Coordinated gene cluster / SUN 12-7-14 / Operatic baritone Pasquale / Bartiromo of Fox Business / Engineers competition set in ring / Warren who wrote war of roses / Sci-fi shooter / Superfood used in smoothies / Godfather enforcer who sleeps with fishes /

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (with chewy Medium-Challenging center)

THEME: "Holdup Man" — puzzle is about ATLAS (102D: Mythological figure hinted at by the answers to the eight starred clues as well as this puzzle's design); ATLAS is (in the grid) positioned directly beneath and thus visually sort of "holding up" "the world" (that floating ball of squares in the middle of the grid). Theme answers are common phrases that you can kind of punnily associate with the whole ATLAS situation…

Theme answers:
  • SUPPORTING ACTOR (23A: *One who's not leading)
  • BRACE YOURSELF (29A: *"I have some bad news…")
  • PILLAR OF STRENGTH (16D: *Comfort provider during difficult times)
  • WEIGHT OF THE WORLD (37D: *Crushing burden)
  • UPPER BACK PAIN (100A: *What a massage may relieve)
  • SHOULDER THE LOAD (114A: *Not shirk a difficult task)
  • HEAVY DUTY (69A: *Very durable)
  • MR. OLYMPIA (45D: *Arnold Schwarzenegger, once)
Word of the Day: DEEP WEB (78A: Content that's hard for a search engine to access) —
  1. the part of the World Wide Web that is not discoverable by means of standard search engines, including password-protected or dynamic pages and encrypted networks. 
    "the biggest weakness of the Deep Web is also its greatest strength: it's really hard to find anything" (google)

• • •

This puzzle is like a very well-made car that I would not, personally, care to purchase. This is to say, I recognize that what we have here is a thoughtful theme and heroic (!) execution, but the cuteness of the theme answers was a bit cutesy. For Me. I still admire the hell out of this thing for a lot of reasons, namely its sheer creativity (specifically, to the "earth" in the middle of the grid) and the pair of loopy but fun answers I've never seen or heard of before, but trust actually exist (DEEP WEB, ROBOT SUMO). The "earth" part of this grid was both the most impressive and the most enjoyable part of the solve, largely because it was the only part of the solve with any teeth. I really had to fight to conquer that damned orb, whereas I went through the rest of the puzzle like it wasn't there. If I hadn't hit the chewy center, I'd've had a record Sunday time, easy. As it was, I still finished under 10 (fast for me). Impressive that the "earth" part has two additional theme answers, as well as one very creative abbr. I've never seen before (P.O. BOX NO.). I don't know what native WIT is, or who Pasquale AMATO is, and if I've seen Warren ADLER before, I don't recall, but otherwise the extraterrestrial parts of the puzzle put up virtually no resistance. Toughest part was probably the far SE, where [Forte] (LOUD) and [Break] (TAME) were terse and enigmatic enough for me to need all the crosses—including SUMO, which I had to infer.

OK, good Sunday. Onward. Oh, a reminder (to myself as well as you): my regular first-Monday-of-every-month guest blogger will be back for tomorrow's write-up, even though it's the second Monday of the month (I screwed up and spaced out last week, doing the whole write-up before realizing it wasn't my turn). So do return for that. Bye then.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    jae 12:05 AM  

    Easiest Sun. for me in quite a while, which was good for me as we have weekend guests and I was able to finish it during the interlude between the matinee and cocktail hour.

    Not much else to say as it went by very quickly.  I may have liked it? What Rex said?

    George NYC 12:17 AM  

    The orb shows the continents 50 years from now after the oceans rise

    Steve J 12:17 AM  

    Found this too cute by half.

    The stuff in orbit had lots of nice bits, even if it was quite easy. But the terrestrial portion was, frankly, terrible. Even without considering that it's closed off from the rest of the puzzle. HONALEE, PO BOX NO. and SERIES E are all just bad fill (and, while DEEP WEB is technically a thing, it's a term neither I nor anyone around me has used in 20 years of working in internet businesses). Yeah, I didn't help myself with "muscle man" in place of MR OLYMPIA and "house No." in place of PO BOX NO. It's still an ungainly section in my book.

    And ATLAS really needed shoulders for the visual to work. This makes it look like he's balancing the earth on his head. Neat trick, but not what he's known for.

    Moly Shu 12:22 AM  

    Held up at LOUD and TAME also. Was thinking of a different kind of forte. I didn't find the middle challenging at all. It was the first section I completed. HONALEE URN SYD and NOTTOBE made it a snap. Cool concept, liked the visual.

    Unknown 12:30 AM  

    1:52 but felt longer. 8 errors, four of which came from my all-Nevada city name letter permutation problem: rEno(-> orEn) instead of MESA(-> AMES). The crosses, then, were SCArPS for SCAMPS, nEAHAG for SEAHAG, and oRIOSE for ARIOSE. Nothing really objectionable in the Reno version. I mean, is SCAMPS really better than SCArPS? I rest my case. I also had [Mariner's array] MAcS for MAPS and so cAPA for PAPA smurf. Mariners wear MAc[kintosh]S while consulting their MAPS, so, OK anyway. Lastly, ATEAWAYAr/rHEA was a failure to check a cross -- as well as a failure to know my mythical begats.

    I had really wanted DarkWEB for DEEPWEB. That cost me many minutes at the end of the solve.

    Overall, it was an innocuous experience. A bit faster than normal. But a nice co-solve with the Mrs. in front of the wood stove, so happiness reigns.

    Unknown 12:35 AM  

    oops: Orem, Utah. it seems there is no City of Oren to be found on this side of the DEEPWEB.

    paulsfo 12:36 AM  

    My comments match most of what CASCO KID said (minus the wood stove and the Mrs).

    In my rating system for clever clues, today I found none.

    Whirred Whacks 12:39 AM  

    Solving this puzzle this afternoon was almost as enjoyable as watching Ohio State absolutely crush Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship title game tonight. ATLAS was a big Buckeye fan back in the day.

    I would've liked to have seen a CHARLES Atlas answer, but I guess Ahnold's MR OLYMPIA title is as close as I'll get.

    The MESA/Ames city switch thing was fun. I also liked SCAMPS and ROBOT SUMO.

    Enjoy your Sunday.

    paulsfo 12:41 AM  

    BTW, Given that Casco Kid supplies a photo, and that the population of Casco, Me is 3,500, it would be a fun weekend project hang out downtown (I'm assuming there is one) one weekend and try to spot him.
    But I'm 3,000 miles away, so I'll leave it as an exercise for the group. :)

    Greg 12:42 AM  

    I had myself thoroughly convinced that Arnold must have been MRaustrIA at some point.

    chefwen 1:13 AM  

    @Whirred Wacs - Being a Cheesehead I'm a huge Badger fan, even named our new puppy Bucky. Had to give up watching at half time, it was that painful. (Hi @Carola) Jon hung in there 'til the bitter end.

    Had the whole puzzle completed in near record time for a Big Ass Sunday except for the center world. That remained white until I started chipping away. P.O. BOX should have been easy as that's the only way we receive our mail. If the sender happens to use our physical address the nice???? ladies at the P.O. return it. I believe that there are only two people on this entire rock with our last name. That really VEXEs me. Oh well! As Jon would say "it is what it is".

    Time to HOP TO the new week.

    'mericans in Paris 4:37 AM  

    ATLAS? [Shrug]

    Definitely medium-easy. Wasn't too troubled in the orb, but was tripped up by wanting HaNALEI and MR americA. Took the Mrs. (who is on a business trip across the pond) to finish.

    Like the Casco Kid, had Dark WEB instead of DEEP WEB. Mrs. 'mericans fixed that. Afterwards, Googled both terms. OK, DEEP WEB gets twice as many HITS as Dark WEB, but nowadays the media uses the latter term a lot more than the former.

    Also got stuck in the east with all the proper names -- BRASI, ERIN MORAN, MARIA, THEA -- and technical terms (OPERON).

    Was usually able to guess the rest of the theme answers after solving the first one in the NW.

    Not so enthusiastic about this puzzle as @Rex seems to be. But do agree that it included lots of words not previously seen on these pages. For awhile, it seemed as if no Sunday puzzle was complete if it didn't include ERNE ("Sea Eagle") or LOC CIT.

    So three cheers for ROBOT SUMO, NET WT, and SPASM.

    Some favorite cluing: 34D Day to beware, 74A Bald spot coverer, 113A Create, as a canyon, 122A Be a busy beaver?

    Cavil: shouldn't 50A Muttered commentary be plural -- i.e., commentaries?

    Have a great Sunday, all!

    Thomas808 4:50 AM  

    The center went pretty quick for me with the gimmes HONALEE, MROLYMPIA, and NOTTOBE. I think it really made a difference that I still remember Pumping Iron, the documentary with Arnold back in the 70's going for the Mr. Olympia title. Those gimmes quickly led to DMV and POBOXNO and the rest followed. DEEPWEB on top of SERIESE was only possible by crosses.

    Both the SW and SW was where I struggled. It wasn't easy but I really liked the MESA clue. I also thought UPPERBACKPAIN was genius! Not at all like the other theme answers, but still ATLAS related and very funny.

    Danp 5:08 AM  

    Loved the solve. Like @Casco, I had Reno (even thinking of the Utah city) and couldn't let go. It seems the quicker I come up with answers, especially these cryptic ones, the less likely I am to ever question it.

    And I had MISTERUSA for the Governator.

    John Child 6:02 AM  
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    John Child 6:05 AM  

    A pretty good Sunday puzzle I thought. It should have been very fast, but the SE took as long as the rest. (Well, almost.) EKBERt confused things, and OPERON was a woe. I can imagine ROBOT SUMO, but seriously doubted it when the possibility of that answer appeared. I'm very glad that HONALEE was a gimme, because the center might have been tough without it.

    Symmetric FREEBIE and RAN A TAB made me chuckle. Also RASTA MAN(TA) vibrations. Clueing didn't thrill me, but the theme, once i grokked it in fullness, did. Thanks Mr Chen.

    John Child 6:17 AM  

    An @Lewis-style factoid: Marlene Dietrich was one of the first artists to cover Puff, the Magic Dragon, in 1963 as Paff, der Zauberdrachen

    'mericans in Paris 6:46 AM  

    Two nice crosses: WEIGHT OF THE WORLD and METRIC, and NYET AND YALTA. I wonder if they were intentional.

    By the way, bread at the table is certainly a FREEBIE in France, but when we visit the 'States it's often something that runs up our TAB.

    Bob Kerfuffle 6:51 AM  

    My loss, but I found the puzzle competent but not very exciting.

    @'mericans in Paris - I've never traveled in France, but I know that in Austria and Germany it has always been the case that we have been charged per piece for any bread eaten, while the low dives I frequent in America do not add a separate charge for bread!

    Hartley70 6:52 AM  

    Very fast solve. I agree the center was the hardest area but I remembered Oregon so in my mind that left me only two cities and SALEM fit. HEAVYDUTY and POBOXNO gave me the rest. Enjoyable theme. I don't really see the picture in the grid. We're meant to be looking down from above?

    chefbea 7:03 AM  

    @Chefwen I agree with you. Had the outside finished and the world was almost blank for the longest time..
    Never heard of deep web or robot sumo.

    Loved the clue for crisco!!!

    Ted Cole 7:03 AM  

    Couldn't work "shrugged" in there, someplace?

    GILL I. 7:06 AM  

    Zippy (hi @jae) fun puzzle. Didn't take EONS like most Sunday's. Learned DEEPWEB and ROBOTSUMO. Got a chuckle at "Take A MEMO." During my "I have to support myself while going to art school" days I took a quickie course in short hand so that I could be a secretary or, as my grandmother would say...amanuensis. Every time I heard HOP TO, I felt MT OSSA exploding and the MEMO always turned out to be a 4 page letter....
    I had the MR. at 45D but OOPS MY BAD didn't fit for the rest.
    Liked the ESCAPADE crossing PEDRO. Also wanted octopi instead of SEA HAG and for some reason SCAMPS just didn't seem right for April foolers.
    If you ever go to MACHU Picchu, take the oxygen they offer the tourists....You need an extra AIR TUBE.
    Good puzzle Jeff Chen...Is that a bowling ball in the middle?

    emspop1 7:38 AM  

    Is the SCOTT SALEM placement a coincidence or is Jeff Chen a fan of Howard Stern's long-time embattled radio engineer? Nice puzzle.

    Glimmerglass 8:31 AM  

    Not quite as easy for me as the rest of you heroes. The center was hard, but so was the whole south underworld. I knew bits and pieces, but not ADLER, PEDRO, ARIOSE, OGEES, ROBOT SUMO, OPERON, and some of the others were hidden in the DEEP WEB of my synapses (EKBERG). I prevailed in the end, but it was a struggle.

    Dorothy Biggs 8:40 AM  

    Easy solve for me today...and not to toot my own horn, but the orb part of the grid was the easiest part. MROLYMPIA was the piece that made the dominoes fall. HONALEE, NOTTOBEE, and DEEPWEB were pretty much gimmes.

    This college football playoff thing is a good idea poorly executed. Everyone can agree that the BCS was terrible but it did one huge thing: it removed "style-point wins." Teams just had to win by a point or two rather than trying to "impress" voters with blowouts. Well, we're back to that. The endless arguing over TCU/Baylor, or whether the B1G should have a team in the playoff, who deserves to be in or's ridiculous.

    There is no sport on this planet that tries to determine who the "best" team is for its championships. Very often the winner of the World Series or the Super Bowl or even March Madness isn't "the best team." For some reason, college football holds on to the idea white knuckled and in spite of any evidence to the contrary.

    The argument logic "if team A beats team B, and team B beats team C, then team A should beat team C" is never may be correlative but it surely isn't causitive. There are lots of teams who could lay claim to a championship because they beat a team that is much better than them.

    Here's the solution: have a 6-team playoff. The "Big 5" conferences all get in by virtue of their championship games...the Big 12 would have to get on board with this...and the 6th team in would be a play in game between the best ranked teams who are independent, mid-tier, or one of the next in line of the big 5 conferences.

    This committee's ridiculousness can be summed up in two words: Condoleeza Rice.

    I love that we have a playoff...and tOSU deserves to be in it...but Baylor should be a no-brainer. They beat TCU head to head. Period.

    Carry on with your Sunday...

    deep thoughts 8:55 AM  

    Easiest Fri-Sat-Sun combo in a very long time. I'm surprised Rex liked today as much as he did. I found it pretty boring and very easy (especially after the gems the last 2 days), and he's always railing against grid designs that cut off complete puzzle sections. Oh well, he did it on a Saturday night and was probably sloshed by the time he wrote his post.
    I'm always amused by people on this site who criticize answers (like DEEPWEB) as "too obscure" just because they never heard of them.

    RAD2626 9:12 AM  

    Clever puzzle, clever theme clues and lot of clever unusual fill. ROBOT SUMO. Really?

    Knew how to say(sing) but not spell HONALEE and wanted Melina Mercouri for EKBERG so that slowed things down.

    Pleasant Sunday puzzle.

    Unknown 9:19 AM  

    Boom. Easiest Sunday in ages. Played like a medium Friday. I enjoyed it, even though the theme was blindingly obvious to me within a few words from the start. (Note, that is usually NOT the case for me.). Had a chuckle when I saw the Puff clue. Last night I looked up the chords to the song to play it for my daughter, who is learning guitar. Haven't thought about that song in years. Definitely a 'plate of shrimp' moment.

    like ATLAS, I shrugged 9:21 AM  

    Can one of you computer geniuses print a puzzle and draw in what I'm supposed to see for "Atlas holding up the world" and post it (or a link to it) on the site? I see the globe in the middle, of course, but I can't manage to see Atlas at all.
    Fun Sunday despite my terrible spatial visualization capabilities.

    Dorothy Biggs 9:26 AM  

    like ATLAS: the word ATLAS appears directly below the orb and so "appears" to be "holding up the world."

    Picchu this! 9:26 AM  

    Oh, and do we really need the "(Peruvian high spot)" in the clue for 10-D? isn't "____ Picchu" enough? Just a tad insulting, IMHO. OTOH...

    Like Atlas, I shrugged 9:29 AM  

    Ah! Silly me, I was looking for a drawing of muscled arms somewhere in the grid. As usual, it was much simpler than that. Thanks NCA Pres.

    Mohair Sam 9:47 AM  

    This one seemed a little difficult, but finished quickly - so we agree with Rex's rating. Also agree that the middle played toughest, except for a little battle with LOUD and TAME (both beautifully clued) in the SE.

    Surprised more here haven't heard of DEEPWEB, we're only casual web users and knew the term - talk about fresh fill, btw. Have no idea why SERIESE was a gimme, but it was.

    Disagree @Steve J's (12:17) take on the puzzle, but love his comment about ATLAS balancing the world on his head. No mean trick for sure.

    Always enjoyable cluing from Jeff Chen. Delightful Sunday puzzle.

    Charles Flaster 9:57 AM  

    Medium and very few "aha" moments. Not familiar with OPERON,ROBOT SUMO or ADLER.
    Chewed on my fat instead of my CUD for quite a bit slowing me down.
    Did like cluing for AMES and LEFTS.
    Very little crosswordEASE especially for a Sunday. Still tough to get the "picture" but thanks to JC.

    joho 10:08 AM  

    Love that SHOULDER crosses ATLAS and that UPPERBACKPAIN is exactly where it should be.

    My solve was very similar to @Rex's. To continue his chewy center analogy, I found the round middle section comparable to the sweet creamy fill in Crossworld's favorite cookie, the Oreo. Here the clever "world" section really was the icing on the cake, er, cookie. Plus adding a HEAVYDUTY MROLYMPIA to ATLAS' already huge WEIGHTOFTHEWORLD was a nice touch.

    Thank you, Jeff! Your skill and creativity is ridiculous! I'm beyond impressed!

    Tita 10:11 AM  
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    Tita 10:12 AM  

    My Dad's offices were in the Portuguese consulate, at that time located in the ATLAS Building. Therefore, I liked this puzzle!

    I woulda liked it anyway, and found it crunchier than OFL. Obscure names in the mid-east, and rHEA as the mythical mom, kept that section just out of reach for a very long time.

    @'mericans - in Portugal, very often, every single item placed on a table, even if you didn't ask for it, will be billed if you touch it. Once, several appetizers were placed on the table as soon as we sat down - fabulous olives, bread, of course, and coarsely-chopped pigs' ears... Well, adventurists that we are, we each had a bit, just to say we did. 1,550 escudos (~$9.00) added to the bill taught us our lesson.

    And btw - thanks for clearing up the answer to that clue - it hadn't clicked for me.

    Hand up for Reno/Oren.

    Thank you Jeff - just right for Sunday.

    joho 10:15 AM  

    Forgot to mention that, "Option in Hamlet" for NOTTOBE was my favorite clue.

    jberg 10:31 AM  

    I, too, spent way too much time trying to see the whole thing as a picture of ATLAS holding up the earth, but I think it's not there-- just his name doing the work, with UPPER BACK PAIN spreading out from his shoulders.

    And, like @Tita, I found the mid-East challenging, as ERIN MORAN crossing MARIA both had to bue guessed on grounds of plausibility. And I don't eat cereal, so NET WT was hard to come up with (I was looking for something about a secret decoder ring.) When I got it, the rest fell into place.

    And speaking of the Mideast, you have to admire the placement of the United Arab Emirates in the grid!

    I couldn't think of any four-letter cities at all, not even Reno or Waco, so I just waited for the crosses; finally got MESA from the _ESA! And proud of it!

    OK, that's it for today -- off to look for ROBOT SUMO on YouTube.

    Arlene 10:47 AM  

    I started this Saturday night - decided to finish in the morning. I love how the brain responds to that protocol - what looked hard turns into simple.

    I'm a "connections" solver, so that meant the outside was done before there was anything in the orb. As others mention, that puzzle-within-a-puzzle was a bit tough - but ultimately do-able.

    My kind of Sunday puzzle experience!

    Z 10:47 AM  

    UPPER BACK PAIN crossing ATLAS provides the full visual.

    I got the theme early with PILLAR and WEIGHT OF answers. Had a little fun on earth since my "Java holder" is a cup, and I briefly considered CPU. Fortunately, HONALEE immediately cleared that up. Otherwise, my only real hold-up was the south where SEAHAG, ARIOSE, AIRTUBE, OGEES, SCAMPS, and EKBERG were all opaque for a long time.

    Speaking of busy beavers, who says traffic engineers are humorless? Look at I-75 on a map. From the Ohio border to Detroit it travels NE. In Detroit it takes a left turn and heads NW with several odd curves whose raison d'être are hard to fathom until one gets to Exit 69 in Troy, Big Beaver Road. Look at the map and tell me that was happenstance.

    @Constructors - My paper is yet to arrive, so I opened the Times Digest that arrives everyday in my email and printed off page 7, the puzzle. The first thing I noticed is that the byline is constructor first, editor second, both in the same font.

    RooMonster 10:47 AM  

    Hey Akl !
    Liked this kooky SunPuz. Hands up for the center being the hardest spot. Not crazy about POBOXNO. Wasn't happy at first with NOTTOBE either, but that one grew on me and now think it's clever! I did fnish without a single error! Hoot Hoot! No Googling, either. Did have writeovers: 35D had MbA, which gave me bRiochE for the bread, but once the crosses started filling in, sussed out the F and got FREEBIE, glenS for DALES, aeon for EONS, phaser for RAYGUN (too much Star Trek!), Anote for AMEMO, tea for ARE (Is for two? clue).

    I can see the orb as the world, and ATLAS supporting it, but no one mentioned (hence, no one saw) that UPPER BACK (PAIN) is directly under the "earth" and across the top of ATLAS, ergo the earth is not resting on his head.

    Twas easy-medium here mostly, middle as I said herder, but worked it all out. Like @chefbea, thought 7D clue was nifty. I see lots of double letters, @Lewis? Lots of U's also.


    noone 10:48 AM  

    Pasquale AMATO
    Pasquale AMATO was an Italian operatic baritone. Amato enjoyed an international reputation but attained the peak of his fame in New York City, where he sang with the Metropolitan Opera from 1908 until 1921.
    No connection with the AMATO Opera, founded by Anthony and Sally AMATO in 1948, which performed free and low-cost opera in NY for 61 years.

    Steve M 10:55 AM  


    F.O.G. 11:00 AM  

    Liked "Sign of success?" for SRO
    and "Two will get you turned around" for LEFTS

    This will be a REDLETTER day for me if the Buckeyes are selected to the big dance

    RooMonster 11:03 AM  

    Damn, @Z, you just beat me to the explanation! *Shakes fist in air*


    Questinia 11:04 AM  

    Wasn't Schwarzenegger also MR. Universe? Yeah, that cost me.

    @ Gill, I love, love, LOVE, the word amanuensis and use it whenever I can.

    I tell people that my amanuensis, a fictional woman named Evelyn who used to work the Clinique counter at Bendel's, quit me for Cap Ferrat (must have overpaid her) and I had to hire Jason a millenial who needs lots of coaching and treats. THAT's why I haven't gotten back to them.

    RooMonster 11:08 AM  

    Hey Akl.... damn typos

    Nancy 11:12 AM  

    Agree completely with Rex. Went from so easy I was bored (on the outside)to completely unsolvable on the inside. HOUSE NO. instead of PO BOX NO and SSA instead of DMV completely did me in. Was looking for a MR. something-or-other for Arnold, but couldn't find the M. And therefore DNF.

    AliasZ 11:13 AM  

    This was a delightful puzzle by Jeff Chen. I sensed a good-humored, lighthearted mood throughout while solving it. What put me in that frame of mind may have been that I found it easy, or that the theme entries were all lovely common phrases that roll of the tongue unforced.

    The visual was an added bonus. ATLAS balancing Earth on his head? Good grief, how literal. It is the UPPER BACK PAIN running across ATLAS is what really SHOULDERs THE LOAD. If we are too visual, we'll see the absurd: ATLAS hanging from a ring, or ATLAS the trained seal balancing a beach ball on his nose, or a helium-filled balloon with ATLAS as the string, or the Venus ♀ symbol, ATLAS and his SHOULDER across representing the portion hanging from the circle. No, it's a bowling ball. It's the cross section of a twinaxial cable. It's a tilted smiley face missing its mouth. It's two peas in a pan.

    Let us not ignore some of the new words we all learned today, and some we may have forgotten that we learned: OPERON, SEAHAG, DEEP WEB, EKBERG, BRASI, ROBOT SUMO, native WIT, Pasqule AMATO, and nobody doesn't like HONALEE. I do wish OPERON were OBERON, but then it would be UPPER BACK BAIN, which last I checked, was not a thing. Here is the first sentence of the definition of OPERON from the Encyclopædia Britannica: "Genetic regulatory system found in bacteria and their viruses in which genes coding for functionally related proteins are clustered along the DNA." Got it?

    - A-CUP, A-ROD, A-MEMO, A-SIDES, A-DOS -- missing a-bed, a-kimbo and a-few others.
    - SERIESE is the language of the people who live in Seria.
    - For REDLETTER I almost entered bEDwETTER, but this has no special significance.

    Enjoy your Sunday!

    PS. Part of my captcha was EARTH. How eerie!

    ArtO 11:13 AM  

    After not even denting Saturday's, I flew through the entire perimeter in record time for me. Unfortunately had SPREADS instead of STREAMS which made POBOXNO an impossibility and the middle a DNF.

    Teedmn 11:20 AM  

    Great puzzle. It took my usual time of an hour for a Sunday. Until I get the theme, I just can't see anything but gimmes. It's as if my brain is frozen like a deer in the headlights until seeing the theme lets me relax enough to see the chewier answers. So I had PILLAR OF STRENGTH and then the WEIGHT OF THE WORLD was off my SHOULDERs because I now got the theme, and everything that had seemed obscure was now clear(er). Not that it was error free - I too had the mythical city of Oren in mind for 93A (first tried
    Enid in my head, but that was Deni((ed) ).

    YALTA made LOUD and TAME easy for me, demonstrating how differently things go for each solver. But I'm in the Center most difficult camp with @Rex, et al. HOuseNO caused most of the woe.

    42As clue made me smile, and like @Tita, reminded me of Portugal. It took us about half a week, and a heads-up from a driver, to figure out the you touch it, you own it policy of the plates of bread and olives. By then we were so into eating them, we didn't care, except for the plate of barnacles, which we had taken away with no temptation to try!

    Thanks, Mr. Chen, for a nice solve. I am so glad my initial look at the grid was wrong -we were not looking down the barrel of the gun of the Holdup Man :-) !

    Z 11:20 AM  

    It looks like @Roomonster, @jberg, and myself were all reading and typing at the same time. Great minds think alike and all that.

    As for football - American football is an ode to the triumph of marketing. Three hours of advertising interrupted by 11 minutes of game play, and fans are convinced that the game is "compelling." Personally, as a Michigander I will feel more than a little schadenfreude at the agony south of the border when they don't make the fake play-offs. One can't live in Michigan one's whole life and not. Otherwise, I could not possibly care one wit less.

    Fredd Smith 11:23 AM  

    @Paulsfo --

    I always thought Casco's handle referred to tha Bay, not the town (probably because I'd never heard of it).

    But I seem to remember looking at his profile some time ago, and seeing something around the Chesapeake area.

    So where are you, Kid? Inquiring minds need to know!

    Leapfinger 11:39 AM  

    PO BOX, NO. PO' BOy, yes!

    Like OFL, I found the center chewiest; was sure the spelling was HONA-Li, and even with that old photo of the Governator firmly in my mind's eye, it took a while to dredge up OLYMPIA, knowing that MR. Universe/America/Austria weren't right.

    Not much HEAVY lifting in this solve, but still managed to find some trouble solving up the East coast: phaser/RAYGUN, Native son, rail/OVAL, dell/DALE, a tower OF STRENGTH. Seems I still have trouble working the fill from the tail end.

    Nice to see THEA Leoni, SHAREIN Stone and a hint of Irene ADLER. Remembered the very mammalian EKBERG, but like @RAD52, prefer the Mercourial Melina.

    Re the grid design: I thought ATLAS holding up the Earth looked like a lollipop. Thought the black squares might be North and South America, and loved @George NYC's idea about the oceans rising. My biggest disappointment was the central theme placement, which look like cross-hairs on the world. Y?
    Would have liked HEAVY DUTY to be the Equator, with themers in place of POBOXNO and DEEPWEB to be the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
    Too much to ask?

    One last: Yesterday, we had a bit of a kerfuffle about religion, so I was somewhat appalled to see Mr. Chen edge into the political arena today. I mean, what are the ODS of having MITTS Romney, Ronald RAYGUN and the former MR. OLYMPIA central in the grid just by chance? With only MARIA Shriver for balance? And we all know what happened to her. Please Jeff, no MAWR!!

    Have a nice RASTA y'all's Sundays, esp @CRISCO Kid.

    Unknown 11:48 AM  

    @fred, @paulsfo I take my name from the body of water I see when I look outside my front door: Casco Bay. But I grew up "inside the Beltway" in what is technically, but only technically, Maryland. Casco, ME is a very nice little country town near Sebago Lake 30 miles west of Munjoy Hill in Portland proper. Casco boasts a terrific public library.

    But I can be spotted at cofffe shops on Munjoy Hill and at Bard Coffee in the Old Port. @r.alph came through last summer, which was very nice. I did not expect a hardboiled New England accent from an IOWA(n).

    While everyone is welcome to come meet me here in America's best little city, it is more likely that my ship will pull into your port, sooner or later, so expect an unexpected tweet from me inviting you for sustenance and libation at a watering hole of your choosing. Crossword puzzles are fun. Comraderie of kindred spirits is better.

    Speaking of imagined voices/accents, don't we all imagine M&A sounding like Owen Meany? HAR.

    Fredd Smith 11:58 AM  

    @Casco --

    I'm familiar with Casco Bay, having often visited friends on Cliff Island. Just thinking about the lobstahs fresh off the boat, and steamahs dug off the beach, has my mouth watering.

    -- Fred

    Ludyjynn 12:02 PM  

    After two pathetic DNFs in a row, I was relieved to encounter this doable Sunday. My pea brain needed a pat on the back, so to speak.

    PBS has been re-airing a Peter, Paul and Mary retrospective here this week, so it was nice to see "Puff"'s land, HONALEE, in the grid. I got to see PP&M perform at the old Forest Hills(NY) Tennis Stadium when I was in high school and of course, they did not disappoint. However, it was pretty hilarious when Mary Travers, who had just returned from vacation, had a brain fart and forgot some of the lyrics to "Puff"! She actually sang, "and I forget the words". The guys cracked up, huddled w/ her and then resumed singing the complete song.

    A few years later, she was touring solo when I was on my university arts/concert committee. I was assigned to pick her up from the airport to get her to the venue. She was the most personable, down to earth lady, a real class act. She is sorely missed.

    Thanks, JC and WS, for some solid Sunday clueing and a fun walk down memory lane.

    Fred Romagnolo 1:20 PM  

    Like @Rex I aced the surrounds, but got flummoxed in the center. I toyed with Mr. Austria, and America, but Olympia just didn't come through. I didn't know about Puff's environs, or where in Oregon the Cuckoo's Nest was. Like so many, I never heard of DEEP WEB; isn't there something about at least 40% of the public should have heard of it, or does that only apply to crossings? (naticks) For FDR's bonds I wanted "Savings" or "Defense". So a big DNF in the center." BTW Google has Puff in Hanalei. There are recordings of AMATO doing duets with Caruso. A class act.

    Fred Romagnolo 1:29 PM  

    @Z said: I have become a great, great, grand uncle; my niece's great grandson. It's a fun club to belong to.

    Masked and AnonymoUs 1:37 PM  

    Outer crust puz: 007 U's. Did it pretty fast, as puzs with a big hole in em go.
    Inner runt puz: II U's. This, of course, took a bit longer. Runtpuzs give U fewer toeholds. U are always in the middle of the action. Feisty lil darlins.

    Trouble in the outlands: SE corner. Wanted ROBOTWARS. Crossin (sneakyishly clued) answers did not want that.

    Trouble in the hub: Lots...
    * First of all, there's only two lug nuts. Makes for a very wide-open runt.
    * DEEPWEB. Required research.
    * HONALEE. Have only seen it sung -- not spelt. Had HaNA+...
    * DMV. Had SSN.

    Fun Sun.


    Carola 1:44 PM  

    Wonderful Sunday puzzle. What an array of ATLAS-related theme answers, plus the delightful visual of the grid layout! UPPER BACK PAIN, indeed! Love the creativity and wit.

    Because of the grid design, though, I was unable to follow my usual Sunday habit of working only from entries I already have filled in - I was a little VEXED at having to start over in the WORLD area and, like Rex, found it the toughest to TAME.

    @chefwen - My husband also gave up at half-time. Unable to stop feeling the PAIN, I kept the Gametracker open on my laptop and would glance at it from time to time, thinking, "BRACE YOURSELF...."

    M and Also 1:46 PM  

    Jeff Chen still = M&A's fave constructioneer with a theme.
    Does primo runtwork, too.


    Anonymous 1:51 PM  

    had mr america in middle and knew it didn't work so i googled and then finished center orb which was my only hang-up on this other-wise easy sunday puzzle.

    Leapfinger 2:00 PM  

    It's OREM, Utah, isn't it? Would thus require "San" REMO.

    AMES, Iowa looms large for me ever since coming across the factoid that it's at the geographic center of the country. I have not confirmed this.

    Amanuensis, a most excellent word, and worth a few thousand dollars in base pay, was first come across by me in Little Women.

    Danield 2:03 PM  

    My compliments to Mr. Chen for creativity I can only dream about. Good solve time despite being stuck for a while sussing Amato and Mt Ossa. Interesting bout of back spasms (chronic condition)as I completed the puzzle. Hmmm..

    Beth 2:12 PM  

    Mariner's array = maps? Maps????? Terrible start - mariners use CHARTS. Lost my respect immediately.

    mathguy 2:22 PM  

    Just for the record, I found the center puzzle extremely challenging. I called in The Closer in early and we batted clues and entries back and forth, off and on, for a couple of hours this morning. We still missed on HONALEE crossed by URN. We had HOMALEE and ARM.

    Happy to learn DEEPWEB, OPERON, and ROBOTSUMO. Also, unlike most of the early commenters, I liked the cluing.

    'mericans in Paris 2:23 PM  

    Regarding HONA(H) LEE and Hanalei, I had always assumed that PP&M wanted to create a mythical land, and so changed the name of Hanalei just enough so that those who knew the place would get the reference. Turns out, it was just an incredible coincidence.

    For those who haven't been to Hanalei Bay (in Kauai -- land of Chef Wen), do a Google images search and you may be able to see the geological formation that looks uncannily like a dragon lying down across the south and western edge of the bay, with its head looking out forlornly to the north.

    This web site shows only the head. But the rest of the dragon extends back from there as well.

    Mohair Sam 3:23 PM  

    @Fred Ramagnolo - Am a member of the club. My niece became a great grandmother last Spring (twin girls no less). Nice club for sure, but lonely.

    Anonymous 4:16 PM  

    @AliasZ, that AMATO link was the most fun Figaro, and recorded 100 years ago!

    You found a good way to use yesterday's VICKtor Talking Machine Company at the same time.

    Whirred Whacks 4:39 PM  

    @ Chefwen: Must have been tough to watch that game as a Badger fan. As a CHEESEHEAD, at least you've got the Packers. They're heading to the playoffs!

    Funniest tweet about last night's game:
    On Wisconsin? No, the question is what was Wisconsin on?

    Games like last night's can happen to all very good teams. Remember last summer when Germany took down Brazil 7-1 (gasp)? And last Super Bowl when the Seahawks blew out a a very good Denver team?

    @ NCA President: I agree with you about the format of the playoff system. I think the Committee is telling the Big 12 that not having a Conference Championship is hurting them.

    @ Z: For the past 4 years, I've been DVRing the football games I want to see. I start watching the game about 2.25 hours after the start, and usually finish at the real time game end. Which means that I see all the action but eliminate the ads and halftime. Sometimes, a 49er game takes only 45 minutes to watch.

    Anonymous 4:49 PM  

    Gosh @WW, too bad we can't do that in real life! We could fast-forward through all the boring bits, be done with our lives in just a couple of years.

    Whirred Whacks 5:00 PM  

    Anonymous 4:49:
    Now that's an interesting alternative to how life might be lived!

    Here's another one. It's called "Reverse Living" by the comedian Sean Morey (although it's often attributed to George Carlin). I first heard it in 1980.

    "Life is tough. It takes up all your time, all your weekends, and what do you get at the end of it? Death, a great reward.

    "I think the life cycle is all backwards. You should die first, and get it out of the way. Then you live for twenty years in an old age home, and then get kicked out when you’re too young. You get a gold watch and then you go to work. You work forty years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement.

    "You go to college and party until you’re ready for high school. Then you go to grade school, you become a little kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb, you spend your last nine months floating, and you finish off as a gleam in somebody’s eye."

    chefwen 5:08 PM  

    @Whirred Whacks - We were wondering what they were on also. Yikes!

    Had lunch not too long ago at the Hanalei Gourmet. Peel and eat 'em shrimp with a garlic Caesar salad. Quite lovely.

    quilter1 5:31 PM  

    Busy day but finally finished. I enjoyed every minute.

    Z 6:12 PM  

    @Whirred Whacks - I looked for something I saw recently on fivethirtyeight (Nate Silver and friends) about how much time is spent showing various activities during an NFL game, but I couldn't find it. I think "guys standing around" was in first and then either ads or actual plays were next. I find watching the EPL much more engaging.

    silasxl 6:39 PM  

    Didn't Atlas support the heavens on his shoulders?

    Mohair Sam 6:42 PM  

    @Z - Amen. Lifetime NFL fan here, with a small appreciation for soccer as a result of 3 years lived in England. The ads and "under the hood" moments in football have become so tedious that I find myself enjoying the EPL more than ever, and scanning TV listings for the next game (United vs. Southampton tomorrow).

    Seattleite 6:56 PM  

    Am I the only one who got the central part first and ran into trouble around the edges?

    Airymom 7:41 PM  

    1) Fresh, fun puzzle, which I was able to complete.

    2) My Ravens won!

    3) I survived a 45 minute driving lesson with my daughter.

    4) Great step aerobics class this morning.

    I give this day a 10.

    Unknown 7:54 PM  

    fastest sunday ever...

    OISK 10:04 PM  

    There's a smurf named "Papa"? Lucky I have heard of acai, or I'd have had a DNF up there. Nice, creative puzzle. On bread in restaurants, IIRC, in Italy there is a "pane e coperto" charge as soon as one sits down, which includes the bread, whether you eat it or not.

    Enjoyed the puzzle, clever and creative.

    Dave 10:23 PM  

    Every once in a while you get a puzzle that is in your wheelhouse. I literally finished this as fast as I could write in the letters. 23A, 16D and 37D were obvious to me (!) and the crosses filled in as I wrote the long answers.

    Weird when that happens.

    Anonymous 10:30 PM  

    Instead of maps, Mariner's array (1 across) could have been Mars, which is where Mariner went.

    Anonymous 10:52 PM  

    Beth---you're correct by a mile. Mariners use charts, not maps. This may be nit-picking but shows ignorance on the part of constructers
    and editors. There are some of us unsophisticated clods out here in the hinterlands that have technical knowledge that PO's us when terms are used incorrectly. The intelligentsia don't know better!

    Z 12:10 AM  

    "Charts" are a type of "map." You're right, of course, but the clue isn't wrong.

    @Oisk - PAPA Smurf is the leader of all Smurfs and resident wise man. Not to be confused with PAPA Rex, King of Crossworld and resident wise ass.

    x 8:36 AM  

    When you ran a tab, say, you did not pay it. Sloppy.

    JamesBMac 9:30 AM  

    Maps were used by ancient mariners as their only available geographic tool. As additional information on sea depths (particularly coastal areas), distances, and other details became available and added to maps, they became navigation charts.
    No issue with the constructor.
    Anyone sadder but wiser?

    Bar Fly 10:58 AM  

    91. Paid at the end, say : RAN A TAB

    The alternative would be to have paid for each drink as you got it.

    The clue is correct.

    Anonymous 12:23 AM  

    Finally finished. This is a great puzzle.

    Enjoyed the theme a lot and all the discussion that followed. To further complicate the debate above about precisely how the ORB is resting on ATLAS, I will offer this: in anatomy the first cervical vertebra is named for the god Atlas because the " globe " of the head rests upon it.

    Love to all,

    D and A

    Anonymous 2:12 PM  

    I wish we could quit calling puzzles chewy.

    spacecraft 1:03 PM  

    What an image! I can just see a clanking ROBOTSUMO tossing salt with its mechano-arm, and stomping its metallic stump. Har! If anything ever forced itself into a grid via crosses, it was that. So did OPERON. Man, I took courses in A&P and that word never came up.

    But the real sticker was just above these, when I had a two-way choice for 91d--was it DNA or RNA?--and picked doNATed for "Paid at the end, say." That mistake messed me all kinds of up, and it was only after about fifteen minutes of headscratching that I finally saw RANATAB, duh, and was done.

    The rest of it went as well as I could expect, given that lately, the Sunday clues seem to be trying to maintain endweek difficulty. That's OK by me, just so I know. Even the center was't as "chewy" as OFL thought. HONALEE bad fill? How? It certainly doesn't suffer from overuse! Careful, FL, or I'll sic Puff on ya! Better pick on POBOXNO and SERIESE. An unusual feature of this section is that it is completely cut off from the rest of the grid.

    I don't think the theme is overcute; I think it's clever. All those phrases stand in their own right. It's all very, um, uplifting. OK, I'll quit.

    Notable bleedover: RAYGUN. At least today it's only one. Good ol' Ronnie and his Star Wars program: RAYGUN indeed. Har.

    Theme good; fill (as) good (as it gets). A.

    3911: ugh, I'm feeling some UPPERBACKPAIN.

    Dirigonzo 5:39 PM  

    Thanks to Jeff Chen for an excellent Sunday puz with creative, interesting long answers all tied together by a clever theme. I thought the resulting visual, as so aptly explained by @Z, worked nicely even if I had to come here to have it pointed out to me. I tried repoTS before GRAFTS but otherwise cruised through the grid with no mis-steps.

    520 should keep me in the game.

    KariSeattle 10:26 PM  

    Did the same thing! Ended up stumped by the middle and with a pain in the lower back!
    Go Hawks!!!!

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