Two-handled vase / WED 12-29-10 / Card game Spanish origin / Cook Island carving / Evergreen with edible nuts / Syrian presidential family

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Constructor: Patrick Merrell

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: TILDE (58D: Mark used four times in this puzzle's solution) — three theme answers contain a total of four Ñs (which work in the crosses as well)

Word of the Day: OMBRE (36A: Card game of Spanish origin) —

Ombre, English corruption of the Spanish word Hombre, arising from the muting of the H in Spanish, is a fast-moving seventeenth-century trick-taking card game with an illustrious history which began in Spain around the end of the 16th Century as a four person game. It is one of the earliest card games known in Europe and by far the most classic game of its type, directly ancestral to Euchre, Boston and Solo Whist. Despite its difficult rules, complicated point score and strange foreign terms, it swept Europe in the last quarter of the 17th century, becoming Lomber in Germany, Lumbur in Austria and Ombre in England, occupying a position of prestige similar to Bridge today. (wikipedia)
• • •

Don't remember why this took me longer than usual, but it did. Oh wait, now I remember. I don't know who PABLO is (1D: "Tortilla Flat" character), I had Big TEN instead of Big BEN (17A: Big ___), and I still haven't gotten around to accepting ONE-EAR as a thing (23A: Like telemarketing headsets). That's probably the majority of the above-average difficulty right there. I like the basic idea behind this puzzle—it deals with a phenomenon that people gripe about from time to time: a "Ñ" crossing an "N" in the grid, as if they were the same letter. In fact, I'm pretty sure people have wondered out loud in my comments section if anyone had ever tried to construct a puzzle where "Ñ"s crossed other "Ñ"s. Well, now we can definitively answer that question. I'm not sure how much better off we are for it, but there it is. As I said, I like the idea, but there's nowhere much for it to go in a 15x15 execution. Just doesn't feel like much of a theme, and MAÑANA, SEÑOR is a forced answer if ever there was one. It's a phrase someone might say, but so is "MOM, I'M HUNGRY," and I doubt that's puzzle-worthy. Rest of the grid is just fine, I think. The value-added stuff—like ANGLO (43A: Barrio outsider) and OMBRE (36A: Card game of Spanish origin) and AMIGOS (59A: Baja buddies) and (apparently) DAHLIA (22A: Mexican bloom) add a bit of Latin flavor... Oh, so *that*'s what PABLO is doing up there. Providing some kind of tenuous rotationally symmetrical support for TILDE. Innnnteresting.

  • 18A: Margarita alternatives (PIÑA COLADAS) / 6D: One of a 15th-century trio (NIÑA)
  • 40A: Salsa verde ingredient (JALAPEÑO PEPPERS) / 28D: It requires one who's blind with a bat (PIÑATA)
  • 63A: Procrastinating words south of the border (MAÑANA, SEÑOR)
    / 52D: Evergreen with edible nuts (PIÑON) + 62D: Yucatán years (AÑOS)

Had several missteps throughout the grid. OH, YES for AH, YES (57D: "But of course") hurt because I couldn't see THREAT for the life of me (55A: Reason for evacuation). Clue on THIRDS was devilish, in that I assumed the hungry person was needy, not just ravished (49D: Helping for the very hungry, maybe). I thought the Obamas were maybe having ceremonies on the EAST LAWN, but no—they're in the EAST ROOM (42D: White House ceremony site). So far, it seems the S/SE was as bad as the NW for me. Yes, there was also the matter of DONATE for DO GOOD (67A: Be altruistic). One stray puzzler—what the hell is "The Gift" (39D: Gift in "The Gift"=>ESP). I wanted "FOB" or "TRESS," but clearly I was thinking of the wrong story (story?). Uh, nope ... "The Gift" is some 10-yr-old Sam Raimi film I've never heard of.

  • 10A: Noise in a comic book gun fight (BLAM!) — I read comics regularly, including ones with gun fights, and I had nothing here. Then I had BANG! Then I had BOOM! :(
  • 29A: Screen role for Skippy the dog (ASTA) — is "the dog" his last name?
  • 68A: Mustachioed "Simpsons" character (NED) — Hens love roosters, geese love ganders ...

  • 21D: Virgins of ancient Rome (VESTALS) — I've heard them called "Vestal Virgins" (mostly in "Whiter Shade of Pale"), but not just VESTALS. Interesting fact—the school where I teach is technically located in VESTAL, NY.
  • 30D: Two-handled vase (AMPHORA) — what's an AMPHERE? 'Cause I had AMPHERE. I think it's some kind of electrified AMPHORA. Or what a really drunk guy calls an "Amphitheater." Or a pan floutist...

  • 47D: Syrian presidential family (ASSADS) — it's a very crossword-friendly name for some reason.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 12:02 AM  

The Eagles lost tonight, which means Da Bears are at least a second seed in the Playoffs, so I’m in a jolly good mood and want to sing Waltzing Matilda with a slight variation to honor today’s puzzle:

Once a jolly swagman sat beside the billabong,
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he sat and waited by the billabong
You'll come a waltzing MY TILDE with me

Waltzing MY TILDE, waltzing MY TILDE
You'll come a waltzing MY TILDE with me
And he sang as he sat and waited by the billabong
You'll come a waltzing MY TILDE with me.

Down came a jumbuck to drink beside the billabong
Up jumped the swagman and seized him with glee
And he sang as he tucked jumbuck in his tuckerbag
You'll come a waltzing MY TILDE with me

Waltzing MY TILDE, waltzing MY TILDE
You'll come a waltzing MY TILDE with me
And he sang as he sat and waited by the billabong
You'll come a waltzing MY TILDE with me.

Down came the stockman, riding on his thoroughbred,
Down came the troopers, one, two, three.
"Where's the jolly jumbuck you've got in your tuckerbag?
Who'll come a waltzing MY TILDE with me?

Waltzing MY TILDE, waltzing MY TILDE
You'll come a waltzing MY TILDE with me
And he sang as he sat and waited by the billabong
You'll come a waltzing MY TILDE with me.

Up jumped the swagman and plunged into the billabong,
"You'll never catch me alive," cried he
And his ghost may be heard as you ride beside the billabong,
You'll come a waltzing MY TILDE with me.

Waltzing MY TILDE, waltzing MY TILDE
You'll come a waltzing MY TILDE with me
And he sang as he sat and waited by the billabong
You'll come a waltzing MY TILDE with me.

John Go Bears!

Jonah 12:21 AM  

Don't really understand the APAT/JALAP.../ANGLO decision (especially with downs like AJA and ALG). Is ANGLO as a theme supporter really worth it?

Why not DRAT/JALAP/SHILO (downs DJS, RAH, ALI)? I'm sure there are plenty of other better options too.

Anonymous 12:30 AM  

Jonah - You don't understand Pit-a-pat? Clap your hands....

Anonymous 1:18 AM  

Peggy Lee - Mañana is good enough for me....

chefwen 1:56 AM  

We have a dog named Skippy, he doesn't look anything like ASTA, more like a Sun Bear. He started coming over to our house to steal shoes out of our garage. Found out that he was picked up by one of our neighbors as a stray at his daughter,s school. He named him Scrappy, we named him Skippy, his roommate could never remember his name, so he called him Bob, one of my friends thought he looked more like a Dave. Needless to say, he's a very smart but somewhat confused doggy. He's living the life of Riley now so I'm thinking he might gain a fifth name.

I really liked this one. Not too fond of PINA COLADAS, love JALAPENO PEPPERS, LAS VEGAS O.K. for a couple of days and then I'm over it. Love DAHLIA's but they seem to be the favorite food of snails.

Thanks Patrick Merrell, a good Wednesday.

andrea carlita michaels 2:30 AM  

This was fantastic!!!!!!
Loved that he got every Spanish word that you ever see in a puzzle and that the Ns went both ways!!!!!!!!

I tried to squeeze MANANAMANANA in which I think is slightly more real, but small fudge for a brilliant idea!

No puedo hablar Espanol pero yo wondered if LAVE was how you say to wash en Espanol as well.

48A is ISTO and I'll betcha at one point in the construction it was ESTO, or maybe where ASTA is...

And, channeling Rex, did the same on oHYES and looked at THREoT for longer than I should have trying to figure out WHICH letter was wrong...

Messup with POisON for POTION, as I can never remember how to spell ISAO's name, tho I know it involves the same letters of his last name rearranged, and dropping the K, or something like that!

Penso que La puzzela cruces esta muy bueno si usted hablas Espanol o no!

r.alphbunker 3:28 AM  

~OK. Liked it a lot better when I realized that the tilde was in both the across and down words. The wikipedia entry for tilde is massive.

JaxInL.A. 4:08 AM  

I LOVED this puzzle and couldn't wait to fly here and give a shout out to Mr. Merrell on his wonderful opus. What fun! 

Solved from the bottom up for some reason, and when I realized that the ñ went both ways at the mañana/piñon cross, well, I got a big grin on my face that lasted for the whole puzzle.

@andrea, lave is indeed third person singular, present tense for lavar, to wash.  You see it all the time in restaurant bathrooms above the sink commanding you to "lave las manos" before returning to work. (In that case it's the command form, but we don't have to go there.)  

I found the theme rich and rewarding, like a great chile relleno, with a bit of spice but still very smooth.

Too tired to note all the wonderful theme-supporting answers, but I couldn't till morning to write.  Off to bed for me. Thanks, Mr. Merrell!!!

Monimen:loan sharks for this week's mermen?  

Anonymous 5:53 AM  

A very enjoyable puzzle!

Besides the theme answers, and their crosses, very nice symmetric placement of Spanish words with Latin American connotations. PABLO/LAS VEGAS, DAHLIA/MESAS, BAMBA/AMIGOS, MARIACHI/TILDE, ANGLO/OMBRE. 19 related answers in all; quite dense.

I ended up with MAÑANA mEÑOR, crossed with mOP… Having some after-thoughts, I googled it, but no illuminating hits, translation gives “lower morning”. Could that mean early morning??? Then it dawned on me that it could be MAÑANA SEÑOR (tomorrow morning, sir!); checked for SOP; bingo; what a relief!

As Ñ is an ancient scribe writing convention for NN, this puzzle also qualified as a rebus type.

From Bangna/Bangkok

imsdave 5:53 AM  

Ulrich will be pleased.

Rex was on the EASTlawn and I was in the EASTwing.

Not sure how I feel about this one, but it had pretty good teeth for a Wednesday.

donkos 8:10 AM  

Although there are 4 tildes in the puzzle, I took the theme as "Familiar Spanish Words or phrases" - as there were 13 clues that were in Spanish but are commonly used in English

mmorgan 8:45 AM  

I hate to nit-pick, but I would say the
theme for this puzzle is the letter "Ñ" (pronounced "enye") rather than tilde. In Spanish, an N with a tilde is an "enye". It's the use of the letter Ñ (enye), rather than the tilde, that distinguishes the theme answers. No?

mmorgan 8:55 AM  

@Jax: Not to confuse @Andrea further (or to dig myself more deeply into nit-picking hell), but LAVE is the imperative (as you noted, the command form) or the present subjunctive of LAVAR, but NOT the 3rd person singular present tense, which is LAVA. Spanish verb conjugations can be nasty -- in ONE EAR, and BLAM, out the other.

jesser 8:55 AM  

I was prepared to hate this puzzle at 2D, just because it said Jersey Shore in the clue. I thought an apt answer would be 'vapid,' which would even have fit. Then I got to 18A, which reminded me of Garth Brooks' 'Two Piña Coladas,' which is a rip-off of Jimmy Buffett's 'Margaritaville,' and I was just sure I was going to hate this puzzle.

But as I worked my way south through the grid, I ran across the zesty JALAPEÑO PEPPERS, which make up a part of my daily diet, and a grin escaped. Then, at 52D, New Mexico's state tree came into view, crossing a phrase that Rex may not use or hear, but which is extremely familiar to those of us who live and breathe in the Land of MAÑANA.

Las Cruces hosts an annual MARIACHI Conference that draws thousands to the Pan American Center on the NMSU campus. Some of the celebrations feature sharp-dressed kids battling PIÑATAs!

By the time it was solved and done, I loved this puzzle! Tildes rule! Viva Nuevo Mexico!

Rewerg! (What one must do if one werged poorly in the first place) -- jesser

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

I think that this puzzle was a response to all the complainers who don't like when the word ano is used in a puzzle.

Anonymous 9:04 AM  

(What's "BAP"?)

OldCarFudd 9:09 AM  

Now if someone can make a puzzle with crossing umlauted Us, we can quit bellyaching about diacritical marks forever. This was brilliant! When I saw Nina crossing pinacoladas, my eyebrows went way-y-y up, and I wondered whether Patrick would be able to pull this trick off in the whole puzzle. He did, and I'm majorly impressed.

John V 9:13 AM  

Liked this, agreee with medium. Oddly, only mis-step was 64D, wound up with MOP, so had Manana Menor (go figure). Last to fall into place was 33D/43A, just not seeing Algeria(ALG).

One of those puzzles whose first pass looked like a Jackson Pollock painting, but came together eventually.

@Anonymous: BAP?

John the [] 9:18 AM  

@Anon 9:04 BAPtist

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

ah, gracias!

Christy 9:31 AM  

Great theme, difficult puzzle for this beginner. Couldn't get AJA/APAT/VESTALS or OMBR/ESP/HASP. Alas. Took forever, a DNF, but totally worth it.

joho 9:46 AM  

@imsdave, I,too, thought of Ulrich when solving, didn't he bring up doing a puzzle just like this?

RENAME at 4A is a shout out to @andrea carlita michaels.

@Rex, I also had EASTlawn, my only writeover.

Fantastic puzzle, Patrick Merrell, you have done what many have been clamoring for!

Mexican food sounds great tonight!

Harold 10:12 AM  

Yahtzee! Man, I love me my Yahtzee! I wish someone had written an essay, wrote a song or something about Yahtzee! Wait, here is such a tribute to the greatness of Yahtzee!

David L 10:14 AM  

Considering that the only Spanish I know is crossword Spanish, this turned out to be easier than I thought it would. I had OMBRA/ASP at the end, and had to guess at the E instead to get Senor Happy Pencil to appear. So that's kind of a cheat, I guess. I figured OMBRA was a Spanishy enough name for a card game, and I didn't see why there might not have been a story in which someone gave someone else an ASP as an (unwanted) gift...

Samantha 10:22 AM  

I also had FOB before I realized it wouldn't work. You're thinking (as was I) of "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry (which would be seasonal, after all) but I've got to say that the movie "The Gift" is an interesting little piece of film, with a bang-up cast ... even Keanu Reeves and Katie Holmes perform well. I'd recommend it, but then, I'm a huge Cate Blanchett fan. :)

Sparky 10:22 AM  

Enjoyed this puzzle with all the extra words around the theme. Didn't realize the enyes crossed till I came here. DNF as had pro in 14A and never disloged it.

Patrick Merrrell is really good at this kind of thing.

Good Wednesday to us all. Off to a fine start.

Van55 10:23 AM  

If you're gonna construct in America, ya better learn to construct in English! ;-)

Nice puzzle. Because I failed to proofread, I ended up with MOGOOD and a DNF.

retired_chemist 10:26 AM  

Did not realize the elegance of the Ñs until I came here. Splendid!

Spent many minutes trying to find my error, which turned out to be OMBRA/ASP iinstead of OMBRE/ESP. Do. Not. Know. That. Game. OMBRA sounds like a perfectly reasonable Spanish word. Do. Not. Know. That. Play. But my version is a truly macabre one. You can imagine the plot. Kinda like James Patterson's The 8th Confession, at least in that poison snakes are involved. And, of course, ASP is my favorite wrong answer.

NW was my nemesis. Had PRO for ACE and Big SUR. Agree that ONE (as in ONE EAR) is lame, and it wasn't there until I was forced into it. Finally erased the entire section and started it with downs. DENSE gave me all four crosses I needed.

Several thumbs up for a memorable puzzle. Tilde meet again, Mr. Merrell.

imsdave 10:28 AM  

It just occurred to me that there was a missed opportunity in the cluing - 39D - Spain, to the Spanish (abbr.)

retired_chemist 10:29 AM  

@ David L 10:14 - great minds think alike?

Lindsay 10:31 AM  

Nothing to add. Liked it a lot.

David L 10:45 AM  

@retired_chemist: we should work up a synopsis and sell it to the James Patterson writing syndicate for (puts tip of little finger in corner of mouth) one million dollars.

Also, I just checked out the wiki entry on OMBRE and was reminded that my family used to play the related but now little known game of Solo Whist when I was a wee one. I've never since met anyone who knew it.

Two Ponies 10:47 AM  

Well, we asked for this and Patrick M. delivered. Good job!
It's funny how much Spanish we know even if we don't speak it.
If anyone ever does this with the umlaut as OldCarFudd suggested I might be a goner but maybe I know more Germanic language stuff than I realize as well.
Secret word seems appropriate today:

CoffeeLvr 11:10 AM  

At last I return to my morning routine. First, take care of the dog's needs, then coffee, then puzzle, then Rex, then this community.

Short explanation of my absence here: the day before I left for the family reunion, my computer died. Alas, I had to wait until son's post Christmas visit to get the replacement hooked up to the internet. The good thing is that I broke the habit of spending way too much time online.

My reunion trip to ABQ, Grand Canyon, Santa Fe and more was wonderful. Family, then solitude. Great food, great beer, and mediocre sustenance. Shabby digs, very nice lodging. Beautiful vistas, learned a lot, had a bit of adventure, had a an opportunity for romance (passed), slated my thirst for Native American culture, and added to my cradle board collection. Could not have been better.

Thanks to someone on this blog for recommending "Gabriel's" North of Santa Fe. My sophisticated cousin (in contrast to my redneck cousins) from Calif. accompanied me, and we both found it charming, relaxing, and delicious. We did start with the table-side guacamole. Thank you again.

As for today's puzzle, I have gotten rusty, but I did gnaw away at this one successfully!

Matthew G. 11:11 AM  

I thought this was a Wednesday tour de force (if you'll pardon my French instead of Spanish). To each one's own, but I'm dumbfounded by Rex's comment that this "doesn't feel like much of a theme." On the contrary, this is as thematic of a midweek puzzle as I've ever seen, if you accept (as I do) that words other than the long answers and the reveal can count as thematic.

I rate this pretty high on the "genius construction" meter, because it's jampacked with Spanish both inside and outside the typical theme spots, and yet completely intelligible (if challenging) to someone such as myself with no formal knowledge of Spanish. And unlike some recent hard-to-construct puzzles, this was as fun to solve as it must have been hard to construct. I had to put my mind in a somewhat different place from usual to work through this one, and that's what makes solving fun. Working through this one was just so dang satisfying and fresh. Cuatro estrellas!

Color me a little surprised that Will allowed MANANA SENOR, given that the "lazy Mexican" stereotype is something people are very sensitive to and which I was very much on guard against in my own days as a newspaper copy editor. But that uneasy note is a matter for Will and the Times ombudsman, not a detraction from my solving experience.

archaeoprof 11:30 AM  

Heard the Pina Colada song on the oldies station at the gym this morning.

Pretty hard Wednesday.

Writeovers included Pedro/PABLO, Tahiti/TAIPEI, apace/AMAIN.

Anonymous 11:30 AM  

I'm disappointed Rex. We get a video of Rupert Holmes but nothing for 69a?!!!?

balto 11:36 AM  

This one sorta killed me -- but I had fun doing it.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

I read this blog regularly and love it though have never posted. Today I feel compelled to point out that I found 17 Spanish themed answers that were all symmetrically placed except one (pinon / ladle is not spanish themed). I think that is a terrific theme! Thanks to Patrick Merrell for the puzzle and to the community here for my daily puzzle fix. -Ellen

retired_chemist 11:40 AM  

No theme? David L and I will contemplate that MANAÑA,SEÑOR, while having PIÑA COLADAS and JALAPEÑO PoPPERS and listening to MARIACHI music in Mexico, where we will go to work on the plot of our million dollar novel.

mmorgan 11:51 AM  

@Matthew G.: You mean "¡Cuatro estrellas!" ;-)

copticat: a feline eye doctor prone to doing impressions

Bob Kerfuffle 11:52 AM  

Who composed this brilliant puzzle?

Patrick Merrell.

Well, ARMADA known!

joho 11:56 AM  

FWIW, I wear a ONEEAR headset while working on the phone all day. Much lighter and more comfortable to my ear(s) than those "ear muff" style sets. Plus the headband on those wreaks havoc to the hair!

Ulrich 11:59 AM  

@imsdave, joho: Yes, yes, yes! I finally got my wish. Puzzle heaven for me--and quite easy on my "as-it-felt" scale. Not only were there the crossing ñ's, they were embedded into a plethora of Spanish words/references, as many have noticed. What elegance! What a feat!

Now, Patrick, do the same for umlauts--please! (Feel free to ask for advice)

jyp0625 12:02 PM  

I had great difficulty with this one. Solved about 60% before needing help. I don't know much Spanish but managed to get the theme answers. The puzzle gave plenty of opportunities for a non-pro like me to enter some amusing wrong entries:
REVAMP for RENAME at 4A, LAST UP for LAP TOP at 19D, OH YES for AH YES at 57D, MAMBA for BAMBA at 50D and initially WEST ROOM for EAST ROOM at 42D.
One other comment. I like a SAMBA/SAP much better than BAMBA/BAP in 50D and 50A.
Overall this was a challenging one. While I can admire the skills of the constructor for me this was not an enjoyable one.

ArtLvr 12:05 PM  

Für Elise might get Ulrich started, but then what? Tough indeed! Meanwhile, I really loved this one -- Kudos to Patrick for a classic!


Anonymous 12:07 PM  

hand up for asp. fun puzzle! what are els?(26A)?

Anonymous 12:17 PM  

@anon 12:07
EL is a variant of "L" the name of Chicago rapid transit system.

chefbea 12:22 PM  

Tough tough puzzle for me. DNF

Good old Bea Arthur

Near 50 today and will be 67 on Saturday. Maybe we can have our Hoppin John on the patio

Anonymous 12:29 PM  

@Anon @12:07PM ELS are short for ELevated rails. The mass transit in Chicago.

Van55 12:30 PM  

"EL" = elevated railway, I think.

syndy 12:51 PM  

Crunchy good!loved the cluing for 44 across-made me giggle! had eastwing and oh yes but the marichis straightened that right to 63 across's PC-ness always said a lack of planning on your part does not constitute a crisis on my part!

Masked and Anonymous 1:04 PM  

Fairly easy trip, despite knowing only pigeon Spanish. Tilde-esque. Got one letter wrong, at JALuPENO/VESTuLS. Can't spell worth diddle, plus maybe subconsciously was tryin' desperately to squeeze one meager U into the grid. Nope. Nada. Does Spanish have U's? GUacamole?

Thought the NW put up the mucho-est fight.

Have a Happy New Year, 44 and Rexites.

Stan 1:04 PM  

Olé Olé for this groundbreaking puzzle. Congrats, Patrick, on making it both clever and fun.

william e emba 1:16 PM  

My only real strains were the BAMBA/BAP/PIÑON crosses. I tried various letters for the Protestant -A-, since I wasn't too sure about the downs in both cases. And I kept looking for an acronym, which didn't help.

Ever since Rex made a big deal about AJA and Steely Dan, that answer has become a personal gimme.

We had the Tortilla Flats PABLO a few Saturdays ago. Curiously, the Saturday clue was a bit more specific than this Wednesday clue.

I certainly learned AMPHORA somewhere as part of my general education, but I really really learned it from Asterix. In particular, there was one scene at some performance with a little commercial break involving actors dressed up as giant jugs. Goodness gracious, somebody is actually offering one of them as a figurine! Woo!!

CaseAce 1:27 PM  

"tis ASSAD day over at Wordplay as Patrick Merrell, has submitted what may just be his last puzzle while still a host of the site?

PlantieBea 1:39 PM  

Bravo Patrick Merrell and thanks for this caliente Wednesday creation!

I ended with an error like ACME's with POISON instead of POTION. Had to write over the EAST lawn and PAOLO. I worried I'd never get the Spanish meadows, but the VESTALS helped me there.

Anonymous 2:13 PM  

thanks to all for els.shouda known.

OldCarFudd 2:41 PM  

A puzzle with crossing umlauted letters might give the constructor more flexibility than this one allowed. First, German As and Os, as well as Us, can have umlauts. Second, French and Spanish occasionally use umlauts, although perhaps not in words commonly known to English speakers. And there are English variant spellings, too, like an umlaut on the second O of cooperate. But I suspect what appeared might be a tough Saturday puzzle. And I ain't volunteering to construct it!

Joe 3:40 PM  

Good puzzle. Not great, but good. Good because the construction and cluing let you figure out the unknown (OMBRE, AMPHORA).
THAT is a good puzzle.

Must AGAIN express my complete disdain for PIT-.
As in....Pit-a-Pat.
It's PITTERPAT to most people under sixty years of age.

Couple of great clues: "One turned off for take off" and esp. "It requires one who's blind with a bat."

THE GIFT? Most notable for the scene with a naked Katie Holmes.

Doesn't APU on The Simpson's have a mustache as well?

And if you ever see Rupert Holmes in a bar, DO NOT have the waiter bring a Piña Colada over to him because he will track you down and beat you to death.
However, if you offered him a Ford Escape, he'd probably take it.

Noam D. Elkies 8:03 PM  

That was fuñ! (And iññññterestiñg, as Rex ñotes — añd yes, 1D:PABLO/58D:TILDE is ñot the oñly symmetrically matched supportiñg pair; also yes, a miñor pity about 52D:PIÑON goiñg uñmatched.) Started solviñg from the bottom, so got 58D:~ quickly which made it easy to work back up. ¡Muchísimas gracias, y feliz año nuevo!


P.S. Umlauts? FÜR_ELISE is good; there's also DOPPELGÄNGER/HÄNDEL, though even English speakers who know these words may not be aware of the umlauts therein.

fergus 8:35 PM  

I'll bet this one took at least a standard deviation longer than normal for me, and even though I did it outside with slow chilled fingers and no reading glasses, it was unusual for so few of the Clues to fall. So I'm wondering if SFman's figures will show it more Challenging than Rex's rating?

Had always thought that LAS VEGAS meant 'the stars' so I'm glad to toss out that misconception. Had ALBania before ALGeria, and therefore found ANGLO to be more risque (PC-wise, though I don't care) than MANANA.

Sfingi 8:52 PM  

@Anon1202 - that's a lotta typin.

Although I HTG for OCEAN (stupid show), AJA, ANNA (sports), ISAO (sports), and OYL (thought it was some sort of beaver), I felt this was a very smart puzzle, once I got the theme.

One that kept me busy was the character in Tortilla Flat - there are 5 with 5 letters: Danny, Pilon, PABLO, and JESUS.

Also the NED/Apu wondering.

I was once serenaded by a MARIACHI band in Los Gatos' Old Town. I could take that any day.

Of course, had fob before ESP, wAsh before LAVE, pit bull before pit APAT, and WeST Wing before EAST ROOM. But that's a sign of a good puzzle.

And though I'll be 66 MANANA/DOMANI, I say PITTerPAT.
@Chefbea - Ain't it grand to have a birfday between Xmas and New Year. Not.

Mr. Shortz can allow MANANA SENOR if LA allows BLIND EYE followed by WOOD EYE.

That was the best clue for the crosswordese ASEA, ever. I'm thinking, let's see, Canary Islands..

Suggestion for LADLE: That's no_____, that's my knife!

So, we can expect umlauts?

Clark 9:33 PM  

@imsdave -- was that bonus puzzle from the other day yours? I finally got it done. It took me a few goes and a bit of googling. Thanks. I enjoyed it (and not just for the obvious reason).

fikink 9:58 PM  

@mmorgan - no, no, no. A Copticat is a god of ancient Egypt.

Anonymous 10:07 PM  

Frequent lurker but very rare poster, however I had to chime in with admiration. Great puzzle, fun solve. I've spent lots of time in Mexico, and have absolutely heard, "manana senor". I have also learned (the hard way) that use of the word "manana" in Mexico does NOT mean "tomorrow" but rather it means "not today." Sometime in the future, yes, but not today.

imsdave 10:12 PM  

@Clark - it was indeed - glad I could fit you in! I did go a little tougher this year - nice to hear it was fun for you.

mac 10:33 PM  

Great, great puzzle! Patrick must have been reading Rex's blog (or specifically our comments, or Ulrich's). I had Alb for Alg, East lawn but my leave-in mistake was 45A hair instead of hasp.... It's right, right?

@imsdave: great, better clue!

brollati: has to be something in marinara sauce.

Sfingi 10:58 PM  

@Fikink - Of course, and, since the Copts were Christian, it was a transformed holdover saint, similar to Dionysius/St. Denis; thus, St. Copticat.

the sub 2:39 AM  

If you came here looking for Thursday's puzzle commentary/answers, do not freak out, tomorrow's blog will not be posted till 8 am Eastern time. Thank you.

GILL I. 1:45 PM  

Me encanta cuando rompecabezas tienen palabras en espanol (I don't know how to make a tilde.)
Needless to say, I loved this one.
@Andrea Carlita Michaels - LAVE sus manos (wash your hands) in the "usted" or formal form.
LAVA tus manos is informal or something you'd tell your child to do. This is more of a Central/South American form of speech. I won't even begin with Castilian.
@John Go Bears.
Your first post had me in stiches. You most likely won't see this since today is Feb. 02. but "Waltzing MY TILDE" indeed
Sorry about the Bears....Go Steelers.

Anonymous 6:27 PM  

PABLO is arguably the most, well, earthy of the Friends of Danny from "Tortilla Flat."

The beauty of the tilde is that without it one must wish one's friends a happy new "ANO," which is very much different from a year.

NotalwaysrightBill 10:24 PM  

Enjoyed all the crossing enyes alot! Had to have an AJA moment to get ANGLO though. Restricting myself to VESTAL COLADAS these days, makes things a little less PIÑATA that way.

"OMBRE? OMBRE? We don't need no stinkin' OMBRE!"

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