Musical repetition mark — TUESDAY, Dec. 22 2009 — Athenian lawgiver / Pinochle lay-down / Gridder Roethlisberger

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Constructor: Robert A. Doll

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: S-less — familiar two-word phrases that start with "S" have that "S" lopped off, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: SEGNO (35D: Musical repetition mark) — n pl -gni [-njiː (Italian) -ɲɲi]

(Music, other) Music a sign at the beginning or end of a section directed to be repeated. , :S:

[Italian: a sign, from Latin signum]


This one took longer than usual, both because this type of theme generally requires you to work a lot of crosses before you can see the theme answers clearly (a base answer that's not clued, a wackily clued answer that isn't a real phrase in the English language), and because of a couple of missteps and mystery words. I've seen NINON before (67A: Curtain fabric), but needed every cross to finish it off (sounds like a mash-up of Every Other Fabric I've Ever Heard Of). SEGNO was a total mystery, though (as w/ many total mysteries) I have an eerie feeling it's been in my puzzle before. I wrote SLIPS UP for SLIP-UPS (33A: Goofs) ("Apt!"), and I totally and completely botched the NW initially and didn't even notice 'til I was "done": had DAT for DAH (1D: Morse T) and OLE for OLD (9D: Jolly ___ Saint Nick), and so had TOP STEWARE at 17A. "Stop Seware? Who's Seware?" Lastly, wrote in "IT IS I" instead of the correct (if incorrect) "IT'S ME!" at 4D: Response to "Who's there?" I still got in in the mid-4s somewhere, but that's something like 30 seconds slower than usual. Your mileage may vary.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Attendant at a '50s dance? (hop steward)
  • 22A: Personnel concern for Santa? (elf esteem) — yeah, that's good. And timely.
  • 51A: Acupuncturist? (pin doctor)
  • 57A: Addicted to shopping? (mall-minded)
  • 10D: Ads aimed at hikers and picnickers? (park plugs)
  • 32D: Money for liquor? (lush funds) — also good.

The grid shape is really interesting to me. Shortish theme answers allow for the close placement of two Acrosses in the NW and SE corners, respectively, which then opens up room in the NE and SW for two Downs. Creates a thematically dense and yet playful (and reasonably open) grid. 40 black squares help give answers room to breathe and keep the fill from becoming terrible. SEGNO is the only thing that feels un-Tuesday. ANENT is ugly, but it's a real word, and the rest of the fill is at worst tolerable, occasionally lovely. Have to say that the SW is especially nice, if likely unremarkable to most. Any time you can get a section with all short answers to come out with a. all real words, and b. no tiresome words, you're doing your job.


  • 14A: "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" writer Loos (Anita) — a gimme. She's in my collection. I've printed this cover here before, but it's worth seeing again.
  • 15A: Like slander, as opposed to libel (oral) — I see the ORAL Roberts memorial crossword tour has stopped at ... 1 puzzle (see a few days back). We're back to mouth clues. OK.
  • 20A: Animals farmed for their fur (minks) — doesn't pass my breakfast test.
  • 54A: Pakistan's chief river (Indus) — haven't thought about this river since my 7th grade geography test, but there it was, waiting for me, in my mind. Thanks, Mrs. Stevens!
  • 8D: Needle-nosed fish (gar) — he's been on holiday, I think, because he used to swim all over the grid in times of yore.
  • 12D: Athenian lawgiver (Solon) — the very word "lawgiver" screams SOLON to me, but only because I had a course called "Athenian Democracy" in college.
  • 25D: Pinochle lay-down (meld) — clue sounds dirty. Possibly ORAL.
  • 37D: Gridder Roethlisberger (Ben) — "Gridder" makes me laugh. BEN is one of the three or four most highly regarded quarterbacks in the NFL right now. He's won two Super Bowls and just this past weekend kept his team in the playoff hunt with a ridiculous last-second win over the Packers.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. Wade's son has constructed his first puzzle. Wade writes: "Sorry, I’ve already solved it. It covers such diverse topics as Star Wars, family, and tree blood.":


Parshutr 7:31 AM  

Loved this one. Learned a lot (always thought plural of mink was mink); never heard of NINON.

David 7:44 AM  

I fell into the "It is I" trap as well, but STOLE gave me the MINK.

Overall I rather blithely filled in spaces, not immediately worrying about "hopitware" until the SW corner - when "lush money" led to nowwhere. Suddenly the theme emerged and matters righted themselves.

A nice Tuesday puzzle.
I particularly liked WAIFS and WISPS working off each other, and ADAM and ABEL being in the same puzzle. NINON was a leap into the unknown - but the obvious "nylon" while working possibly with a variant of CYNDI ran into Mr. Ackroyd. I racked my brain for some aspect of his role in "Ghostbusters" that might start DA... but finally accepted my fate.

imsdave 8:20 AM  

Medium for me.

@Parshutr and Rex - NINON - needed all the crosses and still wasn't comfortable with it.

SEGNO was a drop kick.

Tried NAIF for WAIF, but other than that, no worries. I actually found the theme helpful for a change, plopping in PINDOCTOR off the PI, and ELFESTEEM off the EL.

Lovely puzzle. Thanks Mr. Doll - very enjoyable Tuesday.

joho 8:21 AM  

When I got the theme at ELFESTEEM I smiled. That was my favorite answer because it's seasonal and fun. Actually, the whole puzzle was fun ... finally!

Like Rex, and I'll bet a lot of us, I had SLIPSUP before SLIPUPS.

SEGNO? Happy to see this as the word of the day because I didn't have a clue.

Thank you Robert A. Doll for a terrific Tuesday!

mac 8:28 AM  

What a fun puzzle! Tuesday easy/medium, put with lots of pizzazz. Figuring the theme helped with lush funds and pindoctor, and especially the first I needed to do the SW corner. Lots of fun.

Elaine 9:03 AM  

Hmmm. Did your parents not give you kids music lessons??? Music is filled with space-savers (De capo al fine, etc.)

Perhaps the lack of NINON knowledge in evidence is because the Blog and first few Comments were written by those of the male persuasion, who perhaps do not shop for sheers...?

I saw "Santa" and EE and put in DEER...which I had to remove once I got to the Downs; by then I had the theme trick from other clues. Like Rex, was slowed by the need to switch to crosses often, but still rate this EASY because there was no real hesitation.

Zip, zip; thanks, Robt and Rex!

Kurt 9:10 AM  

Terrific Tuesday puzzle. Thanks Mr. Doll. Loved the theme. ELF ESTEEM had to be my favorite with LUSH FUNDS running a close second.

For me, this puzzle was a bit more challenging (in a good way) than a typical Tuesday. That made the solving even more fun.

Thanks for all that you do, Rex. Best holiday wishes to you and your family.

Stan 9:18 AM  

For a while I was trying to parse ELFESDEER, but my PLODding technique worked out in the end.

An exceptional Tuesday!

Denise Ann 9:28 AM  

My ELFESTEEM did OK with this one.

Is SEGNO a shortened form of "segue note" or and Italian word? Never heard it.

Gosh, Burt Parks was something, wasn't he?

archaeoprof 9:33 AM  

Yes, an exceptional Tuesday. An enjoyable challenge all the way through. ELFESTEEM was a high point.

I tried "slipsup" before SLIPUPS, and "lushmoney" before LUSHFUNDS.

Doug 9:39 AM  

Made the same errors as everyone above. NINON and ANENT were new to me. Got stuck in the SW until I figured out that spat was the garment of old. Could have used some spats in NYC during the snowstorm! Would've undoubtedly avoided some spats at the slushy crosswalks.

ArtLvr 9:42 AM  

I did the same as archaeoprof, and corrected those but missed NINON at the end... Loved it though!

Driving through the night tonight. Happy holidays to all.


dk 9:43 AM  

"thematically dense and yet playful" -- I see puzzle snobbery on the horizon.

Anybody named Doll is ok in my book.

On that note, step twins are planning on telling their school they watched me create doll porn over xmas. Sickos, just cause I won't let them play with my Barbies! However, the Gentlemen Prefer Blondes clue and the SOAPY fill gives me another idea...

15 minute Tuesday for me as I was not sure of PISA or INURE. The little gray cells finally said "go fur it dude" and I was done.

Got the theme right away and found the SEGNO fill (our missing S) to be ingenious. The 3 filled squares by the missing S seemed interesting as well. Morse code for S: 3 dots.

I still have a bug up my b*tt over Saturday's puzzle and this one is helping me forget.

*** (3 Stars)

Note: A GAR may also be a gift in a long thin box.

Happy Holidays to all. I am making many gifts by hand (ok photoshop) this year. My grandmother was right (again) it makes the giving as much fun as the receiving.

For your Martha Stewart moment: Take the shells (small ones) you collected 20 years ago string them with some beads from some broken whatever for about 4-5 inches (knot on both ends of the 4-5 inch run of shells and beads) on a two - three foot piece of string.... viola a cat toy or light pull. If you want the hole in the shell to be exactly in the center get a dental or diamond bit for your drill.

Off to shovel snow.

French snob 10:01 AM  

@dk Who's this Viola?

PIX 10:02 AM  

Great puzzle;for me certainly challenging for a Tuesday.

Only question: was HOP STEWARD really a common phrase? When I Google it, on the first page Google refers me to Rex's write up from today!

Fully agree with Rex that SouthWest corner was wonderful in a subtle way...real words stacked crosswordese...

Excellent Tuesday.

rrrrrobin 10:02 AM  

Lots of fun! the theme answers all made me smile/laugh. Nice to see an old friend like GAR reappear ... maybe we should lobby for letting Brian ENO take a rest for a while now.
I loved WAIFS! especially crossed with WISPS.

SethG 10:03 AM  

Not to mention that ENDO works just like ENTO...xxxxxDEER for me as well. That took me a while to unwind, as did TROD for PLOD. MALL-MINDED feels almost as seasonal as the ELF thing.

If I recall correctly, which I do, BEN threw for 503 yards on Sunday. Only the third guy in history to throw for 500+ with three TDS and no INTS--the others were YA TITTLE and Warren Moon. Speaking of Warren, long snapper Greg Warren tore his ACL on that last extra point, and we'll surely still miss the playoffs. [SethG peeks between fingers as he looks at results of other games that matter.]

retired_chemist 10:10 AM  

Enjoyable. Medium-challenging here too.

Thanks, Mr. Doll.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:10 AM  



Would not have known NINON except that a couple of anonymice discussed it on yesterday's blog.

Good puzzle.

Van55 10:13 AM  

Points deducted for GAR and NNE.

Otherwise, this was a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle. Loved all the theme clues and answers. Just the right degree of difficult with INDUS and SEGNO being words I didn't know or had forgotten.

The Corgi of Mystery 10:18 AM  

I would have preferred NIXON/DAX [German stock index] in the SE myself. Otherwise, a fun Tuesday.

Jeffrey 10:22 AM  


Poor underappreciated Tuesday finally gets a worthy puzzle with no SLIP UPS.



Elaine 10:30 AM  

You ARE kidding about HOP STEWARD, right? Remember the theme?

O, ye Non-knowing of NINON, shame on thy head for suggesting NIXON instead!

Oh, BTW, we raised our kids in SOLON, Ohio....east of Cleveland. But they pronounce it SO-lun.

slypett 10:40 AM  

Five write-overs! A record for a Tuesday. I can't remember the last time I had even one on a Tuesday and here I am with five. I can't believe it, even though it's true. How lucky can a guy get?

hazel 10:49 AM  

Agree that the puzzle was a v. good ambassador for Tuesdays, and has set a high bar for its extended Tuesday family.

I typically don't much like the "wacky" phrase puzzle, mostly because the wackiness generally eludes me and its just a "ridiculous" phrase puzzle.

But this puzzle... these phrases totally passed the test - the whimsy was notable! And the rest of the fill was also catchy. Nice puzzle.

Two Ponies 10:55 AM  

Before I applaud this fun puzzle I would like to request that people not comment on the next days puzzle on the previous days blog.
I go there first thing in the morning to see what fun was had later in the evening. I don't like spoilers.
Today was good fun with many of the same new or forgotten words as lots of you.
Utopian could have been utopial on my grid because linon looked better than ninon.
Even though pinochle is a cool looking words I prefer my melds of the Vulcan mind sort.
@ dk, PuzzleMate is a spear fisherman. That better not be a gar in that box! Soapy Barbies and Photoshop huh? Gets my mind spinning.

edith b 10:56 AM  

Our old friend GAR swam beneath the radar as I never saw it till I got here but another old friend ANENT helped me with the Italian city as the clue was a little vague.

I needed every cross to get SEGNO as technical music terms are not my strong suit and, unlike @Elaine, I never shopped for sheer curtains.

And like others, I liked the way the SW corner was constructed through the WAIFS/WISPS corner. Apparently a good time was had by all.

chefbea 11:02 AM  

A little harder than the usual Tuesday Puzzle. Never heard of ninon or segno but got them from the crosses.

Met Bert Parks once - he and his wife lived in Greenwich.

@DK you going to wolf whistle at doll?

The onion soup I made yesterdy was deeelish - thanks MAC

mccoll 11:11 AM  

This was fun. I did it last night with no errors or write overs
@Pix HOPSTEWARD is not as common a phrase as ELFESTEEM.
IMHO MINKS is incorrect Parshutr. It is the sames as Mooses, Deers and , maybe even, beers.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

Great puzzle. Solid Wednesday

N W 11:50 AM  

@mccoll - Actually, MINKS is the plural for individuals, MINK is the collective plural. Quite the opposite of Deer, where Deer is the plural for individuals, Deers is the collective plural for several species of deer.

Dave 11:54 AM  

Liked puzzle, really didn't like the top corner.

Why not PITS and ANAT so that down you have TALON and STENT? These seem much more Tuesday friendly, and get rid of the ugly SOLON and ANENT.

CoolPapaD 12:04 PM  

@Elaine. I grew up a few 'burbs away, and it seems that Solon is now where just about everyone is moving these days! Just read that it was named after the middle name of one of the town's founders' sons, who got his name from our Athenian friend! Never would have known Solon if I hadn't lived nearby!

Theme just about kicked my "S," but once I figured out the mess in the NW it was smooth sailing.

Ditto on everything else (NINON, SEGNO...), and ditto on my enjoyment so early in the week.

william e emba 12:13 PM  

Here's the MINK, from Jonathan Lethem's astonishing rewrite of Steven "Howard the Duck" Gerber's creepy, bizarre and totally different Omega the Unknown. Highly recommended.

OldCarFudd 12:22 PM  

Being a non-shopper of the male persuasion, I'd never heard of ninon, so that was my SLIPUP. Otherwise, a delightful puzzle. I had the same question about the plural of MINK. Which, together with the Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, clue, reminds me of this oldie:

Q. How do blondes get minks?

A. The same way minks get minks.

Geezer 12:23 PM  

SEGNO is an Italian word, meaning sign

BTW, I sign in under Name/URL. I understand that my nom-de-blog Geezer, is not unique. What do I do to use open ID, for instance, so that I may have a more personal and unique ID.

Curtain Hating Male 12:46 PM  

If NINON were so damned common, the Wiki entry would be something other than a stub. Just sayin'

FOW 12:59 PM  

Today's bonus puzzle was just slightly behind Merl's LA Times tribute puzzle in emotional effect.

xyz 1:05 PM  

Too obscure and mean-spirited to me for a Tuesday, surely very much loved by very serious puzzlers, but not too much fun to a Thursday-Sunday level solver.

Several solve words/phrases fall below the "tolerable level". Will be interested to see the solve statistics for this one.

First Tuesday in maybe two years I did not come close to solving, maybe FOK had a bit more to do with it, but many clues were too tangential for a Tuesday.


Steve Chasey 1:09 PM  

Lots of fun, thanks for sharing. Reading recent posts has inspired me to take some backlogged puzzles with me on the plane to London for the holidays.

Happy holidays,

Unknown 1:13 PM  

I vote for dax/nixon. Who doesn't like an x instead of an n?[/rhetorical].
Lovely puzzle, enjoyed it very much despite fabric challenge.

chefwen 1:22 PM  

Fun Tuesday puzzle. Like Rex I had DAt for one down giving me the old tOP STEWARD, even asked husband if he had ever heard of a stopsteward, nope, he hadn't. Only other write over was HANA over anna, learn your tennis players girlfriend.
I've never heard of NINON either, window treatments not being my forte, I leave that up to people who know what they are doing.

Anonymous 1:24 PM  

"20A: Animals farmed for their fur (minks)" doesn't pass the breakfast test, but "25D: Pinochle lay-down (meld) — clue sounds dirty. Possibly ORAL." does?!

Jim in Chicago 1:28 PM  

Nice little puzzle today - no quibbles from this front (except maybe the mink/minks issue.)

It passed the "If its Tuesday it must be finished before the bus gets to my stop" test, but just barely.

PlantieBea 1:32 PM  

Raising hand for TOP STEWARD and UTOPIAL. Even now, STOP STEWARD and SHOP STEWARD sound equally valid. In spite of the errors, I really enjoyed it and got a kick out of the themed answers. Thanks Robert Doll.

Anonymous 2:04 PM  

Apparently a lot of you puzzles solvers have not worked in the world of unions. "Shop steward" is not only common, but frequently used in any conversation with management....
In my union however, we try not to acknowledge they exist.

dk 2:23 PM  

@French Snob, Viola instead of volia (no time to check spelling), or ta dah, etc. came about after a family discussion in the young dk household on the misuse of french terms by the Russian nouveau riche in the time of Peter the Great. This discussion (much to father's dismay) spawned viola, que frappe as a comment on gas passing, and many more.

@chefbea, whistling at a doll is pretty weird :)

@two ponies, the photo lights are reeking havoc with the soap suds.

andrea minx michaels 3:05 PM  

I wish SLIPUPS was somehow clued to the theme, like "we are letting the S Slip Up and away..."
I can't explain it properly, I just needed it, otherwise it looks inconsistent to me, like, why isn't it LIPUPS?
Altho ELFESTEEM is timely and sweet, since I had ELVESDEER for too long, and as I was unable to parse HOPSTEWARD
(I thought it was a play on HOPS TO IT/ HOPS TOWARD) the puzzle left me cranky.
Not a wacky phrase fan...
(yet that didn't stop me from making one with Tony O whom I adore...coming some Sunday to a paper near you)

I guess I'm trying to say I like it when there is some final clue in the corner that says "I lopped the first S off and there is a reason for that!"
(That's why I love that the Sun had titles, you could get the joke/punchline that way.
By the way, don't forget to sign up for Peter Gordon's resurrected he needs more folks to make it work and it's a great deal)

Of course, six themes in a Tuesday is impressive, so I'll just shut up now.
(Except to say @Rex's "I see the ORAL Roberts memorial crossword tour has stopped at... 1 puzzle" is hilarious)

bluebell 3:21 PM  

I kept saying to myself, "This is Tuesday, and it is Christmas week, why am I working this hard?" I made all the mistakes catalogued here.

But the theme was fun. Having attended those '50's dances, I thought hop steward was quite good; and elf esteem was great.

I think what people know is quite random. I've done music all my life, yet didn't know the word Segno--can't recall ever seeing or hearing it, though I know the sign itself. I've worked with fabrics a lot, but have never seen or heard the word ninon. Anent and inure came easily, but not Pakistan's river. Guess that's why puzzle solving continues to be a good challenge.

Elaine 3:31 PM  

Well, this is SUCH fun for me! All the whippersnappers are flailing around, not even finishing!!! and this Golden Oldie is asittin' on the corner, watchin' all the...Barbie dolls? (At least in the song, there are no whistling harrassers!

@Curtain Hating
Tsk on you for believing in Wiki; next you will be up waiting for Santa!
I hate to shop, too. So I rehem and reuse old curtains. When you check the label before washing, Lo and behold, there is the fiber: NINON. (I admit, 68 yr old Used Hubby did not know this; when I test-drove the clue with _INON in place for him, he tried...yep: LINON.)

Like other members of the National Writers' Union, I am a card-carrying member of The UAW...and while I admit NWU does not have shop stewards, this is certainly a term I think is within the Common Knowledge Base. Did you miss "Norma Rae?"

VOILA!(Ta Da) is different from VIOLA (stringed instrument larger than a violin, tuned lower) and VIOLA (the smaller pansy) and there is no such thing as VOLIA (I hope.)

I just used my little puka shells to decorate a fabric postcard of a tide pool. Voila! but I remain deeply troubled about your Barbie activities.

I don't know who it's named for, but Solon built a solid reputation with a dynamic school system--including strong special education programs and very involved parent groups. I will say that our kids were certainly well-prepared for college. But we do NOT miss the winters, having escaped one month after installing the younger in his school. We have Winter in Arkansas, but it does not last 7 months!

I really enjoyed this puzzle despite finding it Easy; it had just enough interest, a sampling of interesting not-so-usual clues, and of course, exciting follow-up comments!

sanfranman59 3:49 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

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

Tue 10:41, 8:44, 1.22, 93%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 5:41, 4:29, 1.27, 94%, Challenging

This puzzle looks like it's going to wind up as the most challenging Tuesday puzzle for both groups of solvers in the 28 weeks I've been tracking solve times. The previous maximum Tuesday median solve time for the top 100 is 5:07 and that for all solvers is 10:40.

chefbea 4:13 PM  

This has nothing to do with the puzzle.. but I just read that Arnold Stang died. Remember him??? Nerdy little guy.

Charles Bogle 5:02 PM  

How did Bert Parks get into the thread/puzzle...recall Arnold Stang I believe in West Side Story film, many great character roles...found this an excellent, challenging puzzle; thank you Mr. Doll! Like many, ELFESTEEM. The SW was remarkable for me-remarkably tough! Had to violate my Mon-Wed rule and google for INDUS..went too long w TROD instead of PLOD. Also, I'm impressed by the variety and spice of the "fill". Btw, checkout balanced placement of ENO and EGO. Say,does anyone know of/use/come across in everyday the word ANENT? Yours, Charles Bogle from the great Rocky Mountain State of Colorado

Charles Bogle 5:03 PM  

How did Bert Parks get into the thread/puzzle...recall Arnold Stang I believe in West Side Story film, many great character roles...found this an excellent, challenging puzzle; thank you Mr. Doll! Like many, ELFESTEEM. The SW was remarkable for me-remarkably tough! Had to violate my Mon-Wed rule and google for INDUS..went too long w TROD instead of PLOD. Also, I'm impressed by the variety and spice of the "fill". Btw, checkout balanced placement of ENO and EGO. Say,does anyone know of/use/come across in everyday the word ANENT? Yours, Charles Bogle from the great Rocky Mountain State of Colorado

CoolPapaD 5:03 PM  

@OldCarFudd- loved the mink joke!

@Elaine-people in Phoenix laugh when I try to explain what a snow belt is! I do not miss the winters, though the falls are amazing.

@FOW- Is there a bonus puzzle today?

Meg 5:10 PM  

What I liked best was the constructor's name: Robert A. Doll. I imagine he enjoys introducing himself.

Speedy puzzle in between bouts of cookie decorating and ELF (the movie) one more time. It's Christmas!

slypett 6:36 PM  

Charles Bogle: Anent ANENT--I have done and may again. Quién sabe?

JannieB 7:47 PM  

This puzzle really raises the bar for Tuesday. Quite enjoyable.

PS - Watch out Kevin Der et al, Wade Jr. is on his way!

Sfingi 9:02 PM  

Re: SEGNA.In Italian, the way to get us to say the enya is to use GN. So the word is pronounced "SAY-nya."

Meanwhile, the ARNO starts in the APPENNINES.

NINON is a WISPy fabric used for undercurtains, which can stay closed when the heavier curtains are opened. Prevents walkers-by, as hubster puts it, from "looking for handouts."

I also had "It is I," and "trod," at first.

Indus Valley - one of those "cradles of civilization" we're taught about. Probably the source of all Indo-European language. The Grimm Brothers further confirmed this by noting fairy tales move from that source, WNW toward Ireland.

I was a sHOPSTEWARD for NYSDOCS for 3 years. It would be a boring movie, but my greatest moment was pointing out that the worker can't sue the state, but her fetus can.

I caught the theme immediately, which might explain my rapid finish. I thought HOPSTEWARD could also run a hop farm of the sort that use to prosper up my way. At first I tried to make the last syllable of ELFESTEEM "deer," since I figured elf, therefore deer. Also thought SLIPUPS should be "lipups," but the word count was too short for inclusion in the theme, and there was no question mark.

Of course, I never heard of the 2 sports characters.

@OldCar - good joke. I've already repeated it.

@Elaine? - We used to tell the inmates to watch out for the snow snakes. They're mostly from "THE City."

Loved Arnold Stang. Also the RainMan. Today I went to the wake of my German teacher, 99; taught German and Yiddish to the end.

The rule on whether plural animals need an "s" is to ask if we think of them as individuals, or as herds. A goat has personality (i.e. causes trouble), whereas a sheep follows the herd.

You know you're getting better at puzzles when you make the same mistakes as the old hands.

You're a doll, Doll! Keep 'em coming.

paleolith 9:26 PM  

I found it difficult for a Tuesday, but maybe I just didn't get enough sleep. Enough obscure words to annoy me. But SEGNO was easy, except the clue is far enough wrong that I didn't put it in right away. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with repeating; it's for when the score is written so that you need to jump to someplace else: you put the segno at the target and write "dal segno" where you want to take the jump. This implies that repetition is involved somewhere, but not necessarily where the sign is.

Dal segno al fine,


sanfranman59 11:14 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 6:38, 6:56, 0.96, 41%, Medium
Tue 11:00, 8:44, 1.26, 94%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:35, 3:41, 0.97, 48%, Medium
Tue 5:31, 4:28, 1.23, 92%, Challenging

As I anticipated in my midday post, this puzzle turned out to be the most challenging Tuesday so far for both groups of solvers and by a fairly wide margin. It was the 10th most challenging among all puzzles I've tracked (158 puzzles in all) for all solvers and the 16th most challenging (of 156) for the top 100.

Elaine 3:42 AM  

In case you do a final check....that PS was terrific. Thanks for putting it on the blog!

paul in sw 1:45 PM  

Both top corners stumped me. Only at the very end did I realize the theme clue, which gave me parkplugs and hopsteward (which I continued to doubt), making for dah for the Morse dot I initially had. Not a good day for me.

Nullifidian 9:17 PM  

I finished this puzzle without any write-overs, but the 37D and 44A clues were violations of the Natick principle for me.

Maybe there should be a subcategory for this kind of Natick: don't have two crossing sports figures, because your readers may be equally indifferent to tennis (44A: "Mandlikova of tennis") and football (37D: "Gridder Roethlisberger"). I guessed on the N, where the two puzzles cross, but as far as I knew it could have been anything.

And really, is "Roethlisberger" the only way one can possibly clue BEN? I can think of several Bens who are more prominent, like Big ___, Franklin, Uncle ___, Bradlee, and even ___ Folds Five.

Once the theme clicked for me, after my second theme answer (PARK PLUGS), I was able to fill them in without going through all the crosses. It's a basic theme, but I enjoyed the creative and amusing ways in which it was clued.

SEGNO wasn't difficult for me, but I've been playing music for over two decades as an amateur. The only real difficulty was remembering how to spell it. I had to write "dal segno" on the margins of the newspaper to remember it.

Overall, I'd have to say that the fill was solid, with little that bothered me about it, and certainly no dubious "abbreviations" or bizarre historical figures like Coventry Patmore.

Unknown 12:22 AM  

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