Online provider of study guides / WED 3-9-16 / Capable jocularly / Abrupt realignment of policy priorities / Translucent sea creature that drifts with current / Longtime Vermont senator

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Constructor: John Guzzetta

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: spreads — last words of themers are all fruit spreads you might put on toast or whatever...

Theme answers:
  • NATURE PRESERVES (16A: Wildlife refuges)
  • MOON JELLY (25A: Translucent sea creature that drifts with the current)
  • SLOW JAM (42A: R&B/soul ballad)
  • LADY MARMALADE (55A: #1 hit of 1975 and 2001)
Word of the Day: MOON JELLY 
Aurelia aurita (also called the moon jelly, moon jellyfish, common jellyfish, or saucer jelly) is a widely studied species of the genus Aurelia. All species in the genus are closely related, and it is difficult to identify Aurelia medusae without genetic sampling; most of what follows applies equally to all species of the genus. // The jellyfish is translucent, usually about 25–40 cm (10–16 in) in diameter, and can be recognized by its four horseshoe-shaped gonads, easily seen through the top of the bell. It feeds by collecting medusae, plankton, and mollusks with its tentacles, and bringing them into its body for digestion. It is capable of only limited motion, and drifts with the current, even when swimming. (wikipedia)
• • •

MOON JELLY? I think your theme is dead if that's the best answer you can come up with. What you call a [Translucent sea creature that drifts with the current] is a JELLYFISH. Full stop. End of story. MOON JELLY? I mean, really. Come on. That answer took me forEver, and (with BERYLLIUM (15D: Fourth element on the periodic table), which I could not find the handle on) is the primary reason my time was a minute north of normal. But even if MOON JELLY were a great answer, the theme is thin, slightly weak, and very weirdly laid out. It's just "Last Things Similar," one of the oldest (and least seen, nowadays) types of themes. There are only four answers, totaling only 44 squares. I couldn't even find the theme at first—certainly didn't see it while I was solving, and needed a good number of seconds of staring to finally figure out what was going on. I don't like that SLOW JAM is so short, and that there are other, non-theme Across answers of equal length—four of them, in fact. The whole thing, thematically, just feels shaggy. Speaking of shaggy, my first thought upon finishing the puzzle, before I'd figured out the theme, was that the grid was shaped like a dog's face. Two eyes and nose are pretty easy to see there in the center. There's a grin there. And even a tongue at the bottom. I honestly thought the grid shape *must* be involved in the theme. But no.

The grid is interesting *looking*, and those longer Downs in the SW and SE are cool. Is LADY MARMALADE not named after the spread? PRESERVES and JELLY and JAM are all repurposed in their respective answers, but I'm not sure you can say the same for MARMALADE. There is no alternative meaning of MARMALADE. Putting LADY in front of it doesn't really change that fact. IRATER makes me IRATER than I was before I started the puzzle. And EPT, jeez. Yikes. No. ECOLAW continues to feel made-up. The NW of this grid was weirdly hard—all this "becomes this when you do that" and "sounds like two of these," yeesh. Just give me a clue. Also, would've been nice to have Patrick LEAHY's first name in that clue (2D: Longtime Vermont senator). Rough going, early on. I actually think the grid overall is pretty solid. But the theme is thin and wobbly, so in the end it ends up playing like an interestingly shaped themeless. But seriously, MOON JELLY? Is that a regionalism? Do people know what that is? Baffling.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


mann 12:05 AM  

VOLTEFACE crossing EPT seems unfair for a Wednesday.

Anonymous 12:11 AM  

Haven't looked at tomorrow's puzzle yet (I do it in the morning, on paper)...but I had to step in to inform Rex Parker fans of exciting news.

TCM right now is showing an Abbott & Costello movie called Who Done It? -- and it's directed by our favorite crossword guy, Erle C. Kenton.

He DOES exist!

George Barany 12:13 AM  

@John Gazzetta''s puzzle brings to mind a riddle my mother asked, half a century ago. Translate this German "Verkehrs-Marmelade auf Zeit Quadrant" into English. Answer: "Traffic Jam in Times Square."

How can one not love a puzzle with BERYLLIUM in it? At the end, I held my breath, plunked in the T at the end of 41-Across. The chimes chimed, and learned a new phrase (29-Down).

Charles Flaster 12:19 AM  

Here we have an early April Fool's joke with a Friday puzzle posted on Wednesday.
Enjoyed the puzzle with one DNF--Death nAY never changed.
Funniest write over in a while THE RICH for sHERIff.
Liked cluing for BOISE and PJS.
Did not like clue for ATE IT and that slowed me down considerably.
No crosswordEASE.
Thanks JG.

Anonymous 12:19 AM  

Don't know whether to be annoyed or thankful for volte-face. I learned a new word but had a Natick-like experience at the cross with ept.

Martin 12:21 AM  


Kids who have been through high school bio, or to an aquarium, in the past 20 years know that jellyfish are now called jellies and starfish are sea stars. The people in charge of science education decided that the reason our kids can't compete with the Koreans is that they think these invertebrates are fish. I actually got yelled at at the Monterey aquarium for uttering the word "jellyfish."

The moon jelly is a species of jelly. They're popular in public aquariums because they're pretty and don't die to quickly.

John Child 12:37 AM  

I didn't ever see a theme here. Thanks @Rex for the explanation. It looks like a theme less puzzle, has only 69 words, and took me 25 minutes, a typical Saturday time for me.

Yes, the NW was tough. I tossed in sHERIff for Robin Hood's target, then LEAHY and DOUR, and then took forever to recover from that. LADY MARMELADE was an unknown too.

I <3 the long vocabulary though, and enjoyed my "themeless" Wednesday.

jae 12:45 AM  

Pretty tough Wed. for me too. Row before RAY didn't help. EPT is a bit odd and had me doubting VOLTE-FACE which was a complete WOE, however, the rest of the crosses were solid.

The theme answers had some zip (I'm partial to the LaBelle version of LADY MARMALADE), and, other than IRATER and maybe EPT, the grid was fine. Liked it, nice to have to work a little harder on a Wed.

Anonymous 1:22 AM  

I have seen a pod of a million moon jellies off the coast of Alaska. A thing of unimaginable beauty. I agree EPT is lame.

Anonymous 1:22 AM  

Hardest Wednesday I've done. ALVIN, LADYMARMALADE, ENOTES, PILASTERS, SENECA, ECOLAW, EST, ESTEE, WEIR, VOLTEFACE, MOONJELLY, SLOWJAM, SHEL, EPT, etc. as well as some vague clues made this puzzle very unpleasant. No satisfaction when completed; only relief.

Kimberly 2:01 AM  

I didn't even notice there was a theme until I finished and read Rex's blog.

Irater is not a word. It is "more irate." Period.

I did love "where you need an ID to get mail." I laughed out loud, which then required explaining to my husband why I was laughing, which made him laugh... Great clue.

Da Bears 2:04 AM  

Rex seems a bit petulant tonight. This seems like a standard Wednesday puzzle. Too bad Rex ran over his usual time (by a minute, OMG, what a disaster).

Anonymous 2:19 AM  

I enjoyed learning the word "volte-face." Never heard it before, and I'm OLD.

Elle54 4:34 AM  

Didn't get theme.

Martín Abresch 6:18 AM  

I have to disagree with you on this one, Rex.

First, I liked MOON JELLY. What an absolutely lovely name! I may not have known it off the top of my head, but I have seen it before. More importantly, the formulation "___ jelly" is common in the names of jellyfish species. MOON strikes me as a natural, evocative name for a species of jelly.

Second, even if you disagree on MOON JELLY, you should at least be familiar with MEDUSA and MAN 'O WAR. Those are two common terms that (to a non-biologist) are synonymous with JELLYFISH. So JELLYFISH is emphatically not the full stop end of story.

Let me break here and now point out that I do agree with you some points. ECOLAW and IRATER are bad. EPT is bad—it took me forever to figure out that it was a backformation from INEPT—but it might be so bad that it's good. I also disliked the clues for ESTEE and AYE: I'm fine with one meta-clue (clue that makes references to the letters or sound of the answer)
per puzzle.

Break's over. Back to disagreeing.

Third, I strongly disagree with your criticism of the length of SLOW JAM. You refer to the rule that non-theme across answers be shorter in length than the theme answers. The function of that rule is to ensure that theme answers are clearly distinguished from non-theme answers, but there are numerous ways to break the letter of the rule while adhering to its spirit. In a crossword with rotational symmetry, you can have, without confusion, a 7-letter theme answer dead-center and other 7-letter across non-theme answers. You can, as in yesterday's puzzle, have two 7-letter theme answers and TEN 7-letter non-theme answers.

This puzzle demonstrates another way to break the letter of the rule while adhering to the rule's spirit, and I think that it should be applauded for it. Left-right symmetry is uncommon. This puzzle intelligently explores its possibilities. The four theme answers are centrally located, and in symmetrical positions (3rd row from top & 3rd from bottom, 6th from top & 6th from bottom). I did not spot the theme immediately (treating the puzzle like a themeless 3/4 of the way down), but when I did spot it, there was zero confusion about the placement of the theme answers.

Last, I just want to add that I enjoyed most of the fill. VOLTE FACE, LOOPHOLES, UPBRAIDED, SHAPELY, EYETEETH, BERYLLIUM, BOLERO, HAIRPIN, THE RICH, PIVOT. That's some wonderful stuff.

Loren Muse Smith 6:34 AM  

Huh. I was glad to see this for some of the reasons Rex wasn’t happy: I really, really liked seeing a theme where all four themers are different lengths. Sometimes I wonder what kind of cool stuff is out there that I will never be made aware of because there aren't two symmetrical pairs that can be served up neatly and nicely in a grid. Heck – I have ideas on the cutting room floor because of a lack of symmetry. And these are brilliant, clever ideas. Right.

And isn't this list exhaustive? Fruity stuff that goes on toast. Well, maybe apple butter, but that doesn't have gelatin in it, right? Compote? Nope. The best part was that there was no reveal, so the aha moment was well, delicious. I had no trouble at all discerning the theme.

And, yeah, MOON JELLY was a woe to me, but it went right in boom boom, I google-imaged it, and am now educateder and soooo glad I saw these stunning pictures. What a pretty, shapely little guy he is. So for the bajillionth time, thanks to a crossword entry – especially its marquee spot as a themer, I've learned something cool. Had it not been a themer, I might not have even glanced at it in my rear-view mirror.

How ‘bout ATE IT lurking right there in the middle? Nice.

VOLTE FACE was new one. Bet I wasn't alone in going with "about face" first.

DOUR. Does it rhyme with hour, sour or four, pour? Or tour?

"polemology" looks more like a study of PILASTERS. (Or cue stripper/polemologist quip.)

BLAB for me is a one-shot deal. You blab that you saw so and so at Walmart buying an EPT or some Preparation H. You blab that Jimmie-Ray’s maw-maw was kicked out of a laundry mat for fighting. "Talk, talk, talk" would be more like yak or jabber or yammer.

@M&A has taught me to fine the joy in entries like IRATER. Ya gotta appreciate the constructor's desperation and moxie.

@Nancy from yesterday – yeah, lots of middle names are one syllable. I was saying that if the middle name is two syllables, most likely it's an iamb.

@Anna Paest – I was trying to be too cute for my own good; I was joking that "iambic trimeter phrase" is itself an iambic trimeter phrase. Then I got caught up in trying to wrap my mind around the idea of an autonym and was wondering if the word itself was an autonym. Then I just went and lay down because the whole exercise made me dizzy.

Hey, Rex – I’ll see your pterodactyl from yesterday and raise you one MARMALADE dactyl.

Mr. Guzzeta – certainly no upbraiding here from me. I’m firmly in @Martin Arbresch’s camp.

Anonymous 7:09 AM  

Wow. I just don't know Noah Wyle or Jimmie Johnson or Tim Miller, nor could I get them by crosses because, Rex, I skew old.
On the other hand I did know volte face. And I thought ept was amusing.

Hungry Mother 7:12 AM  

Just eked it out with a couple of WAGs.

DeeJay 7:19 AM  

1) 15-across (need an ID to get mail in BOISE) is a world class clue 2) Moonjellies are also phosphorescent, which makes midnight swims in salt water even more fun.

three of clubs 7:29 AM  

Tougher than usual but the difficulty seemed worth the effort. If I wanted to do easy, I would fill in multiplication tables.

Glimmerglass 7:33 AM  

I solved this as a themeless. So it doesn't matter to me whether the theme was good or bad. This was a challenging Wednsday puzzle for me, which means I liked it very much. VOLTEFACE was new to me, and the L was a guess, because I had no confidence in BOLERO. The only BOLERO I know is Ravel's, and I didn't know it was in waltz time. Too bad @Rex was bolloxed by MOON JELLY. I got it off the OO. It's a familiar term to me, as it was to several early posters. I think @Rex is more than petulant to base his review on his own ignorance. It's a classic case of SOUR GRAPES. "I couldn't get this answer, so the theme must be defective."

Morgan Doocy 7:37 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z 7:37 AM  

Interesting that Oxford Dictionaries puts VOLTE-FACE in the British and World Languages section. About FACE, 180, FlipFlop - these are terms one hears often on this side of the pond. EPT? Ptui.

If you can't tell a MOON JELLY without "genetic sampling" then you really don't know what one is. I did the south first, figured it was a spreadable theme and wondered why jellyfish wouldn't fit (Portugese Man O'War had been my first thought). @Martin - I imagine good teachers everywhere saying, " A jellyfish isn't really a fish at all. Can you tell me why?"

@Martin Abresch -You almost convinced me. SHAPELY? Seems just as uniquely placed as SLOW JAM to me. Odd # of letters. Centered in the grid. All other answers the same length or longer that are centered in the grid are themes. Oopsie.

SandySolver 7:39 AM  

Here on the Gulf of Mexico moon jellies are commonplace.

Alysia 7:41 AM  


Not a horrible puzzle for this (I've definitely had worse), though - until Martin's comment - I thought someone was going to have to explain EPT to me. I both googled and checked ye olde Merriam Webster and couldn't figure it out (closest I could get was something to do with a pregnancy test, and...well...that didn't exactly for the clue).

Does anyone else recall the Slow Jams CD television ads? I thought maybe they were Time Magazine compilations, but a quick web search turns up nothing. I hope I'm not crazy and imagining things again...

Lobster11 8:00 AM  

There was a lot to potentially like here, but I'm giving it an F for including the two worst answers I have ever seen in a crossword. EPT gets my vote for the single worst ever -- in part because the clue is even worser -- with IRATER running a very close second. When I got to 59A, read the clue ("More angry"), and saw that the answer was six letters beginning with an I, my immediate reaction was "Oh God please don't let this be IRATER." I refused to write it in, and worked around it for as long as I could until crosses forced me to do it.

Also never saw the theme, such as it is, until I came here.

jberg 8:09 AM  

I thought it was a panda -- but I did keep thinking 'there's some other animal this looks like..." Dog it is. Or maybe a jelly-loving bear, which would make a little more sense. Still, cute grid.

I thought Death ROW was a little macabre for the puzzle, but what else could it be? And the polemology thing didn't really help much. Also I put in Aiken before his successor LEAHY-- turns out the former served only 34 years, while the latter has 41 and counting.

I somehow didn't see EPT when solving, but now that I've seen it I may start using it. "Do I think you're inept? Oh, no, you're EPT enough -- that isn't the problem."

I don't like the etymologically similar COUTH, though -- not sure why.

I was slow to see the theme -- finally noticed the PRESERVES/MARMALADE similarity, then went back and noticed that JELLY and JAM were inthere as well. I'm with @Martin Abresch on the length issue -- the central placement is enough for me.

Now for the science part ...

BERYLLIUM is fine, but what a lame clue! Missed opportunity to use our old friend ATNO.

And all you people saying the MOON JELLY is a species of jellyfish, go back and read @Rex's WOD -- they're a whole genus, not just a species. (True, you can't tell them apart with the naked eye, but who cares?)

And finally, if a jellyfish isn't a fish, what does that say about shellfish? All depends on your definition, I'd say.

I'm off for an early day, but I'm dying to know if anyone has a better explanation of the face in the grid. Something from AESOP?

TomAz 8:13 AM  

I did not know MOON JELLY either but I am much more bothered by EPT. "Capable, jocularly?" Is this a joking way of saying "apt"? I have never heard this and google does not seem to have heard of it either.

NCA President 8:20 AM  

Like many of you the VOLTEFACE/EPT crossing was a near natick. I closed my eyes, held my breath, and gambled that "ept" somehow was reminiscent of "apt." I entered the T and got the jingle. That moment took forever.

I could proffer several alternative, perhaps vulgar, possible meanings for MOONJELLY. But I'll leave those to your imagination.

Does Santa bring sleds to children in Australia...or anywhere in the southern hemisphere?

This one definitely played far more difficult than the usual Wednesday. It's not really Friday-worthy and definitely not daring enough for a Thursday. WS probably could have made a few clues a little tougher and turned it into a Friday puzzle with VOLTE-FACE in there.

VOLTE-FACE...I think I might have heard someone call someone else that on playground from my earlier days. Or maybe Lady Gaga did a song about it....

Jason Webster 8:22 AM  

This felt different than the usual Wednesday which was appreciated. But as a student for the last few years, I have to say that while ENOTES is technically a thing, it's not really a thing.

L 8:24 AM  

Is it Friday already? This week just flew by.

chefbea 8:28 AM  

Hand up for not seeing the theme!!! Also hand up for hating irater!!!
Too tough for me. Had to come here to figure it all our

USAFFrank 8:36 AM  

Waah, waah... moon jelly... waah, waah... beryllium. Now you know how those of us who have degrees in the sciences feel when we're handed a puzzle full of references to semi-obscure poets, artists, authors, and playwrights.

Sir Hillary 8:42 AM  

Hardest Wednesday in ages. Couldn't get a toehold anywhere, the cluing was late-week hard, some of the entries are quite obscure, and the theme was completely invisible to me until I looked over the finished product (that almost never happens). Difficulty aside, while there are elements to like here, my overall feeling while solving was "WTF?!?".

-- The six 9-letter downs, even VOLTEFACE which I had never heard of.
-- Clue for BOISE. A bit wordy, but made me laugh out loud.
-- Good clue for OTTAWA, avoiding the obvious.
-- The fact that LADYMARMALADE has the same letter count as "Unforgettable", my first inclination (thankfully never written in).
-- OTTAWA/SENECA crossing. Both Native American tribes, no?

Didn't like:
-- SOFEW (evidenced by the length of the clue), APAT (forgivable on Sunday, less so today), EPT (huh?), ECOLAW (nice concept, BS term).
-- THERICH. I guess, but it feels dicey.
-- IRATER. Absolutely awful. What's next...funner?
-- Cluing TIM as a non-household-name director who happened to direct a major hit released just last month. Lame. Obviously a Will/Joel tweak.
-- 1A/1D cross-reference seemed forced, certainly in March.
-- Same for the ESTEE clue. Does anyone know of a remotely famous ESTEE other than Lauder...or any other at all? Calling it a "woman's name" seems weird, albeit technically true. Would "Elvis" ever be clued as a "man's name"?
-- No problem for a sports dork like me, but I suspect that JIMMIE spelled and clued as such will annoy some people.

Janelle 8:45 AM  

I also expected the grid to be part of a theme and when it wasn't, I assumed it was themeless. I was able to get MOONJELLY after a bit because of the children's book, "Night of the Moonjellies"

Wm. C. 8:46 AM  

@ProfBarany --

I'll see your German, and raise you in French. When I was an ExPat in Paris, we called it a "Confiture de Circulation." ;-)

kitshef 8:47 AM  

Somehow reached mid-50s without ever hearing VOLTEFACE. Seems like the cross with EPT was an issue for several, but for me it was the cross with BOLERO, which I have heard of but not as clued. Got it right but the 'L' was a guess.

MOONJELLY is not only OK with me, it's an example of the fantastic stuff in this grid: BERYLLIUM, PILASTER, LADYMARMALADE, SENECA, UPBRAIDED.

Unfortunately, ECOLAW and especially IRATER really left a bad taste in the mouth.

Hand up for not even noticing there was a theme.

Nancy 8:48 AM  

Wow, was this hard for a Wednesday. And, if it hadn't been for the awful pop name crosses in the South, I would have liked it for the challenge. But SLOWJAM/JIMMIE/TIM/LADY MARMALADE all crossing one another -- give me a break! Still, I solved it.

There was no way I was going to solve this puzzle until I changed terESa to ABBESS at 27D. A key placement that loused me up but good, and made me think I was going to have an ignominious Wednesday DNF. But I prevailed. I don't know why ESTEE sounds like "two French letters". To me it sounds like two plain old English letters. Like Rex, I thought MOON JELLY was a ridiculous moniker for a jellyfish. But I liked plenty of answers, too: LOOPHOLES; VOLTE FACE; HAIRPIN; UPBRAIDED; and BOOKEND as clued. So a mixed bag for me, but I liked having to work on a Wednesday.

ArtO 8:51 AM  

Really tough for. Wednesday. Tricky cling and obscure answers. Never heard of LADYMARMALADE. Age showing, I guess!

Roo Monster 9:03 AM  

Hey All !
Well, glad to see everyone thought this difficult! Cause it sure kicked my butt. Luckily did online today, cause Ihad to make some use of the Check Puz feature! If doing on paper, would've quit.

SLOW JAM? Green paint much? Had Soul JAM first. And what the hell is WEIR?? A small dam? No... VOLTEFACE a big WOE, that entire SW, SCenter was a nightmare. NE and NW corners not much better. Managed to suss out PILASTERS, no idea how that clawed its way out of the ole brain. LOUPE, UPBRAIDED, ughs. And who knew BERYLLIUM was that high on the Periodic Table? :-)

Won't tell you my time on this. Normally 20-25 mins for a WedsPuz (hey, not an elite solver!) but today, let's just say almost twice...


Amanda 9:05 AM  

Moon jelly is easy if you have raised kids near the New England coast. They are everywhere, and kids catch them by the bucketload. Volte face, on the other hand . . . I was sure it was about face . . .

Steve M 9:11 AM  

Early Saturday arrival🙃

GILL I. 9:16 AM  

I rather enjoyed this difficult Wed. What made me IRATER was not being able to remember ALVIN as the third chipmunk in what was probably the most repugnant, blood curling, cartoon ever created by man or robot...not to mention Cher's songs with that god-awful auto-tune sound effect. Other than that, I loved MOON JELLY. Unlike @Martin, I never got yelled at because I'm quiet and meek. The Open Sea Exhibit calls them that and you can spend hours watching them - along with the Sea Wasp which will sting you alive.
I've seen VOLTE FACE in crosswords before - probably in the Maleska era. BERYLLIUM was a bit of a woe but BOISE (loved that clue - hi @Charles Flaster) gave me a start. I only know a few (from crossword) B elements. BERY something or other is one of them.
It's raining again...I'm happy!

Pete 9:25 AM  

This played challenging for me. I think that may have been due in part to a disrupted mind, and having to stop typing frequently to smell my hands to see if the skunk smell was just in my head, or if I still had it on me after cleaning off my dog after a domestic/wild animal meeting late last night. In that vein, let me thank whomever mentioned Nature's Miracle here over the past month or so. Let me attest to its utility, and that it has an infinite shelf-life - it's been 16 years since we've last had a puppy and it still worked.

The clue for 15A was cute, but factually incorrect. Unless you live or work in a multi-tenant building, 123 Main St 12345 is a complete mail address and works every time. Putting the city/state in the address is a superfluity from decades ago.

Mara 9:34 AM  

Volte face was great. Unfortunately I got stuck on vice versa!

Glimmerglass 9:35 AM  

Does anyone know why the Boston Globe (and perhaps others who use a syndicated crossword) has switched to a clearly inferior 13x13 puzzle? Is it perhaps because of the plagiarism scandal reported by Rex in this space?

mac 9:38 AM  

Definitely a slow Wednesday for me!

I never noticed the theme, thanks for pointing it out. It might have sped things up a bit if I had.
Almost didn't get B-oise! Complicated things by trying to think back of rules and regulations when
we lived there...

All in all, a nice one, with upbraided, pilasters, volte face and beryllium.

gharris 9:49 AM  

I'm no pro but to see this classed as medium-challenging really irks. It has words no one ever uses, vague clues and esoterica. I was proud of nearly finishing (and would have but for proper nouns unknown to me) without resort to Google. I guess I'm running with too fast a crowd.Give us mere mortals a break.

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

Wonderful Wednesday puzzle. Volte-face is an often used term on both sides of the Pond. Puzzle deserves more praise from OFL. Perhaps Rex has been eating too much marmite.

Laurence Katz 9:57 AM  

Wow, it took me a long time to figure out the "ept" is the, ahem, jocular opposite of "inept."

Bob Kerfuffle 10:01 AM  

Ouch! Tough puzzle but ultimately doable - the kind of pain that feels so good.

Aside from a few mis-spellings and letters-I-put-in-the-wrong-place-at-first, just one real w/o, ABOUTFACE >> VOLTE FACE.

I hate to belabor the point, but I didn't notice that anyone spelled out this point with respect to 59 A: The clue says, "More angry." This is not standard English; it should be "Angrier." But it is a clue to the answer of IRATER, which in standard English should be MORE IRATE. It's turnabout; it's fair play; it's a joke!

Kurt 10:17 AM  

I pretty much disagree with Rex across the board. I thought that this was a great Wednesday puzzle. Moon Jelly and Space Jam were terrific answers. The fill was varied and interesting. It was a little harder than usual, but the extra challenge increaded the enjoyment for me. Even EPT was fun and different once I sussed it out. "E?T - Let's see. EAT? No. ENT? No. EPT? Wow, short for inept. Pretty cool!"

Hartley70 10:51 AM  

The face in the grid is obviously Yogi Bear from Jellystone Park. Geez!

Master Melvin 10:52 AM  

Nothing wrong with MOON JELLY other than its fatal flaw of being unfamiliar to Rex.

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

I normally don't comment on puzzles, but EPT is about the worst clue I can remember for any day of the week.

OISK 11:09 AM  

Yeah, I grew irater with each WTF answer. Never heard of Lady Marmalade, but I guess it exists. Along with slow jam(??), But eco law? Ate it? Ept? And I am among the many who saw no theme here. Just didn't bother to look for one, though. The cross of Tim, Jimmie, and Marmalade was very annoying to me, but gettable.

Not an good Wednesday for me, but such a lovely day outside!!

Masked and Anonymous 11:12 AM  

Wanted 34-D to be TRUMPU. Woulda bumped the U's up to a glorious 007-count.

fave weeject: EPT. har. Ain't desperation cool? (yo, @muse)

First IRATER of the Shortzmeister Era. Insures USA Today theft immunity.

My fave grid layout: East/West symmetry. See that? Everyone's looking for what's depicted in the grid art. Definitely doggie face, for this rodeo. Possibly a doggie named VOLTE?

Learned VOLTEFACE and MOONJELLY. So the solvequest was not for naught, educational-wise. Thanx, Mr. Guzzetta Face. Cheer up, @009 face.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


Unknown 11:23 AM  

Sixty-eight years old and doing the puzzle for the majority of those years and never, ever, ran across volte-face before. Spent several frustrating minutes trying to cram about face in there. Ept! Ugh.

Tita 11:24 AM  

Enormously hard to do, though I did finish. I was stuck without a printer, paper, or tablet, so had to solve using the Times app on my android phone.
It was so unresponsive, that I blame half of my difficulties on it. Ugh!
But I did finish, eventually.
Fri or Sat clues for ECHO, PRISONERS, EYETEETH...
Also loved ID clue, PJS.

Looked for a theme, but was so exasperated that I just came here.

MARMELADE is from the Portuguese for Quince (Marmelo). A fruit that is inedible til you cook it forever with honey - we make it into a very thick, can cut it into cubes, "JELLY". A docent at the cloisters tell me the British wanted to duplicate it, but since quince weren't readily available, they substituted oranges.
(Never heard of LADYMARMALADE, which helped make this hard.)
I agree that MOONJELLY is an awesome name and fun thing to learn about.

@Z - I wanted to put manowar in there too, but they rely on the wind as well as currents, so banished it.

@Gill - amen to ALVIN and his buddies.

Disappointed that the picture meant nothing...

Glimmerglass 11:27 AM  

Re: ept, couth, etc.:,5753,-1304,00.html

Molson 11:28 AM  

Two things:
2) EPT always makes me think of the pregnancy test brand.

Glimmerglass 11:29 AM  

re: ept, couth, etc., here's a link.,5753,-1304,00.html

Trombone Tom 11:42 AM  

Oh Golly! All the fuss about EPT. I first encountered this humorous back-formation years ago among family or friends. I guess it's like puns, ya' either love 'em or hate 'em.

I had a really tough time starting this one, skidding all over the place before finally getting some traction in the SE. Then it went slowly, but smoothly. Don't remember hearing of MOONJELLIES before but crosses nailed it.

LADYMARMALADE takes me right back to the 70's. I enjoyed this one a lot more than O(curmudgeonly)FL. Thank you Mr. Guzzetta.

Andrew Heinegg 11:58 AM  

When I was in college a century ago, I had a history professor who was a genial sort with a stutter that would go on for seemingly long periods of time when he spoke certain words that would make the class hold its collective breath hoping for the teacher's sake it would finish. When he would describe a certain leader in the era of the one we were studying at that time, he would intone in a high, humor-inducing and stylized tone of voice that that person was not very EPT! And, when he said that, there was never a hint of his stutter. Hmm. How's that for a long winded explanation of why EPT was a gimme for moi.

I thought, even though I finished it, that this was one of the most if not the most challenging puzzle I had ever done for a Wednesday.

I liked the challenge of it but, some answers, as others including Rex have pointed out, were out there, volte-face, moon jelly etc. Personally, I could also do without ecolaw or, for that matter, pivot as an answer for 9d. All in all, it was far more Thursday or Friday ish than Wednesday but, it was a good workout. Mother figure as a clue for abbess was cute.

Masked and Anonymous 12:12 PM  

* LOUPE. Thing I got, but which had not been well-imprinted on my brain matter. More like a minor brain matter jelly stain.
* WYLE. Didn't know the dude's correct spellin, but crossins ECOLAW and SENECA pitched right in and really got M&A confused.
* Death ROW ray, here. EWETEETH seemed possible but strange. WOR was odd but neat, cuz it was ROW, volte-faced.
* BERYLLIUM. BE, on the atomic scoreboard. A gray metallic element. Used in x-RAY equipment.
* PJS. Primo clue.
* Black Bars of Mystery: in SW and SE corners. Kinda yer trouble with havin a 13-letter themer in yer 13th ROW. Has a nice, quiet desperation nuance to it. So, ok.
* Patrick Berry Usage Immunity count: 28 of 69. Includes: LOUPE. SENECA. I-before-E outlaw WEIR.

"Weir Outta Here"

old timer 12:14 PM  

So I've had a cold that just won't go away, and my brain is struggling along at less than half speed. I certainly was able to solve this sucker, but I was astonished that y'all had so much difficulty. I figured it would rate Easy (for a Wed.) for those of you who are not sick.

I got lots of traction in the SW. SHEL went in right away and ECOLAW and SOFEW, and as soon as I saw FACE I knew the sudden PIVOT (complete reversal) required VOLTE. AESOP seemed likely, and before you knew it I had the whole W side done, taking a moment to grin at EPT. As clued, a brilliant entry. EPT was a jocular word for "able" way back when I was in high school.

My only writeover: I had put in "natural" without a finish. As soon as I replaced it with NATURE, PRESERVES came to mind, giving me ORPHANED. Got LOUPE right away, too. I'm sure jewelers use many tools, but LOUPE is the one you find in xwordland.

Really, my only criticism is IRATER. Not a word IMHO.

Anonymous 12:17 PM  

First, Rex is letting this puzzle off way too easy. It stunk, and calling it in any way medium is an insult to the average solver. I usually finish Saturday puzzles. Many of my friends agree that this was the hardest Wednesday seen in a long time. You can't call that medium. You have to adjust to the day of the week. A Monday can be hard for a Monday. This was more than Friday hard on a Wednesday. Why there is a need for an unstated, unrecognized-until-Rex-points-it-out, theme on a Wednesday is beyond me, but whatever; it didn't hinder or help in the solving. I am fine with the entire puzzle - meaningless invisible theme or not - except for 41 across and 29 down. "Volveface" is simply not a Wednesday word. Put it in a Friday or Saturday and I too like 99% of you get to guess at and learn a new word, fine. But in a Wednesday it just doesn't work. Why doesn't it work? Because you crossed it with a made up word. There is no "ept." You can't just take a real word, negate it, and then pretend you're being jocular. You can't clue "ritated" as jocularly the opposite of irritated and put that in a NYT puzzle. It's a nonsense word. EPT is only the Early Pregnancy Test. If you Google it, you will see it stands for some other tests as well. It is not the opposite of inept and no one has ever said it was. If we are going to allow "jocular" to qualify any nonsense word we want to make up, we are doomed, people. Rex, please reconsider your "medium-challenging" designation. Call it "challenging," or call it what it really is - utter rubbish.

Wileyfex 12:19 PM  

Quite right. They are jellies not fish. Get over it, Rex.

Anonymous 12:21 PM  

Yes, yes, sorry. That was my bad. I think I wrote "Volveface" instead of "Volteface" in my rant. That was what I came up with to prevent me from solving my first Wednesday in years. I went to my root words and figured "revolve?" so I plugged in the "V" as I knew that an Early Pregnancy Test couldn't possibly be the answer to that clue.

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

VOLTE-FACE was new to me---and caused me fits because ABOUT FACE seemed the obvious answer.

BERYLLIUM was my start: a gimme, thanks to having memorized the Periodic Table as a lad.

I got BOISE before understanding the clue: clever!

AliasZ 12:45 PM  


Unfortunately no amount of correctness will MOON JELLY or sea stars completely replace JELLYfish or starfish in the minds of man and the English language. But it is good to learn the correct taxonomy under the new ECOLAWs.

I own a phono cartridge on which the diamond tip is pressed into the flattened end of a BERYLLIUM cantilever, so this element was not new to me. The only problem is, every time I see BERYLLIUM, I want to add "tremens" to it.

VOLTE FACE was fun to learn. I only knew its Italian version: "voltafaccia." Sounds so much prettier, and it could mean anything. It could be an opera aria: "Mi chiamano Mimi. Come stai, Rodolfo?" "Voltafaccia, grazie Mimi."

IRATER knocked me for a loop because I could not believe it would be used in a NYT puzzle. The SE corner remained incomplete for a long time because of it.
I came across a fragment from "Ode to IRATER" by Hy Ray Derr, that starts:
"There is no worse vi'lator,
For eardrums more dire grater,
Than the irksome IRATER.
Can't tell you how I hate her..."

...I'll spare you. But not of SANTA Cecilia.

Enjoy your Wednesday.

puzzle hoarder 12:53 PM  

I thought when you make a mostly great puzzle but part of it left you with a meaningless three letter cross it meant it was time to go back to the drawing board and just rework it. Finding unusual words and phrases is my favorite part of solving. However when they're crossed with made up half words it takes the fun out of it. If you're going to allow EPT why not MONE you could clue it "A little short on cash, jocularly." Are volatile gasses ERT?. This was mostly a great puzzle but 41A left me feeling like I'd been jocced around.

Chuck McGregor 12:56 PM  

Late to the many-comments party! Does everybody have hump day off? Well, adding my $0.02 and more.

VOLTE-FACE? Count me in for the EFT natick and not knowing the word. Electrically-minded me was thinking of voltage reversal, a change in polarity. Of course that led to nothing. Filled it with crosses and a letter reveal. I’d never heard of polarity being called this. Other comments and Ms. Google made my wrong thinking clear. Jeesh.

In that area I did put in LOOPHOLES without any support, happily correct.

Other no-help write-ins, as others did: “jellyfish,” “sheriff,” and my own, creative “I don’t” (for so few). All wrong.

Except for a 2 letter-cheats and 1 letter-check, I corecgtly eventually filled in the rest. It was a fun. albeit a tough challenge, to do so.

Worst part of my solve:

I got BOISE filled in with the crosses, as opposed to answering the clue, and huh? Just didn’t get it. Spending way too much time looking for a hint, all I find is like what I did finally going to he rarely visited Wordplay: “One of a few clever wordplays….”

Idly staring at the “ID” in that write-up, still absolutely clueless (seriously!), I saw it: ID = Idaho and almost knocked myself out with my head slap. Oh, not the forehead kind, as in “Duh,” but the one I deserved, that dreaded one delivered from behind by, say, a parent, as in “Stupid much??!!!”

I agree the grid layout looks way cool. Weirdly, I noted that if you connect a curvaceous line through the first and also through the last letters of the theme answers you get a SHAPELY figure, though not that of a jelly/jam jar.

Science Ed:

Sound travels through BERYLLIUM at almost 29,000 mph. An object traveling at that speed (in air at the same standard ambient temperature/pressure) would be at MACH 37. This is a good thing, among some of its other stellar physical properties, for use in loudspeakers, specifically “tweeters.” It is also highly toxic, hard to work with, and quite expensive.

/End Ed

Sure hope that some of THE RICH TIRE OUT of their greed.

Wonder if there were LEAHY LOOPHOLES in any of his bills?

SORE YORE (an ode to last week when you exercised for the first time in a month)

WAR PJS (body armor for sleeping)

A DOUR MIKE LED ON the audience in a sing-along of “Yesterday” using the karaoke MIC.*

* MIKE for the people who sorta know what a microphone is; MIC for the people who design, manufacture, sell, buy, work with, perform with, and write about them.

Why are there SO FEW “TIM” BRITS?

The answer ECOLAW? I RAT ‘ER like @Rex, as he did for IRATER itself.

Liked MAC, the ECHO of my nickname while in the Navy.


the redanman 12:59 PM  

Got the theme in seconds, MOON JELLY cause it cut, ditto SLOWJAM & LADYMARMALADE. There are several awful seemingly force-fed answers. I experienced absolutely had no joy whatsoever in finishing this rubbish puzzle.

Joe Bleaux 1:18 PM  

My critique of today's puzzle was not submitted after a reconsideration revealed it to be more of a critique of me. (Clue: Who's a dumbass?)

Chip Hilton 1:20 PM  

Fun Friday.

I hated IRATER, ECOLAW, and NOLA (Looking for Ernie Els or some Narlins thingee). Thought the cluing was exceedingly clever/challenging, take your pick.

If given the choice, I'd prefer a puzzle like this to the normal Wednesday fare, so thanks, Mr. guzzetta.

Teedmn 1:22 PM  

Tough Wednesday! Three ink stained entries caused some of the problem - Death Row, Idaho instead of BOISE, (I know, I know) and the common JELLY fish.

BERYLLIUM sounds like it should be further down the periodic table than fourth. Does that even make sense? I guess because I know so little about that element that it seems it should be closer to those that are more obscure, to me anyway. So only having the _E_Y in place let me know which Element I was looking for.

The theme didn't seem any more unlikely than EMBEDed furs did yesterday. But MOON JELLY sounds like some sort of Little Debbie snack cake rather than an aquatic animal. Nice clue on PJS. Thanks, JG, for a crunchy Wednesday.

neilmunroe 1:22 PM  

Obviously I'm not at the level of puzzle solving as the rest of you. I've never heard the term volte face in my life or ept for that matter. This is also the second time in the past few weeks that I've seen "mike" instead of "mic". There is no k in microphone. Am I wrong? Also, the other day I saw an answer that was "card sharp". In my whole life I've never seen that term either. Isn't it "card shark?"

Lewis 1:43 PM  

The puzzle has seven fewer words at 69 than the typical Wednesday puzzle; that and some tricky cluing made it feel like later in the week. Nice clues for NESTS and PJs. At least there is nothing controversial about the theme as opposed to yesterday's FUR fest.

IRATER wasn't necessary; IRONER would have been much better, and works well with the crosses. But overall, this was a lovely Wednesday tussle.

Amelia 1:45 PM  

I LOVED this puzzle. Crunchy, fun, educational. And in the NY Times. On a Wednesday! Is this the start of something new? Happy here.

Bob Kerfuffle 1:57 PM  

In my hurry this morning, I forgot one thing I wanted to mention about a clue in today's puzzle:

There are many ways to clue EST - "Eastern Standard Time," "Guinness suffix," "what follows the id?," and others. But I was hit hard by today's, "'Dulce et Decorum ____' (Wilfred Owen poem)."

For those who have forgotten, here is that poem:

Dulce et Decorum Est
By Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

NOTES: Latin phrase is from the Roman poet Horace: “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”

Source: Poems (Viking Press, 1921)

Anonymous 2:02 PM  

The use of VOLTEFACE makes this an instant failure.

Chronic dnfer 2:40 PM  

Really hard. Dnf'd at voltefaced. Never heard of it. Santa sled thing was dumb. Moon jelly was a problem. Finally took out jellyfish. Tough Tough tough.

Proud Mamma 2:58 PM  

It is actually card sharp. People say it wrong just as when people say "all intensive purposes" instead of "all intents and purposes." However, once it is said a certain amount if times the wrong way, I suppose through descriptive vs. prescriptive usage, either is correct.

Z 3:04 PM  

@Pete - I hate it when people say things without checking facts. I suppose a printed address with Zip+4 might get delivered without City and State, but I wouldn't rely on it.

EPT can be found, but it takes some digging. Couth was back-formed long enough ago that it is easier to find.

@gharris - Don't be too awed. And don't think that extensive knowledge of minutia is what it takes to solve hard puzzles. Flexibility with definitions and usage, learning crosswordese, a willingness to remove "right" answers, finding toe-holds like plurals and past tenses or fill-in-the blank answers, there are all sorts of strategies beyond our mile wide inch deep knowledge that help us solve.

Philosophical Question
If you "finished" but didn't get the theme did you finish? I count it as a DNF. How about everyone else?


20/69, 28%
High, but EPT/VOLTE-FACE seems more problematic for people.

PPP explanation
PPP are clue/answer pairs involving Pop Culture, Product Names, or other Proper nouns. The math is the number of these types of answers divided by the answer count of the puzzle. Anything in the 25% range is not going to generate much hate. At 33%+ there is a high likelihood that some subset of solvers are going to dislike the puzzle. Which subset will depend on lots of other factors. Early week (easier) puzzles seem less likely to generate hard feelings

Z 3:40 PM  

@molson - See my first comment. I linked to the definition.

@neilmunroe - Card sharp seems to be older, but both are "correct." If you want to imply cheating, though, it seems "sharp" is preferred. Lots of good footnotes in the wiki article.

Natticus 4:28 PM  

Some fun stuff... I love a good SLOW JAM, and BOISE took me a second but I chuckled.... but the bad stuff was truly horrendous. IRATER is not an effing word. If I was reading a book and saw "Harold was irate, but Maude was IRATER," I'd throw the book in the trash. And not only have I never heard of the word VOLTE-FACE in my life, but I am certain I will never see it again outside the context of a crossword. Was it really worth it, for a chipmunk?

jae 5:12 PM  

@In John Guzzetta's defense his original clue for EPT was "family planning brand".

Mohair Sam 5:30 PM  

Brutally tough Wednesday but we struggled through thanks mostly to the distaff side here, who was less IRATER than I about some of the Fridayish clues herein. And, umm, we thought the clue for EPT was kinda clever. Sorry.

Otherwise I'm with the multitude here - freaking MOONJELLY, c'mon. BOLERO needed a friendlier clue on a Wednesday, and LOUPE belongs to weekends.

On the other hand the long downs were nice with PILASTERS and UPBRAIDED, and yes I remembered my double L in BERYLLIUM. Always good to learn things (hi there VOLTE FACE), I guess. The BOISE clue a beauty, btw. And we have no problem with varying lengths on themers. Why not?

The unlikely LADY MARMALADE made it to #1 twice (as did a few others). The writer of "Angel of the Morning" has the only song to go to number 1 in three different decades - 1968 (Merilee Rush), 1981 (Juice Newton), and 2001 (Shaggy) - song reworked into raggae and re-titled "Angel" in '01, but Chip Taylor retained a writer credit.

Arden 5:38 PM  

Usually I can do Wednesday puzzle in 10 minutes or so. And I can almost always finish a Friday or Saturday puzzle. There were just too many ups skewer words in this puzzle to be a Wednesday. I didn't even know there was a theme.

Martín Abresch 5:43 PM  

@Z - Huh. For some reason I didn't notice that SHAPELY is the same length as SLOW JAM. That's a fair criticism. It looks like Rex missed it, too: he mentions four Across answers of equal length, but SHAPELY is a fifth. Perhaps there's a bit of optical illusion principals in play here: SLOW JAM looks bigger because it's above the shorter ATE IT while SHAPELY looks shorter because it's above the longer MOON JELLY? Or perhaps I'm just rationalizing my mistake.

This week has been a really interesting one, grid-design wise. Monday wasn't anything super-fancy, but it had the crossing 7-letter words in the center and the long theme answers in spiral arrangement. Tuesday's resembled a themeless in its four corner stacks. Today's played like a themeless and had only 69 words. I've really enjoyed these puzzles.

Aketi 6:00 PM  

Aww I loved it because it started with SANTA and SLED and PRESERVES ,JELLIES and JAM. It reminded me how one Christmas when I was in Peace Corps and my ppos mate and I traveled 500 kilometers to a volunteer get together mostly on the back of a flat bed pickup truck with 28 other humans and a small chimpanzee. ou Regionale Representatibr went off the deep end of nativism and told us we weren't allowed the eat the JAM we bought to liven up our Christmas dinner. When he tried the convince us that the loans would never eat JAM and therefore we shouldn't either, we burst out laughed ate the entire jar on the spot.

I loved the MIOON JELLiES even if the are misnamed as being jelly FISH.

dj 7:10 PM  

Same theme was done in LA Times (7/26/11) and NY Times (1/24/11) both with Lady Marmalade as answers

Just sayin'

kitshef 7:14 PM  

Quite a few folks listing LADYMARMALADE as a WoE ... there is a decent chance you would know it if you heard it. Often referred to as the "voulez-vous coucher avec moi".

Online critic: iRater.

mac 7:55 PM  

OMG, @Bob Kerfuffle. Thank you.

Unknown 8:33 PM  

Chuck McGregor, you have my thanks. I did *not* understand the clue for Boise, despite getting Boise. In fact, when I completed and didn't have everything right, I spent some time wondering whether it was wrong, before realizing I'd misspelled Abbess. Which I originally knew, but figured must be wrong because ept just isn't a word (and to me "jocular" doesn't equal "made up").

So, I eventually finished, but still didn't understand Boise. Then I read the comments, and felt increasingly stupid as I read many, many people writing about the great and funny clue.

I still feel pretty stupid for never actually figuring it out, but at least I am no longer frustrated by ignorance.

Anoa Bob 8:42 PM  

MOON JELLY sounds WEIRd. I get it that a jellyfish isn't considered an actual fish by, say, an ichthyologist. But it's not jelly either. It may be jelly-like, but it isn't considered actual jelly by, say, a cook. So to call it a jelly is just as incorrect, methinks, as to call it a fish.

What else can we call it? I think it has enough characteristics in common with both jelly and fish to make the name "jellyfish" apt in common parlance and it's unlikely to change any time soon. "Oh look! A Moon Jellyfish!"

Pete 9:06 PM  

@Z - The instructions that the USPS gives as to how to address a letter has nothing to do with my observation, which was based on the facts of the automated scanning of mail. Mail is initially scanned only for ZIP / Street Number (not street name, nor city or state). If the Zip / Street number has a match in the master list of such, it gets forwarded to the appropriate zip. Final scanning is then performed on Street Number/ Street name and sorted for the appropriate delivery route. Neither addressee nor city/state is ever used in this process. It is only used where the zip code is missing or illegible, which was outside the scope of my claim.

The fact that if you have a valid zip, the inclusion of Boise ID in an address is superfluous, as Boise ID has 13 zip codes. The USPS may, but it certainly isn't so inept as to actually require a less specific identifier. But that was clearly obvious, no?

Z 10:04 PM  

@dj - One themer and not much else is the same between the two NYT puzzles. This us very different from what was happening at USA Today/Universal. It is also interesting to look at the Commentariat for that old puzzle and see so many familiar names, many of whom don't drop in often anymore. @Gill I. - I think that's you writing from syndyland.

@Martin Abresch - I probably should have written that you had me convinced until I looked harder. I think SLOW JAM does look larger because it is above a shorter answer. Since all the themers are centered in the puzzle I think the lengths of the non-central answers can be ignored. In my overall impression of the theme I think this is minor.

@jae - I don't think the brand name is an improvement. Someone liked VOLTE-FACE. It wasn't me.

@kitshef - Angrier online critic?

Leapfinger 10:15 AM  

Ditto, thanks to @Mr Kerfuffle

@Z, if a student writes the right answer on an exam but you know he didn't understand the question, do you give credit for full marks? In a True/False test, if the student fills in "True" all the way down, a computer would give points for all the correct answers.

It seems some folks away are swept
By an irate optician who isn't ept;
Whose jellies moon where the sun don't shine;
Who can't face the volts, for watts on the line;
Who cannot requiescat in pace
With that adorable Volvo face.
But best of all who are so bereft,
Who wish those words fell on ears more deaf't
Are the come-back comments that puff and heff
With the incontrovertible 'Wot the F'.

jcj 2:49 PM  

I know I'm late to this party, but did anyone else get faked out on 1a/1d. SANTA was the only obvious answer for "noted gift giver", but I couldn't think of any SANTA specific gift so left if blank. The NW was the last part to fall largely because of that.

spacecraft 10:34 AM  

This has been a ver-r-rry strange week. Two Saturdays so far and we're only to Wednesday! I filled in the SW across, stared and stared for my mistake, gave up and just left it as is. But VOLTEFACE??? You have GOT to be kidding me! Excuse me, but I have to go right now and look that up. I just can't believe it's a real thing.

Back. Well, I'll be damned. It is. So is MOONJELLY. That one was just as unknown, but somehow more believable. Some subset of jelly(fish that aren't)fish. But the WOEs aren't the only thing that makes this challenging--Fearless One, remove that "medium-" at once! The clues are straight out of Saturday. PIVOT is "abrupt realignment of policy priorities?" Perhaps that's another clue for Volte-whatever. Jeez, it's only Wednesday, fercryinoutloud. Basketball move. Dance move. If this keeps up, I may have to "abruptly realign my policy priorities."

Hey, we have a mini-theme. PIVOT, HAIRPIN, and...that thing at 29-down. Still, a fairly clean, if not top/bottom symmetrical, grid. Only one bobble. I, RATER, will award it a B+, despite not liking it all that much.

But what is yet to come this week? *shudder*

Burma Shave 11:23 AM  


WYLE doing the BOLERO as a SLOWJAM dance,
she SPUN and took the HAIRPIN from her UPBRAID
and LEDON THERICH guy with APAT on his pants,


BS2 11:28 AM  

No filter today - LADYMARMALADE of course

Torb 1:21 PM  

Toughest Wednesday puz ever! Finished but detesyed volteface, irater, upbraided.

rain forest 3:10 PM  

Hmmm. I don't know what this says about me, but this was medium, lotsa fun, and educational. Maybe it is thematically thin, but it is a theme which I recognized as soon as I got MOON JELLY (knew it was JELLY, but which one?). As a result SLOW JAM was almost a gimme ever though I haven't heard the term. As soon as I had -ADE, MARMALADE went in, and I just had to wait for the LADY - hi, Lady Di.

Studied the Owen poem in high school, and have heard the political term PIVOT endlessly on the US primary telecasts. That and "granular" are the current and overused terms this year. Er, pivoting to the SE, I loved the clue for EPT, and I was definitely traught about it.

I don't grade puzzles, as you all know, BUT if I did, this would almost get an A, but even I, with my almost universal love for any puzzle, cringed while writing in IRATER. An almost great puzzle indeed.

PS I do miss the nonsense words and/or the numbers in the CAPTCHA.

rondo 4:08 PM  

Yeah, hard for a Wednesday. That MOONJELLY area really slowed things up there. But I see no write-overs so I’ll take it. Went carefully on BERYLLIUM, could have spelled the middle of it several ways - two Rs?, an I?, oneL? – finally correct.

When my house was built they core-filled the blocks with concrete every 6 feet and rammed a rebar down there and called those PILASTERS. I guess I have a stronger than normal basement due to those PILASTERS. That’s my only experience with that word. I core-filled all the other block holes with Styrofoam beads, helpful in MN.

JIMMIE was a gimme. So was SHEL. VOLTEFACE was not. BTW – SHEL wrote most or all of the songs for Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. Also “Boy named Sue” for Johnny, if memory serves. Did I ever mention that I played in a band that opened for Mr. Cash? SHEL was also a bawdy poem contributor to Playboy long ago.

SOFEW yeah babies of late. Wasn’t it The BOLERO in the movie “10”? SLOWJAM to that. And Ms. Derek? IRATER 10.

MIKE or mic. I always thought of it as the former, bt puzzles usually make it the latter. I’m so confused. This sure was a mid-week toughie.

leftcoastTAM 6:43 PM  

Unusually tough for a Wednesday; might have been fun and challenging enough for a Friday.

Similar reactions to RP's, and I didn't really see or care about a theme until I came here.

First time I've seen the "polemology" clue here or anywhere, so WAR had to be declared with the crosses.

LOOPHOLES are often deliberate pay-offs of lobbying rather than "legislative oversights," IMO.

PIVOT and VOLTEFACE make a nice pair.

Diana,LIW 7:46 PM  

Two days in a row this little tortoise finished with no help or cheats of any kind. And, again, one letter was wrong. As M&A would say, day yum!! I KNEW that Bub should have some slangish term like pal, bro, bud, but filled in MAn. Then, totally gazing past what little I really do know about the Romans (of the ancient variety) I thought SENEdA was some guy I didn't know. If I'd carefully looked at my completed grid, I would have remembered SENECA. Grrrrr. As OFL would say, a novice's error. And here I am in fourth grade! Novices are in Kindergarten or first-grade, maybe even second.

So I'd say the puzzle was easy-to-challenging, what with the Saturday vocab and Friday clues amongst the Wednesday gimmees. Therefore, kinda proud of myself. If I were at a tournament, I'd gladly (yes, proudly, I'll say it again) hand in my finished product. Albeit 1.37 hours after the finishing buzzer (bell, gong, or whatever) sounded. I run in Turtle time. But, nonetheless, completed. Therefore, easyish for the most part.

Loved BOISE. Showed that one to Mr. W. with the clue and showed him 5 spaces. One by one filled in the letters. When BOISE finally appeared, his quizzical look had me circle ID. Ahhhh his look said. Then he lifted up his imaginary rifle and put the constructor in the cross hairs. That's fine praise from him.

@Spacey - yes, it is a strange week - and wasn't last week one, also?

@Rainy - thanks for the shout-out, but allow me to assure you and all other posters that I am as different from the L-Marm as night from day.

@Rondo - had a house in California with the rebar/concrete block construction - think earthquakes. A solid place indeed. Tee sent your email along - I'll send you one soon. Every tourney needs a little humor, and I'm glad to oblige as one of the slowest amateur solvers.

@Cathy - where are you?

@any Synders (folks solving 5 weeks after the puzzle is initially published) - this is an open MIKE. (Or mic?) You can still post if you are listening to the past in the future. And think about joining our merry band in June at the Minnesota Tournament in June.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Thursday's tricks!

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