Writer Moore Moorehead / FRI 3-29-13 / Isle near Mull / Matsuhisa celebrity chef / My Name Is Earl co-star Suplee / Second-simplest hydrocarbon / Autodom's ZR1 for one / Whom Turkey's Weeping Rock is said to represent / Annie characters / Cackling loon with white coat

Friday, March 29, 2013

Constructor: Josh Knapp

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: Battle for WORLD DOMINATION (36A: Goal for many a 26- or 43-Across)—

26A: Cackling loon with a white coat (MAD SCIENTIST)
43A: Mighty heavy (SUPER-VILLAIN)

Word of the Day: NOBU Matsuhisa (32D: ___ Matsuhisa, celebrity chef and restaurateur) —
Nobuyuki "Nobu" Matsuhisa (松久 信幸 Matsuhisa Nobuyuki; born March 10, 1949) is a celebrity chef and restaurateur known for his fusion cuisineblending traditional Japanese dishes with South American (Peruvian) ingredients. His signature dish is black cod in miso. Nobu Los Angeles ranked 13th in the Elite Traveler World's Top Restaurants Guide 2012. (wikipedia)
• • •

We are taking care of a little dog this week—in addition to the two bigger dogs we already own. This is her first night here and she is not at all comfortable being out of her element yet. She also has this "thunder vest," which is just a piece of dog clothing that hugs her body and keeps her calm. She seems like a pretty mellow dog, so I guess the vest really works. Still, she is up and down and up and down (I can hear her upstairs now in my daughter's room, all paws and jangling collar, having trouble getting settled). It's awfully distracting. I tell you all this as a way to try to explain why I spent the first two minutes of my solving time tonight absolutely spinning my wheels. Yes, I blame the dog. Actually, I don't know what kept me from getting my head into the game. The first few minutes were a total train wreck. Or free fall. Or choose your metaphor. And then ... I was done. And I don't really know what happened in between stuck and done. Even when I tried to retrace my steps, I couldn't quite remember how I finished. I drifted aimlessly for what felt like ever, then got some traction, then five minutes later I was done. So how difficult was this? No idea. My time says slightly harder than average. But my experience was "impossible" followed by "piece of cake." So I split the difference.


    After stumbling around for a bit, I finally wrote in AWNS at 31D: Stiff bristles and then figured out THE / NBA very quickly (35A: With 40-Across, "Inside ___" (postgame show)). Somehow, between THE and NBA, I was able to creep into the middle of the grid. Actually, I think finally seeing (and instantly getting—why didn't I see it earlier?) OBOE (7D: Strauss wrote a concerto in D for it) was also instrumental. Got NIOBE off that B (15A: Whom Turkey's Weeping Rock is said to represent), then guessed TNN (4D: "Larry's Country Diner" channel), got THROB (4A: Beat), and then "got" BENEFITING (which I eventually changed to BENEFICIAL) (8D: Doing good). Yes, working from little answers in E, W, and N, I was finally able to get the grip I needed to throttle this thing. Then, strangely, clues that seemed inscrutable suddenly became obvious. Everything except GRAPE SHOT (33D: Small cannon balls) —never heard of that. Overall, this grid looks very nice, and the "theme" (such as it is), is entertaining, and pretty well-hidden. I mean, those theme clues are heavy on the misdirection (the first seems avian, the second adjectival). There's maybe a bit too much contemporary throwaway pop culture here. "Larry's Country Diner" *and* Lindsay LOHAN (57A: "I Know Who Killed Me" star, 2007) *and* ETHAN Suplee (whom I know by sight but not at all by name—if he were solidly xword-famous, we'd've seen SUPLEE in a puzzle by now) (47A: "My Name Is Earl" co-star Suplee)? You want your puzzles to feel modern and fresh, but not cheaply so. But all these answers were gettable via crosses (and LOHAN is legit famous, at any rate), so I didn't find the poppy stuff too distracting. Very disappointed with myself for not getting ALAN straight off (20A: Writer Moore or Moorehead). Never heard of ALAN Moorehead, but I've been reading a huge stack of papers on ALAN Moore's Watchmen, and still his name didn't even occur to me here. I'm so not used to his being referred to as, simply, a writer, though that is certainly what he is.

    Best clue: [One preparing an oil pan?] => ART CRITIC. "Letteral" clues often mean an uptick in email for me, so I'll just explain straight out that ["Annie" characters] => ENS refers to the letter "N," which appears twice in the word "Annie."

    Good day.
      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

      80 comments:

      Carola 12:08 AM  

      Very fun. I loved the THROB of melodrama (PREEN, HISSED), the double MENACE of the MAD SCIENTIST and SUPERVILLAIN vying for WORLD DOMINATION, along with the various weaponry. Could they be foiled by a HE-MAN ... or a FRIAR? I think this one is RIPE for a story.

      A treat that archvillain IAGO appears, and that IKEA is parked right under WORLD DOMINATION.

      Found it much easier than yesterday's, one of those nice one-answer-leads-to-another days. Two do-overs: quickly corrected SolE to SHOE, but got hung up for a while on "Inside THE Nfl," which made the Japanese chef's name "_OFU" - could he possibly have the nickname "tOFU"? But that also meant that the small cannon balls would be _RLPESHOT, so realized it had to be NBA. (I happened to know the phrase "a whiff of grapeshot," which I believed is attributed to Napoleon, after he cleared a mob from the streets.)

      @Josh Knapp - Super puzzle - really made me laugh with its many contrasts and incongruities. Just a delight.

      retired_chemist 12:11 AM  

      Fastest Friday EVER. Like @Rex, I had two minutes of NOTHING and then stuff started falling into place. Seemed like it all was in my wheelhouse.

      Favorite wrong answer: ADDICT @ 48A (One working on steps - I thought twelve step program). TABOO @ 60 A almost went in but it didn't feel right.

      A lively grid, one that was fun enough that MAD SCIENTIST, which I usually take as an almost Ludditic slur, was worth a chuckle. Popped it in thinking it would NOT stay, but stay it did.

      I'm an NBA fan, so (Inside) THE NBA was easy, as was GIVE AND GO with a couple of crosses.

      The Thundershirt Rex refers to really works. Was a godsend for our dear old Bree who was thunderstorm anxious nearly all her life. Get one by all means if you have a thunderstorm anxious dog.

      Thanks, Mr. Knapp.

      JFC 12:23 AM  

      Rex, I think you meant "Good Night."

      Good puzzle....

      JFC

      Phil 12:24 AM  

      I usually don't finish Friday puzzles because This seemed much easier than usual to me.

      I am sixty and I can only wonder what life would have been like if I had not read Alan Moorehead's White Nile as a teenager.

      jae 12:26 AM  

      This was very easy for me too.  My only erasure was, like REx, BENEFIting for ICIAL.  The rest was just filling in the grid with no long pauses.  Liked the "theme" and the zippy fill...MEH, VETTE, GRAPE SHOT (remember this from Civil War books), SMOKING GUN, ART CRITIC...

      Only problem it that it was a bit too easy for Fri.  @Carola, yesterday's was more of a challenge for me also.

      Anonymous 12:30 AM  

      Unusually, my experience was much like Rexy's. I made a full and thorough pass through and all I had to show for it was a couple of 3s and I think a 4. That was after a genuine effort.

      I kicked back, settled in for a slog, and next thing I knew the puzzle was crumbling, and continued to crumble at an accelerating rate.

      I wound up with one my fastest Fridays ever. I spent three minutes looking at the one letter I was concerned about; the TNN / NIOBE cross. That and all the time spent getting nothing in the first pass means this could have been super-low by my standards.

      There was a lot of vague and uninspired cluing. I can only figure that was what kept my out of the grid for so long.

      Anonymous 12:33 AM  

      Ok, so I have a small "cannon". How does that make my balls GRAPESHOT?

      Jeff510 12:54 AM  

      Super easy.

      The capcha to post this message is harder.

      Anoa Bob 1:25 AM  

      I'm amazed at this combo theme-themeless puzzle. The theme was dynamite. Can't recall a better trio than a MAD SCIENTIST & a SUPER VILLAIN trying for WORLD DOMINATION. Xword gold there, right?

      The themeless part has a bunch of 9 & 10 letter beauties. My favorite is GRAPE SHOT (maybe from a SMOKING GUN), but it may have locked in the less than stellar ANONO. Small price to pay for all the good stuff elsewhere.

      Great job Mr. Knapp.

      Benko 1:26 AM  

      It was slightly difficult to get started here, but the puzzle was easy after that.
      I love Alan Moore but have never heard of chef nobu.

      Addend Camel Madams 1:55 AM  

      seems the consensus is tough then suddenly gettable...seems like we all had that experience.

      My hold up was SLEEPINGCAR, I thought it was something ??????reAR. BARCAR yesterday, SLEEPINGCAR today. I gotta take more trains.

      Enjoyed but seemed like a total boy theme , all that Inside THE NBA, GIVEANDGO (I had stopANDGO)
      SUPERVILLAIN, MADSCIENTIST, WORLDDOMINATION, 'VETTE, Dungeons and Dragons... boy boy boy.

      + LEERAT, Foxes being rated TENS, HEMAN. RIPE with masculinity!

      (Good catch @Carola about the bonus
      SUPERVILLAIN IAGO.)

      Actually, it was very cheeky to start out with MADAM President!!!
      So I subtract one "boy"

      And, OVERall the puzzle was anything but MEH.

      But I do think RJ Reynolds snuck in a subliminal message: CAMEL next to SMOKING.

      Mike in DC 2:13 AM  

      OBOE was instrumental. Haha. Good one, Rex.

      Anonymous 2:34 AM  

      Loved this one. Hard to start, but then everything fell into place. Toughest for me was seeing the four letter "D&D weapon" clue and thinking "that could be anything." I need to grow up. ;-)

      -Brennan

      syndy 3:52 AM  

      I'm a little scared that one of my first entries was WORLD DOMINATION!Everything else flowed from there.Past being in my wheelhouse I was on autopilot!My favorite clue was "One of two in a plane" just sexy!

      Jeremy Mercer 3:58 AM  

      Great Friday puzzle. fantastic mini-theme. Bravo.

      loren muse smith 6:00 AM  

      Just like so many others, I shrugged early on and thought I’d end up chalking this one up to another Friday dnf. Then all hell broke loose, and I was MAD solver speeding through WORD DOMINATION. (I’m making that gesture with my fists clenched at my thighs, slightly bent forward, flexing my biceps like a HEMAN.)

      Salem before CAMEL. Understandable.
      Tired before THROB. Also understandable
      Jetta before VETTE. Yikes.
      AWNS going in with absolutely no hesitation. Word NERD. Yeah!
      SHOE crossing PACES. Good stuff.

      @Rex – I immediately go there, too, whenever I see the name Moorehead.

      @Andrea – I never would have noticed CAMEL next to SMOKING, and it’s right there in plain sight.

      @Carola – excellent points, wie immer.

      I’m going to do my level best to work the word CADGE into a conversation today.

      Josh – this was one truly fine, well-constructed, well-clued puzzle. No HISSing here. Bravo!

      Gill I. P. 7:00 AM  

      @Rex, I blame everything on our dogs!!!
      I really enjoyed this little work-out. GRAPE SHOT was a crap shoot but I got it. GIVE AND GO made me go back and forth but thank goodness for SMOKING GUN which made me breathe easy and finally finish this awesome puzzle.
      I should have known NOBU since he's a well know sushi chef, but I had to look him up. I'm glad I did because he gave me SUPER VILLAIN.
      My favorite clue was for ART CRITIC.
      SUPER fun Josh . Thanks for the enjoyable Friday.

      Gareth Bain 7:11 AM  

      I know GRAPESHOT principally from Magic: The Gathering's "Grapeshot Catapult" (Although it was a pathetic card).

      Thoracic 7:37 AM  

      Great puzzle. My period of non solving was very long until it all started to come together, but then fell fairly quickly. Loved the whole world domination thing. Rex, we tried the thundershrt on our dog, but she was scared of it!! We have a great Japanese fusion restaurant here in humble St John's run by a chef who studied with NOBU and has a sushi dish named after him on the menu. A gimme clue for me once I saw the O.

      Kris in ABCA 7:54 AM  

      I needed a breezy one like this after struggling yesterday. Nice fodder for math and science NERDS with ETHANE and DIMENSION. Anyone notice the ETHANE/ETHAN crossing?

      Elle54 8:17 AM  

      I'm very pleased that I didn't give up, because it eventually fell into place.
      My only mistake was GOTOS instead of GATES which made no sense.
      Glad Rex explained ENS!

      ArtO 8:30 AM  

      Similar experience to Rex but did know GRAPESHOT right off the bat. Finishing Friday is big accomplishment for this person - especially in under 30 minutes. So, was not surprised to find the rating and super solvers' comments.

      Mitzie 8:30 AM  

      Loved this puzzle. Couldn't finish yesterday's, but got through this in good time.

      I probably would have changed CADGE to CADRE, if I were the constructor, but who cares?

      Z 8:33 AM  

      Hand up for the whole impossible then suddenly easy thing. THE to TENS to MAD SCIENTIST gave me a start but not traction. I couldn't decide if the "why bother" name of the post game show was Inside THE Nfl or Nhl or NBA. IAGO to TANNIN to WORLD DOMINATION is what got me really going. This also gave me GIVE AND GO which told me which post game sport 40A was.

      Is LOHAN legit famous or legit infamous these days?

      Only writeover was EXpat before EXILE. One writeover on a Friday is just about unheard of for me. It was a fun solve.

      joho 8:37 AM  

      I, too, started with almost nothing then, boom! all done.
      This was so much fun, too, with lots of fresh, frothy fill.

      Nfl before NBA, sAlem before
      CAMEL and steps before PACES.

      Thank you, Josh Knapp for your fabulous Friday!

      baja 8:40 AM  

      Don't usually finish on a friday so definitely like. Difficult start but words like ikea, fishing rod, smoking gun and exile give interesting consonants to build on and made the puzzle doable

      joho 8:40 AM  

      Oh, I forgot to mention, @retired_chemist, definitely get a Thundershirt if your dogs panics in a thunderstorm. It works.

      joho 8:42 AM  

      "dog"

      MetaRex 8:43 AM  

      I liked this one a lot. My favorite MRian dumbness today was going w/ ARTHRITIC for ART CRITIC.

      More solve stuff along w/ opinions on the quality of this villainous, evil puzzle for insiders and outsiders are at

      Thank you for the birthday present, Mr. Knapp!

      Robso 8:59 AM  

      Okay, I got the answer . . . but shouldn't the Annie clue have had a question mark with it, oh Will Shortz? Will you be cluing these without them from now on?
      Hmmmmmmm?

      Tita 9:04 AM  

      THought I had wrestled tis crunchy Friday to the ground, but when I checked, saw that it was ANOgO...
      ETHAgE sounded odd, but at 2am, plausible.

      Tough then medium for me. puntANDGO had to eventually GIVE way.

      Was very theme rich - thx ACME et al.

      @Meta - Happy birthday?

      @Loren - are you actually changing your avatar to relate obliquely to each day's fill?
      A SPINET the other day, Mr. GATES (a world dominator in his own way) today?

      Anonymous 9:05 AM  

      56 minutes but no cheating. Not terrible for a Friday. I'm not quite as clever as everyone else on this blog.

      retired_chemist 9:08 AM  

      @ joho - we have a Thundershirt and we used it for Bree.it does work.

      dk 9:10 AM  

      I had my knickers in a twist over SLEEPERCAR for who knows why: It just is (see Secret of Roan Inish for this obscure reference)!

      Epic fail was get for GOT and eds for ENS. CADGE as in cadge a meal was a hold over from early restaurant days. A polite term for walk-offs.

      All and all fun.

      ������ (3 see no evil monkeys-apologies to my cyber pal Evil Doug). CLAPS for Josh Knapp

      ANON at 12:33 AM I am forwarding to you several emails promising a fix for your armament issue.

      evil doug 9:15 AM  

      Loren: Cadge a Camel from one of your inmates....

      I'm looking forward to the Lohan sequel: "I'm Really Dead".

      Evil

      Notsofast 9:27 AM  

      A really fun easy-medium. Like a SEER who is also a MADAM! Hat tip for "Cackling loon". Someone should use that for their I.D. today.

      jackj 9:39 AM  
      This comment has been removed by the author.
      Mohair Sam 9:40 AM  

      Solved in just over 1/2 hour which is very fast for us on a Friday.

      Similar experience to Rex and most others. After 20 minutes we had only IKEA, IAGO, and THE Nfl and felt defeated. Then said "Hey, that could be SMOKINGGUN" and were finished in just 10 more minutes.

      T'was a fun puzzle.

      Pete 9:43 AM  

      It takes more than GRAPESHOT, rather a pair of 16 pounders, to start you puzzle off at 1A with MEH, knowing fools like I will substitute that for their review.

      Definitely not a MEH puzzle.

      mac 9:44 AM  

      Great Friday puzzle! A scary first glance, then I was on my way. Loved figuring the "claps" and "hisses". Write-overs for sole/shoe and lanes/gates at 63A.

      Brilliant to have Camel next to smoking.

      Happy birthday, @Meta!

      jackj 9:47 AM  

      After finishing Josh Knapp’s excellent puzzle I looked back at his most recent offering of Friday, 2/1/13 and found that my comment was so gushing it was embarrassingly akin to that of a pop eyed kid getting a high five from Tom Brady.

      Not quite as effusive today, (only 99.6% as much), but still nothing but praise for this cleverly clued themeless that offered a wannabe theme of a MADSCIENTIST paired with a bad dude SUPERVILLIAN side-kick, the two of them clogging up the middle of the grid as they sought WORLDDOMINATION.

      All the clever cluing in this puzzle only made it more of a fun romp; there’s no other answer for “Verbal shrug” than MEH, is there? And in a Friday puzzle, an “Ottoman relative” is never a straightforward answer like TATAR, it’s always a DIVAN, isn’t it?

      Then there were the puzzle’s heavy hitters, “Strong proof” for SMOKINGGUN that was superlative, but the best of show, “One preparing an oil pan?” for ARTCRITIC, went way beyond “superlative” to supercalifragilisticexpiaidocious status.

      There was an added bit of fun as Josh flirted with the National Enquirer’s latest headlines by positioning Lindsay LOHAN next to GIVEANDGO, (which she likely did), even though the cautionary ANONO stood by warning of trouble.

      Good job, Josh; loved your puzzle!

      Twangster 10:03 AM  

      Once this started coming together, I had ART_RITIC for 11-down. So I briefly popped in an H, guessing that an ARTHRITIC might heat up some medicinal oil to ease the pain.

      Lindsay 10:05 AM  

      A few years ago there was a local news/homicide story in which someone had allegedly pushed a relative off a yacht named NIOBE then sailed away. I took the initiative to look up the boat's name and it has held me in good xword stead ever since.

      So I started at 15A and slid through the grid with hardly a blip apart from a brief flirtation with sAlEm where CAMEL belonged.

      Overall, I'm not as enthususiastic as others about this puzzle because it struck me as a half-baked themer* that the constructor gave up on. Seemed more like a draft than a finished product.

      *I am not suggesting that "themer" is an actual word.

      Matthew G. 10:23 AM  

      This was just a wonderful puzzle. I usually hate it when a theme worms its way into my beloved themeless Fridays and Saturdays, but this is just as solid as any themeless.

      Just took a look back at Josh Knapp's earlier puzzles and realized that many of them are among my favorites. That hadn't quite clicked before, but from now I know to be happy when I see his name.

      Love the oil pan clue, among many others. Five stars from me.

      quilter1 10:29 AM  

      Same experience as others and loved/laughed at the theme answers. So fine for a Friday--not too easy, not too hard.
      MADAM President: I can only hope.
      And I knew GRAPESHOT, who knows why.
      ARTCRITIC was brilliant. May I venture to suggest LOHAN is more infamous than famous.

      Bob Kerfuffle 10:32 AM  

      Good one!

      Yes., @Kris in ABCA, I was going to mention ETHAN/ETHANE, but since you already have, I won't.

      Two Ponies 10:38 AM  

      My solve was very similar to Rex's. Nothing then everything.
      Great clues and no crap.
      Time spent solving with all of you has paid off so much. For example, my first entry was dimesion. Now what does that tell you?

      Thanks to all of the dog lovers re: the thunder shirt. I'm a sound sleeper but I always know when there is a storm because I am awakened by a shivering 80 lb. dog sitting on my head!

      Milford 11:37 AM  

      Similar experience as many others, except I slept for 8 hours between the impossible and blew-through-it phases. Often happens on the weekends.

      Liked the mini-theme, never heard of GRAPESHOT, but it was inferable. Spent too long trying to figure out the Annie characters. And waffled between NBA and Nfl before GIVE AND GO.

      I must say, I'm always a little confused by your "boy" and "girl" distinctions, @Acme, maybe because I have 3 daughters, plus myself, who are all interested in sports, science, math, etc. I guess I just never see clues/answers that way.

      I know people who swear by the Thundershirts for their dogs. Our lab can sleep through gunfire and fireworks, so not needed here.

      Z 11:39 AM  

      Two Things:

      @anonymous 9:05 - We aren't all that clever... If you click on that little button next to "Name/URL" below you can enter a name of your choice. Or you could set up a google account and let us know a little bit more about yourself.

      Second - what is it about this construction/cluing that led to so many of us having such similar solving experiences? Or is it that we are all just Rexian sycophants? (S.I. alert - the second question is asked with a heavy dose of sarcasm, imagine Lewis Black asking it)

      OISK 12:05 PM  

      Always interesting to me how my own pool of crossword-useful knowledge differs from others. I enjoyed this one very much-about 20 minutes, which is fast for me for a Friday, but yesterday's "challenging" puzzle was a 10 minute breeze for me. Loved the theme today, really clever cluing. @z-my own experiences are most often the opposite of Rex's! His easy is often my DNF.
      Someone asked about my nom-de-blog a few days ago. Oisk was my favorite Dodger, and my email, Labine41 was a teammate. Real name is Paul Cohen.

      Sandy K 12:07 PM  

      SUPER puzzle! Loved the VILLAINous cluing and all THE MENACEs that lurked all OVER the grid.

      CLAP for Josh Knapp!

      Davis 1:22 PM  

      I actually finished faster today than I did yesterday—this puzzle was more in my wheelhouse. More importantly, I thought this puzzle was pretty darn fun. I really enjoyed the mini-theme with SUPER VILLAIN, MAD SCIENTIST, and WORLD DOMINATION. I thought the clue for ART CRITIC was clever. There wasn't much junk in the fill, and the harder things (like NOBU) had fine crosses to help out.

      I didn't get too caught up on GRAPESHOT thanks to having played Sid Meier's Pirates! quite a bit, though I can see why that one would be tough for most. This puzzle did introduce me to CADGE, which I'd never heard before. So that's going into my lexicon.

      Thanks for a solid Thursday puzzle, Josh!

      jae 1:34 PM  

      @Roboso -- Sometimes question marks that would appear in early week puzzle clues are dropped in late week puzzles to make for a tougher solve.

      Evan 2:11 PM  

      Cool, nice, and crisp. Josh is one of the better young constructors out there, and one of the few young constructors who seems to make themeless puzzles a specialty. He's one of my "Twenty Under Thirty" colleagues, and I can attest to his puzzle there being just as good if not better than this one here.

      I too am part of the had-nothing-then-got-everything-quickly camp. That happened because I got WORLD DOMINATION right off of the W--L-, and then MAD SCIENTIST and SUPER-VILLAIN fell right after that. It wasn't my fastest Friday solve ever, but I'd rate it on the easy-medium side.

      My only write-overs were CORE before CARD, WON before GOT, and LANES before GATES. Well, I also had an S at the end of 32-Down for a real long time, but that's because I misread the clues and thought it was the clue for GRAPE SHOT. I hate it when I mix up the clue numbers while solving -- at least I didn't write in the correct answer at the wrong spot.

      Looks like I had a mini psychopop! (psychopop = my term for a unique word you thought of one day, then it shows up in the grid the next day....yeah, I'm-a keep saying it till it catches on.) Yesterday I posted Frank Caliendo's appearance on "Inside THE NBA." And there was the reference to the show today.

      Evan 2:15 PM  

      And according to Xwordinfo, TANNIN is making its debut today in the Will Shortz era. How is that possible? Only six letters, all 1-point Scrabble tiles, and it's never shown up in almost 20 years? Maybe it's usually pluralized when I refer to it, but still.

      Lewis 3:00 PM  

      LOVED the clue for dimensions. Some very clever cluing in this puzzle made it a lot of fun. I had to cheat on two pop answers, so it's a DNF, but a joyous journey nonetheless.

      Rex, so many of us (including me) started blank, and then it filled in -- so maybe the dog has nothing to do with it. Thank you for posting your time.

      sanfranman59 3:05 PM  

      Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

      Fri 17:45, 22:18, 0.80, 13%, Easy

      Top 100 solvers

      Fri 10:56, 12:57, 0.84, 22%, Easy-Medium

      Two Ponies 3:09 PM  

      @ Evan, I like psychopop. I've had it happen to me. For some reason the word bateau came to me and it was in the puzzle the next day. Keep it up, it'll catch on.

      mac 3:33 PM  

      Talking about -pops, this morning I heard Scott, of the Turf Builder, speak on the radio. With an Irish accent.

      retired_chemist 3:43 PM  

      I thought the Scott's ad (on TV anyway) had a Scottish accent.

      Z 3:53 PM  

      @Evan - I misused your term as "psychicpop" the other day. PsychoPop sounds too bloody shower scene to me.

      Acme 4:16 PM  

      @evan
      There is a word for it, it's called "synchronicity" and it's my favorite thing in the world...that little moment where you feel like there are other dimensions going on that we get just a glimpse of...
      Glad you pointed out Josh Knapp is one of the under 30 constructors, now I remember meeting him at ACPT, delightful. He used to intern for Will, I think...and/or my cousin Bobby. Very nice, we looked for him during the finals, to no avail.

      @milford
      Nothing to be confused by... It's just how I see things!
      I too am one of three daughters who grew up with a black lab, (but in MN not MI... )
      We may have more in common than you think and perhaps it's a generational thing.
      I just think the subject matter was very boy-ish, further judgments on what that means aside! :)

      Evan 4:43 PM  

      @Z:

      If anything, I think that's a side benefit of psychopop. I predict it'll be a new genre of music within 30 years.

      @acme:

      Synchronicity is fine, but I like my made-up word. It rolls off the tongue nicely.

      Sparky 5:17 PM  

      Of course I DNF. Got about half, the bottom. Had MEH though. Sensed a theme with IAGO and HISSED in there too. Nfl kept NOBU away.
      Happy Birthday @Meta Rex.

      MetaRex 5:36 PM  

      Thanks much for the birthday wishes...and thx v. much to Rex for creating the community that we're all a part of...

      Sigmund 6:22 PM  

      I am now going to replace psychobabble with psychopoop in daily conversation.

      Joseph B 6:36 PM  

      Slow start, but easy - strange that so many had the same experience. I love misdirection in cluing, so this puzzle was a gem. I always wonder who is responsible: the constructor or Will.

      On my first pass through all clues, I had just MEH, IKEA, SEER, DIVAN, and RIPE (the latter two were mentally marked as guesses) and the random S ending here and there.

      Missteps: had NFL for NBA, ADDICT for DANCER, and SALEM for CAMEL, all of which slowed me down.

      Breakthroughs were SMOKINGGUN, MADAM, and MADSCIENTIST ("coats" was the giveaway, since any normal person referring to a bird would say feathers or plumage). After that, I finished with a time under 30, which for me is nearly a record for a Friday.

      Joseph B 6:55 PM  

      Oh - and EXILE: that had me stuck, because it seemed like the answer should be EXILED.

      Went with the former anyway, and looking it up now, the second definition of EXILE is "a person who is in exile." That's about as recursive as a definition gets!

      chefwen 6:58 PM  

      Bought Skippy (see Avatar) a Thundershirt about 6 months ago per @Ret_Chem suggestion. Haven't had a storm since then, so it is yet untried.

      Nobu just opened a restaurant on Lana'i at the Four Seasons Resort on Manale Bay. Sounds wonderful.

      Started this gem last night and found myself suddenly in an entertainment role. That was the end to that. Finished it this A.M. and had much the same experience as most others, slow out of the gate, but picked up speed throughout.

      Thank you Josh Knapp.

      mac 7:56 PM  

      Ret-chem: of course you are right.... Never heard that add before, though, or any ad for Scott's.

      sanfranman59 10:34 PM  

      This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

      Mon 5:52, 6:07, 0.96, 30%, Easy-Medium
      Tue 6:56, 8:20, 0.83, 5%, Easy (9th lowest ratio of 173 Tuesdays)
      Wed 10:04, 10:22, 0.97, 43%, Medium
      Thu 21:48, 16:58, 1.28, 88%, Challenging
      Fri 17:50, 22:18, 0.80, 14%, Easy

      Top 100 solvers

      Mon 3:29, 3:41, 0.95, 18%, Easy
      Tue 4:15, 4:54, 0.87, 9%, Easy
      Wed 6:01, 6:08, 0.98, 44%, Medium
      Thu 13:41, 9:56, 1.38, 88%, Challenging
      Fri 10:25, 12:57, 0.80, 18%, Easy

      Spacecraft 11:15 AM  

      I had an experience very similar to OFL's: from "Uh-oh, there ain't NO way I'm gonna get THIS one" to "Well, another Friday in the books." What happened in between? Not sure. I think aha!ing ARTCRITIC was, as he says, "instrumental" (said of OBOE, ha ha). That helped to "flip" my thinking on 26a from "MeDiC-"something-or-other to MADSCIENTIST--and that in turn pointed to WORLDDOMINATION. I'm just a bit disappointed that there was no "Pinky and the Brain" reference to be found.

      Really, though, a marvelous puzzle. After the confusion of assuming Nfl instead of NBA (not knowing the chef, I thought he might be named tOfU!) I polished it off. I wouldn't call it medium, however. Medium-challenging, at least. My head hurts. Thanks, Josh, for a just-doable Friday.

      Waxy in Montreal 11:16 AM  

      Since GIVEANDGO is also a hockey play, kept trying to fit NHL into 40A. (NOHU worked for the chef but no joy trying to fit the L in.) Once the ball swished, joined @Evan's "had-nothing-then-got-everything-quickly" camp.

      Loved the puzzle (great week so far) though this must have been one of the easiest Fridays ever. The upside of finishing so early is that we've got another to-die-for spring day up here to AERIE out winter's cobwebs.

      Waxy in Montreal 11:19 AM  

      @Spacecraft, there's synchronicity for you.

      Dirigonzo 4:12 PM  

      You want to know something else that is strong proof - "one hundred", which is whiskey-speak for 50% alcohol. Had that not fit into the grid so handily I might have been done a lot sooner than I was. I solved from the bottom up and as soon as GUN appeared I gave up on the booze-related answer and took up SMOKING (although the two things use to go hand-in-hand) and things came together nicely. I finished up in the NE corner where I was able to get the puzzle to (appropriately enough) CAVEIN with that very answer. So far this week has been a five-day fun fest, with the enjoyment enhanced by the late arrival of bewautiful spring weather in northeast syndiland. On to Saturday!

      DMGrandma 4:33 PM  

      Like others, I had a slow start, a letter here and there. Suddenly it came together. Got GRAPESHOT off the "P" and I was off, despite not knowing most (all?) of the proper names. Knowing it wasn't Agnes Moorehead didn't keep me from wanting a female name there, but working that out and replacing stepS with the much more appropriate PACES, and the last letter was in place. Loved the misdirection of the clues!

      Longbeachlee 6:05 PM  

      Dirigonzo - Hundred Proof was the first thing that popped into my mind too. I'm not much of a boozer, so don't read anything into it.

      Dirigonzo 6:42 PM  

      @Longbeachlee provides me with an opportunity to remind the star-gazers among us that the Eta Aquarid (I'm still waiting for that to show up in a grid) meteor shower peaks on Sunday morning so if you are up late Saturday night take a moment to watch for shooting stars and maybe drink a toast to the grandeur of the universe.

      Syndi Solver 10:39 PM  

      I had an amazingly easy start for some weird reason. MEH then MADAM, AXE, EXILE, HEMAN, DIMENSION (chuckled at that misdirect since I had airplane firmly in mind). It's very unusual for me to EVER start so quickly on a Friday.

      But the rest took me a lot longer. Thank goodness for IKEA and MACE which helped me see SMOKING GUN. And then it all started to work.

      I loved the mini-theme about WORLD DOMINATION. And I loved how the clues for CLAPS (Greets the good guy) and HISSED (Greeted the bad guy) went together.

      By the way, about 19 Across clue, "Autodom's ZR1, for one." I knew what it meant but that's the first time I remember seeing the word autodom. With late week puzzles I think I end up looking up as many words used in the clues as in the grid!

      Ginger 12:20 AM  

      Late to the party, but want to add my kudos to a fine puzzle. The fact that I actually finished a Friday (with only 2 googles) makes it especially fine! Slow getting started, then SMOKINGGUN jumped out at me, and I was off to the races.

      Puzzlewise, this has been a week to remember. Thanks to Josh for today's entry, and thanks to Will for putting it all together. And special thanks to @Rex, for this cyber-community.

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