Musical genre for Ladysmith Black Mambazo / TUE 7-16-13 / 1980s All-Star catcher Tony / Like NBA's Jason Collins notably / Gold Digger rapper West / Instagram upload informally / Antipoverty agcy

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Medium (slightly tougher, maybe)

THEME: PROs and CONs — three pairs of words where one word has PRO- prefix and the other CON-. Clues for both words in each pair are identical.

Theme answers:
  • 30A: PROTRACTOR / 42A: CONTRACTOR [One might be seen around a construction site]
  • 17A: PROFESS / 18A: CONFESS [Claim openly]
  • 56A: PROTEST / 59A: CONTEST [Fight back against]

Word of the Day: Ladysmith Black Mambazo (1A: Musical genre for Ladysmith Black Mambazo => AFROPOP) —
Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a male choral group from South Africa that sings in the vocal styles of isicathamiya andmbube. They rose to worldwide prominence as a result of singing with Paul Simon on his album, Graceland, and have won multiple awards, including three Grammy Awards. They were formed by Joseph Shabalala in 1960 and later became one of South Africa's most prolific recording artists, with their releases receiving gold and platinum disc honors. The group has now become a mobile academy, teaching people about South Africa and its culture. (wikipedia)
• • •

Deeply ambivalent here. Themewise, I find this dull as dirt. Words are dull, concept ... I didn't even notice. Cool that you can (without too much torture or strain) give both the PRO- and the CON- word the same clue in every case, but the theme simply does nothing for me. Didn't even know what the theme was when I'd finished. Something about a construction site? Where were the other answers? But then I quickly noticed the other PRO-/CON- pairs. And thought "Huh. Ok." But as an easy themeless puzzle, I really love this one. Grid is just slamming. Super-tasty. Barely any crap, tons of mid-range interesting fill. It's 76 words and pretty wide-open for a Tuesday grid, so I thought it played kind of hard ... but my time was mid-3s, which isn't that long. Anyway, the grid looks fantastic. Like Jeff and Angela yesterday, I know Joel to be a painstaking puzzle craftsperson. This grid is a great demonstration of how easy puzzles don't have to be dull (man, I did one yesterday that was so boring and banal I was yelling at it ... publicly ... in a diner ... my wife can tell you all about it). This one was a pleasure to solve. Highlights include "OH, STOP IT!" and BEESWAX (64A: Business, slangily). The GAY clue is very fresh (47A: Like the N.B.A.'s Jason Collins)—Collins came out earlier this year—the first NBA player and one of the first *male* professional athletes in the country to do so.

I made Many mistakes and had many hesitations, which is why my mid-3s time surprised me. Got AFROPOP right out of the box, but made some mistakes on the Downs—namely, FOUL for FORE (2D: Cry after a bad swing), and OUT for OFF (4D: Out of whack) (yeah, that was a Really dumb mistake), and finally PSALM for PAEAN (5D: Song of praise). Three initial mistakes in the NW alone. Things were mostly smoother from there on out, though I could not get my brain to accept PROTRACTOR as an acceptable answer to [One might be seen around a construction site]. I just know protractors only as implements in geometry class. So I had to jump blindly into the NE corner, rather than building on existing fill (which is the way I proceed whenever possible, esp. w/ early-week puzzles). Wrote in DNA for RNA (57D: Genetic material) and needed most of the crosses for CATTAIL (63A: Marsh plant), but otherwise it was pretty easy, pretty clean, and very entertaining (fill-wise).
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Steve J 12:12 AM  

    I ended up looking at this after I finished thinking "nice easy themeless puzzle," too. Never got the theme. Unlike yesterday, however, I didn't find the fill to sparkle quite as much. Not much bad aside from a couple tired/crosswordy items - SNEE, IRE, IKE - but I know you can't have a good grid without a few of those.

    Cluing stood out for me, though. I liked "Chug's opposite" for SIP and "Big money maker in Phila." for USMINT. "Business, slangily" was also quite good for BEESWAX.

    I blew through this in time that would be quite fast for me on a Monday. Everything fell right into place, and I didn't have any stumbles. Maybe that helped contribute to the themeless impression (although the bigger contributor was not finding it even after looking at it again after completion).

    okanaganer 12:20 AM  

    As an architect I've been at a lot of construction sites, and seen lots of CONTRACTORS (many are SUB's) but can't remember ever seeing a PROTRACTOR. (When some Amish are erecting a timber frame, maybe?) These days they just set the dial on their saw of choice. However, personally I admire the clue being the same for both the PROs and CONs.

    Have to say again: I appreciate the lack of product/brand names in today's answers. Only the very last one: TBS.

    B Donohue 12:21 AM  

    Clues felt Monday-level and mostly uninspired, but my time was Tuesday-level. I liked the theme.

    I had the most trouble in the NW, with the downs Rex mentioned as well as the start of AFROPOP.

    Anonymous 12:24 AM  

    I quite liked the theme. And the clue sets as well. Tuesday level solvers will likely enjoy it.

    I was disappointed with the clue for SHOWER, "Locker room feature". Because LOOFAHS was cross-referenced to it, I thought the clue very weak. Do you see a lot of LOOFAHS in locker room showers. Much more appropriate would be a clue that paired nicely with the cross-reference.

    Also, the word 'feature' is a tired, lazy cliche in NYT clues. Simply banning that word would force creativity with cluing.

    jae 12:26 AM  

    Easy-medium  for  me. Solid and smooth two days in a row.  Had the same thought as Rex & @Steve J about seeming like a themeless. No erasures and very light on stuff I only know from crosswords: STET, ENT, UNO and how to spell PAEAN. Liked it!

    GILL I. 12:31 AM  

    I do PROFESS and CONFESS that this puzzle was just damn fun. Joel is fast becoming one of my favorite NYT constructor. I didn't even mind all the jockey type clues. Well, maybe 47A. If you're going to list a GAY at least make it someone like Walt Whitman, Michelangelo, Cyrano de Bergerac, Ellen DeGeneres.... but Jason Collins???
    Oh, and I loved CORPSE for Agatha's body work. Was she not the best?

    Evan 12:32 AM  

    Same reaction. I thought the theme was a little stale, but the fill is great. I went for NEWBIE before putting in NOOBIE before finally settling on NOVICE. I figured NOOBIE was some deranged way of referring to the internet-speak term NOOB.

    Is it creepy if I admit that I absolutely love the clue for CORPSE? (I see now that I was writing that comment when Gill I.P. wrote the same. I declare myself not creepy).

    Elaine2 12:35 AM  

    I think I finally got the PROTRACTOR "Construction Site" clue -- maybe they meant geometry constructions? True, for those you're only actually supposed to use a compass and straightedge, but still...

    Regardless of that -- I liked this puzzle.

    Evan 12:35 AM  

    Small correction, Rex: It's 76 words, not 74. But the point about the fill being stellar still stands.

    ReneePDX 12:39 AM  

    Medium for me. The west was easier than the east. Did not know AFROPOP and couldn't remember how to spell LOOFAHS. Also had NATl so had trouble seeing US MINT; although once I did I liked the clue.

    Like @Rex I like OH STOP IT and BEESWAX.

    Anoa Bob 12:53 AM  

    First thing I noticed was the single column of black squares in the upper/lower across section of the grid. Themed puzzles almost always have two columns there.

    Next thing I noticed was how this opened up so much white space. I don't recall seeing an early week grid with so many triple stacked 6's and 7's. They're everywhere.

    Mr. Fagliano made the most of the opportunity. I liked the theme a lot, both the concept and the clever way it was worked into the grid, and the fill was over the top. Good stuff everywhere. My favorite was the gorgeous BEESWAX meeting up with STYX in the SE. Superb.

    gifcan 1:07 AM  

    First otterpop, now afropop. I'm getting suspicious.

    chefwen 2:41 AM  

    I'm with Gill I.P. "Just damn fun"

    Had AFRican in at 1A, was pleased when it morphed into AFRO POP. Like @Evan had newbie in at 27D which made banal fit nicely at 40A, had to remove most of that section when VARIETY, spice of life proved me incorrect, Ah well...

    Caught onto the theme about half way through which made the bottom half rather easy.

    I agree about PROTRACTOR, maybe in the planning stages, but "on site" questionable. I'm not a CONTRACTOR, so no expert here.

    Anyway, another fun puzzle from one of my favs Joel Fagliano.

    Anybody Cartel Mus 3:09 AM  

    PRO: Lots of fun fill from BEESWAX to MOODY to ASS/INANE pairing and clever PRO/CON definitions/clues

    CON: Too sportsy again... NATS, REFS, SPAR, FORE, OLYMPIAN, PENA, AGASSI, STOLEN bases...
    Really don't need another sports figure for a GAY clue.
    I can see how it's fresh, but REALLY? Like the only GAY person young Joel and Will could agree on is yet another sports figure???!!

    CON: Looking for Scrabblydeness led to jEer for MEOW.

    PRO: Lots of Ys (at least 6) and the STY- STYX seems to be a good pretext for a puzzle.
    "Who wants to try?" (and collaborate)... ANYBODY?

    Questinia 5:37 AM  

    I found the theme words,
    PROFESS/CONFESS/CONTRACTOR/PROTRACTOR/PROTEST/CONTEST, nice as simple anchors to the range of words. VARIETY may be the spice of life but we all need routine and the mundane.

    Loved the proximity of MOODY/CORPSE/AMEN. Even liked the tight center staircase of RAY/ION/IRE.

    dk 6:37 AM  

    Fun is good.

    Solid workman-like puzzle. Now if only every Tuesday....

    Solving on the Pad from steamy DC.

    *** (3 Stars)

    Andrea, Collaborate! Oui!

    Milford 7:34 AM  

    Great Tuesday, thought the puzzle worked just fine as a themeless, too. Didn't see the PRO/CON theme until after.

    The PRO / CON theme makes us think opposites, but in reality a CON- prefix means "with" or "together". It's still interesting how the two words in each pair can be defined similarly.

    Loved SEAN PENN (nearby is MOODY) and BEESWAX. Liked the current GAY clue.

    @acme - I know you dislike sports, but are OLYPIANS and REFS really on your list for making a puzzle "too sportsy"?

    jberg 7:34 AM  

    Hey, I did like the theme, and it gave me CONFESS -- though I'd have got it anyway. This one was easy for me, everything went write in, the only writeover was NewbiE before NOVICE.

    I suppose you might use a PROTRACTOR for an on-site modification of the drawings (though these days it's all done on computer), but I prefer to think it's the client who shows up and asks for lots of last-minute changes, thereby delaying the project ...

    Really fun, like everyone said. And though I'm not a sports guy, I think Jason Collins was big news, and a good choice as clue.

    Loren Muse Smith 7:38 AM  

    I’m with @Gill I. P. and @chefwen – this was a lot of fun to solve, and I loved the theme. I think it’s so cool that these pairs can be clued the same with the opposite prefixes!! (Makes me stare out of the window, considering “progress/congress,” “prostitution/constitution”. . .)

    I liked the clue for CORPSE, too!

    Like the clue said, VARIETY is the spice of life, and certainly the spice of theme ideas for us daily solvers. For me, this was the BEES’ kNEEs and the CAT’s MEOW for a Tuesday. Thanks, Joel.

    Anonymous 7:41 AM  

    PROTRACTOR construction site is definitely a geometry classroom. The double meaning of construction site makes this a great clue. Especially to math teachers like me.

    David in Philadelphia 7:53 AM  

    Okanaganer said: "As an architect I've been at a lot of construction sites, and seen lots of CONTRACTORS (many are SUB's) but can't remember ever seeing a PROTRACTOR. ... These days they just set the dial on their saw of choice. "

    Isn't that dial on the saw a PROTRACTOR?

    Anonymous 8:02 AM  

    Lol..I didn't see the first parts being pro and con, I saw the last parts as being the same..tractor, fess, and test...whatever works I guess....

    Zwhatever 8:03 AM  

    If by PROTRACTOR we mean the small plastic things we used in math class I'd agree with people that they aren't found on construction sites. But if we mean devices to accurately measure angles then I'd say every construction site has lots of PROTRACTORs to be found.

    Jason Collins' public acknowledgement is important and a timely clue because it is a frontal assault on that bastion of homophobia - male sports. We had a situation in Detroit this winter where an otherwise great guy stupidly stated that he wouldn't want a gay guy in the locker room. The guy has been in baseball for over 15 years, so odds are pretty good that he's been in a locker room with a gay teammate and just didn't know it.

    Anyway, the puzzle. I got the theme early. I like the theme just fine. I think it is pretty neat that we have pros and cons that are synonyms. I didn't notice much of the short fill so if it was a bad I wouldn't know. Strong long fill made this a very enjoyable Tuesday solve. I was a little surprised when I finished and was at twelve minutes. I would have thought a more Tuesday typical time of nine for me since I had no writeovers. Based on my time, then, medium or medium challenging sounds about right.

    Unknown 8:19 AM  

    This was fun, and a nice follow up to yesterday. I solved it pretty much top to bottom and the theme was pretty hard to miss, though a little on the dull side.

    Always happy to see Hester PRYNNE show up.

    Lewis 8:23 AM  

    @stevej -- loved the same clues you did

    I must have been on Joel's wavelength -- nary a writeover and fast solve. I thought the theme was clever -- with the pro/con and same clues. Just right for Tuesday. And the puzzle had spark. The Jason Collins clue and answer are more evidence of our society's changing mores. I'm glad it's here.

    Notsofast 8:26 AM  

    Easy. And brilliant! I really like BEESWAX.

    John V 8:32 AM  

    I mean, really easy. Hand up for not seeing the theme; not sure seeing it would help with the solve.

    Is it me or has there been a trend of late to repeat clues, e.g.17 & 18 across?

    Carola 8:54 AM  

    Great puzzle, makes me want to WAX PROlix about how much I loved it. One nice puzzle surprise after another - AFROPOP, LOOFAH..."VARIETY" seemed just the word for all of the fresh entries. Caught onto the theme at the construction site. Liked INCENSE (in the IRE sense) paired with PROTEST.

    Masked and Anonymo2Us 9:22 AM  

    Fun theme. Good puz. thUmbsUp, Joel.

    Only task remaining is to find a clue that fits both PROGRESS and CONGRESS. I mean, beyond the obvious "something you don't see often on Capital Hill", which is probably just an old joke.

    Anonymous 9:24 AM  

    Am I the only one who finds the use of "Afro" slightly offensive. ("Big top, etc...)

    Even thought this pre-Zimmerman.

    chefbea 9:25 AM  

    Good easy puzzle. Got the theme right away. I agree - protractor is for constructing in geometry class.

    Of course liked Beeswax

    jackj 9:49 AM  

    An intelligent Tuesday offering from Joel Fagliano even if he doth PROFESS too much by spotting a PROTRACTOR on a construction job; CONTRACTOR, yes PROTRACTOR, no.

    Adding to the fun, two other entries with the same meaning, different phrasing, OHSTOPIT and (mind your own) BEESWAX, seemed to cleverly augment the puzzle’s concept.

    There were many more goodies in the rest of the fill; AFROPOP is always welcome as are PAEAN, INCENSE, and CATTAIL, as well as that unlikely early feminist of sorts, Hester PRYNNE.

    I can’t help but wonder though, why does Jason Collins’ act of simply announcing he’s GAY merit such prominence in the puzzle? He deserves recognition for being so much more than just his sexual orientation. (Better to tie the word to ENOLA and be done with it).

    Sometimes being “oh so cute” isn’t.

    (That being said, having SHOWER over BARITONE is indeed “oh so cute” when we realize that many men are known to croon like DERBINGLE when scrubbing with their LOOFAHS while enjoying their SHOWER).

    Good puzzle, Joel.

    VARIETY is the spice of life 10:04 AM  

    A $459 PROTRACTOR. Every math student should have one.

    Sean Dobbin 10:08 AM  

    Disagree with @Rex about the theme. I liked it, and think it's a concept worth building a puzzle around. Tuesday is the perfect place for it.

    However, I agreed with him re: the fill. Just awesome.

    I don't find AFRO- any more offensive than EURO- (which is to say, I don't find it offensive at all).

    Great job, Joel.

    Anonymous 10:15 AM  

    I think the clue for PROTRACTOR was one of the cleverest and best in the entire puzzle. Again, a lot of people here are thinking about the wrong type of construction. When you, say, use a protector in math to create a figure, it is "construction." So yes, they are often at construction sites. Just not building construction sites.

    Very very clever, as shown by the continued misunderstanding the comments.

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:20 AM  

    Good one! I got the theme fairly quickly, and it may have helped me along a tiny bit.

    BTW, pronunciation be damned, are we to believe that the French chef made her profits from her confits?

    joho 10:21 AM  

    OHSTOPIT and mind your own BEESWAX! How much fun is that?!

    I actually got the theme right off the bat at PROFESS/CONFESS and was kind of surprised at all the repetition of PROs & CONs and FESSes and TESTs. Very unusual and for that reason I liked it!

    Thanks to Will for trying something new and different and to Joel for greatly executing it!

    Anonymous 10:21 AM  


    Last time I checked, "Euro" was not a hairstyle, though have not been to a stylist recently.

    "AFRO," a 60's/70's term, is outdated,
    if not slightly pejorative.

    Anonymous 10:29 AM  

    I liked the puzzle, love this column and comments that dissect them all. But why oh why, Rex, is MALE in quotes in your commentary? Gay men are still biologically male.

    I loved BEESWAX,

    600 10:29 AM  

    @ Bob Kerfuffle: funny!

    Everything else has been said . . .

    joho 10:43 AM  

    @anon. 10:29, I thought the same thing about "male." All I could come up with was that @Rex meant as opposed to the fact that more female athletes have already come out? (I don't even know if that's true.)

    joho 10:43 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Anonymous 10:54 AM  

    I am gay and male! I am very surprised to find Rex doing this: I thought he was more educated to imply that if someone is gay they are not fully male.

    Greg Charles 10:58 AM  

    Geometric constructions use only a compass and a straight edge, but you'd use ruler and a protractor to verify your work. I'm sure that's what Joel meant.

    Anonymous 11:00 AM  

    I didn't even notice the PRO/CON aspect. I just thought it was parallel answers. Which made me think that INANE/SEANPENN was a theme answer... :-)

    Milford 11:02 AM  

    @Anon - the AFRO in this case was used as a prefix in AFROPOP, simply to indicate African. Not a pejorative term, IMHO.

    @Anon #2 (or the same as #1, who knows) - my take was that @Rex was italicizing the word male (not putting it in quotes), simply to emphasize that Jason is one of the first active *male* pro athletes in the US to come out.

    Anonymous 11:03 AM  

    Folks, as an avid sports follower, the asterisks/quotations around male were NOT meant as a special designation of male homosexuality, but WERE MEANT as a recognition of previous professional athletes who acknowledge their homosexuality, but who were female, i.e., Martina Navratilova (and possibly others).

    In other words, Jason Collins was not the first openly gay athlete, just the first openly gay "male" athlete in a "major" American professional sport, though this might be debatable too.

    Anonymous 11:08 AM  


    fair enough. However, the original comment was in response to the general use of "AFRO" as an answer to such clues as "Big top," and others.

    Maybe the comment was misplaced here, but the sentiment stands.

    Rex Parker 11:18 AM  

    An asterisk is not a quotation mark.


    mac 11:39 AM  

    Easy medium, but another well-executed puzzle. We're having a good crossword week.

    @loren: LOL, constitution/prostitution! Provocation/convocation, but alas, not the same definition.

    Z 11:52 AM  

    @mac - sell yourself to the highest bidder.

    Z 11:53 AM  

    Oops - congress, not constitution.

    mac 12:20 PM  

    @Z: LOL!
    We need "like" buttons!

    Sfingi 12:34 PM  

    As is often the case, I didn't notice the theme.

    Never heard of PENA or Collins.

    Had PEEp before PEER, and PRuyNE before PRYNNE. I always felt there was an underlying English vs. Dutch thing going on under the surface, the Dutch being seen by the English as too materialist and pleasure seeking.

    In any case, I liked the puzzle.

    Sean Dobbin 12:48 PM  

    @Anonymonster 11:08 (and elsewhere?):

    You certainly have a right to be offended.


    Maybe you should research the term a little more?

    I get offended by all sorts of things, so I say if you want to be offended by AFRO, have at it.

    MetaRex 12:54 PM  

    Nice puzz...nuttin' original to say re the theme or the have a brief rantlet on the never-ending issue of DNF ethics...

    Today I hit done at incorrect as I often do...realized pretty soon checking the downs that I had the typo TYRANS for TYRANT...fixed it...still got incorrect...took me until 6:58 to find the second typo, STS/GAS for STY/GAY.

    Thus the slippery slope for MR and other reprobates w/ less than truly stellar Kantian ethics...ya feel like ya really got the puzz right on a day like today when it's just a matter of yr bad typin...and then ya find yourself feelin' like ya really got it right even though your first mistake was a real mistake not a typo...and then you have entered the realm of ethical doom and moral perdition given the upstanding online solvers out there who never ever ever hit send once they've gotten the incorrect signal !:)!

    jae 1:06 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Solid puzzle.

    I like that RP used the word "dull" twice in his opening sentences, and then went on to call the puzzle an example of how puzzles "don't have to be dull." (I know that he was referring to 2 different aspects of the puzzle, I just think it's a funny contrast.)

    When I first finished I thought, there really such thing as a PRO TRACTOR? Like, a tractor doing professional work instead of on a private farm or something?? Then I got it.

    jae 1:10 PM  

    @MR -- Typos are the reason I quit doing the puzzle on computers. I still occasionally print the wrong letter in a box if I'm trying for a fast solve (my brain apparently gets ahead of my PaperMate mechanical pencil), but it's a lot easier to catch that kind of error. And, speaking for myself only when I was solving on the iPad, I did not count error messages generated by typos as a DNF.

    LaneB 1:21 PM  

    Whenever I'm able to march steadily through a Tuesday [or any other day for that matter] , I figure it will receive an "easy" grade. Thus a little surprised at the 'medium. I like any puzzle that I can finish, quickly or otherwise. Of course, it's all in the cluing. These clues were straightforward, the theme was reasonably apparent, there was little arcane stuff--and for these things I thank the constructor for a pleasant Tuesday.

    syndy 1:24 PM  

    AS a CONTRACTOR (often sub) on many constuction sites I applied hard insulation to pipes, tanks etc. I had several Protractors in my toolbox.some for insulation some for metalwork...And my dog is a CHUG but I CONFESS I went with eBERLIN/eEO so dnf!

    M and A further 1:36 PM  

    Top clues for CONGRESS/PROGRESS...
    1. A passle of chimpanzees and typewriters, given lots and lots of time.
    2. It may seem ok, until you see the bill.
    3. "Oh well, that's ___ !"
    4. ...?

    Hmmm. @Z's right. CONGRESS/PROSTITUTION *would* be easier to match clues for.

    acme 2:21 PM  

    @Milford 7:34am
    Normally I would not have included OLYMPIANS and REFS, I was talking about the overall buildup (I didn't even mention that SHOWER was clued in a sportsy way too, making the LOOFAH connection a bit absurd)

    I don't dislike sports, per se...I dislike the overwhelming vibe when all the clues that needn't have a sports clue (like the SHOWER or GAY) still do...
    Just talking about my experience as a solver.

    I acknowledged that after reading @rex I understand the freshness of the GAY clue, but that's not how it struck me while solving...

    I even mistook Quadrennial as perhaps another college sports team I didn't know, eg the Tennessee Quadrennials!
    OLYMPIAN in another puzzle wouldn't have warranted a notice, but in this, you had a lot of sports answers and three or four more in clues...

    and I still like to point it out from time to time, bec I think a) it's my experience b) I think it's shared by countless others c) it would otherwise go unnoticed and totally accepted by the editor.
    (And I know Will and other constructors read this blog and it may or may not give them something to think about. One of the positive aspects of giving feedback on this blog)

    Also, @Rex may now be more aware that his asterisks read as quotemarks to some.
    (Did to me, tho I got that he was referring to "As opposed to female" athletes, but obviously it was confusing to some readers, so why shouldn't they bring it up and raise consciousness about it?)
    That way @rex can weigh in that they were asterisks, rather than have folks think he was being thoughtless.

    Listen, I'm still shocked that people think there are themeless puzzles on a Tuesday! If you don't grok that there's even a theme, it means it might not have been a strong one.
    Soon as I saw the first PRO CON, I filled in the others and it helped the solve, which is what a nice theme can do.

    Masked and Unonymous and 3 and Out 2:49 PM  

    Like @acme, I always try hard to figure out the theme as early as possible, because...
    1. The constructor worked so darn hard to idea it up and then shoehorn it in there.
    2. It can really help the likes of m&e in solving the puz.
    3. Clever themes are just plain a hoot to discover. It's part of puzzlin things out. Often gives me that ahar moment.

    Fave weeject: OEO. The renown zero-L table spread.

    Fave 007-er: OBERLIN. Famed off-broadway revue.

    Fave puz fact, excludin U-count which wasn't so great btw: This puz has only got four 5-letter words. Lowsome.

    Snootful of 6's and 7's, tho. Impressive construction. Grid layout reminds me of an oldtimer puz, with its long opening and closing stacks. Neat.


    Yep, I'm a real Yahoo 3:07 PM  

    Anyone know how to log in using Yahoo with OpenID on the comments page? I don't see that option. Thanks.

    gifcan 3:30 PM  

    Love the comments. Always.

    Can you clarify something, what exactly is the purpose of the asterisk? Does it add emphasis?

    And how do you post such quick times? Do you do it online? On paper? Do you read it over first? Or are you just *so* familiar with common crossword clues. I'm baffled.

    Maybe I should ask the answer person. @jae?

    Punctuation for the 21st century 3:37 PM  

    @gifcan - The asterisks indicate that you should pronounce the word, out-loud as, you're reading, in a Vally Girl voice.

    Wikipedia 4:03 PM  

    Asterisks can be used in textual media to represent *emphasis* when bold or italic text is not available.

    Bird 4:11 PM  

    I liked this one. Just too bad the TRACTORs were not aligned, PRO on the left & CON on the right, as the other theme entries. No writeovers today, so I guess I rate it easy. Only nit is 30A as I can’t imagine too many CONTRACTORS, or anyone else for that matter, using PROTRACTORS at a construction site (then again there is Z’s point).

    Loren Muse Smith 4:19 PM  

    I always thought we use asterisks for emphasis because we save the capital letters for the grid entries.

    @Ellen S - I'm trying. Reba left instructions.

    dramatic chipmunk


    ANON B 4:21 PM  

    At the beginning you say medium,
    maybe a little tougher. At the end
    you say relatively easy.

    Loren Muse Smith 4:21 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Zwhatever 4:21 PM  

    @gifcan - if you go back to the earliest days of this blog you will see that OFL posted mere mortal times back then. Personally, 7 minutes seems to be my absolute limit for a Monday. I suspect I could do better if I adopted some other techniques (online solving - computer sized keyboard - type while reading - do all the puzzles every day), but I'm still way better than when I started reading this blog.

    Also recognize that commenters who solve at a more leisurely pace rarely share their times. You won't find me mentioning my time too often on a Saturday, for example.

    3 1/2 and out.

    ANON B 4:25 PM  

    Am I the only one who never heard of Ladysmith Black Mambazo?
    What kind of a name is that.

    sanfranman59 4:27 PM  

    Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

    Tue 6:49, 8:13, 0.83, 6%, Easy

    Top 100 solvers

    Tue 4:15, 4:57, 0.86, 6%, Easy

    Loren Muse Smith 4:30 PM  


    jae 4:42 PM  

    @gifcan -- For some insight in to speed solving I recommend the movie Wordplay if you haven't already seen it. Netflix has it and it occasionally shows up on TV. I've seen it on the PBS schedule.

    foxaroni 4:47 PM  

    Enjoyed the puzzle. I agree that I have never seen a LOOFAH in a locker room SHOWER.

    For those of you yesterday who said you had never seen or were unfamiliar with a FLAME WAR, I surely do not want to start one here, amidst so many thoughtful, intelligent people.

    So I will just say to the Anonymouses (hope that's not a POC)@ 9:24, 10:21, 10:29, 10:54, and 11:08: I think you are wrong.

    To 9:24 specifically, Wikipedia at this link defines Afropop as "umbrella genre term for African popular music." Nothing about hair. See also such fairly standard music categories as pop rock, glam rock, synthpop, Britpop, indie pop,celtic rock, etc.

    Finally, out of curiosity, is "Afro-American" now a pejorative term?

    acme 7:26 PM  

    Ladysmith Black Mambazo is the South African group Paul Simon recorded Graceland with.
    You should check out the new documentary "Under African Skies" about the 25th anniv of the making of the album, Simon going against apartheid boycotts and the history of the group.
    You might already be familiar with "diamonds on the SOul's of Her Feet".
    here they are:
    Lady Black Mambazo

    Anonymous 9:05 PM  

    Love Ladysmith Black Mambazo and RAY Charles!

    sanfranman59 2:16 AM  

    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 5:43, 6:09, 0.93, 18%, Easy
    Tue 6:51, 8:13, 0.83, 7%, Easy

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 3:32, 3:46, 0.94, 18%, Easy
    Tue 4:09, 4:57, 0.84, 4%, Easy (8th lowest ratio of 189 Tuesdays)

    Anonymous 4:01 AM  

    If you ever have the chance to see Ladysmith DO! You won't regret it and you'll be hooked on their music and lyrics. Afropop is an odd category for them, nothing pop about the group which is lively, soulful anf intricate

    roscoe88 1:28 PM  

    This for me was one of the easiest puzzles, not a Monday. took under 5 mins and never looked up from the paper to see the them until i was done and then saw it. There wasn't a clue that was difficult or that warranted much thought. Afro and then one of the Ps made it pop. Love the group. Saw them live on Broadway many years ago and have been hooked since.
    why is puzzle medium rather than easy

    social media promotion 3:21 AM  

    This post is really incredible, one of the most helpful I have ever read,indeed.

    spacecraft 11:52 AM  

    I'm one of those for whom 1a was a big HUH?. Even though a solid Paul Simon fan, I had no idea these folks backed him. However, if they themselves are willing to use the word "Black" in their very name, why be bothered by the genre being called AFROPOP? Hell, they probably originated the term!

    Another big HUH? was the natick at ST_/K_NYE. I know the twin xwordese abbrs. for "station" are STA and STN. Which here? Well, though I wouldn't put it past a performer to call himself "KNNYE," to me KANYE looked better. As I have said, when I see the word "rap" my eyes begin to glaze over. Relief: I guessed right.

    Ah, but in between those, what a puzzle! I couldn't disagree more with OFL. It is yet another amazing quirk of our great language that PROFESS and CONFESS can be defined the same; likewise for PROTEST and CONTEST. Although the two longer ones in the middle also do that, it's only through the narrow alley of appearing at the same "site," but the whole theme still got a "How about THAT!" reaction from me. Weak theme? Hardly.

    Now add that these all appear in perfect symmetry--PROs before CONs every time--and are surrounded by the best fill I've seen in weeks. Mr. Fagliano would get an A+ if I were grading this. Oh, I AM grading this. OK Joel, A+. Come back soon, and often.

    Solving in Seattle 1:35 PM  

    There sure are some super sensitive (mainly @anonymous) sorts on the blog today. Or rather 6 weeks ago. Just what do those homophobic asterisks mean, anyway? And how dare the music industry use the pejorative *Afro?*

    Get over it.

    Loved @LMS's comment - congress/progress.

    I'm in the choir of admirers of this puzzle. Really clever wordplay and cluing. Great job, Joel!

    Capcha: pecmeet. A body builder competition?

    DMG 2:09 PM  

    Think everything has been said about this one. Crosses filled a couple of not-sure spots for me, and I was done. Ended thinking the PROTRACTOR clue was odd, and wondering what OEO stands for. Office of Equal Opportunity?

    @ginger: agree we had some great tennis these last few days. Didn't say much because I know you watch at odd times, and was sure you wouldn't want the results before seeing the match. I watch them when the TV dictates, or not at all since a son-in-law replaced by old recorder with a spiffy new, does-everything machine none of us can figure out how to operate! But it does look impressive! On to the Open!

    Dirigonzo 3:42 PM  

    Odd before OFF was my only w-o, and I actually noticed, and liked a lot, the theme. I'm in the *great puz* camp.

    @DMG - OEO is "Office of Economic Opportunity"; it's success as an *Antipoverty agency* is, I think, dubious. But it can *also* mean "Office of Equal Opportunity" and that was my first thought, too, which led me to wonder if the clue was incorrect, but of course it wasn't.

    rain forest 4:34 PM  

    Loved the puzzle. Saw the theme after PROFESS/CONFESS, and PROTEST/CONTEST. Just to support the use of PROTRACTOR at a construction site, I recall a high school test where we were required to construct a square given a side, using only straight edge and compasses. I had no idea how to do this so I used my protractor to get a couple of right angles, drew the other three sides, and then added a few random swipes with my compasses to cross the vertices, and I got full marks! So, a construction site using a protractor.

    @SIS I've heard how beautiful Desolation Sound is. I've boated up Princess Louisa inlet, which is gorgeous. Maybe I'll get to DS one day. It's not too far from Savary Island which I have visited several times.

    Solving in Seattle 6:00 PM  

    @rainforest, we flew right over Savary Island on the way up, then cruised just East of it on the way back to Seattle. Killer reef on the South side. Really pretty island.

    strayling 7:14 PM  

    I thought the theme was clever and nicely done. Wanted CORPUS instead of CORPSE, and as an alien I'd never heard of Oberlin, but that's par FORE the course for me. (Sorry)

    Thanks for the explanation of OEO, Dirigonzo. Another mystery solved.

    Ginger 8:26 PM  

    Late again, as usual. I'm in the 'loved it' camp, along with ANYBODY and everybody else. I recognized the theme, but didn't fully appreciate it until I read the write up, which is one of the reasons I follow this blog.

    @DMG Yes, on to the Open, but there are 2 'warm ups' this weekend too. Thanks for not giving the results away. You must get your S-I-L to give you a tutorial on the DVR. You'll wonder what you ever did without it.

    Texas Syndy Solver 9:41 PM  

    @Strayling - I am not an alien and OBERLIN was unknown to me. Didn't know OEO so a dnf by one letter. I was surprised no one mentioned it before you!

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