Pile of glacial debris / THU 3-1-12 / Kansas mil. post built in 1853 / Fly-catching birds / Peer of Ellington / Native parka wearer / Like unlucky encierro participant / Fish of genus Moringua

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Constructor: Steven E. Atwood

Relative difficulty: Challenging

 THEME: AFFIX (1A: Add-on to the start or end of a word stem (as in 17-, 25-, 35-, 49- and 57-Across) — theme answers are imaginary portmanteau words combining two words with the same "word stem," i.e. "proverb" + "verbiage" = PROVERBIAGE. Etc.

Word of the Day: MORAINE (30A: Pile of glacial debris) —
An accumulation of boulders, stones, or other debris carried and deposited by a glacier.

[French, from French dialectal morena, mound of earth, from Provençal morre, muzzle, from Vulgar Latin *murrum.]
• • •

Found this confusing and slightly awkward, starting with 1-Across. I had no idea AFFIX was a noun, presumably referring to either a prefix or a suffix (?). "Hey, nice AFFIX," he hollered. Doesn't sound right. But it's a word, alright. Plus the clue was so convoluted that it was essentially useless as a key to understanding the theme. I eventually saw that the answers were two words smushed together, so I just went with that. Theme answers thereafter weren't that hard to get (except PERSISTERLY ... the "sister" part was easy, but then there were these extra spaces ...). What was hard was the fill. I got hung up all over the place, both with odd words (FT. RILEY? MORAINE? PHOEBES?) (2D: Kansas mil. post built in 1853 + 30A: Pile of glacial debris + 46A: Fly-catching birds) and non-words (TYGER) (31A: When repeated, words before "burning bright" to start a William Blake poem) as well as barely-words (GERMIER) (43D: More likely to make you sick, say) (I had GROSSER and then WORMIER) and ambiguously-clued words (ROUTS) (51D: Runaways). This is the kind of theme that you could replicate indefinitely, right? Why not a Sunday? Pays (much) better.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Unnecessary words cluttering wise sayings? (PROVERBIAGE)
  • 25A: Threat in "Armageddon"? (DISASTEROID) — a little spot-on
  • 35A: Good place for a picnic? (REPASTURE)
  • 49A: Like a tenacious sibling? (PERSISTERLY)
  • 57A: "We've taken the city, but can we defend it?"? (CONQUESTION) — shouldn't this clue have an "e.g." after it. Otherwise, the grammatical equivalency required in the clue/answer relationship is shot. Technically, cluing on TYGER is also grammatically screwed— "When repeated" has to modify something ... and it can't be "words" ... Why not [Word repeated before "burning bright" at the start of a William Blake poem]?

Some of the difficulty today came through genuinely clever cluing. I was baffled by 11A: Players who spend most of their time on the bench, briefly (DHS), probably because no one would refer to a DH as "on the bench"; that phrase specifically means "not in the game." But here, it's literal, so ... OK. Also flummoxed by 15A: Peer of Ellington (BASIE), with "Peer" making me think British peerage, as I'm sure it was supposed to. I was lucky enough to know the STORK Club and to remember that the stupid Italian TV channel was a number (TRE), and of course every solver worth his/her salt knows crosswordese like ALEUT (62A: Native parka wearer) and ARETE (63A: Sharp-crested ridge). But put "words" like "Moringua" or "encierro" in the clues, and I am in trouble (16A: Fish of the genus Moringua = EEL / 66A: Like an unlucky encierro participant = GORED). My slowest Thursday in a while. I gauge my times by two different A-level solvers on the NYT applet. Today, one beat me by a good two minutes but the other was a good two minutes behind, so I'll be surprised if this doesn't play at least somewhat harder than average for most people.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Matthew G. 12:03 AM  

This is going to be one that everyone either loves or hates.    I love it.  DISASTEROID, PERSISTERLY, and CONQUESTION are all worth the price of admission.  Good stuff, Steven.

Pretty smooth going, too.  Only real stumbling block was trying ROOTING instead of FOOTING (I was thinking of the kind of support a fan gives to a team), which made the reveal, AFFIX, hard to see.

On that subject,  at this point in the week I like a subtle reveal in the NW corner better than a blatant reveal tucked somewhere in the SE.   Give me a little foreshadowing of the theme to whet my appetite instead of giving up the whole game at the end.

Great Thursday.

Anonymous 12:06 AM  

I find myself in complete agreement with both Rex and Matthew. I really need to see my Internist....


Pete 12:20 AM  

Nothing, well actually lots and lots of things but none of them relevant here as I'm limiting my comments to puzzles, pisses me off more than a 1A essentially saying "solve the puzzle, then you can figure me out". How the hell am I supposed to solve the puzzle if I can't even get 1A?

PERSIST and SISTERLY don't share a word stem in the same way PROVERB/VERBIAGE or DISASTER/ASTEROID do. In the latter two cases the common portion is the actual base of each of the words, SIST is just four letters found in the two words.

All these nits aside, I really liked the puzzle - it puzzled me, and ultimately beat me due to some stupid mistakes on my part.

Oh, never, ever, attempt a REPAST in a PASTURE. Pastures are for large herbivores. You know what large herbivores leave lying around? Large piles of manure. You know what large piles of manure attract? Approximately 25,000 types of insects and aracnids. You want to eat your lunch sitting directly upon some cow's previously eaten lunch while being some bug's lunch, singing that stupid-assed song from The Lion King about the circle of life, well I guess that's your business.

jae 12:21 AM  

I''m with Matthew G. on this one, an easy-medium enjoyable Thurs. for me.  Zippy clever theme with decent fill.  I liked the 4 groups of 7 letter downs.

Had to erase URLS for HITS.

Nice job Mr. Atwood!

Evan K. 12:28 AM  

I must confess, I had an easier time with this Thursday than with any in recent memory. Every once in a while you and the constructor are on the same wavelength. This was a fun puzzle.

Tobias Duncan 12:45 AM  

Today the sports clues just felt rude. Even after Rex went over it I still have absolutley no idea what the hell DHS means.
Loved the clue for TERSEST and lots of other stuff.
Had OTRA and that made GORED and SAG pretty tough.
LENTIL in a salad bar? I guess I have not been to a sadad bar in a while.Many years now that I think of it.Is that still a thing?

pk 12:56 AM  

Chiming in here with the night-before solving bunch, which I am a less-than-worthy member of, but nevertheless a compulsive night-before solver. Hope Rex doesn't mind.

The fill was mostly gettable, but the theme answers just threw me right under the bus. Except for Proverbiage. So I got the smushed up concept, just was not smart enough to figure out Disasteroid (my fave). Or any of the rest of the theme answers.

Postscript: I have never seen a lentil on a salad bar. Not even sure what a lentil looks like.

Anonymous 1:05 AM  

@Tobias - Designated Hitters (DHS) don't play for most of the baseball game, at least in my limited understanding. I think they just go in and hit for the pitcher, who I suppose is good at pitching but not hitting. That is really all I know. I'm sure others can further enlighten us.

Miette 1:07 AM  

DHS = Designated Hitters

Rube 1:27 AM  

Put me on the "loved it" side. I'm a great fan of portmanteaus and they are becoming extremely common these days.

1A helped a lot in that AFFIX is firmly in my vocabulary and has been since grade school. I think I learned TYGER in high school, but PHOEBES is new to me. Think I'll put that in my "Crosswordese of the day".

Re LENTIL, I've made lentil soup before and I can't imagine raw lentils at a salad bar -- they're the same shape, size and hardness as raw split peas, only brown. Is tofu really sold in tubs? Never bought any.

I must say that I questioned GERMIER when it appeared, but if that's all I have to complain about, it's a good puzzle.

retired_chemist 1:34 AM  


AFFIX came quickly since the crosses (shout-out to 4D included) were easy. Not 2D, except for the FT part, but that was enough. AFFIX got me to see what I should be looking for, but the searches were less than obvious. Never saw Armageddon so I had to infer the plot from the answer. PERSISTERLY sounds like Dubyaspeak (remember him?).

Hand up for WORMIER @ 43D. Didn't get to PERON (22A) quickly so 36D looked to me like it was going to be some three word title, initialized. Tried MRES - close. ADZ - the go-to 3 letter (woodworking) tool. Had Rai UNO before TRE. I suppose there is Rai DUE also.

More good than bad in the fill IMO. So, an overall good solve.

Thanks, Mr. Atwood.

Asphalt Cheddar Moraines 2:06 AM  

Loved it!!!!! WHat fun.
Parsed DISASTEROID wrong and wondered what STEROIDs had to do with Armageddon, but whatever...my bad!

Top half took me twice the time as the bottom half, as I also had rOOTING and morseL for LENTIL.

Yes, TOFU comes in tubs...just took a bath with mine yesterday!
(Tho I put oleo...shades of "Last Tango in Paris", the prequel, no doubt to Woody's "Midnight in Paris")

Little bleedover: ACHS

MORAINE is a super common bingo in Scrabble, but I didn't know what it meant till today! Thank you. I think I thought it was a kind of lettuce!

Re: Peter ?ATES...ran the alphabet many times and nothing rang a bell.
Shocked there is both a movie and a director I've never heard of that would be popular enough to be in a puzzle. Is it about a valet? A chest of drawers? Off to imdb I guess.

Davey Jones! :(
How could he have been that old and yet that young?

Anyway, this was just what a puzzle should be...tough, but gettable and a fun original theme that makes you want to come up with other theme answers just for fun!!!
Yay, Steven E. Atwood!

chefwen 2:48 AM  

This one was really difficult for me. I just wasn't getting it, and I'm still confused, will have to review in the A.M. with clear eyes.

@Rube - Will email you my invention of TOFU croutons, you and Mrs. Rube will love them.

Eejit 2:52 AM  

I'm definitely at the bottom end of the food chain in the NYT crossword hierarchy, but this was probably my fastest Thursday ever so I was surprised to see it rated challenging. I thought the theme was quite clever though, reminded me a bit of Sunday's wraparound for some reason.

I love lentils, I could almost live on them, both the brown and the orange variety. No one would want to live with me if I did though.

Ulrich 3:41 AM  

It's so nice to join the crowd, once in a while. I, too, had a great time with this puzzle. Since I had just gone through "Jazz" (book and CDs--great stuff!) by Giddins and DeVeaux, BASIE was the gimmie that got me started. And after I had learned my new word of the day, AFFIX, early on, the ice was broken and I went through the rest humming, with nary a noticeable holdup and certainly no ACHs.

Assiscus--now that's a true portmanteau: Combination of Assissi and Franciscus!

Cathelou 4:42 AM  

Loved it. My sister would probably tell you I was PERSISTERLY when we were younger but iwouldn't be a compliment. MORAINE was a gimme if you've ever lived in Wisconsin. I think there's a Cattle Moraine there. @pete, bet that would make an interesting place for a REPASTURE.

Slowish Thursday for me with only minimal cheating. Nice to start the day feeling smug.

John G 7:22 AM  

Fastest Thurs ever for me, too. Mind you, that's still slower than a lot of people. Was only the 66th fastest when I finished it at 6:15 am Central

ArtLvr 7:27 AM  

Much fun from the gimmes XKE and TYGER onward, although I did try a DISASTERISK and un-Rubensesque SLINKER in the NE -- soon sorted out.

Glimmerglass 7:46 AM  

Medium for me. Wrote in AFFIX right off (the general term that includes suffix and prefix), confirmed with XKE. (@ REX: affix is a word, but "alright" isn't -- in my lexicon.) The clue led quickly to PROVERBIAGE and DISATEROID and REPASTURE, with just a few crosses. PERSISTER** was a a problem, but ALPE saved me. Knew TYGER, MORAINE (I live on a terminal one), and PHOEBE. I was on the same wavelength with Evan K. Like several others, I had fun with this one.

Rudy 7:57 AM  

Portmanteau. That was a neword for me. Bledry trying to solve the puzz. Toucherished at the end!

Sue McC 8:05 AM  

This was a fun, tough challenge. I got the theme quickly, but had some trouble with the fill. One of my favorite puzzles in recent memory.

dk 8:06 AM  

@cathelou, I live in Wisconsin amongst MORAINES, drift less and alluvial plains, and coulees.

Alas, I do not live in the land of getting portmanteaus.

The theme clues only came in the crosses and using the clue checker within my iPad sword app. Yes another day of the dreaded electronic solve as no paper arrived. Late winter storm is the excuse. Even when I had and checked 17a -- the geezer look of confusion was on my face.

And, big hand up (✋) for wormier and thumb down (👎) for GERMIER.

My childish whimpering aside:

🌟🌟🌟 (3 stars) Thank you Mr. Atwood

Rex, regarding your time averaging I can only say: One PHOEBE doth not a summer make.

Poop on a stick! My robot test is longer than the puzzle

AnnieD 8:15 AM  

I wouldn't call it challenging, but definitely a solid Thursday. The left side fell first, the right side, not so quickly. I didn't know that that's what Detroit meant...not into sports so DHS took some time...had grosser before germier (A grosser grocer?)...I kept telling myself that I'd remember if PEROt had been a 3 term president! And I struggle with thinking an eel is a fish. I mean you don't see fish crossing land to get to another watering hole, but eels do it. But if eels are fish, then I guess they do.

Moraine I knew as Moraine Lake was the second most beautiful spot on earth I've ever been.


Z 8:26 AM  

This was a fun struggle for me. I just could not see what was going on for a long time. REPASTURE finally flipped the switch on, but only after I had done a full pass through all the clues. NW was the penultimate section to finish, and then I ended by wrestling the SE to the grounded. I was pleased to see the challenging rating, because that is what it was for me.

MORAINE is a word often taught in 6th grade geography, especially since the Great Lakes are such an important part of the physical geography of the US. Unlike so much else, though, that's about the only time the term pops up the typical K-12 curriculum.

Finished with two mistakes, I had At PEAcE for 38D. I had had SAO, but -HOEBES was a WTF for me, and At Peace worked. Cao seemed plausible, so down it went and I never looked back. Now that I see PHOEBES it makes sense, though I did not know until this morning that it was a bird.

Tita 8:28 AM  

Right in my wheelhouse - liked it after the initial meh...

How can you not have anything but love for the resulting wacky words... Especially PERSISTERLY...I think my brother, (shout-out to him at 61A) would find it apt.

Cape Cod and Long Island are glacial MORAINES.

And he managed to park his XKE in the same grid as his OMNI...what an eclectic car collection Mr. @Wood must have!

(Is the constructor Rexville's own @Wood???)

Blue Stater 8:28 AM  

Yeah, I guess this was one you either got or you didn't. I did, partly because my training in linguistics got me the term AFFIX right off the bat. Usually if I differ from Rex it's that I find a puzzle harder than he does; rarely the reverse. But I agree with Rex on its shortcomings.

And now I'll see if I can prove I'm not a robot. This often takes two or three tries, alas.

Jp 8:38 AM  

Unlike Rex I thought that the theme was delightfully clever. Yes I agree that this theme can be expanded to a Sunday size puzzle. But that does not make the theme lame because it is a Thursday puzzle.
Given my limited "memory bank" I needed to google for for words like TYGER, YATES and the like but not more than a typical Thursday. And I filled the whole puzzle. So for me it average difficulty and highly satisfying theme

Tita 8:42 AM  

@Z- I wanted AtPEAcE for a brief moment, but cAO is not at all plausible, since there are no feasts for dog's named John in Portugal or anywhere else where the language is spoken.
Cão=dog, João=John.
Come to think of it, there are no feasts for dogs at all...not even for Obama's Portuguese Water dog...such a shame...

(Do the dog days of summer count? Does Hallmark make a card for that?)

Brian 8:45 AM  

I liked the theme words, but didn't like the way they were presented. I thought 1A was confusing, and I thought it was trying to clue some kind of play on words or something. In hind sight, should've caught on sooner.

As a vegan, I'm ashamed that it took me as long as it did to get TOFU. Ditto baseball fan/DHS; thinking too literal on that one.

Seems like some words (OTRO, OMNI, ALEUT, etc.) are getting worn out of late. I know they have good fill letters, but makers should realize this...

AnnieD 8:46 AM  

@Tita, 10/4 is St Francis of Assisi Day when many people bring their dogs and other pets to church....

orangeblossomspecial 8:52 AM  

Speaking of PASTURE, find Jerry Colonna's cow PASTURE polka. "Don't spin around too fast or you'll fall right on the grass!"

evil doug 9:04 AM  

Funquestionably cleverbal.


Pete 9:08 AM  

By the way, if any of you don't have a copy of 'THE COUNT MEETS THE DUKE', immediately order 5 copies from Amazon. It is the world's only safe and legal panacea for minor depression, lethargy, ennui, any manifestation of why the hell should I even get out of bed because everything in life sucks. It's 60 minutes of pure perfection: energy, harmony, competing ideas merging into a thing of beauty. It's like taking a speedball, having great sex and watching a baby laugh for no reason at all at the same time, except it's neither illegal, dangerous or perverted.

Play your copy when you need such a 60 minutes, give the other copies away to people who might need the same.

Do not, I repeat, not, just download a tune or two for your iPod. Buy the damned CD. It has to be played in its entirety, start to finish. As loudly as the situation will allow.

Thirteen year old boy 9:11 AM  

@ACME "Yes, TOFU comes in tubs...just took a bath with mine yesterday!" What exactly did you do to that blob of TOFU go get it to....?

Shamik 9:13 AM  

For some reason, this one felt awkward and then resulted in an easy-medium time. MORAINE was a gimme for me. Several things were only available by the crosses...like YATES and IRVS. IRVS is a very ugly looking "word." But I really liked the theme...found it gave me quite a chuckle although I didn't get it until CONQUESTION and then filled in the theme answers above it.

Happy day to be up early enough to do the puzzle before work!

ArtLvr 9:23 AM  

Maybe the LENTILS were thought to be bean sprouts at the salad bar? Or was this a hint at three-bean salad?

GILL I. 9:28 AM  

I'm in the LOVED IT camp. Made up words was my middle name growing up. I'm going to use DISASTEROID as often as I can.
Had DJS before the unknow DHS, never heard of a MORAINE and did not know PHOEBES catch fly's. I'm picturing a long, toad like tongue flicking out over the manure in @Pete's REPASTURE.
The encierro clue - 66A - might have been hard for some unless you're familiar with the Festival de San Fermin's Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. Encierro means confinment. At night, the bulls that will be used during that days festival, are corraled. That's called the "encierro." Every morning at 8:00 a.m. they are released to run the 1/2 mile or so to the bullring. It's a sight to behold. I was so in awe the first time I saw these idiots running in front of bulls swinging their newspapers. Actually, the Spaniards take it pretty seriously; the foreigners were the ones that usually got the goring.
7 days beginning the 7th of July of non-stop debauchery and it's loads of fun...
A LENTIL in a salad bar?

OISK 9:44 AM  

Another "Loved it," and another case of Rex and I being on very different puzzle wavelengths. I found it easier than average, but interesting, clever, well clued, and inventive. And there were no three letter rappers! Thanks so much Mr. Atwood!!

Patchen Barss 9:52 AM  

Well, I loved "disasteroid." My son has a stuffed dinosaur who is always waiting for the next disasteroid to hit. (Also worried about catasteroids - even worse!)

But I did not love this puzzle. If you, like I, do not know of the Stork Club, given that it crosses an effectively arbitrary letter combination, it could be The Story Club, The Storm Club, The Store Club, etc. No way to know.

Beadola 9:54 AM  

Lentils are delicious cooked, and served cold. I'll never forget the Armenian lentil salad a friend made for me while in college. They are not at all unusual in some areas, it just may be a regional thing.
The portmanteaux were a lot of fun to figure out. I enjoyed this puzzle.

hazel 9:57 AM  

Loved loved loved the mashup words. Loved 'em i say. Thought the 1a reveal was pretty clunky, though. Small price for such a great puzzle and its darlingual homage to words.

I might have been aided by the fact that I'm reading The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker, a stunning tribute to the act of putting all sorts of words - even newly created ones - on paper. i wish I could meet him for lunch one day. I'm sure even he would hate captchas.

Nancy in PA 9:59 AM  

Seems to me I've watched swallows and swifts catch insects on the fly but never phoebes. Luckily I have a daughter named PHOEBE (after my late mother) so after a few letters showed up it fell easily into the grid. I loved this puzzle--just challenging enough to make me feel ready for ACPT. Now to go sign up!

David L 10:06 AM  

Last Saturday was DNF for me, easy-peasy for Rex, today was challenging for him, a piece of cake for me. Which proves that, um, he and I are not the same person.

Got AFFIX before understanding the them, seeing as the clue was a straight definition. No idea about 'encierro,' but I had G_RED, figured it's Spanish, something to do with bulls, and there you are.

Rookie 10:06 AM  

Loved it!

Was sure Blake's poem was "Tiger, tiger ..." and did not want to give it up. Did our high school lit text really spell it that way?

@cathelou ... I think it is "Kettle Moraine" here in Wisconsin, but given our dairy industry "Cattle Moraine" was great!

JoeTheJuggler 10:08 AM  

I got through this very quickly, except for one wrong letter. (I had SOT instead of SOP, and therefore ALTE instead of ALPE.)

I thought the theme was good.

And the "peer" clue that Rex complained about worked at both levels. Remember, Basie was a "Count"!

And I don't get the complaint about "TYGER". It's not a non-word since it's actually in the poem.

And I thought MORAINE was a give-away clue rather than an "odd word".

Anonymous 10:15 AM  

Finished it in pretty good time...took a while to figure out the 'theme'...had SUB before DHS...It all slowly came together for me. Liked it as I was able to finish it w/o peeking.

skua76 10:16 AM  

I enjoyed it, got AFFIX early. Only problem...hands up for 38D AtPEAcE which looked fine for me since I didn't recognize the bird PHOEBE or the dog or feast SAO.

Now to try the new captcha...this one doesn't have the old link label but I see we're still trying to digitize old books.

JoeTheJuggler 10:18 AM  

My only complaint about the theme was that I got AFFIX very quickly, and that promised that the theme would work with both prefixes and suffixes attached to a word. Unless you count "-iage", "-erly" and "-tion" to be suffixes (I do not), they were all prefixes plus a word:


John V 10:31 AM  

Make that VERY challenging here, esp after a late night flight home. Got it with no errors, as in, will miracles not cease.

Knew XKD right away, so I had 1A fairly early. NE was last to fall. Lots of really cool clues, as commented by others, lots of indirection, e.g. DHS, VERY clever for what otherwise could have been ugly fill. Liked Not Rueben's type, Top Of A Bottom, 11D DETROIT, as in I had no idea that's where the name came from.

Great puzzle, loved it. Thanks, Steven Atwood

Loren Muse Smith 10:41 AM  

Put me in the "loved it" club.I was amazed (and I don’t use that overused word easily) at the cleverness of this puzzle’s wordplay. I liked everything about it, especially the theme answers and their cluing.

Funny how quickly you can mess yourself up. On my initial strike I ended up with three faux-holds: “hoy” for OLA, “nearer” for DEEPER, and “inuit” for ALEUT. (Guess I’m not worth my salt yet).

I had no trouble with AFFIX, maybe because I’ve taught a lot of grammar. (Not that anyone may care, but some languages have infixes, too.) He managed to include four more affixes: ERN, ESQUE, STER and OMNI, which I really got a kick out of.

I’ll remember this linguistic gem for a long time. A big lexiconratulations to Mr. Atwood!

Two Ponies 10:48 AM  

I haven't had this much fun in ages. Bravo Mr. Atwood!
Clever clues and made-up words. What's not to like?
Phoebes are charmingly cute birds related to...flycatchers.

I'm sad about Davey Jones. I had a huge crush on him and loved the TV show. I am enjoying playing some of those songs in my head.

OldCarFudd 10:57 AM  

Lots of fun. I knew the Tiger quote, but didn't realize it was spelled with a "y".

@Tita - I pretty nearly gagged on my tofu at the thought of an XKE and an Omni in the same car collection. Or an Omni in anybody's collection, for that matter!

Bob Kerfuffle 11:10 AM  

Very nice puzzle, for a Thursday that's not a rebus!

My MORAINE moment was a Boy Scout Jamboree in 1977 at Moraine State Park, Pennsylvania. But we parsed it as "More Rain" State Park, for the constant deluges we endured.

The AFFIX theme will remind Matt Gaffney fans of the infamous TMESIS, or infix, puzzle.

@loren muse smith - You beat me to the post in mentioning "infix," but I will forgive you very much for your wonderful word play! :>))

"Faux-holds"!!! We must add that immediately to the language of the blog! Brilliant!

Cathyat40 11:36 AM  

Hand up for woRMIER before GERMIER. Finished in about the same time as a normal Thursday, maybe a little faster than normal. LENTILS are found at the mega-salad-bar at Whole Foods here in Charlottesville.

Anonymous 11:42 AM  

I had ever herd the word AFFIX before. Thanks to this blog, I looked up AFFIx in wikipedia and learned a great deal. Thanks to Steve Atwood, Will Shortz, @Rex, and each of you.

Anonymous 11:44 AM  

Sorry. That should have been never heard

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

"Why not [Word repeated before "burning bright" at the start of a William Blake poem]?"
Why not [Start of the only William Blake Poem most people know]?

archaeoprof 11:52 AM  

@Z calls it a "fun struggle," and I agree.

As the only brother of two older sisters, I especially appreciate PERSISTERLY...

foodie 12:24 PM  

I loved it, but in retrospect. The first theme answer I got was PERSISTERLY, and while I thought it was cute and funny and it gave me the idea of a shared central core, it also threw me off. Because of the very reason that @Pete pointed to. SIST does not ring a bell as a root word. If I had gotten PROVERBIAGE first, then absolutely, it would have been hugely helpful in getting the real them.

That said (I hate that expression, why am I using it?), this is such a cool idea, and the puzzle overall so clever, that I wish I could go back and redo it in a different way, and have a blast doing it. May be I'll save it for when my memory is shot but I'm functioning perfectly otherwise.

foodie 12:28 PM  

I meant "in getting the real themE."

Something about this new system of proving I'm not a robot makes me not want to preview. And for some reason, when you preview, you see your typos better than when you're just staring at them in the comment box.

So, who knows how many errors this correction will have...

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

I can't imagine anything more obnoxious than calling a puzzle "easy-medium" that our leader rates "challenging". Clearly that person is so far into the stratosphere intellectually that mere basically intelligent mortals such as many I know who struggle with most puzzles after Wednesday must seem total dodos.

Lighten up a bit on the hubris.

Stan 12:30 PM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle even though I wound up with the Greek city THOEBES and Brazilian dog CAO.

The theme went slowly from impossible to fun as I would get at least half of the answer and then puzzle out the rest. Loved the clues for DETROIT (d'oh, it didn't say *French* city...), SLENDER, and SMOTE.

Congrats, Steven.

mac 12:33 PM  

Fun and clever puzzle, pretty tough to get started with the theme, though! Figured it out at conquestion. Had the hardest time with the NW, don't like those car letters, didn't know the Stork Club.

I too had oleo, and proverbiose at 17A for a while. Otherwise nice fill this time.

Plenty of lentils at the salad- and other food bars at Whole Foods, even a specifically Indian one. (Red) lentil salad with yogurt, lemon juice and cilantro is delicious.

The Monkeys were a big hit in Holland, too.

@Rex: thanks for the Phoebe Snow.

Mel Ott 12:33 PM  

Definitely challenging for me. Finally got it after bogging down at PERSISTERLY & that whole NE corner. Took a long time to make any sense out of the cross-referenced clues for PRES & PERON.

Clue for the reveal at 1A still doesn't make sense to me nor does the BASIE-Ellington clue.

I'm actually familiar with MORAINE. Many of the notable spots around here, especially cruising spots like Montauk, Block I., Martha's Vineyard, were formed by MORAINEs.

Don't think I've ever seen a LENTIL in a salad bar.

DHS are an abomination. The position (non position, actually), not the abbreviation.

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

IRVS/XKE/STORK beat me..

Cheerio 12:45 PM  

I loved it too!!! Best Thursday in recent memory. It was hard, but in good ways. I enjoyed the variosu Phoebe pictures Rex. I have heard of Phoebe as a bird.

Detroit = strait! How sensible.

Sparky 12:46 PM  

Bottom half went well then trouble on top. cRis at 4D. Knew STORK Club. 11, 12, 13d all a mystery. Thinking Sandwiches with Ruben. Which is why I was Rubesesque for much of my life.

Thanks @Loren and @JoeThe Juggler for comments that clarified things for me. I think IAGE, OID, URE, LY, and ION do qualify as suffixes.

The Pina Bausch movie was quite wonderful.

Cheerio 12:46 PM  

I meant, I have never heard of Phoebe as a bird.

Anonymous 12:54 PM  

@Mel Ott - Count Basie and Duke Ellington were peers in that they were major jazz pianists and big-band leaders at the same time. The clue is also a play on peers, as in peers of the realm, as they both have nicknames indicating nobility. Peers in this sense strikes me as somewhat week, as I think of peers as being an essentially British thing (though I'm probably mistaken here, but so despise our communinal infatuation with the British peerage that I refuse to actually look it up), and Counts aren't among the British peers.

Masked and Anonymous 1:00 PM  

Primo puz. I'd have to rate this puz at the "middleweight" fighter level. Primo blog write-up, except for no silver bullets.

- FT(.)RILEY: Gimme. Did duty time there, post-Nam. Near Junction City, KS, which curiously was half pawn shops.
- DISASTEROID: Man. What a theme entry. Thanx, Steven Atwood. You have passed over into crossword glory. thUmbsUp.
- GERMIER: The only Snorter in an otherwise stellar set of 7-word vertical stacks. Nice.
- PHOEBE: Cool bird. Gotta be named for its call, which sounds just like "feebee".

Anonymous 1:07 PM  

In the "a little bit of very specific knowledge can totally screw you up" category of how puzzles can be totally blown, I unfortunately know that ASPHALT is actually just the tar-like substance which binds the aggregate, forming MACADAM.

spatenau 1:24 PM  

Why do so many people seem to think that they've somehow failed when they have to rely on the crosses? Isn't filling in crosses to discover the answers to difficult clues what the solving experience is all about? Isn't the pleasure derived from that "aha" moment what makes doing crosswords worthwhile? Relying on crosses, or (gasp!) write-overs or erasures isn't a sign of failure, it just means that you're actually "solving" a puzzle. Perhaps what people are expressing when they confess to relying on crosses as though it were a sin is disappointment in themselves for actually being "puzzled" when it's only Thursday. Get over yourself.

Loren Muse Smith 1:25 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle – Lots (possibly all?) languages have “secret child languages” like Pig Latin. When I was in 7th grade, I became fluent in Gibberish, as did all my other friends so that I could talk on the phone to Barbara W. about Tommy R. even when mom was in the kitchen. Phones were, ahem, AFFIXed to the wall back then! Gibberish is a system of inserting the infix “uthug” (those U’s are schwas, but I can’t get one here) into each syllable, so “cat” becomes “cuthugat.”
Man. The things mom never knew about Tommy thanks to infixes.

DigitalDan 1:32 PM  

Hands up for Loved It.

JHC 1:43 PM  

I also loved this one. It was made much easier for me, since I'm a daily reader of Anu Garg's A Word A Day blog (highly recommended for all language enthusiasts: http://wordsmith.org/words/today.html), and he writes about AFFIXes all the time. So 1A was a gimme for me.

Enjoyed the portmanteaus, enjoyed the cluing, especially on ERASERS ("They can be felt in a classroom") and the double-entendre peerage of Duke Ellington and Count Basie.

I know that Rex doesn't like pangrams (not sure why), but when you're one lousy j away in an otherwise solid fill, surely there's a way to get it in there?

Matthew G. 1:45 PM  

@Anonymous 12:28 p.m.:

There's no "hubris" in thinking a puzzle's relative difficulty was Easy when Rex thought it was challenging. You're barking up the wrong tree, because it's relative difficulty we're talking about. Many, if not all, of the people who've called this puzzle Easy-for-a-Thursday had worse times than Rex's, surely. All they mean is that their time was better than their own average time on a Thursday, not that they found the puzzle easier than Rex did in absolute terms.

Loren's Mom 2:03 PM  

@Loren - I knew! Further, it wasn't what I knew about Tommy that worried me.

jesser 2:24 PM  

Man, I loved this puzzle! I figured out what was going on at CONQUESTION and LOL'd at DISASTEROID.

Writeovers were At PEAcE before APPEASE and SLimmER before SLENDER.

The doorknobs in an elementary school are liable to be GERMIER than those in a lighthouse. I totally get that.

Just out of a board meeting of the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley. Today's a good day. :-)

chefbea 2:25 PM  

Got most of the bottom. Then had to go to our monthly NARFE meeting and just got home. Couldn't finish and too many posts to read through.

Tough puzzle

Bird 2:42 PM  

Quite the poser today.

I got AFFIX with help from the crosses and kept looking for prefixes (starts) and suffixes (ends)for each theme answer. Needed every SINGLE cross and brain cell to finish.

DHS sit in the dugout. Yes there is a bench, but nobody says the the DH returns to the bench after striking out.

My MORAINE is Long Island. But that didn't fit.

I've never seen LENTIL at a salad bar (assuming the bar is in a restaraunt).

Another 4-letter Dodge car(DART/OMNI/NEON) so I checked 55D before plopping down OMNI and OTRO.


Lawprof 3:02 PM  

Unlike many here, AFFIX was not a gimme for me, so entry into NW was slow. I had the A (from ASPHALT) and the X (from XKE), but took a couple of minutes to get "ANNEX" out of my mind. Also got slowed down by the 22A/36D combo. Had PRES, but only P _ _ _ N and was horrified at the prospect that PALIN might someday be a three-term president. Got over my cold sweat and finished in average Thursday time...for me.

jackj 3:06 PM  

Nice to see the increased volume of posts for a "good" puzzle, not just for the "bad" ones.

Wonderful creativity with the theme and Steve added an additional nice touch with DISASTEROID hovering menacingly over MORAINE, (seems appropriate, if not geologically precise).

A fun misdirect for ERASERS, a nice new fact learned for DETROIT and a memory from High School English that Blake's spelling as TYGER was meant to evoke an exotic feel for the feral feline.

Good stuff and nicely gift-wrapped! Thanks, Steve.

ksquare 3:25 PM  

@anon 12:34 The wife of a British Earl is a COUNTESS. Also, an Irish political area is a COUNTY.
Like Bob Kerfuffle, I appreciate Loren Muse Smith's witty wordplay and look forward to her blogs and ACME's as well each day after completing (or giving up on) the puzzle.

Mighty Nisden 4:07 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mighty Nisden 4:12 PM  

Really loved this puzzle. Will use DISASTEROID on my current IT project from here on out!

Laughed for minutes on that one and PERSISTERLY. Always Always a good puzzle when I can sit in my office and laugh! Well done Mr. Atwood.

Some puzzles are GERMIER than others and this one didn't have any.

Mighty Nisden 4:15 PM  

I forgot to thank @Rex for the picture of a PHOEBE. I didn't realize that she had stopped being a vegetarian!

sanfranman59 4:28 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 18:32, 18:59, 0.98, 49%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 10:02, 9:18, 1.08, 68%, Medium-Challenging

"The characters you entered didn't match the word verification. Please try again." ... That's because I can't read the f$#@ing characters!!!

jae 4:38 PM  

@Matthew G. Thanks for the reply. Saved me some splaining. I've been around long enough to know The STORK Club and I knew the Blake poem and correct spelling from the Alfred Bester sci-fi classic "The Stars My Destination." The only thing that offered any resistance was (like Z, Tita, skua76) ATPEASE until I realized that, like the I in team, there is no S in PEACE. Hence, easy-medium.

That said, (@lms I'm actually somewhat fond of the phrase) I'm sure my time was at least 2 to 3x Rex's.

Sparky 4:41 PM  

Cooked lentils and cooked garbanzos sometimes appear on salad bars in upscale delis. They are trying to foist healthy food on us.

When I mention solving by crosses I am neither apologizing nor in love with myself. Just sayin' there is more than one way to skin a cat than by...

Lewis 4:51 PM  

Did not know what an affix is, and was confused by the clue to 1-A. But I kept solving the puzzle, and the definition became clear at PERSISTERLY. And now I know what an affix is, and grateful.

Even though all the affixes were prefixes, in the 1A clue it says it is an add-on to the start OR end of a word, not AND, so the clue was accurate.

Tofu does come in a tub, but nobody says to the store clerk, "I'd like a tub of tofu." Hand up for OLEO.

A puzzle with sparkle, a joy to work on -- and we were due!

Bird 4:57 PM  

@Mel Ott - Agreed that designated hitters ruin the purity of the game, but if the AL were to drop DHS, the quality of play would suffer until pitchers learned how to hit. The NL would win a dozen or so consecutive World Series.

Re solving with crosses - this is a CROSSword puzzle isn't it? Otherwise it would be called a quiz. The crossing letters are hints in aiding to solve something you do not know.

@Sanfranman - My sentiments exactly about the captchas. I needed to refresh 3x before I could make out what the letters were. Good thing I copy my comments to the clipboard.

Mighty Nisden 5:14 PM  

@Bird - Not sure about your logic. As it is in the world series the home team determines whether a DH is used or not.

Everytime I can't read a captchas I wonder wether I AM a robot or not.

Two Ponies 5:42 PM  

I find that in my myopic state if I lean back a bit the captchas are slightly easier to read.
@ Lewis, You're so right about being due.

Bird 5:44 PM  

@Mighty Nisden - I included the regular season in posting my theory. With the absence of pitchers that can put the ball in play, teams in the AL would have poor records and one of those would make the WS, only to lose to a superior NL team that has a roster full of pitchers that have decent batting averages.

That's my 3rd strike so I am outta here.

Matthew G. 6:10 PM  

Take a look at sanfranman's report -- it confirms exactly what today's comments posts would lead one to think. Average solvers (i.e., those not in the Top 100) did not find this to be any harder than a regular Thursday. But the Top Solvers (such as Rex) had worse times than they usually do.

There must be something about the structure of this particular puzzle that impedes the special skills that the really elite solvers use to solve so quickly, while having no effect on average solvers. What could it be?

I have only one theory off the top of my head, which may or may not be correct. I know Rex usually solves in an unbroken chain from the NW outward unless he gets really, really stuck. Less speedy solvers are more apt to hunt around for a clue that gives them a good entry point, and move around as need be to fill the grid. With the baffling AFFIX in the 1A spot today, this may have thrown the elite solvers off their game while having no real consequence for the rest of the field.

Anonymous 6:12 PM  

@Lewis - No, there were prefixes and suffixes in most of the cases. The first one was based about VERB, to which PRO was affixed to get PROVERB and IAGE as affixed to get VERBIAGE. The same is true for ASTER (from the Latin for heavenly body), PAST (from the Latin 'to feed'), QUEST is the same in both cases. It's only SIST that fails this, where in PERSIST has the SIST Latin root sistere, but SISTERLY doesn't come from the same root (according to the etymology I've seen).

Cathelou 6:27 PM  

@Rookie: Kettle Moraine! Yes. Those darn cows wandering around the Madison Farmer's Market every June threw me off. Thanks!

JenCT 6:48 PM  

PHOEBES ARE Flycatchers, and one of the cutest birds you'll see. They nest on our shed every year, and yes, they are named for their call which sounds like Fee-bee, as @M & A mentioned.

See: Eastern Phoebe

jberg 7:03 PM  

I solved this hours ago, but have spent the day on planes so couldn't get here. I thought it was a lot of fun - but then, I'm familiar with MORAINEs and PHOEBEs. The latter are actually flycatchers, but are called after the sound they make.

I had PERSISTaunt at first, which broke the rule even more than PERSISTERLY, but it took me a while to see it. Other than that, no problems except for GERMIER. And I did like having a different clue for EEL.

Anonymous 7:29 PM  

My comments are so late, but I have to get on the record in my claim of getting MORAINE with no crosses--it's a function of being from a glacial state (Wisconsin in my state, in which Kettle Moraine is a common phrase).

Except for PHOEBES, I was okay, except it took a long time find the Q in 50D 57A.

Was very disappointed that 40D wasn't clued as "Plymouth version of 55A".

Tita 7:36 PM  

Let me add to the DH discussion...back when I used to give a mouse's hiney about baseball, I lamented the DH as another example of serving up pap to we the fans who will pay more many to see more home runs. Maybe it's one of the reasons why I don't care abou baseball or any other sport anymore.

As yet another reminder of how we are continually fed pap, on PBS, I learned that Ferrari no longer sells stick shifts in the US.
What better proof does one need that this car is bought only as a status symbol, and not as a driving machine.

I guess I'll be crossing that new Testarossa off my list...

Tita 7:42 PM  

@matthew G...fascinating, your speculation on level of difficulty.
Exactly what r.alph and I have been tackling.

Our app not only traces your journey through the puzzle (geographically, as you describe), but also factors in things like # of naticks, writeovers, gimmees....

As you articulate so clearly, solving ability is based on so much more than just speed through the grid and knowledge.

Is this my 3rd post? g'night all...

michael 8:24 PM  

liked it a lot, but it took a while . Got it all in the end...enjoyable..

Lewis 8:55 PM  

@anonymous 6:12 -- Excellent points, and educating for me. Thank you!

Z 9:12 PM  

The DH - I think the impact of the different rules is overblown by sports commentators who need to fill too much air time.

I always wonder how simple declarative statements like, "I had to wait for the crosses," get interpreted as being complaints, or apologies, or anything else but simple observations.

@Tita - cão is actually a word in Portuguese? I think I've experienced a 25% increase in my knowledge of the language. São, Rio, agua, and now cão. Or is that a 33% increase.

Anonymous 9:16 PM  

I have a different theory as to why this puzzle affected "average" solvers less than the "pros." Average solvers are more apt to jump to google or other help when stuck whereas the pros shun those hints til the bitter end....


mac 9:27 PM  

@Tita: I've been paying extra for stick shifts since I came to this party. Never had an automatic.

mac 9:28 PM  

Don't know why I typed party. I meant country. ???

sanfranman59 10:15 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 6:32, 6:49, 0.96, 32%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:00, 8:51, 0.90, 23%, Easy-Medium
Wed 12:11, 11:50, 1.03, 61%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 18:42, 18:59, 0.99, 50%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:30, 3:40, 0.96, 31%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:01, 4:35, 0.88, 11%, Easy
Wed 6:12, 5:52, 1.06, 70%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 9:57, 9:18, 1.07, 68%, Medium-Challenging

Red Valerian 12:33 PM  

Well, that was fun! And, thanks to this blog, now I properly understand 1A AFFIX.

@Tita and @Mac=have always owned a standard (as I call stick shifts, which is probably wrong, given that they are options if at all).

When I was 16, I applied for a job delivering pizza. Part of the "interview" was a driving test. Got in (it was some little Datsun or something wagon), and did not know what PRDNL meant! (They hired me anyhow, after they stopped laughing.)

@foodie: you can preview without doing the captchas (though out here in syndi-land, the preview is a bit garbled at the moment).

@mac: I think the "party" is this blog!

30A MORAINE was a snap, both because we hike a lot in the Rockies, and because of the lake there that @AnnieD mentions. Moraine Lake A picture of it used to be on the back of our $20 bill.

Solving in Seattle 2:32 PM  

Loved this puzzle, but was given a good head fake with 1A AFFIX. Understood it after reading @lorenmuse's comment.

Steven Atwood is a marvelvet portmanteau wordplaymaker.

Lola505 2:33 PM  

As is often the case, Rex and I don't agree on degree of difficulty here, but I don't question "Why?", rather just enjoy filling in the little squares.
I thought Mr. Atwood's puzzle was very intelligent and enjoyable without being overly difficult. I especially liked his word combo-coinages.

Spacecraft 2:38 PM  

I see many late-week puzzles that seem very discouraging on first scan. "Man, I don't know most of this s**t! I'm gonna need Uncle Google for this one, fer sure." But today we were having the rugs cleaned, so I was banished to the porch. (Alas, my only computer is non-portable; I'm so last century). So I sat there--and pretty soon I saw something in the north: BASIE. Man, that clue is a perfect Shortzism! And so it spread, and in the 45 minutes it took for the cleaner to get done, I was too. Not a Google in sight, not even a writeover. For a bit, when I had PHOE___, I thought of phoenix, but gave that up quickly.

So how do I rate it? Challenging-easy? Hmmm. I did like it. Learned something new about DETROIT--and of all the things that "Bark" could mean, I wind up with WOOF! Loved DISASTEROID, easily the best of the themers.

The DH, that American League abomination, bastardizes a good game: the one they still play in the National League. He does not play a defensive position, but takes his turn at bat. He is not a "bench" player, because he is IN THE LINEUP. He qualifies as a starting player. He gets to do the fun part--hitting--but doesn't have to do the grunt work, running around out there playing defense. WHO DOES HE THINK HE IS?? Bah!

DMGrandma 2:43 PM  

Did not know DHS or TRE, so the NE never got finished. Finally got the rest, but struggled too long with 1A as I misread it to ask for one particular word, or part thereof, that could be added to one end of all the indicated clues!! Didn't help that IRV was another unknown sports name. Fortunately, I remember the Stork Club and the XKE, so eventually figured things out in this fun puzzle.
Could someone cite the reference that says the captchas are helping sort something out. In my case they seem to be close to sorting me out from posting.

Ginger 3:01 PM  

From the 'twilight zone' otherwise known as syndi-land...

@Mac and @Red Val, I agree, this blog IS a party. Since lurking here I have learned much, and not only about puzzles. I have chortled out loud, thanks to you all.

Moraine, Irv, DH, were gimmies, but the NW snockered me. I kept thinking of Toots ShORe, and the STORK would not land.

Dirigonzo 7:01 PM  

Wow, whenever I arrive here and find over 100 comments it usually means the "haters" were out in force, but not today! I'm so glad because I loved this puzzle, too - for all the reasons already articulated.

@RedV - yesterday you credited me with coining "syndication synchronicity" and today you mention that this blog is "the party", so I can't resist asking you to read the post here: http://dirigonzo.blogspot.com/2011/07/syndication-synchronicity.html (sorry, you'll have to copy and paste - I don't do links).

37d - "She has RUBY lips and shapely hips..." Good stuff - would've like to see Rex post a video.

I see the preview screen is still messed up, so please excuse any mistakes.

Dirigonzo 7:34 PM  

(From the TWIlight zone again, like @Ginger) - @DMGrandma, check out this website for an explanation of captchas being used to transcribe old text: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/science/29recaptcha.html. It must be true, because it's on the internet.

Solving in Seattle 8:54 PM  

@dirigonzo, being a syndee newbee I didn't quite understand what the big deal was about email, and NOW I DO! (sorry to shout, also.) Cool feature - comments to my iPhone on the golf course.

Didn't give you props yesterday for "syndication synchronicity" - sorry, so subconscious of me.

To the commenters (red line underneath says not a valid word): since so many of you are hung up on the capchas, why not start a glossary of the more interesting ones? Just thinking.

Dirigonzo 10:14 PM  

@SiS - "Cool feature - comments to my iPhone on the golf course." That is way cool! Luddite that I am, I have to check my PC (not a laptop) occasionally for updates. I really should get a "smart phone" but, damn, I hate it when my toys are smarter than me! Interesting idea about the captchas - commenters (I ignore the red lines)used to mention the more interesting ones and maybe offer a definition (some were pretty entertaining) but as you say, now they just seem to be a source of annoyance. I mean, what can you say about enotab and snitiff, which are the ones I will have to enter to publish this comment? Maybe I'll get something more interesting after I hit the "preview" button.

Well, preview was totally useless, but my new captchas are leachec ymeemtin - anything there you can work with?

Red Valerian 11:31 AM  

Thanks for the link @Dirigonzo, fellow B-Lister.

Anonymous 8:03 PM  

Out here in Syndieland, I still want to pick up on secret languages and infixes. My son once owned and loved a book about secret languages(The Cat's Elbow) that might be of interest.

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