Gunderson on Simpsons / MON 5-19-14 / Frozen structure that facilitates animal migration / Former Senate minority whip Jon / Cylindrical alternative to French fries / Extremely cool in slang

Monday, May 19, 2014

Constructor: Michael Hawkins

Relative difficulty: Challenging (**for a Monday**)

THEME: PHONE IT IN (61A: Do a job with minimal effort) — all theme answers have words or phrases in them that relate to phones:

Theme answers:
  • RING A BELL (18A: Sound familiar)
  • DIAL IT DOWN (24A: "Stop being such a pompous jerk!")
  • "WHAT IS THE HANG UP?!" (40A: "Will you please hurry?")
  • OFF THE HOOK (52A: Extremely cool, in slang)
Words of the Day: ORSK (29A: Russian city on the Ural) and OMSK (not pictured)—
Orsk (RussianОрск) is the second largest city in Orenburg OblastRussia, located on the steppe about 100 kilometers (62 mi) southeast of the southern tip of the Ural Mountains. The city straddles the Ural River. Since this river is considered a boundary between Europe and Asia, Orsk can be said to lie in two continents. Population: 239,800 (2010 Census); 250,963 (2002 Census); 270,711 (1989 Census). (wikipedia) 
Omsk (RussianОмскIPA: [omsk]) is a city and the administrative center of Omsk OblastRussia, located in southwestern Siberia 2,236 kilometers (1,389 mi)[8] from Moscow. With a population of 1,154,116, it is Russia's second-largest city east of the Ural Mountains after Novosibirsk, and seventh by size nationally.
• • •

Entertaining and bouncy, though wildly misplaced on a Monday. This was a fast Wednesday for me. A slow-side-of-Medium Tuesday. At nearly 4 minutes, it took me longer than any Monday this year, and the times being posted at the NYT site show I'm not alone—all the people I measure my time against, are Way high as well. Not the constructor's fault, and not a huge problem. But this should've been a Tuesday. I mostly enjoyed myself here. The phrasing on a couple of the themers was … not the phrase I would've used (part of my slowness), but it's defensible. I had DIAL IT BACK (I would turn it down, but I would dial it back). I didn't have WHAT IS THE HOLD UP because I came at the answer from the back end, but WHAT IS THE HOLD UP is definitely the phrasing I would use as a rough equivalent of "Will you please hurry?" Moreover, I think DIAL IT DOWN has more to do with overreaction / loudness than it does with pomposity or jerkery, so that clue felt quite off. And I don't know why PHONE IT IN wasn't clued as a true revealer, since it's clearly different from (and encompasses) all the other answers. But the answers themselves were fresh and interesting (esp. the pseudo-revealer), so I'm fine with the theme.

Fill is definitely above average. Hardly any dreck beyond your occasional UNES or TZU or NYAH. Couple of major problems, first with geography. ORSK? That's a place? I had OMSK (a very Big place) and then ended up with ICEBM- in the Down and had no idea what to do. Had to get all the crosses to realize the answer had to be ICE BRIDGE—and thus the cross was ORSK. They're easy to tell apart—one is medium-sized and borders Kazakhstan, whereas the other is large and *almost* borders Kazakhstan. Oh, and they're both in oblasts, but Orsk is in Orenburg Oblast whereas Omsk is in Omsk Oblast and OMG do all oblasts start with "O"?! Anyway, there's your Russian geography lesson for the day: you're welcome.

Then there was the clue on GIL, which is hilarious because I watched "The Simpsons" regularly for the better part of two decades and I know GIL well, but I can't ever recall his surname being used. Only a non-"Simpsons" fan could use that clue on an easy puzzle and think it meant something. Once again, to repeat, Not A Monday, this thing. But look at the fun long answers! Six of 'em! And very serviceable small corners—no easy feat, as we've seen time and again. Often with a grid this choppy the small stuff is both pervasive and dire. Not today. Verdict: enjoyable.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    jae 12:04 AM  

    Tough Mon. for me too, and quite a bit of zip!  Everything from the theme answers to DAPPER DAN, CHINA SHOP...

    The SAGO/GIL cross could be tough for the Monday only crowd. 

    Needed to change NAe to NAY when NeAH made no sense. 

    @Rex - Gunderson would occasionally refer to himself as "old GIL."

    Really liked this one, a cut above the usual Mon.!

    Moly Shu 12:10 AM  

    Agree with @Rex, difficult and enjoyable. 2 days in a row I'm with OFL, rarely happens. The themer's were tight and worked well together. Liked the clue for CHINASHOP, and the way ICEBRIDGE looks is also nice. Really good Monday.

    Eejit 12:49 AM  

    Was tougher for me too, I thought dementia was finally settling in.

    What's "rated" up though? I thought it was reared.

    Eejit 12:50 AM  

    I mean rated.

    Eejit 12:51 AM  

    Damn auto-correct. RARED.

    Steve J 1:10 AM  

    A little tougher than a typical Monday for me, too, but at least some of the blame is on me. I kept misreading the clue phrasing for 5D, so I had SYMBIOtIc instead of SYMBIOSIS for a while. The absurdity of cAGA finally got me to fix that. Also wanted WHAT IS THE HANGUP to start with WHAT'S for a while, which obviously wouldn't fit.

    Really solid and fun Monday puzzle. Theme answers are all very good, and the six long downs are all really nice, too. Thankfully I got ICE BRIDGE before I encountered ORSK, or else I would have reflexively gone with OmSK. Short fill's nice and clean. And this is how you get in lots of scrabbly letters without resorting to Scrabblef'ing. Nicely done.

    J Tearney 1:36 AM  

    In all the french I took in school 'unes' never translated as some. 'un quelconque' or 'une quelconque' can translate as 'some'

    Unknown 1:57 AM  
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    jae 2:14 AM  

    @Steve J - I think it's officially Scrabble twerkin now thanks to resident sage M&A at the behest of @lms.

    chefwen 2:28 AM  

    Thank you for setting that straight @jae. I was really enjoying the Scrabble Twerking phrase.

    While I was solving this I kept wondering why a Monday was taking so much time. Guess I'm not alone. Only one write-over ugh before ICK at 11A, but still, a lot longer than your typical Monday. I really liked it though.

    On to, I hope, Tricky Tuesday!

    Eejit 3:07 AM  

    Jeez, I meant "rared". Keep getting auto-corrected.

    JTHurst 3:42 AM  


    While we might say reared up referring to people arising on their two legs, rared up refers to a horse raring to go and rising on its hind legs.

    Like Gabby Hayes saying to Roy Rogers, "What's got that horse so darned rared up?"

    Loren Muse Smith 5:26 AM  

    @jae – that SAGO/GIL cross was tough for this Mon-Sun solver.

    Nice change of pace in themes. I wonder how much longer expressions like OFF THE HOOK, DIAL, RING, will be accepted as PHONE jargon. I dialed an old black phone I think back in 2008 at the home of a 93 year old man. Ahem. *My* phone actually rings, as they all should – no cheerful, weird, jarring, confusing songs for me when someone calls – I don't care that your daughter changed the tone and you think it's a hoot. Just kidding. (It took my husband forever to figure out how to change back to a real ring from George Thorogood's Bad to the Bone, courtesy of my funny, funny daughter.)

    So of course I sat staring, thinking of other phone phrases. Michael's got'em pretty much covered. "Answer," yeah. And how 'bout "pick up the slack?"

    Oh, and Michael – are you a morning person like me? STIR, AWOKE, RISE at DAWN – never, ever to an alarm BELL RINGing?

    Off to sub for high school vocational agriculture, believe it or not. I'm armed with Lynn Lempel's August 7, 2006 planting theme beaut. It's scary that I knew she had done one and that I found it so quickly. Scarier that I think I can get anyone to try it.

    @M&A – Fairly gettable pangram! That singer was unknown to me, too. And thanks so much for the directions to XWord Info! I had not realized it was so, uh, accessible to mortals who speak "In the file open dialog box that comes up when you select Open command in the File menu, select Across TEXT format in the file types list to display all files with extension .TXT." Hey, at least I now know two things: I guess you're not Jim Horne, and I guess I won't be offering any of my own runt puzzles in the near future, at least until I can figure it out.

    Z 6:58 AM  

    Not to seem obsequious, but this took me double my fastest Monday time and almost double my average Monday time, so Challenging.

    My biggest HANG UP was the clue for WHAT IS THE HANG UP? I might have asked a student this question right before suggesting stepping back, slowing down, doing just the opposite of hurrying. It is one of those weird mind things, slow down to go faster. So, with -THE HANG UP in place it still took me most of the crosses to get the answer.

    COLOSSEUM also got three or four double checks from me. Looking at it falling down at 12D, it didn't look quite right. ORSK wasn't any help, but what other letter could it be?

    Only writeover was irs before CPA. The IRS does the taxing... Okay, technically it starts in the House, then the Senate and the Prez. Oh, hand up for starting with SYMBIOtIc. cAGA fixed it, here, too.

    Glimmerglass 7:20 AM  

    Slang I don't know would fill dozens of Sunday grids, but what's up with OFF THE HOOK? To me "You're off the hook" means "You don't have to do that" or "Another person is the real criminal."

    hawkins 7:39 AM  

    Lapsed fan, rather; I've seen the first 14 seasons, but only a few since. The Gunderson surname always stuck in my head for some reason, but you're right, there should've been a "Hapless Salesman" qualifier. I was happy to get in a fresh clue for Gil though.

    I thought ORSK would push it to Tuesday too, but I guess Will thought the crossers were fair enough.

    Mohair Sam 7:39 AM  

    Very much in agreement with Rex today. Fun challenge for a Monday, and if my wife didn't know SAGO we would have been naticked.

    Someday I'll learn how to spell COLOSSEUM, but not today - lost some time there.

    Lived on a horse farm for a year a few decades back. I learned this morning that when those angry young racehorses got on their back legs and struck out at me with their hooves they were RARing, not rearing. Anyhow, I learned to avoid spending time in stalls with oat-filled nags from the racetrack.

    Great Monday puzzle Mr. Hawkins.

    Numinous 7:45 AM  

    So, I'm sitting in the hospital where I have been for the past nine days. Bronchitis and exacerbated COPD. This morning's puzzle took me juat about twice as long as normal but relative to the other Magmic solvers, a pretty normal time. As well as I can remember, thiis seemed pretty easy but I have to read the clues three or four times at the moment.

    Ah, the wonder of drugs.

    Yesterday's puzzle took me 4+ hours. Wonderful. What with rereading clues over and over, falling asleep before answering them, then starting over again. Anything that can keep me entertained in the hospital for four hours is very welcome indeed. I'm enjoying the comments as usual, I'm just too thick headed to make any intelligent replies. Y'all hang in there and trust you are doing me a fabulous service.

    @Casco, you really are getting better. It shows in your comments.

    Think I'll take a little nap.

    Dorothy Biggs 7:49 AM  

    Speaking of getting up early in the morning, does anyone here know why we say that the alarm went off when it actually turned on?

    I'm with everyone else in that this took longer than normal but really without much fuss. Just longer.

    I always thought "RARED" was some kind of local colloquialism for so many other words (warsh, mondee, etc) of my youth that were mispronounced and I later found to be something else. I don't think I've ever seen "RARED" in actual print, come to think of it.

    So I thought a horse "reared" up and was somehow "rearin'" to go. All that said, I was just mildly surprised, at this later stage of my life, to learn that a horse does indeed "rare" up. Huh.

    I had ugh before ICK...I like ugh better.

    OmSK way before ORSK, and SYMBIOtic before SYMBIOSIS.

    But otherwise, weirdly easy yet not.

    Unknown 8:04 AM  

    This one must have been meant for me...felt super fast and easy, and those nice long downs kept it interesting.

    One writeover, NAe before NAY.

    AliasZ 8:05 AM  

    How refreshing to have some surprising crunch in a Monday puzzle that is supposed to be smooth as oatmeal. Many beginners might be taken aback by the chewy raisins hidden in it, but I like raisins. KYL, GIL, ORSK, KESEY, RARED and a few others come to mind. Not exactly Monday fare.

    I could not find a definition of "rare" as a verb in the free version of M-W online. I did find it in Dictionary dot com as older use, or US dialect variant of "to rear," and also in Wiktionary as the same.

    I would say the rarity of RARED as a verb does wonders to dissuade casual or novice solvers from tackling NYT puzzles even on easy Monday.

    I still liked the phone-y phrases and the crunch in this one. It is clear to me that Michael Hawkins did not phone this one in.

    I also loved the long downs. I saw a CHINA SHOP once with a sign on its door: "NO BULLS!"

    Happy Monday, all!

    r.alphbunker 8:05 AM  

    DIALITDOWN was the "Toto, I don't think we are in Monday anymore" moment.

    But looking back at my solving pattern it was a typical Monday march from top to bottom, it is just that I was not walking as fast.

    Since you have published puzzles I assume that you must have software that creates a .puz file. You can use that and skip the instructions about how to use Across Lite to load a .txt file. Just create a .puz file and upload it to xwordinfo.

    Jyp0625 8:23 AM  
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    Ludyjynn 8:31 AM  

    Nice, easy-medium Monday. Not one where folks could just PHONEITIN. Some lovely words; esp. liked CHINASHOP, COLOSSEUM and SYMBIOSIS. On a Monday!

    On the other hand, am I the only one who detests CHA-ching? I always say KA-ching to denote the sound of a cash register/money. Also disliked UNES, which literally means 'ones', not some, to me. Two very small nits, there.

    @Glimmerglass, OFFTHEHOOK is an expression which the uber-irritating celebrity Food Network chef, Guy Fieri, uses every time he opens his mouth.

    @Numinous, get well soon!

    This was a great start to the work week. Thanks, MH and WS.

    Hartley70 8:38 AM  

    I hope you're feeling better and out of there soon Numinous! I was glad to see this blog because I thought I'd lost my mojo for a bit! I was stuck on sago, kyl, nyah, and tzu. I don't know the all the "fill" yet, and the Simpsons was just on all the time as background noise to me while I did the dishes and the kids sat mesmerized. Clearly we should have switched places!

    Sir Hillary 8:42 AM  

    Very spiffy grid and serviceable theme. Yes, quite a bit tougher than the usual Monday fare. To wit: RARED, SAGO/GIL, KYL, ORSK.

    Writeovers: OmSK, SYMBIOtIc, ArOsE, onionring for TATERTOTS, and TsU (never can remember that one).

    Nice start to the week.

    dk 8:46 AM  

    OOO (3 Moons)

    Sailed through only stumble was misspelling BOOR for no good reason.

    Off to a good start.

    Nice puzzle

    joho 8:47 AM  

    I remember Michael Hawkins from his "missing block" rebus debut puzzle -- which I believe everybody liked as much as this one. (Also, because Hawkins is my maiden name.)

    I loved the theme because all of the phrases are so colorful and in the language.

    So, Mr. Hawkins, if I don't see another puzzle from you soon I'll be wondering, "WHATISTHEHANGUP?!"

    Dorothy Biggs 9:10 AM  

    @Sir Hillary: Lao-tzu is spelled lots of ways: -tse, -tsu, -zu, -ze...same with the guy who wrote The Art of War.

    I guess it depends on the editor/publisher of those kinds of books...I've seen Confucius as Kong-Fu-Zu as well.

    Leapfinger 9:11 AM  

    @J Tearney -- You're right about your translations, but you can also say "J'aimerais bien UNES de [something]", as long as it's feminine. (It would be 'UNS de' for a masculine something.)

    There are always more colloquial expressions, plus there are pitfalls with dictionary translations. When a number of words are offered in translations, the results can be weird. One classic example is 'The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak', which turned into 'The ghost is ready but the neat is rotten.'

    A votre sante!

    Mohair Sam 9:20 AM  

    @lms - Your rotary phone remembrance brought to mind an 88-year-old aunt of ours who clings to her rotary phone. Couple of years back I bought her a new touch tone cordless with a second unit for her bedroom. She asked me to put it in the hall closet with the others. "The others?" I asked. "Yup," she said, "You're the fourth person to give me that new stuff. But I won't use it, rotary phones are more reliable - phone repairman told me they're making a comeback."

    Her late husband was an AT&T tech. Go figure.

    chefbea 9:20 AM  

    I agree - tough for a monday.
    What does NYAH mean? Maybe I'm not pronouncing it right.
    Puzzle husband loves tater tots!!!
    @Numinus..hope you are on the mend!!!

    Leapfinger 9:29 AM  

    Love a puzzle that STIRs DEPOT, and this one did it with Zoinks. ZOINKS??? What kind of a clue is that? EGAD, anyone who's read any Scarlet Pimpernel books (or listened to the radio show) knows that should have been Zounds!

    Went Rex one better by waffling with OMSK and OREL, finally decided that ORSK was ONEHALF way between the two. So I got to look up three cities, Oblasts and all. Nice geography lesson, but was disappointed that ORSK isn't near the ICEBRIDGE that connected Asia and North America.

    Altogether lovely, and will spend the rest of the day relaxing, only STIR occasionally.

    ArtO 9:43 AM  

    Ditto for most comments. @chef Bea NYAH, NYAH has no meaning. It's just a way of daring a fellow playmate. Origin most likely Brooklyn or the Bronx.

    Bob Kerfuffle 9:47 AM  

    You say "Oblast" (as Rex did), and the only name that comes to my mind is "Kaliningrad." But a quick look at Wikipedia shows me that there are more Oblasts around than I can count!

    retired_chemist 9:53 AM  

    When I did this I thought it was much easier than my unusually slow time would indicate. Apparently not, to judge from the NYT times and the comments here.

    Hand up for OmSK and whiskey tango foxtrot for ICEmRIDGE (yes, I did get that far before seeing there was a problem). Isn't it ka-ching?

    Nice puzzle - glad that Rex has mellowed a bit and likes recent ones.

    Thanks, Mr. Hawkins.

    gregg 9:55 AM  

    My thanks to all who commented on the challenging nature of this puzzle. My time (which I will keep to myself) fell within my typical range for a Monday. Having only worked the NYT crossword for a few months, this makes me feel as if I am making progress.

    As to the taunt NYAH, I note that, when repeated six times, it is to the tune of "Ring Around the Rosie." Perhaps the taunt came before the rhyme.

    lawprof 10:01 AM  

    A Monday puzzle that fought back a little. Typically, Monday gives up with no errors, no writeovers and no challenges. Today, however, Tse before TZU; SYMBIOTIC/SYMBIOsIs; irs/CPA; Yet/YTD. All easily fixed, but enough to put this one in the Medium/Challenging (for Monday) category.

    One quibble: a LOBO is a Mexican gray wolf, not a timber wolf. (Now that I think about it, that's not a quibble; it's an important distinction).

    r.alphbunker 10:17 AM  


    Sorry to hear that you are in the hospital. If it were near me I would definitely stop by and talk about this blog with you!

    Arlene 10:18 AM  

    I enjoyed this puzzle too - both the theme and long non-theme answers. I really like TATER TOTS!

    Regarding telephones - those old hard-wired rotary dial phones actually had better sound quality than the new stuff we have today. It was explained to me by techies. So don't try to convince 90-year-olds to switch. So much for progress.

    Steve J 10:22 AM  

    The conversation about rotary phones reminds me of this video of kids trying to figure out how to use a rotary phone. It's both very amusing, and very successful in making you feel really old.

    @jae: I missed that memo. I'm sticking with the (superior) original.

    @Z: I hesitated at CPA as well. Like you, I thought CPAs don't actually tax. Another case of being led astray when expecting precision from crossword clues.

    @Numinous: Sorry you've been laid up. Hope you feel better and are out of the hospital soon.

    @Bob Kerfuffle: Yep, tons of oblasts. They're administrative regions, sort of lying somewhere between a province and a county.

    quilter1 10:24 AM  

    Guess I'm in this constructor's wheelhouse today because I found it easy. I liked ICE BRIDGE the best and it was the first answer I thought of when reading the clue.

    tensace 10:27 AM  

    RARED stumped a Google search and my dictionary. So a big ugh to that.

    I see no symbiosis between whales and barnacles. What benefit derived is really all barnacle. But then I see biologists have broadened the definition to nearly mean "just hanging out together" So the fly I just shooed away and I have an on again, off again symbiotic relationship (literally).

    Does anyone really say IN SUM? Come on.

    Z 10:33 AM  

    In the mail today was a request for a donation from Oxfam America. Instead of address labels or note pads, I found a puzzle by one ACME.

    @Numinous - Get better soon.

    Two Ponies 10:38 AM  

    Agree that this was not a Monday puzzle and that is why I enjoyed it so much.
    Strange that this morning I had a conversation about ravens and yesterday the topic was parasite v symbiosis.
    I have a phone that looks and sounds like the old black ones except you push the button on the rotary dial. I really dislike any other ring sounds.

    GILL I. 10:38 AM  

    Cute and fresh feeling Monday puzzle.
    Agree on that strange RARED word. It sounds like something Gabby Hayes might say..."He done rared up on me dadgumit!"
    Wanted some sort of chips for those awful TATER TOTS. I can never spell words like COLOSSEUM but seeing DAPPER DAN and all those sleep issues made for a nice Monday.
    Get better @Numinous....We miss you!

    Anonymous 10:41 AM  


    That NE corner on a MONDAY?

    RnRGhost57 10:46 AM  

    @Numinous, good to have you back.

    Best telephone song: Blondie's "Hanging on the Telephone," originally done by West Coast power-pop band, the Nerves. Had the good fortune to see founding member Peter Case at a house concert a month or so back.

    Unknown 10:48 AM  

    SAGe/eFFTHEHOOK. "Eff the hook" sounds super cool to me. Sage could be a palm, couldn't it? Oh well. Next time, I'll look for the theme before guessing.

    GILL I. 10:49 AM  

    Yikes!!!!@JTHurst. I copied your sentiment....Just now went back to read all the comments and I'll be durn if you didn't mention old Gabby as well. Is that called SYMBIOSIS?

    AliasZ 10:50 AM  
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    AliasZ 10:54 AM  

    When I saw ORSK, I said: "O blast!" Really, I did say that, NYAH, NYAH.

    @Leapfinger, loved your attempted ORSK tie-in with ICE BRIDGE. Now can we see your avatar of Katica?

    With STIR, RISE, AWOKE and DAWNS, not to mention that pretty meadow bird, here is the romance for violin and orchestra, The LARK Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams based on one of the POEMS of George Meredith (1828-1909) by the same title, an evocative part of which is quoted by the composer on the musical score:

    He rises and begins to round,
    He drops the silver chain of sound,
    Of many links without a break,
    In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.

    For singing till his heaven fills,
    'Tis love of earth that he instils,
    And ever winging up and up,
    Our valley is his golden cup
    And he the wine which overflows
    to lift us with him as he goes.

    Till lost on his aerial rings
    In light, and then the fancy sings.

    Few pieces of music depict the atmosphere, spirit and meaning of words as perfectly as this astonishing work by this English master of tone painting.

    Unknown 10:54 AM  

    @Numinous! Hang tough, buddy! Have you considered constructing a puzzle? M&A might have a few runt puz pointers. Seems like constructing can expand to fill days of time, if you need it to. On the other hand, let's hope you don't need it to. Get well soon!

    I hope Will sneaks some CSLEWIS into a puzzle during your convalescence. I'm guessing you're a fan.

    Joe 11:04 AM  

    Not sure why everyone thought this puzzle was tough for a Monday. I breezed through it like I normally do for Monday puzzles. Only hang-ups were putting in SYMBIOtIc first because I misread the clue, and then the NE corner, where I apparently don't know how to spell COLOSSEUM since I spelled it COLliSEUM first, then COLiSSEUM, until I saw LOBi and realized it should be LOBO. Thankfully the guess for the G in GIL paid off, and I was forced to accept SAGO as a correct answer, since I've never heard of that.

    Other than those couple hang-ups, I thought the fill was incredibly easy in this puzzle, and the theme clues came to me immediately. Maybe this puzzle was geared toward a younger generation instead of the normal puzzles being geared toward my parents' generation for once. What a relief.

    Leapfinger 11:08 AM  

    @gregg -- I had made it 5 NYAHs, but you're right, it's 6. I think the word and the chant are inextricably linked, little kids can be such brutes.

    @numinous -- A lot of our guys at the VAH (6000 on my service) had COPD, so I know how brutal it can be. Hang tough, breathe deep, and stay numinous!

    Leapfinger 11:30 AM  

    @AliasZ --- Sorry, I don't know how to do that.

    Are you by chance the proud owner of a red Porsche?

    Jisvan 11:41 AM  

    Loved the freshness factor of this one, and agree it was a fine Monday. Really just posting say hello to Numinous. COPD is a challenging illness, mostly because of the C. UC Davis Medical is doing research into management of this condition, and one factor that stood out to me while reviewing their program for our hospital was the positive effect of social support, via formal group classes or 24 hour Respiratory hotlines or (I'm extrapolating here) crossword blog commentators. I'm thinking of you and your lovely thoughtful comments in the past, and wishing you a swift recovery.

    Carola 11:44 AM  

    What a great, NAY terrific puzzle (sorry, couldn't help it - recalling a "NAY" discussion from a while back). Nice to have a Monday challenge, really well done theme, and those AWEsome long downs.

    My mom's "Hey, slow down!" phrase was "Hold 'er, Newt, she's a-RARin'!" Had never seen the verb in print until today.

    Rotary PHONE - I just dug one out of the basement closet the other week to connect to our new fax-capable printer.

    @Numinous - May you soon RISE from your sickbed!

    jdv 11:47 AM  

    Med-Challenging. Really liked it. Can never remember if it is TSE or TZU. Do people still say Cha-ching?

    AliasZ 11:51 AM  

    @Leapy, I must confess on the Porsche. It is red.

    On the avatar, very simple: go to your Google profile. Click on the "Edit Profile" button in the upper right-hand corner. You will see a "Profile Photo" section, in which there is a "Browse" button. After selecting the photo, click on "Save Profile" at the bottom of the page. That's it.

    I missed you.

    Sfingi 12:17 PM  

    Liked it!

    Maybe because it was a bit dialed up for a Monday.

    Also, the secondary theme clues as @LMS pointed out, which is one of my favorite things in a crossword.

    I noticed, while teaching in prison, the changing meaning of OFF THE HOOK.
    Also noticed the return of idioms from my father's days: "knuckleheads" and "have a beef with" somebody.

    When people were allowed to wire in their own phone extensions, after a court ruling against Ma Bell, I went overboard and put in 9. TO remind the Yunguns, one used to pay extra for each separate phone. I still have them - Garfield, Bugs Bunny, a piano, a chocolate milk carton, a wall phone, one called a Genie, a Princess phone, etc.

    Leapfinger 12:22 PM  


    Well, well, well. So AliasZ hides low. A most satisfying reunion. Had feared you decorporealized, and am mightily pleased to find you merely transmogrified.

    I'll make a concerted attempt on the avatar front, but you may recall it required the best efforts of an entire cadre to see me through my initial attempt. It took me ages to clear the cows after they had all come home. Turns out my problem was I'd been clicking on the thumbnail instead of the photo proper. I'm still such a newbie in many respects.

    Sadly, my cousin passed away in Budapest just about a year ago, so I haven't taken the No. 7 local lately. There's a little Roumanian/Israeli-owned food shop with a fabulous selection & extremely low prices on Queens Blvd near 46th St. that I've missed mightily. Among other things.


    chefbea 12:29 PM  

    Everyone see the google logo today????

    Lewis 12:32 PM  

    Five K's, three on the East Coast. This could have been a Special K puzzle.

    Sending healing thoughts your way, Numinous.

    I had ICh for ICK, thinking "what an awful word to put in a puzzle with that clue" -- it's just so ugly. Could be a Natick to one who doesn't know the senator, and was for me.

    Clark 12:54 PM  

    Didn't know LOBO and am a terrible speller so the second vowel of COLOSSEUM was not evident to me. DNF on a monday. Oh, the humiliation!

    So LOBO is the Spanish and Portuguese word for wolf. Why is this not somehow hinted at in the clue? That seems very late week (not just Tues or Wed).

    Benko 1:19 PM  

    @Numinous: As someone who has suffered from lifelong severe asthma and persistent respiratory infections, I can definitely sympathize. It's so hard during the worst times of not being able to breathe. Sounds like you are relaxed, though, which is the most important thing. Get well and make sure they give you foods which don't cause inflammation or mucus overproduction. (Dairy is particularly bad in that regard.)

    LaneB 1:19 PM  

    What made this puzz more challenging (for a Monday) was the disconnect between some of the clues and the fill, e.g., a40' a52a24 to name a few. The cross of d4 and a14 heeled me up; likewise d41and a49. But it was fun anyway and I managed to avoid a DNF With only a.couple of erasures and one good guess ( Gunderson.)

    AliasZ 1:37 PM  

    @Leapy, transmogrification is one of my useful abilities. Sorry to hear about your cousin in Budapest. If you find yourself in NYC, you should try Andre's Café for some down-home sounds and tastes.

    @Clark, I agree that LOBO was a bit of a low blow for a Monday, however it is a fairly common name for the gray or timber wolf of the western U.S.

    mac 1:41 PM  

    Excellent but tough Monday! Agree with Rex's write-up word for word.

    @Numinous: so sorry! Get better soon.

    Masked and Anonymo3Us 2:16 PM  

    @Numinous: sincere getwell wishes. I recommend homemade darkchocolate chip oatmeal cookies. After a multiple-month regimen of those before the big physical exam, my doc asked, "wow, have you been workin out?"

    @muse: r.alph is right. Just output a .puz file to your computer, any old way you can. Not necessary to use Across-Fright to do it, it's just the way el cheapo del M and Ao does it. So, Then follow my later steps, startin with pay Jeff Chen $20 bucks.
    Let the chant begin... Muse runtpuz... Muse runtpuz...

    @63: primo writeup. Puz enjoyment looks good on U.

    fave moo-cow MonPuz clue: "Pig sounds" = OINKS.

    fave word: RARED. Luv it. Cousin of BARNED.
    honrable mention to: NYAH. Sorta like Putin Breath startin to say no, then seein the light.

    fave weeject: KYL. Too bad it's someone's name. Otherwise, could have some great desperate-double-??-like clues for it. ("___ Byl", etc.)


    Anonymous 2:36 PM  

    Challenging for a Monday, no question. I saw that long 40-A and confidently wrote in WHATSKEEPINGYOU, thinking that was going to give me a lot of help with the crosses in that vicinity. It worked in part, but proved untenable for most of the crosses. Never heard of ORSK but never heard of ICEBMIDGE either, so figured it had to be correct. Thought for a while the theme might be sleep, because of the clues for 33-A, 51-A, 69-A, and even 65-A. Had some trouble replacing my initial IRS at 40-A with CPA -- the work of a CPA is of course taxing but I was thinking of "taxing" as a gerund instead of as an adjective.

    chefwen 2:50 PM  

    @Numinous - Get well soon, we're all pulling for you.

    chefbea 3:09 PM  

    In our local paper we have a crossword puzzle every day by Thomas Joseph. They are very easy. Todays was really fun. You all might like it. I don't know hoe to imbed but here is the link

    Anonymous 4:44 PM  


    Favourite potential clue: Sleeping pig sounds = ZZZZOINKS!

    M and Also 5:26 PM  

    @anonymous 4:44:
    Thanx for the inspiration!...


    Leapfinger 6:52 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Anoa Bob 7:24 PM  

    I'll join others in giving the fill high marks. SYMBIOSIS & DAPPER DAN were my favorites.

    I thought the theme execution, on the other hand, was subpar, to put it mildly. Two of the themers, PHONE IT IN & OFF THE HOOK (as in "You got a busy signal because I left the receiver OFF THE HOOK") were free-standing phone related phrases.

    Two of the other themers, RING A BELL & DIAL IT DOWN, only had one word, and the third themer, WHATS THE HANG UP, had two words, and all of these are in otherwise phone-unrelated phrases.

    Also DIAL & RING are at the beginning of their phrases while HANG UP is at the end of its phrase.

    So, unless I'm missing something, there seems to be a lot of looseness, almost disjointedness to the theme execution to me.

    OISK 8:09 PM  

    I think that New Mexico's teams are the lobos, and I am a big college basketball fan, so that was no problem for me. "Off the hook" was, though; have never heard that phrase used to mean anything other than "no longer required to do something." Unusually tough Monday for me, but still enjoyed it. Nice puzzle. (Like many others, had erasures at ORSK and TZU)
    I did not get to comment over the weekend, but I loved the Saturday puzzle.

    Scarab 8:29 PM  

    Magmic is still showing this one instead of Tuesday. Is it just me?

    The Answer Man 8:40 PM  

    @Scarab- Try again after 10 pm eastern.

    Scarab 9:37 PM  

    @Answer Man - Thanks! I don't know why I was thinking today was a 6 PM day.

    sanfranman59 10:11 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 7:57, 6:04, 1.31, 100%, Challenging (2nd highest ratio of 229 Mondays)

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 4:59, 3:57, 1.26, 99%, Challenging (3rd highest ratio of 229 Mondays)

    An Easy-Medium Tuesday puzzle.

    Z 10:35 PM  

    It's always nice, in that "I'm glad I'm not an idiot" way, when @sanfranman59's numbers confirm my 8:00 am take on the puzzle's difficulty. Now, can I prove I'm not a robot?

    spacecraft 11:08 AM  

    ICK NYAH ORSK: OHWOW, AWFUL! So no, the fill is not without its blemishes, but there is a lot to like. SYMBIOSIS, even though using three S's, is a word you don't stumble across every day. I also liked the other nines.

    OFFTHEHOOK, while certainly "in the language," is certainly NOT "extremely cool" in any language I've ever heard. To me it's "relieved of responsibility."

    Unusual to find a near-natick on a Monday: SA_O/_IL. Sorry, but you're gonna get me every time with "Simpsons" references; the humor there never did appeal to me and I never got into it. I was just lucky that I thought I dimly recalled "SAGO" as some kind of tree, so I went with it.

    INSUM, an OK Monday. BYE, see ya tomorrow.

    DMG 1:57 PM  

    Beyond stumbling over the spelling of COLOSSEUM, I nailed this one, but then I still treasure my rotary phone. You have no idea how it amazes and amuses the younger crowd! Must confess I did have to get one of those modern things so I can call those people who insist you push a bunch of buttons before they'll talk to you,and that only after "a voice" has announced somebody may be listening in. If they can hire someone to listen in, why don't they just answer the phone? Bah humbug!

    Dirigonzo 6:04 PM  

    I liked it - only the OFFTHEHOOK/KESEY cross was a total guess as "slang" can pretty arbitrary. Mini-theme involving getting out of bed, with STIR, AWOKE and RISE, all probably happening at DAWNS. It's hard to sleep in with that dang RAVEN outside the window.

    @Z - your comment makes me think I need to start opening my junk-mail on the off-chance an ACME puzzle may be in the offing - I would hate to miss one of those!


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