Movement founded by Yasser Arafat / THU 9-27-12 / Part of metaphorical ladder / Batman villain in cryogenic suit / Classic 1740 romance subtitled Virtue Rewarded / Speechwriter Read My Lips No New Taxes / Classical musician whose career has had its ups and downs

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Challenging



THEME: ON/OFF SWITCH (56A: Toggle ... or a hint to 18-, 29- and 45-Across) — OFF and ON are switched in familiar phrases, creating ... well, gibberish

Word of the Day: AL FATAH (7D: Movement founded by Yasser Arafat) —
Fataḥ (Arabicفتح‎ Fatḥ) (also known as FatehLevantine Arabic: [ˈfateħ]) is a majorPalestinian political party and the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization(PLO), a multi-party confederation. Though it is on the left wing of Palestinian politics, its character is primarily nationalist rather than social democratic. (wikipedia)
• • •

I liked the idea of the puzzle more than I liked the results. You've got a great revealer, and it's applied literally to the base phrases in the theme answers, so, you know, it works. But gibberish is gibberish. Never been a big fan of gibberish in my grid. I really wish FROFFT ON ICE meant something, but it doesn't. Also not thrilled by the fact that some of the ONs and OFFs are self-standing words, and some are just letter strings from inside other words. Actually, it's about 50/50 on that count (neither ON/OFF is self-standing in first theme answer, both of them are in the second, half of them are in the third). Feels ragged. Clever, tough to suss out, but ragged. Then there's the grid, which is mostly nice—largely clean, full of interesting answers and original clues. I got crushed in the NW, where I could not see ON PAROLE at all (2D: Out, in a way), and had no idea about JOB (1A: Part of a metaphorical ladder) or (esp.) JUG (!?) (1D: ___-eared). So I just stared at this little patch of empty space and had no idea what to do with it. Wasn't even that sure about UNA. Hard and unrewarding (JUG-eared is a thing I guess I've heard of, but ... not fond of that clue at all). Then there was TEBOW. I had all the middle letters and still had no idea. Getting TEBOW was possibly the worst thing about this solve. Took me forever to get it, and when I got it, I was repulsed. I mean, of course it's TEBOW, but talk about not deserving it. Ugh. UGH. So many great, deserving athletes in America and the most popular is ... that guy. I'm sure he's nice. That's what I hear. But struggling like crazy to get an answer that you find ridiculous is not pleasant. I literally groaned when I got that one. "Silly me, I was thinking of athletes who have had some professional success, won titles, etc." In other news, Romney thinks Jack Nicklaus was the "greatest athlete of the 20th century." Smh.

IN A WAY (65A: To some extent) is IN A CLUE (see 2D), so ... that probably shouldn't happen.


Theme answers:
  • 18A: Sports team management group (FROFFT ONICE)
  • 29A: Digress (GO ON OFF A TANGENT)
  • 45A: What a mayor wins, usually (ON-YEAR ELECTIOFF)
First real success with this grid was nailing FRONT OFFICE, which of course was only partially nailing FRONT OFFICE, which of course was pretty meaningless in the end. Not really familiar with either CHROMA (8A: Color classification quality) or MACRON (12D: Diacritical mark), and given that two of the other longish answers in that NE corner were nearly unclued cross-references, I'm a little surprised I didn't have more trouble up there. Side note: CAT YEARS is baloney as a thing a vet would calculate, and possibly as a thing in general (8D: Age calculation at a vet clinic). DOG YEARS, sure. CAT YEARS???? What self-respecting vet talks in CAT YEARS? I have had a cat for 17 actual years and no vet has ever said "oh, he's 119 in CAT YEARS." Dear lord. CAT YEARS don't exist. Next you'll be telling me there are FERRET YEARS. Come on, man.


RON Swanson is my hero, and one of the few outright gimmes I had today (10D: ___ Swanson, "Parks and Recreation" boss). See also MR. FREEZE (38D: "Batman" villain in a cryogenic suit) and SCOTSMAN (37D: Arthur Conan Doyle, e.g.). The little bit of trouble I had in the SW would've been a whole lotta trouble if I hadn't had friends who were 18th-century literature specialists, through whom I know of the existence of "PAMELA" (62A: Classic 1740 romance subtitled "Virtue Rewarded"). Kind of a mean clue on NOONAN (46D: Speechwriter who coined the phrase "Read my lips: no new taxes"); I mean, that phrase was a millstone in the '92 election. I see where the YO-YO MA clue is going with the up/down YO-YO thing (47D: Classical musician whose career has had its ups and downs?), but don't like it, primarily because it has zero relation to the cellist's actual career or music (though I guess one could think of notes on a scale as going up and down ... nope, still don't like it).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Happy 9th anniversary to my wife, Sandy.
P.P.S. Happy belated birthday to this blog (9/25). Six. Years. Wow. Really? That's like ... 93 in CAT YEARS.

107 comments:

Anonymous 12:20 AM  

Dog years is a totally bullshit concept, making CATYEARS twice so. It's not as if one dog year is seven human years. Dogs are 100% sexually mature at 1 year, they're probably the equivalent of an eighteen year old human. The decline in a dog's capabilities over the next ten years of their lives is much less than a humans, they then have a faster decline.

I hate TEBOW - I live in the NYC media area, and have been treated to and endless loop of his telling one and all how "humbled" he is to be a NYJ. If he meant that as he said, yes it's ok, one and all should be humbled to be a Jet. They could be on a, you know, good team, maybe even a great one, but they're JETS. Playing for a team whose only claim to fame is that their fans are genuinely proud to be able to spell their team's name. Even the doofuses in Oakland are better than that. They accept their ability to spell Raiders as a matter of course. These are people who take acid for breakfast, but they have more self respect than the average Jets fan.

Anyway, back to TEBOW, he of the great humility. You know how someone doesn't have humility? They talk about their humility. You want to know another way to know when a second string quarterback, one who has never played a down for their team, has humility? When the local ESPN Radio station asks him to record a kicker, "ESPN Radio, home of the NY Jets" he says no, you should really get someone else to do it. I've never played a down for this team, I'm just the backup quarterback. Get Sanchez, or D'Brickeshaw, or Revis. They're the team, not me.

Kyle 12:22 AM  

I figured out the theme pretty early from GOONOFFATANGENT and got the other few theme answers relatively easily, but the fill on this puzzle was nigh impossible for me. WAY out of my wheelhouse. I eventually gave up because I felt like I was googling my way through half the puzzle.

Also, I really despise clues like 6D and 48D. I guess they become clear after a couple crosses, but they're effectively unclued otherwise. Same with 11D and 13D. Stupid.

jae 12:32 AM  
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jae 12:35 AM  

More irritating than fun for me.  Low on zip ... DAREISAY, MRFREEZE, RON... ?... and kind of a slog.  Also, on the tough side which is OK.

Erasures: ASteP for ASPOT and atonAL for CHORAL.

Didn't have the "WOW look at that" feeling with this one.

Davis 12:36 AM  

Among the theme answers I got ON OFF SWITCH first, and didn't see the significance until I filled in GO ON OFF A TANGENT. That seemed kind of clever, so I expected some fun with the rest of the theme entries. Then I got ON YEAR ELECTIOFF, and just kinda shrugged at that one. FROFFT ONICE was a total WTF — even when I had it down to ?ROFFTONI?E I had no ideal what to do with it (fortunately, I remembered what a MACRON was).

JUG I just missed entirely. I filled in DOG there at the outset, and it seemed to more or less work until I filled in everything else. And then I just cheated on that clue by looking up the answer, because I have never in my life heard the term "JUG-eared," nor had I encountered the notion of a JOB ladder. Those were both fine fill, but that's some hairy cluing for them — especially on a Thursday.

Evan 1:21 AM  
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Evan 1:34 AM  

It's probably worth pointing out that, according to Xwordinfo, this same theme was done 11 years ago with one of the same theme answers (FROFFTONICE) and the same revealer (ON/OFF SWITCH). That shouldn't disqualify today's puzzle -- lots of themes repeat occasionally, and 11 years was a long enough time ago that perhaps few people would remember it. But, I generally prefer that if a theme is going to repeat that it shouldn't use one of the same theme answers.

Still, the a-ha moment was great, and I'm a big fan of some of the fill (MR. FREEZE is a real winner), so I give the puzzle a thumbs up overall. It's always a good feeling when I feel the puzzle was easier than Rex's rating. It wasn't the easiest Thursday puzzle ever, but I finished with a faster time than some recent Thursdays that I would have called Medium. It was tough to suss out the theme at first, but once I accepted that the SWITCH was ON (and OFF) at ON-YEAR ELECTIOFF, everything pretty much fell into place.

I'm surprised to see that OUTIES is making its debut in the NYT puzzle. It's a really convenient, Scrabble-friendly piece of fill (if not the best plural to use). I'm less surprised that TEBOW makes his debut too, although I think the AV Club puzzle once built a whole theme around him sometime within the last year.

Happy belated 6th birthday, This Blog! I forgot that we share a birthday. And happy anniversary, Rex.

syndy 1:51 AM  

@Davis,climbing the Corporate ladder? Today I agree with Rex wholesale except I don't know Don Swenson from Adam so the NE corner was my bitch (or was I IT's?)So much ugly in one little puzzle. Dis YOYO Ma! a like Rex said about Tebow.I got the theme at GOonoffa tangent and that was sorta cool but man o man the rest was butt faced ugly.

Anoa Bob 2:11 AM  

Happy ninth anniversary to the Rexulator and his missus. Really enjoyed your great 6th anniversary write up. Our fearless leader still has it!

Yeah, the gibberish thing was an issue, but there's lots of other good stuff to help make up for it.

The clue for 41D TEBOW didn't say anything about greatest or most deserving or most likely to become a hall-of-famer. It simply asked who was "America's favorite active pro athlete, per a 2012 ESPN poll". No need to go GO ON OFF A TANGENT.

tk 2:15 AM  

I thought dope was going to be INDO.

chefwen 3:00 AM  

Happy Anniversary Rex! Good time to contribute to the blog.

I tend to like a lot of the puzzles that Rex pans, not today, I think I disliked it more than he did. Struggled through the whole thing. The biggest laugh I got was reading @Anon 12:20, now that was funny.

Charles in Austin 3:16 AM  

Switching DOG to CAT seems to me to be in the spirit of on-off switching.

Deb 5:21 AM  

Good point, Charles.

Will someone please, please, pretty please tell me what "smh" means? I run across it occasionally when I'm playing spades online, but so far no one has answered when I ask WTF it means.

As for Peggy Noonan, PTUI! Kinder, gentler nation, indeed.

Accra Chroma Macrons 5:28 AM  

Got caught putting in DOG twice! Both times wrong (-eared, YEARS)
That NW was tough because it could have been UNo or UNA and any kind of solo AND that whole INAWAY editing mistake.
But once I changed aPp to GPS and ran the alphabet that led to JUG/JOB.
The corporate ladder metaphor had be so confused, I further confused it with Jacob's Ladder, thinking it was the biblical JOB!

I like the theme but think the gibberish as @Rex points out does not work...an entry like FROFFTONICE should not exist, let alone twice!
The concept tho is cool.

Also I don't think CATYEAR and ONYEAR should be in same puzzle...I'd shear off the whole NE do a different theme answer...then you would avoid:
-YEAR duplication
-The perhaps nonexistence of a CATYEAR (paging Dr Bain?)
-The duplication of a theme entry from the past
-the semi-obscurity of MACRON (which was my one wrong square as i has LaS instead of Los)
-The ugliness of outoforder/crossreferenced sportsy ALEAST ORIOLE
-CHROMA

DAREISAY that's one trouble-filled corner!!!!!
I'd say there was nothing right about that corner that swapping out FROFFTONICE wouldn't have solved.

IS there another 11 OFF/ON phrase?

And I'd say YOYOMA has only had an upward trajectory since day one, so yes, even that joke doesn't quite work.

So gotta nod my head up and down 23 times with what @Rex said except the RON familiarity.
Happy double anniversary.

Biggest writeover for me was EellIke into ELUSIVE. Not even clever enough to make Tita's great wrong answers :(

O! I liked the O-pileup in SW: COO, OCTOPI, NOONAN, YOYOMA.

Jim walker 5:33 AM  

Happy Anniversary Rex.

I vote with the cranky folks this AM. A lot of work for gimmees and gibberish. YOYO MA does not have "downs" and OCTOPI are not exotic. JOB is not "part" of a ladder, real or metaphorical. I don't mean to SNAP AT you but I am 10 In CAT YEARS and can't sleep. Let' see what is on TCM.

Evan 6:26 AM  

@Deb:

SMH means "Shaking My Head" (or "Shakes My Head"). I only encountered it for the first time within the last 6 months and forced myself to commit it to memory.

@acme:

Very good point about the repeat YEARs. Maybe I didn't notice them because CAT YEARS didn't bother me that much (and maybe that's because I'm a long-time cat owner?).

Other constructors might disagree with me on this, but I feel that in the hierarchy of Stuff A Cruciverbalist Should Care About when making a themed puzzle, avoiding repeat words comes pretty high on the list (for me it's in third behind creating good theme entries and avoiding bad fill, and I don't know which of those two I'd put at number one). It's normal to see one or maybe two repeats of short, incredibly common words that you'd use in almost every sentence like "a" or "an" or "the" or "I." But a word like YEAR should really never be doubled in a grid, barring some special reason that repeating it serves some purpose to the theme.

Milford 7:12 AM  

Happy milestones, Rex!

Once again, I am heartened to find that other found a puzzle as hard as I did. Most of the struggle I enjoyed working out. I found the theme at ON OFF SWITCH and worked backwards. But, like Rex, the NW was a huge gaping hole for me, complicated by the fact that I had dna for JOB. Just a mess there. TEBOW - whatever, America. At least it wasn't LeBron.

Agree with the YO YO MA clue being not accurate, unless his "downs" are photos of him lying on a bathroom floor next to a wombat, or whatever it was that Rex posted a few months back.

loren muse smith 7:21 AM  

Happy anniversary, Rex!

I was relieved to see the “challenging” rating. My progress felt GLACIal, but somehow I managed to “fiinish” in about 30 minutes - a good Thursday for me. “Finish” because I fell into the”dog/dob” trap, thinking Date of Birth must be some kind of metaphorical ladder rung that I’d never heard of. Hey – almost every day there are *at least* two entries that I’m completely unfamiliar with (LEONID, Orion NEBULA, IOS, PAMELA,CHROM, ACCRA. . .) so such mistakes happen often enough.

I won’t cry foul on the nonsensical theme entries; it’s Thursday, and said entries do exactly what the revealer says. Of course the one non-nonsensical (huh?) one is a lot more pleasing to the eye, but in the end, ҫa m’est EGAL.

It also didn’t bother me that some theme entries had elements of ON/OFF standing alone and some where they were part of a word.

I never know what tense to use when posting.

GLACIER next to MR. FREEZE, CAT YEARS with MEW, ON PAROLE with PENANCE. And the exit with WOW. Thanks, Joel.

Mike in DC 7:36 AM  

I will raise my hand for EellIkE for ELUSIVE, but I found YOYOMA clever rather than ELUSIVE. Agree with the crowd here on CATYEARS, which was especially annoying because I had atOnAL for CHORAL.

Still, this was a medium for me, and the theme and YOYOMA made it fun. I read PAMELA in college, and NOONAN was a gimme for anyone into politics, and OUTIES was fun and a 50/50 answer. Ended in the NW, where I, too, wanted doG-eared before JUG-eared but knew BASSSOLO had to be right and dOB had to be wrong.

Thanks, Joel.

Z 8:02 AM  

I have one more nit to pick, ISLE/EL FATAH is a correct answer. Yes, AL FATAH is a more common transliteration, but anyone working in a district with the largest percentage of Arab-Americans in the country will tell you that EL is not uncommon. And what about the clue tells us that we want Spanish instead of English for ISLA? That little accent aigu? I don't think so.

As for "America's favorite athlete," I seem to recall a certain guy having some choice words
to say about people who prayed in public to demonstrate their humility and piety.

doG before JUG, everything already said about the theme. No clue on CHROMA/MACRON, but the M made sense. I like that the ORIOLEs have gone from A LEAST to A MOST almost as much as I like that my Tigers are finally on top in the AL CENTRAL (why isn't that ever in a grid?).

Z 8:04 AM  

I forgot to mention that I liked that we got a nice dose of astronomy to go with the paired astrological answers.

Rob C 8:22 AM  

Plugged away at this for more than 400 cat minutes before I threw in the towel. Came close but no cigar today.

To Rex's point - I always assume that switch a letter, change a letter and other similar themes need to create phrases that mean something and stand up on their own. Gibberish is indeed gibberish.

@Anon 12:20am - you need a vacation buddy

Glimmerglass 8:23 AM  

I liked it a lot. Wrote in JUG-eared, JOB, UNx [a or o], and ON PAROLE right off the bat and was feeling disappointed that the puzzle was so easy, but I shortly found I was mistaken about the easiness. I was all the way to ON-OFF SWITCH before GO ON Oxx A TANxExT made any sense at all. Even then, I looked at xxYEAR ELECTxxFF for a long time before I caught on. FROFFT ONICE was the last thing I entered. Challenging theme, some hard clues (ETRE, NORSE, AZO]. The cross-referenced ORIOLE/AL EAST required an intermediate logic step. A great Thursday solve.

Susan McConnell 8:25 AM  

I liked a lot of the fill in this one, but the gibberish created by the ONOFFSWITCH ruined it for me. I much prefer my crosswords to contain actual words. Oh, I don't mind the occasional XXX representing stitches on a football, say, but there is no joy whatsoever for me in looking at a completed puzzle that has FROFFTONICE, whatever theme.

jackj 8:30 AM  

Some themes just seem too good not to be recycled and reworked as we learn that today’s puzzle is the third time this theme has been used during the Shortz cycle, according to Jim Horne’s comment today at XWordInfo.

A quick comparison shows that the original puzzle using this theme (from Peter Abide on 6/21/01) had its first theme entry clued as “Management group for a pro team” for FROFFTONICE while today’s puzzle asks us for “Sports team management group” for FROFFTONICE.

The comparable reveals are “Electrical device with a hint to…..” for ONOFFSWITCH in Peter Abide’s puzzle while today’s uses “Toggle… or a hint to……” for ONOFFSWITCH.

A saving grace was different clues/answers for the other two theme entries today, along with some good fill like EGAL, PENANCE, ELUSIVE, CHROMA and MRFREEZE to point out just a few of the better ones.

Would have liked this puzzle a lot more if it had been developed without the dependence on Peter Abide’s theme and clues.

dk 8:45 AM  

Nope! Do not want to go ON how OFF this puzzle is.

* (1 Star)

Michael Hanko 8:51 AM  

I wonder if the YOYOMA clue could be referring to up- and down-bowing?

exaudio 9:09 AM  

Loved it. The aha moment when I "got it" was awesome. Getting PAMELA from the clue was one of the few rewards I've had from that BA in English I got before I realized I was a scientist at heart. Because nobody would ever read PAMELA except as an assignment.

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

Maybe I'm getting better at this. I just found this to be an average Thursday. The "J" in JUG came last and changing ELECTIONS (from 45A) to ELECTOFF made the east center work.

Of all the critical comments, the one that most resonates with me most is the objection to repeated "year". I've revised grids that repeated "to", though that's undoubtedly acceptable.

As for the negative comments about Tebow (the person, not the entry), I completely agree.

Gerry W

orangeblossomspecial 9:27 AM  

I support @Kyle at 12:22 wholeheartedly. Circular reasoning is unfair without context or any hint about the clue's meaning.

Gill I. P. 9:58 AM  

I knew I had done a similar puzzle ... and I actually said AHA at the ONOFFSWITCH answer.
I actually didn't find it that hard. The only real problem I had was getting MR FREEZE and TEBOW. I had Refew and thought it might be short for Reggie Few whatever. Then I got on my knees and did some praying and TEBOW came to the rescue.....
@Z. Well, the Galapagos are part of Ecuador donde todos hablan espanol.

jberg 10:05 AM  

I was channeling ACME - putting dogs all over the place, and confusing JOB with Jacob (in which case he was "part of the ladder" only in the sense of being part of the phrase). Eellike never occurred to me, though - my writeover there was EvaSIVE.

In addition to the two YEARs, we have both LEO and LEONID. The Leonids are called that because they appear to be coming out of the constellation LEO, which gave its name to the astrological sign - so I don't think they should both be in the puzzle.

But I'm grumpy. Way too many contortions in the clues. It just wasn't fun, despite FROFFT ON ICE.

Cathyat40 10:05 AM  

Solved it, but hated it.

Norm 10:13 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle a lot (despite the gibberish and circular cluing that others have appropriately critiqued already) -- except for that freaking NW corner. 1A could have been clued in so many other ways. Struck me as "nyah nyah" clue for an area that wasn't going to let you approach from a different direction. You were either going to get it or not. Does anyone have any idea what "metaphorical ladder" is meant? I'm baffled.

ImFromJersey 10:20 AM  

Was it just me or was anyone else bothered by the fact that 45A didn't quite workout when you switched on with off. Because then ONYEARELECTIOFF becomes OFF YEAR ELECTIO ON not Off Year Election.

Gibberish aside, this bothered me as it was not consistent with the other theme entries.

Masked and U-countisOFF 10:25 AM  

@31: Congrats, and thUmbsUp for forgettin' the blog anniversary, rather than that other one.

Puz gave more of a Medium fight, for me. Off and on, anyhoo. Hand up for wantin' more DOG and less CAT.

Have they done this theme genre with UP and DOWN yet? If not, get to work, Andrea, darlin'. Would be a hoot to see GOOSEDOWNMATTRESS get converted and clued.

Not much else to say. And as my shop teacher always said, when yer done, quit. Happy 11th anniversary to this clever theme. That's in puz years, y'all. M&A

Sarah 10:39 AM  

The kindest thing to say about this one was that it was ugly--I love to do puzzles, but not when I have to undertake major Google research for them. Then it's more like work. I, too, was stumped in NW, like forever.

Two Ponies 10:39 AM  

What a complete waste of time.

I can't believe how long we all have been blogging together.
Thanks, as always, Rex.

GenJoneser 10:55 AM  

@Michael Hanko you are exactly right.
As a former, albeit poor,
violinist bow movements
are called up and down
strokes. I'm sure it's
the same for a cellist.
@Rex Happy Anniversary
and kudos on continuing
this fun and informative blog!

John V 10:58 AM  

Late, so my apologies if I repeat others; no time to read everything this a.m.

This theme is a complete train wreck, IMHO. 29A sort of makes sense, the others have no place in a puzzle; just random noise, nonsense. What happened to the convention of no made up crap?

Boy, did I work hard on this. I could just NOT believe that ONYEARELECTIOFF was the right answer.

DNF 'cause of the NE. CATYEARS? Why not GNUYEARS or EMUYEAR?

Who the hell test solved this one? Will the guilty raise their hands, please and explain?

retired_chemist 11:03 AM  

Based on a chart in my vet's office I discovered that a better algorithm (than multiplying by 7) for finding dog years (DY) from real years (RY) is (DY) - 5X(RY) + 10. Thus a 6 YO dog is 5X6 + 10 = 40. When we lost our old girl Bree on July 31 at 15 yrs 8 months she was a little over 88.

Hand up for DOG twice, a la Acme. When I saw that, I said to myself,"one of them is wrong, and I'll just do the crosses until it is clear." When CAT YEARS became clear, DOG-eared became firmly set in my mind and I finished with the NW in shambles.

Got the JU of 1D from the AL puzzle reveal and realized I HAD head of JUG-eared. But I thought JOB('s) Ladder was a biblical reference. No, that's a Jacob's ladder. which is per Wikipedia suitably metaphoric. As a lapsed Unitarian, I wouldn't personally know. ONA seemed a possible Italian article and, while DOB made no sense, neither did the 1A clue. So there.

The theme was fun - hadn't seen it before. Lots of good, solid, challenging fill. So a good Thursday.

Thanks,.Mr. Fagliano.

quilter1 11:03 AM  

Gave up. 'Nuff said.

Happy anniversary.

Carola 11:06 AM  

Slow as a GLACIER to catch on to the switch; after that it got easier! I worked from the bottom up, but even having ON-OFF SWITCH early didn't clue me into the "switch" part, so I kept GOOffonATANGENT for a long time, thinking that the other theme entries would also have "on" and "off" next to each other.

Liked JUG-eared, CAT YEARS, NEBULA, SCOTSMAN, LEONID; CHROMA and MACRON were NEW to me, PAMELA recalled grad school reading list horrors.

Is FROFFT ON ICE something MR. FREEZE would drink?

@Rex - Ferret years really made me laugh. Happy Anniversaries!

@acme and jberg - Same here on the Biblical Job ("Well, there's Jacob's Ladder, so maybe there's Job's, too.")

@Z - Thanks for pointing out the astronomy + astrology.

@retired_chemist - On yesterday's PAX...only saw your comment last night and responded there.

mac 11:19 AM  

I also had a problem with the gibberish. Couldn't believe it was right. When I got the trick, I was wondering if there might be a "macroff".

I had atonal for choral and evasive for elusive, but got the whole thing in "challenging" time without help. I like the cat years, nonsense or not.

Happy anniversaries, Rex!

Sandy K 11:31 AM  

Didn't love it and thought it was hard, but when I checked my answers and saw I got it right...I sort of liked it much better.

Happy Anniversaries, Rex!

FROFFTONICE looks like my captcha.

baja 12:13 PM  

Happy anniversary!

Gareth Bain 12:21 PM  

I'm pro gibberish - think of it as a code that you have to crack for the answers to make sense. CATYEARS is something some cutesy owners talk about, but I'm certainly not calculating CATYEARS in my clinic! As Anon1220, there's isn't some magical ratio. Actually many dogs come on heat at 6 months, which if you use 5 to 1 (which for a medium breed is more consistent ito of age of death) then it's like a 2 and a half year hitting puberty!

Anonymous 12:26 PM  

This must stop! This is the second puzzle in a week to feature the bogus plural octopi. There is no Latin word octop-us => octop-i. It's Greek: octo-pus => octo-podes. In the words of Henry Fowler, "Octopi is incorrect; octopodes is pedantic; octopuses is the preferred English plural."

Ellen S 12:38 PM  

I'm having a timewarp problem. I've been reading this blog since discovering it a few months ago, but don't comment because the date at the top of the post that corresponds to the puzzle in my local newspaper is about 5 weeks earlier. So what was for me yesterday's puzzle, Peter Collins' construct around Sturm und Drang, was dated Wednesday, August 22. Yesterday, in my universe, was Wednesday, Sept. 26. So the thing is, the comments on that puzzle, apparently from a month ago, ended with a reference by @Dirigonzo about resumption of bargaining with the NFL referees "after the Seattle Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers, 14-12, on Monday Night Football on a touchdown catch by Seattle receiver Golden Tate." That was front page news, in my Sept. 26 paper, not something that happened back in August. However, I see the times roll around to the next day -- or the next month?

Before I get condemned as a temporally-confused robot, I want to also say that I enjoy Rex's posts, and LOVE the comments. Almost every other blog seems to devolve into flames, but you folks mostly support each other, criticize gently, gently correct when someone criticizes too harshly. There is so much knowledge and good humor here that even if I didn't enjoy the puzzles, I would enjoy the blog.

Rob C 12:53 PM  

@Ellen S
Newspapers that syndicate the NY Times puzz are on a several week delay. You need to subscribe directly to the NY Times or online to get today's puzzle.

loren muse smith 12:58 PM  

@Ellen S - exactly what Rob C said - for about 40 bucks a year you can subscribe to the Times online. Then you can join us and contribute to the blog daily!

I have learned SO MUCH by participating here and am becoming a stronger solver. It's been a really rewarding experience.

imsdave 12:59 PM  

Re: basssolo:

Victor Wooten

ANON B 1:00 PM  

I wish there were some way that
I could be told at the start
not to do the puzzle because
I won't like it.
And the CAPCHA was impossible.

Bob Kerfuffle 1:15 PM  

Amen, Rex.

And happy anniversaries.

Be sure to show your love to your cat every day. Some may live twenty years or more, but I recently lost my last cat at the age of 18.

Peggy NOONAN is a gimme, as she had been a student at the high school where my best friend was employed for 35 years.

John V 1:23 PM  

Curious minds want to know we weren't treated to Peggy NOOFFAN today.

Curious minds demand an explanation.

ANON B 1:28 PM  

I still don't get the
job-metaphorical ladder connection.

Then, to irritate me a little more, Deb asks what SMH means. So
looking all over the puzzle and
not finding it, it dawns on me
that she was just asking. And
then she ends up with WTF which
I can do without.Add that to
some of the "clever" comments
here and I'm starting to regret
the check I sent to Rex to support this blog.

Steve Tobak 1:34 PM  

@ANON B et al -

Climbing the Ladder of Success

chefbea 1:49 PM  

Hated the puzzle. Couldn't do it and DNF. Still doesn't make any sense!!!

@Rex and @Sandy Happy anniversary

Can't believe we've been on this blog for so many years. What fun!!!

lawprof 1:54 PM  

I found most of today's puzzle to be a bit of a slog -- not unlike many Thursdays for me. Picked up the theme fairly early and had everything finished except that tiny NW corner. Got off on the wrong foot with 1D lop (eared); switched to dog, considered bug (which I rejected because the suffix is "eyed" not "eared"). Resisted JUG because I wasn't sure about JUGeared (as opposed to JUGheaded). And the crosses were little help: JOB as part of a ladder, metaphorical or otherwise? UNA? Italian articles are myriad. GPS? Just one of many three-lettered cellphone features. Finally just gave up and guessed (correctly as it turned out) at the J. Like I said, a slog.

joho 2:04 PM  

I wish I would have loved this but I just could not. Love the concept but not its execution. Or maybe it should have been executed!

Anyway, nice one, Joel, just a bit too convoluted for my taste.

Happy anniversaries, @Rex!!!

mac 2:14 PM  

@JohnV: she will forever be Peggy Nooffan to me!

imsdave 2:38 PM  

Just a brief comment here - this is the most wonderful blog I've ever been associated with. Great folks, an erudite blogger, and so many wonderful friends - I almost feel like I have to apologize to you all for being a conservative. I will not apologize for this, but I do need to say that some of the liberal blogging is bothersome to me. Take that for what it is worth. Too much liberal commentary here at times - this is not the place for that (IMOO). Let's just enjoy the puzzles.

To be clear, I belive in all reproductive rights, gay rights, but have a problem with people being able to vote without proper ID, and the governments ability to spend money they don't have.

Rant over - Mr. Parker, feel free to delete.

Oh, congrats on both aniverseries.

Love to all,


Dave

Sparky 2:39 PM  

Like @lawprof had lop(eared)and stayed with it too long. Hymn at 15A then erased. Never got the on/off idea alas. Had about one third of the fill and just dropped it. Went for my flu shot.

Happy Blogsday @Rex. Six years, whoa! All the best wishes to you and Sandy.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:51 PM  

Who'da thunk it?!? "MR FREEZE" was the artist behind our most famous JUG-eared character!

Al Czervik 3:01 PM  

NOONAN could also have been clued as the protagonist of "Caddyshack." It's even a SportsCenter meme.

Hasn't Peggy Noonan been in a vodka and valium induced stupor since about 1986?

Bird 3:10 PM  

WOW. This was a tough one. Lots of write-overs. I completed the grid, but finished with an error at 4A/7D (ISLe/eL FATAH looked good to me at the time). And I only now realize the meaning of 1A, weak though it is. At first I had DOG EARS, but then what kind of YEARS do we have at the vet? DOG YEARS of course! So I paused for a minute, moved on and returned later to settle for the two biggest WTFs (JUG EARS and CAT YEARS).

I do like the concept, but do not like the execution. I would have liked to see ON and OFF SWICHTed in a consistent manner. 29A was perfect. 18A and 45A were ugly gibberish. I liked the challenge that some of the clues (misdirection, several possibilities, etc.) presented.

Hand up for not liking clues that reference each other and go in circles without any real clues (you know – clueless), forcing you to get some crosses and guess at the answer. And there were two in this grid. Ugh.

Z 3:32 PM  

@Gill I P - sure, but what in the clue says Spanish? When the puzzle wants ROMA instead of ROME there is something in the cluing to suggest it.

@imsdave - no need to apologize for being conservative. I'd buy the ID concern if a) there was evidence that fraud happened and b) Republicans weren't on tape stating that they were trying to suppress the vote. But I also am the guy going around saying the only real republican in the race is Obama and RR are really southern Democrats.

M and A also 3:35 PM  

@imsdave...Well spoken. Altho if you don't like government red ink, you've had a mighty rough past 70 years. Being a confirmed Masked and Anonymous dude, I do also have to draw the line at this "proper ID" stuff. But, shoot, according to the tv commercial folks, almost every candidate this time out is a skunk, anyhoo.

@AnonB...Smh was in the blog write-up. Wtf has been, too. As 31 would be the first to point out, no refunds.

I think 99% of crosswords are fun. Some are funner than others. But watch out for the 1%.

Rex Parker 3:39 PM  

No problem, @imsdave. I wish the GOP shared your sane and measured brand of conservatism.

RP

ANON B 3:44 PM  

@imsdave:

A good example of what I find objectionable in this blog.
Who cares whether you're liberal
or conservative? I thought this was about crossword puzzles. And what is IMOO? Some sort of opinion I guess. Again, who cares.

Anonymous 3:51 PM  

After Monday and Tuesday, even the calendar says W.T.F.

wordie 3:59 PM  

I DNF. Like others I got the on-off thing but not the switching. I got 45A and stared at it for a long time and double checked all the crosses. The NW and NE were my downfall. I hate 18A. I did get PAMELA easily due to my studies of 18th century French literature and related English lit. And, no, no one would read it unless they had to. I highly recommend Diderot's Jacques le Fataliste, which is not a difficult read even if your French isn't that great, or anything by Voltaire. The yOYOMA clue refers, I assume, to the name YOYO and the toy, which goes up and down. Pretty lame.

imsdave 4:01 PM  

@anon b - in my obnoxious opinion - well said though, I was out of line, but the general trend here is very liberal, and if you don't see that, that's OK with me.

As to the puzzle - CHROMA MACRON was a tought cross for me, but I got it, and enjoyed the overall effect.

Let's be friends - you called it right.

Apoligies to all for getting off topic. Tough day here.

sanfranman59 4:06 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

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

Thu 23:22, 18:50, 1.24, 88%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 13:19, 9:22, 1.42, 93%, Challenging

Alex 4:21 PM  

Fun read - your commentary I mean. The DOGs got me good on this one! Happy Anniversary.

ANON B 4:29 PM  

@imsdave
I looked it up. IMOO could also mean "in my own opinion".
Why should I have to look it up
and then guess? And to top it off,
it's a pretentious acronym anyway,
as are IMHO, LOL and most of the
others. I thought this was a blog
for intelligent adults, not teen-
age texters.
@Rex; Please leave this on
for a few minutes before dumping it. As you can tell, I've had
a bad day.

M and A's LSB 4:31 PM  

@imsdave...Sorry about your rough day. IMS can be a sonofagun. Especially if your LP/LC pointers get messed up during reorg. Talk about yer WTF. Not even a good SAS program PROC can straighten that out.
Har. AnonB probably just blew out a fuse.

Campesite 4:35 PM  

Happy Bloggiversary and Anniversary Rex! Thanks for this remarkable blog.
Mark

Carola 4:42 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle - Thank you for that link. Big MAD fans around here.

Lewis 4:44 PM  

rex -- great funny incisive writeup; a classic

gil -- funny Tebow comment

anon 3:51 - bravo!

Tough, not fun, good feeling to solve, though. I don't mind gibberish on Thursday if it works with the theme and takes some cleverness to figure out, giving an aha, and it sounds like there were some ahas here.

Gill I. P. 4:56 PM  

@Z....What can I say? When in ROME do as the ROMAS do?
@Rex - lots in the GOP share @imsdave's view.
Hope you're having a bang-up anniversary
@M and A'S LSB: Hah! Dang, I saw the fuse blow and it twerent pretty.
@imsdave: Are you about to be a grandpapa yet?

imsdave 5:08 PM  

@anon b - we obviously got off on the wrong foot here. Let's let it go.

@M and A - Don't know how I would have survived all of these years in programming without SAS and PROC MERGE - great language!

@Gill I.P. - not pushing here - que sera sera. My wonderful daughter and her fabulous husband will get there when the time is right. Trust me - all of my friends here will know when that happens!

dk 5:13 PM  

Rex, Happy Anniversaries. d(sultan of stars)k

Z 5:15 PM  

technically over my limit so I'll be brief -

It seems perfectly okay for us to GO ON OFF A TANGENT today.

And ANON B - Good Art, be it oil paintings, sculpture, literature, or even crosswords puzzles, is always about way more than the art itself.

skua76 5:17 PM  

Ugh. I'm with Rex all the way on this one. I put in doG for 1D (after taking it out of 8D) and left it there, I figured 1A dOB (date of birth) was the bottom of some sort of metaphorical ladder. And oNA looked like a perfectly good Italian article to me. Hated the two pairs of essentially unclued words, and was reminded that I don't have the order of the Zodiac signs memorized.

Happy double anniversary, Rex and Sandy!

Mighty Nisden 5:26 PM  

@Ellen S
Your other option is once you get to this page click on the Syndicated Puzzle link at the top of the page. That will bring you to the 5 week timewarp.

I too was a Syndie-ite but after finding this blog and one time when the Saturday Puzzle was different because of the fact it was a contest, I couldn't stand not becoming part of the group.

That $40 is well worth it IMHO.

Thank you Rex for all your work, this blog (and all the bloggers who contribute) have made me an avid weekday xword fiend. (Too busy on the weekends.)

This was tough for me. Just couldn't get the NE CHROMA MACRON cross did me in.
Actually loved the OFF ON switch theme even with the gibberish.

Happy Thursday.

long suffering mets fan 5:57 PM  

North took an eternity, almost gave up -- time spent not worth the meager payoff

CATYEARS is, quiet possibly, the worst clue/answer of the year

I too had a first impression of the puzzle as a Dog theme: dog-eared, dog years, Browns fans AKA Dawg Pound in the endzone.

Very funny write-up, Rex
Happy Anniversaries

hey, R.A. won his 20th! some jubilation from another disastrous season

Anonymous 6:32 PM  

Another option for a daily dose of the puzzle is via NYT crossword app for iPad/iPhone.
I think it's about $17 / year for the app .

And then I click to Rex's blog to get the lowdown from this delightful group.

ANON B 7:19 PM  

Rex Parker:

I may have been out of line in my comments today but I haven't
had any of them removed so they
can't have been that horrible.
Do you have an opinion on the
use of texting acronyms such
as IMHO?
In expectation of a response,
Thank You

Tango Echo Victor 7:42 PM  

Huh...I disliked this puzzle as much as anyone, but finished in a fast-for-me-on-Thu 25 min. One thing that is still a live horse that deserves beating: did the NHL change their rules this offseason? TIEs have been the only un-awesome thing about hockey since I met the sport in '93.

Acme 8:27 PM  

@carola. Thanks for the delightful reminder of YOYOMA on the bathroom floor with the wombat!!!

That plus the cellist bow going up and down explanation makes me rescind my not loving the yoyo/toy into career joke. Ok, fine on YOYOMA clue, a little off, a little lame, but wasn't worth condemning on my part!

( i think I've mentioned before he was a resident tutor in my dorm freshman year ...talk about being spoiled with treasures in front of me and not knowing, appreciating amything about classical music then..
Plus his wife Jill was my German teacher and I've always found it curious in following his career the last 35 years that none of the articles ever ever mention her, the kids, that he's married, nothing.)

@masked and anonymous
GOOSEUPMATTRESS. Is funny AND 15, why don't we collaborate? I had the very thought last night and meant to look today to see if HAVEUPSANDDOWNS 15 had been done already.
As you know, I'm at my full name @gmail with a . Between middle and last name.

Glad to see i was not alone with JOB/JACOB confusion (on Yom Kippur, no less!), multiple DOG attempts, eyebrow arched for double YEARS, etc.
Why I come back to the blog every day...and often a few times a day!

@john v
I know your MACROFF and someone else's NOOFFAN were rhetorical, but they were Downs, not part of the theme entries which not only were Across-only but the theme entries had both OFF and ON in one phrase.

I do agree, however, it's an elegance issue to try and avoid other OFFs or ONs that are not switched around in the grid.
Thing is, avoiding the two letters O - N in general would be super super tough to do.

@anon 12:26
OCTOPI may be "incorrect" linguistically but it's used, acceptable now even in Scrabble, and is just an example of words that have been absorbed into English, like when folks say HEIGHTH.

@anonB
My guess is if @rex is using smh in his blog writeup, he has no objections to text abbreviations...which, imho, are no longer just for 15 yr olds...it's the wotw, my friend.
(WOTW=Way of the world...but I just made that up)

You Do have someone who can tell you before you start that you are going to hate this puzzle...you're reading him!

@ellen s
I think your confusion is partly due to the fact that Peter Collins had both the realtime puzzle AND the syndicated 5 week earlier one same day!
Plus @dirigonzo replies at times both in real time or adds to the comments 5 weeks later as tho it were that day, but it's really speaking with September news but on an August puzzle.
Does that make it any clearer? He has hit the syndi puzzle link to comment on the puzzle you are first getting to 5 weeks later, but is coming to it 60 comments later, but with news from the fiture that didn't exist when the first 60 commenters made their comments...
( i hope he won't rescind my fanclub for this convoluted answer!)
Or yes, you could pay $40 and join in real time...but i think at least 10% -50% of all those $40 checks the NYT is collecting to access the puzzle on line should be put into a very very big pot and divvied up among the constructors at the end of the year (in proportion to how many puzzles they had) that were resold 5 or six more times to syndi, calendars, books, airline mags, mugs, ashtrays and the like!)
(before the usual meanies attack me for being selfserving, I've had but two and a half puzzles in the NYT this year...I'm urging on behalf of others)

chefbea 9:06 PM  

@ellenS I can e-mail you the puzzle every day. Let me know.

Bob Snead 9:28 PM  

Where is it written that gibberish is bad? Especially this sort of calculated, formulaic gibberish, with an obvious solution? It's kinda fun, ya whiners.

Will, if you're reading, ignore the elitist nonsense.

ANON B 9:31 PM  

@acme

You say you can tell me beforehand
if I'm not going to like a puzzle.
How can you do that? How can you
know what I like and, in case you
do, how do I reach you, not that
I would want to.
As far as texting acronyms, I
find them to be affectations.
How often does a normal human
being want to say "laugh out
loud" or "shake my head" in a
letter or a conversation?

P.S. A miracle just happened.
I got a capcha that a child
could understand. Even I could.

Anonymous 9:46 PM  

@ANON B

You understood the captcha, but you sure didn't understand what @acme was saying.

She doesn't mean SHE can tell if you're going to hate the puzzle...

Oh, what's the use! LOL

OMG 10:19 PM  

@ANON B - You don't get it. LOL is not short for what we are saying. It is short for what we are doing. And these acronyms all started when we had flip-phones with keys sharing numbers and letters. Nobody wanted to hit the keys 20 times when 3 would suffice. Eventually everyone understood that LOL meant you were laughing out loud to a joke or comment.

You're over the limit by the way.

PS. The captcha was one letter away from a certain description of some people by some people: anshole

M and A Bandito 10:36 PM  

@Andrea, darlin'...Wow. Thanx. Sweet of you to offer, but you go on ahead with that UP/DOWN thingy. It's all yours. I'm pretty darned unorganized, and would just slow you down. Besides, hard for anyone to work with someone who cherishes his secret identity. All the best.
M&A

sanfranman59 11:54 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 6:12, 6:48, 0.91, 15%, Easy
Tue 9:18, 8:56, 1.04, 66%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 13:59, 11:50, 1.18, 89%, Challenging
Thu 23:31, 18:50, 1.25, 88%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:37, 3:41, 0.98, 44%, Medium
Tue 5:28, 4:39, 1.17, 91%, Challenging
Wed 7:12, 5:57, 1.21, 90%, Challenging
Thu 12:54, 9:22, 1.38, 92%, Challenging

Amelia 1:01 AM  

Thanks for the welcomes yesterday. Much appreciated. Didn't hate the puzzle until you all explained why I should. Just thought it was hard. Now I see it was insane.

Kris in ABCA 1:25 AM  

@Tango Echo Victor - no NHL ties since 2005. Regular season games have an overtime period (5 minutes, I think) then go to a shootout if not resolved in overtime. For the standings, an overtime or shootout loss counts as 1 point and wins count as three points. No shootouts in the playoffs - more overtime periods are added as needed.

Spacecraft 12:46 PM  

Never had a Natick at square 1 before! Totally at sea with the 1a clue, I had _OB and _UG. I thought, maybe BUG-eared? BOB made no sense--but neither did anything else! I guess now that you say "JUG-eared," I wouldnt go "HUH?"--but it's certainly not a description in common use in MY experience. So, a single-letter error took me down.

Hand up for dog years (mini-YEAR theme?) Agreed that the theme phrases ought to make some kind of sense, even if just cute. These were not cute. FROFFT? ELECTIOFF? Please.

The Tebow issue: the American public has all sorts of record-setting and championship-winning heroes. But here's a guy with average skills who just BELIEVES, in a way that few ever have, in our experience. Believes in what, you ask: himself or God? And I answer: yes. Both! He is inspirational, that is his special skill. I understand the poll result; it has nothing to do with his career results.

I also agree with OFL's objection to the clue for YOYOMA. Makes it sound like he overcame drugs or something.

gold freak 1:16 PM  

Yoyo, you know, ups and downs. I get it, but I did not get it on the puzzle.

rain forest 3:30 PM  

I had no trouble starting this puzzle in the NW as I assumed "uno" or "una" for 14A, and "jug" made me remove "lop" for 1D and the rest of the NW was clear. Same for the middle N. I was very proud to see LEO, and then CANCER, but entire NE was a total scmozz, for the longest time. Like many, I eventually figured out the theme and when I reluctantly put in FROFFTONICE, I have to say I thought, "cute!" This is a puzzle I admire, but don't really like, and maybe it's because I dnf'd in the NE, or maybe it's because I realize that I'm not as good a solver as I sometimes think I am, which is sort of shallow. But hey, I got two 'welcomes' from Z and Ginger and so I feel a lot better about myself (blush). I have had 4 cats, all of whom lived 17 human years, so I've always thought catyears are 6X human years, of which they sleep 5X human years.

Ginger 5:01 PM  

Happy Anniversary, Five Weeks Late, @Rex and Sandy! As to the Blog being six years old (what is that in CATYEARS), I'm just sorry I missed the first five. Thank You, Rex, it's my 'guilty pleasure' every day!

The NW did me in. No amount of staring and re-reading the clues brought any sort of answers. Had aPp for 17A, confirmed by ONPAROLE, then of course nothing would come. Did eventually finish the rest.

As to initials, LOL (used to think it meant little old lady), IMO etc, it's the new normal. It's the evolution of our modern culture, and trying to fight it will just result in frustration. Get used to it. @Anon 3:51 I'm LMHO at your calendar reference.

DMGrandma 6:28 PM  

Not my kind of puzzle. Don't understand what a "metaphorical ladder" is. Had lop eared, and thought
TEBOW was a kind of exercise, like tae chi. Though I now seem torecallreading something about him somewhere, but that was some time ago. Maybe he was more in the news when this puzzle originally ran.

That said, I got about half the puzzle, including the revealer, and a couple of the theme answers, but they looked so strange I decided I'd done something wrong. Given that and my aversion to clues that only reference each other with nothing as to either of them, I quit and came here and feel better to discover I'm not alone.

Glad to hear from @Diri that the storm issued him.

DMG 6:50 PM  

Meant "missed him" - sometimes I miss what the iPad robot did with my words.

Dirigonzo 7:19 PM  

Just so it's clear to @Ellen S and @Acme, I am writing this on November 1, 5 weeks after the puzzle was originally published - in syndi-time, DAREISAY? And I'm proud to say that I finished, despite the gibberish, with only one wrong square: LaS at 28a. My completed grid, in ink, is not pretty.

@DMGrandma, I think the clue at 1a refers to the "corporate ladder" which so many seek to climb, and ever higher paying jobs are the steps up the ladder. Happily, it's only a metaphor.

Seeing the LEONID meteor shower in the grid gives me the perfect opportunity to remind everybody that it occurs this month (syndi-synchronicity!) and peaks on the morning of the 17th. It is caused by the Comet Tempel and should produce about 20 "shooting stars" per hour as Earth passes through the debris field of the comet.

Belated congrats to @Rex on all counts, and belated welcome to @rain forest who apparently, like all of us from time to time, could use a hug.

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