Midget car-racing org / WED 12-7-11 / Christ's literary stopping place / Boxing's Brown Bomber / Wooer of Olive Oyl

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Constructor: Julian Lim

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: ZENER CARDS (53A: Tools for ESP researchers (whose symbols are found at the ends of the answers to the five asterisked clues) — said answers end with WAVES, CIRCLE, STAR, CROSS, and SQUARE

Word of the Day: ZENER CARDS
Zener cards are cards used to conduct experiments for extra-sensory perception (ESP), most often clairvoyance. Perceptual psychologist Karl Zener designed the cards in the early 1930s for experiments conducted with his colleague, parapsychologist J. B. Rhine. (wikipedia)
• • •

The only reason I know that ZENER CARDS exist is because of crosswords. Never seen them or heard them referred to in the wild. No way I could've told you what the symbols on the cards were, so this theme was essentially meaningless to me. Thankfully, the puzzle was supremely easy and you don't need to know a thing about ZENER CARDS (except that they exist) to solve it. I rated it Easy-Medium, but it was Easy for me—a dead sprint with only a couple of snags here and there, with "here" being the NE and "there" being its symmetrical counterpart in the SW. In the NE, I wrote in PERCE Nez, thinking native Americans (Nez Perce) rather than eyewear (PINCE-nez), which kept CAN IT and thus the trickily clued CABLE (20A: Dish alternative) hidden from me for a bit. In the SW, I conflated Brutus and BLUTO (46D: Wooer of Olive Oyl) and ended up with BRUTO, which kept Joe LOUIS hidden for a bit. And with the mysterious USAC (!??!) already down there (52A: Midget car-racing org.), I didn't need any more trouble. But the surrounding answers ended up being so easy to uncover that even that section worked itself out fairly quickly. Was a little unsure about CENO- (51D: Prefix with -zoic)—I had MEZO- at first—but the crosses all worked, so I hit "Done" and the applet promptly thanked me for playing.

Theme answers:
  • 16A: *What an EEG reads (BRAIN WAVES)
  • 28A: *Back to the beginning (FULL CIRCLE
  • 38A: *Up-and-comer (RISING STAR)
  • 10D: *Act of betrayal (DOUBLE CROSS)
  • 23D: *Scene of an annual ball-dropping (TIMES SQUARE)

I don't play bridge, but even if I did, TENACE would strike me as cruddy fill (45D: Bridge combo). I've seen it in grids from time to time, and it always feels desperate. It's just two cards fused together. Couldn't this answer have been the normal English word TENANT? The answer is yes. I just filled that corner easily with TENANT in place. In no universe is TENACE better than TENANT. Whatever Scrabble value you get from having a "C" is totally undone by having a stupid non-word. TENANT > TENACE.  *Work on your corners*! *Do not let auto-fill do your work for you*! Also, consider demoting EBOLI (22D: Christ's literary stopping place), along with ECOLI and EBOLA, to the furthest depths of your grid-filling arsenal. Thank you.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


pk 12:21 AM  

Much smoother, faster solve than yesterday's piece of fluff. Never heard of Zener cards, either, but now we know. Nothing to make one 61A, but not much 5A either.

Very happy to see the blog pop up after all of yesterday's hystrionics.

panubeb - nevah, baby

Evan 12:21 AM  

I have never, ever heard the term ZENER CARDS. I recognize the picture from the famous scene in "Ghostbusters," but otherwise have never heard the name ZENER and would never have been able to guess what the cards were if someone showed them to me.

Also....demote ECOLI and EBOLA "to the furthest depths of your grid-filling arsenal"? Maybe the latter, if the majority of solvers are not familiar with the virus which swept through Africa in the 90's and early aughts. But the former is still a very common bacterium in the language, and doesn't necessarily require an outbreak of disease to hear about it. That could be just me since I used to be an epidemiologist, but keep ECOLI around, says I.

The Bard 12:25 AM  

Hamlet , Act III, scene IV

HAMLET: Ecstasy!
My pulse, as yours, doth temperately keep time,
And makes as healthful music: it is not madness
That I have utter'd: bring me to the test,
And I the matter will re-word; which madness
Would gambol from. Mother, for love of grace,
Lay not that mattering unction to your soul,
That not your trespass, but my madness speaks:
It will but skin and film the ulcerous place,
Whilst rank corruption, mining all within,
Infects unseen. Confess yourself to heaven;
Repent what's past; avoid what is to come;
And do not spread the compost on the weeds,
To make them ranker. Forgive me this my virtue;
For in the fatness of these pursy times
Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg,
Yea, curb and woo for leave to do him good.

Aaron 12:27 AM  


A tenace is not a ten-ace combination. It's an actual word, referring to any of several combinations of high, nearby but non-consecutive cards. The exemplar is ace-queen. One of the basic things you learn when you start to play bridge is how to handle tenaces. (What's relevant is that there's a card in between the two cards of the tenace, and you might be able to figure out who has the in-between card, and that can be useful information to you, the player.)


Rube 12:27 AM  

I had no idea what the ZENERCARDS were, but really got lost with EBOLI as Christ's literary stopping place. What's with that?

Otherwise an enjoyable, easily doable, Wednesday. I always have trouble remembering that Japanese golfer, but it's usually gettable from crosses, like tonight. I'm not too sure about USAC, but am too lazy to look it up. Anyone into this?

Fun Puzz!

meta4 12:29 AM  

The sky is falling, the sky is falling! I’ve only been in Rexville real time for a week and already it’s CIAO, ....LATER. Yesterday all was well when I checked in, but today when I read through the rest of the Tuesday comments I found that not only is the xword being axed, but Rex is shutting down. What a DOUBLE CROSS. I read it on the internet...it must be true. Maybe there will be some clarification in the ZENER CARDS.

syndy 12:31 AM  

ZENER CARDS meant nothing to me- never heard the term and I also had MESOzoic so I'm crying NATICK!Maybe if I had ESP I could have gotten this one.This was A FAR CRY from yesterday's tiny gem.A BIT OF a let down.Not to NITPICK but if one OPTS TO go with PASSESAS WHILST filling ones grid one may losesones status as a RISING STAR!

Anonymous 12:32 AM  

"Christ Stopped at Eboli" is well known book... in some circles, anyway.


Rube 12:33 AM  

Forgot to mention that Zener Diode would probably get a lot more positive responses from the geeks in this crowd then ZENERCARDS will get from everyone.

Pacha 12:35 AM  

So, I dutifully looked up ZENERCARDS. I knew there were some specific set of cards for the testing of ESP (I too from xwords), but figured what the hell, it's not like there's a ball game on or anything, so go find out the specifics, right? Might make me a more interesting person.

How friggin stupid, or self deluding, can people be? Your experiment fails with a regular deck, so it's the fault of the cards? It couldn't be that there's no such thing as ESP, it's that there's too many choices? Whats wrong with 4 suits, five squiggles are supposed to be different/better? You're a damned scientist, don't you know the first thing (apparently not, but that's a different story) about statistics? Nope, the experiment fails, so it has to be the cards. Draw pretty pictures on pieces of paper. That'll do it.

I always thought Gene Tenace should have paid whatever necessary for the number 21.

pk 12:42 AM  

@The Bard: That was almost as thrilling as Bluto's last stand. Thx.

GILL I. 12:59 AM  

I'm with @syndy on this - almost word for word. Does that mean I have ZENER?
Two "Gotta run" clues - 21D answered as LATER and 59A CIAO. I wasn't crazy about CIAO since it means hello or goodbye.
Like @ Rex, I get my BLUTO's and my EBOLI's mixed up. I did like GOTH, LETS ROLL and AKELA. I shant NITPICK anymore. Hasta manana.

Evan K. 1:01 AM  

Did anyone notice the VERY high LEVEL of colloquial / phrase fill? Refreshing, though quite nearly repetitive:


BBQPIT. That was a nice one.

chefwen 1:05 AM  

Sailing along smoothly until I arrived in the southeast. I hope someone else will fess up to putting red rose at 40D, and I did it rather smugly. nsec before PSEC, still don't know what that is. Zener card??? Cenozoic??? Finally had the DOH, head slap moment with ROSE RED and was able to put this puppy to bed, but boy, that corner was looking pretty shabby.

jae 1:07 AM  

Easy. Learned about ZENERCARDS in a psych class I either taught or took many moons ago. Which is to say, the theme is a tad on the obscure side. The grid, however, seemed pretty smooth to me and easier than yesterday's. So, I liked it.

@Aaron - thanks for the TENACE explanation. It's been decades since I've played bridge.

Evan 1:14 AM  

@ pk:

I missed yesterday's blog post, but like a moth drawn to a flame, I couldn't help but peruse through all 100+ comments after you mentioned there were "histrionics" in it.

I learned, from reading said histrionics, that Will Shortz announced the imminent cancellation of the NYT crossword, and that Rex has decided to retire from the blogosphere (likely based on the aforementioned demise of the NYT puzzle).

I love the fact that "Will Shortz" wrote this apparently devastating comment with such poor grammar not befitting an editor of a crossword magazine (lack of spacing after a period, using "its" when he meant "it's" -- seriously, I've gotten several e-mails from the Shortzman himself and I've never seen him make a single grammatical mistake). I'm also amused by the thought that "Will Shortz" would make this announcement less than 25 days from the alleged cancellation date without anyone else in the world knowing about it. After all, there is still no mention of this terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad news anywhere else on the internet except on Rex's blog, even several hours after the comment was originally posted. Most funny of all was that, somehow, some intrepid mind-reader knew exactly what Rex's motivations were for being so "cranky" in his posts: His upcoming-yet-based-on-no-evidence-at-all retirement.

Maybe that was the real joke about today's puzzle -- members of the blog commentariat assume they have ESP, and so they tried using it on Rex's brain. The projection of "Will Shortz" then just came in to remind everyone how dumb an exercise that is.

arena canit michaels 2:16 AM  

Zero idea about ZENERCARDS or the bridge term...
I thought TENACE is what you'd want in Blackjack.

LOVED BBQPIT...how quirky.

I think who ever posted as Will yesterday, obviously causing mass confusion, should have at least called him/herself FakeWillShortz, like on twitter...


SethG 7:20 AM  

In no way are ZENER CARDS well enough known (by their name) to make for a good reveal. Christ at Eboli.

And TENACE is what someone with tenacity has, and LETS ROLL sounds like a toilet paper documentary or something.

dk 7:59 AM  

Well, well, well as R.L, Burnside would say. Perhaps I should look at yesterday's posts to review the much ado about nothin- nah, I am a post and run kinda guy unless I am batting the shuttle with Andrea (obscure badminton reference). Although i was always a fan of Henny Penny (sky is falling chicken)

Rex, Starting a blog at work and now have profound appreciation for your work here. Much like the work of a puzzle constructor -- of which I am also a TYRO. The work blog is based in SharePoint a corporate file sharing device that greatly limits what one can do. The good part is your are forced to focus on content. Similar to photography where a B&W image must stand on its own. Great for a beginner.

This puzzle was a FULLCIRCLE experience for me. As a college student I did an honors paper where I compared the results of astrological readings and Rorschach in diagnosing personality issues (disorders is not an appropriate term here). They were the same. The reference, or loose association, is I penned in Tarot cards instead of Zener which for some reason i also know. So (with the college experience in mind) I was off to the sunny slope of memory zigging, zagging with the occasional CAREEN.

As a once and future psychologist any puzzle with BRAINWAVES, PASSAS and GOMAD is fine in my book. I will weigh in on the TENACE discussion only to say "Blackjack?" would have been a much better clue IMHO.

*** (3 Stars) I had fun solving this one and it is all about me, me, me.

joho 8:20 AM  

I mean, sure, this was easy enough to figure out the reveal, well, maybe not with CENO in there, I had to best guess on the "E," but really, ZENERCARDS? Ok, yes, I learned something but was it worth learning?

I did love the shout out to my avatar, RILEY.

Truthfully, I enjoyed Julian Lim's puzzle that ran yesterday in the L.A.Times much more than today's.

Oh, and LETSROLL makes me sad as it brings back memories of Todd Beamer on that ill-fated plane on 9/11.

David 8:22 AM  

Two puzzles for me - a brutal SE, and a very easy rest of it. Never, ever heard of ZENERCARDS. I had ENERCARDS and had to go through the entire alphabet before a headslap on ZIG finished it up for me. Had trouble with OPTSTO and PASSESAS (both solid answers), and also never heard of ROSERED.

Although the reveal thus yielded zero satisfaction for me, still liked the theme answers as I filled them in and also after understanding the theme.

retired_chemist 8:22 AM  

Easy-medium works.

What Aaron said about a TENACE.

Wanted TAROT CARDS until crosses made that untenable. Chips go-with was NACHO until ditto.

I have seen WHILST from real,live British friends more than occasionally. I think "old-style" is either unnecessary or misleading.

Thanks, Mr. Lim.

evil doug 8:26 AM  

"Well, well, well as R.L, Burnside would say. Perhaps I should look at yesterday's posts to review the much ado about nothin- nah, I am a post and run kinda guy...."

dk: By now I suspect you indeed have gone back to peruse the spiral of hysteria that cranked out 103 posts on a Tuesday. If not, you should. I believe it ranks right up there with Orson Welles in 1938, the Book of Mormon, and cold fusion.

Can't wait for the next excursion into insanity! It'll be tough to top yesterday, but a guy can dream, can't he?

Thanks, "Will", whoever you are! Come back soon!

(My word verification to make this post was, I kid you not, "zinged".)

retired_chemist 8:28 AM  

@chefwen - PSEC = picosecond, one one-trillionth of a second (10^^-12 second).

jberg 8:49 AM  

So, maybe 55 years ago growing up in a small town in Wisconsin my main source of intellectual stimulation was science fiction magazines, some of which promoted esp and all the rationalizations for why it really existed even though the tests didn't show anything. I knew about the cards, but not about Zener - his colleague Rhine was much more famous. Fortunately, ZIG at 53D made it clear.

Two quibbles:

Quibble 1: Why the stars? Is there some reason for using them instead of the more common reference to "answers 10D, 16A," etc?

Quibble 2: I don't like calling a picosecond, which is actually defined as a fraction of a second, "tiny fraction of a min." It just doesn't feel right, even though it's correct (as would be "tiny fraction of a century." Since you can't use "second" in the clue, why not go with "a very short time (abbr)"?

I was post and run yesterday too, I'll have to go back and read it, but not now!

Glimmerglass 8:58 AM  

@aaron. You are correct about TENACE. I play bridge (perhaps far too much bridge), and I've always wondered about the word TENACE. As you say, it doesn't mean "ten ace." It's usually Ace-Queen or King-Jack, though it can mean any three-card sequence with the middle card belonging to the opponents. Perhaps "queenace" (quinace?) would be too hard to say. The Encyclopedia of Bridge has pages and pages about how to play various card combinations. The tenace is the simplest, and beginners learn about that in the first lesson.

Whacker 8:59 AM  

Agree with @chefwen... Sat for ages looking at MAREEN before deciding it wasn't mesozoic... Was also suckered into NSEC before getting that sorted out.

Thought OPSTO and PASSESAS were flimsy.

A decent Wednesday puzzle I'd agree.

jackj 9:11 AM  

The constructor "dazzles" us with more slanguage than the typical Valley Girl has in her grab bag, then has a reveal that invites Occupy Times Crossword protester types to inveigh that only the elite 1% are privy to such arcana as ZENERCARDS and the bottom line is that Julian has created a puzzle that urges one to give it a review as a capital "MEH".

jesser 9:12 AM  

This is a crossword that defines crossword, inasmuch as I needed Every Single Cross to get ZENER, and then thought, "The blog will eat my lunch."

The blog did not. ZENER CARDS. Stupid at SO many levels.

KGB LATER BLUTO seems like a political commentary about Putin.

In sunny Las Cruces today, at the moment, it is 21 degrees. We no likey. For lunch I will hie myself to The Rib Shack, where there are ribs and pork cooked daily in a BBQ PIT and slathered in a sauce that is To Die For. Can't wait.

LET'S ROLL, Rexites!

Mudat! -- A Cockney's earthen headware.

John V 9:22 AM  

A tale of two puzzles, South it's own challenging puzzle. ZENERCARDS, crossing ROSERED and CENO? I'm saying mini-Natick here. Had all but the South PDQ, took to Brooklyn Bridge to finish. Slowest Wednesday in a very long time.

I got the theme but it did nothing for me. Sorry. Never, ever heard ZENERCARDS until this morning. Ever. Maleska flash-back.

Also thought crossing AKELA with AOKI was a bit wrong. Took a LOOOONG time to guess that K.

mac 9:37 AM  

I found the bottom much, much harder than the rest as well, but got it all through crosses. Only write-over was nsec/psec.

Nice new word, tenace, and I love "A far cry".

@joho: had the same thought re let's roll...

Good puzzle, Julian!

JaxInL.A. 9:48 AM  

Just an X and J short of a pangram.

Fun, if easy, puzzle though I agree with @joho that Julian's offering in yesterday's LAT sparkled more.

As @PurpleGuy would say, happy hump day.

Wood 9:56 AM  

Toughest for me was NE. Didn't know AKELA or AOKI, and took a while to tease out CABLE, PARLAY and A FAR CRY.

I knew about the cards, but not their name. The 'Z' of ZENER was my last square... should have gotten it faster from the cross.

I agree with Rex re EBOLI. But I think E COLI and EBOLA are perfectly acceptable.

chefbea 9:57 AM  

I agree..bottom half much harder than the top half. Probably cuz I never heard of zener cards.

Gotta run...and finish xmas shopping

quilter1 10:00 AM  

Fairly easy for me. I vaguely remembered the cards from some old TV show about psychic-ness. Knew ROSERED from fairy tales. Loved WHILST. I'd try to use it in a sentence but I'm afraid I would get blank looks. So maybe I'll just talk to myself WHILST doing the laundry.

JenCT 10:14 AM  

Thought of SH**LOAD first for 31d;

@Evan K: I did notice, and it's a lot!

Didn't know ZENERCARDS, CENO, TENACE - needed lots of crosses.

I thought the post by "Will Shortz" yesterday was pretty funny - reveal yourself, poster!

Tita 10:22 AM  

What, no reference to the 2nd META of the week - TIMESSQUARE?
(Can you guess that "meta" is my favorite new cross-word?)

@Rube - I resemble that remark...

@retired_Chemist - Brits I know use WHILST regularly.

Never heard of the reveal, but that didn't stop me - what did was the Natick at AKELA/AOKI. I had d instead of K.

Like 18A Peat or propane clue. Irish in-laws have peat bricks burning in their hearths - unmistakable when you walk in to a house. An "acquired smell" to be sure.
They even have peat-fired power plants there, with cooling towers that look like nuclear plants...
(But talk about a non-renewable energy source...)

Enjoyable puzzle - thanks Mr. Lim!

Lindsay 10:51 AM  

Liked it. Vaguely familiar with the concept of the ESP cards, but not knowing their name or what shapes were involved kept my interest up. Although if I hadn't worked way, way, way too many xwords, I'd be ranting about the intersection of AOKI and AKELA.

A couple of months ago, my town's adult ed program sent out its fall catalogue, and there was a listing for a course in "Soul Collage". That sounded so flamingly INANE that I googled it, and learned(?) that the quackery was based on something called "neter cards" which for some regrettable reason stuck in my head. Not enough to cause confusion today, but enough to add an aura of goofiness to the solve.

Two Ponies 10:51 AM  

There are no words to express my disappointment when the reveal revealed nothing to me.
Like @ joho and @ mac, Let's roll will always remind me of bravery on a doomed plane.
I have no idea what Cenozoic is so those cards could have been Zaner, Ziner, etc. for all I knew.
Ten ace only means blackjack to me but at least I learned something.
I was amused by wolfed down/ate up.

Tobias Duncan 10:57 AM  

Wow, what the hell happened here yesterday?I came by and saw people trying to psychoanalyze Rex, thought it was silly and funny so I made three quick posts, two as anonymous and one as Will Shortz.I honestly did not think for a second that anyone would imagine it was actually Will.To me is just seemed like an utterly transparent joke.
I was obviously wrong and I am sorry.
The fact that not everyone gets my humor is a lesson I seem doomed to learn over and over.

John V 11:01 AM  

@Tobias I think most got the joke. I agree it was pretty transparent. No harm, no foul.

archaeoprof 11:10 AM  

@joho: me too on LETSROLL.

@arena canit: I don't think I've ever seen BBQPIT in a puzzle before. Loved it!

@Tobias: FWIW, I really enjoyed it.

archaeoprof 11:12 AM  

And another thing: thanks, @Rex, for the photo of Gene TENACE from the 1972 World Series. He was a star, breaking the hearts of Reds fans. And that's Johnny Bench behind the plate.

Matthew G. 11:14 AM  

I did this on paper and still finished with what would be a pretty decent Wednesday time for me on the iPad, so that rates this as Very Easy, I think.

Talk about your arcane themes, though. Once I had ZENER CARDS from the crosses, I vaguely recalled having heard the term somewhere before, but it was deep in the recesses of my brain. But the constructor did what matters most--made the fill crossing the obscure revealer very gettable. I have to wonder if the constructor originally clued this puzzle in more challenging fashion but Will softened it up to account for the limited number of people who would know of ZENER CARDS. The result is a Wednesday theme with almost Mondayish clues.

@Rex/Evan: EBOLI is much, much worse fill than either ECOLI or EBOLA.

@Aaron: Thanks for the explanation of TENACE. I had no idea that it was an actual word.

@Tobias: I got the joke yesterday and thought it was funny. Definitely not someone to impersonate on a regular basis, though.

Masked and Anonymous 11:24 AM  

Primo #31 comment: "Never seen them or heard them referred to in the wild."
Har. Pickin' up vibes of a deer using Zener cards on a bear: "No!...Sorry, Smokey, for the last time, there ain't no 'lunch' cards here." Or, a call from the wolf pack: "Zener more raw meat over there?".

thUmbsUp, RexWrite-up.

Mel Ott 11:33 AM  

I'm usually happy to learn something completely new to me like ZENER CARDS, but crossing the phrase with CENO is a bit much. Same with the crossing of obscure proper names like AOKI/AKELA.

I agree with a number of previous posters about TENACE (perfectly legitimate bridge word) and WHILST (a word frequently used by Brits).

Tita 11:36 AM  

@Tobias...the dead giveaway (apart from the sheer improbability of it) was that the posters didn't use real accounts.
Testament to your wry humor that some who read tehm out of the overall context wondered...

Hey - they're even talking about it in over in Wordplayville today.

Mel Ott 11:42 AM  

And I guess I'm happy too see my nom de blog in the puzzle, but the estimable Mr. Ott deserves to be more than a bit of crap fill.

Did you know that he was the National League career leader in home runs when he retired in the 1940's? His record was later broken by the likes of Willy Mays and Henry Aaron, and a number of others, including some steroid cheats who shall not be named.

OK, you don't care about sports. But did you know that he was the guy Leo Durocher was talking about when he said (or didn't say), "Nice guys finish last"?

President Obama 12:01 PM  

@Tobias I think the people who took your posts seriously are the same ones who periodically comment something like, "Rex, I don't think that picture you posted is really the guy you meant." It couldn't have been much more obvious that they were fake, but not everyone is attuned to sarcasm.

r.alphbunker 12:01 PM  


Your post was Rexville's equivalent of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast.

However, if you reread my post I think you will see that it was not an attempt to psychoanalyze Rex Parker. All I was trying to do was to point out that **if** Rex Parker retires, Rexville can continue without him. Living in Wordplayville does not appeal to me.

Hand up for red rose.
Red__ED (this is definitely not going to be red rose)
R___RED (aha)

In retrospect I noticed that snow white also has the noun first and the adjective second.

Two Ponies 12:04 PM  

@ Tobias Duncan, Way to go yesterday. The pot hasn't been stirred like that in a long time.
I'm glad you 'fessed up.
What was scary to me was the level of anxiety I felt just at the thought of losing the puzzles &/or this blog. If either happens I may need sedation whilst I go mad.

Anonymous 12:14 PM  

I am a pretty well educated (NYC school system of 40s/50s/60s)72-year old woman whose knowledge of trivia is well known. I have never come across the word(s) zener cards in my entire lifetime of reading almost anything I can get my hands on (books [classics and other genres], magazines and all other methods of written communication. Such use is arcane and pseudointellectual snobbery. Look ashamed!

Lewis 12:14 PM  

To make matters worse, I had leG for 53 down, which, in the vicinity of CENO and ZENER, plus the fact that I didn't know ROSERED, made things a bit tough down there for me.

@tobias -- I find it hard to believe that anyone believed your post was actually from Will. Does anyone think he would have made such an announcement in the middle of blog reader comments, and so cavalierly? But there was a bit of mob mentality going on, I guess.

Kendall 12:19 PM  

Liked the general fill in this one a bit more than the precious two puzzles this week. I also solved it in a quarter of the time that yesterday too.

I'm with @ACME about BBQPIT being a fun one to write in. Also really liked DOUBLE CROSS, although at that point the theme was still a mystery to me. I'll also add LET'S ROLL to the list of fun to fill in answers.

Only thing in this puzzle I truly still have no idea about is this business at 36A. I have no idea what an ms. is or what the answer SAE is or how it encloses an ms. Luckily I didn't have to struggle since the crosses made it easy to get.

Pacha 12:27 PM  

@Kendall - When you send your manuscript (ms) to a publisher, if you want to get it back after it's rejected you should enclosed a Self Addressed Envelope (SAE) with it.

John V 12:29 PM  

@Kendall re: ms and sae: Read these as manuscript and self addressed envelope. Abbreviation ms. of course means the answer is abbreviated, which as I think now is maybe a tad off, as SAE is an acronym, not an abbreviation. Bit arcane, as one would expect SASE.

mac 12:31 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
r.alphbunker 12:34 PM  

Douglas Rushkoff would agree with you. In his book "Program or be Programmed, Ten Commands for a Digital Age" he says,

"But more than simply protecting them from retribution, the anonymous status of people in an online group engenders crowd behavior. They have nothing to fear as individuals and get used to taking actions at a distance and from secrecy. ... They go from being people to being a mob."

KarenSampsonHudson 12:35 PM  

Easy-breezy. I don't time myself but if I did this would be one of the quickest Wednesdays.

miriam b 12:37 PM  

@acme et al: In antediluvian times there was a wonderfully quirky radio program called Vic and Sade. It was set in Bloomington, Illinois. Sade's favorite expression of disgust was "Oh,ish." This show was a sort of surreal sitcom. It's worth Googling a script or two, especially if Uncle Fletcher is visiting.

efrex 12:39 PM  

Generally a "meh" puzzle. Knew ZENER CARDS, so the theme fell quickly, but a lot of the fill got tiresome. AOKI crossing AKELA is just wrong (Naticked there), and BOSUN crossing USAC is not much better. Hand up for REDROSE before ROSERED (shameful in my case, since Rose Red is a significant character in Bill Willingham's "Fables" graphic novel series, which I've quite enjoyed over the past few years). Oh, well, solving a weak Wednesday puzzle still beats doing actual work...

joho 12:45 PM  

@Kendall, you just reminded me, I forgot to mention that SAE is missing the "S" for stamped. It's usually SASE for self addressed stamped envelope.

@Tobias, were you around when the real Will actually did post here? It was regarding one of his clues. Your "Will" post yesterday was not malacious, just fun, and ALMOST everybody got your joke.

DigitalDan 12:58 PM  

For some reason, easier than most Mondays for me. I just started typing likely fill, top to bottom, left to right, leaving no blanks until the fourth row or so. Then it got a tiny bit tougher, but after the good start, nothing all that challenging. Know about pince nez (from Agatha Christie phase or something), Bluto, and even USAC, so that helps. Fortunately, or unfortunately, practically any sensible prefix to -zoic works. Anyway, first legit Across-lite win (all right by happy pencil time) in a while.

hazel 1:05 PM  

I liked it. Though I'd never heard of ZENERCARDS, I guess it didn't irritate me - thought it was kinda cool.

@Tobias - I got a huge chuckle out of yesterday's antics!

i doubt I'll remember the TENACE backstory (though I was happy to learn of it!), but @Mel Ott, was very interested to hear the origin of that quote.

TimJim 1:26 PM  

ZENER and CENO/ROSERED was a Natick for me, as was AOKI/AKELA (although I should have known Akela, it shows up every now and then.) Question - Long clues like today's revealer show up in tiny tiny print on my AcrossLite. I expand the rectangle, but it doesn't help. Any suggestions?

retired_chemist 1:35 PM  

@ TimJim - I had the same problem and had to expand the window to about double its original width. But that worked.

Anonymous 1:42 PM  

Tough one. Had ess for ZIG, then tried leg. Thought INANE was right, but could not see ZIG for anything. I was about to GOMAD. DAR, USAC, SAE - wtf.

Sara 2:07 PM  

I'm not sure if this counts as defending the constructor, since I didn't like TENACE much myself, but I doubt that corner had anything to do with autofill. Crossfire, anyway, insists on TENANT, wants nothing to do with TENACE.

Z 2:19 PM  

Not to get all meta on people, but yesterday's commentary stands as a work of art.

Edac2day 2:21 PM  

I didn't know that ESP symbol cards had a name. And "decides one will" sounds like Yoda speak, so I thought answer might have something to do with Star Wars.

Sparky 2:30 PM  

Two Naticks: Z-NERCARDS/C-NO and the AOkI/A-ELA. Like @chefwen wanted nANO but the P was already in there. Thanks @retired_chemist for the clarification.

Thanks @Tobias for the ride. Oh sure, now everybody "got it." Things that make you go Hmmmmm.

Chip Hilton 2:32 PM  

@Mel Ott - I do care about sports and I'm old enough to remember when 511 was one of baseball's magic numbers, partner to Ruth's 714. I do wonder, though, how many of those 511 benefited from the bizarre down-the-line dimensions of the Polo Grounds. Whatever, you chose well for a namesake.

The ZENER.../CENO crossing was my last hurdle and came down to a lucky shot.

Sounds like I missed quite the show yesterday...

Tita 3:02 PM  

WHen that happens to me, I just look at the clue in the side window.

John V 3:10 PM  

@Chip Hilton: "Welcome Back My Friend To The Show That Never Ends"

CoffeeLvr 3:35 PM  

@TimJim, if you are in AcrossLite, just hold your cursor over the clue and it will expand across the grid in the same size font as a short clue.

@PurpleGuy, I still miss your daily posts, but when you are not here on a Wednesday, I am a bit worried.

@Tobias, I am quite sure some of the responses to your faux post were also faux.

To me, the best thing about this puzzle was the BRAIN WAVES entry, as they are presumably the mechanism of ESP. Nicely FULL CIRCLE.

ksquare 3:38 PM  

After getting PIT crossing 46A I guessed a SPIT was a pig roasting spot, but with BB lead-in it looked suspicious. timessQuare crossing cleared it up.

sanfranman59 4:13 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)

Wed 10:57, 11:48, 0.93, 39%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:50, 5:51, 1.00, 54%, Medium

I zipped right through this puzzle and was about to record a personal-best Wednesday time until I got to the SE ... especially the ZENERCARDS/ROSERED cross. I had to resort to more or less randomly entering letters that I thought were conceivable in that square and finished with a slightly better than average solve time. I failed to make the 'noun followed by color' connection for the name from Snow White.

quilter1 4:18 PM  

Yes, agree that LET'S ROLL is sad inducing and even tear inducing.

@Tobias, I think most of us got it. But now if Will ever comments for real we will think it is you.

John V 4:19 PM  

@Sanfranman59 I'm surprised at the results, given the virtually unanimous problem that folks had with the S/SE. Is this one of those fewer-number-of-finishers anomalies?

hazel 5:30 PM  

@people-who- didn't-get-the joke-yesterday-and-also-think noone else REALLY got it - lighten up!! please show a little grace - we got it - REALLY!

I, for one, would never under any circumstances believe that Will Shortz would (1) breezily announce his (2) freaking retirement/NYT xword abandonment! on (3) THIS blog - notwithstanding (4) the 2 set up anonyposts?

Yesterday reminded me of some version of that game Telephone or Gossip where you start out with one phrase and wind up with something that generally bears no resemblance to reality!

Except for it provided me a much bigger chuckle than that game ever did!

fruitypants 5:32 PM  

I had a Citizen Kane- Sleeping Beauty hybrid with ROSEBED, and ZENEBCARDS didn't look any better than ZENERCARDS so...yeah...not feeling the ZENERCARDS so much.

Matthew G. 5:56 PM  

Wow. This is the closest I've ever been to the Top 100 Solvers on sanfranman's list. I guess knowing ROSE RED (a gimme for me) was hugely determinative today.

Tita 6:49 PM  

Wow again...
I found this easy except for that one aoki/akela natick.
For the SE, needed crosses for ZENER, but found them all inferable.
To each his own wheelhouse...

Did anyone else tfind it hilarious that the top news story (in NY, anyway) was Alec Baldwin and his Words w Friends addiction?
Only thing worst than his idiotic behavior/flight attendant's over-reaction (though if I were one, I would toss passengers off right and left....) is that this was a lead story on the "news".

r.alphbunker 7:06 PM  

I think there is a potential theme here: celebrities who have been thrown off airplanes (http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/12/07/baldwins-booted-brethren-10-celebrities-who-have-been-kicked-off-planes/)

The revealer could be BADBEHAVIOR.

meta4 7:18 PM  

So Will was not a poster but Tobias was an imposter.

skua76 7:25 PM  

Oh boy. I wouldn't do these puzzles and stop by this blog unless I enjoyed the experience and Rex's analysis. I was lurking here 3 years ago from the South Pole but didn't read the comments much (the only issue with doing the puzzles there is that the place is 16-18 hours ahead of NYC, so I got to do the Saturday puzzle on Sunday morning (our only day off). @tobias, thanks for the reveal...I skipped most of yesterday's comments but had to go back and read them all after starting to read today's comments and discovering the kerfuffle.

I recognized that it would be SOME kind of CARDS since I knew the images, but I didn't know that they'd been designed by a guy named Karl Zener.

retired_chemist 8:27 PM  

@ CoffeLvr et al. - the following solution does not work on my iMac.

"@TimJim, if you are in AcrossLite, just hold your cursor over the clue and it will expand across the grid in the same size font as a short clue."

dk 9:24 PM  

@meta4, as I may have mentioned to you earlier... the bar here is high (insert bevis and butthead chortle about here),

@evildoug, since you have become my Yoda I live in the moment. No going back for me. That said, when I am in Taos later this month I may force Tobias to have a scotch on me.

Gosh it is late.

sanfranman59 10:08 PM  

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
Wed 11:03, 11:48, 0.94, 39%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:33, 3:40, 0.97, 40%, Easy-Medium
Tue 5:00, 4:34, 1.09, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 5:39, 5:51, 0.97, 46%, Medium

@John V ... There were definitely fewer people who finished the puzzle online today than is typical of a Wednesday (602 today vs. a mean of 680 Wednesday solvers). So the All Solvers percentile could very well be somewhat lower than it should be. But there's really not that big of a difference in the metrics for the two groups of solvers.

Cathelou 10:57 PM  

Sad because I seem to be the only person on earth who loves the book Christ Stopped at Eboli and never tires of seeing it in puzzles

Stan 11:38 PM  

@Cathelou: I've been to Basilicata (Matera) and I never tire of seeing Eboli in puzzles either.

Abitof cable michaels 3:09 AM  

I always confuse EBOLI with EBOLA and ECOLI.
AND I thout Max Von Sydow was in the film version.
I am TOTALLY confused, but it could be trying to imagine @dk meeting @ Tobias!

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Raunchy Ron 12:41 PM  

Ah yes, my work is done. Many more people now have a knowledge of my work and tools of my trade. Signed, Zany Zener, PHD. Good and easy puzzle, no complaints.

Dirigonzo 4:23 PM  

From syndiland, where nobody fell for @dk's ruse yesterday because, well because it's 5 weeks later I guess. Finished with a lucky guess at the ESP/-zoic crossing, but even if I had guessed wrong I'd still be happy with this puzzle - don't 34d is my motto.

I paid a visit to early Rexville to see if I could discern any progress in becoming the place we know and love today. Through January 2007, regular contributors to the comments included @Orange, @Howard B and @DQ. @Bluestater, a name I think I have seen here recently paid a visit on 1/15/07. On 1/25 @Wil Shortz (apparently the real one) visited to explain some changes he had made to the cluing. On 1/27 Mike Nothnagel, constructor of the day's puzzle dropped in, so apparently Rex had begun to gain notice among the NYT Crossword cognoscentes. Comments were typically numbering in the teens and twenties (including many from Rex) and at least half seem to have been from syndicationland.

Mr. Fitz 5:07 PM  

In the 70's "The Amazing Kreskin" put out an ESP game with, amongst other things. A set of Zener Cards. But by that time I was too busy building things with LEGO's...with my MIND!!! :)

Deb 5:29 PM  

You missed me, Dirigonzo! I posted a couple of times in January 2007 under an anonymous account, but signed as "D in CO.". My first post was in December 2006' griping about KNEE PANTS - a term I had never heard before nor since.

I must say, it was pretty fun reading yesterday's comments with the benefit of five weeks foresight. (Though I was disappointed to learn today that it wasn't really Will Shortz with a wicked sense of humor.)

Dirigonzo 5:41 PM  

@Deb - Yes, I did see those anonymous posts but I didn't make the connection to you - consider the record corrected!

And yes, I have missed you!

DJ Stone 7:52 PM  

Here in Syndiland, I was skimming through yesterday's posts before noticing the considerable angst and hysteria. Scrolled back up, and since all 3 of Tobias' posts were within about 7 minutes of each other, quickly concluded someone was having fun. Today, though, everyone seems to have gotten the joke. Smells like revisionist history to me.

For my money, Evil Doug delivers the best entertainment here, but I have to give huge kudos to President Obama. If I'd had any liquid in my mouth when I read that post, I'd have snorted it right out my nose and would be working on the carpet stain right now. Cuz that really was the president, right?

DJ Stone 7:54 PM  

Oops. Mr. Fitz was pretty damn funny too. Forgot to give him props too, but I can assure him that I did ... IN MY MIND!

jodi 10:15 PM  

the spanish word for "these" is "estes". Estos means "those".

Red Valerian 11:29 PM  

@Deb--you had and you still haven't heard of knee pants? I'm shocked. Did you have any brothers?

Had NOT heard of Zener cards before just recently on this blog. So, I felt as though I was cheating. Otherwise, I would likely have chosen CyNO and ZyNER. Ah, the travails of being a syndi-solver.

GILL I. 11:42 PM  

@jodi. THESE can be either estos or estas. THOSE are esos.

Anonymous 12:01 AM  

Bridge-playing Spacecraft here. Long have I read about the TENACE, which is by now a common word for me. It's perfectly proper as a real honest-to-goodness English word. From the Spanish tenaza, literally "forceps," it has been in use since the mid-seventeenth century, so I will brook no dissing (how can THAT be a word if this isn't?!) TENACE.
A quick story about Ott: in the '50s I once went to a Phillies/Giants game in the storied Polo Grounds. To set the period, I'll say I saw Ashburn end a 26-pitch at-bat with a blooping double to left center, and also, unfortunately, saw a flash-in-the-pan named Dusty Rhodes pop two equally blooping homers just inside the foul lines--one to right and the other to left--and those ridiculous short porches helped the G-men prevail. Walking across the field after the game, I saw a big chunk of concrete was missing from the left-center field wall. Painted next to it was the legend that it was made by an Ott line-drive. Now that's power.
Now, what's all the Zener Card fuss? Didn't we just have that, like, a day or two ago, in a clue? Yeah, the answer was ESP,I think. Today's puzzle, I thought, was pretty easy, once I wrote over SORTOF with the rarer and more awkward ABITOF. Speak of rarity and awkwardness when you say OPTSTO--and then speak not of it again. Gawd, is that ugly! But it's all right; loved BBQPIT--and the 9/11 rallying cry of LETSROLL!

mingso: that's so thirteen hundred years ago!

Deb 2:16 AM  

Aw, I've missed you, too, Dirigonzo. I finally bit the bullet and forked over 16.99 for a year's subscription to the online puzzle, so I'm commenting mostly in prime time, but I have a half dozen more syndiland puzzles coming up before they start duplicating. I'll try to remember to hit the syndi-link even after that to keep up with you all though.

No, Red, I didn't have any brothers. And if I had, I'd like to think my mother wouldn't have dressed them in something as silly as KNEE PANTS!

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