Third Uncle singer / WED 9-19-12 / Expo 74 locale / on Don Russian port 1+ million / Wassily Russian-American Nobelist in Economics / Justin Bieber's genre / For hire org of 1930s / Clay pigeon launcher

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Constructor: Michael Shteyman

Relative difficulty: Challenging



THEME: the saying "FOOL ME ONCE (7D: Start of a four-part saying) / SHAME ON YOU / FOOL ME TWICE / SHAME ON ME," I guess

Word of the Day: ROSTOV-on-Don (1A: ___-on-Don, Russian port of 1+ million) —
Rostov-on-Don (RussianРостóв-на-Донýtr. Rostov-na-DonuIPA: [rɐˈstof nə dɐˈnu]) is a port city which is the administrative center of Rostov Oblast and theSouthern Federal District of Russia. It lies on the Don River, 32 kilometers (20 mi) from the Sea of Azov. In 2012, the city's population was recorded at 1,089,851 (2010 Census preliminary results); 1,068,267 (2002 Census); 1,019,305 (1989 Census).
• • •

Shteyman is a skilled and accomplished constructor. He is also Russian. Now it's one thing to throw some clues in there that are oriented toward your particular background or field of interest or hobby or whatever, but four!?!? Four Russian clues? Including the two most obscure answers in the puzzle? In the same quadrant?—yuck. Ugh.  It's like if I made a puzzle where 4 crucial answers had "Simpsons" or Middle English literature or pulp fiction or Fresno or Pomona College or comics clues (yes, you *would* hate that...), of varying levels of obscurity, in order to balance out, difficulty-wise, an essentially unclued but ultimately boringly easy main theme answer that just fills itself in once you get enough crosses. Difficulty is one thing, totally self-indulgent difficulty is irksome.


Did not enjoy the theme—no clever clue, no ... nothing. Just a "saying" that you had to figure out from crosses. And once you did, as I say, it just filled itself in. No challenge. Just write. Then there's the jarring difficulty contrast of the corners, which were all Thur.-to-Sat. tough, and not in enjoyable ways. The overdose of Russian stuff (ROSTOV?? LEONTIEF??!?!?!) (16A: Wassily ___, Russian-American Nobelist in Economics) just soured me on the whole puzzle. Nothing against Russian stuff, per se, or any country's stuff. It's just ... here ... it's too much of one thing. And so many "?" clues (of varying quality) ... there's a limit, and this puzzle crossed it. (I don't know what the limit is, but I'm gonna say yes, 10, on a Wednesday, is crossing it).


NW was hard for understandable reasons. NE was hard for reasons that are harder to understand in retrospect. But the clues on TRAP (34A: Clay pigeon launcher), ENO (31A: "Third Uncle" singer), ORNATE, COASTER (clue seems to imply *roller* COASTER; 10D: Ride up and down?), ALTOONA (11D: City in the Alleghenies), and even TEEN POP (12D: Justin Bieber's genre) (I would've thought just POP)—none of them meant anything to me. But I think my frustration and annoyance at the puzzle in general was getting to me by this point (the last quadrant I solved) because once I got TINT (9D: Window treatment), and thus the first 3 letters of all the Acrosses, they all became instantly obvious. How did I not see them before? SHAME ON ME.


Good stuff: I was baffled by [Single dose?] until I was done with the puzzle and finally saw the answer (DAT). Very nice clue. Also baffled by [Urgent]. Had E-IGENT and still no idea. Until I did. EXIGENT! Good word. Also, though EARWAX is gross, it's a nice crossword answer (I knew the "cer-" part of [Cerumen] meant "wax," but otherwise, I was stumped). Just had a bunch of email exchanges with readers about the poem "Invictus," which included various movie references, so FREEMAN was one of the blessedly easy answers in today's grid (63A: Mandela portrayer in "Invictus," 2009). Wanted the "For hire" part of the clue at 49A: "For hire" org. of the 1930s (WPA) to be part of some saying (like, say, "Spenser: For Hire"), but couldn't think of one. Had no idea, or forgot, that SPOKANE ever had an Expo (3D: Expo '74 locale). We flew into there on our way to Idaho a couple years ago. It seemed lovely, but we only saw it from the periphery, so, who knows? (besides, presumably, Spokaneans).

Glad this one's behind me.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

97 comments:

Anonymous 12:09 AM  

If you have to apologize in your clueing for 1A (1+ Million - See, it's a real port, one with lots of people living near by) when it was already a FITB, you should have a different 1A.

dmw 12:30 AM  

I started this puzzle, and couldn't get ANYTHING. Then I saw the clue for the Russian Nobelist, and instantly wrote in Leontief (I am an econ professor). After that, it didn't exactly all come together, but I got enough to get the saying, and felt lucky every time I finished a quadrant, but finished them all, no mistakes (that's good for me on Wednesday). So, while Rex can bitch and moan about too much of anything, I have to say it really feels good to "just barely get" everything!

jae 12:55 AM  

Very odd puzzle.  At first it seemed very tough with the two Russian WTFs in the NW.  Then, after filling in here and there, I caught the "saying" and finished it as fast as I could put in the answers.  So, easy but... 

Only erasure: eeK for ACK.

No tough crosses that I can detect.

In addition to the Russians CERISE and MOIETY were WTFs.

I liked it a lot more than Rex did.   Only cringe was MNO.

Anonymous 12:58 AM  

Actually, most of the Kremlin isn't really ornate, it's an ancient fort. There are ornate palaces within the Kremlin, but they're not the Kremlin. The picture Rex showed, that of Saint Basil's Cathedral is not within the Kremlin, but across street.

Gill I. P. 12:59 AM  

I haven't worked this hard on a Wed. in a long time. Yesterday's belonged here and this one - well, I'm not sure what slot I'd put it in, so I'm going to throw out a Russian proverb: "A word of kindness is better than a fat pie."
Neeever heard of LEONIEF (sorry you economics people) nor ROSTOV not did I know Nouri what's his name, so my start gave me an ITCH. AD WOMAN? sounds...well, unreal.ST ETNA what's DAT?
Now there was a lot I really did like and this was another very different puzzle but I'm leaning in the SHAME ON YOU camp...

Anonymous 1:25 AM  

Glad to see the Challenging rating because the NW was brutal for me. Never heard of ROSTAV or LEONTIEF. Also, had no idea that there was an expo in SPOKANE (although, to be fair, I was born a few years after 74). Tough cluing for a Wednesday.

That said, the theme saying itself was super easy so the rest of the fill went pretty quick. Will just need to brush up on mid-sized Russian ports for future Shteyman puzzles...

Cecilia 1:28 AM  

I'm a Russia wonk but had to look up Wassily. The Kremlin clue is a glaring error; I kept looking for a way to tie it back to the word meaning (fortress) or purpose, and even had "symbol?" in as a guess on first pass... I think of many things when I think of the Kremlin, but ornate is not one of them.

The Russia theme does work well with the news of the Russian diamond cache. Meh.

Rookie 1:47 AM  

Well, I'm glad to read these comments. My only trip to Russia was in 1994. ORNATE is not a word I would have associated with the Kremlin. Ever. I couldn't believe that my memory had failed me so badly, so it was a relief to come here several hours later to find comments disputing that clue from people much more expert than I. The Hermitage or the Catherine Palace ornate, yes. The Kremlin, not so much!

syndy 2:38 AM  

I first went with Oniony for the Kremlin but even I knew that was ridiculous.The nw and se fell quickly but I had more trouble in the other quadrants. I realized I was over thinking-its wednesday,go for an easy answer-so ADWOMAN,TEENPOP OILMEN all stupid but cleared the logjam.Some nice stuff MOIETY IWOJIMA but I got the phrase off the first "F" so maybe a little too much theme?

chefwen 3:21 AM  

HTG 1A ROSTOV and 16A LEONTIEF just to get a toe hold. Thought I had taken a really long nap and had awakened on a Friday. Like Rex said, after you catch the theme it turned into stupid easy and I was back in real time, Wednesday.

Hand up for eeK before ACK, Bill the Cat's favorite outburst.

Anonymous 3:45 AM  

Shouldn't the clue for 'italics' be 'THEY lean to the right'?
Am Russian, so loved 1A.

Eejit 4:01 AM  

Just dumb luck one of my best friends is from Rostov-on-Don. Couldn't help but text him about the clue despite the hour. He was amused. Never heard of Leontief or moiety though.

loren muse smith 5:55 AM  

A quick glance at the grid had me double-checking to make sure that today is indeed Wednesday and not Thursday.

Like @jae - "eek" before ACK. Also "ache" before ITCH.

Yeah - a lot of Rusky; our SAMOVAR could have been in Iran.

I hate to nyet pick, but I wanted a plural clue for ITALICS, too.

Loved the clues for OILMEN, MEOW, DAT, and MOON.

REEF/BERG (when is it *ever* "burg? In cities?), ELECTIVE/EXIGENT, METS/ORIOLE, ADWOMAN/OILMAN, GO KART/COASTER, FORMA/TERRA, MOON/ARREAR (just kidding) - all good stuff.

Since it was truly a difficult puzzle that I finished in time to post, I'm happy with it.

Спасибо, Michael.

Milford 6:49 AM  

Also relieved to see the challenging rating. It felt very Friday to me, until the saying was discovered and half the puzzle fell open. Immediately thought of Dubya. Thank god it wasn't his "quote".

Liked a lot of the fill, especially the SE, but mostly left me feeling a bit ignorant, especially after yesterday's Zeppelin loveliness. Crosswords can be such a dose of humble pie.

Anonymous 6:53 AM  

Where's Shakespeare man? MOIETY is totally used in King Lear at the beginning when they are talking about the division of Lear's kingdom.

Anonymous 7:10 AM  

Could someone explain the DAT clue and answer? I filled it in last, because while I know the crosses, it didn't make sense to me.

exaudio 7:14 AM  

@Milford: I cannot hear that phrase without thinking about Dubya either.

As a retired audiologist, I was happy to see cerumen again.

Smitty 7:21 AM  

Everything @Rex said, except for the answer to theoretically ON PAPER, which was very nice.

@Syndy Great answer (ONIONY) for the Kremlin!

Nancy in PA 7:40 AM  

Anonymous@7:10: Think Brooklynese. "Dese" and "dose" are the plural of "dis" and "dat."

I also thought of Oniony, and I also hear Dubya in my head. Will have to look up the clip of how he mangled the saying in question. Loved the puzzle.

Glimmerglass 7:42 AM  

@anonymous 7:10 -- Did and DAT are the singular forms of dese and dose, if you live in Brooklyn. Like many clues today, DAT is a forehead slapper: "Oh, for pity's sake, that's why." They're great fun if you see them (after a period of fog), but probably very annoying if you don't. I think Rex was (as he often is) a bit hard on the constructor. I didn't know the Russian names in the NW (I had guessed bOSTOn, which would have been kind of cool), but the 1D and 6D (excellent hard clues) got both WTF answers. I agree that it was "challenging" (that's a good thing).

loren muse smith 8:14 AM  

Ok. I've been thinking a lot about this puzzle. Jeeze Louise I need a life. On ITALICS - I'll accept the singular clue in the spirit of nouns like "linguistics" and "phonetics."

Also - everyone is saying this too hard for a Wednesday. I was thinking that, too, but in retrospect, the theme element was so simple that I finished it in about 20 minutes - typical Wednesday for me. I wonder if people would have been whining if Will had run this on a Thursday. I might have felt like I wanted something a little less accessible.

Z 8:19 AM  

I thought it was Saturday for awhile, obscure Russian port, Econ nobelist, Allegheny city (Altoona has <50,000 residents, BTW), Nouri al-Maliki, "Third Uncle."

Nouri was either IRAnI or IRAQI, which is where I got my toehold. Along with RENO/LEER/MNO I had enough to see the crossing SHAMEs and FOOL ME and the theme. I was really hoping(¿dreading?) for some sort of Russian related saying.

Question: TEC or TEK/GO CART or GO KART. It seems to me that both are correct solutions. DATs a problem in my book.

CERISE EARWAX - that can't be good.

/

ArtO 8:21 AM  

Very glad to see the rating! Initially thought "this should be a Friday" given the tough cluing but then the quote fell easily and most of the rest did as well. But MOIETY!!! Good grief.

John V 8:24 AM  

DNF: DAT got me along with NW, notwithstanding having LEONTIEF. Everything @Rex said abt NW.

Odd theme, indeed.

dk 8:26 AM  

Crickey! We have puzzles awash with lame and obscure sports clues and we carp about Russian fill.

Who cannot love a puzzle with EARWAX and DONUTS in the grid? My Waterloo was one of the few US clues 3D. Only got it when I guessed at 1A.

My LOL moment was thinking and writing ACh as it was Cathy of Rex's favorite comic strip oft used phrase. Alas it was ACK - Bill the cat's prelude to a hairball.

Comrades this one gets:

������ (3 Stars) Michael next time I want to see Boris, Natasha and Mr. Big… ooo and Noodles Rominov you know real Russian stuff.

Sue McC 8:32 AM  

Pretty much the same as Rex. Didn't see who the author was and kept thinking "what's with all the Russian stuff?" the whole way through. Got the theme waaaay too soon, so that I barely wanted to finish. The bummer with this is, like Rex said, once you know the phrase, the fun is pretty much over. I like it better when there is a little twist to the phrase, but, hey, you can't always get what you want.

jackj 8:43 AM  

St. Petersburg born Dr. Shteyman gives us his 44th NY Times crossword with a slight hint that he may be feeling a bit of home-sickness as he uncharacteristically includes four Russian specific clues for ROSTOV, LEONTIEF, ORNATE (describing the Kremlin) and SAMOVAR.

While the LEONTIEF clue, especially, seems a bit much for a Wednesday, there is a bigger complaint to be made concerning the theme, in that, as soon as the first FOOL is apparent, the full saying can be confidently filled in and since that involves 40 letters of the puzzle it makes for a rapid run to the finish line.

The answer that also deserves a bit of a growl, though, is MOIETY; even seeing it in all its certainty in the dictionary, it still looks like a word coined on the spot to fill an awkward hole in the grid.

Finally, of sidebar interest, it seems like there is a new born informal contest among some Times constructors to determine who can best clue that cutesy word MOON, as Michael uses “Create an open-ended view?”; four days earlier the team of Pahk and Wilber tried out “Pull up a seat for?” and in mid-August, the master, Patrick Berry went with “Hold up one’s end?”. To be continued, I’m sure.

Thanks, Michael.

loren muse smith 8:49 AM  

@jack j bottom's up?

Liz Glass 9:01 AM  

Oriole as the Maryland State Symbol? No. It's the state bird. There are at least a dozen state symbols. That clue stank more than the Baltimore Inner Harbor at low tide.

joho 9:11 AM  

This was odd. I guess I didn't find the theme exciting enough.

I thought the NW was going to remain unsolved so I was surprised and delighted that I was able to figure it out. The highlight of the puzzle for me.

Another high point was IWOJIMA crossing FREEMAN both answers referring to Clint Eastwood.

Also good to see ADWOMAN as a nice change from admen!

jberg 9:20 AM  

OK, I'm prejudiced because my name is in there at 56D (and to answer @Loren, -berg means mountain, -burg means city, although sometimes they get misspelled). And for me, ROSTOV was a big gimme - no other significant city called -on-Don, as far as I know. Knew Leontief, too - who's an American professor, as far as I know, depite his Russian origins. So for me this was easy - theme was so thick in the middle that it was an obstacle until I got it, but as @Rex said, that didn't take much.

I, too, wanted ONIONY, a much better answer - if there had been one more space, I'd have written in ONIONED with confidence.

OISK 9:26 AM  

Loved this one! Knew Rostov from a Russian song (Rostov Don) - I am a big fan of the Russian army chorus. The only Russian clue I did not know was Leontief, and put in the "L" last because the clue for Rolaids puzzled me. I certainly do not mind a little Russian (one of my favorite symphonies) after the Beatles-Led Zep- themed puzzles of the past few days. Disagree with Rex totally on the quality of the clueing as well. Very clever- smiled many times when I caught the drift, and that is what a good Wed. puzzle should do. There was the inevitable (it seems) rock clue, (Third Uncle singer???? I know only from crosswords that there apparently exists a singer named Eno) but one per puzzle is fine with me. Thanks Mr. Shteyman!

chefbea 9:33 AM  

Got the saying early on but then got stumped. Googled and finally came here. I agree..very challenging Wednesday

Shamik 9:52 AM  

Challenging for a Wednesday. Medium challenging for a Thursday and Easy Medium for a Friday.

Mostly just unenjoyable.

N-E-S-T-L-E-S 9:53 AM  

If you "read" 40D as [an] ITALIC S, it's not so bad.

baja 9:54 AM  

Fooled me more than once! Would have been impossible (for me) without the quote. Can't remember when the quote helped that much. Liked it.

treedweller 9:56 AM  

I tried my theory that any time there is a three-letter answer to a clue with a song title, it will be ELO. had to track that one down at the end.

I agree this was a bit tough for Wednesday, and that the easy quote tends to negate that difficulty. Finally finished in the NE. My Russian trivia knowledge is about as deep as TEENPOP.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:06 AM  

I would have finished this puzz a lot faster if I hadn't originally and ignorantly thrown in VOSTOK for 1 A. (Hey, it's the right number of letters, has 5 letters in common with the correct answer, and it's surely Russian!)

Have to agree with @Z, TEC = detective; TEK = drug invented by William Shatner. You can get plenty of Google hits for GOCART, but most people prefer GOKART.

JFC 10:23 AM  

@Rex said: "Difficulty is one thing, totally self-indulgent difficulty is irksome."

Would anyone care to explain to me to whom Rex was referring?

Here are your choices:

a. The constructor
b. The critic
c. Me....


JFC

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

Fore once, I felt really smart on a a Wednesday.

OK, so I am a Russian history professor.
Only fair we have a good day once in a while.

retired_chemist 10:28 AM  

Liked it because it was tough. ROSTOV came instantly but I can't tell you why. Hand up for EEK, for getting the theme from a few crosses (a real leg up, though I agree it is just out there with no clever revealer), and for wanting a dozen DONUTS from the shop up the street.

POITIER @ 63A was easily fixed. Ditto BIGWIG @ 7A.

MOIETY to a chemist means a part (e.g. the acetate MOIETY) but not specifically half. I think that is general though there are probably dictionaries that claim the opposite.

NAOMI Watts in a film projector? In a film, yes - in a projector, no.

Thanks, Mr. Shteyman. I do think your cluing could have been better though.

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

Can someone please explain the connection between "Red Cross hot line" and VEIN. I get that the Red Cross takes blood from people's veins, and the tube is goes through is a kind of line, but what's the "hot"?
--Twangster

retired_chemist 10:30 AM  

@ treedweller - sometimes it is REM.

Sandy K 10:34 AM  

I also called out to my better half, "What day is it today?"

Partly challenging, partly easy- agree that theme fell in too fast, while some clues were tricky ON PAPER.

But "in the end" I was happy to finish!

Sandy 10:34 AM  

MOIETY????????????? SERIOUSLY????????????

Two Ponies 10:42 AM  

Like @ Sue McC I got the theme way too early so filling in the rest of the grid was a bit of a chore but even so I liked it better than Rex. Besides the "new clue" contest for moon we also got a new clue for Eno.
Some of the other clues seemed odd. What do bare hands have to do with catching a cab?
What is the connection between Rolaids and the word spell in the clue?

Carola 10:45 AM  

Same here for "easy theme - hard otherwise." Had a very slow start, finally saw the theme when I had SHA- crossing SHA-, then those tough corners opened up for me.

For me, this was the opposite of "excuse bad fill for a terrific theme" - I thought many of the answers were terrific, so regarded the theme more as a key to get to them. Some lovely words - CERISE, SAMOVAR, and some amusingly un-lovely - EAR WAX and ROLAIDS. I liked the international crossing of ROSTOV-on-DON with west-coast SPOKANE and ALTOONA off on the east coast. Also the CAT poised above the ORIOLE. Do-over: sunnI before IRAQI.

Thanks, Michael Shteyman - I enjoyed this one a lot.

Carola 10:50 AM  

@Two Ponies - I took it as referring to hailing a cab. For which you'd usually need only one hand - unless you were waving wildly with both arms, I guess.

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

MOIETY, EXIGENT, CERISE, Cerumen, etc...all gettable to the "xword cognoscenti" to paraphrase Rex.


Anonymous 10:55 AM  

Old TV ad: ROLAIDS "spells" RELIEF.

loren muse smith 10:56 AM  

@ jackj - I have a better one:

Bottom out!

Sparky 11:01 AM  

Googled ROSTOV and LEONTIEF. Eek before ACK. Love Bill the Cat (Wanted to make him my avatar but couldn't find a good picture although someone else has.)

Found it difficult even after the quote. EARWAX yuckie. MOIETY I know from Anthropology courses more like other not half.

Same as @retired-chemist re NAOMI. A lot of things are sold by the dozen. Wanted domed for Kremlin. (@Syndy,etal: Onion domed, of course.)

The step the girls are doing in the Aretha clip is a lot like the chain step in square dancing.

Z 11:02 AM  

@jackj and lms - Cheeky reply

//

retired_chemist 11:09 AM  

@ Two Ponies - In the old commercial, they spelled it out - Relief is spelled R-O-L-A-I-D-S.

quilter1 11:16 AM  

Late here as I watched recording of the President on Letterman last night. Good stuff.

I saw the quote early so could fill it all in and then lots came easily but the Russian clues were obscure to me except for SAMOVAR. I only looked up the Nobel prize winner in my almanac, got the rest with crosses. Medium rating. Good write-up.

Two Ponies 11:24 AM  

Thanks to all for the Rolaids. I don't remember that one.
As for the cab clue, I know you wave to hail a cab but what if I have gloves on? I guess the clue was trying to be cute.

Noam D. Elkies 11:30 AM  

I guess the motivation for this puzzle was noticing the coincidence that the saying can be placed symmetrically and crossing itself in three places! That plus some nice entries (including the stack 43/44/45D: IWO_JIMA, SAMOVAR, EXIGENT) and clues (1D:ROLAIDS, 47A:MEOW, etc.) in a 70-worder, so overall a nice Thursday puzzle that happened to be a day early. I happened to know 1A:ROSTOV and 16A:LEONTIEF (though I wasn't sure if the last letter is F or V) and 48A:EARWAX and 58:MOIETY (as in French moitié, also seen in Merchant of Venice), which more than made up for random 63A:FREEMAN. Add me to the victims of the "oniony" 34A:TRAP at 18A:ORNATE.

Was the 1974 event used to clue 3D called the Expokane?...

NDE

loren muse smith 11:42 AM  

@jackj and Z - butt out.

Lindsay 11:56 AM  

Yikes. Two errors on a Wednesday. My first thought for 2D Undiversified, as a farm, was "monoculture". That didn't fit, so my brain switched prefixes and I ended up with uNiCROP. No idea RuSTOV & LiONTIEF were incorrect.

Clark 12:37 PM  

@Liz Glass --

Seems to me that the state bird is a symbol (lower case — something that stands for, represents, or suggests another thing) for the state. So, while the oriole may not be a Maryland State Symbol, it is a Maryland state symbol (which is what the clue said).

miriam b 12:45 PM  

As a person of Russian extraction, I happily breezed through this puzzle. BTW, I believe the quote is a Russian proverb.

Parts of the Kremlin are ornate, e.g., the Armory Chamber.

You don't carry coals to Newcastle, nor SAMOVARs to Tula.

Nick 12:56 PM  

My heart always sinks when I come to a "part of a saying" clue, s rarely is the effect on the grid ever worth it.

John V 1:04 PM  

You know, one way to look at the grid and the layout of the theme answers is that they form a double-cross, if you will, in they way they intersect.

heathcliff 1:27 PM  

Spokanites! Speaking as one who worked at the Expo as a teenager. Always nice to see your hometown in the puzzle.

Rob C 1:43 PM  

Did anyone notice the number of ? clues? 9 - struck me as a lot. At least enough to take notice of. Are there any stats on such things anywhere (xwordinfo.com maybe)?

Rob C 1:49 PM  

Actually 10.

Masked and NotmanyUs 1:55 PM  

@lms, jackj, Z and other moonies: "Crack up?"

Felt strongly six ways about this puz, depending on when you asked me. From the getgo, saw those wide-open, shark's maw corners and said "mommy. This is gonna be a long Wednesday."

But then, a couple minutes later, with FO. LM..... filled in for 7-D, I got the whole dang theme in one kerchompfill. Started feelin' good, dude.

Then fortunes seem to sway back and forth, with Seattle anchoring the Russki NW in vain. Then newfound hope with movie gimme FREEMAN and Newt Romney fave FATCAT.

Closed out eventually at the M in MOIETY, which got writ in with the cool, calm certainty of a chipmunk understandin' relativity. Wow. What a ride.

Rostov sounds like a nice place to visit...once. Visit it twice, moon on you. har. M&A

Anonymous 2:08 PM  

@Rex - I got the impression over the years that you were a tough teacher, but this is ridiculous.

John V 2:09 PM  

They make moons morons? Arse.

Unknown 2:21 PM  

Loved it! TG I'm a Slavophile and knew Russian clues. Starred clues wonderful pun practice. Bring on more Shteyman!

wordie 2:23 PM  

Moietie means half in French. Haven't looked up the derivation, but I betcha . . . .

Mr. Benson 2:26 PM  

As a native of eastern Washington, born in 1970, one of my very earliest memories is of Expo '74 in SPOKANE. (Very vague, fuzzy memories.) That one brought a big smile to my face.

Anyway, other than that, my thoughts were identical to Rex's... too much Russia, too many "?" clues of varying quality, great clue for "DAT," and a theme that filled itself in once you figured it out.

M and A re-read 31's writeup and 3:04 PM  

I think maybe 31 was offering up MOON-clue suggestions, with his closer: "Glad this one's behind me."

Can tell puz theme means a lot more to 31 than he'll normally admit to. Here's all this nice, long, chewy fill and tricky clues, and he's landing smack dab ker-blat on the theme, with both talons out. (Plus, he didn't take as much Po-Ruski as I did in school, so understandably he wasn't exactly hollerin' "horrorshow" at the NW in delight.)

I think lms or someone said lately that some common theme-types can really bust their bubble, while solving. I think BEQ did a "10 bull-poop-theme categories" treatise on this, one time. I know the anticipation of some fresh, clever, original raisin de-etre is what keeps me comin' back for a peek at tomorrow's puz. Even on FriPuz and SatPuz -- cuz yah just never know...

loren muse smith 4:00 PM  

@John V - good one! I would argue that an insider makes moons morons.

sanfranman59 4:17 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)

Wed 14:55, 11:49, 1.26, 95%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 8:14, 5:56, 1.39, 99%, Challenging

miriam b 4:30 PM  

@wordie: It's moitié

Bird 5:54 PM  

Everything Rex said. All the Russian stuff, all the “?” and “perhaps” in
the clues and the lack-of-punch theme made this a slog. I did not like this
puzzle. However – I was satisfied that I finished it. I almost gave up
until I somehow saw SHAME ON YOU from a couple of letters. The rest just
filled itself in.

It wasn’t until after I finished that I discovered I liked more of the ?
clues/answers than not, but there were just too many.

Nice to see IWO JIMA in the puzzle instead of the simple IWO.

Needed to correct ONO to ENO. TEEN POP is a genre? I guess any genre can be
made up.

@JFC – Rex was referring to Evil Doug (Duck)

@lms, jackj, Z and other moonies – Get to the bottom of this?

Happy Humpday.

Unknown 8:19 PM  

Loved all of your comments - the enlightening ones, the critical ones and the amusing ones. I actually agree with a lot of what you all said! Also, this puzzle proved once again that you just can't please everyone, especially Rex, ha! :) But that's okay (and it's not the point). Perhaps next time I'll get to entertain the less excited part of today's audience. And regardless, I will still be looking forward to the mixed reviews!

Mike

retired_chemist 8:35 PM  

@ Mike the "unknown" - thanks for stopping by.

JFC 8:55 PM  

@Bird - You win the prize because nobody else responded. Evil has not been here for a while so I suppose he's decided to cool it for some unknown period of time. If he were here today, he probably would have said you know who. And you know who would have agreed with you....

JFC

jackj 9:18 PM  

Lots of clever "MOON" shine from RexWorld!

Tita 9:20 PM  

MOIETY is a near anagram of the French for half, moitié.

Also loved clue for MEOW.

EARWAX was a common noun used in MadLibs stories in our early adolescence.

@syndy et al - love Oniony!

@LMS - I'm over the MOON about your clues...
John V & M&U - great!

Tita 9:24 PM  

Oops - multiple moitiés... I shoulda said "what everyone else said".

sanfranman59 10:02 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 6:30, 6:48, 0.96, 32%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:26, 8:56, 0.94, 40%, Easy-Medium
Wed 14:52, 11:49, 1.26, 95%, Challenging (10th highest median solve time of 166 Wednesdays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:49, 3:41, 1.04, 71%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:47, 4:39, 1.03, 61%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 7:34, 5:56, 1.27, 94%, Challenging

Sfingi 10:12 PM  

@Syndy - Loved oniony. It should be a word.

Like everyone. Had to Google 6 - 2 Russian, 2 sports, 2 movies I didn't see. Shocked at moon.
First word I got was EARWAX. Here's a quote that makes one stop and think: "bitter as EARWAX."

@Loren - BERG is mountain, BURG is fortress (Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott). They are pronounced differently. BERG is pr. bearg.

After that, no problema.

Happy Constitution Week!

Bird 11:07 PM  

@JFC - Ooh, what did I win? I do miss Evil and his entertaining posts.

skua76 12:10 AM  

Wow...I'm impressed that it was rated challenging after all of the "medium" ones that I messed up on. Solved this on a purchased dead tree edition while flying home from SFO to DEN so Google wasn't an option. Didn't need it. Although I did have to look up MOIETY when I got home.

Dr W 12:31 AM  

Rex, you don't have to prove you're a poop. It was a neat puzzle.

+wordphan 2:33 AM  

THIS ONE WAS TRULY A BYOTCH. That's not an acronym either.

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

When did DONUT become sn acceptable spelling? Every time I see this in the puzzle without (var.) I cringe...

Dick Swart 11:21 AM  

RE: Once in Love with Amae:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAfKFKBlZbM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puvavzSbgS0

Latin plurals meet Ray Bolger

Spacecraft 9:46 AM  

I looked at the clues for this and thought, oh wow, and it's only Wedensday. How am I ever gonna... then I saw cerumen, and since I have had that flushed out of my ears more than once (NOT my favorite pastime, be sure!), I had my gimme. After the SE I elbowed into the NE by guessing ALTOONA. Once the stack of 6's fell I had FOOL and the house of cards blew over.

Still, there were rough spots. I knew MOIETY (@the Bard: where are you?) from Portia's MOV speech, but ADWOMAN is an arbitrary term that happens to satisfy seven acrosses. Also was bothered by the "it" in the clue for ITALICS (I don't buy that he was trying to hint with the first two letters). An aha! moment at DAT finished off the SW.

And now to the dreaded NW. I had initially thought the same as @N-E-S-T-L-E-S about 1d, but the lower acrosses left me with ____IDS. Hmm. Then a real epiphany: "I wonder if 13a could be ONPAPER?" Tried it, filled in a couple of short downs, then remembered ROLAIDS and saw SPOKANE. Last thing I filled in was VEIN. Voila!

Rare to see OFL rate a puzzle as a straight "challenging." I can see why, yet so much of the grid gets filled instantly on discovery of the theme that one wants to temper that rating somewhat. It took work, no QUESTion about it. (BTW, he was just a Z short of a pangram.)

Never heard of a single ARREAR. Work that into your MOON clue!

Now will someone explain this mystery: "What can be caught with bare hands?" = CAB???? What, a lady has to remove her gloves to hail one? I had the _AB of this, went through the alphabet, and said WTF?? The theme reveal filled it in for me, lucky thing.

DMGrandma 4:19 PM  

Not my favorite puzzle even though I ended up with only four blank squares. As so many have said, once I got the theme I lost interest in the "Russiany" NW. On the other hand, if I had dredged up the ROLAIDS commercial, it would have filled two of my blanks. The other two came from not seeing, the strange to me, ADWOMAN.

Waxy in Montreal 5:04 PM  

ROSTOV? LEONTIEF? Like many others, found the Pacific NW impossible - certainly didn't help that I'd forgotten about the geographically-appropriate SPOKANE Expo of 1974. (With the Seattle World's Fair of 1962 and Vancouver's Expo 86, that part of the continent seems to have more than its share of such exhibits.)

Funny puzzle in that the theme was almost a gimme (thanks to Dubya) while the rest of the grid was definitely a challenge. And after using the French term moitié-moitié (half and half) for most of my life learned today that MOIETY is an English word too! Who knew?

Waxy in Montreal 5:10 PM  

And CERUMEN. Wasn't he in Lord of the Rings? Hmmm, think I might change my nom-de-puzzle to CERUMEN-in-Montreal...

Dirigonzo 5:43 PM  

I agree that some of the clues were challenging, bordering on impossible, but for me the crosses were relatively straight-forward and rendered the overall level of difficulty about right for a Wednesday - and very educational, too! Only write-over involved the n-e-s-t-l-e-S trap but the IRAQI DONUTS set that straight.

Got a late start on the puzzle because I went to the Red Cross after work, so seeing it in the clues (it was in the grid on Monday) reminded me to encourage everyone who can to donate blood.

rain forest 6:03 PM  

This was a delightful puzzle, certainly underving of some of the mean-spirited comments. Waxy in Montreal failed to point out that, like the economy, the war, medicare, etc. Dubya also botched the puzzle's saying. Just saying.

I too am a retired chemist, and my undertanding of "moiety" comes from organic chemistry where many reactions produce two compounds, each of which is referred to as a "moiety". I used to think that moiety meant compound or substance, but later English classes taught me the correct meaning.

I went to Expo '74 in Spokane. Fun time there, especially Indian Canyon golf course.

Final thought: I don't much care what day of the week it is; the puzzle is the thing, and today's was a good thing.

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