Alpine wind / SUN 12-16-12 / Python in Jungle Book / Psychology pioneer Alfred / Drama set at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ad agency / Funny Fields / Inspector in Elizabeth George mysteries / Antigonae composer Carl / Bygone bookstore chain / Steve 1980 Olympic track champion / Sacha Baron Cohen persona / Feminist Germaine /

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Constructor: Matt Ginsberg

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Hearing Double" — familiar phrases have two parts replaced with homophones, creating wacky phrases, clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: Steve OVETT (13D: Steve ___, 1980 Olympic track champion) —
Stephen Michael James "Steve" Ovett OBE (born 9 October 1955), is a former middle distance runner from England. He was gold medalist in the 800 metres at the 1980 Olympic Games in MoscowU.S.S.R., and set world records for 1500 metres and the mile run. To this day, he holds the UK record for 2 miles (3,219 m), which he set in 1978. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is an interesting puzzle with a crazy-dense amount of theme—12 answers, 2 of which run right through 3 others. Normally, I wouldn't recommend trying to run *any* answer through three theme answers—"rebuild the grid," I'd say. "You're just asking for trouble, locking yourself in so tight." And while it's true that some trouble does, in fact, ensue, all things considered, the endeavor turned out reasonably well. I did groan a lot at first. That NW is loaded with partials not-so-nice fill and something called NODOSE (40A: Knobby). But once I got out of that section, things seemed to get at least a little bit better. As is usual with this type of theme, the more outlandish and Wacky the theme answer, the more I tended to like it. "C'EST GOOD, KNIGHT," is completely absurd in every way and I love it. LES IS MOORE, also good, though MOORE is not (as far as I know) a homophone of "more." I have no idea how "made of metal" qualifies as a valid base phrase any more than "made of [any material]" does. Actually, I think "made of stone" is probably valid—more valid, at any rate, than "made of metal." So that was puzzling. But the other theme answers work fine for me.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Souvenir from the Petrified Forest? (WOOD YOU MINED)
  • 31A: Agreement from the Gipper's coach? (AYE OF KNUTE)
  • 29A: What randy bucks do? (NEED THE DOE)
  • 42A: Plucky housekeeper? (MAID OF METTLE)
  • 56A: "Well done, Sir Lancelot," in Franglais? ("C'EST GOOD, KNIGHT")
  • 64A: Soothsayer's shoelace problem? (KNOT FOR PROPHET) 
  • 78A: Shorten a Bar Mitzvah by 50%? (HALVE THE RITE)
  • 93A: Polar explorer, after getting religion? (BYRD OF PRAY) — ick to this; no such phrase as "of pray"—even wackiness is beholden to basic grammar
  • 95A: Tagline for the biopic "Dudley" starring bandleader Brown? ("LES IS MOORE")
  • 101A: Where Macy's keeps the wedding dresses? (AISLE OF WHITE)
  • 3D: Book about the writing style of the Mongols? (PROSE AND KHANS)
  • 54D: Abdicated? (THREW THE REIGN)

Mystery answers today included FOEHN (which I know I've seen in the grid before, but that didn't help) (88A: Alpine wind) and CORONAL (which is inferrable, but still, yikes) (16D: Like the ring in an eclipse). Totally baffled by names I don't recall ever seeing before, including KENAI (39D: Alaska's ___ Peninsula), OVETT, and LYNLEY (87D: Inspector in Elizabeth George mysteries). Took me forEver to get PROT., which is about the ugliest abbrev. I've ever seen. Are there really other EDDYS besides guitarist Duane? If you're going to pluralize a name, there really oughta be (apparently there are at least two; comment retracted). My favorite non-theme answer of the day is probably EX-ROYAL, as it seems both half-made-up and exactly right. Had three major missteps during the solving process, the first of which I know most of you will have had as well: JELL-O for ASPIC (1A: Food that jiggles), NITWIT for DIMWIT (74A: Chucklehead), and B.DALTON for BORDERS (83D: Bygone bookstore chain).

You can get a good crossword-related proper noun lesson in this grid. KAA is not that KAA-mon, but he raises his snaky head from time to time (59A: Python in "The Jungle Book"). SOON-YI is a useful "I"-ending 6-letter name, and one of the few names today that was a flat-out gimme (2D: André and Mia's adoptive daughter). You see a lot of Tolkien creatures in the grid, but you don't often see the shorthand for his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (LOTR) (38A: Tolkien trilogy, to fans). You do often see ORFF (94D: "Antigonae" composer Carl), whom I often confuse with ARNE (four-letter composers whose names aren't BACH get jumbled in my head). Before Borat (another commonish crossword name), the best know [Sacha Baron Cohen persona] was ALI G (two words, not one), and he's in crosswords enough for you to want to remember him. And then there's Maude. I mean GREER. Germaine GREER (76D: Feminist Germaine). Whom I kind of associate with Maude because both are icons of 70s-era feminism. Mostly I just like saying "And then there's Maude."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:15 AM  

Whacked out wackos that like wacky clues for wacky entries will be rolling around like hogs in the muck after this one. They got the extra special slop today.

They can have it. The only good things for me with this one are that I finished it in a good time and the dart that I threw on the OLAND / ALIOTO cross was miraculously correct.

jae 12:45 AM  

Mostly easy except for the NE which took me a while to unravel.   AWOL did not leap to mind, I blocked on ALBERTO (I hate when that happens), OVETT was WOE, and LASH was not obvious. So....easy-tough corner.

The puzzle was kinda meh.  Nothing tricky or amusing.  Didn't love it didn't hate it.  So, meh....

retired_chemist 12:54 AM  

Other EDDYS? How about NELSON EDDY? Better known than Duane in my age group.

Medium - challenging here. A lot of fun throughout, esp. the theme answers.

Thanks, Mr. Ginsberg.

chefwen 1:44 AM  

I loved this one and I'd be hard put to pick a favorite. Thought they were all fresh, funny and clever. I guess, seeing as how I bake a lot, NEED THE DOE has to come out on top, CEST GOODNIGHT a close second.

Thank you for another fine puzzle Mr. Ginsberg, just what we needed a little humor to lift the spirits and you delivered.

syndy 2:53 AM  

definitely C'EST GOOD KNIGHT was my favorite-I laughed out loud.Yup rolling in it indeed!Jello went in but came right back out when unsurprisingly the down wouldn't fall.The ne was the hardest and last-OVETT/PROT didn't help.Lynley and Borders were gimmes-so a little easier than Rex.

paulsfo 4:38 AM  

I too had jello, then switched to squid to allow sweats into 1-D. Eventually figured that out.
Never did figure out NODOSE.
Liked NEEDTHEDOE, though I think the clue is a bit tortured; is needing something you (or bucks) *do*?
Thought the two most clever bits were were the clue for AWOL and the answer KNOTFORPROPHET.

Doris 5:32 AM  

Mary Baker EDDY

The Bard 5:44 AM  

Macbeth , Act IV, scene I

ALL: Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch: Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Aye of Knute and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

ALL: Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Bob Kerfuffle 6:25 AM  

NODOSE was new to me (so was OVETT, but proper names don't count).

Nice puzzle, and for once, thanks to KENAI, I got KARAT right the first time through.

C. Ross Word 6:51 AM  

Fun puzzle with amusing theme. Agree with @jae about the NE; needed LAVA to fall to open that section up. @Rex: I believe 93A refers to the base phrase "Bird of prey." All in all, time well-spent.

OTD 7:28 AM  

This was a fun puzzle for me. Fire burned and cauldron bubbled in the NE, but finally got it.

Loved AYE OF KNUTE, and KNOT FOR PROPHET, but CEST GOOD KNIGHT got the biggest chuckle.

Anonymous 7:38 AM  

"need the doe" should correctly be "need the dough" to be c/w the theme

Glimmerglass 8:16 AM  

Loved seeing SOON-YI crossing WOODY. This puzzle was a lovely groaner, every theme answer a double pun. I didn't care for C'EST GOOD, KNIGHT, but I liked AISLE OF WHITE and AYR OF KNUTE. Of course I started with Jell-o, but rescued it at once with CAY. Funny, yesterday, I thought the puzzle was hard, and Rex called it easy-medium. Today, I found it on the easy side, and Rex found it medium-challenging.

Anonymous 8:38 AM  

Duane Allman

Stephen 8:47 AM  

I'll add my voice to the chorus of happy hogs.
Yes, I fell for JELLO. But for me the NE was the killer because I confidently wrote in ANNULAR for 16D (like the ring in an eclipse), and when it crossed with KARAT I considered it a lock.

Anonymous: The phrase for 29A is "knead the dough".

I have seen PROT out there in the wild world; I have never seen ACR anywhere except WS-edited cw puzzles.

NODOSE was new to me, but being a sometimes-absorber of botanica I enjoy learning words that might be handy.

As for ALBERTO, I just *wish* I could forget officials of the Bush era.

Unknown 9:03 AM  

I found this one cute, and definitely the easiest of the past several days. Never broke A SWEAT.

Anonymous 9:24 AM  

Lots of sources report that Knute Rockne pronounced the K in his first name, saying "ku-noot". He was born in Norway, where that is the proper pronunciation.

So when it comes to a person's name, and the NY Times puzzle, should the incorrect common pronunciation be used, or should it be the pronunciation of the person being named?

Shamik 9:36 AM  

The old ad line is that "there's always room for JELLO." Not today. So add me to the crowd that knows that Jello jiggles and ASPIC...well, I think maybe I've seen ASPIC a handful of times in my life, but Jello is ubiquitous.

Loved this solidly medium Sunday puzzle. Except for NODOSE. NODOSE? Really?

Matt Ginsberg 10:04 AM  

As far as PROT goes (I have no excuse for ACR), I had originally clued it as [Ambiguous 2001 role for Kevin Spacey] since K-PAX is one of my favorite movies. I was actually *glad* to see it in the puzzle! Another clue I was sad to lose was [The end of pasta?] for INI. Such is life, I guess.

Any time Rex doesn't hate a puzzle, I feel that it's a success. So some solace after traveling to Louisville to see my favorite Oregon Ducks lose to Texas in the national championship volleyball game.

joho 10:04 AM  

Yes, jello would've been a bouncier, juicier start than ASPIC.

@Glimmerglass, WOODY crossing SOONYI jumped out at me immediately!

@C.Ross Word, that's how I see it, too, as "bird of prey."

As always with this type of puzzle the theme answers either amuse you or they don't. From the comments todays so far, I'd say Matt was successful at tickling solvers' funny bones.

joho 10:08 AM  

@Matt, "The end of pasta?" cute!

joho 10:11 AM  

Odd coincidence: we have LESISMOORE here and the title of the LA Times puzzle is, "Less is More." (By frequent commenter, Garth Bain.)

3 and out.

jackj 10:15 AM  

When you launch your puzzle with “Food that jiggles” you should realize that you run the risk of having a large segment of the solving population heading for friendlier pastures as unpleasant memories of colonoscopy prep come roaring back to them and the fact that you’ve clued it as ASPIC and not JELLO means nothing for the affected solver’s discomfort zone.

But, if one stays with it they’ll get a chance to chew over more substantial fodder as Matt Ginsberg gives us a dozen or so puns, two of them in each phrase, starting out with the clever AYEOFKNUTE that makes a play on the legendary Notre Dame coach’s name, (inspired by “Eye of Newt”) and another that, punning on Sir Lancelot, reminds us that George often said, CESTGOODKNIGHT, Gracie.

After the initial enthusiasm for the theme, as they continued to unfold in the puzzle, many of them became slightly annoying when they seemed to be trying too hard to be clever and by the end there was a definite hostility towards them when, for example, “Bird of Prey” was used to manufacture a pun playing on the Arctic explorer’s religion as BYRDOFPRAY, with boos and hisses attendant.

The fill gave us a little to like, AFOOT and COMMUNE; a few to dislike, LOTR, ADDN and ASKERS and a few unknowns that are best remaining so, FOEHN, KENAI and NODOSE and a host of proper names that one liked or not depending on their recognizability.

My favorite in that regard was LYNLEY for Inspector Lynley of Scotland Yard, known to all fans as Lord LYNLEY, the 8th Earl of Asherton, lead character in the wonderful series of British mystery novels by Elizabeth George.

(Ms. George is a California raised American author, who writes surprisingly good, complicated British fiction, with the crowning glory being that most of her novels have been produced by the BBC for their “Mystery!” television series).

This puzzle took a lot of effort to construct so thanks are due Matt, but I’m agnostic on the result.

Carola 10:18 AM  

Enjoyed this one a lot. Got AYE OF KNUTE first, and that really made me laugh - in part because I'd misunderstood the puzzle's title to mean a rhyme within the answer. But this was a lot funnier. Also was delighted when I saw how STG wasn't "beST G..." but C'EST GOOD KNIGHT.

I'm with @Rex on "medium challenging," due to a bunch of "no idea"'s (OVETT, OLAND, KENAI, NODOSE...), and cluing that seemed to me to be more tricky or vague than usual for a Sunday. Was fun to puzzle out.

Knew FOEHN from spending time in Germany. New to me was the idea that a wind can make you feel ill: the Föhn is blamed for problems with the heart and circulatory system, headaches, insomnia, restlessness, nervousness, difficulty concentrating, and more.

@glimmerglass - Awesome on the SOONYI + WOODY cross!

@Qvert - Thanks for your response early this morning. Look forward to seeing you more.

Charley 10:28 AM  

Very clever theme, well executed. Challenging but doable.

Bookdeb 10:47 AM  

@ CRossWord, @joho: I think Rex got the root "bird of prey" and was objecting to the pun. "of pray" is grammatically incorrect; one can be a person of person of prayer but not of pray. That's just ugh.

Rex Parker 10:56 AM  

Thank you, @bookdeb

PanamaRed 11:12 AM  

Here lies Lester Moore
Four slugs from a .44
No Les, no Moore

Tombstone, AZ, grave marker.

I, too, liked the puzzle.

Anonymous 11:22 AM  

Seed the doe...seemed appropriate...too bad it did not work!

Norm 11:26 AM  

Grammar, shmammar. I love puns, and this was a great puzzle -- including BRYDOFPRAY. You've got to allow some grammatical license to let the constructor pull this one off.

Anonymous 11:27 AM  


Had not heard of either, so was definitely frustrated by this cross.

billocohoes 11:35 AM  

Yes, Knute being essentially the same name as Canute, the old Norse king of England (he of the "command the tide to stop" story) should pronounce the hard K.

Nero Serigala 11:41 AM  

Except for a stretch of the northeast US (roughly from Philadelphia to Boston), 'Moore' and 'more' are homophones for most of North America.

Anonymous 11:54 AM  

Knead the dough

Zygotic 12:03 PM  

Fun fun fun.

Troubles in the NE with OVETT, PROT, EPODE, and LASH (wanted tASe).

Do they still make NODOSE for procrastinating college students? Or was that product No-Doze? NODOSE is close enough to NODulE to make me question ONS and ULNAS (ULNAl would be adjectival maybe?).

captcha is now the street number on a curb. I wonder how the robot that generates these identifies possible numbers.

Cho Da 12:07 PM  


Anonymous 12:15 PM  

re: 37A... how is mayo part of "ANO"?

Sandy K 12:30 PM  

Challenging but punny Sunday...@Norm- agree that "some grammatical license" must be allowed/overlooked.

As much as I enjoyed almost all the puns, I was a tad SORE AT ADDN, ACR, FOEHN, NODOSE, almost naticked by KENAI, KARAT, and INI- could've been cETAI- with cARAT and ItI...and BUSED? Shouldn't that be BUSSED?

Had its PROS AND cons, but always glad when I finish with no mistakes.
Crossing WOODY and SOON-YI takes the cake! Very FOEHN-y!

Anonymous 12:33 PM  

@anon 12:15

mayo is Spanish word for month of May.
Ano is Spanish word for year.

Stephen 12:49 PM  

Yes, sEED THE DOE was one of the things I contemplated too, for a long time. I was resisting all possible endings for ADD_, having never seen any but ADDR (and ADDS). Addendum was jangling around as the clearest gacky possibility, but my cerebrons would not let my fingers put it in. Finally, I had to go with the only double pun available.

Stephen 12:53 PM  

@Nero Serigala: I grew up in various northern provinces outisde of the northeast US, and "moore" rhymed with "moor", almost always until you were told that this particular family was "more". You had to remember it as an exception.

But because the exceptions did exist, I declare the pun legal and unforced.

Anonymous 1:04 PM  

Why is ACR an abbreviation for horizontal?

syndy 1:06 PM  

@z Google earth?..and they identify the numbers by using them as capthas and letting YOU do the work.NODOSE is a perfectly good medical term meaning having nodes-also I have always pronounced Newt with just a hint of a "K"

Brookboy 1:22 PM  

I thought the theme clues and answers were tough, but I enjoyed them once I figured them out.

Like many others, I struggled with the NW corner. It was the last part of the puzzle to fall for me. But I did enjoy 3D: PROSEANDKHANS.

For me the puzzle was more challenging than medium, but I enjoyed it.

@Anonymous: thank you for the explanation of MAYO and ANO. I was having trouble with that one,too, despite two years of high school Spanish (quite a while ago).

Anonymous 2:02 PM  

@anon 1:04

I believe that ACR is abbrev. for ACRoss= horizontal.

retired_chemist 2:06 PM  

@ anon 1:04 -


Bad Hair Day 2:11 PM  

Thank you for an enjoyable puzzle. I only Googled once to get SF mayor's name. Didn't understand the mayo ano thing until I read this blog. Have been to Kenai. Beautiful.
ACR is across for the horizontal abbreviation.

Newbie 2:39 PM  

I had Carat with a C rather than a K, and since I'd never heard of Kenai, Cenai seemed just as plausible. That was my Natick.

David L 2:52 PM  

It's pretty much impossible to find a large set of homophones that everyone will agree on. For, Moore and more are exactly the same, and since Dudley Moore was a Brit, I know he would agree. On the other hand, neither Khans/cons nor halve/have are homonyms in my version of English.

I was disappointed to see MANSE clued as 'stately home.' I know that people who write about real estate in the newspapers have decided that manse is just a short version of mansion -- we saved two letters, whoopee -- but the traditional meaning of manse is a residence for a minister, usually adjacent to a church, and generally a modest dwelling.

Before anyone objects, I checked M-W and it gives the 'stately home' meaning as definition 3. So, another battle lost.

C. Ross Word 2:52 PM  

On occasion, something will be in my wheelhouse that Rex may not know (usually it's the other way around) probably due to our 20+ year age difference. This was not one of those times! I thought it was odd that Rex wouldn't pick up on that pun but commented none-the-less, missing the nuance in Rex's comment. Thanks @bookdeb; sorry Rex for doubting you!

Milford 3:05 PM  

Funny, punny puzzle today. Felt pretty medium for me. Loved PROSE AND KHANS and AISLE OF WHITE. Hand up got contemplating sEED THE DOE.

Anyone else think "Bones next to humeri" should have been ULNAE to stay consistent? That kind of messed me up.

Overall a fun puzzle for a lazy day.

GILL I. 3:30 PM  

I loved this puzzle and happily join some other pigs in the poke.
Favorite Germain GREER quote: "You're only young once, but you can be immature forever."
I'm with @Carola and thought the cluing was a bit devilish. I had to work hard to finish this puzzle but when I got my first AYE OF KNUTE, I knew I would like it.
My biggest problem area was putting in Duchess instead of EXROYAL for poor Fergie. Is she now an exDuchess as well??
This really had to have been a bear to construct but it was worth doing so thank you Matt Ginsberg.

Qvart 3:34 PM  

I often forget to look at the title and jump right in instead, which is what i did with this one.

Didn't take long to figure out the punny theme - first hits were towards the bottom: LES IS MOORE and AISLE OF WHITE. I left the NW for last as I too started off with JELLO. Also, A SWEAT seemed too obvious and a little awkward starting with "A." Once I got over JELLO it all came together pretty well. Went with my normal "short-words-first" strategy, but ended up relying on the themed answers to make progress.

Didn't know many of the names but was able to work them out - OVETT, LYNLEY, ALIOTO (although I didn't ink the "L" completely until I checked with Rex), OLAND, ORFF. Answers that seemed a little meh - AMEER, NODOSE, and ASPIC. Had no idea what FOEHN was but everything else was right and I figured the vowel combination "OE" could pass in an "Alpine" word in place of O-umlaut.

Awkward plurals: ULNAS (I know sticking an "S" on the end of a word is always an option, but my first guess here was ULNAE). Also, making proper names plural never sits well, but EDDYS was my first guess since I know there was a Duane Eddy signature model Guild guitar:"

Anyway, pretty fun puzzle. Took me about 50 minutes so it was somewhat challenging. Had to build some answers little by little and rework some guesses, so it definitely didn't feel like a gimme.

Normally I'm off on weekends and spend time working puzzles and drinking coffee in the morning. I had to work today though so the puzzle was delayed until after 2:00pm - which is like my 5:00pm. No porter substituted for coffee!


Qvart 3:39 PM  

(There's a hanging quotation mark at the end of the URL in my post above. If you copy and paste the address delete the quotation mark. Oops!)

Qvart 3:50 PM  

>Anonymous said... re: 37A... how is mayo part of "ANO"?

I see someone else already answered this, but thought I'd add a blurb here. I'm not a fan of this clue/answer either. Anytime I see "ANO" (Spanish "year") as an answer in a crossword I'm reminded of my high school Spanish teacher's admonition to ALWAYS pronounce the tilde-N in AÑO ("on-yo" rather than "on-o") or you may find someone takes offense at being called an ass!

chefwen 4:24 PM  

@JFC - Do I smell popcorn popping?

Davis 4:50 PM  

Loved the theme.

I thought this was pretty challenging for a Sunday, but the sheer quantity of good stuff in the grid justified the challenge.

I made similar initial errors to Rex: Jello for ASPIC, and Numnut for DIMWIT.

NODOSE/ALIOTO/OLAND/ANO screwed me up in the NW; I had to Google-check that area, since I didn't catch the relevance of ANO. Are month names not capitalized in Spanish?

ORFF, LYNLEY, KENAI, and FOEHN were new to me, but I got them on crosses.

I liked CORONAL, though I think "mass ejection" when I see that word. ROSETTE gave me more trouble than it should have, but that's a pretty nice entry as well. And IDOLATRY is a lovely word to get in this theme-dense grid.

One small gripe: At 24-down, why does "humeri" get the Latinate pluralization in the clue, while the answer has the English pluralization ULNAS rather than the Latinate ULNAe?

Milford 5:20 PM  

@Davis - correct, months and days of the week are not capitalized in Spanish, so mayo is correct. And devilish as the clue!

Zygotic 5:27 PM  

@syndy- My question is different. My captcha wasn't on a building, it was on a curb. How did the program know to make that image of a curb a captcha? Painted curb numbers aren't very common, nor are curbs in many communities these days. So that seems like a pretty complex piece of programming had to happen to crowd source optical character recognition to a person.

Octavian 5:34 PM  

Fantastic puzzle -- possibly the Sunday puzzle of the year.

Great theme, extremely well executed. All very weird and fun puns that seemed right on to me. ... Unlike some others I love the oddball words like "nodose" as they are opportunities to learn something new.

Thanks Matt -- incredible effort and well done.

Carola 6:49 PM  

@Qvaart - Apologies for misspelling your name, above!

Qvart 7:12 PM  

@Carola said...

"@Qvaart - Apologies for misspelling your name, above!" did it again. ;-)

OISK 7:56 PM  

Found it tough for a Sunday with alioto, olmos, and Oland all in the same part of the grid, but that is a minor quibble for someone who loves puns as much as I do! Enjoyed this one very much, although I left Ulnae instead of Ulnas, not noticing that it gave me "Nodoee" as an across answer.

jberg 7:58 PM  

Rats! I though I had this one, but there were a couple of errors - NODiSh instead of NODOSE (better clued as when you run out of pills) - I got COMMUNE later, but didnt notice that I had to fix NODiSe. Also, my franglish was a little too fractured - I had CES a GOOD KNIGHT crossing the meaningless MASa. Sunday puzzles are just so big I forget to check everything.

On to Monday!

Michael 8:06 PM  

Enjoyed the puzzle, surprised by Rex's comment about Eddy because I immediately thought of Nelson and Mary Baker. Knew Ovett, which helped. Don't know French so didn't understand the pronunciation of c'est.
Totally puzzled by lotr (which I parsed as lot r) until I came here.

Carola 8:43 PM  

@Q-v-a-r-t :
Oh, man! I hope I can do better the rest of the week!

JohnV 8:53 PM  

Got but one theme.

Not good in CT. Hearing the children's name in prayer at Eucharist this morning was devastating. This madness must end.

Janet 9:26 PM  

Agree with Milford and Davis on plural of ULNA when paired w/ humeri.

Kenai Peninsula is a popular and worthwhile destination in Alaska.

Hailing is NOT raining hard; that is teeming. Hail is precipitation. Could have used Calling a cab.

The NE was tough. Rosette is associated with stained glass windows in churches, not leopards.

Liked the theme, overall.

LoriS 10:42 PM  

Loved this puzzle! The theme answers just sparkled and were surprising and fun to find all throughout. I give small congrats to myself - I thought Jell-o was a misdirect, went straight for aspic, and we were off and running - and I give huge congrats, and big thanks, to Matt Ginsberg for a very fun solve. And thanks to my fellow solvers - didn't realize that SOON YI crossed WOOD Y until I came here.

paulsfo 11:04 PM  

I don't know the "rules" for constructing, but isn't "ASWEAT" (ie, adding the article) frowned upon?

Jenny 12:01 AM  

@Janet: Hail is rain that's hard. Because it's frozen. (Loved that clue.)

Ellen S 2:16 PM  

@jackj - is there a new colonoscopy prep? Mine was "drink a gallon of this here antifreeze." Nothing that ensued was as solid as jello. Or ASPIC. (Isn't aspic just generic jello?)
@David L -- thanks for looking up MANSE. I, too, questioned the definition of "stately home", so thanks for looking it up. I guess as with "eke out", the people have spoken. (Without a trace of embarrassment, I proclaim my belief in democracy, but want to be the Commissar of Language.)

Speaking of language, can someone explain why "Bones next to humeri" is ULNAS? Shouldn't it be Ulnae? M-W allows "Ulnas" as the second acceptable plural, but outside of being an affront to the Plural Police, shouldn't the forms have been consistent? Latin plural for Latin plural? I didn't mind BYRD OF PRAY, though. My first parakeet was named Admiral Byrd, so the name was a gimme, and I don't mind extending grammatical license in the interest of pun construction. Life is hard, don't SWEAT the small stuff. (Another sign ofthe Apocalypse, in case we needed it: I went to check what the heck is ASPIC anyway and there's an ad for a knife holder. It's a figure of a person, with slots in the legs, abdomen, chest and forehead, that you stick the knives through. Same day as the Connecticut massacre, a nutcase in China apparently attacked a bunch of small children coming out of school, stabbed about 20 of them multiple times. They were wounded, not killd, at least outright, it's not the sort of thing you recover from easily. Somehow, even for me, the

Ellen S 2:27 PM  

Curses! keyboard was balking when I type in the Comment box (sign I shouldn't be commenting at all?), so I copied my comment into Quickoffice, made the edits I needed, Copied and Pasted back into the comment box, and what pasted was an amazing hash like the scrambled DNA in The Fly. Here's what the last paragraph was supposed to say:
Speaking of language, can someone explain why "Bones next to humeri" is ULNAS? Shouldn't it be Ulnae? M-W allows "Ulnas" as the second acceptable plural, but shouldn't the forms have been consistent, Latin plural for Latin plural? I didn't mind BYRD OF PRAY, though. My first parakeet was named Admiral Byrd, so the name was a gimme, and I don't mind extending grammatical license in the interest of pun construction. Life is hard, don't SWEAT the small stuff? (If I can't have "eke out" meaning "supplement", I don't care what happens.)

Another sign of the Apocalypse, in case we needed it: I went to M-W to check what the heck is ASPIC anyway and there's an ad for a knife holder. It's a figure of a person, with slots in the legs, abdomen, chest and forehead, that you stick the knives through, so it looks like, just what you imagine it would look like. Same day as the Connecticut massacre, a man in China apparently attacked a bunch of small children coming out of school, stabbed about 20 of them multiple times. They were wounded, according to the story, not killed, at least outright, but it's not the sort of thing you recover from easily. Even sick and twisted as I am, the knifeholder wasn't funny.

sanfranman59 10:09 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. 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 6:06, 6:14, 0.98, 37%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:37, 3:39, 0.99, 39%, Easy-Medium

Spacecraft 11:58 AM  

People LIKED this?? I found so much wrong with it--just in the NW alone--that I just refused to go any farther.

Rotten partials: CAMEA, SOREAT, ONS
Yet another spelled-out letter (ENS)
Out-and-out mistakes:
"What m(sic)ayo is part of." 'Scuse me, but aren't the names of months capitalized?
ENE. There's no way Chicago is ENE of KC. NNE--I'll even give you NE--but definitely NOT ENE.
"Bones next to humeri." In clue fairness that has existed forever, the deliberate Latinization of the plural in the clue signals the same in the answer. This shouldn't even be the clue for ULNAe, however: they're next to the radii!
MANSE. In days long gone, this word might have had a broader use; now it refers specifically to a clergyman's residence, NOT a "Stately home."
ASKERS, ASOAK. Who says this stuff? Ever hear anybody say, "I think I'll go have a soak."? Me either.

The section itself is walled in with only the leaks at 10d (ADDN, as I see now: that's another awfulness) and 64a to link it to the rest of the grid. This is all not just bad--it's a handbook on how NOT to construct a crossword puzzle.

And people LIKED it?!?

Dirigonzo 3:22 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Kerfuffle 6:09 PM  

@Spacecraft and @Dirigonzo - You really should direct your compass problems to this site. (Spoiler alert: It supports the puzzle.)

Dirigonzo 6:30 PM  

@ Bob Kerfuffle - Thanks for giving me an excuse to come back and wish you and everyone a happy Festivus! As to the direction from KC to Chicago, you found it on the internet so it must be true - damn my lying eyes! (But really, thanks for coming back to Syndiland to visit and Merry Christmas.)

Anonyrat 7:49 AM  

@ Ellen S 2:16 PM - LOL at "drink a gallon of this here antifreeze." Best description of it I've ever heard.
I usually really really hate Matt's puzzles - he's one of my least favorite constructors, but this one wasn't bad. I liked most of the theme answers, and for a change, most of the trivia was gettable from the crosses. Only really tough spot was the ULNAS/ULNAe choice crossing NODOSE, which seemed slightly less nonsensical than NODOeE, so I guessed right.
For all you whining "easterners," ALIOTO:S.F. :: Daley:Chicago or Koch:New York. Try to keep that in mind the next time you mock us out West for not knowing the "gimme" name of the Assistant Dog Catcher in Chicago in 1947.

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