FRIDAY, Jan. 11, 2008 - Mike Nothnagel (CO-WORKER OF DILBERT)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Relative difficulty: 98% Easy, 2% ????

THEME: none

Well, it was a good day for you if you're a mathematician who reads "Dilbert" with any regularity. Also a good day for you if you are an elite solver who does so many puzzles that certain names that are obscure to most of the world are gimmes for you. Bad day for everyone else. Let me rephrase that - it's mostly a Glorious day. Just avert your eyes from the Western portion of the puzzle, specifically the 3x4 section bounded by GODEL, BEAK, ASOK, and GMAN. I'm going to start with why this part of the puzzle is poorly executed, edited, and clued, then I'll move on to why the rest of the puzzle was totally @#$#-ing AWESOME (56A: "Outta sight!").

I have this weird feeling that these puzzles are test-solved by old pros, whose judgment cannot necessarily be trusted when it comes to sussing out solvability issues for the bulk of merely Good solvers who try their hands regularly at the late-week puzzles. I am normally one of those who praise the infusion of popular culture into the puzzle, but today I got to feel what it's like to be beaten down by a mystery answer I honestly don't think I should have to know. In fact, I don't want to know it. I'm almost hoping I forget it, so much do I resent it. Perhaps I could have tolerated ASOK (36A: Co-worker of Dilbert), if it was the one outré answer in an otherwise thorny but solvable portion of the puzzle. But unfortunately for me, there was a Perfect storm of Confusion over there, and I didn't stand a chance. ASOK is not an inferrable name. It's just not. Now GODEL (30A: Mathematician famous for his incompleteness theorems), to me, is equally mysterious, but at least it was inferrable as a name some person might actually possess. I *hate* that the "G" it GODEL could just as easily have been a "T" - you really really shouldn't cross a tough name with an answer where two letters fit equally well in the space (here it's G-MAN (30D: Fed) and not T-MAN); but some part of my brain knows that GODEL is name-like, where TODEL is not, so I fought through that.

What I couldn't, for the life of me, fight through was the "K" in the horrible ASOK (side note: I can't stand "Dilbert," so I'm angrier at this answer than I probably should be - the fact that "Dilbert" passes for funny is one sign of the Horrible demise of the comic strip form). But perhaps you're thinking "BEAK, Rex, BEAK; surely you could get BEAK? And then there's your "K" and the puzzle's over." Only ... no. Why? Because I am a genius and came up with a much much much better answer for 25D: Nut cracker, perhaps - an answer that made the Dilbert character into a name that almost looks like a name (a name that is, in fact, the name of at least one rapper). My answer to "Nut cracker, perhaps"? = > BEAN. Why? Well, here is definition 2 of "nut" from my massive and massively authoritative dictionary, which I have open before me:

Something resembling a nut in the difficulty it represents: as a. a problem to be solved - often used with to crack ...

The use of "nut" idiomatically in the clue seemed to me to merit an equally colloquial (and equally edible) answer: BEAN, as in "HEAD, SKULL, BRAIN" (def. 6b, but one that's very much in-the-language). So the "Dilbert" character was ASON, which is almost JASON and at any rate is a whole helluva lot more name-like than EWOK or whatever that actual answer was - I can't even look at it right now.

On to better things:

  • 17A: GQ figure (male model) - first answer into the grid! Made myself laugh.
  • 19A: Dried out (sere) - after many times going to this answer, only to have the real answer be ARID, my tendency to go for the lectio difficilior finally pays off.
  • 22A: They act on impulses (synapses) - great cluing; had the "Y," so this was easy. Here's the thing about great misdirective cluing - it should be rough (perhaps rougher than this) but when you get the correct answer, there should be an "AHA," as if the answer had to be that and nothing else and why in the hell couldn't I see it all along. Thus, supremely misdirective cluing is a risky proposition.
  • 24A: Like smooth-running engines (lubed) - first sign that the wheels were coming off in the West - I had TUNED, a very reasonable answer, which makes this a good trap (a good trap is one you have a reasonable chance of getting out of).
  • 26A: Black birds (daws) - ornithology is not a strong suit, and I actually puzzled over the "W" for a bit.
  • 33A: What you take when you do the right thing (moral high ground) - had HIGH and wondered how in the world I was supposed to get THE HIGH ROAD to stretch across fifteen squares. Love his answer, as well, as its shorter but equally lovely central cross, PARADIGM SHIFT (15D: Transition to a heliocentric model of the universe).
  • 38A: Innovative chair designer (Eames) - household name in our house. I got my wife a subscription to "Dwell" for Xmas. It's like porn if you are at all into interior design or architecture. Really lovely (and smart).
  • 41A: Backyard Jul. 4 event (bar-b-q) - I love the spelling here. This reminds me of Homer's BBBQ ("Lisa the Vegetarian"), where the first "B" stands for "BYOBB" ... and the third "B" in "BYOBB"? ... that's a typo.
  • 46A: "Bummer" ("aw gee") - these don't seem quite synonymous, but I love this Beaver-esque exclamation. Goes well with OH WOW (55A: "Outta sight!").
  • 50A: It follows Shevat (Adar) - I'm starting to get my Hebraic sea legs - this came easily.
  • 53A: Historic capital of Scotland (Scone) - gimme gimme gimme. The Stone of Scone! Edward I ("Hammer of the Scots") stole it from Scotland in 1296. It was fitted into a wooden chair on which all subsequent British monarchs have been crowned. The stone's alleged history (biblical? Gaelic?) is fascinating.
  • 3D: Ditsy waitress player on "Mad About You" (Lisa Kudrow) - gimme gimme gimme. Now, see, here, someone might not remember this role, but with a few crosses, that person could reasonably be expected to figure out LISA KUDROW - she was one of the stars of one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, after all. Unlike ASOK.
  • 10D: "White Flag" singer, 2003 (Dido) - more gimmeness; I'm sure that classical literature aficionados around the country are shaking their heads, going "there's more than one DIDO now?" But again, all crosses are supremely gettable. So DIDO is not as obscene as ASOK.
  • 8D: Name of 11 ancient kings (Ramses) - never saw the clue. Seems fair enough, if highly vague.
  • 35D: Moon unit? (rear) - REAR as in ASS, in case you are wondering. I wanted the answer here to be ZAPPA.
  • 45D: Practices zymurgy (brews) - there's a new word ("zymurgy," not BREWS)
  • 46D: Toiletry brand introduced in 1977 (Atra) - four-letter toiletry product is always ATRA - except when it's not.
  • 42A: Decision time (zero hour) - great, lively answer
  • 47D: Nail-biter's cry (whew!) - I would have loved to have been able to exclaim WHEW when I finished this puzzle, but my BEAN / ASON error allowed me no such release. AW GEE. Oh well. Tomorrow's another day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Today's other puzzles:
  • NYS untimed/challenging (P) - RECOMMENDED: Patrick Blindauer and Francis Heaney, "Squares Away" - asymmetrical (or is it?) and spicy
  • LAT untimed/medium (P) - Jack McInturff
  • CS untimed/easy (P) - RECOMMENDED: Lynn Lempel, "Spelling B's" - cute and breezy
  • WSJ 25 min or so (C) - RECOMMENDED: Brendan Emmett Quigley, "This for That" - this one beat me up; a good challenge

[drawing by Emily Cureton]


pistachio disguisey 9:24 AM  

I had ASOR and BEAR, reasoning that bears eat nuts ( and thus would naturally crack them while chewing. ASOR looked vaguely reasonable as a weird, biblical-sounding name or as the reverse of ROSA. Agreed that the rest of the puzzle is great, but obviously an obscure answer like ASOK shouldn't be crossed with a clue that we've now established three reasonable answers for. Anyone go with for BEAM/ASOM (maybe using a laser to crack that nut?) or BEAU/ASOU (cracking the nut of romance?) or BEAT/ASOT (at least one of Dilbert's co-workers must be a heavy drinker, no?)...?

jls 9:43 AM  

>..."Dwell" for Xmas. It's like porn if you are at all into interior design or architecture

i have a colleague at work who refers to high-end small appliances used in the room where food is prepared as "kitchen porn." ;-)

and in the "one man's meat" department, nw was *such* a problem for me and why? because of the gifted ms. k, whose name i had to google, because i was sooooooo tired but wanted to finish the puzzle before going to sleep last night... and the solving was going so well otherwise...

cheers, all --


Orange 9:49 AM  

A friend of mine calls Cook's lllustrated "food porn."

I can't believe the length of your anti-ASOK rant, Rex! I think it's fair (though not a common American name at all)—the comic strip's been popular for nearly two decades, the books and calendars and mousepads have been ubiquitous for years, and there was even a "Dilbert" prime-time TV series. I'm sure far more people read "Dilbert" than the one with Snert. If Garfield's canine nemesis, owner, and owner's girlfriend are all fair game for crosswords, I think Dilbert's colleagues make the grade, too.

Gödel, Escher, Bach is a famous book published in 1979 and still has plenty of cred. My best friend's mom had the book in the early '80s.

Jim in NYC 9:51 AM  

I also had ASOR and BEAR, but reconsidered in the morning and changed the R to a K just before powering up the magic box to see what Rex had to say.

There was a popular book a few years ago, titled "Goedel, Escher, Bach," concerning human intelligence.

When a German word with an umlaut over the O, such as 30A, has to be rendered in a typeface without the umlaut, as in this blog, the spelling is changed to Goedel to preserve the correct pronunciation.

Rex Parker 9:57 AM  

The ASOK / ODIE comparison is so disingenuous I don't know where to begin. I'm going to guess the number of people on the planet who know ODIE vs. those who know ASOK ... it's gotta be 10-to-1, and I'm being generous. And as far as xword frequency, there's no contest. But you know that.

I admit that "Dilbert" is fair game, and if DILBERT or DOGBERT were the answer, I don't think I'd complain one bit.

And how exactly are you using "famous" now...

I'm getting many searches to my site today for some variation on [Dilber ason], [Dilber asot], etc.


Wade 10:05 AM  

I'm with Orange--I think Dilbert's fair fodder (and I think it's a funny strip, though it hits a bit too close to home for some of us office-dwellers.) I can understand Rex's frustration that the ingeniousness of BEAN instead of BEAK undid him.

I still ultimately flunked the puzzle in the extreme SE, because I didn't know a SOP was a bribe and didn't know Penn's Landing.

I should be ashamed (but strangely am not) for not knowing SCONE even when I had __CONE. My wife is from Scotland and her grandfather, who founded the Scottish Nationalist Party, had a role in the famous "theft" of the stone back in the fifties. I had never heard it referred to as the Stone of Scone but only as the Stone of Destiny. Don't tell her I didn't know it's true name.

Rex Parker 10:05 AM  

This guy just posted this message to yesterday's blog entry, and since I doubt anyone's reading that anymore, I moved it here:

Greg says:

Hey guys, I have a couple of questions for anyone who can let me know!
1. What is the general format of the convention weekend? Are you there all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday? I tried to see if there was some sort of schedule online, but didn't see one at all! 2. Does anyone happen to know Kiran Kedlaya? He placed 7th last year at the tourney, and unless there happen to be two people in the world with such a name, I am convinced he was a friend of mine from HS who I played chess with and I would love to talk to him again!
Thanks all,


I expect Will will have official tournament registration info posted / mailed out very very soon. It is getting late, after all... if this year's like last year, 6 puzzles are on Saturday, 1 on Sunday morning. Friday night is an introductory games night, a lot of fun, but not a component of the main competition.

Rex Parker 10:11 AM  


Appearances in puzzles over the past ten years:

ODIE: 213

And no one said "Dilbert" wasn't fair game. Why don't people read what I actually say? All kinds of insane crap is perfectly "fair" if the crosses are thoughtfully and reasonably constructed.

IGO now.


rpark 10:23 AM  

Asok is a fairly common Indian name so I didn't think that was very hard. I got stuck on Lisa Kudrow which I would have gotten a lot earlier but I put in eek and took it out again because the k looked weird and I didn't think that "indication" was much of a clue for it. Indication is a noun -- is eek a noun?

PhillySolver 10:35 AM  

PENNS Landing was for all of us from the City of Brotherly Love. Thank you Mike.

I started in the SE because of that clue and whipped trough it, but I believe I mentioned I have decided taking Latin was a waste..and now when I check the answers my sole error was I spelled QUA as quo and my defense is that I did not take Hebrew, so ador was fine...AWGEE!

OPERATIVE came from being the only way I knew to finish OPERAT and have it work, but I don't think of it as a synonym for key.

Proud to get GODEL (from the book mentioned above). I did start with a T (gman gmen tman tmen... OHNOW!) though. ZINCOXIDE saved my relatesto for RELATEDTO error.

DAWS was hard, but think I have heard of Jack Daws (maybe from a game) Happy my SYNAPSES could get EAMES but I think these sorority sisters mixed with WHEW and AWGEE and the vague LEM (which is better than REAR for moon unit as I believe BUMS/BUNS was more accurate). It all added up to a lot of guess work and I did, but it wasn't arcane or mind provoking, just gamesmanship.

So, I did like a lot of this puzzle and on the basis of the Philly clue will say good job, but wish it had been less controversial.

marcie 10:37 AM  

emily... are you using a spy-cam on my kitchen this morning?

Now THIS puzzle is what keeps me coming back for more. Making work fun. I really don't know exactly what it is that makes a puzzle outstanding in my book, but whatever it is, this is it.

Yes, I had to google a bit. Never heard of Goedel (please tell me it is NOT pronounced like girdle?) nor Asok.

Zincoxide, sinequanon, paradigm, zymurgy... gotta love it!

I made some of the same mistakes, and held on to tuned way too long even when toose was obviously not going to parse in any way shape or form.

Am I the only one bothered by no period after fed, for gman? is this common usage now so no period required on the abbreviation? (at first I tried gave for fed, lacking the period).

Between this and the Sun... great fun!!

jannieb 10:40 AM  

Sorry - I read Dilbert so Asok was a kimme. I had "on the house" for free for too long - that's what held me up in "california". Liked the pairing of swig and brews - but the w was the last to fall and parsing s_ig too awhile. Otherwise - German mathematicians notwithstanding - an enjoyable, google-free Friday. Happy weekend all.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

The other "Moon Unit"= LEM.

Uh, whatever! New to me.

paul in mn 10:48 AM  

Scanned the clues and GODEL was the first gimme for me, but I was a math major.

I was tripped up by ASOK for a while, largely because I had TUNED for 24A. (Try making NEA_ into anything that's remotely like "Nut cracker, perhaps".) Once BEAK fell, ASOK was obvious and I finally broke through the NW.

Finished the puzzle with great satisfaction and then discovered to my chagrin that I had put an I instead of a Y at the SYD/SYNAPSES crossing and never even noticed it. SID I can surely be forgiven for, but SINAPSES?!?!

Was anyone else tentative with KNIFE for 13A? I really wanted it to be THE KNIFE.

Bert Dill 10:54 AM  

ASOK was OK -- everything else THUMBS DOWN.

Mo 11:01 AM  

For once a science/math background comes in handy, as PARADIGM SHIFT and GODEL were gimmes to get me started. I reasoned exactly as Rex did to get BEAN instead of BEAK...BEAN as in one's brain being used to crack a difficult problem. I don't read Dilbert, but ASON / difference to me, it was a guess either way. Also had TUNED for a while, but the TOO_E never did look right.

Loved the ESE area, with THUMBS DOWN next to SINE QUA NON.

I agree that 13A really should be THE KNIFE, and, not to be picky, but the RAMSES were pharaohs, not kings.

rick 11:03 AM  

Didn't know DIDO, SCONE was my last fill.

ASOK and GODEL were gimmes. Interesting how that works.

Great leg up was PARADIGMSHIFT, got it with only the two As.

In the computer guy world I keep being told I have to shift my freaking paradigm about every six weeks.

Think we'd be out of the damn things by now.

dbg 11:07 AM  

I found your blog about 2 months ago and have become a daily reader. Thought about responding many times but just had to today.

Rex, your rants really used to annoy me at first, now they just make me chuckle. Face it, one person's gimme is another person's WTF??!!. Usually it's just about simple exposure - I read Dilbert years ago and with a little memory tugging got ASOK. Dilbert was a pretty popular comic years ago. I'm in my fifties and this is one of those times that being older is an advantage.

Conversely, SCONE is a gimme?? Maybe for you but it meant nothing to me. Also did not know Penn's Landing. But logic and a little guessing helped here.

Before you start ranting again I know that you think ASOK crossing with Godel is too arcane. You are entitled to your opinion. This is first and foremost a blog and nothing more. But understand that today your WTF was pretty much a gimme to many of us. Tomorrow I'll be groaning over Southpark clues.

Anonymous 11:13 AM  

I thought, given the industry Dilbert works in, making the solver think of an Indian name was good cluing. I didn't know it, but came up with it based on this. But I should say I am of Indian origin. And it's usually spelled "AsHok".

"Bean" for the nut cracker clue is pretty clever but, IMO, "Nutcracker ?" would have been a more appropriate clue if this was the intended answer.

Anyway, Rex, I enjoy reading your analysis almost as much as doing the puzzle itself!

john f 11:39 AM  

ASOK, fwiw, is pronounced "ah-SHOOK," and it was a gimme here too. I learned it, like so many things (ODIE included), from crosswords. I sort of remember seeing ASOK in a few Onion/Ink Well puzzles and remembering I needed to remember it. ("Dilbert," btw, is a pretty popular strip in the corporate world, and so often right on target.) GODEL has been in puzzles from Monday through Saturday, and GODEL ESCHER BACH was the central 15 in a Friday NYT puzzle in '06. Great book, too, full of play with words, math, logic, etc. Highly playful, but highly serious too.

I can see it would be tough if you didn't know either name. Were they fair? I thought so, for a Friday puzzle. But as janie said, "one man's meat...."

So much lively fill in Mike Northnagel's grid. Lots of zing all over. Very good, fun solve.

Pete M 11:40 AM  

Sometimes constructors intentionally include clue/answer "traps" that can go more than one way (e.g., LEVEL/BEVEL of last year's ACPT). And while ASOK was a gimme for me (and by Rex's rant about Dilbert not being funny, I'll assume he never worked in an office; certainly not in high-tech), I tend to doubt that the BEAK/BEAN angle was intentional. This is one of the dangers/bonuses (depending on your perspective) of vague cluing. I think one could make a mathematical argument that if someone does one or more crosswords a day for years, unless they have an extraordinary knowledge of virtually every topic, there will occasionally be that "perfect storm" crossing of two items that cannot be definitively determined. Guess what? Sometimes there may a puzzle where you get something wrong because you aren't all-knowing. Sometimes you may even have guess, and sometimes you're going to guess wrong. There's a difference between tough (I don't know the answer) and obscure (hardly anybody can be expected to know the answer). This answer was not obscure, it was just something you didn't know because you don't follow a comic that millions of people read every day. Don't blame the constructor for that. Chalk it up to a great puzzle that happened to have a crossing that you got wrong. We won't hold it against you... :)

- Pete

Rikki 11:49 AM  

Marcie... I'm with you. This kind of puzzle is just a joy to solve and this particular one was so because it was constructed by Mike Nothnagel. When you see his name, you're in for a solving fiesta of cleverness. Thus, operative, malemodel, moralhighground, paradigmshift, thatslife, zincoxide, zerohour, synapses, thumbsdown, and sinequanon in the same puzzle. Ow wow, awesome.

Hmm... two moon units without a Zappa (he named his children Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet Rodan, and Diva).

Finally I get to put gman for fed (yeah, Marcie, fed is acceptable without a period now) instead of tman which is always my second choice.

Had oiled for lubed which slowed me down over there, but not for long. I happen to love Dilbert and it was a favorite of my son, along with Garfield and Calvin and Hobbs, so the books filled our shelves. I still laugh over the one where the Boss tried to reboot his laptop by turning it over and shaking it like an Etch-a-Sketch. And the Elbonians... too funny. Not having television in the house, so never having seen most of the sitcoms referred to in the puzzles, I'll take the gimmes where I can get them.

Scone was the last fill and thought it might be wrong. I eat them, but never knew about the Stone of Scone. Now I do. Didn't know sop for bribe either, so that cross was my vexer.

Great puzzle, MN!

Leon 11:56 AM  

The changing beaks of nut-cracking Finchs in Jonathan Weiner's The Beak of the Finch and knowing Asok made the N/W fall quickly. I first had oiled for lubed and or so for a few at first.

The Moon Unit clue coupled with RPs comments was LOL.

Rex Parker 11:59 AM  

'm astonished that people are completely missing the part where I say, explicitly, that not knowing something is to be expected - happens all the time. All the time. I know that as well as anyone. Let me try again. Slowly.

The problem with (seriously, I can't even remember it now ...) ASOK is that the cross at the "K" has another perfectly good answer (at least one). So if you have a blind spot (as I did today, and as everyone does every day), you have no reasonable way out. It's not that I "didn't know" the nutcracker clue (the "K" crossing). I knew it just fine - as I say, my answer (BEAN) works perfectly. The problem, then, is more with the "nut cracker" clue than anything else.

I clearly hit a sore spot with you "Dilbert" fans. I haven't been personally attacked (comments deleted) and condescended to (see Pete's comment above) like this in a Long time.

Hydromann 12:04 PM  

Since I, apparently, am one of the two or three persons on the planet who was not a fan of "Mad About You", I was mildly annoyed at the cluing in "3D: Ditsy waitress player on 'Mad About You'."

Nomally a clue like this would refer to the character's name, not the actor's name. So I found it misleading. (OK, OK, I found it misleading when consulting IMDB!)

Orange 12:05 PM  

Greg: Most people arrive for the tournament on Friday afternoon, though some West Coasters do the Thursday-night redeye. Friday night: reception and general sociable loitering. Saturday morning: crossword competition at a respectable time, not too early. Longish lunch break, time to check out the wares in the marketplace. Saturday afternoon: more competition. Saturday evening: dinner of your choosing, one large group activity usually from 8 to 10, plenty of socializing until late. Sunday: Check preliminary standings; one crossword in the morning; behind-the-scenes scoring of papers, then announcement of A, B, and C finalists; C, B, and A finals with an audience; awards luncheon afterwards. You'll be ready to leave the hotel around 2:30 or 3.

Orange 12:07 PM  

I will grant you this, Rex: BEAN would have been a cleverer answer for [Nut cracker?].

Rex Parker 12:09 PM  

Thank you, Orange. Seriously.


PS confession: I probably don't "hate" "Dilbert" - I clearly don't read it regularly, but it's possible it has amused me a time or two in my life.

karmasartre 12:24 PM  

Tough and fun and scattered my brain (but not as badly as the Sun did).

Had tUnED for LUBED for a while. Tried to squeeze in HIGHroad as part of 33a. SWIG for draft seems loose.

This is the second time my age has seemed to coincide with Orange's Mom. The Godel (imagine a sideways colon above the O) etc. book has been in my "Should Read" stack for ages.

I won't comment on DIlbert as I know the letterer, but I find the funny pages fairly oxymoronic these days. It was interesting to read the forward in one of the Calvin and Hobbes collections to understand why Watterson quit: I remember his sad commentary on the devolution of the form and the idiocy of some aspects of the business (e.g. a three row Sunday strip must be able to stand on its last-two-rows only in case they need to save space). I enjoy WIley Miller's great artwork (Non-Sequitur), Zippy's off-the-wall world view, many Bizarro's, and not much else (of those in my daily -- probably other good stuff I miss out on). There are many in which the art and humor seems non-existent, like Rhymes with Amy, imo.

Emily! Just when I thought your stuff was unimprovable! AWESOME.

rick 12:40 PM  


Just read through your BEAN moment again and it is stretchy enough that I'm sure we'll see it in a Klahn puzzle soon.

Anonymous 12:57 PM  

Throw me in as another one who reads Dilbert and thus knew Asok. (In fact, that corner was the first part of the puzzle I solved.) But instead of chastising Rex for not knowing it, I thought I'd just point out that "mathematicians who read Dilbert" are actually quite plentiful... particularly if you broaden the definition of mathematicians to computer scientists and engineers (which is what many mathematicians become to make money).

I consider that little corner my reward for having to slog through many previous corners full of French, Greek, and obscure literary figures that the average person has never heard of. I can't tell you the number of puzzles that would have been easier for me if I were an English professor. We all have our niches.

(And yes, I get your point about the BEAK crossing... I'm just saying that for a not insignificant number of people, ASOK was the reason we could figure out BEAK, not the other way around.)

Karen 1:05 PM  

The preliminary program for the 2008 ACPT (and hotel info) is up at the contest site. The registration form is not up, still.

I only remember ODIE from the puzzles, and sometimes that D could be another letter (I keep wanting to put in OPIE); someday ASOK may be as pantheonic as ODIE, but the poor little intern has to start somewhere. For that matter, APU is a hard-to-guess name too.

nollie 1:07 PM  

I luv u Rex. Nollie

Pete M 1:09 PM  

I apologize, Rex. I was not trying to be condescending. I used the generic "you" when I meant "we" (solvers in general), so perhaps my point was lost.

You said "I'm going to start with why this part of the puzzle is poorly executed, edited, and clued". And above, "if you have a blind spot... you have no reasonable way out". My point, as both a constructor and solver, is that there will always be singular puzzles that are "unfair" (i.e., unsolvable without a mistake or lucky guess) to particular individuals, given their unique knowledge. Not every potential blind spot can (nor should, IMO) be accounted for. Most of the time, we beat the puzzle; every once in a while, the puzzle beats us. To me, that's what makes it a "puzzle" as opposed to just a pleasant diversion. I don't believe that makes it "poorly executed", whether the BEAN/BEAK ambiguity was foreseen or not. Just my two cents; thanks for listening. :)

Btw, my all-time favorite Dilbert cartoon:

Boss: "My boss says we need some eunuch programmers."
Dilbert: "I think he means Unix not eunuchs. And I already know Unix."
Boss: "If the company nurse drops by, tell her I said 'never mind'".

- Pete

GK 1:13 PM  

Your anti-Gödel rant brings to mind C. P. Snow's famous remark:

"A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's?"

(There's more at "The Two Cultures" Wikipedia page.)

Doris 1:16 PM  

Scottish Nationalists used to steal the Stone of Scone regularly as a political protest. I also knew it because it's the last word in "Macbeth": " see us crowned at Scone." As I've noted before, the Bard is a complete education unto himself.

jae 1:16 PM  

I love MN puzzles. As Letterman would say "its like I have a twin." The perfect mix of pop culture and science. I got PARADIGMSHIFT with no crosses and GODEL was a gimme having actually read the book. I read the comics daily so ASOK also was a gimme. My only comment on Dilbert is that it is often just meh. (Karmasatre makes some good points about the state of funnies today. I would add Opus and Doonesbury to the list of ones that stand out.) Having seen most of the Mad About You episodes LISAKUDROW was also a gimme. So this one for me was a breeze. The only erasures on my grid were SKATE where I initially had SKIMS and SELL where I wrote in SALE before I read the GODEL clue. Great puzzle!

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

Dilbert is a real 'slice of life' for too many! and Godel Escher Bach has a 20th year edition just out.

Rex, If you like 'Dwell', take a look at 'Metropolis'!

Unlike some design mags that are focused on the decor problems of the rich and famous and their homes and supported by ads for booze and cars, Metropolis actually relates design and architecture to our current culture and assumes the reader knows something about the issues and specifics in its level of writing.

It is not a 'trade' publication for architects and desigers, but gears itself for an informed audience rather than those looking for the titillation (you did reference porn somewhere above) of peering into someone else's 'crib',

Noam D. Elkies 1:36 PM  

Rex writes [about ASOK]:

> a mystery answer I honestly don't think I should have to know.
> In fact, I don't want to know it.
> I'm almost hoping I forget it, so much do I resent it [...]

Now you know how I feel (and I'm sure I'm not alone here) about any number of those obscure artifacts of baseball, pop culture, etc. that send you Panegyrizing with Capital Letters. LISA KUDROW? Who she? Why should I know? Why should I care? EEK. To be sure Wednesday's(!) ROMIJN looks Way more -- er, I mean way more -- implausible on the grid...


P.S. BTW I had OILED as my initial guess for 24A. Besides that and
LISA WHATSHERNAME, a nice themeless puzzle with plenty of "scrabbly" and multiword entries of the kind that usually earns high marks from Reks.

Frances 1:41 PM  

What does it say about cultural trends and cruciverbalism when the very first squares I filled in--after SKATING over 3/4 of the clues--was PARADIGM SHIFT?! The tangled web of GODEL, GMAN, LUBED, and ASOK stymied me for a while, but AWGEE, THAT'S LIFE. Can I claim the MORAL HIGH GROUND for finishing a reasonably challenging Friday grid without Googling?

dk 1:54 PM  

I love Beak as a nutcracker and my lovely wife did as well.

Paradigmshift was another great one that had me wishing for Copernicus.

I am taking the moral highground by pointing out that NYT does not have comics.

Synapses was my first answer suggesting the little gray cells are still working.

I wanted Zappa as the moon unit as well, it would have been nice with Syd in a late 70's kinda way.

And, oh wow the blog comments are awesome.

korova 2:01 PM  

Rex pointed out that the historical crossword tally is 213 for ODIE and 5 for ASOK. In my view, that datum if anything supports ASOK as an original word for a puzzle. Of course, originality (in crosswordland) is not the only relevant factor--a word that is original because nobody but the constructor has heard of it should never be in the puzzle. But I enjoy it when constructors carve out new territory, and I think solving experience--at least in terms of familiarity with pantheonic words-- should be less of an advantage than it generally is. (Rex may well agree with that broad point, coiner as he is of the term "pantheonic.") If Rex is right that ODIE is roughly ten times more common in the language than ASOK, then I think it ought to be roughly ten times more common in the puzzle--not forty times--and I applaud Mr. Nothnagel's effort to close that gap.

Glickstein 2:10 PM  

Loved the Nothnagel 100%, then woke up to discover through this blog that ASOR/BEAR was wrong, and my love went down to 95%. So I do appreciate Rex's rant.

There's one good way to determine if this can be seen as a slight blemish in the puzzle, or it's just all in the game. As a result of the feedback (in this blog and otherwise), would Will say to himself: "If I had it to do over again, would I clue BEAK more definitely?" My guess is -- Yes. Will?

Bye the way, I read Dilbert and occasionally enjoy it, but didn't track that name. As for the state of the comics, my favorite currently is topical and local to the San Francisco Chronicle, "Bad Reporter," by Dan Asmussen. This morning's included a headline about more safety issues emerging at the S.F. Zoo:

"Weasel Exhibit's Short Wall Allowed Geragos to Pounce on Zoo Tiger Case."

Greg 2:21 PM  

Rex, Orange, and Karen:
Thank you very much for reposting my comment and providing me with the answers! As far as the socializing and Friday/Saturday night activites, are they open to significant others or mandatory? I would presume they are, but just wanted to make sure!
I have to say that while I knew Asok from being a dilbert reader, I couldn't agree more with the overall sentiment of your post. I also had th same issue with T-man and G-man and also went with the G.
I remember years back on a November 7th puzzle when the top line was setup in such a way that either presidential candidate was listed as "winning" because the down clues could have had either letter to make the puzzle work. Shortz apparently received several angry phone calls for "getting it wrong" because many people didn't realize that it could go both ways!
As always, thank you for a great blog - I am new to it, but quickly coming to love your blogs and the responses!

korova 2:35 PM  

My post from a few minutes ago was thought-provoking (at least for me ;-). On second thought, I don't think the frequency of a word in the language is the right measure of the optimal frequency of that same word in the puzzle. E.g., I wouldn't be excited to see "this," "that," and sorts of banal words popping up every day, and nor do I think that the most obscure words should be in even a single puzzle. Perhaps a mathematician will want to suggest a formula for the relationship between a word's frequency in the language and optimal frequency in the puzzle. If ASOK is below a certain "in the language" frequency, then perhaps the 40-1 ratio in the puzzle is not so bad after all....

Anonymous 2:43 PM  

As another person who does not own a TV, but does read the comics, ASOK was a gimmee and I never heard of LISA KUDROW.
Fascinating to compare our difficulties.

Nothnagel 2:59 PM  

Hey folks.

Glad that everyone liked the puzzle (overall, that is...) -- I can see Rex's point about BEAK vs. BEAN, even if I wouldn't have fallen into the trap. (Did I just admit that I read "Dilbert" on a regular basis?)


Bryan 3:06 PM  

I can't even tell you how much I love this blog.

Macha 3:09 PM  

Loved this crossword - Marcie - I am with you - the clue should read Fed. and the same goes for the clue for LEM. Jackdaws are a common bird in Ireland so DAWS was a gimme and being an enginnerd, ASOK was a gimme too - though Rex, I prefer the answer of BEAN to BEAK. Hydromann - the clue did read "Ditsy waitress player" and therefore was accurate in refering to the name of the actress. Hoping you all have a most excellent weekend.

billnutt 3:12 PM  

Am I the only one who had ONTHEHOUSE for "Free"? You wouldn't believe how those two little letters being different from ONTHELOOSE stalled me.

Greg 3:17 PM  

Billnut - great thought! I actually got Moral Highground first, so I had the second O before I even looked at the clue! Had I not, I think I would have thought the same! Don't know why it happened that way, just what I solved first!

mac 3:23 PM  

Good puzzle, although I had some of the same problems as Rex. Only, I thought "beam" was perfectly good to crack a nut (head)...; needless to say I don't know Asok. And yes, Goedel is pronounced somewhat like girdle! I'm with some of you, I look forward to the blog and the comments as much as to the puzzle itself.

Rex Parker 3:26 PM  

The comments today have gone from making me frustrated to making me laugh. I write my comments to a very general, impersonal mass of an audience, so when Comments come back directed right at me (at my head, or BEAN, no less), I can get a little defensive. I have to assume that most of the ad hominem stuff was in relatively good fun. I do have to say, though, that if a certain very famous mathematician sincerely objected to my style of writing, I do Not (er, I mean 'not') think he would be reading this blog so regularly.


Orange 3:41 PM  


My rule of thumb is a plain ol' [Fed] is a G-MAN ("government man"), while a T-MAN is strictly from the Treasury department and thus deals with tax evaders like Al Capone. If the clue doesn't point me towards the Treasury T, I go with G-MAN.

As for guests at the ACPT, they can register as noncompetitors for a ridiculous sum of money. The awards luncheon is $75 a person! For banquet food! We thought it was ridiculously expensive in Stamford, but it was a lot less than $75 last year. I don't know if anyone really checks for registrant ID tags at any of the Friday night events, and Saturday night's apparently open to all.

Greg 3:47 PM  

Thanks again very much Orange!

as a local to the hotel, if anyone would like recommendations on food or bars, I would be more than happy to provide such!


Greg 3:47 PM  

I went to say a local to the area who lives NEAR the hotel, not a local to the hotel (though my parents stay there when they come up to visit)!

Rafaelthatmf 3:53 PM  

Pete: you had me and you lost me! To complain about execution because an alternative answer fits the clue and the cross (however clever or self gratifying) strikes me as absolutely juvenile. Karen’s OPIE/ODIE & APU references provide ample support. The self importance of needing the constructor to administer to anyone’s blind spot confounds my ability to criticize (that says something in itself). Realize you self applied the title King of Crosswords “Rex” (an appropriate use of quotes if I do say so myself).
I used to enjoy the blog and comments until Rex came down on the community for taking up too much of his time by over posting. I just can’t sort out why you’d have a comments section only to grumble about too many comments. What cheek!

mr 4:26 PM  

Yes, billnutt! I also had ONTHEHOUSE and suffered mightily. I thought it was so perfect it had to be right.

PhillySolver 4:28 PM  


For those new to Brooklyn, the immediate area around the hotel is known as DUMBO. The reason for that is a piece of trivia which requires you to look it up before you arrive and then look for it in a puzzle soon.


Do you agree the oddly named Noodle Pudding is a very good causal Italian restaurant? Do you care to weigh in on the best pizza controversy whose genesis is very near the ACPT site? (P or G?)

profphil 4:30 PM  


I for one was glad you rated the part of the puzzle in which I got stuck as unfair. I was able to complete the puzzle except for that area and resorted to Googling for Godel (that has a nice ring: Googling for Godot). I felt frustrated and disappointed but when I read that the King had trouble with the same area, I felt better.

I first had Bird for nutcracker (I think I confused it with nuthatch a kind of bird). Although bids are the ones with beaks. I switched it to bear, as in that was a bear of a job thinking that one could call a hard job or puzzle a nutcracker. Also realizing that bears are omnivores and eat nuts and probably crack them to eat them.

Orange 4:34 PM  

For more on restaurants near the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott, scroll down on the ACPT program page. Stella Daily, Francis Heaney, and Ken Stern (crossword people with Brooklyn cred) compiled an area guide with their recommendations for dining, coffee, shopping, and sightseeing.

artlvr 4:36 PM  

Loved the puzzle, enjoyed Rex's comments -- and I'm glad they're both often humorous and/or tongue-in-cheek. Who would want only plain definitions? To me, Fed is acceptable without a period, and more of a mini-trap with that ambiguity.

What's the Latin legal phrase (5D) in which "rea" means guilty"? Looks like "things" to me, as in "Rea fecit" = he did these things!

Greg 4:40 PM  

I agree 100% on Noodle Pudding, and would also offer Joya as a fantastic (and extremely inexpensive) Thai option for those with an Asian yen! ;-)
As for pizza, well, I have to say that I might have said Grimaldi's at one point, but have become a HUGE convert on Lucali's, a fantastic brick-oven pizzeria on Henry (b/w Carroll and 1st) - maybe a $7 livery cab or 20 minute walk from the hotel. Easily the best crust I have had, and I have sampled pizza from Brooklyn to New Haven (yep - beats Pepe's, Sal's, and Modern!)
Philly, if you have not had Lucali's, you HAVE to go! It's also BYOB and serves only pizza and calzones. :-)

catinahat 4:47 PM  

I found today's blog especially worthy of a comment and stimulating enough to come out of my lurking position.

I do enjoy reading this blog. But my fear of being bitten and or deleted by Rex for saying the wrong or stupid thing has clearly kept me in hiding.

There, I've said it.

Anonymous 4:47 PM  

Don't suppose it would do any good to point out that it's only a puzzle?! I enjoy your blog overall and have learned a lot from it but sometimes you can get a little intense Rex. Relax!

Greg 4:50 PM  

while I agree with many of their choices (a really wonderful guide!), I think they missed out on some choice gems! (Philly Solver's Noodle Pudding rec is much better than the Italian in the journal, though they do make a couple of very tasty recs!)
They also had a total lack of a section on PIZZA!!! You're giving people a guide to Brooklyn which makes no references on Pizza??? For shame!!! :-)

rick 5:24 PM  


mens rea or "guilty 'mind"

This is popping up in puzzles a bit lately.

David 5:45 PM  

What a rant against poor littleAsok, who already has to take quite a bit of grief as a fairly regular character in one of the most popular comics in the country. And yet the never ending parade of obscure stars, directors, co-stars, etc. are fair game? Even if I did watch sitcoms I wouldn't be nearly as likely to know an actor's name, like LISA KUDROW, as a character name, like ASOK.

Oh...and one of probably the top 5 most famous mathematicians (GODEL) of all time is also too obscure for a Friday puzzle, but a chair designer (EAMES) is good fill/cluing?!?! Is there any criterion here besides "what Rex knows"?
Just wondering, it is your blog :) .

Thanks for hte entertainment. Good luck at the tournament - hope that "166th Greatest" number drops some!

richard overholt 5:47 PM  

Enjoy Rex's blog, as always. Like profphil, I had ASOR and thought that area was a real nutcracker.

Good luck in the contest, Rex, and to anyone else who takes the moral high ground and competes.

Asok 5:51 PM  

Hate to pile on, but Asok was the first answer I put in the puzzle, though I also had the T/G-man trouble.

Haven't seen this one on the comments yet, what about the crossing of EAMES and SINE QUA NON?

Anonymous 5:52 PM  

Pardon me for being so dense, but what is 43D "ONEO cat"?

PhillySolver 6:04 PM  

@ anonymous

Why not pick a name? You will still be anonymous, but distinguishable among several others.

As to oneo....
Known as One O'cat, it is a game similar to baseball played where a field isn't laid out in the traditional diamond. It has been in the NYT about ten times in the past few years so I expect to see it again.

marcie 6:20 PM  

anonymous 5:52...

I only knew one o'cat because it was in the NYT puzzle within the past several weeks. So now you know it. Learn it. Live it. Love it... ;-)

Howard B 6:41 PM  

I hadn't even thought of the BEAK/BEAN option... I like that better. I have read Dilbert, so the K fell earlier for me, luckily. Otherwise I'd be cursing that crossing too - and I've been in that position on enough weekend puzzles to know exactly how it is.

On a complete tangent, anyone make an IHOP check in the general area? This is important stuff...

Glickstein 6:43 PM  

I get Rex's frustration about the lack of precision and comprehension exhibited by some posters who continue to miss the point by a mile.

For the record, I am the champ of know-nothingness. I don't know names in any field but certain sports and maybe movies, and some songs of the 60's and some TV up to 1980. Current music and pop culture: hardly. Science, arts, history, languages: duh. But I complete almost every Friday/Saturday puzzle because the crosses and intuition give me a fighting chance to get them, at which point most sound vaguely familiar or at least logical. Nor do I retain the names I get in this manner. I'll be just as stumped by GODEL a week from now. I got it today only because it was a better guess than TODEL.

I'll never complain about not knowing something. But the nature of this game is to give solvers a fighting chance to complete a puzzle no matter what names they don't know. In the rare times this doesn't work for me, I'll notice if the editor could have made it work with a simple revision of a clue.

So please no more of this "____ was a gimmee for me, so your problem is only personal." And anyone who tells someone to "just relax" should ... just relax.

Slash02 7:00 PM  

How often are nuts cracked with a beak, compared to a bean? You won't find the answer on google. Bean is not very intuitive to me. Just go through the alphabet when the ASO? comes up. Beak is clearly the winner.

green mantis 7:18 PM  

This puzzle was like butter ('cept for the lubed up portion, which was so NOT). Paradigm shift popped into my mind fully formed, like some kind of alien pod person, without any crosses. Thrilling.

Then I hit the "on the house" snag, which stymied me for some time because when you've got an answer that is sooo right (in its way), it seems to carve out a channel in your brain and thwart efforts to jump out and see the clue fresh. But when the correct answer is also sooo right, and you've managed to rewire yourself to find it, it's all the more satisfying.

Finally, as to the bickering, how 'bout this: if Rex gets all Rex-arific in his write-up (which is why you read this blog) and you don't agree, say, "I disagree." Stop trying to win or change his puzzle-appraisal DNA. There's plenty of room for good-natured disagreement here, I think, but the petty weirdness seems really out of place amid a community of thoughtful, intellectually curious people.

I once got my hair washed next to Lisa Kudrow.

john f 7:22 PM  

Hi Lee,

Understood. Since I was one of the people who said "___ was a gimme for me," (i.e., ASOK and GODEL), I just want you to know that doesn't mean to imply "so your problem is only personal." It wasn't intended to mean that Rex or anyone else had no reason to question the cluing. It's a fair point, i.e., whether the clues and crosses were fair. Puzzles should give solvers two shots at each square, if one direction is a little ambiguous and the other is you-know-it-or-not, it can be a problem. Sometimes the ambiguity is intentional, sometimes it's not (I think that may have been Pete's point), but an "unfair" crossing is not something that a puzzle aims for. The idea is to give solvers a challenge, perhaps, but always enough that the puzzle can be solved. In later-week puzzles, that's a fine line sometimes, and not everyone solves every puzzle perfectly all the time.

What does all this mean? I don't know, but the weekend is fast approaching and I'm done.

Karl 7:53 PM  

Hey Rex,

I'm 19 years old, and I've been doing crosswords for about 3 years, if you take out my 2 year hiatus between senior year of HS and frosh year of college.

I started reading your blog a few months ago to see what other people thought of my favorite xword. I quickly became a daily reader, considering your original commentary on the ups and downs of each daily an essential part of the solving experience, and I've almost always agreed with your opinions, even the more controversial ones.

However, being a math geek who loves Dilbert, I gotta say this rant about Asok is completely unmerited. Godel is one of the most well known mathemeticians of the 20th century, even outside of mathematical circles, and Dilbert has been one of the most popular comics of the past decade, even if you personally dislike it. It's clearly not in your field of expertise. The western corner was the first to fall for me, and overall this crossword has to be one of my favorites. I flew through it in about 15 minutes (that's fast for me).

Anyway my point is, the target age range for the NYT crossword seems to be somewhere in the mid 50s (or my generation's dads' age), and I can't even begin to tell you how many dead actors and actresses from the 1940s and 50s I've had to get fully from crosses while my Dad knew them off the top of his head. So yes, you can be angry about "Asok," but after "Godel" it was the 1st answer I put in the grid, with "beak" corroborating, so I say kudos to Nothnagel for making a first-rate puzzle with fill you don't need to be over 40 to get.

Wade 8:09 PM  

I just checked back in. You leave the comment where you attack me but delete the one where I respond to you (and then go back on the offensive)? You're more chickenshit than I originally thought.

Kathy 8:12 PM  

Wow, I was busy at work and missed all the fun commenting. This must be a record for both number of postings and level of dissension?

I was somewhat shocked that someone disliked Dilbert, but then, just because someone can't get through Russian novels, does that make Anna Karenina a bad novel?

I have the Etch-a-Sketch Dilbert on the wall in my office--I worked for someone at the time who would have fallen for it!

My favorite, though, is the one where Tina the technical writer has a technical glitch that she can't fix, forcing her to go to an engineer for help. Alice reminds her how to ask: "I'm sorry I spent my college years drinking beer and studying English Literature." That was, and is, me!

Looking forward to Saturday's slugfest....


rafaelthatmf 8:26 PM  

I hate myself for caring enough to prate on and hope the late hour keeps many from reading my second post (especially considering how it wastes Rex’s time).
I get Rex’s point that if you don’t perfectly get the clue one could invent two equally interesting answers except for one problem – only one works. While not a Dilbert regular I have a certain level of confidence that Dilbert does not consider ASON a friend. To then rail against the constructor because you believe you have a better clue/answer seems the pinnacle of pomposity. Get over yourself Rex. Best of luck in the tournament.

Justin 9:06 PM  

Karl, have you heard of Tyler Hinman (current chamption of the ACPT)? He was in his teens when he won his first ACPT tournament. If you learn about all those "dead actors and actresses" you'll have a leg up on your competition. The percentage play is for you to learn how to solve all types of puzzles and expand your skill set. Don't limit yourself to generational knowledge; that's intellectual suicide. The more you learn, the better you'll be at figuring out the things you don't know. Good luck!

Blue Stater 9:14 PM  

As one who from time to time commits the sin of cruciverbal solipsism (and nearly always gets thumped for it), I say ignore your critics, Rex, and keep up the high standard of this most excellent blog. Like you, I make (or made) my living with words (in the same line of work as you), and when I get whapped upside the head with an item like the ASOK/BEAK cross my first thought usually is that it's the puzzle's fault. Many times that's true (and I think it's at least arguably true in this case, although I didn't fall into this particular trap, having fallen into several others), but this line of argument isn't an appealing one. Nevertheless, we all ought to be able to take that line here every once in a while. We're among friends.

mac 10:03 PM  

Blue Stater, you spoke wisely. We are among friends. It struck me, after returning to the blog later this evening, that many comments were made by newbies. I'm not always completely happy, but ever respectful of Rex's comments. It's his blog! We haven't been invited, we barge in and enjoy! We're lucky he spends the time! I'm going to miss you all while on Curacao...

Jim in NYC 10:32 PM  

The other "Moon Unit"= LEM.

LEM (52D) is the Lunar Entry Module, part of the gear that went to the Moon with the Apollo program.

Indication is a noun -- is eek a noun?

Dunno if EEK (21A) is a noun or not, but it's a sound, and a word, and it indicates fright as clued.

Night all!

voiceofsocietyman 10:44 PM  

I was really impressed with the puzzle, over all, especially with the lengthy fill and great cluing.

As for the big debate, I got Asok right away but asked the wife to name some Dilbert coworkers, and she couldn't. She immediately named Odie as one of Garfield's friends, however. Actually, I thought that the LISA KUDROW clue was too obscure. I'd have alluded to Friends instead.

And of course BEAN would have been a great answer for nutcracker.

Eric 12:20 AM  

My thoughts:

- I had a huge crush on Helen Hunt-era Mad About You, and Lisa Kudrow's waitress was hilarious. Her best work was in "The Comeback" as an actress trying to regain her former status. Good stuff.

- Nutcracking beaks reminds me of a great book, "The Beak of the Finch" by Jonathan Weiner which shows how evolution is constantly working. I've read it, unlike

- Godel, Escher, Bach, which has been sitting on my bookshelf for 17 years. Unlike

- Crime & Punishment, a Russian novel which, like Dilbert, is great, like

- The Muppet Movie, which has all the characters head for the roof because the drinks are "On The House," (yes, that tripped me up for a while).

I really love this blog, Rex, and your comments and rants and everyone's responses. I love reading what you've all struggled with or found easy breezy and comparing it with my experiences. I love when someone explains why "Bean" is a good answer for "Nutcracker" and I think "Damn, that is too clever. It never would have occured to me."

Thanks for listening. Good luck to all of you in NYC.

Eric from Madison

Fergus 12:22 AM  

LEM is actually Lunar Excursion Module. And what is TSE for 27A?

I know it's kinda late, but I just got around to reading this after a day in the great outdoors (Elkhorn Slough, an inlet from Monterey Bay -- what a great place!), puzzling in the car on the way there and back. Yeah that Washington and Oregon section was tough. Nearly every letter of ON THE LOOSE has been overwritten; I even started to doubt the MORAL part of my HIGH GROUND. (Ironic, eh?) But then I remembered Hofsteader's (spelling?) book, tried THAW instead of EASE, stuck in the KNIFE, thought about lubrication and finally delivered the final product.

Hit the blog not long after I got home, simply to offer the highest praise to Mike Nothnagel for a truly superb and and entertaining puzzle. Slightly sorry I wasn't online during the day, since I like a bit of controversy once in a while. The issue today seemed to take on a dispute over one's personal taste, however, and that doesn't generally lead very far. Anyway, I expect any of the disputants will by now have washed away any controversy with the fruit of the zymurgist's art. Again, a top-notch puzzle, that left me with a satisfied sense of accomplishment.

Wally 12:23 AM  

It is official, this post and comments made it to the important posts section under - Don't @#$# with "Dilbert" .

Karl 1:19 AM  


Thanks for the response. I've seen Wordplay, so I know who Tyler Hinman is, and I was rooting for him. Props to fellow young solvers. While the NYT crossword is at best indifferent and at worst dismissive of our tiny demographic, there are a few choice constructors that cater to our tastes more than the norm.

And yes, I agree that it's important for me to memorize all the crazy names that appear in these crosswords, but as Rex pointed out, many of these names are not used due to their artistic or cultural signifance, but because their name provides a unique combination of letters that can get a constructor out of a jam. So a leg up if i do, yes, "intellectual suicide," if i don't, not so much.

Jenn in Yonkers 1:19 AM  

Got paradigm shift and moral high ground immediately, making the remainder of the puzzle relatively easy for a Friday. However, I was stumped by "lubed" and of course "Asok". Fun puzzle though!

Orange 1:27 AM  

Karl, I hope you're also solving the Onion A.V. Club crossword, Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, and the Jonesin' crossword. Those ones don't need to balance the tastes of solvers from 15 to 90, and will probably be harder for your dad than for you.

jae 2:14 AM  

@fergus -- thats TSA for 27a = Transportation Security Administration -- the folks who pat you down and take your toothpaste.

jae 2:14 AM  

@fergus -- thats TSA for 27a = Transportation Security Administration -- the folks who pat you down and take your toothpaste.

jae 2:15 AM  

I have no idea why that posted twice???

Shel 10:05 AM  

I have to admit that I usually do not finish Friday puzzles, but I zipped right through this one. Go figure.

Shelby, Montclair, NJ

DPNFlorida 11:14 AM  

I was pleased to see that someone hates Dilbert as much as I, and that someone remembered Godel Escher Bach, a cult classic at the time it came out.

Anonymous 6:54 PM  

I only do the Fri, Sat, Sun puzzles because they're harder. This one got me like everyone else: Godel, beak, Asok. Anyway, it was a fun puzzle. If they're not dificult, why bother? Puzzle on, everybody.

eric 9:44 PM  

C'mon Friday wasn't THAT bad...actually Thursday was worse. Finally on to general so much of Saturday is fact-driven vs. word-play driven it often comes down to "you know it or you don't." I usually do the puzzles in ink & no reference books, but Saturday I allow myself a reference book. Edel? Peabo? Ernie Stautner? She Bop? Cape Cod? The word play (e.g. MDDegree, Registrar, Reality TV) was fun though.

shel 3:10 PM  


Friday and Saturday puzzle are more difficult...Sunday--not so much.

rosebud 10:09 AM  

Okay, so here I am six weeks behind everyone else, and probably posting into the ether for no one ever to read....

I liked Asok. Seems fair to me, especially since many papers publish the crosswords on the same page as the comics--and yes I know that can't apply to the NYT

ONTHEHOUSE gave me MUR.... for the start of 33 across--had a tough time figuring out how MURDER was going to fit in with doing the right thing.

As my self-imposed time limit was running down, all I had left was the intersection of 55A and 45D. Didn't know "Practices zymurgy" and going through the alphabet got me to "OH WOE" instead of "OH WOW"

Rookie coming to ACPT next week...look forward to meeting all of you.

Rex Parker 10:12 AM  

On the contrary, thousands of people are reading this entry today (2/22), so comment away - you are not alone.


Anonymous 10:50 AM  

I'm reading 6 weeks later also...I had to know what ONEO cat was. Got the answer from a previous blogger!

Kim in Texas

Syndication Lurker 1:03 PM  


I sympathize with your frustration over the many comments from people who misunderstand your point. The "fairness" question has little or nothing to do with the ASOK answer itself. The issue is that IF you don't know ASOK, you can make an equally strong case for either BEAN or BEAK for 25 down. Thus, it's like you've really only got one shot at getting that square right.

Anonymous 2:31 PM  

CAlady said:
As a math person, i wonder how I never heard of Goedol-maybe that's because I took my math work (History of Math included) some 50 plus years ago? At any rate, what I think this means is that your age plays a big part in what you do and don't get. I am amazed that someone as young as Rex (age is relative) gets the answers he does. Give him few more years and he will be even more awesome!!

Jet City Gambler 3:58 PM  

I loved this one, GODEL and PARADIGMSHIFT were two of the first answers I got.

ASOK is one of those I've learned from crosswords: Garfield clues are always ODIE, Chaplain clues are always OONA, Melville clues are always OMOO, architects are always ELIEL (or PEI), and Ferrari clues are always ENZO.

Except when they're not. Great puzzle, MN. Excellent blog, Rex. Good luck in the tourney!

boardbtr 4:26 PM  

As another six week laggard I never cease to be impressed by the range of knowledge that rex, et al display. While being rated as easy (for a Friday), I certainly enjoyed slogging through this puzzle even though I had to employ all sorts of aids. Thanks for your time to put this together, rex.

Martin 5:52 PM  

This one was a quick Friday for me, right at 9 minutes. I had to think about ASOK for a little bit but eventually remembered it. GODEL was not a problem either.

I second the thoughts of the poster who said that he and Nothnagel were of the same mind.

I don't have a problem with T-MEN vs. G-MEN unless the cross is similarly ambiguous. Like those awful "mid 6th century year" clues that could either be DLXI or DXLI or any other host of answer.

Evelyn 7:35 PM  

OK, this has been a real learning experience for me, and first time here. I had to Google "Toiletry brand introduced in 1977" (duh) and this blog was the only hit -- thank you Rex Parker. Sadly, I had no problem with Asok.

General question: I've been trying NYT for a couple of weeks, and found that Sunday hasn't been as tough for me as Friday and Saturday? Is that usual? Thanks,
I've really enjoyed these posts.

SleeplessInSeattle 11:53 PM  

Just a word for those of us stuck in "syndicated hell". I loved this puzzle! Loved Paradigm Shift. Also, I work in a group of Engineers who love Dilbert. My first guess was Asok (he's been in the strip A LOT lately), but one of my co-workers found a Dilbert website that listed about 400 different characters that have shown up over the years. Also note that ALL letters of the alphabet are in this puzzle (thanks to Zinc Oxide!)

Aviatrix 3:12 AM  

Fricking awesome puzzle. Finally a puzzle for people with a stronger base in math and science than in American sports and politics. Orange and others have said much of what I was going to about GODEL and ASOK. Famous in this case is a Pulitzer-prize winning book recently reprinted in an anniversary edition. It's famous. I'll never understand how an arts student gets out of university without taking one single math or science course, while a math or science student is required to have at least one arts credit every semester yet it's the arts student who is said to have the well-rounded education.

I knew SCONE from the end of MacBeth and BREWS from the end of the dictionary.

I still don't understand the cluing for IRE and had no idea about ONEOCAT until I found it from Phillysolver here. I'm a little confused why an obscure variant of baseball comes under the category of "it's been in puzzles ten times before, know it" when ASOK is "it's only been in puzzles five times. It's not fair."

I see your chagrin at having an unknown cross BEAN, and after all your responses to everyone else's responses gather that if there's a word you don't know it is simply not allowed to cross an ambiguous word. I guess this is just a glimpse into how good you are at solving crosswords compared to the rest of us. Maybe you were just jumpy about the upcoming contest when you wrote it.

I had to double check a few crosses: hadn't heard of Mad About You or LISAKUDROW, so I didn't know if I needed EEK or EEP. Likewise PENNS LANDING was a lucky guess, as I didn't know SOP for bribe.

And SleeplessinSeattle seems to have a J that I don't. At one point near the end I was looking where to put a J, expecting one after seeing Zs and X.

I was actually doing this puzzle in a restaurant and the waiter noticed and said he no longer did the New York Times crossword because it had too much American politics and entertainment. "But this one doesn't!" I said enthusiastically. But ya know: 51A.

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