MONDAY, Feb. 18, 2008 - Lynn Lempel (PITCHER'S FAUX PITCH)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: LEFT-ists - theme phrases all start with words that are (supposed to be) synonyms for non-conservative political affiliations

Well, for those of you who were expecting a higher-than-166th-place finish from me at the upcoming American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, I have a bad omen to report. That omen is today's puzzle, which I tanked like I have not tanked a Monday puzzle since I began blogging. Lately my times have been in the low 3's. Today, high 6's. I couldn't get serious traction to save my life. None of the long phrases made any kind of sense to me, and the NW ... well, I actually had a mini-free-fall up there, where a Horrible baseball clue threw me off completely. Sometimes, knowing too much about a subject can, it seems, hurt you. So I rated this puzzle "Challenging." And yet I doubt other people had anything like the trouble I did. Times at the NYT site seemed normal enough. And I really like Lynn Lempel's puzzles, generally, and don't want to rip into it just because I sucked as a solver. So I'll just tell you where the wheels came off, and try to whine as little as possible.

My underlying problem was with the theme - not just that I couldn't see it, but that the phrases felt far outside the language. I mean, they are phrases one might use, but they don't seem very strong as self-standing phrases. Not xword-worthy. To my ears. Let's start with 17A: Free health and dental care, and then some (Liberal benefits). Frowny face, I say. So Frowny, in fact, that I had -I-E-ALBENEFITS and couldn't figure out what the hell it was. That's the NW corner that's so bullet-ridden there where LIBERAL is supposed to be - more on that later. Then there's 25A: Math symbol for extraction of a root (radical sign), which is really high-end for a Monday. The SIGN part was, for no clear reason, slow in coming. [symbol] for SIGN = kind of anti-climactic. LEFT HANGING (45A: In limbo), which a crossword blogger who shall remain nameless cited (to me) as the iffiest of the bunch, was actually the theme answer I got most readily. Then there was PROGRESSIVE LENS (57A: Eyeglass option for different distances), which I have never heard of. Or, rather, I think I have heard of, but not as clued. My idea was that PROGRESSIVE LENSes were the kind that got darker in sunlight. So, the whole theme just tortured me. On a Monday, if I stumble, I expect to move a little to one side and pick it up again. Not today.

Another thing about the theme: RADICAL does not belong in here. A RADICAL can be right just as well as he can be left. In fact, "the RADICAL right" feels like a much more in-the-language phrase than anything currently associating that word with the LEFT. Further, the whole idea that politics can be effectively understood in terms of right and left is a Lie that the entire world seems quite content to perpetuate because it suits our outmoded Dem v. Rep binary system so well. But this is not the place for that discussion. Probably.

Then there's the specific problem of the NW, and the answer that is really the linchpin of my catastrophic experience: 1D: Pitcher's faux pitch (balk). I follow baseball. You might say I'm a fan. See my earliest write-ups, where I'm out-of-my-mind excited about the Tigers, or this past fall's write-ups, where I can barely refrain from gushing about the Red Sox (whom I've rooted for since Roger Clemens's rookie season, back when becoming a lying steroids-user was probably the furthest thing from his mind). I know what a BALK is. It is not a pitch, and not a "faux pitch." A BALK is a ruling by an umpire on a pitcher's actions, one of which might be any number of feints. The list of balkable actions is long. This is all to say that faking a pitch is not a balk. Pitchers fake runners out all the time (especially lefties trying to keep a man on first) by pretending to start their pitching motions but then not moving toward home but instead stepping and throwing toward first. That is not a balk. To call a "balk" a pitcher's "faux pitch" is absolutely absurd. Makes it sounds like it's something he's got in his repertoire, whereas it's a ruling *about* the pitcher's actions. Many "faux pitches" are not balks at all - in fact, none of them are inherently balks. They have to be ruled as such. It is not a pitch, and it does not belong to the pitcher, the way the clue suggests. I had PALM here, thinking that maybe the pitcher has PALMED the ball (pretended not to have it) and then somehow used that deceit ... to do something. You can see that I was desperate.

The one mystery of the NW, to me, was why I never wrote in BABY at 3D: One often needing a change. When I read that clue, it's the first thing that pops up (not @#$#$#ing BOBS UP - 1A: Bounce to the suface). Who knows what happens to one's brain mid-solve. I think the frustration over BALK colored the whole puzzle experience for me.

Other Issues:

  • 34A: Entree in a bowl with beef or lamb, say (meat stew) - this is a crossword-worthy phrase? Don't most stews have meat? I expect my longish answers to be far less arbitrary-seeming than this. I think the word MEAT is just rubbing me the wrong way. Perhaps something to do with yesterday's beef recall and the infernal treatment of the cattle in those videos (and in general, frankly).
  • 39A: "Hey, come back a bit" ("not so far") - the longish counterpart to MEAT STEW. This is terrible. I was befuddled that NOT SO FAST (an actual phrase) would not fit. The arbitrariness of these two important, anchor answers is very disappointing.
  • 42A: Enter en masse (pour in) - not sure why, but it feels off. The more I think on it, the more acceptable it seems, though, so I'll just leave it.
  • 5D: "Couldn't be better!" ("Perfect!") - file this with "NOT SO FAR" under "Colloquialisms I Could Not Retrieve."
  • 7D: Ear or leaf part (lobe) - wrote this in, but the "leaf" part made my answer feel very iffy.
  • 8D: Four Corners area Indians (Utes) - this was OTOE, then OTOS. If I'd been thinking about geography very clearly, I wouldn't have made this mistake.
  • 6D: Pertaining to a son or daughter (filial) - more idiocy on my part. I teach about FILIAL piety every @#$# year when I teach the Aeneid, and still this word would not budge. I blame FLUB (6A: Botch).
  • 13D: Move skyward (rise) - SOAR is the much, much better answer here, as it actually has associations with the "sky," whereas RISE is banal and generic and describes the action of bread more aptly than it describes what a plane or bird does.
  • 23D: Bygone Italian coins (liras) - wrote it in quickly, while cringing. Is that really the plural?
  • 25D: Monsoon occurrences (rains) - I thought RAINS were part of "monsoons." I didn't know RAINS were a separate "occurrence." Well, it appears that a "monsoon" is just a seasonal prevailing wind. So ... there. Now I know.
  • 42D: Home viewing for a price (pay TV) - completely befuddling. I was trying to imagine a situation where you would pay to have a realtor show you a home. Why would you do that? Terrible phrasing on the clue. Or maybe it's Wednesday or Thursday phrasing, and that's what's bugging me.
  • 51D: Cries after being burned (yows) - one more thing to groan at.

There's a nice Russia subtheme here, with LENIN, ASIA, and TSAR. There, I said something vaguely positive. I feel better.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Rifka 9:14 AM  

Maybe Pitcher's faux pitch is a typo for Faux pas! That would make more sense.

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

Of course the plural of "lira" 23D is "lire", but I guess it was acceptable (though jarring to the ear) for American tourists who didn't know better to have said "liras".

DONALD 9:34 AM  

I wanted BALL. Glad you set it straight!

Anonymous 9:42 AM  

RADICAL is in fact only properly used to describe the extreme left. The proper word for the right wing counterpart is REACTIONARY - although this hasn't stopped many, many otherwise intelligent people from flubbing it in everyday use.

radioguy 9:49 AM  

Count me in as a baseball fan who was similarly befuddled by "Pitcher's faux pitch" specifically and the NW in general. I wound up clearing out the whole corner and starting from scratch before getting it right. The clue would've worked better with a question mark.

By the way Rex, a palmball is an actual pitch that's thrown when one wraps all five fingers around the ball. It acts as a changeup. However, few throw it anymore.

Richard 9:58 AM  

BALK was a gimme for me - an incomplete action with the intention of fooling a runner.
MEAT STEW made sense to me, living in vegan land.
Have to disagree with Rex about the theme answers.
LIBERAL BENEFITS are often seen in want ads (ourside of academia).
PROGRESSIVE LENS is an option for those (like me) who don't want bifocals.
As for LIBERAL = RADICAL = LEFT = PROGRESSIVE, I have no problem perhaps because of of the rantings of certain radio talk shows.

Are crosswords to be reflective or corrective of usage?

Jim in Chicago 10:07 AM  

I was hanging my head in shame when I finally finished this puzzle - I almost failed the "bus test" and on a Monday no less. So now I feel better seeing that Rex gave it a challenging!

For the baseball clue, I settled on WALK, thinking that when the pitcher walks someone be design the pitch is purposely way off the mark, or fake, or faux. This left me with WOBUP, only then did BALK hit me as a possible, but really an ugly, answer.

I don't care if tourist call them Liras, this is the Times and the answer is just plain incorrect. Shame.

I also have a small problem with RAINS for "monsoon occurrences". Doesn't a monsoon equal rain? The clue made me look for something the sometimes happens during a monsoon.

I think MEATSTEW is OK, although awkward. You can certainly have a vegetable stew, since a stew is essentially a well cooked mixture of "stuff". I got MEAT first, and was afraid that the answer was going to be MEATLOAF, which I've never seen served in a bowl, most versions I've encountered tend more toward the "adobe brick" side of density rather than moist.

My stupid moment for the day goes to ALIAS, which I blew since I still haven't learned that the Star Wars character is LEIA, not LELA. This left me with ALLAS, which I decided was some corruption of ALA, which I just left and moved on.

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

Rex read my mind completely on this puzzle. Had all the same problems he did, and couldn't wait to read the blog this morning to find out if I was alone. Glad to see I was not.

Karen 10:09 AM  

I thought BALK was perfectly obvious. It might be a case of knowing too much about a subject; yesterday's 'curling target'=TEE gave me the same sense of befuddlement that you evince.

I did the puzzle by the down clues, and missed most of the troublesome theme answers.

Nice use of the Watchmen smiley.

rick 10:19 AM  

Maybe BALK was a fine shading of the clue for a Monday but I got it right away (also a big baseball fan and I am really looking forward to the whole Detriot, Cleveland, Boston, New York battles this year).

JC66 10:32 AM  


First, let me say I read your blog daily and love your rants.

Two nits on today's write up.

Isn't it a BALK when a pitcher illegally pretends to deliver the ball home? Couldn't this be a faux pitch?

Also, I think there are many types of fish stews (Bouillabaisse, etc).

Keep up the good work & good luck at the tourney.


PhillySolver 10:33 AM  

I am glad my time to complete wasn't out of line. I had to redo a couple of things, but mostly it just worked at my slow steady pace. LIRAS has been used as Italian coins three times previously here I see. I am amazed at the number of first time words showing up in a Monday puzzle, but I like that and yes, BOBUP made its debut today. I just wonder why Pinko didn't make an appearance in the puzzle.

Jim in NYC 10:42 AM  

Have to agree with Richard and Karen on BALK. All I know about baseball is what my father told me in about 1961, and it's what Richard said, an incomplete pitching motion where the ball's not released, intended to fool the batter, or the runner, or just accidental.

No way I'm going to remember all that "balk" stuff Rex cited in Wikipedia.

I wonder what C.P.Snow would have thought about Crossworld. For most of us there's some field of knowledge that just doesn't seem real and can't be learned, be it sports, or teenage pop stars, or science, or opera ....

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

My biggest complaint is 39A: NOTSOFAR. When does anyone ever say "Hey, come back a bit" or "Not so far"? To a straying toddler, maybe. In any case, there are much more interesting ways to use 9 letters than this.

Anonymous 10:53 AM  

oops ... I mean 8 letters.

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

Progressive lenses are graduated biofocals or trifocals without a line; transition lenses are the ones that get dark in sunlight.

The definitions could just as easily work the other way.

And I, too, found this far more difficult than the usual Monday. I never even saw the theme.

Bill from NJ 10:56 AM  

I can always tell from sports clues whether or not the constructor is a sports fan and, therefore, used to bad clues. A roundabout way of saying I don't expect accuracy in sports clues so I didn't have the same problem as Rex.

I found a lot of clues to be off this morning but not radically so and my solve time was in the mid-7s.

william e emba 11:14 AM  

I got my first PROGRESSIVE LENS glasses six months ago, and was kicking myself as I was unable to remember what they were called as I slowly filled out the answer from the crosses.

For those too young to need them, they are shaped so that you have different focussing strengths depending on how high or low you look at things through the lens. I read normally, or sometimes I tilt my head up, and I have to tilt my head down a little to see well in the middling distances, and much more down to see well beyond that.

This is in contrast with bifocals, which just offer two strengths. Those lenses come with an obvious hairline splitting the two parts. A PROGRESSIVE LENS offers continuous grading, so there is no hairline.

Which reminds me. Until about two weeks ago, the comments window would pop open and I could resize it for easy large print reading. (No, my eyes aren't that bad, I just like to sit way way back.) Not any more. It's also annoying that in Firefox, the comments window doesn't pop open in a new tab. I assume this is all incompetence.

I only filled in FILIAL as the crosses forced it on me. "Fils", "Filius", etc, mean son, not child. Ugh.

ArtLvr 11:15 AM  

Dear me! I loved the puzzle -- just right for a NYT Monday, I thought! Not too many proper names to get from crosses, only: LEIA, LANA, LOY, ELS, PATTY and RYDER, well enough spread out. Easy scientific stuff: LOBE, ILIA, AORTA, ALGAE, LENS, ANTS and SIGN for "symbol"....

Also, if you were watching simultaneous currency exchange boards in trading money futures, or at a Christie's sale, you wouldn't have expected to see foreign plurals like "lire" for LIRAS, would you?

Anyway, the only FLUB I had to ink over was the last half of "hatred" to get HATING, after hitting the last few items at the bottom center. As to BALK, it suits the non-sports-minded -- give Lynn a little leeway? Nobody's PERFECT!


Anonymous 11:21 AM  

Mr. Emba, re FILIAL, try an English dictionary next time. It was clued correctly.

ArtLvr 11:24 AM  

p.s. FILIAL fits either offspring, a Latin "filius" or "filia", as in "filial devotion"....


Alex 11:41 AM  

I may have heard the phrase LIBERAL BENEFITS at some point but have forgotten it. So when I had -----ALBENEFITS the obvious answer was MEDICAL BENEFITS which forced out BALK (wasn't entirely happy with the clue but it seemed the only possible answer).

I was very much in WTF mode when I realized I was a 3rd of the way down the grid and still only had a couple words in place.

Anonymous 11:46 AM  

Absolutely right on BALK, Rex. My baseball knowledge threw me off here, too, and I couldn't fill in the northwest until I though of BABY.

richard: Your definition of balk -- "incomplete action with the intention of fooling a runner" -- is wrong. A balk is not necessarily "incomplete," and, most importantly, it is not an attempt to fool. It is a mistake: a pause that's too long, a turn too far toward a runner. "Faux" implies intent to fool, and that's where the clue goes wrong.

Anonymous 12:09 PM  

To quote Ted Turner, back when owners were allowed in the dugout, "What's a balk?"

karmasartre 12:17 PM  

Rex, re. a higher than 166th place finish: your Blog has done alot (oh alright, a lot) to help the competition!

I found this one pretty Monday-easy, with crosses helping everywhere. Surprising, given the others' comments, and after Friday's and Saturday's puzzles convinced me I had the Wrong Stuff.

Great Zippy graphic, but I agree on YOW clue.

miriam b 12:25 PM  

My outrage over LIRAS and YOWS was assuaged by the appearace of one of my favorite people: the OAF.
If an oaf didn't make the cut on Project Runway, would he be "auf'd"?*

*An exegesis is in order in case you don't watch the show (probably a good thing): The hostess is the German model Heidi Klum. One of her duties is to dismiss unsuccessful designers with an "Auf Wiedersehen" and a literal kiss-off (both cheeks, Euro style). This week I saw several oafs being auf'd.

This is probably TMI.

billnutt 12:37 PM  

Well, shows what I know. I assumed BALk right from the get-go.

I've been wearing PROGRESSIVE LENSES for about two years now. And I won't even mention that I turn 49 on Wednesday. Honest, I won't.

My only FLUB was SLAMS instead of SLUGS, which slowed me down a tad.

Myrna LOY intersecting with Winona RYDER. Two hubba-hubba-worthy actresses of different eras.

Nothing to do with anything, but Steve Gerber's death last week has really bummed me out. His comics got me through some tough times in the 1970s.

Happy Presidents' Day, everyone!

Phineas 12:43 PM  

In the large corporate setting in which I am employed, the phrase LIBERAL BENEFITS is not uncommon. "Generous" is the most common qualifier, with "package" nearly always used afterward.

The only credibility I can lend to the phrases NOTSOFAR and "Hey, come back a bit" is the image of child or spouse swimming away from a shore....or walking a tightrope.

I agree with Rex and other comments that this puzzled lacked in multiple areas, but my time was normal for M/T.

william e emba 12:44 PM  

I know what dictionaries say FILIAL means. I just don't like it at all. I don't think I ever will.

George 12:45 PM  

BALK was a gimme for me. I think the debate here is a bit silly. Basically, when you think of a pitcher's screwup, it's a balk. Especially if you have the B...

RAINS and YOWS are weak answers but easy...

Jetflyer 12:55 PM  

Thought I lost a couple of days there and woke up doing a Wednesday puzzle.
Glad I'm not the only one who thought this was tough for a Monday.

Anonymous 1:00 PM  

As to stew, I think the clue should have read : with beef and lamb, rather than "with beef or lamb." If it is one or the other all would say beef-stew or lamb -stew and not meat stew. If a stew had both then the term meat-stew would be more apt albeit unusual.


wendy 1:08 PM  

I have not been unable to finish a Monday puzzle in so long I'm not sure if it's ever even happened to me.

That NW corner was just not coming to me at all.

I've decided I really do not like what I would call the "utterances" device in these puzzles. I don't know what exactly turns me off about them, but they seem so arbitrary. So because I never can remember how to correctly spell LEIA the word PERFECT was not leaping out as the right answer to Utterance 5D.

And the Hey Come Back A Bit utterance - the only context I could fathom here to produce NOT SO FAR was coming from a photographer who's trying to get someone in a shot. And that may not make any sense either.

Anyway, I really really don't like these, and more than one in a puzzle ires the hell out of me. Or irks, depending on your POV.

Leon 1:13 PM  

Re: Balk.

Eleven ways to balk includes two examples of faux pitches 7 and 8.

rick 1:58 PM  


As mentioned above:

I have the same problem, the comments window size cannot be changed beyond a tiny box.

Is anyone else having this problen (I.E. v.6)?

Orange 2:09 PM  

Wm. Emba: Can you suggest a gender-neutral term for FILIAL that doesn't exclude half of the human race? If not, then we're keeping FILIAL for both male and female offspring.

I would use NOT SO FAR as a colloquial equivalent to "not yet." "Have you finished that Saturday crossword?" "Not so far. Still plugging away at it."

PhillySolver 2:24 PM  

I, too, am unable to expand the comments window here and for awhile I thought Firefox was to blame since the sidebars to this blog were unfamiliar, but now I see Rex has rearranged it.

Doug 2:53 PM  

I love a bunfight over minutiae--What a great bunch of armchair opiners we are!

Was nice to have a Monday puzzle that had some screwballs and knuckleballs in it. Lancers vrais!

Liz 3:01 PM  

I've had the same problem with only a single column and non-expandable comments window. I've tried 2 different Macs, one running Leopard 10.5.2 and the other Tiger 10.4.1. Both Firefox and Safari have the same problem. It's really annoying for my older eyes and inconvenient to have to use the arrows to go up or down.

On to the day's puzzle. I guess I don't worry quite as much about the niceties of the language and have come to expect the NYT Crosswords to play fast and loose with the language even when the clues don't use a ? to signal a deviation. I just put on my thinking cap and twist things around to come up with the expected answer.

I tried progressive lenses but coming from bifocals I couldn't stand them because they greatly reduced the field of view for reading. They were great otherwise. My ophthalmologist wears them for general use but switches to conventional bifocals or trifocals for reading.

Bingmagi 3:13 PM  

The fact that "Hey, come back a bit" was "Not so far" instead of "Not so fast" made me want to pull Shortz' toenails out with rusty pliers. I guess the clue does kind of hint at "far" more than "fast" with the the whole "come back" thing, but come on.


Anonymous 3:19 PM  

I also had a hard time for a Monday. Took more than twice my normal Monday time (nearly triple). Although I thought 'balk' was obvious, I had a lot of the same reactions as Rex to the rest of the puzzle. Liras is just not a word.

me 3:21 PM  

I had a very hard time with this puzzle also. It didn't make sense to me either. Glad I wasn't the only one! Also I had to start from the bottom and work my way up, because a lot of the first clues were very odd.

Paul 3:26 PM  

I agree with Rex on a lot of his criticism - I thought this crossword was bullshit for a monday from the NY
Times. LIRAS is painful to my Italian eyes (just like I cringe when people use panini or biscotti in the singular), and a combination of awkward clues (e.g. BOB UP) and ugly gimmes (e.g. LEIA, RYDER) were all the worse. Took me almost 8 minutes to solve, I usually do Monday in the high 4's, low 5's. Poo.

Anonymous 3:28 PM  

Using Firefox on a Mac look for the Window menu and select Zoom. This will expand the comments window to full size. I'm using Firefox and Leopard.

JC66 3:30 PM  

A fairly simple solution:
If you're using a Mac, you can increase the size of the type face by holding down the Command (Apple) Key and pressing the + Key (next to delete). Repeat to taste.

A more complicated one:
If you're running the new Leopard OS and Safari set to open new window in a new tab, you can make the Comments Window larger by holding down the Command (Apple) Key and the Shift Key simultaneously while clicking on a URL link contained in the Comments (like the 7 and 8 in Leon's eleven ways to balk includes two examples of faux pitches 7 and 8, above). Then drag the "Blogger:Rex Parker Does the... to your Safari tab line and the Comments Window will open there.

You just have to wait for a blue link to click on.

JC66 3:39 PM  

You beat me to the punch. Much easier on Firefox, doesn't work that way on Safari.

JC66 3:56 PM  

I found an easier way if you're on a Mac and running Leopard & Safari. After opening the Comments Window, just go back to Rex's page, then under the Window menu, click on Merge All Windows and the Comments Window will become the same size as Rex's.

Hope this helps.

JC66 3:57 PM  

I found an easier way if you're on a Mac and running Leopard & Safari. After opening the Comments Window, just go back to Rex's page, then under the Window menu, click on Merge All Windows and the Comments Window will become the same size as Rex's.

Hope this helps.

doc John 4:01 PM  

Another choice to make viewing easier on a Mac is to hold down the Control key while using your scroll wheel to scroll up. When you are finished, Control-scroll down to return to regular size.

I was glad to see that Rex found this one challenging. It took me about twice the normal time. Although I got BALK easily (sometimes only having a minimal knowledge is helpful), the rest of the cluing was not Monday-easy. Fortunately, there were enough Monday words such as PSAT, TSAR, ATARI that it allowed me to finish the solving.

ehicks77 4:19 PM  

best Monday puzle in a long time!!I think those who complain about not solving it under 10 minutes suffer from immediate gratification syndrome

Doug 5:10 PM  

Hey, let's get our units of measurement aligned here.

Can distance ("Come back a bit") be measured with a speed, i.e, "NOT SO FAST?" "NOT SO FAR" seems to be a perfectly acceptable answer to describe A BIT. "Okay kids, smile. Johnny, get closer to your sister. Billy come back a bit. No, no, not so far, I can't see Jane now." Compare to "No, no, not so fast, I can't see Jane now."

If the answer had been given as NOT SO FAST I imagine there would be howls as well? Please don't COME BACK with some time travel reasoning. "Superman, stop circling the earth at the speed of light and come back a bit. No, not so fast, you've let Lois Lane fall in the earthquake crevice again."

Anonymous 5:26 PM  

There's also an option in Blogger to not display comments in a popup window. Rex can change this.

As for the puzzle, I didn't think it was that hard. Maybe because I was not focusing on the theme. Or because I don't know the strict definition of a balk.

rick 6:34 PM  

Rex and Linda G. please read the above.

rick 6:40 PM  

And I mean *really* read the above. Reading the comments this way is tortuous.

TORTUOUS: That is a crosswordy word if I have ever seen one.

Four vowels and four great moddle of a word consanants.

rick 6:41 PM  

While moddle is a great looking word, middle probably works better.

Rex Parker 6:57 PM  

I confess I do not understand the kerfuffle about the comments. It's the same pop-up box I've always had. I read the comments in it every day. I had no idea people were resizing it. That's a blogger defect. My only options at this point is going to a non-pop-up window, which is Horrible as you cannot then see the stuff in the post you want to comment on.


Rifka 7:13 PM  

Please leave things as they were Rex - I think there have been some excellent suggestions for how to make the postings easier to read - I get the feeling that some people have had too much time on their hands on this holiday :-)

rick 7:55 PM  

Rex, I really liked your blog and if it's comfortable to you then so be it.

But I'm gone, solid gone.

Howard B 8:01 PM  

Had similar troubles with all the theme answers except for the RADICAL SIGN, which my inner math geek enjoyed (although I agree with the confusion of the meaning of 'radical' here).
NOT SO FAR really bugged me on this one, though - this was a tough ride for a Monday.

Lauren 8:02 PM  

There's a way I discovered to read this blog with comments at the bottom instead of in the little boxy thing. Go to the JimH blog and look for From Other Blogs on the right and then click on the rex blog articles there. Way easier for me to read.

Michael 8:27 PM  

I completely agree with just about all of Rex's comments today. I am a big baseball fan and really object to
"faux pitch" = balk. Yes, some faux pitches are balks. But many balks are not faux pitches.

This puzzle did have the easiest clue I've seen in some time "like 16, vis a vis 15 agewise"....

Jim in Chicago 8:31 PM  

Rex, Don't rush to change the comments. On MY PC, using either IE or Firefox, they pop open a box about 3 by 4 inches (hardly tiny) that is very easy to scroll through. Put me in the "I don't understand all the excitement" column.

PhillySolver 8:31 PM  


thanks.,,that helps. I am among a number who used to be able to expand the comments box too a full page, but a new release of Blogger seems to have killed that option.

mac 9:15 PM  

Not as smooth as most Mondays, and I agree with most of Rex's comments. As far as I know I have never heard or met a "yow", and I have also never heard the term meat stew, although I have a sizeable cook book library. It is always specific as in beef, pork, lamb, fish etc. stew. I do have to disagree with Rex on one issue: to move skyward is to rise, go up; soaring you can do high in the sky but staying in one altitude.

scriberpat 9:28 PM  

French dictionary "faux" includes "erroneous" and "wrong" which could explain "balk" as illegal.

English dictionaries' "faux" has "artificial" or "fake" or "imitation" or "ersatz" which by a long shot don't quite account for the entire list of umpires' "balk."

Leon 1:13's "#8 balk" reads to be meaning like a "fake out" so we can suppose that the "list of balks" is to the "#8 balk" as the "can of tomatoes" is to the "tomatoes" as per Blogger Rex Parker Saturday February 16 where I learned the word "metonymy" thank you. see that day "Treedweller 12:39" and "Orange 1:08" and "Miriam 2:31 (near the end of that entry)" and "Wendy 2:55" -- perhaps "faux" and "balk" interact the way "tomatoes" and "can(of tomatoes)" do via metonymy, that is if we consider the French definitions of "wrong" and "erroneous" for "faux."

Liz 9:31 PM  

"I confess I do not understand the kerfuffle about the comments. It's the same pop-up box I've always had. I read the comments in it every day. I had no idea people were resizing it. That's a blogger defect. My only options at this point is going to a non-pop-up window, which is Horrible as you cannot then see the stuff in the post you want to comment on.


On the Mac I can open each link in a new full-sized window but not the pop-up. Formerly I could expand the popup which allowed me to view most of the comments at one time. Now if I want to make a comment I have to shuffle back and forth to get the names, etc. Too much hassle now. This change occurred a few days ago.

No matter what combination of keys I use, that dratted small now non-expandable window popped up . The zoom option in the menu bar is grayed out(not selectable) as one would expect since there is no green maximize button in the window.

Not much use to increase the text size because that just makes me have to scroll more. I really enjoy reading the comments but not in the small window.

Rex Parker 9:38 PM  

I went to JimH's blog and clicked on my blog entry there and ... it linked to my blog. How in the world is that different / better?


Rex Parker 9:50 PM  

OK, formatting discussions have to cease now.

I do not have options. I have done all I can. I wish complaining readers would try to understand that.

If you want to discuss the issue further, please email me privately and I'll be happy to reply.

Last resort - if you go to my sidebar and click on the Individual Day (current day will be first listed under Blog Archive), then all the comments appear at the bottom of the entry in a gigantic and resizable window. Ta da.

It's the best I have to offer.


Liz 9:51 PM  

Thanks jc66. The window merge worked and now I can enjoy the comments once again.

Rex Parker 9:56 PM  

Er, what I meant to say was, "See jc66's comment, above."


Anonymous 10:11 PM  

Love the way my format is !!! (better?)

Don't know anything about baseball but BALK is my new favorite word - BALKED is so out.

Liras felt like something I'd made up, MEATSTEW felt just plain wrong, and I never can remember how to spell LEIA or ILIA.


literarychica 10:25 PM  

the NW corner gave me LOADS of trouble. even thought i would never have figured out BALK on my own, i can't believe i didn't figure out that 2D was BABY. duh.

also, LIRAS left some serious retina damage. i typed it in and felt a little dirty. but i guess i'm a snob because i studied italian as an undergrad, and as a result have a very soft spot for the language. ho hum.

glad to see i wasn't the only one who had trouble with the puzzle. :-)

Marybeth 11:08 PM  

I'm an old fart and we used to "bob for apples" when I was a kid, so "bob up" made perfect sense to me. I thought it was an easy puzzle, but I'm just starting to try the NYT crossword puzzle. I'm sure not 166th best in the world. I might be 166 from the bottom. I saw the theme pretty early on and liked it, especially with the Lenin and tsar entries. Because I saw the theme, I knew it had to be progressive lens even though I have better than perfect vision (despite being an old fart) and know nothing about glasses.

Randy 12:05 AM  

Folks, the easiest way to open up Comments as a separate resizable window is as follows:

Windows users: right-click on the Comments hyperlink and select the Open (Link) in New Window menu item.

Mac users: Control+click on the Comments hyperlink and select Open Link in New Window menu item.

Anonymous 12:27 AM  

Re: Balk
Question for baseball experts: Why the esoteric rules? Why isn't the pitcher allowed the freedom to fool runners on base in any way he may choose?

Anonymous 12:32 AM  

Wow! I hardly ever leave a comment, but the comments today beg some response. Geez, folks, Rex's charge for this blog is so steep that you're complaining about how it opens in your individual browsers??????!!!! As Rex would say, !!@@##!!@@##. If you want to complain so much about his FREE site, why don't you send him a contribution as so many free sites REQUEST STRIDENTLY!
Second, Rex, for those of us who are totally ignorant about the minutia of baseball, gotta say, I read your link to *balk*, and - Yow! How does a pitcher ever get a legal pitch off??

william e emba 11:59 AM  


We have husband/wife/spouse and paternal/maternal/parental and the like, so yesterday I was blanking on filial/????/????, unable to dredge up the missing word, and unaware that I had it anyway. The OED derives the etymology from Latin "filius" son. No mention of "filia" daughter.

miriam b 12:18 PM  

Re "filial": In French, we have "le fils" and "la fille".

The English words for offspring are pretty close cognates to the German "der Sohn" and "die Tochter". Come to think of it, the Russian words are "sinn" and "doch". When I'm not so busy I'm gong to dig a little for German and Russian equivalents for "filial".

I guess Anglophones are stuck with the Latin-derived term.

Will 8:33 PM  

From the list of balkable actions on wikipedia:

"flips his mullet haircut like a woman in a Herbal Essence commercial"

Badir 11:55 PM  

Rex, I had the opposite experience from you with this puzzle. Usually, a Monday takes me a bit over two Rexes (twice your time), but today, it only took me 16 seconds longer than you, and I set my Monday record at 7:01! I don't even really mind not being one second faster too much. :)

Jet City Gambler 4:10 PM  

Six weeks later...
Interesting to read the comments for this puzzle, because that 1-Down was clued out here in syndication land (or at least in the Seattle P-I) as "Pitcher's mistake".

Fun puzzle, I ripped through it in under four minutes, despite the arbitrary nature of some of the full.

And today's Opening Day! Mariners vs. Rangers this afternoon. Time for the Boys of Summer!

Waxy in Montreal 8:24 PM  

Further to Jet City Gambler's comment, it's interesting that not all the syndicated versions contained the updated clue. The Gazette here in Montreal still ran with "Pitcher's faux pitch".

I think the puzzle mellowed over the last 6 weeks cuz I really found it almost embarassingly easy for a NYT's offing, even for a Monday. Mebbe it's the progressive lenses I'm sporting.

Two comments - would have loved 25Across to have found a way to accommodate SURD, my fav mathematical expression, instead of the more pedestrian SIGN. And, shed a tear on Opening Day for we ball fans in Montreal - our ex-Expos began their season yesterday in Washington in the brand new stadium we shoulda built here. Alas...

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