Chess champion Mikhail / WED 11-9-11 / French city associated with lace / Title woman Harry Belafonte song / Chemical agent for climate change

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Constructor: Paula Gamache

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: INNKEEPER (36A: Accommodating person? ... or a hint to 20-, 28-, 48- and 57-Across) — common (?) phrases have INN inserted into them, creating wacky phrases, etc.


Word of the Day: SOHIO (9A: Old Buckeye State service station name) —
Standard Oil of Ohio or Sohio was an American oil company that was acquired by British Petroleum, now called BP. // It was one of the successor companies to Standard Oil after the antitrust breakup in 1911. Standard Oil of Ohio was the original Standard Oil company founded by John D. Rockefeller. It operated service stations under the "Sohio" brand name in Ohio. The company used the same logo, but with "Boron" as the brand name in other states. // A merger between Sohio and BP was negotiated with Sohio by Sohio CEO Charlie Spahr in 1968. (wikipedia)
• • •

Yuck.

Took forever (by normal Wed. standards) and offered little reward (except maybe "GUINNESS AGAIN?"—that's mildly funny). No idea what the theme was for a long time, largely because the revealer was an enigmatic "?" clue, but also because I don't know what "wing-footed" is. Is that a word for "fast?" Like Mercury, with the wings on his feet? Ugh. Ugh to ALENÇON (3D: French city associated with lace) next to NONNA (4D: Gianni's grandmother) (a surfeit of Euroisms), ugh to is-it-UEY-or-is-it-UIE, ugh to is-it-ENNE-or-ENNA-or-ETTE-or-ETTA, ugh to whatever SOHIO is (besides terrible fill, that is), ugh to two superlative (-IEST) adjectives. Also, SINNING SONG? Sirens lead you to sin? If you think sex is sin, I guess. Not sure ancient Romans / Greeks thought that way, exactly. Lots of heroes bang lots of things without being stigmatized as sinful. This should've been a reasonably winning idea, but somehow the execution (and the cluing) just feels awkward and bungled. "MATILDA" is a Roald Dahl story (46D: Title woman in a Harry Belafonte song) —Belafonte? Maybe you had to be much older to appreciate this one. I got beat (time-wise) by some (older) solvers I normally crush. But mostly the times at the NYT applet look like slow Thursday / fast Friday times. Something about this one was just Off. Or, just not meant for me—like Lawrence Welk or Cirque du Soleil.




Theme answers:
  • 20A: Like a successful marathoner? (WINNING FOOTED) — a successful marathoner would also, presumably, be WING-FOOTED, to some degree, so this change isn't much of one.
  • 28A: Helsinki hoosegow? (FINNISH TANK
  • 48A: Call of a siren? (SINNING SONG)
  • 57A: Jaded ale drinker's question? (GUINNESS AGAIN)

Bullets:
  • 35A: Pulitzer nominee for the novels "Black Water" and "Blonde" (OATES) — I know Joyce Carol OATES, but have never heard of either novel mentioned in her clue.
  • 15A: Old buffalo hunters of the Great Plains (OTOE) — because the old buffalo are the easiest to catch.
  • 34A: "___ me my Highland lassie, O": Burns ("GIE") — I accidentally left this out of my "ugh" list, above. 
  • 31D: Home in a Mitchell novel (TARA) — back-to-back days with "Gone With the Wind" answers. Hurray? 



  • 37D: Registering the most on the applause-o-meter (NOISIEST) — this clue couldn't be clunkier if it tried. Applause is applause. It might be louder, I guess, but it's not noise. Also, there's some confusion as to what "registering" means, in that the thing being applauded (as opposed to the applause itself) could be said to be the causal event that "registers" the reading. Really it's just a stupid, overlong, badly worded clue. Also didn't like the clue [Lesser-known astrology symbol], in that the wording strongly suggests a particular symbol, not the general category of symbol (MOON SIGN).
  • 14A: Chewy candy treat (ROLO) — because I didn't know ALENÇON and had NANNA for NONNA, I ended up with ROCA here. Almond ROCA is the opposite of "chewy," so I really should've known better. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

146 comments:

Larry 12:08 AM  

Never put GUANO in a puzzle, because people are going to say things like 'this puzzle was just so much GUANO'. It's just putting the ball up on the tee there for then, you know?

pk 12:14 AM  

Phrases with "inn" stuck in them is almost - not quite - as lame a theme as "things that start with p." I'm really not that picky, I just want to have fun solving, but if we are going to have A Theme, could we please just have a Real One?

I liked Guinness Again, but other than that, ugh. As Rex would say.

foodie 12:17 AM  

When I first looked at this puzzle I thought I was misremembering the day of the week. A series of uhh? what? Then I was able to get traction and proceeded at a fairly good pace. I don't love the theme-- it's add 3 letters, instead of add a letter... doesn't help :). To me this is a perfect example of how it's really hard to come up with something fun by sticking more letters in the midst of a known phrase. The resulting phrases are rarely great. And I agree with Rex that WINNING FOOTED is the worst, because it doesn't even offer the contrast between the original meaning and the new meaning... Sorry... I really am happy to change my mind based on evidence. I do that for a living.

By contrast, I liked the design of the puzzle, with lots of middle sized fill, as opposed to the torrent of 3 letter words we saw on Monday. SOFT SHOE PELOSI, GENIAL SLYNESS, under the TOASTY MOONSIGN... all very good stuff!

foodie 12:20 AM  

I mean the torrent of 3 letter words on Tuesday... see, I'm confused about the day of the week...

Clark 12:29 AM  

Yikes! I DNFed on a Wednesday. Oh the humanity! Where was I when people were eating ROLO? And how come I’ve never heard of ALENCON?

FINNISH TANK went in fast enough--and I immediately spotted the INN thing. I don't really get the siren=sin connection. Wouldn't that depend on whether or not you were married?

Rube 12:34 AM  

Must say that I agree with @Rex on this one. I'd have to add MOPIEST th the "ugh" list.

Now, ROLF... this should have been clued as a '90s California fad, (or was it the '80s). If you dare, Google the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration. Whoo! "Massage deeply"? Not on my watch!

I actually liked FINNISH TANK and GUINESS AGAIN, but the other 2 theme answers fall into the category of boo HOO.

Yet, there was some very fine fill. I liked MATILDA, PELOSI, GENIAL, and especially the ANAGRAM. I'm always impressed by people who can do 13 letter anagrams like that.

IT's GMT, not GST!!

I'd have to rate this an OK.

Oh Oh. I've been doing a lot of reconfiguring my PC and Blogger doesn't like it. Here goes.

r.alphbunker 12:34 AM  

NW corner belonged in a Friday puzzle.

I am not sure in what sense the phrases that contain INN are "keeping" it. Are the phrases holding onto INN? Or are they keeping INN like a secret? Or something else?

One could say that INN is in the phrases.

WINNINGFOOTED is a strained portmanteau of "winning the race" and "fleet footed"

Gill I. P. 12:35 AM  

I think the best part of solving this puzzle was when I finished and I got to laugh reading Rex's write-up.
Not a stellar Wed. by Ms Gamache. I thought that the only theme answer that could be uttered coherently is GUINESS AGAIN..
There were some some words I liked: MOONSIGN, PANTSUIT and ITSABET next to MATILDA.
I would add ROLF right up there with GUANO as words that don't sound too GENIAL.
When I cry, I certainly don't go HOO - not even a bit!

retired_chemist 12:39 AM  

Enjoyed it more that Rex did.

Hand up for NANNA, but I then pulled ROLO out of thin air to get Mr. Happy Pencil. Heard the name, couldn't tell you anything at all about it. Agree the 37D clue is ugly.

Anyone else try AVIGNON for 3D? SADDEST for 2D? This pair, plus NANNA, made the NW my bête noire.

Anyway, thanks to Paula.

jae 12:48 AM  

NW pushed this into the "tough" territory for me. My first thought on 1a was Newman/Redford which led to MARK which took a while to fix (not to mention the elusive trio of ALENCON, ROLO, and NONNA). The rest was average or easy for a Wed. Liked GUINESS and ANAGRAM. WINGFOOT is a fairly famous golf course but WINGFOOTED .... ?

I'll second Rube on OK. Some good stuff but a fair amount of ugh.

Anonymous 12:49 AM  

SOLD
ONLY
HERE
IN
OHIO

chefwen 12:51 AM  

@retired_chemist - 3D saddest was my first fill. Took my a wee bit to fix that area.

@Rex - Thankful for the rating, I thought it was just me and maybe my two Margarita lunch I had with one of my girlfriends. Saddest was my only write over but I just seemed to plod through this one. SOFT SHOE near HARD HAT was pretty cute. I did love GUINNESS AGAIN and FINNISH TANK, the others, not so much.

chefwen 12:53 AM  

Oops, I meant 2D! Gotta get those eyes checked.

CoffeeLvr 12:57 AM  

I did like seeing SOFT SHOE and HARD HAT almost next to each other.

@Rube, I emphatically agree, should be GmT, not GST. I spent a long time trying to figure out mINNING SONG or mING SONG, or what other cross could be wrong.

Odd to see two SINNs crossing each other.

Have a good day, all, remember Safety FIRST.

Captcha: prosse, the grammar police.

Tobias Duncan 1:11 AM  

I have been way off all week, if Rex had called this one easy medium I was gonna take a break.Whole lotta crap including some sporty college I had never heard of crossing some French that was Greek to me(upon closer inspection Pied-à-terre is pretty dang cool, I used to keep a place in Santa Fe that fit this perfectly.Glad I did not know this term or I would have sounded even more pretentious than I am sure I did at the time).
But I have to agree with Rube, there is gold here.The ANAGRAM clue was so pleasing to me that I forgave just about everything that made me mad.I am about the same age as Rex but I have seen Harry Belafonte at least 4 times.Great show but I dont I have ever heard him pull out MATILDA, its just not as witty as most of the other calypso of the era.

Hand up for GMT

syndy 1:11 AM  

I actually knew ALENCON but still found that corner the hardest-MOPIEST goes beyond ugly.not until I remembered NONNA as the italian version did it all start to fall.Winged footed mercury -isn't it?MATILDA is one of my favorite Belafonte-"stole all my money and run venezuela"There were UNMET expectations for a Paula Gamanche

PurpleGuy 1:42 AM  

I agree with @Rube about GMT. @CoffeeLvr- I had the exact same experience with mINNING SONG.

I also have to admit I mis read the clue for9D as topless lap-dancer. I was really thrown by that. sigh...
Guess my eyes are not what they used to be. I won't go into the possible answers I came up with.

I'm old enough to remember Harry Belafonte singing MATILDA on the tv variety shows of the time.

Happy Wednesday all. We're over the hump!!

Shanti -
PurpleGuy

MaharajaMack 1:54 AM  

Help me. I can't understand the ANAGRAM clue.

Anonymous 2:03 AM  

@MM: The clue is an example of an anagram.

alencon crags moonsign 2:15 AM  

I put in LAdySUIT, but that's bec I was watching "The Office" while solving.

I've only heard of Chantilly Lace (and a pretty face) and Bretonne's with those silly hats that were pictured in our French II books.

Mel Ott will like the shout out to Mel OTT, I'm a'guessin'.

ITSABET! probably involves ABES.

Z 2:57 AM  

The International Herald Tribune (Global Edition of the NYT) published the wrong blank grid with the clues so the puzzle is unsolvable (at least here in Amsterdam). Damn.

Anonymous 3:23 AM  

Actually Z, the puzzle is solvable as a diagramless crossword from the clues alone.

Not that it makes it that easy :-(

Z 4:15 AM  

Then why bother with grids at all if they are only crutches for the weakminded? Let`s rid ourselves of the buggers before they contaminate the world with the mental sloth they inspire?

Doris 5:34 AM  

http://youtu.be/5C-DShN82mc

exaudio 6:42 AM  

Finished, but not until I stared at MINNINGSONG for a while, plus didn't know why ANAGRAM came up from filling out the crosses. Thanks to all the Rexcolytes for confirming my sanity on the first error, and explaining the second.

Anonymous 6:50 AM  

I don't think there is a GST. There is a GMT - all the time - and in summer there is a BST. But no GST. Nope.

dk 6:52 AM  

Hey Paula: - Queen for a Day.

The tv was a small red black and white (like a NUN falling down .... never mind), the place was Gray, Maine on a rainy summer day. We sat spell bound as women spilled their guts while my grandmother would chortle "they should have lived through the depression." After the commercial break (remember when there were only 2) the applause-o-meter -- wow. It was a window to a world we knew nothing about and sadly is all too real today.

I do not think of the Siren's song as SINNING, more luring as with Jason and the Argonauts. But other than that the theme and fill came easy.

** (2 Stars) Like ROLO candy this once just missed the mark for a Wednesday treat.

Historical note: When BP acquired SOHIO (Standard Oil) it was touted throughout the land that Britain was taking the US back. LEST we worry about China.

Many once and future oppressive legislation overturned yesterday: Hope springs eternal.

d(MOONSIGN)k

SethG 7:17 AM  

The S is Sidereal, not Standard. But yeah, no one uses GST.

James Shin HOO was a restauranteur, the original proprietor of HOO's On FIRST. Doug HOO was a successful runner.

Again with the non-words. Other than the Westing Gameness of the NE, this was joyless.

Anonymous 7:29 AM  

Guinness is a stout porter, not an ale. I disliked a lot about the puzzle; I disliked that most of all.

Glimmerglass 7:38 AM  

I guess I'm in a minority today. I liked the puzzle and the theme. It was a bit harder than the usual Wednesday, but I like the end of the week, and I don't keep track of my times. I especially liked GUINNESS AGAIN and ANAGRAM. I hadn't thought of MATILDA for many years, but I wrote it in off the M. There were some flaws. I didn't like GST (thanks, Seth G -- I didn't know that). SINNING SONG should have been clued "Bawdy verses." Lots of fun clues for old guys like me.

evil doug 7:42 AM  

What are women thinking when they wear a pantsuit? That they actually want to look like Hilary? That it makes them more powerful on their terms---that it proves whatever they achieve isn't based on their femininity or sexuality?

Look: There's nothing wrong or weak with looking like a woman. The pantsuit has become such a tired and laughable cliche that those women who have figured out they can be equal to men without being identical to men are having the last laugh.

Evil

AnnieD 7:54 AM  

I was moving along just fine like a typical Wed puzzle until I tried the NW corner and sweated that one out despite knowing Alencon lace very well. Still remember my dear mother RIP shelling out $85/yard for that lace for the wedding gown she made for me. It was an enormous amount of money back in the 70s and especially for us. I remember her saying how nervous she was when she first cut into it. But it was worth it. GF used the gown as well (though with different sleeves) and the marriage has stuck for 33 yrs and counting!

While the puzz had a number of issues, I do appreciate the memory trigger.

AnnieD 7:59 AM  

Evil Doug, the mystery around women and pant suits would be solved very quickly for you if you tried navigating around through just one busy work day in panty hose, heels and a skirt.

AnnieD 8:04 AM  

Then there was the Alan Sherman parody of Matilda:

My Zelda
My Zelda
My Zelda
She took the money and ran with the tailor...

jberg 8:04 AM  

Yup, @Rex, I can see this would be tough for you young 'uns. MATILDA and SOHIO were gimmes for this old guy. But, I too fell afoul of GmT.

Other writeovers were Our for ONE, joVIAL for GENIAL (I knew that SONG couldn't be preceded by a j, but I had to write it in before I could see the alternative!).

I didn't really get the theme until I came here - I could see that INN was stuck in, but somehow missed that it was stuck into actual phrases - so it seemed lamer than it was.

@Anonymous 7:29 - I think the ale drinker is complaining about getting GUINNESS AGAIN instead of ale.

As I recall, the sirens' songs don't really lead to sex - they lead to a horrible death as you sail your ship into the rocks under their spell. But that's not SINNING, either.

Aleman 8:07 AM  

Ales
- Ales are brewed with top-fermenting yeasts at temperatures from 15 to 25 deg C.
- Ales are matured for shorter periods and at warmer temperatures.
- Ales include a wide range of beer styles from porters and stouts (porter is a heavy beer of pronounced bitterness, reddish-brown to a very dark brown, but is usually lighter in body and malt character than stout) to pale ales and wheat beer.
- Generally, ales are higher in alcohol, more robust and complex than lagers.

joho 8:19 AM  

Like @chefwen and @CoffeeLvr I enjoyed SOFTSHOE dancing next to HARDHAT. Conjured up a picture of Fred Astaire in construction hat shuffling away on a building beam high in the sky. So that was fun.

The puzzle not so much. For some reason it bothered me that INN was hidden with two NINs a NNI and an INN. Made me think Anais NIN was somehow involved.

Oh, ANAGRAM was nice.

joho 8:24 AM  

@Seth G, since you weren't around on the blog November 7, go back and read if you can. You showed up in the theme ... I think.

diane 8:26 AM  

I wonder if GST refers to Goods and Services Tax which is standard in Greenwich and not a time zone?

a-pat 8:26 AM  

So why do pilots wear those cute little hats?

tptsteve 8:28 AM  

No joy in Mudville for me with this one. UGH all around.

@AnnieD- That song was buzzing through my head as soon as I saw the clue. A classic.

David 8:33 AM  

3rd day in a row I'm slower than my normal times, and today was significantly slower. I liked the theme OK and even got it very quickly, but it did not help me with WINNINGFOOTED and SINNINGSONG much at all. Hand up for liking GUINNESSAGAIN more than the other theme answers.

Guessed on UIE somewhat as my last letter, just didn't see it today, but figured GUANO over something like GHANO or GRANO. Had a horrible time in the NW, just awful. Wanted MAKEDIM and MARK for 1D and 1A, fortunately ALENCON came to me from those deep memory recesses, and that gave me OPENTOALL (which I love, and was very very hidden to me until the end).

Anonymous 8:34 AM  

Unable to do the puzzle today because the grid was totally messed up in the International Herald Tribune (in France anyway).

I complained to the IHT directly..am wondering if other solvers overseas have weighed in also. Sally

SethG 8:36 AM  

joho, there was an O, too. It anagrammed to OF SETHG, but the story of why is too good for me to tell. You'll have to hear it from Steinberg someday!

Tita 8:49 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tita 8:50 AM  

@AnnieD...you beat me to the punch with My Zelda...
It has now replaced PSILOVEYOU as the test pattern of my mind.

For some odd reason, there was an Alan Sherman album of his song parodies in our house when I was a kid.
I never knew there was a "real" version of most of them - being too little to know the word 'parody'...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vY1LPzQVALM

@Rex...
Wing footed - a fairly standard metaphor, not to mention the logo for FTD.

Roman Mercury wore winged sandals on his feet, as did Greek Hermes (not to be confused with the German Hermès family who went on to market $5,000 Euro scarves...)

skua76 8:50 AM  

I fully agree with Rex's challenging rating...started out in the NW last night by throwing in ROLO (seen that word several times lately) followed by dOurEST for 2D. And came to a dead stop, thought maybe this was Friday. Eventually saw the theme but the NW had to wait for this morning. Grew up in OH so SOHIO was a gimme.

FINNISH TANK looks like something one jumps into after a sauna...

hazel 9:04 AM  

woeful. just woeful. OKS ODS and UIE on top of the ruination in the NW. Didn't like the premise of the INN either. Silly theme surrounded by mush.

If it weren't for this blog, all I could have done upon finishing this puzzle was complain out loud to my dogs that the puzzle sucked. Since their rxn would be wagging tails, there's really no closure in that. Thks again, @rex.

joho 9:10 AM  

@SethG, now I'm really curious! Can you email me?

John V 9:11 AM  

Hand up for GST. That clue is just wrong. Alternative clue for 40D: "In the middle of a pig sty?"

Certainly challenging for a Wednesday, but I enjoyed it, even the crunchy NW; I remember ROLO.

67A Unmet, wanted INCHOATE, but that's just me.

One more time, please, to explain 42D ANAGRAM? I'm just not getting it. Thanks.

jackj 9:17 AM  

I didn’t need to see more than MSRP and SOHIO as answers to know this was going to be a light and airy presentation from constructing fave, Paula Gamache.

And, Paula didn’t disappoint, with the likes of GUANO, SOFTSHOE, PANTSUIT and HARDHAT, to name just a few bits of the fill. (But, like most puzzles needing pesky 3’s to fill the grid, not all is wine and roses, see UIE, GIE, ISO and GST).

Lest we forget, (or not even take note), “Chemical agent for climate change” is one very impressive clue for ANAGRAM, (it could have been something really dreadful like “Ton for not”).

Theme clues were mostly fun, teasing our punning talents into high gear to get us thinking creatively enough to suss out the best of the group, GU(INN)ESSAGAIN and runner-up, F(INN)ISHTANK.

A lot of fun packed into this 15x15 grid. Thanks, Paula!

nanpilla 9:24 AM  

OK, now I'm even more convinced that this week is all about sandwiches:

P
B
'INN

tomorrow just has to have J's!

Overall, didn't like this one much. Same comments as most here. But then, I never seem to be on the same wavelengh as Paula.
The clues always seem to be forced just a little too much.

Lindsay 9:38 AM  

Wing Footed is nonsense. Wing sandals are talaria.

Hand up for GMT. Also NounS at 30D.

Tita 9:44 AM  

@JohnV- 'chemical agent' is an anagram of 'climate change'.

And i like your alternative cluing...
I was wondering what mINNINGSONG was...

treedweller 9:47 AM  

like @jberg, I saw the INNs but missed the INNless phrases, so SINNINGSONG vs. mINNINGSONG was a bit of a guess for me.

I also did the NW last, thrown in part by "mark," the unknown French city, and the could-have-been-a-lot-of-things NONNA and ROLO. I was stumped on DECAFS for a while, too--getting that D finally gave me DIM and the rest fell.

Otherwise, I didn't hate this the way some apparently did, but it wasn't my favorite. I did love the ANAGRAM. I had most of it from crosses, saw it, and thought, that can't be it. Then I realized it just might be and checked.

chefbea 9:50 AM  

Hand up for GMT and saddest

Did not like the puzzle. DNF. Thanks for explaining anagram.

And what in the world is guano??? Never heard that word.

Hopefully tomorrow will be more fun as it will be my last puzzle for two weeks...unless the ship has access to the puzzles as we sail through the Panama Canal.

Jp 9:57 AM  

Very much agree with Rex on this. Got the theme. Sort of. But none of the theme answers makes sense to me.
WINNING FOOTED
FINNISH TANK
SINNING SONG
GUINNESS AGAIN
Just ugly and unfunny
Did not finish and did not care to.

John V 10:03 AM  

@Tita

Thanks for the anagram explanation. Wow! That IS cool.

quilter1 10:05 AM  

So it wasn't flawless, but I found it fun and pretty easy. I knew ALENCON, MATILDA, and also liked HARD HAT near SOFT SHOE. Agree that the sirens' song was about luring sailors to their deaths on the rocks, not sex. Well, the sailors were thinking of sex, but not the sirens. Also had GmT until I decided I wasn't right, but neither was Paula.

Had about an inch of snow last night and the power was out when I got up, for no reason I could understand as there is no wind and the snow is negligible for Iowa.
Thank goodness it is back on now, but I feel for the people still in the cold and dark in Connecticut.

M07S 10:10 AM  

Wasn't the song Matilda in the movie Beetlejuice? Didn't like the theme but wing footed is just fine.
From Dictionary.com: wing-foot·ed
   [wing-foot-id]
adjective
1. having winged feet.
2. swift.

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

I intended to read only half the comments, but today they were so interesting and informative that I read them all. Thanks everyone!

Chip Hilton 10:40 AM  

I hardly know why I'm bothering to write because I'm just repeating what so many others have said. I loved GUINNESSAGAIN but didn't care for any of the other theme answers. I had GMT for quite a while (and love @John V's alternate clue). I felt NOISIEST had a really forced clue. NW corner was the last to fall. So, general agreement with the masses.

Is tonight the night for Joon on Jep?

Two Ponies 10:52 AM  

I really wanted to like this puzzle since Guinness is my beverage of choice but as
@ nanpilla said I never seen to be on the same wavelength as Paula G.
I expected the Horned Frog school to be in AZ or NM so that slowed me down. Took forever to parse G man with the French and Italian messing with me. Boo hoo.

MikeM 10:53 AM  

Kind of proud I even finished. I was halfway through and said “Geez, never going to get through this and it’s only Wednesday”. Normal Wednesdays I am pretty much done just as the bus gets on the Garden State Parkway. Today I needed the full GSP, 495 east and most of the Lincoln Tunnel before I was done w/ no errors. Was glad Rex rated this as Challenging. Hate it when I struggle and he gives it an Easy.

mac 10:55 AM  

I must be the only one who really liked this puzzle. I also think it should have been GMT, but minning song is nonsense. Oddly enough, "minnen" is to love in old Dutch.

I lucked out, I guess. I have a friend who is called nonna by her half-Italian grandson, I love Joyce Carol Oates and know Black Water (Chappaquiddick story), heard of Alencon and felt on this puzzle's wavelength the whole way, although it was hard for a Wednesday.

@AnnieD: so right about the skirt!

@joho: Anais Nin crossed my mind, too.

Homer 11:31 AM  

You know, the expression is "Winged Footed", not WINGFOOTED. The logo for FTD is a Winged Foot. Similarly, it's rosy fingered dawn, not rose fingered dawn.

JaxInL.A. 11:38 AM  

I had a very fun romp through yesterday's puzzle. I think I was channeling Scott Atkinson, and today was a bit like that again. I generally like Paula Gamache very much, but I do agree that this is not her best effort, even though I got through it fine. Hated UIE, GST, MOPIEST, loved the stuff noted by others..

My family is all from Jamaica, so I grew up learning the entire Belafonte oeuvre. We used to belt out MATILDA in the car on road trips.   My first entry into yesterday's grid was the BUTLER kid, so I had GWTW on the brain, others came very easily.  I still don't see what the clue for ANAGRAM is an anagram for, though.

Thanks to all for the suggestions yesterday for finding the missing iPad. I'm sure that MobileMe and FindMy iPad would be good tools if I had ever installed them. I was so convinced that I would never be so careless that I did not see the need. Vanity, vanity...  

@Tobias' posse and all of the volunteers ready to ride off in search of bad guys were most gratifying. My daughter posted vitriol on her Facebook page on my behalf.  Unfortunately, the culprit is probably just a selfish and larcenous high school or college student, not someone with horns or otherwise detectable defects. Sigh. The dailyness of evil.

Thanks for remembering my story of the lucky iPad, @quilter1. I still feel quite bereft. My mom has offered to loan me the cash to buy a new one, and I'll pay her back. Will take care of that tonight, I think. Then I'll be able to get here easily again.  Thanks again to @chefbea for sending me puzzles in the mean time. 

JaxInL.A. 11:40 AM  

I got the anagram, thanks @Tita.

syndy 11:49 AM  

@chefbea-ever hear the expression "Bat-shit Crazy?yup that's what guano is.

Anonymous 11:53 AM  

i am not a fan of paula gamache - she is will's assistant i guess or intern or something and getting those rejection emails from her kinda irks me. its no surprise that he allows puzzles like this from her though - i mean they work together. anyway i didnt like the puzzle and im not the biggest fan of paulas.

connia a 11:53 AM  

@ evil Doug: I can appreciate your aesthetic and sexual aversion to women in pantsuits, but women who wear them are not, generally, making a political statement, about Secretary of State Clinton, or anyone else. It is usually a decision borne out of practicality: as the bumper sticker says,"It's about the panty-hose, stupid." Nothing personal, but when one wears a pantsuit, little knee highs are possible. And now, you have even more horrible images with which to contend. Sorry!

evil doug 11:54 AM  

AnnieD: You gotta sacrifice some comfort for style if you wanna find a husband. That's why you work, right? [Yowtch! My lovely bride just smacked me and reminded me that she's the only one bringing home a paycheck.] And don't tell me you don't see women wearing four-inch heels under those pants....

s-pat: C'mon, you know, chicks dig the hat. Makes pilots look all sorta macho and military-like. Now, pilots universally hate the hat---gives us hat-hair, and once I had a grande dame-ish lady at the Parker House in Boston ask me to help carry her bags out to her cab because she thought I was a bellman (yes, I did help her with a grin on my face)---but our pesky bosses make us don them to look all ship-shape and crisp as we steely-eyed aviator heroes ply the skies and keep you safe.

You're welcome,

Evil

joe namath 11:55 AM  

panty hose are really warm, though.

Lewis 12:05 PM  

I thought there was more crosswordese than usual, but I enjoyed the challenge of today's puzzle, actually, and learned a French city (more crosswordese?) and saw a cool anagram. Thank you Ms. Paula.

Is Joon on tonight?????

Anonymous 12:07 PM  

You (Rex) may have hit on something about the age "thing." I'm 77 and thought this one was easy.

Eddie D 12:12 PM  

I know Waltzing Matilda, not sure if that is the same song but I guessed right. Guess right on ROLF too, but I was not rolling on the floor laughing. Like the ANAGRAM clue. GST? a stretch. had turnDIM crossing tMAN for far too long.

Alan Eshleman 12:17 PM  

GST? Greenwich Standard Time? Stupid: it's either GMT or UTC, but I've never heard "GST" even though as a ham radio operator I keep all my logs in GMT/UTC.

I must be old: Matilda was a gimme.

archaeoprof 12:40 PM  

Two writeovers (like everyone else): gmt/GST and boo/HOO.

SOHIO! Memories of my youth in Cincinnati!!

@Evil: I don't really care how Hillary looks in a pantsuit. She's been a damn good Secretary of State. Obama should make her his runniing mate in 2012.

Or maybe Joon?

evil doug 12:53 PM  

archaeoprof,

You got it backwards. Hilary should be the top of the ticket, and Obama would make a good oh, say, community activist.

Evil

Tobias Duncan 12:59 PM  

"Dude Why Did You Take My Ipad?" Is my reality show pitch of the day.
We run ads in local papers and Craigslist to find people who have lost ipads , know where they are,but are afraid to approach the people who now have them.We confront the those now in possession with a posse of middle aged citizens who we have riled up at a local happy hour.
Eh? Eh?

Arby 1:06 PM  

I almost never comment, and I usually try to be positive when I do, but this one was painful.

I didn't know tCU or tERRE, so I had to "reveal" that square.

GmT, of course! GST - not so much.

Moonsign? Not big on astrology, so not in my lexicon.

GIE? Sorry, not an expert on Burns nor extinct Scottish words.

ALENCON? Wish I could afford to travel all over Europe and discover obscure towns, but no. Didn't help that I wrote in GMeN.

And I still don't even get SDS. I was 8 when the '60s ended.

jesser 1:07 PM  

I swore that somehow I'd make it back today. The day has conspired against me, so this is way way late.

Liked the puzzle just fine, although the NW was by far the hardest. I didn't help myself by plugging in the impossibly boneheaded alpS at 32A. I cannot explain it, but once I finally re-read the clue and corrected it, that helped A Lot. Only other writeover was Our before ONE at 25D. At least that error is somewhat plausible.

Work has been nuts, not always in an entirely good way, and there were 4 days in Vegas thrown in, all of which was good. But I'm just about back in the swing of things and happy to be back in Rexville!

Happy Wednesday!

John V 1:13 PM  

@Arby SDS=Students for a Democratic Society, was a major campus organization late '60s, VietNam era.

As noted elsewhere, there is an age benefit in this puzzle. I'll take it, thank you very much :)

rjbrunner 1:21 PM  

I very much liked the idea that when the "inn is closed" we get WINGFOOTED,FISHTANK,SINGSONG, GUESSAGAIN. Cool puzzle. It's a KEEPER!

miriam b 1:21 PM  

We once adopted a kitten we named MATILDA, after the song, but after a closer look we changed HIS name to Macavity. He won a Best Household Pet trophy at a big cat show in Albuquerque along about 1956, despite his having tried to bite a judge.

I zipped through this puzzle while downing coffee and attempting to entertain Polly Dactyl, who was sitting on my lap trying to distract me. I think I'm of the proper vintage to deal successfully with the clues. Let's say d'un certain âge.

@mac: D'accord on all counts, except that Ms. Oates writings, though beautifully realized, send me into a spiral of depression. I can't bear to read them. I guess I'm just a sensitive soul. I can't read New Yorker fiction just before bedtime, as something physically or emotioally ghastly invariably befalls one or more of the characters. I have to read these stories early in the day. The magazine came today, and on glancing at the contents I see that the author of today's fiction is Steven Millhauser, whose style can be creepy, but whose work I respect. Some stories are set in the part of Connecticut where I grew up. Must read this one this afternoon!

Remember Col. "Bat" Guano (Keenan Wynn) in Dr. Strangelove?

@Rex: I have a feeling that you bit into an apple this morning and found half a worm. No offense.

hazel 1:41 PM  

@miriam b - that is too funny about New Yorker fiction! i do read it sometimes before bedtime and it usually leaves me a bit unsettled! and i dislike Oates wholeheartedly, although I've never pinpointed exactly why. According to my husband, I am not a particularly sensitive soul and since I can't even get through a short story I think I'll never know exactly why.

TimJim 1:41 PM  

"Longtime" Speaker of the House - Pelosi? Really? She was Speaker for just 4 years, fewer than McCormack, O'Neill, Rayburn, Hastert and others. If you're a Republican, it might have seemed longer ....

pol 1:51 PM  

@TimJim she was also the House Minority leader since 2003. Maybe 8 years still isn't a long time by Tip O'Neill standards, but I'd say the clue fits.

Anonymous 1:57 PM  

Since there is more to not like about this puzzle than there is to like about this puzzle I will list the likes . . .

• Clue for 42D
• GUINNESSAGAIN
• SOFTSHOE next to HARDHAT

CoffeeLvr 1:57 PM  

@PurpleGuy, your eyes may not be what they used to be, but I am sure your imagination makes up for them. I laughed and laughed thinking of your lap dancer confusion.

@AnnieD, you told off @EvilDoug before I would have. Love your Alencon lace story.

Joon Pahk will be on Jeopardy Thurs or Friday; he is not on tonight per the web site. But watch anyway, it is the Tournament of Champions after all. If he wins, again!, he will then compete next Monday and Tuesday; the finals are a two day event.

archaeoprof 2:01 PM  

@Evil: well then she should select Joon instead.

cody.riggs 2:13 PM  

Agree with Rex totally. Ms. Gamache's puzzles are usually among my favorites, so very surprised at this.

Ended up with mINNING SONG, and didn't care. GMT="Greenwich Mean Time", so I never suspected my error. Came here to see what MINNING SONG was supposed to mean. SINNING SONG isn't much better.

Go JOON! Knew he'd be a runaway the other day.

cody.riggs 2:14 PM  

...and GUANO? I couldn't care less, but w
whatever happened to the breakfast test?

cody.riggs 2:16 PM  

Last comment...I wanted to say something nice, so:

The clue for ANAGRAM was the best I've seen in many a blue moon. Brava for that!

jae 2:17 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 2:19 PM  

@miriam b -- Thanks, I was trying to remember why Bat Guano rang a bell.

@TimJim -- the clue is "Longtime Democratic House leader"

chefbea 2:37 PM  

Wonder if we will get Jeopardy aboard ship. Would love to see Joon win!!!

retired_chemist 2:54 PM  

Gotta say - the surprise highlight of my TV month was turning on Jeopardy! and finding that Joon was on. And kicking a**. I'm sure this blog was atwitter with details but I was elsewhere, Anyway, we get Jeopardy! at 11 AM and one finalist is in. I won't say who and spoil the fun of those who see it in the evening. Looking forward to cheering Joon on in the semis whichever day he plays.

Two Ponies 3:05 PM  

@ Tobias, I think you might have something there. Beats the heck out of what they're airing now.
Sign me up!

gmamunes 3:08 PM  

I got NONNA & ROLO right away. I've read "Strega Nona" to my kids many times, and I can still remember the catchy "You can roll a Rolo to your pal" commercials.

sanfranman59 3:28 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Wed 15:08, 11:50, 1.28, 94%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 8:04, 5:52, 1.38, 98%, Challenging

Anonymous 3:43 PM  

I've been doing the puzzles for a few months, and I actually got all of the answers (ENNE, LEDS, OPART)but can someone shed more light on those clues/answers?

1) Comedian/Comedienne, I get it. How does the -enne suffix becomes non-PC? Can someone explain this, please. (59D - non-P.C. suffix)

2) Also, why is LEDs clued as Some Readouts (66A). Is it a crossword convention or there is more to it. Can someone explain this? Please.

3) Finally, does OPART is a word or does it need to be parsed, as OP-ART (like OP-Ed)? Can someone explain this clue and answer? PLEASE.

Thanks in advance for helping me get better at this.

Anonymous 4:03 PM  

@Anon 3:43

1) Comedian is not gender specific, anyone who makes jokes is a comedian. The Ultra-PC would then argue that using comedienne, being unnecessary, can be interpreted as dismissive.
2) Your digital watch readout uses LEDs. It's not a convention, it's an oblique reference. As the week goes on, the clues go from almost being definitions to more and more oblique references to the answers.
3) OP-ART: Op art, also known as optical art, is a style[1] of visual art that makes use of optical illusions. (Wikipedia)

retired_chemist 4:04 PM  

@ Anon 3:43 - LED = abbrev. for light emitting diode, a common device in digital data readouts. OP ART (short for OPTICAL ART) is two words acc. to my dashboard dictionary, but crosswords don't normally care about that.

miriam b 4:08 PM  

@Anonymous 3:43

1) Non-PC = not politically correct.
2) LED = light-emitting diode.
3) Op Art = optical art, which does appear to move.

Lojman 4:14 PM  

Hmmm.

Loved the theme answers. Especially SINNING SONG. From wikipedia: "The term 'siren song' refers to an appeal that is hard to resist but that, if heeded, will lead to a bad result." Not exactly the definition of sin, but pretty darn close. Plus, the unstated alliteration of Siren's Sinning Song is just right.

FINNISH TANK and GUINNESS AGAIN are excellent. WINNING FOOTED is not enough of a change from its base phrase, but only because of the clue. A soccer clue would have been better (e.g. - 'Like Pele?' Now that dude had a winning foot. Two of 'em, in fact).

There's no such thing as Greenwich Standard Time, but GST may actually be correct. Greenwich Sidereal Time is a tool used by astronomers, it is indeed based on the prime meridian, and the acronym GST is used. Way too esoteric, but correct. There had to have been a better way to clue this.

NW was painful.

Cheers!

Anonymous 4:19 PM  

I agree correct designation is GMT.

But also, the clue for 40D is: Prime meridian std.

How can the answer be an abbreviation of Greenwich Std. Time?

2 errors in a 3 letter answer? Wow.

----> Joe in NYC

Sparky 4:25 PM  

Hand up for GmT. Got it early with FINNISHTANK but had a lot of trouble with WINNINGFOOTED and that whole corner. Finally came around and, though it does evoke Hermes, I feel it's a stretch. Wanted Chantilly first then ALcenOn which I always mispronounce, thus misspell. Had bOO before HOO, sob.

CrazyCat 4:40 PM  

Count me in for having GMT and MINNING SONG and not caring. I found the puzzle to be mildly irritating. Nice write up though.

Matthew G. 4:47 PM  

Glad I wasn't the only one done in by ROLO/ALENCON/NONNA. Never heard of any of the three.

This was pretty brutal for a Wednesday even aside from that. I'm the 109th commenter so I won't say anything else about it other than: What Rex said, verbatim.

@TimJim: The clue says "Democratic Leader," not "Speaker." So it's perfectly correct. Indeed, it's somewhat unusual for an ex-Speaker to remain party leader after losing the House (as Pelosi has done), so that only strengthens her claim to being a "longtime" Democratic leader.

@Evil Doug: You're really digging on that one. I suspect most women who wear pantsuits do so because they find them more comfortable than skirt suits.

JenCT 4:58 PM  

The only thing I can think of is that old saying "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything."

And that's all I have to say about this puzzle.

long suffering mets fan 5:16 PM  

Well, I guess I'm in the minority, but overall I really liked this puzzle

Super-challenging for a Wednesday

Rex has some good points, but theres some great cluing here -- STAG, SOFTSHOE, TOASTY, HARDHAT, MOPIEST, OPENTOALL, PANTSUIT

Thanks, Paula big thumbs up from me

How about Joon -- you go, bro !!!

Hey, Joon you need a campaign manager -- I'm thinkin' 2016, baby!
Joon really does need to bust out all over AMERICA !

Tita 6:12 PM  

@Anonymous said...(3:43)

Doing the puzzles every day, and coming here, will be a great way to improve. Since checking in here regularly, I am often able to complete Fridays and Saturdays!

Also, check out http://www.nytcrossword.com/.
Bob Kerfuffle, a regular here, just turned us on to this site.

Bill does an awesome job of defining every single clue...

Enjoy.

Z 6:12 PM  

Did this last night and struggled. Did it again on paper this afternoon and the NW was still tough. Finnished both times, but it was tough. Liked what most people liked. Didn't like what most people disliked.

@Z in Amsterdam is not me, but I apparently do have some distant relatives there.

Love 42D clue.

I do believe that all Stouts are Ales, as opposed to lagers.

With that, I think I will now have a GUINESSAGAIN (actually, a Murphy's Irish Stout, I don't have any Guinness in the house).

Detour 6:17 PM  

Thank you lojman for the GST explanation. And thanks to whomever spelled it out earlier (S=sidereal, not standard). Unfortunately, I didn't get it back then as I thought the reference was to SOHIO and Standard Oil.

No thanks to good ol Evil! Skirts, nylons - ugh! Pantsuits is an outdated term anyway. We would just refer to them as suits. Ya don't call men's suits pantsuits, do ya?! Funny that Paula has ENNE clued as nonPC with PANTSUIT nearby.

@Tobias I'm up for any IPad retrievel posse. You guarantee immunity from prosecution and I'll contact my Reality tv producer friend. (he still feels guilty about hitting me with a rock as a little kid. I have no memory of the incident.)

Can someone explain why clue pied a TERRE is missing the "a"?

BigSteve46 6:37 PM  

Wow! Rex gets testy when he can't blow through a puzzle faster than anybody else. You would think he would appreciate a little challenge once in a while. What's so tough? Matilda by Harry Belafonte was a big hit and a signature song; Nonna is the Italian word for grandmother and commonly known by non-Italians ( it is used often in Italian restaurant names); Alencon is well known for lace; Sohio is easily inferrable.

If you want puzzles you can do in 3 minutes, buy the Daily News.

Matthew G. 6:47 PM  

@BigSteve46: I want puzzles that are hard because of clever clue/answer combinations, not puzzles that are hard because they use obscure proper nouns.

I'm Italian-American, and I've never heard NONNA before. We called my Italian grandmother "Nanny."

Detour 6:52 PM  

Oh, and bat guano is memorable for me ever since I was told they used (use?) it in mascara. Yup

long suffering mets fan 7:18 PM  

thank God Joe Namath chimed in --
are we all old enough to recall that memorable commercial?

Evil Doug -- hysterical as usual, from one tongue-in-cheeker to another, I bow to your skill, sir

bigsteve46
things that will get you a bad write-up from our exalted leader:
1) not being able to polish off the puzzle in Mach 1 speed
2) not being invited to said constructor's wedding
3) no Simpsons reference in the puzzle

skua76 7:18 PM  

@Detour, the clue for 42A in Across Lite reads correctly for me: Pied-à-____, what are you looking at to see the clue? My local paper gives me the LAT puzzle, but it can't handle clue letters with diacritical marks. (It doesn't give a constructor byline either, but...)

smstr: no, not me, I don't sew. Or text much.

foodie 7:22 PM  

Wow, went to work, came home, found 119 comments!! Rexville is hopping! I actually read them all...

@Evil, There's a Mrs. Evil? Does she take your advice about work-related attire?

chefbea 8:31 PM  

I remember the Joe Namath Commercial.

Gotta watch the CMA awards!!! g'nite

Anonymous 9:23 PM  

I haven't read all the comments, but could it be that no one has remarked that the theme is revealed by removing "INN" from the wacky clues to get familiar phrases:
W(INN)INGFOOTED, F(INN)ISHTANK,
S(INN)INGSONG, and GU(INN)ESSAGAIN.
The theme revealer "INNKEEPER" seems very misdirecting. If this has already been noted, sorry. But I've never seen Rex miss one like this.

Sarah 9:58 PM  

I just got to the puzzle a few minutes ago (nearly 10pm eastern) and so glad I checked the blog, or I'd be feeling like an idiot. Hadn't heard of ALENCON lace; first thought of Poitiers, but it doesn't fit, then "Avignon." Blech.I wonder how long it will be before PANTSUIT does not automatically evoke Hillary Clinton; I don't think the word is uttered in any other context. The less said about the theme the better.

michael 10:13 PM  

I'm really glad I came here because I was really disappointed with a DNF on a Wednesday because of the NW. I see I was not alone.

Seemed like a Friday to me.

Lois 11:56 PM  

Very enjoyable puzzle.

sanfranman59 12:06 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 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 6:30, 6:50, 0.95, 30%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:12, 8:51, 0.93, 32%, Easy-Medium
Wed 15:12, 11:50, 1.28, 94%, Challenging (8th highest median solve time of 123 Wednesdays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:28, 3:40, 0.95, 31%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:15, 4:34, 0.93, 31%, Easy-Medium
Wed 7:36, 5:51, 1.30, 96%, Challenging (6th highest median solve time of 123 Wednesdays)

Anonymous 1:17 AM  

dance senora jump in the line and banana boat song were the belafonte songs in beetlejuice. oh so fun. if you are too young to remember belafonte he is worth a listen. i wanted open house and that messed me up for nw.

TimJim 3:44 AM  

Better late than never-- I stand corrected on Ms. Pelosi

AnnieD 7:02 AM  

Well one thing this puzz did is trigger a lot of interesting comments!

@eddied, Waltzing Matilda is a very different song from Matilda...check youtube and you'll see.

@evildoug, some women may wear their 4-5" heels under pants, perhaps between visits with their back specialists and podiatrists, or if their going to a "sitting and crossing event" as opposed to a "walking and standing event". There is an easy fix for your hat hair problem though....shave your head!

I always said if there were no men on the earth, women would never shave their legs or wear panty hose and heels.

Fortunately for me, my husband supports my attire choices, especially when I bought my steel tipped work boots...come in very handy as we are sawing up more than a dozen trees that came down during last week's storm. Yikes!

hazel 8:55 AM  

was there a full moon yesterday?

Mark Newstetter 2:15 PM  

Just realized that taking the "INN" out of all the theme answers reveals another level to this puzzle;

W-INN-ING FOOTED becomes WING FOOTED,

F-INN-ISH TANK becomes FISH TANK

S-INN-ING SONG .... SING SONG

GU-INN-ESS AGAIN .... GUESS AGAIN

Actually kinda fun.

Zeus Yiamouyiannis 12:36 AM  

Got the actual words for these, even a lot of the tough ones including Sohio, Otoe, Guano, etc., but could not finish. Why? Because the silly editors of the International Herald Tribune who publishes the puzzle on the same day, PUT IN THE WRONG GRID! Nothing fit. The across numbers were all in the down columns and vice versa. I thought, this is far too hard for a Wed. puzzle. It's got two themes a content theme and a physical arrangement theme. Couldn't make sense of it. Looked it up and laughed my rear end off, which are two words to describe this snafu-- "off" and "rear end".

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

Note to Tobias Duncan: TCU is "some sporty college I never heard of"? Texas Christian University has been playing top drawer intercollegiate football well over a hundred years, winning the national championship in 1935 and 1938. Last year the Frogs finished 2nd in the nation after beating Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Heisman trophy winner David O'Brien played for TCU as did Sam Baugh. You know, Slingin Sammy Baugh of Washington Redskin fame. So, my only question Toby old boy is what planet have you been living on?

Mad Jurist 12:59 PM  

Out here in syndication land, maybe I just haven't been doing puzzles for long enough, but I'm pretty tolerant of themes of the form 'add a letter'. Winning-footed does seems like a horrible phrase, though. Wasn't doing too badly until I tried to fill in the top. Having 'Narc' at 1A didn't help, but once I got 'Decafs' it all fell into place.

tim 1:41 PM  

I enjoyed it and think that half the comments in here are patently silly. Why does it matter whether we "like" puzzles anyway? What I enjoyed was the challenge of solving it. The result was at least as good as many other puzzles that have been praised here over my time reading this blog. To me, there are those few puzzles that get it right vis a vis the challenge, the cluing, the crispness of the theme, and the quality of the fill. They are rare, but I don't see a need to dog pile those that aren't in that category.

Waxy in Montreal 2:59 PM  

Well put, @tim.

The clue for 40D could have been something like "Consumption payment in Canada" though I'm not sure how many Americans would actually be familiar with the abbreviation for our beloved Goods and Services Tax (GST), which is akin to the UK's better-known VAT.

As was pointed out five weeks back, with perhaps the exception of the NW corner, this puzzle was less than challenging for many of those of us who've clocked a few extra years. Clues definitely trended easier for anyone familiar with Matilda, Sohio, op-art, peacenik (the suffix nik came into vogue with the launch of Sputnik in 1957), Margaret Mitchell, etc. Quite surprised people had a problem with Nonna as even this very non-Italian has heard the term used megatimes.

And loved the surprise anagram. Thanks for the mid-week gem, Ms. Gamache.

Waxy in Montreal 3:05 PM  

Captcha very apt for this puzzle: horsinn. I kid you not...

Dirigonzo 5:49 PM  

It's nice to see that syndisolvers are bestowing more love on this puzzle than the prime-time crowd did. My only complaint before I came here was GST and I'm perfectly willing to accept the explanation offered earlier as to why is can be correct - just because I never heard of something doesn't make it wrong. (Full disclosure: I did the puzzle after a Massage (deeply, but no rolfing) session so I'm pretty mellow.)

My old boss had a sign on his wall, something like: "Age and experience will overcome youth and ambition every time". This puzzle may prove the point?

RPDTNYTCP 12/14/2006:
- "Solving time: unknown"
- "I've learned good, humbling lessons lately about my own solving certainty. When you've exhausted all other options, change what you "know" to be right."
- "Feels like the puzzle is returning to opera with a vengeance lately, but that may just be coincidence. Crosswords have always loved opera (much to my opera-ignorant chagrin). "Opera" used to be the definitive Rex-Doesn't-Know-It category in any trivia game, esp Jeopardy. I'd see "Opera" and think "well I'm dead." "What is ... the fat lady sings?" KIRI Te Kanawa is a Kiwi, so I have a spousal obligation to mention her."
- "is a new Latin word to me. Means "by the sword," apparently, as Massachusetts's motto reads thusly: "Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem" - (By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty) [not my translation]. Massachusetts remains the hardest state to spell, by far. No matter what you type, it looks wrong."
- "Speaking of Pantheon-tastic, here we see last-minute bids to get on the ballot from some very worthy entries. Add the aforementioned SSRS and ICIER, and you can really see the density of crosswordese. Yet nothing seems particularly egregious. EL-HI is my least favorite of the bunch, for no particular reason."
- "I'm trying to reverse the depressing turn this entry has taken, but it's hard to end on an up note when one of the characters you're writing about ends up alone after the death of his beloved daughter, and the other throws herself under a train."
- "I am almost certain to forget this word, ABRI, possibly by the time I finish writing this entry."
- There were 10 comments, at least 6 of which were from syndicated solvers (Hi, @SurvivorMaam), one of which prompted Rex to say this: "Even I have to Google for answers from time to time."

Pippin 6:20 PM  

I was feeling very stupid with a DNF for a Wednesday, until I came to the blog. Agree with Rex. Agree with almost everyone else as well. The NW corner was brutal - had SADDEST like so many others. And GST for this Canadian is just the hated Goods and Services Tax - I have always thought it was Greenwich MEAN Time - GMT. And WINNING FOOTED is awful. BOO HOO,,,,, just no fun at all.

Anonymous 2:22 AM  

Spacecraft here. @AnnieD: thanks for the Sherman memory. My favorite was Irving, big fat Irving, the 142nd fastest gun in the west (Now 141 were faster than he, but Irving was looking for 143!) Indeed, Rex, Belafonte's Matilda "She take me mahney an run Venny-suela." Heck, if she run Colombia she could at least score some coke with all that mah-ney.
I must be getting better at this, 'cause I thought it was no worse than easy-medium. Had to think awhile, especially on the clue for 42d till the bulb finally turned on; the clue looked so natural, and that part, at least, of the puzzle I thought was brilliantly executed.
I was among the many who had to write over GMT and had trouble aligning "siren" with "sin." I guess it's valid if you consider that it would be a sin for a sailor to abandon his duties and his post--which legend says they are wont to do for the siren's song. Anyway, while I agree with a lot of Rex's other nitpicking, there is still some great stuff in here. There's SOFTSHOE and HARDHAT, standing next to each other with only little OPIE between them.
'Tis a pity that SINN fein had to be broken into a partial (my favorite Irish saying: "'Tisn't a sin, not to be Irish--but it 'tis a pity.")
And now to sing a SINNINGSONG as we get all TOASTY with GUINNESS: AGAIN!

Nullifidian 6:45 AM  

I didn't find the NW nearly as hard as the prime-time crew did, though admittedly I didn't try to do it first, and only came to it after the theme answer became clear.

In fact, my first gimme was TAL, as it should be for someone who owns a copy of The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal. But even if I didn't, there are only three well-known chess champions named Mikhail, and there wasn't enough room in the grid for Botvinnik or Chigorin. I swear though that one day I will construct a NYT crossword puzzle with one of the latter's names in it and clue it just the same way. :-D

I'm not sure why Rex thinks that "GIE me my Highland lassie, O!" is a poor answer, because it's an utterly conventional cultural clue. If crosswords are supposed to be entirely in standard English, then tell the NYT puzzle constructors to stop filling their puzzles with French words. I'm sick to death of ETÉ. (Pun fully intended.)

Ditto for ALENÇON lace, which was one of my gimmes. It's a standard bit of cultural and historical lore.

I'll admit that MATILDA is before my time, but I had no problem getting it from the crosses. There might have been a "Natick" problem where it crossed TAL, but I know I've seen TAL's name before in NYT crosswords, so I now regard it as a standard bit of crosswordese.

My one complaint is about GST. I actually have heard about Greenwich Sidereal Time, and that caused me to take an even stronger dislike to the answer than Dirigonzo. To me, that clue is just not playing fair with an audience likely made up of people without scientific knowledge, and even ten to one most scientists would confidently put down GMT too. I would have clued it as something like "Prime meridian std. for astronomers" or something like that, to distinguish it from the standard Greenwich Mean Time.

Captcha = suboo: an implicit taboo?

jpChris 1:56 PM  

I just don't get 25D: Alternative to I, you, he or she, being "one"??? What am I missing?

Nullifidian 2:14 PM  

jpChris,

The answer refers to how one can use "one" as a pronoun, as I just did, to vaguely indicate any sort of person or thing.

jpChris 1:14 PM  

@Nullifidian,

AHA! The veil lifts! Thank you. Terrible clue(to me, anyway).

Maude Bridges 5:10 PM  

I have a dear aunt in Dallas who mails me the comics section and recipes from the Dallas News when she's done with them, so I got to see this one on December 20. The Dallas News had published it on December 14th. Well, at least they kept it on a Wednesday. And at least Dear Aunt Betty hadn't even attempted to fill in any answers, so I didn't have to get a different color ink pen to write over her guesses (like on number 1102, that Dallas published on December 7th...) Hey, it led me to this blog, which I have now bookmarked, so I'm not complaining.

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