It might be surrounded by a sash / SUN 8-5-12 / Star of the most-watched TV episode ever / It no longer sells maize or mulberry / "Could be a problem"

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Constructor: Patrick Merrell

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none — unless you count how the constructor accidentally left the letter S off the end of a bunch of long answers. How embarrassing!

Word of the Day: MODISH (75A: Trendy) —

modish |ˈmōdi sh | — adjective (often derogatory)
conforming to or following what is currently popular and fashionable : it seems sad that such a scholar should feel compelled to use this modish jargon. 
• • •

Hey folks. Rex Parker here, back from my regular and non-suspicious extended vacation which I assure you was not secretly an international espionage mission in Pyongyang. Before I start talking about today's puzzle, I'd like to formally apologize for all the times I ever disliked any aspect of any crossword whatsoever. I was completely out of line, so I hereby sweepingly rescind every negative review I've ever written. Additionally, I'd like to make it known that my favorite kind of crossword is themeless stunt puzzles with as few black squares and as many Ss and Es as possible, and that goofy and creative three-letter words like OOX and TEP brighten up my day.

Just kidding. Rex is still in Pyongyang or whatever, and you have yet another amateur replacement to perform today's fill-in-the-blog duties. I'm Milo—you may know me for my critically-acclaimed role as an orange tabby cat in the Japanese 1986 film Milo and Otis, or for going on a quest to rescue two princesses in the fantasy novel The Phantom Tollbooth, or for occasionally making some crossword puzzles.

So let's talk about today's puzzle, and the "theme" tying it together.  We have some assorted phrases which end in plural words, except now the words aren't plural, but the meanings haven't really changed, but they're clued goofily anyway, and the new phrases don't really make any sense. Here, take a look at the eleven theme answers (or, I guess, eleven theme answer) and see for yourself.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Disappointing "Who's with me?" response? (SHOW OF HAND)
  • 25A: Work to maintain a C average? (HIT THE BOOK)
  • 31A: Mention that you know a secret? (SPILL THE BEAN)
  • 51A: One who's read an encyclopedia's first volume? (MAN OF LETTER)
  • 58A: Podunk's directory? (YELLOW PAGE)
  • 71A: Having finished just one month of a job? (WET BEHIND THE EAR)
  • 87A: What one with a small nest egg enjoys? (GOLDEN YEAR) — This one worries me. What happened after the one golden year?
  • 96A: Despot's concession? (BILL OF RIGHT)
  • 109A: Occasional klutz? (BUTTERFINGER) — But that's a thing already.
  • 121A: Beginning magician's arsenal? (BAG OF TRICK)
  • 123A: Go on a brief youthful binge? (SOW ONE'S OAT)
Maybe I'm missing something. We are just de-pluralizing things, right? Of all the phrases ending in plural words, why these eleven? Our banner entry, WET BEHIND THE EAR, doesn't even make sense as a singular phrase unless you're Van Gogh. SPILL THE BEAN is a very non-literal phrase, so the new definition has nothing to do with the de-pluralization, really. In general, the clues don't even have to do with the modified phrases—they just give the original definition, with a reducing word like "beginning" or "brief" or "occasional." We have a smattering of one-, two-, three-, and four-word answers. I'm still trying to figure out what BAG OF TRICK means.

Okay, that was harsh, but I am filling in for Rex Parker (or, as Will Shortz lovingly refers to him, "sourpuss Rex Parker") so I thought I'd go all-out. To be fair, Sundays have never been my favorite crosswords. They always feel like five scoops of ice cream: even when it's a good flavor, by the time I'm halfway through I've lost interest in finishing it. And by then it's mostly melted and dripping on my clothes.

  • 26D: Jew : kosher :: Muslim : ___ (HALAL) — As a native New Yorker, the word HALAL will forever and always make me think of those food trucks that sell delicious lamb over rice in large portions for $5. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go to New York right now. Get it with "white sauce," even though nobody really knows what that means.
  • 75D: Fox News competitor (MSNBC) — Did you know that MSNBC is not an acronym? Did you know that is now Now you know both these things.

  • 111D: Runic letter for "th" (THORN) — This letter looked like a Y, and was typically rendered typographically with a Y. So "Ye Olde Shoppe" is actually pronounced "The Olde Shoppe." Sorry if I just ruined olde shoppes for you.
  • 56D: Seasick sea serpent of cartoons (CECIL) — This hint comes from the year 36 B.M. (Before Milo), which is right in that sweet spot of history where the subject matter is not quite important enough for our younger solvers to have heard of it, but semi-recent enough that the constructor and editor assume everyone knows about it.
  • 41D: Rarely photographed half of the moon (FAR SIDE) — No Gary Larson clue? Come on.

  • 102A: It no longer sells maize or mulberry (CRAYOLA) — Also discontinued: Flesh (now known as Peach) and Indian Red. True story.
  • 2D: "Could be a problem" (OOH) — Well, yeah, I guess OOH could mean that. It could mean a lot of things, but I'm not sure that makes them all acceptable clues. Would the clue "Did I leave the oven on?" also work? Or "My knee itches"? Or "My brother-in-law is a meth manufacturer!"? I've used OOH to mean all of these things. (Well, maybe not all.)
Signed, Milo Beckman, Acting Regent of CrossWorld


pk 12:13 AM  

Great write-up, Milo, and so kind. I can't tell you how much I despised this puzzle. Or how many rude comments I wrote in the margins. Like "not really" - I was pretty low key at first, and then "boo" and "sucks" and then "don't effing think so." And on and on.

Felt like being stuck in the middle seat of an economy class flight. And just when you thought some breathing room was going to open up with a long answer, it was a theme answer, which was a plural that wasn't. Too stupid for me.

Sorry, y'all kids, this was just not my cup of tea.

pk 12:25 AM  

Milo, my brother-in-law is a meth manufacturer, too. Ooh!

jae 1:08 AM  

Nice breezy easy-medium Sun., i.e. I liked this a lot more than Milo did.  I thought a lot of the theme clue/answers were pretty funny...SHOWOFHAND, GOLDENYEAR, SOWONESOAT....

Tricky SE corner with some obscure clues for ORE, ANA, and LEAP plus your European river of the day. 

And, pleasant memory clue -- Googling for Silas DEANE is how I found this site in '07.

Kevin 1:22 AM  

This was easily the worst theme I've seen in my admittedly short three year span of NY Times puzzles. Any theme which I can generate clues for instantly is no theme at all. Example: GROWING PAIN (Dwarf's malady). See there. I just came up with that in the time it took to advance the cursor two strokes from the period in the preceding sentence. BIRD OF A FEATHER (Loner). I just did it again!

Deb 1:26 AM  

I liked it well enough, too. When I first realized it was just common phrases un-pluralized, I thought it was a lame theme, but the clues were amusing enough to overcome that for me.

The write-up gets five shiny gold stars. Hope to see you in the castle again soon, Milo.

paulsfo 2:12 AM  

I'm saddened to learn that the term LATTEMACHINE *does* exist. :)

But USH for "usher"? Yuck!

As far as I can find, IDEA is not a verb, so "Think about it" is a bad clue (as opposed to the above bad answers).

Likewise, "Suspend" for END? Why not use a more reasonable (or even clever) clue?

Thought "toping" (in 60D clue) was a typo till I looked it up.

Liked the clues for 36A and especially 106A.

I agree that the theme was quite uninspired.

retired_chemist 2:44 AM  

I wonder if people who tope also yarn.

Loved the 5 ice cream scoop analogy for a Sunday puzzle. My feeling exactly.

Got a kick out of the theme but agree it had a certain lameness to it.

French wines were MÉDOCS before RHÔNES. JOAD before OKIE. Guessed the H right on MOHR/THORN.

Last letter was the R in ASTOR. Had put ASTON, meaning to fix it if needed once I had the cross, but didn't catch it until I was checking.

Overall easy, kinda Wednesday on steroids. Thanks, Patrick and Milo.

chefwen 3:06 AM  

After those BUTTERFINGER commercials I'm going to have to buy one when I go out tomorrow to get the Sunday newspaper. I'd go now if the Whaler's General Store was still open. We roll the streets up pretty early here.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought the theme was pretty Ho Hum! Got through it O.K., but there was no zing, no excitement, little fun. I felt like I was just going through the motions. The only areas I had to clean up were at 72D where I had tasted before HAD A GO, and eXec at 48A before EX GI. Oh well, maybe next week.

Anonymous 5:00 AM  

Had it occurred to Milo (perhaps I take him too literally) that the name of the puzzle is "SINGLE-MINDED?"

r.alphbunker 7:07 AM  

SOWONESOAT gave me the theme. After that I was able to reduce the possible last letters of the other long answer to 25 and this helped a lot.

The theme may have been a bit of an inside joke. WS probably has to deal with lots of puzzles where there are too many plurals and S-inflected verbs. The best puzzles probably have no word forms that end with an S.

It would have been a nice bonus if there were no words inflected with a S but EARNS, LOCATIONS, etc. were used.

I wonder why ORE and ANA were clued so obscurely in the SE? A {Flaw in logic} might also be a Loop (as in circular reasoning) so I was not 100% confident of the last letters of those two answers. But I went with LEAP because there are plurals that end with an A, e.g. bacteria.

Anonymous 7:07 AM  

Did not do the puzzle, today nor yesterday, as NY Times is asking me to pay an extra $19.98 for something I should already receive for the price I pay for home delivery. As I'm not at home, I'm not enjoying that aspect, even while I'm being bombarded on NYT website by Olympics nonsense. Why should I pay twice? Why should I pay at all? I guess I won't anymore. So long.

r.alphbunker 7:14 AM  

Wait! ORE ends with an E not an A. I cannot think of an English word whose plural ends with E. Did I go with LEAP instead of Loop because ANA sounded more like an airline because of the last A? Post-googling revealed this is All Nippon Airways. Anyway, I guessed right.

orangeblossomspecial 7:43 AM  

I thought the puns were cute. Removing the 's' created the joke.

93D SHEB Wooley had a #1 hit with "Purple people eater".

97D FLATT & Scruggs recorded lots of immortals, including "Down the road".

Bulldog 7:54 AM  

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does not print puzzle topics on weekdays. Only on Sundays, and today's printed topic was "Single-minded." That made the puzzle pretty easy.

rgards 7:55 AM  

Loop for leap (135A) did me in.
@r.alphbunker -- geese and mice are plural e's, of course, but Danish?

JFC 8:06 AM  

I came here expecting this puzzle to be panned and I'm not disappointed. What I didn't expect was the funniest write-up I can ever recall. The write-up was worth doing the puzzle. For me the puzzle's theme was spelled out in 21A and that pretty much describes my reaction to it. Now I have to think about what to post at Wordplay, where the world revolves around this constructor at times and comments tend to be rosier.

PS to Anon@7:07AM - We've had that discussion aready. I pay full price for the Premium Crossword and pay nothing for the rag. It's better that you pay half price than my subscription price goes up. Sooner or later the rag will fold and there will be no XWP for anyone....


Glimmerglass 8:57 AM  

@Kevin: lighten up. The theme was fun, even if easy. The fact that you can think of other jokes in the same vein doesn't mean it was a bad vein. Kukla, Fran, and Ollie was on TV was on TV when I was a child (1947 &ff.). I loved it, but that means very few of us were around to see it. I don't know how any under 65 can be expected to know Cecil (KFO went off in 1957). I can think of better clues for OOH. How about, "Do that some more"?

hazel 9:00 AM  

In my limited experience, any sort of hard and fast rational analysis of a Sunday puzzle usually yields dissatifaction with the puzzle-precisely because many of the themes are silly and just don't hold up under that sort of analysis.

Sunday puzzles often rely on one's sense of humor and  If the whimsy or wackiness doesnt work for you, well the puzzle will suck. Like comedy, generally.

I happened to think the silliness of this gimmick worked - the forlorn nature of having just the one oat to sow or a town's commercial potential being limited to one yellow page struck me as funny. Evokes a charlie chaplin/little tramp vibe somehow.

OOH baby yeah 9:17 AM  

it's just another puzzle.

Z 9:19 AM  

Got the theme at SPILL THE BEAN. I think @hazel is right on point, there is a distinct forlorn humor to the theme answers.

UTAH is the crossroads of the west? Who knew?

Bob Kerfuffle 9:31 AM  

I thought this was a fun little puzzle, good for my crossword hangover from yesterday's Lollapuzzoola. Rex Parker followers were represented by a small group (see my post from last night) among the 150 - 200 people there. We didn't sweep the awards, but we had a good time.

The event was well-planned and well run, amazingly with a meta that ran through 5 of the six puzzles presented during the day. I didn't have a clue, and I won't give any clues, but it meant that all of the top notch constructors who contributed puzzles had an extra constraint which they worked seamlessly into their puzzles.

There were also extra word games and time to socialize, and I c0ontinue to urge everyone to go to a tournament if you haven't already. Sadly, though, I must report that Lollapuzzoola was a bit too smooth; it has lost the craziness that had made it so outstanding. But I'll still go again next year, "On a Saturday in August."

Milford 9:34 AM  

I really enjoyed some of the theme answers, I guess the ones that had a literal meaning that (for me) made a fun, yet kind of pathetic mental picture: SHOW OF HAND, YELLOWPAGE, BILL OF RIGHT.
I wonder if I will ever not get misdirected by a clue for a pro team name (Islander, Jazz from a couple days ago). Trust me, I know these teams, I just never make that leap in the clue until many crosses have made it obvious.

Anonymous 9:39 AM  

Milo & Kevin (et al.): get over yourselves. As someone said, it's just a puzzle. It was fine. Not sparkling, but okay.

13 year old 10:17 AM  

OOH, boobies in the writeup!

jackj 10:33 AM  

No heavy lifting involved with this one. The theme clues were cute, every one; the theme clues were easy, every one.

It’s tough to single out one of the theme entries as “tops” though SOWONESOAT and WETBEHINDTHEEAR were best for me.

The fill had a few proper nouns that slowed things down ever so slightly but were all gettable from the crosses, like Isidor RABI, the Nobel physicist who was recognized for identifying the phenomenon of nuclear magnetic resonance which ultimately gave us the ubiquitous MRI scanner, without which NHLER(s) like “Islander, e.g.” would be struggling to resolve their physical troubles with the less satisfactory X-rays and CT scans.

Another name that may have been unknown to many was Lester FLATT, guitarist and co-founder of the legendary bluegrass group, “Foggy Mountain Boys”, who performed from the late 1940’s into the early 1970’s. The Scruggs and FLATT group were honored in the wonderful film, “O Brother, Where Art Thou” when the performing trio of prison escapees, led by George Clooney, (which performed the movie’s lead song, “Man of Constant Sorrow”), was named the “Soggy Bottom Boys”, as an homage to the “Foggy Mountain Boys”.

Not much of a challenge so thanks to clever Milo for providing today’s entertainment.

chefbea 10:55 AM  

Daughter and grand daughter left this morning so I'm back. Miss you all and the puzzles but there just wasn't much time.

The puzzle - found it very easy and liked the theme. Not much else to say.

OOH - great write up Milo

Sue McC 11:14 AM  

Laughed out loud at Milo's description of the theme! Puzzle was ok, but I would agree with paulsfo about USH, IDEA, &END clues. The write-up more than made up for them.

Carola 11:17 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 11:22 AM  

@Hazel -- Thanks for elaborating on what I liked about this puzzle The silliness worked for me.

Sandy K 11:28 AM  

Thanks for your hilarious and non-political write-up, Milo!

As has been noted, the puzzle was just SOSO for me. The theme was NO GREAT SHAKE, plus I got naticked- had LOOP...or is that a double-natick?

John V 11:29 AM  

Easy picking here. Pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon. More fun than Saturday, all thing equal.

See ya from the tarmac tomorrow.

Carola 11:32 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carola 11:34 AM  

Milo, I loved your write-up, and especially your 5-scoop analogy!

For me, though, this puzzle measured quite low on my Sunday slog meter - I thought the theme was clever, and some of the answers really struck me funny - HIT THE BOOK (I had some students who did just that), SOW ONE'S OAT (wonderfully describes my cautious nature).

Liked LAFITTE, CRAYOLA, FLATT + STRUM, the "Hamburg grr" clue. Didn't know CECIL but remember singing along with SHEB. And "USH"? ACH!

@paulsfo -
On "Think about it" being a bad clue for IDEA - I'm also not crazy about this form of cluing where the answer refers to "it" rather than being a synonym for the verb. Like "Do it" = deed. I guess it's a form of misdirection (?).

Isabella di Pesto 11:55 AM  

A very "meh" puzzle for me.

Rex Parker 12:00 PM  

All killer, no filler. The write-up, I mean.


Rex Parker 12:03 PM  

The puzzle = No great shake. Different stroke folk for different folk, I guess.


Brookboy 12:22 PM  

I have yet to meet a Sunday crossword I really didn't like. Naturally, I like some better than others, and this one was a little below the SOSO bar for me. But I continue to be in awe of those who put these things together and give the rest of us so much pleasure.

I also figure that maybe it was a slow week (or month or whatever), where the submissions just weren't up to par, so Will went with this one.

Agree with Hazel about all this being so subjective anyway. I guess my thought is that if you don't like the Sunday puzzles, why do you do them? And then write about them?

Anyway, after really slogging my way through last week's puzzle, I felt pretty good about knocking this one out in one of my best times. I was feeling pretty proud until I noticed at the end that I had SEWONESOAT instead of SOWONESOAT, which, of course, gave me THERN instead of THORN. Duh.

Very much enjoyed the write-up. In fact, I've been thoroughly enjoying all the substitute write-ups (but I'll still welcome RP back).

Gonna be one sad day if/when the Sunday crosswords come to an end.


paulsfo 12:24 PM  

@Carola Thanks. I'd never noticed this convention for cluing before. In that case, I'll just object to USH and END. :)

Oscar 1:28 PM  

Fantastic write-up! Glad I wasn't drinking coffee or it would be all over my laptop now.

Tita 1:50 PM  

Hilarious write-up, Milo...educational too! I loved learning about Ye. Crayola colors was a Jeopardy category last week.

Actually, I loved the write-up far more than the puzzle. I love Sundays, but this was only Meh.
My 1st theme was MANOFLETTER - which I actually loved, because I thought the singular phrase changed the meaning of the original...
I was then continually disappointed as the rest of them kept the original meaning. Or had no meaning, as Milo points out...

@Jen - since you asked, Lollapuzzoola was a blast!! Ireverant, relaxed, and chock full of awesome puzzles.

Was great to see Bob Kefuffle, Sparky, Evan, imsdave, Karen, Peter, Jan, BEQ, and so many other constructors... Met Addie (The Voice), who we encouraged to join the community.
Thanks to the hosts, volunteers, constructors.
Oh - and a cameo appearance by Will Shortz himself!
As Sparky and I were walking to lunch, she spied Will ambling past, saying "Hey - look who's here!", so we stopped and said hello.

All in all, it was a very fun event, full of friendly smart folk.
Bob Kefruffle took plenty of pics, as always, so I am posting them hurriedly on my blog - click here: Lollapuzzola 5

Suzy 2:00 PM  

Nice, pleasant puzzle-- I'm not as inclined as some of you
to be so critical, especially on Sunday. Who wants a really tough puzzle on Sunday?

Only real gripe is ush-- wanted tush for seat. You can usher someone to a seat without seating him. And you'd have to be pretty lazy to abreviate usher at all!

Thx for the nice write-up!

syndy 2:11 PM  

Milo, your write up so much better than the putshzel! one natick since LOgic Loop=Flaw logic Leap= inductive reasoning!therefore Mr. Merril plff!

chefbea 2:18 PM  

@Tita Great fotos of Lollapuzzula. Fun hearing all about it.

Lewis 2:22 PM  

"No great shake" -- great one, rp!

I thought the theme was cute, that the cluing was thorny for me, that the writeup was terrific. I think my favorite two writeups, assuming rp returns tomorrow, are the first and last.

Can we retire USH please?

edmcan 2:44 PM  

I agree with Rex's evaluation! The puzzle was boring and sloggy, but not difficult.

Anonymous 3:11 PM  

Imagine my disappointment when the answer to 3-down ("Hustle or bustle") turned out to be the prosaic ADO. That would have been the perfect clue for BUM, which I had in the grid until I could no longer keep it.

GLR 3:17 PM  

Clue: Show appropriate appreciation for today's theme.


@Glimmerglass - I was born in 1956 and remember Kukla, Fran and Ollie as well as Cecil. Must have been reruns.

Jenny 3:21 PM  

@Bulldog: Weekday/Saturday NYT puzzles have no titles. That's not a Pittsburgh thing.

jae 3:31 PM  

@Lewis -- I think we are due for Jen and Liz again tomorrow. At least I hope so.

Sparky 4:37 PM  

Agree with @Hazel, the solutions made me smile. Not knee slappers, just off enough and a little sad. The 5 scoop doesn't work for me as I can plough through and finish food till left gasping which is why I've ben attending Weight Watchers since the 70s. I did enjoy the write up though Milo.

Lollapuzzoola was a lot of fun. @BobK and @Tita said most. I enjoyed meeting old friends and new people. Finally said hello to Evan. Sorry you had to leave. Hope the wedding was fun,too. Addie a nice guy, very ambitious. Wish him well. Such a thrill for me to say hello to Tony Orbach, Patrick Blindauer, Brendan Emmett Quigley and thank them for the pleasure they give me with their puzzles and good humor. Tony's guide to eateries in the Lex/70s area a permanent fixture now.

Thanks to all the constructors there and the volunteers who gave so much.

Going back to look at the pictures.

Anonymous 5:43 PM  

Yikes, panned by a tabby cat from a Japanese movie!


Sandy K 5:44 PM  


Obviously, Rex doesn't just skip the anonymous posts- seems he doesn't read the ones with names either.
But that's ok, RP, you can borrow my quips any time. As one of your sycophants, it's fabulous just to hear from you!!

jberg 5:47 PM  

I liked the theme OK, though it was easy - witty cluing, for the most part, though "WET BEHIND THE EAR" doesn't really work the same way, and it's right there in the center. BUTTERFINGER should mean moderately, rather than occasionally klutzy, to fit the logic of the other theme clues.

I didn't know CECIL, but you can get this one with alliteration's artful aid - could be Cedric, but not enough letters for that.

In the old days when none of us had any money, you'd hear conversations like "I'm going to the opera!" ~Really?" "Yes, I'm going to USH" - so that one was OK too.

But LATTE machines, as opposed to espresso machines with frothers? I can't stand that, even if they do exist.

Anonymous 6:50 PM  

Of course I loved this puzzle because I finished it without a single mistake on first check ••a first for me on a Sunday. Yeah!!

Clueless in Texas 7:23 PM  

Didn't enjoy the puzzle. Natick here, Natick there, Natick Natick everywhere. But since I could not ever create my own puzzle worthy of the paper, I am not complaining--also because my own inability to "get " the clues doesn't equate to a bad puzzle. I did like the clue for BILL OF RIGHT.

Milo, I loved your write-up. I thought of Gary Larson when I saw the FAR SIDE answer. My all-time favorite cartoon was the one called "Cow Poetry". Hilarious every time I see it.

Distant Hills

The distant hills call to me.
Their rolling waves seduce my heart.
Oh, how I want to graze in their lush valleys.
Oh, how I want to run down their green slopes.
Alas, I cannot.
Damn the electric fence!
Damn the electric fence!

The cow poet (-ess) reads the poem in front of a room full of cows.

Merle 7:58 PM  

Rex, you must be jet-lagged. The puzzle is titled "Single-Minded." Single rather than plural. Thus the recognizable phrases are lacking an "s" at the end of the last word in the phrase, because the word is singular, not plural. One who's read an enclyclopedia's first volume is a man of letter, because he has read only one volume, not more, and thus is not a man of letters. Work to maintain a "C" average is hit the book because if the student really hit the books the student would have a higher average. Student only studied a little bit. All the clues follow the pattern. Rex, this is a duh/doh moment. And you, so erudite, so perceptive, so... hmmm... what? Soluble, no, solvent, no.... You solve stuff!

Bird 7:59 PM  

@Milo - Such a great write-up today. LOFL. Your words were assembled much more betterer than the ones in today's puzzle.

I was so disappointed that we lost an "S". And the fill was not lively enough to overcome that sad emotion. One "Really?" right after another. Only bright spot was 125D as my mother was born in København. Brought back lots of memories. And that was the only way I finished this puzzle, otherwise I would have had LOOP.

"OOH! OOH! Mr. Kotter!"

More sad news - tomorrow in Monday and I have to go to work. Unless (cough) (cough) I'm not feeling that well.

@jae - How the hell do you remember what you were Googling for 5 years ago?!

@paulsfo - 5A was one big REALLY?? for me. I thought they are called espresso makers or coffee machines.

@retired_chemist - If they overtope then they probably yarn.

My favorite FAR SIDE cartoon is the one of the kid genius pushing on a door with a sign that says PULL.

Merle 9:17 PM  

Oops. Rex is Milo. Rex might be jet-lagged, but Milo is the one who missed the puzzle's theme. Didn't mean to dis you, Rex. Didn't mean to dis Milo either, at that.

I thought this was a fun puzzle to work through. One missing "s" singularity at a time....

paulsfo 9:26 PM  

@Merle I believe that Milo knows what the theme is but that he considered it so weak that he said there *was* no theme.
I could be wrong, though, as when I initially had SINGLEHAND instead of SHOWOFHAND. :)

JenCT 9:29 PM  

@Tita: so glad you had a good time in NYC!

Didn't care for the puzzle & I'm not sure why - just didn't appeal to me.

Love the 5-scoop analogy, too.

Great writeup, Milo.

LOVE the Far Side; one of my all-time favorites is the one where two polar bears are munching on an igloo; one says to the other "I love these things! Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside..."

Mark M. 11:37 PM  

"Kukla, Fran and Ollie" debuted in 1947, but stayed on the air in one form or another until 1985.

Clark 12:10 AM  

We did some three-person transnational skype puzzle solving. (Barcelona Guy is in Toronto.) While we always enjoy a good group skype solve, the general consensus was that the theme was lame. We eventually came around to the opinion that the consistency of the lameness raised it up to some kind of lameness-art-form.

sanfranman59 2:25 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 6:28, 6:49, 0.95, 28%, Easy-Medium
Tue 9:12, 8:57, 1.03, 64%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 11:43, 11:47, 0.99, 53%, Medium
Thu 15:56, 18:55, 0.84, 22%, Easy-Medium
Fri 19:07, 24:41, 0.77, 14%, Easy
Sat 24:18, 29:21, 0.83, 13%, Easy
Sun 27:09, 32:58, 0.82, 22%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:41, 3:41, 1.00, 54%, Medium
Tue 4:59, 4:38, 1.08, 75%, Challenging
Wed 6:16, 5:54, 1.06, 71%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 9:34, 9:22, 1.02, 61%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 9:55, 12:14, 0.81, 22%, Easy-Medium
Sat 15:12, 16:39, 1.12, 79%, Medium-Challenging
Sun 18:29, 20:59, 0.88, 47%, Medium

Anonymous 7:40 AM  

Swine, cattle and a number of words ending in a that are pluralizes with -AE for starters.

NeverCross 4:14 PM  

This 56-year-old fondly remembers watched the animated "Beany and Cecil" show as a kid, so this clue wasn't just for you old folks. :)

I even had one of these Cecil hand puppets - one of my favorite toys:

andre carl michael 11:49 PM  

Your write up more fun than a barrel of monkey!
(Pls, someone let him out!)

Loved learning about the Rune Y, and no it didn't rune olde shoppe for me!
Au contraire, mon frere!

Kevin 12:11 AM  

"Milo & Kevin (et al.): get over yourselves. As someone said, it's just a puzzle. It was fine. Not sparkling, but okay."

Anon. - You need to get over yourself. It was a puzzle and was assessed on that basis. It was poor.

child puzzle 4:48 PM  

A puzzle is a problem or enigma that tests the ingenuity of the solver. In a basic puzzle, one is intended to put together pieces in a logical way in order to come ...
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child puzzle
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rain forest 1:35 PM  

You have no sense of humour, or of the absurd, Milo. Shame. "Show of hand" made me laugh, as did "bag of trick", and even though one could get the answer from just the singular word, I thought this puzzle was dandy, despite a modicum of teeth-graters in there.

Dirigonzo 1:54 PM  

Here in syndiland I have a special fondness for Sunday puzzles because it was they that started me doing the NYT crosswords and resulted in my discovery of this blog. My occasional co-puzzler and I thought this one was fun; we enjoyed trying to figure out the them answers with a minimum of crosses and laughed a lot at the results. What more can you ask of a puzzle than an enjoyable time while solving?

Spacecraft 2:21 PM  

SHOWOFHAND: not bad. HITTHEBOOK: that might produce a C average if you're only taking two courses! MANOFLETTER: hilarious! I know a few chaps who'd fit that one! WETBEHINDTHEEAR: I really don't understand the clue for that one, unless it's a play on "the Year." And that would still be stupid. The rest? Meh.

I just finished watching the NBAers win gold for the USA, and am now tuned in to the PGAers' championship. And if I see one more [acronym]ER I'm gonna HURL!

New WOTD for me: OPHIR. Sounds like a MLer who went hitless.

connie in seattle 3:14 PM  

I parsed 96A as "Bill o' Fright.

Anonyrat 7:34 AM  

Not bad. Only a very few petty issues: worked in a theater for three years and never had anyone ask me to USH them to their seat; don't see how "think about it" = IDEA (a noun); and don't get how ESA = "What's that, in Tijuana?" despite having grown up in SoCal and taken about six years of Spanish in school. "That one?, in Tijuana" would seem to be more correct. Agree w/ Milo re OOH and FAR SIDE - would have liked a Gary Larson clue for the latter. Not sure if he was serious about trying to figure out what BAG OF TRICK means, but obviously, a beginning magician may only know one trick.
@Anonymous 7:07AM - So long! We're gonna miss all your insightful comments!
@Glimmerglass - I'm well under 65 and I remember Cecil from when I was a kid - it ran in syndication where I grew up.
captcha - Urentl: a pissoir you are leasing?

Anonymous 3:01 PM  

Yes! Midvale School for the Gifted! My favorite too! Sadly, I relate. All booksmarts, no common sense.

--Kelly O.

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