Mantra-chanting priest / WED 5-18-16 / Pie old British dish / Worrisome call at home / Internet-based phone provider / Great Lakes freighter load perhaps / African nation renamed in 1997 / Chinese dynasty after Qin / Souped up vintage auto

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: fore! — three answers that have four Cs, four Ts, and four As, respectively, are cross-referenced in clues for three words that are rough homonyms of four Cs (FORESEES), four Ts (FORTIES), and four As (FORAYS):

Theme answers:
  • ANTARCTIC CIRCLE (17A: Where the midnight sun can be observed) / FORESEES (4D: What 17-Across has, phonetically)
  • "THAT'S A MOOT POINT" (38A: "No need to discuss it") / FORTIES (26D: What 38-Across has, phonetically)
  • FANTASY BASEBALL (61A: Rotisserie League game) / FORAYS (47D: What 61-Across has, phonetically)
Word of the Day: RHEA Seehorn (37A: Actress Seehorn of "Better Call Saul") —
Rhea Seehorn (born May 12, 1972) is an American actress best known for playing Kim Wexler in Better Call Saul. From 2011 to 2013, she was one of the main characters in NBC's Whitney. She is also known for her role as Cheri Baldzikowski in ABC's I'm With Her and Ellen Swatello in TNT's Franklin & Bash. (wikipedia)

• • •

This theme is very loose, but unusual enough, and well-executed enough, to be interesting/entertaining. The homophones are slightly uneven in quality, in that FORESEES is perfect, FORAYS is perfect, but FORTIES sounds a bit off because the "T" comes out more as a "D" when you say it. You can hear the "TEES" in, say, "expertise," but not so much in "forties." Is that a regional thing? If I say "forties" naturally, it sounds far more like I'm saying "FOUR DEES" than "FOUR TEES." But no matter. Close enough. Interesting that this theme catches all the possible "four [letters]" combinations. I ran the alphabet and nothing else works (except, for me, the aforementioned "FOUR DEES"). There's "four eyes," but that doesn't follow the thematic pattern. I imagine there are a gajillion phrases with four Cs, four Ts, and four As, but we have these three phrases, and they seem fine. The puzzle played slightly easy in most places *except* toward the center—entirely a function of that central themer not being obvious, and two of the Down themers running right through it. It took a long time for me to get FORESEES. I had FORES-ES and still no idea what was going on. All I could see was FOR ESSES (!?). Had -EL for 28A: ___ pie (old British dish) and still had no clue. None. With such a bizarre clue, I figured the answer would have to be some French word like SEL, not a common word like EEL. But that cross, and the exact wording of the central themer, were the only real speedbumps.

I was wondering when someone was going to clue (crosswordese) RHEA as RHEA Seehorn, who is *amazing* on "Better Call Saul" (which is the best show on television). She's not "Emmy-winning" yet, but she will be, and then you'll be seeing her name in puzzles FOUREVER. Does VONAGE still exist? (2D: Internet-based phone provider) I used to see ad after ad after ad for it, but seeing it today ... it feels dated. Bygone. Erstwhile. I do not thing PENITENT means "showing sorrow." Or, rather, I think it means showing a Very Specific Kind of Sorrow—for having done wrong. Remorseful or repentant. Just "showing sorrow" seems incomplete. Also, STRIKE TWO is not a [Worrisome call at home]. Professional baseball players don't "worry" at STRIKE TWO. Tony Gwynn hit just over .300 when down to his last strike. So, yes, statistically, you're more likely to get out in two-strike situations than you are in 1- or no-strike situations, but "worrisome" is a bit melodramatic.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Loren Muse Smith 6:32 AM  

I loved this. How neat that the FORAYS, FORESEES, and FORTIES cross their phrases. That "phonetically" in the clues refers to the downs only. I agree with Rex that FORTIES doesn't work as well as the first two, but I'll take it. A friend and I kicked a FOREIGN idea around for a while. Actually submitted a puzzle that was rejected. Hey. NO PAIN, NO GAIN, right?
Now that I think about it, I played around with an ARBY'S idea, too. Rye bread, rubber band, root beer. Never reached anywhere near the level of coolness that this puzzle has.

Early on, I noticed 4D's FORES_ _ _ _, and I was, well, circumspect. No way. I hadn't looked at the clue yet, so I just waited.

"Pre-cable TV problem" - I had "knob" before SNOW. Well, it was a problem to heave yourself up off the couch and take those four steps to the TV set. My sister used to drag a chair over, a pioneering channel surfer.

I liked the periphery EASE and EYES.

I still call them "books on tape," even though they're on my phone. My IPhone that I still use to "dial" and "hang up" on jerko schmerkos. Hah. Never thought about it. Anyway, David Sedaris pointed this out to me: if you read lots of books, you're a bookworm. If you listen to lots of books on tape… well, you do the math.

On MOC – I helped out a teacher yesterday in class of students with IEPs – students who need some extra help and accommodations. They were reading "The Most Dangerous Game." Before the hunt, General Zaroff says to Rainsford, "I suggest you wear moccasins; they leave a poorer trail." A little later, B raised his hand and asked why he had to wear snakes on his feet. My Class Clown Radar went on high alert. I looked at him, looked at the others - No guffaws, no smirks… they were all just waiting for the answer. No one in that room knew that moccasins were shoes. They knew moccasins as grumpy snakes. When she put a picture on the white board, they all recognized them, sure, but if B hadn't asked, they would have always pictured Rainsford running around with snakes fashioned into shoes. What a ridiculous picture that would have been for them. Mystifying, actually. I never know in my own classes when to stop in a text to examine a word. I shudder to think of some of my own students running around with ridiculous images because I didn't think to explain something. I felt so grateful to B that he asked the question. This teaching deal is tough. The stakes are pretty darn high when you realize you could be sending your charges off into the world with visions of guys running around with their feet snugly tucked inside of snakes.

CC – this is my favorite puzzle you've done. Bravo.

Dorothy Biggs 7:22 AM  

I somehow caught on to the theme at FORAYS before I filled in FANTASYBASEBALL and it helped me figure out ANTARCTICCIRCLE. The rest of the puzzle fell quickly.

Very decent Wednesday puzzle. No real nits from me. No groans. I understand Rex's points about FORTIES and PENITENT, but neither bothered me at all. I was surprised to hear that VONAGE still exists. And today's TIL (Today I Learned) is that the Russian language has no definitive article equivalent to "THE." Is that right? If so, it makes sense of all stereotypical Russian accents that drop "the." As in Boris talking about Bullwinkle as "moose."

Just an aside, but does anyone know any native Germans? Ask them to say "squirrel" and get back to us here with a report as to whether they can actually say it or not. Evidently "squirrel" is really hard to say.

Oh yeah, the puzzle...I'm just going to go out on a limb here and say I really liked this puzzle.

Anonymous 7:32 AM  

Think of the puzzle in a King's English accent and the four-tees vs. four-dees problem goes away.

Lobster11 7:33 AM  

I rarely find myself enjoying Wednesday puzzles: They often seem to me like Mondays to which a a smattering of arcane trivia has been added to raise the difficulty level, so I wind up feeling like two-thirds of it was too easy and the other third was too hard. This one wasn't like that at all, and I liked it a lot.

Sussing out the theme contributed to my solve, which is all I ever really ask of a theme. In this case, knowing I was looking for FORTIES helped me figure out the middle themer -- which otherwise seemed very green-paintish to me and could have been phrased in any number of ways.

Hungry Mother 7:38 AM  

Took a while to catch the theme, then all was well.

George Barany 7:39 AM  

Nice as always to see the byline of my Minnesota friend @C.C. (Zhouqin) Burnikel. Thanks, @Rex, for your interesting and gracious review.

This is a nice chance to segue to another reminder about the upcoming Minnesota Crossword Tournament, which will be held on Sunday, June 12. I have hyperlinked to general information, but you can also click here for direct registration. @C.C is among those who will be contributing a puzzle. We hope that many of you can join us!

George Barany 8:00 AM  

Allow me to add an amusing post-script that those @Rex-ites who appreciated @C.C. (Zhouqin) Burnikel's puzzle might enjoy. Another friend, @Christopher Adams, reminded me of an April Fool's word rectangle by yet another friend, @@Noam Elkies.

@Noam's 3x4 puzzle is entitled All 4/1, and should not take long to solve once you see the trick. Following that, please click here for further discussion. Brilliant!

Glimmerglass 8:01 AM  

Good comments, Rex. I agree, though I pronounce the T in FORTIES as a T. I think the problem may be that the accent on FORAYS and FORSEES is on the second syllable stressing the letter sound. In FORTIES, the accent is on the first syllable. It's also the only themer where the "4" part is actually a number.

Carola 8:04 AM  

Agree with Rex about the interesting theme; even after getting the idea early with FORESEES, I had to work for FORTIES and FORAYS. New to me: STREETROD.

The EEL clue brought back memories of a miserably cold and rainy day decades ago in Greenwich, England, when half-frozen after touring the Cutty Sark I took refuge in an establishment that had "EEL and Pie Shop" written above its door and whose steamed-up windows promised warmth. I had a piece of cherry pie served in a lake of piping hot custard. Nirvana in a bowl. I'm always IRKED these days when a menu promises that a dessert will be served with creme anglaise and then there's just the merest dribble or squiggle around the edges.

kitshef 8:34 AM  

Very well done puzzle, slightly on the easy side.

Never heard of STREET ROD, but Google is OK with it.

Hand up for pronouncing the T in FORTIES.

@Loren Muse Smith - I love contemplating phrases that must make no sense to the current generation - books on tape, dial tone, carbon copy, sounding like a broken record. Do under-thirties ever wonder why you "cc" someone on an email? Probably not, since email itself is an old fogey thing.

Brett Hendrickson 8:49 AM  

Fun puzzle. One critique: the cross of AVA and VONAGE could be easily be a Natick if you don't know one of these proper names. ANA and NONAGE seems pretty feasible.

Teedmn 8:51 AM  

I thought my husband and I were so cutting edge because we had dropped our landline and were using VONAGE lo, these past eight years and now I find we are so behind the times. Humph!

@LMS, great classroom story. I'm sure one wouldn't leave much of a trail wearing poisonous snakes on one's feet but it would be a MOOT POINT as to whether you left a trail at all, methinks.

This is a very nice example of Ms. Burnikel's work, thanks CC!

jberg 8:59 AM  

Yeah, FORTIES is British -- most Americans, including me, can't pronounce the T after an R. Believe me, I've tried! I think VONAGE is much bigger in countries where they can. When I was in South Africa, it was all over the place.

I didn't like AHI; in my experience sushi tuna is usually maguro or (yum!) toro. But I guess it's a thing; Wikipedia says more for sashimi, but that's a fine point.

I also spent about a minute trying to guess whether 20A was cluing the former name or the current one. I finally wrote in Congo, but then checked the crosses and saw I was wrong.

What I learned today: BESIDE THE POINT has only 14 letters.

@Loren, I had a remote before I had cable, I'm pretty sure.

Lewis 9:02 AM  

@CC -- nice job, clever and entertaining, and I agree with Loren, this is my favorite of yours so far.
@rex -- YES on Better Call Saul.
@kitshef -- Yes, a bit easy for a Wednesday; no hitches.

Last night, just short of midnight, after being CARRIED to full term, our first grandkid Finn was born at a whopping 8 pounds 10 ounces, with blue EYES on a FAT face, and much HAIR on the head (including eyebrows!), and no ANTLER. I am AMAZED, and all I can say is YEA and HAH!

Hartley70 9:11 AM  

OORT and KESHA. Were two words ever less likely to be put together? I couldn't believe the first was correct and I'm still trying to pronounce it. The second is revealed to be a singer who can spell neither "tick" nor "tock". Oh and a fashion disaster according to the late, great Joan Rivers on Fashion Police. Joan threw that name around as if it was dirty laundry although I never had the vaguest idea who she was talking about.

RHEA and her tv show are complete unknowns which tells me that pop culture is moving faster than I am. STREETROD was a surprising answer just because "vintage" to me means Model T and not a 50's street racer. The 50's feel like yesterday. One day you're vintage, the next day antique.

Nice Wednesday entertainment. The theme felt different. It worked for me until I came here and saw the D/T pronounciation dilemma for FORTIES. I'd like to think I'm a T person, but it's awfully easy for a D to slide in there. I'll try to be mindful of that until I forget.

RooMonster 9:12 AM  

Hey All !
My YesterPuz comment was in @Nancys time vortex, and is floating in cyberspace, lost, lonely, and desperately looking for a place to land. (Dramatic, eh?) :-)

Liked todays puz. Has the extra oomph from adding Down themers. Would've been a MonPuz if just the three Across themers with a small revealer. Had my center section messed up with mOn instead of TOR (Montreal used to be Expos, right? Where'd they move to?)(As you can tell, not a big Baseball fan...). Also had FORTeES, which was a Huh? moment. Did online today, so actually had to hit Reveal to see my mistake. :-( Oh well, had everything else correct...

So what is ZAIRE now? AMAZingly got KESHA off the HA, and the NW corner put up a little fight. Once MOC came into view, then it all fell.

SNOW. Hah! The good old days, when we had 4 channels, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS. And I was the channel changer, as I was closest to the TV!

ARBYS-Americas Roast Beef, Yes Sir (Always heard that's what it stood for)

John V 9:33 AM  

What @Rex said re FORESEES.

ArtO 9:51 AM  

Kudos to ZB for a really good puzzle. Enjoyed the solve.

A little more love from OFL was in order IMHO.

chefbea 9:56 AM  

Fun puzzle. Liked the theme but DNF - never heard of street rod keesha or veda. Love endive in my salad!!

chefbea 9:57 AM  

also @Nancy...e-mail me. Have something I want to discuss with you

Anonymous 10:00 AM  

Well, the fact that some people don't pronounce their Ts properly is no reason to ding the puzzle. I think the more salient difference between FORTIES and the other themers is that, in FORESEES and FORAYS, the accent is on the second syllable, but in FORTIES, the accents is on the first.

Not a big deal, of course. Pretty solid puzzle! Unusual theme, but I liked it.

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

True! PENITENT means "sorry", not so much "sorrowful", though in practice there is overlap, and penitent people may also be sorrowful and often are. Also, excellent point about STRIKE TWO--it's not at all worrisome. The best batters can hang in there on strike two for dozens of pitches, fouling them off one by one as they wait for a Ball 4 OR a great pitch to hit.
Finally, although some may pronounce the T in "FORTIES", they are the exception in the US. Here, it's standard to pronounce it as a flap T, which is similar to a D, or more specifically, the way a "D between two vowels" is pronounced.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

Having said all that just a few moments ago, i.e. minor quibbles, in fairness I should have added that I did enjoy the puzzle! It was clever overall and, for me, a smidgen more challenging than the average Wednesday, but that's not a bad thing.

mac 10:10 AM  

Good Wednesday puzzle, but today the write-up and the comments were even more enjoyable!
This one put us all in a good mood, thank you CC! And, of course, @Loren made me laugh out loud!!

Nancy 10:12 AM  

To all who think they forgot to hit the "send" button yesterday, see my comment on yesterday's blog at 8:33 p.m.

What I liked most about today's puzzle was the fact that I couldn't ignore the theme, that I needed the theme answers in order to solve. And the theme seemed quite original to me. But I didn't find it all that much fun to solve. That's because I thought the cluing was pretty blah and there seemed to be a whole slew of PPP. @Z?

From my comment that went bye-bye yesterday. Re: "Campground amenity" which was HOT SHOWER, I said: "I certainly hope so!" I then said that I wouldn't know because I don't go camping. And I then said that the best You Tube video I've ever been sent, bar none, is the song "Jews Don't Camp" -- the version of it that has a picture of what looks like multi-colored berries. And then I said that if you're Jewish -- or even if you're not -- DON'T MISS IT! (Please don't lose this comment, Rex, it's a really funny video.)

Nancy 10:19 AM  

People talk about puzzles skewing old. Well, maybe the oldest-skewing clue I've ever seen is 64A. I imagine that anyone who grew up in the cable TV era has never once seen SNOW on their TVs. For those of us who came of age in the rabbit's ears era, our TV sets could often be the equivalent of January in MN (Hi, @Teedmn).

Chaos344 10:23 AM  

Liked the puzzle. Pretty quick for a Wednesday except for a slight hang-up with 38A. The other two theme answers went right in. Agree with Rex about the 4D's 4T's thing. Its definitely the former in my neck of the woods. The T sound is never enunciated.

Also strongly agree with Rex regarding the weak clue for 34D. Major League baseball players may be pissed off at hearing an umpire "call" STRIKETWO, on a pitch they chose not to swing at, but they are never worried! Some of the best hitters in baseball are indeed most dangerous when they have two strikes on them!

@LMS: Damn you Loren! That's it! I'm definitely going to refrain from trying to take a sip of coffee while reading your posts. Especially, when the proximity of my keyboard is within the "spray zone."

Re: "I noticed 4D's FORES_ _ _ _, and I was, well, circumspect." [end quote]

LMAO! Perhaps you were looking for another theme related clue? FOUREX'S often cover FORES----, and would have been a great shout-out to OFL, no? OTOH,some people probably think ONEREX is enough?

Speaking of SKINS and EELS, did that mention of EEL pie give you any ideas about a new recipe? I's sure you've been diligent at EEL-REFEEDING time? Are they fat enough to skin and use in a pie yet?

Finishing up the "SKIN" thing, I absolutely howled at your story about the "MOCCASINS." I would have suggested that you instruct the class to read the following as a homework assignment:

The Modern Hiawatha

He killed the noble Mudjokivis.
Of the skin he made him mittens,
Made them with the fur side inside,
Made them with the skin side outside.
He, to get the warm side inside,
Put the inside skin side outside.
He, to get the cold side outside,
Put the warm side fur side inside.
That's why he put the fur side inside,
Why he put the skin side outside,
Why he turned them inside outside.

-- George A Strong

You could have killed several birds with one stone. The students would have learned the difference between venomous snakes and comfortable shoes,(or mittens)and perhaps they would have developed enough curiosity about the subject matter to actually read Longfellow's "Song Of Hiawatha"? Hence, they learn something about herpetology, footwear, Native American crafts, vocabulary, and classic literature! You could be named "Teacher Of The Year!" Just Sayin!

Malsdemare 10:52 AM  

I thought the puzzle was a great Wednesday. There was very little junk, enough toughness in the clueingto gave me a workout, not on many people I didn,t know, being as how I am a mediaphobe.

I'm pretty serious about genealogy and the discussion started by LMS highlights the trouble I have when translating old documents. For instance, Bourgeois means middle class NOW, but what did it mean when it came after dad's name in a marriage document? If you aren't fluent in French or German (I can get by, but barely), figuring that stuff out is tough. Occupations that no longer exist are particularly hard, but adjectives can lead you down some pretty confusing paths as well. I can see future genealogists struggling with the antiquities that persist in our language. (so, yeah, dial tone can be explained fairly simply NOW since we still use phones, but imagine the convoluted explanation that will be needed in 100 years. Yikes!)

Hand up for saying the T in forties. Hand down for accent on second syllable in FORAYS.

Thanks CC!

Greg 11:00 AM  

SNOW was my favorite clue. Old age has benefits!

GILL I. 11:02 AM  

I too am a FORdees type person. I didn't care the least bit though because I really liked this puzzle. Like @Loren, I think this is Zhouquin's best puzzle to date.
THE is hard to say for any non-native English speaker. @NCA Pres. your squirrel comment made me laugh. Try "rural" or "worcestershire."
Don't get me started on how I pronounced Yosemite. Sort of like wearing snakes on my feet.
We're at the tale-end of Breaking Bad and already I'm having withdrawal symptoms. I can't wait to jump in and watch Better Call Saul. He's my favorite character in BB, so I can't wait to re-visit him and meet RHEA...

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

With an English education background "FORTIES" is pure as an homonym. I liked that FORAYS and FORTIES crossed the theme answers at the relevant letter, would have been nice if that were the case with the other themer. Really fun puzzle, the best Wednesday in a long time

RAD2626 11:09 AM  

Terrific puzzle and well executed theme. Enjoyed it from start to finish.
@lms: Truly a cutting and incisive remark about the first FORE. Made me wince.
@ George Barany. 4x1 puzzle very clever and apt.
New clue for EEL for me. Pretty disgusting.
Oh, had a dnf. Confused my William DaFOEs with my Daniel DEFOEs. And the Spanish night looked just fine as NOCHa. Still really like people the puzzle.

warren howie hughes 11:23 AM  

IMHO Rex, Old Man, I say "FORAYS" for Zhouqin, and I'm AMAZED and just a trifle IRKED you only gave her a paltry 'Medium'for this Mittwoch offering!

da kine 11:37 AM  

That was a really excellent puzzle. I need to go find some more Zhouqin Burnikel stuff now.

Malsdemare 11:47 AM  

I hate it when I return to the blog and find unforgivable typos. Mea culpa, mes amis. And amies.

kitshef 11:47 AM  

Congratulations, @Lewis. You don't look old enough to be a grampy.

AliasZ 11:58 AM  

@LMS, whom are you calling four-eyes?

Interesting choice of quadruple-lettered entries, but I liked them. It could've been the dastardly deed of a tattletale cuckoo clock in Alabama or where the Orinoco flows, and endless others. Isn't it interesting? But THAT'S A MOOT POINT now.

I have no idea who KE$HA is, but I sense @Rex has a crush on RHEA Seehorn. I can't say I blame him.

Allow me to offer the last movement from FORAYS Requiem: In paradisum. The image on the video appears to depict the constellation Orion, where yesterday's HORSEHEAD Nebula is located.


Mohair Sam 12:00 PM  

Great Wednesday puzzle, lots of fun with the theme - something different. Discovered today that my wife of four D years has mispronounced the number forever. Honestly never noticed that lots of folks say "Fordee", neat. Thanks Rex.

Guessed correctly at the intersection of VEDA and KESHA (might have been an "I" thought we), anyone else? OORT cloud new to us, but crosses a snap.

Bit of a disagreement with OFL on his STRIKETWO comment. Maybe the professional hitter is cool at 0 and 2, but this fan is gnashing his nails - "worrisome" indeed. And the stats show the hitter (if not named Gwinn) to be a cocky fool, the nervous fan has a point.

On the other hand, full agreement with Rex on "Better Call Saul" - best on TV today. The writing, the very idea of the story line, the acting (beyond just RHEA Seehorn) - all exceptional.

I've been finding ways to get Mrs. M. to say Four "D" all morning, and I'm really starting to piss her off. Think I need to leave the house for a while.

old timer 12:06 PM  

I thought the solving experience was meh, but the theme execution was very good. I had thought it would be "four seas", not FORESEES. As for FORAYS, I tend to give equal stress to both syllables, so that one worked well.

A few random comments on the previous comments:

"bourgeois" of course means "relating to a town" and more particularly, to residents of the suburbs, what we often call "middle-class". Marx and Engels used the word in that sense, and later Communists used it in a wholly negative sense. Leadbelly picked up on that sense and declared in one of his songs that Washington, D.C. (where Pete Seeger was raised) was a "Boozhwa town".

You can get both sushi and sashimi at a sushi bar, so AHI is correct. Didn't know they serve AHI mainly as sashimi but it makes sense. The flavor of AHI is more delicate.

For me as a child, "Yo-SEM-i-tee" and 'YO-sem-ite" were different words. You could camp out in the first place, but laugh at the comics that featured "YO-sem-ite Sam". I had the same confusion about "rendezvous", a word I read in Perry Mason stories, and ron-day-voo, a word I heard on the radio or TV.

Masked and Anonymous 12:13 PM  

It's a heartache,
Nothin but a grid quake.
Hits you when no U's late.
Hits you at 63-Dow-ow-own …

It's a fool's game,
Nothin but a four-letter name.
Standin in the other-vowel's reign,
Feelin like a clown...

ooOOOooh, [Do as a forlorn bellow]
It's a heartache,
Nothing but a futile wait.
Hits U when no U's rate.
After VEDA/KESHA makes U frown.

Thanx, Twosies (CC). U are still one of my very fave constructioneers, anyhoo.

"U Just Can't Please Everybody"

stink eye:

puzzle hoarder 12:16 PM  

Besides from having the same three first letters the three homonyms/revealers are asymmetric in length and placement. What makes the puzzle stand out are the three 15 character theme words. They provide the symmetry, they have the appropriate letters and most importantly they are all debuts. Finding them must have been a big hurdle. The constructor doesn't say much outside of disliking the 3/6/4 arrangement on the perimeter.
This puzzle has the misfortune of 23 three character entries! It's hard for me to compare it's difficulty to Monday and Tuesday as I did those on paper.
Really common 3s like ORE and EEL can throw off the correlation between uniqueness and difficulty if they're mostly giving you useless mid word vowels in the crosses.
Speaking of EEL isn't eel pie what the CIA uses on terrorists when waterboarding won't break them? What's next, haggis?

aging soprano 12:27 PM  

I found this puzzle on the easy side of Wednesday, which is probably why I liked it. As one who speaks American English, I had to work quite hard when learning a Benjamin Britten opera to wipe out my Amercan "fordies" and replace them with proper "forties".JBerg, the Brits don't say the deep American R; the wuhd sounds like "fohties", which makes the unvoiced T easier to pronounce. I figured out the theme easily, but I don't think "phonetically" is the correct concept. FANTASY BASEBALL does have 4 different A's phonetically. ANTARCTIC CIRCLE has 3 different C's, and THAT'S A MOOT POINT has 2 different T sounds. There must be a better word than "phonetics" to describe what they have 4 of: 4 of the same letter. Phonetically?
Because Russian doesn't have the article THE, native Russian speakers often use it mistakenly before proper nouns. You will hear "the Susan", "the William" and "the Rex". Maybe that's the origin of "the Donald". He and Putin are comrades, after all.
Oh, and to the Lewis, congratulations!

Teedmn 12:30 PM  

Growing up in far southern Minnesota, we only got four channels, two of which were NBC affiliates; no PBS for us. But sometimes late at night, I could keep moving the aerial and get Twin Cities channels which were showing old B&W movies. The signal would fade in and out and sometimes I was just peering at shadows through the SNOW on the screen, hoping the signal would come back before the buzz lulled me to sleep. No wonder I can't bring old movies to mind - I've probably seen pieces of them all, with no memory of them.

Congrats, @Lewis, on your new grandchild!

Chaos344 12:40 PM  

@Malsdemare: I heartily agree about the importance of having the em-PHA-sis on the correct syl-LA-ble: ;>)

Divers launch FOR-ays for a kettle of MOR-ays!
They eschew any stew made of two, three, or four-RAYS!
Especially the Sting-Rays that have spears of their own.
They can stick back, and are best left alone!

@RAD2626 : Am I correct in assuming that EEL (Moray,or otherwise) is not high on your scale of gastronomic delights? They're actually very tasty! If skinned and fried fast enough, they actually still wriggle when you put them in the hot pan.

@George Barany: I think you meant Willem Dafoe,no?

Ludyjynn 12:41 PM  

@LMS, your tv 'knob' response in lieu of SNOW made me laugh as I recalled our old Emerson black and white television with the clunky knob, requiring much strength to turn the channel. When I was threeish and Dad would routinely watch "Sherlock Holmes" w/ Basil Rathbone, I was bored. If Dad left the room for a minute, I would invariably change the channel to something more to my liking. When he returned, he would invariably blame my older brother, who was innocently minding his business. Every single time, Alan was yelled at despite his protestations of innocence because Dad didn't think I had the dexterity to turn the knob. Not to mention, I was his little princess. Finally, Mom convinced him to set a trap for me because her little angel, Alan, never lied. When Dad saw me in the act, instead of yelling at me, he laughed and praised me for my strength and agility handling the balky knob. To this day, Alan gives me a hard time about it.

@Nancy, this nice Jewish girl spent three consecutive summers camping at Girl Scout Camp Lou Henry Hoover. We had tents on raised platforms w/ cot beds, but also spent time in sleeping bags on the ground in the woods. Guess which scenario I preferred; duh!

Solid Wednesday, Thanks, CCB and WS.

kitshef 12:43 PM  

@Roo Monster. Montreal Expos became my beloved Washington Nationals. Zaire became the Democratic Republic of the Congo (not to be confused with the Republic of the Congo)

Chip Hilton 1:01 PM  

Clever, fun Wednesday. But, I was left feeling quite stupid over my inability to budge from theARCTICCIRCLE. Even though it had to be MOC and AMAZED and ACTION should have been obvious, I was stopped. Funny how that happens.

ANON B 1:41 PM  

The other day the write-up mentioned that some clues were easy or difficult based on the age of the solver. It mentioned
Pathe News as one an old-timer like me would be familiar
with. My spell-checker doesn't even recognize it.
Well today there was a good example. This old-timer
has never heard of Rhea Seehorn nor of Better Call Saul.
Fortunately I got her by crosses.

Jon 1:47 PM  

I'm American and don't understand what you mean. I'm from the north east so perhaps we pronounce things more similar to the British then? Because I pronounce the T in forty. There's a T in it after all.

Chronic dnfer 2:23 PM  

Dnf'd at Kesha/veya.

Z 2:31 PM  

I can't decide if people don't know baseball or what "worrisome" means. Though some hitters are relatively unfazed by that second strike these are the exceptions that prove the rule. Heck, some batters might as well just sit down after strike TWO and save themselves the embarrassment of flailing at a pitch 5' out of the strike zone. Indeed, Strike TWO is the most worrisome call. You're no longer worried at strike three, and strike one is going to be less worrisome. Good clue.

@Mohair Sam yesterday- I see it said many ways here, but all the variations of "Old Good, New Bad" are really just cries against the night.

@LMS - LOL. Way to go around a sensitive subject.

Z 2:31 PM  

I can't decide if people don't know baseball or what "worrisome" means. Though some hitters are relatively unfazed by that second strike these are the exceptions that prove the rule. Heck, some batters might as well just sit down after strike TWO and save themselves the embarrassment of flailing at a pitch 5' out of the strike zone. Indeed, Strike TWO is the most worrisome call. You're no longer worried at strike three, and strike one is going to be less worrisome. Good clue.

@Mohair Sam yesterday- I see it said many ways here, but all the variations of "Old Good, New Bad" are really just cries against the night.

@LMS - LOL. Way to go around a sensitive subject.

Masked and Anonymous 3:26 PM  

@indie009: My dictionary says to pronounce "forty" like this here: ˈfôrtē

The whole EEL-pie concept gave M&A the shivers. There is even an EEL Pie Island, in the Greater London area.
Day-um. [shiver] Pass the cinnamon rolls, pul-lease.

M&A Help Desk


xyz 3:34 PM  

Two harder ones in a row, this one less good than yesterday's, awkwardness I the revealers

Tom 4:04 PM  

First entry was 52d just because that's where my eyes landed first— ARBYS (none of yesterday's HORSEMEAT there!!). Decided from there to try to gat as many downs for 61a to see if I could get the answer without reading the clue. Success. Filled in FANTASYBASEBALL, so when I got to 47d the theme was readily apparent. Cleverness exists. Thanks for the non-Perlman clue for RHEA. Learned a new astrological term in the OORT cloud. Probably see that one again. A little tires of SRS, along with yesterday's SRTAS, and don't want any SATS or PSATS in the future. TORTS closed.

Aketi 4:15 PM  

I am one of the T pronouncers.

@jberg, since it is no longer called ZAIRE, it is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo, you technically were correct,

@Nancy, between the old plumbing in our apartment and at the dojo, HOT SHOWERs have been iffy enough that when the water is cold at one or the other I think,on my earlier experiences to remind myself it could be worse. As a child my family never camped anywhere that had a SHOWER let alone a HOT one and often lacked other amenities that involve the ability to flush. And as for what was then ZAIRE, I spent my first year of Peace Corpa service filling a bucket of cold water from the tap in the backyard that I'd pour over my head as my only means of showering, The bathtub never worked and there was no shower.

Anonymous 4:32 PM  

At first glance @rex, I thought it was rather weak to include a photo of the Toronto Blue Jays simply because TOR was in the grid.
After I enlarged the photo (and with the passing of perhaps a minute or so) the image finally made sense. Duh! Good one.

jae 5:15 PM  

Medium-tough for me, only because I misread a couple of clues which led to needing to reread and erase. Medium is probably closer to reality. I'm with @lms on this being one of CC's best. Very smooth grid, subtle/clever theme, some up to date clue/answers...RHEA, KESHA, AVA, ARI, TESLAS, METH (speaking of Breaking Bad)...liked it a lot!

Unknown 7:23 PM  

Russian has no articles of any kind or present tense be verbs--they get by with nothing but case nouns and context.

Also, why do dictionaries say moot means up for debate? I've never heard anyone use it to mean anything other than *not* up for debate, usually because the outcome has no effect. Im happy because this puzzle is the first time I've seen my view shared in writing.

Unknown 8:29 PM  

C'mon, man. Tony Gwynn is Tony Gwynn. Normal mortals worry when they have two strikes.

Anonymous 12:47 AM  

Rex, you missed the context for "strike two" which is was actual the best clue in the whole puzzle. Home is not referring to home plate, but your home when you have small kids living there. If you hear someone say, "strike two" then you can be pretty sure your kids are playing baseball inside.

Burma Shave 8:17 AM  


we caught THE ACTION ONTAPE with her, and we ASSERT you’re no gent.


rondo 9:49 AM  

OFL’s word of THE day, yeah baby RHEA Seehorn, is a perfect example of my point yesterday of a actor/character buried in a relatively unknown series. Today’s culture is so splintered. Today’s puz was marginally interesting theme-wise, good way to use up three otherwise unconnected grid spanners.

Musical yeah babies galore with KE$HA from THE land of one-named people (did she ever change THE $ to an S, thought I heard something), Nina SIMONE from sultry jazzland, and ARIana Grande as THE pop tart (does anyone actually call her ARI?).

Re: MOOT – my Black’s Law Dictionary (still on my shelf from law school) gives two definitions:
1.) To raise . . . a point . . . for discussion.
2.) . . . of no practical significance.
So now it should be crystalline clear and now THATSAMOOTPOINT!

STRIKETWO is more than worrisome in our softball league because it means you’re out. And I,RON, am outta here.

spacecraft 10:34 AM  

OFL's comments on PENITENT and STRIKETWO are right on the mark, Casey's dramatic failure notwithstanding. There's joy in Syndiville; kids are coming to visit and I may not make to the blog every day while they're here. Fear not; I shall return.

The joy is mitigated, however, by a nest of naticks. I of course didn't know the obscure director of 1-across either, and EGOISM didn't occur right off--that's everybody ELSE's problem, but not the diva's. She has no problem at all. She's perfect, didn't you know? And so VONAGE took a while to hit. Having to wait for THE or ANT to precede ARCTICCIRCLE didn't help matters. Curse you, all crossword northwests!

Then there was the AHI/RHRA cross. I have successfully avoided sushi bars so far, and I plan on preserving that perfect record. But with R_EA, I figured it just about had to be H. You know, guys, RHEA is a real word--a flightless bird. Why has no one clued it that way?

And then there's KESHA/VEDA. I had the __SHA, but it took a while to realize what kind of "home" clue 34-down was talking about. Once the K was in, E seemed natural. I'm assuming this is yet another one-named performer. Though they've been with us all along, the recent proliferation of one-namers is disturbing. To me, it disrespects the family to drop their name. Maybe some families deserve it, but one must remember: my family produced me.

Still, the puzzle wasn't CARRIED past medium difficulty. Theme and execution are good; fill...well, not horrible, considering those fifteens. Straight down the middle, like der Bingle used to sing at the annual Pebble Beach "clambake." Where par was a good score--as it is today.

Thursday googler 1:00 PM  

As a retired reading teacher, I recognize a familiar issue! We assume our students know "common" vocabulary. It's a quick question/ answer practice that aids comprehension,especially with younger students and EEL learners.I am grateful for the student's question and the resulting answer process.Everyone learned something!

Thursday googler 1:05 PM  

How would you pronounce fort?

leftcoastTAM 1:32 PM  

What Rex said.

I thought the theme relatively simple; it helped fill a lot of spaces for the three long answers.

Ended up in the NW where it wasn't "the" ARCTIC but ANT ARCTIC. 38D had already claimed the THE. Interesting that THE has no equivalent in Russian.

Last letter to go in was R in RHEA, and I'm totally with Rex on how good she and "Better Call Sal" are.

Must a souped-up auto really have to be "vintage" to be called a STREETROD?

Liked this one.

Diana,LIW 3:39 PM  

I thought this was easier than Mon or Tues, and they were pretty easy. Smooth and clean, fast (relatively).

So I came here to declare "I'm on a roll!"

Except my Vida and Kisha spelled their names incorrectly. So I guess "I'm on a rol" (Goo one, huh @Teedmn?)

I was surprised to see Chrystal METH clued in the NYTP - was it a ref to the BB spinoff? That I now know is a BB spinoff.

Since VONAGE won some kind of users' award in 2016, it hardly seems "dated." I guess something is dated if Rex hasn't heard that word this week.

Thought the STRIKETWO clue was great! When the Mariners are on one of the gym's TV stations, there certainly are worrisome remarks amongst those who are watching, enough so to make me glance at that screen.

Oh yes. I was AMAZED to see that some commenters had not heard of STREETRODs. Really? Sure, I'm married to a gearhead (another kind of head from yesterday?), but I've heard of them since forever. They may be from the 50's or fourdees or even thirties, but they are (often professionally) duded up to race and race fast. (There are actually legal definitions in many states, and their parameters vary quite a bit.) One of my students (a woman, BTW) was a BIG fan of street rod racing - you'd never think it if you met her - such a sweet and easy-going person.

@Rondo - Used to work with a guy who said, and I believe he meant, "That's a mute point." Always had the "should I correct him so he stops, or is that rude?" debate. The lady beat out the grammar nerd, and I remained silent on the topic. It was pretty mute.

@Spacey - I have not had ahi at a sushi bar, but lightly (very lightly) seared as an entrée. Try it. Or get a dinner partner (maybe one of those visitors) to try it and take a bite. You'll say, "Ahhh. He he he!" If you like fish at all. Enjoy the kids.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rain forest 5:58 PM  

I pronounce the T in FORTIES, so there. Aussies, on the other hand, never pronounce the T after R. Thirdeen, fourdeen, eg.

"Looseness" in the theme was not apparent to me, and it was an 'aha' moment when I got FORAYS, which enabled me to go back and get FORESEES and FORTIES correctly pronounced.

Isn't sashimi a subset of sushi? I mean if you go into a sushi bar, there is always a separate section on the menu for sashimi. Ergo, he said, AHI is just fine. Pre cable, and pre climate change, we had lots of SNOW here (Vancouver). Now I don't even buy snow tires.

"Better Call Saul" is an excellent series. For me, in Little League, STRIKE TWO was very worrisome. And, if I struck out, I was very PENITENT (sorrowful).

IT'S A MOOT POINT, as I haven't tracked all of CC's puzzles, so I can't say if this is her best, but it was a good one.

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