Dwarf planet beyond Pluto / WED 9-27-17 / Victims of fictional Morlocks / Epoch characterized by rise of mammals / Hip hop group with triple-platinum album black sunday

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Constructor: Jacob Stulberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (except for the mistake I made, ugh)

THEME: THREE-RING CIRCUS (42A: Confusing situation ... or what this puzzle contains literally?) — three "rings" (represented in the grid above by circled squares) contain acts one might see at a circus ... I think:

The Rings:
Word of the Day: SELAH (9D: Interjection occurring frequently in Psalms) —
exclamation: selah
  1. (in the Bible) occurring frequently at the end of a verse in Psalms and Habakkuk, probably as a musical direction. (google)
• • •

I've never seen any of those things at a circus. So there's that. Also, those aren't "rings." So there's that, too. Both the grid shape and the longer Downs in this one are pretty intriguing, and the fill is mostly clean ... except, you know, around those "rings." There, things get dicey ASSAI ESSES HESSE SWE dicey. In fact, so dicey, for me, that I finished with an error—one that I never would have found had the circled circus acts not been a part of the puzzle. I had GRAFT instead of GRIFT. These words aren't that different, either in look or in meaning. Obviously, if you ask me to choose which, of these two, better fits 64A: Petty swindle, I'm gonna go with GRIFT. But that is not how crosswords play themselves out. It woulda been *super* nice if the cross had been *any* help, but how the hell am I supposed to know how Ray NAGIN spells his damn last name. I mean, sure, there's FAGIN, for comparison, but there's also PAGAN and SAGAN. So the "A" went in easy and never came out. I cannot stress how bad that NAGIN / GRIFT cross is, at a basic design level. You know that second vowel in NAGIN's name is not gonna be a slam dunk, and then the plausible crosses are both Types Of Crime!? It was bad enough to have F-STAR up there (5D: Polaris, e.g., in astronomy), with its stupid take-a-random-guess first letter making that square essentially uncrossed (i.e. you better get FLAPS because I know you don't know what letter star Polaris is; no you don't, shut up). But then the whole NAGIN thing, ugh. You notice that all this weakness is Right On Top Of the stupid "rings." That is not a coincidence. Rings put a Ton of pressure on the grid. But it's the constructor's (and, uh, editor's) responsibility to make sure cleanness, clarity, and solvability reign.

Outside of the ring areas, the puzzle played pretty easy. The cluing was no great shakes. Take the clue on GRIFT64A: Petty swindle. Now look it up on google. Go ahead. I'll wait. No I won't, here it is:

See? That's just ... lifting. Nothing colorful, thoughtful, specific, inventive. Just a definition lifted straight from a rudimentary google search. Most of the clues here are straightforward and dull. Even some of the longer fill, while original, is not exactly scintillating. TAX CLINIC? SAND GROUSES? Applause for novelty, but I hardly thought, "Dang, nice." I did think "Dang, nice" with CYPRESS HILL, though (24A: Hip-hop group with the triple-platinum album "Black Sunday"). That answer was satisfying to me, EMOTIONALLY.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Happy anniversary to my wife, whom I love an awful lot

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:07 AM  

Medium for me. Clever idea, liked it.

@Rex - NAGIN was a gimme as we are currently watching Treme (the theme song is a major ear worm). They weren't particularly fond of him in the series. The music is terrific.

Shouldn't ABBA be all caps?

An ACE on a par 4 is an albatross.

George Barany 12:16 AM  

Two anniversaries that you've mentioned this week, @Rex, so congratulations to both.

Agree about the GRIFT/GRAFT problem in @Jacob Stulberg's puzzle, and add to that SELAH/SELAM (sic), since CYPRESS MILL sounds pretty reasonable to one unversed in hip hop.

Still, I have to wonder about the reasoning behind the BARIUM clue. Joke: What do you do with dead chemists? Answer: 35-Down. Another joke: Count to infinity. Answer: 1, 2, 3, 4, ..., 7, 8, KER-plunk.

Eprailick 12:29 AM  

Would've been nice to see BARNUM in LIEU of BARIUM. Now that would have been clever, yes?

Ben 12:33 AM  

SERGE and SELAH crossing slowed me down on this one, but can appreciate the theme in LIEU of better fill.

Bob 12:48 AM  

Historical foul on 47D (Traitorous Major _____ of the Revolutionary War). John ANDRE was a British officer who assisted Benedict Arnold in his betrayal of the Patriot cause, but he himself was anything but traitorous in his loyalties.

Andre Circus eManuels 1:01 AM  

@Eprailick 12:29 am
OOooh! I'll bet donuts to dollars the original grid had BARNUM!!!!

I loved the three rings, esp bec it gave me the N of ANC (I couldn't remember and was blocked with AfC/fAGIN.)
Good theme should give you anything unsolvable, and it did!

GLASSEATER, yikes! Sword swallower, Fire eater, but GLASS?!!!

And I thought WIREWALKERS were called Tightrope Walkers, but still thought this was cool!

Got off to a super shaky start with Hideo aOki!!! But I knew ALOU! So my sports literacy is incrementally increasing. Can't wait till I'm 80!

Circuses make me sad for the animals, so no tears shed over Ringling Brothers being finally forced out of business for abusing those animals for so so so many years.

Graham 1:11 AM  

I thought PNIN was going to irk people, because outside of other Slavic Language majors, I've never met anyone who's read it.

GRIFT is more often a verb than a noun to the point where I'm surprised the dictionary lists it as a noun at all. (I got caught up in some GRIFT? No... He GRIFTed me.) So the clue ought to have been "Pettily swindle." Or just "Swindle."

MaharajaMack 1:11 AM  

Knew you'd gripe about GRIFT/NAGIN but I thought it was a gimme. Guess we know who spent more time reading the news than listening to it on NPR...

Robin 1:21 AM  

The GRIFT/NAGIN cross almost screwed me too.

But I was more PO-ed about the "Traitorous Major". ANDRE was a British spy, not a traitor. He was in league with the American traitor, Benjamin Arnold, but he was not the traitor.

puzzlehoarder 1:51 AM  

The damn printer wouldn't print so I had to solve on the computer. That slowed me down more than anything else. ASSAI and SELAH have both been used more frequently than yesterday's NYAD but for some reason neither has sunk in. That's two I had to work around.

If the word swindle is in the clue the answer is clearly GRIFT. Graft refers to corruption. A confidence man or swindler can be called a grifter never a grafter. It seems like basic English to me.

I know I've made a point of not wasting my time on our hosts comments but when I saw "mistake" in the headline I couldn't resist. Sure he made the mistake but the puzzle was what was really wrong. Same old pompous ass. No doubt he made the mistake several times faster than a normal person could.

Hartley70 2:07 AM  

I fell for GRaFT/NAGaN. Rats.

I agree with @ACME about circus wild animals. Their condition is too pitiful. I saw the Barnum circus once in Madison Square Garden and that was it for me. I vastly preferred The Big Apple Circus with my children. It was great fun and I was sorry when it closed up shop. It's back for a holiday engagement this year at Lincoln Center.

Major ANDRE was portrayed as quite the dashing and honorable British soldier in the recent series "TURN". He did his duty and was captured while traveling out of uniform to meet the real turncoat Benedict Arnold. He's quite the hero in England.

Mark 2:33 AM  

I agree about Andre. I'm not sure I agree about Grift and graft, no matter what some internet reference says. Graft can definitely be not small. Grift cannot.

Larry Gilstrap 2:45 AM  

Annoying rings of circles give us acts from a pretty blah circus. I saw guys eat glass in college; well, they did spit it out. Didn't some self-help guru get in lots of trouble when his acolytes burned their feet at a retreat. Now a WIRE WALKER gets my attention. Scared of heights and would turn my head away from that display. Remember the guy who walked between the World Trade Center towers? I've been to a real CIRCUS and the action in the THREE RINGS was overwhelming. Wait, three guys are riding motorcycles in a metal sphere, but look at that guy munching stemware! Said no one ever.

We discussed an ACE on a par four hole a while back. Amazingly, it happens, as per Google.

ANC was certain and GRIFT has been in the news lately, so NAGIN seemed familiar, even though I'm pressed to keep current on environmental disasters. They just keep happening.

Cream said:
"In a white room with black curtains near the station
Black roof country, no gold pavement, tired starlings
Silver horses ran down moonbeams in your dark eyes
Dawn light smile on you leaving, my contentment..."
I'm flashin' man!

Have you ever actually seen and identified Polaris? F STAR, if you say so, but it is is Shakespeare's ever fixed mark in the northern sky visible in this desert almost every night.

travis 3:45 AM  

Another Trump reference made me want to barf. At least I assume Dealmaking, some say == ART was a Trump reference. Why. There must be a million ways to clue ART.

Sluggo 4:02 AM  

GRaFT/NAGaN got me as well.

First time posting, but I just can't take it anymore... he's complaining about the "rings?!" How the heck else is someone going to try to represent a circle in a box of grids? It's the same way the letter O has been represented in every LED sign I've ever seen. It's like Rex would be looking at the LED sign that says DOOR and think "I have no idea what all those symbols mean... what are those two hexagons in the middle doing there?"

Whatever... I'm going back to lurking.


Anonymous 4:25 AM  

Pettiest review ever! Those are rings. If you're going to represent rings in a grid, that's about as good as you're going to get. Is the complaint that they're not as circular as they might possibly be? Look at the three-ring binder. The rings shown are also somewhat ovate. Secondly, there's absolutely nothing inherently petty about GRAFT. And GRAFT may be a crime—one that NAGIN was convicted of!—but it's only metaphorically a swindle. Wherefore the silly confusion? Pathetic. Finally, what's a plausible alternative to the F in FLAPS?

Anonymous 5:52 AM  

I made a mistake (lost the election). It was Will Shortz's (list too long to mention here) fault.

Lewis 6:10 AM  

@epraliick -- That was brilliant! BARNUM for BARIUM, and it could easily been done, with Doctor No (DRNO) for TRIO and EDY for ETC. Would have given the puzzle pop, but I'm guessing no one saw it but you. Bravo!

I loved the NW with WELT, TOWN CRIER, and TIE DIES. I also liked the WATT's up and WIPE out. It's quite lovely that the clue "Yadda, yadda, yadda" crosses TRIO. As Rex mentions, the cluing is direct, through and through, and I believe Wednesdays should have more GUILE on that front. The cluing, for me, put this puzzle on the easy side of Wednesday. The theme was cute, and as some alluded to here earlier, no animals were involved.

I'll be away for two weeks, relaxing overseas, and I look forward to re-joining you all upon my return!

BarbieBarbie 6:18 AM  

So... my own solution to the either-or-ness of GRIFT and GRaFT is to fill in only four of the letters and wait to see what happens in the neighborhood. is Rex filling in wrong answers because it takes too long to go back later? Huh. Same with NAGIN. Something in my brain was whispering "Nagey" even though I had no actual recollection of the guy. So I left it alone, and good thing, too.

Yes @Graham, I've read PNIN. Went thru a Nabakov phase in my student years after a friend lent me LOLITA. I love that he preferred to write in English because it puts qualifiers in front of their objects ("the green paint," not "the paint green") so that a writer paints a mental image without having to correct it. I think we've talked about that before here. But no, not a Slavic L&L major. Nor any L&L.

Brett 6:20 AM  

For me, there was an awful lot of baseball in this grid.

Bryce 6:27 AM  

"It's totally impossible to tell whether the answer is grift or graft! This is terrible!"

"The clue for grift uses the EXACT DICTIONARY DEFINITION! This is terrible!"


Jamie C 6:36 AM  

A THREE RING CIRCUS is not a "confusing situation." It is a chaotic situation, a zoo, mayhem, a clusterfuck. And fire dancers and glass eaters might be at a carnival, but they are not at a circus. Fundamentally flawed puzzle.

@Betsy 6:38 AM  

Changed graft to grift after figuring out the "fire dancer" circle. Enjoyed a little aha as that reminded me of The Grifters, a beloved movie.

Z 6:54 AM  

I hate DNFing at a whac-a-vowel spot. @Mark - While GRIFT is always petty, GRaFT can be petty. This is sufficient for a crossword clue. Of course, if I had bothered with the circus acts while solving that might have saved me.

The lack of ringness didn’t bother me while solving, but Rex is right, those aren’t rings. You’ll notice that inherent in the notion of ring is circularity. The puzzle has, at best, ovals. Again, if I had bothered with the circus acts while solving I might have noticed and been irked.

Personally, I don’t much care for the theme in a circled “circle” conceit. Themes should be relevant to the solving experience. This theme isn’t. I figured out what the circled squares were about early on and then ignored them. There’s no need to look at them at all from a puzzle-solving perspective other than to resolve a vowel-issue. That makes the circle squares more Ex-Lax than theme to me.

Anonymous 7:07 AM  

I don't really see why GRIFT/GRAFT is confusing, because that vowel has a *third* way of working it out as it's part of the circles, and FIRE DANCER seems like a circus-y thing, whereas FARE DANCER does not.

Anonymous 7:19 AM  

Hey Rex: Illegitimum non carborundum. None of them do what you do.

Paul Rippey 7:32 AM  

Hm. I got GRIFT from knowing the song “The Long Grift” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I didn’t know it was a verb too.

clk 7:35 AM  

I hated 1D and thought GLASSEATER was one of the stupidest ideas for a circus act I've heard of. It's been a while since I've been to one but still.
I remembered Ray NAGxx from Katrina but thought it was NAGey so got stuck with NAGIe for awhile. I didn't fall into the GRaFT/GRIFT trap because FaREDANCER makes no sense. I don't think you can really complain when the theme pulls you out of a trap.
I can't believe that anyone would complain that the rings were insufficiently round. They look as ring-like as can be expected on my screen. Y'all are aware the grid is made up of squares, right?

QuasiMojo 7:35 AM  

Anyone who paid the slightest bit of attention during Katrina, one of the most appalling disasters in American history, remembers Ray NAGIN. Do you live in a complete white tower glass bubble, Rex?

ABBA is always in CAPS. Abba usually refers to the Israeli prime minister.

I agree, a boring puzzle. But to whine about the rings is pretty unfair. How else are they supposed to be configured in a grid made up of squares?

Anyone else have BASALT before BARIUM? The latter, of course, brings to mind doctor's visits and enemas. Does that pass the breakfast test?

Hungry Mother 7:35 AM  

PNIN almost made me call for help, but the perps seemed solid so made it through. On the easy side for me timewise.

Doris 7:37 AM  

Several excerpts from “Pnin” were published in The New Yorker some years back, before the novel came out.

kitshef 7:38 AM  

Bad enough to have the same DNF as Rex at GRaFT/NAGaN (my fault, not the puzzle’s - as has been pointed out, if you don't know NAGIN it's still not uncrossed, because of the theme), but up to that point it was a generally unpleasant experience. Major ANDRE was not a traitor. Ray NAGIN? Plural of SAND GROUSE is SAND GROUSE – no S required or wanted. SELAH?!? DEGS ELOI ESSES ALOU EFS ASSAI ERTE SWE IED PNIN KER.

There are some nice words – never thought I’d hate a puzzle with TOWN CRIER, BARIUM and EOCENE in it, yet here we are.

We got to see SANDGROUSE coming to the watering holes in Namibia. They soak their chest feathers, then fly back to the nest where the chicks ‘drink’ the water off their feathers. Some fly dozens of miles to the waterholes every day.

Stuart Showalter 7:52 AM  

Once again Rex shows his pettiness. The NAGIN/GRIFT cross is “bad” because he can’t spell. If he had remembered, it woulda been “too easy.” Jeez!

Birchbark 7:57 AM  

Here in the boreal woods, the plural of GROUSES is grouse. As in, "How'd it go this morning?" "Saw a couple of grouse but missed both times." "Well, it's a good day for a walk." "Yep."

GROUSES seems like the cartoonish "meeces" to me. But our grouse are ruffed, not SAND, so maybe they do things differently in the semidesert.

Joe 7:58 AM  

I can't believe there are so many complaints about the Nagin/Grift cross, which I thought was a gimme (Grift, I mean). The brutal cross was Nagin and ANC. A random proper name of an unknown guy crossing a random organization? Now that's an unfair cross, and I can't believe no one is mentioning it.

Joe 8:02 AM  

I should add that the only way I got that N in the Nagin/ANC cross was because of the theme. If it wasn't triple-crossed I would have been Naticked for sure.

Two Ponies 8:08 AM  

When did the apple become the official forbidden fruit? I am asking this because it just occurred to me as I filled in fig that considering the geographic location of most of the Bible a fig would be the most likely forbidden fruit? When did it become an apple?

Why the "once" in the sultan/harem clue? Are there still sultans with their traditional harem?

@ Sluggo, Stop by more often, you're pretty funny.

@ kitshef, Cool bird info.

22A made me think of @LMS, are the workers big or is the group?

Best ridiculous crossing was Eloi/Alou! It was bound to happen.

Anonymous 8:09 AM  

Re 6D:

My favorite Leo Durocher story. He was managing the Cubs, and they were playing Montreal there. It must have been about 1972. Somehow it had been announced that it was Leo’s birthday. Back then scores were much lower than now, and Montreal kept scoring. After they got 5 or 6 runs the game was basically over. And they kept scoring. After about the fifth run the entire crowd began singing, with every score, “Happy Birthday to You,” with a rousing “Happy Birthday Dear Leo” in the penultimate verse. Back then, and often now, when a game is out of reach the manager would send in an assistant, usually the pitching coach, to pull his reliever. The runs kept piling up (must have been more than 15), with the chorus resuming with each run. There must have been at least six pitching changes. Since he was being taunted by the crowd, Leo refused to send any other coach to the mound–he went out, with his characteristic shuffle, for each change, in each instance being mercilessly taunted by the Montreal crowd. He refused of course to change his expression or even look up at them when he returned to the dugout. Finally, in about the 8th inning, the score about 16-1, he shuffled back from the mound to the dugout a last time, again expressionless. Then some ten-year-old kid behind the Cub dugout yelled out to him, “Hey Leo, what’s wrong, you look tired!” Then Leo looked up at the kid and called back: “Listen, kid, I’ve got a right to be tired. I was out with your mother all night last night.”
The game I saw on TV; the comment I read about the next day.
Anon. i.e. Poggius

Tim Carey 8:26 AM  


my tiny little brain refused to give up on SWELLed, so no GUILE, no TAXCLINIC, no PNIN...

so sad...

Bill Feeney 8:26 AM  

GRIFT works if you remember The Sting. Great movie.

Kendall 8:37 AM  

Hand up for NAGIN/GRIFT being a problem, but doubly so because I wasn't sure on ANC and NAGIN as well. I know the name after seeing it spelled out, but Katrina was 12 years ago. I remember a lot about that storm, but the name of the mayor wasn't committed to memory forever for me.

Susie Q 8:39 AM  

All of this pain just for three circus acts that don't exist, sigh.
Big waste of time with no pay-off.

Stanley Hudson 8:51 AM  

@Lewis, safe travels.

@Poggius, great Durocher story.

@Rex, you're becoming a caricature.

Sir Hillary 8:52 AM  

I didn't like this puzzle. Lots of small things annoyed me:
-- Never seen any of those acts in a THREERINGCIRCUS.
-- MAA, KER, LDS, EFS (!!), ESSES, SWE, DEGS, ERTE, PNIN, IED, ROK, LATH and NOMO all in the same grid.
-- ABBA not being all-caps. I'm sure it's some NYT style rule, but still.
-- Lost opportunity to cross-reference AFLCIO and UNION.
-- The fact that I can never remember if it's CRIER or CRyER. Dryer/drier and flyer/flier always get me too.

I initially had GRaFT. I remember NAGIN well but wasn't sure the spelling of his name. But as @Anon 7:07 and a few others have pointed out, this was solvable via the themer, so no one should be complaining. FaREWALKER made no sense, so I fixed it. What's the big deal?

Loved Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday not so much. Hopefully we get a good one tomorrow.

Passing Shot 8:53 AM  

First Wednesday DNF in who knows how long... No problem w GRIFT vs GRaFT, but got killed in the north central. Did not know SERGE, SELAH, or FSTAR. Have heard of CYPRESS HILL but am not familiar with their music. AAARRRGGGHHH. đŸ˜ 

Aketi 8:55 AM  

My favorite circle puzzle was that loop de loop puzzle a while back. Given the number of letters I think that's as circular as you can get when circles have to fit into 10 boxes.

No one noticed another performer than the TRIO in the THREE RINGS. The MATADOR is in the center of them all. The others may engage death defying carnival acts, but the MATADOR's goal is to cause death.

Glad to see ROAR back to its original spelling.

G. Weissman 9:00 AM  

Excessive proper names and "glass eater" (who doesn't have warm memories of seeing the glass eater at the three-ring circus) make this puzzle pretty bogus.

Trombone Tom 9:05 AM  

@BillFeeney that's exactly how I solved the GRIFT/GRaFT conundrum, too.

The theme was a little off for me as I associate two of the three-ring entries more with a sideshow than a circus.

I fully understand the sentiments that combined to kill The Big Show, but today's kids will never get to experience the thrill of a six-year-old who got to help water the elephants and set up the smaller tents when the Clyde Beatty Circus came to town.

Anonymous 9:15 AM  

I was offended by ART of the deal, but I'm a snowflake.

Anonymous 9:16 AM  

Those aren't "rings"? Really, Rex? How so? They look like rings to me.

I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle in a puzzle.

NAGIN was on the news 24/7 during Katrina, I think we know that name - for me, more so than STAN, PNIN, and CYPRESS HILL.


mathgent 9:25 AM  

I loved it and was hoping that everyone else did too. Well, maybe not @Nancy, because of the circles. But then I read JeffChen who had an uncharacteristic negative review (too much glue). Of course, Rex didn't like it. And most of the bloggers so far didn't think much of it.

I guess it was a foolish infatuation. I'm now aware of its several faults. The junky entries that Chen lists. GLASSEATERS weren't in one of the rings -- there were in a side show. Etc.

Further downer, I didn't get George Barany's infinity joke.

Rex missed an opportunity to ding Will Shortz for not capitalizing ABBA and for allowing the incorrect plural of GROUSE. More significant goofs than Rex usually rails at.

I learned CYPRESSHILL recently from a surprising source. It was in a puzzle by Patrick Berry.

Anon (5:52): Very clever!

We used to have a tennis tournament here in San Francisco that featured a two-ring circus. In the early rounds, they set up two courts side by side and two matches would be played simultaneously. (It was played at the Cow Palace which has a very large central area. They have rodeos there.) The fans liked it, the players didn't.

And that reminds me of the wife of a friend. She watches movies on the Hallmark channel. The plots are so predictable that she watches two at once, one on her TV and one on her phone.

Nancy 9:31 AM  

The annoying tiny little circles annoyed me. The PPP in the NE corner, stemming all the way back to 24A, annoyed me. I wanted SATS, not EXAM for 19A, which didn't help. DNF and DNC.

For those friends on the blog who've asked: So for two straight days I was out of the house, exhausted, at 8:58 a.m. I sat in the park for 8 hours -- and on Monday it was in wretched heat and humidity. And they didn't come those two days to do the renovation. My avoidance behavior was all completely unnecessary. They're here today. So far they haven't made a sound, though the dog next door is barking incessantly at their mere presence. My doorman tells me that the contractor wants to have a meeting with me at 10:30 this a.m. to tell me what his plans are. That's very nice and extremely unusual. If it's relatively quiet until 10:30, I can wait in my apt. to talk to him. I do want to tell him the things he could do to make this easier for me, like not starting as early as 9:10 for example, or making noise only on beautiful days. Fat chance of any of that, right? But I'm curious what he'll have to say. For all of you who couldn't care less about any of this, I hope you had the good sense to scroll past. For those who've expressed concern to me, please know that I appreciate it!

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

Take a compass and draw a perfect circle through the rings!

Anon 9:34 AM  

Also got caught up in the common spots for a DNF. GRIFT/GRAFT and SELAH/SELAM both got me. Other than that, no joy in this puzzle with the crap fill.

Adam Trotter 9:38 AM  

I have a PhD in astrophysics, and I didn't know what damn letter star Polaris is, either.

TomAz 9:46 AM  

For me the cross that messed me up was TOWNCRIER/ERIS. I had TOWNCRyER -- like in the Elvis Costello song Rex posted. I didn't know ERyS from ERIS.

GRIFT/GRaFT had me at first but as someone said you can get it from the 'ring'.

If I were king I would outlaw "_STAR" answers.

Lewis 9:51 AM  

So my fix earlier to get BARNUM into the grid to replace BARIUM and add pop to the theme, as suggested by @epraillick even earlier, doesn't work because it puts FIREDANYER in that ring. But a solution that does work, suggested by a commenter on another site, is MEA for MER and ENC for ETC. I'll take an ENC with BARNUM with this theme over an ETC with BARIUM any time.

@poggius -- Made me smile!

Tita A 9:53 AM  

@epraliick & @Lewis...brilliant on the BARnUM guess and puzzle fix.

@Bryce...just what I wondered...in fact, Rex contradicting his own rant makes me wonder if this rant is not just a grenade he threw.

@Larry G...love your stemware non-quote.

And as for Polaris...it's always a thrill to see it. May be there are a few drops of Portuguese seafaring blood running through my veins. They have the word "disorientado" - with no east, but also "desnorteado" - to have lost the north...which is even worst.
If you are desnorteado, you might find yourself in a THREERINGCIRCUS.

Everything @Two Ponies said.

@Joe... the N was my unknown, though it did come to me eventually because Katrina.

Bob Mills 9:57 AM  

I personally don't think the circled letters added anything to the puzzle. It's really a theme without a theme.

Cliff Robinson 10:02 AM  

As a NOLA resident I had no problem with NAGIN, despite what would have been the aptness of crossing him with GRAFT

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

I also finished with a mistake - I had EDGEs / EsTE instead of EDGER / ERTE. Neither clue was known to me so I had to use check puzzle to find the problem. I'm frustrated with myself for it because I should have seen that FIRE DANCEs didn't fit the pattern of the other themers. Oh well.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

I liked the Art of a Deal reference but was microagressed by Rahm Emanuel.

jberg 10:16 AM  

My stepdaughter lived in NOLA at the time of Katrina, and was always fuming about NAGIN's non-performance before, during, and after the storm. I still flirted with NAGie for a moment, though.

And my ex-wife's uncle, who taught chemistry, used to eat a spoonful of ground glass in front of his students, to demonstrate that it was not as dangerous as was generally thought. He never tried out for the circus, but i think the job he had paid better.

Remember that scene in Downton Abbey where they go out and shoot GROUSES? Neither do I.

It was a little tough until I got GLASSEATER and realized that I was looking for different acts, rather than the names of different circuses (Big Apple, Cirque de Soleil, etc.)

On to Thursday!

Ross T 10:17 AM  


"fill is mostly clean" ???

Joseph Michael 10:20 AM  

This is not a CIRCUS I would go to. I might enjoy a high wire act or a tightrope walker, but not a WIRE WALKER. I have heard of fire eaters and fire walkers. but not FIRE DANCERS. And I have no desire to see a GLASS EATER regardless of how he prepares his meal. So I'll be going to Cirque du Soleil instead.

The criticism of whether the themers are true RINGS seems slightly ridiculous within the context of a crossword puzzle. And aren't each of the themers actually ten ring acts anyway?

GRIFT was a gimme since it called to mind the excellent film "The Grifters" with Anjelica Huston and "graft" was never an option since the "a" doesn't make sense in the themer.

Thought Rex would go ballistic over the cluing of ART since it feels like a subliminal ad for the book with Trump's name on it. I guess Rex was too traumatized by the fact that he had made a mistake (through no fault if his own).

And alas I don't get @George Barany's infinity joke either.

evil doug 10:22 AM  

Sure, Nelson Mandela's org. was the AfC. I think he played middle linebacker for the Steelers....

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

I'm sorry but this was an overly annoying puzzle. So, so, so obtuse and far too many random proper names. Who is supposed to know all of these people? And why do we have to have so many obscure baseball/sports clues? I call foul. Unless your cluing Babe Ruth or Sammy Sosa, just stop already. These people are not common knowledge. And the theme was silly and pointless. Thumbs down!!!

mac 10:31 AM  

Toughish for me, especially graft/grift, AFLCIO, but finished it.

Congratulations, Rex!

Carola 10:32 AM  

This one was hard for me. It had more "no idea's" than the usual Wednesday: STAN, LOWE, CYPRESS HILL, SELAH, ANDRE, NAGIN, NOMO, and I had difficulty making SENSE of the circles (where to start, which way to circle around). Liked TOWN CRIER and GUILE + GRIFT. Same thought as others about GROUSES - a verb form only, in my book.

Mohair Sam 10:38 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
RooMonster 10:38 AM  

Hey All !
Took till end of puz to suss out the "acts" in the ovally circles. Would've been a notch nicer if they all started at the same spot. The SE one had me guessing KER WI REW AL? What the heck? Also NAGIN a WOE, because also couldn't figure out SW "act", so even though the I and N were triple crossed, it still didn't help with the GRIFT/GRaFT vowel (had GRaFT), or with ANC (alphabet run for N). And no, I don't live under a rock, but I do have what I like to call Chronic Short Term Memory Loss. So NAGIN never stuck in the ole brain. Also not up on ANC meaning. Part of the problem is I don't watch news. Too depressing.

Did like left/right symmetry. Learned about a planet named ERIS that's beyond "planetary object" Pluto. _STAR is comparable to _NUT. Whack a consonant.

MAA - @M&A out of North Dakota??


Mohair Sam 10:44 AM  

Jeez @Rex - You think graft is a petty swindle? Not in my world.

"The GRIFTers" a hard-edged flick you ought to see - Oedipus Rex on the grift - Anjelica Houston, John Cusack, and a young Annette Benning (how's that for a teaser?). ANDRE a traitor? Shortz should be embarrassed. I'm embarrassed that SELAH had to fill, as did PNIN.

@Anon (8:09) - Loved the Duroucher story. Attended a Mets game there circa 1980 and can attest that Montreal games were so poorly attended conversations with the crowd were no problem. At the game we saw Montreal send a pinch hitter to the plate named O"Malley. A guy sitting alone way down the third base line yelled "Hey O'Malley, send the Dodgers back to Brooklyn!" All 900 or so of us in attendance roared the only cheer heard in Olympic Stadium all day.

@Nancy - Hang in there girl, we're with ya.

Brett 11:04 AM  


Brett 11:08 AM  

But only plebeians use the theme to help them solve. The truly enlightened merely notice the theme after the solve and then scoff.

PS autocorrect just taught me that’s how you spell plebeians! Whoa!

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

Grift and graft are not synonyms or really all that close. Certainly not in usage. Graft is never described as a swindle. Almost all cons are. Come on, Rex, you just have a tin ear. You too @Z.

Masked and Anonymous 11:16 AM  

If a GLASSEATER (?) was performin in a circus ring, it'd sorta be hard for the folks in the stands to catch on to what he's up to. Unless he's chowin down on whole slidin glass doors, or somesuch. Don't know much about FIREDANCERs, either. But that at least might be an act that'd work out in a circus ring. WIREWALKER is fine -- even tho it sounds like a desperate re-work of "tightrope walker", it *is* in the Official M&A Help Desk Dictionary.

Primo east-west grid symmetry. Grid art looks like a fire dancer that's melted down.

staff weeject pick: KER. Circus of desperation entry. Too bad it couldn'ta been WIREWALKIN, for the themer.

Didn't know CYPRESSHILL/SELAH crossin at the H. Guessed M.

Thanx, Mr. Stulberg. Weird but reasonably entertainin.

Bon voyage, @Lewis.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


Anonymous 11:20 AM  


You're right about grouse. Aint no such thing as grouses.
Pennsylvania's state bird is the terrific ruffed grouse. And those boys are having a tough time. Lots of problems affecting the population including West Nile Virus. If you want a treat google ruffed grouse drumming. It's a really interesting sound. At least to me.

Signed some guy in the Commonwealth

Susan McConnell 11:23 AM  

Totally unrelated to the puzzle, but just curious if anyone has ever had this happen: I opened the NYT crossword puzzle app on my iPad this morning and the puzzle was 80% done. There are only two of us here, and husband didn't do it. I always do the mini first, but it had not been done. I am totally perplexed as to how this happened. Any ideas?

old timer 11:44 AM  

Major ANDRE was hanged as a spy. As he should have been under the laws of war. No, he was not betraying his own country, but he can fairly be called "traitorous".

I wish themes were not required at all. But when themes are required I know I can come here and OFL will explain them. So I don't have to figure them out, and didn't.

I got CRIER right away. The Town CRIER is always thus spelt, even though you might call a child a "cryer". My only problem was I had "pro" were PGA is, so making that fix was the last thing I did.

@Rex should have noticed the *other* reference to Mr. Trump. I certainly remember it. Before the election, the Times called him a GRIFTer,

Anonymous 11:46 AM  

" Grift cannot. "

if you can, get the Brit series "Hustle" (Napoleon Solo was the American token). grifts can be quite large.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

@Susan, are there any Ambien users at your house?
@Nancy, I don't get why you went to the park in anticipation of being forced to. Why would you do that? Why don't you wait for your surroundings to become unpleasant before you leave them?

GHarris 11:56 AM  

Made the same error as others, guessed m for selah and didn't know cypress hill. Yes, The Grifters had an unforgettable scene with Annette Benning. Cheers for the defense of Major Andre, the bloke was only doing his job.

GILL I. 12:37 PM  

I remember when "The Greatest Show on Earth" came to town in Havana. My dad had scored front row seats and I even remember the white frilly dress my mom had bought me. I was 5 or 6 and this huge elephant was doing his walk around the THREE RING CIRCUS, turned around, lifted his little tail, wiggled it a bit and took a big fat dump right in front of my horrified eyes. I hate the CIRCUS.
@Joseph Michael kinda said what I was thinking. The one that really got to me was the GLASS EATER and I got to wondering who in the world would actually do that. Evidently there are lots of "phagia" types who ingest all kinds of goodies. The GLASS EATER phenomena is called Hyalophagia. Then we have a Trichophagia who likes to eat hair and my favorite urophagia (you can guess that one, right?) I stopped at the necrophagia fad.
WACO made me sad, IED made me sad and so did MATADOR. The S at the end of the beautiful SAND GROUSE made me grouse at first but my Webster's II says the plural can also be GROUSES.
Loved the clue for AFLCIA and that was about it. California politicos have the gift of the GRIFT so that was easy and @Two Ponies is right about the apple/FIG. Which was it? SELAH wants to know.

Cassieopia 12:48 PM  

Problems started when I couldn't get 1a, 5a, 14a, 15a- on a Wednesday. It's pretty terrifying when WACO is the first solid entry. Nothing on the downs there in the NE corner so on I went, finally getting some footing with TUNDRA.

Even so, I kept hitting WTF moments. Hip hop groups? Obscure dwarf planets? Thought I had another victory with lOess ("carried , as if by the wind") but that was just my soil chemistry background showing.

Hardest part for me was all the places this puzzle displayed my ignorance. Wanted toreador for MATADOR, but it wouldn't fit. I could only think of Brylcreem for Rock's Cream, thinking Rock Hudson, of course, but again, obviously would not fit. Pulled AFC and EMANUEL out of the brain crevices reluctantly .

And then there were the circles...where to start? Literally. Upper right? Upper left? Somewhere random? But those themers were my eventual road to a successful - but veeeeery slow - solve.

I found the puzzle painful yet memorable. Can't say I'd want a repeat, but OTOH, can't say I disliked it, either. Either way, I have only admiration for the constructor - thank you, Mr Stulberg!

Tita A 1:21 PM  

By happy coincidence, I tapped one of the syndi email alerts, so figured I'd go back in time, and saw this request. Since it's a pet peeve of mine too, I am going to help out our syndi-cousin @wcutler.

wcutler 4:57 PM
"This is just a request for people to post comments about a puzzle on the blog for that puzzle, not comments about a Sunday puzzle on a Monday. For us in syndicate land, the Sunday puzzle is much more current (only a week old instead of a month) and your comments could be a spoiler. I know, the rest of the world is no longer reading the blog for this puzzle, and I don't want to post on today's blog, as that would spoil the puzzle for me when it appears in my paper."

Teedmn 1:32 PM  

You can guess what my big GROUSE[S] is on this puzzle. And like many here, I can only imagine a GLASS EATER as a wild-eyed man in a cage in a side show, though thanks, M&A for showing how it could be done in the THREE RING CIRCUS.

When I saw the circles in the grid, I thought, "Please don't let @Rex go off on the non-circularity of the rings." I lost that one.

I started off with SAgeGROUSES, which hadn't BORNE any fruit until after I got BARIUM. And I needed the circle answer to fill in A_C/_AGIN. When I was engrossed in Katrina stories, it was all about the FEMA snafus and whether the pictures of the people stranded at the convention center brought back any memories of the weekend I spent there in 1985, handing out catalogs to dry cleaning store owners. NAGIN didn't star in any of those articles. It was so sad to see the city I remembered so fondly be left to drown.

Thanks, JS, for a fine Wednesday puzzle that made me work, SELAH.

Vlad 1:53 PM  

@ Susan McConnell, I did it.

Suzy 2:00 PM  

That makes two of us! The Sting was a great flick, and there's simply no excuse not to remember the disaster
of Ray Nagin during Katrina if you were alive and oaying attention. Except for Selah, I found the fill pretty straightforward.
Admit to needing the downs for Cypress Hill! Thanks, Mr. Stulberg!

Anonymous 2:07 PM  

@Two Ponies

382 AD, give or take. Saint Jerome was translating the bible into the vulgate and indulged himself with a a pun "peri es malus."
Malus in Latin is both evil and apple as in malus pumila ( the fruit).

The idea of the apple as the fruit of the forbidden tree was certainly knocking around Europe in the middle Ages. For example, Albrecht Duhrer's mid 16th century engraving of Adam and Eve depicts our parents partaking of an apple.

To your point about a a fig being more likely. Michelangelo agrees. its; a fig in Sistine chapels' depiction of the garden


Anonymous 2:11 PM  

Oh gosh. I should've waited until @z chimed in. He's the classics expert, right? Or does he only know Attic Greek? i'ms so stupid, I can never remember all his bona fides.

Dick Swart 2:19 PM  

Fun after the penny dropped to see the three ring circus. However, the acts would not have particularly interested either the Bailey's or the Felds. And alas, the GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH is now a memory.

This and the LAT made for an enjoyable AM wake-up.

semioticus (shelbyl) 2:28 PM  

For me, this was one of the worst that I have ever done. When your theme makes you fill your puzzle with a ton of crosswordese and no-fun answers, maybe just change it or give it up? I have never attempted to construct a puzzle and I know it is probably like super challenging and frustrating, but, I mean, FSTAR LEO ART SELAH and ANDRE NAGIN EFS ERTE and KER ESSES ASSAI HESSE how can that be fun for anyone I can't fathom.

TCProf 2:37 PM  

Ray Nagin was in the news endlessly during the botched Katrina mess. It's a gimme.

I've learned a great deal from this blog, but the animosity towards Will Shortz is edging into pathological territory.

TCProf 2:43 PM  

The reason one should write "grift" instead of "graft" is that the former fits the clue and the latter does not.

Pretty complicated, huh?

Anonymous 2:46 PM  

I once had the most wonderful dream. I was the new editor of the NYT crossword puzzle. When I awoke to face the reality that I was still a comic book teacher at a college, the depression and anger weighed down on me almost unbearably. I took to twitter and my blog to spew my venom and hatred. I felt a little relief, but it was all too little, and too brief.

Anonymous 3:08 PM  

I had no issue with the words which stumped you, only with "Eris," because I had entered tie-dyeD instead of dyeS. (Didn't read the clue carefully. Have you never seen the movie "The Grifters"? I recommend it highly. Also, Nagin's surname was batted around quite a bit during the fallout for Hurricane Katrina, lo these many years ago. Pretty good for a Wednesday, imho.

Anonymous 3:09 PM  

TC Prof.
You're my new hero. Thank you! for God's sake, how in the world is this not self evident? Thank you.

Two Ponies 3:37 PM  

@ Anon 2:07,
Thanks. The image of a fig leaf worn for modesty is rather deeply ingrained and goes along with your explanation.

On another note, the sarcasm is rather pointed today, more than usual.

Alexander 4:00 PM  

Wouldn’t “Three ring circus” literally be CIRCUS three times in a ring?

David in CA 4:42 PM  

@Joseph Michael: re. George B's joke - imagine the 8 falling over at "ker-plunk"
@old timer: Gotta disagree on calling spies "traitorous" - traitor is by definition against ones own country.

@Nancy: Maybe try looking at circles in puzzles as an added "crossing" dimension? Suddenly you have a slightly 3D crossword puzzle with 3 ways to get some letters instead of just 2. In today's puzzle I found them quite helpful, especially for the "i" in GRIFT. What is there to get annoyed at?

Won't even go into the ridiculousness of Rex's "criticisms". I'm beginning to think no one could really be such a jerk, and he just does it to spark lots of comments.

Joe Dipinto 4:54 PM  

The *idea* for the theme seems like a decent one, but I don't feel like this puzzle delivered on it. First of all, as many have already questioned, are any of these really circus acts? A tightrope walker is one, but I've never heard of a wire walker. Sand grouses sounded wrong to me, so I'm glad to see that several posters concurred that it should be "grouse".

I did remember Ray Nagin's name from all the Katrina coverage, so no woes in that corner (and anyway, as has been pointed out, the "ring" should have indicated what the correct letters were).

Otherwise, I didn't feel like either the cluing or the fill was very interesting.

OISK 5:43 PM  

If not for the rings, I'd have had the same DNF as OFL. But I checked them, and changed graft to grift to get Fire dancers. I paid attention during Katrina, so I am sure I knew who Nagin was at the time. Meant nothing to me today. I didn't know many of the pop culture references (Stan, Cypress Hill, Cream) but they didn't interfere with the solve. I liked this puzzle.

Chip Rollinson 6:24 PM  

Thanks Rex... I'm glad I wasn't the only person who started singing Elvis Costello while working on this puzzle.

I guess we're both tragically hip?


CDilly52 7:18 PM  

Actually, one could be a grifter with the object being to commit graft, but the confusion caused thereby is a point well taken.

CDilly52 7:32 PM  

Grift, graft, circles, ovals, Nagin schmagin...clearly not much to talk about. In addition to agreeing with those in the neighborhood who note that one would have had to be dead or too young to be aware, Nagin was a name mentioned regularly during the Katrina news cycle and his name was mentioned often as we learned of the recent devastation. I was not at all offended or delayed by its inclusion. Fairly easy, fairly boring, but overall fair.

Joseph Michael 8:35 PM  

Thank you @David in CA for explaining George B's infinity joke. I can now relax for the rest of the day. Ker-plunk.

Joy2u 8:53 PM  

The plural of Grouse (the birds) may be 'Grouse', but when one says the word, 'Grouses' I hear, to grumble; complain:
"I've never met anyone who grouses so much about his work."

@Two Ponies . . I believe it didn't become an 'Apple' for quite some time after the scripture was written. It was referred to originally as, "The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil"

Anonymous 9:04 PM  

Yet another example of the puzzle`s tacit campaign to "normalize" Trump with the cluing for "art".

Nancy 9:38 PM  

@David in CA (4:42) -- I have enough trouble visualizing things in two dimensions, thank you. I never took Solid Geometry, but I imagine I would have been terrible at it. Spatial relations was a real weakness on the SATS -- I never had any idea which cube with one missing piece had been rotated 90 degrees. It was always a complete guess.

Michael Stack 12:11 AM  

Come on, Rex. The rings were as ring-y as they could be. And the completely contradictory complaints about grift/graft? That's just silly. It was a fine puzzle, with some tricky/cutesy fill around the "rings." There are plenty of mediocre puzzles to complain about. This wasn't one. And Ray Nagin was among the easier answers to anybody who paid attention during Hurricane Katrina. Fully agreed that f-star, on its own, is tough-to-impossible. I have no idea what it means. Good thing the cross was a gimme. Lighten up.

Selene Castrovilla 9:54 AM  

Exactly! Poor maligned André. I spent ten years creating a book about him and Arnold. I thought Armold was the fascinating one, but he was just a sociopath. André represents the fall of humanity. (If you're interested, my book just came out. It's called Revolutionary Rogues: John André and Benedict Arnold. I call André a rogue because it's from the American pov.)

Selene Castrovilla 9:57 AM  

André WAS dashing and honorable! Hamilton even begged Washington not to have him killed.

Selene Castrovilla 10:00 AM  

André actually became something of a hero to us. The anniversary of his hanging is Oct.2, btw. I'm commemorating it at the Old '76 House in Tappan. where he spent his final days.

Selene Castrovilla 10:04 AM  

Agreed, Robin! I have a nonfiction book just out about André and Arnold, called Revolutionary Rogues. Poor André keeps getting maligned! The anniversary of his hanging is Oct. 2, BTW.

Selene Castrovilla 10:11 AM  

I disagree. A traitor is someone who betrays his country. That was Arnold, not André. One could call André "villainous" or a "rogue" (as he is referred to in the title of my new book, Revolutionary Rogues, because it's from the American pov) but he was no traitor! He adored his country and died for it.

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thefogman 9:57 AM  

I almost had GRaFT instead of GRIFT just like Rex, but I reviewed the ring, realized it had to be FIREDANCER not FaREDANCER, and thus the correction was made. EMANUEL, NAGIN...Is the constructor trying to suggest the state of municipal politics in the US is like a three-ring circus? This one was pretty easy for me. I got the revealer THREERINGCIRCUS early on and it was smooth sailing after that. The SE corner was a little trickier than the others, but nothing insurmountable. Good Wednesday puz.

Burma Shave 10:19 AM  


EMANUELle knew WATT was going on,
and the AFL-CIO? She’d just BARIUM.
EMOTIONALLY she SENSEd it’s wrong
to form a UNION for her HAREM.


spacecraft 11:33 AM  

EMOTIONALLY, I did not like this. I thought yesterday's was PPP-loaded. This one's crammed to the gills. And with some P's who are not all that P, if you get my GRIFT. (BTW, anyone who's seen "The Sting" would have no confusion there.)

Sore-thumb case in point: an 11-letter hip-hop entry. Talk about your "ugh!" The fact that they chose a rather bucolic real-word name just makes me wish it had been clued differently. Then there's a character from "South Park," another example of disgusting TV animation. I mean, c'mon: when one of the characters is literally a piece of s**t...the whole show is.

I solved the SW by filling in the "ring." Otherwise I'd have had no chance. There isn't even a DOD, unless you lift Abba out of the clue and make the distaff half co-champs. Bogey.

thefogman 11:53 AM  

Edit: It was the SW (not the SE) corner that had me for a while. Arghhhh! I've got to get me a new compass...

rondo 12:00 PM  

@foggy – you are so correct. I too was down to the I vs. A decision, but just looked at the “ring” to realize FIREDANCER. I don’t get all the consternation and what the FLAP’S about from posters above saying it’s unfair. Maybe solving on some devices didn’t show the rings? I didn’t know the spelling of NAGIN, so I merely used the theme to get the I. Et voila. Did not like the SANDGROUSES plural, please don’t do that NOMO.

So OFL has never seen a WIREWALKER at a CIRCUS? Even the two-bit CIRCUS that came around to the local high school gym had a WIREWALKER.

Lambeau Field coulda been the clue for TUNDRA. Infamous “frozen TUNDRA”.

Here it’s abbreviated SWE. In ABBA’s (note: it’s all capital letters for Agneta, Bjorn, Benny and ANNI, not as printed in the clue) home it’s SVE. So two mistakes in clue/answer. Sven and Ole would tell you if they were here.

Going plural for yeah baby Naomi WATTs.

So use the entire concept of “puzzle” and there’s no A/I controversy and nothing to REDO.

Diana, LIW 2:16 PM  

I saw Abba and thot it must be one of those endless mid-east emirs. I've only seen it, as @Rondo said, with all caps for the group's names. Was that supposed to be a misdirect?

And yes, the themers made the mayor's name clear.

And the rings are as ringy dingy as they can be in a puzzle.

No problems today with this.

I'm almost in the puzzle with DNA - two letters shy.

Dna, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoastTAM 2:29 PM  

Me thinks OFL doth protesteth too much.

We all run into Naticks often enough, and we just deal with them. Sometimes we're right and sometimes wrong. Rex was wrong today on the NAGIN/GRIFT cross, and he has a fit about it. Well, the "I" fit the clue better than GRaFT/NAGaN. Many of us got it and some didn't. So what's the big stink?

I thought the SELAH/CYPRESSHILL cross was much tougher. With a good guess, i got it. Considered SELAm/CYPRESSmILL, but felt that "H" worked better. Had I missed it, don't think I would have thought it unfair. It was just a challlenging potential Natick.

The revealer clue ("Confusing situation...") was itself confusing. What was confusing about it? Unless it was how to match up what might have been mixed up pairings between the FIRE, WIRE, and GLASS with the DANCER, WALKER, and EATER. Still musing about that.

The puzzle was easy except for all that presumed "confusion".

rainforest 2:33 PM  

Thinking I likely had an error from at least one place (CYPRESS HILL, PNIN), I was surprised that a had a correct solve.

This was kind of a different puzzle. I wear a ring that is flat on the bottom, so those not quite circular rings were OK by me. The acts in the rings were somewhat non-industry standard, but it's a circus. Never liked circuses anyway.

Not a bad Wednesday at all. I do think that GRIFT<GRaFT, btw.

leftcoasTAM 2:50 PM  

Okay, metaphorically a THREERINGCIRCUS is meant to convey a state of confusion, I guess., but as literally used in this puzzle, it's not confusing at all.

strayling 7:31 PM  

NOMO/AFLCIO naticked this non-USian. Learned something new as a result so I count that as a win. I've learned more about US culture from crosswords than I expected. So many clues have answers that are common knowledge to a native, but a revelation to a visitor.

@rondo: SANDGROUSES does sound clunky. I tried SANDGRICE but that didn't fit, and SANDGREECES I hated to pieces.

wcutler 3:44 AM  

What I liked about this was it took me a long time to make any sense of the circles, but once I understood the circus acts, I was able to work on those and then fill in a lot of other answers. So I worked hard for my completed puzzle, and I had to go about it a couple of different ways, and that made it fun for me.

Thanks, @Tita A, for helping me out with my request for folks to keep comments on the page of the puzzle they belong to!

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