Hip-hop devotee in old slang / THU 8-8-13 / Trypanosomiasis transmitters / Transvestite of song / Mughal Empire rulers / Another name for opportunity Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Constructor: Daniel A. Finan

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: things shaped like letters (?) — theme clues are letters, and answers are things shaped (very roughly) like those letters

Theme answers:
  • 17A: J (FISH HOOK)
  • 11D: Y (WISHBONE)
  • 37A: U (HORSESHOE)
  • 37D: O (HULA HOOP)
  • 62A: X (TIRE IRON)

Word of the Day: SYNfuel (61D: Prefix with fuel) —
Synthetic fuel or synfuel is a liquid fuel obtained from coalnatural gasoil shale, or biomass. It may also refer to fuels derived from other solids such as plastics or rubber waste. It may also (less often) refer to gaseous fuels produced in a similar way. Common use of the term "synthetic fuel" is to describe fuels manufactured via Fischer Tropsch conversion,methanol to gasoline conversion, or direct coal liquefaction. (wikipedia)
• • •

Didn't get this one. Or, maybe I did—you can check my description of the theme. But I didn't fully get it as I was solving. I vaguely got it, but thought the answers were common nicknames or alternate names for the letters themselves. I felt like I'd seen "J" referred to as FISHHOOK before. So I thought the name/letter association was going to be close. And it is ... for three of them. TIRE IRON is from outerspace. Forced to name 10 things that look like an "X," I would not put TIRE IRON on the list. Forced to name 100 things, possibly. OK, I probably can't even name 10 things shaped like an X, but I know TIRE IRON would not have come to mind no matter what list I made. And HULA HOOP? A million things are shaped like an "O." The whole concept just didn't compute, or did, but dissatisfyingly. As for the rest of it, it seemed fine, mostly. ERASABLE and RIDABLE in same grid is horrible, I don't know what MENORCA is or why only "locals" call it that (oh, I see it's Minorca, just w/ Spanish spelling—huh), SYNfuel is only very vaguely familiar to me (this violates my "don't call attention to cruddy fill with tough cluing" rule). LESSEE and TSETSES in same corner, also far less than great.

Making matters worse, I found the SW almost totally undoable. This was my worst Thursday time in recent memory, largely because I just sat there with only SHR[A/U]NK and SEGO in place down there. Just sat. This is, unsurprisingly, the absurd HULA HOOP corner. Thought maybe some kind of HALO might be involved. Thought the letters on a stamp (USDA) might be ATTN or RECD or VISA or god knows what. Thought the Mughal Empire rulers were AGHAS. Never considered that Gettysburg Address was a EULOGY (though of course it is). SMUSHES? RIDABLE? Not words that occurred to me. I resent MAILS IN—since roughly the late 19th century, and certainly since WWI, we *phone* things in. Vague theme and obnoxious cluing made this an unpleasant experience all the way around. I mean, really, how many TONYAS are there?
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    jae 12:03 AM  

    So, other than Mon. this has been a pretty easy week.  Unlike Rex I caught the "letter as object" theme with FISHHOOK and filled in the rest of the theme answers.  Then it was just a matter of filling in the fill, which went fine except for SW where it took me a while to see MAILS IN (tried CALLS, DIALS).  Also had GOTHS before SHAHS for no particular good reason except the H.

    Only other erasure was I'm SORRY for SO SORRY. 

    No WOEs and the only answers I learned from doing crosswords were SEGO and ALOU.

    Cringy plurals: ROTCS, HOBOES.

    So easy-medium and cute with a small dash of zip...LOLA, BBOY, HASH OUT, VOODOO...but I was kinda hoping for a crunchy version of @ chefwen's "lovely little rebus." 

    August West 12:09 AM  

    Hated it.


    Right in my wheelhouse. Loved the crossroads of Saws/Alternatives to saws; Third neighbor?; Was up; Dirty; CLEAN CUT; SMUSHES; HASH OUT; Letters on a stamp; my favorite tranny, and; perhaps the best...clue...ever: Splitting headache?

    Solid fill throughout, with only MAA and YAH yielding slight disapointment.

    Great puzzle.

    Steve J 12:15 AM  
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    Steve J 12:17 AM  

    Longest Thursday in ages for me. Like Rex, the SW was nearly undoable. The corner sat with SHR_UNK crossing SMASHES forever, along with BIO at 61D until I accepted that there was no way 64A could end in B. That realization helped none. Took a flyer on SHAHS, which got me HASHOUT, etc. Of the 30 minutes I spent on this one, at least the the last 10 were devoted to nothing but that SW corner, as the rest of the puzzle had been filled in long ago.

    Yes, the theme is things shaped like letters. I got it with J/FISHHOOK. The others came quickly thereafter, except the damned HULAHOOP (TIREIRON was also slow in coming; again like Rex, I'd name dozens of things shaped like an X before I got to a tire iron). The theme's interesting only in its Thursday-style cluing.

    Does anyone actually spell it DOGGYBAG? I've always seen/thought of it as doggie bag.

    I got on Anoa Bob a little bit yesterday for being too picky about plurals, but ROTCS is exactly the sort of horrible plural that should be derided. While one could argue that since multiple branches have an ROTC program, no human would ever actually say or write ROTCs outside a crossword puzzle.

    Only bright spot for me was the cluing for 31A and 4D. Those were clever.

    I don't get 22A at all. How is SHORT the answer for "Third neighbor?"?

    August West 12:22 AM  

    I Don't Know.

    Davis 12:23 AM  

    Agreed on all fronts. Why *these* particular things, and not others shaped like those letters? Initially I had FISH HOOK, HORSE SHOE, and TIRE IRON and thought "Huh, I guess they're all *metal* things shaped like those letters?" But then I got WISH BONE and realized there's no connection—they're just things that happened to come to the constructors mind. Yuck.

    The SW was a mess. Had kHAnS before SHAHS. Took me forever to see MAILS IN because nobody says that. I tried diaLS IN and cAlLS IN first. Had USPS before USDA. Thought RIDABLE was going to be some interesting word related to breaking in horses, and was duly disappointed. SYN as clued is awful. (If we're stuck in prefix land, how about "Introduction to thesis?")

    It wasn't all bad. I liked STARGATE and DOGGY BAG. And the clue for AMERICA was a fun piece of trivia. But an unsatisfying slog of a puzzle.

    JFC 12:25 AM  

    Digger O'Dell here. Your friendly undertaker. I thought this was very hard but doable (is that like ridable?) and kind of between cute and clever. The picture translated into a word gimmick is not the usual, but this is a Thursday, so it passes the Thursday test. But I can understand that people will either hate it or love it, except for me, and I found it okay....


    Davis 12:27 AM  

    @Steve J: It's a football clue, as in "Third and SHORT." Though that's really stretching the meaning of "neighbor" in the clue.

    Also, I'll second your complaint about ROTCS. I had not trouble with it, but it stuck out as ugly while I entered it.

    August West 12:30 AM  

    @Rex: point week taken re: ERASABLE and RIDABLE, but I didn't even notice until reading your write-up. TIRE IRON made me grin. I did the themes in order and, on coming to this last, had sort of a "Well, he's right" reaction.

    When a band, say near the end of a long tour, or a team, say near the end of a futile season, goes perfunctorily through the motions of showing up for that next mandatory performance, it is quite commonly referred to as "mailing it in."

    Questinia 12:31 AM  

    Third base's neighbor is short stop.

    SW was a real slog. Loved, like @ Steve J, 4D and 31A.
    Fell for aghas and SHRaNK and despite putting in eulogy right away, RIDABLE was too bland to find and I spent too much time in SW. Still, finished with a usual Thursday time.

    Good puzzle!

    August West 12:34 AM  

    @ Davis: No, it's not. it's a baseball clue. Who stands next to Third?

    Davis 12:37 AM  

    @August — Ah, that makes *much* more sense!

    Steve J 12:39 AM  

    Ah, I think Questina's explanation for SHORT as third neighbor is the one that makes sense (the "and" puts SHORT down the block from third in "third and short"). Thanks.

    I have no complaints about MAILSIN. Both the phone and mail versions of the phrase are quite common. In fact, for whatever it's worth, the Google claims 3.8 billion (with a B) results for "mails it in", with only 1.6 billion for "phones it in"; the -ing forms are even more lopsided, with 661 million for "mailing" and a measly 4.2 million for "phoning".

    Dukeoprunz 12:40 AM  

    No, I don't give a darn stands next to Third. Who's on first.

    Auggie 12:42 AM  


    Auggie 12:45 AM  

    @Dukeoprunz: Glad you saw the hanging curveball :)

    retired_chemist 12:45 AM  

    Liked this one. Felt Fridayish - some tricky clues. Some uglies, as Rex and others have said. Got the theme from FISHHOOK. TIRE IRON was clear from a few crosses.

    Hand up for i'm SORRY and ADAGES (clue is just wrong for AXIOMS).

    Thanks, Mr. Finan.

    Davis 12:53 AM  

    @Steve — My Google results for "mails it in" vs. "phones it in" are not even close to what you're reporting. Did you use quotes around the phrases? If not, you're getting tons of false hits in your results.

    Here's what I got:
    "mails it in": 133,000
    "phones it in": 526,000

    The gerund form favors mail:
    "mailing it in": 1,140,000
    "phoning it in": 360,000

    The relative results seem to be heavily dependent on the form, which is odd. But I actually think it's more interesting to look at Google Ngrams: mails vs. phones it in; mailed vs. phoned; mailing vs. phoning. Interesting to see that in two of the three, "phone" overtook "mail" in just the last few years.

    Erik 12:57 AM  

    Terribly sow time for me today.

    Didn't care for the theme and agree that some of the clung was awful.

    On the bright side DIVORCE crossing VOODOO was great.

    Steve J 1:01 AM  

    @Davis: Clearly I forgot the quotation marks. Brainless moment on my part. But your numbers do help prove the point that both mailing and phoning are frequently used.

    Evan 1:10 AM  
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    Evan 1:11 AM  

    Themeless grid, posing as a Thursday. I mean, the theme entries are symmetrical, but 72 words and 28 black squares is what you'd expect from a Friday or Saturday.

    Beyond that, I thought the theme was a little thin. Why those letters in particular? It'd be tighter if they had some connection beyond "they look like those random objects," like if all the letters spelled something out.

    This was one of those grids where I took a long time just getting started, but once I cracked some key answer in a corner, everything else would fall relatively quickly after that. Taking a lucky flyer on USDA when that corner was empty was a big help. Like others, I had SHRANK before SHRUNK, but also READABLE before ERASABLE, SPEECH before EULOGY,

    Some good fill (STARGATE, CLEAN CUT, DOGGY BAG, SO SORRY, SORKIN), some not so good fill (MAA, YAH, LESSEE, RIDABLE [?!]...and why was NOR clued as an abbreviation for Norway when the word "nor" would have been just fine?). I didn't mind MAILS IN. I did, however, mind TONYAS and ROTCS. With respect to @Anoa Bob, I agree with @Steve J that plurals need not be a detriment to a grid, even if they cross at a corner and create the "plural of convenience." If it's an everyday word that's you would plausibly speak or write in everyday language, I have no problem pluralizing it. But TONYAS and ROTCS are among the worst kinds of plurals you can have -- first name and an initialism with an S attached on the end? I'd rather replace those with black squares if possible.

    The answer that confused me above all is DIED. I'm still trying to work that out in my head. If you said, "Oh my god, I was DYING up there on stage," I guess that might be a decent way of saying you were really embarrassed, but that seems like a strange context for that clue/answer to make sense. There's probably something more obvious that I'm just not seeing with it. If anything, I'm definitely embarrassed that I couldn't come up with DREA de Matteo quickly, seeing as how my wife and I are binge-watching "The Sopranos" right now.

    'Drea Cleancut Mesons 1:12 AM  

    Perhaps you are overlooking that the double SAW clue for AXIOMS is to reflect the crossing clue for AXES, so it's meant to be more stylish/fun than wrong in that context.

    I suspected Third/SHORT must be something sporty, but no idea what...If it's baseball, seems more HOME is Third's neighbor. I went music and tried cHORd.

    (Needn't clue SHORT basebally, as ORIOLES and ALOU are already representing!
    Speaking of which, Two OUTs (ASKS and HASH) but it's three before you're gone!)

    @Masked and Anonymous will be thrilled... My only hangups were SHRaNK vs SHRuNK and SMaSHES vs SMuSHES...and U won out BOTH times!
    Plus EULOGY, ALOU and CLEANCUT and he will be in U-Heavun!!!

    This blog has made me more aware of others solving pleasures, while having my own.
    (As well as realizing others will get all het up about POCS, Pangrams and the like...whatever!)

    Yes, that ROTCS is a bit unpretty,
    but overall,
    Nice visual theme + interesting clues for AMERICA, EULOGY, and DIVORCE + lively fill of HITHER, BBOY, GEKKO, VOODOO (and a transvestite thrown in) = a fun solve!

    Evan 1:26 AM  

    Oh and not to get too far afield, but does anyone have any Portugal travel tips? My wife and I are going to the Lisbon and Setubal regions for our anniversary/honeymoon-long-after-the-wedding in about ten days.

    @Tita, I seem to recall you've been there several times (perhaps lived there?). Any recommendations?

    Anonymous 2:07 AM  

    Regarding the Google comparison test of the gerund forms, I would speculate that the results are skewed by the non-idiomatic uses of the phrases.

    chefwen 2:53 AM  

    Loved DOGGY BAG next to PAWS AT, reminded me of Toby, he could smell a prime rib bone a mile and a half away.

    @August West - 12:09 - Was ready to send you some meds until I scrolled down.

    Jon cried shenanigans at TIRE IRON, MAILS IN and ROTCS. None of those bothered me. My hang-ups were at RIDABLE and HASH OUT, that SW corner, as others have noted was a challenge.

    Maybe I'll get my "lovely BIG rebus" on Sunday.

    George Steinbrenner 4:07 AM  

    I can't believe it took you &@$!ing mor$&&s so long to figure out short stop. I'm talking to you August West!

    Anonymous 5:17 AM  

    TIRE IRON doesn't come to mind? I guess no one here has ever gotten into a dust up with some Hell's Angels at roadhouse and had to rummage through the trunk for a makeshift weapon as an equalizer. Although, to be fair, the L-shaped TIRE IRON is better than the X-shaped one in a rumble situation.

    MetaRex 6:10 AM  

    Yes to a creative theme and to the open fields, low word count, and low black square count!

    And yet...woulda asked for a re-write on this one.

    TSETSES/TONYAS is pretty bad. Ya could put in cheaters to make it TONYA/TSETSE and go w/ DRUNK/DASH OUT/MUSHED in the SW. Maybe an overall improvement...but then ya still got ROTCS, LESSEE, TSETSE, ASSANTE, RIDABLE/ERASABLE, HASH OUT/ASKS OUT, MAILS IN, STEP ON, and PAWS AT. Each one is entirely defensible by itself...put em all together, though, and it's just too much ESS-ery and too many similar and semi-clumsy words and phrases without a big Krozel/MAS technical payoff to make up for the unpretty stuff.

    The Bard 6:14 AM  

    The Tempest , Act V, scene I

    MIRANDA: O, wonder!
    How many goodly creatures are there here!
    How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
    That has such people in't!

    PROSPERO: 'Tis new to thee.

    Jeremy Mercer 6:24 AM  

    The SW was my downfall too, but unlike the rest of you it was complete self-sabotage. Misread the tense and put SHRINK in the grid which gave me HILARITY for the O (it looks like somebody roaring with laughter, no?) Self-inflicted DNF. I am going to take my frustration out on some fence posts.

    Wes Davidson 7:21 AM  

    @Evan...I could have "died from embarrassment."

    Imfromjersey 7:30 AM  

    SW was the last to fall for me too. Briefly had YANKEES at 2D instead of ORIOLES. Stared at Horses Hoe for a few seconds before realizing it was Horsehoe. DUH!

    Mitzie 7:41 AM  

    I actually kinda liked this. I had to come here and read the writeup and comments before realizing how much I was supposed to not like it.

    Everything filled in, finished in an appropriate time, had no issue with TIREIRON.

    Of course, if *I* were going to construct a puzzle with 8-letter theme answers running Across, I'd be sure to make the other Across entries 7 letters or less. But that's just me.

    Wish I could be at Puzzlaplakluuyza this weekend, but alas, I have a prior commitment. I don't see myself missing next year's. Have fun, dinguses.

    Anonymous 7:50 AM  

    So, how does DIRTY = SOIL, unless this is the ONLY clue that requires a bend on the grid to get the answer of SOILED?

    Anonymous 7:51 AM  

    Never mind, I see it works if they're both verbs. D'oh.

    Michael Collins 7:59 AM  

    Agree with Rex, exept MAILS IN is current, for describing a perfunctory performance, "she mailed it in."

    Glimmerglass 9:02 AM  

    Excellent Thursday puzzle. Really hard. Got the gimmick with J and Y, but had trouble with X. I used to have a TIRE IRON shaped like an X (more like +), but I bought it at a Western Auto store (it fit four different-sized lugs). The ones that come with cars are L's and fit that car's lugs. For a long time I had TImE IcON for X, which made sense. I didn't know DREA or MENORCA, but neither looked possible with TImE IcON. My last entry was ERASABLE, which is only incidentally true.

    Bob Kerfuffle 9:26 AM  

    Mostly not too difficult, though I had TWO proper-name write-overs: GECKO before GEKKO and TANYAS before TONYAS.

    Then ran into the SW and could no longer phone it in; took a while to sort out that corner!

    chefbea 9:29 AM  

    Got the theme at tire iron but was still too tough. DNF. wanted USPS for 50 across. Mails in is right above

    Went out to dinner last night and came home with 2 doggie bags, that's how I spell it.

    All in all, not a fun puzzle

    Z 9:31 AM  

    Reverse rebus, with the pictograms in the clue. Excellent.

    This was chewy in every corner for me, so definitely challenging in my book.

    Re"Mail" v "Phone" it's a virtual tie on Google Fight.

    And related to this - there is a three comment limit here for good reason, guys.

    I prefer the baseball explanation for SHORT but the football explanation seems equally valid to me.

    dk 9:33 AM  

    @Evan, Go to Sintra and stay at the Quinta das Murtas. Tell them you are on your honeymoon. You will love the history. Lord Byron thought it the most beautiful city in the World.

    Also while in Lisbon go to the Institute del Porto, plan for nothing after you have sampled the Port.

    I had to check my fill as I though: No way is SMUSHES in the grid, X cannot be a TIREIRON and ERASABLE… I DIED.

    Glad to see some loved the puzzle.

    🌟🌟 (2 Stars) What Rex said.

    dk 9:34 AM  

    As I thought

    Davidph 9:38 AM  

    Am I the only one who was naticked at MAA crossing MENORCA? Goats say MAA? I've heard of Majorca, but not Menorca.

    Susan McConnell 9:52 AM  

    I liked the theme, but agree with Rex and others on some of the weak fill. More than enough baseball stuff for my taste. And the SW took forever to come together.

    Horsey Guy 9:56 AM  

    A quick survey of the stable showed relatively few shoes shaped (even generously) like a U. Most were barshoes, shaped like an O. The rest were shaped like an omega.

    He must have been thinking of the game of HORSESHOEs.

    joho 9:59 AM  

    Like @'Drea Cleancut Mesons I enjoyed the visual theme. I also like the activity in many of the answers: SMASHES, PAWSAT, STEPON, DEFLATE, FIRING, HASHOUT and ASKOUT (Although those two OUTS right across from each other in exactly the same spot bothered me).

    YAH YUKS. I think YAH should've been clued as a slangy assent.

    HULAHOOP and VOODOO are fun.

    I took SHORT as a baseball clue but agree again with 'Drea that it could have been non-sports with either, "Comic actor Martin" or "Low on funds" or something like that.

    In the end I liked it because it's different and visual.

    Thanks, Daniel!

    Joe The Juggler 10:01 AM  

    This felt difficult to me. I think maybe it was about the right degree of difficulty for a Thursday. It's just a big jump from yesterday's easy puzzle, IMO.

    gifcan 10:07 AM  

    Ah, short next to third, I get it. So that puts it in the sports category with ALOU, ORIOLES and TONYA, maybe even HORSESHOEs. But the animals win the day with DOGGY, PAWS, FISH, HORSE, MAA, OINKS and perhaps a RIDABLE stallion.

    Always like the "a flat" clue.


    retired_chemist 10:09 AM  

    @'Drea Cleancut Mesons - but that doesn't change ethfqct thwt "saw" is not a definition for AXIOMS.

    Thesaurus.com 10:18 AM  

    Synonyms for saw


    Z 10:27 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Carola 10:30 AM  

    Gee you guys are SHARP who found it easy. Tough for me. My response to a visual clue = blank mind. Example: HORSES_ _ E. No idea. Needed the H from HITHER.

    Also made many mistakes: adages, I'm sorry, leaser, work out, calls in, khans, oil lamp. Did know where the tragus is, from daughter's flirtation with goth look and multiple piercings.

    Finished, but feel beaten with a TIRE IRON. Admire it in retrospect.

    Z 10:30 AM  

    I can't wait to see APOPHTHEGM in a puzzle.

    BTW - You SMaSHErs do realize it is SMUSHES, don't you?

    Anonymous 10:42 AM  

    Challenging but not fun.

    Anonymous 10:42 AM  

    Maa??? Bah! I don't think rotcs is a word.

    mccoll 10:45 AM  

    The "X" clue is a cross-handled wrench or a lug wrench. A tire iron A tire iron is a straight bar used to take tires off rims. Dandy as a biker equalizer. Fun puzzle. Once I got wishbone I was off to the races.

    Ray J 10:47 AM  

    EditABLE to writABLE to ERASABLE.

    TaNiA to TanYA to TONYA. Gotta remember how to spell that one of these days.

    HULA HOOP off the first H. First thought was recd. for the stamp thingy but already had the A.

    Looking to do some haggling after all the recent MSRPs, but haggle doesn’t fit, so HASH OUT it is.

    All in all pretty enjoyable for me. Seemed like a normal Thursday effort.

    @MetaRex mentions “cheaters”. A little help for this newbie? Please and thank-you.

    Steve J 10:50 AM  

    @retired_chemist: Don't think of "saw" literally, but metaphorically, as in the phrase "old saw", meaning an aphorism or, well, axiom (in the non-mathematical sense).

    Sandy K 10:59 AM  

    EnjoyABLE puzzle. The fact that all the theme answers were compound words made the solve more doABLE- eg, by eliminating a lot of other things that the O might have been.

    Interesting clues for AMERICA, DIVORCE, EULOGY, LOLA, TEMPEST.

    Liked the SMUSHES/STEP ON cross, not so much the 2 -ABLEs...There's LILT again.

    Hand up for Third neighbor giving me SHORT(stop).

    touch2touch 11:05 AM  

    Right on, especially for SW corner. Even finished it's unsatisfying ---

    Drawin with U's 11:06 AM  

    U U

    U U

    (Trigger was here.)

    (also M&A)

    Two Ponies 11:16 AM  

    DNF because of the impossible SW but I enjoyed the rest of it.
    Smushes? Really?

    Jeff 11:22 AM  

    MENORCA / MAA / ASSANTE really got my goat.

    Evan 11:27 AM  

    @Ray J:

    A "cheater" is a black square that doesn't add to the puzzle's word count but makes the grid easier to fill -- like if you put one in the corner, or on the perimeter next to another black square.


    Thanks, I'll look it up.

    Evan 11:34 AM  

    Oh, and for anyone who may have missed it, yesterday's constructor Erik Wennstrom chimed in late on his puzzle. Well worth reading about his process of building it.

    Horse with 5 Shoes 11:37 AM  

    U U

    U U

    U U

    U U

    (Two Ponies was here.)


    dk 12:00 PM  

    @Evan, Spent a fair amount of time in Portugal while living the euro trash life.

    Go here-


    Portugal at one time ruled the known world and Henry the Navigator was their guide.

    Other interesting sites are the cork forests… I am jealous.

    Ray J 12:03 PM  

    Thanks, @Evan. After I asked the question it dawned on me that I should look at Rex’s FAQs. Sure enough it’s in there.

    The Be Good TaNYAS

    retired_chemist 12:13 PM  

    Damn, it's hard (for me at least) to think of AXIOM any way but mathematical.

    Milford 12:23 PM  

    Fun theme, liked the visual aspect, but it was completely overshadowed by my inability to get the SW without finally googling. So DNF here.

    MAILED IN feels awkward, much prefer the phoned-in phrase here.

    I took third and SHORT as the football phrase, but agree that the baseball reference is probably the intended one.

    Hi-Yo Silver Away 12:29 PM  



    oo o . oo o . o oo .o

    (Start of the Tournament of Roses parade)

    thanx, Finan dude. fUn drawin with U, today.

    obertb 12:42 PM  

    The answer for the clue "X" is just plain wrong. (I haven't read the comments above, so maybe someone has already pointed this out.) A tire iron is used to remove a tire from the rim. The x-shaped thing is a 4-way wrench that is used to remove the lug nuts. Whoever clued this obviously has never changed a flat.

    DavidS 12:46 PM  

    Eh, DNF due to the SW. Didn't know and couldn't infer SEGO and SYN. Meh clueing in that whole area. I take issue particularly with "Trample" as a clue for STEPON. Unless it SMUSHES into the ground when you STEPON, it's not really trampled!

    John V 12:51 PM  

    What @Rex said. DNF. SE and SW were a wreck, esp SE with ask those proper names.

    Clue: I. Answer: Indifferent, it's what I'm saying.

    ahimsa-NYT 1:12 PM  

    Cute visual theme even though the X brings to mind other images than a TIRE IRON (as someone mentioned it's usually a lug wrench these days but still called the old name). I didn't mind that the items weren't connected by anything other than shape.

    My response to 36A clue ("Skater Harding and others") was "Whoa, I don't think there *are* any others like TONYA!" :-)

    I liked seeing PAWS AT right after DOGGY BAG. And SHORT right on top of BRIS. :-)

    OldCarFudd 1:28 PM  

    @mccoll and @obertb are correct. The x-shaped doohickey is a lug wrench. It has a different sized hex socket at each of the four ends. You put the one you need on the lug nut, and use the cross arms for leverage while you loosen or tighten the nut. A tire iron is a bar with a flattened end. You wiggle it between the wheel rim and the flattened tire to pry the tire off the rim so you can repair the inner tube. Used nowadays in miniature form for bicycles. I have bigger ones for my brass-era cars, which didn't carry inflated spares. If I get a flat I have to pry the tire off the rim and put in a new tube. It ain't fun!

    Anonymous 1:50 PM  

    AXIOM: From OED > ". . . an established or generally accepted principle . . ."

    AXIOMATIC: From OED > ". . . of the nature of a maxim; . . . aphoristic . . ."

    SAW: From OED > ". . . a pithy saying; a maxim; a proverb;

    I would take AXIOM to be stronger than SAW, but that they are are synonyms, in that there is considerable overlap of usage, is manifest.

    Anoa Bob 1:53 PM  

    When I was college age, the ROTC's at large universities had bigger budgets and lots more resources compared to the ROTC's at smaller schools.

    For me, the POC issue isn't about "Does the resulting plural of convenience make sense?" (they almost always do), it's more about "Hey, using the plural rather than singular was solely to alter the letter count to make it easier to fill the grid." It's a compromise, a short cut, and I think it diminishes the overall quality of a puzzle.

    The degree to which I think POC's diminish the puzzle's quality depends on how many appear in the puzzle and what kind they are. I tried to explain myself here


    and here

    POC Levels

    These are purely subjective, personal opinions of a word nerd and I'm neither surprised nor offended when others hold different ones.

    Bird 1:58 PM  

    Very similar experience as @Rex. Got the theme at FISHHOOK, but found the others to be much more difficult.

    In the paper the “O” at 37D is actually oval so I needed to think of oval objects as well (hey, I don’t know).
    Could not see RIDABLE (which is a rare word IMO) and BROKEN did not fit.
    Had I’M SORRY for the looongest time and RENTER before LESSEE so that corner was hard.
    Plural ROTCS?!?
    SHRUNK or SHRANK? Whatever.
    My goats say, “BAA”.
    SPEECH before EULOGY

    @Steve J – Hand up for doggie bag

    Re: TIRE IRON - I think lot's a people call it that (I know I do) so the clue fits.

    I too, wished for a Rebus puzzle

    Google Images 2:12 PM  

    TIRE IRON is okay by me.

    LaneB 2:50 PM  

    Really a hard Thursday for me, particularly the SW and thus the first DNF of the week. . Used SMaSHES and figured aSDA had to be right, however unknown to me. Likewise in the SE, where I used bAA for MAA leaving me with bENORCA. Couldn't find Benorca on any map and thought the locals had some peculiar name for whatever resort island they were living on. Hated a lot of the clues regardless of how clever and am still troubled by SYNfuel and SEGOlily, especially the latter.. Got all the shapes but failed to complete the damned thing nonetheless.. But comforting to see that so many had similar difficulty.

    jberg 3:03 PM  

    @OldCarFudd is probably the last person left actually using a real TIRE IRON- so others, liking the term, have decided to use if for lug wrenches. (The bicycle ones are so small they don't count).

    I did enjoy it, found it hard, but wanted to say bAA at that goat clue.

    DigitalDan 3:13 PM  

    Building on Sandy K's comment, the theme appears to be compound words of the form "noun as adjective" modifying a noun. I'm not sure this contributes much to the conversation.

    Lewis 3:48 PM  

    anon 5:17 -- great post!
    @mitzie -- loved your first paragraph

    So, I'm trying to think of objects that look like the letter X and am running into trouble. Can anyone help me out????

    ahimsa-NYT 4:02 PM  

    @Lewis, re: things shaped like X, how about "cross stitch"? (an easy form of embroidery) That's all I got.

    Bird 4:08 PM  

    @Lewis re: X-Shaped articles . . .

    Spikes that James Bond ejects from his Aston Martin to flatten the tires of the bad guys chasing him(though they are not flat Xes)

    Chinese throwing stars

    Cuts in the skin to suck the venom out of snake bites

    Philips head screwdriver

    That's all I got

    Questinia 4:26 PM  

    @ lewis re X: Kiss

    sanfranman59 5:22 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)

    Thu 20:27, 16:30, 1.27, 86%, Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Thu 11:42, 9:30, 1.41, 90%, Challenging

    chefbea 5:34 PM  

    @Lewis re:X marks the spot

    matty lite 5:47 PM  

    I haven't commented on here in literally years, but felt compelled as a pedantic music theory instructor to say G sharp is not, not, not, not the same as A flat. Very different in behavior, and even in pitch when played on instruments without keys or frets or when sung. Drives me nuts every time these clues happen! Crossword constuctors, you can get this right if you use the term "enharmonically equivalent" instead of "the same." Or, you know, just keep pissing off the .00001% of the population who cares....

    Joe The Juggler 6:23 PM  

    FWIW, scientific tests on ESP are anything but conclusive. It doesn't exist. Really.

    bigsteve46 6:42 PM  

    I just don't get Rex some time. Does he really want puzzles that he can brag about doing in 3 minutes every day? If its going to be challenging to him and even to us lesser mortals who generally do these things every day, its got to be tough and have a few curve balls. This one took me in the neighborhood of 45 minutes - not unusual for a toughie - but that's what i want in the end of week puzzles.

    My 2 cents, anyway.

    Melodious Funk 7:35 PM  

    @mattie lite.

    Music signature would never be G#. That notation would require EIGHT sharps! The clue is just a key or fret board equivalent. Seems clear to me, it's just trying to be a bit misleading.

    However the nit you pick is delightful. You get my vote.

    joho 8:37 PM  

    I see jacks XXXX and a tiny rubber ball.

    Sandy K 8:54 PM  

    X = A strike in bowling.

    NYer 8:59 PM  

    @Evan: in a recent New York magazine (the one with Gov. Chris Christie on the cover) there's an article on Lisbon with lots of places of interest.

    gifcan 9:30 PM  

    @bird said everything I wanted to say and said it better than I could have said it.

    Z 9:32 PM  

    Hmmm, Lug Wrenches seem to come in L-Shaped and X-Shaped variations.

    @matty lite - Okay - now you have to explain how "enharmonically equivalent" is not the same as "the same."

    sanfranman59 11:25 AM  

    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 6:50, 6:09, 1.11, 87%, Challenging
    Tue 7:23, 8:13, 0.90, 19%, Easy
    Wed 8:57, 9:43, 0.92, 32%, Easy-Medium
    Thu 20:27, 16:30, 1.27, 86%, Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 4:15, 3:47, 1.13, 89%, Challenging
    Tue 4:42, 4:57, 0.95, 30%, Easy-Medium
    Wed 5:24, 5:35, 0.97, 42%, Medium
    Thu 11:42, 9:30, 1.41, 90%, Challenging

    matty lite 11:32 AM  

    @Melodious Funk, thank you for your support! I will start a petition. I'm hoping to get at least six signatures.

    @Z, they just sound the same in isolation. In context they're doing something different. Think of it like how grammar purists get pissed when people say "good" instead of "well," even though if you look the words up they seem to mean the same thing. No, wait, actually it's more like a "your/you're" or "its/it's" kinda thing. They're homophones.

    Tita 5:10 PM  

    Best thing about this puzzle ws @Dukeoprunz' comment!

    This was wildly hard for me! Like a really hard Saturday.
    Cheated to see if the unlikely SORKoN could be a director, intending only to find out if it were right - alas, google also showed me the right answer.
    Had that not happened, I never ever would have finished it.

    I agree with Rex about the clueing - though not about the theme.
    Found the theme cute, but the clueing was obnoxious. (Not all clues I am not smart enough to get are obnoxious, btw...)

    @Z - reverse rebus - cool observation!

    @dk - good recommendations. I'll have to buy you a Sagres one of these days!
    There is a saying in Portugal - You plant vineyards for yourself, olives for you sons, and cork oaks for you grandsons. They are being very creative with cork as a renewable resource for many things, now that wine bottles and corks are going the way of the dinosaurs. I think Portugal produces something like 90% of the world's corks.

    101 comments today!

    @Evan - you're lucky I tripped over your comment while racing through here - I AM Portuguese, have been there tons.
    Would LOVE to give you more tips.
    email me - my email is on my blog, pretty sure.

    Instant Cappuccino 7:32 PM  

    Was traveling yesterday so only belated getting around to this puzzle. But SHAHS is an error, as the Mughal Emperors did not have that as a title. A handful of said emperors had it as a name, but 'Shah' as a title is a Persian/Iranian thing. The title of the Mughal Emperors was 'Mirza' which is a variant on Amirzade which is a modification of the Persian for 'Born of the ruler.' Will be sending a note to the NYT about that.


    Jasper 5:26 PM  

    Thank you to Instant Cappucino. I was annoyed with that shah answer, but couldn't quite get it straightened out in my head. This puzzlie was not fun. The items that resemble the letters are too random to make a theme unless "shapes" out of everywhere is a theme. I mean, they weren't all the same material or from the same area of a household, nor were they all hobies or games nor even from the same era. And a lot of fill felt like 8th grade! No more, please!

    spacecraft 10:34 AM  

    My solving experience was congruent with OFL's. This fellow has considerable potential for making endweek wide-open themelesses, but first the diamond (oh no! yet ANOTHER b-ball reference!) needs to be cut and polished.

    SMUSHES? [gag] That's not even a word. That "M" was a natick for me. Guessed right, but wow. MAILS IN, eh? Strange idiom, to me. I guess that's as opposed to "delivered in person." How was the recital? Meh; she mailed it in. It works, sort of. I suppose. Not MY cuppa.

    Rest of the puzzle: medium. The SW: fuhgeddaboudit!

    ecanarensis 3:33 PM  

    Glad to see I'm not alone; right over there with RP on "FISHHOOK," looking for other typical descriptors of letters...also with "TIRE IRON"?!?! Not for 100 lists of 100 things that look like 'Xs'. Also with RP for MAILS IN, though perhaps GAS LAMP could've been a hint to look to the past.

    Felt like it was a bad day for animals; been singing Old MacDonald half the morning & there are lots of "oink"s but no "oinks" in any version I'm familiar with.

    And for "tamed, as a stallion" to produce RIDABLE just seems wrong...tried to SMUSH in GELDED (too short) or CASTRATED, (too long ) or NEUTERED (long & just wrong for equines), & other horse-related words.
    Wanted USPS for letters on stamps for way too long.
    Hated the SW overall.

    For me it was a quicker Thursday than most, but hated it anyway.

    Ginger 3:42 PM  

    Like almost everyone I struggled in the SW, Had USps, pho?SIN and callSIN, but HULAHOOP (eventually) cleared it up. However, I conFESS my goat says bAA, he also says e i e i o, so OINKS was really hidden. In fact, imSORRY to say my entire east coast looks like a Rorhschach test.

    The clue for DIVORCE is genius. I like the visual aspect, and tho I DNF, I did enjoy the puzzle.

    @matty lite and @Melodious Funk, many years ago a string group I was in did an experiment with G-sharp and A-flat by tuning violin strings to the notes.....we found that G-sharp is slightly *higher* than A-flat. You're right about the .00001% that might care :-)

    Waxy in Montreal 3:56 PM  

    Funnily enough I found this one far easier than yesterday's struggle. A few writeovers (IMSORRY, TANYAS, KHANS, USPS) but all were quickly resolved from their crosses. Not a big fan of SMUSHES, BBOY or MAA. Thought the theme answers were all closely-related to their clues providing some fun aha moments. Few YUKS though.

    Dirigonzo 3:58 PM  

    I felt positively euphoric when I finally sorted out the SW corner to finish the grid, only to come here and be totally deflated to learn I finished with the bAA/MAA error.

    @ecanarensis - since "oink" is repeated several times I think we can accurately say that each of those OINKS is a part of the verse, so the clue works for me. (I take note of the fact that no where in the song does it make any mention of "a MAA, MAA here, a MAA, MAA there...", though.)

    Solving in Seattle 4:12 PM  

    Tough Thursday. Took me Letterman and the Bridge to finish.

    Like @Ginger, con before PRO. im before SOSORRY.

    I had a devil of a time parsing HITHER.

    The Seattle Times "j" looked like "|" so I didn't get the theme until WISHBONE."

    Did anyone mention the SOILED rebus soing around the corner? Odd to have just that one instance.

    capcha: direspin. What a Dervish is in?

    Go Hawks!

    Anonymous 4:15 PM  

    X= 4way lug wrench.not tire iron.

    Solving in Seattle 4:16 PM  

    BTW, my stamp letters were aSDA. SMUSHES? Really?

    Capcha: fringlog. any suggestions on this one?

    Dirigonzo 4:48 PM  

    @SiS - While it does look like a rebus if you regard dirty and SOILed as adjectives, it works on its own if you view them as verbs (I don't mean to make you SOIL your britches, though).

    Solving in Seattle 4:54 PM  

    @Diri, thanks. My elevator isn't reaching the toolshed today.

    Pierre 6:21 PM  

    Must agree with the Rex. Not an intelligent puzzle
    Lucky in Vancouver

    Dirigonzo 7:17 PM  

    @SiS - you're welcome. I have lots of days like that.

    @Pierre - If you've posted here before I missed it, so welcome to SYNdication-land (which would have been a much better clue for 61d).

    TAM 7:59 PM  

    A challenging, solvable puzzle that required some endurance. It was rewarding to complete it without help.

    Anonymous 8:40 PM  

    Older folks, like me, know a tire iron as a heavy metal object shaped like a spatula used to remove a tire from a rim. The "x" tool used for removing the lug nuts is what we called a "star wrench"

    ecanarensis 4:06 PM  

    @Dirigonzo, I see you're correct (grumble, grumble), but I still like to insist on actual quotes from the song; each oink in it is singular. No good reason, other than a week of Mondays! --the bad kind, not the NYT crossword kind :-P

    re: "MAA." Goats' MAAs & sheeps' BAAs are too close, maybe; don't want to confuse the little tykes.

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