R&B singer Peniston / WED 3-7-12 / Grantorto's victim in Faerie Queene / Bluesy Waters / Vegas casino magnate Steve / Complete train wreck Southern slang

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "MEET ME ON THE CONGA LINE" — this message is spelled out by circles that snake in SERPENTINE fashion from the top of the grid to the bottom. Other theme answers include:

  • DANCE CLASS (16A: Subject for a Degas painting)
  • "ONE, TWO, THREE, KICK!" (39A: Classic Xavier Cugat song ... or a hint to the invitation in the circled letters)

Word of the Day: INO (28D: Queen of Thebes, in myth) —
In Greek mythology Ino (GreekἸνώ) was a mortal queen of Thebes, who after her death and transfiguration was worshiped as a goddess under her epithet Leucothea, the "white goddess." Alcmancalled her "Queen of the Sea" (θαλασσομέδουσα),[1] which, if not hyperbole, would make her a doublet of Amphitrite. // In her mortal self, Ino, the second wife of the Minyan king Athamas, the mother of Learches and Melicertes, daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia[2] and stepmother of Phrixus and Helle, was one of the three sisters of Semele, the mortal woman of the house of Cadmus who gave birth to Dionysus. The three sisters were AGAVE [!], Autonoë and Ino, who was a surrogate for the divine nurses of Dionysus: "Ino was a primordial Dionysian woman, nurse to the god and a divine maenad" (Kerenyi 1976:246). (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow. This puzzle couldn't have been more not-me if it tried. I know what a conga line is ... but whatever culture of conga spawned this puzzle, I have absolutely no experience with. I have never heard the phrase "MEET ME ON THE CONGA LINE." I have never heard of the "classic" song "ONE, TWO, THREE, KICK!" I think we have *very* different ideas about what "classic" means. I ... I ... I'm just out of the loop, or line, today. I'm loving some of the fill, like NO-TELL MOTEL and WEIRD AL (56A: Parody singer Yankovic) and HOT MESS (though I had no idea that now-common phrase was "Southern") (19A: Complete train wreck, in Southern slang). But there was an awful lot of short gunk. I mean, *way* more than you normally see in a Gorski grid. I'd say the good-to-great longer answers make up for the junk, but only barely. If the theme meant anything to me at all, I'm sure I'd like it better.

While ECO-FREAKS is a great-looking answer, I've never ever heard of it. Neither has my wife. Both of us thought it seemed too made-up (8D: Green nuts?). Further, O' THE and ATE A ... crossing? That's rough. I can see that that is a very theme-dense part of the grid, and yet, yikes. BRAE / AURAE is also a little hurty (5D: Scottish slope + 13A: Glowing rings). My wife also wondered if anyone had ever actually said the word VALIDATIONS in a parking context (9D: Parking amenities). "Do they validate?" Yes. "Do they provide VALIDATIONS?" Seems ... less likely. Also, "amenities" is a gigantic stretch. A robe at a spa is an amenity. "Your parking also comes with these lovely VALIDATIONS. Enjoy." Again, can't see it. In the "never heard of it" category, I've got WYNN (40D: Vegas casino magnate Steve), IRENA (22D: Grantorto's victim in "The Faerie Queene"), INO (28D: Queen of Thebes, in myth), and ROWE (70A: Host Mike of the Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs"). Clearly these were fairly crossed, as I got them all. It's clear, though, that the puzzle had to go to some rather dark places to make this superficially peppy theme come off.

Wife and I disagreed about the word "zero-star" (52D: Zero-star, say). I knew instantly what the clue meant (though SEEDY did not come quickly), but my wife thought it was an actual star, like a red star. Again she fell back on the "has anyone ever said that?" And I had to confess that I'd say "no-star" and that probably most star ratings systems didn't go as low as "zero-star." Also, anything SEEDY is not likely to show up in any guidebook that gave motels (hotels, restaurants) stars.

  • 8A: Hunter who wrote "The Blackboard Jungle" (EVAN) — I know this only because I have a massive collection of old paperbacks. EVAN Hunter also wrote under the (more famous) name "Ed McBain."
  • 50A: Fast-food franchise with a game piece in its logo (DOMINO'S) — nice clue. Also a nice clue: 47A: Like some vowels and pants (LONG).
  • 66A: Paraffin-coated Dutch imports (EDAMS) — at least the not-great fill in the grid is colorfully clued.
  • 6D: Banquo, in Verdi's "Macbeth" (BASSO) — the "Verdi" part should've tipped me off. Took nearly all the crosses to find BASSO.
  • 30D: Bluesy Waters (NOT MUDDY) 
  • 35D: "With the bow," to a violinist (ARCO) — wasn't sure it was ARCO or ARCA. Thought the latter at first, since the former is normally clued as an oil company or the (bygone) name of the arena where the Sacramento Kings play.
  • 54D: Wedding day destination (ALTAR) — off the "A," wrote in AISLE ... if the AISLE was as far as you got, there were likely ... problems.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Golfballman 7:26 AM  

Why is html a programmers medium,why not http somebody please explain as I thought this was lousy way to start an otherwise good puzzle.

Anonymous 7:29 AM  

Got the theme quickly and that helped, but the obscure fill was a chore. I guessed at Equal Opportunity Employer, is that really needed to be represented in a job advertisement these days? I found the princess crossing some violin thing crossing some bene thing particularly unnerving.

Z 7:30 AM  

Unless someone is typing as I type, it looks like I'll be first again. Everyone must have been waiting for the call on Ohio last night.

I thought I was in a Friday puzzle for awhile, just so much I didn't know: EVAN Hunter, HOTMESS, NOTA bene (learned from puzzles, but it was coming out this morning), ONE, TWO, THREE, KICK, CECE Peniston, Mike ROWE, IRENA, INO, ETHEL Waters, and Steve WYNN. When I wrote in the V at 9D I was a little surprised that I was finished.

I like the circles better today because they seem more integral to the puzzle. I like the theme just fine, although it seems just a little bit before my time. I was confusing Xavier Cugat with Xaviera Hollander, which also didn't speed up my piecing together of 39A.

dk 7:35 AM  

Any carping I may wish to engage in is overshadowed by the the theme and design. I only wish there was a place for D. Bowies "Lets Dance."

🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4 Stars) A work of art. Liz I bask in your AURAE.

My moral dilemma: iRobot

Anonymous 7:40 AM  

@golfballman: HTTP is a protocol - a set of standards through which websites communicate - and HTML is a markup language, used by programmers to code the websites themselves. (Although, technically HTML is not a programming language.)

SethG 8:01 AM  

As not me as it was not you. I'm not sure why they didn't clue ONE TWO THREE KICK from the classic 1927 movie instead?

joho 8:09 AM  

How can you not love a puzzle with ONETWOTHREEKICK! I wanted to conga around the room!

Great theme density and the circles work.


VALIDATIONS as used regarding parking doesn't bother me at all.

Fun puzzle, thanks, Liz!

ArtLvr 8:11 AM  

It's lovely, it's lively, it's Liz! And a bit of a sneaky setting AT LEISURE in a NO TELL MOTEL, yet not quite so SEEDY that it doesn't have parking VALIDATIONS. But we're not holed up there, just kicking back, etc. Favorite clue? Green nuts, of course....

Vince Ricardo 8:16 AM  

"The In-Laws"

Okay! But remember, serpentine!- Absolutely!

What a guy.

You're dead, right?


Serpentine, Shel! Serpentine!

AnnieD 8:22 AM  

Tough puzz for a Wed. I didn't see the conga line at first and like Rex, never heard of the Kugat song.

What's with the clue for 29D? ROTC is for officers which a Sgt. is not...

And, just for Evil Doug, while I did not confuse Xavier Kugat with Xavier Hollander, I did have INA in for INO ...leaving me totally shocked! No wonder 39 across was the last fill for me.

Sue McC 8:22 AM  

Couldn't agree with Rex more on this one. Clearly I am not part of the great conga subculture. But I did like seeing HOT MESS and NOTELL MOTEL.

Anonymous 8:22 AM  

29D How is ROTC a "Sgt.'s program"? Definitely misclued.

orangeblossomspecial 8:26 AM  

I'm curious why Rex doesn't link to the Cugat title: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBdHfj0TVic

After all, it is the theme of the puzzle, and more appropriate than Kick in the Head or Alive and Kicking.

John V 8:26 AM  

I absolutely love this one, with the conga line snaking down the grid! Felt like the perfect, medium, Wednesday puzzle. Also really liked NOTELLMOTEL and WEIRDAL, both fabulous fills. Getting in DANCECLASS with all of the theme constraints in the NW is really cool.

I think 29D clue is wrong. ROTC is a college program, meant to train students to become future reserve officers. An non-commissioned officer, such as a sergeant, might attend OCS, Officer's Canidate School, but not ROTC at the local campus. So, ROTC is not a Sgt.'s program, but, perhaps, "Coll. military program."

SE, ITNO/ATNO/EOE: price of glory is what I'm saying.

John V 8:30 AM  

That would be "Officer's Candidate School", and "A non-commissioned..." .Stupid fat fingers. Also, Interned Explorer, which I'm using this morning, does not have spell check built in, in contrast to, say Chrome, which does.

Howard B 8:48 AM  

@Golf: Yep, HTTP is the communication protocol (the P in HTTP) that processes the request to retrieve a page (URL) from those mystical, magical tubes of the Internet. HTML is simply the "language" of codes written to format the Web page into something readable, and hopefully not overloaded with bright, blinky graphics. So "<B>bold</B>" in HTML looks like bold in your browser, for example.

Oh yeah, the puzzle: Steve WYNN is a pretty famous billionaire casino magnate (in the Mark Cuban wealth category, I'd say), so fair game. Conga theme was twisty fun. Some of the fill was a bit tough. Still fun to wind through, though a bit knotty at times.

thursdaysd 8:57 AM  

Having never heard of ETHEL, CECE or ARCO made the center tough. And then I had WiNN instead of WYNN initially.

I took the ROTC to be a program run by sergeants rather than one they attended. Have no idea whether that's right, though.

Over all, I'm with Rex on this one, although partly because I don't see the whole puzzle at once on my iPad.

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

@John V Your "spell check" comment just saved me a lot of grief. My Dad is using Internet Explorer and asked me to figure out why the spell checker is not working. Now I know. Many thanks.

Tobias Duncan 8:58 AM  

My first exposure to Mike Rowe was a TED talk that he did a few years ago.That guy is way more interesting than most people realize.

Regarding Andrea's self deprecation yesterday: there must have been some pretty slick camera trickery employed by your documentarian ;)

Anonymous 9:00 AM  

I stayed up late last night just to make the point that @AnnieD made, but to be the first to do so.

If you made the guess of INA rather than INO, working the middle section left to right made for one eye-opening theme answer.

Anonymous 9:00 AM  

@thursdaysd When I was in ROTC it was run by officers, not sergeants.

Wood 9:04 AM  

Surprised how easy I found this, not being conga-savvy either. Really just ignored the theme, admired it afterwards. Finished in Tuesday time. Maybe there really was a mixup, and Monday's was supposed to be today's?

jackj 9:05 AM  

There’s an old saw that tells how to sculpt an elephant; you just get a huge block of marble, then chip away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant. That may also describe the seemingly effortless method employed by Liz Gorski when creating stunning visuals from the jumble of vowels and consonants that constitute a normal crossword.

Today is no less an effort, as a rhythmic line of circles three-steps and kicks its way down the grid from top left to bottom right in a sinuous, pulsating CONGA LINE. Amazing, Liz, amazing!

Today’s puzzle is, in essence, a themeless creation and deserves some extra respect over and above its wonderful graphic for including such disparate elements as WEIRDAL and the U. of New Mexico LOBOS, entries that, assisted by VALIDATIONS and ATLEISURE, serve to envelop the envelope pushing entries of HOTMESS, ECOFREAKS and NOTELLMOTEL. That’s Gorski in bloom!

Thanks, Liz, for another in a long string of mind-blowing creations.

Loren Muse Smith 9:06 AM  

I have felt like I’ve been on a bit of a tear recently, being able to finish puzzles with no googling and filling in AFFIX, ISE, ESQUE, ERN, GRAMMAR with no hesitation. Well, I guess it’s not “how smart am I?” but rather “how am I smart?” I knew when I saw Elizabeth’s name at the top, I was in for an erudite experience, but, wow. This one was a battle for me.

@Mac – I take back my talk of wanting to revive salons, because I don’t think I would be invited to the party!

Today’s art, opera, literature, music. . tough, tough, tough My anemic toe hold was NAM, to reveal ECLAT and SOLI (and AURAE -why do I love funky plurals when I so carefully dodged Latin in high school and college?) Loved that SEEDY NOTELLMOTEL and WEIRDAL, but the whole middle with CECE, ETHEL, ARCO, INO, WYNN was really inaccessible to me for a long time.

I did finish this with no help, but it was a slugfest fought with the same dogged determination I had in college when I dug in and finally got Siddhartha’s denken, warten, and fasten and Samsa’s Ungeziefer – not because I particularly cared about such things but rather because I had this childish desire to impress my professor, and in this case the constructor.

I liked this puzzle.

Ulrich 9:08 AM  

@artlvr: I'm with you, and the rest who liked this puzzle, although I never joined a conga line in my life. I'm too self-conscious to do something in public that makes you look silly, unless, of course, I had one too many, which means the conga lines I saw always tarted too early.

To continue where @Howard left off: HTML is not a programming language in the classical sense b/c it combines data with instructions about what to do with the data in one file (see his example). But one can definitely say using it do create a file that can be interpreted by a web browser (which I have been doing now for 20 years) is a form of, very basic, programming.

Ulrich 9:11 AM  

oops--forgot an s at the end of my first paragraph. Those damned new captchas definitely discourage you from previewing!

JenCT 9:15 AM  

Loved it, always a treat from Ms. Gorski.

First thought the circles would spell out MEET ME ON THE C TRAIN (something like that) - despite some obscure clues, all were gettable from crosses.

Liked WEIRD AL; check out his spot-on spoof of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit":
Weird Al

Stuart Smalley 9:16 AM  

If 9D had been clued as "I'm good enough, smart enough, and, gosh darn it, people like me!", e.g., the answer might have made sense to me.

imsdave 9:27 AM  

DANCECLASS! Made me look at the circles like the feet on the floor that you had to step on to get the steps right.

SERPENTINE certainly describes the dance.

Cool puzzle, worth all the crap fill.

chefbea 9:30 AM  

Loved the puzzle. I have a foto on my desk taken at my daughter's wedding where there was a huge conga line. What fun.

As for valadations... many malls offer free parking with a store validation.

Great puzzle Liz

archaeoprof 9:39 AM  

Don't share the love for this puzzle today.

Have lived in the former Confederacy for the last 27 years and have absolutely never heard the expression HOTMESS. Not once.

GenJoneser 9:41 AM  

@Vince Ricardo: One of the best scenes from a fun & terrific movie (no need for the remake...ugh!)

What? No love yet for 27A "Stable father figure?" SIRE. Made me chuckle!

Thanks Ms. Gorski.

John V 9:51 AM  

@archeoprof: So HOTMESS is a candidate for the autonym list?

BTW,Ron Paul called me last night and asked if I'd be his new campaign manager. Thought you'd want to know.

KR Munson 9:57 AM  

@jackj - love the elephant analogy. I'm gonna get some mileage outta that one :-)

JaxInL.A. 10:29 AM  

I rarely get to post these days but loved this puzzle so much that I had to make the time. I LOVE Liz Gorski.

I spent my youth watching all the Fred Astaire movies I could find, and branched out to all of the other dance movies available, esp. from that era. Mr. Cugat appeared frequently with his band in those amazing frilly sleeves. It was great fun.

I tripped the light fantastic through this puzzle without a single write-over, until I got to the very corner of the SE, where I was so sure that the directioon was NNE that the unknown Mr. ROWE was ROEo and ROEE and anything except the real name.

Thanks, Liz!

Anonymous 10:34 AM  

Chef Bea
Exactly, they offer validation. No one actually says the word with the "s" on the end. Or if they do, I've never heard it.


Two Ponies 10:36 AM  

I really enjoyed this one. It felt tough for a Wed. and I liked the struggle.
Never heard of hot mess but it's a fun phrase.
When conga line is the subject (almost never), I go back to my childhood watching Bugs Bunny dressed like Carmen Miranda complete with fruit basket turban doing the conga.

Two Ponies 10:39 AM  

Also, Wynn was a gimme since I have a complete view of the Wynn casino from my desk at this very moment.

JenCT 10:40 AM  

Why not: "My doctor's receptionist was busy filling out the many VALIDATIONS that were on her desk."

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

Does anyone know of an app to do the puzzle on a Kindle Fire? I will be away from my computer for the next week or so, and only have the Kindle.

evil doug 11:06 AM  

With or without the theme, I love the Gorski woman. And at least the position of the circles had some meaning, contrary to some of the random rings we've had lately.

Hot mess? (I picture a steaming pile of puke during morning-after 'beer flu'.) Ecofreaks? (Bet the greens here are spitting up hot mess). Leche? (Not in my 'League'---cerveza, por favor---make it dos). Cessna? (my C-150, our first flying machine during my ROTC days, and then the primary jet trainer, the T-37.) Serpentine? (we have a Serpentine Wall following the curve of the Ohio in downtown Cincy.) Ethel? (check out "The Streak"---fun tune by Ray Stevens---sometime. Ethel plays a prominent role. What a fad. Made five bucks running around the Pike house naked three times in the middle of a Des Moines winter....)

Xavier Cugat and Xaviera Hollander? Vive la difference, Annie D---although even I am not going to, ahem, touch that a for o thing....

Not sure about the ROTC clue either. I guess it's possible for Sgt's to go back to school and join ROTC rather than go the OTS route.

We had a couple officers in charge at my ROTC detachment, but the three or four enlisted guys did most of the heavy lifting. After our graduation we went back and had a commissioning ceremony, and the tradition was that the newly anointed brown-bar (2Lt) had to give a silver dollar to the first enlisted troop to salute him. I went and got a pocketful of silver dollars and tossed one to every NCO and airman popping a salute to me. Those guys kept us out of trouble as we tried to learn the military protocols, fill out forms, take physicals, so forth---not an easy job for them with us college guys chasing girls and drinking beer....


Masked and Anonymous 11:35 AM  

Is today the 100th anniversary of Xavier Cougat? If so, allow me to toast him with oreos and leche's.

Fun LizPuz. Both sneaky and snakey. Put up a fight, and the fight was worth it. thUmbsUp. Too bad that they can't have it so that the circles don't appear until after Mr. Happy Pencil "Kicks" in. Would make a heck of a reveal, that way. I want that. [classic "Napoleon Dynamite" line]

Soapbox stuff alert:
I'm gettin' kinda fed up with the old "crap fill" charge being leveled upon these poor, defenseless 3-5 letter words. I mean, no tablets have been delivered from the mount on this, as far as I know. What's the worst puppy of the litter in this puz? -- OTHE, maybe? Eye of the beholder, dudes: I thought OTHE was kinda funny. Heck, LECHE was a total over-my-head experience, but a HOT MESS it was not. Peace on Earth, etc.

All together, now... one, two, three, Kick!

Rex Parker 11:39 AM  

@howard, WYNN may have Cuban's wealth, but he does Not have his fame. Not by a mile. ~rp

Anonymous 11:57 AM  

There were a couple that thew me...I had MUDDY for waters...STUD not SIRE...Got the MEETMEONTHECONGALINE before I got the ONETWOTHREEKICK. Not bad for a Wed....Had SOLO and not SOLI...

Tita 12:35 PM  

I tagged 11 obscure clues, 8 pop name clues, and 20 clues were auto-tagged as xwordese...
I also tagged 10 "good" clues.

The overall ratio of good-to-obscure might explain my overall Meh feeling after solving it. Or maybe I'm just doing the puzzles too late at night, because you're comments here point out cool stuff that I missed.
No fair that leftcoasters get tomorrow's puzzle earlier... :(

@Oren Muse - again, welcome to you! It's fabulous that you are solving and blogging. I have a feeling we'll all get great insight into where your daughter got her smarts...!

John V 12:39 PM  

I suppose we may say to Ms Gorski that we get a kick out of you!

Anonymous 1:02 PM  

Haaaaaaaaaaaaaated this puzzle! With a fervent passion of a thousand suns!!!!

Poor weird Al got stuck in this absolute crap fest of a puzzle.

Good God this kind of puzzle makes me not want to do NYT puzzles any more. Seriously.


Need I say more?

efrex 1:03 PM  

I've come to grips with the fact that Ms. Gorski's cultural frame of reference is significantly misaligned with mine; nonetheless, came within a double Natick (NOTA crossing INO and ARCO - never heard of any of them) of finishing this in standard Wednesday time.

Only recollections of conga lines for me are from They Might Be Giants concerts circa 1990; otherwise, not really my thing...

Does anybody actually hard-code HTML nowadays (other than occasionally marking up blog comments)?

Holy $#!+, but these captchas are getting harder & harder to read...

mac 2:00 PM  

Conga lines and one two three kick are my idea of hell.

Loved this puzzle. A combination of many unknowns, gimmes and (grateful for) crosswordese and fill are great to me.

@Ulrich: funniest typo!

@Evil Doug: great comment.

Now let's try that miserable captcha business again.

Bird 2:01 PM  

I had fun solving the themed answers and some of the fill, but not all. Overall an OK puzzle. When I got MEETME_N I immediately thought "in St. Loius", but of course had to change course. The best part was NOTELLMOTEL and SERPENTINE (love the original "In-Laws".

The middle was a HOTMESS for me. I can't say it any better than @Anon7:29 did.

To me, WYNN and ROWE were easy. There were commercials for WYNN casino when it first opened (and now he's in the news over a fight with his business partner) and I used to watch Dirty Jobs. SO in my world, these guys are just as famous as Cuban.

Hand up for no Sgt. in ROTC. Unless you say he went back to school and joined the program - but that is a big stretch.

@JenCT - re Jahn's from yesterday: I do miss the old ice cream parlor and sitting with friends gorging on the Kitchen Sink.

Captcha ightsine ativeled morphs into Hesitated Veiling

Larry I in L.A. 2:03 PM  

Mid-week puzz marred by double-Natick at 34A. (HTG--twice!) My meager Italian does not include NOTA bene, and there are at least a few other words that come to mind first (although not all fit in a four-letter space). It's not Friday or Saturday, so 35D could have been clued "Gas giant", necessitating only one alphabet run (28D). Harrumph...

Atlantasolver 2:14 PM  

Forty years in Dixie here, never heard it.

Ulrich 2:19 PM  

@efrex: Yes, I do, on a regular basis. When I look at HTML generated by software, I spend so much time cleaning it up, getting rid of all the unnecessary stuff, that it's actually faster for me to write it manually from the start. Now, I admit, I started doing this when file size, and the download time it influenced, was important b/c people were connected to the Internet by telephone modem. Nowadays, it's less of an issue, but it has become second nature for me.

Sfingi 2:25 PM  

Difficult for me.

Steve WYNN doesn't like to admit he grew up in Utica.

Sfingi 2:26 PM  

Difficult for me.

Steve WYNN doesn't like to admit he grew up in Utica

Lewis 2:55 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rube 2:57 PM  

Tx @JenCT for parsing WEIRDAL for me. Thought that was a really strange name.

Learned NOTA bene way, way back in the distant past and use NB all the time in my notes as well as instructions for others. Don't think it's ever been questioned.

Didn't have the a-for-o problem because I learned, (from crosswords, natch), INO as a sea nymph who helped Odyseus, and had to wait for all of the crosses for this earlier stage of her life, (as explained by Wikipedia).

Among other writeovers, had ULn for the German city and HOTnESS looked acceptable to me. Never lived in the South.

Was never in a Conga Line either. I guess it's a relative of the "Hokey Pokey"? Did that.

OK puzzle. Too many partials to make it "good", but NOTELLMOTEL was inspired.

Lewis 2:58 PM  

The snaking circles helped my solve, and what I didn't know (including 39A) came through crosses. I learned that AGAVE was a tequila source. When I took ROTC in college, my recollection is that the instructors were sergeants. I praised them in a school newspaper column for only requiring short hair four hours a week.

Sparky 3:02 PM  

Had to guess and guessed rght on ARIE, CECE and ROWE. Downs, of course, helped.

Agree @Rex, I don't think anyone ever said MEET ME ON THE CONGA LINE. Makes no sense. How do you meet someone on something so fast moving? Cugat used to walk around with a chihuahua in his breast pocket. The puzzle was fun to work on. Love Liz.

PBS just had a clip of Alice Faye singing and at the end of the number, ta dah, a big snaking conga line of chorus girls in gold lame dresses. Wowser!

Welcome Oren. Have fun. @Ulrich. The new format has hampered my editing. @JohnV. I get a kick of you too.

jesser 3:51 PM  

I did this one in fits and starts today between meetings, radio shows, deadlines, etc., so I can't really say how it skewed, but I had fun with it.

I've heard Mr. Cougat's name, but do not know his body of work, so ONE TWO THREE four looked good to me, which made the East Coast harder than it had to be, but eventually it all KICKed together.

I was Naticked, but guessed correctly, at the INO/NOTA cross.

I've heard of both ECO FREAKS and HOT MESS, but learned today that I've been using the latter incorrectly for as long as I (thought I) have known it. Sigh. All those guys I thought I was complimenting.

The LOBOS suck. The NMSU Aggies rule the world. In my fantasy world, anyway.

As to plurals, I was much more taken aback by EDAMS than VALIDATIONS. "How many EDAMS do we have in stock?" or "How much EDAM do we have in stock?"

"Lance, how many VALIDATIONS did you stamp today?" I can deal with that. Not EDAMS.

Oh, an aside: I asked a question last night. With misty blue eyes, he said he needs to think about it. Think good thoughts. :-)

chefwen 3:58 PM  

@evil doug - In a different time zone and have not had breakfast yet, after reading your description of HOT MESS, I think I'll skip it.

@Two Ponies - Thanks for the memory of Bugs dressed like Carmen Miranda, brought a big smile to my face.

@Rube - I CANNOT picture you doing the Hokey Pokey. Maybe you can demonstrate next time we have lunch.

@M & A - Pick up a copy of March Readers Digest, the Word Power section has Only U words with no vowels except U.

As far as the puzzle, couldn't have loved it more if I tried, but it did not go down without a fight. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I absolutely adore Ms. Gorski's puzzles.

agave cessna masts 3:59 PM  

I say MEETMEONTHECONGALINE at the NOTELLhOTEL Marriott next weekend!
Say Midnight Friday???!

I'm serious! I think it would be hilarious to grab La Liz (if she is there) and do a conga line thru the bar just as an homage to this puzzle!

Who's in?!!!!

I have to say, having been battered around by @rex this past year, I'm impressed that he was honest about a lot of this fill even in a Gorski opus. New, or should I say, re-newed respect!
Now I can apply QTIP in a more meaningful way...

The overall effect of this puzzle tho was appreciating the idea, and the way the circles so smoothly echoed the dance! Hilarious!!!!

OK: Midnight, Marriott bar, conga line, tarting up and silliness to ensue!
@Rex, you can even head the line!!!
It should be one HOTMESS!!!!!

Anonymous 4:02 PM  

Such an ecclectic group with the various difficulty levels, naticks, etc. What a great blog!

Easy for me, yet challenging for @Rex and others: WYNN, ROWE, WEIRDAL

Hard for me and easy for others: NOTA, ARCO

By the way, ECOFREAKS is just plain ugly.

sanfranman59 4:05 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Wed 11:59, 11:50, 1.01, 59%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:54, 5:52, 1.00, 55%, Medium

archaeoprof 4:10 PM  

Earlier I referred to "the former Confederacy." After 27 years, I'm not really all that sure about the "former" part.

@JohnV: can't wait for the big jump in Ron Paul's poll numbers!

chefbea 4:12 PM  

Sorry I'm going to miss the conga line. I'm sure there will be fotos!!!

Was bored this afternoon so looked at the syndicated puzzle that appears every day in the Wilmington paper. Lo and behold...it was Liz's War and Peace homage

Ulrich 4:36 PM  

@angela cara mia: That would be a conga line I would join even stone sober--shucks: I won't be at that motel of ill repute...

Masked and Anonymous 4:39 PM  

@chefwen: Thanx for the tip about Reader's Digest! Usually I only see those boys at the dentist's. Maybe I can drop by there, in a "just visitin'" capacity.

While I'm here: Great to read that most folks enjoyed today's puz. Except for the anonymous dude with all the suns. Makes my soapbox feel half full again.

@31: Super WedBlog. Even tho your soapbox is more often sorta half empty, at least you explain your opinions awfully good. That DOMINOS clue was indeed way above average. ECOFREAKS sounds like a promising schlock movie title.

John V 4:41 PM  

Perhaps this will help:

Try the conga, my dear, you can lick it.
Put your hands on my hips; that's the ticket.
When the conga drums pound
And the line comes around,
Follow me, take three steps, and then kick it!

Loren Muse Smith 4:48 PM  

@chefbea - Elizabeth's War and Peace was a masterpiece.

@Acme and Ulrich - count me in! I do a pretty snazzy CONGALINE shuffle.

oren muse 4:57 PM  

Oops. I’m glad Loren called me at 6:30 this morning with the gentle suggestion to take today off. Despite her warning, I tried to find what I see we call here a toe hold, stubbed it on AURAE and fell flat on my face in the HOTMESS. (For what it’s worth, I join all the other southerners here who have never heard that expression.) I’m just going to have to hang around and wait for next Monday and Tuesday.
Evil Doug – The Streak was great, but my favorites are Blue Cyclone and It’s Me Again, Margaret.
Tita – thanks for the welcome, but you’re going to see very quickly that Loren and I aren’t cut from the same mold. I grew up in Charlotte, and the first day of my first high school Spanish class, when the teacher walked in and said Hello in Spanish, I started laughing (I had never heard a foreign language) and had been laughing for a good week when in comes my sister, Carolyn, who started laughing with me. We both ended up being thrown out of the class, which was bad because back then you had to buy your own textbooks. We didn’t have a lot of money and now we owned two useless Spanish textbooks. Mom was mad as a hornet

jackj 4:58 PM  

You know the ACPT is getting closer when the speed solvers shift from computer to paper.

As reported on Amy Reynaldo's "Diary of a Crossword Fiend" site, today's puzzle took Al Sanders a whopping 2:54 (on paper) and Joon Pahk, also on paper, was close behind at 3:08.

Z 5:02 PM  

@Efrex- was Holy $#!+ your captcha? It'd be an improvement.

@Ulrich - Tarted conga lines are the best, especially ones led by ACME.

jae 5:16 PM  

What do you call THREE ECOFREAKS doing the CONGA in a NO TELL MOTEL?

I have no idea but it makes for an extremely zippy puzzle!

Liked this a lot despite the circles which, in this case, were more like icing than something to nit at.

This seemed on the tough side for a Wed. to me.  So, med. challenging.

That said (@lms) my only erasures were DIS and TMAN.

Re: ROTC -- When you sign up for ROTC you are given a military pay grade. First years are usually E-2s or PFCs. As you progress you attain higher pay grades which give you the pay equivalent of an NCO or SGT. (CPO for Navy ROTC students).

Mr. Benson 5:19 PM  

I don't know how Steve WYNN can be considered obscure. He's not just filthy rich; he's flamboyant, he's everywhere, and he's splashed all over the cover of gossip columns and business magazines (just the other day there was a big article on the first page of the NY Times business section about a falling out with a business partner). He's very much a celebrity. Mark Cuban is a good comparison for his combination of wealth and attention-seeking.

foodie 5:20 PM  

Solving this in Amman, after a long day of meetings, I found myself laughing at how this puzzle is going to strike Rex. Not. him.

My reward for reading all your comments was laughing again at @Andrea's suggestion of Rex leading the CONGA LINE! I'd fly back and check into the NOTELLhOTEL just to witness that.

chefbea 5:23 PM  

@John V lol

@oren muse lol Do you want the puzzles for the rest of the week?

Loren Muse Smith 5:39 PM  

@chefbea - That would be great. I'm working on this for Dad, and the Times is having trouble processing the one month subscription (to see if he'll really do this). Phone calls, emails with the NYT, I've paid once, Dad's paid once. . . Hopefully by the first of the week he'll have his subscription.

Tita 5:54 PM  

@acme - wouldn't miss that conga line - COUNTMEIN!

@JohnV - lol indeed...

(Capcha - aileve - reminded me to thanks our lucky stars that the capcha is not of the commercial variety, where you have to type in a brand name while watching an ad...)

mac 6:05 PM  

People people probably know Wynn better as the guy who fathered Liz Husley's son.

@Tobias: you were lucky today. Liz could have put in many sports clues, she loves a lot of them and is very knowledgeable.

mac 6:06 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
JenCT 6:16 PM  

@acme: I'll be the photographer for the conga line :-)

Anonymous 6:18 PM  

@Loren/Oren - You may want to try out the CrosSynergy puzzles - M/T/W difficulty, good quality, good constructors.

mac 6:23 PM  

I've been trying to retract my last comment, and I'm not able to. Wynn was not the father of Hurley's son. It was Bing. Now let's see if I can post this.

Loren Muse Smith 7:35 PM  

@Tita - I received the puzzle board your mom made and LOVE it! Tell her it's perfect, and I chose the alphabet one because I, too, have been known to run the letters looking for a fill. Thanks!

Tita 7:47 PM  

@loren...thanks for letting me know - I'll be sure to tell her.
I have commissioned an extra-elegant one from her to match my den (she also made the drapes there), complete with tassels and fringe...!

Now maybe I can get her on the blog too. I'll tell her about your Dad's success.

(And yes - good choice for you, being a teacher and all, the grade-school alphabet...)

Anonymous 7:52 PM  

Very esoteric crosses. Ethel waters? For a Wednesday? Hot Mess? Not in New Jersey. India who? Man am I feeling old. Always find Gorski's puzzles to have a couple of huhs in them.

jberg 8:18 PM  

Steve Wynn has been all over the Boston papers, because he wants to build a casino next to the Patriots stadium in Foxboro, against the opposition of many locals. And I have heard ECOFREAK, if not HOT MESS. I winced at ROTC, but that was obviously what was meant. So I loved the puzzle.

MEET ME ON THE CONGA LINE sounds like a catchphrase, or maybe a lyric from a song - maybe from ONE TWO THREE KICK, perhaps? I don't know the song.

Xavier Cugat and Xaviera Hollander were a lot alike, but only the former was married to Yma Sumac, crossworthy in her own right.

Deb 9:15 PM  

@Rex, I knew who Steve Wynn was years before I ever heard of Mark Cuban. As a matter of fact, the first I ever heard of Cuban was sometime in the last year when he did a bit part on some TV show, but I still couldn't tell you who he is or what he does aside from being rich.

Am I losing my mind, or are some of the comments out of order on the blog today? I could swear I saw a couple of people say "Hiya!" to Oren before he actually made an appearance. Anyway, here's mine: Hiya, Oren!

@Stuart Smalley - Ha! Perfect clue for VALIDATIONS.

Never heard of ONE TWO THREE KICK, but really didn't hit any snags in solving. Loved HOT MESS and NO TELL MOTEL. I didn't cotton to the theme, undoubtedly because, as I was solving, I saw a mouse race across my family room floor. UGH! Haven't been able to think of anything else since. Truly beside myself here - may get a cat.

Cathelou 10:46 PM  

Hand up for a fellow Atlantan and native Southerner who's never heard "hot mess" used in a sentence here. Sounds like something people imagine Southerners would say but we never do.

sanfranman59 11:16 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 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

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

Anonymous 2:31 AM  

Nice theme but the clue for ROTC is dead wrong (as others
have pointed out). It's a course for commissioned officers, not noncommissioned officers.


Also, HOT MESS is not a Southern term.

Anonymous 1:09 PM  

Thank you Ms. Gorski for another perfect puzzle. No complaints here and actually thought it was more on the easy side. Loved the serpentine message. As for RP's comments, I would say he just has to broaden his horizons....or just let age take care of it. There are far too many nit-pickers on this blog. So sayeth a longtime cw fan.

Solving in Seattle 2:19 PM  

ONETWOTHREEKICKass puzzle. Reading through the comments it appears most gave VALIDATIONS to Ms. Gorski's creation.

I join the others who assert 29D was misclued. It evoked college memories of rising four hours earlier than I normally did, donning my uniform and joining the other half-awake rotseys to march in the wet grass of the ASU practice football field. I'd have gladly given up the credit if it hadn't been mandatory.

As for HOTMESS, none of our 'sothren' brothers and sisters have heard the term. Haven't you been to a BBQ in the deep South? (That clue would have been too easy.)

One last nit: another #@$%!! poetic contraction - EEN.

Good Wednesday.

capcha: osoll grapario. Sounds like Verdi opera lyrics about a wine maker.

Ginger 2:35 PM  

Knew Steve Wynn having stayed at his lavish hotel in the '80s. I actually took money from the blackjack table, (tho my husband lost more than I made). Fun, fond memories.

This puzzle was worthy of a Wed. I don't time, but was able to solve realativly fast. The conga line concept was followed by the bunny hop.

Thanks Liz

DMGrandma 2:44 PM  

Thought the victim was IrenE and Steve's name was WInn, so ended up with Shellie Field. Sorry, Sally.
I only know Mark Cuban from TV's Shark Tank where he regularly out-egos several worthy competitors, though I gather he owns a sports team in Texas and several more,equally profitable, ventures.
Cugat was really big in the late 50's. Seems every time I went to anything, his band was there. At any rate, what I most remember are the chihuahua and the fact that he was married, at that time, to hottie Abbé Lane. I think he was later married to Charro, not Yma Sumac as mentioned above.

Solving in Seattle 3:24 PM  

@DMG, my Dad was nuts about Abby Lane and was glued to the TV when the Xavier Cugat show was on. Then Charo (with her drop-kick Chihauhau) took over as the new Mrs. Cugat. Dad was crushed.

Charo opened a restaurant near Hanalei, Kauai, but it closed down about ten years ago. Cuchi - Cuchi!

Dirigonzo 5:14 PM  

Any Wednesday puzzle that can get the prime-time group on their feet and out on the dance floor is going to be fine with me.

I misspell "weird" every time, 100% of the time, without fail all because of that damn "i before e" rule - where the heck is the exception for "weird' that's what I want to know! So WieRDAL need some needed some straightening out - but doesn't he always?

Malapopped ATE at 1d, until it showed up in its rightful place at 31 a.

@DMGrandma - IRENe got me, too - and SALLY Field is probably the only proper name I knew in the whole grid. Must proofread before pronouncing victory.

Spacecraft 6:52 PM  

Well, the very first thing I did was write in ATE for 1d. Shortly thereafter, as I was trying to turn that into HAD, I was wondering how much of a HOTMESS this grid would look like by the time I was done. Luckily, no further boo-boos were made.

How unusual to have good ol' Xavier apper in a CLUE and not in the puzzle. I can still remember "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White." I'm a big WEIRDAL fan, so I liked this one. And having moved into the Mountain West conference, the LOBOS have become a gimme. Nice one, Liz.

xcasino 7:20 AM  

I love this one, with the conga line snaking down the grid! Sensed like the most ideal, method, Wed challenge.
best choice for experienced casino players

Z 9:51 AM  

November 29th. My School Social Worker, a born and raised in Dearborn Lebanese-American Muslim who wears the hijab, walks into my office with a concern about a girl who was "a hot mess" when she arrived to school today.

I remembered this puzzle and discussion. I asked my SSW this morning where she picked up that phrase. She told me that an older colleague from Florida used to use it all the time.

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