Truckers contest / WED 8-27-14 / Lightning setting / Political alliance of 1958 / Relative of cuatro informally / Do Not Call Registry org / First name of wolf in Big Bad Wolf / Bit of packaging detritus / Oil giant that's part of Tesoro Corporation

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Constructor: Gareth Bain and David Poole

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: -A to -ER — wacky phrases that are homophones of normal phrases if you are British (I think)

Theme answers:
  • CONGER LINES (17A: Libretto for "Eel Trovatore"?)
  • FRANK ZAPPER (24A: Microwave for hot dogs?)
  • CHARLIE THE TUNER (37A: Actor Sheen after starting a new career in piano maintenance?)
  • SALES QUOTER (50A: One who knows the earnings report by heart?)
  • TUBER PLAYER (60A: Actor in a Mr. Potato Head costume?)

Word of the Day: FTC (11A: Do Not Call Registry org.) —
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1914 by the Federal Trade Commission Act. Its principal mission is the promotion of consumer protection and the elimination and prevention of anticompetitive business practices, such as coercive monopoly. The Federal Trade Commission Act was one of President Woodrow Wilson's major acts againsttrusts. Trusts and trust-busting were significant political concerns during the Progressive Era. Since its inception, the FTC has enforced the provisions of the Clayton Act, a key antitrust statute, as well as the provisions of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 41 et seq. Over time, the FTC has been delegated the enforcement of additional business regulation statutes and has promulgated a number of regulations (codified in Title 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations). (wikipedia)
• • •

Cornball puns really aren't my thing. The clues on the first couple are pretty funny, but the "humor" here kind of went over, or beside, or in some relation to my head other than the intended one. Plus QUOTER's not really a word. I mean, it is, but it isn't, so that answer really clunks. Also, I did not like the last themer, TUBER PLAYER, at all, because of its inclusion of a -ER word that did *not* conform to the theme … unless the guy on "tuba" is in fact a "playa," in which case, good for him. Seems like this theme might have been as funny, if not funnier, in reverse: -ERs to -As. [Like someone who refuses to root for the Lightning under any conditions?] => TAMPA RESISTANT. Huh? Huh? Well, maybe, maybe not. Maybe that's been done. But this didn't amuse me enough to make the mostly uninteresting trip through the rest of the puzzle seem worth it. Fill was overly common and somewhat tiresome to work through, though the long Downs (FOAM PEANUT + WHAT A LAUGH) are pretty charming (11D: Bit of packaging detritus + 29D: "That is SO stupid!").

Puzzle played hard, mostly because of some tough cluing on some short and relatively arcane stuff like ARCO (From *that* clue? No way. I had ESSO at first) (1D: Oil giant that's part of the Tesoro Corporation), and ZEKE (??) (26D: First name of the wolf in Disney's "The Big Bad Wolf") and all the 3-letter answers in the NE. I know the peanuts in question only as PACKING PEANUTS, so without FOAM up there, those short answers were in danger of not coming at all (especially as I didn't know the FTC answer, and can't remember ever seeing that abbr. in a puzzle, though I must've). In the end, there's just too much SETI ERST ERIN UAR TSAR ACHOO MOR LIU UKE EEGS EEO and not enough fun stuff.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:15 AM  

Easy-medium for me with the North a tad tougher than the South.  Had hANA before JANA because I'm pretty sure there's a tennis player with that name.

I wonder if 66a is some sort of subtle reveal?

Mildly amusing theme, especially FRANK ZAPPER, liked it much more than Rex did.  Nice Wed. guys.

Steve J 12:19 AM  

My reaction to this one is very similar to Rex's. I don't really like puns, especially cheesy ones, and while there was a bit of cuteness at first, the repetitiveness of it wore on me a bit. And agreed that TUBA PLAYER needed to be TUBA PLAYA.

I also had ESSO at 1D, and I also liked the two long downs. And I also found this a bit harder than a typical Wednesday thanks to some tough cluing. The tougher cluing, I mostly liked.

34A really bugged me. Porter is a type of ale. Saying it's a cousin of ale is like saying an eagle is a cousin of birds.

Evan 12:20 AM  

It's rare that I say this for any early-week puzzle, but I didn't understand this theme at all. I mean, yes, I got the -A to -ER change, but I couldn't see how the themers are related. What do Conga, Zappa, Tuna, Quota, and Tuba have in common besides the ending sounds? If it's just that the changed words could be imagined as the original words if spoken aloud by someone who's British .... I dunno, I feel like I've missed something. With respect to Gareth, whose work I usually like, the theme felt kinda arbitrary to me.

David Phillips 12:24 AM  

When I solve a puzzle from a foreign constructor (e.g. Monsieur Bain), I often expect there to be a few foreign-isms or oblique word uses that I, as an American, won't get. Sometimes that's part of the fun!

But, the cluing and entry selections in this one were quite off-putting. I completely agree with Rex on ARCO, ZEKE, FTC's clue, MOR, and other odd stuff here and there.

Also, was I the only one really held up in the TUBER.../SKIN/EEGS area? Hard clues for BIG, UKE, and SKIN + the fact that EEGS could perhaps be ECGS or EKGS (to the memory-impaired, like me!) + the fact that both TUBERPLAYER and TATERPLAYER fit the clue (though, admittedly, the latter has no conceivable base phrase) = no bueno.

Pete 12:31 AM  

Generally, I love Zappa, but that second song scared the hell out of me. How much weed did I smoke in '72 that I probably heard and liked that song? I was much relieved to discover it was from '87, well past those times.

These puns rated a 2 on my 1-10 scale of humor. I believe that's an all time high.

Evan 12:31 AM  

Should mention though that Gareth also has Wednesday's LA Times puzzle. No spoilers from me, but I enjoyed that one better. Well done on the two-fer, G. (not in your control, I know, but still)

Casco Kid 12:41 AM  

North and NW were unsussable. I'm not familiar with Tesoro's holdings, so my guesses for ARCO were gulf and essO. I've heard of ARCO, but it was far from mind. anNA Novotna was my best recollection there. This meant that ROADEO was ungettable, and the not-actually-clued CONGERLINES remained hidden. I get eel=CONGER and conga lines are a thing, but the leap from lines to operatic libretto, or really vice versa, is too much. There are too many other places to go first, especially when considering the 10,000 ways 3 letters can be rationalized as daycare center?] The FAA is a center for daytime flight control operations. ABC has daytime healthcare programming. Shall I go on?

I quit after an hour and googled for JANA and ARCO, thereby finishing with 4 errors. VIrTAS/CONGERLINEr and, shamefully, LEo/LoNNIE.

1A [Showing hoplessness] ABJECT seemed kind of personal as I flailed with flailing, grasping, sulking. dejected didn't even fit. The clue did ask for an -ing, after all.

Prospects are VISTAS? OK, but you have to go to a synonym of a lesser definition prospect->viewpoint -> vista. Saturday hard, especially when the crosses [weapon used in West SideStory] wants to be a wHIp as SHIV is not in the libretto. Anywhere. And why would it be? The story doesn't take place in a prison. Ugh.

It has been a while since we've had a solvable puzzle that wasn't trivial.

wreck 1:21 AM  

I started very slow and finished quickly. I think I need to clear my brain this week, I have been kind of slow on the take! I liked FRANK ZAPPER, but the rest of the puns fell pretty flat. SALES QUOTER was probably the worst. I was aware of the term "ROADEO" before this week, but it it is still pretty obscure and we have seen it twice in the last few days. On to Thursday.

chefwen 2:25 AM  

Just the opposite as @wreck, started off quickly with CHARLIE THE TUNA and FRANK ZAPPA. Hand up for esso. The other long ones didn't fall nearly as fast. I also ended up Googling JANA just to fill that last corner in, so a DNF in this court, but I really liked it.

John Child 2:35 AM  

I thought this was hard, certainly "for a Wednesday." I had to ask for help on the Twilight thing... NEW something, and ended up with an error even so.

I'm surprised that @Rex didn't mention that the ers are at the end of all but one pun. And like @evan I would have liked consistency, even just all names, like CHARLIE and FRANK.


Moly Shu 3:18 AM  

No problem with ARCO, as JANA was my first gimmie and CONGER-something was next. After that, difficult. Family TiEs before TREE and UAe before UAR. Also FcC before FTC as cRIPE sounded plausible. Not getting gig-MEG. Good workout for a Wednesday. Wait, giga and MEGa? Like a MEGahertz is part of a gigahertz? Not sure I like that. Hmmmm. Still, mostly liked the puzzle.

Anonymous 3:45 AM  

I got the second, third, fourth, and fifth theme answers before the first, so assumed the first was (something) LINER. A bit annoying to find one of the five theme answers inconsistent with the other four. CHARLIE THE TUNER and FRANK ZAPPER were fun, though.

Gill I. P. 5:32 AM  

Hmm...sounds more like a New England/Kennedyesque type of accent.
Spelled Lucy's name like a British LOO and Mr. Potato Head was a TATER for a while.
I wonder if @Ellen S will blow-er stack when she sees the CONGER LINES...!
Fun, very Wednesday (pronounced wendsday) puzzle...Thanks Gareth and David. How do you pronounce BAIN and POOLE?
p.s. ED from two days ago: Hee hee! I know, it took me 2 days for it to sink in!

Anonymous 6:46 AM  

Definitely a Boston accent. Around here the joke is that we take the letter R off some words (turning "Car" into "cah") and put them onto other words (turning "idea" into "idear").

Mohair Sam 7:35 AM  
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Glimmerglass 7:37 AM  

No, no, no. It's TUBER PLAYER, an actor who's playing the part of a tuber. I got hung up here because I couldn't get away from TatER PLAYER. A potato is a tuber, I guess, but tater would have been funnier.

jberg 7:42 AM  

I live in Boston, too, so I guess that's why it seemed better for me -- I've heard people actually talk that way. I've kept my Wisconsin accent, but when my daughter was in nursery school she could switch back and forth at will.

Anyway, I'm in a good mood - checked into the Helix in Washington last night and found a bottle of sparkling wine, a plate of cupcakes, and a hand-written "Happy Birthday!" card in my room. My birthday is in November, but I was happy to forgive the error ... er, era.

@Casco and others -- the secret to getting ARCO is 1) we just had ROADEO, with essentially the same clue, and 2) 4-letter oil co. with R as second letter; 3) but you have to either live in someplace ARCO operates, or be old enough to remember when they were all over. And if you are, you probably wanted Martin Sheen before CHARLIE.

I can't figure out how to clue it, but I think Hindemith may have written a tuba sonata, which would have avoided that problem. "Work for bass potato," maybe?

I knew the K in EKG was for 'cardio' (yeah, physician spelling is weird), but it took me a long time to remember the E. I think I only got it from UKE, which also took some time as I still don't understand 'cuatro' in this context.

And -- Lightning is some kind of sports team based in Tampa?

Jeff 8:03 AM  

The first answer I put in was THATS A MORAY for the "Eel Libretto". I don't think I've ever been more upset to be wrong in a puzzle. CONGER LINES is very dumb, as is the whole puzzle.

RooMonster 8:18 AM  

Hey All!
This was a pretty straight forward puz for the most part, sure, some crosswordese, but tis to be expected. Took a while to suss out the theme, i had one part of most of the themers, but just couldn't quite put my finger on it. Finally aha-ed with CHARLIE & FRANK. I see EEO again, two days in a row! And ROADEO, heck, two days ago I never heard of this, and now it's here agaim. Hmm. I see TSETSE fly is back, long time since last seen. Hey @M&A, I see a runt clue! 5D. Where's the double ?? Neat clue for 53A, ERASE.

Writeovers: UAe for UAR, had ovAl before STAR (?), had LaS for LES for a long time, couldn't get off it!

My BIG VAN was by a TREE, as Lucy LIU showed some SKIN with her SPARTAN dress. I played my UKE as she LEANed on me. WHATALAUGH! She said it was OKAY. I felt like a FOOL. UAR right, I said, ITA is what ITA is. I'd be a STAR if I could BOOK a gig. She said OKAY, I'll AID you. What a great gal!

ILE be back!


Casco Kid 8:27 AM  

Iv'e heard of competitive tractor pulls, demolition derbies, off-road racing (Toyota's TRD), motor cross, and Burt Reynolds road films involving semis racing across the country, and DOMDELUISE. But until it was a clue a few days ago, never, ever, ROADEO. The $2200 bicycle ROADEO googles as well as the occasional bus meet-up in St. Louis. OK. It's officially crosswordese, and no more. Sigh.

Anonymous 8:30 AM  

Today's whiny criticism from "KOC" Parker: "I wasn't amused enough!!" a variation of critique a) "What's the point of this theme?" Gee, Rex, sorry the constructors couldn't meet your ever-increasing needs. Rex Parker, spoiled crossword brat.

Arlene 8:33 AM  

I got things wrong in this puzzle - like others, had ESSO, didn't know JANA (Googled her), had CRIPE instead of TRIPE because I had FCC and not FTC. And, of course, I never heard of Frank Zappa because pop music culture of his era is off my radar (but got the answer anyway, without knowing why).

I did get CHARLIE THE TUNER right away - and that made me smile.

Hartley70 8:39 AM  

I agree that this was unusual cluing. Each time I would tentatively use an answer I was sure was wrong, it was right. VISTA is a perfect example. The NW was the last to fall into place because I needed the crosses to get CONGER. I finished with one error at FTC. It was FCC to me and "cripes" to that!

Tita 9:05 AM  

@Jeff - lol - you should add your first answer to my Wrong Answer Hall of Fame on my blog. (I've hoped people would add their own, and I've been negligent in being diligent about doing them all myself.)

A dnf since I too refused to see past TatER. Was an OK puzzle.

I thought 52D Pizzeria needs was kinda arbitrary. Could also say tables. About the only restaurant for which OVENS is not a need would be one catering to those who eat only raw food, no?
Reminds me of a joke my brother made up when he was about 8. "What do cowboys usually have?"
He broke himself up with that one. Still does...

Leapfinger 9:13 AM  

While still solving, expected a Rex-rant on 'one of these things is not like the others'; thought it would be CONGERLINES, but @Rex kept it fresh by picking on the TUBER Playah. Yay, @Rex!

Very much like @jberg, unfortunately minus the wine and cupcakes, but definitely with all who had TATER thoughts.
Am coming to agree with @Evan and Co. about this theme arbitrariness. At this point, we truly need to institute some arbitration.

@Jeff, see the oldest thread on yesterday's WordPlay. 'That's a Moray!' a hit, a most palpable hit.

Favourite themer by far was FRANKZAPPER, partly because I couldn't see past -furter for some time. Super cool to see MOON just one unit down. A list of ZAPPA SCIONS would make a helluva theme:
daughters Moon Unit and Diva Muffin, and sons Dweezil and Ahmet Emuukha Rodan.

The ABJECT of this construction
Affected my deduction
In how to forge ahead.
The VISTA hides the LIU with ASH,
And TAMPers with my mind.

I've liked Gareth Bain's confections ever since my first brush with him, when he introduced 'flense' into his constructor's notes, and thoroughly enjoyed this Poole collaboration.

Have to get over the hump now.

Z 9:18 AM  

@jberg - an ice hockey team. In Florida. Enough said.

Crunchy. Probably too soon after the last punny puzzle. Otherwise a fine Wednesday. Can't wait to do the LAT.

Lindsay 9:19 AM  

As @Gill I.P. and others have said, this looks like a New England theme, not puns. But then I live in a town where every time there's a flood or microburst the police chief gets up and talks about "femur events", and whether or not we qualify for any femur AID.

I mucked up the SW by dropping in WHAT a wAste where WHAT A LAUGH belonged which took a while to sort out.

Agree about the inconsistency of TUBER PLAYER. Did not like.

Sir Hillary 9:23 AM  
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Sir Hillary 9:27 AM  

The "tuba playa" thing is a bad miss, but I liked the theme nonetheless because it reminded me of my amazing, just-turned-84, Bronx-raised mother-in-law who voted for Barack "Obamer", loves to travel out west to "Californier" and calls a certain punctuation mark a "commer". And of course, does the same in reverse ("There's a tall skyscrapuh on the cornuh of 34th & 5th").

joho 9:45 AM  

DNF because I stupidly left it CONGERLINEr and had no clue Lightning is a team in TAMPA. VIrGas/gAMPA, now that's funny!
I really wanted gAMmA but knew TRIPE was right. I had the same complaint about my wrong Er at the end not consistent with the ER becoming an A in CONGER as @Rex had with TUBER & PLAYER.
I also considered TatER before TUBER but had never heard of a tata player.

Regardless, I liked these puns. I thought they were fun. I always enjoy Gareth's puzzles and expect that I won't understand some of his clues and answers. That just adds to the mystery in a good way.

Fun collaboration, Gareth and David, you got me, but I liked it!

chefbea 9:46 AM  

Tough for a Wednesday I too had tater at first...we all know what my favorite tuber is!!!
Got Charlie the tuner first!

No one has mentioned that we have eel again !!!

mathguy 9:48 AM  

Like @Arlene and @Hartley 70, I settled for CRIPE in the NE.

I thought that it was fine. The theme is a cut above the usual and I counted four nice clues and two fresh words.

Chris 9:52 AM  

Liked the puns.
When did ROADEO become a thing? I do the puzzle almost every day and don't remember seeing/hearing it until last week and now it's come around twice.

Nancy 10:03 AM  

@Jeff -- Love, love, love THAT'S A MORAY. Funnier than anything in the puzzle.

@jae -- It's HANA MANDLIKOVA and JANA NOVOTNA. Both are Czech, I'm fairly sure and both were extraordinary natural athletes, like their compatriot, MARTINA. JANA's the one who was emotionally fragile and who broke down in tears after choking at Wimbledon and losing a match she had all but won. (I'm a tennis player and fan, obviously.)

As for the puzzle -- fine for a Wednesday, a day I often don't bother with. It would have helped if I'd ever heard of Frank Zappa. Had to guess on that answer and was right, helped by the cross.

blinker474 10:07 AM  

Both Rex's critique and many of the comments bemoan the quality of the fill. I don't get it; you must have three letter words, and many of them show up a lot. My view of almost all of the puzzles that I do, including this one, is that the constructor has done a masterful job of creating a pleasant and frequently entertaining diversion. She/he must use fill, and sometimes it's a bunch of short words that have been used before and will be used again. Why is that a sin?

Kind regards to all,


wreck 10:09 AM  

"Roadeo's" are obscure to most of us - but it is very common for almost all trucking companies to have them. They are competitions that test driver's backing skills and the like, but are mostly there to promote "safe" driving practices.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:09 AM  

Fun puzzle for me; no problems.

I would, however, have to agree with @Casco Kid that cluing SHIV with reference to West Side Story seems a bit off. With all the prison-related TV shows and movies available, any would be a better choice.

(I believe a TUBER PLAYA is a Spanish beach where potatoes are grown.)

Fred Smith 10:13 AM  

Agree with most that this is a bit harder than usual for mid-week, but I don't think its tricky clue-ing is exceptionally unfair.

Moly -- Agree on Megahertz/Gigahertz, but it works for Megabyte/Gigabyte.

Jae - Very clever, your pickup on the hidden reveal 66a.

SteveJ -- I too thought first of Esso, but then realized that it was an oil major, and too big to be a sub of another. Also had the same reaction on Porter/Ale -- I think we're right.

Tita. -- Here's one that breaks me up: Guy comes into a bar, and sees the barkeep, who is a horse, so asks: Why the long face? (yeah, yeah, your reaction is the same I get from everyone.)

I was raised in Boston with a slight accent (not so strong in the 'burbs), but embarrassed, I quickly lost it when I moved to NY. I think that even downtown now, the accent is mostly gone -- the effect of decades of national TV, with its Tom Brokaw effect.

mac 10:20 AM  

I liked it, especially Frank Zapper. Crunchy for a Wednesday, but that doesn't make me complain.

The last area to fall was the NE, probably because of ore and expecting another acronym at 19A.

Wendy 10:35 AM  

EssO, AnNA (Novotna), held me up for a while. Now that you mention it, 17a, "that's a moray!" was great!
Question: is a switchblade the same as a shiv? Wondering.
Also: Tesoro and TORERO. You be the judge.

quilter1 10:40 AM  

I liked it and got everything pretty quickly, then stalled at FTC. Just could not get the T and could not suss out TRIPE. But I like puns and enjoyed my solve.

jdv 10:43 AM  

Challenging w/one error. FcC. I didn't care for this; never got into a comfortable solving rhythm. Too many non-words. Had HANA before JANA, ROOK before FOOL. Shouldn't 53a read 'Get the graphite out'?

AliasZ 10:49 AM  

Again with the stupid eels!

If you are an etching peruser
But cannot tell Doré from Dürer,
Don't be a sore loser,
Ask experts, they're surer:
That's a Doré.

If it's for music you have a yen
But you can't tell Fauré from Chopin,
Get some paper and pen
And ask an expert then:
That's a Fauré.

If it's about eels you want to pry,
Ask any eeler, they won't ask why:
"If NEW MOON hits your eye
Like a big pizza pie,
That's a moray!"

@Leapy, IOU1!

Here is the dazzling and gorgeous Concerto for Bass TUBER and Orchestra in F minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

How could you never have heard of Grank Zappa?

Anonymous 10:55 AM  

Frank, I've never heard of Grank either.

RAD2626 10:58 AM  

Like many, got the idea right away with CHARLIE THE TUNER and FRANK ZAPPER , which were cute. But hung in there too long with bad mistakes that really cost me time: HESS (did not even think of Esso like so many did), bubble wrap for my package junk and TaTerPLAYER, which of course is nonsensical. Then after fixing all those I still got a DNF over FTC/cRIPE. Tough morning. But liked the puzzle and the cluing.

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

Sucked. Really. Too much for a Wednesday. Annoying.

And clues that try to be too clever. The worst.

Lewis 11:13 AM  

@jeff -- "That's a moray" is a terrific answer!
@tita -- I LOVE that legs joke! Thank you for sharing that. That is going to stay with me for quite a while.

It seems to me, and I haven't documented this, that Will has been having fun putting the same answers in back-to-back or within-a-few-days puzzles, as he did with ROADEO today. It seems like it's been too much for coincidence in the past month or two, much more than you would expect by accident.

It sounds like Rex gave this puzzle an ICK. I would say it's not EDGY or BIG, but better than OKAY. I liked the crunch and loved the clue for TAMPA.

I like the anagrams STAR and TSAR near each other. You can make six words out of those four letters.

I'm away until 9/12, taking a trip to Scotland, somewhere I've never been. Be well, all.

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

Thought the clue for FTC was unfair. Nobody will know the parent of the Do Not Call Registry, and it's more logical that the FCC would be the parent. I mean, the FCC regulates phone calls. Yes, TRIPE is a better answer for "horsefeathers," but "cripe" is plausible, so I never even questioned FCC.

NCA President 11:35 AM  

Not an enjoyable puzzle for me. FOAMPEANUTS are packing peanuts. I googled Do not call registry (so sue me), and saw FCC instead of cRIPE was what I had for "horsefeathers." Looked "reasonable" to me. My family said "cripe" a lot when I was growing up.

ABJECT is, for me, an adjective not an action. So to show hopelessness, you would need a verb, right? "Sally is sitting in the corner abjecting." Or, "Billy abjected when he had to go see New Moon with his mom." Billy might have shown ABJECT horror, but ABJECT would have described his action, not the action itself. Whatever.

Also did not like CONGERLINES since the G in conger is like a J and it's a hard G in conga.

Just for the record, and my friends abject me all the time about this, but I hate puns. In all of humordom, puns are right there at the bottom of the barrel with knock, knock jokes. I don't like them, and quite frankly, it tells me a lot about a person who speaks in puns on a regular basis. First, are you even listening to what I'm saying or are you hearing what I'm saying and trying to find punny remarks to say in return? And second, a pun is funny once. It reminds me of "that's what she said" jokes. Retelling the joke over and over, even if it changes in form,'s the word...TRIPE.

I aspire to learn how to use satire and irony...they are the more noble humors and difficult to do. Puns are cheap, way too common, and for the most part illicit courtesy laughs at best.

Overall, I am a happy spite of my very strong opinions about puns and people who make them up.

crossvine 11:38 AM  

@jeff: I'll be looking for your crossword that uses THAT'S A MORAY as a theme answer. Now just come up with 3 other clever puns like that and you're well on your way. I'd like that puzzle. This one was just OK.

Really got messed up in the Northwest and hand up for FcC and cRIPE for too long in the NE. Finally got it fixed.

I groaned when the Daycare center? turned out to be CEE. Wanted something better there.

Favorite theme answers were: FRANKZAPPER and TUBERPLAYER. I guess I could like CONGERLINES, but it just took too long to get and I was frustrated once it appeared.

John V 11:52 AM  

Got it. Fun, very hard. Cluing was way hard in a lot of places. Good one!

Mohair Sam 11:59 AM  

I am a frequent QUOTER of Shakespeare. Apparently @Rex and this spell checker want me to stop.

A fine Wednesday puzzle that played tough here because I misspelled Ouest and somehow forgot FRANKZAPPa. I was lost in the NE until wife looked over her coffee cup and filled in old FRANK for me.

ABJECT seems to be a stranger to crosswords, nice change. The previously unknown ROADEO is now a regular I guess. What the freak is ZEKE? - they actually named the wolf? Twilight clues need to be banned, imo. I've read two Harry Potters for the sake of the NYT crosswords and survived, but I have my limits.

Anyhow, liked it in spite of the wishy-washy puns - only two of which earned a groan (ZAPPA and Sheen).

Larry 12:24 PM  

Arco was bought by BP around 1999. The production and oil and gas reserves accounting for 90% of the "oil giant" were retained by BP but the retail stations ended up with Tesoro.

I submit the answer is incorrect and is made worse by being 1 down.

Tita 1:12 PM  

@Lewis...was that sarcasm ;) ? I will optimistically interpret your kudos as genuine, to the ABJECTion of most people here, esp. @NCA Pres, thus feeling encouraged by you and @Fred to post yet another in the cowboy series:

"Why did the cowboy bury his horse?"
"Because it was dead."

You're welcome.

Carola 1:15 PM  

Tough and enjoyable Wednesday. My first two theme answers were for CONGER and TUNER, so I assumed the rest would also be fish related, and that slowed me down. I thought the quality of the puns declined from north to south, but the sublime goofiness of the troubador eel makes up for the rest.

I'm not a fan of the role the KOCH brothers have played in Wisconsin politics, so I appreciated the cross with ICK. APT!

@jae - Nice read on 66A!
@wreck - Same thoughts on my slow start.

Z 1:15 PM  

The FCC/FTC-CRIPE/TRIPE situation is definitely a "Paul Rean" - and Mr. Ryan even makes an appearance to emphasize the point.

LaneB 1:37 PM  

Terrible clues for ABJECT, ICK,CONGERLINES and BIG made for an impossible NW corner, leading to a rare Wednesday DNF and the usual wonder at how some of these "Thai is SO stupid" puzzles get accepted by the NY Times. ICK indeed!

Melodious Funk 2:00 PM  

@NCA President. Terrific diatribe, well appreciated. Especially the part about the "illicit courtesy laugh" which I would love to hear.

Numinous 2:49 PM  

I'm not sure what the fuss is about where four of the solutions end in ER and one does not. I don't see any inconsistancy there since the first and last solutions involved the ER alteration at the end of the first word, the middle three on the last word. I thought it was nice symmetry. I felt that the TUBER PLAYER ending in ER was mere coincidence and of no particular note. I must say I rather liked CHARLIE THE TUNER and FRANK ZAPPER.

@Casco, I thought you and I were of a similar age. So that may not be the case or we have vastly different cultural backgrounds. I entered SHIV instantly. In Jr HIgh, the 8th grade english teacher regailed us for a week or so with West Side Story, reading the script and playing the music. Some of the boys in that class aligned themselves as Jets or Sharks. Suddenly we had a gang culture going on. And we, most of us, carried shivs. So to you and @Bob Kerfuffle, it was no stretch for me to put that one in.
@Wendy, I still have a shiv. It is an olive wood
handled 6" switchblade made in Italy by AB Stiletto. On the customs declaration, it was listed as a "spatula". It's illegal to carry but not illegal to own.

ROADEO twice in three days? That is so weird. I hauled logs and wood chips in and out of Mendocino County for a summer in the late 70s but the company I worked for was too small to have them.

How did I feel about this puzzle? Tell ya what, I don't think I'll still respect it in the morning.

OISK 2:56 PM  

Another big "Thanks for the Laugh!" to Jeff. I liked this puzzle, and it played easier than average for me. I also had to change Hana to Jana, but did so pretty quickly. Even I have heard of Frank Zappa, but would understand if someone else of my generation had not. His name came up in a classical music newsgroup I used to frequent, and has been in the puzzle before. But other than that? I am with Nancy (as usual) and have no idea what he played, sang, wrote, etc. I like puns, enjoyed the puzzle.

Lewis 2:58 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 2:59 PM  

@tita -- I wasn't being sarcastic, I genuinely thought that was funny because it is so silly. The Dead Horse joke, on the other hand, didn't do it for me, but it would have been hilarious to my eight year old earlier self! The "legs" one made my wife laugh too, by the way.

Tita 3:52 PM  

Rats - the mark of a true comedic genius - know when to stop...

btw, @Lewis...if you want any pointers while in Scotland, lemme know.
We traveled fairly extensively there for about 2 weeks (almost exactly a year ago), occasionally with some native guides. Took lots of ferries, which nicely broke up the terror of left-hand driving on 1-lane roads.
You'll love it! Safe travels.

sanfranman59 4:07 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 13:44, 9:31, 1.44, 98%, Challenging (5th highest ratio of 243 Wednesdays)

Top 100 solvers

Wed 10:11, 6:08, 1.66, 100%, Challenging (2nd highest ratio of 243 Wednesdays)

I had no idea when I completed this puzzle last evening that it would turn out to have such high Wednesday solve times. Since I solve in AcrossLite these days, my time of 8:15 is not on the online leaderboard, but it would currently place me at #24. I'm in shock. Did some kind of virus infect my brain last night? It didn't seem all that easy as I was solving it, so I was taken aback when I saw my time. Strange.

Lewis 4:44 PM  

@tita -- thanks for the offer; I think we're covered. We're spending half the time in the NW coast, and the other half in Edinburgh...

murphy 5:53 PM  

🌕🌕🌕 (3 mOOOns)

What a hoot! I love bad onus and dumb jokes. The best joke was on me as I tried to make taterPLAYER work.

Mr. Bain and Mr. Poole Thank you for an enjoyable puzzle.

phil lacy 7:00 PM  

I put in ORE figuring it was cute and obviously wrong.
Can someone explain how it is correct with a clue with the exclamation point !!!!!,!!

Z 9:20 PM  

@phil lacy - The foreman was enthusiastic. Or the clue writer wanted to fool people into thinking ORE couldn't be correct for such a straightforward clue.

Charles Flaster 10:07 PM  

Easy- medium but loads of fun. Dig it which I used when teaching DIGITS vs numbers.
Never heard of foam peanuts but got the crosses.
Roadeo is becoming a new favorite of mine.
Thanks to the collaborators

Anonymous 11:20 PM  

I really like wacky phrase puzzles generally and have been disappointed that they seem to be less common in the past year. I am willing to ignore an EPEE or a couple of horrid partials to have some fun. Also disappointed at the negative comments. Fortunately Shortz knows that the NYT puzzle isnt published for 100 people. For everyone who comments here there are 1000 of us who do not, and it is the broader group wanting a variety of styles throughout the week who pay the bills.

Paul Kurtz 9:18 AM  

How is ALE a Porter's Cousin???

spacecraft 11:00 AM  

...And it's only Wedensday? Yikes! We're in fort a brutal weekend. The Clue Obfuscation Crew is out in full force today.

With the Novotna thing, we know her as Hana; perhaps in the Cyrillic alphabet the H becomes J, I don't know. But as far as global familiarity goes, it's H, and to syggest otherwise is flag-worthy.

So too is the FTC. It's hard to believe that DoNotCalls would be in their bailiwick rather than that of the FCC. A case could be made, I suppose: most of the callers you don't want are businesses, but still, this issue has much more to do with communications than with trade.

Then we come to the south, and a themer that ends in -ER. We've been set up to believe that THAT ending -ER is the one that was changed from -A. But no. I had the devil's own time trying to make sense of the whole south central area. "One who might have a COLLECTION (emphasis mine) of foreign stamps:" that's a PENPAL?? Ridiculous. A pen pal might have a SUPPLY of foreign stamps, but you'd never call it a collection. Bad, bad, bad clue. Wow, a three-flagger! Who are these guys, the 49ers?

FRANKZAPPER is so great it almost EARNs this one a passing grade.

Almost. 164, another failure.

Anonymous 1:02 PM  

Haven't had time to read the comments but my take on this theme is the "Boston Accent." Instead of tuba we get tuber, tuna, tuner, etc. I liked it and gave my own rating as easy.

Ron Diego

rondo 1:44 PM  

Hand up for FCC. The ROADEOs are a pretty big thing for plow-drivers here in the great white north; a lot of pride for those guys.
@Spacecraft - there is no "J" in the Cyrillic alphabet; to make that sound they use a kind of their D & Z combo. And the letter that looks like H is actually the N. Anyway it was JANA Novotna; Your Hana was Mandlikova.

539 is OK - wouldn't have drawn the third card.

rondo 1:48 PM  

BTW - today must be my syndicated birthday. Happy birthday to me 5 weeks ago.

188 this time - certainly would not take that third card.

DMG 2:56 PM  

Came here with three ?marks: MEG, UKE, and cRIPE. Only the last was in error. Oddly enough I had questioned it not because of the C, but because I thought the expression was "cripes" with a terminal "s". So it goes. I still don't understand how a UKE is related to a cuatro, but guess the latter must mean something besides 4?

For those who complained about ROADEO, it's a word I learned long ago from xwords. I don't recall seeing it this week, but maybe it was in the real-time Sunday puzzle? We Syndies do live in a different world.

506,. A different approach to @Spacecraft's non-winner!

rain forest 5:42 PM  

I don't understand those who say "the theme is arbitrary". All themes are arbitrary, for Pete's and Rex's sake! "Hmmm, what theme night I create? I know! I'll change every second letter to something else". Nah. Arbitrary.

I found this puzzle to be amusing and entertaining, or are they the same thing? Four of the themers made me chuckle, while the fifth was at best iffy, but hey, 4/5 ain't bad.

Up here in Canader, we don't know from the FTC or the FCC, but we do know TRIPE when we see it, and every year our mailmen compete in a ROADEO in Calgary. Not much else to do in Calgary, actually.

Liked this one.

911 Oops

Dirigonzo 6:07 PM  

I like puns and the er/a switch is something we Mainahs do all the time so I guess I started with a leg up on the puzzle. CHARLIETHETUNER went in with only a couple of crosswords and gave the theme up, so while some of the cluing seemed Thursdayish I managed with only a couple of write-overs.

@spacy - I seem to recall that as wee lad one of the reasons to have foreign pen pals was to collect the stamps from their letters - we used US postage to mail our letters to them.

403 - hit me.

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