Ian who won 1991 Masters / WED 1-25-12 / City of Kyrgyzstan / Palm smartphone / Sweet filling in commercial names

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Constructor: Gareth Bain

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: TREE RINGS (38A: Indicators of age ... and a hint to this puzzle's theme) — CIRCLES in the grid hold three-letter TREE names

Word of the Day: Ian WOOSNAM (2D: Ian who won the 1991 Masters) —
Ian Harold Woosnam OBE (born 2 March 1958) is a Welsh professional golfer.
Nicknamed 'Woosie', 'Woosers', or the 'Wee Welshman', Woosnam was one of the "Big Five" generation of European golfers, all born within 12 months of one another, all of whom have won majors, and made Europe competitive in the Ryder Cup. His peers in  this group were Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, and Sandy Lyle (wikipedia)
• • •
Four sad, sparse circles in the grid don't make for a very strong visual statement. The theme is a cute repurposing of the phrase "TREE RINGS," but I didn't enjoy it as much as I might have since a. there weren't very many trees, and b. I've done a much more difficult and more satisfying tree rebus before. I know it was by Byron Walden, and I'm almost certain it was in the NY Sun several years back. Plus, this grid has some fill I'd try *really* hard to keep out of my grids, including BAI—I'd have gone HAMAS / SALTS / BAT or something like that; my guess is Gareth wanted to get "original" answers in there with MILLARD and HAMID, but being first with an answer just isn't good enough reason to make a corner rougher than it has to be. BAI is too high a price to pay for virtually anything. I mean, good god, even BAE is better than BAI. Other less-than-great stuff: OSH, INNO, KREME, ANGE, TREO, SSGT, OTIC, SIG, TROU, "ADIA," and (singular) BEE GEE (coincidence: I listened to Side A of "Spirits Having Flown" on vinyl today. Several times. While cooking. Good stuff). To the puzzle's credit, it has KAN[YEW]EST and COLD[ASH]ELL (an oath! EGAD!). I just tested a puzzle with KANYEWEST in it yesterday. That constructor is not going to be happy ... but I guess KANYE still hasn't appeared in full-name, unrebused form, so it'll still seem like an original answer.

Theme answers:
Had a pretty easy time with this one. Always easy to solve rebuses when the relevant squares are marked for you. First indication of the rebus came with the short answers up top, actually—the bull name and the river both looked ridiculous, so something had to be up. Once I figured it out, the rest of the puzzle was a cinch. Had no recollection of WOOSNAM at all—needed every cross there. Briefly blanked on SNERT. Needed a nudge to get TAY. Otherwise, no trouble.

  • 5A: Classic sci-fi terror, with "the" ("BLOB") — is "terror" the creature itself? Or is the movie the "terror?"
  • 26A: Followers of lambdas (MUS) — better than short for "music," I guess.
  • 32A: Phyllis's never-seen TV husband (LARS) — from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." How long will it be before this sitcom reference (very gettable to people over 40) is seen as unfairly obscure?
  • 47A: Pursuers of the Sopranos, for short (GMEN) — I wrote in GATS at first ... 
  • 40A: Sweet filling, in commercial names (KREME) — I think you mean "commercial name." Singular.
  • 28A: Song title for both Fleetwood Mac and Starship (SARA) — only one of these is listen-to-able. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:15 AM  

On the tough side of medium for me.   WOOSNAM, for example, is pretty obscure if you haven't followed golf for the last couple of decades. And, even if you have, getting the spelling right is iffy (I thought it was WOOSMAN until the crosses said no).   Throw in a rapper, an obscure clue for a crosswordese card game, an obsolete PDA, a WTF three letter city, and a who? Ling actress, all topped off with a rebus Wed. and you have an easy-med. Thurs.

That said, I liked this one.  Not a typical circle puzzle and some zippy stuff in the grid. 

Deb 12:19 AM  

Even with the circles provided, it took me forever to realize there was a rebus involved in this one. I finally saw it on my third trip through the puzzle with AIDKIT staring me in the face. Isn't it unusual for a Wednesday puzzle to include a rebus? I think that's why it took me so long to think of it, particularly since it's really still Tuesday.


r.alphbunker 12:36 AM  

The circles did not register with me at a conscious level until I got TREERINGS. What was going on here? Was my brain ignoring what my eyes were telling it or was my brain instructing my eyes to focus on letters ignoring what surrounded the letters? Or both? This was a case of not seeing the trees for the forest.

But I liked the puzzle especially COLD AS HELL which is what I thought when I first saw the clue but rejected it because it had too many letters.

Jenny 12:51 AM  

I solve on paper, and thought maybe my printer's ink had run low, missing more circles. Alas, only four, which seems a bit sparse as rebus themes go. Then again, I have constructed zero puzzles myself, so this is still impressive. A quick solve for me today.

Amenable Coldashell Misfires 1:05 AM  

I liked that all the trees were three letters...
And the KANyewEST/EyewITNESS is quite fabulous!
so is GOSPelmUSIC/elmER.

But lots to make up for that, IRECKON, SNEEZING, LISZT, for example.

Couple of tricky plurals: GMEN, AMOEBAE (with the nice parallel OE/AE).
My only yecch was SIG, LGE and DALIS.

But, as @r.alphbunker said, don't want to lose the forest for the trees.

Funny to be that NOSHING, so Yiddish, has become so mainstream as to be clued with "Having chips, say", instead of "Grabbing a bagel". Enjoy!

Larry I in L.A. 1:38 AM  

Still strange to be able to chime in near the top of the comments. With the recent price increase to $2.50 Mon-Sat, however, I realized that my NYT habit was going to run at least $15 per week if I continued solving the dead tree edition during my morning Starbucks stop, so I finally paid for the annual web subscription.

Actually nearly finished this in less than 10 minutes, but had to spend almost four minutes sussing out the square of letters that completed ESTER/TOOT/TREO/SNERT. Despite appearances, that corner definitely did not suit me to a T.

Evan 1:43 AM  

@ Deb:

I think the Times ran a rebus on a Wednesday last year, with theme answers having two Z's in certain squares....no wait, correction, that was a puzzle in September 2010 by Tracy Gray. Oh well, it still feels like last year to me. Still, my brain also initially rejected the thought of this puzzle being a rebus for the same reason: Too early in the week, the clues were generally easier than what I'd expect in a typical rebus grid, etc.

I give mad props to Gareth Bain for putting in my thus far favorite entry of the year (COLD AS HELL), but why did it have to be clued as "Like winter in Siberia"? Seems like a drab clue for such a killer answer. Yes, I get that Siberia can be friggin' cold, but so can a whole mess of geographic locations north of Canada. So is an igloo. So is liquid nitrogen. I realize that the rebus is the main focus of the grid, but the opportunity to use a great entry like COLD AS HELL probably doesn't come along very often, so why not liven the clue up with something like, "Like someplace frozen over?" Or, "Like Ebenezer Scrooge's heart?" Or, "Like Santa's workshop during a power outage?" Or hey, why not "Like a grave digger's bum during a snowstorm?"

Rube 2:49 AM  

I Consider this to be one of the worst Wednesdays in a long time. Got the rebus almost immediatelyt with COLD(ASH)ell, confirmed with (FIR)STAIDKIT and E(YEW)ITNESS. BUT, gave up and started Googling only to find out that Sarah Machlan's supposedly 1998 hit, (ADIA), does not appear on her Wikipedia page. Then, found out that the firth of TAY is more prominent in Antartica and/or Raleigh North Carolina then Scotland. (OK, I probably should have known of the firth of TAY as the location of a railroad bridge failure in 1879, but then, maybe not.) How many of you knew that a STYE was a "Staph-caused infection"?

Well, maybe I should have known (ELM)ER's glue, but the DOVE awards???... give me a break. Having GAzE for GAPE didn't help there either. By the time I got to BLURB for "Words on a jacket" I was too put off to appreciate this as the best clue in the puzzle!

I'm dissappointed, Gareth B. I really do like the use of TREE RINGS for age dating. Unfortunately you didn't include Pines, which are some of the the oldest living things on earth, e.g. the Bristlecone pines of the Inyo National Forest in California, one of whom is 4,750 years old.

dk 5:21 AM  

@rube I stand beside you.

My joy in this puzzle is a function of loose associations. I know, I know what is new you are saying. But here they are.

The BLOB along with The Bad Seed are family favorites.
The Pines are my favorite band of late.

And, what of the Gum tree.

** (2 Stars) Bring me a shrubbery!

Golfballman 7:30 AM  

I wanted Fang for Phyllis's husband. Never watched the early MTM series.

Loren Muse Smith 7:39 AM  

I LOVED this puzzle, and was surprised at people's negative reactions. Saw the rebus at the very start with ELM. I was expecting ASH and FIR, but thought the fourth would be OAK, so YEW was a clever choice.

Like everyone else, I loved COLDASHELL. As a southerner, I always like IRECKON, which was funny right next to NOSHING.

Thanks, Gareth!

donkos 7:47 AM  

what @Larry I in L.A. said - SW was just not fun, I had SNERD instead of SNERT which kept me from finishing.

I had a TREO so when I saw the clue for "Palm Smartphone", I was tempted to use the word that got Gil I.P. called out by Miss Manners yesterday but knew that would be just too good to be true.

J.Edgar 8:06 AM  

At 56a I had E---ness, so I put in Eliot Ness.

John V 8:13 AM  

Medium/challenging here, mostly as I was not expecting a rebus on Wednesday. Only hitch was STYE/TAY cross, which felt like a semi-Natick to me. Liked AMOEBAE plural, LUPINE, LISZT, NOSHING -- how long before we get KVETCHING, or have I just missed it; great fill candidate, no? Sure, Dove Awards are obscure, but, with the rebus, the ELMER cross makes it fair, IMHO.

Drop TROU second time in two weeks? From the Old Gray Lady?

Is COLDASHELL a flashback to Mr. Bain's puzzle of Thursday a week ago, Canadian provinces rebus, some of which are indeed as cold as hell, inclunding Nunavut, which was MIA in that work.

Fun puzzle for me. Thanks to our South African constructor and fellow blogger.

jesser 8:20 AM  

@Golfballman: Me, too! Fang was my instant recollection!

This was a DNF for me because of the NE where both 15A and 27A required a guessing, and I didn't know anything about "The Persistence of Memory," so I went with an anthology hunch and plopped in tALeS.

I liked the rebus but was surprised by it showing up on a Wednesday. I even checked my calendar to make sure which radio shows I have scheduled today. Grrr.

TROU are getting dropped a lot lately, is seems. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Ian WOOSNAM was a gimmee for me. He's a very compact little guy with a big swing and is, if memory serves, from New Zealand.

I am from New Mexico, and I better get back to work. Happy Wednesday Rexites!

jberg 8:34 AM  

Was thinking "how obscure can you get?" re: WOOSNAM, then saw that it was a gimme for @Jesser - just goes to show the diversity of solvers. for me, the A was almost a total guess - hoped the song would be a woman's name, but didn't know it. I had cREME at first, and had to get OSH from the crosses, but otherwise enjoyed it.

I got the theme with WABASH, although I had to get GOSPEL MUSIC to see that it was trees, and not just ash. Three-letter tree names, actually, which limited it. Others have pointed out oak and gum, but maybe the latter is too Australian. So there could have been six; or five, with one of them a central down - AFFIRMS would would, but that would change everything else.

Tita 8:40 AM  

Loved it, Mr. Bain, but agree with Rex - would have loved it more with more trees...even if they weren't all 3-letter.

Maybe it was the synchronicity of having counted tree rings on a walk to Lover's Leap yesterday. It was sad to see how many trees were down or irrevocably damaged from the Halloween storm. Counted the rings on one behemoth that was about 125 years old, by our reckoning.

@Rube - Gareth did sneak luPINE in the grid, with one of my favorite clues today - a much better answer for "Wolfish" than the usual dreck.

IONA is in my home town, so a gimme.
Good cluing at Sights on slides, Inviting a blessing, Like telegrams...

Capcha - outonit - a limb, perhaps??

Anonymous 8:57 AM  

hand up for Creme which i failed to correct. liked the puzzle, found it a tad tricky and clever.

joho 9:12 AM  

I got the theme at KANYEWEST/EYEWITNESS which was my favorite crossing.

Writeovers were SluG before SWIG, GAzE before GAPE and atTaR before ESTER.

The trees did seem a bit sparse but I liked what was done with the four that were there.

I feel like an idiot for not remembering that "The Persistence of Memory" was a Dali painting. I didn't know HAMID or BAI so that area of the puzzle was a train wreck for me.

chefbea 9:29 AM  

Lots of things I didn't know. Got the theme at first aid kit, then got ash and elm. Kept looking for oak.

There is a big Krispy Kreme place here where they make all the doughnuts. Never been there but I'll have to check it out.

Judith 9:35 AM  

@golfballman - I too was hung up for a while because I "knew" Phyllis Diller's husband was Fang. I watched MTM and still didn't think of that for a long time.

Being a Hooiser, the Wabash River revealed all on the Rebus side.

Cheeseguy 9:39 AM  

Have to finally comment on here as there is so much negativity on this puzzle and I really liked it. Have followed this blog and the comments for years now and it is always very educational, entertaining, and beneficial to helping me become a better solver.

My thoughts on the puzzle:

Woosnam is a gimme for about anyone who plays or watches golf occasionally and even if you don't know that a stye is caused by staph (which I would think alot of folks do know), what other option is there?
All the theme answers were very good. Cold as hell -- one of the best answers in some time.

Thanks to Rex and all of the regulars here that make my mornings more enjoyable.

Good Puzzle Gareth!!

xyz 9:54 AM  

Challenging and rather meh

Not much bang for buck

WOOSNAM for us golfers is Bible & Torah, poetic crap, yiddish and bad TV show actor fill for puzzle geeks aka a slam dunk/?????WTF

Hope the next one's more fun ...

cultypt - ji(y)ped by a cult?

archaeoprof 10:01 AM  

This puzzle is COol AS HELL.

@ChefBea: Krispy Kreme always lights up their "hot and now" sign when the donuts have just come out of the oven. Not to be missed!

The grades are in from last night. President: A.
Daniels: C-.

quilter1 10:07 AM  

I liked it, too. Got the rebus at WABASH and then paid attention to the circles, which I usually ignore. Also when was the last time AMENABLE appeared? Big smile for COLDASHELL. Thanks, Gareth

The Drake 10:21 AM  

Long time reader, first time poster. I liked the puzzle, especially COLDASHELL which is as apt a description of Siberia as I can imagine. Didn't like the clue for KREME as the clue didn't indicate a trade name. Got WOOSNAM because I remember a snarky British tabloid headline after Mr. W got popped for a DWI--Boozy Woozy.

GILL I. 10:23 AM  

Hand up for wanting a few more trees and inserting fang before LARS.
I had trouble with ELMER, BAI and have never heard of KREME. KREME sounds disgusting as a filling.
I still get mixed up with EBOLI and ECOLA.
I loved watching WOOSNAM. My parents were big golf fans and mom always had the t.v. on when the PGA aired. WOOSNAM is the short, little plump guy out in the green looking like a giant. @jesser - he's Welsh.
I recently watched a special on Stevie Nicks and it was a bit painful. There is something about watching aged rock stars re-creating their hay-day hit songs, that makes me go EGAD.

hazel 10:24 AM  

Great puzzle, Gareth. i liked seeing IRECKON too - and would love to see MIGHTCOULD in a future puzzle!

Masked and Anonymous 10:28 AM  

Wanted sequoia.

JaxInL.A. 10:35 AM  

I'll take a rebus any day and I find Gareth's fun and rewarding. I wanna echo what the first three commenters said--@jae, @Deb and @r.alph (hi, r.alph!) about clues and words they liked or found hard.

I though <A HREF="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H├Ągar_the_Horrible>Hagar the Horrible</A>'s dog was SNERd and while I've heard of TOOT as a drink, I've never heard it used as Drunken spree so the cross was no help.

I thought that "Having chips" referred to the condition of a collectible item so I entered NOt mINt for a long time.

Thanks much, Gareth, for a lovely Wednesday. Keep 'em coming.

I saw author Shalom Auslander last night on tour promoting his new novel "Hope: a tragedy." i know of him from the radio show This American Life and his memoir of growing up an ultra-orthodox Jew and rebelling against it, "Foreskin's Lament." He read the first chapter of Hope at the event. Though I haven't read this book yet, I recommend his work to this word-loving audience. He has a wry, ironic wit and a very unusual view of the world. The underlying premise is that hope is responsible for a great deal of misery in the world, so would we be better off without it? Yet it's funny.

Happy early rebus day, everyone. Dare I hope for another tomorrow? Heaven.

Two Ponies 10:38 AM  

Geez Louise, Dae Kim yesterday and Bai today? Other than that I like a rebus even if the forest is a little sparse.
I was thrown off a bit seeing the terminal S of what turned out to not be a plural in eyewitness.
If Kanye West had not made such a a$$ of himself at that awards show I'd never have remembered him.
It paid to know old TV shows with Lars and inn.
You're hard pressed to find a slot machine with an arm these days (there are still a few).
Only a lucky guess kept me from being Naticked in the NW. Ian who?

Mel Ott 10:49 AM  

Since many rappers have idiosyncratic spelling for their names I had no idea whether the commercial name should be KREME or CREME. Could be either. I cry foul.

Did not like for reasons stated by Rex.

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

While us Kiwis could love to claim Ian Woosnam as one of us - he is in fact Welsh.

retired_chemist 11:10 AM  

Liked it. Medium. A very easy rebus, maybe because it was an unexpected Wednesday one. WAB(ASH) @10D was a giveaway, and it led immediately to COLD(ASH)ELL - wonderful, that! It fixed BESEEM @ 8D.

Hand up for CREME but fixing it via KAN(YE W)EST. Had heard of OSH but wouldn't have got it without the straightforward crosses.

All in all a fun puzzle, without IMO a lot of icky fill.

Thanks, Gareth.

captcha OUSHI - maybe Kyrgyzstani sushi?

Shamik 11:11 AM  

Clearly challenging for me. Thoroughly (for me) Naticked in the NE with HAMIT/TALES/BAE. The good news for me is that I wouldn't have known any of them except HAMID and misspelled that. There are things you know and things you don't know. Otherwise it was a very enjoyable puzzle.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:18 AM  

When I was a Tenderfoot Boy Scout, 55 years ago, we had iodine in our (FIR)ST AID KIT. Shortly after that, the iodine was removed, as we were told, because it was too potentially damaging to healthy tissue. Is there a doctor in the house?

Anonymous 11:21 AM  

I don't usually like the rebus puzzles, but I got TREERINGS before I needed to fill in the circles and once I got one WABASH, the rest filled in. As a golfer, I knew Woosnam right away...

retired_chemist 11:25 AM  

@ mel ott - I think KANYE WEST and KRISPY KREME are both in common parlance and the crossing is not unfair. JMO.

I'm more sympathetic to LARS as poorly clued but the crosses are easy so OK.

Anonymous 11:34 AM  

Too bad I never noticed the circles, because if I had, I would have figured out where the last rebus was more quickly. But then, if I'd realized it wasn't Thursday, I never would have looked for a rebus!

Anonymous 11:46 AM  

This was my first three-letter rebus, but I figured it out with GOSPELMUSIC. I'm a 32-year-old woman and knew BAI, LARS & WOOSNAM. What threw me off for awhile was the Bogart character. Go figure.

Rob C 11:56 AM  

Wanted to comment on Rex's "four sad sparce circles do not make for a very strong visual statement." True, but when you consider that there are 8 theme answers covering 41 distinct squares, it seems perfectly adequate.

Didn't strike me at first that there was too much junk fill, but looking back I sort of agree.

Just trying to keep perspective and see the forest but for the trees...

Rob C 12:01 PM  

...50 theme squares counting TREERINGS

Rob C 12:03 PM  

...and of course I misspelled sparse

jackj 12:08 PM  

Loved the theme and thought the entries used by Gareth were excellent, especially COLD(ASH)ELL, but the puzzle seemed a tad underwhelming, mainly due to the paucity of theme clues. Two more might have made it a Hall-of Fame candidate.

IRECKON is a fun phrase and it always conjures up thoughts of a farmer, clad in his denim bib over-alls, thumbs in side pockets, straw in corner of his mouth, telling a city slicker, “I reckon.”

Or, so I thought until curiosity inspired me to use Google to tell me more and, amazingly, it ain’t just an Al Capp hayseed bit, (unless you can bring Plato into the Yokum’s ambit).

Let me quote from “Fowler’s Modern English Usage”:

“The use of reckon without any element of calculation or consideration as in "I reckon it's time to go now" has a tinge of the American south about it, although it was a standard use in literary English as recently as the 19th century

(I reckon, said Socrates, that no one...could accuse me of idle talking—Jowett translating Plato, 1875)."

It is simply amazing where crosswords can take us!

Wyonative 12:15 PM  

Hands up for creme and gaze. Since I refuse to google, I rely on hard copy, especially The World Almanac and Book of Facts, advertised as Will Shortz's "#1 reference work for facts." Kanye West is spelled as Kayne West in the 2012 edition. Unless there is indeed a Kayne West, did I--horrors!--find a typo in The World Almanac?

Loren Muse Smith 12:33 PM  

I was fortunate enough to spend a weekend in Oxford, England in the 80s. I went to a commemoration ball at Oriel College. I heard "I reckon" twice, meaning the same thing as it does in the American south. My (British) date said it was perfectly acceptable English.

MikeM 12:43 PM  

Had cREME for KREME and bOuT instead of TOOT which did me in in the SW. I've been on many drinking bouts, never a drinking toot. Foul.

mitchs 12:43 PM  

@Jesser: The wee Woozie is Welsh.

Lewis 12:51 PM  

@golfballman -- hand up for Fang
@r.alph -- loved your trees/forest comment
@loren -- hand up for thinking the last ring would be OAK
@jesser -- trou comment made me laugh
@gareth -- no African references?

I loved this puzzle. I'm coming into puzzles with more faith that crosses will provide what my lack of knowledge won't, and that is helping a lot. I did have trouble sussing the SW and finally had to Google TREO, which unlocked that corner. This puzzle had sparkle for me, did not feel stale.

mac 12:54 PM  

I had the identical problem area @Shamik had, and was slowed down a little by treelines instead of -rings. Elmer gave it away.

I liked the puzzle, a little extra rebus on a Wednesday! 50 theme squares seem plenty to me, and in addition amoebae (always like that plural), amenable and lupine. Learned about the Dove Awards, and love the crossing of Kanye West and eyewitness. Thought cold as hell before I even tried to make it fit!

Good one, Gareth!

evil doug 1:16 PM  

mitchs---think I never got back to you on SBux in Ft Tommy. When I was teaching at NKU that was my MWF stop on the way. Say hi to all my pals there. They treated me well.

Loren---"stye" reminds me of your "pink-eyed salmon". I prefer mine with her-peas and carrots.

Back to jury duty....

Noam D. Elkies 1:18 PM  

i generally liked this one (even though the first theme square I ran across, in 56A:E[YEW]ITNESS, had to be confirmed by 40D:KAN[YEW]HO_CARES). It felt about right for Wednesday. 21A could also have been "cold as heck" until the Down crosses made the choice.

Didn't know the familiar entry 69A:STYE was caused by staph, so learned something new. Nor did I know this meaning of 68A:TOOT. I thought the clue for 18D:[ELM]ER (crossing 20A:STEER!) was bull, but apparently it was the Elmer's Glue mascot. At least they didn't use Mr.Ed. Another apt crossing is of 11D:AMOEBAE and 19A:EBOLA.

The clue for 26A:MUS made it, well, elementary: LMN = lambda/mu/nu. Yes, it's also been clued as an abbreviation for "music", or more rarely "museum", but not yet (on xwordinfo) as the Latin for "mouse", cognate not only with that word but also (via the diminutive musculus) with both "muscle" and "mussel".

52:OSH? Gosh!


Chip Hilton 1:25 PM  

DALIS totally stumped me. Otherwise, smooth sailing.

My most vivid WOOSNAM recollection is of the time he took a 2-stroke penalty at the 2001 British Open for having an extra club in his bag. Caddie's mistake and Woosnam's reaction on the first tee when he realized the error was something to see. He ended up third in the event, so it was a huge error and, to his credit, he showed a good deal of restraint and compassion towards the caddie. He was a terrific golfer in his prime,a little guy who hit it a mile and competed fiercely.

DJG 1:38 PM  

FYI, according to Cruciverb, KANYEWEST did appear as an answer in a 2010 puzzle in WSJ (none in NYT).

So-so puzzle today, I completely agree that we really needed a few more trees.

Sparky 1:47 PM  

Had a hint with WABASH but didn't fill it in. Got it at ELMER. Kept waiting for oak.

I'm with @Tobias on sports. So weary of them. Used my Almanac for WOOSNAM.

Hand up for cREME. Never saw BAI; came with the downs. DALIS and LARS gimmees.

@TwoPonies right; slots have touch screens and hang on to the money till you ask for it. Then they burp out a piece of scrip you have to go cash. They make the noise of change coming down. Phoo. All of this designed to keep you gambling (oops, gaming).

But I digress. Thanks Gareth. I had fun.

Bird 1:52 PM  

Some recent posts about constructing put me in a creative mood so I started building a puzzle. I know have much more respect for constructors who get their puzzles posted in the NYT.

That said . . .

This one was difficult for me. I needed to guess a few times and had a bunch of writeovers. But I did finish.

Guesses: _NGE, BA_
Writeovers: STEAK to STEER, ECOLI to EBOLA (always mix those up), CREME to KREME and RASH to STYE


To borrow from SNL, these are my "Really?" comments . . .
• Dove Awards? On a Wednesday?
• TOOT is a drunken spree? A TOOT is a SWIG.
• ESS turns are tricky? I thought u-turns were tricky, especially on a narrow street.

Over the hump and heading towards Friday!

Acme 1:53 PM  

Seriously, i challenge everyone who wanted more trees, other than the four that made EIGHT smooth phrases to construct a puzzle! I'm serious!
Masked and Anonymous said it best at 10:28 am!

Also, once met BAI Ling and she is, um, batshit crazy.

JenCT 1:54 PM  

Liked the puzzle; maybe the lack of theme answers is what made Shortz publish this on a Wednesday vs. a Thursday?

Didn't get the theme until KANYE WEST.

@The Drake: the clue for KREME did say "commercial names," which would include trade names.

No idea how I knew BAI Ling; must be from reading People Magazine at the doctors' office, as someone else remarked recently.

ELM, ASH, FIR, YEW - I was looking for OAK also.

Loren Muse Smith 2:01 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren Muse Smith 2:02 PM  

@Evil Doug - I deserve to be reminded of PINK EYE instead of SOCK EYE. Truly a puzzle-solving low moment, er, nadir.

To steal from Gelett Burgess:

I never ate a pink-eyed salmon.
I never hope to eat one.
But I can tell you anyhow
I'd rather eat than be one.

My son had as a pet an albino king snake when he was little. Poor guy - bad enough to be a snake, but he had pink eyes to boot. Ick. Nice snake, though; he actually liked to be handled!

Anonymous 2:13 PM  

Can someone please tell me how to type multiple letters in a square when playing against the clock. I know how to do it when I download the puzzle and play it on my desk top. Thanks.

JenCT 2:29 PM  

@Anon. 2:13: This is from the NYT Wordplay blog:

Applet, or “Play Against the Clock/Solve With a Friend”

The applet also gives full credit for the first letter of the rebus element. But if you want to enter and display multiple letters, the applet will accept up to four characters.

To enter two, three or four letters:

1.) Type the “+” key (Shift and “=”) one, two or three times (one less than the number of letters).

2.) Type the letters you want to enter. For example, MOON would be “+++MOON” with no final Enter key press. This method works whether you use a PC or Mac.

Nancy in PA 2:29 PM  

Hand up for Elliot Ness. I already knew the circle had to have three letters in it, so tried to cram LIO then LLI in (have a son named Elliot so am always aware of the one-l, two-l's, one-t, two-t's problem). Fortunately I knew Kanye West so that fixed it. The ELM was the last to fall for me.

joho 2:37 PM  

@Acme, that's funny because for a while there I thought her name might be BAT Ling! Who knew how appropriate!

Tita 2:41 PM  

@Acme & @Joho...

I randomly grabbed some puzzles from last year before I started solving religously solving, to help me practice for the Westport Tourney.

Lo and behold, I get a joint gem from you two!
Tue 7//5/2011... - thinking of that chubby guy at 17A on a wintry day like today makes me shiver!

Thanks for a fun solve.

ksquare 3:07 PM  

I used to believe the WABASH Cannonball was a southern train because 'she came out off Birmingham one cold December day' but
it was not from Alabama but Michigan to Indiana.
Also, EBOLA is a virus while E.COLI is a bacterium, much different.
Just sayin'.

retired_chemist 3:20 PM  

And nobody yet has described this puzzle as a TREE RING CIRCUS.

Larry 3:22 PM  

Ok, so it wasn't a forest but rather a park, with a few trees scattered here and there for shade and relaxation. As we all know, if you got money and women and a place in the shade you've got it made, but a place in the shade is the hardest to get.

Even now I can't type in WOOSNAM because my fingers demand WOOSMAN.

As a regular diner at The Golden Corral, I can attest that T-Bones also come from cows. Old, tired, weary, stringy cows, for whom being turned into an all you can eat buffett for $9.49 was a welcome relief.

captcha: inghttely - INGE's name before he came through Ellis Island.

sanfranman59 3:48 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 13:18, 11:50, 1.12, 80%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 7:18, 5:53, 1.24, 92%, Challenging

JaxInL.A. 4:29 PM  

May favorite firth is Forth.

Here's the Hagar the Horrible link to wikipedia with all the coding required (hopefully). Oops. Sorry about that.

Nice to see all the new folks here. @The Drake, @Cheeseguy and @Wyonative and others.

foodie 5:19 PM  

How apt. I'm writing this from Stockholm, and my host is called LARS (pronounced something like LARSH) and is the spitting image of George Peppard! These people are so gorgeous and lovely, but right at the moment, all their gorgeousness is not making up for the fact that my hotel room is COLD AS HELL-- seriously... I RECKON I need to wear both a sweater and a robe and grab the down comforter to stop from shivering.

I liked all the theme answers and many others-- LIEGE, NOSHING, HAMID on top of EBOLA, AMENABLE, etc. All of this makes up for WOOSNAM (!) shacking up with BAI, TAY and SEI...

Off to hug a warm water pipe...

David 5:57 PM  

Firth of Fifth....GREAT Genesis song, with an amazing solo by Steve Hackett...

Two Ponies 6:11 PM  

@ David, Yes, great song. There's a man for "Greatest Guitarist" list!

Brennan 6:44 PM  

Since RP made a point of LARS being a fairly old reference, it might interest the solving world to know that for many years now, all US Army ranks are abbreviated with only three characters. A Staff Sergeant is abbreviated as SSG. In the Air Force and Marines, however, the abbreviation is still SSgt. I know "SSgt" as a good answer to "Army NCO" is standard crosswordese, but it's not accurate anymore.

Not a bad puzzle, and it was a nice surprise to have a non-Thursday rebus.

chefbea 6:52 PM  

@Larry where are you that you have a golden corral??? We go there once a month to a NARFE meeting...the food is great

mac 7:55 PM  

Poor Foodie! The Nordic people (and I, too) like it cool.

sanfranman59 10:27 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 6:39, 6:50, 0.97, 44%, Medium
Tue 7:57, 8:51, 0.90, 20%, Easy
Wed 13:13, 11:50, 1.12, 79%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:42, 3:40, 1.01, 57%, Medium
Tue 4:13, 4:34, 0.92, 26%, Easy-Medium
Wed 7:00, 5:52, 1.19, 90%, Challenging

I think today's surprise rebus is skewing today's stats. There were fewer online solvers today than for any of the 132 other Wednesday puzzles in my spreadsheet (488 vs. a previous low of 495 and a Wednesday mean of 676). This probably means that there were more than the usual number of DNFs for a Wednesday. Had they completed the puzzle, most of these folks almost certainly would have jacked up the average solve time for the All Solvers group. The Top 100 rating is probably a better gauge of the difficulty of this puzzle. This is the 14th highest Wednesday median solve time in that group of solvers. That's a long way of saying that I feel pretty good about my own solve time falling in the low end of my Medium-Challenging range. :^)

Larry 11:26 PM  

@Chefbea. Actually, I've never been to a Golden Corral. It's just that there commercials didn't lead me to think that they purchased prime meats, and simply served as a long way around to saying that T-Bone steaks also come from cows. They're just crappy T-Bone steaks.

I'll take your word for it about the Golden Corral, but still I am beginning to doubt your chefiness.

Z 11:29 PM  

COLD ASH ELL? Phrase has always bothered me because the mythology I was raised in portrays hell as a warm sort of place.

The cREME error really slowed me down.

doggh - stopping at every tree.

Anonymous 11:59 PM  

@Z - Actually, the way the Bible describes hell, it's colder than heaven. Hell's temperature is only referenced by the molten brimstone. Were the brimstone boiling, it would be at a lower temperature than what would be in heaven, where the sun shines as 1000 suns.

Of course, we're assuming facts here.

Acme 2:23 AM  

Don't you think it's just skewed because people couldn't figure out how to enter the rebus on line and as they swirched over to figure it out they turned off the timer or whatever?

astrabox 4:16 PM  

liked the puzzle, found it a tad tricky and clever.

Spacecraft 12:34 PM  

Started, for some reason, in the NE, where ASH fell into that circle quite readily. Skip to the central clue--and there it was. I get it. But some of the others weren't that easy. The SW nearly did me in; I not only don't know any rappers, I'm proud that I don't. Eventually, with some hard work, I filled it in--all but the natick at TREo/TOoT. I wouldn't know a Palm smartphone if it bit me in the kazizzie (not proud of that, just hopelessly tech-challenged), and never before in my life heard a drunken spree called a "TOOT." I wound up filling it in with an O, but it was with a shrug, thinking, "What else could TO_T be?" For the record, I think "drunken spree" is a HORRIBLE clue for TOOT.
Re TROU: this is another unword that has appeared twice in rapid succession. Let us SHED (get rid of!) this half-word right now. Let us drop T...er, forget it.
I liked starting my puzzle off with a SWIG. And I still get snail mail from my former rep. David MILLARD, though I've lived 2,000 miles away from his district for some 17 months now.

rain forest 2:11 PM  

Whether or not one believes that there should be (more, God forbid) rules re: having a rebus on Wednesday or the "proper" number of theme clues, this was a fine puzzle, and tree rings referenced to trees in rings, was an excellent idea, I think. Those who suggested pine or sequoia (tongue in cheek, I know) perhaps didn't realize they were all trees with 3-letter names. The overall sense was that this puzzle provided enjoyment with some challenging areas, all gettable, and very little iffy fill. I liked it very much.

Dirigonzo 3:42 PM  

In a galaxy far away and long ago (that is to say where I grew up) someone out on a drinking spree was often said to be "off on a TOOT". So fair enough by me, but I've also been know to take a TOOT off someone else's whiskey flask so I can see the confusion some had with the clue.

Solving in Seattle 5:06 PM  

I enjoyed the rebus clues and answers and would have enjoyed a few more, however, after suffering through the questionable fill in this puzzle I'm going to have a SWIG and go on a TOOT. (a TOOT?)

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