German border river / WED 2-17-10 / She pined for Narcissus / Slangy business suffix / Onetime Say it with flowers sloganeer

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Constructor: Elizabeth A. Long

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "GLOBAL WARMING" — Phrase spelled out by circled letters. Note on the puzzle: "The circled letters, starting in square #27 and reading clockwise, will spell a familiar phrase suggested by 20-, 35- and 52-Across" — the latter are two-word food phrases where one word signifies an act of "warming" and another a geographical (or "global") location.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Beef entree (LONDON BROIL)
  • 35A: Ice cream dish (BAKED ALASKA)
  • 52A: Holiday serving (ROAST TURKEY)
Word of the Day: Alice B. TOKLAS (42D: Alice B. ___ (Gertrude Stein's partner)) —
Alice B. Toklas (April 30, 1877 – March 7, 1967) was the life partner of writer Gertrude Stein. // She was born Alice Babette Toklas in San Francisco, California into a middle-class Jewish family and attended schools in both San Francisco and Seattle. For a short time she also studied music at the University of Washington. She met Stein in Paris on September 8, 1907 on the first day that she arrived. Together they hosted a salon that attracted expatriate American writers, such as Ernest Hemingway, Paul Bowles, Thornton Wilder and Sherwood Anderson, and avant-garde painters, including Picasso, Matisse and Braque. (wikipedia)
• • •

Remember that stomach bug I had yesterday. Well ... wife is down with it today. All last night, in fact. But as I informed friends via Facebook last night, "Wife is *astonishingly* good-humored in the middle of all this. Never seen anyone (literally) laid out by stomach bug take it all so well. I was a mewling, puling, groaning man/animal hybrid by comparison." Good news is, if she follows my pattern (so far, eerily similar) then she will make a full recovery well inside 48 hours. Til then, I'm just going to keep bringing her tiny glasses of water and little pieces of toast and refilling her hot water bottle every several hours.

I will say that today's puzzle foods were all much easier to contemplate (in an environment of general nausea) than yesterday's. I didn't care for the puzzle at all when I first completed it. The theme answers had the place names in inconsistent parts of the answer (one at beginning, two at end), the places were inconsistent (city, state, country), and unlike the other two, TURKEY relied on a change in sense (BAKED ALASKA and LONDON BROIL both being named for the places in their names, although with LONDON BROIL (per wikipedia) "The origin of the name is obscure; the food is unknown in London, England."). There is a London, Ontario. At any rate, unlike TURKEY, LONDON is not a food trying to pretend it's a place. So I thought the theme answers were ungainly. But this is because (I swear this is true) I didn't notice that there were circles, or that there was a note on the puzzle. This is possibly because I did the puzzle in under 4 minutes (blistering for me) and didn't have time to notice much of anything. Anyway, once I noticed the circles, and the fact that they form a globular shape, and give coherence to the theme, I ... warmed to the puzzle (pun noted but disowned). Still don't like it much as a puzzle, but as a concept, it's OK.

Fill-wise, things were fine, if (as I say) terribly easy. Only two sticking points, one minor, one oddly major. You don't see obscure French partials very often, but you saw one today in 29D: Camus's "Lettres à ___ Allemand" ("Un Ami"). I wanted something like "UN JEUNE," then realized I was somehow channeling Dinesh D'Souza!? (who wrote "Letters to a Young Conservative"). In my defense, I kind of thought I was channeling Barry Goldwater, but his big book was "The Conscience of a Conservative." My other, much bigger sticking point came in the NE. I could not see DEVISAL to save my life, and even now that looks like the stupidest word ever. Like it wants to be several different words, but got stuck in a kind of word no-man's-land. DEMISE? REPRISAL? DEVISING? No, DEVISAL. It's like a German guy talking about a wise guy named Al (or maybe a wise owl?). At any rate, I had NE- for 19A: State whose quarter depicts mustangs and sagebrush: Abbr. and could think of no state that started with those letters except the various "NEW" states and ... NEBraska! That, and ISLE for ISLA (30A: Mallorca, e.g.), left me with DEBISEL for 13D: Creation, as of plans. Luckily, that answer looked *so* wrong that I was forced to run state names through my head again — and there was NEVada, hiding there in California's lap. Silly, giant, mostly-empty state.

  • 11A: Onetime "Say it with flowers" sloganeer — slogans always provide interesting cluing options. I remember commercials with ... that big football guy ... beard ... "Little House on the Prairie" ... Merlin Olsen?

  • 40A: She pined for Narcissus (Echo) — can't believe I hesitated for even a second here, but a wave of jilted classical ladies came pounding on the shores of my mind [#rejectedLeonardCohenlyrics] and for a moment I couldn't decide which one was right.
  • 5D: Where King Saul consulted a witch (Endor) — "The Witches of ENDOR" feels like a familiar phrase, but I may just be splicing "The Witches of Eastwick" and EWOK homeland "the forest moon of ENDOR."
  • 46D: Slangy business suffix (o-rama) — I don't think of this as a "business suffix" at all, and yet ... I got it off just the "O". So ... my brain must recognize it as a business suffix, or remember that a puzzle once tried to pass it off as one.
  • 49D: With 38-Down, recurring phenomenon lasting a few hours (lunar / eclipse) —Usually cross-references don't inspire happy feelings in me, but I like this one somehow. A rather elegant split that (I'm guessing) occurred just by accident in the construction process. Serendipitous. I hit ECLIPSE first, and *refused* to look at the cross-referenced clue (I'm weird that way). Fought through crosses until I saw it must be ECLIPSE. Got LUNAR later.
  • 6D: Enmity (bad blood) — easily my favorite answer in the grid. I might have gone a different route with the cluing, though ...

[Neil Sedaka oozes 70s machismo — set Irony to "zero"]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


chefbea 8:07 AM  

Of course I loved all the foods. I had debisal and figured it would be the word of the day.

@Rex glad you have recovered. Hope Sandy makes a speedy recovery also. Mr. Bea was up all night with the same bug and is feeling much better this morning. Guess I'll get it!!!

Anonymous 8:12 AM  

An average Wednesday for me, but I warmed to the theme, particularly after reading the circles- I thought it was simply places and foods.

DEVISAL? The act of devising, of course. How could I not have known that?

When I finally read the circles, it reminded me of the joke about the waiter who caused an international catastrophe by dropping the Thanksgiving dinner- the downfall of Turkey,the breaking of China, the splattering of Greece and no food for Hungary.

captcha=rasloi, a relative of Eloi

Elaine 8:13 AM  

Another of Ohio's claims to fame: Norwalk virus--as bad as food poisoning, but unfortunately contagious. Get some Pedialyte laid in before the next victim succumbs! Sympathy for the Parker household very evident on the blog yesterday, amidst the meat puns...

I tried LAUD for TOUT and 'SIGNS the dotted line'... oh well. And I see I finished with ISLE/DEVISEL, tsk. Phooey. The latter two missteps were "should have known better" items.

pairkrha-- a parka for two?

Eric Berlin 8:25 AM  

I usually agree with your critiques right down the wire, and often our solving experiences are eerily similar, even if you experience them much faster than I do. (I solved this in six minutes, but also had DEBISEL for a few confusing seconds.)

I think you're giving short shrift to this puzzle. Theme inconsistency is more irritating when there is a world of possible theme answers to choose fromt -- in this case, the theme is so specific that it's a wonder she found three symmetrical entries at all. And having three different kinds of locations (city, state, country) is, to me, a minor mark of elegance, not a minus. And then on top of that she encases it all in a circular global warming metaphor? Neat! Better this than another "the word of each theme answer can be put in front of BLAH to make a phrase."

As you well know, original crossword themes aren't easy to dream up. You gotta embrace them when they come by. Good work, Ms. Long.

(That said, UN AMI... yeah, that would have sent me back to the drawing board, fillwise, especially on an early-week puzzle.)

HudsonHawk 8:27 AM  

Impressed with the construction, for all the reasons Rex mentioned. One nit, though: Shouldn't the note have said starting *and ending* in square #27? Or was the theme GLOBAL WARMIN'?

Ben 8:53 AM  

@Rex: Also had DEBISEL. See you this weekend.


"Are you Hungary?"
"Yes, Siam."
"Then Russia to the table and I'll Fiji."

Much more is here.

lit.doc 8:57 AM  

A fun, challenging Wednesday for me. I was able to move methodically through the puzzle with only a couple of problem areas, and finished in 24:31.

Worst snag was “getting” 8D AT MOST early on, crossed by BOAST, LONDON BROIL, and TOUT. Having 50% correct crosses for a 100% wrong answer was hard to recover from.

The only other problem was Tejas, though I’m not quite sure why. There, I was bailed out by the theme, which, by then, lacked only R and M. But given how much foniks-stile R2D2 we’ve seen lately, and the fact that ROAST should by then have been obvious, I just don’t see why that section slowed me down so much.

Cute Cluing award of the Day goes to the side-by-side “Shoot!”s at 33D/34D. Very cool.

Unknown 8:59 AM  

To me, Endor will always be Tolkien's Middle-Earth. . .I thought the phrase "witches of Endor" was from it

Unknown 9:05 AM  

I also was snared by ISLe, but thankfully, I had found Nevada already, so switching it to an A was easy. I agree DEVISAL is an ugly mutant word -- a wart on the lexicon.

My other writeover was at 33D, where the DA prompted me to write in DAre me for 'Shoot!' The binG cherry at 41A cured me of my BOASTfulness there, and I settled for the (IMHO) less-elegant DANG IT, dang it.

I do not know how I knew what a TREADLE was, and yet, there it appeared in my brain.

UN AMI would not have appeared -- ever -- without all the easy crosses.

As I've said before, I print the puzzle out and solve on paper. For whatever reason, the circles are so faint on the printed version that I could not see the GLOBAL WARMING trick. But put me down as thinking it's a really cool (Ha!) construction feat.

My son's name is DANIEL. Whenever his name appears in a puzzle, I save it for him. He, in turns, saves them. Therefore, I am grinning today.

Glad you're feeling better, Rex! My sympathies to the resilient Sandy!

Traxesse! -- jesser

Unknown 9:07 AM  

I have NO idea why my identity has suddenly changed to my email address. I swear I'm still jesser.

Pyrables -- jesser

joho 9:07 AM  

My word of the day was definitely DEVISAL. I got it but I've never heard or used it before.

I so wanted to love this puzzle but it left me cold. I'm not just saying that to be cute ... I'm surprised that I feel that way.

I did love the clue for TALON, "Nail on a branch."

If I never see ACERS again it will be too soon!

PIX 9:18 AM  

Agree with Eric Berlin above: new themes are hard to create and you might as well embrace them when you see puzzle.

Deb Amlen 9:25 AM  

About the theme: What Eric B. said.

"Til then, I'm just going to keep bringing her tiny glasses of water and little pieces of toast and refilling her hot water bottle every several hours."

You're a good guy, Rex. Hope Mrs. Rex feels better soon.

Zeke 9:32 AM  

My only error was at the intersection of ISLA[E]/DEVISA[E]L. Crossing a clearly made up word (relax, I know it's in dictionaries, but it's clearly a made up word) with having to know if it's the Spanish or English spelling for ISLE/ISLA seems off for a Wednesday.

Googling DEVISAL returns only one actual use of DEVISAL in a sentence the first 6 pages, and that's in a scientific publication. If you entitle your article "DEVISAL of Attenuation ..." rather than "Devising Attenuation...", you're just being artifically arcane.

Eric's observation about City/State/Country tightened up the theme for me. All in all, nice Wednesday

Rex Parker 9:37 AM  

Mr. Berlin is the best disagreer ever.

I thought I *did* give the theme credit, i.e. the only reason I warmed to it was that I noticed the added theme elements, e.g. non-arbitrary circles, etc.

"Deveesal, Devisal, Hossenfeffer Incorporated!"


Zeke 9:44 AM  

Make that two actual uses in a sentence.

ArtLvr 9:55 AM  

I laughed when, having already entered UNAMI via crosses, I looked to see if the clue was another odd component of sushi like AHI. Ah ha, French!

I liked the puzzle much more this morning than when I did it last night, agree with @ Eric Berlin that it's actually a rather elegant DEVISAL.

Am now working on a limerick which will include DEVISAL, REPRISAL, and have a Gore with a cliimate war that ends with "will surprise Al."


p.s. I was going to swear off noting captchas, but I can relate to today's "qualin". Very tempting for me in my O'Nasheous incarnation...

p.p.s. Looking for a Macbeth connection with witches of Endor, I found a handy note: "to look up something in the Bible, this is a very useful site:

It is maintained by a fundamentalist organization but is not doctrinaire and keeps any proselytizing activities separate from the information, and low key. It has an outstanding search engine, several translations, Greek and Hebrew originals, and a number of reference utilities."

dk 10:00 AM  

Is there not a moon of ENDOR in one of the Star Wars?

Wednesday, as I so often state I am about to yelled at, is my favorite day. This puzzle was just fine. Not the best or worst. Sorta vanilla.

I like ADZ and zax (axe for roofing tile) as they bring me many points and often a challenge when Scrabbling. As Rex, favorite fill was BADBLOOD.

I thought NAV was North Dakota, but treadle gave me Nevada.

And, I thought we learned yesterday that it is scissor not CUTON the dotted line.

Sandy get well.

'' (2 TALONS)

ArtLvr 10:10 AM  

I forgot to say how much I appreciated the LUNAR ECLIPSE in the puzzle, since I just saw one the other night. Eerie...

All best wishes to Sandy for a fast recovery!


SethG 10:15 AM  

I ate some Italian ice, therefore this puzzle is a hoax.

I don't like the word ROOD, German rivers, or TIM Pawlenty. I don't like cross-cluing, but do like the word ECLIPSE. I love ice cream, yet I have no idea what BAKED ALASKA actually is. And I apparently can't spell TOKLAS.

Dough 10:17 AM  

Another vote of praise for Eric Berlin's analysis. Including his dislike of un ami. Congrats to Elizabeth Long. That's the Long and Short(z) of it for today's nyt puzzle.

Dr. Jay 10:24 AM  

The virus going around NJ is the norovirus. Same symptoms as yours. Fortunately, it is the typical 24 hour virus.
Dr Jay.

Steve J 10:33 AM  

It looks like I'm going to be in a distinct minority here, but I absolutely hated this puzzle. A stronger word, would actually be appropriate, but I don't want to be an ass about it. In the year that I've been doing the NYT puzzle daily, I can think of only one or two I disliked as much of this.

I won't elaborate on the theme, as Rex covered most of my issues with it. ORAMA was clued terribly. It's not a business suffix. Sorry. Yes, I'm sure that somewhere out there with o-rama in its name. But it's mostly used in a joking or mocking sense, at least in my experience.

Which is better than DEVISAL, which is just not used. I challenge anyone to cite an example of this word being used in any context not involving crosswords or dictionaries/thesauruses in our lifetimes. Running a search, the only instances I see it coming up is in a business name, and as an occasional person's name. Everything else is reference citations. Just terrible.

And I hated the cluing for LUNARECLIPSE. I can immediately think of dozens of phenomena that recur and last a few hours. Nothing in that clue points to the answer specifically (even indicating natural phenomenon would have improved it). The clue should have at least something to do with the answer. As it is, it's one step away from cluing it as "With 38-Down, a noun." Or "a thing." Or "something or other." Horribly vague. Clearly gettable by the crosses, but still lazy cluing, in my opinion.

Those items, combined with a theme that I don't think worked well, and let's just say I'm violating my mom's admonition about what to do if you can't say anything nice. Which I can't. I really didn't find anything here to like, because the bad things were so spectacularly bad.

Week's gone from good to eh to just plain bad so far. I'm hoping this is the tip of the V in the valley and things will pick up again on the back end of the week.

slypett 10:34 AM  

Clown: No comment, Milady.
Duchess: That was.
Clown: Was what, Milady?
Duchess: A comment, damn you!
Clown: T'was not.
Duchess: I see you are in antic mood.
Clown: Would that be in the Roman way, Milady?
Duchess: How dare you, churl!
Clown: No comment.
--Love Conquers All (Wainwright)

Steve J 10:34 AM  

Amendment to my comment: I did find use of the word "devisal", when I went a couple pages deeper in my search. Apparently it's used frequently (relatively speaking) when talking about coats of arms. Had the clue alluded to that, I'd hate the word far less, I think.

Stan 10:40 AM  

Rex and Eric have pretty much covered this one. Nice puzzle, Elizabeth.

Sandy, feel better.

Ulrich: Did you notice 1D? Another Billy Wilder film!

Two Ponies 10:43 AM  

This was just so-so in my book.
I had some confusion in the Minn. area because I thought I was being clever to try yenta for the big mouthed delta. Was the river Oder or Oser? What a mess.
I had the bottom two theme answers before the top one so I was looking for a synonym to start 20A.
This mess took a bit to straighten out.
I also saw the circled letter theme early but was surprised by the overlapping of the G's.
Not my favorite Wed. by a long shot.

Lord Gwellyn Whimsey, Earl of Devon, Barron of Essex, OBE 10:46 AM  

@Steve J - You colonists are ever so droll. Why my peers and I frequently, after a good hunt and a snifter, frequently work on a devisal of our respective coat of arms to more accurately and currently reflect our greatness.

CoolPapaD 10:50 AM  

@ elaine and zeke - hand up for DEVISEL - ISLE.

@tptsteve and Ben - hysterical!

"Where has Oregon?"
"Idaho - Alaska!"

This puzzle melted my icecaps. I really thought it was clever on so many levels. I LOVE puzzles with circles, and this had a circle of circles. Can't get much rounder than that!

imsdave 10:52 AM  

We did this one at Westport a week and a half ago. As we left the room, everyone who had finished was saying, DEVISAL??? That's a word?

Not a big circle fan, and never even saw it while solving, but it's kinda cool in retrospect.

To all you ACPTers - I plan on getting to the Marriott somewhere around two. As is my habit, I will go directly to the bar. Look for me. I'll be dressed in black with white sneakers, fairly tall, a tad overweight, with very gray(grey?) hair.

Looking forward to seeing many of you there!

xyz 11:05 AM  

I'm more with TwoPonies than SteveJ today, but still this was more of a trudge than anything else. All this cleverness that fails, oh well, I learned DEVISAL" - just awful (yet again the constructor is technically correct. YUCK I thought it was my captcha-to-be somehow showing up in my puzzle ...

Did I tell you DEVISAL seems somehow the product of the act of devising something

turika! the word excalimed @ discovering something

-oh, nevermind

Rex Parker 11:18 AM  

Most popular search term of the day so far: [DEBISEL]

Zeke 11:21 AM  

@Rex - I swear I double read your write up before I lauded Eric on the City/State/Country citation. Turns out, I don't read so good.

Rex Parker 11:22 AM  

Aw, Zeke, I don't know. You read pretty good for a hillbilly...



Bob Kerfuffle 11:38 AM  

@Zeke - I believe ISLA was clued as Spanish by the use of the name Mallorca. If it were to be in English, that would have been spelled "Majorca."

Has anyone said, "Hot puzzle!"? I liked it.

edith b 11:39 AM  

I didn't care much for this puzzle, due as much to my own ineptitude than anything else. I thought I was pretty smart getting ISLA, matching answer and clue. My ineptitude reared its head here, having NEBraska instead of NEVada. Took me forever to realize I had a mistake in the same word I had just so cleverly sidestepped a trap.

The circles give me a headache and the theme never did reveal itself to me til I got here. I may have to resign from the 1:30AM Solving Club if I remain this dense. Jeez Louse, it is only Wednesday and I am already having problems.

Zeke 11:44 AM  

Who you callin' a 'Billy? My father/father-in-law lives up in your neck of the woods, and don't take kindly to such talk! I could have him git you!

Seriously, my captcha is colon.

Can of Worms 12:05 PM  

Isn't it odd that negative cultural stereotypes are tolerated as long as the subject is Anglo?

It is a pity that we are losing the ability to make fun of ourselves.

ScientificMethod 12:07 PM  

yum choco (captcha) maybe my best one yet, funny sudden urge for cocoa puffs (beats the hek out of colon, Zeke

musing .... I suppose that it is somehow fitting that the puzzle had to hedge by using the G twice to get the stretch that is "GLOBAL WARMING" just as convenient massaging of the data is necessary to "prove" the idea.

Still think twice & act once, down-size, re-use, re-cycle, it really is the good thing to do, but not for the wrong reason.


lit.doc 12:13 PM  

@edith b, hang in there! Take heart from the brainless blunders I keep posting here. My personal CW theme song is "Dare to be Stupid", by Weird Al Yankovic.

ArtLvr 12:31 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
fikink 12:33 PM  

"puling" - lovely use of it, Rex.
And "NEVada in California's lap" is so evocative
just used ENMITY in an email - the word always recalls Catechism class and God putting ENMITY between thy seed and her seed...Yipes!
I enjoyed the puzzle's weave. A nice Wednesday, Ms. Long. Thanks.
@artlvr, best work that captcha into a limerick brew about tea bags!

Masked and Anonymous 12:35 PM  

Quirky puz, but gotta go thumbs up. Quirky is good.

@Typhoid Rex: Hope all in your house are feeling better soon. Break a leg at the X-word tourney.

ArtLvr 12:45 PM  

re GLOBAL WARMIN(g) -- I see it as an Ouroborus!
(variant spellings Uroborus, Oroborus) Quote from google:

"The worm, snake, serpent or dragon biting or swallowing its own tail is a powerful symbol of infinity, and also of universal nature, of completion, perfection and totality, the endless round of embodied existence, the union of the chthonic with the celestial. Parallels abound - the figure-8 symbol of infinity (quite possibly derived from the ouroboros), the Chinese yin-yang symbol, the Buddhist wheel of Life, etc."


PIX 1:24 PM  

@ArtLvr...Kekule knew benzene had six carbons but couldn't figure out they fitted together...until had a dream of a snake eating its own tail (or so he said)..and realized benzene was a six carbon ring...a major breakthrough in organic chemistry...check out "Kekule's Dream".

Two Ponies 1:26 PM  

OMG I just watched the Sedaka clip and setting my irony meter at zero wasn't low enough!

ArtLvr 1:50 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick 1:53 PM  

Setting "DEVISAL" aside for a moment, "ACERS" (62a) are ones who DO put things past you, not ones who try to. Those would be "SERVERS".
Also, here's a devisal for the NE: substitute "AROUSAL" for "DEVISAL" and the puzzle still works. "ARR" for "ARE" isn't too big a step down.

a guy named Dr. Wotiz 1:54 PM  

If only it were true...

Jim in Chicago 2:02 PM  

Like DK, I so wanted the answer for 31A to be SCISSOR [the dotten line] but just couldn't make it fit.

My upper midwest looks like my pen exploded. Forgetting the OTHER German river, I wrote in RUHR for 7D, and then BRASH for 6A. Off the H I then decided that "HBALL" could just be a new term for "Horse" (which of course involves shooting baskets not batting at all, but such is life....) That all combined to give gibberish for the other connecting answers. Finally figured it out on my own.

imsdave 2:03 PM  

Totally off topic - I can't remember who plays bridge online here - Edith? One of the Elaines? Joho? Just started playing again at BridgeBase - any takers? Most of the partners I get paired with scare me.

ArtLvr 2:19 PM  

@ PIX -- i love obscure factoids like the source of the benzene ring breakthrough! Far out, thanks!


Footnote: I see scientists today discount Prof. Kekule's tale of his dream, saying others published the concept of the benzene ring before he did. Still, it's bound to linger in the history of science...

fergus 2:45 PM  

It's been said before, but half the fun of the solitary pleasure of doing crossword puzzles lies in sharing your thoughts afterwards. Rex, and probably thousands of others, have something new to say about Global Warming. If Al Gore had adopted the puzzle habit when he disowned Bill Clinton ...

jesser 2:48 PM  

Hands up for being a bridge player. Not terribly good at it, but I enjoy the game.

Tuablure (which is what you bid with a decent hand and trump support when your partner opens One Tuablure) -- jesser

jesser 2:50 PM  

That should have been: Tuablure (which is what you bid with a decent hand and trump support when your partner opens One Ablure).


Cowse! -- jesser

fergus 2:51 PM  

Yesterday I saw a vanity Nevada license plate: BAD LUCK

I may have missed the discussion one day, but this crowd is likely to be more curious about Captchas than any except maybe a convention of proofreaders.

Martin 2:53 PM  

The circled letters refer to the missing entry "IRISH STEW." They anagram AWOL LAMB RING.

Anonymous 2:54 PM  

@tptsteve: the version of the joke I know has "the overturning of Greece and everyone left Hungary"

fergus 3:02 PM  


And @artlvr, If you're ever in the Bay Area, check out the Cemetary at the north end of Piedmont in Oakland (designed by Olmstead in the 1860s). There are so many shrines and monuments that feature those signs of the infinite.

OK, that's three for me already, but I'll reserve one, since I've been so demure of late.

George NYC 3:04 PM  

This puzzle is one of the best examples ever of diverging opinions, one of the great things about this blog. People loved the theme, hated the theme, were in the middle about the theme, etc. I think my own reactions to puzzles often reflect my overall mood at the time, and I wonder if that is true for others. In any case, I hope constructors who read this blog take heart in this diversity.

deerfencer 3:08 PM  

I found this one to be a fun challenge, and one of those rare times I was able to use the circular gimmickry to help solve it. Fell into the same NEB/DEBISE trap that many reported, and agree the clue for ORAMA was a stinker.

Agree with Rex that Nevada has its share of silliness (see Parumph, a self-contained verbal sight gag of a town, and Heidi Fleiss, the would-be female john who almost set up shop there). That said, it also contains a big chunk of the exquisite and otherworldly Death Valley, arguably the most diverse landscape in the country.

Elaine 3:20 PM  

I'm not sure there has actually been any *discussion.* Every so often someone chimes in to say how boring/childish/whatever it is to comment on the captcha.
My own take on it is this: in a group of persons already self-selected for interest in words and word-play, it was inevitable that the introduction of these nonsense words would spark...well, playfulness. In a world full of troubles, it seems harmless enough.

Husband has turned up the volume on his turntable and jazz is blasting my ear-drums. See you guys tomorrow!

amplonis--cramped position of the stapes due to excess pressure on the tympanum

HudsonHawk 3:31 PM  

@TwoPonies: OMG, that Neil Sedaka clip is off the charts on the Unintentional Comedy scale. What the heck was he doing on The Midnight Special, why is he wearing my grandma's jeans/slacks, and is he really sporting a T-shirt that says "Smoke the Best Colombian"? Classic.

a-pat 3:35 PM  

I don't think "word-play", I think "new to the internet".

sanfranman59 3:44 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)

Wed 10:59, 11:54, 0.92, 32%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:56, 5:51, 1.01, 59%, Medium

Rex described almost exactly my largely in vain attempt to solve the NE quadrant of this puzzle, except that I couldn't get NEBraska out of my brain for 19A. DEVISAL? Please.

Clark 4:22 PM  

I did everything that everybody else did. Ended up with DEVISeL, which looked no worse to me than DEVISAL would have.

THE WISE AL, said the way my Aunt Inge would have said it . . . . Thanks @Rex for a good long laugh.

And @SethG, you know darn well that your eating italian ice is the best evidence there can be that the puzzle is not a hoax.

Get well Sandy. (It must be nice to know that your misery is limited to a day or two.)

Though I did not know DEVISAL, I think it is a cool word. A search on Google Books turns up some actual uses.

mac 5:33 PM  

Perfectly fine Wednesday puzzle, with some sparkly clues/answers: talon, ad lib, unloads and bad blood. I also did this puzzle at the Westport tournament, but I don't think I did it much faster today. When you think about it, creation to devisal is not a great leap. I've never used it in a sentence, but I would know what it means.

A puzzle friend told me she had recently used the word "agape" and people had laughed at her. I used "agog", surprising people listening.

Well, I'm in NY and ready to puzzle and party, not necessarily in that order!

joho 5:33 PM  

@imsdave ... nope, not me. I don't play bridge ... but, if I did, I'm sure you'd be a great partner.

When I had the opportunity to learn bridge as a freshman in college I declined because I was wasting enough time trying to solve the NYT crossword puzzle!

Jeffrey 5:40 PM  

I agree with everybody.

edith b 6:11 PM  

@imsdave . . . Not me either

fergus 6:29 PM  

As Elaine pointed out, self-selection has some sway with wordplay. Sometimes I forget that many others are not tuning in on the same wavelength.

If only the troubled families in the hills of Tennessee could hear the lesson I taught yesterday ...

Charles Bogle 6:36 PM  

Am w @ericberlin, @amien, @pix..liked this puzzle and theme a lot...and, what is there not to like about a puzzle w TBALL, Christopher NOLAN (any "Memento" lovers out there), BAKEDALASKA/ALAMODE, George killed time-wise in the upper mid...had YENTA (big mouth) for long time instead of DELTA for longest time...thanks for write-up RP (suggest lots of flat ginger ale!); thank you Ms. Long for a lovely puzzle

chefwen 7:47 PM  

Super easy Wednesday puzzle for me. Had a wee bit of a snag at 8D with at most instead of ALL OUT, I think @lit.doc did that also. I was sure that Gertrude Steins buddy was Tolkas not TOKLAS, wrong. Hand creeping upward for DEVISeL. Other than that, smooth sailing.

Thought there would be more of a discussion of the GLOBAL WARMING debacle that is going on. I guess you can never guess in which direction our little group will venture.

Two Ponies 8:10 PM  

I'm well into happy hour and can't help myself.
I swear that I read a comment earlier today when someone used the word "amanuensis." I wrote it down so I could look it up later. I became distracted by a book that arrived today called The Third Man Factor."
I dove right in and there on page 36 was the word again! I loved the coincidence and how much I learn on this site. I tried to read back to see who used it but couldn't find it. Thanks whoever you are!

Sfingi 8:17 PM  

Nice puzzle. The word I didn't like was TOUT for praise. To me it signifies aggressive selling, as with pitchmen.

UN AMI a 2-word French phrase was patently unfair. I figured it was some form of the word "enemy." Since I was a kid, it always annoyed me that all German words in literature were translated for everyone, but not French. Now they've both fallen to Spanish.

@Tptsteve, Ben and the puzzle - keep the puns coming.
@Martin - that kind of stuff, too.

I also had "Ruhr" for ODER and "rumor" for ADLIB first, but it didn't shake.

Knew NEV. Does anyone remember when people were trying to save the Mustangs? (horses, not cars) They were running wild and having a ball, but annoying someone. Apparently the Bureau of Land Management was an enemy at one time, but now encourage adoption. They are beautiful animals and will be here after we're gone.

Shakespeare based his Macbeth witches on Saul 1.

Treadles also appear on looms. I took weaving the same time I studied S. (Skidmore '66)

If anyone thinks that Neil Sedaka was in any way considered cool by people in their '20s at the time, they are way wrong. He should never have been allowed to perform his own stuff.

I'm fascinated by the captchas, but trying to keep it to myself. But, don't they seem like uncanny messages from - familiars?

@Zeke - now, would that be the Spanish surname, or that -oscopy procedure.

There was a time when everything was xxxORAMA.
Then, Ye Olde xxx Shoppe.
Then xxx-R-Us. Most have been shuttered, properly.

Easy Way Out 8:51 PM  

@Two Ponies - No one in today's Rex comments used "amanuensis". Just hit Control/F and type in "amanuensis" and your use is the only one that shows up. Maybe at another blog?

Stan 9:21 PM  

@Two Ponies: 'Amanuensis' (a lovely word) was used by @fergus on yesterday's blog. It means, roughly, scribe or copyist. 'Amanuensis copies' are sometimes important when establishing the text of literary works, usually considered more reliable than the typeset first edition, but less reliable than the author's original manuscript (if available).

fikink 9:36 PM  

@two ponies - music of the spheres!
but then I am onto my third Negra Modelo, the FIL's favorite beer.

Two Ponies 9:37 PM  

@ Stan, Thanks. I thought it was either fergus or foodie.
Depending on the time of the evening I might be my own amanuensis!
I agree that it is a lovely word.

@ Easy Way Out, There are other blogs??!!?

sanfranman59 10:06 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 5:58, 6:54, 0.86, 16%, Easy
Tue 7:53, 8:42, 0.91, 26%, Easy-Medium
Wed 11:03, 11:54, 0.93, 33%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:16, 3:40, 0.89, 20%, Easy-Medium
Tue 3:59, 4:27, 0.90, 21%, Easy-Medium
Wed 5:43, 5:51, 0.98, 49%, Medium

Stan 10:57 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
lam 11:33 PM  

I'm with Rex - have a different cold, but I didn't see the note at the beginning or the circles either, just plodded (not very happily) through.

Got NEVada easily cause I live in Reno (also most of NE corner but had DEVISEL til I read this column - ack) but seriously Rex, take it easy on this silly, giant mostly empty state with a silly, mostly empty governor (not to mention corrupt Senator)... the mustangs really are magical standing in the sage, like a memory of a forgotten time.

I think this puzzle is awkward and harsh overall... tout, acers, devisal, oder, dangit, bing, rood, cuton, artoo, etc. Words that feel like indigestion. Most poetic definitely goes to lunar eclipse and bad blood, with softness added by Daniel unloads alamode.

Feel better.

Elaine 9:05 AM  

Belatedly @Stan, Two ponies
'Amanuensis' appeared in _The French Lieutenant's Woman_... long ago... which is where I learned it. I have the same experience often: learn a new word, see it everywhere!

Anonymous 3:52 PM  

I thought a talon was the claw of a bird, not part of plant. IE clue 14 across.

Unknown 12:31 PM  

@Anonymous 3:52pm -
It _is_ the claw of a bird, so when the bird is sitting on a branch, it becomes a "Nail on a branch"! The trickiness is indicated by the question mark in "Nail on a branch?"
- The ExplanationMan from SyndicationLand

tim 1:24 PM  

I cracked up at "Silly, giant, mostly-empty state." Isn't it just!?

I really need to re-read the Bible. I instantly wanted ENDOR, but couldn't bring myself to believe that Ewoks inhabited Canaan.

But mostly I just have to say Wow! how fast you guys are!! Under 4 minutes! Do you guys even **read** the clues? I solve on paper and am a crossword noob, but I still can't imagine going that fast. 22 min for me today, but I didn't find the puzzle that hard. Makes me want to fork out the $300 bucks for a NYT subscription just to see whether solving online would help! :-)

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

@tim, a year's subscription to the Times crossword is only $40!

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