Weasley family owl / MON 7-28-14 / Plump songbird / Nickelodeon show whose protagonist has football-shaped head / Those who put lot of effort into social-climbing in modern lingo

Monday, July 28, 2014

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (*for a M*)



THEME: STRING QUARTET (37A: Classical music group … or what the four sets of circled letters make up?) — I don't know how to describe this theme. Circled/embedded letters spell out … what? Strings can be made of "nylon" … and they are analogous in shape to the other three … I honestly don't understand what makes this theme consistent. Mainly I do not understand "nylon." Seems like a huge Odd Man Out.

Theme answers:
  • ZEROPERCENT (17A: Chance of an impossibility)
  • "HEYARNOLD" (30A: Nickelodeon show whose protagonist has a football-shaped head)
  • ANYLONAGER (44A: For even a second more)
  • VOCABLESSON (59A: Component of a language class, informally)
Word of the Day: TRY-HARDS (38D: Those who put a lot of effort into social climbing, in modern lingo) —
[I have googled [define "try-hards"] and mainly what comes up are gaming sites and sites where people are asking the question "what (the hell) is a 'try-hard'?" I'm deeply suspicious of the reality of this answer. I love "modern lingo," but certain minimum qualities of familiarity must be met, I think.] [Here's a "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" message board, if that helps]
• • •

Well, insofar as the fill was kind of zippy, and the overall puzzle was much tougher than your normal Monday, I was pleased. Probably should've been a Tuesday, but whatevs. Close enough for horseshoes etc. But there is one major problem here—kind of a deal breaker. This theme makes no sense. Or, it makes sense in only the loosest, vaguest way, like "here's some stuff in the broad galaxy of string-ish things." And if you're going to go that route, why not pearls, cheese, theory, etc? But here, there's ROPE, YARN, and CABLE … all of which can be made of many, many things, and share with "string" a physical shape (spaghetti-ESQUE is, I believe, the technical term). But NYLON is the material out of which one might *make* string, or rope, I think. So there's a consistency issue here. You want your revealer to just *snap* the whole puzzle into place. "AH … yes. Bam. Got it." Is the reaction you want. Here, I just made a face at the puzzle and then tried to piece together my comprehension failure. I asked my group (I have a group) and it turns out I wasn't alone in my bafflement, so … yeah. If you don't give a rat's [beep] about tightness of themes, then you can just enjoy the atypically crunchy fill and let it go. But this looks like Theme Fail to me.


What made this one slower than most Mondays. Well, first off, the theme answers are not exactly common phrases. They're real things, but all of them took me crosses / thought to come up with (not always the case on Mondays). "HEY, ARNOLD" was by far the toughest, as I had completely forgotten that show existed. My kid never watched it, I never watched it … I know it only because it's Out There. In the Air. Man. [Chance of an impossibility] sounds like it's going to be some interesting colloquialism, but ends up being highly literal. YOU was clued toughly (32D: Word pronounced the same when its first two letters are removed). I mean, not so's you'd be up all night sussing it out, but still, these little difficulties add up on a Monday. I was over 3:30, I think, which is 30+ seconds slower than usual (those thirty seconds feel much longer than than they are). I'd say 90+% of my Monday times fall in a very tight group between 2:45 and 3:15, so when the times are outside that range, I know something's up. But again, no big deal. I like a little struggle, a little bite, on Monday, as long as the end result is a good puzzle. Today … things didn't quite come together, theme-wise, but it wasn't a total loss.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

68 comments:

Steve J 12:08 AM  

Agreed with Rex nearly across the board. Overall, there was some good fill with a noticeably increased level of difficulty for a Monday, which is good. I always like having to think a bit with Monday puzzles, rather than the norm of being on autopilot.

But, yeah, NYLON. Doesn't fit, at least as far as I can see. CABLE's feels slightly off, too, but it at least it shares the essential shape of STRING and the others. I did like STRING QUARTET as a revealer.

Never have heard of TRY-HARDS. SENESCED is new to me, too. That was definitely my slowest corner of the puzzle.

Issues aside, I still liked this one.

George Barany 12:11 AM  

It is well known that NYLON is a portmanteau word for the two cities, New York and London, in which it was independently discovered. Sounds reasonable? Only one problem, not true!

jae 12:33 AM  

Medium-tough for me too.

Never heard of HEY ARNOLD even if it is "out there"

SENESCED/NCR could be a tough cross.

I'll take your word that a THRUSH is plump.

HOWIE, ERROL, and ADELIE (which I only know from crosswords) don't seem Mondayish. 

Liked TRY HARDS and LOSE-LOSE.

OK Mon. with a nice reveal, but I'm going to skip giving this one to my granddaughter.  That said, I mostly liked it.

Elle54 1:03 AM  

Hard! Used to watch Hey Arnold w the kids, but even though I could picture his head, could not come up with his name

Fugu 2:09 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fugu 2:13 AM  

Downs only report: this was my slowest downs only Monday by far. ZEROPERCENT appeared early, and ROPE was rather conspicuous inside those circles. It was a short leap to add ABL to VOC---ESS--, but it took ages to stop looking for some mystery object that was VOCABLE. Similar problem in the center, where --R---QUAR-ST sat for a long time. I had ROPE, YARN, and CABLE by this point, so I knew what to expect, but an unfortunate guess left me searching for a phrase that ended in -quar-st. It seemed impossible that that could be right. I thought I must be missing an important clue in that third theme answer.

Which brings us to NYLON, or in my case, A--LO--ER. NYLON actually did come to mind while trying to parse --LO-. But that can't be it, I said. That's not a string... Is it? So it was finally seeing STRINGQUARTET that produced the remaining downs and confirmed NYLON. :/

I've heard TRYHARDS used in conversation, though I'd say it only refers to people who go to pathetic lengths to impress, not just any old motivated social climber.

Davis 3:13 AM  

This was my first downs-only attempt. A bit dispiriting to start on a hard-for-a-Monday Monday—I ended up having to resort to some acrosses at the end. Definitely made Monday more interesting for me, though.

Benko 5:18 AM  

TRYHARDS is much more popular in England than in the states. It can also, in the singular, be used as an adjective. "I don't like people who work out all the time. It's too TRYHARD."

Lewis 5:43 AM  

@rex -- "spaghetti-ESQUE" made me laugh.

Yes, feels like a Tuesday to me, with ADELIE, SENESCED, GAUNTLET (clued as it is). But that's on Will, of course. Agree with Rex re NYLON.

If 40D were misspelled in the puzzle it could be clued "Irritates"*.

POST PUZZLE PUZZLE (PPP): Looking in the puzzle at answers that are six letters or more, in which can you take out one letter and replace it with another from the alphabet to make new words of itself and the crossing word? The words should have appeared in crosswords before.

I have found three examples (and there may be more). Two are strong, one weak (one of the words is obscure). If you wish to post answers, either write the second letter of the original word, or use ROT13.com.

* Rubs the wrong way

Gill I. P. 5:46 AM  

This was a Monday? Wow! Really liked it though. Was disappointed that the Mexican wrap wasn't a TAMALE and that I've never heard of TRY HARDS. That's gonna be up there with using Baby Daddy in a sentence.
No LOSE LOSE here but this maybe should have been a tuesday?

Susierah 6:52 AM  

Agree with Rex. I really was afraid I was going to dnf! On a Monday. Some toughish clues, and senesced is my word of the day. 16 minutes to finish.

jberg 7:06 AM  

Yeah, NYLON. As for SENESCE, it sounds like a joke word, back-formed from senescent. But maybe it's just obsolete. Nothing more to say.

loren muse smith 7:33 AM  

I had a bit of a wake-up call this morning after reading Rex' write-up. I had the same initial reaction to NYLON but then my very next thought was that I just didn't know it could be used that way, didn't know that you could go to Home Depot to buy 12 YDS of NYLON. I mentally squinted to imagine what it would look like. So, wow, it's a bit scary that crossword themes make up a VOCAB LESSON for me – that I'm subconsciously adjusting my inner dictionary to accommodate outlier theme answers. Another huge strike against my credibility. That fourth themer doesn't fit so well? No problem! I'll just change the way I talk so that it does. Sheesh.

I thought it was pretty easy even though I had an embarrassing dnf – guessed wrong on the SENESCED/ACR cross. I can't believe I haven't committed that atm company to memory.

The clue for YOU sent the whole EWE, EWW, YOU trio to another level. So that group was a notch o'er OAR /ORE, or so I thought anyway.

I had a crazy "loseless" before LOSE LOSE.

A couple of entries reminded me of when I was a firefighter - DETOUR (I was always stuck directing traffic), ROPE, LAOS (long story involving bullet holes and knife scars, that I'll, sigh, spare you – again, I'm coachable, folks!), TREED. So somehow during a meeting, the topic of rescuing a TREED cat came up. I can't remember the details; all I remember is the chief looking at the person who brought it up, calmly, thoughtfully, and finally quietly asked in his drawl, "Have you ever seen a cat skeleton in a tree?"

All in all, I thought it was a crunchy, scrabbly puzzle - nice revealer, and I liked the two eight stacks and two triple sixes – fine for a Monday! But I guess if I'm not going to adjust my VOCAB, maybe a grid with four 11's, one being DESSERT WINE would have been better for me. (I couldn't come up with a QUARTET to go the BIKINI WAX, CHEESE ITS, BEANSTALK route. Just sayin'.) Hey, Tom – I'm just glad you didn't use "garrote!"

Z 7:58 AM  

NYLON string is what you use on a guitar if you don't have any cat gut lying around from unrescued TREED beasts, right? My guitar strings are as spaghettiesque as CABLE.

Challenging here, too. HEY ARNOLD needed a few crosses even though I saw it often. It is from roughly the same period as Rugrats and Doug. The other themers are also on the tough side. I didn't expect the colloquial VOCAB LESSON, especially.

Besides the non-Mondayish answers already mentioned we get ASSYRIA, and the Weasley owl. I know Harry's owl, but completely forgot that the Weasley owl was named in the books. Nine minutes, a full two minutes longer than a typical Monday for me.

NCA President 8:03 AM  

I could be wrong, but I think the odd man out NYLON is an adjective while the rest are nouns. My cat plays with YARN, a noose is made of ROPE, I plug my turntable into the amp with speaker CABLE. But when i talk to my guitar playing friend about the strings he uses, he says he is using NYLON strings...not just NYLON.

I've SENESCED for several years and have never heard of this word. That's not surprising, of course. I'm sure there are lots of words I've never heard of...but I wouldn't know (of course). But SENESCED is not really a Monday word.

For that matter, I've not heard of ADELIE either.

Not that either of those two words were not inferable, but not Monday...whew. Will's going chase the newbies away.

NCA President 8:05 AM  

EDIT my above comment: NYLONs, as a noun, are not strings, but something else entirely. NYLONs are what you wear over your head in a bank robbery, duh.

mathguy 8:08 AM  

One of the best Mondays I can remember even though the theme is bogus. Learned a couple of words and enjoyed some of the clues like "666, for the numbers on a roulette wheel" for SUM.

I wasn't able to find who recommended the Sunday Acrostic yesterday. I wanted to thank you. I found it very tough but the charming paragraph made the sweat worthwhile. Never came across ORTHOEPY before. I vaguely remember seeing CLERIHEW.

Susan McConnell 8:15 AM  

I hated this puzzle. Not because of the difficulty but because of the kludgy feel of the theme and fill. It annoyed me, VOCABLESSON was particularly annoying, mostly because by then I knew they wanted to get CABLE in there and resented it.

However, at some point during this weekend I caught an episode of one of those "How It's Made" shows and they were making....NYLON ROPE. Like the kind used on ships that has strength enough to pull a million pounds. Let me tell you, I could watch the crazy machine that braids all of those STRINGs for hours. It was fascinating, unlike this puzzle.

Joseph Welling 8:44 AM  

Yeah, I would much rather have had phrases that used "string" (string theory, string along, I've got the
world on a string, etc.) than this theme of things that are somehow string-like.

Leapfinger 8:47 AM  

How nice to start Monday with a STRING QUARTET, especially with a grid that pops and SPARKLERS!

And yet, NYLON... Am joining the Make Excuses For NYLON contingent (hi @Z!) and am happy to report that spool thread comes in NYLON as well as in cotton lisle and silk; this may serve as a Mitigating Circumstance. Also, entire chapters have been written about tying things up with old NYLONs in gardening books. [Shan't get into tying up anything else.] As you see, I'll bend over backwards for a grid I like.

Thinking MINUTIAE before MINUTELY, I feared when BLAND showed up that we would be stuck with the dreaded MINUTIAL.

Am practicing SENESCing, so no problem there.

When my kidlet was in grade school, she made a penguin in Art Class for me. Since it was cut out of slab clay and the edges weren't rounded before firing, I may have the only statuESQUE ADELIE with corners.

Talk about HEY, ARNOLD! I was thinking of Stewie (Stuey?) on Family Guy. Who knew that kids with football-shaped heads were making such a comeback? Easier to throw?

Now, if that center piece had had EAU YOU ESTEE, that would have spelt OUST. EAU YOU ESQUE just spells OUSQ...Nonsense, but I still like it.

@Lewis, I've amassed 9 possibilities, hope 3 of them pass mustard. Working today, so shall check back tonight.

Good job, Mr. McCoy! you have nothing to feel GUILTY about.

AliasZ 8:51 AM  


Has anyone watched a Marathon recently? There are a handful who compete, while hundreds of TRYHARDS bring up the rear.

One fine puzzle we have today, on the hard side but quite manageable. Maybe not quite a SPARKLER, but quite enjoyable nonetheless. If you don't enjoy easy crossword puzzles ANYLONGER, you should TRY HARDS. You don't like soft and mushy raisins? TRY HARDS. Young Tom McCoy (to a SENESCED person anyone under 30 is young) however left just long enough a NYLON with which to hang himself.

ADÉLIE is my favorite variety of penguin, roasted or broiled.

A GAUNTLET is just a little GAUNT.

An enthusiastic shout-out to HOWIE! (An outside joke, don't try to figure it out.)

STRING QUARTET could have been clued as "Necessary feature of a violin."

I hope all EWES guys and gals have a great Monday and rest of the week, ya hear?

joho 8:55 AM  

NYLON rope is also used on golf courses so not such a stretch to me.

@LMS, I wrote: EWW, EWES! Loved YOU noting the third YOU. (I also really liked its intriguing clue.)

TRYHARDS don't sound as swarmy at social climbers. I think I'll stick with the older term. TRYHARDS sounds too positive.

SENESCED sounds a lot prettier than the process. I'm going to tell somebody TODAY that I'm SENESCing to see what they'll say.

STRINGQUARTET is a very nice reveal.

Thanks, Tom McCoy!

CFG 8:58 AM  

Count me in for never having heard the term TRY-HARDS. Also didn't know SENESCED or HEY ARNOLD, which made this a difficult Monday for me.

joho 8:59 AM  

Oh, I liked that the knight KNELT to get his GAUNTLET.

Leapfinger 9:01 AM  

EWW. Eating penguins is like eating Bambi. People who do that deserve to get THRUSH.

Besides, I've heard the meat tastes like fish; that sounds offal.

dk 9:25 AM  

OOO (3 Moons)

NYLON line or string is what I fished with in the old days. Everything made sense except for 37d.

Nice little puzzle. The oft mentioned tryhards was a bit strained but understanable.

@davis catchy name.

quilter1 9:32 AM  

Back from traveling again. Good times with the grands. I liked the puzzle with not the usual Monday fill. Did not know the TV show but everything else was familiar and I finished pretty quick. Thumbs up, Tom. Come back soon.

chefbea 9:33 AM  

I agree..very tough for a Monday. Got string quartet right away and wanted musical instruments to fill the circles - like viola, violin etc.

John V 9:43 AM  

I'm totally okay with Tom taking artistic liberties with what is a "string". Good puzzle, quite challenging for a Monday, esp the long down fills, as noted. Crosses were fair. Nice construction with such tight grid constraints.

Liked it!

Casco Kid 9:59 AM  

MonPuzs are joint efforts in this household, Sam-Mohair-style, but done on Sunday night with wine, so it was a leisurely 40 min followed by a frantic five minute solo as the SW wasn't working out. It all ended happily, if inelegantly, causing Mrs. Kid minor stress. Not the point of a MonPuz, and something of a waste of nice wine!

The woe was TRYHARDS (wha?) and SENESCED (fair) crossing NCR (random TLA), with BEHELD (fair) playing coy. NCR was variously. Nec, Nbc. It all ended without a DNF, but really, now . . .

Lindsay 10:25 AM  

Checking in to complain about NYLON, but Rex has covered that nicely.

SENESCED is fresh in my mind as yesterday's NYT quoted Roger Angell describing "Big-league ball on the west coast of Florida ... [as] ... a sun-warmed, sleepy exhibition celebrating the juvenescence of the year and the senescence of the fans."

Carola 10:27 AM  

Liked it a lot - great reveal, and so much more to like: SPARKLER, ASSYRIA, ADELIE, LOSE LOSE, VOCAB LESSON....

Nice pairs - avian: THRUSH next to ROCS, Hogwarts: WIZARD and ERROL, dubbing procedure: KNELT x ARISES.

I had my doubts about NYLON, too, but @Leapfinger reminded me about tying up my tomato plants with retired stockings - regular STRING would bruise the plants.

RooMonster 10:35 AM  

Hey All!
Thought this puzzle to be okay, I agree with most that it was a bit harder for a Monday. I seem to remember, however, not too long ago about people complaining Mondays were too easy! Or maybe I was dreaming that...

I thought TRYHARDS was a bit of a stretch, Where are the POC police?

@lms, feel free to tell me your adventures! I live vicariously through your posts! (Read: I have a boring life! )

HEYARNOLD, I was TREED by the IDEAS of SUM of the fill, like TRYHARDS. We GAG at this VOCABLESSON, it's a LOSELOSE!
(Hold your ugh-ness about this next one!)
the WIZARD can't take it ANYLONGER, he KNELT by the BED, BEHELD an OMEN, while SUE & NICOLE were GUILTY of a RAMBLE about him being a JERK.

That's all folks! (Quietly slips away...)

RooMonster
DarrinV

Z 10:52 AM  

Yes, NYLON fails the noun test, so it is an outlier. If this is what Rex was getting at I missed it. Good catch @NCA President.

@Roo - agreed on LMS telling stories. And everyone else, too. However, I hope you didn't think I was complaining about the hardness of the puzzle. It was just an observation. Reminds me of some training I had on evaluation writing - remove all adjectives. I was shocked at how often teachers took unadorned prose as negative. Worse, it always seemed that the good teachers were the most likely to see criticism where only an observation was intended. Of course, being reflective is a trait of good teachers, so it isn't that surprising.

wa 10:57 AM  

Vocab Lesson?

How about Lexicon Lecture?

Try Hards?

How about "Kids You Wanna Smack?"

What's next as clues "My Best Friend" or "My wife's favorite hobby."




r.alphbunker 11:05 AM  

I am sure the 666 clue was a sly reference to Revelation 13:18. It is also the number of miles across Montana on route 2. I discovered this on a cross-country bike trip I took when I got out of college. The roadside mileage markers in North Dakota were decreasing nicely to 0 but when I hit the Montana line the marker jumped to 666.

Needed to adjust the stall-o-meter to 20 seconds to get four stalls with the maximum being 29 seconds. This is high for a Monday.

Arlene 11:20 AM  

It's always reassuring to come here and read the comments and learn that I'm absolutely normal. All the terms/names/nitpicks I came across have all been discussed above.
And now that everyone is fascinated by timing - this one took me 13 minutes, which is much more than my average Monday. And with that comment, I realize that I have crossed to the dark side of crossword timers. OY!

mac 11:22 AM  

Hard for a Monday, but some really great words, always the most important to me. Adelie, daunts, gauntlet, senesced and ramble especially.

Nylon was indeed odd.
I needed quite a few crosses for Hey Arnold, never seen it or the name.

Andrew Heinegg 11:32 AM  

I am thinking I need to lower my standards. I was so happy to have a Monday I could not complete on autopilot and which did not have a lot of tired answers that I looked past the try hard business, never having heard lose-lose as a saying and the factual issues with cable etc. This puzzle was also acceptable to me because, although I never heard of Hey Arnold, it was quite gettable from the crosses. It may be time to count your blessings when you get a puzzle like this.

jdv 11:52 AM  

Challenging. Not sure if I was off my game or off-wavelength today. Struggled all over. I'm with @SusanMcConnell on VOCABLESSON being desperate theme attempt. Good trivia about roulette numbers.

retired_chemist 12:29 PM  

Challenging Monday indeed. The NYT times look that way too. My time was 90-ish seconds longer than usual yet my percentile ranking was pretty much where I usually am. Remarkably similar to Rex's description of the solve (at nearly double the time).

NYLON - OK, I get the constructor wants that, but it isn't a fit with the theme.

Always slowish when none of the theme answers lays down and gives up, requiring a slog through the short crosses. But the answers and clues were more fun that the usual Monday.

Thanks, Mr. McCoy.

r.alphbunker 1:04 PM  

Anybody know any cruciverbalist lightbulb jokes?

Here are the known ones.

How many cruciverbalists does it take to change a light bulb?
III One to hold the bulb and two to rotate the ladder
Rex Parker: That is not funny. They didn't have lightbulbs in old Rome

How many cruciverbalists does it take to change a light bulb?
It is not known at this time. LIGHTBULB has never appeared in a NYT puzzle.

How many cruciverbalists does it take to change a light bulb?
Only one but only if he/she used a pencil

How many cruciverbalists does it take to change a light bulb?
If the lightbulb is unchecked who knows if it needs changing?

How many cruciverbalists does it take to change a light bulb?
Light bulb jokes are so Malaskan.

How many cruciverbalists does it take to change a light bulb?
Into what?

Mark 1:58 PM  

Surprised nobody has brought up "Treed". Since when was that a word?
Mark

Masked and Anonymo8Us 2:03 PM  

32-Down clue made my day. The eight little soundalike letters were also a treat.

When I discovered the STRINGQUARTET dealy, I immediately thought "GOOGLEBLOGGER?" (think about it.)

Loved TRYHARDS. Had an invigeratin last week. Tried hard to make lots of watercolor pictures, at a northern Wisconsin lodge class. Great teacher; she taught a few basics, and then let U fly yer own paintbrush. I developed the concept of the runt painting: 2.5 by 3.5-sized. Kinda like those baseball tradin cards. Set a class record for most works of art. Made teacher laugh pretty regular. But I digress.

Loved LOSELOSE, also. Had a primo clue, too: Made U puzzle things out. This is a neat way to do MonPuzs. Moo-cow easy, mixed with an occasional SPARKLER. Something for everybody. Other highlights, for m&e...

* "___ the pants off". GET? WHY? LIE? RUN? TAX? har. Fun stuff.
* ADELIE penguins. Learned something, there.
* SENESCED. Cool word. Is there such a thing as KafkaESQUEd? (Became more surreal?)
* ATO. Best weeject, by far. With a solid, moo-cow Monday clue.

M&A

p.s. Speakin of TRYHARDS, why not try the pants off my "Wee Try Harder" runtpuz? At the usual place. (hint: not Runt Sphere)

Gill I. P. 2:09 PM  

@Mark: You haven't heard of the TREED Musketeers?
@quilter1 and rascally @M&A - welcome back U2.

Dictionary.com 2:18 PM  

@Mark - Since at least 1860.

Anoa Bob 2:20 PM  

Someone called for the POC police? Herewego. IDEAS, RIPSAWS, DEEPS(!), USES, ADS, ELSES, TRYHARDS, ROCS, EWES, GALAS, RUBS, ARISES, YDS, & DAUNTS.

BTW, POC is an xword, not a grammatical, category. It simply refers to adding an "S" or "ES" to an entry to gratuitously boost its letter-count. Cluing the entry as a verb rather than a noun doesn't mean it isn't GUILTY of being a POC.

Okay, nothing more to see hear. Move along folks.

Anonymous 2:39 PM  

@NCA President, you are absolutely correct. NYLON is an adjective that can modify nouns like STRINGS or STOCKINGS, but it's not a noun in itself. Perhaps NYLONS (for stockings) can be admitted as a noun; however, that expression started as NYLON STOCKINGS. But the English language in America seems to be headed in the direction of using adjectives as nouns. Take, for example, REMOTE. Does anybody ever ask "Where's the remote control?" Granted, we no longer use the expression at all, but when some gasoline was leaded, did anybody ever fill up his tank with UNLEADED GASOLINE? No, it was always just UNLEADED. Another abomination is the use of short, zippy abbreviations for genuine nouns. Weather forecasters are the villains here. In the good old days (if weather forecasters had existed then) they would have spoken of things like TEMPERATURE and PRECIPITATION. No more -- it's always TEMP and PRECIP.

Anonymous 2:44 PM  

@Mark. TREED is a perfectly good word, at least in the South. Why use a circumlocution like "My dogs run [sic] a squirrel up a tree" when you can be direct with "My dogs treed a squirrel"?

Anonymous 2:46 PM  

What @Gilly said. Both.
It took TREE bloodhounds to get dem MousekeTREErs TREED.

LF

Carola 2:51 PM  

@Anoa Bob - If I may leap to the defense of DEEPS - it appears in one of my favorite old-time songs, "Stars of the Summer Night" (poem by Longfellow, I believe):
Stars of the summer night!/ Far in yon azure deeps,/ Hide, hide your golden light!/ She sleeps, my lady sleeps!"

sanfranman59 3:45 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 (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 7:53, 6:01, 1.31, 99%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 5:19, 3:55, 1.36, 100%, Challenging

As of now, this puzzle has 3rd highest Monday ratio in the All Solvers group and the highest ratio (by far) in the Top 100 group. With these solve times, it's a Medium Tuesday puzzle and an Easy-Medium Wednesday.

Lewis 4:51 PM  

POST PUZZLE PUZZLE solution:

ARISES to IRISES (making BLAND BLIND)
RAMBLE to RABBLE (making ALMA ALBA)
THRUSH to THRASH (making WUSS WASS)

The last one is very weak, Ted Wass was apparently an actor on "Blossom" and "Soap". There are only two Times entries in the mid 90s. But it qualifies under the PPP conditions.

Sfingi 5:09 PM  

Also never heard of TRYHARDs, ADELIE or ERROL the owl.

It spooks me when I see PEE WEE REESE and NCR on this and the USA Today puzzle on the same day. This happens too often. Is there a spy about?
Anyway, my sister, artist and retired prof., Dedree Drees was always called Peewee Reese in grade school. Now, no one's ever heard of him.

Whenever I hear NYLON rope, I think of a distant cousin who committed suicide by hanging with the type used in water skiing. She had hoped to get sympathy and attention, but nylon is less controllable than natural fiber.

JTHurst 5:22 PM  

Selamat Hari Raya Eid Filtri

I won't repeat the comments made by others, all of which were right on. But this was a puzzle that just seemed off kilter.

Isn't Hey Arnold a Bill Cosby character? Beyond that never heard of him, took all crosses to get it.

The only thing that stuck in my craw besides vocab lesson was senesced of which I was incensed. Senescent means to grow old and since senesced is a past tense, then it should imply you are dead. Which is what this puzzle left me.

sanfranman59 5:31 PM  

@JTHurst re the Bill Cosby character, you may be thinking of "Hey hey hey" Fat Albert (a character that almost certainly wouldn't be accepted in today's world).

OISK 5:31 PM  

Very slow Monday for me. Never heard of Hey Arnold nor the expression "Tryhards, nor Adelie, and read just one Harry Potter book, so the names of the Owls never stuck…I don't love the theme either. Nevertheless, I enjoyed solving this. Would have liked to have found a noose somewhere, but I guess in this case no noose is good noose...

RooMonster 7:07 PM  

It was me that called the POC police! Thanks @AnoaBob, you made my day!

And Welcome Back @M&A, holy moly, you've been gone too long, young padawan! (Look out, Star Wars reference!) Hey, since you've been away, I managed to pull off a pangram runt! Head over there (whisper whisper) and check it out!

RooMonster
DarrinV

retired_chemist 9:17 PM  

Anon 2:39: NYLON is a perfectly good noun. It is a chemical substsnce, specifically a polyamide. It isn't appropriate as a theme answer but not for the reason you assert.

Blue Owl 10:00 PM  

Now this is interesting: I found it Easy, verging on Medium. Breezed through, and the ones I didn't know right off, solved themselves in the across or down
plane. Go figure.

Leapfinger 10:25 PM  

@ret_chemist, I was going to stand up for nylon's noun-ness. Thanks for saving me the trouble, and for doing it much better than I would have.

@Lewis, if you are still around, and still care, I had ARISES and RAMBLE as you did, and the simple
SENESCED --> SENESCES x ASS

I also figured that if there are TRYHARDS, then very nosy people would be PRYHARDS, making STRING into SPRING.

The other possibilities are based on the common xwp RE-wording; if you accept RE- prefixing, then:

BEHELD --> REHELD x JAR
DETOUR --> RETOUR x TREER
[if you accept a TREED, there has to be a TREER]

Won't bother you with the others; some may only exist a snigglets.

Bob Kerfuffle 8:01 PM  

Evidence that not all puzzles are above average?

Joe in Montreal 12:24 AM  

Alas! Here in syndication-land, this is what we got on Sat. Aug. 30. It was obvious from the start there was a problem.

spacecraft 11:52 AM  

There is some great stuff here. ASSYRIA is one of the SPARKLERs that triggered my memory of 5th-grade English, in which I had to memorize "The Destruction of Senaccherib:"

The ASSYRIANs came down like a wolf on the fold,
And their cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears shone like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on DEEP Galilee.

After all these years, that first stanza remains burned into my brain. Weird.

The NYLON thing didn't bother me as much as some others, but VOCABLESSON? Yeah, that'll stretch the CABLE to the breaking point. I got the theme right away, so it played a bit easier for me. The short fill can't shine like ANYLONGER fill--and sure doesn't here. EKE: eek! However, the EWE/EWW/YOU trio is somewhat redemptive. But those six-trios and eight-pairs pull this out to a B.

414, the KID is on a roll!

qtbluemoon 11:55 AM  

Did this one on Labor Day. Not too hard, I didn't think. Never heard of Adelie penguins. Senesced was a brand new word for me. Got stuck for a while on VOCAlLESSON, but RAMlLE didn't make much sense. Watched HEYARNOLD with my kids, that was a gimmee. I actually heard "Hey Football Head!" when I read the clue. Just medium for me, wouldn't call it challenging.

spacecraft 11:57 AM  

P.S. I forgot to mention the interesting fact I learned: that the roulette numbers SUM up to 666--fitting for one of the devil's activities (if you believe gambling's a sin).

DMG 4:27 PM  

Happy Labor Day! Found this one pretty easy, even if I've never before heard oF HEYARNOLD, and, despite having read all the Potter books, having to fill ERROL from the crosses. Surprised at how many have never heard of ADELIE, but admit I neded crosses to be sure of spelling. And regardless of meaning, love the sound of SENESCED, it just glides off the tongue. A word treat!

321. @Spacecraft rules!

Joe "not a robot" from Montreal 8:11 PM  

Ah, Labour Day. No newspaper on Monday. My bad. Found Saturday's puzzle.

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