Hagar's daughter in comics / THU 3-8-12 / Physician with DO degree / Fables in Slang humorist George / Noted Irish crystal / Brokerage firm with talking baby ads / Queue after Q

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Constructor: Bill Thompson

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: BROKEN PROMISE (34A: Moral lapse that is reflected literally by the answrs at 17-, 24-, 46- and 54-Across) — theme answers begin and end with letters that spell out synonyms of "promise"

  • VARIETY SHOW (17A: "Hee Haw," for one)
  • WATERFORD (24A: Noted Irish crystal)
  • OSTEOPATH (46A: Physician with a D.O. degree)
  • PERCY SLEDGE (54A: "When a Man Loves a Woman" singer)

Word of the Day: REDWARE (15A: Pottery whose high iron content gives it a distinctive hue) —
Earthenware made from clay containing a large amount of ferrous oxide, giving it a red color.

Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/redware#ixzz1oUau3g76
• • •

Where's my Thursday puzzle? If this one worked out a little, it might be a Wednesday someday, but Thursday status is pretty far out of reach. The theme was pretty basic ("broken" word puzzles like this are common), with nothing tricky to figure out, and I didn't even have to understand the theme to solve it. And I solved it in a Tuesdayish time. I think it's a decent puzzle. It just doesn't belong on Thursday. Everyone can drop NAVIDAD in right away, and from there you're well on your way, with APE, IRONED, ART, and NSA being virtual gimmes at that point, if they weren't already. PERCY SLEDGE was a gimme. E*TRADE was a gimme. GARDNER was a gimme. RSTU was a gimme. YAO was a gimme. ELYSÉES was a gimme. Too much handed out on a fill-in-the-blank platter. The grid is actually pretty good. Solid, at any rate. That AGR / HOER / HONI part is ugly and could be fixed, or at least somewhat improved. But I really liked ON POT and EURYDICE and AEROSTAR. I also liked the overlong but interesting cluing on stuff like ONO (19A: Lennon reportedly described her as looking like "a bloke in drag") and TED (57A: Pal of Marshall, Lily, Robin and Barney on "How I Met Your Mother") (Will has made an appearance on "How I Met Your Mother" before, so there's a little wink there, probably).

[I wanted to post THIS cool video of this song, but it features brief glimpses of breasts and rear end, and sadly I am not in the mood to have prudes flag my blog for "inappropriate" content (again)]

There wasn't much that was unfamiliar to me today. I don't know what a "prompt box" is, but I'm guessing it's a ... box ... where the guy ... oh, it must be beneath the stage / facing the stage, so the CUER can help an actor who has forgotten his/her lines (41A: One in a prompt box). I was imagining cue *cards* and had no idea there was a "box" for that guy. George ADE is nobody to me (50D: "Fables in Slang" humorist George). I forgot HONI, but then remembered (27A: Hagar's daughter in the comics). Her boyfriend is a would-be minstrel named LUTE. Her mom is HELGA, and her mom's confidante is KVACK! The dog is SNERT, obviously. Thus concludes our "Hagar the Horrible" Tutorrible.

  • 8D: Faa'a International Airport location (TAHITI) — early guess was TEHRAN. I'm just glad I've never seen FAAA in a puzzle. 
  • 30D: Rode a thermal current (SOARED) — recently watched the multi-part documentary "The Life of Birds" with host David Attenborough, and there was a lot about birds riding thermal currents.
  • 32D: Old fur trader's locale (FORT) — young fur traders preferred urban loft space.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:06 AM  

Very easy and a let down from yesterday's with pretty much zero zip...AEROSTAR?...ONPOT (maybe)....SIDLEUP?...  A bit 61a for my taste.  

Not sure why this was a Thurs.  EURYDICE DIASPORA maybe??

Evan K. 12:07 AM  

FAAA sounds like the cousin of, well, 32A.

pk 12:20 AM  

Great write-up Rex. I never saw the broken promise words at all until coming here. It didn't matter for the solve, but is nice to appreciate after the fact.

And yes, it was probably easier than this past Monday's offering, but "so what?" Oh, wait, that was Tuesday.

anapest cogito michaels 12:51 AM  

so the FAA'A FAA is the Tahiti air safety org? And if you flew there for Xmas, would it be the FAA'A FAA LALALALA FA FA LA.
And if Lola FALANA landed in Tahiti at Christmas with a little help and had some Middle Eastern food... would it be the FALANA FAA"A FAA LALALALALA FALALA FALAFEL?

ok. I'll stop.

Word for word what Rex said, including the TeHran mistake.

Thought it was fantastic to have EURYDICE in there, tho I looked for a broken promise and thought for a moment maybe EDICE was something.
I had a kitty when I lived in Greece named EURYDICE as we had rescued her from hell. But it was pronounced Ev-ri-Dee-kay.

I don't know what an ANAPEST is but I know it's been explained here before and it's something poetic.

It may have been easy, but to find four broken promises: VOW, WORD, OATH and PLEDGE was pretty fabulous and I think it's fantastic that PERCYSLEDGE's name contained P-LEDGE!!!
Yay, Bill Thompson for thinking that up!

Didn't he just have a puzzle earlier this week or last?

Oh yes, here it is...Feb 27th, last Monday: TALL, TELL, TILL, TOLL, TULL. Wow, this is some week for him!!!!!! A Mon/Thurs one-two punch! Bravo! Jealous!

chefwen 1:46 AM  

I thought this was a little more difficult than those already reporting. Had trouble in the DIASPORA/ANAPEST area and ended with a DNF as I had AEROSTeR at 3D.

You are all probably sick to death of hearing about our Albatross but I'll continue, we released three more today and it was breathtaking to watch them Soaring and dancing with the THERMALS and believe me we have had thermals to last a lifetime. Kauai has been declared a disaster area because of two weeks of constant rain, thunder, lightning, flash floods, washed out roads and bridges, etc. Be happy you are not here right now @Rube. My heart goes out to all who spent hard earned money to vacation here in Paradise??? Saw the sun today for the first time in two weeks and now the damn storm has turned around and is heading back. YIKES!!!

Did not take the time to seek out the broken promises, but now that they have been pointed out to me, I am impressed.

Anoa Bob 2:13 AM  

DNF. Had AhS at 7D, "Reactions to puppies", and this gave REDhARE for 15A. Looked okay to me. I was seeing one of the experts on the "Antiques Road Show" turning over a vase and pointing to the silhouette of a rabbit's head in red ink on the bottom and saying this is the marque of the famous 17th century maker of "pottery with high iron content" Red Hare.

I have been AFRAID (22D) a few times in my life, but never IDEATED (21A) that I was "Lily-livered".

Had mixed feelings about this one, with stuff like RSTU, HONI, and UIE putting me off. Clever theme though.

Glad to see Acme's EPS (explanation point scale) xword rating meter back up and running after getting its needle bent and circuits melted down by Samuel A. Donaldson's score of 31 (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) on 2-20-2012. Here Mr. Thompson scores a respectable eleven.

acme 2:37 AM  

"Explanation" point???!!!?!

Dik 3:02 AM  

Don't forget Hagar's son, Hamlet, and his overbearing girlfriend, Hernia.

Anoa Bob 3:10 AM  



Where's spell check when I really need it?!

Evan 5:14 AM  

It took me longer to understand how each theme entry literally contained a BROKEN PROMISE than to actually solve the puzzle. I just could not see the broken vow, word, oath, and pledge until well after I had finished the grid. But like @Rex and @pk said, you didn't really need to understand it to finish the puzzle and in a pretty quick time.

Still, a frustrating mistake gave me a slightly less than perfect grid at the end. I had DOER at 27-Down. Seems plausible, right? Somebody who moves the earth, metaphorically I suppose, is a DOER. Like, to be a mover and shaker, or the object of someone who says, "We don't need a thinker, we need a DOER!" And I just wasn't going to get anywhere trying to figure out who Hagar's daughter was, so DONI seemed like it might be correct. That's the second time in a week that I was tripped up by Hagar's family members -- last Friday I briefly had his wife down as NELGA before the H dawned on me.

George Barany 5:15 AM  

I liked this one a lot, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the fact that it was a quick solve. Of the five theme answers, three of them had never appeared previously in a crossword puzzle during the Shortz era, and the other two were a first-time repeat and a second-time repeat. This is no mean feat, worthy of kudos as ACME has already pointed out. And I will speculate momentarily on why this one fits naturally into the Thursday slot.

Jim Horne's site xwordinfo.com is, im my opinion, an invaluable resource to crossword constructors and analysts alike. Near the bottom of each solution page, a button appears entitled "Analyze this puzzle". Click the button, wait a few seconds, and all sorts of fascinating information appears, complete with color coding. The "vitals" on this puzzle can then be compared to averages for the day of the week -- it comes in with Thursday/Friday type numbers. Can't be Friday because it has a theme, and there aren't enough open squares. Particularly impressive, it clocks in at 85th percentile overall (96th percentile for a Thursday) for what Jim refers to as Freshness Factor. Bill Thompson has every right to be proud of his puzzle.

Off topic, there have been a handful of previous mentions on this blog of a "ripped from the headlines" puzzle that Arthur Rothstein and I wrote, which can be found at http://www.mojo-working.com/GailCollins We appreciate Rex's forbearance in giving us this platform to let crossword lovers know about that puzzle. Regardless of whether or not you've tried our puzzle, I strongly recommend Gail's column in today's New York Times. It is a masterpiece on the subject of the puzzle, and can be viewed (SPOILER alert from URL) at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/08/opinion/collins-dogging-mitt-romney.html

mac 6:57 AM  

Easy but a very nice puzzle, with a couple of great words. I took the time figuring out what the theme was about before I was finished, and could put it the o and a of osteapath because of it.

On pot sounds so old! I'm in Holland, but haven't smelled any yet. Rarely do, actually, have to go into the little alleys in Amsterdam, I guess.

Loved Percey Sledge, surprised by RSTU.

Mimi 7:24 AM  

Why is the capital of Australia DOL (45A)? I thought it was Canberra.

SethG 7:52 AM  

Rex, furs are surely still traded, but I believe the "Old" refers to olden times rather than the age of the traders. There wasn't really much urban space that had been lofted in olden times. Or was that supposed to be a joke?

Also, that's a picture of the wrong HONI.

Andrea, SWIMMERS EAR and AIR PRESSURE would work, although each break was after the first letter and assure's kinda the wrong part of speech. So maybe SLEEPWEAR instead, but you need a symmetric match. In any case...

Tita 8:02 AM  

Natick at HONI/ANAPEST - but I guessed right.

Being a very obedient solver, was looking for a literal reflection...but finally I IDEATED it.
(There - I've used the word - I can no longer hate it as a non-word.)

@acme - hand up for my hands-down FAA'Avorite post this morning!

Loren Muse Smith 8:07 AM  

Terrific theme, and everything Acme said in her lalapalooza of a post!! Loved SIDLEDUP, COGITO, and SHODDY.

@chefwen – I’m with you. This wasn’t as easy for me as everyone else. I did finish after IDEATing (do what??) a bit, especially in the SW, not getting the Cartesian 41D until I erased "upc" and got IGA. DOH. I drive by one every day on my way to work.

@Tita. The perfect storm of knowing WATERFORD (our pattern we registered when we got married), EURYDICE (I was a long term sub for an English class) which revealed ANAPEST (again – sub), unfortunately uniting with the quick DIA at 29A gave me

DIA_ _ _ _ A

I very tentatively penciled in (wondering why the clue had no question mark) one for your Hall of Fame. Maybe my mind was in the SEWER, but for “mass exodus of a sort” I had “diarrhea.”

David 8:13 AM  

@Mimi, having lived in Australia for a little while I was stumped too, but with the OL in place it was time to look for wordplay. DOL = Dollar, the currency (Capital) of Australia.

I echo many others, this felt like a medium-challenging Tuesday or an easy-medium Wednesday. Broke 6 minutes for the 1st time ever on a Thursday. Got lucky in that I was barely familiar with the words DIASPORA and ANAPEST, so was able to get both with just a few crosses. Almost everything else was a breeze. The (cool )theme helped me get the 3rd of the 4 long answers, OSTEOPATH.

Rex didn't mention that Helga's buddy KVACK is a duck! And here's a shoutout to Hagar's best buddy, Lucky Eddie.

Sarah 8:16 AM  

IDEATING? Really? Loved EURYDICE and DIASPORA. The rest was pretty much meh for me. Didn't get the BROKENPROMISE theme until I came here -- just got the clues from working through the grid and some fill. There seem to be a lot of Hagar the Horrible clues recently -- didn't we have Hagar's wife the other day? It was offset somewhat by the Simpson's clue, though. On the whole I zipped through this one in about 8 minutes, very fast for a Thursday.

Ulrich 8:25 AM  
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Ulrich 8:26 AM  

When I landed in Faaa two years ago, my first thought was, "when will this appear in a xword puzzle?" Has it ever? But then they put a necklace of seashells around my neck, and my thoughts wandered off...

@anoa bob: Do you really have a spellchecker that tells you when to replace a correctly spelled "explanation" with "exclamation"? Aren't' we talking USAGES here?

Sue McC 8:27 AM  

Easy enough, though I never got the theme until I saw it in Rex's write-up. I seriously thought Faa'a was a typo....never heard/saw that before. Guess it's time to visit TAHITI. And ON POT? Kind of lame.

jackj 8:31 AM  

AEROSTAR flowing into DIASPORA, which ties to ANAPEST, then links to EURYDICE, which runs its I into SIDLEDUP, (allowing the puzzle to slip in the hated UIE at the end), makes it look like someone spent a lot of time trying to dazzle us and confound us with erudition aplenty, to no avail, since it all fell into place quite readily and, “Ta Da”, (otherwise known as COGITO ergo sum), all’s still well in crossword land.

The theme was, well, the theme, but in all, the puzzle was much too easy to be a credible Thursday offering.

Kathy 8:34 AM  

Re anapest - I don't understand the definition (see below). Would someone be kind enough to explain it? Thanks so much.

A line of verse using this meter; for example, "'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house" (Clement Clarke Moore).

Kathy 8:35 AM  

Oops - full definition of anapest...

A metrical foot composed of two short syllables followed by one long one, as in the word seventeen.
A line of verse using this meter; for example, "'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house" (Clement Clarke Moore).

evil doug 8:42 AM  

My new rule: If the only place I need to know a word is in puzzles, then I refuse to expend any effort learning it. Hence 'adapest' and 'Hodi'. And I've just about had it with Hagar clues---it's Horrible, all right....

I prefer baby backs.

From the "What Was He Thinking?" dept: Lennon was right about Yoko. And her singing was even worse. Could've had anyone, and he chose her....

Pilots hate the FAA range riders like cops hate internal affairs. Every time they show up unannounced to ride on your jump seat, you feel like your license is in play. In their check ride critique it was always a good technique to act like they taught you something---"Gee, I didn't know that---Thanks!" Try to trick 'em into thinking they were instructors instead of inspectors....

Loren: No comment on 42D?
ELAINE: All because of this creepy new guy at work. He just - he just comes out of nowhere and he's right next to you!

JERRY: So he just sidles up?

ELAINE: That's right! He's a real sidler.

JERRY: Maybe you didn't see him.

ELAINE: You never see him. He sidled me again in my office. I was sitting there making a cup of soup singing that song from "The Lion King".

JERRY: Hakuna Matata?

ELAINE: I thought I was alone.

JERRY: That doesn't make it right.


John V 8:47 AM  

Well, what @Rex said. Here we have a week of Tuesdays so far. This was fun, but VERY easy. I also finished without needing/seeing the theme which, as @acme noted, is quite cool, albeit PERCYSLEDGE does play a bit old; that's okay by me! Serendipity dept: Gail Colins mentiions PETA and RODEO in here column today.

Favorite clue/answer, 41D, COGITO --> SUM.

Anonymous 8:48 AM  

Rex recycled that book cover from his Pop Sensation blog, so here's the comment I should have, but didn't, make there, suitably bowlderized for here:

When you look at the indentation the landing makes in that woman's the painting captures the perfect ratio of firmness to softness. McGinnis was a genius.

jberg 8:50 AM  

ANAPEST, dactyl, iamb, spondee - I think there's another one, but can't remember it. Anyway, memorize them! Along with capitals, currrencies, and airports, and you'll go far.

Nice Christmas subtheme, even if I was expecting International Women's Day.

orangeblossomspecial 8:56 AM  

Dang! Every time I feel like I'm getting smarter or making progress, I find out the puzzle was too easy or should have appeared two days earlier.

I agree with Evil Doug that words appearing only in crosswords aren't worth learning.

John V 9:01 AM  

Notice the nice IE assisted spelling in the last line of my post. Grrr. Capcha from Google, spelling from Microsoft. Nice one two punch.

Wood 9:04 AM  

I was about to snark, "There are a lot more than four anapests in "The Night Before Christmas," when I realized that the clue actually refers specifically to the poem's first line, not the whole thing. Nice misdirection!

Wednesday time on this one. Monday has clearly shifted all the other puzzles this week by a day.

Just because something sounds profound doesn't mean it's not total nonsense 9:07 AM  

"Art does not surpass nature, but only brings it to perfection"? So, nature wasn't perfect but art made it so? How then doesn't art surpass nature? Not perfect ->perfect sounds like an improvement to me.

JenCT 9:10 AM  

When I got SIDLED UP, I instantly thought of the Seinfeld episode & that @evil doug would mention it.

Didn't see the theme at all until I came here.

@loren: LOL for DIARRHEA!

Knew PERCY SLEDGE right away.

Haven't heard the term ON POT since high school: "Those damn hippies, they're always on pot!" said one of my teachers.

Agree that this was pretty easy. Always looking for a rebus on Thursday; not today.

Tobias Duncan 9:16 AM  

Had a bunch to say about this puzzle but it all flew out the window as soon as I realized that my favorite band has a new album out.
I am a bit stunned that this is where I heard about it.

archaeoprof 9:21 AM  

Didn't understand the theme until @Rex explained it.

I'm teaching Latin this semester and will show 41D to my class today.

I love those ETRADE baby commercials. And I laugh _every time_ I see that commercial where the guy can't stop looking at his phone. "What am I, some kind of summoner who can just summon up footage of the game on my phone? Come on..."

joho 9:26 AM  

Yes, easy for a Thursday, but fresh and with a really fun theme.

I really liked it, cross my heart!

Loren Muse Smith 9:43 AM  

@ED – too weird. I had just finishing editing a letter for someone, changing “USAGE” to “use,” and then I read your post. I was in bit of a panic that I couldn’t get it because I had had “upc” instead of IGA.

My English professor, Mr. Parcels, was a dyed-in-the-wool pedant and insisted that USAGE be used only when referring to things grammatical.

I think many educated people would disagree, but I can’t bring myself to use it for anything but grammar. Because of him, I also cannot say “different than,” “try and,” “anxious” for “eager,” or “aggravate” for “irritate.”

My main thought was that USAGE feels more prescriptive; I would have been happier with the cluing, “English teacher’s concern.” I don’t remember using the word in a lot my linguistics courses.

@archaeoprof -about 41D – maybe some of us whose lives have been hijacked by this site could say “blogito ergo sum?”

chefbea 9:47 AM  

Pretty easy, I agree but had a Natick at anapest/honi.

Didn't see the broken promises til Rex explained.

Loved spare rib...nothing better than St. Louis BBQ ribs. Hopefullu @Quilter1 is having some this week.

ArtLvr 9:54 AM  

@jberg - add trochaic

Evan 10:10 AM  

@ Kathy:

The rhythm of that line is made up of four ANAPESTs, or four sets of metrical feet with two short syllables followed by one long syllable. If you say it out loud at a constant tempo, it helps, but to illustrate, I've put the long syllables below in bold.

"'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house."

Two Ponies 10:32 AM  

Agree that it was too easy for a Thursday but there were enough bright spots to give me an enjoyable solve.
I couldn't believe that I was able to throw down Percy Sledge with no crosses. Where did that come from?
I don't know what Dernier cri is so off to Google.
@ chefwen, Sorry to hear of all the trouble in Paradise.

Tita 10:36 AM  
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Tita 10:37 AM  

@loren - that most defintely does NOT pass the breakfast test!!
But most certainly passes the "fit for inclusion in the Hall of Fame" test...

Will post it forthwith.

While y'all are there, please check out my Mom's latest creation...
My new profile pic is me solving with the dazzling new puzzle board she made for me...
Watch out, ACPT - with this board, I can't lose!!!!

I have more pics, and updates to the Hall of Fame, on my crucimetrics blog.

Kathy 10:58 AM  


Thank you for the explanation and the example. I prefer to learn a new word, rather than ignore it if it only appears in a crossword puzzle.

Campesite 11:02 AM  

My thoughts exactly Tobias Duncan. Thanks for the heads up, Rex.
Here's a classic from Magnetic Fields:
Papa Was a Rodeo


Judith 11:25 AM  

At Purdue University, Ross-Ade football stadium is named for George Ade, a long-gone Hoosier "humorist." I checked one of his books out of the library and found it completely unreadable due to racist and misogynist content--also it simply wasn't funny. His heyday was the late 1800s, early 1900s, and he was very popular then, but the work (IMHO) did NOT stand the test of time.

Anonymous 11:34 AM  

Upper half very easy...had problems with EURYDICE and PERCYSLEDGE...still don't get COGITO.

dk 11:34 AM  

Ha! Now that all the intelligent comments have been used up... time for dk.

🍁🍁 (2 panama reds) nice VARIETYSHOW thanks Bill

This puzzle is clearly a tribute to the 100 year anniversary of Oreos.


Your ONPOT, you RALLY, go to the IGA as you have IDEATED on the perfect snack, alas you OVERATE, exclaiming DOH as your mates point out your BROKENPROMISE to share the Oreos... and to avoid TEDIOUS music you offer to replace ONO with PERCYSLEDGE as you like him better. Your girlfriend exclaims IDOTOO and everything is ROSY.

See the puzzle is about Oreos.... hey man pass that over here.

Drat I hope I get this robot test IRONED out

Evan 11:39 AM  

@ Anonymous 11:34 am:

41-Down is a reference to the Latin phrase "cogito ergo sum."

jesser 11:49 AM  

Turns out it was fail for me because I put in lONI at 27A and never checked the down. Dang it. Or should I be proud that I don't pay attention to the Hagar Family Tree? I'm going with option B. There. I feel better.

If you agree with every thing Rex and Acme said, well I DO TOO.

My pet peeve is people who don't think the rules apply to them.

Anoa Bob 11:56 AM  

Ulrich @8:26,

Yes I'm aware that spell check couldn't really help me there. I was just trying, unsuccessfully it appears, to poke a little fun at my own cognitive slippage---putting in "explanation" when I meant "exclamation"---by feigning even further slippage. I think my feigning was too realistic. Worrisome.

Martin 12:05 PM  

"Thursdayness" is purely a function of a theme's difficulty. Many Thursday themes will make for tricky solves but the tricky solve is a symptom, not the cause of a Thursday puzzle.

If you got this one early on, it could have been a Tuesday experience. If you never saw it, it was more like Friday. I was initially surprised that Will ran this on a Thursday too, but the number of solvers (here and at Wordplay) who posted that they never saw the theme means that I think he got it right.

Ulrich 12:19 PM  

@anoa bob: That makes two of us:) After all, I typed "tarted" yesterday instead of "started"--spell checker missed that, too!

Sparky 12:27 PM  

Couldn't find the broken words till Rex pointed them out. I want my rebus but crunchy with EURYDICE and COGITO. Can we have a vote and pick one way to spell U turn?

@Loren. I am nowhere in your league but I do yell "different from" and "than I" at TVs and newspapers. I'll try to remember your others.

Thanks @Acme. Along with QTIP makes my day.

JoeTheJuggler 12:46 PM  

I'm not such a great puzzler, but this one was even easy for me. I never spotted the theme, and I went through this one without any real hitches. (I typed an "I" instead of a "Y", and it took me a couple of minutes to spot it.)

The bad thing is, that means the Friday puzzle tomorrow will seem like a great leap in difficulty level.

GILL I. 12:54 PM  

We're in Grass Valley visiting friends and their computer has been down. It finally came up and I printed a very blurry Thur. puzzle. Like others, I wasn't sure of the date. It did seem Wed(ish) but I really enjoyed it. Didn't get the theme at all until I read @Rex but it didn't really matter. I just liked the way this flowed.
I love the movie "Ratatouille" and had Paris for 10D. Paris/SEWER? Ono! In my blurry version 55A looked like Derrier and since I can't spell French, Derrier Cri looked just fine to me.
WATERFORD brings back good memories of days-gone-past. When I was in the airline industry, we used to fly free on stand-by to just about anyplace in the World. You were usually up-graded to first, but even in coach, you got 3 course hot-meals, free wine or champagne and your (free) pillow would get fluffed. We would take 3 day jaunts to Europe all the time to buy whatever was on sale. (Maybe @Evil can corroborate on these short shopping sprees since this was during the early 80's and we're about the same age - give or take....) Anyway, Shannon International and their famous Duty-Free was the must go-to to buy WATERFORD for NAVIDAD presents but only if it was on sale! We would shop all day and then return on a night flight. Sigh..., too bad I'm RETD.
I think Hee Haw is/was the stupidest show I've ever seen. On the other hand, I love Yosemite Sam where I learned the word "Lily-livered."

Rex Parker 12:55 PM  


You're simply wrong. Not getting the theme does not mean not completing the puzzle. It just means the theme wasn't clear. The overwhelming response here and elsewhere is that this was misplaced by at least a day. I'm getting a ton of "easiest Thursday ever" comments. And Thursday *is* about gimmick (usually). If it were just about difficulty, well you could clue any grid to make it difficult. This is all to say that the sky is blue. Not sure why you're doubting it.

Nobody but nobody thought this was Friday-hard.


Rex Parker 12:57 PM  

This is the statement that is Really wrong: "If you got this one early on, it could have been a Tuesday experience." No. I did not "get this one" til the grid was completely filled ... and yet, It Was A Tuesday.

Your apologist skills need honing.

travis 1:31 PM  

Top half came very easy[except for Hagar's daughter, doer seemed very reasonable for earth mover and anapest was no idea], bottom half not so much. Percy Sledge was a need every cross for me, Eurydice was a need every cross[and the crosses weren't obvious]. I can certainly see though how if you thought those were gimmes the puzzle would come across as much easier.

Martin 1:33 PM  

Not getting the theme does not mean not completing the puzzle.

Pretty sure our disagreement flows from this statement. If you're done with the puzzle when you complete the grid -- period -- an opaque theme doesn't matter. If you don't consider yourself done until you also understand the theme, the theme can extend your solve time quite a bit. I've certainly completed puzzles in Monday times that took Friday times to grok.

As I said, I was surprised by how many people found this theme tough. If that's an apologia, so be it.

Wood 1:37 PM  

Wow, slapdown from @Rex.

@LMS and @ED, I felt the same way about the clue for USAGE. Lexicographers or english teachers, but not linguists.

Doc John 1:44 PM  

Wasn't anyone else bothered by the fact that SPARERIBs don't come in racks? That's why they're spare!

Pete 1:53 PM  

Holy Crap!?!? You mean I didn't complete the puzzle? Just because I looked at the reveal, said to myself "great, there are words for promises buried somewhere in the theme entries but I couldn't care less" and didn't bother to look for them?

Says who?

Linguists comare and contrast USAGES between and among various languages in a language family all the time. In fact, it's pretty much what they do. Why they would do that is another question.

John V 1:57 PM  

@Martin, in the general case, the theme does not matter. We do have themeless puzzles, after all. Solve to me means get the answers to the clue, write them in, done. Theme is a bonus or, perhaps, an aid to completing the puzzle. For the instant puzzle, IMHO, neither obtained.

M and A and in big trouble 1:58 PM  

WedPuz theme + FriPuz words = x. Solve for x. I leave that as an exercise for the student.

Now that I've crossed #31, I may as well go for broke...

A solver far wiser than myself once said:
"My new rule: If the only place I need to know a word is in puzzles, then I refuse to expend any effort learning it."

Har. Dude. Seems major counterproductive, if one wants to efficiently solve future NYT xwords. I mean what if we'd never learned ETOI and OLIO? I, for one, am gonna try mighty hard to remember good old EURYDICE/ANAPEST/DIAwhosit -- you never can tell when the Shortzmeister will quiz us again, just to see if we were payin' attention. (I hear yah, that one could hurt oneself, trying to remember sh?t like that. But I gotta try.)

KRMunson 2:09 PM  

@George Barany - thanks for the great URL's in your post. The puzzle was a hoot, and I read Gail Collin's scathing (but funny) article about you-know-who. Also thanks for the tip on "analyze this puzzle". Who knew?

evil doug 2:14 PM  

Gill I.P.: I corroborate. Although shopping was never my motivation, out-and-backs for a nice meal might be. My dad was an economic analyst with United. When they first got their jets, he and I flew to Miami just for the thrill of the ride. Got bumped coming back, so I enjoyed a day off from school until we could get seats the next day.

I still get free passes, but with the 1)shortage of seats; 2)low priority retiree status (we go after all real passengers and all active employees); and 3)Waterford-less misery attached to the flying experience, the last thing I want to do is subject myself to security lines and all the rest of that hot mess.

M and A: "A solver far wiser than myself once said: 'My new rule: If the only place I need to know a word is in puzzles, then I refuse to expend any effort learning it.'...Seems major counterproductive, if one wants to efficiently solve future NYT xwords."

Yeah, if I cared that much about 'efficiently solving', I'd worry about it. I don't time, and I don't fret if I get stumped. Most words I come across in the puzzle are worthy of remembering for other use, so I do. 'Anapest' and 'Honi' don't conform to that standard.


Masked and Anonymous, continued 2:16 PM  

Make that ETUI. See? Still trying to remember some of this essential weird stuff.

Further soapbox blathering: Good old Anoa Bob would have to call himself Area Bob, if we weren't esnes to the xword vocab. That'd be sad.

Bird 2:31 PM  

This was going fine until I worked my way to the SE corner. I should, but did not know EURYDICE (crosses were no help) and could not remember spelling of ELYSEES (again, crosses no help). Had ROPERS for 52A and that prevented me from getting SIDLEDUP and ECOLOGIC. Hand up for TEHRAN at 8D

Just figured out why 45A is DOL and not CAN (DOH!) – great misdirection. @Mimi – check the spelling of the clue: capitAl for money and capitOl for head of state.

How many variations of answers to 180° are there? Maybe we should ask Will to reject these clues.

And what’s up with RSTU on a Thursday?

HOER? Does anybody really say HOER? I use a hoe in my garden, but I do not call myself a HOER.

@Loren - I snarfed when read your first thought for 29A. At least iced tea is easier on the nose than beer or soda; no bubbles.

Double captcha rieldba hotespl morphs into portable shield

sanfranman59 3:24 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 11:45, 18:56, 0.62, 1%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Thu 6:04, 9:16, 0.65, 1%, Easy

Anonymous 3:35 PM  

Did anyone who didn't see the theme look for it and fail to find it? Because there are plenty of comments every Monday about missing the theme, and I don't ever think those puzzles should instead have run on Thursday instead.

Lewis 3:45 PM  

@rex and @loren -- gave me good laughs today, these are gifts, thank you.

A fair amount of flak in Rexville today -- sometimes this is a gift too.

Themeless 3:51 PM  

@Anon3:35 - I was able to decipher the theme which helped me remember the answer to 54A.

I wonder if some people who mention not seeing the theme are boasting ("Ha! Didn't need the theme at all today. That puzzle was too easy.) or just simply mentioning it matter-of-factly. It's tough to read emotions in a posting, you know.

I personally think that figuring out the theme is part of the puzzle-solving enjoyment. But that does not mean I failed to complete the puzzle if I failed to see the theme.

Lundy 3:57 PM  

Best use of a prompter's box in movie history: In the 1941 comedy "To Be or Not To Be," jack Benny, playing the title role in a Polish production of "Hamlet," strides to center stage to begin his great soliloquy.

He pauses for dramatic effect, whereupon the prompter gives him his cue. Whereupon Benny gives the prompter a withering stare.

To anyone who hasn't seen the film, it's hilarious. A classic.

Two Ponies 4:13 PM  

We all play our own personal rules and today I felt like DNF because I didn't get the theme. This is probably because I was in such a rush to get here that I didn't spend much time looking for it. For me, getting the theme, esp. when it is hidden like today, is the final bonus.
To each his own and I'm pretty good at beating myself up.
Speaking of, @Bird, no need to call yourself a hoer!

John V 4:17 PM  

@Themeless: I had the revealer and the puzzle all solved, looked to decode the theme answers for a bit -- maybe 2 minutes -- and was simply not inspired to go any further. For me, a theme is more fun if it a tool in solving the puzzle. This one was not, for me. Thus, it solved like a very easy themeless.

I am sooooo certain that tomorrow is just going to kick our butts from here to the middle of next week, given how we've been set up so far, you know?

Masked and Anonymous's Last Silver Bullet 4:22 PM  

@Anonymous 3:35 -- I always look for a theme, even on Friday and Saturday, when the hope shines mighty dim. Eyeballed 34-A clue, and immediately attacked its part of the puz first. Wasn't easy, as the unholy trinity (DIAgerma, ANAnoodge, EURochop) guarded it with a vengeance. Had PERCYSLEDGE as a gimme, so once I got BROKENPROMISE, the theme was a piece of QED.

SanFranStatsMan's early returns say WedPuz theme + FriPuz words = EasyPuz. Maybe this @31 dude knows his stuff. Snort.

Themeless 4:32 PM  

@John V - I got the revealer first (guessed from a few crosses), then after a minute W-ORD just popped into view. Don't know how, but don't care. But, aha - some synonyms for PROMISE are BROKEN.

I too am scared of tomorrow’s puzzle, but then again Fridays are always tough for me. At least I’m off from work tomorrow so I will have all day to wrack my brain instead of just during lunch.

Bird 4:35 PM  

@Two Ponies - thanks for the positive feedback

One last question - what is harder to solve: a Friday/Saturday puzzle or the double captchas?

Anonymous 4:38 PM  

@Lundy - Wrong. Best use of a prompter's box in a movie was Charade. Maybe it's not as funny, but you're looking at Audry Hepburn, not Jack Benny.

mac 6:18 PM  

I haven't been on a plane with an empty seat for a long time.

I like baby back ribs, dry. Now I'm hungry again.

online shop 6:25 PM  

nice info, keep posting bro

Two Ponies 7:11 PM  

Oh no! A robot got through.
What will we have to do next?

JoeTheJuggler 7:17 PM  

"I mean what if we'd never learned ETOI "

And that's a portmanteau that refers to a pin cushion used by one of Wells' post-human races?



Does it bother anyone else that the gizmo that proves I'm not a robot to post on here asks me to "Type the two words" when neither of the character strings are words? (I just got "everages" which is almost "averages" and almost "beverages".)

skua76 7:20 PM  

@two ponies,
Perhaps we'll need a webcam filming us logging in, and we'll have to take our shoes off, if not more.

I enjoyed the puzzle although I didn't think it quite as easy as Rex. And hands up for AhS/REDhARE so technically a DNF. The theme eluded me until after I finished, but eventually I sussed it out before coming here.

nancy 9:05 PM  

Doped up, say? ON POT...oh, he must have gotten this on the Googles.

Anonymous 9:58 PM  

@joethejuggler - that's why I like @bird's captcha anagrams. He makes them funny

sanfranman59 12:06 AM  

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 7:58, 6:50, 1.17, 95%, Challenging (8th highest median solve time of 141 Mondays)
Tue 8:10, 8:51, 0.92, 30%, Easy-Medium
Wed 12:02, 11:50, 1.02, 59%, Medium
Thu 11:47, 18:56, 0.62, 1%, Easy (2nd lowest median solve time of 141 Thursdays)

A Medium Wednesday. Very similar stats to yesterday's puzzle.
Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:13, 3:40, 1.16, 94%, Challenging (10th highest median solve time of 141 Mondays)
Tue 4:17, 4:34, 0.94, 33%, Easy-Medium
Wed 5:39, 5:52, 0.96, 44%, Medium
Thu 5:46, 9:16, 0.62, 1%, Easy (2nd lowest median solve time of 141 Thursdays)

Ceejay 12:15 AM  

I'm an Aussie and that part of the puzzle had me stumped. It is Canberra or Australian Capital Territory. The answer here makes zero sense to me. I don't get it at all.

Z 12:24 AM  

There was a theme?

Long day - so this is the first chance I have to mention that Rachel Maddow used HOT MESS Wednesday night. Not a coincidence, I suspect.

Acme 12:56 AM  

If you're still on...it was explained earlier , but it was a play on the word DOLLAR being the capital/money of Austrailia.
Now go throw another spare rib on the barbie...

I'm with you...ONPOT seems like something someone who doesn't know from drugs would say...but once @dk confirmed, i guess it must be legit!

Rotemeister 12:13 PM  

Isn't it curious that ANAPEST and EURYDICE are perfectly good bits of cross-rote. Other than that esoterica, I might even give this one a Monday.

Anonymous 6:56 AM  

I'm completely stumped on that one too!

sinip 7:04 AM  

Thanks for the "Word of the day", new one for me. :-)

Ginger 12:58 PM  

From syndi-land, Did anyone else notice that the Syndi-puz and (today's) April 12 puz have the same answer for 1-A ?

Back to the syndi-puz, I've read thru 94 comments and I'm still laughing at @Acme's early post about Lola Falana in Tahiti! Read it to my daughter, and we both laughed. Andrea is just one of the reasons I relish this blog.

DNF because I can't spell ELYSsES. Also, could not find the 'broken promises' until I got here. Guess I should have been more patient in my search.

Lola505 1:09 PM  

As seems often to be the case, I didn't "get" the theme, even after finishing, but thought this was a fairly easy Thursday.

A couple of questions:

What determines the clues which are listed beside the puzzle's date (in the month's listings)?

What / who is Rex's avatar? (Handsome devil!)

Z 1:55 PM  

@Lola505 - Rex tags the blog with likely to be googled clues - you can see these at the top of each post. These tags are the source of the clues listed next to the puzzle date.

And that's no Avatar, that's Rex.

Spacecraft 2:12 PM  

Hand up for Tuesdayish difficulty level. Some strange neighbors: REDWARE and WATERFORD; HOER and CUER (thanks for not cluing SEWER differently!). Had a "groan" moment with the "sum" clue for 41d. Hand up for too many gimmes--even themers.

I misread the "Faa'a" clue; thought it was some sort of airport HQ for the FAA at first--only to find that august body itself butting up against the same black square!

Some horrid fill here. SIDLE by itself is OK. In fact, since I dig Jorja Fox, it's way more than OK. But with UP?? Totally unfamiliar. Then there are abominations like PSST, RSTU, UIE and IDEATED. What's so bad about IDEATED? It's one of those words that is NEVER used in actual conversation--or even writing. You can see it in a dictionary or a crossword puzzle, and that's it.

Some good fill and an OK, pretty-well-executed theme save this one from being a complete thumbs-down for me.

Waxy in Montreal 2:45 PM  

I'm with @Spacecraft - in fact, I think even Monday's puz this week was easier than this alleged Thursday. Count me in the AHS/REDHARE camp though.

Always assumed the name of Hagar's daughter was a clever pun between Honey and "Honi soit qui mal y pense". Maybe not.

On the way here, noticed that the 1A answer today (April 12th) is the same as in our 5-week old puzzle. Must be a case of syndisynchronicity.

Dirigonzo 3:56 PM  

A lucky guess at HONI had me thinking I had finished without an error, then REDhARE did me in.

Yet another mention of an eastern Canadian province (and its natives) at 4d has me thinking that the Canadian Travel Promotion Board has a mole in the NYT puzzle department. But at least it was enough to bring @Waxy back for a visit and to mention yet another example of the weird phenomenom we call syndisynchronicity. Too bad I won't remember that helpful little coincidence 5 weeks from now - or an hour from now, for that matter.

Waxy in Montreal 4:19 PM  

@Diri, Rats, you're on to us. "First we take Manhattan, then we take...". Change of tactics needed, eh?

Dirigonzo 4:51 PM  

@Spacecraft - I seem to remember a TV ad (which phrase I think was another bad fill complaint a while back) from not too long ago where a boss walked in on a bunch of employees who were obviously googing off, and they told him they were "IDEATing" - so maybe it's not a totally useless word after all. I think it appeared in a "Dilbert" cartoon fairly recently, too.

@Waxy - lame jokes (mine, not yours) aside, it's nice to see you back. I'm especially comforted to know that even a seasoned syndicated solver such as yourself made the REDhARE mistake. And speaking of alliterative phraseology, I think you may heave attained the status of senior solver still in syndicationland, now that @Deb has moved up to prime time. Congratulations, I think.

Meagan 5:25 PM  

I am no where near an expert at crosswords so was surprised to get through a Thursday without looking anything up. I figure looking things up when I'm stuck helps me learn for next time.

I did get Faa'a, Tahiti, but only because I've been there. One thing I like about Tahitian is that every vowel is pronounced.

Dirigonzo 5:58 PM  

@Ginger - I feel the same way about @ACME's post. She is a jewel.

@Z - It was good of you to come all the way out to Syndiland to answer a question. Have you started getting email updates again or did you just check in on us on your own?

@Meagan - Interesting factoid about Tahitian. I'm trying to imagine what Faa'a might sound like with all the vowels pronounced, but since I'm from Maine you know it's going to sound like there's an "R" on the end.

Three and out (or maybe not - I've been known to break the rules).

Waxy in Montreal 6:10 PM  

@Diri, "senior solver still in syndicationland", huh? Sorta like being the oldest kid in Grade 2 or a veteran minor leaguer! May have to put in for a promotion soon...

Sharon'AK 6:25 PM  

@ Spacecraft
?! I can't think of how one would use "sidled" without "up".

Solving in Seattle 6:35 PM  

The theme of this puzzle was clever, even though I have to admit not seeing vow/word/oath pledge until Rex pointed them out. Forehead slapper. Otherwise, solved it lickity split.

I learned the word DIASPORA in a college poly sci class. The word is as ominous sounding as the actual events that have strewn people from their homelands over time.

If any of you syndies missed it and need a good laugh go up and read the comments that @Anapest Cogito Michaels (12:51am) posted. I think @Ginger was referring to it = the fa la la lola falana etc. How can someone be that funny at that hour of the morning?

@Evil, thanks for the Seinfeld lines. And other, than Elaine, does anyone in the English speaking world actually use the term SIDLEDUP?

COGITO that I am all pau.

capcha: endbing. Is Google trying to tell Microsoft something?

Dirigonzo 6:42 PM  

@Waxy - I prefer to view the decision to remain in syndiland as a sign of strong moral character and the ability to resist peer pressure. But that's just me and I'm on record as preferring "life in the slow lane" (in fact that was the name of my first blog). My point is, I intended "senior solver still in syndicationland" as a tribute, not a put down. I certainly didn't intend to motivate you to go over to the "dark side"!

(I think I have discovered the secret to deciphering the CAPTCHAs - beer. The more I drink, the clearer they become!)

Lola505 6:50 PM  

@Z, thanks for your reply to my questions.

Re: Rex's avatar is him; Really??


is the photo I've seen of Michael Sharp, aka Rex Parker.
Wouldn't have guessed the avatar was him, but I'll take your word for it.

Thanks again!

acme 7:29 PM  

@ginger, @Solving in Seattle...
Dirigonzo was nice enough to alert me to your sweet comments...made my day...
So, just as an update, the conga line never happened, Ulrich was a no show, rex missed out having gotten food poisoning... but the ACPT was a blast anyway.
It's like Xmas in March!
Fa'a falalalalalala a la lola

Solving in Seattle 7:37 PM  

@acme, thanks for the laughs, and I think it's great that one of the Big Leaguers visits us from the past (future?). Do we genuflect or anything? What's the protocol here? As a newcomer to the blog I'd be curious if the Rex himself ever has time-traveled to address the syndies. @Dirigonzo?

Dirigonzo 9:11 PM  

@Solving in Seattle - well since you asked, yes in the very early days of the blog Rex used to interact with all of the commenters, including syndilanders. Lately, not so much. But now that email updates are back we may hear from more prime-timers, possibly even Rex himself. I don't think genuflecting is required.

Z 9:24 PM  

@Diri - I'm getting all the March posts in my RSS reader, but email updates have returned and are so much better. I solve in the morning before work, so I don't think I can try your captcha solution.

@Lola505 - One of Rex Parker Alter Ego's interests is "vintage paperbacks." I believe the Avatar is from a cover. I seem to recall the specific origin being mentioned once in the time I've read this blog, but I have no idea how long ago.

@SiS - everyone genuflects for ACME and crosses themselves for Evil Doug - otherwise its just like Marty McFly and Dr. Emmett Brown.

Solving in Seattle 9:48 PM  

@Dirigonzo, I like your capcha solution, too, but my kaleidoscope lens is cheap wine.

@Z, checked out your blog page - nice looking (not a dropkick) dog. And of your 16 music groups listed, I've heard of one. Man, do I feel out of it.

My cousin rebuilt a Delorean.

capcha: ughpu - use your own imagination.

Zed 10:38 PM  

@SiS - Not a lot on that list for a Beethoven/Brahms lover. A Steve Miller/Led Zeppelin fan might enjoy My Morning Jacket, Wilco, or The Black Keys.

I've exceeded my limit, so I guess I better use my Canadian Alter Ego.

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