Mudder's fodder / THU 9-23-10 / First company to successfully manufacture bubble gum / Usual Suspects setting / Genetic carriers

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Constructor: David J. Kahn

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: DAS RHEINGOLD — circles spell out this first part of WAGNER's RING CYCLE, which apparently opened the Metropolitan Opera's 2010-11 season

Word of the Day: James LEVINE (13D: Met maestro James, longtime conductor of the 17-Across) —

James Lawrence Levine (pronounced /lɨˈvaɪn/; born June 23, 1943) is an American conductor and pianist. He is currently the music director of the Metropolitan Opera and of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Levine's first performance conducting the Metropolitan Opera was on June 5, 1971, and as of July 2009 he has conducted more than 2,456 Met performances. In 1997, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. (wikipedia)
• • •

As stunt puzzles go, those of David J. Kahn tend to rate pretty high with me. His competence matches his ambition, which is always nice. Today's puzzle is interesting. I'm not that thrilled with a few of the theme answers — I'm opera-ignorant, but don't most operas have SOPRANOs and BARITONES? and WALKÜRE seems an arbitrary and vicious foreign word, especially considering that it's part of the title of the second part of the RING CYCLE, when what's being ... honored? ... here is the first (see 17A and grid circles). But the puzzle is thematically dense the grid is reasonably interesting, so I enjoyed the solving experience. The ring (of circles) is more of an octagon than anything else, but I can still buy it as a ring, so no major foul there.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Musical work in four parts, with its first part opening the Met's 2010-11 season (RING CYCLE)
  • 13D: Met maestro James, longtime conductor of the 17-Across (LEVINE)
  • 11D: "Die ___" (second part of the 17-Across) (WALKÜRE)

  • 35A: Attendee at a 17-Across (OPERA-GOER)
  • 59A: Singing voices in the 17-Across (BARITONES)
  • 39D: Singing voice in the 17-Across (SOPRANO)
  • 44D: Composer of the 17-Across (WAGNER)
Aside from the WALKÜRE section, I found the puzzle pretty easy. Biggest issue was writing in (with certainty) HEM instead of SUM at 39A: Bottom line. That kept the SW from quickly as it might have. Wrote in BARITONES but then doubted it because I thought 60D: W.W. II site, briefly must be ETO (nope, IWO). I also had a spot of trouble in the SE based on not knowing who ELSTON Howard was (57: Yankee ___ Howard, 1963 A.L. M.V.P.). Last letter into the grid was the "S" in ELSTON (such a weird-looking name). Oh, I forgot—another sports name held me up: SVEN, in the middle of the grid (32A: ___ Kramer, 2010 Dutch Olympic gold medalist in speed skating). I probably watched him win, but that name just didn't stick.

  • 5A: "The Usual Suspects" setting (JAIL) — Is this where Kevin Spacey was sitting the entire time he was narrating? I have largely forgotten that movie, and I don't have any particularly JAIL-y memories of it.
  • 15A: Ireland's ___ Islands (ARAN) — good day to know your Celtic islands. IONA is a tiny island off the west coast of Scotland (23A: Hebrides isle) and the ARAN islands are a small island chain off the west coast of Ireland.
  • 27A: With 6-Down, genetic carriers (NUCLEIC / ACIDS) — my limited science knowledge showed up today; got whole thing with just a few crosses in the first word.
  • 65A: First company to successfully manufacture bubblegum (FLEER) — I'm guessing this is the same company that made baseball cards. . . wow, it appears they didn't go beyond the first sentence of the wikipedia entry to write this clue (word for word).
  • 68A: Trueheart of the comics (TESS) — one of two ladies-of-pop-culture gimmes today; the other was TURNER (48D: Hurt's "Body Heat" co-star).
  • 9D: Mudder's fodder (HAY) — There's all kinds of equestrian language I just don't know. "Mudder" is an example. Needed all the crosses here.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 12:06 AM  

Not big on opera but love SVEN. A better clue for 32A -SVEN - is Al Gore’s helper (in Paul Shanklin’s parody about corking cows’ flatulence to reduce carbon dioxide, often played on Rush Limbaugh’s program). Unfortunately, this usually results in the cow exploding rather than reducing greenhouse gases....

The Corgi of Mystery 12:36 AM  

I can't say I'm madly in love with tribute puzzles, but I was OK with everything here except perhaps WALKURE. Also, I don't think I learned a whole ton compared to, say, the Rostopovich puzzle last (?) week. Found it on the easy side of medium, mostly because the open corners fell faster than they usually do on a Thursday.

ArtLvr 12:57 AM  

No HASSLE, though I always want -EL on that word! I happened to catch part of the opening concert on TV tonight -- it turns out that "Hindemuth" is the right length for 17A, but I soon let it go. Opera is just fine by me too, though this wasn't as amusing as the puns on composers' names recently... Nice one by Klahn, though.

My only other misstart was Nucleus before 27A's NUCLEIC, also easilly fixed. I soared through the rest with more classical music in the background, like Richard Strauss' "Don Juan" -- of which the announcer explained it was written when Strauss was 26 and himself a bachelor attracted to several women at the same time. "It just proves you should write about what you know!" LOL


The Case of Wagner 1:13 AM  

Most people will recognize Wagner's "The Ride Of The Valkyries" It was used in "Apocalypse Now":

In Norse myth a VALKYRIE decides who dies in war.

Wagner also wrote what we all know as "Here Comes the Bride" It was the Wedding March from the opera Lohengrin.

Evan 1:21 AM  

In the "Usual Suspects," the characters show up in JAIL only once, near the beginning, when the cast of thieves are lined up to read from a card that has some, uh, rated-R language in it. But other than that, jail isn't exactly a significant setting in the movie. It's not even where Kevin Spacey ends up telling his story to Chazz Palminteri for most of the film; Spacey is sitting in the detective's office, not in jail. Basically, the clue at 5-Across felt pretty off to me.

No other complaints about the grid besides that, though. An enjoyable solve, although WALKURE is definitely not something I would have gotten had WAGNER and the other opera clues not appeared in the puzzle with it.

operapianist 2:26 AM  

I guess we should all count our blessings that Kahn didn't decide to include the 4th opera of the Ring Cycle, GOTTERDAMMERUNG. This was probably my fastest Thurs puzzle ever (but then again look at my handle, fer chrissakes).

jae 2:59 AM  

Easy side of medium for me too. I'm with Corgi on the last week comparison. Only missteps were UPTEMPO and XERS. UNTIRED seems a bit lame. Overall, an OK Thurs.

andrea tiptoes michaels 3:53 AM  

Definitely NOT an OPERAGOER here.
I-N-G were the first circled letters I had so I tried to fit in THER-ING-CYCLE where DASRHE-ING-OLD
was and was all confused bec I also somehow thought DAS RHEINGOLD was German for The Ring Cycle. OK, I'm an idiot.
That said, I knew enough to try and put vALKyRie where WALKURE is and then thought VALKYRIE = WALKURE.

Anyway, I only know any of this from the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit", that's this one, right?

I'm so confused...Ulrich?!!

THAT said, my only real writeover was Hubbub (50D Bother) for HASSLE.
And I was all excited that HUBBUB was in the puzzle, only it wasn't.

Anyway, classy.

Did not fall for LInEn instead of LIBEL, my back has a red mark I've patted it so hard!

I liked TIPTOES and that LEVINE was parallel to WAGNER. Other than that, I did with this puzzle what I do on the rare occasion I attend opera...I tried not to go to sleep before it was completed.

By coincidence, my friend Paul Clay
(not the artist!) is coming to visit this weekend. SO I took 4D as a sign!

SethG 4:36 AM  

I couldn't figure out the NE when I had STY in place of HAY.

Yeah, SOPRANO and BARITONES seems kinda like cluing a NY Yankees themed puzzle with INFIELDERS and PITCHER. Accurate, but kinda just random related words that fit rather than defining elements. (Well, at least they're closer than JAIL, which might as well have been BOAT because they visit one of those, too).

And Das Rheingold and Die Walküre are the first two parts of...Der Ring des Nibelungen. Foreign language indications are generally indicated in clues--why is it different with these cross-referenced clues?

Diana Holquist 7:56 AM  


I want my singing farm animals from yesterday back.

I'm taking this one personally.

Skua 8:07 AM  

I wanted WTF for 35d.

Alan Sherman 8:17 AM  

What's Opera Doc? featuring Kill the Wabbit.

edith b 8:28 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
joho 8:40 AM  

Seems I liked this better than others. My circle is perfectly round. I admired the density of the theme and love that SOPRANO crosses BARITONES as if they're singing a duet. OPERAGOER smack in the center of the circle is nice. And he even managed to get OSOLEmio and LEGATO into the grid.

Quite a tour de force in my book.

It might a little easy for a Thursday, though, my only writeover being heM before SUM.

Thank you, David Kahn!

nanpilla 8:41 AM  

@alan sherman - thanks, priceless!

My fastest Thursday ever, and I don't even know that much about opera. James Levine was mentioned on Jeopardy last night, he is celebrating his 40th year, maybe that was in my mind as I was flying through this...

PuzzleNut 8:51 AM  

Pretty easy puzzle for me, but I'm into opera and classical music, so that may have helped (LEGATO was a gimme without crosses). Generally hate puzzles with circles and find it easiest just to ignore them. Saves a lot of solving time.
You know you are on the same wavelength as the constructor when you can guess the clues with only a few crosses.
UNTIRED and AROW were my least favorite words, but I always like to see DOWSERS.

John V 8:52 AM  

Walk in the park for opera/Wagner fans, as in -- moi. Easiest Thurs for me in a very long time, about 15 mins on a very hot New Haven line train.

mmorgan 8:55 AM  

Yes, it was "What's Opera, Doc?" -- now THAT would be a great theme for a puzzle...

I'm not a big Wagner fan but this was a pleasant solving experience -- and pretty quick despite some long stares in the NE, because I was trying to get "Valkyries" to fit. Also, I had BAIL/BAR instead of JAIL/JAR which didn't quite make sense.

Ulrich 8:55 AM  

These ain't no valkyries (yes, Andrea) in the clip--valkyries are supposed to be STRONG--they shouldn't have to struggle like this when they try to get fallen heroes to Walhalla--a real valkyrie could string three of them over her shoulders, and THEN put two more under her arms--pitiful!!!

As to sopranos--there are sopranos and then there are WAGNER sopranos, who need enough heft to make themselves heard over a 100+-member orchestra--sans mike! An unbelievable feat! I wish instead of BARITONES we'd had HELDENTENOR (heroic tenor), the term for a tenor who can do the same thing--Siegmund is the Heldentenor part in Die Walküre, who begets Siegfried (title hero of part 3) with his sister Sieglinde in Act 1--while both of them are singing, again against the entire orchestra, some of the most rapturous music Wagner ever wrote.

Did I like the puzzle? Of course!

Ulrich 9:00 AM  

...forgot to add Siegmund and Sieglinde are twins--Wagner apparently believed that if he has to have incest, it should be as outrageous as possible...

CFXK 9:01 AM  

Was REALLY hoping that the answer for 59 across was "ringtones."

Cathyat40 9:07 AM  

Another opera buff/goer here - I liked the puzzle.

Like Rex, I also put in heM before SUM (and I'm an accountant).

PuzzleNut 9:19 AM  

@andrea etal - also remember the Barber of Seville from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. I read somewhere that a lot of classical references were intentionally inserted into those cartoons.
I used to listen to a great program on NPR that explored a classical music theme each week. I always thought a good one would be "What's up, Bach", featuring classical music from the Bugs Bunny cartoons.

The Hag 9:40 AM  

I'll be impressed when a constructor can get the titles of all four operas plus DERRINGDESNIBELUNGEN in the same puzzle. This Wagner fan was bored. Maybe if it had had a few rap clues....

chefbea 9:42 AM  

Fun puzzle even if I know nothing about opera. DNF
I too had hem before sum

deerfencer 9:58 AM  

UNTIRED??? Shocked that Rex gave this one
glaring stinker a pass.

Otherwise a cool puzzle with some creative cluing, especially "Medium strength" for ESP and "Suit material" for LIBEL.

Stan 10:06 AM  

Well-constructed with an impressively dense theme and some cute clues.

Good one, David J. Kahn!

dk 10:08 AM  

Okay, along with many of you I hummed Kill the Wabbit throughout the puzzle and as did @kookookachoo (btw, love your beak) dreamed of singing animals. There must be a Merry Melodies version of DAS RHEINGOLD. Perhaps with the singing cows.

No where near the knowledge of @operapianist but as RINGCYCLE is familiar to me this one was more LEGATO than staccato. Toughest fill was CONGEST.

*** (3 Stars) Thanks David, A fast and fun Thursday.

and now, something completely different 10:08 AM  

Just wondering if someone can help me like the "Divining rods"/ DOWSERS pairing.

I can't find any definitions that makes them equivalent, only that the former are "tools" used by the latter.



johnpag 10:10 AM  

Rex, I thought that you were a Red Sox fan. Elson Howard also played for the Sox at the end of his career (1967-68)

Van55 10:11 AM  

1. I am opera ignorant and double Wagner ignorant.

2. There are 21 proper nouns as answers.

3. UNTIRED?????? Unforgivable!


5. DNF = epic fail on my part.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:22 AM  

Interior dialog of this puzzle solver:

(Before opening newspaper:) Yay! Thursday! Maybe we'll have a rebus.

(Upon glancing at puzzle:) Darn! No rebus; circles.

(On second look:) Yay! At least the circles are symmetrical; sort of look like a circle - or is that a baseball?

(On very quick look at clues:) Darn! "Music/Mets'" Oh, no, how do I know what music they play at Mets games? (I'm being painfully honest here.)

(By the time I get to RINGCYCLE:) Yay! This is opera, not baseball. And not an insult to anyone's intelligence.

(Floundering in the SW:) Darn! "Bottom line" must be HEM, and I want to put ETO at 60 D, but 66 A, Bother, couldn't possibly end in "O".

(Upon finishing correctly, with a couple of write-overs:) Yay! Good puzzle!

Benny 10:28 AM  

and now..., maybe you wanna try, I dunno, looking up DOWSER? In any dictionary?

dB Geezer 10:36 AM  

Didn't anyone else put NET in for 39A?

@scdifferent: the clue for 29a is divining rods. These are the tools used by those looking for water. The tools used by these water seekers are both DOWSERS and divining rods.

Kramer 10:45 AM  


Two Ponies 10:49 AM  

Impressive construction but I must have been bored. I was daydreaming about Apocalypse Now, Warner Bros. cartoons, and Alan Sherman (I think) singing Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda.
As a kid growing up in the midwest I learned my operas from cartoons. I still can see Bugs conducting the orchestra wearing his long-tailed coat.
I only knew Fleer because we had that recently.

Sparky 10:59 AM  

Took me a while. Kept hanging on to "the" RING CYCLE thus it wouldn't fit. @the Case. I too spelled it Valkyrie. Changed it with crosses. 5D "hat" before JAR. Last night PBS Philharmonic broadcast talked about the opera opening a lot. Chest surgery yesterday, MRI today. I'm feeling faint. Whack A Mole is a game in the tutorial Mousing Around which you play at computer classes. It helps too. I'm going out and buy some chocolate. And with all of that I enjoyed the puzzle.

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

UNTIRED? Several are commenting on a legit word, so no need for Rex to criticize. However, the real story with this word is that it once again represents a Marxist plot. I mean, the constructor has TIed the UN with RED....

mayflower 11:11 AM  

I've been reading all your comments for some time and enjoying them immensely, so felt compelled to create a profile and join you. Ilearn something new here most every day, and always get a cackle! My husband is British and has taken to solving with me, so mighty groans and hilarity have ensued.Untired, specifically got him going.

Clark 11:21 AM  

My kind of puzzle.

SVEN Kramer is the guy who was on his way to another gold medal when his coach pointed to the wrong lane on a turn. He followed the coach and got DQ'd. (He's also the guy who, one week earlier, just after winning his first gold medal of the games, is asked by a TV interviewer "If you can say your name and your country and what you just won here." He answers: "Are you stupid? Hell no I'm not going to do that.")

archaeoprof 11:22 AM  

Another non-OPERAGOER who found this one on the difficult side.

But still managed to finish with no mistakes. Very enjoyable.

I applaud this tribute to a genre of music that not everyone likes or understands!

Jim 11:26 AM  

Really liked this puzzle until the SW. Ended up w a DNF. I got heMmed in and it never occurred to me to look at it again, as the rest of the answers, aside from COMBAT and BARITONES seemed non-exclusive. The singer could've been hOusANi as far as I was concerned. In retrospect, should have gotten OPT, and that may have forced my hand.

Too bad, b/c the theme was right next to my alley, if not up it (I'm a pianophile, not opera fan). However, WALKURE, LEVINE and OPERAGOER (meh) were no problem and helped open up the puzzle.

I call BS on JAIL, though I spent little time arguing w myself, due to JAR. Wanted boat or shIp, which were settings as much a part of that movie, if not more. In reality, the setting was fish-lip's office. I know of no municipality so hardscrabble that it puts its head detective's office in a jail. That's called a police station.

Also, EMIT for 'issue'? Am I missing something? At the very least, emissions are involuntary. Does the sun CHOOSE to EMIT its rays? Does my friend Matt CHOOSE to EMIT his malodorous olfactory emanations, as Rick Vaughn might have difficulty saying? I hope not.

Had no idea on DOWSERS or SUR but the octagon helped me out. DAS. Yeah, that's right.

Was left with SVEg when I confused 'kvetch' with retch. Whoops!

hazel 11:38 AM  

I know next to nothing about The Ring Cycle, Wagner, or Opera, but flew through this one lickety-split, enjoying myself in the process. The clues seemed a bit straightforward for a Thursday (?), but maybe I was just riding a wave. Highlights:

(1) Ireland’s ARAN Islands, thanks to a wonderful cycling vacation a few years ago, me bald as a cueball. I was VERY proud that I had it in me to cycle 30 miles a day, but remain disappointed that my reddish hair was unavailable for display in a place where there was so much reddish hair on display!! Finally, I was with my peeps!! and

(2) Yankee ELSTON Howard, thanks to the awesome baseball card collection I inherited from my brother. A few FLEERs, but mostly Topps.

@archaeprof - unlike country music!! ;-}
@Bruce from NJ - Happy 61st!

Anonymous 11:43 AM  

MUDDER? Rex obviously does not play the ponies. Worked at a race track in my yute and know a fast horse on a muddy/sloppy track is not necessarily a fast horse on a fast/dry track but it is a mudder. 3 and out....

Moonchild 11:43 AM  

We had ballgoers and promgoers yesterday and operagoers today.
Hem, net, and finally sum.
That SW corner took it's sweet time.
Dowsers reminded me of a good book
"Water Witches".
Peppy seems more than just untired.
I thought kvetch meant to complain.
Maybe Mr. Kahn just likes Kevin Spacey (I do too) but that is a lame clue for jail. I wanted a city or something more descriptive.
I wrote out the circles in my margin and filled it in as the letters came to me and it helped.
Sven doesn't sound very Dutch.
This must have been a real bear to put together.

Anonymous 11:47 AM  

All of this high brow music and what gets stuck in my head?
Camp Granada!

Terry 11:50 AM  

How come no one has mentioned the ring of circles that when filled in spell Das Rheingold, the first of the four operas of the "ring" cycle.


Anonymous 11:59 AM  

You mean other than Rex?

and now for ... 12:13 PM  

@Benny & @dB Geezer

Thanks guys!

@Benny: I did try 3 dictionary sources (none yours) without finding an appropriate entry, so "any" doesn't quite work ;)


Noam D. Elkies 12:26 PM  

Neat concept, but surely the 15-letter GOTTERDÄMMERUNG should have been part of it. Maybe when the Met cycle reaches that opera we'll see its premiere in the NYTimes grid. has no recollection of either that entry or HELDENTENOR, which is a lot more specifically characteristic of Wagner than 59A:BARITONES or 39D:SOPRANO singers.

[captcha = rever, first time I've seen a palindrome there. REVER, sides REVERsed, is REVER.]

mac 12:28 PM  

Good, real Thursdayish puzzle.
What @joho said, word for word.

@sparky: feel better soon!

Arby 12:33 PM  

Hate opera, don't live in NYC, don't go to the Met, don't speak German. Didn't care for this puzzle. Also didn't care for APIG, ARAN, ANEW, AROW, all concurrently AGRID.

shrub5 1:08 PM  

DNF on my own - trouble in the NE. Had SELL before HAWK which stalled the corner. So I resorted to google to get WALKURE which helped me straighten things out. Ended up with one error: DEWSERS / LEGATE. Hah!! That's a doozy.

I had the same reaction as @Evan, @SethG and @Jim about JAIL setting for "The Usual Suspects."

@DBGeezer: I did.

Other than my trouble corner, the rest of the puzzle was easy, smooth, fun. I'm not an OPERAGOER and don't want to be -- but knew enough to be of help with this theme.

Didn't like UNTIRED as well. Thought "that's not a word!" but it is....

Doris 1:24 PM  

The Met opens with Das Rheingold NEXT Monday. On October 9 there will be a worldwide HD video transmission in selected movie theaters.

FYI: None other than Plácido Domingo has expressed fondness for "What's Opera, Doc?" and, specifically, "Kill the Wabbit."

glimmerglass 1:26 PM  

I hate opera. I have two CDs of Wagner's music, both without singing. As I type this, I'm listening to the Valkyries screeching and thinking how much better I like the music without it. Neverthelass, I finished the puzzle okay -- know your enemy, I guess. Got "Walkure" from the crosses. (Wanted "oat" instead of "hay," but couldn't come up with a sell word starting with O, and when "Ring Cycle" clicked, the rest of the NE was easy.) Good puzzle, hard but doable.

Rube 2:37 PM  

As an opera fan, I too enjoyed this puzzle.

It would have been nice to see some of the characters in the cast as answers in the puzzle. Freia is a very crosswordey name, yet does not appear in XWordInfo. Donner usually appears in xwords as either the pass in California or as a reindeer. Odin is 1st order crosswordese, why not have Wotan? He's the same guy. Mime, Erda, Froh, and Loge would make great fill, or at least fill that opera fans would know as opposed to all the pop culture stuff we have to put up with.


Toggle 2:38 PM  

Loved this puzzle! I know and love opera, horses and Celtic isles. The sports 'n' science stuff filled itself in.

It seems one either loves Wagner or hates him. Wasn't it Mark Twain who said that Wagner's music is better than it sounds?

Expected Ulrich (and Rex) to cry foul on the lack of an umlaut in DUD. Also thought all four operas in the puzzle would be ultra cool, but this was great as it was.

Thanks, Rex, and all commenters. This blog is a real joy.

Basso 2:54 PM  


UNTIRED may well be a word,
it's still
a strained turd.

syndy 3:07 PM  

Hey if you're gonna talk Wagner you're gonna talk walkure (valkyre)Would it hurt you to know just that much about opera? found the puzzle very legato and yes was humming "Kill the wabbit" any puzzle that makes me hum or sing is all right in my book!

sanfranman59 3:27 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)

Thu 13:54, 19:08, 0.73, 9%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Thu 6:47, 9:11, 0.74, 12%, Easy

Van55 3:30 PM  


Though your sentiment may be accurate, what you penned is not Haiku. A Haiku (at least in English) is a three line, unrhymed verse of seventeen syllables -- 5 in the first and third lines and seven in the middle line:

Being untired is
Not the same as having pep
and pep is not poop

archaeoprof 4:02 PM  

@Sanfranman59: thanks (once again) for the numbers. I'm mildly surprised today's puzzle didn't come in a bit more difficult.

@mayflower: welcome. It's a good group Rex has here.

Matthew G. 4:05 PM  

Thought this was on the easy side for a Thursday, mainly because, although I have never seen an opera in my life, the New York Times seems to write about this or that performance of the Ring Cycle on a regular basis.

My only stumbling block was in the NW, where I filled in wiNe for "many a cellar" and and took a long time to accept that it was wrong, especially because the N was correct and fit NEURAL. If not for that, might have set a personal Thursday record.

Doc John 4:32 PM  

Had a tough time in the SW (stymied by both medical clues) but finally prevailed.
Was not bothered by WALKURE.
Surprised, though, that nobody has come up with:
Hello Mudder, Hello Fodder

Anonymous 4:48 PM  

I was intensely bothered by having the first two parts of a four-part opera cycle. Normally I'd say I'm being unnecessarily obsessive, but it's a crossword puzzle: obsessiveness is an advantage!

Noam D. Elkies 5:08 PM  

@CFXK: Now that ("Ringtones") is what should have gone in the center of this puzzle!

Maybe when Shortz runs a LOTR-themed puzzle. Or when Rex's daughter hosts another party on that theme...


CoffeeLvr 5:13 PM  

Well, I finished this one with no mistakes, but not for lack of trying.

@Rube: If the fill had been opera-themed as well, us non-opera aficionados would have had no way to gain any traction.

Welcome, Mayflower (and spouse.)

I have a quibble about 31A, clued as Somme season, entered as ETE. Yes,Somme is a sort of a homophone pun on summer (which is ETE in French - don't know how to add the acute accent). And ETE has achieved the dubious status of crosswordese. Nevertheless, today is the first day of autumn, not a day in summer. Aujourd'hui c'est le premier jour de l'autome. Au revoir, mes amies. (I know there will be an error in my very rusty French, but what the HAY.)

Warren Howie Hughes 5:58 PM  

Police station or Station House would have been a better clue for "The Usual Suspect's" setting.

Doc John 6:05 PM  

@ Warren- or The Formosa!

Robert of San Francisco 7:25 PM  

What messed me up at first was a misunderstanding over the meaning of the phrase "first part" in the clue about the circled letters -- I thought they spelled out THERINGOFTHE, with 17A bring NIBELUNGS. It would have been neat if the ring of letters had spelled out "The Ring of the..." Alas, twas not to be. Hoi a to ho!

Stephen 7:51 PM  

alas, DNF.
I'm not an operagoer, but when I found RHEINGOLD fit in there, and it crossed with VALKURE, I was sure they were lock-ins. (Notice that they lock together even!) I wrote them in heavy ink.

JAIL? I tried to put SHIP and BOAT in there, but JAIL was never ever going to work for me.

In sum the whole NE and Ncenter were a locked-in mess.

Stephen 8:00 PM  

forgot to mention how much I loved "mudder's fodder" in a puzzle about german opera!

Basso 8:22 PM  

@ Van55,

Yeah, I know, and was counting on someone here to call me out on it.

Should've titled the post "jazz haiku" or "I'm not untired enough to care." ;-)

ShortShrift 8:23 PM  

Let's hear it for "mudder's fodder"! For Rex's benefit, "mudder" is a common term among racing fans, aka rail birds, for a horse unfazed by a wet -- i.e., muddy -- track.
@CoffeeLvr: 31A was clued "Somme time" in my edition. So a little Porgy & Bess there, too. Pas mal, je pense!

CFXK 9:02 PM  

A couple of important Elston Howard facts from a Red Sox fan's perspective:
1. In 1967, with his soft single to right with two out in the bottom of the ninth, Howard ruined Red Sox rookie Billy Rohr's no-hitter in Rohr's first major league start during the Yankee's season opener at Yankee Stadium. Later that Season, Howard was traded to the Red Sox and became a critical part of their "impossible dream" pennant win.
2. In 1968, on national television in a game against the Baltimore Orioles, Red Sox Catcher Howard introduced his invention "the donut," replacing for an entire generation the "two-bat" on deck warm-up.

Sfingi 9:13 PM  

I Googled only twice - for SVEN (sports) and LEVINE (haven't been to the Met in decades).
I looked up OMG at a site I've bookmarked called pulpchat.

For IONA, it didn't specify Inner or Outer Hebrides and there are many 4-letter ones in both, so that slowed me down.

I had DrinkUp before DINEOUT, "net" before SUM, oAt before HAY, LInEn before LIBEL.

As @Shortshrift said, a mudder runs well on a wet track, one of the things gamblers check for.

@Evan - never saw the movie, but guessed JAIL. Go figure.

Now the theme. I've known people to go to the Wagner Festspeil in Bayreuth and have their asses fall off sitting for hours. Twain was one of those poor heathen and lived to write about it. Better to listen at home, but he didn't have that choice.

Anyway, except for the aforementioned LEVINE, the answers rolled out until I hit what was supposed to be RINGCYCLE. Despite that the "ring" already spelled out RHEINGOLD, I wanted to push that word in, or DerRING, or desNibelung. Cycle didn't occur to me until the end. After all, it's a Greek word.
DUD and HAWK determined the the spelling of WALKURE vs Valkyrie. No crossing Umlauts.

Was a clever music CW, all in all.

shrub5 10:19 PM  

Was invited for lunch today at my Italian/Sicilian neighbor's home. We had sfingi for dessert -- never knew of these delicious morsels until now's your screen name!! Mmm mmm mmm.

sanfranman59 10:28 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 8:15, 6:58, 1.18, 97%, Challenging
Tue 9:55, 8:54, 1.11, 85%, Challenging
Wed 10:57, 11:40, 0.94, 41%, Medium
Thu 14:05, 19:09, 0.74, 12%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:19, 3:43, 1.16, 97%, Challenging
Tue 5:03, 4:35, 1.10, 80%, Challenging
Wed 5:08, 5:45, 0.89, 22%, Easy-Medium
Thu 6:25, 9:11, 0.74, 4%, Easy

@archeoprof ... I'm also a bit surprised that this puzzle scored as easy as it did by this analysis. Since it fell in a Easy-Medium for me, I was confident that it would be toward the easy end of the spectrum. But I didn't expect the 3rd fastest Thursday median solve time in the Top 100 group. Apparently, there's a lot of overlap between the speed-solving-cruciverbalist and operaphile worlds.

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

Sorry to kvetch, but kvetch means complain, not nag.

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

To naggingly complain. If it helps you, think of the noun kvetch.

NotalwaysrightBill 2:04 PM  

Only mistake at finish was where Spicegirl GErI (guessed GEnI) crossed rOTHIRA (guessed nOTHIRA). UNTIRED has got to be the tiredest answer for Peppy ever. A bit of a slog, but I enjoyed the puzzle for the most part and I salute the constructor.

Thanks @Rex for the Levine post. I agree with the Twain quip and have a similar--limited--appreciation for Wagner; so I dearly hope that not all of Levine's 2,456+ Met appearances (already Nietzchienly superhuman) were of him conducting GOTTERDAMMERUNG.

Thanks @CFXK for the trivia about Howard inventing the bat donut, although I'm nostalgic about seeing players swing two bats for warmup.

Dirigonzo 5:20 PM  

The calendar says it's October 28, but I was able to (almost) solve this puzzle while sitting in the sun in my backyard, so even ending up with a couple of mistakes in the NE couldn't detract from my enjoyment. WiLKoRE sounds Germanic, don't you think? Still, this non-OPERAGOER had fun and learned a lot, to boot.

haicul - maybe what @basso created?

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