOCALITY, ARIEGE. Interesting history also, at least to m*e. Seems the area forms* much of the heart of what once was the Kingdom of Navarr*e. And be*fore that there w*ere the Merovingi*an kings, who popular cul*ture made out to be descendants of Jesus Christ, Super Asterisk***.

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