Spotted rodent / WED 4-24-13 / Tourist town of Salerno / Jared of Mr Nobody / Ken Olin series about baby boomers / Comedian with 1972 album Class Clown / Astronomical red giant / Belgian city sometimes mispronounced wipers

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Constructor: Clive Probert

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium



THEME: Tennis — first words of theme answers progress through tennis scores in order:

  • LOVE BOATS (18A: Some cruise ships, informally)
  • FIFTEEN MEN (23A: Start of a song with the cry "Yo-ho-ho")
  • "THIRTYSOMETHING" (34A: Ken Olin series about baby boomers)
  • FORTY-NINER (50A: One who hoped things would pan out?)
  • GAME'S OVER (57A: "You lose!")

Word of the Day: hooley (36D: Partiers at a hooley => IRISHMEN) —
hooley, hoolie [ˈhuːlɪ]
n pl -leys-lies
Chiefly Irish and NZ a lively party
[of unknown origin] (thefreedictionary.com)
• • •

Well the fill is somewhat better today than yesterday, but not by much, and the theme, while conceptually adequate, is broken at the level of execution. First, there is one Love Boat. It is captained by Merrill Stubing and bartended by Isaac Washington. Plural LOVE BOATS is an absurdity. I'm sure there's some attestation for that usage, somewhere, but theme answers should be dead-on in-the-language, and this one just isn't. Further, and more jarringly, "GAME'S OVER" is not an expression. The expression is "GAME OVER!" It comes from video game screens in the '80s, which would give you that message when your last Pac-Man got eaten or whatever. Or maybe it has earlier origins. At any rate, it is a very common expression now, where "GAME'S OVER" .. isn't. Here's the maddening thing: LOVE BOATS and GAME'S OVER are *symmetrical* answers, i.e. if you take the ridiculous "S" out of both of them, they remain the same length and thus still Totally usable as symmetrical theme answers. I have no idea why this clearly superior (and obvious) plan was not pursued (or recommended). I've sent out an inquiry to my constructor friends asking them "why?" I'll let you know what they say, assuming someone replies in the next 20 minutes or so.


Looks like the upcoming Olympics means that SOCHI is here to stay (30A: Russian city, host of the 2014 Winter Olympics). A couple years back, I would've considered that super-obscure. Now, it's just a word you need to know. Olympics sites = valid. Still, many won't know it, and that will make the "C" virtually impossible to get (31D: Astronomical red giant = C-STAR). AMALFI, on the other hand, is in fact pretty obscure. I know a play called "The Duchess of Malfi," but I've never heard of AMALFI. Or ... I probably have, because it doesn't seem completely alien. I've probably heard or seen it, but I don't think of it as a well-known place (2D: Tourist town of Salerno). It's not bad fill. It's actually kind of unusual and interesting, as opposed to most of the rest of the fill, which is pretty dull. Next to AMALFI is PACA, which is a rodent I know about only from crosswords (1D: Spotted rodent). It's not common, but it's common enough that it's worth knowing (see also ELENI, which is not a rodent—just feels like one) (38D: Nicholas Gage memoir). Nothing else in the puzzle seems terribly problematic. I got "FIFTEEN MEN" confused with "Fifteen Tons," which is actually "Sixteen Tons" (sigh). I had no idea what "Mr. Nobody" was, so it took many crosses before I remembered that there was an actor named Jared LETO (16A: Jared of "Mr. Nobody"). Clue on -STAN was unexpected and kind of nifty. Don't normally stand up for a suffix clue when a perfectly good non-suffix one is available, but there was something cleverish about this clue that I liked. I also like the words THRUM (53A: Dull tapping sound) and EPICURES (55A: Food critics, often). So it's not all bad today.

    ALLO ALLO is ridiculous but made me laugh (20A: Repetitive French greeting). CARLIN very frequently makes me laugh (3D: Comedian with the 1972 album "Class Clown"). I had not idea bolo ties were *legitimately* popular anywhere—my understanding of ARIZONA is now richer than ever. I've heard YPRES pronounced a number of ways: "wipers" (!?) is not one of them (52D: Belgian city sometimes mispronounced as "wipers").
      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

      93 comments:

      PK 12:14 AM  

      Far, far from Wipers
      I long to be
      Where German snipers
      Can't get at me

      Damp is my dugout
      Cold are my feet
      Waiting for whiz bang
      To send me to sleep

      okanaganer 12:18 AM  

      YPRES could be "Why press"? Reminds me of my Dad's favorite drink, a Rye Press, short for Rye Presbyterian: half ginger ale, quarter club soda, quarter rye...or something like that.

      I liked PACT/PACA and DAHL/SAHL. Nothing else too memorable tonight, plus and odd chopped-up looking grid.

      Anonymous 12:19 AM  

      What do FIFTEENMEN on a Dead Man's Chest & IRISHMEN have in common?

      AMALFI has a population of 5K.

      jae 12:31 AM  

      Easy-medium for me and quite a bit smoother than yesterday's.  But a DNF for me.  Did not know SOCHI.   My bride did so at least I filled it in correctly. 

      (By the way, after checking star classifications including googling Red Giant C-Star, I can find no evidence of such a star class, M or maybe K but not C).  

      Solid theme with quite a bit of pop culture fill...BANA, TEA LEONI, ROZ, SAHL, DAHL, CARLIN, HALLE, LEROY, TEENA, SERENA, LETO... The TEA/LETO could be a problem if you opt for an I.

      Erasures: ATTENDto for ON and Bteam for BENCH. 

      THRUM is a fine word.

      Liked it!

      thursdaysd 12:40 AM  

      I think "wipers" is what the British soldiers unfortunate enough to serve on that front in WWI called the place.

      Amalfi is both a town and the name of the spectacular coast west of Salerno, but perhaps not known to people who haven't visited Italy. However, I have visited Amalfi and I still found the clue confusing because I think of Salerno as a town, not a region.

      Dean 2:12 AM  

      Did not like this one. AMALFI crossed with AMAIN? I had everything but the M and still had to guess.

      I know O stars. I know B stars. I know A, F, G, K, M, L, T and even the now discarded R, N and S stars. First I've heard of a "C star." Red giants are O's.

      Benko 2:17 AM  

      Yes, the AMALFI Coast is actually better known than the town of the same name. A pleasant area in Southern Italy where limoncello, the excellent lemon liqueur, is made.
      The SOCHI/CSTAR cross is pretty insane. I don't really consider winter Olympic locales as something I "need to know". There's only one Olympics, and it happens every four years in the summertime.
      Puzzle was OK, I guess. Haven't been that impressed this week.

      benko 2:19 AM  

      Red giants can also be type M,K, and sometimes S. I don't know about C either.
      and PACAs are pretty cute, if I remember them correctly from the zoo.

      jae 2:31 AM  

      @Dean -- According to wiki O-stars are blue.

      Martin 2:32 AM  

      @Dean,

      The reason R and N were discarded is they're now called C (for carbon).

      I agree that any spectral type other than the standard "O Be A Fine Girl Kiss Me" is pretty obscure for a crossword, proving you really need to know upcoming Olympic hosts.

      JFC 2:58 AM  

      Rex, I take it this is not your kind of puzzle....

      JFC

      Anoa Bob 3:03 AM  

      Anon amalfi amoon alloallo. Teena mah wis tealeoni? Nos. Paca bana sahl dahl!

      Eleni leto sochi, ofus ypres roz.

      Deng.

      amalfi carlin maims 3:12 AM  

      This one was also in the Marbles tourney and SOcHI/cSTAR was total guess... I considered SOkHi/kSTAR bec the K seemed more Russian to me.
      But after the ODESA discussion yesterday, I'm too tired to think about it!

      @Jae
      I don't know if I'd say solid or too hard re: buildup of names that called for too much you-know-it-or-you-don't:
      LETO, LEROY, TEENA, ELENI, BANA, TEALEONI, DENG, DAHL, SAHL, SERENA, RENE, ROZ, HALLE, CARLIN
      (I started out with mARtIN as in Steve)
      MORE than a dozen...That's WAY too many, even for me who loves names and pop culture in general.
      Throw in GRETEL, TESLA, and STAN...NO MORE!
      (44-A "Enough already!)

      Maybe they did LOVEBOATs and GAMEsOVER bec 8 letters would've been too short for theme answers?

      And I sort of feel that GAMESOVER is like "The Jig's Up"...but it's true, as @rex says, even I know that in video games it was GAME OVER no s.

      Ahhhh, the AMALFI Coast...I agree saying Coat makes it more familiar to more!

      chefwen 3:45 AM  

      Not a easy/medium for me, more like a medium/challenging. Too many people chattering around me sending me into distraction. Yeah, let's blame them.

      Mr. Sports helped me with 21D LEROY, wouldn't have know that in a hundred years.

      18A didn't bother me at all, many a cruise ship considers themselves to be "love boats".

      Really liked the theme and let out a big WHOOP when the light bulb was illuminated.

      jae 3:50 AM  

      @Andrea -- Solid was more of a comment on the theme which I liked. And I think GAME'S OVER works okay in an actual tennis match (as opposed to a Wii match?). The pop culture list was more of an observation and, I agree, a tad excessive.

      And if C has replaced R and N and apparently M and K why doesn't google know about it. Has the inter web failed us?

      Ellen S 3:59 AM  

      @pk, thanks for the lyrics. Here's a link to a rendition of Far, Far From Wipers from "Oh, what a Lovely War."

      syndy 4:50 AM  

      Thanks Rex.I did wonder where I got my extra dead man!DNF on SOCHI,WTFSTAR and LERoY Jethro. DENG!!

      JanetM 5:26 AM  

      I winced at the offhand rodent comment for Eleni which i havent read but i remember is a highly praised thoughtful and heartfelt memoir of the mother of the author who died in Greece during World War II .

      Dean 5:45 AM  

      My bad. For red giants, I thought "M star" and wrote "O." Thanks for the correction.

      I'm still finding CSTAR obscure to the point of contrived. Actually, a lot of this puzzle (including the superfluous S's Rex noted) strikes me as forced.

      Jack Lee 5:49 AM  

      NW was hard due to PACA and AMAIN, was not helped by the basketball clue (I'm hopeless at sports clues!), and my mistake of thinking it was *SIXTEENMEN on a dead man's chest. I know not why. The theme completely escaped me!

      Elle54 6:06 AM  

      Hand up for not knowing the C in Sochi. Guess we'll all be familiar with it in 8 mos or so

      loren muse smith 6:08 AM  
      This comment has been removed by the author.
      loren muse smith 6:11 AM  

      I run the other way when people start talking about stars and constellations, but C STAR went in instantly. Huh. My problem was I wanted “Ssochi” for SOCHI – I always spell that with two S’s. ;-)

      AMAIN and AMALFI also went in with no trouble. Double huh.

      THIRTY SOMETHING and FORTY NINER were first, so I went off looking for “ten,” “twenty,” and “fifty.” I don’t play tennis, but I figured it out quickly enough.

      When I encounter clues like the ones for BENCH, TABLE, and INFER, I always think about the solvers here whose native language is not English and marvel a bit. And am a little envious. I wish I knew another language so well.

      I’m still skipping over any remarks by ANON. Blog time is conveniently reduced.

      That southwest corner is all rhymey with ARENA/SERENA, BENCH/TRENCH, and DAHL/SAHL.

      LOVE SITTING atop AMOR – Hah!

      IRISHMEN next to HERITAGE – nice.

      Shout out to Gareth at 58D! Wonder if he’s ever treated a PACA?

      @Anoa Bob – I like it when you do that!

      @jae – me, too, for ATTEND “to” and “B team” first.

      @M & A - did you see the wrap-around ALPACA?

      Thanks, Clive. I aced this one!

      Anonymous 6:29 AM  

      singles cruises are know as LOVE BOATS

      Pawel Fludzinski 7:11 AM  

      Completely agree that LOVEBOAT and GAMEOVER is a far better pair than LOVEBOATS and GAMESOVER. However, there are six 8-letter non-fill entries, and I suspect the constructor wanted all of his themed entries to be longer than non-theme entries.

      Milford 7:14 AM  

      Another example of a puzzle that was mostly easy, but then got held up in a couple tricky spots. So an average time in the end.

      Had heard of the AMALFI coast, but had to run through vowels to get PACA/AMAIN (which I still don't know as a word). And hand up for getting stumped by SOCHI/C-STAR. Glad to hear it was tricky for many others, as I was bracing myself for many lectures from ANON about how any idiot should know the next Winter Olympics city.

      Didn't think LOVE BOATS was too weird - I kind of thought all Princess Cruise line ships were nicknamed that, maybe? Watched that show every Saturday night at 9PM for many years.

      But GAME'S OVER did seem, in fact, wrong to me. Isn't it "GAME, set, match" that is announced at the end?

      Not sure if it was mentioned earlier, but I liked the added tennis bonus of SERENA, especially as clued as a misdirect with Venus.

      Liked the SAHL/DAHL cross as well.

      Captcha is two words, no numbers - have we gone through all the hidden apartment addresses in the world already?

      Doris 7:22 AM  

      There was a reasonably popular Britcom which PBS ran some years ago (I think they get them at low rates) called " 'Allo 'Allo."

      "René Artois is a café owner in the Nazi-occupied French town of Nouvion, whose efforts to appease a range of opposing factions without being killed provide the unlikely scenario for this long-running hit BBC One sitcom." (from Wikipedia)

      Z 7:37 AM  

      C. Probert has broken ground with his extra-terrestrial natick. I went with k STAR. My knowledge of star designations is completely from Star Trek, so I have nothing more to say on the subject. SOCHI (and SOkHI) looks like a random letter string to me. The Olympics have been driven into the ground by over-saturation and maudlin athlete interest stories. I love sports, but barely have the Olympics on my radar, now. Good to know that my three possible guesses were at least stellarly plausible (g, k, or m).

      No problem with GAME'S OVER. Heard it just Sunday as the next game wanted to get on the field and start. Minus the S is better, but this is still okay for me.

      HALLE/ALLO ALLO looks like the beginning of an SNL skit to me.

      My mom loved Tennessee Ernie Ford, so that clip brought back memories. The weird color cut ins of dressed up men snapping their fingers was a little odd, though. None of those guys would sing, "I owe my soul to the Company Store."

      Two worded captcha today. Interesting.

      Z 7:39 AM  

      @John V. - enjoyed the puzzle.

      e.a. 7:58 AM  

      i think AMALFI is one of those places only rich people know about, like Grenyarnia.

      Carola 8:00 AM  

      Double DNF for me, with TiA/LiTO and SObHI/ b-STAR.

      RENE Lacoste makes a nice tennis partner for SERENA Williams.

      Sir Hillary 8:22 AM  

      @Carola - Yes, perhaps RENE and SERENA could play mixed doubles against STAN Smith and ELENI Daniilidou.

      Glimmerglass 8:25 AM  

      I can tolerate LOVE BOATS as a generic term, but in general I dislike plurals of things that are one of a kind (Eiffel Towers, oxygens).

      evil doug 8:26 AM  

      Four seasons? Four tennis scores? I just don't feel it. Words that just kind of lie there.

      Almost went with K-Star, but it dawned on me that I might be thinking of those lousy Chrysler K-Cars of a couple decades back. Nearly threw in a P, but Sophi sounded Rumanian or Greek to me. So C was the final guess. I'll take it....

      "Game's over" is a call I've heard from baseball or football announcers after a walk-off home run or OT touchdown. But tennis? It's 'game, set, match'.

      Some good t words---tipoff, taxicab, trench, thaw, and especially thrum. But that's about it.

      Evil

      retired_chemist 8:30 AM  

      DNF because of the two problem squares: The SOCHI/C STAR cross (Yes, there once was a C STAR, but no more) and the crossing of LETO/TEA LEONI. Vaguely heard of LETO, or LiTO as I spelled him, and of the four spelling variations T(E,I)A LEON(E,I) I have a 25% chance of guessing right. Oh well. Naticks or not? You be the judge. I say yes.

      ALLO ALLO was a BritCom I saw a couple of times. Mildly amusing but nowhere near as good as Monty Python or Blackadder.

      Agree with Rex on LOVE BOATS/GAME'S OVER.

      53A was THUMP first, 55A GOURMETS.

      The irrelevant number we used 42 for is gone! I too have a 2 word captcha. Exparti March. Sounds like Sousa for the courtroom.

      retired_chemist 8:32 AM  

      Blogger missed my link, which sorta says what happenedto C STAR.

      orangeblossomspecial 8:35 AM  


      Never heard of AMALFI? Incredible. http://ts2.mm.bing.net/th?id=H.4859966908467085&pid=15.1&w=147&h=110&p=0

      Here's an old French song featuring 20A 'ALLO 'ALLO: 'Tout vas très bien, Madame la Marquise'.

      jackj 8:41 AM  

      Apparently, there was a tennis match played in the grid but there’s precious little indication that anyone ever even served to get it started.

      ALLOALLO, anyone serving here? They started the b-ball game with a TIPOFF, but no one is serving the tennis match? If SERENA is playing, she at least needs an opponent.

      Can’t someone tell us something about the players, who they are, who is serving, what are they playing for, the Davis Cup, or is it a match between friends, or do we have to be satisfied with just a naked score ended with GAMESOVER?

      If LEROY Neiman was still alive he would be ready, willing and able to memorialize a match in vivid brush strokes but he couldn’t do scores alone and for all we know this might not even be a battle of heavy hitters but may feature a couple of rank amateurs playing tennis as a game of lobs and dinks.

      The basketball game gets a place to play, an ARENA, but no court is supplied for our tennis, not clay, not grass, not asphalt, not even Astroturf and I guess the point of this ranting is, “The score alone is not enough”.

      Where’s Bobby Riggs when you need him? (Maybe he passed on after learning that he had to ATTENDON Billie Jean as a penalty after his ignominious defeat).

      I suspect if George CARLIN were still among us he would christen this puzzle with his Seven Dirty Words.

      Hopefully, time to hie with HALLE to the hooley.

      joho 8:44 AM  

      @Anoa Bob ... beautifully put!

      I choose "S" star but now looking at SOsHI it looks more Japanese than Russian.

      I kind of wish the puzzle had started with serve or ace. I liked that when the GAMESOVER you go sit on the BENCH.

      I did not like FIFTEENMEN sharing the puzzle with the IRISHMEN.

      Now off to CARPE diem!

      John V 8:53 AM  

      NE was Natick City for me, crossing two proper names. Guessed wrong about the star. Easy otherwise.

      Re: the gratuitous plurals and the non theme 8s, maybe tighten the grid a bit? 70 words is a bit low for a Wednesday.

      Thanks to all for your kind words yesterday. Rex World is my inspiration.

      lawprof 8:57 AM  

      Finished without mistakes, but don't know if I can take credit for it because the SOCHI/CSTAR crossing was a total guess. The __STAR could have been anything. Ran the alphabet for something plausible for the Russian Olympic host city and could only eliminate maybe five or six letters. So my chance of success was about 5%. Just dumb luck.

      Susan McConnell 9:07 AM  

      Surprised at the to-do over LOVEBOATS...I think it is a common term used in the cruising community. Was pleased with myself for seeing the theme, but in general this was kind of blah.

      Kris in ABCA 9:14 AM  

      It was interesting to me that SOCHI was such a sticking point. I live in western Canada, and I'd say that SOCHI is common knowledge here. Much greater emphasis on winter sports in this part of the world.

      Pete 9:14 AM  

      I thought this puzzle had more flaws than yesterday's. Fifteen proper nouns? A Russian city that won't be famous until next year with that horrid crossing. An Italian village, population 5353not famous except among the British aristocracy in the 1920's & 30's. Two groups of MEN.

      It's not as if LOVE/.. / GAME is interesting enough, or novel enough, to warrent that. This was a Monday puzzle ruined by unfair fill. I'm not sure how that makes it a Wednesday puzzle.

      dk 9:14 AM  

      Let ball. Nothing I addin will put any topspin to what has already been served up. I could lob a few but to what end.

      ���� (2 Tennis balls)

      Liner notes.

      Still resting on the sunny slope of memory: Tennis whites, gin and tonics, Beecher G in one of my old Lacostes atop her Speedo lounging by the side of the Cavalry Club pool… youth is wasted on the young.

      Spring is sneaking into to Western WIS this morning. Perhaps 70 by Sunday.

      Anonymous 9:22 AM  

      Types of stars: webs.wichita.edu/astronomy/Testbank/types.htm

      MetaRex 9:24 AM  

      I liked the STAN RENE SERENA background theme music...

      Rex's direct comments plus Anoa Bob's indirect ones on -ese gave MetaRex a rare thing for his aging robot villain brain...an idea, made freely available for all new and old constructors to steal w/ or w/o acknowledgement...the reveal is at STAN

      Eric 9:27 AM  

      High point: TRENCH/BENCH, ARENA/SERENA, DAHL/SAHL, INURED/EPICURES...the last one was a stretch, but I still loved the all-rhyming SE corner.

      Low point: I expected a revealer. I understood the theme after LOVE___ & FIFTEEN___, but some kind of clue to bring it all together might have made this puzzle more streamlined.

      But, I guess streamlininess isn't something I necessarily need in a puzzle, rather it's just something I take for granted nowadays since most other similarly themed puzzles have revealers.

      But I'm all about individuality and originality, so in that respect, the lack of a revealer was....refreshing?

      I'm confused now.

      Anonymous 9:29 AM  

      Crossing Jared LETO with Spanglish actress TEALEONI was a Natick. I guessed "TIA" as the more probable Spanish name but Naticks, by definition, require guesses by those of us who don't read People magazine.

      Old Man

      Lindsay 9:33 AM  

      Wow, did I miss the tennis motif. Started in the SE with TRENCH/BENCH, SAHL/DAHL, SERENA/ARENA, so I thought we had a crazy rhyming theme. When that didn't work out, I was just confused.

      My FORTY-NINER took some time to appear as I was envisioning some Sam McGee-type mINER freezing to death in the Klondike.

      Left the "Mr. Nobody" crossing "Spanglish" square blank because I neither know nor have any interest in knowing.

      Thoracic 9:46 AM  

      I liked this one a lot. EPICURES, THRUM, HERITAGE, SAHL/DAHL. And SOCHI is a total gimme for we Canadians-- we take our Winter Olympics very seriously. I got to go to the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 and it was one of the best things I've ever done. Imagine, Canadians being overtly patriotic!!
      Great puzzle with a slightly slow time for me but finished with no help.

      chefbea 9:46 AM  

      Finally got the theme but still DNF. The scoring in a tennis game is Love, fifteen, thirty, forty, game.

      The Almafi drive is quite treacherous...all ess curves.

      Loved all the food references..guess I'm an epicure

      Gill I. P. 9:52 AM  

      Hey, the Heard museum in Phoenix is having an exciting BOLO tie exhibit...That is just the NEATEST.
      DENG,I really, really was upset that ADIN wasn't part of this puzzle.
      Nothing more to write home about. Oh @John V thanks for the pleasure yesterday. Mucho congratulations.

      Ed C 9:55 AM  

      Impossible to get the C in Sochi and CStar. I dislike have no chance to finish when one clue could be any letter in the alphabet (CStar) and the other could be most of them! Unfair!

      Bob Kerfuffle 10:07 AM  

      Two write-overs, due to carelessly throwing in "obvious" answers: 15 A, EROS before AMOR, and 34 A, TWENTY SOMETHING before THIRTY ...

      But, how can I be the only one? Am I missing something? I don't find 9 D, SLOB, to be even plausible for the clue, "One whose work is not picking up?". One whose habit, perhaps, or even one whose attitude, or press it to one whose spirit is not picking up. But one whose "work" is not picking up? Is this some heir to Jackson Pollock?

      jerry k 10:24 AM  

      Got it (the puzzle), but didn't (the theme). Looking for 15 30 45 progression? Or thinking too much about poker with that progression? Anyway, finished and then read the theme. Nice. Game(s) over.

      OISK 10:37 AM  

      Guessed correctly on Tea -Leto and Sochi - C star, so I finished correctly, but agree with many here that both of those are annoyingly obscure crosses. Amalfi, on the other hand - anyone who has ever looked at a travel brochure on Italy, as seen the Amalfi coast...
      My own preferences in general, though, are more geography, (Sochi is OK) less pop culture Teena Marie? Jared Leto? All in all, though, puzzle gets a B+ from me. Liked the theme, and most of the fill.

      thursdaysd 10:37 AM  

      @chefbea "The Almafi drive is quite treacherous...all ess curves." Lol. Much better to take the bus than drive yourself. And no, you don't have to be rich to visit the AMALFI coast.

      My problem was PACA - never heard of it. Lucky guess on LETO.

      Two Ponies 11:16 AM  

      Maids attend TO their ladies. This bothered me more than game's over.
      I have a hard enough time with past Olympic sites. Now I have to know future ones too?

      Masked and Anonymo2Us 11:26 AM  

      Anybody else notice that this puz has only 70 words?! Really cuts down on the weeject opportunities. So then you get yer AMALFI LETO TEALEONI SOCHI CSTAR YPRES DENG PACA spread. Most of which just made the solve a little more adventurous, which is fine.

      Ended up with LITO/TIA and SOBHI/BSTAR, tho. M&A sucks at guessin stuff. His major undoing is tryin to use logic. Today's faulty reasoning...
      1. No one would name their own kid TEA. PEKOE, maybe. LIPTON, nuh-uh.
      2. The ?STAR part is obvious. What initial letter seems appropriate for a "red giant"? Sub-reasoning ensues...
      a. B as in Big
      b. other
      3. LITO sounds like a name I've heard of. Think we have a Supreme Court justice that's A LITO. LETO... not so much; looks like a LENO mis-spell, at best.
      4. SO?HI looks awful, no matter what the ? is. Ran the alphabet, wastin valuable nanoseconds, lingering reverently on U. P looked somewhat not unlikely. But... P-STAR? Porn star named Red Giant? nah.

      Fave weeject:
      WIS - [A ___ is as good as a wile]

      SOMI: 0.0
      Snarkless Wednesday.

      jberg 11:30 AM  

      Advantages of solving on paper: NYT recently (the last 2 days) had a story on SOCHI and how the Russians were beefing up security after what happened here last week. And there used to be a bar next to Symphony Hall called the AMALFI, so neither of those were a problem.

      Thanks @Martin for clarifying C-STAR. I grew up hearing an extended "Oh Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me Right Now. Smack!" (the last word has various interpretations), but apparently the lumpers who plague the birding world are now going after the stars.

      And thanks @Doris, for suggesting a more interesting way to clue RENE.

      Never saw the theme -- just saw the three numbers, one of them joined to another number, and thought "ALLO ALLO! What kind of theme is this?" As @Chefbea said, GAMES OVER is wrong purely on tennis terms -- the final point is GAME, tout court.

      Sadly, I had to guess the LETO/TEAL EONE crossing, and guessed I, thinkin TIA a more likely name. I should have realized that 51D was a subtle hint that I was wrong.

      Gill I. P. 11:34 AM  

      @Two Ponies - Ladies-in-waiting ATTENDing ON the Queen. Very British you know....

      Anonymous 11:48 AM  

      How could you not know Amalfi? It's one of the main destinations along the justly famous Amalfi Coast (and drive) and is one of the four historic Maritime Republics.

      quilter1 11:53 AM  

      Many of the same write overs as others, but solved it all except the CSTAR/SOCHI crossing so DNF. Tomorrow try, try again.

      Rob C 12:09 PM  

      Found this puzzle on the challenging side. It didn't do much for me though. As Rex pointed out, the plurals LOVE BOATS and GAMES OVER just look wrong.

      Liked HERITAGE next to IRISHMEN too. I knew SOCHI, so that saved me from the CSTAR hangup.

      ALLO ALLO makes me think of the 'Rachel Rachel' episode of Seinfeld.

      @Two Ponies - yes ATTEND ON was bothersome. But per Gill IP, maybe if I was a lady-in-waiting it would have been the highlight of the puzzle for me

      @Rex - "my understanding of ARIZONA is now richer than ever" - funny stuff

      heathcliff 12:19 PM  

      Cstar/Sochi cross seems unnecessary for a Wednesday. On the other hand, and in fairness, Amalfi (and the Amalfi Coast) are pretty standard geographical knowledge for anyone who's been within shouting distance of Italy.

      chefbea 12:24 PM  

      Meant to mention earlier...big shout out to a lot of you at 33 across

      Lewis 12:32 PM  

      I liked the cluing -- had a lot of white space after my first pass, then things started filling in. I thought the theme was adequate. But the two Natick areas were not good. This puzzle should have been reworked or rejected for not meeting the NYT bar, in my opinion.

      Anoabob -- Right on the mark, and I always laugh at how it comes out.

      Ask a stupid question 12:43 PM  

      "How could you not know AMALFI?"

      a) By never having any interest in visiting Italy.
      b) By having an interest in visiting Italy but focusing on major attractions - Rome, Venice, Tuscany, the Alps. You know, things of interest.
      c) By being Sicilian and not giving a hoot about the mainland.

      Enrico 12:57 PM  

      Agreed, AMALFI should be common knowledge for Wednesday level solvers.

      Bird 1:38 PM  

      Meh. Took longer than it should have.

      LOVE BOATS (only 1) and GAME'S OVER (it's a MATCH)?
      ATTEND ON? ATTEND TO.
      AMAIN? I started with APACE.
      BLIST before BENCH.

      Is Clive from the UK (queue at 39D)? That might explain some of the cluing and fill. But this is the New York Times.

      Happy Humpday!

      Tennis Pro 2:10 PM  

      GAMES OVER is not a plural.
      It's GAME'S OVER.

      Notsofast 2:42 PM  

      Second bumpy ride in a row. I like an elegant puzzle. Smoother solving than this. To me this puzzle was workmanlike, lacking humor or art. The SOCHI-CSTAR cross should have been an obvious natick. But no. I give it a "C".

      Charley 2:54 PM  

      Tony Soprano's psychologist's family was from Amalfi.

      Masked and Thrumonamous 3:08 PM  

      p.s. ELENI: not a rodent -- just feels like one. Should go on the dust jacket of the next reprinting, somewhere. Can't believe my SnarkOMeter didn't register, on that. Dern thing must be broke.

      Used to play a lot of tennis. So can't believe I instead smelled some sort of all-numbers theme, initially. Kept tryin to slip in TENSPEED, or somesuch, for the cruise ship clue.

      Gotta agree with many folks, who are uncomfortable with a tennis scoring progression of: love, fifteen, thirty, forty, games. McEnroe would question whether you can be serious. But hey, it's just a puz. Not the Wimbledon final(s).

      @LMS:
      Nice ALPACA catch, on the wraparound. Grid's got a sparkly wraparound I-STAR, also. Speaking of bein a big I-STAR, I be digressin my ass outta here, away from the blog, for a spell. Gotta do a big road tour.

      Carpe loveboats, y'all. M&A

      jerry k 3:48 PM  

      If you had the pleasure of being thirty something in the late 80's-early 90's, you may have watched My So Called Life, which starred Jared Leto?

      sanfranman59 4:14 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)

      Wed 9:26, 10:07, 0.93, 33%, Easy-Medium

      Top 100 solvers

      Wed 5:45, 5:59, 0.96, 40%, Easy-Medium

      Doc John 4:46 PM  

      Should have clued LETO in reference to the amazing movie, "Requiem for a Dream." Ellen Burstyn was absolutely devastating in her role as the diet pill addicted housewife. Julia Roberts (who I have absolutely nothing against) robbed her of an Oscar that year. But I digress.

      Have I mentioned my dislike for Capcha lately?

      Laurence Hunt 5:53 PM  

      I loved this puzzle as I generally found the clues more literate, and not heavy on pop culture, which I prefer to avoid ("love boats" aside). I thought the clues were very, very clever. Rex, I love your daily review, but I suspect you may be growing curmudgeonly, and perhaps it's time for you to design vs. solve them?

      michael 8:30 PM  

      I forgot Sochi, but I've been to Amalfi and have eaten paca...

      Is Leto ("let") part of the tennis theme?

      sanfranman59 10:01 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 6:32, 6:14, 1.05, 78%, Medium-Challenging
      Tue 8:15, 8:14, 1.00, 55%, Medium
      Wed 9:26, 10:07, 0.93, 33%, Easy-Medium

      Top 100 solvers

      Mon 3:55, 3:43, 1.05, 75%, Medium-Challenging
      Tue 5:11, 4:49, 1.08, 68%, Medium-Challenging
      Wed 5:32, 5:59, 0.92, 30%, Easy-Medium

      acme 12:41 AM  

      Not positive, but I think the new Fiat commercial with the music "When I hear the ocean calling..." and all these little cars are driving off the cliffs, that looks like it might have been filmed on the Amalfi coast. Don't know if there is a way to google and embed this.

      acme 12:43 AM  

      yep.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEl9ZBJ5zCU

      hellmanmd 11:28 PM  

      Because Ypres is in a Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, locally it's known as Ieper. Great place to visit, if you're into history.

      Spacecraft 11:10 AM  

      @Benko: No such thing as the winter Olympics???? Let me guess: you hate cold weather. So do I--witness my move to warmer climes--but THAT far in denial I'm not. And that saved me: though I'm an astronomy buff I confess I wasn't up on recent star reclassifications that included C.

      Hand up for mistaking the archaic ATTENDEDON as having the more common -TO ending. Now to the clue for YPRES. Spelling notwithstanding, doesn't there have to be something wrong with "wipers" appearing in it? I feel a pull in my hip pocket. Sheesh,"Belgian town" oughta be enough.

      Didn't care for the 8's in the NE; those in the SW sparkled. Likewise, EPICURES has it all over ALLOALLO. South 1, North 0. GAMESOVER.

      Waxy in Montreal 1:06 PM  

      Certainly not EASY/MEDIUM for me. Two personal naticks: AMAIN/AMALFI and LETO/NOS (no idea about this Jared guy or KenKen).

      YPRES no problem as my WWI British army veteran grandfather fought there and always called it WIPERS - in fact, thought it was spelled that way for many years, sorta like WATERLOO a century earlier!

      Solving in Seattle 1:14 PM  

      The puzzle was an enjoyable solve, but when I finished and looked it over I saw the tennis theme with LOVE----- (cleverly under AMOR) and the score numbers and SERENA, but looked in vain for match. I used to play tennis and we never said GAMESOVER. And shouldn't Clive have substituted "serves" for TIPOFF. Are we supposed to INFER the serve? It's like our constructor doesn't play the game.

      LOVEd HALLE crossing AMOR. (sigh)

      SERENA is playing tennis all by herself. Or maybe she's playing with GRETEL, because Hansel is nowhere to be found.

      So my LOL of the day award goes to @Anoa Bob 3:03. Thanks for the chuckles, Bob.

      Capcha: adinobs. Something you have taken out with your tonsils?

      Syndi Solver 1:36 PM  

      @Spacecraft, ditto on the ATTENDto error at first. Another error was writing AlabamA instead of ARIZONA. I know what a bolo tie is but I have no idea where they are worn. Both errors were easily fixed with crosses.

      I thought the theme was fine. I looked at it as one player winning all the points in a row (with the other player's LOVE score ignored) until they won -- GAMES OVER. Since this was the score for only one game, and not a match, it made sense to me.

      Highlights for me were George CARLIN of "Class Clown" (I like the track about Muhammad Ali - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtZXgfdauBY and SERENA Williams.

      My favorite clue was for the FORTYNINER (One who hoped things would pan out?)

      I was not bothered by either LOVE BOATS or GAMES OVER. I have often heard the first term used by people for a certain subset of cruises (singles cruises, for examples). And the second term is a phrase that people do use in real life when the game (not a video game) is over.

      My only low point was the SOCHI/CSTAR cross. On the other hand, at least this has taught me the name of the city for the 2014 Winter Olympics and that is useful information.

      Syndi Solver 1:50 PM  

      @Masked and Anonymo2Us, you always make me laugh! I don't know whether you read any of the comments from syndicated solvers but I just had to say that.

      Lest any of the other regulars who solve in real time feel slighted, let me just add that you're all great! I love the comments on this blog more than the blog itself.

      rain forest 2:22 PM  

      I thought that finding out people pronounced YPRES as "wipers" was funny--enough reason to use it as a clue. Maybe not funny, but surprising was how many people seemed not to knowe AMALFI or SOCHI. I thought the theme was rather weak, and actually didn't realize what it was until I finished and looked at FIFTEEN, THIRTY, FORTY, and then saw LOVE. Meh. Otherwise a serviceable puzzle highlighted by that rhyming southeast corner. I agree with @Doc John that I have nothing against Julia Roberts, but I'd like to.

      DMGrandma 2:23 PM  

      My usual one square DNF. Yep, I didn't get that "C". There were other struggles. What's a "hooley"? But eventually, after erOs became AMOR, to became ON and mINER became NINER, they all worked out. Enjoyed the tennis theme, appropriate now with the French Open going full blast. Wonder if it related to anything back in real time?

      @Ginger: I've been following the Open only by checking the results on the sport's page. The only broadcasts available here are at 2AM and 6AM, outside my comfort zone for viewing, and, at present, no way to record them. However, I see that Saturday will bring the Third Round at 9AM, so I'll be watching then.

      Dirigonzo 3:26 PM  

      AMAIN/AMALFI,AMOR/AMOON,ALLOALLO, ALAMODE,ARIZONA,ARENA,ANON,ATTENDON,AGED - I figured that was enough A-words for one grid, so I eliminated aSTAR as a possibility. Unfortunately I couldn't find any way to disqualify 24 more letters so I left it blank.

      Ginger 6:49 PM  

      @jackj - I also wanted more tennis. Where is deuce? Ad-in? Let? Interesting that at this minute in syndiland, I'm watching the French Open.

      @dk - Just be careful of the 'tweener'

      As you may have guessed, I'm a tennis junkie, and of course I LOVEd this puzzle, but DNF due to the SOsHI/sSTAR cross.

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