Political writer Bai / FRI 4-6-12 / Grandnephew in 1960s TV / Six-time Tony winner of 1984 / Figure on front of Olympic medals since 1928 / Home to school of pre-Socratic philosophers

Friday, April 6, 2012

Constructor: Mike Nothnagel

Relative difficulty: Easy-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: USAID (57A: Foreign assistance org. since 1961) —
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the United States federal governmentagency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid. President John F. Kennedy created USAID in 1961 by executive order to implement development assistance programs in the areas authorized by the Congress in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.[3] The Congress updates this authorization through annual funds appropriation acts, and other legislation. Although technically an independent federal agency, USAID operates subject to the foreign policy guidance of the PresidentSecretary of State, and the National Security Council.[4] USAID's Administrator works under the direct authority and foreign policy guidance of the Secretary of State. (wikipedia)
• • •

Loved this puzzle. Do not love how badly I performed. At first, I was blazing through it, from the NW down through the middle and into the SE with hardly a problem. Then I tried to get into the SW. Now, if MATT Bai (33D: Political writer Bai) had meant anything to me, I would've been OK, but I'm not kicking myself over that. What I'm kicking myself over is not seeing "LA CAGE AUX FOLLES" for sooooo long. I had "GEAUX" and nothing. Then I CAN'T WAIT (32D: Words of anticipation) and BLOW A FUSE (30D: Lose it) gave me "L-C-GEAUX..." and still nothing. Why? Well, I was looking for an actor. Something about the clue, [Six-time Tony winner of 1984] made me think actor, despite the fact that six is a preposterous amount of Tony for one person to win in one year. But see, I'm only thinking that now. At the time, I was really only processing the first few words. Other big problem there was not knowing USAID and so having UMAID because I was sure that the [Contents of the rightmost column of a table] was some kind of GAMES. LOST GAMES was my first guess. ROAD GAMES? AWAY GAMES? Wasn't til I got LA (not LE) CAGE AUX FOLLES that I was able to see RARE GASES. After that, NE was a bit tricky, but more on par with the rest of the grid. So my time was pretty rough, but my overall experience was that this was on the easy side, and only my personal failings as a solver (and not the puzzle's intrinsic difficulty) are to blame for my below-average time.

Loved GOLDEN BOY (17A: Much-favored person) and actually exclaimed "Wow. Cool." when I got NOT MY CUP OF TEA (14D: Passing remark?). Wish the answer at 28A was DOG SIT and not DOGS IT [Loafs on the job], which is a phrase I know but never hear in real life. I thought OPIE was Andy's son (9D: Grandnephew in 1960s TV). Wow. Weird [OK, it's Aunt Bee—and yes, that's how you spell it—who is OPIE's great aunt; stop emailing me! :)]. Love the clue on ANN (6D: Rule among true crime writers), and as letteral clues go, [Comedic duo?] (for CEES) is pretty good. Had noooo idea NIKE was on Olympic medals (54D: Figure on the front of Olympic medals since 1928). That little answer was temporarily infuriating. I actually had to run the vowels after getting N-KE!

Helper monkeys of the day (that is, gimmes/footholds) were:
  • BRED
  • ATRA
  • EYRE (15D: "Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt!" speaker)
  • ELEA (22A: Home to a school of pre-Socratic philosophers)
  • ELY
  • A NOSE
  • GEOS
  • AGT
  • ESTES (63A: Rob of "Melrose Place")
Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Happy 40th birthday to my little sister, who is home today with a sick child (I hope it's still just one...)


Andy 12:20 AM  

OPIE was my son, but Aunt Bea's grand-nephew.

Deb 12:23 AM  

Aunt Bea was Opie's great aunt, Andy his father.

I had the hardest time in the NE. Couldn't see TOWNE, I had APHId and no clue about ELEA, so ESSAY just wouldn't pop out at me.

Pete 12:32 AM  

15 minutes. 15 minutes of my friggin life, trying to understand 56A. Where's the hint that it's Spanish? Huh? How does a piece of paper get backed up? It's the copier that gets backed up, not the paper. So, it's an elliptical clue for a based on my understanding, somehow, that they're talking about jams in Spanish Xerox machines?

Oh, PLAN-A. I'd go on for a bit about how there really isn't a PLANA, just the plan, then plans b-z, but as I've just pointed out to you all, I'm pretty damned stupid, so why should anyone care?

Hey, anyone mention Opie was Bea's grand-nephew yet?

GILL I. 12:47 AM  

The first two sentences from Rex were lifted right out of this happy brain.
I struggled with the proper names but got LA CAGE with just the G from GOES....
Stared at DOG SIT too long and MAILBAG was box.
Fun, fun but now I'm all confused about OPIE and his Aunt Bea or is it his great aunt and then I always though Andy adopted him.

Mike 12:54 AM  

Opie would have been the grand nephew of Aunt Bee, as she was Andy's aunt.

Jakarta Dan 1:07 AM  

Like I'm sure many others, had APHId at 16A for a long time.

I note that with USAID we've got one U.S. government acronym in SW and one in NE. APHIS is the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service. They do a lot of work overseas to make sure nasty foreign bugs and stuff don't make it to U.S. shores. I'm sure they'd be sad to hear themselves described as the farmer's enemy, although I suppose that's not what Mike Nothnagel meant.

Thought the clues for 49A Chip in a dish and 56A It's often backed up were great. Somehow Spanish paper never crossed my mind, though.

Best Regards,

retired_chemist 1:39 AM  

Good one. Subtle cluing and a challenging experience here as a consequence.

APHID for too long, of course. 1A started as POSTMAN since MAILMAN was too obvious. 49A was TACO chip. 47A, SNARLS. 31D was LOST GAMES,AWAY GAMES,..... and so on. All a credit to clever cluing, and all eventually fixed.

Thanks, Mr. Nothnagel.

retired_chemist 1:50 AM  

I don't get NOT MY CUP OF TEA as a "Passing remark."

Aphis Cees Mailbags 1:52 AM  

38 minutes! Thank god I;m not one of those speed guys!
Just got back some great pics from the ACPT! Yay real photos! Yay delayed gratification!
And there's a cute one or two of Mike Nothnagel, so I held it up so he'd be grinning at me, while I struggled thru his puzzle.
Tried GOONATEAR in two different places!
Is ANN Rule a person?
Even when I got stuff, I wasn't sure...I read 59A as SEIZE UP...ON.
Like freezing.

PLANA and PoiNt share some letters, doncha know.

Anyway, loved it.
Tho I would have liked it to be ALL OR NOthing.
And I don't know PIONS, but sort of know kaONS, muONS.

Just got back from Mpls where I DOGSaT for a week, the most lovable Yellow Lab, Tevah, whom I only forgot to feed ONCE! (GULP)
She still slept with me, didn't move nor snore...that's how I knew I was in love.

Where/who was OPIE's mom and dad?!

chefwen 1:53 AM  

Had the same problems at @Deb had in the North East. PIONS, a big ?mark for me, had to get it all with crossed. Spelled ELY with an i so that furthered the problem with ESSAY TEST, hand up for APHId. This was write-over city for me. lulus be fore LODES at 4D, acted UPON at 59A, I know, check your tenses. uhoh before GULP at 29D. I could go on, but I don't want to bore you all.

Thanks for clearing up DOG SIT, scratched my head over that 'til I read the writeup.

One Google with USAID but I finished, I'll take it.

sanfranman59 2:32 AM  

What's the over-under on how many people will mention that Opie was Aunt Bea's grandnephew? We're already at 4, although at least one was tongue-in-cheek.

retired_chemist 3:02 AM  

I never heard of ANN Rule but she in=deed fits the clue for 6D.

jae 3:08 AM  

Yes, really liked this one. Easy-medium for me mostly because NE was a tad thorny (PIONS, APHIS) and my experience with LA CAGE was similar to Rex's.

Like ret_chem. I had to erase SNARLS for SNAFUS. Also, @r_c NOTMYCUPOFTEA means e.g. "I'll PASS on your idea to help the robots take over the world." (I'm talking to you dk).

Finally a sub clue that actually refered to Naval vessels.

And OPIE......

retired_chemist 3:24 AM  

2 jae - thanks. Now I see.

Martin 3:46 AM  

Among a ton of Opies only one correctly spelled Aunt Bee. That's not fair.

Gareth Bain 5:19 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gareth Bain 5:21 AM  

Also thought LACAGE... was an actor. Well played, Messrs. Shortz and Nothnagel!

P.S. my captcha is "fondarit vingifil", if this turns someone into an eft I offer my deepest apologies!

AnnieD 6:49 AM  

Fun puzz for a friday. I started it last night and it all worked well, until I hit the SW and decided a fresh eye in the a.m. was needed.

I kept thinking la cage should be bob fossey or something. I kept wanting the filling point to be something to do with teeth or a gas station. Took forever to get Seiko...Timex, Rolex...Swatch and Movado wouldn't work. Late realization on which table...kept wanting final tally or aggregate or sum such thing.

Nice one, MN!

Greene 7:10 AM  

Easy for me today. Wrote in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES immediately with no crosses, but that should surprise nobody here. I remember vividy how headlines in 1983 trumpeted "Broadway Comes Out Of The Closet" when "La Cage" came to town, yet the two leads (George Hearn and Gene Barry) seemed more like best friends than old lovers; they barely touched and certainly did not kiss (lest we offend conservative Broadway audiences). The kiss had to wait until the seedy and delicious 2010 Broadway revival with Kelsey Grammer and Doug Hodges. Ironic that by the time two men could be shown kissing in a mainstream musical, the sensibility of the show was so dated that it bore no resemblence to contemporary gay culture. Oh, middle class Broadway [insert rolling eyes here].

Useless trivia: GOLDEN BOY was a 1964 flop musical starring Sammy Davis, Jr. Score is not bad and worth checking out if you like such things.

Happy Friday all.

Glimmerglass 7:55 AM  

Started confidently with POSTMAN at 1A, which meant I had six wrong letters. However, I found the puzzle challenging but doable in the end. Just what I want in a Friday. I object to the clue for SNAFUS, which is an old army acronym a bit stronger than "tangles." I liked BLOW A FUSE, RARE GASES, and I CAN'T WAIT stacked with some MATT I never heard of.

Anonymous 7:57 AM  

This one seemed a bit harder than the average Friday to me, but I was pretty sclose to my average time.

Oh, to the person who didn't get the "passing remark" one: "not my cup of tea" is a passing remark because you might say it if you were "taking a pass" or declining something offered to you, because it's not your thing.

Sue McC 8:12 AM  

Good, solid Friday challenge. Loved it!

Loren Muse Smith 8:20 AM  

As LACAGEAUXFOLLES finally dropped, I thought that wanting an actor there, “snarls” for SNAFUS, and” aphid” for APHIS would be the main topics on the comments. Then I read Rex’ question about Opie and knew that that one innocent query would upstage everything else.

The NE was really difficult for me, changing “jab” (first cup of really strong coffee) to “pat” to TAP. Even with NINELIVES, which I was reluctant to fill in, given it’s a Friday, it took me forever to finish it.

SEIZE is another word (with niece, fierce, etc) that I never know how to spell. I repeat that whole “I before E. . .” What a weird, heinous eighth-grade spelling convention that we’ve deified as though our spelling could be reduced to a scientificish, (scientificesque, scientifistic?)rule. Our poor foreign neighbors.

Off to unpleasant things. Mysterious, troubling noises from the laundry room just now. Off to investigate and because of the breakfast test, I’ll just say 64A. Ick. DOG SIT while I clean up.

SethG 8:24 AM  

Yup, easy-challenging, with the upper right being the challenging part. Oh yeah, Opie, not Odie. And who knew how to spell FOLLES?

I did have MAILBOX/RULE ONE for a bit, and also GOLDEN ONE, and the three ONEs in one corner took some untangling. Still, even with the NE slowdown came in well under my average.

Nice work.

joho 8:36 AM  

Loved the answer SNAFUS much better than SNArlS but agree with @Glimmerglass that the clue isn't strong enough to match what SNAFU actually means while SNArlS does.

There is so much to love here especially NOTMYCUPOFTEA, GOLDENBOY, BLOWAFUSE and ICANTWAIT.

Thank you, Mike Nothnagel, for yet another brilliant puzzle which is anything but SOSO.

evil doug 8:54 AM  

Way to go, Mike. Reeeeeeally needed this, this week.

You a (non-SPCA type) veteran, Mike? Snafu ("situation normal, all effed up"), plan A, naval base (plus maybe Guantanamo 'Bay'), Nike (it was a missile, once), golden boy (we also called him a 'fast burner'). 'Dogs it', too; we might say 'slow leak'---a troop who needs a lot of attention to get a job done.

From the 'old commercial dept: "Fill it to the rim, with Brim."

Funny---"Six-time Tony winner" sure does seem to somehow twist my brain into expecting a person. Don't know why it's a good feint, but it is.

'Suave' es muy suave.

I know rare gases refers to the periodic table deal. But I prefer to picture a hot mess.


Goober 9:07 AM  

I did not know how to spell FOLLES. That's who, Seth.

I didn't experience the easy part of the easy-challenging rating. My helper monkey list had only two entries on it, I think. I did see LCAF pretty quickly, but yeah, the not knowingness of the spelling of FOLLES (I thought there was an I in it) made the knowingness of the answer not much help. But I did wind up finishing in pretty respectable Saturday time. It was a real chewy puzzle.

Everybody ought to know by now that I am the place to come with all your Andy Griffith Show questions, except for the ones after Barney left when "Warren" took over as deputy and the show went to color and Andy got all Perry Como Hollywoody, of which we do not speak. My favorite episode is the one where Andy has to lock Aunt Bee up for violating the town's new No Whoring Law. The butter and egg man bails her out.

jackj 9:10 AM  

Mike Nothnagel has given us a gem to start the holiday weekend and, when all the goodies have been rounded up, we’re left not with a basket of Peeps but a cornucopia of pure pleasure.

I started out like a house on fire, first with OPIE, then APHIS, ELEA, ELY, ONMEDS and ATRA but then, looking around, it was clear that my quick start wouldn’t last.

My main slowdown was bred of stubbornness when I wouldn’t let go of SNARLS as the answer for “Tangles”, (which was compounded by the belief that “Forward who wore #10” was ESPO) but, SNAFUS and PELE finally won out and it was back to getting little victories along the way.

And, when “Passing remark”, turned in to NOTMYCUPOFTEA, it was a rare “stand up and cheer moment” to salute some brilliant wordplay and the pace of the race picked up too as ALLORNONE, GOBANANAS, BLOWAFUSE and ICANTWAIT were unearthed to show they weren’t chopped liver either.

Being the Tortoise in this race was a nice reminder that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Thanks, Mike, when LACAGEAUXFOLLES is just another answer you know you’ve created something special.

evil doug 9:13 AM  

"Feelings lie. Numbers don't."

But on the other hand...

"So my time was pretty rough, but my overall experience was that this was on the easy side, and only my personal failings as a solver (and not the puzzle's intrinsic difficulty) are to blame for my below-average time."

And thus the puzzle is whatever our feelings say it is---in this case, pretty much the full gamut of...


And ergo...

Numbers lie.



Smitty 9:20 AM  

Really rewarding solve after yesterday. Left almost the entire puzzle blank after the first pass but then started chipped away at it and unearthed pure gold.

Thanks Mr. Nothnagel

Loren Muse Smith 9:27 AM  

@Evil - "feint." 'Nuff said.

archaeoprof 9:35 AM  

Same challenges as everyone else.

And spent several minutes trying to make LA CAGE du FOLLES fit.

What's with French having so many silent letters?

chefbea 9:37 AM  

I know that Opie's great aunt I I spell our names differently.

Shout out to puzzle husband at 1A..He's no bag!!

Had to google a bit and still DNF so came here and found out about dog sit.

jberg 9:50 AM  

Is that a big dollar sign in the middle of the grid? Looked like one to me, and after yesterday I was looking for something about the shape - even though it's a Friday. Given which Friday this is, maybe it's a subtle hint that the moneychangers are back in the temple.

My only real problem (aside from AHId, of course) was that I had USDA at 41D, figuring the Department of Agriculture must have some vets, and maybe this was federal agency day. Once I got 37A I knew it was wrong - EXDL just doesn't work - but having it there made it hard to see EXCLUSIVE.

EGESTED, though? I thought that was the way starfish ate oysters - external digestion. Guess I'm wrong, though.

For those puzzled by PIONS, the word is really just shorthand for PI mesONS. So that clears that up.

Happy Easter, everyone! (If you don't celebrate it, or think it's a different Sunday, be happy anyway!)

John V 9:51 AM  

Great rating Easy-Challenging. Loved, loved this one, a perfect Friday. The good news: I knew thar it was LACAGEAUFOLLES. The bad news: had to get the spelling of FOLLES from Google. Wil NOT forgive myself for that! :)

NOTMYCUPOFTEA was by far my favorite moment of this puz. 56D - Pele pretty cool, 'cause I was thinking hockey, of course. 61A I was sure would have been TIMEX/ROLEX.

Nice grid; good to see a different look from the more typical Friday stacks in the NW/SE

NE was by far the hardest part.

Thanks, MN, another marvelous puzzle (can I say marvelous here? I really don't mean it that way.) Off to CLT and home. Hope I get enough bandwidth to tackle tomorrow's offering.

santafefran 9:52 AM  

Not to FAWN or GO BANANAS but what a great crunchy puzzle chock-full of great pay-off phrases.
GOLDEN BOY brought FAIR-HAIRED BOY to mind--guessing they are related.

Had to post today so you could see my new avatar. It's a card with folded layers of crossword puzzles making up Crossword Cat who undoubtedly has NINELIVES! Just found it in a shop in Albuquerque yesterday.

Tita 10:01 AM  

Masterful redirects! Real challenge The NE was a disaster for me...had to google Tarzan man and the school.

Really wanted cat's gift to be deadmouse...

Like the image evoked at LAPAT...
Didn't like the image evoked at EGESTS...
@Loren - is that what happened in your laundry room?

Nice job Mr, Nothnagel...

John V 10:09 AM  

@Tita -- I had DEADMOUSE first, too. Guess our cats think alike!

GILL I. 10:10 AM  

@Greene: I'm glad you stopped by. During my lurking era I always would look forward to your comments on anything Broadway. What fun that you chose to comment on one of my all-time favorites. The play lead me to watch "The Bird Cage" a million times.
I can only hope for a Broadway revival with Lane.

Sir Hillary 10:13 AM  

Wow, this is about as much universal praise and consistent commentary as I have seen here (admittedly only been on this blog for a few months). Allow me to pile on...

Rex's Easy-Challenging rating and much of his solving experience was exactly how this played out for. Got ELY and AGT immediately - two symmetrically useless entry points. Then I stared at the grid for a full ten minutes, ready to chalk this up as the hardest Friday ever. Then I got CEES, and from there the whole NW flowed like buttah. Like Rex, I loved loved loved NOTMYCUPOFTEA, not only for the wordplay but because it opened up the middle spine, which led to quick work in the SE.

Then...more staring. Still more. GEAUX right in the middle, and all I can think of is a cheer for the LSU Tigers. Finally, FAWN shows itself, which leads to ICANTWAIT, which gets the SW going and *finally* LACAGEAUXFOLLES.

Then...nothing. The NE is a complete cipher. Then, despite getting NINELIVES and ESSAYTEST, I am still stuck because (1) I think 8D is JAB, (2) I have ???RESALE for 10D and (3) because the stack of 16A, 18A and 22A are all unfamiliar to me (and still are). Finally, I just assume it must by APHIS, which leads to OPIE and everything flows from there.

Whew - like negotiating rapids! Great job by Mr. Nothnagel.

One question...can someone explain to me how "Instrument with a bell" is an OBOE?

jackj 10:26 AM  

Sir Hillary@10:13AM-

A "bell" in this case is the flared end of a wind instrument" as with an oboe.

dk 10:28 AM  

For one brief moment I thought GOBATSH#T was going to be the fill.

🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4 Stars) Good Friday! And, SEIZINGUPON Evil D's first post: "We needed this one!"

"Goober today is Friday!" FAWNed OPIE. Yeah, are you ONMEDS! sniped Barney. "Off to TOWNE." Aunt Bee WENTON-- "Before Andy (aka GOLDENBOY) begins to ORATE."

Two Ponies 10:52 AM  

Some much to love ...
except aphis!!? Bah.
Nine lives was cool but I too wanted dead mouse. My gift this very morning was a sparrow.

Opie is Andy's son. His wife died when Opie was very young.
Of all the cool things in this grid why are we talking about this?

Jenny 11:24 AM  

I had a different creative-but-wrong attempt at 31D: ROW TOTALS. Ah well.

Anonymous 11:36 AM  

Really nothing easy about this one, a good challenging Friday. The beauty of it is you look at iit afterwards and think it should have been easy, but really it wasn't easy at all. The comments bear this out.

David 11:41 AM  

Wonderful puzzle, fascinating cluing throughout and some cool misdirects. The NE was toughest for me as well, even though I nailed the 3 long downs very quickly. I begrudgingly changed APHID to APHIS (huh?) and saved PIONS to the end, choosing between TAP and TAG. Never heard of PIONS, so the non-word GIONS made just as much sense.

The A in LAPAT crossing PLAN A was the last to fall, as I never got PAT being the operative word, vs. LAP AT. Needed the clever cluing of 56A to provide the final slap on the head moment.

hazel 11:45 AM  

What's a magic square?

hazel 11:47 AM  

Also, i had chip as the grand nephew for a while - my 3 sons w/ uncle charlie.

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

@Hazel - A magic square is a grid filled in with (different) integers where the sum of each of the rows and columns are all the same.

PS: If you're looking for Hazel, I think Smitty stole her.

chefbea 11:55 AM  

@santafefran love your new avatar!!!

Geometricus 12:02 PM  

So I have resigned myself to the truth that I will never be a speedy solver like Rex and some of you other geniuses. I have let go fo the fantasy that reading this blog daily would somehow make me able to do a Friday puzzle in 10 minutes.

But for the last few weeks I have been coming in under an hour on Fridays, and this is new for me. I realize we have had a string of easy Fridays, and also the wheelhouse thing has been in my favor, but I am so pleased I did today in 49 minutes, because it was a struggle for me every step of the way, but using all the things I have learned here I probably shaved at least 15-20 minutes of my time.

I know I'll never be a speed solver, but it's nice to see some improvement. And I was really surprised that I didn't have more trouble with LACAGEAUXFOLLES (well, except for the spelling).

mac 12:39 PM  

Fantastic puzzle! Wanted "go bananas" at 30D first, and cremation popped into my head at the clue of 13A, but in the end it was the NE that gave me the most trouble, with aphiS and EleA.

Thank you Mike, great words and great clues!

Lewis 12:39 PM  

Exactly as @smitty said. Pure gold rewarding the effort. Terrific puzzle.

IMDB 1:35 PM  

"Widower Sheriff Andy and his son Opie live with Andy's Aunt Bee in Mayberry NC. With virtually no crimes to solve, most of Andy's time is spent philosophizing and calming down his cousin Deputy Barney."

Bird 1:43 PM  

Was not at all on the same page as Mr. Nothnagel. DNF. Plunked down SATCHEL for 1A and thought maybe I finish a Friday. Oh, well. Thinking damaged or scratched for 10D. Thinking drain for 56A.

Is APHIS really a PEST? The answer for 42A implies 16A should be the bug, not the agency.

TGIF and Go Yankees!

Masked and Anonymo5Us 1:45 PM  

Cool grid layout. Sorta looks like 2 croupiers fightin' over the chips on a roulette table.
Primo grid content. thUmbUp.

Fave clue: Tie, betwixt:
8-D: Physical "Psst!"
29-D: [This is scary!]

Like that 31 had time trouble, but was generous with the kudos. Good call. This Nothnagel dude is a real craftsperson.

"Relative difficulty = Easy-Challenging" is hard to argue with. Or agree with. Me, I'd go with: "Sunny Side Up".


Wikipedia 2:18 PM  

"The Andy Griffith Show is an American sitcom first televised by CBS between October 3, 1960, and April 1, 1968. Andy Griffith portrays a widowed sheriff in the fictional small community of Mayberry, North Carolina. His life is complicated by an inept but well-meaning deputy, Barney Fife (Don Knotts), a spinster aunt and housekeeper, Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier), and a young son, Opie (Ron Howard, billed as Ronny). Local ne'er-do-wells, bumbling pals, and temperamental girlfriends further complicate his life."

Cathyat40 2:26 PM  

I was truly surprised when Mr. Happypencil appeared when I dropped in the last letter: "Really?, I got it all right the first time?" Luck was on my side ;)

Two Ponies 2:32 PM  

Hmmm, Aphis is both the genus of aphids and APHIS a government agriculture agency. I guess both could be pests to a farmer.

Anonymous 2:38 PM  

Loved this puzzle, so says Rex. Loved Rex's comment. No pussy-footing. No wishy-washy comment becaue he doesn't want to offend one of his favorites. Just plain "Loved this puzzle." Just what his comment should be.

But I don't love this puzzle. I loved my dogs. Molly was easier to love because she was a big oafy cute airedale. Max was harder to love. He was a schnoodle who loved to leave his mark on the furniture.

I did like the puzzle, however. Just what a Friday should be....


PS. I'm surprised that the swoosh has been on the medal since 1928. The company was founded in 1964.

Anonymous 2:42 PM  

My cats are indoor cats so the only gifts I get are furballs.

Sparky 2:50 PM  

ELY and AGT first entries. OPIE in then out to make room for 8A-cabin. Knew what was wanted for 22A but couln't remember exact spelling of that bit of crosswordese. Snares before SNAFUS, which surely does mean more than tangles. Like @Loren can't spell SEIZE but when NOT MY CUP OF TEA was clear fixed that. Each little glitch straightened itself out as I worked more. Alas DNF--the small square in SW wouldn't come. All I had there was the WAIT. It was fun to work on this puzzle. Had to come here to parse DOGSIT and PLANA. Bless the blog but not the borg.

Welcome back Greene. Good to hear from you.

Meow 2:54 PM  

We got a cat in January. A beautiful looking Main Coon. he loves to ignore instructions and sit on the dining room table, the coffee table and the bay window in between all the plants. Grrrr. He also thinks my hand is a toy and has left many reminders that his claws need trimming. Double-Grrrr.

My son loves him though so I can't drive somewhere and leave him with the mountain lions.

When are we going to see the anti-robot function in a crossword? Clue = Rexworld captcha
Answer = ellayea inhowsi

Masked and Anonymous II 3:21 PM  

@Meow: Somebody wiser than me once explained what "meow" means (depending on inflection):
a. "I'm hungry -- do something, now"
b. "Everything here is mine"

To be pet-correct, somebody also explained once that "arf, arf, arf!" consistently means "Hey! hey! hey!"

P.S. Occurs to me that the NW corner keeps this puz from being perfect. TOWNE+APHIS+PIONS+ELEA = slight squirm of discomfort. They did produce NINELIVES, tho -- so, a few purrs must be awarded, too. But since noth perfect, Nothnagel has to try again, soon...

Joannalan 3:29 PM  

Just read an article by Matt Bai, in yesterday's NYT, I think so a rare gimme for me. Loved plan a.

Anonymous 3:32 PM  

What are CEES? (Please.). I do not get it.

Anonymous 3:44 PM  

@Anon 3:32 - The letter 'C', twice

Meow 3:55 PM  

@M&A 3:21 - Thanks for the translations. I think the cat is claiming everything for himself. Very rare that his food bowl is empty. I saw a funny cartoon showing a man telling his cat to get off the table, chair and counter but the words are visually going in one ear and out the other. Around the room are cloud shaped callouts with the word "bed" pointing to said table, chair and counter. I had to laugh.

Only had to refresh the captchas 5 times before my borg eyes could read them.

Anonymous 4:00 PM  

I stared at 15D for a long time because I couldn't think of the main character in "A Clockwork Orange". Felt a little silly when I finally figured it out.

IMDB 4:25 PM  

"Protagonist Alex is an "ultraviolent" youth in futuristic Britain. As with all luck, his eventually runs out and he's arrested and convicted of murder and rape. While in prison, Alex learns of an experimental program in which convicts are programed to detest violence. If he goes through the program his sentence will be reduced and he will be back on the streets sooner than expected. But Alex's ordeals are far from over once he hits the mean streets of Britain that he had a hand in creating."

lawprof 4:58 PM  

Everything but NE fell pretty quickly, with a few writeovers: mailman/MAILBAG, Aphid/APHIS, doughs (?!)/DOGSIT, snarls/SNAFUS, whitesale/WHOLESALE. Wanted some form of "excavate" for 35D until the light came on. No idea who 33D ___ Bai was/is, nor 22A ELEA, nor 26A ELY, nor 6D ANN, but got them from the crosses.

Gave up on NE, went out and worked in the yard all morning, had lunch, came back to it and it all fell into place in a couple of minutes. Funny how that works.

Wood 5:34 PM  

Totally flummoxed by the NE. Spent fully half my solve time there, with The rest of the puzzle done. Three TOUGH clues on the long downs and a stack of obscurities crossing them... That is Saturday material. Still, so satisfying when I finally got em...

Mike Nothnagel 5:54 PM  

Hi everyone,

Thanks for the kind words about today's puzzle, despite the less-than-stellar NE corner. :)

See y'all next time --

JohnnyMao 8:25 PM  

You're welcome, Mr. NothMYCUPOFTEA!

Anonymous 9:43 PM  

Well, okay, but how does that relate to the clue? Why are two Cs a comic duo?

jackj 9:57 PM  

Anonymous@3:32PM and 9:43PM-

The clue is a tricky play on the word "C-omedi-C" which has two letter "C's" in its spelling, hence "Comedic duo?".

Whenever you see a "?" after a clue, beware, because it won't be a straight answer.

Tita 10:01 PM  

oops - jackj just beat me to it!
I'll just add...

Rex calls them "literal" clues.
Another recent example: "Napoleanic leader" - CapitalN - because the word starts with the letter N.

sanfranman59 10:07 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 6:56, 6:50, 1.03, 61%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 8:47, 8:52, 0.99, 55%, Medium
Wed 12:37, 11:50, 1.07, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 16:58, 18:58, 0.89, 30%, Easy-Medium
Fri 23:15, 25:01, 0.93, 38%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:39, 3:40, 1.00, 50%, Medium
Tue 4:42, 4:35, 1.03, 63%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:19, 5:53, 1.07, 75%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 9:58, 9:19, 1.07, 68%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 11:24, 12:23, 0.92, 39%, Easy-Medium

JenCT 10:51 PM  

Hand up for wanting DEAD MOUSE - at least, that's what my cats think is a present worthy of incredible praise.

NIKE was the Greek goddess of victory.

GULP took a looong time to get.

Challenging for me, but finally finished.

TXinBrooklyn 8:04 AM  

'Dog it,' 'dogging it' is pretty common in the South. I also hear it in the sports media with reference to a teammate not giving his all (e.g. 'I can't believe Randy Moss would go out there and dog it but it sure looked like he gave up on that route.')


TXinBrooklyn 8:13 AM  

And...(language nerd alert)....

'folles' (as in 'La cage aux...') is the French feminine for 'crazy,' thus implying that the crazies therein are women (compare 'foux' i.e. crazy [men] or 'folie(s)' craziness(es)

In reference to a comment (far, far) above: I'd caution that English has far more (randomly) silent letters than French.

That is all :)

Sheldon 10:44 AM  

A ridiculously easy puzzle for those of us with two doctorates and a very high IQ. I can understand the difficulty for those who are not me or those who don't completely understand the big bang theory.

big dumb guy 11:39 AM  

Hey Sheldon with the two doctorates and a self-proclaimed high IQ: I can beat you at arm wrestling.

rain forest 12:57 PM  

@evil Doug Numbers apparently don't lie, at least here.
I found the puzzle relatively easy (I don't time myself), and sanfranman provided the proof. Redundantly, I add my agreement that this was an A-one puzzle. The only slowdown I had came at 64A where it was a toss between emitted and ejected, and then I thought it was a mis-spelled egected--oh.
Wonderful combination of the straightforward and the tricky.

I think Opie's great aunt's name is Barbara, but they just call her Aunt B.

DMGrandma 3:39 PM  

Great puzzle, worth a little struggling. My, not unique, hang-up was wanting a person at 37A, and with ge in place, I figured first name was George, despite having auxfoll in place! Just kept thinking with a name like that, I should remember him. Had to answer the phone, and when I came back, fresh eyes saw the solution.
For awhile I thought a tower was a quaint place, but crosses solved that. Only other real slow down was snarl for snafu, which should have been a gimme for an army brat.
All in all, a good Friday workout!

Waxy in Montreal 3:59 PM  

Thought FUBAR had replaced SNAFU decades ago - wonder if it's made the NYT xword as yet?

One flub: almost went bananas sticking with PLAZA (as in toll) at 56A for much too long along with its vertical partner AZOSE. And who's this Rob Estes guy at 63A. anyway? Way prefer Billy Sol Estes as in convicted LBJ crony.

Lola505 7:46 PM  

Hi Syndilanders and TGIF!
Just had a big thunderstorm with marble-sized hailstones, which seemed to somehow aid my concentration and solving. Had had a tough time getting into this puzzle before the storm, anyway.

Same hold-up for me as Rex had on 31d -- I also thought it would be "___games". Somehow, the western half seemed easier, with more reasoned clues and fill than the eastern half, but that's just me.

Happy to have achieved an error-free solve on a pretty challenging puzzle.

Ginger 7:54 PM  

ANN rule was my first gimme, but I think she's more well known here in the northwest. I've seen her interviewed on occasion about current criminal trials. From there I just kept chipping away.

Had most of the same glitches already mentioned, SNArl, jAb, etc. Really like BLOWAFUSE and GOBANANAS. This puzzle was chock full of good stuff, with nary a clunker amoung 'em.

@SIS - hope you're feeling better!

Dirigonzo 8:06 PM  

Any Friday puzzle I finish in less than an hour cannot be called "challenging", even as in "easy - challenging", but this one can be called "fantastic". Great cluing with just the right amount of misdirection produced a lot of fun. Hand up for TOWer and APHId for a while, and SNArlS persisted for too long. No complaints from this syndi-solver.

@Waxy - Billy Sol ESTES, really? Most citizens of the USA (aka "Americans") don't remember him, how come a Canadian (aka not an "American") knows about him? And if we share the same continent how come we are not all "Americans", or at least "North Americans"?

Anonymous 11:43 PM  

"Steve Nicks, asking the musical question, I Can't Wait."
- Dave Letterman, repeatedly, way back when

Waxy in Montreal 1:50 AM  

@Diri - actually most of us up here in the attic of North America live within a hundred miles of the US border so we keep up with what's happening stateside. Also, since we only have 1/10 the population of the US, it's sorta like the elephant and the mouse - we gotta stay alert!

Sharon NYC 3:54 AM  

I just found this puzzle stuck in a pile of papers, and had a good, medium-easy time solving it. Just want to mention that the comments about not knowing who Matt Bai is are pretty funny, given that he's the chief political correspondent for, um, the New York Times. He's had huge pieces in the Sunday magazine.

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