Weasley family owl / WED 11-2-11 / Elegantly dressed bloke / 1970s-'90s film company / Grammatical infelicity / Apple communication tool

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Constructor: Barry Franklin and Sara Kaplan

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: SPLIT INFINITIVE (37A: Grammatical infelicity ... or what 17-, 23-, 48- or 60-Across is?) — theme answers (all clued as [See 37-Across]) are all infinitive phrases that mean "to SPLIT"
  • TO DIVORCE
  • TO PULL UP STAKES
  • TO GO FIFTY-FIFTY
  • TO SHATTER
Word of the Day: TOFF (40D: Elegantly dressed bloke) —
n. Chiefly British Slang
A member of the upper classes, especially one who is elegantly dressed: "champagne, once a raffish drink suitable for toffs and weddings" (Ian Jack).

[Probably variant of TUFT, a gold tassel worn by titled students at Oxford and Cambridge.]
• • •

I had no idea what this theme was about until well after I was finished. Thus, it wasn't that fun to solve. And yet, once I figured it out, I had to admit it was pretty clever—nice repurposing of the central phrase, with a different meaning of "SPLIT" evident in each theme answer (though SHATTER is a bit of a stretch for "SPLIT"). I'll spare you the lecture on SPLIT INFINITIVEs and whether they are indeed infelicities (OK, short lecture: they aren't). It was frustrating to try to solve those theme answers when they had no clue. I think that's where the "no fun" part of my assessment comes from—filling in unclued phrases whose shared trait is impossible to see (at first). I'd have parts of the phrases and think "???" — e.g. "TO GO FIFTY ... FIVE? What the hell?" Got the theme answers almost entirely from crosses. With the puzzle offering near-zero assistance with the theme answers, this one should've been harder than usual, but my time says otherwise. Maybe I just lucked out in guessing RIGATONI (9D: Pasta variety) off the final "I." If that hadn't happened, the whole thing could've taken me a minute longer. Anyway, this is an "admire-it-after-the-fact"-type puzzle, and as such, it's fine.



RASPY (9A: Like E.T.'s voice) is not a word I associate with E.T. It's a word I associate with smokers. But I guess his voice qualifies. Weird to see ORION clued as a bygone film company (49D: 1970s-'90s film company)—seems a very Saturday-type clue (though I managed to remember it and get it with just a couple crosses, so maybe it's more obvious than I think). Just sent my SPIRO Agnew watch to the repairman, so he's fresh on my mind (32D: Vice president Agnew). Had the weirdest malapop* ever when at 34A: Clingy wrap (SARAN). Had the -AN and thought "AFGAN?" Yeah, it's the wrong spelling, and AFGHANs aren't particularly clingy, but that didn't stop my brain from thinking it. Anyway, it was SARAN, of course, but then bam, not a minute later, there's AFGHAN after all (46D: Crocheted item).

*["Malapop": when you want a certain answer that ends up being wrong, only to find that that "wrong" answer actually appears elsewhere in the grid.]



Bullets:
  • 28A: Provider of a jawbone to Samson (ASS) — this makes it sound like the ASS just handed it over ...
  • 58A: Where the brain resides, slangily (ATTIC) — never heard this expression, though it wasn't hard to piece together.
  • 6D: Weasley family owl in Harry Potter books (ERROL) — read 'em all, but still somehow can't seem to remember ERROL.
  • 16A: Apple communication tool (iCHAT) — i don't CHAT, so, like ERROL, iCHAT frequently eludes me.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

79 comments:

twangster 12:11 AM  

When I finished I assumed the theme answers constituted a famous poem I had never heard of.

foodie 12:17 AM  

This was one of the few times that I got the theme earlier than our fearless leader... quite early actually, and it did help, immensely. PARIS and ELEVE crossing the theme revealer as clued were somehow enough! When stuff like that happens, it feels like magic.

I learned about that split infinitive taboo at some point in school and it seemed so bizarre to me-- that one can make value judgments on a word order that's used in everyday language.

I love ALLIGATOR and SHARKSKIN anchoring the downs! And when I first discovered them, I became addicted to LORNA DOONE cookies. Haven't had them in a while. Do you figure they go well with CAVA? Sounds really awful, actually :)

Masked and Anonymous 12:37 AM  

TuesPuz was split hairs. WedPuz is split infinitives. Return of the meta-gig?!? 31! Dude.

Possible ThursPuz themes:
1. Split decisions
2. Split ends
3. Split levels
4. Split peas
5. Split personalities. Oooh. Like this one. Has some possibilities. Could include that Kardashian chick and the bball player.
6. Split seconds
7. Split finger fastballs
8. Split the difference
9. Split lips
10. Gotta split, cuz I've run outta ideas now.

Only thing: can't figure out how that Vampire MonPuz fits into the pattern. Got. To. Think.

Gill I. P. 12:53 AM  

Well, as our daughter would say... This didn't flip my ship.
Aren't 16, three letter words, a tad excessive? Also, every time I read a clue I kept thinking I've seen it clued this way a ton of times before. I wasn't able to go OOOH and I always want to on a Wed.
My best friend, when I was 12 or so, used to say her father had bats in his attic. I could never figure out what that meant since they didn't have an attic. It wasn't until years later, and when I used the same phrase, that someone told me it's "bats in the belfry."

Tobias Duncan 1:24 AM  

Loved seeing Carl in the 1A position.
Has there ever been a Carl Sagan puzzle?

Had Pretty much the exact same experience( minus his odd mapapop) as Rex today albeit in slow motion.

Rube 1:54 AM  

Like our fearless leader, took me the longest time to figure out the theme. Stared at the (finished) puzzle trying to see where the infinitives were split when it suddenly dawned. Fiendishly clever.

Just finished reading Carl Sagan's "The Varieties of Scientific Experience". Highly recommended. Actually more than highly, Summa cum Laude.

Only wirteovers were PAPI/PAPa and INF/gis. PAPa didn't look right, but, hey, it's been a whole year since I've seen a Red Sox game.

A Wednesday easy solve with a Thursday difficult theme.

davko 2:19 AM  

I too had no problem picking up on the "theme" of this puzzle the moment I filled in TOGOFIFTYFIFTY (48A) right after seeing SPLITINFINITIVE peeping through Concentration-like at 37A. What's odd, though, is that there are no real split infinitives in any of these answers, except in the wordplay sense.

As an exponent of Strunk & White and some memorably fastidious high school English teachers, I had maintained pretty strict adherence to the rule barring the split infinitive -- even at a time when the voice of William Shatner exhorted watchers of one of the most popular shows on television "to boldy go where no man has gone before."

acura carl machu 2:24 AM  

i am (mala)popping in just to say
a) I'm alive
b) can not believe @Rex not only had a malapop, he actually used the word!!!!

good list M and A...now get to work (and make it a pangram minus a "u"!)

jae 3:02 AM  

Caught the theme about half way through. Pretty clever. I had this as easy with SANE for HALE my only write over.

So, a guy calls his lawyer and says he wants a DIVORCE.

The lawyer asks "What are the grounds?"

"Would you believe she said I was a lousy lover?" sputtered the husband.

"That's why you're suing?" asked lawyer.

"Of course not. I'm suing because she knows the difference."

Solver from Georgia 3:11 AM  

One major complaint about this puzzle -- Georgia is not in Asia. Georgia is a part of the Caucasus, which under virtually any grouping that counts, is considered European (takes part in the Council of Europe, plays in the Champions League qualifiers, competes in the Eurovision song contest, etc.)

jae 3:35 AM  

And, @andrea -- Nice to hear from you, some of us were concerned. Any Sunday puzzle commentary ......?

chefwen 3:57 AM  

After I got over my initial annoyance of seeing four See 37-Across, and not knowing what infelicity meant (new word for me), I just started filling in stuff that I did know, and before I knew it, Bah Dah Bing, Bah Dah Bang, I was done! Probably in record time if I bothered to time myself. I am thankful for easy crosses.

dk 7:00 AM  

To be or not to be. Two splits in a row (yesterday we SPIlT HAIRS) in case you are ADD.

Like @Foodie this one went down easy (quick Foodie question what is a good alternative for farro? Will spelt do? Making farro and tomato basil soup and not sure if I can find farro in Western WI.)

Back to the puzzle. My hardest fill was OOOH as I thought that was a little lame for Wednesday but ya gotta do what ya gotta do in the fast paced word of puzzledom. Great clue for OBOE and RODEO is my favorite spectator sport.

LORNA brought back memories of my dad explaining the source for the name of the cookie - which dissolves well in a glass of milk -- now in a cuppa.

*** (3 Stars) Heres to mitosis as we look to Mississippi to tell us when personhood begins. Me, I vote -- after two or three beers at a shrimp boil in Clarksdale.

Anonymous 7:27 AM  

"Split" means "two." Shatter means "many." Doesn't work for me. Had to come here to find out what the theme was supposed to be.

dk 7:37 AM  

yesterday we had SPLIT HAIRS... drat cannot blame spell correction for that

Z 7:40 AM  

To boldly go where no Rexvillain has gone before....

Has "malapop" been added to the FAQ's yet?

Four basically unclued answers paired with mostly straight forward fill, I think that is more than fair for a Wednesday. And the fill did seem smooth to me with a nice balance of geography, sports, music, and names with no Naticks. A fine solve.

A couple of complaints, though - RSVP twice? DREA again? There are a lot of three letter answers (though I do appreciate INF not being clued as some random classical work). Did Apple realize that their iProduct naming convention would be so popular with constructors?

Glimmerglass 7:42 AM  

Got the theme with TO DIVORCE, which made the others easy. SHATTER doesn't mean SPLIT. My brain is very much like an ATTIC -- full of useless junk.

Z 7:49 AM  

@solver - There is probably a better case that Europe is part of Asia than Georgia is wholly a part of Europe. Not an expert here, but I do believe that the clue as written is more accepted than your correction.

joho 8:08 AM  

When something SHATTERs it splits into many pieces.

Quirky theme which was different so I liked it even though, as @davko said, there are no real split infinitives here. That's why we can't be so literal and need to take the concept to another "split" level.

My only write over was macArONI before RIGATONI.

Like @Foodie, loved ALLIGATOR and SHARKSKIN ... visulized big, toothy smiles.

Hi, @acura carl machu!

Raul 8:08 AM  

The original Malapop post from August 17, 2008:

andrea carla michaels 2:03 PM

@mac
uh oh, this "andrea" thing is beginning to take on a life of it's own!
Before it goes too much further,
I guess apres vu didn't catch on, and as Rex has wisely pointed out, it's NOT the opposite of a deja vu bec we HAVE seen it, albeit in the wrong place.
sort of a mal deja vu...

so as a nod to that, how about a
MALAPOP?
MALAPOP: A word that you've popped into the puzzle or that has popped up, albeit it in the wrong place?

(Plus it's a nod to that baseball thingie of pop-ups...not to mention annoying pop-up ads)

MALAPOP, anyone?

(In Minnesota tho a MALAPOP would be a soda that's gone flat!)

AnnieD 8:24 AM  

Got the theme very early on so the fill went quickly. Did struggle with split and shatter until I thought about eardrums. Then it made sense.

Just about right for a Wed for me.
Nice puzz Barry & Sara. Thx.

Anonymous 8:47 AM  

I didn't know part of Georgia is in Asia. According to Wiki Georgia is in the Caucasus part of Eurasia. I didn't know there is a place called Eurasia because when I was in Istanbul the locals would say this part of Turkey is in Europe and that area is in Asia, and never used the term Eurasia.

efrex 8:49 AM  

Guess I'm out of the loop, but I just did not care for this one at all, except for the ALLIGATOR belt/ SHARKSKIN suit combo. Too much tough junk/crosswordese fill (DREA, TATAS, THO, THU, MACHU, KEW, SLO, INF, ELEVE), and the theme just didn't work for me. Probably didn't help that I had TODIVERGE before TODIVORCE.

It was nice to be reminded of Caleb CARR, though: "The Alienist" was a great novel.

MikeM 9:21 AM  

took me 40 minutes to solve the damn thing and I still didnt get it. I had "atra" crossing "eat" for the longest time instead of TRAC and ICE. once I straightened that out Ron's owl came to mind as did STOOLS in a bar. I agree the SHATTER does not mean split. Also thought The Alienist was a great book.

quilter1 9:26 AM  

@dk re: personhood, that is hilarious.

I got the theme fairly early which let me finish fast and furious. Well, nah, I'm not really mad. Glad I remembered DREA from the other day, liked the French accent with PARIS, ELEVE, SIL and VOUS. I think my dad had a SHARKSKIN suit once, grey.

Yesterday it was 77 here and today snow is in the forecast. Hmmm. What to wear, what to wear.

John V 9:29 AM  

Everything @Rex said about the theme. Thought OOOH was a tad lame, too, as I wanted STEINS for 5D cross. Didn't know ERROL nor DREA and wanted A Hand to be AIDE, not AID.

Also discovered that Wednesdays are MUCH more challenging if you go to a Day of The Dead party the night before. OOOH.

Craig ... 9:41 AM  

Rex says that Split infinitives are not “infelicities, but I have a whole nother take on the topic: I think Split Infinitives can be either felicities or an infelicities. “To boldly go ...” is well said by the captain, but thank goodness he didn’t split things any further: “To really boldly go, to boldly and adventurously go, to boldly, adventurously and to find some extraterrestrials go.” Of course less ridiculous examples of infelicities are too common.

janie 9:49 AM  

major congrats to sara and barry (a/k/a karma sartre) on their brain-teaser of a debut! read more about 'em in today's "wordplay" column.

;-)

chefbea 9:49 AM  

Got the theme right away. I too noticed alligator and sharkskin!!

Love the I chat and I site on my Mac. Get to see the grand kids everyday.

@DK Use Quinoa or rice if all else fails. You should be able to find farro. I could send you some!!

Masked and Anonymous III and out 10:23 AM  

@acura carl(a) machu, darlin'... Dang. You want Q's but no U's? Set the bar high, why don't yah.

P.S. Great puz theme today. Different. TOSHATTER is probably a shout out to that William Shatter dude, who famously said, "to boldly go...etc etc" King Kong Kase Klosed of the split infinitives.

Great debut puz. Way to break in, guys. ThUmbsUp from M&A. I had the opposite solve experience from 31 -- got SPLITINFINITIVES as my first entry, just by eyeballin' the grid until it squawked.

Gill I. P. 10:28 AM  

Hi Acura Carl Machu:
Welcome back! You've been missed.
I, for one, would like to thank you for adding "malapop" to my vocabulary.

Oscar 10:29 AM  

I didn't get it, so it's probably unfair. ;)

Prefer malapoop to malapop; it's like a brain fart, but stinkier.

jberg 10:31 AM  

I got the revealer fairly quickly - I mean, grammatical infelicity starting with SPL, what else can it be? That helped with the start of each theme answer, (TO...), then I filled in the rest from the crosses. TO PULL UP STAKES came along first, but wait! That's an infinitive, but not split! I had to get a couple more before I saw what the theme really was. I agree with @Rex, SHATTER is a stretch, but close enough.

Personally, I think it would have been more elegant to clue each theme answer individually; very feasible to do, since each has a different meaning:

End a marriage
Mosey along
Share and share alike
Fall apart

Or something like that.

Like everyone in my generation, I was amazed when I learned that some author had named a novel after a cookie.

jberg 10:33 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Two Ponies 10:41 AM  

Enjoyable Wednesday solve.
Mini themes of reptiles, French, and aliens kept me interested.
@ Rex, I thought the same thing about Samson and the ass. The clue made it sound like he just borrowed the thing.

mac 10:48 AM  

@Barry: congratulations to you and Sara!

No problem finding the theme, and a smooth solve for me with only the eat/ice-atra/trac writeover.
Good thing I remembered Drea from a few days ago.

@Z: nice, Rexvillain!

@dk: just had farro with wild mushrooms and butternut squash last night. I think wild or brown rice might replace it, or maybe even barley. It's a firm grain.

Martin 10:57 AM  

Neither splitting the atom nor lightning splitting the air involve two pieces.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:00 AM  

Always the opportunity to learn something from crosswords: I was going to suggest that calling a SPLIT INFINITIVE a "Grammatical infelicity" merely meant that some people still find it less than ideal, but a quick look in the dictionary says it means "inappropriate," i.e., wrong, so I must agree with Rex: It ain't.

The story I have always heard was that (19th century?) grammarians tried to ban the split infinitive because in Latin the infinitive is a single word and hence could not be split (what, they never heard of tmesis?), and therefore in English should not be split. I suppose if they had followed that theory to its logical extremes we would be speaking a language like German, where the verb comes at the end of the phrase as it does in Latin.

Liked the puzz; very amusing!

Matthew G. 11:06 AM  

Liked it. Mostly easy, but I got slowed down in the NW when (after having figured out the theme below) I tried TO DIVVY UP before TO DIVORCE. That pushed me back to an average Wednesday time.

Hand up for never having heard ATTIC used to mean "head." Belfry, yes, ATTIC, no. But easy to get, as Rex says.

I continue to meet highly educated, wonderfully thoughtful people who can't stand a SPLIT INFINITIVE. I never know how to broach the subject with them.

And the more I think about the puzzle, the more I like it -- four distinctly different sense of SPLIT. Good show, old TOFFs.

Sparky 11:07 AM  

Got the theme in 37A first then, like others, looked for Captain Kirk or some actual examples. When that didn't happen just plodded on with crosses. Liked clue for OBOE, thought providing the jawbone was rather hard on the ASS. I don't buy razors and if I do they have names like Venus. "Aren't you special" means Dana Carvey. OOOH makes no sense at all. GIs before INF.

With all of that, still enjoyed working it out. Congrats Barry and Sara on having a puzzle in the Times. Over the hump day, expect to hit my wall tomorrow.

John V 11:07 AM  

Re: DREA having been seen within the past few days, does anyone recall which day? I don't remember seeing it. Could it have been a Monday or Tuesday that just fell in with the crosses?

evil doug 11:10 AM  

Iridescent sharkskin suit, pegged pants, thin tie, pointy black shoes with tall Cuban heels, pompadour combed back into a nice duck-ass---man, I miss the 50's....

evil

archaeoprof 11:10 AM  

Liked it.

Very busy today with campus preparations for that Republican debate next Saturday.

evil doug 11:14 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
chefbea 11:39 AM  

@JohnV Drea was in the puzzle last Fri

John V 11:45 AM  

@chefbea, I see it now. As I suspected, it was buried in the stacked 15s in the North. Never noticed/needed it. But, it gave me a run for the money this morning.

Thanks.

JaxInL.A. 11:57 AM  

Can't do more than skim the posts (alas) b/c of other demands this AM, but I want to
1) say hooray for @acura carl machu stopping by (still hoping for enlightenment on Sunday's puzzle); and

2) thank @Oldactor for the referral yesterday. I didn't find a way to buy a turntable at Komando.com, but I did find some other very useful info on computers and all sorts of things related to them.

For anyone interested in buying anything related to phonographs (including needles, etc.), I highly recommend Needle Doctor. Found the Audio-Technica LP60 USB for just $149.95, and a really nice person on the phone to help me understand why that's the best for my price range.

Liked the puzzle a great deal, maybe because I got the theme right away, off of TO GO and the first SPL in the reveal. It just popped in my head.

Happy Dia de los Muertos, everyone. Celebrate those ancestors!

Captcha = tryste!?

syndy 12:02 PM  

Yeah,okay but I prefer my puzzles to be fun while I'm actually doing them.Got the theme and wanted my infinitives to split-damn it!aren't ALL sharkskin suits Grey-like cats in the dark?liked yield after sowed and the OBOE clue-congrats on the debut. Hope ACME comes back with a good story

afghan carr michaels 12:17 PM  

@MatthewG
I'm with you...I had DIV____ and tried variations of TODIVvyp, DIVide? (too short) DIVision? (too long)...
FINALLY, TO DIVORCE...just right! Very Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Never noticed that DIVorce starts with the same DIV as DIVide, etc... Is it linguistically linked, or is in just 504?

Plus I love the word AFGHAN just bec of the FGH, it is ripe for wordplay!

Thanks for the "welcome backs/we missed yous" everyone. Just wasn't up for things for a few days, it's embarrassing but I guess ultimately very sweet that folks notice.
Took Rex acknowledging "malapop" to jar me back into gear, I guess!
(Wow @joho, how did you find that reference? Re-reading mANY of my past comments years later always makes me sound so insane...oh well, sobeit!)

Speaking of past comments, I don't think everyone realizes Barry Franklin the co-constructor of today's puzzle is the very clever KarmaSartre who used to comment here, back in the day...
Met him virtually here, then ACPT in NY then up in Seattle then in Alameda...totally concur on his wit, erudition, charm and modesty... and am thrilled with his/their debut!
Co-constructing is a whole 'nother thing...
Maybe today he'll chime in...in the meantime, congrats KarmaSara!!!!

Anoa Bob 12:22 PM  

A Saturday-ish clue for ORION (49D) might be "Okinawan brewery", in which case it would be pronounce "oh ree own".

Noam D. Elkies 12:31 PM  

Neat puzzle. Guessed 37A:SPLIT_INFINITIVE with zero crossings (though I still wanted to first see a few crosses before inking in); yes, the clue is infelicitous, and would have been better as (say) "Controversial grammatical construction ... or what each of 17/23/48/60A is". Once I had enough of 48A:TO_GO_50-50 filled in to see the phrase, I had the information to figure out what the theme was doing, though it took me a while to exactly describe it. (Hm, that split infinitive *was* infelicitous, unlike the previous one.)

Anybody else try to forcibly fit "to push up daisies" into 23A before finding the correct verb?

NDE

foodie 12:31 PM  

@dk, I think spelt is rather different from farro-- not as nutty tasting. If you're making a salad a la tabbouleh, I'd go with cracked wheat or bulgur. Or you can use wheatberries. I think they carry farro at Whole Foods, but it's also easy to order on line.

David 12:40 PM  

I broke the 6 minute Wednesday for the first time ever, which I'm excited about, yet I didn't really enjoy the puzzle and its theme. Got SPLITINFINITIVES very quickly, but was very blah about all of the theme entries. Did enjoy some of the fill, and very much liked ALLIGATOR and SHARKSKIN.

ERROL, I believe, was that "ruddy old bird" that Ron sent out to deliver paperwork to get Hagrid released from Azkaban, and got lost along the way. I just read that Rowling had seriously considered killing off Ron at some point in the book series.

RI Squasher 12:47 PM  

1000 years from now when early 21st Century society is being studied through crosswords they are going to think ALF was the greatest TV show ever, SPIRO Agnew our most influential politician and everyone communicated via ICHAT.

I wanted MACH instead of TRAC at 15A.

Didn't know what a crone was before today but got HAGS with the crosses.

I got 49D easily as ORION is, to me, the most easily seen constellation. Or maybe I just saw too many movies between the 70s and 90s.

Martin 1:06 PM  

Farro is made with three "inferior" species of wheat: spelt, emmer and einkorn. In Italy, emmer is the most popular.

Only the Italians would define farro as a "strictly ethnobotanical concept."

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

Long run, short hop. No fun, ugly fill and clues.

jackj 1:56 PM  

Most of us probably haven't thought much, (if anything at all), about split infinitives since high school English classes.

So, today's puzzle is likely to trigger feelings of joy, pain or indifference when forced to remember same and those that have opinions of split infinitives are likely to yawn and wonder, "What grammatical infelicity"?

Leaving the theme entries blank made the solve a bit cumbersome for those who like to leave the "revealer" clue for last, but the blankness didn't prevent a timely solve.

The puzzle had a rather sophisticated tinge, by virtue of the theme, but the fill, (zoot-suiters SHARKSKIN garb excluded), was pedestrian, making the debut rather uneven.

I'd mark this effort as "incomplete" but look forward to seeing more from this interesting duo.

shopper 2:06 PM  

@Jax do they have price matching? Because that turntable is 80 bucks all over the interwebs.

miriam b 3:05 PM  

@dk: How about triticale berries?They're available from King Arthur Flour, but they don't have farro.

Remember the Star Trek episode in which quadro-triticale figured? It was "The Trouble with Tribbles".

sanfranman59 3:37 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 11:06, 11:49, 0.94, 40%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:36, 5:51, 0.96, 43%, Medium

joho 4:10 PM  

@afghan carr michaels, @Raul found that reference for the origin of your "malapop," not me.

And, really, most the time you don't sound insane at all! :)

Larry I in L.A. 4:15 PM  

@evil doug:

As you are fond of quoting the fictional New Yorkers of "Seinfeld" (that is you, isn't it?), allow me to quote "Keeping The Faith" by Billy Joel in honor of your 1950s reminiscence:

"We wore matador boots
Only Flagg Brothers had them with the Cuban heel
Iridescent socks with the same color shirt
And a tight pair of chinos
Oh, I put on my sharkskin jacket
You know the kind with the velvet collar
And diddy-bop shades, oh yeah
I took a fresh pack of Luckys and a mint called Sen-Sen
My old man's Trojans and his Old Spice after-shave
Oh, I combed my hair in a pompadour
When the rest of the Romeos wore a permanent wave..."

Feel free to correct any spelling errors--I wasn't born until 1960!

evil doug 4:21 PM  

Oooh. My bad. I neglected to attribute the quote:

"Look, "bad" grammar scratches my blackboard as much as it does yours, but I give massive leeway to people writing colloquially / informally, and in fact never correct Anyone except major news outlets. Correcting does nothing but piss people off. Absolutely doesn't work with kids. You model good grammar, you don't scold it into being. This is why I'm not a fan of "Eats, Shoots, Leaves"—it gave a correcting license to every armchair grammarian and thus added to the general assholery in the world."
Michael Sharp

I agree with most of it. But Michael and I had a nice little debate about the "kids" part. His "absolutely doesn't work with kids"---that word that always gets my skepticism radar cooking---kind of poisoned his whole thought.

While teaching public speaking to college freshmen with a wide variety of backgrounds---city, coal country, nice 'burbs, the street---I had to cringe when I heard some pretty gross grammatical goofs, and I knew potential employers would do the same in interviews. Plus, come on! This is college!

Also, my wife teaches 8th grade English, and I know she hates it when it's apparent that some parents have abdicated their responsibility to, yes, nag their kids to learn grammar (or math facts, or whatever) at home to augment her hard work for eight hours of the day. Failure to do so just added to an already considerable burden that our teachers face. And it worked on our own kids, even though they would regularly roll their eyes at us.

Modeling? That's great when you've got a sharp kid as he obviously does. And some parents aren't up to the task. But the vast majority of us can help a lot at home, as much of a pain in the ass it is---to the kids, and us, too.

Evil

Hakuin Ekaku 4:33 PM  

Ah, a favorite kōan of mine: What is the nature of the sound of people ignoring you?

Apparently, intolerable.

chefbea 4:49 PM  

Jeopardy's two week tournament of champions starts tonight!!! Go Joon!!!

jae 5:09 PM  

Dang, I actually have to agree with Evil's 4:21 comment. Well said and true.

Tobias Duncan 5:40 PM  

Does anyone know when Joon has his first night?
Maybe someone knows him well enough to ask...

Clark 7:00 PM  

@Craig ... -- Very cool that you slip in the phrase ‘a whole nother’ when discussing the felicities or infelicities of split infinitives. I love this weird splitting of a familiar word. “And sawe a nothere ladye proude and nuwe.” (Chaucer, Anelyda and Arcyte (about 1374)).

JenCT 7:40 PM  

@Sparky: agree on OOOH; I thought Dana Carvey too.

@Rex: thought of the Sammy Hagar song also

Found this kind of easy; got a lot from crosses, and once I got SPLITINFINITIVES, filled in the rest of the theme answers.

Never heard of TOFF.

Sfingi 8:42 PM  

Disappointed with theme. Was hoping it was of the variety, "to boldly go," etc.

On the other hand, some of the downs - RIGATONI, SHARKSKIN and TRIFECTCA reminded me of the old "mustache Petes."

Had macArONI before RIGATONI.

The record needle talk reminds me that I have a Victrola I decided to give to a middle school, along with 100 78s, because many are offered on eBay but none are bid on. What gets the bids? The parts!

Wade 9:10 PM  

Barry! My main man! Sara! Person I don't know! Congrats on the debut and the cool Wednesday puzzle. And thanks to Rex I'll probably have my recurring dream about Sammy Hagar being my older screw-up of a brother who always relies on charm to get out of hot water with our mother, like the time he had to borrow the family helicopter to get to a benefit concert in England he somehow "forgot about" until the last minute.

Stan 9:45 PM  

A very interesting solving experience for me, with SPLIT INFINITIVE and the four TOs going in almost immediately, then complete puzzlement as I worked on the crosses. Luckily the fill got me through (this was *not* a case where an ambitious theme idea lead to god-awfulness elsewhere).

So, good one, Barry and Sara! Feel free to submit something less sterling for your second publication. We are used (INURED) to Sophomore Slump around here.

I agree with Needle Doctor to spend a little more more for an Audio Technica USB turntable. I have an ATLP120, which sounds great and even plays 78s. It's plugged into an older JVC receiver with a 'Phono' input, which means you can bypass the step-up transformer. (This comment sounds like it should be on a completely different sort of blog.)

sanfranman59 12:33 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 6:23, 6:50, 0.93, 25%, Easy-Medium
Tue 7:24, 8:51, 0.84, 8%, Easy (10th lowest median solve time of 124 Tuesdays)
Wed 11:18, 11:49, 0.96, 43%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:16, 3:40, 0.89, 7%, Easy (8th lowest median solve time of 123 Mondays)
Tue 3:50, 4:34, 0.84, 6%, Easy (7th lowest median solve time of 124 Tuesdays)
Wed 5:34, 5:50, 0.95, 40%, Medium

Dave92127 9:56 PM  

Anyone else get thrown by "SLO"? It's not in the dictionary I use.

Anonymous 2:49 PM  

"Damn it Bones, I for one am determined to once and for all completely and utterly eradicate that dispicable split infinitive grammatical infelicity! Beam me boldly up, Scotty"

Captain James Tiberius Kirk, Captain's log, stardate 9522.6

Dirigonzo 4:18 PM  

Five weeks later:

It took me a while to remember the phrase SPLITINFINITIVE (I haven't taken an English lesson in a very long time) but once it came to me things went fairly quickly (for me, that is). Wasn't there a recent discussion here about the distinction between "Stat!" and ASAP?

Rex posted a picture of his SPIRO Agnew watch on the blog on 12/4/2006 - nice to hear that he still has it.

Speaking of 2006, let's pop in on this date:
- "Solving time: 11:20"
- "But most of all, I like that this puzzle was written by KELLY CLARKSON! Woo hoo! I saw her in concert, and it was awesome."
- "Look, I know the author's name is Kelly Clark. I'm just going to consider it a not-so-clever pseudonym. I love you, Kelly!"
- "My nemesis at the NYT puzzle site, whom I have dubbed "Chuck," beat me today (after I had thrashed him the day before). O well. Tomorrow is another day, Chuck. Watch your back."
- "I guess if you're going to clue "ah's" and you want the clue to pass the dinner-table test, then yes, go with coffee ads, where people respond in ridiculously sexual ways to their mediocre morning brew."
- " I don't like that this clue/answer pairing forces me to visualize horse sex, but I'm all for the word STUD, in theory."
- "I can tell you that my Blogger text editor does not like "semidry," "sauterne," "spinachlike," "orach," or "slangily" (all underlined in red by the editor-bot)."
- "Out of respect for my Kiwi wife ("Kiwife!" ... hey, it's better than "fishwife!") and her lovely home town of Dunedin, NZ, I humbly suggest that in the future FRAME be clued like this: "Dunedin-born writer Janet.""
- The 6 comments included an exchange between @Orange and Rex to which Rex added: ""Olla!" will be our new signature shout-out. Better than "Oona!" or "Odea!""

Anonymous 4:21 PM  

Liked the wordplay of the theme answers, which I picked up on at TO GO FIFTY FIFTY.

I too was thrown by SLO until it became apparent from the crosses. Natick at 36a/26d, finally decided KEW looks more English than any of the other choices. Plus, Kimberley Rew is english, and he's a split KEW.

I predict (or is it postdict in Syndication?) a side-splitting theme tomorrow.

captcha: sunsater = not a fan of the Phoenix NBA team

Red Valerian 10:36 PM  

Loved it! Got the 'split infinitive' in the middle, and was delighted to find that the themed answers were not literal (or whatever) examples. I was trolling for "to boldly go..." but it wasn't happening. Great fun!

@Anonymous 4:21pm--@Spacecraft? LOL. We'll see about "tomorrow."

Anonymous 1:00 AM  

Old-school Spacecraft here. In the day, they taught us that " to carelessly split infinitives is a reprehensible action." That was right up there with "Never use a preposition to end a sentence with" (prompting the Churchillian response "This is the sort of nonsense up with which I shall not put!"). Or the more modern, "**** you and the horse in on which you rode."
Spent three years in the greater London area, courtesy of the USAF, and got to see Kew Gardens. Tried to wait for a nice day and nearly got shipped home before seeing that awesomely beautiful place. (Standard joke thereabouts: I wanted to get in some golf last summer, but I had to work that afternoon.)
A local sandwich shop where I used to live kept this sign in their window: FREE HOAGIES TOMORROW.
Yes, I went back the next day.
The sign was...still there.

Oh--the puzzle? Well, not only am I a huge Sagan fan, but my first name is Carl. Any grid that kicks off that way--and has a Rolling Stones reference in the last theme entry (thus earning instant forgiveness for not naming a true "split")--is thumbs-up for me.

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