Unit of currency in Harry Potter books / WED 9-4-13 / One of two acting brothers / Rapper with #1 hit Money Maker / Org with its HQ in Fort Meade / Noted groom of 10/20/1968 / Daytime host starting in 2012 / Fresh Tex Mex restaurant chain / King of gods in Egyptian myth

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (4:29)


THEME: Say the letters — famous people whose first names are represented by letters that sound like  the names when said aloud as individual letters:

Theme answers:
  • 17A: "Laugh-In" comic (RT JOHNSON)
  • 21A: "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" author (EN FLEMING)
  • 36A: Daytime host starting in 2012 (KT COURIC)
  • 46A: Punk rock icon (DD RAMONE)
  • 56A: One of two acting brothers (KC AFFLECK AND THE SUNSHINE BAND)
  • 66A: Noted groom of 10/20/1968 (RE ONASSIS)

Word of the Day: KNUT (56D: Unit of currency in the Harry Potter books) —
Currency in the wizarding Britain consists of three different coins. In decreasing order of value, they are: GalleonSickle and Knut. They are gold, silver, and bronze, respectively. According to Rubeus Hagrid, there are 17 Sickles in a Galleon, and 29 Knuts in a Sickle, meaning there are 493 Knuts to a Galleon. Around the edge of each coin is a series of numerals which represent a serial number belonging to the Goblin that cast the coin. (harrypotter.wikia.com)
• • •

Theme feels stuffy and very seen-it-before. People don't have anything in common. There's just a lot of them. Just didn't care for it. Started out weirdly hard for me, as the first half dozen clues I looked at (in the NW) yielded nothing. [Craigslist offering] could be a million things. [Baseball club designation], ditto. I have trouble interpreting words like "designation" in xword clues. Anyway, I thought [Amphorae, e.g.] were VASES and that didn't fit, couldn't see OATH immediately at 2D: It can be a curse, and (since we don't have them anywhere I've ever lived) had no clue about BAJA Fresh (though I feel I must have seen one in my travels at some point). Not until AFLAC did I have a secure entry. Once I picked up the theme, things went considerably faster, but the theme was joyless, and the fill is just OK (with LUDACRIS, PARASAIL and TWO-FACE being big exceptions) (22D: Rapper with the #1 hit "Money Maker" + 24D: Fly over the water + 45D: Batman villain who makes decisions by flipping a coin). I've read all the Harry Potter books and had zero clue about KNUT. Crossing that with the Lesser Affleck seems kind of mean, but I guess the "K" is inferrable, although lord help you if you don't know that CATE Blanchett spells her name with a "C." Overall, cluing seemed slightly harder than usual, which I don't mind at all. It's just the lack of a great payoff in terms of theme or fill that's the problem.


Examples of hard cluing: ["Is Shakespeare Dead?" writer] for TWAIN. That's a Saturday clue. Cool deep cut from the TWAIN archive, but still, yikes. Lots of folks will have struggled to come up with LUDACRIS, and some will still be wondering if that can possibly be right ("Did you mean 'ludicrous'?" No, I didn't). Never can tell how a puzzle is going to want to spell AMON (AMUN? AMEN?). The aforementioned BAJA and KNUT, both (potentially, depending on who you are) toughly clued. Some solvers just flat-out won't have heard of Dee Dee Ramone or Casey Affleck. Doesn't make those answer unfair, just means that a good chunk of solvers will be slowed down, if not stopped. More observation than complaint. Nothing else to say about this one. Just didn't do much for me.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    85 comments:

    August West 12:01 AM  

    Easy, bland, very quick Wednesday, largely bereft of clever cluing and saturated with the type of cruddy fill and POCs that drive me nuts. Breathing space?/LUNG is as FUN as this one gets. Which pretty much says it all.

    ITS OK. Just.

    Vehdy Eeentehresting!

    jackj 12:11 AM  

    This week’s puzzles, so far, seem to constitute a “Miracle-Ear Sound-fest Extravaganza” with Monday’s “Give me some AYS”; Tuesday’s “and now for some WEE” and today’s “Charades on parade, sounds like _____”, looking for names reduced to two letter homophones of their full first names.

    Best examples were EN (Ian) FLEMING and RE (Ari) ONASSIS; the weak link was easily singled out when DD (Dee Dee) RAMONE’s unwillingness to play fair with the others tested the puzzle’s entire concept of homophonia.

    Once again Joel Fagliano tries to regale us with fill aimed at his peers, not we dinosaurs, but ITSOK since all’s well that end’s well, even as we cope with LUDACRIS, NEWMOON and PARASAIL. (Of course the gray beards among us are still treated to the likes of CUOMO, OKEMO and SLOES, so the disparate entries are essentially A WASH).

    We even have a blatant pitch for Batman-to-be Ben AFFLECK to consider younger brother KC (Casey) AFFLECK for a key role in the next Gotham adventure as (hint, hint), Br’er Casey cozily INTERmingles with TWOFACE, noted coin flipping villain of Batman adventures of the past.

    And, sorry to say, the more I write the more I realize I’m just trying too hard to like a puzzle that tried to be more than it was ever going to be able to be.

    Steve J 12:11 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    retired_chemist 12:13 AM  

    Challenging here. Not a fan of this type of puzzle. It is necessarily proper-name heavy and thus success depends too much on knowing a lot of them.

    Hand up for NOT knowing a lot of them: KCAFFLECK, KNUT, DDRAMONE. UTICA, HURON. Mostly inferrable, but as Rex says it slowed me down.

    GEICO before AFLAC - mixed up my cute animals.

    On to Thursday. Thanks, Mr. Fagliano, but it's not among my favorites of yours.

    Steve J 12:14 AM  

    It's the week of incredibly threadbare themes, apparently. Just a long list of unrelated people who have forenames that happen to have the same phonemes as two letters from the alphabet. Whee. Nothing clever, nothing fun about it. Just there.

    I got to thinking when I finished this one: Since Monday and Tuesday's themes (using the term "theme" lightly) were mirror images of each other, maybe tomorrow's theme will be people who are known by their initials, but those initials sound like full names. Problem is, I can't come up with anyone who fits the bill other than K.D. Lang.

    DNF - extremely rare for me on a Wednesday - because I haven't read the Potter books and have no idea what a KNUT is (beyond a polar bear cub from the Berlin Zoo a few years back), and I had ATICA crossing instead of UTICA.

    jae 12:24 AM  

    This seemed like it might be tough as I was doing it, but I never really got hung up.  Maybe it's a wheelhouse thing.  The J in BAJA gave me JOHNSON and the theme and it went pretty smoothly from there.  Only place that was a little  slow was NE where it took a few crosses to dredge up Ian FLEMING.  So, medium for me. 

     Unlike yesterday's this was A WASH in names.  I count 9 (including OHM and AMON) plus the 6 theme answers (your milage may vary).  And, some of them were on the obscure side.  As Rex noted, you got to be up on pop culture to know LUDACRIS and Casey AFFLECK, and on the road to geezerville to remember CUOMO, ONASSIS, and NEHRU. 

    WOE: AUSSI (4 years of High School Spanish was about it for me).

    Erasure: AtON before AMON

    Mostly liked it probably because of the wheelhouse thing, but all the names on top of the theme answers seem like a little much.

    Anonymous 12:46 AM  

    Tough Wednesday. Took a long time. It's not very often that I need to look for a way in to a Wednesday crossword. That got my attention.

    I liked the theme fine. Care not a whit that the people don't 'go together'. So what. The theme entries didn't wow me, but that's okay. They did limit how good this one could be, though. K C Affleck is no A-lister and most of the others are A-listers in the from-way-back-when-and-who-cares-anymore kind of way. Meh.

    I usually care not at all if there if there are lots of names / proper nouns. I did notice it today, though. I don't know what the average is. (Anybody got data on that one?)

    The KNUT / NADAL / UTICA cross is a rough one. I expect a lot of people will try ATICA.

    I thought the NE might actually beat me - on a Wednesday - but because I'm old, I was able to recall R T Johnson and crack that. Else, the BAJA, OKEMO, and AMON crosses might not have been gettable for me. (URN for JAR didn't help.)

    Evan 1:00 AM  

    I'd put this in my Medium wheelhouse. I liked seeing TWO-FACE and LUDACRIS. I loved the clue on VILE and I appreciated the modern cluing on NEW MOON, though I sorta wish they did some current events-trivia for NSA, given how much it's been in the news lately. Otherwise, I thought this was just okay. Could do without crosswordese like SKUAS and AMON and ADIN, though as long as ADIN is gonna be in there, it's at least a little neat that it crosses NADAL.

    I had no idea that Ian Fleming wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It was weird seeing his name clued that way after years of writing in DR. NO and IAN and all other things James Bond.

    @Steve J:

    Some other possibilities may include --

    * SE DAVIS
    * UB BLAKE
    * ME ROSSUM (actress from "The Day After Tomorrow")
    * OP TAYLOR (I know, he's fictional, but still)
    * And for the extremely obscure sports figure of the day, AC EARL, that NBA player from the 1990s-era Boston Celtics that everybody knows, right?

    Evan 1:03 AM  

    @Steve J:

    I see now you're talking about reversing the theme, rather than coming up with other possible themers for today's puzzle. If we're reversing it, maybe the political commentator S.E. CUPP will suffice, sorta?

    Ellen S 1:26 AM  

    Swimming against the tide, I will 'fess up that I enjoyed it. Maybe because of aRTe JOHNSON. I remember him fondly because when I got a motorcycle in 1977, it was a wee bit too high for me. As a result, when I'd stop at a stoplight, and try to put my foot down to wait for the light to change, there would be just a speck too much momentum by the time my foot actually touched pavement; I didn't have the strength to stop the bike from tipping over. I never got hurt, because the bike wasn't moving forward, but every time it happened, I would think of Arte Johnson's tricycle tipping over. But nobody was paying me to amuse the other drivers, so finally I had the seat upholstery cut down and I could stop the bike like normal people.

    The theme was useful for solving the puzzle, instead of being something I had to learn from coming here, so I liked that. I didn't know a lot of the answers, but somehow dredged almost all of them up without cheating, like BAJA FRESH. KC AFFLECK eluded me for a long time, but finally appeared in my brain. However, I DNF with KNoT crossing oTeCA. I knew the city was wrong, but didn't want to peek, and don't know and don't care about what wizards use for money. Why do they need money anyway? No, pleeeze do not tell me. I don't want to know. Bad enough I guessed NEW MOON. Can I erase it with electroshock therapy?

    But thank you, Mr. Fagliano, for a more fun puzzle than yesterday.

    signed,
    Person who spends all day reading murder mysteries and sci-fi and then criticizes other people's reading habits.

    Questinia 1:26 AM  

    Entered at AFLAC AUSSI.
    KNUT is also a man's name in Swedish as well as the word for knot.
    Jag ska baka en kaka means I shall bake a cake in Swedish. Yeah, very English friendly language.
    Only misstep, thought it was LUDAkRIS at first crossing a plausible MANIcky. Also thought DeDe Snyder before RAMONE.
    God Natt!

    Benko 1:32 AM  

    KNUT probably is derived from the Anglo-Saxon king of the same name, often spelled "Knute" or even "Canute".
    But what a weird world to have currency rates based on prime numbers rather than decimalization!
    Nice to see Elmore Leonard.

    Benko 1:33 AM  

    Freudian slip! Elmore James, the great Chicago bluesman, not the late great crime writer Elmore Leonard.

    wreck 1:50 AM  

    while not thrilled with today's theme --it was far and away better than yesterday.

    Rube 2:02 AM  

    So, there is another Affleck... who'd a known. I sure got lucky here, guessing the U in UTICA and the C in CATE. Just some more reasons to subscribe to People magazine, (not).

    After getting (Ian)FLEMING from all the crosses I realized, "I knew that." But TWAIN? Totally a surprise.

    Who the hell are RTJohnson and DD Ramone?

    I surely dislike all the proper names in puzzles like this, (unless they are 30+ years old and in my geezerish wheelhouse).

    Davis 2:33 AM  

    I knew DD RAMONE and KC AFFLECK was familiar-ish. But was I the only one here who struggled with RT JOHNSON? The JARS and OATH crossings were the last entries I got—JOB was tough to see, and without RT the downs slowed me down. (Thankfully I'd eaten at BAJA Fresh, so no trouble there).

    Also, I had to rely on the crosses for the RE in RE ONASSIS. For some reason I can never remember that guy's first name.

    As for the puzzle... I just wish there was something more connecting the theme entries. I'd be willing to accept the fill (even the abominable SKUAS) if the them had a little more going on.

    Anonymous 2:57 AM  

    "... even the abominable SKUAS) if the them had a little more going on"

    Some people are acting like SKUAS are
    ├╝ber-obscure. They're actually a very large,
    and wide-ranging family of seabirds. If you
    don't know about them, hey, you've leaned
    something (to bore people at cocktail parties
    with).

    -MAS

    Anonymous 3:03 AM  

    Er... make that "learned something" in my
    above comment! Apparently I haven't learned
    to spell.

    -MAS

    Anonymous 3:08 AM  

    It doesn't seem appropriate to have "Money-Maker" in a Times crossword puzzle.

    Annual Cuomo Mopes 3:28 AM  

    Luckily CATE Blanchett's name has been everywhere thanks to full page ads, etc for "Blue Jasmine" (one of the worst films I've ever sat thru, barring her stellar performance)

    LUDACRIS seems like a hip answer...

    I liked that the names ranged from a musician here, a writer there, a comedian, a newsperson, an actor, a billionaire from all different generations.
    SIX different fields. Six generations, that's impressive.
    Only one woman, as per usual. :(

    True, KCAFFLECK is a bit of an outlier, less known. But he's definitely on his way up.
    Maybe better another woman, an actress perhaps, and slightly more well known, but ...he's the right amount of letters and fits the theme, so that's that...
    But the crosses should have been better than UTICA, CATE and KNUT for the reasons folks have mentioned.

    Overall, I liked it, much more fun than simply doing kd lang, ee cummings, etc. this had a modern fun spin.

    jae 3:40 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    jae 3:41 AM  

    So, KNUT (channeling M&A)  "Letter shaped fastener from an IKEA furniture kit?"

    Elle54 6:58 AM  

    Geezers should remember Arte Johnson from Laugh-In. The guy who played a German soldier... Always smoking,
    But what is Nadal? Almost DNF because of Knut but guessed right.

    Elle54 7:01 AM  

    Didn't Arte say,"VERRRRY INTERESTING!"

    John V 7:29 AM  

    Liked the theme, even though getting Naticked at KC/KNUT cross, for reasons Rex noted. Did not know Dee Dee Ramome, but got that with the crosses.

    About medium for a Wednesday, seemed to me.

    dk 7:30 AM  

    @Ellen S, Got new clips for my road bicycle and came to a stop sign in Burlington (sorta near OKEMO) and could not unclip. My RTJOHNSON moment. Guy in the car next to me "ah new clips I see" as we both laughed.

    I am in the kATE with a k crowd and had no idea for KNUT. So I left it blank - what the heck this is just a puzzle. And as i solve in PEN I cannot not afford any errors.

    Got the gimmick and have photographed DDRAMONE (back in the day Doug would have eschewed the punk icon label) otherwise a tepid Wednesday.

    ���� (2 stars) Thanks Joel knowing it was UTICA because of the miles (not kilometers) made me feel.... smug.

    loren muse smith 7:30 AM  

    I liked this just fine and saw the theme pretty early with the J in the northwest. (I prefer BAJA Fresh to Q’doba – much better place).

    I had a dnf because of the aforementioned KNUT/UTICA cross. I forgot to guess the space for the U. OH well.

    73D – PEN. Hah! I enjoyed that day a couple of years ago when we pencil users fessed up. For me, it’s not about a lack of confidence so much as a compulsion to have a very neat grid.

    How ‘bout the symmetry of the two World Cup hosts USA and RIO? Nice. Also SIAM and THAI sharing a grid – nice.

    I never noticed that “nuts” can be a noun or an adjective. Great clue for a Wednesday.

    @Ellen S – I had NEW Dawn first, even though I read all four and enjoyed them, bad writing notwithstanding.

    Agree with those who appreciated the clue for VILE.

    @Steve J and @Evan – Maybe tomorrow’s will be just phrases whose first words sound like letters: BD EYES, CD MOTEL, QT PIE, XS BAGGAGE, SA TEST, XL SPREADSHEET, II CAPTAIN!, IV LEAGUE. . .

    Good fun today, Joel. Thanks!

    Mohair Sam 8:05 AM  

    Slightly tough Wednesday for us, and really enjoyed it. Theme names covered about 5 decades so probably everyone had one or two they just couldn't fill quickly - nicely done.

    If you're a fan of Dennis Lehane and haven't yet seen the movie version of "Gone Baby Gone" you should stream the flick to watch KCAFFLECK nail the role of Patrick Kenzie. If you've seen the flick and not read the book, run to the library.

    btw - There oughta be a law limiting the number of names for African antelopes and Sea birds - SKUAS? Yikes!

    David S. 8:08 AM  

    ADIN? Cannot find this word defined anywhere.

    joho 8:23 AM  

    The theme is kind of list-y but saved because there is wordplay in the two initial names.

    I just discovered that I've been pronouncing REONASSIS wrong all these years! To me it has always been "airy."

    It's funny how one word will stick out like a sore thumb to me. Yesterday it was ELAH, today it's AUSSI.

    It would have been FUN to clue it as 10,000 MANIACS crossing at LUDACRIS and just above DDRAMONE. Come to think of it, this puzzle rocks!







    joho 8:24 AM  

    @David S ... you just need to parse it as AD IN, a tennis term.

    jberg 8:33 AM  

    I thought I'd never get the SW, with all those names, but somehow realized that Federer plays tennis and that someone else named NADAL (or vADAL, or sADAL) plays the same game. The N seemed more likely, CAFFLECK only worked with a K, and KNUT was plausible (the guy who ordered the tide not to come in, right?) -- so there it was. Attica has two Ts, so that wasn't a problem. Tough puzzle, though, even with the OBIS.

    NSA guy's son: "Dad, little Joey says you're spying on his father!"

    NSA guy: "That's not his father."

    leglegl 8:47 AM  

    I just hate puzzles with names, and this one is all names. UNFAIR to those who can't remember our own names.

    Z 8:48 AM  

    I see @loren muse smith has learned the HTML code for italics. Links next!

    Played challenging for me. The NW was last, but the possessive (not plural) OHMS crossing SLOE was actually hardest for me. I have always thought SLOES were red because that is the color I remember for sloe gin, so starts with aLOES. Fortunately, I have kayaked down the mighty HURON river and MAINE was a gimme.

    Hand up for NEW dawn, and immediately thinking "what an odd title for a vampire movie."

    As a series this week has had some auditory interest, but as puzzles I'm with OFL, meh, meh, and meh. Will Thursday be another in the pattern?

    Thinking about some of the recent complaints about the "harshness" of the criticism here- My wife mentioned that my MIL is still raving about some home brew I made. I rolled my eyes. In reply to her question I said, "when everything is wonderful nothing is,"

    Anonymous 9:20 AM  

    LXANT doesn't approve.

    Anonymous 9:25 AM  

    Seemed like a lot of Ws and was thinking puzzle might do something with UU (double U).

    mathguy 9:25 AM  

    I love the word "spokesduck." Only nine gimmes for me so it required some work which I found enjoyable.

    Note to "Annual Cuomo Mopes": I'm a big Cate Blanchett fan and was terribly disappointed in Blue Jasmine. I think Woody let her down both in the writing and he direction.

    Anonymous 9:28 AM  

    SKUAS? Really?

    Nancy 9:29 AM  

    As someone who lives in the Ann Arbor area, I knew HURON, but thought to myself, really?? Who else would know that. That definitely seemed like a Saturday clue as well. (Thought for sure you'd mention HURON and U of M in your write up, Rex!)

    Yes_Really 9:38 AM  

    "SKUAS? Really?" Yes. They're birds. There are three positions you can take: I've heard of it, I haven't, now I have, I haven't - mind explodes - how dare a crossword have something I don't personally know. Have some humility! I'll remember to go beserk the next time we have a baseballer because I don't know them...

    chefbea 9:40 AM  

    too many people I did not know. Natick at DDRamone and Ludacris. If the clue for 56 across had mentioned sunshine band I would have known KC. DNF

    Z 10:10 AM  

    @Yes_Really - While I don't completely disagree with your point, there is a difference between SKUA and sport stars. Google SKUA and get 1.3 million hits. Google the third best pitcher on the Detroit Tigers and you get over 3 million hits. Heck, TUIASOSOPO (part of the all-vowel all-star team) manages 200K hits and he's a part-time player known in Michigan and maybe some other AL Central cities.

    While I'm in the, "learned something" camp, I'm also at least as sympathetic to the "Really?!?" crowd. As the "I hate sports clues" crowd. You might run across a sports star if you page through a paper or turn on the radio, or get a news feed on your computer. Unless you're an ornithologist when are you going to run into SKUA?

    jackj 10:21 AM  

    With all the gripes about cluing, perhaps we should give thanks that we have a gatekeeper who would not force us to cope with such as today's 12 down in the Boston Globe crossword:

    Clue- "Bab's or ara's attachment?"








    Answer- BLE

    Yes_Me_Again 10:26 AM  

    It IS the NY Times Crossword: You're expected to have some general knowledge... Or have your lack of it exposed, which hurts some people's egoes (including me, even Rex sometimes.) How are you supposed to know history unless you're a historian? Greek mythology unless you're a Classics professor? etc. Anyway, I think you'll find that birdwatchers account for a fair percentage of people, especially the AARPers who are quite well-represented in the crossword-solving demographic.

    Carola 10:31 AM  

    Saw Joel Fagliano's name. Thought, "Glad it's not Friday! But Wednesday - should be FUN." Hah! Will skip over the agonies of "what the heck is the theme?" and just say DNF due to AteN, never having seen "Laugh-In," not knowing OKEMO, and thinking of amphorae as bigger then JARS (had urns, then vats - which admittedly SKEWs too large).

    @joho - Same here on "airy."

    Sandy K 10:34 AM  

    Puzzle was OK, but now IC that I've been pronouncing FLEMING as IN, not EN and ONASSIS as Ari with a short a- more like Harry w/o the H.

    @Evan- liked 'other possibilities' esp. ME Rossum- whose voice was angelic as Christine in 1986 remake of Phantom of the Opera.

    @Carola- I still have vivid and detailed dreams that I'm teaching my class, putting up bulletin boards, etc- esp in Sept. Part of our DNA as teachers...

    easy peesy mac and cheesy 10:37 AM  

    Junky puzzle but easy in my opinion, at least easier than yesterday.

    Two Ponies 10:38 AM  

    The NE personal train wreck caused a DNF on a Wed!
    Crossing of a teen book series, an unknown Fleming book, and a rapper did me in and frankly Scarlet I don't give a damn.

    Sandy K 10:52 AM  

    ps- If Ari is short for Aristotle, why is it pronounced RE?

    retired_chemist 11:10 AM  

    Thought my time today sucked. Checked the NYT Scorecard and I am at about my usual ranking. I am guessing SanFranMan59 will find this challenging.

    Ray J 11:11 AM  

    The MAINE MANIACS should get a kick out of this one.

    I’m not a fan of chain restaurants and avoid them whenever possible so I didn’t care for the BAJA clue. That said, just yesterday as I passed a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop, I thought, gee, FREE SMELLS would be a fun answer in a puzzle someday.

    This was a challenge that I was able to finish unassisted. I like to have to work a bit. That’s what makes puzzles fun for me. It definitely helped knowing Utica, population approx. 62K. (see my 8/28/13 post) I’m also somewhat of a birder so I knew SKUAS. Better than jack squat, I suppose.

    INTER, DEATH - a bit morbid I’d say.

    Thanks, Mr. Fagliano

    Paul Keller 11:20 AM  

    Rex called it. Enjoyed the Harry Potter books but don't remember seeing KNUT. She spells it CATE? Not knowing Casey Affleck turned into a brick wall.

    LUDACRIS got me too.

    It was hard, but there were AHA's and suprising progress until the final stall. I'm not complaining. More entertaining than your average Wednesday.

    Masked and Anonymo8Us 11:53 AM  

    My kind of WedPuz. Feisty clues. Slightly touched theme. Weird fill. Pile of U's. Central clue: "Nuts", accessorized by KOLA and KNUTS. ITS OK, EMO!

    Knew immediately somethin was up, as 17-A needed to come out ARTEJOHNSON, but nsufficien space. Initial thoughts ensued...
    1. Rebus.
    2. Scarlet Johansson.
    3. Cinnamon rolls. mmm.
    4. We're supposed to know Arte Johnson's initials?! (A.S.E., btw)
    5. Rebus.
    6. Let's check out the next long dealy, at 21-A... This led to M&A hittin themer paydirt. But, alas... lost valuable nano seconds, thinkin about all that there stuff. :(

    When finished here, y'all might go do the LAT Puz. No big reason, except hard to pass on a puz that has a clue like this:
    "Body part that smells"
    har. Gotta respect a refreshin attitude like that.

    Lewis 11:54 AM  

    @anon12:46 -- thoughtful entry. Have you got a name?

    I liked AWASH and AWARD in the same puzzle.

    The theme didn't bother me. Most themes are blue collar, I think, as is this one. Fewer are stellar, and fewer are true dogs. The norm in the NYC crossword is pretty darn good as crosswords go, IMO, so I'm not complaining.

    OHM -- pretty versatile three letters, which can also make MHO (which we had last week) and HMO.

    I though CATE was terrific in Blue Jasmine. Though this is a Woody Allen film, don't expect a comedy or many comic lines (I counted two).

    joho 12:09 PM  

    @M&A ... I hope the answer is NOSE!

    Susan McConnell 12:11 PM  

    VIALS before JARS got me off on a slow start, but it came together soon enough. Not a lot to be too excited about. Dull week so far.

    M and A also 12:28 PM  

    @joho... Better go check, darlin.
    Come to think of it, that'd make for a different sorta theme. Four long answers, all with that clue. Initimidatin. Or intimatin. Or somethin.
    M&A

    syndy 1:02 PM  

    Jugs before JARS did not care for the "theme" Maybe Tomorrow will save us!

    Bird 1:39 PM  

    Didn’t care too much for this one. Theme is fine, but I think options are too limited to build a puzzle around (2 start with K and 2 start with R). Fill is not too bad, but I don’t like the plural AORTAS or its clue as we only have one of each in us. And I thought the God’s name was AMUN. First thought at 1A was JOBS, but my second thought was “Nah, to easy”.

    I imagine a lot of folks having DNFs today with all the proper nouns crossing other proper nouns and not too popular trivia.

    Happy Humpday!

    PS. I get the paper delivered and use a PEN to solve.

    Doc John 1:42 PM  

    Pretty difficult for a Tuesday.
    Tried to put in Ruth Buzzi based on the R but that didn't last too long. Too bad- I'd love to see her in the puzzle. ACME, are you listening?
    Also, I had I CARE but had to immediately nix that as the next answer over was A CARE.

    Beevis & Butthead 1:54 PM  

    Jugs are much better than JARS.
    Heh, heh.

    Dave 2:59 PM  

    Temporarily slowed down wanting PLUMS for 35D, but otherwise struck me as very easy. It probably helped that a good friends younger brother was the incarnation of Sal Putrid in Doonesbury.

    bhikkubum 3:25 PM  

    Last week was awesome and we are paying for it this week.

    Acme 4:19 PM  

    @doc John
    RUTHBUZZI would be terrific in a pZZle...maybe another double ZZ one? i think we just had one.

    I too wondered about RE for ARI which I've assumed was closer to airy, too. But, as he was Greek, it prob was pronounced closer to RE, tho who would know now other than Jack-e Kenne-d?

    I think ME Rossum is even more obscure than KC Affleck, imo.
    @Z 8:48, 10:10
    Agree with wonderful statement, but two things,
    It is possible to point out nice elements of puzzles without necessarily saying the puzzle was overall wonderful...
    And if it was a dig, tho I'm not taking it TOO personally, one shouldn't mistake general enthusiasm for naivety nor cheapening the truly wonderful in this snarky world.

    And b) some of us know SKUA from Scrabble as it's an anagram for another seabird, AUKs!
    (But who would waste an S on a four letter word!)

    And I think I may have already mentioned this week (forgive my delayed jetlag) impressing the hell out of my Swedish hosts while kayaking.
    They spotted a sea eagle and I asked if it was an ERN, which is indeed the Swedish word for those birds... (tho spelled O-, with umlaut, R-N) they were shocked by my "Swedish" knowledge!
    ha! You never know when Scrabble/crosswords are going to come in handy!

    Acme 4:23 PM  

    @loren
    Fun suggestions, you should make a whole puzzle out of those...are entirely letters like R U O K
    "question to the fallen?"

    You would love a book I remember from childhood called
    "C D B?" i think and there was a pic of a bee.

    David from CA 4:28 PM  

    About 18 crosses of names, and that is not counting OHMS.

    Appears the NYT crossWORD puzzle is dead - long live the crossNAME puzzle. Thank you so much Mr Shortz.

    leah712 4:34 PM  

    @Nancy, I had the same reaction. I could just barely think of the name of the river that runs through Ann Arbor, and that's where I went to school. How would anyone else know that?

    sanfranman59 4:38 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 12:53, 9:44, 1.32, 97%, Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Wed 7:33, 5:36, 1.35, 98%, Challenging

    @retired_chemist ... right you are. In fact, this one ranks near the top of the scale of the most challenging Wednesdays in my database. The current Top 100 ratio of 1.35 is the 5th highest of 192 and the All Solvers ratio of 1.32 is the 6th highest in that group. I was a little surprised that Rex rated it as Medium-Challenging.

    Z 5:21 PM  

    @ACME - you bring a nice balance to the comments. You often point out things that I miss that increase my appreciation of puzzles. I see this as very different from saying everyone must only praise. My comments were more about the gestalt of the commentariat than any single one of the commenters here.

    @Yes_Me_Again - to be clear, I basically agree with you. However, I think the subset of Antarctica Bird-watchers is smaller than sport fans so I empathize with people being in the dark about SKUAS as much as those who cry foul over NADAL.

    Re ARI - I have heard it both ways but as far as the shipping magnate is concerned I believe the proper pronunciation is "Mr. Jackie Onassis."

    Z 5:23 PM  

    BTW - NFL Live finished their show today bragging about making the NYTimes Xword.

    Melodious ; 5:35 PM  

    @LMS,

    How about:

    DZ Dean (pitcher for the Chicago Cubs and St Louis Browns and Cardinals in the 30's and 40's). That's pretty obscure!

    JAMES AG (often in puzzles)

    CC Spacek? Ouch!

    IF THE TIGER? Double ouch!,

    LA FITZGERALD? Oi!

    MA WATSON

    Now you know why I'm not a constructor.

    And don't forget: Object are closer than they appear in the mirror. And I won't take no for an answer.

    David from CA 5:47 PM  

    @sanfranman59 re: "I was a little surprised that Rex rated it as Medium-Challenging."

    Not really surprising given where Rex comes from - an incredible speed-solver who loves proper names, especially entertainment related. 5/6 theme answers and 3/4 long downs fit in that category.

    retired_chemist 6:33 PM  

    Never noticed BAJA Fresh. It may be Tex-Mex but AFAIK it is not in Texas. I checked Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin and found nothing.

    Ann Heil 7:32 PM  

    Didn't enjoy this one much. Got off to a slow start with GEICO for AFLAC, as I don't watch tv so I don't see the ads.

    Loved seeing HURON since I grew up in Ann Arbor and spent many happy afternoons canoeing down it. BAJA was a gimme since I have migrated west and love their grilled fish tacos. Really wanted Joey Ramone and have never heard of DDRAMONE. Did manage to pull KNUT from the dusty corners of my brain after a getting the __UT. Did not manage to connect the pump clue to a heart and thus could not make the SKUA/ AORTA cross.

    Anonymous 9:41 PM  

    According to Wikipedia, Baja Fresh has stores in 29 states. Doesn't that disqualify it for inclusion in a NYT crossword? We have them where I live, but I still thought the puzzle was unfair, crossing very unknown people with little known trivia. Worse, it was a DNF for me, and I didn't really care. Plus, it's not how I pronounce Ari. That shouldn't have made it into the puzzle.

    Sfingi 9:53 PM  

    Liked the theme, cuz I got'em all.

    Too much sports.

    retired_chemist 10:11 PM  

    I wasn't complaining about BAJA Fresh, just noting the irony.

    sanfranman59 1:51 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 6:06, 6:06, 1.00, 49%, Medium
    Tue 7:37, 8:15, 0.92, 25%, Easy-Medium
    Wed 12:53, 9:44, 1.32, 97%, Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 3:44, 3:48, 0.98, 36%, Easy-Medium
    Tue 4:34, 5:01, 0.91, 15%, Easy
    Wed 7:33, 5:36, 1.35, 98%, Challenging

    DatingOnline 6:13 AM  

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    spacecraft 10:18 AM  

    Well, I got through it, but it felt like a salmon's journey. Obscurity, thy name is Fagliano! And this is, what, WEDENSDAY?? Sheeeesh! There are too many examples, so I'll take just one cubicle, the west: SKUAS ITSOK ACARE. One uber-obscure animal and two awkward partials.

    Very clearly, the clue for 7d should have included (var.). The only spelling I've ever seen is AMUN. AMON might be the king of the, um, Jamaican gods.

    If capitalized words were disallowed, this grid would be more than half blank!

    BFLAT does remind me of "Jumpin' Jack Flash," that cute caper flick with Whoopi Goldberg trying to figure out what "Sing with me and find the key" was supposed to mean. (Aha! moments are cool even when they're not mine.)

    I must be mellowing in my old age: I didn't even bitch about the rapper. Went in 100% on crosses.

    DMG 2:00 PM  

    A rapper crossing a punk rock icon = DNF, followed by IDC (I don't care). I also couldn't remember the coin of wizardland, which crossed another unknown who I gather is also a musician of some sort. Didn't realize the Perseid shower is annual, so I guess I learned something. On to tomorrow.

    Captcha seems to be an accusation: ForgeR.

    Ginger 2:18 PM  

    This was really hard to get into. Kept checking the date, wondering if it was printed on the wrong day. Possible rebus? Is it Thursday? Friday tough?

    Finally got a toe hold with NADAL (I'm a tennis nut, in fact I'm watching him as I type.) Somewhere I'd heard of LUDACRIS, REONASSIS gave me the gimmick and I was off to the (very slow) races.

    Lots of unknowns to me, but gettable with crosses. A real challenge, but with patience and perseverance I finally got it.

    Arte JOHNSON and Laugh-In brought back a lot of memories. And smiles!

    Thank U, Joel, I enjoyed it.

    Dirigonzo 3:16 PM  

    Rex wrote, "Crossing that with the Lesser Affleck seems kind of mean, but I guess the "K" is inferrable, although lord help you if you don't know that CATE Blanchett spells her name with a "C." " and therein lies the tale of my undoing. Caught the gimmick at KTCOURIC, loved the MAINE MANICACS pairing. NEWMOON reminds me that the Full (Hunter's) Moon is on the 18th and October's ANNUAL meteor shower is the Orionid which will peak on the 21st. Happy night-sky watching, syndilanders (and @Gil I.P., wherever you are)!

    Solving in Seattle 4:01 PM  

    Had to check the paper to make sure it was Wednesday, not Thursday.

    Joel moved @Diri's MAINE down to the mid-Atlantic region.

    Like Bevis & Butthead, had JugS before JARS. Omen before OATH. Then pLumS before SLOES.

    @Spacecraft should have thrown his referee's hanky and assessed 15 yards for a rapper crossing a punk rocker.

    KCAFFLECK was terrific in "Good Will Hunting," and the banter between him and his brother was like... real.

    Had to get the Arctic seabird totally on crosses and had the "Outlets for some small pumps" being tORTAS for awhile. Thought it was maybe a shoe store for little girls. Or a dessert that you pump cream filling into.

    Sydies, don't take any checks from @DMG.

    @Z, go Tigers.

    Capcha: asiburd. Another obscure Arctic seafowl?

    strayling 7:53 PM  

    This puzzle was very interesting ... but STUPID!

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