1862 battle site / TUE 12-6-11 / Fruit named after town in Turkey / Christiania today / Elevator pioneer Otis

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Constructor: Steven E. Atwood

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: -ISH — ordinary adjectives ending in -ISH are clued literally, but with an example that plays on the pre-ISH part of the word.

Word of the Day: "SCTV" (1D: Onetime "S.N.L."-type show) —
Second City Television (SCTV) is a Canadian television sketch comedy show offshoot from Toronto's The Second City troupe that ran between 1976 and 1984. (wikipedia)
• • •
This was kind of a chore. It's like a joke that's mildly funny the first time, but then you go on to repeat it six more times, and it's less funny each time, largely because the pattern is so predictable. The one thing that made it unpredictable in a couple places also made it annoying. FLOURISH and CHERISH involve repronunciations of FLOUR and CHER, and thus the whole play on words thing is lost. I know that there is consistency at the orthographic level, but that's somehow not enough. Further, this is a very light theme—seven theme answers, but only 45 total squares [aha ... I see there are actually nine theme answers. I missed two. That's how interesting they were]. It's not clear to me why such an undemanding theme should yield such a dull, lifeless grid, with literally *no* good answers. I mean, they're mostly fine, adequate ... but because the theme answers are all just ordinary, unremarkable words, and because the grid is so highly segmented that there's not much room for longer fill, we get no interesting answers. Anywhere. At all. The few 7+-letter answers are all lifeless. HASHANAH is weak on its own (see also CARTA, DU LAC). And SCOOPERS ... well, no -ERS-ending word is ever really "good," and do you really want the most original word in your grid to be one that makes people think of dog poop? I don't know. This puzzle just didn't work for me.

Theme answers:
  • 4D: Extravagant, like a W.C.? (LAVISH)
  • 20A: Disappear, like a moving vehicle? (VANISH)
  • 18A: Be healthy, like a type of meal? (FLOURISH)
  • 39A: Love, like a popular singer? (CHERISH)
  • 48D: Do away with, like a 1950s car feature? (FINISH)
  • 56A: Hurt, like a groan-inducing joke? (PUNISH)
  • 60A: Wave menacingly, like a red-hot iron? (BRANDISH)  
  • 24A: Obtrusively bright, like a needlefish? (GARISH
  • 49A: Touch up, like a candidate for office? (POLISH
This started out tough. Both SHILOH (1A: 1862 battle site) and CASABA (14A: Fruit named after a town in Turkey) took some work to uncover (clues weren't transparent), and since I wasn't expecting to see theme answers that were a. six letters long and b. up in the NW corner, it took a little bit before I figured out what those clues were going for with their question-markiness. "Familiar" hardly seems strong enough, or specific enough, for AMIE (34A: Familiar femme). I have no idea who Sarah RAMOS is (42A: Actress Sarah of "Parenthood"). "Parenthood" is some show I've barely heard of and (obviously) don't watch. In fact, I assumed the clue was referencing the movie of the same name. How would you know? Couple of interesting crosswordese moments today. We see OTIS in the puzzle a lot, but rarely (or far less often) do we see his first name, ELISHA (63A: Elevator pioneer Otis). I remembered it, though I wanted it to be ELIJAH at first. Then there's OSLO—that clue is tougher than your average OSLO clue, but somehow I remembered that little bit of trivia about its formerly being called "Christiania" (8D: Christiania, today). FILCH is a word that always sounds NASTY to me—perhaps because of its resemblance to a (slang) word that *is* truly NASTY, which I will refrain from repeating here.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Free Lunch 12:15 AM  

I wouldn't say the *whole* play on words thing was lost.

GILL I. 12:37 AM  

Well, let me be one of the first (or second or third) to say I *really* enjoyed this Tuesday puzzle. I didn't think it was the least bit dull or lifeless. Maybe I'm just easy to please, but I liked just about every answer and found myself adding "ish" to them all. I like NASTY(ish). And then there was LAVISH running down to team up with CARMEL(ish)- crossing Polish. Not a TONTO answer in the lot as far as this femme is concerned.

Unknown 12:38 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greene 12:45 AM  

Ah, thanks @Rex. Now you've reminded me of the gag on "Family Guy" where the Quahog Dyslexic Film Society shows the movie "Fletch." I'm still amazed they got that one past the censors.

jae 1:45 AM  

I liked it too. Cute theme and the 3 sixes on each side were pretty good . I mean, I wouldn't mind having some ASIAGO in CARMEL with Marilu. Medium-tough for me, NW took a little work. Sara RAMOS is a bit obscure for Tues. but the series is actually not bad. Too bad it's likely to get axed.

retired_chemist 1:49 AM  

Count me among the fans of this puzzle. I figured out the theme at GARISH and the rest fell rather easily.

Started with SHILOH as the first six letter Civil War battle I thought of. CASABA came from a couple of crosses, though spelling 6D Rosh HOSHANAH didn't help. Nor did RARIFY @ 23D. Almost thought putting in TONTO (21A) was a joke. Yet it was right.....

The fill seemed fresh to me, with a good blend of gimmes and interesting answers. A textbook Tuesday IMO.

Thank you, Mr. Atwood.

syndy 1:50 AM  

Count me in as easy to amuse-how can you NOT like PUNISH cluedlike this?Perish the thought!and ISHE how meta is that?

auroras carmel michaels 2:15 AM  

I agree with the SCOOPERS part, I would have gone with icecream over dogdoo personally.
(Is doo one "o" or two? I was having this discussion just the other day, wondered about Scooby-doo if his last name is doo, that's unfortunate. I didn't know he was the dog, I thought he might be the bearded guy...
and then we discussed whether or not Scooby was an exact copy of Astro from the Jetsons, right? They both talk the same, right? "Rats right reorge."
(And I'm semi-ashamed/pleased to say that this discussion was with a world famous astro-physicist...
Hmmm, maybe he's a rastro-physicist!)

ANYWAY, I thought this should get points for originality...
and the whole Otis thing made me think that might be a fun idea for a puzzle to clue everything the opposite of how you usually see it in a puzzle.
Has that been done???

I tried ELIaHu, but I think that's the Yale guy.

Growing up in Minneapolis, we used to say "ISH" instead of "ICK".
(Back me up on this, Minnesotans.)

And I have to hang my head in shame...I didn't get the theme till more than half-way thru, I mean I noticed it on PUNISH and LAVISH but thought that was a coincidence...
but I actually thought CHERISH might be the name of one of these new young gal singers, like a Katy Perry-type that I didn't know!

And one thing sort of fun, 47A TYPEO looked like a TYPO. Is that Meta? ;)

Now I will sit back and see what @dk makes of STRIP, IMPURE, THRILL and CASABA.
(I guess how exciting or not the words in the puzzle are in the eye of the beholder!)

Anonymous 2:16 AM  

Nine,including GARISH and POLISH...

Joel 2:27 AM  

Yeah, I liked this one too. I actually agree with Rex in most of his critique about the grid, but for whatever reason I had a very enjoyable solve.

For what its worth, there's a mistake in the write-up. There are nine theme answers, not seven. I think its also important to note that amount of theme squares doesn't correlate exactly with how demanding a grid is to fill. For example, Rex mentioned that today's grid has 45 theme squares, which is the same as if you had three 15-letter theme answers. I think, though, that a grid with nine fixed theme answers is harder to fill than one with three, even if they have the same total squares.

asiago casaba mets 2:43 AM  

I think @Rex didn't realize there were 9 theme answers and actually almost 60 theme squares
(LAVISH crosses with VANISH and FINISH/PUNISH I don't know if you recount those intersecting I's, but you sort of should.)
Maybe now that it's been pointed out, he might revise his thinking on that somewhat...

And on another note, Steven E. Atwood, if there weren't strict symmetry rules, could have snuck in IMPish where IMPURE was.

I guess 9 is the new 7.

Rube 2:47 AM  

Embarrasingly I had TYPEa before TYPEO, even though I've given blood every 8 weeks for umpteen years. The difference between As and Os is very small.

Also had the same 2 spelling errors as @retired_chemist... actually I started with Hoshanna... I'll bet someone, somewhere, spells it my way. Those 5 incorrect letters made this a challenging Tuesday puzzle for me even though I eventually got them all.

Anonymous 5:20 AM  

Is everything okay? You seem more and more bitter with each passing week. I would sort of know... I've been reading your blog for years. This constant vitriol seems fairly new.

lit.doc 5:37 AM  

Hand up for enjoying this one. Just surprised that it posted on Tuesday instead of Wednesday. I look forward to hearing what recent early-week addicts think of this one.

@Greene, LOL re "Family Guy" slipping that one in, so to speak.

baja 5:51 AM  

Loved this one. Thought it was clever and had me smiling.

Z 6:32 AM  

I FINISHed with normal effort, despite a crunchier NW than normal. Caught the theme early, but still had to puzzle out CHERISH, POLISH and BRANDISH. Relatively painless, got the brain out of first gear, and even the three's were better than we often see. Put me in the I like it column.

Question, just how many Civil War battle sites were there? Civil War battle sites are of a type with Random Roman Numerals in my book.

dk 7:21 AM  

@anon at 5:20AM. I agree with your assessment, perhaps an intervention is in order. Or... we change his name to Cranky Pants of Crossworld.

I knew Andreaish Cish Mish would point out the colloquial ISH. And, she is right as always. Sorta like wicked from my Maine days. As I have adopted Wisconsin I am pleased to see DULAC (or as they might say in Chicago dah lake).

I am on the O positive side of this puzzle debate. As an all too frequent teller of bad jokes:

Did you hear about the three legged dog who walked into a bar and said: "I'm lookin for the man what shot my paw!"

*** (3 ishes) I loved PUNISH.

Baking scones with the overly rich (delicious) greek yogurt this AM. wISH me luck.

Time to VANISH.

d(dork of crossworld)k

Glimmerglass 7:25 AM  

I thought the theme was clever and well-executed. Not much clunky fill. Yes it was predictable after a couple of answers, but this is Tuesday. It's supposed to be easy. SHILOH stacked on top of CASABA was harder than the usual Tuesday, but if the solver went on to other parts of the puzzle, he/she could easily get the theme and come back to LAVISH and VANISH, which ought to solve the NW corner.

Glimmerglass 7:31 AM  

Rex is like a great chef who is also a restaurant critic. It's not fair to fault mac-and-cheese for not being alla carbonara. Maybe a great constructor shouldn't be so critical of an unpretentious Tuesday puzzle like this one.

dk 7:59 AM  

I know you want to know -- Scones with yogurt are a bit dryISH but the taste is fine-- the original recipe calls for 1.5 cups of cream so I think I need to use 2 cups of yogurt.

Did you know you can make scones in less time than it takes to drive to the donut shop?

@glimmerglass, thanks! I think I will make Mac and Cheese for dinner.

joho 8:06 AM  

No matter what @Rex thought of the puzzle I was sure he'd applaud the theme density. Nope.

My first word in was DAFT which tickled me.

@auroras carmel michaels & @dk, yes, ISH is definitely a Minnesota expression. I never heard it before moving to Minneapolis and have never heard it anywhere else since leaving.

I found this puzzle Tuesdayish and fun ... thank you, Steven E. Atwood!

jberg 8:25 AM  

Seemed easy to me, but maybe that's because I grew up in Wisconsin. Hardest part was that I kept reading the clue numbers wrong, followed by the AURORAS/AURORAe and HASHANAH/HoSHANAH dilemmas - but I just left the ambiguous letters for the crosses.

"Friend" is an understatement for 51A as well as 34A.

I just admired the 9 theme answers so much I didn't think much about the fill. I think it would be really hard to come up with many 15s that would work for the theme, so the theme sort of determined the broken-up grid. Also, I have no idea never having constructed, but does it make it harder that so many of the theme squares are ISH?

Busy morning for me, so off to work.

evil doug 8:30 AM  

Here's my theory on Michael:

Some time back I implored him to reengage in the discussion here. While he and I have had a few dust-ups, his comments kept the fire burning. He said the number of posters was relatively constant, so he was content to leave the chat to us. Moreover, he's become very active in his Facebook and Twitter postings (I reeeeeally don't understand the pleasure people find in Twitter), which also cuts into his time to play with us here.

So since his input is limited to his opening commentary, I think he must figure it's his only chance to fully unload. I've got to believe he's feeling some burnout, too. He sees the same stuff day after day with rare exception. He does even the hardest (for us) puzzles in three minutes or so. Hard to imagine there's much thrill in continuing what once was such a novel site.

Oh, yeah: He's also got a wife, at least one growing kid, a college teaching job (I can vouch for the hours after work that can entail), and---presumably---other interests.

I suspect ere long that he'll be handing the keys to someone else to carry on his work here. But it'll never match the fun we had a couple years ago...

So that's my theory and I'm sticking to it. I minored in psychology, so obviously this is all valid and when I want Michael's opinion I'll give it to him...

ps: Andrea, now THAT was an entertaining post.

Pierre Gustave Toutant BEAUREGARD 8:35 AM  

Civil War Battlefield Protection Program

About 8,000 occasions in which hostilities occurred in the American Civil War and 384 battles.

Glitch 9:09 AM  


I concur, especially "But it'll never match the fun we had a couple years ago...".


John V 9:22 AM  

Make this one challenging for me. Hand up for NW feeling more like a Wed/Thurs corner; crosses seemed a bit tough. Thought the stack in the SE was challenging for a Tuesday.

Fun theme, gotten about half way through. Favorite write-over: had TITTER for THRILL. Had SEAR for CHAR @22A. Wanted TWTWTW for 1D. Rexites remember that one?

BRANDISH: the regular way to start your day?

ThemeCop 9:29 AM  

Twas an okay solve for me, but I saw one big flaw in the theme - GARISH. All of the other -ish words are verbs being redefined as adjectives, which I thought was a nice idea. This, I thought, explained why answers like SPANISH or PUCKISH were nowhere to be found. But then GARISH stood out so, well, garishly, that I thought the verb-adjective motif was accidental - and that's never a good thing. How can you have eight theme answers that obey a rule and one that doesn't, and the one that doesn't occurs just haphazardly among the rest? I'm beginning to think that consistent theming IS rocket science.

jackj 9:32 AM  

At the beginning of the puzzle, after I wrote in LAVISH as the answer to “Extravagant, like a W. C.?”, I made a note in the margin that it was a cute pun. Little did I know then, that there were 8 more of these “cute puns” yet to come.

And, the result is a thoroughly delightful puzzle from Steven Atwood, on this least likely of puzzle days, when it’s usually “Terrible Tuesday” from the Times crossword.

The puzzle didn’t need a lot of support from the fill, but bits like SHILOH, CASABA, BUMRAP and CARMEL were welcome treats, as was a nod to the Pillsbury Doughboy with SPONGY and surprise, surprise, the nicest definition ever seen for that raunchy word, “raunchy”, as, only, NASTY.

What a tour de force for Mr. Atwood on what is only his second ever Times puzzle and this after an almost 5 year hiatus from his debut crossword.

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

@Aurora Carmel Michaels: Since I have stayed in MN all my life, I never noticed it was a MN thing that my mom said "Oh, ish!"

@Evil: I was thinking something similar about Rex...when I finally started doing the LATimes puzzles again after ignoring them for a long time, I went back to check PuzzleGirl's site only to find that she quit a couple months ago. No one seems to have taken up the mantle there, but I can't imagine Rex's dynasty with an empty chair.

On the other hand, he has several wonderful bloggers to relieve him when he needs a break.

I actually don't find him overly bitter or cranky, I think he just has really high standards for puzzles and doesn't care who knows it.

chefbea 9:33 AM  

Found this pretty easy. Got the theme at finish.

@dk loved your joke and the scones sound yummyish

Larry 9:34 AM  

@ThemeCop: VAN is a verb? I VANned my stuff to my new house? POL is a verb?

@Complainers: Maybe the commenters today are not as interesting as the commenters of the past, the one's who've moved to the sidelines (I'm looking at you, Wade). If the comments aren't as interesting or as fun, look at yourselves first.

davko 9:38 AM  

RAREFY strikes me as one of those words whose alternate spelling (r-a-r-i-f-y) appears in print more often than its primary one. So much so, it looked awkward for a moment -- until the crossing CHERISH pun (39A) erased all doubts.

David 9:38 AM  

Got the ISH fairly early, but not the reference to nouns in the "like a _____" part of the clue. And I wish I had, it would have enhanced my enjoyment of the puzzle, though it didn't slow up my solving at all (though I was a little slower than a normal Tuesday).

Really like the 4 6 letter stacks in the NW and SE, and also the BUMRAP in the middle.

One big hangup was CHERISH, which took a long time due to 2 writeovers - RAREFY over RARIFY and AHH over AAH. And a third writeover was AGER over AGES (don't like either answer).

jackj 9:38 AM  


In case you don’t look back at the midnight scribbles, I left this note for you late last night:

Thank you. Watched the flash mob on the Des Moines Register site. 

The Simpson College folk were terrific! They certainly livened things up at Santa's Village.

evil doug 9:51 AM  

I'm looking at you, Larry.


JenCT 9:52 AM  

@dk: I've had much better luck substituting with 1/2 or 3/4 yogurt, while still putting in some of the high-fat ingredient - cuts calories while still providing some fat & moisture.

I can't imagine writing this blog every single day...I would imagine it gets pretty old. @Rex: maybe involve more guest bloggers to give you a break?

FLOURISH took me a long time to get; also SHEM???

kirble 10:05 AM  


Your assertion that all the changes are Verb->Adjective is incorrect. In fact, the whole theme is NOUN -> Other part of speech.

LAV(ISH): Noun -> Adjective
VAN(ISH): Noun -> Verb
FLOUR(ISH): Noun -> Verb
CHER(ISH): Noun -> Verb
FIN(ISH): Noun -> Verb
PUN(ISH): Noun -> Verb
BRAND(ISH): Noun -> Verb
GAR(ISH): Noun -> Adjective
POL(ISH): Noun -> Verb

archaeoprof 10:13 AM  

Loved it, especially PUNISH.

RE: 15A. Any archaeologist who tells you they weren't inspired by Indiana Jones is lying.

@Evil et al: I'd hesitate to guess Rex's mood from his posts. Then again, some months ago a member of our community emailed me to say I hadn't seemed quite like myself lately. In fact I had been going through a difficult time. I was quite touched by that act of digital kindness.

OldCarFudd 10:19 AM  

I thoroughly enjoyed this, and got several guffaws.

Andrea - I spent six years in Minnesota. I sometimes say ISH, but never realized I had picked it up there.

I'm surprised no one has commented on HARA kiri. It's the Japanese ritual suicide, literally meaning slit belly (does that pass the breakfast test?) During WWII it was routinely mispronounced hari kari in the US. The Japanese don't like to call it hara kiri; they prefer the term seppuku.

JaxInL.A. 10:33 AM  

I liked the theme and did not find the fill as dull as Rex did. On the other hand, today's LA Times puzzle is marvelously Scrabbly, with loads of really interesting fill. Compare and contrast.

I am taking a class on the Nevi'im, or the Prophets section of the Hebrew Bible. We just did the book of Elijah which also includes his successor Elisha. Somewhere that name pairing must have seeped into Rex's brain as well.

I have not read the Prophets with much attention before. Elijah is a hoot. He shows up without preamble telling the evil King Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel that the land will be struck with drought because they are such lousy rulers. He buggers off and has some adventures (including raising a boy from the dead) and comes back three years later to challenge Ahab's 450 priests of Ba'al to a pray-off. He lets the big group go first and choose the best bull for sacrifice, and when their prayers get no response he TAUNTs them by saying that maybe their god didn't hear them because he was taking a nap, or left town. Then he builds an altar, makes sure to prove that no spark could accidentally ignite it, gives a simple prayer, and the whole things gets consumed in divine fire. Nyah, nyah, nyah. There's more, but that's enough scripture for a Tuesday.

hazel 10:39 AM  

I think if i had to think up entertaining commentary each and every day, i would start to resent the actual puzzles - and take it out on them - unless they were by Patrick Berry, in which case I would anticipate and relish the automatic awesomeness. But that's me. Still, 5 cents, please.

@Rex - we'll have you thoroughly dissected by the end of the day. If you could let us know any other problems, symptoms you are experiencing, that would be helpful.

I loved this puzzle. I like ISHes.

Matthew G. 10:57 AM  

Well, today is one of those occasional days when I have no idea what Rex is talking about. I thought this was a much better than average Tuesday puzzle. Not sure why the number of theme squares matters -- I think it's more rewarding for the solver to have a lot of theme entries throughout the grid so that almost everything touches a theme entry. (Is a higher square count more impressive to a constructor? I don't know and I don't care -- I'm a solver.)

And as puns go, these were good ones. I rate this several notches above most pun-themed puzzles for two reasons. First, none of them were groaners. Second, and more important, the puns were deductible, and once you catch the theme you can enjoy guessing them. A theme that actively adds to the solving experience is always better than one where you get them all from the crosses and chuckle or complete a list, etc.

4.5 stars.

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

Feel better!

Two Ponies 10:58 AM  

I thought this was great fun.
Garish was my favorite.
The fill was pretty good too.
Rasher, troves and spongy caught my eye.

Tita 11:00 AM  

Lordie - never "got" the theme - just saw words ending in -ISH! I'm obviously waiting till too late at night to start solving.

Fun Tuesday for me - thought it was "crunchy" as y'all say...
Great cluing like Pitchfork-shaped letters, Make More Refined followed by Adulterated, Maze accesses, and the very timely Touch up, like a candidate for office?
(Wish we had candidates that didn't need so much POLISHing...sigh)

I was disORIENTED when TONTO really was 21A...

Also thought there would be lots of comments about
Refine/RAREFY crossing NASTY, and all the other supporting salaciousness:
IMPURE, THRILL, AMIE, and oh, CASABA... (thanks acme - I missed that one...!)

@jberg - while 51A is certainly more than a "friend", AMIE can definitely be "just" that.

Uma-->UTe-->UTA stemmed from my refusal to believe TONTO.

CCs - a digital-age vestigial tail from typewriter and carbon paper days...

(btw - 28A - fit for a Fri/Sat, no?)

r.alphbunker 11:02 AM  

A disturbing post from @evil doug today. Rexville must survive. If Rex Parker wants to stop writing the blog then I hope that he keeps the blog URL active.

All that would be required to keep Rexville alive is a comments link and a donations button (and maybe the Rex Parker avatar). RP would have to do nothing, we would do the work and he would get the donations.

Crowdsourcing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowdsourcing) would also be a possibility. Imagine a page with 100 different Rex Parker avatars with expressions varying from utter horror to wide eyed amazement. We could visit the site, click the icon that expressed our feelings for the puzzle and then click the comments link. The avatars that were clicked the most could move to the top.

John V 11:10 AM  

@Tita re:28A fit Fri/Sat? I'd vote no. As I recall, having read and owning a copy of same, it was pretty main-stream when new, at least for NYTimes readers.

jae 11:11 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 11:16 AM  

@davko & David -- Exactly my problem with the CHERISH, RAREFY, AHH section which, with NW, pushed this towards the tough side of medium for me.

@evil -- That burnout thing works both ways. And, I'm with you on the Twitter observation.

Tita 11:16 AM  

@John V - ouch!
I stand humbled, but uncorrected...
I remain adamant that anything I don't know MUST be obscure!!
(I got that by Rexmosis: osmosis of snarky wheelhouse attitudes from the 31st best solver to wannabees...)
And I say that only is the most respectful sense of the ward "snark", Rex!)

(Hey - can I borrow that book??)

Mel Ott 11:21 AM  

@JenCt: I think SHEM is the name from which we get the term 'Semite'.

John V 11:26 AM  

@Tita Welcome to borrow. Let me know next time you're coming down I-95. I'm 5 minutes off exit 12 or 13.

r.alphbunker 11:27 AM  

A disturbing post from @evil doug today. Rexville must survive. If Rex Parker decides to stop writing the blog then I hope that he keeps the blog URL alive.

All that is required to keep Rexville alive is a comments link and a donation button (and maybe the avatar). We would do the work and he would get the donations. It would be like a pension after he retires.

Anonymous 11:35 AM  

@r.alphbunker I sure hope Will Shortz does not just decide to quit publishing the puzzle all together if Rex quits.

Anonymous 11:38 AM  

@anon 11:35
Will Shortz is quitting? I sure hope the NYT does not decide to abandon the puzzle all together.

Will Shortz 11:42 AM  

Well I guess the cat is out of the bag.As of 01/01/2012 The New York Times will publish only Sudoku and KenKen 7 days a week.I plan to use the extra time to work on my ping pong serve.
Its been a great run.

Masked and Anonymous 11:49 AM  

One of the best TuesPuzs ever, theme-wise. Wheels came off the fill wagon a little bit, in the SE corner, but hey...tryin' to accomodate 9 theme answers is a full-time construction-fight, I'll betcha.

Fave fill: ISHE. Looks like some sorta mutant theme answer, unleashed on an unsuspecting public. Could be the title for a whole new schlock movie franchise.

Fave clue: "Extravagant, like a W.C.?" Wanted SH*TTY, initially. Talk about yer not-yer-everyday clue. And plopped smack dab into one hell of an intimidatin' 6x4 opening corner. Bravishimo, constructor dude.

Fave #31 rant: Actually, the whole thing was magnificent. Totally entertaining, even as a Yin to my Yang. Don't ever change, snark-o-potamus rex.

thUmbswayUp, all around.

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

What, no jumble?

(Capcha - gorisms: "I invented the internet")

North Beach 12:02 PM  

@Rex: "THEME: -ISH — ordinary adjectives ending in -ISH are clued literally, but with an example that plays on the pre-ISH part of the word. "

Is it me or does Rex have the theme wrong? Per @Kirble, most of them are verbs ending in -ISH clued literally.

I thought this was quite clever. Try thinking of words that don't use the "-esque" meaning of ISH that you can build clues off of: um, BANISH, .......

I watch Parenthood and had to look up who Sarah Ramos was (after completion). A 20-year-old actress with a minor part in the show. I would have gone with the fizzy cocktail.

@dk: your Chicago/dah lake reference makes me think you are referring to Des Plaines. I howled when I found out how that was pronounced - duhsplaynz, and said quickly, like you were saying explains.

ksquare 12:04 PM  

Lone Ranger: I'll take the young lady we rescued back to town, Tonto. You wait here at our silver mine.
Tonto: Like always, Ranger get girl and Tonto get the shaft!

Arby 12:14 PM  

I really was anticipating a positive write-up from Rex today. But I'm assuming that the Rex personality comes with an adopted curmudgeonISH attitude and we would be less satisfied with daily gushings of praise.

Took me two full passes through the clues before I got the theme, and had a smile with my Ah-Ha moment. Good puzzle.

Two Ponies 12:15 PM  

I sincerely hope that the post by "Will Shortz" is someone's idea of a joke. Is has me freaked out now.

What happened to our monthly wrap-up? I was looking forward to it.

jesser 12:15 PM  

I am in the camp with those who liked the puzzle. I was kinda sad to FINISH it. I wanted to keep going!

I have never heard of a RASHER of bacon, which is odd, because I am a major lover of bacon. My son says my arteries are gonna slam shut one day. I tell him he'll suddenly have a house and paid-off cars. He says the cars will be nice, but the damn house always smells like bacon. His is a complicated life.

I hope Rex never abandons this blog, but I concur that there are enough writer/solvers in here to keep the site alive if he were to retire (or even go on an extended sabbatical). I like our little community, and always love reading the blog and the comments. Even when it/they are snarky.

Obigo! -- Aria in the opera about the tire franchise.

JenCT 12:23 PM  

@Will Shortz: LOL

hazel 12:25 PM  

@Will Shortz and @Rex - thanks for the memories!

GillyMonster 12:36 PM  

I liked it well enough - great for a Tuesday - but managed to misspell Hashanah.

Plus, I'm so going to start pronouncing cherish as "share-ish"

Tobias Duncan 12:40 PM  

New word
Rextrospection: The act of psychoanalyzing a blogger from his posts and then making wild predictions about his future.

Noam D.[ish] Elkies 12:45 PM  

Angle, like a pessimal grade?

Hope, like #43?

[both are four-letter words]


Anonymous 12:53 PM  

62D ANT crossing 64A AUNT. These are homophones in my (Brooklyn) dialect.

Like it or loath it!

mac 1:00 PM  

Ashamed to say that I didn't realize the ishes until halfway through the puzzle, and then had to finish and look back to find out the punniness of the clues. Did notice something odd to some of them, but the crosses made this too smooth to really bother.

Looking back and rereading the clues, I like the puzzle better and better. A lot of thought went into this one.

Stay, Rex, please!

I enjoyed reading all the comments. What a crowd we have here!

Masked and Anonymous U-wish 1:10 PM  

@Noam: FISH?

lammy 1:12 PM  

Great Tuesday puzzle. Finish, punish, elISHa, and ISHe in the same corner, the last 2 just for fun?! Grand.
I agree with the poster who said this was scrabblish. But hated ageR.
Any puzzle with bumrap, filch, sctv, troves, and the best clue for punish ever heard, also clueing the puzzle at the end without saying so, is ok by me.
The Will Shortz commenter had better be a joke or we should all start a write-in campaign... Rex can you clarify? (If true may be part of the biting commentary on Rex's part.)

Kendall 1:34 PM  

Liked the puzzle, but similar to my experience yesterday this took an eternity for me to solve. The entire west coast of the grid (minus the SW) just seemed to elude me for a while.

Favorite answer was probably ELISHA, since it's the first time I've personally noticed it in a grid (At least clued with Otis and something about an elevator).

Lewis 1:39 PM  

@matthewG-- great post, I agree with every word.

I've only been at this blog about a year, and I've loved Rex's curmudgeonly side, and he continually cracks me up with his wit and sarcasm. I don't know what it was like on this blog in the "glorious past", but I love Rex's posts in general... not to mention this group.

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

is the point here to analyse Rex? he actually exists, right? not like elvis? also, it is not as clever as you apparently think it is to simply list words from the puzzle in some sort of cute ??? sentence

KarenSampsonHudson 1:57 PM  

Agree with @Lewis and @matthewG.

Wood 2:07 PM  

As a lifelong Minneapolitan I can confirm that we do say "Ish" and "Ick" interchangeably.

This is probably TMI but when I was very small, our family euphemism for #2 was "going ishy."

I thought the theme today was great. It makes you see common words in a new way and that is always a joy. And 9 of them! Wow.

CoffeeLvr 2:08 PM  

@Tobias, thanks for the REXTROSPECTION chuckle. I will note that there is at least one other blog I can read if I want the babies, puppies and flowers (see today's Pearls Before Swine) view of the puzzle. I prefer #31's piss and vinegar.

I am on the plus side for this puzzle. Liked that it made me think more than the usual Tuesday, but not too hard. Enjoyed many of the puns, especially POLISH.

Had chAR before SEAR, and almost entered oplus before a few crosses revealed TYPEO.

A comment on RASHER (freely copied from the web): "Rasher" is sometimes loosely used to mean "an order of bacon," presumably four or five strips. But strictly speaking, a "rasher" is a thin slice of bacon or ham, usually broiled or fried. The origin of "rasher" is uncertain, but it is probably related to the French "raser" (to cut or shave) which also gave us "raze" (to destroy or obliterate) and "razor." "Rasher" first appeared in English in the late 16th century.

Stan 2:46 PM  

A really nice surprise on a Tuesday, where puzzles suffer from having neither the simple clarity of Mondays nor the more developed themes that come later in the week.

Didn't notice the "double" clues (like @mac I thought they were just odd) until almost FINISHed. Some fresh, crunchy vocabulary too: SCTV, TROVES, FILCH, DODI, RARETY....

Good one, Steven!

GILL I. 2:47 PM  

@jesser: You would feel quite at home in G.B. where just about everyone(ish) serves up RASHERs of bacon in the mornin. My Brother-in-law and his home smell of the swine although he's a peach.
I think my arteries would slam shut if @Rex abandons this blog.

retired_chemist 3:25 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
retired_chemist 3:26 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
retired_chemist 3:28 PM  

@ ND(ish)E -

pessimal grade - FISH

#43 - (Dubya)ISH


captcha boson - cool! after making and fixing two typos I deserve a good one.

retired_chemist 3:45 PM  

Small church district, or like a Sunday duffer's hope?

Root vegetable, or, like, TOTALLY far out?

Rub to make shiny, or like a conflagration?

There are a lot of possibilities.

sanfranman59 3:46 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

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

Tue 10:00, 8:53, 1.13, 84%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 5:05, 4:34, 1.11, 81%, Challenging

Lojman 4:41 PM  

@kirble - you're sort of right in your assessment of the noun/verb/adjective consistency of this puzzle. But! But LAVISH is a verb, as well as a noun (I'm going to LAVISH my wife with gifts in a couple weeks). So for 8 of the theme answers, the complete -ISH word is a verb, with the pre-ISH portion being a noun. GARISH is the only adjective of the lot.

Not a bad puzzle for theme usage - although it took me too long to figure out the theme. NW and W killed me (SCTV, HARA, CASABA, AGER; clues for BACH and RAMOS - are you kidding me, Tuesday?). UTA Hagen & Marilu HENNER may pass the Sherman Alexie test, but are not Tuesday Crossworthy. My time was a slow Wednesday or medium Thursday. Thanks @sanfranman59 for the statistical ego boost!


CoffeeLvr 4:51 PM  

Sorry, all, my Pearls Before Swine reference was not to today's strip, but to today's page on my Pearls page-a-day calendar.

Lojman 4:52 PM  

@retired_chemist: These are fun!

Post, as at a bar?

Give out, as a nearly failing grade?

Pollute, as a mountain lake?

Masked and Anonymous's Last Silver Bullet 4:53 PM  

@Lojman: BUT...
LAVISH can also be an adjective, right? In fact, it is clued as an adjective in 4-D's "Extravagant, ..."
So, adjective, right? So GARISH not quite as big an outlier, maybe?

@Shortzmeister: Your table tennis serve is plenty good enough, thank U. Stay put.

@#31: How come everyone's postin' retirement notices? Did Herman Cain start some kinda stampede? Confusin', to the M&A.

retired_chemist 5:04 PM  

@ lojman -


Post, as at a bar? not yet - gotta think.

Give out, as a nearly failing grade? got it

Pollute, as a mountain lake? got it

Lojman 5:26 PM  

@retired -

Just got your shiny conflagration...

long suffering mets fan 5:49 PM  

Tough but very enjoyable Tuesday

Perhaps our leader's grouchy pants are due to his car shopping trepidations which he shared with us about a month or two ago
Personally, I'd rather have a root canal than deal with the theiving car salesmen

Jose Reyes gone, Johan Santana's health in question, the Wilpons money woes -- looks like at least another 5 years of long suffering

thank God I have evil Doug to brighten my day

Thank you, Steven Atwood

retired_chemist 6:10 PM  

OK - here is a challenge: devise a clue following today's theme leading to KNISH as the answer.

Lojman 6:19 PM  

@retired -

Fried meatball, as a sacrificial chess piece (abbr.)?

Did you get post at a bar yet? It's not great, but I'm logging off soon, so...

quilter1 6:45 PM  

@ JaxinLA: My favorite thing about Elijah is that he quits his prophet job. God tries to talk him out of it, but eventually accepts his resignation. I have used this with people who are guilt ridden about stopping doing something they have felt obligated about for years.

@jackj: glad you enjoyed it.

Re the puzzle: ish

Today I made lemon bars with Meyer lemons, which have finally made their way to the midwest at a decent price. Also peanut butter cookies with chopped peanuts stirred in. Yum.

Z 7:32 PM  

I am shocked by the Rex and Shortz news but have already made plans to fill the gap. It's the off-season now but anyone who wants to visit the mitten and enjoy these wonders can feel free to contact me.

Z 7:37 PM  

Seriously, though, @Dirigonzo has been posting Rex from five years ago for the syndi solvers for a couple of months now, starting with the earliest posts before Rexville became Rexville. I can't discern much difference other than it seems that Rex's solving skills have improved.

Anonymous 9:08 PM  

Rex is cranky because Wordplay has upgraded its outmoded graphics and now is getting more comments than Rexworld. Of course, he has my sincerest sympathy because he is the true entrepreneur in this quest. Welcome to the bourgeoisie....

syndy 9:16 PM  


Anonymous 9:43 PM  

Well, maybe Rex is cranky because the NYT is abandoning the Puzzle. I don't believe it, but if they cut back the Rexworld will be like Waterworld. Welcome to the bourgeoisie....

fikink 11:07 PM  

what insanity today!!!!!

Antagonist 11:08 PM  

I found this to be a very tough puzzle for a Tuesday!

Interestingly, I had the same thought as Rex about "familiar femme", but then later interpreted it as familiar female (i.e. friend), but in French, which would give you AMIE (i.e. female friend in french) as the answer.

pk 12:09 AM  

what fikink said

sanfranman59 12:11 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 6:52, 6:50, 1.00, 55%, Medium
Tue 10:09, 8:53, 1.14, 87%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:33, 3:40, 0.97, 40%, Easy-Medium
Tue 5:00, 4:34, 1.09, 78%, Medium-Challenging

miriam b 12:18 PM  

On the strength of Wednesday's comments,I had to come back and check out the blog. Bozhe Moy, what insanity. Glad I wasn't present to it first time aroud.

Chip Hilton 2:42 PM  

@miriam b - What you said.

Anonymous 11:42 AM  

Bad puzzle! I didn't get the ishes.
It was not appropriate for a Tues. puzzle, too many obscure and unintelligible clues. I hate it when you can't find answers in the dictionary and the puzzler takes you around in circles.

Waxy in Montreal 12:59 PM  

Thought this was great Tuesday fare but, without sounding pollyannaish, did not relish the churlish comments which only serve to impoverish the discussion. On a less peckish note, we of the syndicate know that the nightmarish post that the NYT Crossword was to vanish on 01/01/12 came from a faux Will Shortz. Perish the freakish thought!

Anonymous 1:00 PM  

Spacecraft here. Re today's offering, it's fine for early-week fare. I liked all the extra ISH's in the SE corner; very inventive. I wISH they could have included "County, like a good links number" (PARISH).
Re Rex: I hesitate to criticize without walking the proverbial mile--actually, if I post nearly every day here, I sort of am. Do I rant about the bad stuff I find? You betcha. It's hard for me to remember--and no doubt for RP as well--how tough it is to build one of these things and keep all the dreck out. Maybe we should both lighten up a little.

San Diego Sage 1:12 PM  

Hey, lets face it. Rex is subject to mood swings as the rest of us. It could be anything: Weather, Indigestion, Stock Market, Headache, or common Penile disfunction. Enjoyed the puzzle and howled at the comments. Gday to all.

GopherGold 2:14 PM  

Can't say I "loved" this one, but I sailed through it without even noticing the theme. Ish

rain forest 2:19 PM  

Well, well. It seems to me that constructors work very hard to produce puzzles that are entertaining, have sufficient theme density-with symmetry, limit the icky fill, and "sparkle" (whatever that means), and Rex can slam them at his will. Here we have a puzzle that Rex disliked but pretty well everyone else on the blog enjoyed, so there's nothing wrong with the odd criticism of his criticism. Overall, though, you have to applaud the efforts of constructors and of the blogmeister. Btw, I very much liked this effort.

Pippin 3:20 PM  

Despite being a daily syndy solver, I haven't posted in a while, but had to add my 2 cents (Canadian) to the fray today.

Loved this puzzle - it made me smile all the way through. As usual, the comments made me smile too. This one was right in my "Wheelhouse" as they say, and I found it relatively easy. The theme was fun and the fill was good too (IMHO).

Lived in England for a while, so RASHER was easy. Had trouble with BACH and didn't like AGER much but got them with crosses.

Perhaps our fearless leader is just REXHAUSTED and needs a break - there are so many clever bloggers on this site that I'm sure would be happy to fill in from time to time.

And now I will VANISH and CHERISH some downtime to FINISH reading my book!

Captcha - TICHE - very smallISH or one of the martial arts

Red Valerian 3:34 PM  

I really liked this puzzle, and thought it slightly hard for a Tuesday. But fun! PUNISH deserved at least a smirk! And I thought the execution brilliant (though what do I know).

Comments are a riot, if a bit disconcerting. I decided to go five weeks into our (syndi-land's) future to see whether the blog still exists. I'm pleased to report that it does. Or will. Or did. Or something.

I hope this doesn't say too much about me, but I don't see "raunchy" as cluing NASTY.

Anyhow, as I say, liked the puzzle a lot--learned about SHEM and CASABA, too.

Be well, Rex. Thanks for the blog.

Dirigonzo 4:38 PM  

Any Tuesday puzzle that inspires 113 comments is anything but ISH, as they apparently might say in MN.

I finished with an error because I misspelled 6d as @Rube predicted 5 weeks ago someone would. Has anybody else mentioned El(ISH)A at 63a? Seems like every ISH should be given its due.

Reading the comments today was like listening to the original radio presentation of "The War of the Worlds" - much panic and hystreria over a fictional account (a reaction which I an certain pleased Evil Doug greatly).

Dirigonzo 6:57 PM  

I paid a visit to very early Rexville and I doscovered that @Geometricus, who commented on today's puzzle, first visited Rexville on 12/30/2006 and left this comment (in part): "Anyway, I like your cool blog, Rex. And that puzzle was originally in your paper on my wedding anniversary."

Which got me to thinking, it might be fun to document the arrival of regular contributors who are still here in modern-day Rexville. So I will undertake the task - I'll drop in on a few old entries each day and as familiar names appear I'll announce their arrivals here. It should be fun to see how early and how fast Rexville grew to become the thriving mecca it is today. Stay tuned to this space.

DJ Stone 9:34 PM  

Living in Portland, that is, Syndiland, I don't post much, because other than Dirigonzo, who's going to read it. But ...

One of the original posters noted that this is Steven Atwood's second puzzle, and that his first was about 5 years ago. Hmmm. Why would that be? Perhaps it's because his first effort was just as much crap as this one. Let me count the ways.

1. Vanish. If a van is a car then I guess a truck is a car too.

2. Flourish. First, you have to mispronounce this, and second, you have to accept that flour automatically makes a meal healthy. We should all probably eat gravy by itself 3 times a day, every day.

3. Cher is not a popular singer. Maybe 20 years ago but not today.

4. Brandish. Pretty sure ranchers didn't wave the branding iron menacingly since the cows would have run away. Much more likely they snuck in from the rear.

5. 46A: golden ager? Really? What the hell is a golden ager?

6. 26D: A Spanish word (Siesta) clued with French language? As the French would say, that's merde.

Easily the worst NYT puzzle I've ever seen, and here's to the next 5 years without any more puzzles from Steven Atwood.

Red Valerian 9:32 PM  

@DJ Stone. I hope you're not for real. "...I don't post much, because other than Dirigonzo, who's going to read it. But ..."

Well, I wish *I* hadn't read it--how mean-spirited. Unless, of course, you're joking, but then I just don't get it.

I think you've misunderstood the theme (so your comments 2 and 4 are off), 20A was clued "vehicle" not "car" (so comment 1 is off), a golden ager is a senior citizen (so comment 5 is off, though perhaps the term is rare where you live), and 26D is in Spanish, not French. Well, it might be French, too, but then it would mean something like sleep in delays, which does not sense. In any event, so much for comment 6.

Steven Atwood--if you read @DJ Stone's post, I hope you either ignored it or got the joke that I didn't get.


Z 9:42 PM  

Several posters opt to get later posts in their emails, and I find the syndiland posts just as interesting as the day of posts. And, of course, RP sees them all. I usually refrain from commenting on syndiland posts because a)I may have used up my limit; b)it feels a little presumptuous; and c)the solving experience is far enough in the past to not completely trust my memory on the puzzle and issues.

Red Valerian 11:19 PM  

Thanks, @Z! It does feel a bit lonely sometimes here in the time warp. (@Dirigonzo notwithstanding--thanks for being there, though!)

To take your points in turn, I don't think there is any real limit (three and out is just custom), plus even if there were, it shouldn't apply to five weeks hence. I don't see any problem with presumptuousness--ain't we all presumptuous to think anybody might want to read what we wrote? I suppose I see your point about memory, but commenting later is about more than just remembering your solving experience.

My 2 cents.

Oh, and probably RP does read everything, but surely he grows weary. Plus, it's not quite the same when there is no response. But somebody has to be the last entry!!! (I'm fine if it's me. :-)

Tita 2:16 AM  

Hey there Red and others in syndiland...i too get these by email, but I usually read them on my phone, on which I am tio lazy tio type. I am also bad at it, as should be evident in this post!

Also, if you just say "46d", I def won't know what you mean, so alas comments dont always trigger a memory.

But thaT's ok! I still get a kick out of lots of your time warped insights of the past...

Dirigonzo 5:19 AM  

@Tita - "Time warped insights" - I love it! I think that should be the new theme for syndisolvers.

Tita 3:59 PM  

@Diri...it fits on so many levels, eh?? But I just picked up on Red's mention.

So you sail off the coast of Maine? My daysailing is mostly done on the landlocked Lake Candlewood, though occasionally I make it up to thte treacherous waters of Cape Cod Bay!

You and Red's dog pictures are fabulous, btw.

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