MONDAY, Jun. 25, 2007 - Kurt Mengel and Jan-Michele Gianette

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Opposite Options - Four theme answers are things that involve a choice between two opposing options

I have a huge problem with the wording of the theme answers. The OPTIONS are the first parts of the answers - Pass or Fail, Yes or No, On or Off ... these are sets of OPTIONS. The noun that follows these OPTIONS is technically not, itself, an OPTION, though that is how it is clued in every instance:

  • 20A: Course option (pass/fail class) - OK, you can OPT to take such a class, I guess...
  • 37A: Response option (yes/no answer) - [missed-answer buzzer sound] - first of all, the phrase "YES/NO QUESTION" is far far more in-the-language. Second, you can OPT for "yes" or you can OPT for "no," but you cannot OPT for a YES/NO ANSWER. It's just ... off.
  • 44A: Electric light option (on/off switch) - OK, here, I suppose you could have OPTED for a dimmer, but instead you OPTED for an ON/OFF SWITCH ... but that does not seem what is intended. The "option" part appears to want to refer to the either/or-ness, and here ... no. Just no no no. You can OPT to have the switch ON, or you can OPT to have it OFF. You OPT for the switch itself only if you are designing a lighting concept for the room.
  • 59A: Quiz option (true/false test) - this is the worst of them all. A "quiz" is a TEST. How can a TEST be a "Quiz option?" HOW!? Please don't tell me that you are the quiz constructor deciding from a number of different kinds of quizzes, and thus OPTING for a TRUE/FALSE one.

I guess my primary objection here is that the "option" part of the clues suggests a choice between two, as do the beginnings of every theme answer, only in NO CASE are the beginnings actually the options. I feel as if 10% of you will be with me on this, 20% will disagree, and 70% will wonder how anyone could get so exercised about clue syntax. And on a Monday, no less.

Had some trouble with:

  • 8D: Chew (on) (munch) - had the "M" and couldn't think of Anything that would fit
  • 15A: Argue against (rebut) - had the REB and blithely entered REBEL
  • 42A: Dweller along the Volga (Tatar) - wouldn't come to me at all. Had the T, then the TA, and needed the TAT before I could fill it in
  • 38D: Courtroom affirmation (oath) - had the O and could think only OYEZ (my mind = poisoned by crosswords)
  • 39D: Western U.S. gas giant (Arco) - it's been too long since I lived out west. This name rings a bell, but only faintly. I'm so used to ESSO as my go-to four-letter gas answer.
  • 56D: Outcast (leper) - I had LONER and did Not want to give it up
  • 35D: "Go fast!," to a driver ("Gun it!") - had the -NIT and could think only of STEP ON IT. For about one second I thought maybe it could be a rebus answer, with STEP somehow crammed into that one square.

Still, I had an average Monday time. Hoping for smoother puzzle action tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


barrywep 8:41 PM  

Count me among the 70%. I suppose Will just wanted to make clear which were the theme clues by putting them in the same form.

Anonymous 9:17 PM  

The only theme answer that REALLY bothered me was true/false test. It just doesn't make much sense. The others were just sort of meh.

Howard B 9:43 PM  

If this is a constructor's debut, by the way, congratulations!

Gotta beg to differ a bit tonight - I think it's just the first part of the answers that make up the theme, and those are nice, clean opposites. The second part is just to fill out the phrase, and doesn't seem to have to be in itself consistent. I can understand what you mean, though. Just don't overthink it too much, and it works.

True/False test was a bit trickier, but I've heard the phrase, albeit less often than with 'quiz'. The purpose of 'quiz' in the clue, I think, is to helpfully guide people towards the 'test' part of the answer (via Vague Synonym Road). So it's maybe not a real steady gimme of an answer, but it works for the puzzle (at least I thought).*

Now ARCO, that one gave me fits since I've spent a grand total of about two weeks on the west coast in my life. So I end up with an answer I've never heard of in the puzzle. On a Monday. Ouch.
But it gives those outside the east coast equal time for those more frequent New York references, I suppose. I'm cool with that :).

*My opinion only. Your mileage may vary. Offer void in Montana. May cause occasional drowsiness.

Wendy 9:58 PM  

I found myself muttering What the? as I was filling those nouns in, so I guess from a purist's standpoint I'd fall into the 10%. Not the most elegant of constructions, that's for damn sure.

I see Will hasn't instituted my policy request to stop using disparaging body type terminology ;) FATSO indeed.

Well, at least we end with the loyal ERNE.

Jo 12:22 AM  

I am not a very decisive sort, so I always take "one of each" when offered a choice. In that vein, I'll go along with BOTH the 10 percenters AND the 70 percenters. How's that for waffling?


Anonymous 2:31 AM  

Lotsa difference between "oath" and "oyez". Both are heard in court, BUT "oyez" is rarely used anymore except appeals courts. It is part of a chant that tells the people that the court is now in session and is French for the command form of "to listen". "Oath" is taken by every witness.
I don't understand filling in a word based on only one letter, anyway. It seems to me one wastes more time being misled by wrong entries. But then I'm not a gambler.

Karen 8:22 AM  

I'll join the 20%...all of the theme answers made sense to me.

Linda G 8:49 AM  

Made enough sense that I was able to get them. I'm not sure where that puts me...the 20%, I guess.

I think that an English or Lit major would be more likely to critically analyze a theme than a Sociology or Psych major. Maybe that's oversimplifying...but I've never been critical of a puzzle's construction. On occasion, I find clues that are on the messy side.

Jerome 10:01 AM  

Rex, I fall squarely in the 70%, but love it that you do get so exercised from time to time and reallly enjoy the resulting rants.

I found today's puzzle fairly easy. I only had to consult two Down clues to fill in the grid (didn't know Scott ADAMS and, like you, originally had rebel instead oF REBUT).

Paulo 11:20 AM  

As ADAMS did not pop into mind for Dilbert's creator the downs gave me ROOM for space and PASSE for old hat,and I was determined to put OR between PASS FAIL, all of which messed up the top middle block to the end. Twigging to PASSFAILCLASS made it all fall into place as the rest of the puzzle had.

Some pain, no sprain, good one for a Monday brain.

Pete M 12:23 PM  

Never was one to choose from the options given me, so I'll have to put myself in with the 40%.

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

Eh...I agree Rex.

I think maybe some pattern to follow with the theme is that the positive/yes option always comes first. (ie. PASS before fail, YES before no, TRUE before false)....though that doesn't really help with at one time, if that's part of it.

also, if you add "or" into each, then tey sound better (pass or fail etc.) last, as a longtime student, I guess I can think f these things as options...i.e the test will either be multiple choice or true/false. so it's an option: what kind of test shall the teacher give?

in any case, if I were to write that puzzle, I would have made "fill-in-the-blank" one of the long answers!! Kind of cute.

Anonymous 12:39 PM  

What is the significance of one letter in red?

Jem 6:26 PM  

I am an English major but still didn't analyze the clues (re sytax) maybe because I found the puzzle Monday-easy.
Rex: I'm still trying to get over your comment yesterday about being born after the Johnson are the age of my oldest son and here I am bowing to your wisdom and knowledge!!! I posted anon yesterday b/c I thought it was harder to do otherwise (I suggested the tea dance on gay cruises and said I'm glad to find you at last--who knew you were sooooo young!!!) I'll be back!
Jem (born during Truman admin)

Orange 7:34 PM  

Anonymous, the letter in red is today's lucky letter. Play it in the lottery and you are sure to win.

Is being born during the Nixon administration like being born under an unlucky star? I will take my LBJ-era provenance.

Linda G 8:45 PM  

Jem, I guess I didn't mean ALL English or lit majors. SOME of them who are experienced solvers, including Rex, do analyze them from time to time. I'm a Sociology major, and I've chosen not to think critically since I graduated in 2004 : )

My husband and I were both born during Truman's administration. I know that Rex is young, but I did almost choke yesterday when I read that. JFK's assassination was THE defining moment of my childhood, and it's hard to believe that some people I admire (including Rex) weren't born yet.

Anonymous 9:16 PM  

Rex: Lighten up! To me the theme was simply four answers that began with opposites: pass/fail, yes/no, on/off, true/false. It works!

(born during Roosevelt--I won't say which)

Wendy of the Truman Administration 9:59 PM  

This is a fun icebreaker - "state your administration".

Just now noticing the ARCO gas prices, which belong to something other than the 2nd Bush administration, that's for sure!

Orange 11:13 PM  

Tyler Hinman is a child of the Reagan era, and there are a couple teenage constructors who may well have been born during George H.W. Bush's term.

Fergus 12:05 AM  

With the 10% -- the more reliably precise in grammar and syntax the better the puzzle, especially if the setter wants to go out on a limb with hardly-intuitive clues, though this was certainly not the case today.

Michael 1:09 AM  

I live here in the west, so Arco came right away... for once, a gas company in the crossword that isn't Esso. Another western company is 76, but that's not likely to appear often either.

Anonymous 12:46 PM  

6WL :::::

Something was bugging me about the theme, couldn't really say what. Rex, you made the issue so clear. Count me among the 10%.

I wondered what the "break-down of living Americans by who was president when they were born" chart would look like, but couldn't google any appropriate stats. Maybe if I had Orange's next book.....

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