SUNDAY, May 13, 2007 - Jim Page

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Relative difficulty: Challenging

Theme: "Two Times Three" - theme answers feature a repeated three-letter sequence

This was not a pleasant experience - much insane, fussy, or obscure fill, including an absolutely intolerable SE corner. The theme is really uninspired: clever, in its way, but hardly anything to build a Sunday puzzle around. I'm not even going to bother giving this puzzle that much attention [this turns out to be a lie], except to help you all (and myself) with the more obscure crap, and to offer some specific evidence for my negative assessment of this grid. Then I'll look for bright spots. I'm sure there are some here, somewhere.

Here are your theme answers:

  • 23A: *What someone who looks at Medusa does (turnS TO STOne)
  • 15D: *Toothless South American animal (giANT ANTeater)
  • 32A: *1850 American literature classic ("The ScarLET LETter")
  • 42A: *Demonstrate the method (sHOW HOW it's done)
  • 70A: *Push aside (shOVE OVEr)
  • 94A: *Walk in the park, say (simPLE PLEasure)
  • 103A: *Put at bay (paINT INTo a corner)
  • 119A: *Miami baseball list (MarLIN LINe-up)
  • 55D: *Not so important (lESS ESSential - or leSS ESSEntial)

See what I mean? ... both clues and answers are very Ho + Hum.

Groan after groan:

Here's a square I had wrong, for highly uninteresting reasons. I had an "E" where the "O" should be:

76D: Start of Idaho's motto (esto)
93A: John who hosted TV's "Talk Soup" (Henson)

First off, with all apologies to my grandmother and my entire mother's side of the family (happy Mother's Day to all of you, by the way), Idaho's motto is absurd: "Esto Perpetua" ("May it endure forever!"). Actually, it's no better or worse than any other state motto, probably. I had ESTE, which means "east" in Spanish; even if I could justify the Spanishness (works for Montana!), I'd have to explain what the hell EAST is doing in a motto for the decidedly Western state of Idaho. PS John Henson is a total nobody [some disagree - see Comments]. He is in this puzzle only because JIM would, I suppose, be too obvious. But seriously, you pick "Talk Soup" over "The Muppet Show?" Bad call. If you're going to go obscure, why not go with this rugby player (whatdya say, ladies?) or this African-American Arctic explorer, BOTH of whom rate higher with Google than John HENSON.

Here is the disastrous, illegal, stupefyingly bad SE corner:
  • 108A: Appointees confirmed by Cong. (Ambs.) - a made-up abbrev. if I've ever seen one. Horrible. See also ATH. (102A: High-school dept. - I literally had to run through all possible departments I'd ever heard of in search of what ATH. could be an abbrev. of. Oh, ATHletics. OK. In America we call it PHYS ED.)
  • 110D: Synthetic gem (boule) - What + Ever. I love how JOULE is a homonym of JEWEL and so seems like it should be right ... and believe me, I considered it. Neither wife nor I had a @#$# clue what BOULE was, although I will say that "B" was the only letter I considered there besides "J" ... and possibly "R" (!?).
  • 111D: Film extras, for short (supes) - OK this is where I lose it. SUPES is a standard abbreviation for SUPERMAN. Extras are called #$#!-ing EXTRAS! SUPES, my ass. Short for "Supernumerary actor," are you @#$#-ing kidding me?!
Each of these answers is bad enough, but crowded together down there ... it's like some kind of dungeon for failures, where bad words don't get rehabilitated, but just conspire to make the world a worse place. Nevermind that the Downs all cross one of about a thousand random unheard-of people in this puzzle, EDERLE (124A: Gertrude who swam the English Channel).

21A: Strong draft horses (Belgians)

all the Belgians in the world and you give me some kind of horse? Oh, "strong" draft horses? I'm sorry, are there "weak" draft horses? They're @#$-ing DRAFT horses, they pull shit, of Course they are "strong." Why not clue this, I don't know, [Poirot and others]? Anything would be better than this clue-trying-desperately-to-be-tough.

25A: Act of putting into circulation (issuance) - ack, choke, no. Nobody uses this. See also HEEDER (43D: Attentive one).

12A: Copper head? (Abe) - as of right now, I have NO idea what the hell this means? I had CEE for the longest time. [addendum ... in the middle of asking Linda G what this clue was all about - as I was typing the question - I got it. Pennies are "copper" - "copper"-plated, actually - and ABE's "head" is on the penny ... I no longer hate this clue / answer; it's clever ... although ABE is the kind of name abbreviation that is normally signaled in the clue - no signal here. But I'll let it slide.]

67D: "_____ the Magician" (old radio series) (Chandu) - I'm guessing the process of including this gem went something like this: (imaginary constructor to his imaginary friend) "I can't get this far East part of the grid to work. I keep changing things around, but there's always something wrong. I mean, look at this - everything's cool, except I've got this totally made-up word here, CHANDU. Man, I wish that was a word." "Dude, you should Google it. Maybe it is a word." "Pfff, you're high. CHANDU is so not a word." Etc. Eventually one of them dares the other to Google, possibly as part of a bet involving drinking, and voila, my dreams come true.

Nobodies on Parade:

74D: Gustav Klimt's "Portrait of _____ Bloch-Bauer I" (Adele) - I almost have to admire how deep into hell our puzzle authors had to go to retrieve these clues and answers.

66D: "Misty" composer Garner (Erroll) - because Mssrs. MORRIS and FLYNN know how to spell their names properly.

122A: British composer Robert (Steadman) - is this Oprah's man-friend I keep hearing so much about?

84A: Boxer Trinidad (Tito) - The only TITOs I know are Yugoslavian presidents or Jacksons. I thought the boxer's name was FELIX? And now my sources are telling me that TITO is FELIX's nickname. [cough] Moving on...

61A: Mary of "Where Eagles Dare" (Ure) - OK, am I being Punk'd? Where's Ashton Kutcher? Is the ghost of Maleska guest-editing today? WTF?

So much to dislike. I gotta speed this up. OK, ANSE (40A: Faulkner hero)? For the rationale for this answer's inclusion in the grid, I refer you to my discussion of CHANDU, above. I've read "As I Lay Dying" and I didn't remember this guy's "name."

100D: Memory trace (engram)
is unknown to me and sounds like something that might be required of an aspiring Scientologist (no offense to the great religion of Scientology, which I'm sure has many non-insane, non-celebrity members).

Do we need LEV. (121D: Pentateuch book: Abbr.) and ELEV. (51A: Your highness?: Abbr.) both in the grid? And both abbreviations? Ugh. (To be fair, the ELEV. clue is almost cute)

45D: Defeatees' comment ("we lost")
- first of all, every answer I wanted here was profane. Second, "defeatees'"?????? Are you trying to piss me off with these tortured word concoctions?

24D: Kyrgyzstan city (Osh)
- if you can name any city in this untypable country, you are way ahead of me.

And finally, the last thing I'll complain about: the unwelcome return of alt-spelled BRIER (78A: Kind of patch). [Brier patch] = 212,000 Google hits. [Briar patch] = over a million. Losers walk, BRIER.

Some Good Stuff:

118D: East End abode ('ome) - OME! If you're going to try to pass off an invented letter combination as a word, this is the way to do it. I should hate this, but I LOVE it. It's desperate, but in a clever, funny, and spot-on kind of way, not in a CHANDU-ANSE kind of way.

97D: "Boston Legal" Emmy winner (Shatner) - SHATNER is always welcome in any grid, any time. I'm only sorry he has to suffer down there in the infernal SE corner.



60D: Place for a star (tree top) - TREE TOP is light and airy and musical to my EARS (35D: Head set).

88A: Run down (dis) - one of the few words making this feel like an almost 21st-century puzzle

116D: Conductor _____-Pekka Salonen (Esa) - conducts the L.A. Philharmonic, I believe. You've seen him, right, Andrew? Does he do that thing you hate where his hands go down on the downbeat? Or do I have that backwards?

116A: "Hamlet" setting (Elsinore) - seen it before, don't care. "Hamlet"!

10D: Victorian roofs (mansards) - you should know that I hate almost everything Victorian (except Thomas Hardy, and only because he was a great writer whose work is mostly super-depressing and not at all quaint). And MANSARDS is a really ugly word, but it's curiously, intriguingly ugly, like a manatee or Sarah Jessica Parker.

77D: Woody's partner (Soon-Yi) - The mellifluousness of her name is beginning to outweigh the incestuous connotations of her name in my mind.

28A: "A Lonely Rage" autobiographer (Seale) - Oooh, I love "Kiss from a Rose!" Just kidding. I mean, I do love that song, strangely, but I know that this SEALE is a Black Panther, not a black pop star married to Heidi Klum.

96D: Deerstalker fold-down (ear flap) - this charming answer is almost ruined by its gangly clue. EAR FLAP reminds me more of "A Christmas Story" than it does deer ... stalking? Or is a "deerstalker" a variety of hat? Oh crap, it's the horribly ugly and pretentious Sherlock Holmes hat that no self-respecting person who is not acting in a play should Ever be seen in.

And lastly, I give you the fabulous variation on a crossword standard: 73A: TV's "_____-Team" ("The A-"). A TEAM is reasonably common fill, but going to a partial just to pick up the definite article!? Inspired.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Pop Sensation has been updated. Today = "American Idol" + the comic "Love and Rockets"

50 comments:

Linda G 11:48 PM  

Rex, we did it again, with red to indicate the repetitive letters in the theme answers. The only difference is that you capitalized them.

I really enjoyed this puzzle, probably because I actually GOT the theme early on, which helped me get the rest of the theme answers.

Oh, well. One man's meat...I mean, one man's tofu...

Rex Parker 11:56 PM  

Getting the theme easily ... that's a pretty low bar, Linda. :)

rp

John 12:11 AM  

Engram's been in the puzzle at least two or three times before this, and it came up twice in one week once. That's the only reason why I know it. Anse also came up once before, and I noted that it was a really odd name, so that stuck with me, too.

The SE was brutal. Amb.s is crap, supes is crap, boule is crap. Gertrude Ederle was a gimme for me, because the first time I saw Ederle in a crossword it was clued as (something like) "Channel crosser," and I thought the Channel crosser in question was Ed Erle.

One last thing: John Henson was hilarious on Talk Soup. Everyone said that the show would flop after Greg Kinnear left (or so I've been told; I was a little too young for Talk Soup when he was the host), but Henson held down the fort very well. It wasn't until he left (to pursue other options, presumably...didn't work out too well) and Hal Sparks took over that the show started to suck.

DONALD 1:23 AM  

One of your best! You said it all!

profphil 1:24 AM  

Rex,

I'm glad this one was challenging as I was feeling really stupid. Although I finished the puzzle I still didn't get the theme. I thought all the clues had repeated letters 2 or 3 times and that was the big theme. No help getting the answers but somehow got them. I did have joule first but googled to get boule. What are AMBs? I just got it ambassadors- d'uh. Had supes but could not make any sense out of it until you explained it. The Hanson and Edie Gourmet song along with Idaho- Esto also required a Google. Once i got eso (I had amo for the gourmet song)instead of amo the rest fell in place. Once I cleared that up was able to complete the puzzle but didn't know who these people were: Steadmean , Esa, Anse. And I didn't care either.

As to copper head, I thought snake and maybe asp. Then thought penny and thought Lincoln but didn't think of Abe only until I got the down clues.

Thanks to your prior blogs bitching about engrams and Ederle I remembered both. You may not remember them but your fans do.

Alex 2:10 AM  

The first thing I entered into the grid was TURNS TO STONE. It's good to have such an easy start to the theme.

But then I turned to my wife and said "the puzzle is called Two Times Three" and the word has STO repeated, but that doesn't seem clever enough. Do you see anything else that could be going on.

Once I got MARLIN LINEUP I knew that was all there was too it. In the end TURNS TO STONE was my least favorite even if it was super easy. Every other theme entry had three letters at the end of a word repeated to start the next word. Medusa broke that rule by spreading the duplication over three words.

John Henson was a gimme because I happened to be flipping channels yesterday and stumbled across him doing some lame witty recap show on the TV Guide Channel. He was funny on Talk Soup. Not on this.

ENGRAM was a gimme but only because it was clued pretty much identically a few weeks ago. Still don't know what it is. Sounds biological but the only memory traces I am familiar with are in computers.

I agree with ABE needing an abbreviation indicator and same for STAD (pricey strings). That entire Mendocino Coast area was where I really had the word problem.

First, I had the much more reasonable HELPER (attentive one), instead of the really stupid HEEDER. Which gave me CLAIM for "area of authority" instead of REALM. But nothing starts with STC (I was trying to think of some sainted rope) and it was long after deciding it had to be STRAD (since it fixed everything else) that I figured out STRAD is short for Stradivarius.

All in all, a very ugly puzzle. But, unlike yesterday I advanced through it pretty well. So I'm not sure if I prefer ugly puzzles I can finish or well constructed puzzles I can't make a dent on and only get to appreciate through the commentary of others.

barrywep 9:36 AM  

You and I largely agree today, but as was mentioned [shameless plug] on my guestblog for Crossword Fiend today SOONYI/Woody was particularly inappropriate for breakfast table presence on Mother's Day and was compounded by KIM Doonesbury.

Linda G 10:16 AM  

You are so right, Barry. Mother's Day was definitely NOT the time to refer to someone who married his ex-wife's daughter. Don't care if there wasn't a blood relationship, that is just too disgusting.

Although Annie Hall is still one of my favorite movies, likely because of Diane Keaton.

barrywep 10:32 AM  

I loved Christopher Walken in Annie Hall. What does that say about me?

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

Hi Rex:

I think we need to draw up some crossword ordinances to rein in unruly constructing.

(Garsh that were awkwert).

Anyway, just wanted to say I didn't mind the theme. I actually thought it was kinda clever, although I concur with others' assessments of theme continuity (but that's just a quibble).

Agree with your take on most else though. Pretty ugly. Much would've preferred to see RALPH steadman and MIDGE ure, too, come to think of it, than whoever it was...

I used to hate seeing OME in a puzzle until I stumbled across same in a concise OED -- here it is -- 'suffix forming nouns denoting objects or parts of a specified nature.' Which sure beats that cockney crap as far as I am concerned (and which I find to be a much belaboured clue).

Enjoyed chuckling about Scientology and SJP...truth really is weirder that fiction.


Pen Girl :)

PS: Anyone else got that ELO tune stuck in their head? "I turn to stone, when you comin' home, I turn to stone -- da dum dum da dum..."

No?

Well then never mind.

Rex Parker 10:44 AM  

Yes, Midge URE is the only URE I know, and I don't know him well at all.

SOON YI is the most searched-for answer of the day so far. (For last week's syndicated puzzle, it's JOULE - funny, sorta, given my ire at BOULE in today's puzzle)

rp

campesite 10:54 AM  

Amusing blog today. I agree, it was a rather uninspired puzzle for a Sunday, and it had a fair bit of crosswordese as well: ORT, TEL, LAO, ELS, ROE, EEK, TSE tse fly.
I'll give him points for construction and also for including EARL Scruggs, who picked the banjo on the Beverly Hillbillies theme.
I would have liked a Mom-themed puzzle today.

jlsnyc 10:59 AM  

"mom-themed puzzle" -- do give the hex acrostic a try!

;-)

janie

DONALD 11:02 AM  

The "mom-themed puzzle" (the Acrostic) was excellent -- more at creatures and creation -- titled my blog for it "Motherhood &
Creation" -- lotta fun!

BlueStater 11:37 AM  

Aw, c'mon, Rex, tell us what you *really* think. >8-}

I was mightily relieved to see that you and posters to this blog, at least, are not incapable of being critical of the puzzles when they badly need it. Knock Maleska all you like, but I don't believe he ever would have allowed a turkey like this one on his puzzle page. For me the worst item was SUPES; listing SOONYI invoked the "ick" factor on the worst of all possible days to do that. What were the constructor and editor thinking? Or, *were* they thinking?

Anonymous 12:14 PM  

IMHO,
this is an excellent example of the best blog on the internet.

Scott 1:00 PM  

I didn't find the puzzle all that difficult, (three letters for copper head? Had to be ABE) although I didn't really understand the theme until I read it in Rex.

But these bogus abbreviations are the worst. I hate them almost as much as arbitrary roman numerals. Why not just clue it "a bunch of letters that made the puzzle work out" and have done with it?

I'll chime in on SOON YI (ick); I suspect the poor girl didn't ask for the notoriety her stepfather/ cohabitant has conferred upon her. Perhaps a little compassion is called for, Mr. Shortz.

Wendy 1:03 PM  

*That's* what TOOL means? All those years of hearing it slung at various nebbishes in school, I thought it meant dork, not good student. Maybe to some, that's one and the same.

Rexs, this may be a record for you injecting cursing symbology into the blog ;) at least since I've been around. I agreed with most of your objections; there was a lot of sheer orneriness to the answer choices here. That SUPES debacle now has me humming the Crash Test Dummies' Superman's Song, which has a nice use of SUPE in the lyrics.

I got all but one of the theme clues without ever seeing the theme. I tried valiantly at the beginning to divine what was intended, but came up with nada.

However cringeworthy Soon-Yi is, I did laugh out loud when I finally realized what they were going for here.

I got totally screwed up by having Theater instead of TREETOP, which as far as I'm concerned is the better answer. Are stars really in treetops? I do not believe so. This wrong path had me thinking there was something going on with Leisure instead of PLEASURE for that one theme answer. I also went for Dir instead of RTE in Mapquest, Bandsaw instead of HANDSAW, and Dim instead of DIS for "run down". Also, Agnus DEI(S) isn't generally pluralized that I can see, and it is not correct to say that REGS is the informal way of referring to laws. They're two different things, promulgated by two different government branches. Some may see that as splitting hairs, but in my world it's an important difference.

And did KIM take Mike's last name in Doonesbury? Why do I think she didn't? I kept trying to remember what Mike's mother, the Widow Doonesbury's, first name was, but maybe we don't really know that.

ENGRAM I did remember from an earlier blog rant, I'm sure of it. And I got ENT right this time!!!

I liked RANG TRUE and SPRIG though.

Jerome 1:04 PM  

Rex,

Your write up was great. In a different league than the puzzle. I agree that today's acrostic was excellent.

Wendy 1:06 PM  

Scott: Love this! Too funny.

//Why not just clue it "a bunch of letters that made the puzzle work out" and have done with it?//

Wendy 1:25 PM  

Oh Rex, in response to your question about Gavin Henson the rugby player:
I think the GIANT ANTEATER is cuter.
;)

mmpo 1:34 PM  

Well, I didn't know SOON YI's name, but I sure do now! I had SOON TI and TEAS ("house calls?" Why not?).
Especially enjoyed the write-up for 67D. An interesting aside...I don't think I've seen "pfff" used in English before, though it's common in French.
For 21A, how about "Toots and Hercule" or "eaters of moules and frites?" The second one may be too obscure if you don't speak French, but Toots Thielmans and Hercule Poirot are both well known Belgians.

Also easy thanks to this blog: ORT. I thought of y'all yesterday when I rode my bike past the vegan restaurant around the corner from my house. Haven't eaten there yet. The owner is said to be a cousin of Seinfeld's soup nazi, so...take no more than you need and finish all your orts!
Oh, one last thing...OLAV was a gimme for me, as all Stouts are said to be descended from Olav the Stout, but I didn't know his name was followed by a II, and I've seen OLAV much more often than OLAF. Still, I was sure enough to pencil in OLAV and wait for his number to emerge from crosses. :) And AD VEE certainly wasn't going to stay long...
All in all, despite the overabundant made-up fill, I still enjoyed this puzzle. I didn't get the theme, but didn't try very hard either. I guess it would have helped, but none of the theme answers were very hard to get anyway, so...whatever. Time to get out and enjoy the sunshine!

Rex Parker 1:53 PM  

Wendy - I think the TREE in question with TREE TOP is a Christmas tree. I love how you read it as related to some grand poeticism: "the stars in the TREETOPs ..." It's actually a lovely image. Wrong, of course, but lovely.

rp

campesite 3:11 PM  

Janie, thanks for the tip on the mom-themed acrostic--that's what I was looking for on mother's day.
Mark

Mona 3:38 PM  

What about "1980's major league slugger Tony?"
ARMAS? Tony Armas who plays for the Pirates was born in 1978--that would have made him quite a prodigy in the 80's, no? I kept thinking it was Tony PEREZ, but, of course, it wasn't--shoulda' been.

Mona 3:43 PM  

OK ok, I stand corrected--Tony Armas, Jr. was born in 1978. Dad was the 1980's slugger.

(slinks away)

Fitzy 4:08 PM  

Rex, while "ESTE" does mean "east" in Spanish, there are times when it can mean "this", so you weren't that far off...

This was a tough tough puzzle for me...

Being a big bluegrass fan I loved seeing Earl Scruggs referenced today...

Oscar Madison 4:58 PM  

Rex,

Thanks for making my household feel better about the supe(r-annoying) aspects of this puzzle.

I'm glad I now know what an "ort" is, but crossing that with the obscure "Tito" really burned us over here. It might just as well have been "orv/Vito," or about six other random letters.

Kitt 6:17 PM  

Oh, Rex! I loved this write-up!! I'm almost enjoying reading about puzzles you dislike more than puzzles you like : ) Today's commentary was a classic. I laughed out loud at several points!

Having said that I didn't hate the puzzle as much as some seem to and I found it to be relatively easy. When I figured out the theme thought "it's got to be harder than this."

I did get pretty stuck in SW and SE. And I agree....if you're going to put some obscure words in that nobody knows -- putting them all together makes for frustration since it becomes difficult to infer using what you may already have in place. ie. I didn't know 116A, 116D, 122A. For 118D I was thinking of "East Side" as NYC..so completely missed the boat on that.

AMBS, Boules, and Supes....too much.

I also read your Am Idol blog and good stuff there too. Please don't start any more blogs -- I only have so much time in the day : )

jlsnyc 6:25 PM  

wendy -- i was right there with ya, trying to make "theatre" work where "treetop" is...

and mark -- so glad the acrostic fit the bill!

;-)

j.

Chip Ahoy 6:51 PM  

I hated this puzzle.

Mary Ure was a gimme as that's my own last name.

Woody's partner -- ick.

"Your highness?:Abbr." x ""Defeatees' comment" = "elev" x "welost" ick. ick. ick.

Tell me, is the Florida baseball team called "The Florida Marlins," or is it called "The Florida Marlin" ? Huh?

I am so annoyed.

The NYT crossword used to be really something. Now it's not. Pop culture references and brand names may make these puzzles more accessable but like the rest of the NYT they've been dumbed down, and that's a pity. These puzzles have been the best thing about this newspaper but I'm getting ready to bail. The authors can be picked up elsewhere now that nothing distinguishes the NYT.

Rex Parker 7:57 PM  

There is nothing "dumbed down" about the Times puzzle - I mean, if *you* can't get a bunch of answers (and *I* can't get a bunch of answers), then who's dumb? "Dumbed down" would mean any schmo could do them, and I'm having trouble imagining Any Schmo doing this puzzle. No Way. This puzzle had major problems, but it's hardly typical, and its problems did Not include dumbed-downedness. Where are the pop culture / brand name refs in this puzzle, anyway? I must have missed them. [actually, I see a few, but they hardly dominate]

And if you don't think anything distinguishes the NYT puzzle, then you do not do many puzzles. As daily puzzles go, nothing touches the NYT and the NY Sun - works of art compared to the vast majority other venues. I would recommend The Onion puzzles, but if you hate pop culture and brand names, oh you won't like The Onion puzzles.

I'm going to blog a 20-years-ago NYT puzzle some time very soon. I feel like some of the "good old days" folk are remembering things through rose-colored glasses. Not that there weren't great things about the olden days puzzles (as I've said before, I cut my teeth on Maleska), but there's no way on god's green earth those puzzles were manifestly superior.

Ultra Vi 8:57 PM  

Gavin Henson...ohhh-kaaaay. I daresay the anteater's tongue beats his.

I didn't find this puzzle so horrible - not as clever as some Sunday themes, and certainly, there was plenty of groan-ful fill, but it gave me some entertainment on Mother's Day. That, and the RedSox coming back to win against Baltimore in the 9th inning, 6-5. Sweet.

My one disastrous spot was the ESO-ESTO-SOONYI trio. I forgot about Soon Yi. Forgot All about her.

And I was happy to see ESA Pekka Salonen. I knew of him because he always seemed to be wearing a cape in publicity photos. Memorable, it its way...

Norrin2 9:05 PM  

Great stuff! I kinda hope we get more bad puzzles so we can get more hilarious write-ups like this.
Thanks, Rex.

Sue 9:46 PM  

Great blog! I tend not to trust my solving abilities, and I kept wondering why southeast was so brutal. Thanks for reassuring me that several of the clues are just dreck.

A word of defense for Gustav Klimt's "Portrait of [Adela] Bloch-Bauer I." It was sold for US$135 million to Ronald Lauder for the Neue Galerie in New York in June 2006 -- at that time the most expensive painting ever sold. Not a piece of trivia.

Kate 11:14 PM  

Adele Bloch-Bauer was actually one of the answers that came most easily to me. I'm young, so a lot of older pop culture stuff is out of my range, but I was relieved to find that I had at least a tiny little area of expertise!

Matt M. 7:47 AM  

I doubt this will be read (it being Monday morning and all), but could anyone explain the asteriskses to me? I understand they denote a theme clue, but it's not like they're scattered randomly about the grid or anything. I felt it was a strange dumbing down of the puzzle.

Rex Parker 8:10 AM  

The title has an asterisk after it, so the asterisks make a kind of sense. You are right that it adds info not normally found in the puzzle, But, Again, I have to object to the accusation of "dumbing down." If anything, the asterisks alert novice solvers to an important convention that might not be readily apparent to them - that the title of the puzzle is directly related to the theme answers. Understanding this is a matter of understanding puzzle Conventions, not a measure of someone's intelligence, exactly.

Now, if the logic of the "TWO TIMES THREE" title had been plainly revealed, THAT would have been "dumbing down." Plenty of regular solvers didn't understand this theme until well into or after the solving experience.

rp

Matt M. 9:34 AM  

Rex,

"Dumbing down" was an unfortunate phrase to use, and for that I do apologize. I just think that, for me, the stars took a little fun out of the "looking-for-the-theme" part of solving the puzzle.

Anonymous 6:49 PM  

Thanks for giving this clunker its due. More generally, I have the impression that the quality of the Sunday puzzle-within-a-puzzle crosswords has gone down markedly over the last few years. I can get positively nostalgic remembering the big dipper puzzle from years back. Perhaps the set of promising possibilities is very finite and has been exhausted.

Anonymous 6:14 PM  

my mom and I were able to complete the puzzle, but we are clueless as to why "ATE" is the answer to 112A ("did not go fast?") We're totally missing something here... can someone explain? I'm rather new to crosswords

Rex Parker 7:31 PM  

It's a bad pun on FAST, meaning "not eat." If you fast, you don't eat.

rp

Anonymous 8:26 PM  

ahhhhh yes....

thanks!
Love your site, btw!

reb_daniel 12:19 AM  

I'm with Rex on the anti-nostalgia end. Yes, this was a clunker. But having done NYT Sunday puzzles nearly 20 years ago then going on a hiatus for the past 15 years, the puzzles my wife and I have done over the past few months have included some really great ones. Besides, there now is this site (and google, if you really get stuck) -- as opposed to calling people who you suspected had arcane sources of knowledge.

Did like one thing not yet noted in this puzzle -- clue 90A, which came right after 88A, was ___ 88 -- kept thinking it was related to the answer for 88, when it was just Olds 88 -- not your puzzler
s oldsmobile, I guess...

jae 7:51 PM  

Great write up! Not a hard puzzle for me but definitely ugly! About SW, I was looking over the NYT rules for crossword constructors this week trying to find out something about the clue in [ ]s convention (no luck there), and I distinctly remember reading that crossing obscure stuff with other obscure stuff was a NO NO = taboo. SW certainly breaks this rule! The esto, eso, soonyi, henson area is also a bit too obscure.
BTW I thought Aisha Tyler was much better than Henson on the soup.

WWPierre 10:52 PM  

Numerous cuppas for this one. I was feeling so defeated at having to resort to Google for the S/W corner, then I open up this blog, and there is Rex, patting me on the shoulder and saying, "There there, it's not your fault."

The long clues emerged from the puzzle nicely for me, but I still had no idea what the theme was until Rex explained it to me.

I agree that the S/E was ugly, but the phrase that comes to mind in these cases is always, "Walk a mile in my shoes", so I can forgive easily when there were so many clever clues:

Staying power - TENURE
House calls? - AYES
Private line - ASIDE
Did not go fast - ATE

Not that they slowed me down, just that they were.....well...clever.

I got BELGIANS right away, possibly because the bitter end of the horse age overlapped the beginning of my life, at least in small-town Nova Scotia. I also knew "Deerstalker fold-down" having read all the Sherlock Holmes stories more than once, and having actually seen a deerstalker in real life.

The most amusing part was my inability to dredge William SHATNER from the cobwebs of my personal database. I kept thinking DENNY CRANE. :)

SOON YI took a while as well, her being overshadowed by SOOK YIN LEE, the host of "Definitely Not The Opera" (Saturday afternoon fare on the CBC)

Clue I didn't understand: "9-1-1 group" EMS.

I too, have been around since the Maleska/Shortz transition, and I seem to remember a subtle style change.

I have been considering subscribing to the puzzle on line, just so I can truly join all the interesting DENIZENS here. There is supposed to be access to an archive of 4000 odd past puzzles. Are they all printable?

Me Again 11:00 AM  

Oh yeah, add "Your highness?: abbr - ELEV to my list of clever clues.....maybe even put it at the top.

The Flick Guy 2:26 PM  

I've worked on several film sets both as an assistant director (in charge of the action of extras) and I've even been a film extra several times. I have never used nor even heard of the term "supe" for this position.

Anonymous 3:49 PM  

Tool a "diligent student"???? Never. No way. No how.

Sandra 4:22 PM  

So glad I found this blog. I've been struggling with this puzzle for weeks mostly because I lost the answers and was stuck on several of the clues. Got the theme quickly and the main words but some of the obscure ones (East End Home) totally threw me. Thanks for saving me from a life time of wondering what those lost answers were.

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