Jazz's Blake / TUE 9-24-13 / What gyroscope may provide / Dodge models until 1990 / Locale of 1864 Civil War blockade / Free-fall effect, briefly / Fifth-century pope with epithet Great / Late thumb-turning critic

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Constructor: Kevin Christian

Relative difficulty: Challenging (for a Tuesday)

THEME: "E.T." — several clues relate to the [circled letters], i.e. "E.T."

Theme answers:
  • 13A: With 59-Across, where [circled letters] came from (OUTER / SPACE)
  • 14D: With 41-Down, composition of a trail followed by [circled letters] (REESE'S / PIECES)
  • 23D: Best Original ___ (award for the film with [circled letters]) (SCORE)
  • 35D: Costume for [circled letters] (GHOST)
  • 20A: Child actress who appeared with [circled letters] (DREW BARRYMORE)
  • 25A: Creator of [circled letters] (SPIELBERG)
  • 45A: What [circled letters] wanted to do (PHONE HOME)
  • 49A: Means of escape for [circled letters] (FLYING BICYCLE)

Word of the Day: MOBILE BAY (33D: Locale of an 1864 Civil War blockade) —
Mobile Bay is an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico, lying within the state of Alabama in theUnited States. Its mouth is formed by the Fort Morgan Peninsula on the eastern side and Dauphin Island, a barrier island on the western side. The Mobile River and Tensaw River empty into the northern end of the bay, making it an estuary. Several smaller rivers also empty into the bay: Dog River, Deer River, and Fowl River on the western side of the bay, and Fish River on the eastern side. Mobile Bay is the fourth largest estuary in the United States with a discharge of 62,000 cubic feet (1,800 m3) of water per second. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well, there's a lot of theme material, I'll give the puzzle that. It's all pretty iconic stuff, so that's nice. But it's just trivia. I don't really understand this. Or, I would have understood it, had it come out a year ago in June, on the 30th anniversary of the film's release date. Here, it's just "a bunch of stuff related to a 31-year-old movie." I guess I enjoy remembering the film, but as a puzzle, this didn't really work for me, largely because OMG the fill was (in many places) terrible. Please just stare at the NE corner for ... well, as long as your eyes will allow. Acrosses, uniformly terrible. And isn't it "The Missus"? THE MRS just looks strange. Then there's the AGIO/TOGAE/AGIRL/STAD nexus. Yikes. I've never heard of MOBILE BAY. In my haste, I wrote in MANILA BAY, which, sadly for me, shares many, many letters. Circled letters are particularly useless today since there are just two. I actually couldn't even see one of them when I scanned the grid for them. Harder to pick up when there are so few. ATE DINNER feels about as natural as DID LAUNDRY. Again, this is all very predictable—theme density goes up, fill cruddiness goes up. Generally. EER/EYER! STLEO! Gah. I FELL? Arbitrary. Odd. The clue on LUPE was Laughable. What the hell? (51D: "Little Latin ___ Lu" (1966 hit)).

[I spent soooo much time listening to "oldies" in high school and yet can safely say I've Never Heard This Song. Ever]

Lastly, this is hilariously un-Tuesday in its theme and difficulty level. My time was more like a Wednesday, and not a fast Wednesday either. CALL for YELL. DINGDONG for DOORBELL. COMET for COMER. EAR DOCTOR? What am I, eight? Thumbs up for the movie (shout-out to EBERT), but thumbs kinda ... sideways for this puzzle. Fill is just too rough and weird.

Best wrong answer of the day—wanted SPLAT! for 10D: Free-fall effect, briefly (ZERO G).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:06 AM  

By my pseudoimpartial ruling, the fill is no worst than yesterday, Yet this puzzle has over 20 extra squares of thematic material.

One of the few puzzles of the last 3 years from the NYT that I've been able to say that the 20 or so clunker entries were justified.

Great job, team NYT

Steve J 12:08 AM  

Certainly the most theme-dense puzzle I can ever remember seeing. Somehow, I never saw the movie, but I knew the various references, but it did feel a bit more like trivia than a word puzzle.

Definitely some rough fill, but I didn't notice the density of it as I was doing it.

Finished in average Tuesday time, even with my having pOTH at one point (figured that since a scratch golfer is one who consistently shoots par, that was what 38A was meant to be).

Now I'm hungry for Reese's Pieces.

PK 12:20 AM  

Shah Stad Tzus beats Pax Tits all to hell.

Evan 12:29 AM  

I haven't seen ET in I don't know how long, so this played on my tough side. I'm not really a fan of breaking up theme clues and cross-referencing them, but at least here it's done to pack more theme material into the grid. My guess is that if you're going to do a trivia-laden theme, it's gotta have a lot -- at least if there's no inherent reason why there has to be a specific number of answers (i.e. if I did a Seinfeld theme, it'd make sense to just have four theme answers with JERRY, GEORGE, ELAINE, and KRAMER in them). If I counted right, this one's got 72 squares holding the theme together.

I was convinced that THE MRS. was wrong. I couldn't even parse it for a while -- THEM R'S??? But after checking the crossings, I just left it alone and understood how it was correct later. Also in the "I'm convinced that must be wrong" department: AGIO. I know that word has stymied me before. I know it will stymie me again.

I'm looking forward to seeing anyone who may be coming to the Westchester Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Pleasantville, NY this Friday evening!

mathguy 12:31 AM  

Nineteen gimmes made it pretty easy overall, but had a little trouble in the middle of the right side because I didn't know about the blockade of Mobile Bay. Also didn't know that Elvis sold out Madison Square Garden and forgot that the kids dressed ET in a ghost costume.

Questinia 12:42 AM  

" ⠢⠞ ⠏⠓⠕⠝⠢ ⠓⠕⠍⠢ "

NGeorgak 12:42 AM  

And how's AGIO related to exchange fees?

rlt nyt 12:46 AM  

Remarkably, I finished with a personal best time for a Tuesday. To cap that with Rex listing it as challenging just made my day. Maybe I'm just in the right demographic for the theme... Maybe all this daily practice with the NYT crossword is just paying off...

JFC 12:58 AM  

Rex, shame on you. That was a mean scream. It's a cute puzzle and TZUS should admit it.

Chefwen, the season is early but I have to tell you that Da Bears have one thing this year that the Pack cannot defend against. They have the luckiest coach I have ever seen. He makes so many mistakes during the game that he gets away with that I'm beginning to believe he is the second coming of George Halas....


John Child 1:37 AM  

Faster than yesterday here. I like STABILITY crossing I FELL.

chefwen 2:08 AM  

It has never taken me so long to figure out a theme with as much fill as I had. The M was in place at 38A and I slapped in Mary "as in Mary had a little lamb" was wondering what DREW BARRYMORE had to do with ER. Took me waaay toooo long to figure out MOTH. DOH! Once I figured out the error of my ways, it fell quickly. I have never seen the film, but the references were familiar.

@JFC - I am amazed that you haven't come up with a wager. I figured after Sundays debacle you would have come up with something, or did last years shipping costs scare you away?

Anonymous 2:26 AM  

I liked it just fine. The time was a bit above average, but I didn't have any problems with it. It went down plenty quick.

Caught the theme quickly and thought, "There better be REESES PIECES in here."

Without a title, it does need a revealer of some sort.

Classic movie, but as a theme it does skew to an old demographic.

jae 2:44 AM  

Medium-tough time for me, but that was probably because of all the "see the circles" clues.  Was irritated while doing it (see previous sentence), but it kinda grew on me.  

Me too for COMEt.

Classic film with a truly adorable DREW BARRYMORE.  Actually she's still adorable.  If you haven't seen 50 First Dates it's worth a look.  One of Adam Sandler's non-cringy films plus  Israel Kamakawiwoʻole "Over the Rainbow" finale.

So, cute film (I mean Neil Diamond wrote a song about it) spills over into @JFC cute puzzle.  An OK Tues.

@Questina - I'm now re-googling the Braille alphabet. 

Anonymous 2:51 AM  

I agree with Rex - very clunky and hard for a Tuesday. I never made an error, but I guessed at the M in Mobile Bay - and who refers to The Garden as MSG?

Mark 2:54 AM  

Funny. Rex always leaves me in the dust. Almost always. Once I realized that the perfectly fitting Shirley Temple was not called for, this was one of the easiest Tuesdays ever. And I didn't listen to lots of popular music; nevertheless L. L. Lupe L. hums easily in my ear immediately. Didn't even need to know most of the more obscure items because the super-easy theme words flew past the moon charmingly with all the heavy lifting.

Mark 2:58 AM  

@questinia Your comment is the best one, and I learned enough Braille yesterday to read it, or more exactly, the letter e was easy to remember.

gifcan 4:29 AM  

Fast Tuesday for me, thanks KC.

We just had THE THREE RS and there they are again, THEM RS.

And the strides women have made, A GIRL EAR DOCTOR, no less!

My only tripping point was the SE where seER slowed me down before EYER rescued me.

Comfortable puzzle, Mr. Christian, nicely done.

Z 7:05 AM  

Exact same time as yesterday. And look, there's an E and a T in the puzzle.


Or maybe it's just because the Tiger bullpen played like a bunch of sewer tits last night.

Glimmerglass 7:10 AM  

Okay puzzle. Clunker review, Rex. I thought it was easy, even for a Tuesday. The theme was perfectly okay and admirably dense. The fill was all acceptable xwordese, if uninspired. The NE corner went in smooth as silk -- all familiar stuff. Loved the movie, and most of the theme answers were gimmes.

Anonymous 7:20 AM  

The blockade of Mobile Bay is pretty damn important, particularly for people interested in famous quotes about torpedoes.

jberg 7:28 AM  

So Sunday Martha and I did the 30 mile loop of Hub on Wheels (bicycle wheels, that is) and at one point found ourselves pedaling by the statue of Admiral Farragut in South Boston; perhaps that was why I found MOBILE BAY so easy. We did study it in high school, some 55 years ago.

Anyway, this was really easy for me, helped by getting the theme early. With only two letters, it was either going to to be something phonic (circled letters at the bat, etc.) or it was going to be E.T., and just a few of the theme answers tipped off the latter. I had COMEt, saucers before BICYCLE, and, weirdly, Eskel (??!) before EBERT, but none of them lasted long.

And thanks to @mathguy for explaining MSG. I was seriously trying to figure out some pun that would make monosodium glutamate the site of four concerts.

Off to vote...

John V 7:32 AM  

Apart from having no recollection of Reese's Pieces and the movie (I mostly don't remember movies, any way) this was fine, a nice change of pace for a Tuesday.

I vote okay on the fill in trade for the theme density and the freshness. Good work, Kevin!

dk 7:44 AM  

Sailed through the puzzle as ET and related sayings were the butt of many jokes in the younger than today dk household. Discretion being the better part of valor prevents me revealing many of the little pranks.... except when we had a trail of REESES PIECES leading to the potty and bits of ET halloween apparel scattered about... we then told my sister (who adored ET and whose room was an living memorial to same) that we had sent ET to the only home he would every know. She retaliated with random insertions of her ET dolls into our beds -- resulting in late night WTFs. We put the fun in dysfunctional.

🌟🌟🌟 (3 Stars) Other worldly and fun. @Questina, get a life :):).

Anonymous 7:56 AM  

Starting out, mistakenly thought the two letters referred to "OZ", and put SHIRLEYTEMPLE for "child actress" and HOTAIRBALLOON for "means of escape". DOH!
Fortunately, with Reeses Pieces I saw the errors of my ways.

loren muse smith 8:15 AM  

I zeroed in on the two circles, sussed out DREW BARRYMORE, and was off and running. You can't do a puzzle like this without the title,right? So I guess two circles was the only way to go? EXTRA TERRESTRIAL just wouldn't have flown, and it's a 16 anyway.

@John Child – nice catch on the STABILITY/I FELL cross.

@gifcan – I had the same thought. "There's THEM R'S agin." And right next to it is some caveman's fist name, ZEROG.

STAD – HUH. I briefly poked around google and decided that it's mainly a Scandinavian suffix? I'm uptalking here? Because I'm not sure? I saw it among Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland (ah, but is Finland Scandinavian. . .?) German and Austrian towns seem to insist on STADt. Switzerland had one –"-stätten." So my question is is STAD related to -stan of, say, Tajikistan? This sort of etymology linguistics always confused me for some reason and I barely scraped by in this subject, but after a brief glance, it seems they are related, as is the English -stead. There. Now I can move on.

"They're 'hung out' by pros. . ." Uh, well, SEWER. . never mind. We should all just let that one go.

Someone sent me this youtube clip of the audition by the actor who played Elliot in ET. At the end you can hear SPIELBERG say, "Ok, kid. You got the part." It's a remarkable performance.


Kevin – lots of themers to remind me of one of my all-time favorites movies!

loren muse smith 8:16 AM  

I can't get the word to turn blue. Stay tuned - I'll email my link fairy. . .

Susan McConnell 8:28 AM  

I'm trying to imagine a crossword theme in which I would appreciate seeing just two circled boxes. I can't come up with one.

retired_chemist 8:35 AM  

While I agree with Rex's criticisms, the problems didn't bother me. I had a good time solving.

⠢⠞ ⠏⠓⠕⠝⠢ ⠓⠕⠍⠢ - best online translator I found gave me "ent phonen homen," which gives @Questinia's intent away.

Hand up for pAR @ 38D - easily fixed.

Thanks, Mr. Christian.

Questinia 8:38 AM  

@lms, re STAD, good catch! When solving I felt the answer mildly irritate a brain nubbin of mine but I unconsciously whisked it away as I would an Appalachian black fly (which I have grown so used to that they seem to simply represent just any annoying part of my consciousness).

joho 8:39 AM  

It's impossible for me not to love a puzzle based on the movie "E.T.," one of my all time favorites.

@Rex's criticism is well taken, but I think the theme density trumps the iffy fill.

Nice to learn what MSG means here as I like @jberg wondered what a food additive had to with Elvis' concerts.

Nostalgic! Thanks, Kevin!

Mohair Sam 8:41 AM  

For us, one of the easiest Tuesdays ever. Must have hit our sweet spot just as neatly as it missed Rex's.

Four gimmes in the first twelve downs gave us DREWBARRYMORE quickly and hence the theme clues filled in a sec, MOBILEBAY is a gimme here, hence the puzzle was essentially finished. I appreciate Rex's grumps about the fill especially (THEMRS), but it went so quickly I didn't notice until I read the blog.

Really liked crossing of EBERT on two of the theme answers. If memory serves Roger was a big fan of the movie.

btw - It took me several years to get the annoying jingle "LUPE Lu" out of my head. Its inclusion in this puzzle has brought back the horror. Rex should have thought twice before linking the song here, the uninitiated should eschew clicking the link.

Questinia 8:41 AM  

@ retired chemist. You must have used the translator for Scandinavian EAR DOCTORS.

retired_chemist 8:59 AM  

@Questinia - I used this one.

Lucky Guy 9:09 AM  

The GOO GOO Dolls are an awesome band, who write beautiful songs that help get your lady in the mood.

Jus sayin'

Joe The Juggler 9:09 AM  

I thought it was a cute theme, and while it may have been tough for a Tuesday, I thought it was easier than yesterday's puzzle.

loren muse smith 9:19 AM  

@Mohair Sam – I'm not familiar with LUPE Lu, but I have an even worse earworm. I immediately started humming
Looby Loo

@Questinia – I feel your pain on the black fly thing! My computer won't let me see braille – just a lot of lines.

Here is the link I was trying to do:

Anonymous 9:28 AM  

Am I the only one who thought "I FELL" was a little creepy? That's the answer an abuse victim stereotypically gives to the question "How'd you hurt yourself?"

chefbea 9:32 AM  

I agree..tough for a Tuesday. Thought Eubie Blake would be WOD. I knew him right away.

Think I have to make some reeses brownies. Yummm

Lewis 9:36 AM  

Definitely quicker and easier than yesterday for me too. If there weren't so much grid gruel, I would have suggested switching today's and yesterday's. At 13A, my brain caught on that it was ET and OUTER SPACE, and the puzzle fell fast.

I did like the symmetry of theme answers.

If I didn't know all the crosswordese, this would have been tough. But familiarity with crosswordese still doesn't make it my friend.

palomarPuzzler 9:41 AM  

Easiest Tuesday in a while for me, perhaps it's an age thing. Only a couple go-backs on the iPad, but nothing that really stumped. However, can somebody please explain 18A, currency exchange fees? Never heard of AGIO.


Anonymous 9:44 AM  

Am late for work so no time to translate Questina's braille but want to take a guess that it reads "sewer tits."

mac 9:59 AM  

Good to revisit that cute fill. Nice, dense theme but a couple of problems with the fill.

The Netherlands is not part of Scandinavia, but we also use the word "star". I contemplated "burg", also used in multiple languages. Considered Tito at 1A but crosses took care of that.

My word of the day was "Eubie". With the unknown Lupe and vaguely remembered Mobile Bay that was the hardest corner for me.

mac 10:00 AM  

Darn autocorrect! Film. Stad.

Bill C 10:38 AM  

I love this comment board. It's the only place where a 47-year-old song that I've never heard in my 38 years can be referred to as "popular music".

R. Duke 11:08 AM  

Best version of 'Little Latin Lupe Lu' probably done by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. Springsteen also liked to do this live back in the 70s.

Axl 11:08 AM  

The NE is dreadful. With Barrymore and Spielberg in place, there are still tons of preferable alternatives. Kind of shocked that Shortz allowed that NE.

Questinia 11:11 AM  

@lms, I've learned that black flies hate smoke so I usually have a little "campfire" burning somewhere. Gets rid of windfall branches and that scourge of the Appalachians. Bonus: I can start a fire like nobody's business ( white birch bark makes excellent tinder). Short of that, wide brimmed hats.

Masked and AnonymoUUUs 11:55 AM  

. . ... ..
. . . . . .
... ... ..
. . . . . .
. . . . . . !


Ray J 12:03 PM  

Roger EBERT on ET: “This movie made my heart glad. It is filled with innocence, hope, and good cheer. It is also wickedly funny and exciting as hell.”

It was a real blockbuSTER that I would like to resee someday.

I enjoyed the puzzle and flew right through it.

Doug 12:06 PM  

Free-fall effect, briefly is dead wrong, as Rex points out. Free fall is falling, in an atmosphere. Zero-G is a form of weightlessness. They are two entirely different things. Skydivers free fall. You cannot free fall in Zero G, even at the edge of space. There is gravity there, everyone. Watch it Will!, will ya?

englishteacher59 12:08 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Questinia 12:13 PM  

@ Mike&Alpha

Admiral Farragut 12:18 PM  

Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

Evan 12:43 PM  


I've learned never to judge others by what I think is easy or hard. One person's gimme is another person's mystery. The clues you listed might be relatively easy, but there are plenty of others you didn't list which might be tougher. It's not like anyone outside of Dr. Fill reads all of the clues at the exact same time -- sometimes you don't see an easy one because you were busy trying to figure out a tougher one close by. And for what it's worth, [Deposed leader of 1979] could be either SHAH or AMIN.

Of all comment types on this blog, the one that really grates on me is the "How could you not know that?" type. The one that might beat it is "How could you not get that immediately?"

LaneB 1:18 PM  

Two relatively " challenging" ones in a row successfully completed-- having only to google for EUBIE ( which revealed LUPE and turned seer into EYER and confirmed MOBILEBAY) . Stuff I hadn't' heard of : AGIO, and COMER ( tho I get it now.). This one played more like a Thursday or Friday.

M and A's nExT MSG 1:22 PM  

Uniform Bravo.
over & out.

Mike & Alfa

Bird 1:51 PM  

I like this puzzle more than Rex, but I do not love this puzzle. The theme is great and dense, but the fill is cringy in spots.
AMIN before SHAH and MOSS before REED (shouldn’t that be plural?)
Really wanted DELTA for 49D.

palomarPuzzler 1:59 PM  

OK stop looking for the derivation of "AGIO" (if anyone was). Crosswordese I guess, as Wikipedia reports it as "Agio (Italian agio) is a term used in commerce for exchange rate, discount or premium." Beats me, I read the business section daily of several papers including the NYT and don't ever recall seeing the term used. Learned a new word that I'll never use.

MetaRex 3:23 PM  

78 thematic letters (counting the circled E and T)- 74 words = +4.

Is that some kind of record?!

And the theme is symmetrical and tight. Yep, it's a wow.

Yippy nippy SHIH-TZUS to the haters :)

Anonymous 3:34 PM  

Never of 'Mobile Bay'? Am I to divine then that you've never heard the Drive-By Truckers' masterful 'Decoration Day'?

"I’ve got a family in Mobile Bay
and they’ve never seen my Daddy’s grave.
But that don’t bother me, it ain’t marked anyway"

It's probably more correct to call it a Jason Isbell song, now a solo artist with a much ballyhooed recent release. But he's yet to match the genius he showed with the Truckers, IMHO.

Also of the camp that the ET theme lacked a raison d'être

Anonymous 3:38 PM  

i can't be the only one who found this to absurdly easy. I don't time myself but I usually do the puzzle on my walk to the train (about a ten minute walk) and i was finished before i got half-way there (or about five minutes in). i had no hitches and found the theme answer very quickly (and all the cross-referenced ones shortly thereafter). i liked the theme - it was fun - but am surprised that this was considered "challenging for a tuesday." i hardly think this would be challenging for a monday. perhaps challenging for an AM New York, but not for a NYT. i had some issues with yesterdays puzzle. this was a cinch.

Mathwhiz 3:43 PM  

Let's see . . .

half of ten minutes = five minutes?

Yep, I think so.

Carola 4:19 PM  

A very nice tribute puzzle. I was amazed at how many theme answers there were. Once I had the theme, at DREW BARRYMORE, it went quickly...until I got to the SE.

I didn't know LUPE or MOBILE BAY, and surprisingly - having been raised in a Wisconsin farm town - I needed all kinds of crosses to get DAIRIES. I'm used to "dairy farms," with DAIRIES referring to retail outfits in town where you could buy milk, etc., and get ice-cream cones.

sanfranman59 4:34 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)

Tue 8:22, 8:12, 1.02, 59%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Tue 5:40, 5:09, 1.10, 74%, Medium-Challenging

Given that it wasn't possible to solve today's puzzle online until this morning, I'm not sure how much faith to have in today's stats. Since I don't see a number of the usual suspects at the top of the "Scorecard", I'm guessing that at least some of the fastest solvers won't post times today, so the Top 100 rating may be somewhat inflated. My own solve time falls in the low end of my Tuesday Medium range. I'm hoping that the irregularities on the nytimes.com crossword page since last Friday (no solve times posted, puzzles not available to be solved online) have to do with the Sunday contest.

chefwen 4:56 PM  

@Carola - You will love todays LA Times puzzle.

C J from Green Bay 5:10 PM  

I believe I have finally decoded the Questinia and M&A messages. I feel like I should have a calendar coming.


loren muse smith 5:21 PM  

@Questinia – boy howdy don't you know it about birch bark being great tinder. For my 40th birthday, I did an Outward Bound Winter Camping and Dogsledding. (Northern Minnesota in February). Part of an Outward Bound program is a solo, so one of the nights, all nine of us (idiots) had to head off by ourselves and set up a campsite, gather wood, start a fire, cook, and then sleep. In addition to the hatchet, saw, pan, about 10 matches, tarp, and sleeping bags, we were each given a whistle to use in case of emergency. But, we were admonished, not being able to get a fire started did *not* count as an emergency. I bet I gathered four times as much birch bark as I actually needed because I was bound and determined to start my fire, melt my snow, and cook my stew of Ramen, bratwurst and stick of butter. I've eaten at Le Bernardin and Per Se in New York, but, sorry MESSRS Ripert and Keller – that was the most delicious meal I have ever had.

englishteacher59 5:27 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Evan 5:39 PM  


He assesses the difficulty of the puzzle relative to that day of the week. Subjective, perhaps, but that's not nearly the same thing as writing, "You're an idiot if you didn't get X-Across, Y-Down, etc. immediately."

Everyone's got their different levels of what's easy vs. hard. My Easy on a Saturday NYT is 15-20 minutes. If Rex did it in that time, that might make it Challenging.

Carola 6:19 PM  

@chefwen - Thank you! Yes, I did :)

gifcan 6:52 PM  

@anon 3:38 - There's no way I could walk and do a crossword puzzle at the same time. I have a hard enough time sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee without stumbling to a DNF.

Babs 6:54 PM  

This is a test - my first time posting - please be gentle

chefbea 8:24 PM  

@Babs welcome!!! I sometime go by that name as well

sanfranman59 10:58 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 no data
Tue 8:22, 8:12, 1.02, 59%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon no data
Tue 5:29, 5:09, 1.06, 66%, Medium-Challenging

Anonymous 11:23 PM  

The grumpy scold thing is getting a little old Rex. C'mon, it's a _Tuesday_ fer garsh sakes.

Z 11:37 PM  

"Grumpy?" Please identify anything in the post that could be considered, "grumpy." Or are you saying TZUS/HESA/ERST is quality and calling them "terrible" is a sign of grumpiness?

@Sanfranman59 - Maybe the website got an "upgrade" or something.

And finally, M&A and Questina, get a room already.

Roomer Has It 12:23 AM  

Been out at the movies, today. Wha sup?

Day-um, @Z... All I said in my secret message was "HAR!" (In tall, skinny letters, if U connect the dots.) I know that can come across as pretty suave and sophisticated, but... sheesh.

Hey! What was the puz today?
Oh, yeah... et. And cetera.
Well, I figured out the theme off the U in OUTER. (The U's are my friend. They speak to me. Like I done said earlier: Uniform. Bravo.) So, pretty smooth sailin, really. Impressive themer tonnage, tho.

STER! My old best amigo! Wahoo. Long time no resee! (Howdo, @Ray J). Can't fix the STER corner this time. Went plumb Ster-crazy tryin, tho.

@4-Oh: U do good work, my son. Cannot believe how much you put into this here blog. My hat's truly off to yah. And no, you can't have my puz calendar prize.


Marc 2:54 PM  

For some reason, when I looked down at the clues the first clue I saw was 49A "What [circled letters] wanted to do". I saw two circled letters and without a second's hesitation filled in ET and PHONE HOME. Then proceeded to answer every theme clue except for OUTER SPACE because I thought they wanted his home planet and couldn't remember that. Only then did I start reading any of the non-theme clues and doing the actual crossword.

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

I wonder if anyone thinks the NE would play better as TEAK, HTML, and ERIE across and THEMRS, ETROG, AMIR and KLEE down.

You could also go TMAC (tracy mcgrady's nickname), HALE, and EGAD across yielding THEMRS, MAGOG, ALAR and CEDE down.

Either of these I think is superior, eliminating the execrable TZUS and HESA.

spacecraft 12:01 PM  

Color me impressed. 72 squares is indeed dense, and it all works nicely--even to having four of the six letters in REESES and PIECES crossing theme entries. (Actually, if you want to stretch a point, ET came while the family ATEDINNER.)

Yeah, the NE looks rough; the effect is that of the constructor fearing rejection because of ZERO scrabble-count, so he stuck a Z in there. But beside that, I disagree with OFL that the fill is so terrible. At least--even though we have a pope!--we don't have an I standing for the numeral 1. No Wheel-of-Fortune "purchases." I'm with the late, great Roger, for the puzzle as well as the movie: two thumbs way up.

OFL, you fooled me. I was 100% sure your WOD would be the great EUBIE Blake. Oh well.

Dirigonzo 2:58 PM  

Rex mentioned it but nobody else did, so I'll say this - I refuse to believe that there is anybody who did not immediately write in "Dingdong" in response to the clue "Avon commercial sound". DOORBELL, indeed - bah! That and Shih TsUS were my only write-overs. So is an AGIO a FEE, I wonder?

DMG 3:17 PM  

Surprised to learn that I'm not the only one who hasn't seen ET! But the references in this puzzle have become so universal that they were no problem, My one double take came from saying HeH instead of HUH, so 13A briefly read OeTE_. Fixed easily enough when I caught the ET thing. For those puzzled by AGIO, it's a hold over from Maleska days-the kind of thing one just files away until needed again.I just worked an old puzzle and was simply amazed at how many obscure words were used. On the other hand, a good crossword dictionary could usually help out. Have no idea where one references unknown songs and rapper names.

Captcha: Crredur. Where the French borrow money?

Solving in Seattle 5:35 PM  

I've been watching Letterman for years and he's had DREWBARRYMORE on his show a LOT. My favorite time was when she stood on his desk and flashed her small songbirds at him. Liked AGIRL crossing her.

Speaking of syndie synchronicity, EARDOCTOR today and my capcha yesterday was "otocrat." Top that!

HeH before HUH and burg before STAD.

And we had a GHOST show up just two days before Halloween, with REESES PIECES, no less.

Do you suppose that the SHAH had pet Shih TZUS? I bet the tzars did.

Can anyone explain Elvis singing at MonoSodium Glutamate?

Fun puz, Kevin. Funner blog about it.

@Ginger. It was a close one. Whew.

rain forest 6:22 PM  

@SIS The 'Hawks did not impress last night, but glad they won. They have no offense, and Tate looked absolutely stupid on that TD run.

Oh, the puzzle. Really liked it, and unlike on a previous one, I had no problems with the fill. I thought this was quite a worthy effort. What's wrong with a little trivia?

capcha-esofts. On-line toilet paper.

Anonymous 6:24 PM  

Serious question, has anyone ever read this column where he actually enjoys doing a puzzle or is approving of one? Or is he like the hipster of crosswords where you know he gets all excited every morning to do them every day but can't ever admit that one is good? I'm confused and curious.

Solving in Seattle 6:35 PM  

@Rainy, Tate did look goofy after that super catch, but to his credit he was contrite afterward. You won't see him repeat that kind of behavior. The Hawks need their two first string tackles to heal.

BTW, remind me not to use the bathroom at your house.

capcha: ububshop. Where the college coed goes for enhancement?

Dirigonzo 6:56 PM  

@anony 6:24pm - Even when Rex really likes a puzzle I think he feels obligated to point out its flaws (as he perceives them). Sometimes I think his quest for perfection gets in the way of seeing excellence, but that's just my opinion. It's his blog and he's certainly entitled to express his point of view, and commenters sometimes take exception - that's why I love this place so much. Why don't you adopt an identity and join in the conversation, then you can agree or disagree all you want - it's what we do here.

Ginger 7:34 PM  

I've only seen parts of the movie, (when kids were watching) and do not remember REESES PIECES, but this one was right in my wheelhouse. No writeovers, even MOBILE BAY went right in.

@Anon 6:24 OFL will wax poetic over P. B. or Gorski. And, yes, he is a curmudgeon, but that's what keeps most of us coming back.

@SIS @Rainy 23-D is something the Hawks seemed totally unable to do. They did not deserve to win, yet they somehow pulled it out. Tate got an earful from Pete as he left the field. Hope it will be a 'learning experience', for Tate and the team too.

Meant to mention yesterday the old song, Barney Google, with the Goo Goo Googly eyes.....

captcha: ritti plural sewer tits

Dirigonzo 8:27 PM  

@SiS wrote: "My favorite time was when she stood on his desk and flashed her small songbirds at him." As crossword insider jokes go, that is one of the best (at least my inner 14-year-old thinks it is). @Ginger's captcha is not too bad, either. (If you didn't do yesterday's puzzle, just disregard all of the above.)

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