Lorre's role in Casblanca / WED 9-5-12 / Phenomenon in 2011 film subtitled Never Say Never / Hypnotist whose name inspired verb / Sex researcher Hite

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Constructor: Paula Gamache

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging



THEME: BAY BEE BYE BO BOO — a vowel-sound progression puzzle where the vowel immediately following the initial "B" does *not* correspond to the vowel sound it introduces; thus


  • BEIGE PAINT (second letter "E," sound of long "A") (18A: Unflashy coat)
  • BIEBER FEVER (second letter "I," sound of long "E") (23A: Phenomenon evidenced in the 2011 film subtitled "Never Say Never")
  • BUYER'S REMORSE (second letter "U," sound of long "I") (36A: "Sorry I paid for that" feeling)
  • BEAU BRIDGES (second letter "E," sound of long "O") (50A: Actor in "The Fabulous baker Boys")
  • BOOT LICKER (second letter "O," sound of long "U") (56A: Toady)


Word of the Day: MERLE Travis (21D: Country music's Travis) —
Merle Robert Travis (November 29, 1917 – October 20, 1983) was an American country and Western singer, songwriter, and musician born in Rosewood, Kentucky. His lyrics often discussed the life and exploitation of coal miners. Among his many well-known songs are "Sixteen Tons", "Re-Enlistment Blues" and "Dark as a Dungeon". However, it is his masterful guitar playing and his interpretations of the rich musical traditions of his native Muhlenberg County, Kentucky for which he is best known today. "Travis picking", a syncopated style offinger picking, is named after him. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famein 1970 and elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1977. (wikipedia)
• • •

BEIGE PAINT = ouch. I only just learned the term "GREEN PAINT answer," which, in crossword-constructor-speak, is an answer made up of weak adj./noun pairing. TALL WOMAN, for instance, is not a good puzzle answer. It's certainly a phrase one might say, but it doesn't have enough coherence, conceptually, to be a good crossword answer. So, yeah, BEIGE PAINT is "green paint" for sure. Once I understood the theme (incl. the added dimension of the second letter's never being the letter represented by the vowel sound), I admired its ambition. But BEIGE PAINT is BEIGE PAINT. I mean, of all the ways to clunk ... if you're going to clunk, maybe don't clunk with an answer that is essentially the epitome of dullness.


There were two areas that especially added difficulty to the puzzle today. The first was in and around MERLE, which, of course, I had as TRITT (21D: Country music's Travis). One of those two-bit traps that I walked into. Sadly, I also walked into the much more elaborate trap of MA-, which led me to MAFIA DON instead of MA BARKER (5D: Crime family head). And then SMEAR instead of SLIME (which I've only heard as a verb in "Ghostbusters") (7D: Viciously denigrate). Then there was the SE corner, where I was dumb-lucky enough to remember UGARTE this time (46D: Lorre's role in "Casablanca"), and MESMER (47D: Hypnotist whose name inspired a verb) came pretty easily, but where Y-SHAPE took nearly every cross (48D: What a necklace with a pendant has). The seems a very liberal definition of "Y," but I guess it's accurate enough. Even though BONNARD isn't exactly fancy fill, I do like his work, so thumbs-up for that answer (42A: French artist Pierre). I also like the semi-sexy vibe throughout the puzzle, with the Threesome on a clipper, people who have LAIN with each other, and, taking it all in, Sex researcher SHERE Hite.

The end.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

64 comments:

Anne Marie 7:47 AM  

Thanks for the Merle Travis film clip. Excellent way to start the day!

Anonymous 7:52 AM  

After completing the puzzle, I turn to Rex's blog. This time I had a few minutes wait. Ah well, time to contribute!

gw

Z 8:00 AM  

That SE is a real natickville. ARMA and SERE crossing UGARTE, MESMER, and Y-SHAPE. That corner is going to cause problems.

Airymom 8:03 AM  

First time in months that I needed help to complete a Wednesday puzzle. I always enjoy Paula's puzzles--it's good to be challenged on a Wednesday.

So glad the fellow's name was mesmer, because mesmerize is such a great sounding word.

I agree that "beige paint" is a weak theme answer, but "buyer's remorse" makes up for it.

My 13 year old daughter was thrilled by "Bieber fever". I will be thrilled when she outgrows her hysteria.

Gill I. P. 8:34 AM  

I wish I could say that I breezed through this which I normally do on Wed. but that ONHIS/RHEUMY/YSHAPE area just didn't want to fit in. Also had the same trouble with MABARKER. I've heard the name before but not sure where.
BEIGEPAINT was my least favorite but why is that comparable to a no-no "green paint" entry....
Still, I enjoyed the work-out and thought the themes were clever. BABY BYBO BOO?
Also loved seeing the French Nabi BONNARD. I'm a huge fan of his. We have his France-Champagne litho poster.

joho 8:36 AM  

I liked the theme because it's a twist on the usual letter progression. However it is too bad that BEIGEPAINT was the first of the series as it's the weakest. Loved BOOTLICKER.

I ended up with an error at LAId. That made me want to change DEMi TO DEMe to get Xed ... an answer that made some sense to me. XIN???
BTW, I kept in DEMI so my error was XID which obviously means nothing! Unless you're supposed to take a pill ten times daily!

Tobias Duncan 8:36 AM  

When I was a kid I was fascinated by hypnotism.I read cheesy how to books from the 70s and would hypnotize kids on the playground. I tried teaching my classmates how to do it so that I could feel what it was like but it never worked out even though they could hypnotize each other just as well as I could.
It took me forever to figure out that everyone involved was faking it. Ever since then I have strongly suspected that the whole thing is a sham.

Milford 8:42 AM  

Easyish Wednesday for me I liked the vowel progression, especially because you couldn't see it as you wrote. 

Beyond thankful that even with 3 preteen and teenaged daughters, we have never had the BIEBER FEVER in this house. An actual medical condition in some of their friends, I swear. 

Had Xed for XIN at first for 4D, which made for LAId at 17A. Thought that was a bit edgy, but let's face it, it did fit the clue! Only changed it because DEMe was wrong.

I've read about MESMER before. Kind of a creepy dude.

Tobias Duncan 8:46 AM  

@Milford
Creepy dude indeed, you should see the Alan Rickman boipic.

Geometricus 8:49 AM  

Finished with like eight wrong squares, but had a pounding headache so I didn't have the patience to try to fix them legitimately, so I pressed 'check all entries' on Crux. Lots of misdirection I fell for here, starting with DISC for AMEX. Like Rex, I tried TRITT for the Travis, also wanted RANDY. Don't know Merle, but he was gettable, that's such a country-type name. Also MAFIA DON instead of MA BARKER. When I was little I thought MA BARKER was a dog.

My daughter, now 16, suffered her own bout of BIEBERFEVER. I waited in line with her at the Mall of America for 4 hours so she could sing her favorite BIEBER tune Karaoke-style, but she never got to do it because she did not have her birth certificate. Oh well, a day in thy courts, oh Mall, is better than a thousand elsewhere, at least according to a 14 year old girl.

jackj 8:50 AM  

Just another one of those vowel sound puzzles produced when following the letter “B” so that “A” is BEI.., “E” is BIE.., “I” is BUY.., “O” is BEAU.., “U” is BOO and if you’re looking for the sometimes “Y”, you’re out of luck.

These vowel sounds won’t help with Sesame Street’s teachings but they seem ideal for Pee Wee and his zany Playhouse, “Good morning Mr. BEAU for O”; “Nice day, Mr. BOO for U”.

The theme entries were (mostly) nicely done with BUYERSREMORSE standing out as the Queen of these “B’s” with BOOTLICKER qualifying as the best of the attendant drones.

The fill ran the gamut from dreadful, SWEDEN, to wonderful, MABARKER and also appearing in various levels of acclaim were BANYAN; the “U” team of UTNE, URKEL and UGARTE (there’s a bizarre Dali painting swirling around in that trio, methinks); the excellently clued MESMER; the old-fashioned RHEUMY and the unfortunate appearance of Pierre BONNARD, a wonderful artist who is probably beyond obscure for most solvers as a mid-week crossword entry.

Thanks to Paula for a lively solve but may A, E, I, O, U puzzles, (in sound or shape), take a well-deserved holiday.

dk 9:02 AM  

My little picture shows Skipper MESMERized by Ken, in need of rehab like EMINEM or a victim of BIEBERFEVER.

Epic fail as I could not remember how to spell RHEUMY and YSHAPE elicited YISTHATGOODFILL.

But, I quibble as OFT I do.

������ (3 Stars) Thanks Paula

Ps. Saw a duo called the Bad Larrys at the fair. See them if you can. The only group I have heard who do covers of Junior Brown.

Off to the South of France in 3 days. Ahhh... the life of the IDLE

Anonymous 9:10 AM  

Paint the Town Beige
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VN3wDgpuQ-I

loren muse smith 9:24 AM  

After my first two theme answers, BEAU BRIDGES and BUYER’S REMORSE, fell, I knew instantly where Paula was headed and was delighted with all five answers. To see a progression of two 10’s, two 11’s and a 13 with the unexpected vowels is worth the BEIGE PAINT. I’ve always liked the word BEIGE, same reason I’ve always liked the word sew.

Rex said this was ambitious, and I agree. As is my wont, I immediately tried to think of a similar phonetic progression with seeds like Shea, mauve, sewing machine, Cheyenne, taupe and got nowhere quick.

I got a kick out of EMINEM crossing BIEBER, both joined by DEMI, ST MARK, and MA BARKER at the northwest INN. BEAU, UGARTE, and URKEL were left to sip their BIERE in the southeast.

Speaking of which, @Z – right. What a mess I had in the SE for a while. “Fra” and “arid," and "Rice” just mucked everything up.

What a terrific trap Paula LAId (@joho – me, too) with the quick MA and the “i” in a reasonable “miss” for MAAM.

@dk - love your Ken and Skipper!

@Tobias - I had a similar hypnosis experience leading to my learning the word gullible.

Any parents of toddlers out there?

The Toddler’s Creed:

If it's MINE it's MINE,
if it's yours it's MINE,
if I like it is MINE,
if I can take it from you it is MINE,
if I am playing with something all of the pieces are MINE,
if I think it is MINE it is,
if I saw it first it's MINE,
if I had it then put it down it is still MINE,
if you had it then you put it down it is now MINE,
if it looks like the one I have at home it is MINE,
if it is broken it is yours.

jberg 9:26 AM  

I looked at 1A and said, "cash, of course!" - but I didn't write it in, because AD LIBS semed too likely. But the AMEX X-IN combo was nice, misleading one to think they were both forms of payment.

I didn't mind the BEIGE PAINT; sure it's dull, but then the clue specifies "unflashy," which makes that OK for me.

@Jackj, I don't think the Y would work for the vowel progression, because there is no distinctive long vowel sound for Y.

@Rex, stretching it, but you could clue TALL WOMAN as "one of three title characters in an Albee play."

But I'm getting too old. When I was a Cub Scout, the Den leaders were called "den mothers" because they were moms, not DADs (22A). When did this change?

One writeover, and an embarrassing one - unthinkingly wrote in Adam for 43D, getting incest off to an early start.

John V 9:27 AM  

Got it okay (one mistake), but ...

Did not know BEIBER is pronounced with a long E ... thought long I. Really. Not making this up.

Agree @Z that SE is Natick City. Had UGANTE/ANMA cross; ugly.

Don't know BONNARD.


Friends of the neglected vowel Y: BYTEOFFSET: from where to restart a broken transfer. Just sayin'
Had to come here to parse the theme.

It is raining in CT.

chefbea 9:32 AM  

Didn't like the puzzle. DNF. Had to come here to get the theme

Never heard of Mesmer or Urkil.

Of course knew carne asada

quilter1 9:45 AM  

I solved it easily, but didn't get the theme until coming here. Despite every answer to the contrary I kept thinking 5D should be Mob-something until BARKER appeared. Never heard of URKEL but got it all from crosses. The SE was not as challenging for me as for others but YSHAPE was my last entry. Good Wednesday.

ArtO 9:50 AM  

@loren muse smith, thanks for the toddler's creed. Wonderfully true! @rex great write up for a theme I could not decipher although finished despite tricky/naticky SE.
Agree with rating. Definitely a workout for Wednesday.

Pete 10:06 AM  

I too fell into the MERLE/TRITT trap, so I listened to the video to attain some knowledge of MERLE.

It reminded me of the RNC, where every speaker seemed to have had a grandfather who was a coal miner. They had this coal miner grandfather, then the family worked themselves up to such importance that they were now speakers at the convention, important enough to decry government intervention in all aspects of life, decry the deleterious effects of unions, and pat themselves on their respective backs.

If it weren't for government intervention and unions making inroads into non-existant safety regulations in coal mines, their grandfathers wouldn't have lived long enough to have had children. If it weren't for government intervention in coal mining practices, their fathers would have been sent to the coal mines at age 12, never having had an education (paid for by government) enabling them to become something other than coal miners. They simply would have been another day older and deeper in debt, generationally.

Pete 10:17 AM  

My dissapointment at the puzzle was palpable at 17A when I realized LAID was in error. My dissapointment dissipated in depth, but grew in breadth as I filled in the rest of the puzzle. Nothing hit a high note, and the conceipt of the puzzle did nothing, absolutely nothing, for me.

MA BARKER was the mother of a group of thugs, thugs who from time to time hung out at her house when on the run. Her being a "Crime family head" was nominal at most, mainly she had a house were the kids could hang out. It's the same as saying my mother was a "supercilious twit family head". It's not her fault.

Sandy K 10:25 AM  

Took me a while to get some of the clues...kept thinking of the James Bond movie for 23A, so BIEBERFEVER did not go in quickly.

Had Travis and Randy in my brain for too long, and sails instead of MASTS, but thanks to MA BARKER, it eventually fell in.

Was almost Thursday-ish for me.

Evan 10:26 AM  

I'm amazed that I came out of the southeast unscathed. RHEUMY? YSHAPE? ARMA/UGARTE? Maybe it's because I've still never seen "Casablanca" to this day (I should fix that), but I suspect that for a lot of people ARMA/UGARTE has Natick written all over it. I only got it right because I thought RHEUMY sounded medical enough (like "rheumatic fever"), and because I could have sworn that I'd seen UGARTE in crosswords before. I was correct.

Then I went in and screwed up the worst theme answer (BEIGE PAINT) with BEIGE PoINT. Crossing it with IPoD didn't help. In my defense, I thought that a "beigepoint" might be the name of some plain trench coat that a woman might wear to work.

jae 11:08 AM  

Easy for me except for the aforementioned (by many) cluster **** in the SE, so medium-tough works. The Y in RHEUMY was also my last entry.

@joho et. al. I really wanted XED but I knew DEMe was wrong and finally realized N would work.

Generally liked this one. Thought the vowel sound progression was clever. Plus a fair amount of zip with MABARKER, BIEBERFEVER, BOOTLICKER, MESMER, EMINEM...

Chip Hilton 11:10 AM  

Misreading the abbreviation for Germany as the abbreviation for Greece led me to wonder if studies have been done on the frequency of errors right at the end of a timed task. I recall a fifth grade student of mine, one of the brightest I ever had (eventual MIT student), who did it at such an alarming rate that, for years afterwards, I referred to such a mistake as a ----------, in his honor. Don't worry, it cracked him up.

I must agree with Z - the SE did me in, even with a quick MESMER foothold. Overall, a fun Wednesday challenge.

John 11:25 AM  

I had "Randy" for Travis and, LOL, my original thought for "Toady" was "B*ttlicker" but I knew the stodgy times would never allow that (Onion AV, maybe).

miriam b 12:07 PM  

Had I been a boy, I'd have been named Merle. No offense to all the Merles out there, but I'm grateful that fate stepped in to rescue me.

Loved the puzzle; hope the aptcha is as easy and fun.

Carola 12:12 PM  

I liked the creative sound progression very much - caught on at BUYER'S REMORSE, then went looking for the "O" and "U" equivalents, and that ALLOWED me to fill in the bottom half more quickly than the top. Overall, I thought it was challenging for a Wednesday.

LAIN (with) brought back memories of mortification - when I was around 13, my parents decided we should do Bible reading, with me reading a chapter aloud to the family each evening. So into the Old Testament we plunged. I hated when I had to read that so-and-so "lay with" so-and-so, which came up incredibly often.

syndy 12:16 PM  

More BEIGE than MESMERizing but you have to admire the ambition.I fell for TRAVIS and naticked at UGANTE/ANMA but I'll lick Paula's Boots anyway

Sparky 12:25 PM  

UGA-TE took a while because I couldn't hear that R. There is such a thing as a Y necklace. It has some chain hanging down in the middle with a pendant at the bottom, thus a Y. This went pretty easily. Vowel progressions do not set my hair on fire.

@jberg. When did mother become MOM all the time? Katie Couric can even hiccup it out into three syllables, Mah-Hup-Um.

I am a trifle grouchy today.

miriam b 12:39 PM  

This Mom stuff irks me as well. It's especially offensive wheb used to describe a crime: "Mom accused in tot's death." The word "tot" in this kind of context is even more infuriating.

I'm grouchy too. It's about to rain, and the barometer is falling. Just now hearing thunder. Ciao.

Anonymous 12:47 PM  

This one bothered me like yesterday's. A little too obscure.
Bieber with Ugarte?
Milton and Urkel?
Ma Barker with Bonnard?

Methinks the lady was trying too hard.

Masked and Anonymo7Us 1:00 PM  

Thanx to this clever puz, now have an earworm for today: "B-I-Bickey-Bi-Bo-Bo-Go" by Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps.

It Could Be Worse Than Biege Paint Dept.:
FEYERFEVER (ACPT term)
HEYGETOFFMYLAWN
WHEYANDCURDS

Fave fillins:
MESMER - Made me think. Grunt, even.
STMARK - thUmbsUp for near-vowel-less eponyms.
BIERE - Always SHERE entertainment to have no idea what the puz is talking about. har.

NFL Ref Dept.:
Would be a hoot, if constructors went on strike for higher pay, and we got "substitute constructors". Robot autofill efforts, etc. 31 would have 10k-word snarling, sputtering blog write-ups. Comments would hit the 200 mark. Congress could argue about it.

joho 1:41 PM  

@Evan, or maybe a BEIGEPoINT is a type of Siamese cat!

Bird 1:50 PM  

Well that was a doozy of a puzzle. I usually like Paula’s puzzles, but not today. Just enough stuff I didn’t know and couldn’t even take a stab at. Ugh.

A French author crossing some tree with special roots and a Mexican dish (but now that I’m writing this I remember having Carne Asada a few times. Damn.)

Then there’s RHEUMY (yeah it looks medical, but still didn’t get it) crossing Lorre’s character that I did not know (I don’t even remember Bogie’s character) and a famous hypnotist that nobody remembers inspired the verb (but duh, I should have known anyway). Throw in some random Latin word for good measure and the SE corner was big trouble.

@MandA – Love your last comment. LOL.

At least the NFL season is back and I can watch my Giants destroy the Cowboys tonight.

OK, now the captcha. These things are BS. Up to 15 refreshes and/or attempts. These don't even stop all the robots anyway.

M and A mulled it all over and then 1:57 PM  

P.S. 136,000+ Google hits for "beige paint". Riveting reading. Thinking of doin' the back junk closet in pebble beige. Or maybe the sahara beige. Tough call.

Really warmin' up to the FEYERFEVER idea. Thus generating a sorta fey fie fai faux foo fum theme strategy.

Fave clues: "Half at the start?" c/w "Check alternative?" Day-um, dude. Crossing question-markers. Kinda says, "If you don't know Eminem's work, you be beige toast, in the NW".

@Chip Hilton: I misread clues regularly. Also read the wrong clue a lot. Half the time, I go elsewhere for a while, then come back, and the clue has magically changed to something that makes sense.
Leading me to this conclusion: this is my brain: O; this is my brain doing the NYT xword: .

mac 2:34 PM  

As usual a lot of French in the PG puzzle, especially if you include demi and beige and beau. I had beige print for the unflashy coat for a while...

My toughest area was around "rheumy", which I love, Egarte would have worked for me, too. Looking back over the grid now, I like it a lot, with Ma Barker, boot licker, Bieber fever and Mesmer. Tough for a Wednesday, though.

mac 2:36 PM  

By the way, did anyone else have a problem seeing yesterday's comments?

hazel 2:36 PM  

Well, i thought this one was pretty cool. Like the subtle theme twist and as much as i hate obscure corners - that SE wasnt obscure to me! So no grousing here!! I read an article somewhat recently about MESMER and his ilk that has stuck with me (prob because of its overall creepiness) and RHEUMY is like an old friend - lots of RHEUMY-eyed characters in novels i've read over the years - often signifiying someone creepy (again).

IMHO I think the word Natick has been tossed about a bit too loosely lately. I think it would be the VERY rare tuesday or wednesday that would contain a true NatIck. Just my opinion.

Ah well, good puzzle, despite the creepy reminders.

John V 3:07 PM  

Re: Mom discussion, let me add "Dad" to that thread. Both, to me, are terms of familiarity. My children can call me Dad, but the rest of the world? Father, please; and mother.

sanfranman59 3:35 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 12:50, 11:48, 1.09, 74%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 7:48, 5:55, 1.32, 98%, Challenging

Anonymous 4:45 PM  

ce qu'est un jeu de mots croisés terribles

Bandrea Berla Bichaels 5:15 PM  

Shoot...@joho just alerted me that my loooooooong post never made it onto the blog :(

Basically urging @Evan to see Casablanca with his bride as it's the most romantic film...and tho I've seen it no less than 20 times UGARTE is still a tough name to come up with.

And I urged mulling@masked and anon to make that Faux fum puzzle!

Plus I urge folks to come to Oakland this weekend for the BAC Fill. Www.bayareacrosswords.org September 8 as I'm dragging legendary Manny Nosowsky across the Bay so folks can meet this phenomenal man in person.
Not ti mention superstar Tyler Hinman will be judging!

As for puzzle, had to read completed theme answers four times before it sank in...and thought fabulous!
The uberfreshness of BIEBERFEVER made up for blandness of BEIGEPAINT and I'd be hard pressed to think up a substitue that would have worked so nicely. But I get the GREENPAINT complaint.

I'll say it again, vowel progressions are trickier than they look. The construction is definitely underappreciaed.
My sometime collaborator Michael Blake and I just spent days, if not weeks, trying to perfect one that had a couple of fresh never been used entries, in order, including Y (as six is the new five!) matching lengths, etc. While still keeping the fill at Monday/Tuesday gettability.
We are very proud of it and hope it even gets accepted, so I'm super leery of zeroing in on one entry and whether it torpedos a puzzle or not!

I too think the Natick-concept is being applied much too loosely these days.
I've never heard of BONNARD, for example, but that's my lack of exposure, education...no reflection on the constructor.
Again admittedly UGARTE is hard, but it is the most popular film of all time, so not knowing the character's name is understandable in that it's a minor, tho pivotal role, but it's at least something the majority of folks have been exposed to. (Well, come to think of it the R in ARMA would be mighty tough.)

I too fell for MAfiadon...but it's a fine line between tough tough tough and calling Natick at every crossing outside one's personal purview.

Anyway, those of you not heading to the South of France this weekend, consider coming to Oakland, where we will defy Gertrude Stein's claim that "there's no there there"!

Delusional 5:25 PM  

First, Rex leaves for New Zealand and a visit to the NW.

Then, Rex starts teaching.

Finally, the captcha thing strangles comments.

RP > RIP....

JFC

John V 5:33 PM  

For those who missed this note over at Wordplay:

"Administrivial Thursday Puzzle Heads Up Alert! The Thursday, September 6 puzzle will be offered in all of the usual manners — Across Lite, PDF, Java applet — but there are elements in the puzzle that are impossible to reproduce in Across Lite. I strongly urge you to print out and solve the PDF for a better visual experience."

Gill I. P. 5:50 PM  

@Bandrea Berla - add me to those that urge @Evan and new bride to watch Casablanca. Like you, I've watched it a "caboodles" amount of times... I can't imagine not knowing UGARTE. I remember when way back when, an answer for GWTW was "Bonnie Blue Butler" which I had never heard before because I never read the book. Those that had, couldn't believe not knowing such a classic answer!!
Not heading for the south of France but will try to make Oakland....

Z 6:18 PM  

@LMS - Toddler's Creed? I thought I heard that speech just last week coming from the folks in Tampa.

jae 7:55 PM  

@Hazel & ACME -- The "true Natick" call can be a tough one. I think the UGARTE/ARMA cross is a case in point. Certainly UGARTE should be familiar to more than 1/4 of solvers although spelling seemed a problem as was noted by several posters. ARMA is a legit WTF answer. The same situation arose yesterday with the NUREMBERG/OLEA cross. With OLEA a WTF for many and NUREMBERG being misspelled (U vs. E) by a number of posters. I guess the question is "does the term Natick include instances where at least 1/4 of solvers will misspell a generally well known answer, or is it limited to two WTFs crossing??"

BlogSpotRemover (!) or (?) 8:14 PM  

Some may find this amusing. As it showcases my stupidity, I find it less so...
For "LAID OFF", all the brain could dig up was A X E D. Sounds fine, no? Then, looking at the 1a clue, A M E X, I thought, "Aha! For the 1st time, I'm gonna ferret out the theme before I have to come here to find it!", because there's my theme: X's. It seemed so perfect. (I guess 3d. was also a reason).
So, A X E D. Confidence level? 100%. It then dawned on me that for every "X" you use, another answer has to use it, and there's obviously not a lot, esp. words that start w/ it. When it came time, then, for "IT MAKES MADD MAD", there was my initial X, waiting in the wind. Well, again, obvious, the answer was X X X, as in XXX, alcohol, booze, fuel for drunken destruction. Makes me mad too. But X's are like tribbles, and once they start multiplying....So, from X X X came 3 more wrong answers, and soon my grid was littered with them, you know Eve's son, the legendary A B E X! (no x there, but it sounds good)

BlogSpotRemover (!) or (?) 8:30 PM  

And just one more "X-ample". Still confident that my X-Themed Theory is operating wonderfully, I get to the last clue, "Neighbor of Ger." - W/O batting an eye, in goes L U X, almost done (Still not knowing what kind of boring coat has an X as the 3rd from last letter, and of course which 4-letter company, containing one large, bold X has a cat in it), to then cross check L U X's final letter into "Dry as dust". Starts with an X, though. Well, it's gotta be X E R O, right? As in Xeroderma pigmentosum (xeroderma being dry skin). "

Yeah, but wait!", says the brain, "Doesn't it seem odd, and thus wrong, that X E R O- is a prefix, not a word of its own?" And my response, in Homer Simpson's voice: "Quiet, you" as I shove another crayon up my nose.

miriam b 8:49 PM  

@BlogSpotRemover: LOL! You brought back memories of an uncle (by marriage, I hasten to add) whose crossword solutions were replete with bizarre neologisms. I have a clear recollection of this uncle completing a puzzle with a flourish of his pencil as he entered his last answer: CONCOZ.

III & peace out

skua76 9:31 PM  

@John V, thanks for the alert! I usually print out the puzzle and start working on it in bed...sometimes I finish it, sometimes I set it aside for the morning and go to sleep. You've saved me some frustration. And I just noticed that the same notice is posted on the Premium Crosswords page, in red (!) although the puzzle itself won't be available for another half hour at 8pm MDT.

Wonder how long that notice will remain there along with last October's contest puzzles.

As for today's puzzle, I fell for the stuff already mentioned...DNF on eGA?TE.

sanfranman59 10:15 PM  

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 6:12, 6:48, 0.91, 15%, Easy
Tue 9:38, 8:57, 1.08, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 13:15, 11:48, 1.12, 80%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:39, 3:41, 0.99, 49%, Medium
Tue 5:46, 4:39, 1.24, 97%, Challenging (6th highest median solve time of 167 Tuesdays)
Wed 7:41, 5:55, 1.30, 96%, Challenging (7th highest median solve time of 164 Wednesdays)

hazel 10:28 PM  

@jae - its all so subjective it's hard to say what a "true Natick" is - though it seems like there are lots of "personal Naticks" that are brought up, and IMO misspellings would fall into that category.

We do these things for fun though where semantics shouldn't matter!! So i'll be quiet.

Adliba Chia Mesmerizes 11:06 PM  

@jae @hazel
Good points! My take was it should be two wtfs crossing, but you're right, many folks have "personal" ones so I guess they should call 'em what you want, but it cheapens it a bit.
And when are semantics not fun?!?!? ;)

Spacecraft 10:53 AM  

Merle (WHO??) or Tritt, Merle or Tritt. No love for poor RANDY? This is a Saturday clue for MERLE, for sure. There are surely less obscure Merles.

I found this puzzle an awful slog for a Wedensday. Didn't think much of the theme till I read OFL's blog. Ah, the old off-pronouncer trick, as Maxwell Smart would say. Okay, I'll give it some extra clever points.

It will need them all as I deduct for fill like XIN, LMN (OMG how bad is that!) and SES. But the worst feature is way too many obscurities. BONNARD/ASADA was a Natick for me; I guessed D and was right. Yay me. UGARTE/ARMA was another. I guessed L. Boo me.

Acronyms and abbreviations abound. It's like an instructional grid on how NOT to fill crosswords. And the topper is that I had to write the name EMINEM, for whom I have no admiration whatever. Ugh. This thing left me all RHEUMY.

And on top of all that I had to go through six capchas to find one that was even in near-focus. The others were so blurry as to be totally illegible.

Petrovich1248 12:24 PM  

22A: "Many a Cub Scout Den Leader." Unless they've changed the rules, a "Den Leader" is a boy member of the Den. Each Den may have a Den Mother and/or a Den Father, but the Den Leader is one of the boys, and wears a patch on his sleeve with two gold bars. The Assistant Den Leader wears one gold bar. The equivalent in Boy Scouts is that of Patrol Leader, with two green bars, and Asst. Patrol Leader with one green bar.

64A: "Flight Level." I served as an Air Force Navigator on KC-135 Tankers and never heard of a flight level referred to as a "step." That's a new one on me. I'm glad everyone else knew it.

Ginger 1:24 PM  

@Petrovich - Flight Level - think (flight of) stairs with STEPs . As a pilot, this clue really mis-directed me.

My puzzle is full of write-overs. Had nook (Barnes and Noble 'kindle'), plus many of the same mistakes as others have mentioned. MAfiadon just looked so right. BUYERSREMORSE finally got me on the right track, even though I RESISTed for the longest time.

I have Casablanca on tape, which is one of the reasons I'm keeping a VCR. The discussions about UGARTE has inspired me to get it out again. A Classic for sure.

DMGrandma 3:13 PM  

Figured out that the idea behind this puzzle was B followed by a vowel. So with E, I, O and U in place, I figured 50A had to be BA.... But it wasn't. It was clearly BEA... And my theory, and solving went awry. Movie non-knowledge didn't help. Never saw the Baker Boy thing, and am apparently unable to learn the Lorre role name which has stumped me before. Worst of all, I thought 23A referred to some Bond movie I must have missed that involved some tropical disease! Came here to find out, saw Rex had the same answer, looked for some comments, and discovered I really am of a different generation. Must go crochet some doilies!

Dirigonzo 5:55 PM  

From somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind I dredged up the phrase "get all totted up", meaning get all dressed up, so TOt went in at 8d, and there it stayed even when I thought the puzzle was done. I have no idea what BEItEPAINT might be but I left it in nonetheless. I doubt I would have seen the theme anyway - I do much better with visual clues than auditory ones.

Speaking of visual clues, my captcha is totally legible - I think it might be a trap.

Anonymous 8:12 PM  

Ooops - I had Buttlicker for "Toady"!! No wonder I couldn't figure out S.W. corner.

Anonyrat 4:07 AM  

Apparently I'm the only one who initially had ONanS for 39D.
BIEBERFEVER does not pass my breakfast test. I'd guess Marshall Mathers would not approve of the the 23A/3D cross. Although it is somewhat ironic given that Jerry Mathers (no relation as far as I know) played The Beaver (Bieber is beaver in German). I like to think that was intentional on Ms. Gamache's part.

Anonyrat 4:22 AM  

Oh, and I'm a little surprised that I was apparently also the only one hung up at 5D because I was thinking "Ma Baker", as in the song by Boney M. Finally remembered the real criminal's name was actually Barker, not Baker.

Anonyrat 4:32 AM  

Boney M. - "Ma Baker"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2E5sxuSRg6A
Those were the days! LOL!

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