three-ring circus

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three-ring circus (plural three-ring circuses)

  1. A large circus in which three separate performances, each within its own circular enclosure, are staged simultaneously before a single audience.
  2. (idiomatic, by extension) A disorderly, complicated, rapidly changing situation or set of events, which is a source of bewilderment, amazement, or amusement.
    • 1963 Feb. 22, "Sport: Look! Another Record," Time:
      Indoor track can be a three-ring circus, with so much going on in the space of a few evening hours that the fans hardly know where to look first.
    • 1997 Nov. 1, Kim Sengupta, "Nanny Trial: Sharp contrast in US justice style," The Independent (UK) (retrieved 28 June 2012):
      British television viewers had seen how proceedings in US courtrooms can almost turn into a three-ring circus during the OJ Simpson trial.
    • 2011 April 1, Rachel Donadio, "Rude and Crude Behavior Stains Italian Parliament," New York Times (retrieved 28 June 2012):
      The Italian Parliament has long been a three-ring circus.