Symbol of the Virgin Mary / THU 3-15-12 / Mussorgsky's "Pictures __ Exhibition" / TV journalist Lisa / Swiss city where William Tell shot an apple

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Constructor: Kristian House

Relative difficulty: Whatever

Hello, CrossWorld! PuzzleGirl here with a quick take on your Thursday puzzle. It's gonna have to be quick because I have more packing to do! I'm off to Brooklyn in the morning and am SO looking forward to the weekend that no doubt will be filled with communion and hilarity in roughly equal measure. Can't wait!

So why did I agree to do this stupid write-up when I obviously have more important things to do? That's an excellent question. I'd love to convince you that it's because I miss you all desperately and am excited every time I'm presented with the opportunity to hang out with you here. In truth, though, I'm pretty sure it's because I'm (1) an idiot or (2) a Really Really good friend. Or possibly both. So, anyway, is there a puzzle we should talk about?

THEME: It's all about the leprechauns — An apostrophe added to the middle of the word "of" in familiar phrases creates new wacky phrases just in time for St. Patrick's Day.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Impatient leprechaun's concern on an airplane? (SPEED O' FLIGHT)
  • 31A: Degree for a leprechaun who's an expert at finding imperfections? (MASTER O' FLAWS)
  • 39A: Leprechaun's book detailing the truth about flounders? (GOSPEL O' FLUKE)
  • 50A: Scary legislation introduced by a leprechaun? (BILL O' FRIGHTS)
Theme is cute and once I figured it out, it actually came in handy. MASTER OF LAWS doesn't feel like much of an original phrase and the wackified GOSPEL O' FLUKE doesn't do much for me, but the other two are really good. What killed me was that northwest corner, though. I can really appreciate some of the trickiness in that section. SNL for 3D: Kind of short was a headslap for me, and having to change ROB to AWE for 2D: Knock over felt tricky in a good way. But BAM is a 1D: Punch accompanier? So, like, when someone gets punched in a comic strip, you might also see the word BAM there? I'm sorry, but that's pretty lame. Especially crossing the randomly spelled AW NUTS (14A: "Phooey!"). That's one of those crossings where I end up thinking "Well, there's nothing else it really could be" and that is … not ideal.

So there must be something I liked about the puzzle, right? Of course! BAR HOP (12D: Paint the town red, maybe) and BLUE MOON (54A: Rare astronomical event) are pretty sparkly. "Chop-chop" is an awesome clue (7A: ASAP). SEXPOT (64A: Vamp) is sexy. (Obviously.) And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I bid you adieu so I may continue my preparations. Hope to see you sometime in the next few days!

Love, PuzzleGirl


jackj 12:11 AM  

Well, it couldn’t have run on St. Patrick’s Day now, could it? Tough to spread all those O’s around a themeless grid.

‘Twas a tricky little gimmick from Kristian to give us in the language phrases that contain “OF” and force us to forego linear thought by splitting the “OF” to translate them into nonsense Gaelic, all to satisfy some mischievous leprechauns who have obviously been hitting their Guinness hard. No matter, much fun ensued, especially with GOSPEL O’FLUKE.

Kristian seemed to also have a mini-theme running through the puzzle with SEXPOT LOLA exposing some juicy DIRT when she gave a SORORAL shout out to EULA, “Rejoice, EULA, rejoice, our sugar daddies have been upgraded to PATRONS!” Ahem.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the puzzle’s only unsung Irishman, Sean O’NEIDA.

Lots of fun, Kristian. Thanks.

Anonymous 12:24 AM  

While you appreciated the 'trickiness' of Kind of short for SNL, I was annoyed by the persistent confusion between
'kind of' and 'instance of' in Will's cluing. SNL shorts are not kinds of shorts, they're instances of shorts.

Blue moons occur every two or three years, which hardly reaches the level of rarity in astronomical terms.

Welcome back to the show PG!

pk 12:39 AM  

Who is that hottie leprechaun fella ye posted?

Rex Parker 12:45 AM  

NW was very tough. Theme cute, but Master of Laws ???? I don't know what that is, or anyone who has that, nor have I ever heard it. Ever. Could do without ALTDORF SORORAL pairing. But enjoyable overall.

Brooklyn and Manhattan are lovely. You should be here. Maybe you are.

Ry 12:55 AM  

And ESSO is back!

pk 1:09 AM  

Brilliant comment just whiffed out into cyberspace for some reason.

Master of Laws is a real thing...I just have a regular ole J.D., but other lawyers have a thing called an LLM - which pretty much translates into Master of Laws - it has to do with taxes and such.

Loved the puzzle - especially the Blue Moon Mystic Sexpot bit.

jae 1:32 AM  

This one took some effort.  Med.-tough for me.  Fun theme answers and a smattering of zip...SEXPOT...LOLA.  Nice challenge!

Not sure I get SNL for 3d?

Had to go all the way back to St. Elmo's Fire for DEMI.

Erasures:  ATBAT for ALOFT,  BEGAT for BEGOT, and RUM for 1d.

Matthew G. 2:50 AM  

MASTER OF LAWS, abbreviated LL.M., is a perfectly real thing. If you know more than a handful of lawyers, there's a decent chance you've met someone who has one.

An LL.M. Is a post-Juris Doctor degree. In the United States, it is generally earned via one additional year of legal study after the J.D. in a particular field of law. As PK alludes to, the most common LL.M. earned is the LL.M. in taxation, because the density and highly specialized nature of tax makes additional training highly desirable for tax lawyers. And PK is right that tax is probably the only specialty that really requires an LL.M. But an LL.M. can be in any area. Another common course of LL.M. study is American law for non-American attorneys—those who have earned law degrees in other countries but wish to practice law in the United States sometimes earn an LL.M. here to get up to speed on our system.

Liked the puzzle. Took a while to understand the theme, but then loved it. Agree with Rex that the NW corner was a brutal start to the day, but it was ultimately rewarding.

Octavian O'Diodes 4:33 AM  

Loved this puzzle -- the perfect Thursday, with tricky cluing, a super-clever theme, and liveliness in the fill.

Definitely bringin' down the House.

chefwen 4:48 AM  

Cute puzzle that took a little thought. AW NUTS was weird at 14A, thought an H should have been in there somewhere.

EBBED over eased at 47D and sired over BEGOT at 28D. Other than those two it was a pretty clean solve.

Good luck to those fortunate enough to attend the ACPT. Have a ton of fun and share with us pictures with captions.

ksquare 6:20 AM  

For chefwen 3:58 a.m. yesterday: re.LOON before LION. I doubt if there are loons in Sri Lanka, but they are in Canada. They're featured on the one dollar coin that's called a loony (or loonie?).
It's loony that we don't use the dollar coins minted here!

Kathy 6:28 AM  

Would someone explain 59A please? I just am not getting how ETS is a scorekeeper. Thanks so much.

foodie 6:59 AM  

Back to the good ole US of A. Last stop was the UK, where people dispose of rubbish and mind their gaps. So, it was cool to see an Irish theme.

NW corner was the last to fall: AWraTS blocked me for a while. And even though I have a BASQUE colleague, I had nooo idea from "kaixo"!

EAU was embarrassingly long in coming too, but that's me an my jet lag.

Learned some good stuff... The Basque hello will evaporate, but I did not know OMAN was not in OPEC. And I appreciate the info on MASTER OF LAWS-- such a quaint sounding title!

Good luck to all taking part in the tournament! Embrace the gaps.

Sue McC 8:24 AM  

@jae Saturday Night Live has a regular "digital short" film feature.

This was a fun challenge. NW corner was the very last thing filled in, and only because of eventually having the ST of QUEST and working off of that.

The TAGSALE returns.

Wow. First Captcha word is meneemsm....looks imposing.

John V 8:26 AM  

What PG and @NW said abt NW, which I could not get. Never saw SPEEDOFLIGHT until I came here. First Thursday DNF in a very long time, so make this challenging for me. Hand up for not underrstanding ETS 59A. 44D ILLUSE felt a bit iffy to me.

Fun theme. Some bits felt more Saturday than not. DUMA becoming a regular diet, as it were.

All the best to ACPT folks. Be sure to take stroll down Smith Street in Boerum Hill if you have some free time. Lottsa fun night life there.

Jp 8:28 AM  

Lovely writeup PuzzleGirl. None of Rex grouchiness even when you complain. Had everything except the NW corner. Had to google BASQUE and ALTDORF but still could not get AWNUTS with BAM, SNL and UTEP as crosses. Pretty lame fill and cluing.

Two of the theme answers elicited a smile from me. The other two were so but least they where consistent.

Whatever is good rating for me too. Solved most of the puzzle easily but got stuck in the NW.

evil doug 8:34 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
evil doug 8:37 AM  

Started with 'tip' in 2D, and couldn't make any progress in the Pacific Northwest---until much later, when 'tip' was required in 56D. One of those whatchamacallits....

"I'm not the world's most physical guy, but when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine": Great song, "Lola", by the brilliant Ray Davies....

Almost went with 'OreIda'---as in Oregon-Idaho---in 61A. Sounded like a good Iroquois confederacy, as well as good potatoes. I never know where all those tribes fit in, regionally speaking.

Cute clue for 'guilty'.

From the "Oh, no!" department: Esso, tag sale, Oman, men, eau, emo, snl.

Went bar-hopping with RAF C-130 pilots on an exchange in '76. But they called it pub-crawling, and after acquiring a taste for Guinness, I was....

Speaking of which: Happy early St. Paddy's day,

Patty O'Furniture

Anonymous 8:42 AM  

Count me among those who don't get ETS for 59A. Anyone?

Loren Muse Smith 8:43 AM  

After my initial sweep (and not finding any low-hanging fruit)seeing the Irish theme, I really, really wanted "gaelic" for BASQUE. What a coup that would have been. ESSO is beginning to upstage "oreo" and "ono." Did I say that recently? Maybe.

I thought the theme was quite clever and marveled at how you can come up with four 12 letter common expressions (husband's a lawyer, so I didn't blink at 31A) that work that way.

Hand up for "rob" before AWE. I have never heard of SORORAL, never knew TROUPERS was spelled with a "u," loved the cluing for TIP, and got a kick out of BARHOP and SEXPOT.

Loved that TAGSALE showed up again!

Eskerrik asko, Kristian.

Anonymous 8:54 AM  

ETS is the Educational Testing Service. GREs and such.

David 8:56 AM  

Awful time in the NW, and a little trouble in the SW (wanted ELLA for EULA). Threw in AMA(S or T) confidently for the Latin 101 verb, which had me thinking there must be another school besides UTEP called the Miners. Aargh. Both the error and the poor thinking helped hide SNL, QUEST, hell, the whole NW, until I remembered ESSE. That brought back UTEP, and NUTS (OH? or AW?). The diagonal Us gave me QUEST, BASQUE, et voila...

Toughest Thursday in quite a while, in a very enjoyable puzzle with a cute Holiday theme worthy of a Thursday slot.

David L 9:09 AM  

Total fail in the NW. Had GHOST for QUEST and couldn't get any further. AWE = 'knock over' doesn't work for me. Bowl over, OK, knock out, maybe, but not knock over. Wanted ICE for BAM, UTEP was a mystery....

orangeblossomspecial 9:09 AM  

NW was a bear with so many unfamiliar words.

Blue Moon , the song that every piano prodigy can chord. A great Rodgers & Hart composition.

AnnieD 9:17 AM  

This was a great thurs puzz ex the NW corner which had me pulling my hair out.

o Haven't watched SNL in 100 years so had no idea they had shorts...i'm thinking something electrical? the old movie shorts? SHY like short of cash?

o Punch accompanier? Jab? Judy? Cookies? (time for oreos?)

o Knock over? Rob? Hit? Jar?

o Fantasy? Tryst? Joust? Feast?

o Phooey? Aw Rats? Ah Gees? Humbug? Pshaw? Bushwa?

I did have fun with 16A despite most limited knowledge of French:

A et
C si
D de
E y
K que (oh that's Spanish)
L elle
O eau
Z the (speaking English with French accent)

In fact there might be a puzzle theme in there....

Kathy 9:32 AM  

Thanks Anonymous at 8:54.

Rudy 9:35 AM  

March 15, ST Patty's Day so I was prepared. But the cluing of other "non-Patty" answers was terrific. 17 a "Rows" (MELEES) 30d Fleet (SWIFT) and my favorite 4d"fantasy Novel Element" (QUEST)

Anonymous 9:36 AM  

I really wanted MASTER OF ARTS for 31A.

joho 9:38 AM  

I was hoping for a St. Patrick's Day theme and this one didn't disappoint. Very cute and not too easy!

In fact, even with AW__TS/AWE/UTEP/ESSE and____ST in place in the NW I still didn't get it. I figured it was AWNUTS but BASQUE, BAM, SNL and QUEST were never going to come to me.

Still, loved the puzzle, thank you, Kristian House! And you, too, PG for filling in!

Have fun in Brooklyn everybody, wish I could be there!!!!

joho 9:39 AM  

I left out that I also didn't get MELEES. That corner was a fiasco!

chefbea 9:47 AM  

Today being march 15..thought we'd have an Ides theme. Puzzle was too difficult for me DNF.

Did not know ets, sororal and a slew of others.

Did not know clorox made pine sol. Good to see tag sale again and good to have @PG back with us.

jesser 9:49 AM  

The NW kicked my ass. I had tryST at 4D and rob at 2D. Ugh. Otherwise it was cute. Thanks for the writeup, PG!

No time for more. I'm off work today prepping for a house concert this evening. I'm expecting about 40 people to hear SNL alum Keith Sykes on the back patio. I'm so excited!

Happy weekend, friends (especially those of you at the tournament!)!

Loren Muse Smith 9:53 AM  

@anon 9:36am - I'm SO jealous that I didn't think of that. You're good!

Tobias Duncan 9:55 AM  

I am so jealous o everyone in Brooklyn, I really wanted to make it but just could not slip away.I hope I am able to make it next year, even though I will probably come in dead last if todays performance is any indicator.
Good luck everyone!

Ulrich 10:04 AM  

Our revered Queen of Mondays, ACM, once remarked that she tries to use 1A to set the mood for the puzzle--excellent principle! And THAT's what rubs me the wrong way about today's puzzle. I don't mind that it took me forever to get the NW--the trick was my guessing BASQUE, which I'm still proud of. But man, when you have an Irish theme, you start the day with Basque? Positively perverse! Like @loren, I wanted something more to the point there, thought of DUBLIN, she of GAELIC--same principle...

r.alphbunker 10:06 AM  

EULA to me is End User License Agreement. A great clue for it would be {Text that nobody reads}.

Wouldn't it be annoying if when you clicked the accept button you were given a short multiple choice test to see if you really read it? E.G.
a. $0
b. $100
c. $1000
d. $10000

ArtO 10:28 AM  

This was a slog but satisfying to finally finish with the exception of GUILTY in SW (too many ???s - e.g.EULA, ETS - with thanks to anon for the explanation). Was hoping for a Rex rating of at least Medium-Challenging after the struggle.

jberg 10:31 AM  

I say phooey to AW NUTS, but the rest of this puzzle was fun, especially once I saw the theme. It took an embarrassingly long time for me to think of BASQUE, though - I wanted Korean, and kept rejecting QUEST because I couldn't think of a language with a Q in the middle.

Only writeover was doctoR O'FLAWS, and accompanying crosses. I know a few lawyers who have an LLM, though, so that was OK.

Time to hit the beach now, so no more to say.

Joe The Juggler 10:39 AM  

"I was annoyed by the persistent confusion between
'kind of' and 'instance of' in Will's cluing. SNL shorts are not kinds of shorts, they're instances of shorts."

I think the logic of the clue/answer is also what explains why there was nothing to indicate an abbreviation: they're treating "SNL" as an adjective in the term "SNL digital shorts".

I don't think there is a term "SNL shorts" though, so the absence of "digital" makes the clue technically problematic one way or another. The clue "kind of digital short" would've been a gimme.

Two Ponies 10:45 AM  

I did not enjoy this one bit. The theme answers were not funny and not worth the price of admission.
Costner role - Earp? Nope.
Flounders have flukes? Isn't that a whale thing?
I wish I could join everyone this weekend. Looking forward to the first-hand reports.

snegu 10:55 AM  

Loved this puzzle because I have an insane Basque last name, so 1A was a gimme. If only this had been in the tournament...

JaxInL.A. 11:02 AM  

Hooray, it's Puzzle Girl! You had me at "Difficulty Rating: Whatever." I busted out laughing. And where do you find absurd pix like that clearly non-little person in the leprechaun outfit? Har har!

@Loren and @Oren, I woke up having dreamed your names. No idea why, but Oren Muse and Loren Muse Smith have a poetry that seems to stick in my brain. Blame it on Erato?

@Anon 9:36, I love Master of Arts. Too bad your theme answer wouldn't pass the NYT test. Maybe you should consider constructing for The Onion? Deb Amlen did yesterday's and it had a few racy moments.

@Evil, it's a Malapop. Love that word.

@SueMcC, thanks for the SNL explanation. Total head scratcher for me. Likewise thanks @Kathy, no idea on ETS.

One of the reasons I like crosswords is the way some word will swim to the surface and I have no idea where they came from. ALTDORF and UTEP fall into this category today. Like everyone else, I suffered in the NW, much like @AnnieD. HTG for Basque, then finished. Whew.

Martin 11:02 AM  

"Kind of" is a special signal in crossword clues. It is not the same as "type of." It means "I want a word that precedes this word in a phrase." For instance, "Kind of pride" can (and has) clued GAY.

This convention is not limited to NY Times puzzles. I am not fond of it either on the grounds that American crosswords are mostly convention-free; unlike British (cryptic) crosswords, you're not supposed to know any "rules" of cluing to be able to solve. "Kind of" is an exception.

"SNL short" versus "SNL digital short" is also a reasonable topic. Googling the phrase "SNL shorts" finds many occurrences, though, so I think it's valid.

Lindsay 11:09 AM  

Exactly what PG said. Cute puzzle (BILL O'FRIGHTS very cute) would have seemed cuter if my brain weren't flying off in 15 different directions: Pack! Print out map! Dog to kennel!

See lots of you tomorrow et seq.

David 11:27 AM  

@Martin, thanks for that explanation, I never knew that. Hopefully it will come into play in a puzzle this weekend. "Kind of short" was one of about 4 traps I fell into in the NW today.....

Tita 11:40 AM  

@jackj - thanks for pointing out Himself, Mr. O'Neida!

Never got GUILTY - wanted something Grill-related, thinking of George Forman, but knew that wasn't right...

@Loren - yes to gaelic!

@AnnieD - fun alphabet exercise there...not perfectly accurate, but love the idea.
I had Thé, which is how the french pronounce the letter T and the hot drink.

@Tobias - today's disaster for me makes me think there will need to be a new category created for me...I'll win the "What were you thinking when you signed up" award.
NW & SW done me in, but I liked it, agreeing with everyone's likes and dis's.

Master o'Farts - Anon - priceless!

jackj 11:51 AM  

Guessing that Loren's "Eskerrik asko" to Kristian (@8:43) meant "thank you" in Basque, sent me to Wikipedia to learn how something that sounds so Icelandic ended up in Iberia. First a quick check on the proper response to Eskerrik asko turned out to be "ez horregatik" (you're welcome) and I repeat, this language looks like it would be right at home in Reykjavik.

In any event, Basque's heritage isn't very clear-cut. The Basque language is referred to as a "language isolate" which, to quote the Wiki entry means:

"A language isolate, in the absolute sense, is a natural language with no demonstrable genealogical (or "genetic") relationship with other languages; that is, one that has not been demonstrated to descend from an ancestor common with any other language."

The things we can learn from our crossword passion!
(But, I still wonder, what the Basques used for transport from Iceland?)

JenCT 11:58 AM  

Very tough for me - glad I'm helping out at the ACPT & not competing!

AW NUTS took forever to get - tried AW RATS, AW DARN, AW DRAT, etc.

Not crazy about AW crossing AWE.

Sugar daddies are PATRONS? Okay...

Looking forward to seeing many of you tomorrow!

Anonymous 12:18 PM  

Glad to see so many others had trouble with NW corner, took me forever, almost quit

Jim 12:41 PM  

TROUPERS? Are you sure? Not troopers, as in 'what a trooper'. TROUPER is and only is someone in a comedy troupe, as far as I'm concerned. I don't think I'm going to adopt this spelling.

I'd much rather conjure the image of one of our boys in blue, braving the lawless streets, than some hack soliciting his audience for an occupation and location to create some stupid comedy scene, when calling someone a 'trooper'.

Mel Ott 12:56 PM  

Re Flounder/FLUKE: There are two kinds of Flounder persued by anglers in the Northeast. The Winter Flounder is commonly called simply a Flounder. The Summer Flounder is commonly called a FLUKE. FLUKE is a great fish for the table.

Back to hoops.

Masked and Anonymouuuuuuus 1:01 PM  

Hey, PuzGirl. "Whatever" sounds about right.

NW was so uncooperative, initially suspected it was rebus-induced. After doing the rest of puz, moved grudgingly back to NW with only SPEEDO... /UTEP/ESSE to back me up.

Like other esteemed scommenters (solver-commenters), tried TIP, GHOST, RUM, etc. The Mighty PuzSpouse took over, seeing that I was on the ropes. She filled in mostly gibberish and passed it back to me, but she did come up with QUEST, which made me suspect BASQUE (she had left "iraQUE" there), which soon led to my triumphant limp across the finish line.

At the ACPT, I'da been sayin' goodnight to the night janitors, with a nice echo in the empty ballroom, right before my triumphant finish moment. Followed by cussing out that SNL clue until dawn. Snort.

Hate it when I liked the puz, And get treated like that.

GILL I. 1:08 PM  

Just got back from two weeks of visiting God's little corner in Grass Valley, Ca. Very little internet and now I'm just getting over @Rex withdrawal. Lot's of crosswords to catch up on but I did this fun puzzle this morning.
It's really very cheery. I particularly liked starting with BASQUE at 1A. I so love that region, the people and the food is better than a SEXPOT. The only drawback is that their language is, in my estimation, one of the harshest sounding languages ever to grace the planet.
@Ulrich and @jackj: In related terms, there have been genetic studies (DNA) that link the Celts in Ireland and Wales to the Basques. As for the language, there is no reason to believe the two are related at all.
Some believe that the Basque language may have been "Stone Age" in origin. There is also debate on whether it is Europe's oldest written language. What is very audibly clear is that the difference between the Basques and their neighbors is linguistic. Basque is neither Romance nor Indo-European in sound.
My mom taught in a small village outside of Bilbao called Algorta. You HAD to speak the language, or at least understand most of it if you wanted the best "tapas" in the world.
My favorite clue was 43D. I stared at that for ages until GUILTY...popped in.
Hope everyone is having lots of fun in Brooklyn as well as getting ready for the CONGA!
Egun on.

AnnieD 1:08 PM  

@jackj...perhaps they arrived in Easter Basquettes?

Anonymous 2:19 PM  

@Jim - Trouper was the original, trooper came into being later, as a misspelling/mis-attribution.

nanpilla 2:31 PM  

I almost gave up in the NW, but just kept throwing things at it until something stuck.

Planning to be in the bar at 3:00tomorrow afternoon to leave for a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. So far it's just me, Kinley and Acme. If it's raining, we'll do it Saturday morning, and just drink on Friday afternoon.

Acme - I'll have to see about the Conga line at Midnight!

Sparky 2:45 PM  

NW beat me. Did not have S-L and U-EP. Gaelic would have been great. I was trying to think of one of the click languages where the x is a sound in the throat. BASQUE took a long time. Earp before NESS.

Thanks @Kathy for ETS explanation. I'll store it with the EFTs and ENTs. @Jim: I thought of TROUPER as in the show must go on kind of grit.

Really looking forward to meeting some folks at ACPT.

Sparky 2:47 PM  

Thanks PuzzleGirl for nice write up.

O'Bird 2:50 PM  

What, no Ides of March theme? Good puzzle for a Thursday and the theme definitely helped in completing the grid. The top middle section was the last to fall with ALTDORF next to SORORAL. I liked GOSPEL O’FLUKE and SPEED O’LIGHT.

Only fixes were FORD then IKEA (which gave me KIND for SORT) for ESSO, RUM for BAM and BEGAT for BEGOT.

BLUE MOON is a great Belgian White beer, especially when sitting on the deck watching the sun retire for the night.

@Anon9:36 – ROTFLMAO

And let’s not forget the O’NEIDA tribe.

Double captcha “Dincyc scurchi” morphs into “Rich Scud Cynic”.

Wood 3:03 PM  

Wow. 30 mins and a huge DNF in the NW corner. I have never sat for so long and stared at 15 blank squares. Haven't read Rex's entry or any comments yet,,, though I did see he rated the difficulty as "Whatever." CanNOT get a toehold up there in spite of having ESSE and SPEED...

jae 3:10 PM  

Thanks @SueMcC and Martin for the SNL explanation. I pretty much stopped watching in the late 70's early 80's. Just didn't seem as funny once the original cast moved on.

Wood 3:17 PM  

ETS = Educational Testing Service. They are the keepers of SAT scores and the like. I think it's a pretty lame clue though.

Wood 3:26 PM  

Phew. I see I was not the only one who had a hard time in the NW. Went back to it and racked my brain for 1A... Had UTEP in for 5D earlier, but took it out because I couldn't see a language ending in UE. That 'x' in 'kaixo' was the key... I remembered seeing a lot of x's in Catalan when I was in Barcelona, and it's just a short jaunt from there to.... BASQUE!!! Once I had that, the test fell mercifully fast. But all those NW clues are TOUGH for a Thursday, especially all crossing one another!

Mighty Nisden 3:47 PM  

NW and SE were my trouble. Wanted vamp to be SEXtoy but didn't think it would pass the NYT breakfast test... sure enough!

Happy to get UTEP right off the bat, where did that come from? March madness all these years I assume.

My wife is BASQUE and her mom speaks it every now and then but it still took me forever to get it. She will be thrilled to know they made it into the puzzle.

@Gill IP welcome back, didn't realize we were neighbors.

jackj 3:51 PM  



sanfranman59 3:56 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 19:37, 18:56, 1.04, 61%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 11:23, 9:17, 1.23, 85%, Challenging

This looks like it might be one of those days where there are more than the usual number of DNFs. So the relative difficulty rating for the All Solvers group may be skewed toward the easier end of the scale. FWIW, my own solve time today places this puzzle in my Thursday Medium range (57%). But that NW corner made it feel more like a Medium-Challenging or even a Challenging Thursday to me.

Lewis 4:00 PM  

I put in VIE for 16A (as in c'est la vie), and that held me up for a while. The cluing overall was tricky and delightful. I wish all of you in Brooklyn a fruitful and fun weekend!

miriam b 4:26 PM  

TAGSALE again. We use this term in Suffolk County, LI for a sale in which the prices are not considered negotiable. Estate sale is roughly equivalent, though snootier.

I heard much discussion of this theory

while visiting Georgia years ago while it was still an SSR. BTW, I stayed at the Hotel Iveria. Captchas are cluresta and itestate, the latter being germane ot my first paragraph. How do they know?

Anonymous 4:43 PM  

@Evil - "Went bar-hopping with RAF C-130 pilots on an exchange in '76. But they called it pub-crawling, and after acquiring a taste for Guinness, I was...." Your taste for Guinness - Which direction? Because its claim to fame is that it tastes the same going down as coming back up!

Anonymous 5:03 PM  

I think puzzle girl missed the point. The theme answers can be read two ways: Speed o' Flight or Speed of Light; Master o' Flaws or Master of Laws; Gospel o' Fluke or Gospel of Luke; Bill o' Frights or Bill of Rights.

O'Point 5:25 PM  

@Anon 5:03 - PG didn't miss anything . . .

"THEME: It's all about the leprechauns — An apostrophe added to the middle of the word "of" in familiar phrases creates new wacky phrases just in time for St. Patrick's Day."

archaeoprof 5:29 PM  

DNF in the NW. But didn't care, for the same reasons @Ulrich stated.

1A was a clunker, and I quickly lost interest in this dud.

Loren Muse Smith 5:30 PM  

@jackj "eskerrik asko" "ez horregatik" - what eye candy for a linguist!

Thanks for the interesting tidbit on Basque. I didn’t do that kind of linguistics (language families and such), but I seem to remember that back when I was in grad school, Japanese was an isolate. The most popular theory was that it was part of the Finno/Ugric family. Another poser was what to do with Hungarian. I’m too busy at work to poke around the web and see if they’ve been put anywhere.

@Martin – cool explanation of “kind of” clue. Eskerrik asko!

@Gill IP – welcome back. I’ve missed your posts.

JoeTheJuggler 5:49 PM  

Anonymous said:

"I think puzzle girl missed the point. The theme answers can be read two ways:"

No, Puzzle Girl mentioned both things. She said that if you add an apostrophe into "familiar phrases" you get the "new wacky phrases".

Ulrich 6:20 PM  

The Basques must be basking in glory right now. Athletic Bilbao just kicked famed Manchester United out of the European Cup to join 7 other (soccer) teams in the quarterfinals.

evil doug 6:27 PM  

AnyMouse @4:43---

"Which direction? Because its claim to fame is that it tastes the same going down as coming back up!"

Actually, that wasn't my problem. This was: Our quarters at US bases conveniently included a bathroom for each room or suite. But the RAF's lovely old ivy-shrouded officer quarter buildings had only a sink in each room, with toilets waaaaay down the hall. I'll leave the obvious solution to issues associated with the ingestion of many pints of Guinness to you....


GILL I. 6:49 PM  

Finally reading most of the comments from past two weeks and I see we have a new friend - OREN who begot LOREN...Yay! All in the family...I wish I could get spouse to join in but he's afraid no one would understand him. He's a Brit.
Speaking of...@Ulrich - double yay on Bilbao y los Bascos. If it isn't Liverpool, we don't care.
and....@Mighty Nisden, a fellow Sacramentarian TROUPER. Double yay!

mac 6:55 PM  

Fun Thursday puzzle. The NW also got me, I would never have gotten aw nuts (even now I first spelled it wrong).

@John V: the hardcore puzzlers just want to spend as many hours as they can sitting in the bar, lounge, lobby and hallways of the Marriott to talk words or do puzzles. It must be so hard for them to get up in the morning!

The anonymice are so nice today, I would like to know them. Get yourselves a tag, please, it's much more fun.

So sorry to miss the tournament, and I was probably registered for three months.... Next year!

Cheerio 7:40 PM  

I loved this puzzle! Very fun! It was in my wheelhouse (whence that phrase?), so if it had not been for the NW corner it might have felt too easy. Once MELEE came to me, though, the rest of that corner fell into place all too quickly.
And so I bid a sad adieu to today's puzzle.

Z 7:58 PM  

ETS next to ARNE Duncan. How appropriate. ARNE, like Rod before him, is an incompetent (unless his job was to create a windfall for testing companies).

I had an homophonic malapop at 1D, putting in AWL, only to find I needed AWE at 2D. The NW was challenging but eventually fell. The SW, however, did me in. I was stuck with a factory foreman at 43D and had no idea about Varner. Having E--A I guessed EdnA. Nope. So a Thursday DNF for me.

ALTDORF next to SORORAL is more than a little ugly.

For an "Irish" themed puzzle this is all over the place geographically; we start in Iberia speaking BASQUE, visit BASRA, seek guidance from a Maharishi MYSTIC in the EAST, then have to visit the other kind of "Indian" with a stayover with the ONEIDA, a little Latin being gets us on our way to ALTDORF in the Canton of Crossworld famous Uri, followed by another visit to the Russian parliament, a return to the middle east in OMAN before finally ending our trip on a barge on the River Tyne helping us take coal to Newcastle. Even a cool CAT is too exhausted after all this travel, even if she is a SEXPOT.

Anonymous 8:24 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
CFXK 8:43 PM  

so much Esso this past week...

The Better Business Bureau is NOT a consumer protection organization. It is a business protection organization that tries to mediate (or quash) disputes between businesses and consumers before they become more adversarial. In no way does the organization represent the interests of or advocate for consumers; it is a business funded organization that tries to make peace before consumers decide to become more adversarial when businesses screw them. In the end, the record shows that the BBB favors the interests of the businesses that fund it. I wish Will Shortz had a better sense of these things.

Unknown 9:28 PM  

Thanks to everyone for the feedback!

I have to admit that the upper left hand corner was thornier in the final version of the puzzle than I had it originally, but that was probably done to toughen the puzzle up a bit. I was also not crazy about the ALTDORF/SORORAL pairing, but the other options were far worse.

Overall, though, I did enjoy writing the puzzle. I always do.

I hope to meet some of you in Brooklyn this weekend.

Thanks again!

Kristian (which, I can assure you, is my real name)

I skip M-W 10:06 PM  

I had to do this in interrupted drubs and drabs starting late Wed and finishing about 15min ago, but did finish, after usual hard time in NW.

A few years ago I saw that some linguist suggested that Basque is most closely related to Sino-Tibetan , which is intriguing. Basques have certainly been on Iberian peninsula long before any people were in Iceland. Many years ago there was a Basque restaurant in SF. Actual Basques used to congregate at the bar, where their language, with many speaking at once reminded me of the happy chirping of birds.

foodie 10:08 PM  

@Anonymous/Kristian, I'm sorry that the world has some rude people in it, and that some of them make their way to this blog...

I always appreciate the grace and style with which constructors seem to accept input. Hopefully, most of it is useful and makes for ever better puzzles.

Rex Parker 11:50 PM  

Personal attacks on constructors—that's an Ejection.

Slam the puzzle all day long, if you like. But don't get personal.


sanfranman59 12:21 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 6:45, 6:50, 0.99, 52%, Medium
Tue 8:07, 8:51, 0.92, 29%, Easy-Medium
Wed 10:30, 11:49, 0.89, 26%, Easy-Medium
Thu 19:41, 18:56, 1.04, 62%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:39, 3:40, 1.00, 50%, Medium
Tue 4:02, 4:34, 0.88, 13%, Easy
Wed 5:32, 5:52, 0.94, 37%, Easy-Medium
Thu 10:44, 9:17, 1.16, 80%, Challenging

Anonymous 9:00 PM  

Piece O'Cake...

Gemma 5:17 AM  

Lol actually i really liked this saint patricks day puzzle it wasnt to terribly difficult thx and hope everybody celebrated saint patricks day

Tita 2:06 PM  

@Gill - nice to see you back here!! I am so far behind, don't think I can catch up...

Ginger 2:17 PM  

@CFXK How right you are concerning the BBB. For many years I owned a store dealing with floor coverings and other home decorating items. The BBB solicited me to 'join', telling me that I could use their logo in my advirtising. They did no research about the quality of my customer service record, all they wanted was (substantial) membership fees. Essentially they were selling respectability.

Lots of write-overs today. Mr. G helped with basque and altdorf, yet I still ended with 3 or 4 empty squares. Unusual for me on a Thursday.

Here we are in syndiland while the prime-timers are all agog over the tournament that was. Truly is the twi O'light zone.

Solving in Seattle 2:24 PM  

Glad to know that I can now say I'm a "sugar daddy" of the arts.

The puzzle: NW was a bugger. I had UTEP and amat. After seeing the clue for 1A I wanted Xosha - too short. I wanted Quechua - too long. Finally sussed out BASQUE.

@I skip m-w, many years ago, while in S.F. on a business trip, I ate at the communal round table of the BASQUE restaurant (don't remember the name) where you eat whatever the chef made that day. Fabulous experience!

Thanks all for the education of isolated languages, but you left out Mainese. (have fun with that one, @Dirigonzo.)

Kristian, I liked the crossing of ESSEX and SEXPOT.

I posit: has one been doing too much xwd solving if one knows the TYNE is Newcastle's river?

Capcha: iyespec. Another way to say yes in Maine.

Spacecraft 2:37 PM  

I'm with @David L. DNF, in fact, in that horrible NW. I see you folks' explanation of "kind of short"=SNL...and I STILL don't understand! Pairing that clue with that answer makes not the tiniest particle of sense to me--except that maybe once Martin Short was a guest on the show (but then the word would require capitalization).

Two TAGSALEs this week! I vote no more of them until other regions get equal time: I want to see a YARDSALE!! Or a GARAGESALE! Other repeats: ESSO and DUMA (I'm a ding-dong daddy from DUMA, and you oughta see me DUMA stuff!)

Hand up for the ETS confusion; thanks be to crosses. ETS is not NEARLY as familiar as the SAT's; I bet not one in fifty could even identify the acronym.

These FLAWS mar an otherwise zippy puzzle with a cute and reasonably well-executed theme. Certainly one entry, at least, should provide a breath of fresh air: PINESOL.

Waxy in Montreal 3:06 PM  

@Solving: Newcastle's official name is actually Newcastle upon Tyne and it's located in the county of Tyne and Wear. Now you're prepped for any xwd involving Geordie England.

Share many of the sentiments expressed earlier about the NorthWest. Imprecise cluing doesn't help either - doesn't a row generally connote a verbal disagreement while a melee involves frenzied fighting? Also, chop-chop to me means stat or immediately (drop anything else you're doing!), not ASAP, a much more polite request to prioritize.

Loved the theme clues and answers though, even if St. Paddy's Day is now but a faint memory here in Syndiland.

Solving in Seattle 5:09 PM  

@Waxy, thanks for the geography on Newcastle. We actually have one out here in (suburban) Seattle. It's a golf course with the same name developed by an ex-Softie who now owns a dozen + courses. The hilltop site used to be a coal mine, ergo sum...

Capcha: oolge. One "g" short of an anagram. So, what is an ex employee of Google called?

rain forest 5:14 PM  

Rex says to slam the puzzle but not the constructor, but how many times as he accused constructors of laziness in cluing or in theme answers or in choice of particular words? I'd say that is slamming the constructor. Anyway, found this puzzle an adventure, and only because I ventured a "q" before the "u" and "e" in 1A, could I get that pesky NW corner, and even then I really didn't like BAM. POW, maybe, or possibly OOF. Doesn't matter, know one will read this and know that aside from that one entry, I thought the puzzle was very good.

Red Valerian 6:04 PM  

@rain forest: I didn't see the comment that @Rex deleted, but consider this analogy. If, in marking a paper, I point out that a particular word choice is poor, the writer hasn't considered a relevant objection or has misunderstood a passage, the writer has only a superficial understanding of the issues at hand, or the writer should have spent more time re-reading the paper for intelligibility and flow before submitting, have I slammed the writer? I think not. True, I likely would not use the word "lazy," but that's partly because University students are often prone to taking things personally.

I assume Rex to be using whatever adjectives he chooses to refer to the puzzle or its construction, not to the constructor. In contrast, writing this on a student paper "this is a bad paper because you are a jerk" should rightfully be seen as inappropriate (and/because ad hominem). Same with "you are a jerk because this is a bad paper." (Though, okay, I've been tempted.)

As I say, I don't know what Rex removed. But given how heated he lets things get around here, I imagine I'm glad he's removed it.

I loved the puzzle. Fun, fun, fun! But I will have a hard time looking all our poor Master O'Farts students in the eye.

captcha: tormaim--ouch!

Dirigonzo 6:15 PM  

In "Mainese" (thank you @SiS), "Phooey" tranlsates into "ohraTS" (which made me take out AWE) and "Rows" are "settos" (which made me take out UTEP) so the NW was a disaster for me, too. Damn these regional dialects!

@rain forest - your comment will be read by many, including prime-timers, because email updates are back. (I see that @Red Valerian has already replied, so you see what I mean.)

Dirigonzo 6:20 PM  

After extolling the virtues of email updates, I forgot to check the box so I had to come back - sorry.

Red Valerian 6:40 PM  

Howdy @dirigonzo! I checked the box for email updates, which has always meant I get my own message in my mailbox. Didn't get it, so checked back. Now I see your messages. (And I see "follow-up comments will be sent...")

Maybe email notification is slyly and only appearing to work. Maybe we're really all alone out here.

How to ask this--if you got email notification, please respond. If you didn't, um, no need.

Dirigonzo 6:49 PM  

@Red Valerian - I did indeed get your comment in my email but when I came here to reply, it seems not to be here. What do you suppose is up with that? Blogger gets spookier and spookier...

Red Valerian 7:30 PM  

Eek! I was tempted to take a screenshot of my reply and my blogger confirmation to PROVE I WAS HERE, but @Dirigonzo can attest I posted that message wondering about whether I'd posted.

Sigh. There's a theme in here somewhere...

Dirigonzo 7:59 PM  

@RV (may I call you that?) - I just re-read your 6:40 post (in my email, since it doesn't appear here) and didn't see anything so offensive it that would cause @Rex to delete it immediately, so I suspect it's another instance of Blogger "eating" a post for no apparent reason. Perhaps the theme could be "Mysterious disappearances", whereby a phrase loses a letter or an entire word to become another phrase? (No examples come readily to mind; maybe someone else could offer one up?) Maybe that's too much of a stretch, but surely there is a theme there somewhere.

I always enjoy your posts (when they show up) so I hope you won't let Blogger get you down.

Lola505 10:21 PM  

The NW corner was where I [tried to] finish.

Is it just me, or do others find if there is going to be a difficult area in a puzzle, it will be the last area to be completed? So, I DNF -- that whole block. Embarrassing, but I'll confess my bad days along with the good.

I of course have my excuses ready:

1) I'm not Irish, but I did figure out the theme O'/OF, but I thought that the NW corner was not up to the standard of the rest of the puzzle.

2)I was solving under adverse conditions (in the hospital room of a loved one, trying to distract myself from worrying). Great news, loved one is fine and back at home.

3) Didn't have my Bic Wite-Out with me, so there were so many write-overs, I could barely see what I was doing.

I always hate arriving after there has been a post deleted on a blog and I missed it, but I doubt it was anything you posted, @Red Valerian.

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