Bret harte/mark twain play / THU 1-19-12 / 1994 Ray Liotta action film / Holy Roman emperor who succeeded father 973 / 1920s-40s baseballer / Big gobbler

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Constructor: Derek Bowman and Sarah Keller 

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: TO-DO LIST (66A: Agenda ... or, together, what the seven starred clues and their answers constitute?) — all the starred clues have answers that are synonymous with "TO-DO" (i.e. "disturbance")

Word of the Day: "AH, SIN" (9D: Bret Harte/Mark Twain play) —
Ah Sin (1877), a play by Bret Harte, Mark Twain. [ Fifth Avenue Theatre, 35 perf.] Broderick (Edmund K. Collier), a “knave through circumstances over which he ought to have control,” attacks Uncle Billy Plunkett (P. A. Anderson), “the Champion Liar of Calaveras,” leaving him for dead and attributing the attack to mill owner York (Henry Crisp). Just as a lynch mob is about to hang York, the wily Chinaman Ah Sin (Charles T. Parsloe) solves the crime by connecting an incriminating coat to Broderick. The Augustin Daly production, developed from a character in Harte's poem, was a failure, but it is remembered because of the speech Mark Twain, dressed in white, gave at the end that many critics claimed was better than anything in the play. Sensing a poor reception, Mark Twain began by wryly telling the audience that the play was “intended rather for instruction than amusement” and suggesting, as an example, that “for the instruction of the young we have introduced a game of poker.”
• • •
[It's pledge week here at the Rex Parker site (thru Sat.) —read my pitch for donations in the opening paragraphs of Sunday's write-up, here ... and thanks for your faithful readership (and the many kind messages I've received so far)]

• • •
Maybe it's just the 10 hours (!) sleep talking, but I *loved* this puzzle.  Thorny without being filled with annoying, obscure words; delightful in the broad subject range of its answers; and smart in its theme and the execution thereof. Very clever repurposing of "TO-DO." And So Many Theme Answers—all symmetrical, all *intersecting* other theme answers, and yet nowhere does the grid feel strained or awkward. The only thing that bugged me had nothing to do with the quality of the puzzle—why does HULLA have two "L"s but "BALOO" doesn't? My brain rejects this lack of "L" symmetry. I don't know who Derek Bowman is, but Sarah Keller is an old pro—though usually you see her stuff on Monday or Tuesday. Whatever they've got going is working and they should do it again sometime.

Theme answers:
  • 1A: *Rumpus (BROUHAHA) — more spelling issues here. I mean, "OU?" It's not HOUPLA or HULLABALOU or HOUHAH, after all...
  • 7D: *Hubbub (HURLY-BURLY)
  • 16A: *Excitement (HOOHAH)
  • 10D: *Turmoil (COMMOTION) — stands out like a sore thumb for being the one theme answer one might actually use unironically / unsillily.
  • 32D: *Tumult (KERFUFFLE)
  • 63A: *Foofaraw (HOOPLA)
  • 30D: *Ruckus (HULLABALOO)  

With so little connection between the east and west halves of the grid, this really was like two different puzzles, though both ended up being about the same in terms of difficulty. I've been constructing puzzles over the past week (for eventual publication as well as for private clients) and I think being in constructing mode helps your solving brain, if only slightly. I used OAXACA in a clue yesterday (3D: Southern Mexican state), and I had to write a KSU clue a few days ago (P.S. almost all KSU clues are the same as this one—32A: The Wildcats of the N.C.A.A.). When you construct, you not only encounter all the words that eventually end up in your grid, but all the words that could've been in your grid, the ones you select, discard, put back in, spin around, write your friends about to see if they're good / terrible, etc. Anyway, I didn't need much special help or luck today, as the short answers were generally easy enough to give me significant purchase on the longer stuff. ANA and UNS in the NW, LMN and YMA near the middle, TAM and EBAY (51A: Web site that includes the heading "Dolls & Bears") in the SE. Do boxers have "matches" (25D: Match enders, briefly = TKOS)? I guess they do. But that's a word I associate more with soccer (aka football). Boxers have "bouts."

  • 17A: Like the maximum-height New York City apartment building that's not required to have a fire evacuation plan (SIX-STORY) — I think I spent half my solving time reading this clue. Shouldn't every NYC building have, at least, a "plan" for getting people out of the building if it's burning?
  • 28A: Inits. on many uniforms since 2002 (TSA) — good clue; had me stumped all the way.
  • 34: Figure on Scotland's coat of arms (UNICORN) — I was looking for THISTLE, but luckily already had some important crosses, most notably the "U"
  • 64A: They may be painted in a bathroom (TOENAILS) — I always imagine women doing this on the couch while watching soaps and eating bon-bons. Not accurate?
  • 37D: Hungarian hero ___ Nagy (IMRE) — Crosswordese 102. Not much else available in the -MR- department. 
  • 39D: 1994 Ray Liotta action film ("NO ESCAPE") — never heard of it, and yet I got it easily, off of "NOES-." I've been watching 1987 movies lately. I recommend seeing "Black Widow" (starring Debra Winger and Theresa Russell) and avoiding "The Bedroom Window" (starring a completely miscast Steve Guttenberg ... but also a frequently naked Isabelle Huppert, so ... you could choose to take the bad with the good, I guess). The fact that both movies have the initials "BW" is a complete coincidence, as far as I know.
  • 45D: 1920s-'40s baseballer with a retired "4" (MEL OTT) — lack of any indication of how great he was left me searching for a much less legendary player. The fact of a retired no. doesn't tell me much about real greatness. No "Hall-of-Fame," no position, no team ... totally gettable, but not the gimme it might have been.
  • 46D: Holy Roman emperor who succeeded his father in 973 (OTTO II) — [Holy Roman emperor who [some random bit of trivia that will clarify things for you not at all]]
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Bugs 8:27 AM  

What's all the Hubbub, Bub ?

dk 8:30 AM  

Creating puzzles for private clients. Rex as a consulting constructor. Sounds like Sherlock Holmes and very cool.

My experience was similar to Rex's. I will avoid any references to channeling Rex and leave those musings to his fawning masses :). Just make sure you send money as Rex's theme song is "First I Look at the Purse." Follow this for more details:

**** (4 Stars) Just a hoot. All praise D&S Enterprises.

@bird from yesterday, I tried for the girl while dressed in madras (circa 1965) and she spurned me for a hippy. The indignity of it all. But I am over it now.

Hoorah: Best line in Scent of a Woman

The Bard 8:31 AM  

Macbeth > Act I, scene I

[Thunder and lightning. Enter three Witches]

First Witch: When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Second Witch: When the hurlyburly's done,
When the battle's lost and won.

Dan 8:36 AM  

Re 46D, I managed to fill in the "II" off "who succeeded his father", so it wasn't totally useless as a clue.

donkos 8:39 AM  

@Rex - my issue with Hullabaloo was that although it's a word that most of us have heard, is there an agreed on spelling?

Other than that, this was my fastest Thursday - which made it thoroughly enjoyable for me :)

evil doug 8:40 AM  

Fun words all over the place--Oaxaca, looksee, hoohah, brouhaha. Odd facts---six story. Clever deceptions--toenails. No gripes here.
Jerry: What happened?

Cosmo Kramer: Well, you know, we were playing a game and I was pitching, and I was really, you know, throwing some smoke! And Joe Pepitone, he was up, and man, that guy, you know, he was crowding the plate.

Jerry: Wow, Joe Pepitone.

Cosmo Kramer: Well, Joe Pepitone or not, I own the inside of that plate! So I throw one inside, you know, a little chin music, put him right on his pants. Cause I gotta intimidate when I'm on the mound. Well, the next pitch, he's right back on the same place, so... I had to plunk him.

Jerry: You plunked him?

Cosmo Kramer: Oh yeah! Well, he throws down his bat, he comes racing up to the mound. Next thing, both benches are cleared, you know. A brouhaha breaks out between the guys in the camp and the old Yankee players. And as I'm trying to get Moose Skowron off of one of my teammates, somebody pulls me from behind, you know, and I turned around and I popped him. I looked down and, whoa man, it's Mickey. I punched his lights out.


jackj 8:41 AM  

Talk about lively, this one had theme answers which were almost dancing off the page! Number one on my TODOLIST has to go to KERFUFFLE, with the next in line going to a clue, rather than an answer, “Foofaraw”.

The fill was good, if not especially challenging, but with the theme sucking up most of the puzzle’s oxygen, who could notice. Nevertheless, there were some goodies like AHANDFUL, which is quite a mouthful for the rather skimpy clue of “Some”.

And, LOOKSEE, peeking up at UNICORN and OLDSCORE, looking down at TOENAILS gave some interesting visuals (well, at least for the UNICORN, maybe not so much for the TOENAILS).

A bit too easy for a Thursday level but when there are seven of the bounciest clues in memory, coupled with a terrific reveal, it gets a pass from me and a hearty bravo to Derek and an equally hearty brava to Sarah.

Susan 8:48 AM  

Rex,it would REALLY cause a brouhaha in my house if my daughter (incidentally, a student at your fine institution) painted her toenails on the couch, bonbons or no. Much easier to clean up drips of enamel in the bathroom.

imsdave 8:52 AM  

Got the theme immediately, but was still wowed by the revealer. The only thing keeping me from giving this a four star rating was the difficulty level for a Thursday. Maybe it should have run on a Tuesday.

Well done Mr. Bowman and Ms. Keller.

Matthew G. 8:56 AM  

Okay, what's with all the hoopla?

Tita 9:03 AM  

Scads of fabulous words.

Shouts out (shout outS?) to our own Kerfuffle and Ott.

Young UNS crossing AHANDFUL
Mini theme of horned beasts? RHINO & UNICORN...

Thanks Mr. Bowman & Ms. Keller.

edwords 9:05 AM  

Very much enjoyed this puzzle. And BTW, Rex, there WAS an indicator of how great Mel Ott was -- the "1920s-1940s" part. Only great players last that long.

foodie 9:06 AM  

Rex loves a puzzle! And @Evil Doug agrees! Woohoo!

HOOHA is my favorite! followed by the shoutout to our own KERFUFFLE!

@L.I.Jenny for yesterday, thanks for the advice on turning off autocorrect on my iPAD. I have an ambivalent relationship with it, sometimes it knows better than me and I love that, and sometimes it's out to embarrass me, and I hate that. It's good to know I can kill it. So many other ambivalences where there's no such option!

Judith 9:08 AM  

Yeah, my daughter ruined my coffee table painting her toenails in the family room. Put a cottonball w. polish remover on the table. It caused quite the brouhaha when I got home!

Rob C 9:09 AM  

Everything Rex said. Very nice puzzle. And I didn't even get 10 hrs. of sleep.

@evil doug - I saw that episode last night and still laugh after all these years and viewings.

jesser 9:13 AM  

Very cool puzzle! My only writeovers were up in the NW, with SIX flOor before SIX STORY and A nOte before A FOOL. Oh, and I had Arizona on my mind at 32A, so I had to make my a into a K. No worries.

George TAKEI is hysterical on Facebook.

Gotta scoot. Busy day looking.

Happy Thursday, Rexville!

jberg 9:15 AM  

Yeah, I wanted 'thistle' for UNICORN too - one of my two writeovers (other was lot for SEA at 33D). It was impressive all right, but a bit of a struggle for me. I finished the NE before I got anything else, then went on to the SE, afterr which I got a total of 1across answer in the whole West (Santa ANA) without crosses - and that one was a cross reference from 62D. With only YMA and BAH to link the two halves (and I wasn't all that sure of BAH), it was tough to get going there. I also wanted aMORAL at 41A.

On the other hand, it was nice to see all of MEL OTT instead of just his NOM de famille. And, of course, KERFUFFLE.

But I just noticed an error - I would have said SSH at 14D (if glaring severely failed), so I had HOOHAS in the plural. Should have noticed that!

Glade 9:22 AM  

Rex--Why didn't you play "Do the Locomotion" for us? That would have covered up the slight stinkiness of COMMOTION.

retired_chemist 9:23 AM  

Liked it a lot, and not just because it was easy. Fresh fill, cool facts. (UNICORN? Who knew? Actually I did, but still....)

Thought it was KERFLUFFLE. Set us straight, @Bob K, when you visit....

Tried TEN STORY @ 17A, figuring it wasn't ONE or TWO, and waited for OAXACA to make it SIX.

Really wanted to parse 11D as ROO FRACK, but why does one need an auto attachment to commit unspeakable acts with a marsupial?

20A could have been clued "Tennessee in the NCAA" for parity with 32A.

Wanted MANTLE momentarily @ 45D, but soon realized (a) he was mostly a 50s player and definitely not 20s, and (b) he was No. 7 anyway).

"Boxing match" is in my mental phrasebook and am surprised it is not in Rex's.

Anyhow, a good one, best in while. Thanks to the constructors.

Rudy 9:27 AM  

Lovely puzzle, Unfolded well.. what with BROUHAHA KERFUFFLE, TODOLIST, IMMORAL, , OLDSCORE, SLYS (When did we last see Stallone and Family Stone together in a clue?), STRAFE (WWII Battle of Britain Vintage, "Bandits at 11 o'clock! " Roger, Wilco!") in all quadrants.

Quote of the day: "Developing puzzles for private clients".. Whole new market niche!

Relieved Guy 9:29 AM  

I came here with the deathly fear that The Bard would treat us to the entire text of Much Ado About Nothing.

Loren Muse Smith 9:32 AM  

I have to add to Rex's toenail-painting scenario - watching Secret Storm, painting your toenails on the naugahyde couch, dippity-do smeared hair in curlers in your nifty portable hair dryer cap, a Salem nearby in a bean bag ashtray.

Now that All My Children is off the air (what a "stir" that caused!), I guess I'll have to paint my toenails in the bathroom. But bon-bons in the bathroom? Yuck.

Wood 9:33 AM  

Loved it! Faster than average Thursday for me, and the theme came quickly, but what a great revealer.

I like these "meta-themes": the authors are taking a hackneyed crossword device -- cluing the crosswordese "ADO" or "TO DO" with some silly synonym -- and turning it into a virtuoso display of constructing talent, using every one of those silly synonyms as both clues and answers. Awesome!

joho 9:36 AM  

Starting off with BROUHAHA at 1A got the theme going in a great way.

Loved the reveal, TODOLIST, which added to the starred answers makes 8 fantastic theme entries.

The only thing that seemed a bit repetitive was MELOTT meeting OTTOII.

Oh, and I had an error at AHSoN (thought it was Bret Harte and Mark Twain's take on Charlie Chan) but didn't even care.

Loved it, thank you, Derek Bowman and Sarah Keller!

Pete 9:43 AM  

I wanted ELKHORN for Scotland's coat of arms. I figured that being a real thing, and a real thing that actually exists in Scotland would kind of be a requirement for being part of your coat of arms.

Damned Scots!

GILL I. 9:53 AM  

Super, super fun puzzle.
I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't know what KERFUFFLE meant - particularly since our own Bob is one of my favorite commentators. I really thought it was just a fun word to say. It is, and I learned something new....
Aren't all these onomatopoeia words? (I can't spell it much less pronounce it.)
I'd give anything to sleep 10 hours straight but even with snatches here and there, I had a big smile on my face when I finished.
P.S. Oaxaca has some of the finest Mexican food you could ever eat. Nary a morsel you'd find at any typical Mexican restaurant in the U.S.

Anonymous 9:58 AM  

I guess I'm alone is disliking this puzzle!!! Once I knew the clue, and realized I needed to think of all of words meaning "to-do" I grew instantly irritated. They may be fun, but it was a chore and I eventually just stopped. Plus, since when is a "rhino" a "critter"? That one bugged me for some reason, same with YMA Sumac. And the "A" in "HANDFUL." I'll blame it on the snow. . .

Evelyn 10:04 AM  

Given Will's recent relaxation of the FITB rules, I would liked to have seen 15A clued as "___ of Dust". My royalties are way down.

chefbea 10:12 AM  

My earlier post disappeared!!!

Found the right side much easier than the left. Loved the toenail clue!

John Hoffman 10:19 AM  

Enjoyed it. I can always do Sunday through Wednesday with no major problems. If I can do a Thursday in less than an hour (or at all), then it's easy! Unless I'm getting smarter.

Anyway, this Thursday I got!


Loren Muse Smith 10:20 AM  

@ Anonymous - agreed. Critters are smaller than a breadbox.

Tobias Duncan 10:21 AM  

Great puzzles all week so far.ACME really set the tone...

r.alphbunker 10:29 AM  

14 stars for this one. Loved that both the clues and the answers are both synonyms for todo. Initially had trouble understanding the revealer because it mentioned both the clues and their answers.

HOOPLAH ends with an H but HOOHA doesn't so I don't feel too bad about ending up with HOOHAs for excitement and ShH for Theater admonishment.

Given the existence of ahsinists, all buildings should have fire evacuation plans.

Lojman 10:32 AM  

@Rex - I paused with the 'retired number' clue as well, but then I thought a retired number must be at least as prestigious as being in the hall of fame. Wikipedia confirmed my suspicion - approximately 150 retired numbers in major league history, just under 300 inductees in the hall of fame.

Loved the puzzle. What was so great about it was that even the clues for the theme answers were all unique. A lesser constructor would have used the same generic clue for all the theme answers, but instead we get 14 synonyms for To Do. Bravo.

@Evil, here's another baseball-Seinfeld meld for you...

KRAMER: Hey, I saw DiMaggio in the donut shop again.
JERRY: Uh huh.
ELAINE: Joe DiMaggio?
KRAMER: Joe DiMaggio, you know this time I went in and sat down across from him and I really watched him. I studied, his every move. For example, he dunks.
ELAINE: Joe DiMaggio dunks his donut?!
KRAMER: That's right.
JERRY: See, now I know it's not him. Joe DiMaggio could not be a dunker.
KRAMER: Oh, he's a dunker.
ELAINE: Why couldn't he be a dunker?
KRAMER: And nothing diverts his attention. Like, I'm uh, you know, I-I, like I'm sitting in there, you know. And, uh, I start banging on the table, you know, to uh, so that he'll look up, you know, Like I'm sitting there you know and uh, *bang* [slams the table] You know, *bang* He wouldn't move. So then I start doing these yelping noises. Like, *yip* [high pitched yelping noises] *yip*. No reaction because the guy is so focused, you see, he can just block out anything that's going on around him. See, that's how he played baseball. He dunks like he hits.
ELAINE: So then what?
KRAMER: Well, then the waitress, she comes up and she tells me to shut up or they're gonna throw me out.
ELAINE: Why didn't you just call out his name?....


Bob Kerfuffle 10:59 AM  

Loved it, natch.

@retired_chemist - Nope, the puzzle has it right.

Matthew G. 11:03 AM  

I, too, loved this puzzle. I laughed out loud and hard when I got to the reveal, which I very rarely do, and I also enjoyed every step of the way, since the words are so crisp. Five stars. And all the HOOPLA reminded me of my favorite Kids in the Hall sketch (see my earlier post at 8:56 a.m. when I was in a rush and didn't have time to comment).

@Lojman: I can't agree that "a retired number must be at least as prestigious as being in the Hall of Fame." A team can unilaterally retire a number, but election to the Hall of Fame takes the votes of 75 percent of voting baseball writers nationwide -- a pretty high bar to clear.

I suspect that there are more Hall of Famers than retired numbers for two reasons: first, not every team has taken a consistent approach to retiring numbers, and second, a lot of Hall of Famers from the 19th and early 20th centuries have been inducted, but they predated the era of players having uniform numbers (not to mention the practice of retiring numbers).

The most beloved player of my childhood, Don Mattingly, has had his number retired but is (rightly) not in the Hall of Fame. Much as I loved him, he doesn't quite reach that level.

Two Ponies 11:05 AM  

The SW was a mess for awhile.
I had Good going and that slowed me way down.
I also had Make a meal of in the NE.
Oh well, it was fun in the end.
For those questioning a rhino being a critter I think it was clued that way to let us know it wouldn't be spelled out in full.
Brouhaha always reminds me of a Nick Danger FST skit.

retired_chemist 11:15 AM  

@ Bob K - thanks.

John V 11:25 AM  

From my phone. Fun theme, great fill, easy Thursday, easy Wednesday level for me. Later.

David 11:55 AM  

Thanks, @Evil, for the Seinfeld Kramer story retelling, probably my 2nd favorite to the one where he described subduing the bus hijacker, commandeering the bus, and still making the stops along the way.

Fabulous puzzle! We're so accustomed to seeing these types of words (some more than others), and what a great to tie them all together, and with an unexpected revealer to boot! Turned out to be my all-time best Thursday time too, a little under 7 1/2 minutes...

Sparky 11:57 AM  

DNF as the I in 9D and 21A eluded me. Had sOuTHS, and AntED for a while. It all sorted out. Happy to shout out for Bob K. Amusing words. Spelling this kind of word always seems like a toss up to me. Amazing how often Ray Liotta turns up in puzzles.

The theme words are symmetrical, too. Wow. Good Thursday.

Mel Ott 11:57 AM  

Splendid puzzle! As others have noted, interesting fun words, some interesting factoids.

The other #4 from that era who comes to mind is Lou Gehrig, but, sad to say, I don't think he made it to the 40's. BTW when they started using uniform numbers they assigned players the same number as their spot in the batting order. Both Gehrig and Ott batted cleanup.

@evil: One of the all-time great Kramer moments.

The phrase "boxing match" is very much in the language.

Noam D. Elkies 12:11 PM  

A lot to like about this puzzle, though the reveal didn't do all that much for me — ¿esto es todo?

Nothing about "Pfui!" as the clue for 29A:BAH? That word cause quite a kerfuffle (or was it a brouhaha or a hoopla or ...?) when it first appeared in the grid, clued as "Bah, humbug!"

As for 46D:OTTO_II, the clue did suggest a Roman numeral higher than I. And apropos of Roman numeral 1, 31:TAKE_I looks like an alternative form of the clue for the intersecting 26D:¡HERE!

Hasta la basta,

Rube 12:13 PM  

Had most of the puzzle done quickly with the only writeover being LOC/sic, but the SW had me stumped with a big white space. Then I thought, "Where's our Kerfuffle"? Sure enough, changed ASU to KSU, (the wildcats are AU, not ASU, dummy), slipped KERFUFFLE in and the rest was history. Probably would not have got this if not for @BobK's presence on this blog, as that is the only one of the 15 theme answers with which I used to be unfamiliar.

Great puzzle, loved it and DNG. (Of course with Wikipedia off line last night when I did this, Googling would have been difficult at best.)

Midj 12:16 PM  

Just started solving online and was happy to be able to do it on such a fun puzzle! NW caused a bit of an issue with LOC crossing OAXACA but when I finally got it I was thrilled to be able to submit my time. Looking forward to learning to navigate the grid more quickly as to be able to solve in similar time to my dead tree experience...

efrex 12:37 PM  

If this were a Wednesday puzzle, I'd be over the moon with joy. I generally expect a bit more wackiness from my Thursdays, but great reveal + fun theme words (KERFUFFLE! C'mon, how do you not love a puzzle with KERFUFFLE?) = excellent puzzle. Finished the entire right side in Tuesday-type time, then took a bit of work to get the left side.

Bravi, Mr. Bowman and Ms. Keller! Give us more to see soon!

Jeff Garlin 12:46 PM  

I believe this website is bordering upon violation of SOPA, and am warning you of this for your reference.

In reading the comments it is clear that various anonymous posters have come into possession of the final episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, of which I am producer. To whit:

Cheryl enters wearing a broad brimmed hat.

Larry: You remember the Urban Sombrero?

Larry: Proceeds to reenact the entire Urban Sombrero episode of Seinfeld.

Cheryl, Jeff, Susie - Various yawns, eye-rolls, impatient gestures.

Half way through:
Cheryl : Larry, enough already! We saw it the first time, saw it a million times since. Jesus, you're such a friggin' bore. That was twenty years ago, just let it rest!

Larry (befuddled): But it was great, almost as good as any of the baseball ones.

Larry: Proceeds to reenact Kramer's fantasy baseball show.

Cheryl, Jeff, Susie - Various yawns, eye-rolls, impatient gestures, more extreme, agitated, annoyed than before.

Cheryl, Jeff, Susie (in unison): Larry, just give it a rest will you. It was good in its day, but its over, you hear me, over! Let it die! Why don't you die!

Roll Credits.

Masked and Anonymous 1:05 PM  

This was like 4 little almost-separate-puzs-in-one, each with its own little private stock of long, feisty but fair stacks of words. Made for an extra-extra-fun solve. #31 is right: this one's a really big thUUmbsUUp.

Didn't even mind two clever constructors gangin' up on one lowly, punchy M&A solver. Punchy on account of a cinnamon roll-induced semi-trance, following a fairly long snooze of my own. I highly recommend these long snoozes, 31. Keep 'em up, dude. Good to leave your best snark in the sheets, most days.

This was a velvet smooth dream to work through. Best ThursPuz in my memory bank. Grid design from outer space. You can beam me up, now, Sarah Lee.

jae 1:08 PM  

Nice to have a puzzle where the zippy stuff is the theme.  Very clever and nicely done but tad to easy for a Thurs.

George TAKEI was excellent in the under rated (IMOO) Larry Crowne.

re: yesterday's MEME - The closest I've come to getting it is trope but then I'm not sure what that is either.

Evan 1:27 PM  

I found this puzzle to be incredibly old-fashioned. That doesn't mean that I disliked it. Even at the ripe young age of 28, it made me laugh incredibly hard. Words like HULLABALOO and HURLYBURLY and and KERFUFFLE and FOOFARAW and HOOHAH and even the TO-DO theme revealer gave it a certain old-timey feel, like something out of a press release from the 1920s. "This just in over the wires: A major foofaraw has broken out at the local speakeasy, 23 skidoo!"

And yes, I realize that some of the starred answers are still used in common parlance today, but I'm still tipping my cap to Derek Bowman and Sarah Keller for making me feel like I was in the middle of listening to an old episode of the CBS radio drama "Suspense."

Larry I in L.A. 1:28 PM  

@Gill I.P., plus any Rexvillians (Rexvillites?) in the Los Angeles area:

There is a very good Oaxacan restaurant called Guelaguetza on Olympic Boulevard near Normandie. Six different varieties of molé and delicious coffee (infused with cinnamon?). For the really brave, they even serve chapulines (grasshoppers)! Best of all, perhaps, is that you can buy a container of molé "starter paste" and re-create some of the deliciousness at home by simply stirring in chicken broth until the molé reaches your desired consistency, then adding cooked chicken. Mmm, hungry...

Loved the puzzle, too!

Tita 1:34 PM  

Rex - the chex in the mail...!

Anonymous 1:40 PM  

Mel Ott, even not counting his name's usefulness in crossword puzzles, was a truly great player. Lifetime .304 hitter with 511 homeruns. When he retired in 1947, he was third on the all-time homerun list. (Now, of course, not even close to the top.)

archaeoprof 1:53 PM  

Liked it!

Front page of today's NYT has a photo of a Mitt rally on our campus yesterday. The people in the photo are obviously NOT students. "Sparsely attended" would be a generous way to put it.

@jae: agree wholeheartedly about George TAKEI and "Larry Crowne."

Masked and Anonymous Diet Plan 2:02 PM  

Aw hell...Couldn't even read my own packaging right... make that "Sara Lee".

My apologies. Haven't been hangin' around here as much lately, as my doc put me on this darn diet. Made me grouchy. Started thinking: "Har. Get 'em, Rex." or "You're not no way near snarky enough, Rex!" Bad attitude. So stayed away.

Fell off the wagon temporarily today. My doc's a real wise guy. Said my cinnamon roll meter was on the "overload" reading. Kept staring at my mid-section, while he said it. So I asked him, "Well, will I live longer, if I give up the cinnamon rolls?' His answer was something like, "No, but it'll sure as hell seem like longer." Snort.

See y'all in forty pounds or so.

Tita 2:06 PM  

@Mel_Ott - thanks - I never knew that about your number being your batting order!

@M&A - good luck!!

Stan 2:10 PM  

A really satisfactory puzzle. When you consider the number of theme words in both the clues and the answers, it's well, a *lot* of theme.

And the words themselves are fun, aided by that onomono- thing that someone mentioned.

Congrats to the constructors! Good Rex write-up and comments today too.

JHC 2:15 PM  

Funny, my primary association with the word HOOHAH is the KERFUFFLE a few years back about some theater companies bowdlerizing the title of Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues."

GILL I. 2:43 PM  

@Larry I in L.A.: Thanks for the Guelaguetza restaurant info. I looked it up and they have a ton of 5 star ratings. I still didn't see 2 of my favorites on their menu: Tejate - a toasted maize and cacao beverage or my favorite memelas - tortillas slathered in pig lard with OAXACAN cheese and a mole type salsa. "Authentic" is really a misnomer. I have yet to have any moles here that taste similar to those in OAXACA. Maybe it's their water... It's also a bit like "authentic Valencia paella." I've eaten hundreds of them and none compare to the original. I make my own now and use only Spanish rice and chorizo. But, the sea-food (especially the shrimp) just isn't the same. Sigh...Another reason to dream of a foreign flight! At least L.A. isn't that far away although it might seem foreign.;)
P.S. Chapulines are over-rated and they don't taste like chicken!

Ado Commotion Michaels 2:59 PM  

So fun!!!
And what really made the puzzle was having such an excellent reveal IN the puzzle, otherwise it would have just been a list...
But the density is amazing, awe inspiring, and such fun words.
Having each defined wi yet another way of saying to-do that exactly matched the level of the answer was indeed like haing 15 theme answers.
Super well done. Kudos.
Tad on easy side, and sort of a Tuesday-Wednesday theme, but elevated by it's bounciness and sheer fun with language.

My only hangup was I couldn't parse NO ESCAPE.
I had ----CAPE and had Cape Fear stuck in my mind, so by the time i got NOES CAPE i couldn't figure out who/ where NOES was...esp because we have NOE Valley here.

Oops, one letter- error...AHSeN/eMF. Never heard of AH SIN and had written in EMF...which by the way was taken OUT of the Scrabble dictionary, after decades in's not a word!

And yes, it's nice to see most folks loving something, admiring the construction and having fun, which is what it's all about, no?

Lewis 3:22 PM  

A wonderful day in the blog with nary a scuffle, or kerfuffle. See what a thumbs-up puzzle can do?

r.alphbunker 3:29 PM  


Good point. The same effect is observed in cows listening to Bach

Bird 3:40 PM  

Great puzzle. Perfect revealer. Some obscure (for me) fill, but nothing that couldn't be gotten. Not one Natick.

I'm with the critters are small and cute crowd. A RHINO is a beast.

@dk - my condolences on losing the girl, but I'm happy to see you've moved on

Go Giants!

merlbaby 3:50 PM  

count me in as a lover of this puzzle -- great reveal tying it all together. however, even at this high level i can see a few nits to pick. i keep finding HOO-HAH as a variant of the more common HOO-HA, and to me variants always have a slight mark against them. if i may be so presumptuous, it looks like this could have been easily fixed by switching HOOPLA to the upper right (crossing COMMOTION) and using TUMULT in the bottom left (crossing the L of KERFUFFLE). i also thought there was just a tad too many fudge-y answers, like SLYS, NORTHS, and SIX-STORY, and obscure crosswordese like CFL, AH SIN, IMRE, and others, but the high level of the rest of the fill more than made up for it -- way more. being the chronic nitpicker i am, however, did not dim my huge enjoyment in solving this. kudos, kiddos.

sanfranman59 4:23 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)

Thu 12:03, 18:57, 0.64, 2%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Thu 6:42, 9:16, 0.72, 10%, Easy

I had my fastest recorded Thursday solve time on this puzzle, by a full minute (7:08). So I'm not surprised that's it's coming in with a two of the lowest median solve times in the two groups of online solvers.

Other HOFers wearing #4 from the Ott/Gehrig era ... Joe Cronin, Luke Appling, Hack Wilson

cw stewart 4:44 PM  

Very delightful puzzle!

xyz 4:48 PM  

I'm guessing that this was the easiest Thursday on record based on my solve time.

All this despite the extremely ugly NE corner.

HOOHAH crossing OHO ?? - not even as smooth as Keith Stone

Anonymous 4:50 PM  

This did seem easy for a Thursday, but I solve on paper with pen. Maybe I should start timing myself.

quilter1 4:52 PM  

I commented early today, was going to be #29, and it disappeared. Same yesterday.

What I said was, we haven't seen YMA, IMRE or OTTO in a while. Nice fresh clue for Mr. OTT. For my coat of arms I first wanted griffin or gryphon, but waited until the UNICORN trotted by. I did like this puzzle. I also finished the BEQ puzzle today, but, again, the LAT puzzle only printed half the page from the Chicago Tribune site. It has been OK since Sunday, so I don't know what their problem is.

my captcha is vankersh. I hope this time I can vankersh Google.

mac 4:55 PM  

Wonderful puzzle, agree with all the positivity above.

I knew all the expressions, but needed crossings for some of the spelling. Thought "hogs" before "pigs", and wanted, really, two story at 17A. Easy Thursday but a fun solve.

dk 5:01 PM  

@Bird, last week I was whispering GO GIANTS as I sat in a rural Wisconsin bar. This week woo woo!

@imsdave, there is a reason why I hand out the stars and not you :)

So I am playing checkers with an elephant. Two Ponies walks up and exclaims "dk that is one smart elephant!" I reply: "not so much I am beating him 3 out of 5."

Remember send in your pledge or the jokes continue and your name will be used.

Bird 5:16 PM  

@dk - Definitely WOOHOO! It will be a battle, but Big Blue will prevail. My brother lives in SF and is a huge Giants fan. He said he going to try and get tix, but undecided if he will wear his Osi jersey over or under his jacket.

chefwen 5:26 PM  

@GillI.P. Thanks a lot, now I'm REALLY hungry and I'm a looooong ways away from anything resembling an authentic Mexican restaurant.

@mac - same thing with pigs and two story.

Always want kerfuffle to be spelled kerfLuffle.

As well as almost everyone else, loved it.

Two Ponies 5:57 PM  

@ dk, I did my paypal thing but use my name in a joke any time!

retired_chemist 9:01 PM  

Wiktionary has KERFLUFFLE as an alternate spelling. KERFUFFLE seems to be preferred, as @Bob K says. He should know.

Anonymous 9:04 PM  

@Jeff Garlin - Good one.

Z 9:32 PM  

I had ---CORN before getting to the clue, so I was spared the thistle/unicorn confusion. Well that and not having any idea about any coat of arms anywhere.

MEL OTT has made two full appearances lately. I got him off the tTT, helping me to settle theSCORE as well. I like him better in his full six letter glory than in either three letter iteration.

Chortled at HOOHAs (I am glad others did the SsH thing) since it is fairly common slang (though a little dated) for a specific element of female anatomy. There have been enough such terms snuck into the puzzle lately to cause a rash.

A little surprised at the number of comments pleading confusion over memes. Really?

sanfranman59 10:29 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 6:24, 6:50, 0.94, 25%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:56, 8:52, 1.01, 59%, Medium
Wed 12:07, 11:50, 1.02, 61%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 12:12, 18:57, 0.64, 3%, Easy (4th lowest median solve time of 134 Thursdays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:34, 3:40, 0.97, 42%, Medium
Tue 4:47, 4:35, 1.05, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:13, 5:52, 1.06, 70%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 6:30, 9:16, 0.70, 7%, Easy (9th lowest median solve time of 134 Thursdays)

Kristin 11:19 PM  

My boyfriend was kibitzing and he studied geology once, so I got BASALT right off the bat. Got the revealer before I had more than a couple theme answers in.

acme 12:40 AM  

@sparky 11:57am
The theme entries always have to be symmetrical, which is what makes it magical...suppose there wasnt another word the same length as KERFUFFLE?
What was great is they could take the ones that didn't fit or had no match and use them as clues...
Clever clever clever
Not having a match, esp for an even number lettered word has sunk many a puzzle

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

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!#: Sorel Women's Helen Of Tundra Boot... The Cheapest

Simply, Ron 11:18 AM  

Challange to Evil Doug: Seinfield is and was a great series. But....try transcribing the dialog of "The Big Bang." Betcha can't. I love, love, love that program. It's great watching the reruns as I hadn't seen the originals. Good, good puzzle today. Easy, clever and fresh.

Dirigonzo 3:56 PM  

From the syndicate, so much praise has already ben heaped upon the puz that more from me would be superfluous, so I'll praise a comment that may have gone unnoticed by some, instead.

@retired_chemist said, "Really wanted to parse 11D as ROO FRACK, but why does one need an auto attachment to commit unspeakable acts with a marsupial?" You just are not going to see that kind of warped humor anywhere else - love it!

Spacecraft 5:56 PM  

Never expected to see such universal thumb-uppance--even from the Blogster himself--with one glaring exception: Sanfranman. He's all about the math and the solving time, but never seems to have an opinion. Are we sure this is a human? What's his name, HAL? No, HAL got too emotional. Watson, maybe.
It's not one I'd do flips over, but it had a decent tough-but-gettable difficulty for me; I'd put it more toward the medium-challenging end of things. I like that level, so you can put me in with the up-thumbers.
One point: at least eight teams are "the Wildcats of the NCAA," three of the more popular being Villanova, Kentucky and Arizona--so this clue was among an ever-increasing batch (many today!) that "could be anything."
One that couldn't was the oldie but goodie YMA, since POISON won't fit into three spaces. I couldn't believe that our retired #4 wasn't GEHRIG, but "MEHrig" just doesn't do him justice. Took a while to see that it was a first AND last name.

ozmosis 6:03 PM  

The only bump in the road for me was Instead of Mel Ott I went for that other famous 4, G-e-h-r-i-g. I always start with a baseball clue whenever I see one.

Anonymous 7:55 PM  

We see OTT a lot, but rarely the full MEL OTT. But I think this is the second time in the past week that we've had his full name. At least here in Five-weeks-behind-except-on-Sundays-when-it's-only-a-week-behind Land.

Back in aught 4 I received a retro Giants baseball jersey for my birthday, with no name or number on the back. I decided the appropriate thing to do would be to honor Master Melvin by having OTT sewn on above the number 4. But alas, I never got around to it.

Recommended reading: No News at Throat Lake, Californa Dreaming, and Maybe it Should Have Been A Three Iron: My Year as a Caddie for the World's 438th-Best Golfer, all by Lawrence Donegan, the bassist for Lloyd Cole & The Commotions.

Anonymous 8:41 PM  

six-story confused me. i'm from canada and we would spell it six-storey.

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