Athena's counterpart / WED 6-11-14 / Wildcatter's investment / English pop singer Goulding / Tlaloc, to the Aztecs / Fortune 100 company based in Seattle

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Constructor: Ian Livengood

Relative difficulty: Who knows really? It's such an individual thing.


THEME — Flag Day: Theme answers are descriptions of various countries' flags. Circled letters spell out FLAG DAY ... kind of in the shape of a flag? I guess?

Theme answers:
  • 18A: MAPLE LEAF [Canada]
  • 31A: STARS AND STRIPES [U.S.A.]
  • 41A: HAMMER AND SICKLE [U.S.S.R.]
  • 59A: RISING SUN [Japan]
PuzzleGirl with you today for the third day in a row. Sick of me yet? Here's the problem with blogging. Well, the problem with me blogging anyway. I think two days is my limit. I feel like I'm all blogged out. You guys got the best of me for two days and now there's nothing left. I'm solving this puzzle and I'm enjoying it and everything but the whole time I'm thinking "What am I gonna SAY about it? Nothing is jumping out at me. Maybe I'll just tell them some rambling story about my life -- they seem to like that!" So, with any luck, I'll think of a rambling story for you at some point in this post. Until then, let me say a few things about the puzzle.

The theme is nice and, obviously, timely. I think some of the clues were ratcheted up to make it appropriate for a Wednesday. Would have been nice if it could have run on Saturday, but I don't think that would be possible with this grid and there's nothing WRONG with the grid, so I see why it was decided to run it a little early.

Speaking of difficult clues, I had a really (REALLY) hard time with the CIRCLE / HOLE / SHIP area (30D: Club / 47A: Part of a round / 44D: Overnight). The only kind of "rounds" I could think of were drinks and row-your-boat-type songs (not golf). I absolutely could NOT get that "overnight" is a verb, even though I use it that way practically every day. Those two things were just total brain lapses. But I still don't understand how "Club" is a clue for CIRCLE. Anyone? Bueller? Not being 100% sure on the spelling of MINERVA made that particular part of the puzzle a complete mystery to me. It took way (WAY) too long for me to figure it out.

What Else?
  • 10A: Pen, e.g. (SWAN) — Very tricky clue.
  • 23A: "For sure, dude!" ("YEAH, MAN!") — This one seems to be trying a little too hard.
  • 39A: Big foot spec (EEE) — And this is just plain ugly. I guess sometimes it can't be helped.
  • 51A: One sharing a bunk bed, maybe (SIS) — PuzzleSister and I shared a bunk bed for many years. Of course, being the oldest, I got the top bunk, which seems awesome until you're just a little kid and you fall out of the top bunk on your head and your mom comes home to find the front door open and barf all over the house because you got a concussion and your dad ran you out to the emergency room. Not that that ever happened to me or anything.
  • 52A: Athena's counterpart (MINERVA) — PuzzleDaughter was studying for a quiz on Greek and Roman gods the other day. PuzzleHusband and I were *completely* *mortified* at how few of them we knew. Just really really embarrassing. Definitely something to try to learn. Not necessarily for puzzles (for that I need to practice European rivers, Jewish months and the Greek alphabet), but just for life in general.
  • 1D: "You're dethpicable" toon (DAFFY) — Does Sylvester also have a lisp? He was the only one I could think of. I think he talks funny in a different way though, right? Like baby talk or something?
  • 2D: English pop singer Goulding (ELLIE) — Whatever you say.
  • 5D: '60s atty. gen. whose brother served as president (RFK) — Had an opportunity to visit RFK Stadium last month for the first time in many moons. Wow is that a crappy stadium. I think D.C. United are getting ready to build a new stadium near Nationals Park. I know there are people against the idea of tearing down RFK, but seriously, it's a mess.
  • 7D: All-natural (REAL) — Tried PURE here.
  • 9D: C. S. Lewis's birthplace (BELFAST) — Wait, he's not American either? (Just kidding, I knew that.)
  • 10D: Memorial Day weekend event (SALE) — This answer made me sad. As much as I rant about the seemingly non-stop "forced patriotism" at so many sporting events these days, I do think Memorial Day is (and should be) serious and respectful. Now my first two thoughts when I saw this clue were PARADE and BARBECUE, both of which I guess might seem frivolous to some, but I think it's possible to infuse both of those activities with an honest-to-God sense of "memorial." A SALE though? Not so much.
  • 35D: Place to play cards (POKER ROOM) — See also, "Place to lose money." (I love playing poker, but I'm really really bad at it.)
  • 43D: Tlaloc, to the Aztecs (RAIN GOD) — News to me and awesome entry!
Thanks for hanging out with me again today. I appreciate all the kindness you've shown me in the comments. Sure some of the compliments could be mistaken for underhanded insults of one of my best friends, but I'm not going to dwell on that. I love what Rex Parker has created here and I know for sure that if it wasn't for Rex Parker, there would be no PuzzleGirl, which would be very, very sad. Thanks again. See you next time!

Love, PuzzleGirl

103 comments:

wreck 12:08 AM  

Like Puzzle girl said - it's all an individual thing. This was probably my fastest Wednesday (maybe slightly harder than my average Monday). This was pretty smooth and felt like I was filling in as fast as i could read the clues.

jae 12:13 AM  

Easy-medium for me.  A nice reminder of national holiday.  Relatively smooth grid, some nice long downs, a bonus theme entry at 67a, liked it.  And, YEAH MAN it's kinda hard to find anything to say about this one.

Did not know ELLIE Goulding nor that Lewis was born in BELFAST.

Delightful again PG! (Similar problems in the SHIP/HOLE area).

okanaganer 12:17 AM  

@Puzzlegirl: CLUB = "association, society...see 'circle'".

The old USSR flag was more interesting than the current Russian one: 3 colored horizontal bars!...how unique...not.

Steve J 12:39 AM  

Medium/average Wednesday here. Took me a bit to pick up that we're talking about flags (or to remember that Flag Day exists).

Had a lot of similar issues and reactions as PG (whose writeups this week have been great). Had exactly the same issues/questions with CIRCLE/HOLE/SHIP (thanks, @okanager, for triggering the lightbulb above my head on the club/CIRCLE connection). And also had the same reaction about Memorial Day and SALE.

Liked FOUR ALARM connected to chile, WREST and FLUNK provided some nice medium-length fill, and EEE provided some unfortunate (but probably necessary) short fill.

Meanwhile, an exaltation of LARKS makes me wonder if the people who came up with the nouns for groups of animals were high on the same stuff the ancient Greeks were tripping on when they decided that random collections of stars formed shapes and characters.

chefwen 12:42 AM  

@Puzzle Girl - We will never be sick of you. I do miss @Rex, snark and all, it's what I enjoy about him. I don't always agree, but I do respect his opinions and love his write ups.

This puzzle was so easy, for me that I dread what will pop up on Fri and Sat.

I would like to thank everyone for their kind words and sympathy in Paddy's demise. @Ellen S. - Skipper did get a chance to say goodbye. I saw a little glint in his eye as he was thinking "Oh Shit, I'm next" The last bruddah standing. @Sfingi - The vet took Paddy to the Humane Society where he will be cremated. We will mingle his ashes with dear, departed Toby. I'm not sure how Toby would feel about that, but Pads won't mind. Anyway, it's great to have such good cyber friends, thanks again.

DL 12:42 AM  

I just recently finished Lewis's semi-autobiography, "Surprised by Joy," so BELFAST came pretty quickly. I recommend the book for anyone remotely interested in him as an author, theologian, fairy tale maker, or however you see him.

Anonymous 1:09 AM  

Btw: Daffy and Sylvester had the same voice except that Daffy's was ratcheted up in pitch. Hope that helps. Thanks PG :-)

Roger 1:14 AM  

So, four random flag nicknames, one of which no longer exists, makes for a theme? Flag Day is certainly a thing, but the date(s) are way off, and even Wikipedia can't find any semblance of a Flag Day for Japan.

Seriously?

Anonymous 2:53 AM  

I still don't get SWAN.

Anonymous 3:05 AM  

@anonymous - per on-line Encyclopaedia Britannica a male swan is a cob and a female is a pen. There's got to be a Swan Penn joke in there somewhere, but I can't find it.

Billy 4:05 AM  

Great job, PG, love your reviews!

Gill I. P. 5:55 AM  

@chefwen..."Oh shit, I'm next." Perfect!
Mr. Livengood didn't make me sing nor CROON today. @PG I too didn't like SALE for Memorial Day event. Why not clue it as a day after Thanksgiving event? Why use a holiday that elicits such sad memories to lots of families in order to show an innocent word like frigging SALE? Bah. OK - end of rant....
On the plus side, I like HAREMS but I would have liked it clued as "Women who ate roasted Fenugreek to develop a buxom figure."

Anonymous 6:22 AM  

I am also upset about the Memorial Day clue. It is sad when Memorial Day is more associated with a sale than with remembering all those who sacrificed for our freedoms.

Anonymous 7:07 AM  

Me too about Memorial Day. Sort of like how I felt about the Bomb Sales in the World Trade Towers in 1993. Little did we know what was to come.

Wendy 7:21 AM  

Puzzlegirl, you're a breath of fresh air! I love your writing and puzzle analysis, you really speak to those of us who love puzzles but just aren't, ah, as quick (or critical) as Rex.

I enjoyed today's puzzle, slowed down in the same spots you did -- ship, hole -- but a great way to start the day.

Joseph Welling 7:27 AM  

I also don't understand SWAN.

And while TET is a holiday, I don't know that "Tet holiday" is a thing--any more than "Christmas holiday" is.

George Barany 7:30 AM  

Puzzlegirl, I have enjoyed your commentaries and analyses for the past few days, and you have certainly not run out of steam. Thanks, Ian Livengood for your evocative puzzle. For those who don't know this already, Will Shortz's long-standing policy, when a puzzle can not be run on the exact day of a holiday or anniversary or whatever, is to publish it a few days ahead. Thus, a June 14 theme for June 11 (and of course, Saturday is reserved for the hardest themeless).

The hypothetical scenario Puzzlegirl invokes about falling off the top bunk of bed brings to mind something that actually happened when my kid brother was age 4 or so. Somehow, he managed to climb to the top shelf of our walk-in closet, and then he slipped and tumbled to the ground. I'll spare you the gory medical details, but when he regained consciousness, his first question was "am I still alive?"

Anonymous 7:30 AM  

RAINBOW instead of RAINGOD. FOUR STARS instead of FOUR ALARM and YES I CAN instead of YEAH MAN Did me in.
Because of these brain lapses could not see the HAMMER and the RISING parts of the answers. So the left part of the puzzle remained Greek to me.

Nice writeup again PuzzleGirl.

Glimmerglass 7:48 AM  

PEN is a female swan. The male is a cob (unless I've got it backwards). A CIRCLE is a club in the sense of "circle of friends" or "sewing circle," but I think that's stretching that meaning of CIRCLE. Almost by definition a CIRCLE is not an organized club.

Jeff 7:59 AM  

I had LOFAT, and DNF'd with the SWAN / TET / WREST chain. The Pen/Cob thing is new to me -- fascinating. One of those crossword clues that will stick with me.

(Aside from those three, this was on its way to be one of my fastest Wednesdays. Oh well!)

Horace S. Patoot 8:10 AM  

I like Puzzlegirl's write-ups. I imagine she's also the mysterious Pizza Girl of the strip Questionable Content. http://questionablecontent.wikia.com/wiki/Pizza_Girl

AliasZ 8:13 AM  


Except for the CIRCLEd (clubbed?) squares, this puzzle could've been switched with EIDER Monday's or Tuesday's, both of whose theme was a little snazzier and more fun than this one. Not that I have anything against FLAG DAY, in fact next to Arbor Day it is my favorite holiday sale. But I missed Union Jack, Jolly Roger and "Piros Fehér Zöld."

I tried to figure out which countries had the FOUR ALARM and POKER ROOM flags but couldn't find them.

All these flags have musical expressions: MAPLE LEAF, STARS AND STRIPES and RISING SUN, except HAMMER AND SICKLE. This last one is so hated, especially in Eastern Europe, that nobody had the nerve or inspiration to compose a song for it. Oh, it's been tried: "If I Had a HAMMER AND SICKLE," "She Loves You HAMMER AND SICKLE," "I Can Get No HAMMER AND SICKLE," "God Save our Gracious HAMMER AND SICKLE" and "HAMMER AND SICKLE Über alles" but these never took. And that is a good thing.

I was going to offer a brief excerpt from the first of Wagner's Ring Cycle operas, "Das RAINGOD" but the spelling didn't look right, so I'll just sign off now.

Coyote Soul.

Mohair Sam 8:25 AM  

Easy Wednesday here, worked from bottom to top and when RISINGSUN filled the theme filled instantly and the puzzle was essentially finished.

With two letters from the theme the infamous CIRCLE gave us no resistance, but do agree with @Glimmerglass that (at least in usage) the word implies lack of organization - the opposite of a club.

Enjoying PG's comments (especially today) - a little Bombeckesque - although sometimes it seems as though she was dropped on her head as a child.

Anonymous 8:26 AM  

Was just listening to "Sir Duke" by Stevie Wonder yesterday and heard the famous "yeah, man!" during that signature "break" section, so it was fresh in my mind. Cool coincidence.

Casco Kid 8:32 AM  

Easy-like-Monday Wednesday, and I blew it at DiFER/iLLIE. How so, you ask?

I'm blaming 1) business travel which 2) got off on wrong foot with my regular ipad left behind , so 3) Gen 1 iPad back-up in play, with 4) the new NYTimes app. Also, over-sugared, over-caffeinated, 2 am. Oh, and bad brains, as always.

SWAN was new. Flags were gimmes. no real resistance.

loren muse smith 8:39 AM  

He, PG – another fine write-up. I absolutely cannot imagine having to do that day in and day out. "Maybe I'll just tell them some rambling story about my life." (Well. There's a thought.) Funny paint ball and bunk bed stories!

My first thought for DAFFY was Elmer. But I gueth DAFFY lithpth, and Elmer can get his mouth around L's and R's.

I finished with no problems and one question – SWAN? Thanks for the clarification. I misread the clue for FOUR ALARM as "destination." And I had ___ARM in place. So I kept remembering asking my son to point on his ice cream where he wanted me to squirt the whipped cream as I squirted. And squirted and squirted all the way up his arm every time.

@jae "A nice reminder of national holiday." Just two days ago I was at Walmart, and right there as you walk in was a display of American flags. My husband had been asking me to get a new one, but I hadn't been able to find one and then *poof!* There they were, so many. I thought, "How nice! Finally!" Never once questioned why all of the sudden there were flags to buy. Reminds me of a time in mid-March I had decided to do a corned beef and just marveled at the fact that there were briskets everywhere displayed in the store. Didn't put two and two together until much later.

@Steve J - "people who get to come up with animal group names" I know, right? How come no one ever calls me for suggestions? It's well known that it's a CIRCLE of EIDERs, but I would suggest a POKER ROOM of cobs and a HAREM of pens. (I know, I know. Smacks of sexism.) Oh, and a DUET of bushtits. Those seem as plausible as any others. Show me a group of regular NYT solvers, and I'll show you a KNIT of bird name experts.

Speaking of which – EIDER, LARK, AMAZON, SWAN, DAFFY…

@chefwen "Anyway, it's great to have such good cyber friends, thanks again." I have made so many friends here the past couple of years. I wish we could have this big party somewhere and meet face to face. Wouldn't that be cool?

@Leap – yep. Went to school at UNC. We're having some rough waters here right now. I hope it can all be sorted out. Thanks @Carola and @jberg for the Badger feedback! In retrospect, I guess I wouldn't want to take on a Badger – animal or MINER. So just lemme at those Banana Slugs.

@M&A - "Runtpuzs have no stinkin rules or even guidelines, actually." just make sure it's not a 10x8 and the clues aren't too wordy! Hah! Also – did you actually print one? I would love for them to be printable because I have some ideas that would require pencil and paper solving.

Thanks, Ian, for the Wednesday workout. I love me some circles.

Susan McConnell 8:39 AM  

Easy and a little on the dull side for me. Agree with others about the tasteless Memorial Day clue and the TET Holiday.

Thanks for everything, PuzzleGirl.

@DL, I am a big CS Lewis admirer. Surprised By Joy is a favorite. I recommend CS Lewis At The Breakfast Table, a collection of correspondence between Lewis and his students and friends. It gives amazing insight into him as a teacher and friend.

joho 8:43 AM  

I wondered why Ian picked June 14 for the DATE at 76A ...even thought it might be his birthday thinking that today must be Flag Day. Is that the first time a clue has been used as a reveal?

I thought this was easy even for a Wednesday, so PG you are right, this couldn't have run on Saturday, F L A G D A Y.

I always like Ian's puzzles, this one included.

joho 8:47 AM  

I forgot to mention that I liked the NIL/NADA cross.

AND I loved PuzzleGirl's write-up!

John V 9:00 AM  

SWAN/PEN and TET kinda ruined that corner, IMHO. Likewise, same prob as PG with 47A HOLE. Not sure that TET holiday is a thing, as others have noted. Meh puzzle, here.

Flag Day, June 14, 1955 was when my namesake, my paternal grandfather passed, so it is a meaningful day, for me.

Lewis 9:23 AM  

Smooth solve, which Ian seems to specialize in, even in puzzles like this with lots of theme. I bet it was nice for Ian to discover that STARSANDSTRIPES and HAMMERANDSICKLE both have 15 letters. Hard for me to imagine a better Flag Day puzzle.

Post Puzzle Puzzle (PPP™): It is something that the four theme flags have in common, and if you reverse it, it gives you the last name of a prolific NYT puzzle constructor. What is this constructor's first initial?

lawprof 9:34 AM  

Easy-medium seems about right. A few writeovers: None/NADA; goose/geese/EIDER; lOFAT/NOFAT. All quickly corrected.

Flag theme was mildly interesting. I'd always wondered why the Toronto MAPLE LEAFs aren't the Maple Leaves, but now it makes sense...kind of. I take it they're named after the flag, not the foliage?

Benko 9:42 AM  

@Lewis: K. Nice guy. I've talked to him a couple of times at the ACPT. I've been thinking about something he said at the last one...I complained how there wasn't a regional crossword tournament in Florida, and he said, "Start one!"

I remember in Full Metal Jacket, the American soldiers referred to it as "the Tet holiday."

Anonymous 9:49 AM  

Good work. I started doing puzzles because of Rex also. Nice write-ups. Thanks

chefbea 9:52 AM  

No time to read all the comments - will do that later.
Liked the puzzle even tho it wasn't on flag day..Dont get swan=penn.

I do mince a lot of foods in my kitchen but do NOT have a can of lard!!!

We will miss you Puzzle girl. come back soon

Z 9:53 AM  

As many of you already know, I love Two-Hearted Ale. A fine IPA with interesting floral notes and a bitter finish. It is complex and entertaining, but many find it too harsh. Nevertheless, I also love Oberon, with a twist of orange. It is sunny and bright, the use of wheat lightens the flavor. These are very different beers, but I love them both.

@Carola - thanks for looking it up in the OED. Shortz is right again.

I grew up a Republican, but as early as my teens it was moving away from my values towards it current mash-up of corporate/southern democrat/neo-confederatism. The final straw, the complete break, was a "republican" president telling me to do my "patriotic" duty and shop. Yes, that clue grated, although it is all too accurate.

"For sure, dude!" should be the clue for JAH MON.

Played crunchy for me, but mostly due to the solver, not the puzzle. My hyphenated American started out as Afro, I put down my shoe size in the wrong spot and assumed that if EEE was for a big foot, EEEE would be for a bigger foot. DEtER instead of DEFER and lO-FAT didn't help, either. A fine FLAG DAY puzzle.

First Gen 9:55 AM  

Club=circle. Wiki Workmen's Circle. Amy first generation Jewish American will know it. A left wing workers organization.

SenorLynn 9:58 AM  

Theme answers way too easy, the rest pretty hard. @Jeff had lOcAl & lOFAT. @Alias how bout Tricolor? @LorenMuseSmith an Alton Brown foodie show said the Irish couldn't afford beef or cabbage in Ireland, but took to it from the Jews in the new world.
A lot of more appetizing things in a cook's pantry than LARD.

mac 10:03 AM  

Medium Wednesday for me because of the minor struggle with ship/hole/circle and also "an act" of God instead of Agnes. Lots of wonderful medium sized words in this one: larks, aloof, flunk, wrest.

Don't Mr. Magoo and Elmer also have speech impediments?

Very funny write-up. I totally understand the blog fatigue because of the pressure to do it every day. Don't know how Rex manages year in, year out.
Thanks, PG!

r.alphbunker 10:10 AM  

Slow start in the North. Took a vacation in the South, came back refreshed and cleaned up the mess.
20A ewe-->FIR (!!)
1D elmer-->DAFFY
1A DEtER-->DEFER
51A SIb-->SIS
12D geodE-->AGATE
10A cage-->SWAN
13D lOFAT-->NOFAT
30D Cudgel-->CIRCLE
3D FOURstARs-->FOURALARM
23A YEsicAN-->YEAHMAN
40A dead-->ROLE
6A Afro-->ARAB

Is the flag flying at half mast?

@Lewis
Nice! All the puzzles are Berry colored ;-)

I have posted it at runtpuz.org.

I would argue that the adjective "ambitious" rather than "prolific" is a better describes the constructor.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:16 AM  

Had a smile when I noticed (as mentioned by @joho et al.) that 67 A was clued as "June 14, e.g.", nailing down Flag Day.

Had a shudder when I filled in 35 D, POKER ROOM, and had a thought I have picked up from Rex - Is that a real thing? I've never been in a casino in my life, so maybe they do have special rooms set aside just for poker?

I can't quote TV dialog the way some people do, but just last night I heard a Big Bang Theory re-run which had (approximately) Sheldon's mother making cobbler. Penny says, "This is the best cobbler I've ever tasted! What is the secret ingredient? Aw, I bet it's Love!" Sheldon's mother: "No, lard."

Arlene 10:19 AM  

I filled it all in and wondered why a pen was a SWAN. How could I have missed learning that in 40 years of puzzle-solving?
The RFK clue had me remembering when JFK picked his brother as atty gen - it was an unusual thing to do. And RFK was even younger than this young president.
And I also wondered why we were celebrating Flag Day on June 11th. The June 14 clue at least winked at that anomaly.

John Hagen 10:23 AM  

"Circle" only used in reference to my mother's "Ladies Aid" club in Lutheran church. She, my mother, went to "circle." Memorial day? I had "race."

Bob Kerfuffle 10:23 AM  

Darn it, you can find anything online! Just Googled "sheldon mother cobbler" and immediately got:

Quotes by Mary Cooper:


(to Penny, about Sheldon's favourite dessert, cobbler)

Penny: This is the best cobbler ever

Mary: It was always Sheldon’s favourite – you know what the secret ingredient is?

Penny: Love?

Mary: Lard

ArtO 10:29 AM  

Terrible Cluing. There's not a decent chef today who would use lard!

Arlene 10:30 AM  

@Bob Kerfuffle
Yes - there are now POKER ROOMS - lots of them - in the casinos. It's a very popular, and a big deal! People even wait to join the tables. It's worth taking a look to see for yourself how hooked so many people are on this. And the tournaments, too. Seems to attract a particular gender too. :-)

wreck 10:44 AM  

It was called the Tet Offensive because "Tet" is the biggest Vietnamese holiday of the year (the equivalent of New Year's). The Tet Offensive took place during that holiday festival time.

Wendy 10:51 AM  

I saw a barbecue show on the Create channel this morning, and the chef basted grilling chicken with LARD. Yum?
The theme clues were so simple that this puzzle seems more like a Tuesday to me. That's ok, it still made me happy--except for SALE. Not a good clue for that. Could have clued it "No______" .
I think we recently saw the SWAN/pen and evidently I stored it away because it surfaced when no other letter would work in 10D.
Usually can't post because I give up after three Captcha failures...but today, three numbers!

Anonymous 10:51 AM  

@Anonymous 3:05

re Swan Penn joke -- you Teller!

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

Dear PuzzleGirl,
I respect Rex and I really appreciate this blog, but I don't always feel good reading his commentary when it occasionally oozes superiority. I like that you seem to enjoy the actual solving the puzzle rather than enjoying the opportunity to show how clever you must be.
One of Rex's virtues is using the blog to further educate some of us/me - for instance, he might use the swan clue to mention that pen's counterpart is cob. That sort of thing makes great blogging filler, hint hint. ;-)

Z 11:01 AM  

@ArtO - I know many many many people who would say no good cook can be one without LARD, especially in baking. The suggestion that anything but LARD can be used in pie crust is certain to lead to excommunication from certain CIRCLEs.

@PG - The last time we were in DC we managed to catch United and the Nats at RFK. "Crappy" is an understatement.

retired_chemist 11:03 AM  

Enjoyable. Medium. Seemed I was slower than I should have been but my time put me about where I usually am vis-a-vis the NYT times on Wednesday.

Hand up for Afro => ARAB. MAPLE tree before I figured out the theme. ELLIE, RAIN GOD - nice to learn. Couldn't remember MINERVA until I got the M - then it went right in.

Pretty much everything went in easily, with a few crosses. I guess my slowdown was needing all those short crosses.

Thanks, Mr. Livengood.

jdv 11:06 AM  

Easy. I like the word Odalisque. ODA used to be crosswordese for Harem, but I haven't seen it in a while. Did not know CS Lewis hailed from Belfast.

Carola 11:31 AM  

Liked it a lot. Pleasing combination of soft and chewy - easy theme (once I saw it) and more resistant surrounding bits. Once MAPLE LEAF was in place, I filled in the rest of the circles and the other flags. Like @Lewis, I admired how the two Cold War adversaries faced off with their 15s, each a three-word phrase, as well as the parallel two-word natural images (LEAF, SUN) for Canada and Japan (I wonder how many other possibilities there are - "Union Jack," say, would fit for length but not have the nature reference.) Really nice.

Like @John Hagen, CIRCLE also reminded me of my mom hosting meetings of her Dorcas Circle, at which a pie featuring a crust made with LARD was likely to be served. (Fact: Norwegian-Lutheran-Americans rule when it comes to pie.)

Fred Romagnolo 12:07 PM  

I don't think Magoo had a language problem; it was a visual one. Don't know if Stalin's flag was more interesting; Hitler's certainly was. But I guess anything beats tricolors, either vertical or horizontal; I've always felt the Brits have the best one. And if Scotland breaks free, it'll have to be scrapped: no longer the "Union Jack."

Hartley70 12:10 PM  

Nicely done puzzle if perhaps a little Wednesday easy. It's unusual to enter the theme clues first. Puzzle Girl is a delight. Rex has been doing this superbly for how many years? I'm sure he NEEDED this vacation and hopefully it's not in Minneapolis! They both add such enrichment to the puzzle experience.
@George Barany Did you say NO?

Leapfinger 12:11 PM  

The best-tasting challah I ever had came from Pegnataro's in New Haven. I finally figured out what made it so good: bacon grease on the baking sheet.

@A-Zwriter: A veritable cardiac cockle-warmer for any coyote soul. To offset the rather Fekete tone of the HAMMER AND SICKLE rant, I offer these lyrics:
"I don't want a pickle, I just want to ride my motorSICKLE.
And I don't want to die, I just want to ride my motorcy-
Cle."

[The HAMMER part comes from me, being well on my way from HAM to HAMMEST.]

Must admit that Wagner's 'Das RAINGOD' resulted in coffee spewing like lava from Popocatepetl, or whatever volcano is nearest that AMAZON RAINforest.['Ojos del Salado' sounds like hungry for lunch; 'Llullallico' sounds like nap-time; 'Incahuasi, Incahuasn'ti?] No, really, that was definitely a Meister Zinger!!!

Oyes, the puzzle. Did everyone notice the Allies on top, the Axis below? (Will also long remember the other OFL urging shopping as a remedy.)

Noticed some ELLIEgant little Livengood touches:
Hinging two [Zilches] @21
Crossing CIRCLE x HOLE
Separating the EIDER and DAFFY Ducks
The symmetry of ARAB-DATE and SWAN-SONS, whose frozen dinners did *not* include NO-FAT LARKS. Those TV dinners were sometimes a substitute for eating out @ DEN-EEE...
Not to mention, FIR-RIG, no LOO

Like others, had a Spot of trouble with 44D. Thought that may be Overnight STAY, and how confused would the puppy be if commanded to "Overnight!"?

So. Not hard, but still enjoyable. I don't have to blow a fuse every day.

Ciao for now

Lewis 12:21 PM  

@benko and r.alph -- sounds like you know him better than I. But now I've learned more, from you.

Lewis 12:23 PM  
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Leapfinger 12:47 PM  

Dang. The MAPLE LEAF is now 43 years old; I still remember the former flag.

Good thing that Canada decided to change it; I don't think the RED ENSIGN would have made it into today's puzzle.

Steve J 12:56 PM  

@ArtO: There are lots of decent - and great - chefs today who use lard. It's especially widely used in making pastry. As @Z said, there are a lot of people (I'm one of them) who insist that the quality of pie crust made with lard instead of Crisco is vastly superior (not to mention, Crisco's loaded with trans-fats). Lard's been making a comeback in other uses as well. And, of course, lard's essential to good refried beans.

Masked and AnonymoUUs 1:11 PM  

Loved it.

Decent discovery, how the flag symbols will mesh up in a grid like that. Brave, to put the two 15-ers in the middle like that with only one row separatin them. Can lead to some nice desperate moments, of which probaly SHH and EEE rise to the top, for me. Maybe the 15-ers got mashed close together, in order to accomodate the circles?

Ian really really had my hopes up, that SWAL was goin to be a NE corner mainstay. ("With low, gulp down hard", "Backward tax code", etc.). Coulda had some desperation that really meant business, then. But no NOFAT. Left me havin to settle for ASEC.

fave fillins: FLUNK. YEAHMAN. SWAL*. AMAZON. HOLE+ROLE (=doh knut). CIRCLE(s).

Ultimate M&A Challenge: Havin to spell SICKLE. If I'da been tryin to do it onstage at the ACPT, the Shortzmeister woulda been reduced to tears.

@muse: no problemo, dudess. The magnificent r.alph is now apparently providin pdf files, over at runtpuz.gov, for all yer latest muserunts. Easy as pi to print em out. And day-um, girl... Here I take all the pressure off of U, runtrule-wise, and U R still not happy? So far, U are doin Great. Just wanted to keep U hootin and thinkin "small ball", with all my wise-ass suggestions. Has yer fam become concerned, with yer shift to the runtpuz darkside, yet? Any interventions planned? Just do what I did: smile and agree with everything they say; then suddenly run off as fast as U can, while dishin up a maniacal laugh. Keeps em interested, in yer progress...

M&A

Gill I. P. 1:16 PM  

I'm loving the fat comments.
@Steve J...Crisco is vegetable fat and that is what you use to make your yummy pie crusts (along with butter).
LARD is animal fat. There is nothing more delicious than pig fat on a chunky piece of bread.!!!

Casco Kid 1:20 PM  

@ArtO I have it on good authority (Mrs. Kid) that The Best Pie Crusts are made with 50% lard and 50% butter, and now I see that I am echoing great minds on this.

Pretty sure we don't use lard for anything else, however, but there is always a can in the pantry. For pie emergencies, don't you know?

Gill I. P. 1:24 PM  

@Casco Kid...If you've ever cooked home-made refried beans (Hi Steve J)then you HAVE to use lard. No decent cook would ever leave that tasty ingredient out. Viva Zapata!

Leapfinger 1:28 PM  

Went to runtpuz.gov
Block Parties downloaded the PUZ version, but
Unwelcome Advances said 'page not found'...
Till 2 minutes later, up she popped.

Interoperator variability?
Maybe Los Federales @ work, protecting their dot-government...

M and A I Need Help Desk 1:33 PM  

p.s.
probably, not probaly.
runtpuz.org, not .gov.

Also almost furgot:
[Polar Bear in a Snow Storm] = WHITEFLAG.
[The Shortzmeister] = CHECKEREDFLAG.
[Ted Cruz] = ALONESTARFLAG.
[Pirates of the Caribbean] = JOLLYROGERFLAG.
[Dead Golfers] = GOLFFLOG. (Shout out to yer TuesPuz).
[Roach Motel] = exercise for the audience.

mwaharhar (while runnin off)
M&A

dk 2:12 PM  

������������ (3 Flags)

Timely and fun. Challenge was trying to spell SICKLE as cycle…. but I got HOLE and Golf as i was check the sports section for info on the World Cup and glanced at some golf stuff.

Do not get me started on the whole murder of crows, parliament of owls thing.

Puzzlegirl anyone that draws upon Homestar Runner… well nuff said about that :)

dk 2:13 PM  

sigh, apologies for the typos but gotta go

Ellen S 2:15 PM  

well at least I got here before @SanFranMan. Liked the puzzle. Like the HAMMER AND SICKLE for that matter. Reminder of a noble experiment gone horribly wrong. Based on my experience in my "peace group," as well as from reading the newspapers, I'm beginning to wonder if people are capable of self-government. if not, then any attempt at socialism will turn into something decidedly else. Should I give up, then? I do, after all, have a season of Orphan Black to catch up on. And I want to investigate those runtpuzzes.

What else shall I bore/offend you with? Oh, POKER ROOM. definitely a thing. My brother used to take motorcycle trips that brought him often through Reno, and i'd drive over and have lunch with him. The Hotel/Casino he preferred (name I can't remember, oh, Fitzgerald's, I have a little leprechaun ornament from there), anyway they had a lot of different restaurants, diner, steakhouse, seafood, chinese, etc., distributed across the casino such that to get from one restaurant to another you had to walk through many dens of iniquity. Including POKER ROOMs. An experience worthy of a Fellini film. Or a Zombie flick.

Anonymous 2:31 PM  

I was going to say almost exactly what John Hagen said, except that my acquaintance with CIRCLE involves Presbyterian rather than Lutheran women and the Madonna Circle in Memphis, a service organization for Catholic women. The connotation of being somewhat disorganized might be true of the Presbyterian circles, but I think the good ladies of Madonna Circle might be offended if you call them disorganized. And for Memorial Day weekend event, what good American would not immediately think of RACE instead of SALE? SALE? Well, yeah, there are Memorial Day weekend sales, but there are sales every weekend, not just at Memorial Day, but the Indy 500 is held only on that weekend.

Anonymous 2:35 PM  

Out of all the colors available for flags, why would the Russians choose red, white, and blue for theirs? You would think they would have chosen any other colors whatsoever.

LaneB 2:57 PM  

Enjoyed PuzzleGirl's write up and many of the bloggers' comments. Some of the fill coupled with their clues made the puzzle less easy than it should have been, e.g. ARAB, ADMIN,DELE,SWAN,SALE, YEAHMAN, SHIP and HOLE. but the flag symbols took care of most of the problems. Didn't know about swans and cobs but stuff like that must show up in several of the millions of puzzles extant.

As usual, particularly enjoyed the comments of @lms [as apparently many others do, too.] I look forward to them daily, and it would be a treat to meet this smart, clever tuna-boat sailing, dogsledding, animal-loving, ex-barmaid, wife, mother, teacher and linguist. Sadly, I don't get back East for the annual Shortz get together [ditto West Virginia], but if fortune ever brings LMS to the Bay Area, well. . . the drink's on me.

Steve J 2:58 PM  

@Gill I.P.: Crisco has been commonly used in pie crusts for the last few generations, but lard was common prior to the popularization of Crisco in the first half of the 20th century. And a lot of people have moved back to lard (or never stopped using it in countries where Crisco isn't as common). I've had some side-by-side comparisons, and I think the texture and flakiness of the crusts using lard is much better than using vegetable shortening.

@Anonymous 2:35 p.m.: The Russian flag has been red, white and blue since the 17th century, about 100 years before the creation of the American flag. When the Soviet Union ended, the Russians simply went back to the flag they'd had for the previous 300+ years.

Ludyjynn 3:09 PM  

Some reactions to your reactions...

@LMS, I wonder if a single one of the American flags you recently saw displayed for sale @ WalMart was actually made in America. It is the one item I will never purchase unless I see a US manufacturer's label on it.

@Leapy, you made me spit up my drink w/ your Italian bakery + bacon grease = challah story! Only in America.

@FirstGen, my Russian, first generation immigrant grandfather (1912), would have roared w/ laughter @ describing his NJ branch of the Workmens Circle as "left wing". The man, a talented tool and dye maker, who, w/ virtually no formal education learned and spoke 4 languages fluently, once he escaped the Czarist regime, worried about only two things: earning a living wage to support his wife and 3 kids and to ASSIMILATE into the greatest place on Earth he had ever encountered: the USA.

This one fell easy-medium for me. Thanks, IL and WS for a solid Wednesday.

My captcha has an American flag on it! Coincidence? I think not.

Sfingi 3:55 PM  

I'm always glad when given the warning that the food will be hot. Hate it, but hate more that I'm expected to like it. Weren't those things there to cover up bad food? Same with lemon slices in water.

I thought Flag Day was about the American Flag, period.
Otherwise, a nice Wed. puzzle.

2 mini themes - zilch and place to play cards.

Will Russia ever change the symbols on their flag? Maybe an oil can and nested dolls.

Z 4:03 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z 4:04 PM  

@Hartley70 - If his twitter feed is to be believed Rex is, indeed, in Minneapolis. Something about making out with Mary Tyler Moore's statue and getting arrested.*











*I may have embellished a little

RAD2626 4:06 PM  

I started with Indy and lOFAT In the NE and since WREST and AGATE did not jump off the page, that took a little time to sort out. HAMMERANDSICKLE fell quickly which allowed all the themes to be filled in making the rest go smoothly. Fun fill.

@leapfinger. The Pegnataro's on Whalley Avenue had a great deli and bakery, although the best bakeries (and pizza) remained on Wooster Street.

Wikipedia 4:17 PM  

@ludyjinn - May be time to get out a small tuning hammer and give your predictive speller a corrective tap -- or did your grandfather both make machine tools and solutions for coloring cloth? ;-)

"Tool and die makers are a class of machinists in the manufacturing industries who make jigs, fixtures, dies, molds, machine tools, cutting tools, gauges, and other tools used in manufacturing processes."

sanfranman59 4:23 PM  

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

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

Wed 9:53, 9:46, 1.01, 56%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:30, 6:11, 1.05, 63%, Medium-Challenging

DigitalDan 5:11 PM  

The Methodist Church organizes groups of women into Circles, formal ongoing organizations that do something or other. I suppose they could be said to be clubs.

mathguy 5:51 PM  

I liked the comments about lard. I'd heard that it is best for baking pastries. The closest I come to using lard in my cooking is when I'm heating up left-over pasta. I cut up a few pieces of bacon before adding the pasta. The pasta picks up some of the bacon flavor. My market here in San Francisco doesn't sell lard, I don't think that they even sell Crisco (which I just learned is different). But I understand that Mexican groceries of which we have many sell it. I think that they call it Mercado or something like that.

Lewis 6:00 PM  

Post Puzzle Puzzle (PPP™) solution:


The four flags have RED in common, which backwards is DER, the last name of prolific constructor Kevin.

Ludyjynn 6:20 PM  

Dear @Wikip., Oops, I did it again. With apologies to Britney Spears.

lawprof 6:32 PM  

A biscochito witout lard? Might as well have a martini without gin.

Anonymous 8:06 PM  

Do people really not know that Memorial Day and Flag Day are two different commemorations?

Questinia 8:50 PM  

In elementary school we each got a different national flag placed under our plates at lunch on flag day. I always got Malta.

wreck 9:43 PM  

mmmmmmmm ......Malt-a-Meal

sanfranman59 10:04 PM  

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

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

Mon 5:48, 6:04, 0.96, 29%, Easy-Medium
Tue 7:21, 8:46, 0.84, 8%, Easy
Wed 9:53, 9:46, 1.01, 56%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:48, 3:55, 0.97, 30%, Easy-Medium
Tue 5:10, 5:21, 0.97, 37%, Easy-Medium
Wed 6:22, 6:11, 1.03, 59%, Medium

Leapfinger 10:06 PM  

@RAD26x2
This Pegnataro's was south and east of the Med School @333 Cedar St. Pretty sure there wasn't one on Whalley Ave in those days (1970s)

BUT! Pizza @ The Spot and Pepe's...Yum!
Good times with flash fires and exploding stuff in the lab, contaminating that fresh NHaven air

@ludyj -- No kidding. Anything forbidden tastes sweeter

Power is out here, and laptop draining fast....I'm Melting, I'm Melting...

Steve J 10:31 PM  

@mathguy: Manteca is Spanish for lard (which makes me chuckle every time I drive through the Central Valley city of that name whenever I'm heading to Yosemite). Mercado is Spanish for market.

@Anon 8:06 p.m.: Nobody was confusing Flag Day and Memorial Day. They were commenting on the cluing of SALE at 10D as a Memorial Day event.

r.alphbunker 12:27 AM  

FWIW, I wrote a quick program to approximate the number of times that the answers to the puzzle were mentioned by posters to this blog. The answers that were commented on most frequently were
lard(25)
circle(24)
swan(18)
hammerandsickle(13)
sale(11)
tet(10)
hole(9)
here(9)
yeahman(8)
pokerroom(7)
daffy(7)
raingod(6)
maple(6)
fouralarm(5)

The answers that were not mentioned at all were:
ecole(0)
ion(0)
spar(0)
dip(0)
eon(0)
lamas(0)
tea(0)
zits(0)
opec(0)
mapleleaf(0)
argo(0)
epson(0)
spa(0)
ell(0)
nears(0)
fiesta(0)
alp(0)
amino(0)
basin(0)
rca(0)
cel(0)
viola(0)

ahimsa 12:39 AM  

Quite clever to notice that all those flag symbols had matching lengths!

@PuzzleGirl, I loved that Allie Brosh cartoon!

For those who don't know her she's the author of Hyperbole and a Half. She also has a web site at blogspot.com with the same name.

Oh, I also wish that SALE had been clued some other way.

@Steve J, How does one say vegetarian in Spanish? :-) I never learned that word in high school although I do know the word for LARD from somewhere. At any rate, "Yo no quiero manteca."

Leapfinger 7:02 AM  

@ralph.ralph.
(Sorry, don't mean to be barking at you)

Interesting to see that list and the associated numbers. I'm surprised about MAPLE LEAF, because Canadian usually gets some notice. Can I throw in a late mention of a quiet glow? Yikes, this from an old Montrealer!

Second surprise was LAMAS; most appearances [in some discussions] will merit a Fernando or a one-L vs 2-L comment, but I s'pose after awhile even Ogden Nashery palls.

spacecraft 11:28 AM  

I agree with @PG about the HOLE/SHIP area; those clues are definite efforts to "overnight" a Tuesday-level puzzle into Wedensday. The disadvantage of syndi-solving is that timeliness is often lost on us, so the fact that this grid appeared on FLAG DAY was not on my mind. I wasn't sure what they were after, with country names in brackets, but coming down out of the NW with FOURALARM and filling in that little western pocket, all I needed was STA... and HAM... to figure it out. The rest of the themers were thus gimmes, and it only remained to fill in the fill.

Said fill is a notch or two above average, IMO. Sure, you have your EEE, whaddyagonnado. But the long non-themers are lovely, and the Z-cross coolly unforced. Easy-medium, and a fun do. Could have done just as well without the CIRCLEs; the spelled-out FLAG DAY adds too little to the experience to even bother with. Not a big fan of the grid circle, this guy.

1009, card please.

DMG 12:42 PM  

Here in Syndiland we don't have the "today is ? day" connection, but Once STARSANDSTRIPES became obvious, the puzzle filled itself, with only one write-over. My "club was originally a Cudgel. Thought REAL was a strange definition of "all natural" and actually toyed with peeL before the crosses set me straight.

3806. An 8, but I suppose someone will top me.

rain forest 3:10 PM  

Proud that I got MAPLE LEAF first which clued me in to the theme immediately. Liked that Canada (THE best place to live) was the first country mentioned in the clues. A little patriotic hubris for ya.

Pretty easy puzzle for me. I was only slowed at SHIP and SWAN. I've never used "overnight" as a verb, and never will.

PG's write-ups have been great. I detected no Shortz bashing, no directing to other, "better" puzzles, and no cynical snark.

2565 Yes!

Solving in Seattle 3:27 PM  

I was sure there was a "y" in SICKLE. FOURstARs before ----ALARM. SHIP HOLE was a problem for me, too.

Ian also slipped in POKERROOM crossing HOLE (as in card).

Lived in Vancouver for a year and a half. Beautiful country, beautiful anthem. beautiful flag. You rock, Canada.

5950. @DMG gets my money.

Dirigonzo 4:38 PM  

My Yellow LAB ELLIE makes an appearance and it always tickles me when my hometown BELFAST is in the grid, although today it's not clued as such. The last time it appeared in a late-week puzzle and actually referred to the small coast town in Maine it caused a bit of a stir among the griderati as being too obscure. Had to wait for the crosses to determine if the chile would be Five- or FOUR-ALARM.

1651 - not even close.

Waxy in Montreal 6:15 PM  

@Diri - wow, who knew CS Lewis was born in Maine? (imbed wry or rye chuckle here). Speaking of which, my son & family in Wells Beach ME this week experienced a major storm with tornado warnings all along the coast - what a wild place Vacationland America has become...

Fun theme made simple once the first flag (appropriately Maple Leaf in my case) was identified. Like others, found SWAN an odd answer at 10A especially after 13A was LOCAL at first. Also had DETER before DEFER delaying the FOURALARM designation.

6280 - @DMG still rules!

leftcoastTAM 7:59 PM  

PuzzleGirl, I totally agree with you on the Memorial Day clue/answer (and I'm not an on-demand patriot, either). Will look forward to your next appearance. Thanks.

Dirigonzo 8:00 PM  

@waxy - "Rye" humor is my favorite kind, and yes, we had some wild weather, including a couple of tornados - I blame Obama.

Why is everybody ignoring @rainy's winning hand (no disrespect to @DMG intended)?

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