Co-anchor Hill of Early Show / WED 2-8-12 / Crafty Norse god / Precursor to memorable Boston party / Foes of Jedi / Alphabetic trio for fliers / Its logo includes its name in blue letters in yellow oval

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SS (!) — "S" is added to words ending in "S" in familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: "SHE'S the Boss" (38D: "___ the Boss" (Mick Jagger album)) —
She's the Boss is the solo album debut by The Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger released in 1985. When the Stones signed with CBS Records in 1983, one of the options available to them was for individual projects, and Jagger—ready to spread his wings after recording exclusively with the famous band for 20 years—eagerly began working on She's the Boss. [...] The video for "Hard Woman" extensively utilized a Cray supercomputer for its animation, making it one of the most expensive music videos made to that point in time. (wikipedia)

• • •

Holy theme replication, Batman!

Well, this would be great if SINGLESS was a word. Not only is it not a word, it's not even a good made-up word that accurately describes the situation in question. A pub with no karaoke would be a SONGLESS BAR, but of course there's no such thing as a "songles bar" (I don't think), so we're left with this disastrous, faceplant of an answer. Truly terrible. The yin to MID-ASS's yang (made-up word that is, nonetheless, perfect). Other than that, you've got a bunch of added "S"s. Pretty ho-hum.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Throat lozenge for low-voiced opera stars? (BASS RELIEF)
  • 25A: Cause of a sexual harassment complaint? (MID-ASS TOUCH)
  • 35A: Talk about pitchers and quarterbacks? (DISCUSS THROWERS)
  • 49A: Pub with no karaoke? (SINGLESS BAR)
  • 57A: Admission provider for a kissing booth? (BUSS TICKET)
Had a lot of trouble with this puzzle, which doesn't seem likely when I look it over in retrospect, but it's true. Biggest issues was 1A: Flimflam, because I had TDS for 3D: Some Super Bowl highlights (ADS). First stab at FRAUD ended up FDTUD (the "D" for DNA instead of correct RNA; 2D: Coded material). SOLIDS did not come quickly to mind as baby food (6D: Some foods for growing babies). 16A: Some (A FEW) could've been a million things, of course. [Main section of a long poem] doesn't work for the only CANTOs I know (Dante's). "Inferno" has 34 cantos ("Divine Comedy" has 100 in total). No one CANTO is a "main section." They are all of roughly equal length. Cantankerous cry!

  • 67A: Home of Middle East University (AMMAN) — ??? First of all, worst university name ever. Do they really call it that? Second, why would I know this? I've never heard of this place. Clue may as well just say [Middle Eastern city]. 
  • 32A: Its logo includes its name in blue letters in a yellow oval (IKEA) — hard for me. Only logo I could imagine in an oval was Ford. The ARID cross was also hard. I had DEAD and DRAB before ARID ever got in there (22D: Lifeless). 
  • 34D: Start of a Clement Moore classic ('TWAS) — Yay, a gimme! I learned who Clement (Clarke) Moore was from xwords (when I was cluing a puzzle ... which you may or may not see eventually).
  • 7D: Co-anchor Hill of "The Early Show" (ERICA) — network morning shows are ... well, what horrifies you most about popular culture? OK, *that's* what network morning shows are to me. Murderous rage. It's like vapidity concentrated. Plus aggressive, stupid, mindless commercialism. The worst form of TV imaginable. This includes every reality show I've ever heard of. Yes, this includes "Toddlers in Tiaras" and "Hillybilly Hand-fishing" (is there a hyphen in "handfishing?" I'm guessing that's not a question hillbillies ask very often) (Oh, I'm sorry, it's "Handfishin'"; and no, no hyphen). 

  • 12D: Precursor to a memorable Boston party (TEA ACT) — I think I put this in a puzzle one time, too. I have lost track of what's been submitted, what accepted, what rejected, and what's sitting in the "In Progress" folder...
  • 26D: Foes of the Jedi (SITH) — reminds me of a picture my friend (a professor of Medieval Art History) posted today on Facebook: 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:10 AM  

Easy, delightful, zippy, amusing!  No need to go into detail on why it had me laughing.  OFCOURSENOT!   Bet BEQ wishes he'd thought of that one. Thanks Lynn Lempel for a very special Wed.!

foodie 12:18 AM  

I agree about SINGLESS! While MIDASS was pretty risqué. What a week, putting that with GOING COMMANDO!

Rex, It's the University of Amman, Jordan, using the same naming principle as the U. of Paris, or U. of London, etc. I'm going there in March for a joint meeting with Israeli scientists... The topic, stress and depression, could not be more apt.

Anonymous 12:22 AM  

MIDAS'S TOUCH? What the hell is MIDAS'S TOUCH, and why would that be wacky? That thought process made the rest unbearable. Finally reparsing it made the rest bearable.

Wasn't F[o]RT UD the fort in F-Troop where those crazy Indians always scammed Egarn? Close enough for me. I saw my first commercial for Hillbilly Handfishin' just hours ago, and it scared the crap out of me. Not the fishing aspect of the show, the sharing the planet with them aspect of reality.

Evan 12:29 AM  

As far as I'm concerned, I laughed so hard at 25-Across that I have no qualms about dubbing MID-ASS TOUCH as the NYT Answer of the Year for me thus far, taking the crown from January 25's COLD AS HELL. And it will be quite the feat to top it.

More PG-13-ish language in your crosswords, New York Times. More, I say. Is it too much to ask that Will Shortz bring whatever hate mail he receives for that answer alone and read it aloud at the ACPT in March?

Greg Charles 12:38 AM  

Hmm, I found this one harder than normal for Wednesday ... made many of the same missteps that Rex made. I got Ikea right away. Interesting because I feel about Ikea roughly the way Rex feels about morning shows.

When I got MIDASS TOUCH, I had to say out loud, "Rex is going to like that!"

Evan K. 12:48 AM  

For me this was a simple and enjoyable Wednesday. Thank you, Lynn!

Sparky 12:54 AM  

Took a chance and solved on Across Light. 29m8sec. Saved it but I don't have the clues. How do you all do it? Remember, that is.

ORCA a gimme, ELAN and NESS too, come to think of it. Mats before COTS. Got BASS, then BUSS so expected all B starts. That changed with LESSBAR and SING shoehorned in, a nonword, true, Rex.

Well, it was different solving this way. I'm going to turn in. Happy Wednesday,

chefwen 1:34 AM  

Got off to a rather pissy start by reading 1D at Tariff and plunked down tax, proceeded to fill 1A as trick. Went on to greener pastures and fixed that corner last. Was really wondering what long answer would begin with an X, I guess there wasn't one.

Mentioned to my husband that the NYT's is really letting their hair down lately with as @foodie stated, GOING COMMANDO and now MID ASS TOUCH. I'm liking it.

Evan 1:57 AM  

By the way, crossword constructors beware: The website is announcing that it will soon be requiring users to register before they can access most of its features. Apparently there were too many users accessing too many of its pages in a small period of time, causing one too many temporary server crashes.

I posted a comment in last Sunday's blog entry about this but didn't receive a reply, so I'm posting it again. Does anyone know any more information about this? Is there going to be a substantial fee to subscribe to XWord Info from now on?

Rube 1:59 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rube 2:02 AM  

Really agreed w/ @rex on this one. SiNGLESS_ is meaningless and dumb while MIDASS_ is sensational and, as @Evan said, "the Answer of the Year". @rex's rant about ERICA, morning TV and reality TV @7D really hits the mark. I'd quote it, but it's too good to not have you re-read it again in the original.

CANTO as the "Main section...", I don't think so either. Still, except for that SINGLESS_ fiasco, this was a very fine puzzle.

Did I ever tell you all about the sign at a gas station/mini-store in Kanab, Utah that said "Busses Welcome"?

1:59 AM

Larry I in L.A. 2:22 AM  

I like it when Rex and I screw up in the same way. I also had a WTF moment with -dtUD (a lot of problems with 1As lately--hmmm), and was stumped until I realized "terrif" was the partial word that Billie Holiday rhymed with "sniff" (as in cocaine) when she sang "I Get A Kick Out Of You".

Also loved the faux-medieval homage to "The Empire Strikes Back", but Lucas has one too many hands!

andso canto midass 2:38 AM  

GOESBANANAS is a wonderful callback to Monday's GOCRAZY it!

SINGLESS BAR is wacky, this it doesn't matter real or not, I think! I spent all of last night at the monthly Beatles' singalong...
"If I fell" and "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You" made the evening NOT SINGLESS!

Here is what I noticed...odd parallels:
ERICA/EROICA, UVA/EVA, ALG/ ANAT...I thought @rex would be ired by KLM, NCAA, RNA, TSP, USSR, RAF, ITE.
and the crosses of ASH/ASH, BUSS/BUS...

The bottom SE corner could be read down to up:

Over all, i liked the simplicity of adding just an extra S and really changing things up!

retired_chemist 2:52 AM  

Fun. Medium. Only a few writeovers, e.g. WHELP => CALVE @ 64A.

Thanks, Ms. Lempel.

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Anonymous 6:28 AM  

Hahaha. I got stuck right away because I thought an low-voiced opera singer's lozenge was "altoaltoid." I thought I was so clever to get that right off.

Anonymous 6:48 AM  

I kind of thought it was supposed to be "Midas's touch" (you know, like there's some jerk named Midas and he's touching where he oughtn't). I'm sure the play/double-meaning was intentional (the possible reading of the answer as "mid-ass"), but I'd bet that it's technically supposed to read "Midas's." This is still the Times. I doubt they've loosened up *that* much. ;)

Z 6:53 AM  

All too frequently Rex's write-up describes my experience exactly. Not today. This was almost Monday easy for me. Perhaps nothing occurring to me right away at 1a helped. I started with SEAR, and then worked back into the NW, so I avoided all those mistakes others made. Not a single snag or write-over for me today.

I agree that SINGLESS BAR is the weakest theme answer, but I give Ms Lempel a pass because I like all of the rest. Keeping the symmetry with one weak answer to give us three good answers and one great answer is okay by me. NO RRNS, not an Olaf or Leo to be seen, the partials and three letter words seem less tired than what we often see. I like this puzzle.

I can't comment directly on morning news programs as, if I watch, I catch either Mike and Mike (where a great portion of the show is used to DISCUSS THROWERS) or Morning Joe. I did see something in the NYT not too long ago that one of the big networks was going to try to replicate the Morning Joe formula. I have my doubts that middle America is really all that interested in a show where moderates on the political left and right get together and discuss the issues and news of the day in a relatively intelligent and non-accusatory/demeaning manner. We seem to prefer our sideshow carneys.

Finally, I like the word STOAT. I like it because it allows me to say to my sons, "Sons, remember. It is always better to be astute than a stoat." Yes, I really say it. Yes, they always roll their eyes at me. It is truly one of the great pleasures of being a father.

John V 7:34 AM  

Fellow Westporters that I talked to loved the third round MIDASSTOUCH -- as a theme answer, you do understand. Medium, save for the LOKI/IKEA cross. Dead, as a clue for ARID, is tough, too.

Again, my experience at my first tournament was that I was so focused on time and completion that the themes were much of a blur. I didn't see DISCUSSTHROWERS or MIDASSTOUCH until talking to folks in the hall.

A good Wednesday, Lynn and thanks!

Anonymous 7:54 AM  

Singless is not a word, but sing is and so is less and the phrase sing less is funny in the context. The whole puzzle is zany, fun and light. No serious-minded English professor could possibly like it.

BTW, the constructor is one puzzle away from having a puzzle published every day of the week.
@Acme, There goes Rex again making fun of hillbillies….


exaudio 7:56 AM  

Loved this puzzle, especially MIDASS TOUCH. In defense of SINGLESSBAR, I think a songless bar would have zero music whatsoever, piped in or live, while a SINGLESS BAR would specifically have no one singing, so it is appropriate.

jberg 8:04 AM  

On the one hand, I liked SINGLESS BAR. It's not a bar without songs - there might be a jukebox, or something - it's a bar where no one sings.

On the other hand, what do the mathematicians think of 61D? It's correct only if one is not a prime number, but I've always understood that it is. How else can the (I think still unproven) conjecture that every even number is the sum of two primes be even a conjecture?

Aside from that, a fun, snappy puzzle.

Loren Muse Smith 8:18 AM  

"Disastrous faceplant of an answer" made me laugh out loud. And then wonder if "disastrous faceplant" isn't a bit redundant?

Hand up for DNA/TDS/dtUD. Had my reveal at said faceplant of an answer, and, maybe because it's snowing here, maybe because I had a bellyful of eggs, bacon, dark roast, maybe because I slept well -I didn't object to it.

46A - "far out" is ever so much preferable to the tired AWESOME and its battered, worn, gag-inducing buddy "amazing." (Ok - the mood is slipping just thinking about what an "amazing" mother Cindy Celebrity is going to be.)

@John V - yep - ARID was tough for "lifeless." Also, I thought a MACE was a weapon. @Z - I tell my kids, "Be alert. America needs more lerts." That's always good for an eyeroll, too. Do you think anyone outside of Crosswordville knows ELAN and URALS?

Here in West Virginia, we're not hillbillies. We're Appalachian Americans.

r.alphbunker 8:22 AM  

There is a subtle difference between
54A Dodges, perhaps
54A Dodges, e.g

I think that "perhaps" makes "dodge" seem more like a verb and increases the redirectional power of the clue.

25A was golden!

Rob C 8:29 AM  

I don't know - maybe I'm the prude of the bunch, but I thought MIDASSTOUCH was crude. Shook my head when I got it (but I must admit I chuckled for a split second). As Rex mentions, it's made up. Does anyone really use the word mid-ass? Any proctologists or sexual harassers out there to shed some light on this?

Funny story I saw quite a few years ago on the news. A racetrack announcer was retiring after a very long time in the business (I believe from Arlington by Chicago). They asked for his most embarassing moment and he told the story of when a horse named Harass was scratched from a race and he had to figure out how to announce it to the crowd.

Anonymous 8:30 AM  

@jberg...From Wikipedia:"A prime number (or a prime) is a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself."

joho 8:40 AM  

I have never seen @Rex like a puzzle where the theme is wacky phrases. To enjoy puzzles like this you need not be so literal and lighten up!

I thought this was fun. SINGLESSBAR worked for me.

@anon 6:48, of course, you are right. @Rex made it up.

I also liked ACE next to RAF and ASHE at the USOPEN.

I immediately saw the IKEA sign with the clue, "Its logo includes its name in blue letters in a yellow oval." Great branding there.

Thank you, Lynn Lempel, for an entertaining Wednesday!

Midas 8:41 AM  

I agree, what is wrong with SINGLESS? This is a crossword puzzle for crying out loud

dk 8:47 AM  

Here in Western Wisconsin we are packin... or is that packers.

You know cute is just great. Singing Beatles songs on Tuesday in SF is cute. Appalachian Americans is cute and having to scratch Harass is cute. This puzzle is over the top cute.

Milk was coming out of my nose after MIDASSTOUCH, I had to clean masticated muffin off the window after SINGLESSBAR and finally BUSSTICKET elicited a chortle and evil thoughts as to how I might make some squirm with an unpc post.

As I am in rehab I will depend on others to roll like a STOAT in this AWESOME fill.

Did you also find inclusion of ANAT and ASHE to be icing on the cake: Just asskin! Sorry, I will time myself out for that one.

**** (4 Stars) Thank you Lynn (LOKI) Lempel

Tita 8:56 AM  

I can now face my vanquisher...
Ms. Lempel, I believe now that you were the reason for my non-perfect finish in Westport!
(They don't give you back the puzzles you submit - so you never know your score or where you erred...)

But I am pretty sure now that in the last few moments, after fixing everything that Rex got wrong, I never saw that I had AaTO for Dodges...due to ABaSED.
That redirect slew me.

Thanks, @Ulrich, for your shout-out to Karen and Dave yesterday...they are part of an elite few - well done!

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

@Evan - You could just go right to the source and email Jim Horne. He's got a great big link there on his page in the right column towards the top.

efrex 9:12 AM  

I'm firmly in the "lighten up" camp re: those who criticize SINGLESSBAR. Perfectly fine wacky phrase, as far as I'm concerned.

MIDASSTOUCH was brilliant and unexpected, especially from our genteel Queen of the Mondays. Ms. Lempel: enclosed, please find the dry-cleaning bill incurred due to the tea spilling all over my shirt when I worked out that answer.

FAB Wednesday puzzle!

Craig ... 9:24 AM  

Clement Moore is traditionally said to be the author of the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” that begins “Twas the night before Christmas”, but the evidence is extremely strong that he did not write it. This was demonstrated in a variety of ways by author Don Foster in his book on the subject. 34D may be an error that perhaps shouldn’t be propped up by crosswords.
As I recall one point (one of many) from Foster’s book: Moore wrote no other poem that was at all in the style or feel of “A Visit from St. Nicholas”. The actual author may be Henry Livingston, Jr. who wrote many poems in a similar style and feel.

GILL I. 9:25 AM  

I'm with @Z, easy for me and enjoyable. I'm probably the only idiot that didn't even see 25A as MID ASS TOUCH. I thought how clever to have MIDAS'S TOUCH in there.
SINGLESS doesn't bother. Words are made up all the time and often become catchy. Sounds like a good name for a bar that doesn't have karaoke...
And @Z, although I've never met you, I've already pictured in my mind you standing in front of your boys wagging your finger at them telling them to be astute rather than s stoat! Do you wear glasses and smoke a pipe? :)

Norm 9:26 AM  

Another thumbs up here. I especially liked SINGLESSBAR.

Anonymous 9:38 AM  

The Queen of Monday rocks Wednesday! Edgy. Hilarious. Thanks Lynn!

mac 9:39 AM  

This one was easy for me, much easier than yesterday's puzzle. Singless is fine, mid-ass touch fantastic.

Thanks for the prime numbers explanation, I was wondering.

We call morning tv "People" tv.

chefbea 9:40 AM  

Found this tough for a Wednesday. Had to come here to finish. But all in all, a great puzzle.

quilter1 9:53 AM  

This puzzle made me laugh outloud and what a fine way to start the day. Did a double take at MIDASSTOUCH--is BEQ posing as Lynn Lempel?

Had the DNA/RNA mistake as well, and lipSTICKET before BUSS, but otherwise smooth sailing and so much fun.

quilter1 9:54 AM  

@Rex, also laughed at the lovely tapestry of Star Wars.

Lojman 10:11 AM  

MID ASS TOUCH? C'mon. Best answer ever. Worthy of a 'why are you laughing so hard at a crossword puzzle?' from my dear Lojwoman. Bravo.

chefbea 10:18 AM  

Super bowl over. Time to change the avatar.

archaeoprof 10:22 AM  

Sassy puzzle today!

SINGLESSBAR would be objectionable only if it had been the first theme answer.

ARID regions are not "lifeless." If you know what to look for, the resilience of life in the desert is frankly spectacular.

Non-puzzle bio prof wife is teaching comparative ANAT this semester.

@Foodie: enjoy Amman, and do what you can for peace in the region!

jackj 10:36 AM  

NBC has to deal with MIA of the in your face, middle-finger salute; The NY Times has to deal with Lynn Lempel of the kinder, gentler MID-ASS TOUCH. At least neither one had to contend with wardrobe malfunctions.

(Will has pushed the decency standards so aggressively lately that if all his peccadilloes are laid bare in the next version of the Times Manual of Style and Usage, it will be banned in Boston).

But, take heart, Lynn’s not just a one-trick pony, she has also given us two other 5 star theme entries with BUSSTICKET and SINGLESSBAR.

Then, still not satisfied to rest on her laurels, she wheeled in GOESBANANAS and OFCOURSENOT and, in doing all this, she has delivered to us a “Lempel’s Sampler”, a luxe, early Valentine treat.

What a pleasure to share the talent and joy of a constructor at the top of her game!

santafefran 10:52 AM  

This blog provides entertainment superior to any "reality" show, IMO (not that I have watched any of them, mind you).

Great, fun puzzle Ms. Lempel. SINGLESS BAR sings for me.

kroon--what you can't do in a SINGLESS BAR.

Two Ponies 10:59 AM  

Very funny. I'm glad Will is loosening up. From clips I've heard of some TV shows the puzzle has a long way to go to even come near the sexual comments that seem to be pushing the limits.
DNF for me due to lack of Star Wars knowledge and stints? I've never heard it used that way.
Having miser in a clue and Midas as an answer caught my eye.

For two days not we have @Jackets crashing our party. @Rex, is there any way to stop that?

theoda3rd 11:02 AM  

Ms Lempel rarely disappoints. Fun snappy puzzle!

evil doug 11:09 AM  

So how come Moe---I mean, Curly---no, Larry, yeah, that's it---isn't all up in your grill about making sexual harassment and ass-groping jokes?

"So, you like it that ED...sullies up someone else's blog with extreme profanity, exposing the site to the risk of being flagged as "adult", being filtered out by our corporate web policies so we can't see it at work? Makes date rape jokes?"

I guess he's having to do some actual work at work instead of crossword stuff---his corporate web policy must have been stiffened (ha!) so he can't "see it at work", all because of this dangerous use of language! Shame on you! Fie!


Rudy 11:11 AM  

This was far easier than I thought but for the tournament tough crowd this must have been a cakewalk.

@Gill: Well the MIDAS'STOUCH could have resulted in a G-rated clue but what the heck, how about some "over the hump" ribaldry.

Was hung up on STINGY for 33a. And isn't the clue for 46a "Far Out" and the answer AWESOME a generation apart? The acid dropping 60's & oughts from 00's?

Clue for 57a BUSSTICKET could have paid obeisance to the Lakers owner

Tita 11:47 AM  

@chefbea - While everyone is nominating clues and snarks for "___ of the year", let me nominate you for "Topical Avatar of the Year"...

@jackj - Banned in Boston comment - very funny!

@archAeoprof - I've just noticed that I've been spelling your handle wrong all these months.

David 11:49 AM  

Wonderful puzzle, love all 4 theme answers, esp. MID ASS TOUCH (yeah!!), and no problems with SINGLESSBAR at all. Terrific long Downs, cool 6 letter answer in TEA ACT with 3 consecutive/2repeating consecutive (huh?) vowels.

Is CALVE (64A) a common term for giving birth to whales or other mammals/animals? Don't recall hearing of that before. Also a near mirror image ERICA/EROICA today.

Wyonative 11:57 AM  

After a glum start to the week, when my inability to finish yesterday had me feeling stupid and slow, today's puzzle left me flying high and ready to go for tomorrow. Loved it all. Wanted "missticket" for a while. The fact that there are topless bars adds a certain nuance to singless bars.

Anne 12:20 PM  

@Loren Muse Smith - I'm actually from Appalachia, VA and I love your term "Appalachian American." I will use it in the future. Thanks.

evil doug 12:22 PM  

Quite a few Appalachian Americans have come west to Cincinnati. We call them "Americans".


Ulrich 12:28 PM  

What did me in at Westport was the clue for CANTO: If I read, e.g., "main ingredient" for a dish, I assume it's THE main ingredient; same for "main character" in a novel--it's THE main character, to me. So, I could not, for the life of me, figure out what the main section of a long poem could possibly be called, and having put down BAGS for COTS did not help--the upshot: DNF, whereas I did finish yesterday's puzzle, which some considered harder than today's.

Doing the puzzle again w/o time limit made me understand that "main section" meant "A main section", and I have to learn that this is accepted usage, as nobody has complained yet. And I'm with those who consider SINGLESS BAR wacky...

chefbea 12:29 PM  

@Tita Thanks for the nomination. I just started making tissue box covers!! Any one need or want one...I saw some crossword puzzle fabric!!!
Guess I should change my name to Tissue box1

Loren Muse Smith 12:36 PM  

@Anne and ED - I married a moonshiner's daughter, and I love her still.

Anoa Bob 12:40 PM  

MID-ASS TOUCH is the best NYT crossword answer ever???? Hilarious? Fantastic? You folks need to get out more. It didn't even amuse the inner 14-year-old, not even. If you could work in, say, MIDAS'S ASS TOUCH then okay, maybe this would rate a half-hearted Beavis and Butthead chuckle, snortle. I prefer a double handful of WHOLE ASS GRAB. Now that's a legit basis for a sexual harassment complaint (or maybe a "Why don't you come up and see me sometime" invitation).

Lewis 12:45 PM  

I'm guessing that coming up with 25A is the spark that got this puzzle going for Ms. Lempel. SINGLESSBAR is the kind of nonsense we need more of in puzzles. That is not to say let everything go all to hell in puzzles, but if something makes sense and is fun, let it be.

Anonymous 12:56 PM  

ED et al. - Both of my parents came from Kentucky (and are now buried there) but I grew up in a Chicago neighborhood where kids would call me a hillbilly even though I was born in Michigan and lived in Chicago since the age of three. Never ceases to amaze me what epithets are taboo for Liberals and what are not. But that was back in the day when every kid in a melting pot had to bear some kind of epithet which would now be considered politically incorrect. As my mother would say, sticks and stones...." So, Evil, I suspect those hillbillies who are in Kentucky (including the Greater Cincy area) are known as Americans because apparently from my childhood I learned everyone from Kentucky is a hillbilly and adding Appalachian would be superfluous....


archaeoprof 12:58 PM  

@Evil and @Loren: I was born in Cincinnati, where my father had moved from Logan County WV.

Rube 1:12 PM  

Back in the early 60s, New Yorkers thought that people from Seattle were all lumberjacks and wore boots to church... hence my nickname.

Abner 1:24 PM  

@Rube - At least you wore boots to church.

dk 1:40 PM  

@jackj, please pay attention. The most you can get are 4 (****) stars.

In my youth a Hillbilly was someone from Westchester County. They have a jail there, I am not sure if they wear shoes but I do know they buy pants not trousers: Just sassin!

Back to manipulating my little pencil while I work.

Bird 1:41 PM  

TWAS difficult for me, but I did finish. I like MIDASSTOUCH (either way) and SINGLESSBAR (wacky).

Hand up for dNA, tDS.

At first I had SIX 61D (thought the 1st three prime numbers were 1, 2 & 3). Not unreasonable, right? But AMMAx is not reasonable.

Anybody put WNBA for 19A and spend a few moments thinking of a 3 letter team name?

Happy Humpday all.

retired_chemist 1:43 PM  

@ Loren - add me to the list of WV born on this blog.

Anonymous 1:48 PM  

MID-ASS-TOUCH on Humpday? Very funny. Not to mention "ASS" is in two answers. And I'm sure someone can write a decent story for Hustler with a few of today's words.

captcha: cursing. where to start?

Evan 1:59 PM  

@ 8:58 am Anonymous:

Thanks, I've done that. I once recall e-mailing him when he had a NYT address but didn't got a reply, which is why I suppose I was skeptical about trying again.

Anne 2:14 PM  

@Evil - It's a joke, son. Seinfeld might appreciate it. Peace.

Hef 2:15 PM  

@Anon 1:48 PM - I don't think anyone on this blog, except maybe Evil Doug or Ed, would attempt to write that story.

And as I look at the puzzle more I see what you mean. A lot of possibility. I doubt WS sees it the same way though.

SMJ 2:42 PM  

I've been sick in bed with the flu for 10 days straight and the NYT's crossword has literally saved me from going bananas - both on-line and in book form. Finding this wonderful site is the cherry on top of the cake and I look forward to participating from here on out. PS Just because a place is "arid" does not mean it is lifeless. A desert is arid but filled with forms of life not found elsewhere. I also want to say thank you for the other puzzle sources REX listed in his FAQ's.

jesser 2:52 PM  

What a day to be late to the party! Actually, I seldom get to read through so many comments, so it was kind of a treat, and a reminder of the old Syndicated Land where I used to live and pine to join the fray. Cue Streisand: "Mem'ries..."

The puzzle was tough for me in most of the same places where Rex and others were tripped up. In addition to the common errors, I had 'What's the dif?' at 58D before good ol' Arthur ASHE lobbed me an easy fix.

I dated a hillbilly once. During the brief period we lived together, he asked me to purchase one of those tub-to-ceiling shower caddies with many shelves. I was confused but smitten (he was a Cajun hillbilly, very dangerous looking, sexy accented and beautiful), so I complied. After several days of using it, I noticed that the shampoo count had not risen and the many shelves were empty. So I asked him why we needed it. "Because before we had it, there was suds gettin' into my rum and Coke every morning. Now I can set it up high and it don't taste nasty." We didn't last long, but I hope someone tells that story at my funeral. His name was Brandon.

And, for obvious reasons, I will refrain from all commentary about MID ASS TOUCH, but I applaud Lynn and Will with all my little pea-pickin' heart for its inclusion!

lawprof 2:53 PM  

MID-ASS TOUCH?! I'm shocked...shocked. This IS the TIMES for god's sake. Next we'll be seeing "gonad" or "flatulent" or some such.

Ulrich 2:54 PM  

@Tita: Forgot to tell you re. avatars: When non-puzzle wife saw your cookies, she was impressed: "Those are difficult to make!"

Jim Beam 2:58 PM  

I accept @jfc's "SING LESS" over SINGLESS, as any bartender can tell you some people don't need karaoke to sing in bars--the alcohol does the trick.

prospecter 3:04 PM  

@chefbea no, nobody needs one. probably some people want one.

Having seen what I have seen of NYT editing, I am wondering who would represent a pack animal in a sexual harassment suit.

mindinthegutter 3:07 PM  

@lawprof - lookout, we already have ORALS and RAMS. All we need is a letter T in 48D.

Anonymous 3:16 PM  

I'm blushing with all this innuendo. Rex should shut down the blog before the PC police do.

jesser 3:18 PM  

I'm sure the Penthouse Forum archives would have language relative to US OPEN, sturdy as a PINE, fun with ROOMIES, the WATTage of certain marital aids, and someone who RAMS AMMAN. Just sayin'. And ducking for cover.

North Beach 3:22 PM  

@jesser: Your story is PRICELESS.

FearlessK 3:29 PM  

Two thumbs up for your response to the cluing on ARID!! Even with _RID in the grid I just couldn't bring myself to write in the A - kept muttering "oh no he *didn't*". Good thing I'm alone in the house... Otherwise enjoyed the puzzle, particularly the very surprising MIDASSTOUCH - must have been hilarious at Westport when people got to that clue :)

FearlessK 3:33 PM  

Love it! Need two!

sanfranman59 4:04 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 11:33, 11:50, 0.98, 47%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:03, 5:52, 1.03, 64%, Medium-Challenging

OohLaLa 4:27 PM  

Such titillating blogging about a NYT puzzle. Keep it going.

Anonymous 4:34 PM  

New guy here. Did anyone see dis cuss throwers for 35A

Z 4:56 PM  

@loren muse smith - You love her still, but do you still love her?

@Gill I.P. - reading glasses but no pipe.

captcha - butio - WS's pushing the envelope is even impacting random word image generators it seems

Anonymous 5:02 PM  

Laughed out loud in the starbucks over you know what. Best answer ever!!!!

chefwen 5:55 PM  

@quilter1 - Please email me, I just read something that I would love to share with you. I was going to email you but your address was not available.

Deb 5:57 PM  

Because I believe Will uses this blog as one barometer of what folks want from puzzles, I'm just popping in to add my appreciation for MID ASS TOUCH. I understand the NYT crossword solver demographic skews older, but by now a large chunk of that older crowd includes baby boomers whose sensitivities aren't all that delicate.

Tita 7:36 PM  

@Ulrich...they are tricky to make, but not terribly hard. All you have to do is meet the prerequisite...a healthy dose of OCD, with a pinch of "I know I can make the recipe better if I..."

Anonymous 8:02 PM  

Deb said: "...but by now a large chunk of that older crowd includes baby boomers whose sensitivities aren't all that delicate."

No wonder when the Baby Boomer President is getting BJ's in the Oval Office. I mean a MID-ASS TOUCH by comparison is like a hillbilly going to Sunday School....

PS. I suspect Will relies more on his own instincts and those of his staff rather than comments at blogs such as this one because he has already stated he does not believe the commenters here to represent the average NYT solver.


Loren Muse Smith 8:11 PM  

@anonymous - so if we don't represent the average NYT solver, who does?

Anonymous 8:55 PM  

Maybe this reflects my inferior primary education, but I swear I was taught that 1 is a prime number because it is divisible only by itself and the number 1. By that standard, SIX would have been the only correct answer for 61d. I eventually made my way to TEN, but that doesn't make it right.

Anonymous 9:34 PM  

@Fergus, yesterday you said to me: "I usually find something provocative in your posts. Glad you keep writing, whether in defiance or confirmation."

@Fergus - I'm more genteel on Wordplay. Thank you for your interest and kind (I think) remark. This blog is not for the faint-hearted, something for which I give Rex full credit....

@ Loren Muse Smith at 8:11 PM – My short (npi) response is: the ones who do not post here. My smart-ass response is: the hillbillies. But my serious response is this: On Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 1:40 AM Will Shortz posted on this blog this comment in response to a comment by Rex: “Bear in mind that you, and most of the readers here, are not typical solvers. You remember old puzzles that most people don't (or never saw in the first place). You're also younger and much more skilled than average NY Times solvers.”

I realize that you might interpret Will’s comment differently but I interpret it that he plays to a larger audience and is therefore not likely to give much weight to comments here or similar blogs....


sanfranman59 10:03 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 6:49, 6:49, 1.00, 53%, Medium
Tue 10:54, 8:52, 1.23, 93%, Challenging (10th highest median solve time of 138 Tuesdays)
Wed 11:44, 11:50, 0.99, 53%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:36, 3:40, 0.98, 46%, Medium
Tue 5:58, 4:35, 1.30, 99%, Challenging (2nd highest median solve time of 138 Tuesdays)
Wed 5:52, 5:52, 1.00, 53%, Medium

Z 11:02 PM  

Anonymous @8:55 - From Wikipedia: Primality of one

Most early Greeks did not even consider 1 to be a number, so did not consider it a prime. In the 19th century however, many mathematicians did consider the number 1 a prime. For example, Derrick Norman Lehmer's list of primes up to 10,006,721, reprinted as late as 1956, started with 1 as its first prime. Henri Lebesgue is said to be the last professional mathematician to call 1 prime. Although a large body of mathematical work is also valid when calling 1 a prime, the above fundamental theorem of arithmetic does not hold as stated. For example, the number 15 can be factored as 3 · 5 or 1 · 3 · 5. If 1 were admitted as a prime, these two presentations would be considered different factorizations of 15 into prime numbers, so the statement of that theorem would have to be modified. Furthermore, the prime numbers have several properties that the number 1 lacks, such as the relationship of the number to its corresponding value of Euler's totient function or the sum of divisors function.

I'm thinking this isn't covered in most primary schools, and may not be known by the "average NYT crossword solver."

Unknown 8:38 AM  

1. Agree with @Evan and others that MID-ASS TOUCH is the Answer of the Year. Very, um, cheeky!

2. I read 49A as "SING-LESS BAR", as if it were the name of an establishment in Koreatown, where most of our Karaoke bars in NYC are in "Koreatown". That makes it a bit stereotypical and insensitive, but, sorry, witty none the less.

3. I have lived in Amman for 8 years and I know every quarter of that city and I have never, ever, heard of "Middle East University". That clue should be challenged.

Solving in Seattle 1:19 PM  

Great puzzle, Lynn!

When I realized that MIDASSTOUCH was actually the answer, I couldn't wait to check out Rex's blog for his comments - and got my second great laugh of the morning. Fun to read him as he GOESBANANAS over morning tv shows. What, don't you want to learn more recipes from recently divorced film actors who just finished rehab???

BTW, I also forgive the stretch on SINGLESSBAR

DMGrandma 2:20 PM  

Back I the Dark Ages, when I studied math, 1 was considered a prime. Then the first three primes would be 1, 3, and 5, and their sum would be 9. If you throw out 1, the first three primes would be 3. 5, and 7, and their sum would be 15. So, I still don't understand how "The sum of the first three prime numbers" can be "ten" ????

Spacecraft 3:26 PM  

Ah, @DMGrandma, you forget about 2, the only even prime in the deck. My take? In the film "Contact," the aliens make first contact with a series of radio pulses: 1, 2, 3, 5...etc. I'm not going against my namesake Carl on that one; he's my hero. I was puzzled at TEN; thought the correct answer should be 6. This is one of the sticking points that made today a SOLID medium for me (and that was another).

SINGLESS doesn't bother me as much as some (AFEW); someone (I now can't find it again!) said that no English prof would approve, I agree. This is crosswords, guys; E.P. approval would not extend to one hundredth of these puzzles.

Had a mis(s)step early when I started at the bottom right with LIPSTICKET; I thought the theme was a run-on overlap type of thing. The north was harder; SWATHE is archaic IMHO, and probably ought to be clued as such. Nobody SWATHEs any more. Also took a while to get FAB, which delayed FRAUD. One final annoyance is cluing USSR as a one-time red state. Ukraine, or Georgia maybe--but USSR was all those "states" together. JDLR.

Solving in Seattle 3:39 PM  

@DMGrandma & @Spacecraft, I also had six as my initial answer to the clue "Sum of the first three prime numbers." Finally got TEN from the crosses and scratched my head.

BTW, it almost appears that we are three of the few people who read Rex's blog weeks after it's posted. Maybe we should form a syndicate syndicate?

Dirigonzo 4:03 PM  

I was not going to comment today, but when I saw my captcha was assomen rmatela, how could I not? Do with it what you will.

DMGrandma 4:58 PM  

Dear @Spacecraft, Thank you for kindly explaining what I should have known! Hard to believe my degree was in math.
Agree with Seattle solver it would be lovely to have a "real time" syndicated chat. I know there are others who have occasionally dropped by, but they seem to disappear after a couple of posts,probably assuming no one reads them.

Connie in Seattle 6:20 PM  

Shout out to other Seattlites - I too would like to have a real time chat; I drop in once in awhile but assume no one will read my post. Nice to know you're out there. Does anyone know of any Xword tournaments around here?

PS. This was one fun puzzle.

Dirigonzo 7:19 PM  

@all the syndicated solvers who would like to have a "real time" conversation here. More than one half of Rex's audience are folks like us who solve the puzzle 5 weeks later, yet comments back here have always been sparse. I've commented on this frequently here had have put up a couple of posts on my own blog (click on my avatar, look for "Syndication Synchronicity" (6/2011) and "My Occupy Movement" (10/2011)), but still comments from syndicationland are few. And now, with email notification of comment updates gone, there is even less incentive to leave a comment after everybody else has left the room.

But if you really want to have a "syndicated comments" section in real time, then come back every day and leave a comment every day (or however often you do the puzzle) - maybe you'll get a reply or maybe you won't, but at least you will have added your two cents to the conversation. And just maybe you will encourage someone else to chime in, too.

We can have a "community" of our own. but we have to build it ourselves.

Solving in Seattle 9:09 PM  

@Connie in Seattle, don't know of contests around here. I just enjoy the NYT daily puzzle and observing what, if anything about it was clever, then logging on to Rex's blog to compare notes. As a second class syndicate citizen our comments are often like speaking to an empty room, but I still enjoy it.

Solving in Seattle 9:13 PM  

@dirgonzo, enjoyed your blog musings. The Maine culture is interesting to me having sailed there in college and spent a month or so in Northeast Harbor. Got to know some locals and ate a ton of lobster. Beautiful place.

Tita 9:50 AM  

SiS...Dirigonzo is right...with the email alert feature gone, we real-timers have no reminder to come check in...but it looks like blogger is working on it, so hopefully it will be back soon.

I think there are more who come by and read,, but don't always the room may not be as empty as it seems!

For me, I usually get these alerts on my phone...I really hate typing on a phone, so I rarely respond...
Btw...I'm a sailor too, though my vessel is a mere 14.5', and I usually sail on a lake. Sometimes on Cape Cod Bay , but only if I work up the energy to trailer the 350 miles to do so. And, only if I'm in the mood to provide entertainment to the old trailer salts who love to laugh at those of us incapable of backing up a trailer.
(omg...these new capchas on a phone!)

Red Valerian 4:47 PM  

Don't have anything to say, except bring back the email alert!

@Tita--can't imagine the captchas on a phone... urk.

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