THURSDAY, Nov. 22, 2007 - Oliver Hill

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "X" - grid featured big black "X" in the center, which is (I believe) the clue for both 16A and 56A. Also, there are four unchecked letters in the middle of the grid - all "X"s

Holy unchecked letters! I've never seen a single unchecked letter in an NYT puzzle in the entire 14 months I've been writing about the puzzle ["unchecked" means a letter does not belong to both an Across and a Down answer, but only to one or the other]. I liked this puzzle, but was confused by the theme clues - both of which are the same:

  • 16A: [See diagram]
  • 56A: [See diagram]

I could not figure out what "diagram" meant. Even now, I'm only guessing that it's the grid, and that the clue for the theme answers is the "X" formed by the 17 squares at the heart of the puzzle. After I got ADULT FILM RATING (Happy Thanksgiving!) for 16A, I thought the clue was supposed to be "XXX" - which confused me, as it appeared there would be way more than 3 "X"s at the heart of this puzzle. It all worked out in the end, and I got my name in the puzzle (32A: T. _____), so I've got no real complaints.

In addition to REX, three other words contributed to the "X" orgy at the heart of the puzzle:

  • 17D: 44-Across character, with "the" (Lorax) - Got this as soon as I knew it had to end in "X", before I ever looked at 44A: Children's doctor? (Seuss)
  • 33A: Marks (out) (xes) - kinda weak. There are a number of these (preposition inside parentheses) clues today, including 9D: Withdraw (from) (wean) [ick] and 24D: Light (into) (rip) [better]
  • 38D: Tree tissue (xylem) - vocab!

I started out very slow on this puzzle, as none of the early clues were specific enough to be obvious to me. Took me a while to get words like AWARDS (1A: Crosses and such) and REWASH (7A: Rid of persistent dinginess, say). First word I got in the puzzle was INERTIA (14A: Sluggishness), but only because I lucked out with a wrong answer (CEDE for WEAN) that just happened to produce the correct cross (here, an "E"). Had CROUTON (duh) for 13A: Crunchy salad ingredient, but when the "W" in AWL (3D: Poking tool) made that impossible, I had no idea what could take CROUTON's place - took ForEver for me to see SNOWPEA.

Had to guess at the "L" in LEONORA (35D: "Fidelio" protagonist - no opera buff, I) because I've Never heard of ALDINE (34A: _____ Press, classic Venetian printer that introduced italics). In other Italian news, I also didn't get ANDANTE right away (1D: Medium tempo), though to my credit, once I had a bunch of the letters, I could fill in the gaps. The ANDANTE slowness added to my aforementioned NW troubles. I am still slightly gnashing my teeth at 13D: Like blue-chip stocks (safest) - I know it's a valid clue, but something in me does not like to see a superlative that is not clued as such. [Most like blue-chip stocks]? I don't know. [Bristle]

The Run-Down:

  • 18A: Word with ceiling or football (fan) - a Fantastic clue. Honestly. I mean that. That was not just an occasion to pun on the word "FAN." You know how I feel about puns.
  • 20A: N.Y.C. commuter option (MTA) - Manhattan Transit Authority? No: Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
  • 24A: Wisconsin senator Feingold (Russ) - of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act.
  • 28A: "The Da Vinci Code" albino (Silas) - this guy keeps coming back. He's bucking for the Pantheon (which I will have to update in the New Year)
  • 31A: Beast that bugles (wapiti) - can't picture it. Whoa, you know what's weird? I was just watching (in horror) an ESPN show on killing stuff the other day, and the stuff they were killing that day was ELK, and so I had a whole conversation about ELK with my Kiwi wife, who mentioned that NZ did indeed have ELK - they are called WAPITI (I didn't dream this conversation, did I, honey?)
  • 39A: Half of a 1991 film title duo (Thelma) - and Louise - a cultural phenomenon in its time, which included an early role for Brad Pitt
  • 52A: Hill creator (ant) - First thought: Mike Judge (creator of Hank, Peggy, and Bobby Hill)
  • 53A: Thumb's end (silent b) - This kind of clue is no longer tricky.
  • 55A: Feeling in a cathedral, maybe (awe) - this is coincidental. I just taught "Church Going" by Philip Larkin in prison this past Tuesday (thanks, Sarah B.). It's all about feeling (or wanting to feel) awe in church. My class had a great, long discussion about church and religion and the relationship of physical space to God and community. Here is the (fabulous) poem, in its entirety:
Once I am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence.

Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new -
Cleaned, or restored? Someone would know: I don't.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
'Here endeth' much more loudly than I'd meant.
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches will fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Or, after dark, will dubious women come
To make their children touch a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort will go on
In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
But superstition, like belief, must die,
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

A shape less recognisable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative,

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation - marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these - for which was built
This special shell? For, though I've no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.
  • 45A: _____ Lawrence Orchestra (British big band since the 1960s) (Syd) - No way. If it's a musical SYD you want, why not go with BARRETT or STRAW (my favorite "SYD")?
  • 60A: Superlatively Halloweenlike (eeriest) - I just like the clue. Here, the superlative gets its due.
  • 62A: Small harpsichord (spinet) - Just strangely proud that I got this word with very few crosses.
  • 4D: Sch. papers (rpts.) - I've never asked anyone to write a "report," so this abbreviation just didn't occur to me. For a while. And then it did.
  • 8D: Corporation in 2001 headlines (Enron) - wow, 2001 well and truly sucked (except for the fact that that's the year I started dating my current wife... :) Actually, we started dating on Sep. 17, 2001. Auspicious!
  • 10D: "All nature is but _____": Pope ("art") - I read this as "All is nature but _____" but it didn't matter - still got it instantly.
  • 11D: Bright lights, at times (stimuli) - "Bright lights" made me think of "Big City" and only "Big City" - needed many crosses to get this one.
  • 34D: B flat, enharmonically (A sharp) - got this immediately, despite never having seen "enharmonically" before
  • 42D: Who said "I believe in censorship. After all I made a fortune out of it" (Mae West) - this is So Weird. I've never seen a clue phrased as a genuine question. This MUST be a typo - "Who" should be "She," right?
  • 54D: Adriatic port (Bari) - ????
  • 58D: Architect Maya (Lin) - she of the Vietnam War Memorial ... I think. Yes.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS - In a very odd coincidence, the latest entry at my vintage paperback blog picks up the X / Cross theme of this puzzle - it's a John D. MacDonald book called The Crossroads (which my fingers want to type only thusly: CrossRoads)

59 comments:

Anonymous 8:57 AM  

You probably dreamed some of that conversation, as Merriam Webster tells me that "Wapiti" is Shawnee.

And just in case you want another Ogden Nash poem --

Hippity Hoppity
There goes the Wapiti

Parshutr 8:58 AM  

Don't let's forget the Ogden Nash pome...
"Here comes the Wapiti
Hippety Hoppety"

Anonymous 9:04 AM  

Both Parshutr and I misquoted the poem. Google says

There goes the Wapiti
Hippety Hoppety

marcie 9:39 AM  

Now there's something new I learned today. The correct pronunciation of wapiti, it has to accent on the first syllable or Ogden Nash's verse doesn't work. Sure enough, on looking it up it is WAH-pi-tee, not wah-PEE-tee. I would guess I have never heard this word pronounced correctly, but only seen it written.

Two days in a row, two Motown (label) references... life is good! Yesterday Pagliacci from "Tears of a Clown" and today the Andantes (the background female voices heard on thousands of Motown records, most of the big hits.. uncredited but vital to the music.)

Sadly, NW and andante took me forever since my first fill across was ecto instead of endo on the skeleton key...er clue. Bollixed me up good. Awards was also difficult coming, I was looking for a religious reference in the Crosses and such.

I liked the theme and it was fairly smooth sailing other than that pesky NW. What I didn't know I got from the crosses.

Steven 9:43 AM  

SJM - BTW gang -- Happy Thanksgiving! Go forth and enjoy mass quantities of food and good cheer!

Rockonchris 9:47 AM  

Clever, with the x-grid and x-words and all, but not really enjoyable. Not with "Crosses and Such" being AWARDS and "What X Makes" being PRODUCT. Huh? Like in X times Y = Z? This doesn't compute. I don't like the word "makes" here. And who gives crosses as awards?

Okay, done griping. Back to the kitchen. Happy day of thanks to everyone.

Rex Parker 9:50 AM  

rockonchris-

as you probably figured out as soon as you posted your message, "x" = multiplication symbol.

rp

Orange 9:51 AM  

Rex, I think you're right about the MAEWEST clue. Maybe it started as [Actress who said...]?

Rockonchris, see the photo Rex chose to illustrate AWARDS—various countries might award the Bronze Cross, the Silver Cross, etc., for valor.

Scott 10:12 AM  

Hooray for RUSS Feingold, living proof that Wisconsin still knows how to turn out a great politician.

(Sorry about that Joe McCarthy thing before.)

wendy 10:42 AM  

Scott, it's a Great State that learns from its mistakes. ;)

I find the puzzles of "Will Shortz' teenage neighbor," as Orange has dubbed him, so endearing. RAD, even. He has a style all his own and I was very excited when I saw his name last night. Everything but the kitchen sink is in here and it really keeps a body on her toes. I was thrilled to finish it with only a few tiny goOGLEs.

Speaking of Maya LIN, I urge anyone who has never had the opportunity to see her Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington up close and personal to do so. It may bring you to your knees (it did me) but paying homage is the least we can do for these lost men and women, and the ones we continue to lose.

Hope there aren't too many L-tryptophan ODs today; keep SNUG and happy thanksgiving to one and all!

Doug 10:54 AM  

This one took me forever, longer than some Friday and Saturday puzzles, including the Saturday puzzle (about three weeks ago) that Rex called the toughest of the year. IMHO, it gets my personal "difficult" rating. But I enjoyed because when I finally finished it I felt like I'd accomplished something, which I'm sure all puzzle solvers can understand.

Leon 10:55 AM  

X-cellent puzzle.
I agree that snowpea was the clue that made me say XXXXX, but later I said: Awl righty then.

Whitey's mom 11:02 AM  

Good puzzle. Good grief, let's eat!
Happy Thanksgiving all.

Linda G 11:06 AM  

I also questioned the Mae West clue.

Unchecked letters...didn't know that's what they were called, but I sure noticed (and loved) them.

Thanks for sharing the poem. It's beautiful.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Sandy 11:27 AM  

No Rex, you didn't dream the wapiti conversation. NZ does indeed have elk (introduced by Europeans). I'd only ever known them as wapiti because that's what we call them in NZ, and didn't know they were elk until a few years ago. Interestinng that "wapiti' sounds rather like it could be a Maori word, but Anon claims Shawnee.

joaneee 11:43 AM  

Wapiti was one of my first words cuz of having lived in Washington (state) where there are some place names including that word. Never pronounced it right, tho! Re the Mae West clue, I took it that there was an implied she at the beginning: (she) who said....so it seemed to make sense. May have already suffered l-tryptophan OD via inhalation.

Doug 12:00 PM  

Remember Spencer Tracy looking up from the water fountain and seeing the Giant Dubyah in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World? I finished this one after relying heavily on Google, looked up, saw the Giant X, and had a Sgt. Culpepper moment. Ahh, I look forward to the day when our own Giant Dubyah sits in the sun, waving in the breeze, bothering no one but himself....

I was thrown a bit because I thought the "diagram" was in the print version and was surprised that the normal Editor's Note wasn't online.

Just Wiki'd a few clues: The Aldine Press introduced the italic font, how about that. And I thought Microsoft claimed that.

Saw Bill Clinton on Letterman last night with his new book "Giving" (could have been an old rerun though.) How appropriate that goofball words LEGATEE and DONEE were in the puzzle--Seeing as he does the NYT every day betcha he got em quickly.

campesite 12:05 PM  

I was not expecting to be floored by a poem this Thanksgiving morning, but I was indeed. Thanks.

The unchecked letters were somewhat arresting to me, though the moment I saw the X I reckoned they'd all be Xes. Surprised Malcom X didn't make a grid like this.

(Thanksgiving note: apparently, the tryptophan levels in turkey are comparable to other meats, and it is the entirety of the foodstuffs that make people drowsy from a Thanksgiving feast. So eat up and sleep.)

hen4ry (silent 4) 12:20 PM  

Took me quite a while to get rolling. ALDINE, LORAX, XYLIM and LEONORA were new to me, and the long X-based answers were a challenge. Good puzzle in that respect.

I breezed by the MAEWEST clue without noticing its peculiarity. Would that she had lived long enough to earn an ADULTFILMRATING! Oh, maybe not.

7a REWASH (rid of persistent dinginess, say) seemed a bit off. It implies washing (the first time) didn't expunge the dinginess...so why would REdoing it help? Maybe the second time is the charm....

Rex -- thank you, thank you, thank you for the poem. I will definitely look for more of Mr. Larkin's writing. I am well-qualified to appreciate the piece, as I am ungainfully employed full time losing poetry contests. Loved it.

Blue stater 1:00 PM  

Anyone besides me think that 1D was wrongly clued? ANDANTE isn't a "medium tempo" but a slow one. 45D strikes me as perhaps not wrong, but not right, either: a private, being the lowest rank in the Army, is never in the position of responding to a SALUTE, but always gives one; "Private response" as a clue thus seems a bit off.

A difficult, trick-filled, not particularly rewarding puzzle, I thought. But thanks, Rex, for reminding us of Larkin's "Church Going." Great poem, like many of his.

Dave 1:03 PM  

Unchecked letters have appeared before in NYT puzzles, not an entirely new concept. Liz Gorski had four of them in the center of a puzzle with them all being rebus squares for "GREEN", symbolizing a four-leaf clover. The puzzle appeared March 16, 2003.

Doc John 1:03 PM  

An interesting puzzle. I got the X stuff right away but it still took me a while to finish the whole puzzle (and not even close to pristinely, either!) Also had CROUTON and also got tripped up on AGES (had AEON for a bit). The only reason I got ALDINE was that there's a street nearby with the same name.

I always find it funny when people complain about answers that aren't clued in the way one would expect- that's what makes the puzzle hard, folks!

Now, bad clues- that's a different story. IMHO the clue should point, even if only peripherally, to the answer. A bad clue does not do that. For example, does REWASH really "rid of persistent dinginess"? On the other hand, even though it's not the first thing I thought of, "bright lights, at times" certainly are STIMULI.

OK, I'm done. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Norm 1:05 PM  

Great puzzle! WHO vs SHE re MAE WEST is nitpicking (but that's at least half of what this blog is about). Great puzzle!

jilmac 1:12 PM  

Loved this one. As a musician am always pleased to find musical clues and this one had two!! (Blue Stater: I think you will find that andante means moderately slow - not as slow as lento or adagio, but faster than allegro or allegretto) Got very stuck on wapiti - only got it from crosses, but everything else fell in pretty easily. I started in the middle which was a great help

Happy Thanksgiving, All

Pinky 1:39 PM  

Got hung up on MTA, which I associate with Boston, not NYC after the Kingston Trio's

Charlie on the M.T.A.

Martin 1:56 PM  

Rex and Orange,

What's the difference between [What x makes] (PRODUCT) and [Who said "I believe in censorship. After all, I made a fortune out of it"] (MAE WEST)?

"That which x makes" and "Actress who said..." might both be clearer but it seems that having the pronoun stand in for the subject is deliberate editing and not a type. I don't love a two sentence quote that uses one period, but it too is dictated by consistency.

Fergus 1:57 PM  

That "Church Going" is a very evocative poem. Echoes of many a cathedral visited. Loved the Irish sixpence donation; it does point out the befuddled sense of obligation, not knowing quite what is the appropriate response to what drew him there.

Maybe the MAE WEST clue should have started: ... who said , but the fragment construction didn't rile me. Might have had a period before the end quote, though.

SYD Straw is great, especially when she really rocks out.

The use of APOGEE to mean High point sort of irks me, since I only associate it with maximum orbital distance. Never seen it used in any other way (except in Xwords), so it just seems like it's getting confused with ACME. While the dictionary allows for the High point use (of course), I would be curious to know whether anyone actually uses it that way.

I was killing some time on the Mall in DC back in the summer of 1983 when I stumbled on the Vietnam memorial. The stark reminder of the draft, and it having ended right when I was 17 sent me into a profound shudder in spite of the heat of the day. I was there again a week or two later for the 20th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, and felt some similar ambiguities sketched in "Church Going." Not the same, of course, but a similar internal conflict about the sentiments of nostalgia and reverence, and what you can know about others' lives.

Martin 1:58 PM  

"Type" is a typo.

marcie 2:12 PM  

pinky... thanks for the MTA Kingston Trio link!! I always loved that. BTW, did they ever solve the mystery of why, if the wife could hand him a sandwich, she didn't sneak the nickel ransom in with it to get hubby offa that train?

I had no problem with cluing for andante (once I let go of cursed ecto)... a tempo somewhere between adagio and presto... medium. Literally "walking along", not running, not snail pace.

I took "private response" (once I got it) as being a private's response to seeing a superior officer, not a salute in response to their salute.

Rikki 2:15 PM  

Croutons and bleach led me astray in the north, but andante and enron put me back on track. I loved the grid and thought much of the fill was fresh. I cannot believe I was tricked by silent B. I stared at the end of my thumb for the longest time! Learned Leonora and xylem. Tubular, Oliver!

Joe 2:16 PM  

The first clue I filled in was 32A "T.____" (REX), which which brought the 4 unchecked letters to my attention. Once I saw that the black squares formed an "X", I just knew that each of them would be an X. That gave me LORAX, XES, and XYLEM as my first four answers. That was fun.

The long theme answers were fine, but I dislike that type of cluing. If a clue doesn't give the solver a way to guess at the answer without a ton of crosses, then it isn't a good clue, IMO. You might as well clue it "A 15-letter word or phrase."

Rex Parker 2:19 PM  

Martin-

I completely disagree that the clues you cite are comparable.

I am almost certain that you will not see a single clue phrased [Who did x] or [Who starred in y] or the like in the entire past 14 months (my area of puzzle expertise). It would be [TV personality who did x] or [Actress who starred in y].

Thu, Oct. 11: 13D: Presidential candidate who said "No one can earn a million dollars .....

Sat, Oct 13: 18D: Alexander who said "I'm in control here"

"Who" is a relative pronoun, or it's interrogative. You could have "She who said..." but as phrased ... no.

RP

Michael 2:19 PM  

I really appreciated the diagram. Except for the X, there are few black squares (four at the extreme corners -- how common is this?)

This also would have been a good puzzle around Xmas..

Anonymous 2:47 PM  

Hi,
Maybe the four x's in the center stand for the long answers? 3 x's for adult film rating, the 4th x for roman num. 10?

mac 2:48 PM  

Thought this a delightful puzzle, breezed through it and got the more difficult words through crosses, all because of luck, of course....
What do you mean by 4 "unchecked" letters? I don't know the term.
Back to the bird. Happy Thanksgiving!

dk 2:49 PM  

Ahh, plant tissue.

I tried for kleenex, but then remembered botany and got xylem and the other xs right away.

I would have liked a few pirate clues (x marks the spot) and another Syd... I quibble.

Rewash is wierd... I niggle.

Fun puzzle.

T-Greetings from Moab.

mac 2:51 PM  

P.S. Thank you for Philip Rankin's poem. Reminds me of the wonderful, late, Barbara Pym, a good friend of his.

blue stater 3:03 PM  

Sorry jilmac, but I can't agree about ANDANTE. If it's "moderately slow" (you're right about that, and I assume you meant to write "slower," not "faster than allegro and allegretto") then it shouldn't have been clued as "medium tempo," a pointless (and, I believe, erroneous) mislead. I'm a musician, too, been one for nearly 60 years, and I think if I sang a piece marked "andante" at a "medium tempo," I'd get my butt kicked and would deserve it.

As for Marcie on "private response," well, maybe -- but if that's the analysis it's a curveball off a curveball (pun on "private," outré sense of "response"), and I really do not like those.

But Happy Thanksgiving to all, notwithstanding.

jae 3:17 PM  

I really liked this one. I noticed the X grid early, figured x would play a part in the answers, and was not disappointed. I would have rated this medium/challenging only because I was forced to guess (correctly fortunately) in SW on the ALDINE/LEONORA/ASHARP crossings. It's unusual for me to be guessing on a Thurs. Also, NW seemed a bit beyond medium. BTW I thought AWARDS was a stretch until Orange pointed out the military connection.

A private's response to being given an order would be "yes sir" accompanied by a SALUTE.

The Vietnam Memorial is indeed impressive and very moving.

Anonymous 3:35 PM  

thumb's end was still tricky to me. never seen it before and living in Michigan....I kept trying to figure our what was at the tip of the thumb that would fit.

Snarkygirl 4:05 PM  

I did the crossword online for the very first time today. Ever since I was a kid growing up in Larchmont, I've done it in the paper. (Eugene T. Maleska anyone? I started as a FAN of Will Weng?)

In the online age, I've tried to do the puzzle as far away from a computer as I can. I know I won't overcome the INERTIA necessary to google clues online and I believe (faith-based) that the STIMULI of googling my middle-aged brain will keep it limber.

But, man, I sure did get through it a lot faster today. I saved at least an hour not calling my opera-literate friends in the hopes of finding one who will recall LEONORA. And do I even have a friend or family member who plays bridge and knows GOREN?

But so much is lost, and not just the socializing.

The prodding of the brain, the clue repeatedly jamming up against the neuron, the insistent "watusi" finally reforming into "WAPITI" and RBI capitulating to "ERA" after scolding the brain about stats of batters vs pitchers.

Will see how this plays out.

Snarkygirl 4:14 PM  

Re: tempos

Elephant-memory readers will remember me as having been frog-marched into violin lessons and later freed to pursue classical guitar. I later became a guitar teacher.

Andante has always meant medium tempo to me. I've used adagio for moderately slow.

Strange that musicians have different interpretations of these instructions, but there it is.

Also, I think I saw APOGEE used to mean the top of the arc achieved by a missle or rocket or other projectile, when I took physics. Could be making that up though, in a confabulatory kind of way.

Orange 4:43 PM  

I'm with Rex on the who/what issue. Plenty of clues that start with "what" or "it," not so many that begin with "who."

REWASHing isn't for persistent dinginess—it's for persistent stains. Pretreat the spaghetti sauce or Popsicle spot or the grass stain, do a load of laundry, and check the stain. Still there? Treat and scrub again, and rewash.

Anonymous 5:26 PM  

I agree with the above commentator who said he'd never heard of "crosses and such" as awards. Me, neither.
The X being a product means, I believe, the multiplication symbol, which would make it an operand rather than the product, itself. As in R X T = D w/D (distance being the product).
I infer that the poster who wrote, "Loved this one... I think you will find that andante means moderately slow - not as slow as lento or adagio, but faster than allegro or allegretto)..." actually meant to say that an andante was not as slow as an adagio, but, not as fast as an allegro, or, say, presto.

Anonymous 6:17 PM  

Does anyone other than me think for the puzzle to be truly balanced,
14A should have mirrored 59A and been an "X" clue?
Bari in in S. Italy
Julie G. (New member)

Eugene 6:35 PM  

I always heard the term as "unkeyed", but it appears that both terms are used.

But I strongly object to SNOWPEAS - they need to be cooked and are mostly used in Chinese cooking, whereas SNAPPEAS (which, as a gardener, I originally confidently filled in) are eaten raw, and are much, much crunchier than snow peas

calpoet 6:52 PM  

I loved seeing Bari in the puzzle today. It's in Apulia, the heel of the Italian boot where my family emigrated from.

Cea 7:11 PM  

I spotted Bari early on, and rejected it, because I couldn't think of a word that ended NTB.

Oh well.

And thank you, Pinky, for the link to Charlie and the MTA.

Orange 7:17 PM  

Eugene, blanched snow peas can certainly be a salad ingredient—here's a recipe.

Noam D. Elkies 9:03 PM  

There was also a puzzle within the past few years featuring a similar grid with four unchecked letters;
there the theme was a treasure map, as in "X marks the spot", and the unchecked letters were
not X's but N/E/S/W compass points. I remember the "green" puzzle as well now that dave [1:03] mentioned it.

NDE

billnutt 9:11 PM  

Rex, YOU RULE for include Syd Straw's CD cover! She's an terrific and underrated performer. (And on that particular CD, she's backed by the Skeletons, one of the best bar bands in America.)

I found this puzzle quite challenging yet satisfying. Gotta say that the flak (wasn't that in yesterday's puzzle?) about the MAEWEST clue is a tempest in a teapot. (Especially since it's a GREAT QUOTE!)

XYLEM? WAPITI? ALDINE? Tough stuff!

And of course there's the tricky things like "Thumb's end"...

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Rex Parker 9:43 PM  

No one ever said the unchecked letter thing had Never been done. Only that it hadn't been done in a good long while (as I specifically stated: 14+ months).

rp

wobbith 11:45 PM  

One look at the grid and I thought "oooh, this will be fun!", and it was, tough, but fun.

Unchecked letters show up once in a blue moon in NYT puzzles, but they're not unheard of.
Any of the "rules" can be broken if the theme and composition are otherwise brilliant, and the rule-breakage is somehow incorporated into the theme (as it was in this puzzle).
That's a tall order for constructors, so you don't see the rules broken very often.
Oliver Hill, that little whipper-snapper, has a lot of chutzpah and a tremendous amount of talent, so it's no surprise to see a rule-breaking puzzle over his byline.

Another unchecked letter example was a Groundhog Day puzzle where the center down answer was PUNXSUTAWNEYPHIL, 16 letters. The square for the first letter was above, and outside of the grid.
The typesetter must have had a cow.

fergus -
In rocketry, APOGEE is the highest point that a rocket reaches.

Rex -
I disagree on two points:

1. 13D: Like blue-chip stocks (safest) stumped me forever, but I really admired and appreciated the clue, for the very reason that it bothered you. A clue starting with "most" or "least" or "best" or "worst" yields a (boring, unchallenging, and usually correct) EST for the last three letters. Kudos to Hill or Shortz for finding a way to make us work a little harder.

2. 53A: Thumb's end (silent b). This kind of clue still is and always will be tricky.
I've been doing crosswords for as about long as snarkygirl, so I've seen the trick a thousand times, but it still can bamboozle me on occasion.
Perhaps on this occasion the bamboozlement was a result of trying to solve the puzzle while watching a football game. No matter, it is still a good clue.

Totally agree that the MAEWEST clue was botched.

Overall, an excellent puzzle.

- wobbith

Fergus 12:32 AM  

... reckon I'd sort of confused APOGEE with Aphelion in the restrictive sense. Thanks for the trajectory correction.

Anonymous 12:33 AM  

I'm fairly new to this blog and to xwords in general (noted earlier: I'm a Scrabble expert but a crossword doofus), and perhaps that's why I like funky puzzles like rebuses and this one. I wish today's variety did show up as often as a blue moon, but they're rarer.

I got the MAEWEST clue but did think it seemed like an error, as tho 'actress' was missing. Then I surmised that the missing word was purposely omitted because it might otherwise have suggested the sex of the speaker.

I agree that "What x makes" is a terrible clue for PRODUCT. I guess that was a bit of a stretch because of the theme, but multiplication doesn't really 'make' a product. I'd have worded it a bit differently. Even 'xy' might have been a more acceptable clue.

On the whole I found this easier than yesterday's and pretty enjoyable, too. It helped that I saw the big X before starting out.

Dave 1:20 PM  

If you look at James Sadjak's LAT for Saturday 11/24, you'll see the polar opposite of this puzzle.

BT 5:30 PM  

Silver cross ... is that the name of a medal that is AWARDED?

I know the "Iron Cross" was a medal in Germany

ANTI-WAR DEMOCRAT 6:50 AM  

23A: Author of "Winning Bridge Made Easy" (GOREN)

I would have wrote the clue this way.

23A: LAW & ORDER Criminal Intent Det. Robert _____ (GOREN)

Anonymous 4:18 PM  

OK, Rex, got it now (to blog or not to, versus forum (11/19)). Just starting to make my way pretty well through Thursdays. Needed a little help w/today's. Enjoyed the "Opportunity" to read and add here today again. thx

- - Robert

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