R&B pioneer Johnny / WED 8-29-12 / Belgium-based imaging company / Mischievous Norse god / Hot-coals walker / Gear with docking stations / Born from jets automaker

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Constructor: Tony Orbach

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: You can call me AL — "LA" is flipped to "AL" in familiar phrases, creating all manner of wackiness...

Word of the Day: Bugs MORAN (22D: Bugs of the underworld) —
George Clarence Moran (August 21, 1891 – February 25, 1957), better known by the alias "BugsMoran, was a Chicago Prohibition-era gangster. He moved to the north side of Chicago when he was 19, where he became affiliated with several gangs. He was incarcerated three times before turning 21. On February 14, 1929, in an event which has become known as the Saint Valentine's Day massacre, seven members of his gang were gunned down in a warehouse, supposedly on the orders of Moran's rival Al Capone. He has been credited with popularizing the act of driving by a rival's hangout and spraying it with gunfire, now referred to as a drive-by shooting. (wikipedia)
• • •

This one gave me lots of little fits. The cluing was baffling in parts—I had to read 27D: This and that with a specific kind of stress to get to BOTH (wanted OLIO, which turned up later, with the same clue, which must've been why BOTH was clued that way to begin with ...); I've never seen the phrase "docking stations" within a hundred miles of STEREOS (52A: Gear with docking stations). If that's an accurate technical term, I've never heard it used, and I've owned STEREOS in one form or another nearly all my life. NO DOPE!? Ugh. Took *every* cross to see that one (8D: A real smarty). So there were those little bafflements. But mainly there was the theme answers ALP TOP COVERS and ALTER ON. Never would've thought to look for "TOP" (with ALP pretty much covering the elevation part) and "lap top covers," while certainly things, aren't things I use or see other people use very often, and somehow I thought the AL at the beginning was going to refer to Weird Al, even though he's known for polka and not yodeling ... and ALTER ON ... I expected a RAH or an OLE to turn up in that answer. It's a play on phrases like "rock on" or "party on" ... but it wasn't til I had every single letter that I saw the proper phrase. Never mind the AGFA / FAKIR crossing, which took me Forever (10A: Belgium-based imaging company + 12D: Hot-coals walker). OK, not Forever, as my time was just high, not astronomically high. But I definitely struggled a bit. I love that the theme answers are creative—the theme is so slight that they really need to be in order to justify this puzzle's existing at all. So a couple are a bit ... awkwardly worded. That's OK. Fill is okay, though a little on the xwordesey/clunky side. GOOSEFLESH (11D: Bodily reaction to fear) and MIRACLEBRA (29D: Push-up garment) are nice, though I've seen the latter a few times now (at least once in the NYT). Maybe put it away for a few years before it starts to fray.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Balm business? (SALVE TRADE)
  • 23A: Yodeling tribute band's repertoire? (ALP-TOP COVERS)
  • 38A: Words of encouragement to a tailor? (ALTER ON)
  • 48A: Figure at Sarah's cigar store? (PALIN'S INDIAN)
  • 57A: "Columbo" trench coat? (FALK JACKET)
Wanted ASKEW at 13D: Out of kilter (AMISS), but, ironically, the [Mischievous Norse god] LOKI helped me set things right. If I knew who Johnny OTIS was, I forgot (32A: R&B pioneer Johnny). I know Shuggie OTIS. OTIS Redding. Let's see ... Johnny OTIS ... oh, I know this song ... from "Grease," of all places:

I just remarked recently that I didn't know SAAB was defunct. It may be bygone as a car, but it's still running strong in crosswords, clearly (53A: "Born from jets" automaker). CRESC. is not great fill, though, to its credit, it is much better than "dimin." (which I've never seen in a grid, to my knowledge) (9D: Dimin.'s opposite, in music).

OK, I think I'm gonna peek at the RNC now and see if any part of it is at all watchable. I think I know the answer ... but I can't stay away. It's like a scab I'm compelled to pick.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Anonymous 12:10 AM  

    Mitt Romney, the scab we're commited to picking.

    Republican 2012!

    JFC 12:21 AM  

    @Rex - Didn't know SAAB was defunct? Too current? I know you complain about too old.

    This was a very nice puzzle, I'm sorry it took so long (what, 50 seconds longer?) for @Rex to solve it.

    LA to AL. Scrabble squared. Simple, elegant, creative.

    Like his father Tony rocks....


    jae 12:25 AM  

    Easy-medium for me.  Not bad for a reverse the letters theme.  Pretty smooth grid (I'm ignoring RRR, BSMT, and AGFA) even with the crosswordese.  Very nice/zippy long downs.   No revealer so it's not clear if I'm missing something.  Perhaps a nod to the Yankee's league?

    Only erasure: coVY for BEVY.

    Only WTF: AGFA which could be a problem if you don't know FAKIR.

    For a defunct car co. SAAB seems to be hanging in there.  Wasn't that the stinky car Seinfeld tried to get rid of?

    Pete 12:35 AM  

    Shuggie Otis is Johnny Otis's son. Actually, he also is Johnny Otis.

    OK, since Blogger wouldn't take my simple, nice comment, here goes.

    I didn't like this, at all. Seriously, laptop covers? Which ones, the stick on ones with pictures of pink unicorns, or the fuzzy knit ones ones? Which one am I, someone who's not a 12yo girl, supposed to be aware of?

    Is a "SMARTY" a different form of OWIE", i.e. something that hurts? Because that's the only way 'A real smarty" translates to NO DOPE.

    Tony better hope I get this captcha right, or I'm going off on a docking station on the stereo.

    Evan 12:48 AM  

    PALIN'S INDIAN is a pretty funny image, and slightly disturbing at the same time. That alone should keep you up at night watching the RNC, @Rex.

    I'd put this on the Easy-Medium side because, even though I came up empty on the first four theme entries on my way down the grid, the rest fell easily once I saw what was going on with FALK JACKET. I had the same difficulty coming up with NO DOPE, and GOOSEFLESH was not coming to mind without several crosses, but I was helped out by a couple of long fill-in-the-blank answers (OSMOSIS and PARLOR; the former was far tougher, as I wanted something like DOING or TRYING, even though neither was long enough).

    JFC 1:11 AM  

    To my compadre Z - Isaac is a blessing in two respects. First, it will help elevate the waters in the Mississippi River which has an enormous amount of commercial traffic that needed the elevation. Second it will provide much needed rain to the Midwest to help the farmers with their corn, soybean and other crops....


    Rube 1:48 AM  

    I couldn't let this one go by without commenting... ALPTOPCOVERS ???? NODOPE ????

    I had no problem with GOOSEFLESH, SAAB, & AGFA, but some of the other fill is terrible... EHS, RRR, BSMT... well maybe that's not too bad of a list, much of the rest is just the usual overworked crosswordeese.

    Still, loved FALKJACKET and PALINSINDIAN. The other theme answers i'll give a pass.

    PANACHE is great.

    chefwen 2:01 AM  

    I was very slow getting out of the gate and it took me way too long to catch the theme. Didn't help that my first fill was 8D with mensan, beep! Had LOKI at 19A that saved me for Askew but it didn't save me from AtIlt, beep! Sour before TART at 62A, beep! I could go on, but I see many of you are nodding off. Finally got the puppy done but if wasn't without a struggle. Totally agree with our leaders rating.

    andera caral michelas 2:36 AM  

    i liked wondering more what prompted the puzzle than the puzzle itself.
    Like did Tony misread FLAKJACKET one day and thought what else can I come up with?
    Tony is NODOPE.
    But I am so blinded by my adoration of Mr. Orbach that I can't comment coherently on the puzzle at this time. Maybe LATERON.

    Eejit 2:54 AM  

    I found this one kind of tough, took me about half an hour. What is the PALINSINDIAN one about? Not sure what it has to do with cigars.

    Saab is still somewhat in the news as GM is being sued by Stryker over the whole thing. I think it's GM anyway. Disappointed you didn't have a MIRACLEBRA pic in your writeup.

    Anonymous 4:32 AM  

    I'm confused? I had to rewrite several answers and reenter several more (FAKIR, HOPE) as I tried to figure out where the "flip" was, which I got at SALVETRADE. But it is that yes/no/maybe so tension that made this puzzle so enjoyable. I'm beginning to like the puzzles that slow @Rex and his instant solve, don't-need-to-read- the- clues- attitude better.
    I like the puzzles that test a breadth of knowledge and many of the literature references @Rex doesn't "like" as an English major, I, a science wonk with a liberal arts background, actually have a fuzzy memory of. It's the digging for that old, lurking knowledge that makes me start my day with the NYT puzzle and stretch the "little grey cells".
    Excellent workout this morning, Tony! Thanks!

    syndy 4:33 AM  

    I had LOOSE instead of GOOSE and did not like where that was going. I never could figure out the theme maybe because I started with mauna LOA and didn't fix the FALLJACKET.I usually like Mr. Orbach's work but this one just puzzled me.I malapoped SWAY at 28 down but needed to change that after 65 across.oh and bugsy SEGAL was my first choice so more than challenging

    Unknown 5:52 AM  

    Back from a wonderful week in Lake George where the weather was pristine, but the Wifi....not so. Have been catching up on my puzzles and Rex blogs.

    I have never heard of a Flak Jacket...know Peter Falk of course, however. My Dad spent his Sunday eveings in the 70s watching Columbo, McCloud, MacMillan and Wife and Hec Ramsey....unless the Yankees were on. As there was only ONE television in the house, that's what I watched, too.

    Anyway, wanted beige overcoat to fit in there, but it was Falk jacket that gave me the theme.

    Overall, I liked it. I don't solve for speed, just pleasure.

    Z 7:19 AM  

    EHS? aHS? uHS? The EV in EVAC were my last letters.

    Like @Evan, it took me to Peter FALK to figure out what was going on. This made it a primarily south to north solve for me. This probably helped a little since GOOSE bumps is the phrase I know, but I had FLESH in place so the GOOSE was cooked.

    @Eejit - Wooden Indians are a thing associated with cigars and cigar shops. Plains Indians are the tribes that lived on the Great Plains. Do the switcheroo and we get PALIN'S INDIAN outside her Wasila Cigar Shop. Apparently she was not considered worthy of delivering the immortal words, "We deserve a candidate that doesn't pander." That was all the scab picking I could take.

    LOAM is not something I associate with Nursery Bags. Foam would work for me. So would LOAd. But not LOAM. Now it's time to do a LOAd of captcha.

    Anonymous 7:32 AM  

    LOAM (rich soil) is found in nurseries (garden centers).

    John V 7:37 AM  

    Well, I got it okay, more medium/easy here. But could not parse the theme until I came here. N and NE a bit tricky. So, no payoff. Blah. Cruciverbal interruptus.

    Why are underwater plants thirsty? Inquiring minds want to know! Maybe Tony meant underwater PANTS, next to MIRACLEBRA. Yeah, that's probably it.

    Milford 7:54 AM  

    Wednesdays are the days I probably have the widest swing in solving times, and while I feel like I struggled a bit on this, my time was very medium.

    I, too, struggled with ALP TOP COVERS, I think I was trying to find a way of altering hip-hop into ALP TOP. Still not sure lap top covers are actual things.

    THIRSTY assigned to plants feel a little too anthropomorphic for me, but I know it's a legit definition.

    I probably would have DNFed if I hadn't asked my husband early on what AGFA was. Crossing FAKIR made that brutal.

    I've learned a lot about SAAB this week.

    Good workout Wednesday!

    exaudio 7:54 AM  

    Sunday-level entertainment without the long slog feeling--I thought it was great.
    I'm already upset about sending my child to college, so I will try to avoid watching the convention, which would put me over the edge.

    Cathyat40 8:13 AM  

    When this puzzle was good, it was very good (FALKJACKET, PALINSINDIAN); and when it was bad it was horrid (HYATTS, LEES, PSIS, ALBS). The RNC was just horrid.

    @syndy: Hand up for considering lOOSE_____; and being squeamish about where it was heading.

    captcha is impossible to read today, ergo I must be a robot

    Glimmerglass 8:13 AM  

    @JohnV: That's underwaterED plants. A bit anthropomorphic, it's true, but it's what my wife says when her house plants look droopy. Loved FALK JACKET, SALVE TRADE, and PALIN's INDIAN. ALTER ON! seems too short, relative to the other theme answers. "Laptop covers" as the pun is really lame. About as good a Wednesday as one could expect.

    Unknown 8:13 AM  

    Thanks Rex...what a great way to start a day...The Motels, Paul Simon and Hand Jive. Three different "eras" in my life all distinctly related to each of them (pre-adolescence; newly married; and young son). Great fun.

    jackj 8:29 AM  

    Before determining the theme gimmick, ALTERON was the center answer and it triggered a margin note that it was “cute but weak”, then a review after finishing the puzzle showed that an L-A switch was the theme and the margin note had to be revised to acknowledge it as “cute and first-rate”.

    Some nice, tight theme bits from Tony who, in addition to the five “official” theme clues sneaked in two unacknowledged ringers, ALLOVER which, of course, morphs into LA LOVER and ALBS, otherwise known as LABS.

    Lots to like in the fill side of the puzzle but a few distractions as well. Worst first, ADA, LEES, RRR, REF, PSIS, BSMT and ELO, even TEA, didn’t add much to the puzzle but CAVEATS, OSMOSIS, MIRACLEBRA, PANACHE, FAKIR and GOOSEFLESH were nothing short of effervescent and easily made up for the weak links.

    Another keeper from the talented Tony O.

    joho 8:33 AM  

    I got the theme at PALINSINDIAN which let me see FALKJACKET pretty quickly. Most difficult to get was ALTERON but once I did I liked the play on "rock on!" I loved this puzzle because it wasn't too easy and is so original and very scrabbly, just a Q short of a pangram.

    Crazily the most difficult part was AtIlt to AlISt to AMISS.

    @John V, LOL at your missread! @Milford and @Glimmerglass, since I actually talk to my plants of course I would think they get THIRSTY!

    Loved it, Tony O, thank you!

    Chromega 8:36 AM  

    Same error as Syndy with FALLJACKET. Dick Van Dyke as a killer photographer on "Columbo" - how could I have missed that answer?

    Oh, AGFA, please bring back, or license someone to make, Brovira paper. Darkroom just isn't the same without it.

    Didn't get the theme until coming here - of course, the error contributed.

    John V 8:53 AM  

    So, the rule is to actually read the clue? Even though I got the correct answer with a mis-read? What's up with that?

    You're sure it's not under-watered PANTS?

    Wake up, JohnV!

    Tita 8:59 AM  

    Liked Mr. Orbach's ouvre today, in spite of APLTOPCOVERS.
    Great: Learn by OSMOSIS, "As is" nad others CAVEAT, alliterative Pizazz/PANACHE, Alien's subj. a cool clue for that xwordese.

    A SAAB story 3 days in a row? Really? Or is it just me skipping the occasional puzzle these days. Is it National Remember Saab week?
    Husband owned 2. He always liked that they started out making jets, so this clueing was a gimme.

    Really hated to see her-whose-name-should-never-be-mentioned glorified once again.

    In case none of you have noticed, Capchas have become insane, btw.

    Oh - SanFranMan - they are NOT case-sensitive...at least tehy have that going for them.

    orangeblossomspecial 9:01 AM  

    This cute yodeler appeared on tv a few years ago.

    The acme of songs about cigar-store indians was Hank Williams' 'Kawliga'.

    mac 9:16 AM  

    Very nice, twisty Wednesday! I had the whole thing filled in but had to come to old Rex's to find out about the theme...

    Only write-over was moles for Moran at 22D. And I thought the clue was so clever.

    Osmosis is how I know anything at all about baseball and football, and Agfa reminds me of the fotoshop with the big sign my father took me to on Saturdays when I was little.

    The captchas are bad, but the other blogger requests are worse.

    Carola 9:21 AM  

    I liked this one a lot. The theme made me laugh - ALTER ON! - and the long down answers are great - love PANACHE. Also like GOOSEFLESH right next to ALL OVER and the AHOY! for the TAR.

    @John V - I love your idea of the underwater pants as the counterpart to the uplifting MIRACLE BRA!

    GILL I. 9:27 AM  

    I didn't really fancy this one. Had lots of errors - agra/raker. Don't you rake someone over the coals? OSMOSeS looks fine to me since I can't spell. Had yoke before AXLE and didn't know HEXA. I've never heard of a MIRACLE BRA but I remember when I first got one I thought "It's a miracle!"
    One day, I'll know the difference between oleo and olio. I guess I'm one big dope.

    retired_chemist 9:32 AM  

    Rex may nave been more right than he let on about "Weird Al" Yankovic being involved with the theme. Turns our Weird Al grew up in the LA suburbs of Downey and Lynwood, so AL from LA seems a good title (if Wednesdays had them).

    Seemed easy, but my time was more like Thursday, so maybe Rex's rating is right.

    AGFA was my first fill. After LOKI, FAKIR was obvious. Theme answers made me laugh once I got them. ALTERON sound like the fundamental tailoring particle, kind of a TACHYON with thread.

    32A was Johnny CASH to start, even though R&B seemed wrong, wrong, wrong.

    Agree MIRACLE BRA needed a photo....

    Thanks, Tony. Good one.

    chefbea 9:37 AM  

    Tough puzzle. Got all but the northeast. Didn't know agfa, loki, and Fakir. Had askew for amiss.

    Got the theme at Falk jacket.

    Sue McC 9:52 AM  

    Finished in record time, but eeww...NODOPE? ALPTOPCOVERS? Yuck. I didn't realize the themes were all AL/LA switches until I read Rex's comments. The good news is I'll be spending the rest of the day randomly yelling out "I love to YODEL!"

    dk 10:30 AM  


    Turn the sound off when watching the RNC, cue up The Who's Won't be Fooled Again. For a lasting effect use a continuous loop tape (not VHS or EIGHTTRACK).


    After the storm drive through the ninth ward in NOLA to get a sense of how effective any government can be at fixing anything. Fly to Haiti if you are unclear. This fall ignore the rhetoric and vote your conscience.


    I thought it was Mauna Lea and had Fall Jacket. DOH!
    And, my PO is sold out of Homer Simpson stamps.

    🌟🌟 (2 Stars) Kinda lame for a Wednesday. I got a chortle out of MIRACLEBRA crossing with TART and PALIN. Whatever happened to Levi and Todd?

    Sandy K 10:31 AM  

    Finished the puzzle and stared at it for quite a while...
    Altho some think the theme had PANACHE, I had no idea.

    Then, by OSMOSIS or a MIRACLE(bra) it came to me!!
    I'm NO DOPE- there's something AMISS with SALVETRADE...It's SLAVETRADE!

    Then theme became ROSY ALLOVER!!

    quilter1 10:47 AM  

    Finished but never saw the theme until I came here. Enjoyed it anyway. A slow start at my house today, got to hurry. And, YES, the captchas are getting worse and worse.

    Cheerio 10:48 AM  

    I loved this! It's great to have such chewy cluing (misdirects) so early in the week. The misdirects seemed easy enough to qualify for a Wednesday. Nice!

    Two Ponies 10:49 AM  

    Agree with the rating but that's a good thing on a Wed.
    Like Rex I have never had a stereo that needed a docking station. Isn't that more of an iPod accessory? That device is hardly a stereo.
    The lap top cover was strained but the other theme answers were good esp. Alter On! The image of the old guy with glasses and a measuring tape hanging around his neck being cheered on ala rock on is so silly.
    @ John V, I misread that clue at first too.

    hazel 11:27 AM  

    Definitely on the challenging side for me. Took a couple/three theme answers before the theme emerged. How does one even think up such a theme??

    Like learn by OSMOSIS tho i started out with example.

    Alarm clocks nowadays have docking stations - so do newer stereos. Its called technology, dad.

    The Torbach shortz tribute puzzle is very funny, i thought - if you find you need a little more tony o in your day...

    Sparky 11:56 AM  

    Found this difficult at the start. I had the ALs in ALP and ALTERON but it took a while to see the reversals. Then it fell into place.

    A few blank spots in NW and MidW. Should have looked dodeca up in the dictionary. Interpreted This and That as a mixumgatherum not two things. Good clue.

    PALINSINDIANS and FALKJACKET best answers. I am not disappointed in Tony, I am disappointed in me. Boo hoo.

    mac 1:25 PM  

    @Glimmerglass: are you from Templeton?;-)

    Acme 1:39 PM  

    Thank you for bringing that up!
    For those of you who missed it, there is a Will Shortz bday tributz page that Orange generously agreed to host.

    You can find a dozen or so fun puzzles for Will, including Tony's uber-delightful one (and one by our own joho!) plus a couple by me and a Sunday -sized one by a super pac right here:

    And to Tony I add another "congratualtions!"!

    Doc John 2:03 PM  

    Cue Mick Jagger saying to Dan Aykroyd as Tom Snyder, "push. up. B-ra."
    That is all.

    Unknown 2:06 PM  

    I found this one tough for a Wednesday. Didn't follow how "plains" indian can be substituted for "wooden" indian - which is what I always thought those cigar store statues were called.

    Never heard of AGFA and was iffy on FAKIR, so that took a while to fill in.

    @exaudio - ditto on the kids going off to college and the RNC being too much to take!

    edmcan 2:14 PM  

    Tough, but fun. Alteron made me grit my teeth, though.

    jberg 3:25 PM  

    Now that they've found the Higgs boson, the ALTERON is the next target for the subatomic physics community - even though it's already the name of some weird imported car.

    Seriously though, for me it worked as a revealer - with ALTER right there in the center I realized that I had to alter something, after which I was in LA-LA land, and solved the puzzle ALLA breve.

    As for NO DOPE, I don't get the griping - if you're NO DOPE, then you're a real smarty! Or was that only true in the Midwest? I do think I've heard it since I moved to Boston.

    Judging from the comments, Barack Obama should try to make crossword-solving a qualification for the right to vote. Then he'd win in a landslide.

    B.H.O. 3:35 PM  

    @jberg - only in OH & FL

    sanfranman59 3:58 PM  

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

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

    Wed 13:00, 11:48, 1.10, 75%, Medium-Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Wed 7:02, 5:55, 1.19, 90%, Challenging

    @Tita ... thanks for the tip about the captchas not being case-sensitive. I didn't know that.

    Loren Muse Smith 4:31 PM  

    Because of the AGFA/FAKIR cross, this was a dnf for me. Great puzzle, though, and I really liked the wacky theme entries. Scrabbly, too – one Q and mom could have talked about this one over her bridge game.

    I noticed, as did @jackj, ALBS and ALLOVER and thought, hmmm, what if. . .?

    My THIRSTY plant was underwater, too, and I just shrugged it off, thinking yet again that I know nothing about gardening and plants. LOAM. Right.

    I’m NO dummy and get GOOSE bumps, but I buy both those entries.

    I keep rounding the corner in the southwest and seeing MIRACLE BRAY and wondering what that would sound like.

    When I’m alone in the car and singing to the soundtrack from The Sound of Music, I sound just like Julie Andrews in “One Little Goat” – yodeling and all. Seriously.

    And speaking of Austria. . .PARLOR – I had a friend who had an Austrian woman living with her family for a while, and this woman’s English wasn’t that great. Apparently she was afraid and jumpy when left alone at night, and several times she called 911 to whisper, “There’s a PARLOR in my living room.” She was wanting to say “prowler.” I don’t know why I’ve always remembered that.

    Thanks, Mr. Orbach. Fun one.

    Bob Snead 6:56 PM  

    Wow, did not get this.

    Anonymous 7:34 PM  

    Sound of Music song-
    "The Lonely Goatherd"

    Loren Muse Smith 7:48 PM  

    @Anon 7:34pm -At work, I had typed "goatherd" but my laptop at work wanted The Lonely Goat. So I changed it.

    Here at home, my laptop likes The Lonely Goatherd.

    Either way, I still sound like Julie Andrews. Seriously. ;-)

    retired_chemist 8:58 PM  

    Did anyone else notice that 10D can be parsed AL LOVER, which defines someone who loves the theme.

    hazel 9:14 PM  

    Tony O. checked in over at the crossword fiend site - PALINSINDIAN was the seed. Who'd a thunk?

    Also - @tita - i echo @sfman's thanks for that captcha hint re lowere/uppercase.

    sanfranman59 10:02 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 6:02, 6:49, 0.89, 7%, Easy
    Tue 7:16, 8:56, 0.81, 5%, Easy (8th lowest median solve time of 166 Tuesdays)
    Wed 12:56, 11:48, 1.10, 75%, Medium-Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 3:32, 3:41, 0.96, 32%, Easy-Medium
    Tue 3:58, 4:39, 0.85, 7%, Easy
    Wed 6:54, 5:55, 1.17, 88%, Challenging

    luisa massim 10:21 PM  

    Don't pick, Rex. You'll bleed.

    Tita 10:50 PM  

    @sanfranman, @hazel...don't mention it! My philosophy - "Blessed are the lazy, for they shall find the easiest way."
    (btw, I was doubting whether those blessed capchas had started requiring an accurate number to be entered, but no...you can still totally ignore the number, but either they have truly gotten harder, or we have all somehow been replaced by robot versions of ourselves. I'd better go ask puzzle husband if I've been acting strange...)

    Oh - and of course we all love your stats - we just don't say it enough.

    @lms- great stories lately.

    @Evan - congratulations!

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    xwd_fiend 6:17 AM  

    Commenting so late that I trail in after the spam ...

    Thoroughly enjoyed this as one of my occasional forays into NYT puzzles.

    Solved correctly without too much of a struggle once I corrected GOOSEBUMPS, and the theme was one I could share with the non-xwd friends who happened to be on the same train.

    Spacecraft 12:23 PM  

    Well, I am astounded. Following the end of last week when I went 0-for-3 and was ready to don the duncecap, here comes one rated m-c that I thought was a walk in the park!

    And not only easy, but fun to do. There was plenty of fresh stuff and scrabbly letters--enough to overcome the occasional bad fill.

    PALINSINDIAN: it's almost too easy to get a laugh with just her name; still this was pretty funny.

    Mystery Theater had me glued to the chair every third week; never liked the Weaver or Hudson vehicles, but oh, man, when Columbo came on I was there! Maybe it was the scripts, I don't know, but every episode was great! Thanks for that memory!

    Best fun was trying to predict what the theme title would be. I thought maybe: To Live and Die in AL.

    Anonymous 1:18 PM  

    Same here mac. I finished it but didn't get it.

    connie in seattle 2:33 PM  

    We need a new reality show: "So You Think You Can Yodel".

    Ginger 2:34 PM  

    Oh how I wish I could spell better. My only write over was Basm for BSMT, that said, this puzz was plenty crunchy. I was held up for a while with the theme entries that crossed TORT. Got myself another cuppa and then it fell in.

    PALINSINDIAN reminds us here in syndiland, that the first debate is tonite. Important time in the history of our country.

    Dirigonzo 2:40 PM  

    My underwatered plants were wilting for quite a while, and as usual I needed all of the crosses for a couple of short answers - today it was LEES and ALBS (and EHS, but that's not even a word). When the clue is Mauna ____, I always wait for the crosses to produce the right choice. Loved ALTERON as an answer but totally missed the theme connection until I got there.

    DMGrandma 3:05 PM  

    Even tho I had PALINSAINDIAN the la/al switch didn't register with me until I realized that PSATS, which didn't exist in my school days, must be taken by Juniors, not Seniors. Once Peter's garb was uncovered, the rest fell into place. Some of the material was a a bit strained for me. Has anyone ever told a taylor to ALTERON?

    Coming off a major heat wave here, wish all my West Coast syndies a happy breathing spell!

    rain forest 3:36 PM  

    Really enjoyed this one. "Alter on!"--actually laughed. Had Tony made the clue for 23A "yodeling tribute band's finest repertoire", it might have been more palatable, but it was fine as is. Though I was never stumped at any section, this took me awhile, but was still fun.

    As a Canadian, I shouldn't comment on the RNC which of course now is long over, but thinking of the bimbo from Alaska fofur years ago, and now Mitt Romney, I pray Americans get it right.

    Dirigonzo 6:02 PM  

    @DMG -ALTERON has to be taken with a grain of salt (what does that mean, anyway?) but it's theme counterpart "later on" is definitely a common enough phrase.

    @Rain Forest - If we don't "get it right" I'm starting a campaign to get Maine to become part of Canada. I've always thought that we should be in the Atlantic Time Zone anyway.

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