"Damn Yankees" team / THU 6-12-14 / "Well-bred insolence," per Aristotle / Pawel Pawlikowski film / Nevil Shute's "___ Like Alice" / Line 22 on Form 1040

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Constructor: Mark Feldman

Relative difficulty: Pretty hard, I think.


THEME — All of it: Theme answers are the last words of familiar phrases that start with "The whole ..."

Theme answers:
  • 17A: MEGILLAH (Long, involved story, in slang)
  • 18A: BALL OF WAX (Business, informally)
  • 30A: SHOOTING MATCH (Competition in marksmanship)
  • 51A: ENCHILADA (Queso-topped dish)
  • 54A: THE WHOLE (100% ... or words that can precede 17-, 18-, 30- and 51-Across
Knock knock! Who's there? That's right, you're stuck with PuzzleGirl again today. Rex's flight got canceled so I got an SOS text from Detroit. Now I just told you all yesterday about how I was pretty much done with the whole blogging thing for this week, right? That should mean your expectations are sufficiently low. I guess we'll find out.

I had a REALLY hard time with this puzzle. I didn't want to admit it to you earlier this week, but I actually haven't been solving puzzles daily for a couple months now. Things just got busy here and for some reason, puzzling sort of fell off my radar. When Rex asked me to sub for him this week, I thought "Great! An excuse to get back in the habit!" And it really has been great. The problem is that when you don't regularly solve puzzles, a Thursday can kind of throw you for a loop. At least that was my experience today.

I did manage to finish the puzzle, but it was very slow going. It seemed like every clue was opaque and coming up with the answers required WAY more brain cell activity than anything else I did today. And I tell you all that to say that I'm probably not a great judge of this puzzle's difficulty level. And the fact that I've never heard of one of the theme answer, well to me that says I'm probably not a great judge of ANYTHING to do with this puzzle.

THE WHOLE MEGILLAH. Huh. Megillah is, of course, a Hebrew word, so the phrase is basically Jewish (can a phrase be Jewish?). Me? I'm not Jewish. I do know a few things about Judaism though. I've been to a bris. My BFF sends me hamentashen every year at Purim. I know when to say L'shana tovah and understand why some Jews won't use umbrellas on Shabbat. But "The Whole Megillah" is new to me. I wonder if it would make a difference if I lived in New York or even in a neighborhood with a larger Jewish population. I'm curious to know whether you know this phrase or not. (And whether you're Jewish or not.) In any case, it made that corner of the grid very tough for me but I'm happy to have learned something from this puzzle.

Quick Hits:
  • 5A: Spencer of "Good Morning America" (LARA) — Never heard of her.
  • 12A: Common flavorer in Italian sausage (FENNEL) — Reminds me of one of my favorite "Sports Night" exchanges.
Casey: Hey what do you know about the fennel salad here?
Gordon: What do you need to know?
Casey: Well, like, for instance...what's fennel?
  • 20A: Home of "The Gist" and "Political Gabfest" (SLATE) — Expected this to be a TV station, not an "e-mag."
  • 27A: Final order (DESSERT) — I've worked in the legal profession basically my whole life, so I could only think of "order" as something a judge would hand down, which made DESSERT pretty tough to see.
  • 40A: Modern term for "Roman fever" (MALARIA) — Who knew?
  • 47A: In groups (ELITES) — In this clue "in" is an adjective, not a preposition. So. Tricky.
  • 48A: Holy SEE. — Raise your hand if you tried COW here.
  • 57A: Mark Twain's boyhood home (HANNIBAL) — Thankful for this gimme.
  • 5D: Miller character (LOMAN) — I was thinking "A Streetcar Named Desire," not "Death of a Salesman." Two totally different plays written, coincidentally, by two total different playwrights.
  • 9D: Lit up (ABLAZE) — Tried AFLAME first.
  • 10D: Certain metalworker (PLATER) — I'm sure this is a real thing, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
  • 12D: Bone whose name is Latin for "pin" (FIBULA) — Lots of learning going on during this solve.
  • 29D: It has four bases (DNA) — I have no idea what this means.
  • 36D: What a hygrometer measures (HUMIDITY) — I was just telling someone the other day how when I lived in New Mexico I had to laugh at all the people acting like they were dying when the humidity got all the way up to, say, 14%.
  • 46D: Kind of center (REHAB) — No no no.
  • 53D: Not be able to say "say," say (LISP) — Like Daffy!
Thanks for stopping by. With any luck, Rex will be back tomorrow.

Love, PuzzleGirl

108 comments:

Steve J 12:11 AM  

Very easy theme - until I got to MEGILLAH (which I needed pretty much every cross for; I've heard of this somewhere, but I never would have guessed it unprompted). Very easy puzzle - at least the left half. The right half took me twice as long as the left. Couldn't see CRUSADER, couldn't remember a HYGROMETER, had SOS instead of APB and misspelled SEIZES (I want it to be SieZES).

And then there was SERACS.

UNCLENCH was nice, and I liked the SENATORS clue. ELITES's clue was delightfully tricky. But I never really got into this one or got excited by much. Right at the APEX of the bell curve of quality.

wreck 12:12 AM  

This is a puzzle I should have started bottom up instead of top bottom as once I got the revealer clue, it went much faster. I had a hard time getting a foothold. Agree with PG again - MEGILLA was the last to fall. Overall, I really liked it.

jae 12:30 AM  

Medium-tough for me.  Oddly, the theme answers were pretty obvious, but the rest was a tad tough, especially the SE.  Although, confusing ACIDIC and a mangled spelling of Acrid probably didn't help. 

A mostly OK grid,  a zippy theme, a bit of crunch (for me anyway), gotta like it. 

Don't think I've seen that particular clue for EL AL before.

@PG Thanks for the "Sports Night" quote, one of my all time favorite shows.

Billy 12:41 AM  

Tough and kind of a PITA to solve, I'm with you PG.

Moly Shu 12:43 AM  

Sounds like @PG and I had the same experience, (hand up for cow and sos). I got SHOOTINGMATCH off a few crosses which then got me THEWHOLE and then ENCHILADA. The other two didn't come as quickly. I've heard of MEGILLA ( no H) gorilla, but not THEWHOLE. Mostly difficult for me, the cluing was just strange enough to keep me off balance. Only gimmies were TRIS, EDO and I knew what a hygrometer measured. SERACS and SNELL seem vaguely familiar, thanks to crossword solving, I think.

The DNA bases are some kind of compounds. C G A T the only one I remember is Guanine. There's probably some long forgotten mnemonic to help me remember, but it didn't stick. @RetiredChemist or somebody, explain it better than that, please.

@PG, thank you, thank you, thank you for filling in. Your write ups are the highlight of this blog. Great job !!!!

retired_chemist 12:49 AM  

Medium. Spent the longest time trying to get Mr. Happy pencil to appear. One square in the SW was absolutely opaque to me: the ELI?ES/A?OWN cross. A TOWN like Alice made no sense - Alice is a girl, right? And I read "In groups" as assorted into groups. After a couple of minutes decided to check teh rest and found LAnA/nEG. The name I did not know, but nEG coffee seemed, well too ionic for most customers. AHA! REG! and then Mr. H. P. appeared and all was well, but later than it should have been.

Other than EbAy [sic!] instead of EL AL, I was pretty much writeover free.

Good puzzle. C***P fre, nice theme, good fill. Also good writeup, PuzzleGirl, as they have been all week.

Thanks, both PG and Mr. Feldman.

Questinia 12:56 AM  

Love the Aristotle quote about insolence and wit.
Also UNCLENCH. Also clue for DNA. I was in Mr. Feldman's bandwidth. THE WHOLE nine yards.



retired_chemist 12:58 AM  

@ Moly Shu - that's right. There are four bases that are the essence of DNA. That's "bases"in the sense that they can be protonated by acids and thus are basic. Yes, C, G, A, T - short for cytosine, guanine, adenine, thymine. In RNA, scratch thymine and replace with uracil. No need to go into how these particular bases provide the double helix structure here.

I skip M-W 12:59 AM  

Adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine are the whole Megillah. Yes, I'm Jewish, but only learned this phrase as an adult, anyway , I forgot all about the theme, which left solving hard, but I don't think much harder than it would have been., except that I wanted -- -- beeswax instead of ball of wax. As in none of your .... Quite enjoyable, as was writeup.

I skip M-W 1:09 AM  

@ Retired Chemist , Alice Springs is a town in Australia, and Shute was Aussie.

Anoa Bob 1:32 AM  

This one kicked my butt. After the first pass through, about all I had was a bunch of esses where the clues called for POCs. Ironic, I guess.

I did manage to cobble together MAGILLAH, but it made no sense because I was thinking it had to be followed by CUTTY. Google tells me I was conflating it with Mcgillicutty, and I have no idea what part of my brain that was bouncing around in.

Kris in ABCA 3:49 AM  

I've never seen the word MEGILLAH in print nor heard it spoken. And REGular is a coffee order? Not for me. Never heard of SLATE - an emag? Had the same problem as @retired_chemist at ELITES/ATOWN. Very tough. Not a fan of this one, but I guess you tend not to like the ones that are out of your strike zone.

Charles Flaster 4:30 AM  

Easy (12 minutes) and enjoyable. Started at bottom and knew theme immediately. After Enchilada, kept looking for SHEBANG and NINE YARDS but to no avail.Never saw the word Megillah but knew its usage.
Really liked In groups.
Good puzzle and good writeup.
I vote Rex would have said "easy".

jae 4:36 AM  

So (@uestina I'm really liking the "so" thing) I got the DNA answer mostly by default (i.e. crosses), then I watched the last episode of season 1 of Orphan Black in which  the C, G, A, T code was crucial to the plot, and then I checked the blog and it all came together.  I love it when that happens.  Thanks @r_c. and @Moly Shu.

Conrad 5:29 AM  

My paternal grandmother was Jewish and I grew up in New York, but I learned "the whole MEGILLAH" courtesy of a friend from Grosse Pointe, MI, at a long-ago time when I don't think they allowed Jews there. Go figure. Had a really hard time getting started. Luckily, I knew LARA Spencer. But once I got going it fell rather quickly. For me. For a Thursday.

OldCarFudd 5:33 AM  

Nevil Shute Norway was an English aeronautical engineer who wrote novels using his middle name as a nom de plume. He eventually moved to Australia.

Alice Springs is smack-dab in the middle of the country, hundreds of miles from anywhere. Locals call it "Alice", or "the Alice"', never the full name.

I read Shute's book when I was 20. It's a marvelous novel, and it made me want to see Australia. In 1959, when I was 23, I was able to cobble together enough vacation time to go around the world in 5 weeks. I spent 3 of them in Australia, 3 days in Alice Springs. I met a man who had moved to the Alice in 1929 with a wife and child, when there were 3 houses in town; they lived in a tent. He was the government engineer in the area. During WWII he supervised the building of much of the paved road to Darwin, on the north coast, so Darwin could be fortified in anticipation of a Japanese invasion. After the war he started a cattle station (i.e. ranch), a moderate spread of 1,000 square miles. This man had 5 kids; in 1962 I went back and married his youngest. When she graduated from Alice Springs high school, there were 4 kids in her class. The marriage only lasted 12 years, but I got great kids and grandkids out of it. So yeah, A Town Like Alice was decidedly in my wheelhouse. And I heartily recommend the book.

As to the puzzle, I found it tough until I got to the reveal, which opened it up. I'd heard of the whole megillah, but didn't know how to spell it; since it's transliterated from Hebrew (or Yiddish), I presume there are alternatives.

George 5:50 AM  

I thought the Loman/Lara cross was tough, as well as Sir/Seracs, don't understand the clue for sir?

Ellen in Amsterdam 5:53 AM  

None of you are old enough to have watched Magilla Gorilla on Saturday mornings, apparently. My father is Jewish, so megillah was easy for me.

How come more people aren't complaining about serac?

Danp 5:59 AM  

I've heard the phrase "the whole Magilla" many times, never without "the whole", though, and I never associated it with the length of a story. I'm not Jewish and I don't associate the word with Hebrew. Likely someone(s) in my past thought it sounded good and used it to mean the same thing as the whole enchilada.

optionsgeek 6:49 AM  

SIR used as a noun is another name for a knight, which is what you get when you tap a bloke on the shoulder with a sword.

Gill I. P. 7:07 AM  

Dang...No KIT AND CABOODLE!!!
Wow, this was tres difficult until I got to ENCHILADA and THE WHOLE. Brought a big smile to this face.
One of my many tasks while at Mexicana was to come up with a snappy theme for our window display facing Union Square. THE WHOLE ENCHILADA it was yessiree...
Cluing was a bit of a bear for me. Kind of center for REHAB was a big huh...!Did love the one for DESSERT though.
Oh, MEGILLAH was a bit of a head scratcher. I'm pretty sure I've heard it before but I didn't know how to spell it.
PG...We'll miss you!
Gracias senor Feldman for a tough Thursday workout. Viva Manteca!

Doris 7:16 AM  

The Megillah is the Book of Esther. I do happen to be Jewish (culturally, but an atheist otherwise). Not being a Biblical scholar, though I have an educated person's knowledge of the Good Book, I don't know if Esther is markedly longer than any of the others. You don't have to be Jewish to know this word, but it does help to be a New Yorker, where a pleasant African-American cop used the word to me. He also used "schlep." Mazel tov to him!

Susan McConnell 8:11 AM  

Some Jewish holidays have special readings associated with them. These special readings are called the MEGILLAH for that holiday. The book of Esther is the MEGILLAH for Purim, Ruth is for Shavuot...I forget the others. The plural is megillot.

I got the theme of the puzzle early and that helped, but other than that it was pretty joyless for me.

Generic Solver 8:22 AM  

Obviously, you'd ideally like to get your initial foothold in the NW corner, but with the harder end of the week puzzles, that's often not so easy to accomplish, and you take whatever you can get to start. So this was a more laborious bottom-up solve for me. Does anyone know whether constructors of the more challenging puzzles intentionally put some of the most difficult items near the top for that reason?

loren muse smith 8:35 AM  

Man o man o man. This was hard, and I had a big, fat dnf. I join everyone who had never heard of MEGILLAH. I had the ___LLAH in place and was considering some kind of "ayatollah" if I had just been able to make it fit. I had no idea on the Miller person, so "__aan" seemed plausible. @Kris in ABCA -REG for a coffee order. . . I guess I was all caught up in the mystifying venti, tall, xtra shot, Half-Soy-Caf-Spicy-Chai-Grande universe. REG seems just so, well, regular these days.

I'm with @Questinia – loved the clue for WIT.

So my grandfather, Wade Lefler, played briefly for the SENATORS.

Mom's Dad

Early on, I considered a rebus because the only GMA Christian I know is Spencer. And he's been gone forever. So, yeah, @Ellen in Amsterdam, I remember Magilla Gorilla. Color me SPRY. (Hey, @nanpilla!)

Considered "don'ts" for NO-NOS and "sheets" for LINENS.

That pesky SEIZE spelling. I always confuse it with "frieze." Right. Actually I have no excuse, but I want the IE, too.

I guess it would behoove us to remember these oldish words like BEHEST and BESET.

@r.alph – I loved seeing those stats from yesterday. Fascinating.

Look. I'm as guilty – guiltier than most – but I kept thinking the true answer for "long, involved story" was LONG STORY SHORT BUT NOT REALLY BECAUSE IT HAS NOW LASTED 14 ½ MINUTES AND STILL THERE'S NO END IN SIGHT. Seriously. By the time I think to say, "Long story short," I realize it's already long and hence waaaaayyy too late to say that. But I just can't help myself in thinking this time my account of a conversation I had with a third grader about his cousins four-wheeling and almost hitting a groundhog is truly interesting to my kids.

Around here, Spencer Christian et al can just pack up their hygrometers and go to the beach for a couple of months, leaving behind a pre-recorded a weather forecast to be played every afternoon: "Highs in the nineties, HUMIDITY 99%, chance of afternoon thunderstorms." Sheesh. "Oh, give me a home, like the SERAC-dotted Nome. . ."

So, Mark and Will. Ya got me today. (Mark – those four fat corners with few black squares. . . I don't know how y'all do it. Good job!)

Maybe I can redeem myself later with BEQ's. . .

Carola 8:36 AM  

I also found this one difficult to get into. Thank goodness for FENNEL, whose ends got me FIBULA (neat word) and LEFTS, then BALL OF WAX-->LOMAN-->MEGILLAH.

Had SHOOTINGk???? (the k from "seek" [look]) so needed the reveal to have the theme snap into view and finish up.

Other do-overs: LarGEST before LONGEST, Amt before AVE.

On knowing MEGILLAH - I'm one of those Lutherans who makes pies with LARD and whose mom went to CIRCLE, but it seems like I've known the word forever. 50s TV?

Even associating Nevil Shute with Australia and having heard of Alice Springs, I asked myself, could a daWN be called Alice? Or a gOWN? Had to run the alphabet.

I think of Santa as a little too heavy set for SPRY.

I liked the HANNIBAL BESETS line (the fold in the newspaper obscures the rest of the headline).

mathguy 8:39 AM  

I like puzzles where figuring out the theme helps in solving it. Once I got THEWHOLE and SHOOTINGMATCH, I was in business. I was familiar with the expression "The whole megillah" but I didn't know how to spell it.

Do any of you use lard (manteca)? Does your local market carry it? I'm going to try to get up the courage to buy some and spread it on a piece of toast. My parents are Spanish but we didn't use it at home.

Mohair Sam 8:44 AM  

Played easy-medium here in spite of having to fill two words we never heard (MEGILLAH and SERACS). We did like the puzzle a lot however.

ATOWN a gimme here, great read many decades ago. Thanks for posting @OldCarFudd, good stuff.

Had PG's experience with Arthur Miller clue. Me: "Honey, Does Stella ever have one L?" Wife: "Wrong playwright stupid." So Willy LOMAN became a gimme and we avoided being naticked by Lara Spencer. btw, learned a while back that it's Holy SEE Thursday thru Saturday and Holy cow all other days.

Non-Jewish, non-MEGILLAH on PG's survey. I was raised near New York with a ton of Jewish kids in town, so like PG I know a lot of the idioms and popular slang. But lately the NYT Crossword has found several that are new to me. I do wish Will would label Hebrew and Yiddish to give us a fighting chance. And apparently all Yiddish should have (var) - so many spellings!

Suzy 8:44 AM  

Medium today. Knew the whole Megillah, but the three-letter words were strangely tough today. Thanks, Mr. Feldman!

AliasZ 8:46 AM  


I can understand why SHEBANG was missing. How do you clue that?

HANNIBAL was, along Alexander of Macedonia, the greatest military commander of the ancient world. He invaded Italy through the Alps with elephants. It's odd it was called a Punic war, there was nothing puny about it. He struck such fear into Romans that parents told horrifying tales to scare their misbehaving children. The Latin saying HANNIBAL ante portas is still used today, apparently to make light of impending danger. It means "HANNIBAL was a porter before." And so ends our history lesson for today. There will be a test tomorrow.

A close friend of mine had an older family member who made the funniest noise when he sneezed. It sounded like an unfinished snort: hnnn-chhh. They called him UNCLE NCH.

MALARIA is the failed attempt to sing an operatic solo correctly as these examples clearly demonstrate.

Ciao.

imfromjersey 8:47 AM  

Even though I'm Jewish, it took me a while to see MEGILLAH. Whenever I see "A Town Called Alice" it reminds me of this great song by the Jam. (It's worth waiting through the annoying ad)

Thanks Mark Feldman for a challenging Thursday and PG for the write up.

NCA President 8:54 AM  

How many people wanted S*#& for 48A? I was just a little saddened that the answer only had 3 letters.

I guess shebang was missing because it doesn't stand alone? or does it?

I thought this puzzle was harder for the simple reason that it's Thursday and I kept looking for some kind of Thursday-like gimmick. But no, pretty straight ahead.

Final letter to fall was the R in the SERACS/SIR crossing. Had to run the alphabet (a couple of times) to get the R...for some reason, I wanted an S, like maybe how sorority sisters are "tapped" to become sorority sisters...that's a thing, right?

As for MEGILLAH, I'm not jewish, but I've heard it somewhere before...at least when included in the phrase "THE WHOLE MEGILLAH." But I didn't know it was a stand alone for long, involved story. It reminded me of Mrs. McGillicuddy on I Love Lucy, for some reason...

joho 8:56 AM  

LOL @Carola ... I guess Santa's got to be SPRY to zip down chimneys the way he does!

I had to love a puzzle with THE WHOLE MEGILLAH and BALLOFWAX! Fresh unexpected answers. They almost make SHOOTINGMATCH and ENCHILADA boring in comparison -- which they definitely are not!

My biggest sticking spot was where I had lOG for DOG making DESSERT impossible to see. I finally got it.

Yes to @Questinia and @Loren regarding the clue for WIT. Nice!

I just bought a bunch of anti-frizz hair products yesterday to combat the ever increasing HUMIDITY around here!

I enjoyed this one a lot, thanks, Mark Feldman!

Z 8:57 AM  

I can count the number of Jewish people I know well on one hand and have fingers left over, so MEGILLAH went in last, ending with the G in REG. I've often heard diner coffee described as REGular and unleaded, but I did a double alphabet run anyway. I was certain it had to be some faux Italian Starbucks thing, so the dineresque REG was hard for me to swallow.

LARA Spencer is a WOE, I'm not up on the writings of Nevil Shute (did he write On the Beach?), I read the in as a preposition even after I got ELITES, went with Amt thinking a fifth of gin, sooooo, three out of the four corners were a letter by letter slugfest here. I like the clue for SIR, but the OBI clue not so much. A little lard would have helped today.

I will point out that the grid layout does make this play like four mini puzzles. There are very few squares that connect each quadrant.

retired_chemist 9:03 AM  

Thanks to those who explained A TOWN to me. It does seem that, since the rest of the world knows the town as Alice Springs, it's a tough clue unless you have read the book or are Australian. However the cross should have made it easy, although last night for me it didn't.

Interesting captchas these days- photos of house numbers, and you have to get the house number right. Why is this harder for bots? A LOT easier for humans that the weirdly formed letters of yore (yore - last week).

The Jam 9:07 AM  

Better stop dreaming of the quiet life
'Cos it's the one we'll never know
And quit running for that runaway bus
'Cos those rosey days are few
And...stop apologising for the things you've never done
'Cos time is short and life is cruel
But it's up to us to change
This town called Malice

Rows and rows of disused milk floats
Stand dying in the dairy yard
And a hundred lonely housewives
Clutch empty milk bottles to their hearts
Hanging out their old love letters on the line to dry
It's enough to make you stop believing
When tears come fast and furious
In a town called Malice

Struggle after struggle, year after year
The atmosphere's a fine blend of ice
I'm almost stone cold dead
In a town called Malice

A whole street's belief in Sunday's roast beef
Gets dashed against the co-op
To either cut down on beer or the kids' new gear
It's a big decision in a town called Malice

The ghost of a steam train echoes down my track
It's at the moment bound for nowhere
Just going 'round and 'round
Playground kids and creaking swings
Lost laughter in the breeze
I could go on for hours and I probably will
But I'd sooner put some joy back
In this town called Malice

DBlock 9:14 AM  

OK--have been coming to the site for a while, posting on occasion but never had to reveal this piece before and hoped to see it in the comments, but since no one else has done so, I am married to a rabbi, so I will explain Megillah to one and all:
One reads from the scroll of the book of Esther for the festival of Purim. Purim is hebrew for lots, connoting the drawing of chances which would determine who would get chosen to be killed as determined by the villain of the story, Haman (hence the triangle shaped cookies--hamantaschen shaped the 3 cornered hat he sported). Esther was the second wife of the king, Ashavereus (sp??) who preferred to party than rule and left the details of running his kingdom to the wicked Haman. Reading the scroll is great fun and Purim is an amazing celebration--one is commanded to get drunk so you cannot tell the difference between the name of of the villain and the hero, Esther's uncle Mordechai. One also dresses in costume, and exchanges gifts--the one time Jews are actually commanded to do so. During the reading of the Megillah one screams and uses noise makers to drown out the name of the Haman. It is a noisy and very festive occasion.
An interesting note in the scroll of the Megillah is that God's name is not mentioned at all.
OK--probably far more than you ever wanted to know about the Megillah.
I will return to my prior identity as dblock.

ArtO 9:15 AM  

Tough cluing again today. A real slog. Getting the theme helped much.

Thanks Puzzlegirl for a wonderful write-up. More enjoyable than the puzzle.

Andrew Morrison 9:25 AM  

Felt hard, but my finish time says easy. 20% faster than my Thurs avg.

I, too, assumed The Jam's song was a riff on Shute's book. Correctly, as it turns out!

MEGILLAH was 100% on crosses. I thought it might be MEGA-something, 'cause that's how all the kids are talking. Guess not!

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

Yes, I've heard of The Whole Megillah, but didn't have a clue how to spell it. Would have thought Maggilla (or maybe I'm thinking of Magilla Gorilla cartoon! - you probably haven't heard of that unless you're over 50). No, not jewish, I think it's an older phrase (earlier last century), probably heard it on Bugs Bunny cartoons (see the pattern here? :-)
Never heard of 'serac' or Lara Spencer either, and didn't have a clue why 'elites' worked until you explained it!

Dean 9:47 AM  

Never heard of MEGILLAH in my life, much less a whole one, and I've worked in an all-Jersey-Jewish office. Also, I'm old enough to remember the prime time debut of Magilla Gorilla. Done in by SOS where APB should have gone and my conviction that a long story in slang had to be a MEGA-something. Clues on EL AL, SIR and ELITES were nice.

Glimmerglass 9:51 AM  

Great puzzle. Mark Feldman is no Patrick Berry, but this reminded me of a PB puzzle in that there were lots of clues I wasn't able to solve until a cross or two (or more). One or two that I did know here and there (SENATORS, LOMAN, HUMIDITY, etc.) gave me just enough to solve a tricky clue or dredge up a buried memory. This is the process I most enjoy about crosswords. Thanks, MF (and PG).

r.alphbunker 9:59 AM  

I immediately saw that the answer to {It has four bases} was DNA because of a conversation I had with my wife Jill earlier in the day. It went like this.

R. I a thinking of writing an app called Sisyphus that simulates a bicyclist always riding in the direction of the most favorable wind conditions. It would use GPS, Google maps and online meteorological data.

J. Like those aluminum cans I videotaped blowing around on the beach.

R. Yes, macroscopic Brownian motion.

J. That sound familiar. What is it?

R. Things getting pushed around by molecules.

J. Is DNA a molecule?

This led to a Google search where it appears that DNA is a macromolecule but our attention waned before we found out whether A, G, C, T were also molecules.

Now I want to know if I am a macromolecule and if not why not.

Steve J 10:00 AM  

@OldCarFudd: What a great story. Thanks for sharing.

I hand't made the connection to Alice Springs when i solved this last night, but now it seems forehead-slapplingly obvious. I've heard Aussies refer to it simply as Alice, as did a friend of mine who used to have to travel there for super-secret military stuff.

And, yes, the title immediately reminded me of The Jam. Great song.

schmuzz 10:06 AM  

found it hard - happy to finally get the happy pencil

and all of the above with putting in answers and then removing them for the second (and third choice)

favorite run of the alphabet was VIRUS

Ludyjynn 10:13 AM  

MEGILLAH was a gimme, as I already knew the theme. If you're not Jewish, you can remember it by associating the holiday, Purim, well-explained above by @DBlock, w/ the much more recent celebration of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Both holidays are raucous costumed carnivals w/ noisemakers, special baked goods and regal (Queen Esther, Crewe)components. I connected the dots several years ago while attending my godchildrens' Purim Carnival and substituting Mardi Gras revelers in my mind's eye.

"On The Beach" is my favorite Nevil Shute opus, so ATOWN was also a gimme. It is, IMHO, one of the best anti-war manifestos ever written. Not a half bad movie was also made from it w/ Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Anthony Perkins, Fred Astaire et al. Worth catching.

Thanks again, PG for your forthright comments. And thanks to MF and WS for a crunchy medium Thursday.

Troublemaker 10:17 AM  

Tough for a Thursday until I got the theme. The whole thing fell into place after that. Seracs?! Learn something new every day.

Puzzle Girl, don't go! This has been the most refreshing week of write-ups we've had in a long time. Well, since the last substitute. Who knew that a delayed flight could be such a blessing? We'll miss you PG!

r.alphbunker 10:21 AM  

@Leapfinger

RE: frequency list I published at the end of yesterday's comments.

You are right. MAPLELEAF was referred to six times but always as separate words. The program will detect that sort of thing in the future. I plan to supplement the statistics of @sanfranman59 with these frequency lists but I doubt that I will be able to match his consistency.

After publishing the list, LAMAS did appear once, namely in the list. I suppose to be accurate I need to increment the frequency count of each word in the list because the list is mentioning the word. :-)

LARD is living up to its top billing because it has already been mentioned four times today (including my mention).

tensace 10:35 AM  

Pretty much a no sweat puzzle for me. But I was too certain that Track was LOG. You can track items by logging them in. I had to error check to find out it was wrong, then quickly realized it was DOG, then DESSERT followed and BEHEST. Never heard of MEGILLAH (which this text box just underscored as a typo) and thought it was a play on GORILLA as in something big. So the day's not a waste as I was "forced" to learn something. But I am still scratching my head as to how BALLOFWAX has anything to do with Business.

chefbea 10:46 AM  

Welcome back Puzzle girl. Great writeup . DNF..too tough for me. Never heard of seracs. Of course knew Hannibal..being from St. Louis.

And Lara Spenser was a good friend of my daughter when we lived in Greenwich Ct. They went to school together.

Love fennel

jdv 10:49 AM  

Med-Challenging. Didn't enjoy this one. Thought the theme was too straightforward for a Thursday and that the cluing was unnaturally tough e.g. the clue for IDA. NE was the last to fall. PLATER crossing MEGILLAH and SLATE almost did me in. LARA Spencer and SERACS?

Bob Kerfuffle 10:57 AM  

Pretty good for a Thursday that's not a rebus.

Two Ponies 11:02 AM  

Medium for me and happy to get it right. Like PG I learned several new things today. Some like Lara Who? will be quickly forgotten.
Liked pill as clued.
So there is a Guinness River somewhere? Ireland I presume or daresay.

Henry Shapiro 11:28 AM  

I'm also Jewish, so I also knew all about the Megillah. But the way I always heard it as a child was from the mixed Yiddish/Hebrew "ganze Megillah," meaning the "whole Megillah," "ganze" being "whole" in German or Yiddish.

gregg 11:31 AM  

This seemed like a particularly easy Thursday for me. Somewhere along the line I had heard the expression "the whole MEGILLAH." Once I had that, the rest of the puzzle fell quite rapidly into place.

Thanks, @DBlock, for the description of Purim. I am always interested in learning more about Esther and this festival. It is my understanding that, at least in the Protestant Bible, Esther is the only book in which God's name is never mentioned. I hold the opinion that its absence in Esther is a literary device intended to contrast the faith and devotion of Mordecai and the nihilism of Haman and his fellow Amalekites. There is no need to speak of Him whose presence cannot be ignored.

Thus ends the Sunday School lesson. And who knows when "Mordecai" or "Mordechai" will be a crossword answer?

dk 11:33 AM  

���� (2 Moons)

I could only think of the gorilla for 17A.

PG, DNA is an arrangement of bases.

Some strained fill for me: NONOS for one.

Arlene 11:35 AM  

It took a while to get into this puzzle - thought for sure I'd have to Google - but, nope - finished with just two errors.
And, yes - I knew MAGILLAH - the Jewish holiday where they try to kill the Jews, don't, and then everyone celebrates (and eats). The MAGILLAH, as has been explained, is the Book of Esther - and it is recited out loud during Purim, with groggers/noisemakers being sounded when Haman, the villain's, name is mentioned. Evidently, getting through THE WHOLE MAGILLAH has become a mainstreamed term. Not to be confused with Magillah Gorilla, of cartoon fame.

I have a collection of groggers, by the way - so perhaps file that word into your memory banks for a future puzzle.

Pete 11:36 AM  

Lara Spenser is the archetype of a reasonably pretty, reasonably bright, reasonably congenial blonde with no discernable talent who keeps getting recycled in the media. I'd prefer that she be replaced by a deformed pygmy with actual talent.

Questinia 11:40 AM  

@ ralphie-boy

"Now I want to know if I am a macromolecule and if not why not"

You are not a macromolecule because you are not an iteration of similar molecules (like DNA) rather you are organized into complexes of discrete tissues (composed of similar cells) and furthermore into individual organs all bathed in water.

You are, in essence, a liquid envelop of negentropy... macromolecules included.

~ curtsy ~

J. D. KaPow 11:55 AM  

Posting just to say, thanks for the "Sports Night" quote. Remembering that show always makes me happy. Faster, funnier and less pompous than anything Sorkin's done since.

David 12:05 PM  

@Retired Chemist -- if DNA is made up of bases, why is it called deoxyribonucleic acid? I'm confused.

r.alphbunker 12:21 PM  

@Questina
Wow! The stuff you learn in crossword blogs!

Fred Romagnolo 12:29 PM  

@Mathguy: hope to catch you before it's too late; DON'T ruin a perfectly good piece if toast by slathering it with LARD; it's invaluable in pie-crusts and other uses for shortening, but, I assure you, it aint for toast! Alias Z was clever in pointing out that the Punic Wars (there were 3 of them) weren't puny; they resulted in the total destruction of Carthage, and the Romans sowed the ground with salt. The word Punic is derived from the Roman (Latin) word for Phoenicia; the Phoenicians were the founders of Carthage (mythologically under queen Dido, whose love affair with Aeneas came to an end because the gods insisted he go and found Rome. She killed herself pronouncing a curse on his future city, which the Romans explained was the reason for their great enmity. Actually it was economic competition in the Eastern Mediterranean, as any Marxist will be pleased to explain. (to Marxists economics is what sex was to Freud).

Andrew Heinegg 12:59 PM  

This one was a long albeit successful slog for me maybe in part because I was solving and watching golf simultaneously, not an efficiency inducing method for working on a Thursday puzzle. BTW, interesting how the NYT had to back off on the Mickelson story on inside trading on Clorox stock when he did not trade Clorox stock in the critical period of time. Anyhoo, it seemed like a well constructed effort with some interesting words in the grid.

Ellen S 1:06 PM  

@AliasZ, I think Hannibal ante portas means Hannibal is at [before] the gates. All the Googlesphere seems to agree on that. Google translate first gave me "He has the gates" (or maybe it wasn't even gates) but when I uncapitalized Hannibal it said "Hannibal is at the gates." All the "Famous sayings" sites agree on that translation (not to make light of danger, but to warn of it).

@Two Ponies: Guinness Book of Records

I had a terrible time with this. After an hour, all I had was "IDA", which I got by IMDBing. Eventually I got Hannibal (thanks @Mnemosyne!) and ALICE was a gimme. @Carola, maybe you were thinking of Sweet Alice Blue Gown? (here's a version by Judy Garland.

Ellen S 1:26 PM  

Oh, forgot the closing parenthesis above, so here it is: ")". And for those of you who have forgotten the derivation, here is the explanation of Alice Blue Gown from Wikipedia:
Alice blue is a pale tint of azure that was favored by Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt and which sparked a fashion sensation in the United States.

The hit song "Alice Blue Gown", inspired by Longworth's signature gown, premiered in Harry Tierney's 1919 Broadway musical Irene. The musical was made into a film in 1940 starring Anna Neagle and Ray Milland.

The wikipedia article also has the official specifications for "Alice Blue" in RGB and CMYK and a couple more formats.

eepy 1:38 PM  

APB and SEE were gimmies. Never thought of the other two...

PLATER was the toughest word for me...

I probably wouldn't have finished this as quickly had I not been discussing Nevil Shute on a book forum recently.

Otherwise fun to do and my best Thursday time ever.

Lewis 2:04 PM  

This one fell in my wheelhouse. No, not LARA or IDA or TRIS or SERACS, but the rest just spilled out every time I'd revisit a section. It was a Tuesday/Wednesday feeling theme to me, but I'm easy.

PG, maybe you could convince Rex to alternate days. I'm a Libra and I like balance. You seem to balance Rex off just right. The two of you are different kinds of wonderful, and together you make the WHOLE MEGILLAH.

Post Puzzle Puzzle (PPP™): There is another THE WHOLE phrase that I don't believe anyone mentioned yet and is certainly not in the puzzle. The two words to follow WHOLE both start with the same letter. If you Google the phrase, the first thing to come up is the phrase followed by a year in parentheses. What is the year?

BobF 2:26 PM  

After completing today’s puzzle I thought it would be a good day to offer my first comments having lurked for about a year. Though I throughly enjoyed the puzzle, I have to say that reading today’s comments trumped the solve. The breath of experience and the depth of knowledge of the people who comment here humbles me. @OldCarFudd’s story about Alice, the discourse on Magillah and Purim and @Questina’s explanation of why we are not macromolecules (curtsey indeed) were more entertaining than the puzzle.

loren muse smith 2:35 PM  

@Lewis - MCMXXXV

ksquare 3:08 PM  

Glad I bothered to read all the comments on this puzzle. Apparently it stimulated a lot of thought and research which gave many interesting and informative blogs. And thanks Rebbetzen DBlock for so well explaining MEGILLAH which is the only Jewish holiday that is fun to observe.
The Whole Megillah implies that an author or speaker is making a short story long.

Lewis 3:21 PM  

@loren -- Hmmm, we differ (and both our answers may work). I've sent you an email...

Benko 3:21 PM  

Love the Jam. One of my favorite bands.
Scipio Africanus for the win.

Anonymous 3:24 PM  

I thought about not commenting today, but when I reached the bottom I saw one of the easiest captchas ever, so I will. As with the captcha, I didn't see anything especially hard about this puzzle. 39-D (SERACS) might have been a problem because I never heard it in my long life, but it came naturally with the crosses. The trickiness of the cluing for 27-A (DESSERT) slowed me down a bit, but finally getting it allowed me to work out the NE quadrant with minimal sweat. I've done a few faster Friday solves over the years, but not many.

sanfranman59 3:28 PM  

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

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

Thu 17:20, 17:24, 1.00, 51%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 11:23, 10:43, 1.06, 61%, Medium-Challenging

Carola 3:35 PM  

Thanks to all who explained MEGILLAH. I had no idea that the word was Hebrew, much less that it referred specifically to the Book of Esther. Only among friends would I reveal that I'd assumed it was Irish (shillelagh, megillah....).

@Ellen S - Thanks for jogging my memory about the Alice blue GOWN and for the clip and lore.

mac 4:05 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
mac 4:06 PM  

I ended up with a dnf because of Sir and serac. Crunchy Thursday all over!

Gimmes in Loman and fennel helped a lot, as did finding the theme fairly early. Not jewish, but megillah is familiar somehow. Don't want to even think about the ball of wax, or lard.

Liked the Aristotle quote, could have been from Wilde.

World cup!

Thanks again, PG! You're a good friend.

Melodious Funk 4:07 PM  

Did you know that Cardinal O'Connor's enate grandfather was a rabbi? His mother was a Converso. You can read the whole Megillah in the NYT of yesterday I think.

How strange and wonderful, no? I mean, after all, he could becomes the Pope.

retired_chemist 4:08 PM  

@ David - RNA = ribonucleic acid, in which the bases are held properly in space by a chain of phosphate linked ribose molecules. Ribose is a simple sugar.

DNA = deoxyribonucleic acid, in which the bases are held properly in space by a chain of phosphate linked deoxyribose molecules.

The "deoxy" part of the structure actually prevents (or at least impedes by a HUGE factor) the degradation that sugars like ribose are subject to. So DNA lats and lasts, while RNA is manufactured and used in the organism as needed and is not expected except in special circumstances to persist.

Such special circumstances include RNA of viruses, which are protected by the viral coating until it is time for the virus to penetrate a cell, utilize the cell's reproductive apparatus to make many copies of itself, and leave a cell dead and you with an immune challenge.

Serious biochemists/virologists feel free to correct any mistakes I made, but I think I have the general idea correct.

Ludyjynn 4:18 PM  

Just realized that my misspelling spree continued today in my earlier a.m. post. KREWE is the proper spelling in relation to the Mardi Gras organizations. Sorry about that!

Joanie 4:36 PM  

Love your posts, puzzle girl. Love that you are not snarky! I knew Megillah but yes, I live in New York, and yes, I am Jewish.

wreck 4:59 PM  

@lewis

1996?

Hartley70 5:20 PM  

This Irish New Englander had no trouble with Megillah, but I was brought up short by Fifth and ave until just now as I typed this and saw FIFTH AVENUE! I'm forgetting this is the NYT!
Really had to work without the sense of Saturday near impossibility so it was a great Thursday. Goodbye kisses again to Puzzle Girl. Come back real soon, ya hear?

Leapfinger 5:36 PM  

Wow. Come late to the blog, and you want to talk back to every second comment!

@PG: Are we playing SNL's 'Jew/ Not a Jew'? Here's a plus in both columns, but I also started hearing Yiddish after starting college.

@OCFudd, wonderful comment on 'A TOWN Called Alice'. Have read several Shutes, but missed that one; soon to be corrected. Also thnx to @TheJam for Malice.

@Z, 'REGular and unleaded', lol

I paid cash money [not much, education comes at a reasonable price in Canada], to learn about BASES. Thought it way cool that some [@jae, @moly shue?] picked up the info from Orphan Black. Want to add that the sequence of BASE pairs [the rungs in the helical ladder]is the code in the genome. Also that the [non-nuclear] DNA in the cytoplasmic organelles gets directly transmitted generation to generation, presumably goes back directly to Eve. Or Lucy. Whichever you prefer.

@glimmerg: I also like dredging on the basis of a few crosses.

@Ellen: Have crossed a few glaciers, none recently, but I know that you try to map your path to avoid the areas with crevasses. If you're in sighting distance of a SERAC, you're in The Wrong Place!

@joho, recommending John Frida's Frizz-eez (sp?)

@k-sq: lol 'Rebbetzen'!

@r.alph, I love poring over data, hope you'll continue. Interesting to see what people think worth commenting about. In a good puzzle, I'll have a thought crop up for half the fill. Obviously.

@Questinia, loved your @r.alph response, such fun, and good, to boot. I was thinking only of a 'compound airer'.

Some other @'s stole some of my best lines, U NO HOO U R... Old HANNIBAL must have been 'pre a porter', got his clothes off the rack, I guess; no 'alp for that. Could NOT believe what was done to poor Eddie Pencer (a college classmate, for real)

Okay, now I'm Phoenicied, thanks, @FredRom

Two Ponies 6:50 PM  

@ Ellen S, Thanks ( as I smack my head).

Leapfinger 7:03 PM  

But I never got to the puzzle proper...

Good LARD, are we going to start on the butter-Crisco-SUED thing again? We put SUED out for the birds. @mathguy, instead of lard on toast, recommend rubbing toast with garlic clove, then spread thinly with hot marrow winkled out from the soup bones. Was a childhood treat, when soupbones were still cheap.

TRIS continues to be a jar of lab chemical for me, which in this case, was no solution.

'LOMAN on the totem pole' spoke to me of A.Miller's WIT in naming his character.

Figured out the 'pin-like' clue for FIBULA by thinking of chicken bones, which gave me a frankly fine fit for FENNEL, though I rather wanted 'garlic' instead. (I always do.)

So then I went on to MEGILLAH, which was no problem, since I grew up in Montreal, where I, like most kids who went on to college, chose McGill, and that makes me an Old MEGILLAH, I s'pose.

Now I still distinctly remember one occasion in my second or third year; I was feeling very self-assuredly grown-up, and went alone to one of the little restaurants over on Stanley Street. I must have been reading something reading French, because I asked for a Pernod, would probably have asked for absinthe, were it available. Anyway, I was sitting sideways at my little table with my legs elegantly crossed when the waiter brought me a shot-glass of the liqueur and a glass of water.I remember staring intently at them, trying to decide if I was supposed to sip the Pernod and then drink water, or whether I was supposed to pour the Pernod *into* the water. For reasons unknown, I decided on the latter, and was horrified to see the whole thing turn milky-white. At which point, I looked up and saw that, the place being largely empty in mid-afternoon, there were three waiters lounging across the room, watching my every move with interest.

The rest is a blur; I don't remember drinking my elegant aperitif, and I'm sure I paid before beating a retreat. I'll just say I have never come across licorice, ouzo, anise/anisette or FENNEL without remembering those three waiters in their white shirts and black vests.



Lewis 7:22 PM  

@wreck -- yep!

Post Puzzle Puzzle (PPP™) answer:


There may be several right answers, but what I had in mind was THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, which if you Google, the first entry is this phrase, followed by (1996), as it was a movie.

Someone else came up with THE WHOLE TOWN'S TALKING (which had a different year)... and why not? Perfectly good answer.

Casco Kid 8:32 PM  

110 minutes, then quit. Googles didn't help. sos for APB conflicted with smiThy for PLATER. Crosses didn't help settle the question. Blow out.

Often a puzzle can be so hard that I miss the easy clues. VIRUS took 90 minutes to see even when I had _IRU_. If we call puzzles that make us seem to over-perform our talent level "good" wat do we call puzzles that cause us to under perform it?

Steve J 10:49 PM  

@Lewis: There's also the whole kit and kaboodle (although apparently the K spelling is a newer variant). No movie with that title that I'm aware of.

r.alphbunker 11:16 PM  

Not surprisingly, MEGILLAH is the big winner in the comments today. Surprising that no one commented on MENTHE.

megillah(48)
thewhole(32)
dna(13)
hannibal(11)
seracs(10)
lara(10)
sir(7)
enchilada(6)
loman(6)
fennel(5)
ballofwax(5)
reg(5)
elites(5)
apb(4)
shootingmatch(4)
wit(4)
seem(4)
dessert(4)
plater(3)
virus(3)
spry(3)
atown(3)
humidity(3)
tris(3)
ida(3)
senators(3)
ave(2)
dog(2)
sued(2)
longest(2)
behest(2)
unclench(2)
slate(2)
presume(2)
fibula(2)
edo(1)
obi(1)
nonos(1)
linens(1)
acidic(1)
pill(1)
rehab(1)
besets(1)
lefts(1)
malaria(1)
crusader(1)
seizes(1)
snell(1)
apex(1)
see(1)
alohas(0)
ablaze(0)
demo(0)
lisp(0)
doe(0)
allis(0)
operable(0)
income(0)
ess(0)
pec(0)
enol(0)
ices(0)
arced(0)
rda(0)
tis(0)
tin(0)
arises(0)
geo(0)
menthe(0)
reship(0)
elal(0)
ute(0)

Leapfinger 12:06 AM  

Okay, here TIS: MEN THE TorpeDOEs, full speed ahead!

r.alphbunker 12:17 AM  

@Leapfinger

You get honorable MENTHEn for that.

Leapfinger 1:21 AM  

Bazinga, @r.alph.

Casco Kid 10:14 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 11:43 AM  

For me, this was one of the easiest Thursdays. It helped that I worked from the bottom up, starting with Hannibal. The write-up and comments today were super. Would never have gotten megillah without the crosses and I have numerous Jewish friends.

Ron Diego 8:40 AM PDT

spacecraft 11:51 AM  

@Anoa Bob: You were thinking of McGillicuddy--with D's--as in Cornelius, as in Connie Mack. Me? I had vaguely heard the term MEGILLA(H), but never knew what it meant. Like many others, probably, I first tried to spell it MAGILLAH from the gorilla thing, but APEX fixed that.

I want to remake this baby and throw that themer out, replacing it with NINEYARDS. Yes, I know it's a space longer; maybe I'll clue it in the singular: "Like a gain almost enough to move the sticks," or just double up somewhere and turn it into a "rebuzzle." Gotta have it in there.

This was really hard; I'm aligned with @PG on this one, right down to the HANNIBAL gimme. I have never heard of a business referred to as a BALLOFWAX. Never. Many of the clues she mentioned threw me for a similar loop; in fact this seemed more like a Friday or even a Saturday. I managed to solve it, but it was anything but easy.

The pleasure was in sussing out the clues. I had to run the alphabet to get SIR (One who's been tapped on the shoulder?). That was a cool aha! moment.

1519 = 7, no card. A word about how we play this. It's been assumed that this follows numerology, in which the numbers given are re-added until a single digit emerges. In baccarat, however, the tens place is ignored. For instance, a hand of 98 adds to 17; throw away the 1 for a value of 7. You do not get to add the 1 and 7 to get to 8. Just sayin.'

rondo 1:55 PM  

I grew up in farm country, 15D could have been clued _____- Chalmers. ALLIS Might have helped me find the H in meghihlhlhah. Knew it was somewhere after G.
199 = 9 yes? A winner?

Speckled Chief 2:30 PM  

The eraser on my pencil is gone and my brain hurts.

longbeachlee 3:21 PM  

Looks and seems are synonymous, but can any one come up with an example of look and seem being synonymous?

Helpful? Z 3:27 PM  

@longbeachlee - This color looks like it will match the color in the drapes. This color seems like it will match the color in the drapes.

DMG 4:18 PM  

First time through all I got there a couple of "s's" and an "est". Made a second run, got SIR, giving me SERAC, and I was off on a good solve. Always amazed at what flicker of something will unlock a hidden word! NE was a mystery until I dumped SOS, and somehow, with enough crosses, I remembered hearing "the whole MEGILLAH" in some distant past! And I was done.

Captcha is a colored picture of a city street with plain English words (Photo Sphere) written across it. How does that decode whatever they claimed they were trying to decode?

DMG 4:21 PM  

Came back to find the new Captcha is the same words, notice, like the other, it has a small "Ad" logo in the corner. Maybe the researchers have sold out?

rain forest 6:55 PM  

I've got a very different captcha below--well, I'll get to that.

I really like this puzzle and found it very interesting the whole way through, which took awhile, but no writeovers. Got the theme after BALLOFWAX, and SHOOTINGMATCH, but still had to suss out a few tricky squares. The last were REG, and, of course, the book of Esther, where I guessed correctly. I knew SERACS from conversations with a friend who used to climb mountains.

Lotsa fun with this one.

My captcha is Photo Sphere, very clearly spelled with a picture of a cartoon character looking through binoculars. Strange.

KariSeattle 6:59 PM  

I don't think it would be good on toast, but my Mom used it to make fabulous, flaky pie crusts back in the days before health consciousness ruled the roost. I believe a lot of people use it to deep fry too, but as a spread? Ugh!

Dirigonzo 9:57 PM  

My experience seemed to mirror that of many, as summed up nicely by @PG. Major hold-ups came about with occurs > ARISES (see what I did there) and REmail > RESend > RESHIP. A lovely Thursday.

@KariSeattle - I'm guessing that's a reference to LARD from yesterday?

317 - I'm so confused I have not idea what that means.

Anonymous 10:41 PM  

If anyones says that this was anyway easy, they are so full of it!

"oh, I solved this one in 2 1/2 minutes"
Sure you did!

bananfish 5:15 PM  

I got murdered by MEGILLAH in the NE, and I simply refused to let go of ALISTS for "In groups" in the SW, which I like much better as an answer than ELITES, which are not necessarily "in" (certainly not to Fox News watchers anyway).

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