SUNDAY, Feb. 3, 2008 - Matt Ginsberg

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Just Follow Directions" - theme answers are phrases that feature directional words (up, down, right, or left) - the directional words do not appear in the grid, but instead indicate the direction in which the following word in the phrase will go

I tore this puzzle up. My best Sunday time ever. Ever. As of right now, if I had done the puzzle online, I'd be #3 on the speed leader board. That's how fast I was. I did a little dance when I was done. That's how fast. Unreal. Hot knife meets butter. Etc. And yet I couldn't bring myself to rate this puzzle "Easy" because I'm not sure it was. When I look at it objectively, it looks Medium. Maybe Easy-Medium. I don't know and I don't much care because: 11:30!!!

But enough about my speed, let's talk about this puzzle, which I (mostly) loved. I was most impressed not by the theme, which is indeed clever, but by the longish non-theme fill and assorted shorter answers that made me smile. Despite a preponderance of common crossword fill (on which, more below), the grid in general felt very fresh. Something about the shape of the grid made it feel very intricate, almost maze-like. Lots of pathways, lots of nooks and crannies.

I floundered around for the first little bit when I started the puzzle. "Switch to Down clues, you idiot," I said to myself. The first one I looked at was the crosswordesey gimme ULAN (11D: _____ Bator) and I sped off from there, nailing every single one of those Downs, in order, in the NE (except @#$#ing SODA ASH - 13D: Na2CO3 - that took some hacking). Winced at ELEONORA (20A: Autobiographical short story by Edgar Allan Poe) 'cause it looked so wrong, but left it (good move, Rex; no, seriously, I wasn't being sarcastic - good move). Moved in a southwesterly direction toward the puzzle center, then zagged back to the SE. Then moved along the southern coast til I got to the far W, then zigged back toward the center, where I hit my only major roadblock. Had to leap into the center and then come back through the roadblock from the other side. Then moved up the west coast, spread out over the north and northwest, and then leapt all the way back to the eastern seaboard for my Last Stand, where I did battle, à la the X-MEN (50A: Magneto's adversaries, in comic books) with the dreaded CARRIE GREMLIN (61A: _____ Bradshaw, "Sex and the City" role and 68A: Imp). Scary indeed, but I emerged victorious. Stabbed the beast to death with my trusty SNEE (44D: Old dirk - the crossworder's weapon of choice. EPEEs are too blunt.). No need for an S.O.S. (86A: Titanic message) The end.

Theme answers:

  • 11A: Pineapple desserts (upside [down] cakes) - first theme answer I got, and I got it quickly. So clear was the theme that I doubt I spent more than two seconds pondering any single theme answers. They were all instantaneously gettable to me. Such a weird, weird feeling...
  • 34D: Bad dancer's handicap (two [left] feet)
  • 54D: Quite wrong (out in [left] field)
  • 83A: Popular song from Broadways "The Wiz" ("Ease on [Down] the Road") - I remember seeing this movie at the Tower Theater in downtown Fresno, possibly on a school trip, when it first came out in 1978. It starred Diana Ross and a pre-insane Michael Jackson.
  • 113A: Seinfeld, for one (stand [up] comic)
  • 109A: Establishing a business (setting [up] shop)
  • 29A: Accelerated (picked [up] speed)
  • 35D: "Enough!" (all [right] already)
  • 41D: Reactionary (extreme [right] wing)
Thorny Area 1: the SE

There were parallel toughies down here, with MALAWI (91D: Lake _____, third-largest lake in Africa) running right alongside NISAN (98D: Month before Iyar - read this as [Month before lyar] until just now) running right alongside SATIE (99D: "Socrate" composer) running right alongside ERST (100D: First, in Frankfurt). That SATIE clue appeared very recently, so no problem there, but the other ones I had to fight for a bit. Trouble with German, not only with ERST, but with the nearby OHM (90A: Eponymous German electrophysicist). Educated guess. MALAWI and MALI (66D: French Sudan, today) in the same puzzle today ... flashy.

Thorny Area 2: Southern Nevada / Northern Arizona

This is where the wheels did indeed come off. I hit AUK (87A: Arctic diver), my favorite crossword bird after ERN(E), and was so happy until ... I saw that "K" sat in the final space of 72D: Slams, which seemed impossible. How does a plural end in "K?" So I erased it. Tried to get through there by going at 77D: Jupiter or Mars, but nothing was coming. So I came at this little node from the other end, eventually discovering that [Slams] was FLAK (wow, ouch) and [Jupiter or Mars] was DEUS - that's just Latin for "god." Seems a stretch to expect a solver to get "Latin" from the clue, but those gods' names are indeed spelled as they would be in Latin, so ... all's fair, I S'POSE (92D: Imagine, informally).

Thorny Area 3: Calgary

Something about that bank of answers in the far north just seems audacious. The alliterative intersection of DEAD ON (5A: Totally accurate) and DESPISE (8D: Execrate), the assonant parallel pairing of ERNEST (19A: One of wine's Gallo brothers) and ERES TU (22A: 1974 Mocedades hit), and then, the coup de grace: the startling, one-leg-longer-than-the-other monstrosity that is the OSTOSIS (9D: Bone formation) and NTUPLE (10D: Mathematical sequence of unknown length) pairing. NTUPLE!!!!? Wow. It's ... like seeing some very, very rare kind of animal species. "Be very quiet or you'll frighten the NTUPLE. Like certain cicadas, he appears only once every twelve years."

Crossword Lingo:

  • "ERES TU" - see also the Verdi aria "ERI TU"
  • X-MEN - most common superhero name in the puzzle
  • AUK
  • OHM
  • SNEE
  • 102A: Sitcom title role for Brandy Norwood (Moesha) - like the ALERO, "MOESHA" is no longer a product yet continues to haunt the grid.
  • 28A: "Biography" network (A and E) - beware the [letter] AND [letter] answers. They will hurt your head if you aren't expecting them.
  • 32A: Canonized mlle. (ste.)
  • 53A: Spread in a spread (oleo) - I love that I guessed OLEO immediately, then began to erase in favor of MAYO, then thought, "no, let OLEO ride and see what happens."
  • 7D: Hydrocarbon suffix (-ane) - when it comes to science words, I go by feel. This felt right.
  • 20D: Israeli P.M. Olmert (Ehud) - man, that name doesn't even anagram into something pretty.
  • 31D: Subatomic particle that is a nuclear binder (pion) - look out also for MUON and MESON; learned the lot of them from the xwords.
  • 89D: Turkish pooh-bahs (pashas) - not common, but common enough. This word is beloved by crossword blogger Orange, who enjoys imagining herself as a Pasha of Crosswords.
  • 94D: Prince Valiant's wife (Aleta) - his son is named ARN.

And the rest!

  • 1A: Artist's digs, maybe (loft) - had LUFT because, as I always, I misspelled OLMEC (2D: Ancient Mexican people).
  • 18A: "_____, gorgeous!" (Fanny Brice's comment to herself when looking in the mirror) ("Hello") - I had so many funny answers here, but none of them fit, so I had to move on. Took me 'til nearly the very end to figure this answer out.
  • 21A: Marisa of "What Women Want" (Tomei) - breakfast test! (as in, "What Women Want" makes me want to barf, so it does not pass the breakfast test).
  • 26A: Cork shooter (pop gun) - do these even exist anymore? Seems like they'd have been outlawed for de-eyeing children.
  • 35A: Blue Devils' and Tigers' org. (ACC) - why did I write SEC here? Ah, LSU Tigers. I see now.
  • 45A: Elton's johns (loos) - er, gross.
  • 48A: Stereotypical reaction to Elvis (swoon) - I'm pretty sure this was an actual reaction to Elvis, many times.
  • 59A: Classic Toyota sports cars (Supras) - can we put "Classic" inside ironic quotation marks, please? Oh, I just did. Awesome. SUPRAS reminds me of the 80s something awful ...
  • 72A: Fronded plant (fern) - ... whereas the FERN screams 70s.
  • 73A: Fictional submariner (Nemo) - my man. One of my all-time favorite fictional characters. Nothing like an underwater supergenius bent on mysterious vengeance.104A: What a man and woman become in marriage (one flesh) - hmmm. In some variations, yes, but it still sounds creepy. This answer took me several stabs.
  • 106A: Two-wheeled covered carriage (hansom) - Before I started doing crosswords, there was only one word for "carriage." That word: carriage.
  • 110A: Hero of Bellini's "I Puritani" (Arturo) - well, it's a name I've heard of, so perfect.
  • 42D: Flower also called a naked lady (amaryllis) - ouch, spelling. This looks awkward, not at all like the "naked lady" I was picturing in my head.
  • 64D: Disco term meaning "galore" (a-go-go) - this term has a "meaning" now? Good for it.
  • 69D: "_____ Angel," 1933 film ("I'm no") - I feel like this was remade as a bad movie starring one of the Penns ... aha, "We're No Angels" (1989). Probably not a remake, but sure sounds like one.
  • 83D: Subject of the book "Last Flight" (Earhart) - had the -HART, so ... not that hard.
  • 84D: Setting for "Driving Miss Daisy" (Atlanta) - interesting city. It's also been clued as [Bailiwick of TV's Matlock].
  • 102D: Relig. title (msgr.) - Wow, "monsignor." You don't see that every day.

Enjoy the Super Bowl - or avoiding it.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[drawing by Emily Cureton]


nitpicker 8:30 PM  

Did you miss Extreme Right Wing?

nitpicker 8:31 PM  

And All Right Already?

Rex Parker 8:35 PM  

If you could send me a private message when you notice stuff like that, I'd be very appreciative. Thanks for calling the omissions to my attention.


nitpicker 8:39 PM  

Sorry - didn't know the protocol`(or how to send a pm). Please delete my messages ..


Mo 8:52 PM  

Rex, agreed, a very enjoyable and relatively easy Sunday. My comments are not about this puzzle specifically, but about the backgrounds of the constructors. Whenever there's someone I'm not familiar with, I google the constructor to find out a bit about him or her. Matt Ginsberg is a fascinating fellow...doctorate in Math from Oxford (at age 24!!) and career in artificial intelligence. He wrote what is considered to be the finest bridge-playing software around, and is also a playwright. What a Renaissance guy! Check out this article from the local paper in Eugene, OR--
BTW, I can't figure out how to put a hyperlink in comments!

One of the things I most remember from Wordplay is the idea that among the constructors there are many with backgrounds in math and music. And just these last few days, the number of mathematicians just amazes me. I knew about Byron Walden, but now I've also learned that David Quarfoot, Peter Collins, and now Matt Ginsberg are also mathematicians. Cool.

Anonymous 9:24 PM  

Rex, I'd say any puzzle with asymmetrical theme placement using
unclued entries, omissions and backward words should be labeled
as "Hard." Just because you blazed through it doesn't mean it's easy. Kudos.

To the list of mathematicians, I'd add Mike Nothnagel and
Jeremiah Farrell (of CLINTON/BOBDOLE fame). Peter
Gordon and Stan Newman are lapsed
numbers guys as well. And I'm sure
I'm forgetting some others.


Matt 9:51 PM  

You guys who dug up the Register Guard article are way too kind (as was the Register Guard!). It's not that I'm a Renaissance man; it's far more that I'm old, and I get bored easily. :) But thanks very much for all the kind words, which I really appreciate!

Matt Ginsberg

Mo 9:56 PM  

Matt, thanks for checking in...and thanks for a very enjoyable puzzle (love that NTUPLE answer). I wish I could be as creative when I get bored . Hope to see many more of your puzzles :)

PuzzleGirl 9:59 PM  

I wouldn't have argued about an easy rating on this one. I tore right through it too. Not as fast as Rex, of course, but no more than 3x Rex I think -- although I didn't time myself. Wish I had.

Second day in a row I'm left with one blank square. Please someone explain the FLAK/Slams relationship. I still don't get it. (But I will never ever ever again not know the AUK, so I've got that going for me.)

I literally winced when I filled in 104A ("What a man and a woman become in marriage" / ONE FLESH) and thought to myself "Can't wait to see what Orange has to say about THAT."

Answers that made me smile: SWOON, ALL [right] ALREADY, ED ASNER.

Answers that put songs in my head: OASIS (aaaaargh!) and IM NO [Angel].

Clue I hated: Deterge. Deterge?? Are you kidding me??

@mo: Directions for including a link in your post can be found in Rex's FAQ.

@Rex: Maybe you should add to your FAQ, "How should I let you know if I see a typo or other mistake in your write-up?"

"... Oh come on baby / Let me show you my tattoo / Let me drive you crazy / ...."

Orange 11:16 PM  

Right beneath Rex's "About Me" squib in the sidebar, it says "Write Rex @:" in red followed by his e-mail address. That's how you can write him! Piece o' cake.

Rex, I wrote up the theme answers in my post and followed them with an "If I've missed any, let me know and I'll add them." Then while wading through looking for my favorite clues and answers, I found two more! They're eely bastards.

billnutt 11:29 PM  

This one was a hoot. I really liked the theme and some of the fill. (NTUPLE gets the weeks' WTF award.)

"Two Left Feet" is the name of a fun song by Richard Thompson - and "fun" and "Richard Thompson" seldom appear in the same sentence. Plus, you got the XMEN! How could I not like this.

I once play Flo Ziegfeld in a production of FUNNY GIRL. I mention that because of HELLO, Gorgeous.

I did now know that ERST means "first" in German. Nice variation to "Once, once."

It took me WAY TOO LONG to figure out PAYEES. (Never heard of PION.)

I'm so glad I got this puzzle done today. I'm so psyched about watching TV tonight! I'm going to be glued to Fox. Yep - can't wait for that football game to be over so I can see a new episode of HOUSE! (And don't forget the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet this afternoon!)

PhillySolver 11:34 PM  


or, Down Right Fun

No google but a few places I question myself. SATIE at 99D and MOESHA at 102A could be wrong for all I know. I liked almost everything about this one. Off to sleep and I am sure I will be hearing ERES TU in my head.

PhillySolver 11:36 PM  



Mo 11:38 PM  

Thanks, puzzlegirl...I'll give that a try. Here's the article

Jim in NYC 11:58 PM  

Fun puzzle. The theme made it easy since the theme phrases were all common and it was clear from the grid pattern whether the operative word would be “up” or “right” or whatever.

Here are our mysteries for today:

52A: OK, “oleo” is a spread, but why is it clued as a “spread in a spread”?

99A: A man and a woman become “one flesh” in marriage? Is The New York Times giving marriage counseling now? Does this even pass the breakfast table test?

treedweller 12:01 AM  

Hi all, first time caller, etc.

I also enjoyed this puzzle, but I'm working myself into a tizzy over the dang nyt interface (despite not being good enough to really care if my time is stopped). Can someone please help me convince their software that I know the directional words are in the grid?

treedweller 12:07 AM  

jim in nyc: re: spread in a spread

If you approach a table loaded with food (including oleo), you might say "Wow, what a spread!"
Well, anyway, some of us might.

nitpicker 12:16 AM  

62A & 62D could have been paired: SMELLY SOCK.

Great puzzle - enjoy these twists and turns!


treedweller 12:28 AM  

oh, i c

ds 1:39 AM  

Since I rarely read the title when I'm on-line, it took me a while to figure out the theme. And maybe I'm mistaken, but it seems to me that in most rebus puzzles, the repeated items remain the same (or at least the same concept). In this one, the directional words were consistent, but each inserted square also had one extra letter that was the start of the next word (I am presuming that the folks reading this have already done the puzzle). That was a lot of fun and very unique as far as I can determine. Am I correct to say that this was unusual? (Orange, anyone else, feel free to reply).

ps. I got stuck in the North because I had PEEGUN (essentially the same amount of Google hits as POPGUN). I also got stuck in the SW because of putting in ARS for Arctic Diver (the US Navy class of ships) - and assuming that the word for SLAMS would have to end with S.

pps - puzzlegirl: SLAMS is the same as FLAK as in "I am sick of your slams" (from could also be "I am sick of your flak."

jae 2:23 AM  

Great puzzle. Clever theme and some challenging fill. Getting the theme early really helped. Had pretty much the same thorny areas as Rex and needed help from my bride spelling AMARYLLIS. Haven't seen NTUPLE since grad school. ds--Thanks for the FLAK slams explanation, I got right but it seemed off.

Anonymous 8:00 AM  

Regarding the Easy ranking. Once you figured out the theme, it was very easy because there weren't many clues that required a lot of knowledge. It took me a while to get the theme, so it wasn't that easy for me.

On the other hand, some of the Wednesday or Thursdays that Rex has rated Medium I'd rate as Super Easy because they actually require knowing things not just solving a theme.

Anyway, I find these gimmicky themes with missing letters kind of annoying. I suppose I'm a purist. I want all my letters to be there.

Anonymous 8:13 AM  

Why private -- what's the shame in being wrong. Oh, be sure Matt buys lunch!

paul in mn 8:42 AM  

For some reason, I didn't want to like this theme, but as I review it and see that all the entries are fresh, I can't help but at least have a grudging admiration. I think my little bit of frustration came from the '-' cluing of the second entries of the themes. I spent a couple minutes looking at 5A paired with 5D and tried to make them work together before I realized how exactly the theme worked. After that, the theme entries fell easily, especially 34D, to which I'd already said, "the perfect answer for this is 'TWO LEFT FEET.'"

Rex, I also had my last stand in the Far East. It took a few minutes for AMARYLLIS to fall because I had 'A____LLIS' and I wanted something ending in 'BELLIS' or some such to get to the "lady" mentioned in the clue. Once, I gave up on that, AMARYLLIS fell and so did the rest of the East. So much for any RED SCARE.

Pinky 9:31 AM  

Nitpicker - Thanks, I totally missed extreme right wing and had extreme right line crossed with NAES (scratch sheet listing) - doh...

Also misspelled SPATE and PASHAS cause i thought a RANSOM was the carriage

Can soneone tell me which "AMERICA" song they're talking about? I filled in TIS, but just a guess

As PhillySolver said - downright fun puzzle

Karen 9:46 AM  

ds, I had PEA GUN there. I don't think your gun passes the breakfast table test. I found the pineapple upside down cake first and wanted to spell cakes backwards, which confused me for a while.

PhillySolver 9:49 AM  

My country tis of thee...sweet land of liberty...of thee I sing. Glad you don't have to hear me sing it.

Better known as God Save the Queen/King.

Doug 9:49 AM  

The weather here in Vancouver BC has been erratic all week. Snow so bad on Tuesday it was a school snow day and the kids were skiing down our driveway. Then it rained, hailed, shone, snowed again, etc. etc. Kind of like the puzzles this week. I got through Thursday well enough, got slammed on Friday, and for the first time ever completed Saturday. Then Sunday--The theme just didn't click and I gave up with about 75% done. You can imagine with following the directions how stuck one could be. I feel for newbies sitting down with the paper on Sunday, going around in circles, then shaking their heads on Monday morning!

billnutt 10:03 AM  


I'M NO ANGEL is a Mae West film. (In fact, that might be the one in which she says to Cary Grant, "Come up and see me sometime.")

WE'RE NO ANGELS was another movie remade with Robert DeNiro and Sean Penn. It might have been directed by Neil Jordan. All people who should know better.

PhillySolver 10:10 AM  

For those who do not know Eres tu, here is a nice version that includes an English translation of the words. The tune was copied later...see if you recognize it.

If nothing else, it will help you remember the clue for later puzzles. Enjoy.

pinky 10:11 AM  

Thanks Phillysolver, I never knew that song was called "America' -
only O Beautiful for Spacious Skies...
and God Bless America
....and then there's the Bruce Springsteen version, but I figured that wasn't it.

Thanks for enlightening me

Orange 10:21 AM  

Ehud Olmert anagrams to Leo the Drum, which surely is his gangland jazz name.

What I liked about What Women Want is the Chicago setting, and the fact that I drive past the highrise whose exterior was used as the outside of Mel Gibson's building.

Also? Not just the Pasha of Crosswords. The Pasha of Everything.

Badir 10:54 AM  

I thought this was relatively easy, except that I forgot all about the penultimate letter of the alphabet when trying to spell AMARYLLIS. Although N-TUPLE took me longer than it should have, it's still totally standard mathspeak. Like Rex, I was put off by ELEONORA. "Since it's supposed to be an autobiography, surely it has to start with an 'i'!" But even my spelling-impaired (see AMARiLLIS in my grid) worked out that it had to be EHUD.

I also got thrown off a bit at the
beginning, when I missed the "s" at the end of the clue for 11A and entered 17D as "[down arrow]CAKE" and then couldn't figure out why there was a letter missing in "PICKED[up]PEED". But I fixed it up pretty soon.

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

Isn't the correct direction from Anchorage to Fairbanks NNE (not ENE)? This slowed me down for a long time. Very frustrating.

ArtLvr 11:33 AM  

I don't see that anyone else mentioned it, and it's not an error or omission in Rex's blog -- but the numbers noted in his comments were nearly all off, compared with the same I do in the Times-Union (Albany NY), same date. It must have been renumbered for this edition!

In our version, there was no number in the square at the far right of the top line across, where CAKES going down completes 11A. Thus HELLO at the west end of the second line is 17A, ERNEST is 18A, etc.

The minute I saw no number in the upper right corner, the mechanics of "Just Follow the Directions" were instantly clear! Not that this device marked all theme answers -- but a skipped clue for others like the last part of STAND (UP) COMIC (Seinfeld, for one) made the rest of the theme phrases obvious. So I got it all fairly quickly, and would have said "woohoo" -- except I had left a mistaken OLTEC at 2D by forgetting to check TOMEI.

Agree that "deterge" was slightly odd, loved GREMLIN and A GO GO. And I thought the Biblical ONE FLESH was fine -- even a neat counterpart to TWO HEADS being better than one!


Ulrich 11:54 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle because of the unusual combination of "phantom" rebus, around-the-corner answers and the "embedded" clues they produced.

Question: How is a pen a cross product? "Cross product" has a special meaning in math, and I played with this for a minute (not even knowing the constructor was a mathematician), but then discarded it because it seemed too specialized. So?

Rex Parker 11:56 AM  

Cross is a brand name. They make pens.


karmasartre 11:57 AM  

As I'm on marriage #2, I wonder how the ONE FLESH thing applies?

Rex -- Curious about "Thorny Area 3: Calgary". After learning from you that this area of the puzzle is "Montana", your use of a Canadian city threw me for a loop. Did you avoid Montana because of the Hannah thing? Does all of North America get included for the enlarged Sunday format? Probably not, as you reference Nevada/Arizona rather than some place in Mexico or Central America. If Canada is included, I think Yellowknife, or Northwest Territories, or somewhere in western Nunavut, is closer to the extreme North. Just saying.

Really enjoyable puzzle. Great theme, but for some reason I couldn't get my head around the (54d) Left Field thing. Could be a Mariners' issue.

Orange 12:15 PM  

Artlvr, when the print version has entries without clues (as for the continuation of each theme entry today), the online versions assign numbers to those squares and generally throw in a dash in lieu of the clue. The online versions can't handle unnumbered, unclued entries.

Bill 12:17 PM  

The theme was easy enough, but why is there a dropped letter at the start of all the words after the rebus squares? Doesn't that make each rebus square something like ALL[rightA]LREADY? I don't recall seeing that construction before. (There's no pattern in the 8 dropped letters that I can see.)

ArtLvr 12:20 PM  

OK -- wish I could access these online! I paid for annual crosswords, downloaded stuff as told, nothing happens. Maybe I need a newer computer.

Ulrich 12:22 PM  

@bill: That's exactly what I LIKED about the puzzle. I called these squares "phantom" rebus, which I viewed as just one more wrinkle to be discovered.

Greg 12:25 PM  

the other day (I would have to check back to find the exact puzzle), you were very vocal with your annoyance in the imbalance of the big clues, something which I found today and which you did not comment on! :-) There were 2 lefts, 2 rights, 2 downs, and 3 ups? I kept looking for something I had missed in all the clues and it slowed me down a great deal! Otherwise, I also found it a good easy-medium puzzle, but had some of the same problems as others - pea gun instead of pop gun, the misspelling of amaryllis, the annoyance with "one flesh," and your brief sticking point at auk/flak - very annoying! :-)
Also had a problem with the last theme answer, All Right Already, as I kept wanting to have Calm Down Already or Settle, or something else with a Down in it to balance the 3 Up answers!
Happy puzzling and Super Bowl Sundaying, whatever you may be doing with it!

Ryan 12:26 PM  

Rex, you're right to think 77D (Jupiter or Mars) was a stretch. The Latin spelling of the former would be either Juppiter or Iuppiter, the latter being much more helpful. Mavors for Mars also would've been easier.

Greg 12:27 PM  

Oh yeah, I would have rather seen "___ pants on fire" instead of a Jim Carrey clue! :-)

Chip Ahoy 12:30 PM  

This business on Blogger of being able to use some tags but not others is for the boids. What's wrong with pre, a, s, u, sub and sup or alt? What harm could come of it? Huh? That makes me what to go in there and hack that CSS page. Blogger invites you to have a go at it. It's fun. I urge every solver who cares for a good puzzle to use their blogger account to create a blog and make the pages do something splendid -- by way of a good puzzle. Or not.

Woo and Yay to the .puz.

Upside-down cake, yum, uno de me mas favorito en el mundo. Once on TV the hostess said, "Don't go messing it all up with those stupid dyed red cherries." and I go, "What? What? You gotta be kidding!" My mom used canned pineapple and those cakes are still great.

The whole change directions thing in the puzzle is fun. So is compression. So is compression + first letter in continuing phrase. That was supposed to throw you off your game, an indiscrete compression like that, one that breaks whatever rule you might have supposed regarding discrete compressions. Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ... ahhh ... sigh.

This solver prefers titles that don't give away the game. The only way I can see making the title more explicit would be "Just follow directions, after compressing them into one box and including the first letter of the continuing phrase, which completes the clued question following the path of the new direction into the unclued area which is the only option available." But that title would be a bit long.

Mathematicians. Mustn't leave off D. Tuller.

Cheers. Please keep doing more of this.

Anonymous 12:33 PM  

The song you called "O Beautiful for Spacious Skies" is actually called "America the Beautiful." In case you ever need that.
And for everyone who mistook popgun for peagun, why would that have a cork? A popgun shoots out a cork, a peagun shoots out ... peas. Sorry to sound like a know-it-all, but when in Rome ...

PuzzleGirl 12:53 PM  

I didn't have a problem wondering about missing letters, etc., in the theme answers because I didn't cram the directional words into the squares. I assumed they were intended to be implied by the direction of the word. E.g., ALL (going down) and then ALREADY (going to the right, making it a "right already"). And UPSIDE (going across) and CAKES (going down, interpreted as "down cakes"). Does that make sense?

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

I am apparently very influenced by the news. I had Chad sitting in for Mali for the longest time - so that was the last section I completed. Pretty easy I thought. I bet my 10 yo (who always helps) that Rex would give it an Easy rating. For me about 40-45 minutes is an easy - I think it was less than that, but didn't note the start time for some reason.

Bill 1:22 PM  

Ulrich, I don't object to dropped letters (or syllables) as part of a theme, where there's some common element in what gets dropped. Here, the "phantom" (your word) letters were random, except for being the first letter of the final word in the answer. And dropping the first letter seems unrelated to the directional theme.

Ellen 1:25 PM  

Rex, you beat me! OK, my NYT times aren't completely valid since I solve on paper while proofreading, but still, it took 13:51.

Rex Parker 2:16 PM  


That is absurd. A complete fluke. If I'd been solving on paper, I would surely have been a couple minutes higher. Under any conditions, any time, any where, you and I solving head-to-head would result in my getting humiliated. I know that, you know that. But thank you so much for saying that I "beat" you, nonetheless.


Ulrich 2:22 PM  

@bill: the way I look at it, the DIRECTIONS are the phantom rebus, or dropped, elements, and they all belong to the same category, namely, directions (I simply drew arrows over the letters).

Orange 3:35 PM  

Puzzlegirl nails it. There's no rebus—the directions are not squeezed in anywhere, nor are random letters dropped. Each theme entry follows this format: Beginning of entry ends one square before the end of that entry's allotted space. The last square is the beginning of the entry's end, traveling in a new direction as signaled by the "follow directions" word in the phrase (left, right, up, down):

(here's where you turn right)


(here's where you turn up)
COMIC running upwards (which looks like CIMOC going down)

Each time, the corner square begins the word that travels in a new direction. I think this helps make the gimmick more apparent, because you can't mistake the first part for a complete answer—there's no such word as STANDC or EXTREMEW, so it makes it a little more obvious that the unclued part attaches to the first part somehow.

Really, Puzzlegirl explained it better. Scroll up if you missed her comment.

Bill 3:54 PM  

Orange & Puzzlegirl: I got it. (Rex explained as well, but I missed it there too.) Seems obvious now--it's not really a rebus at all.

Bill 4:04 PM  

Or a phantom rebus, as Ulrich says.

Ulrich 4:05 PM  

@orange et al: I respectfully disagree: The "up" is an integral part of stand-up comic etc, not just a (re-)direction. To me, it remains a rebus on top of other things.

Rex Parker 4:15 PM  

FWIW, I don't think of this as a rebus at all. "DOWNC" makes no sense as a reubs square entry (the way, say COS and SEC and SIN did in the "Trigonometry" puzzle a couple weeks back). In a rebus crossword, the multi-letter squares are always self-contained units in one way or another: CAT, DOG, names of trees, names of numbered streets in NYC (in a Sun puzzle I just did), etc.


Ulrich 4:26 PM  

@rex: We should not beat this to death--Super Bowl is coming up. I only want to point out that I called it a rebus ON TOP OF something else--this preserves the integrity of the "rebus" components (down, up etc). But obviously, one can make sense of this in different ways. I personally just like the idea of a layered structure.

Rikki 4:32 PM  

Great theme! I vote not a rebus, as the direction is not hidden in the grid, but missing altogether. I can't remember ever having to put words in backwards and my rebellious nature loved that. When I got the first one, I got them all. Not so of a certain area of the puzzle ulan, eleonora, ehud that required a night's sleep and two cuppas in order to finally guess incorrectly. First Sunday to not finish in forever, destroying my undefeated week. Hope that isn't contagious. I suppose kickoff will be sometime after the 6 hours of pre-game chatter and commercials (one of the reasons I don't watch television). But nonetheless, Go Pats and Happy Superbowling to all.

puzzlemensch 4:37 PM  


Should be:


karmasartre 4:46 PM  

Speaking of the SBowl, a question: with the current trend of long hair hanging out of helmets, is it legal to tackle someone by the hair?

David 4:55 PM  

Orange and rikki,
I'm surprised by your explanation and rejection of the rebus category. I agree with ulrich; the directional words are completely necessary to the meaning of the phrase (e.g., "Extreme RIGHTwing"). Many of the phrases would be non-sensical without the directions.

jae 5:00 PM  

I parsed this exactly as puzzlegirl described which left me wondering what all the rebus discussion was about. Now I see.

Leon 5:00 PM  

As pointed out by others, the across-lite version is different from the print one. This makes the rebus argument a little more complicated. I did the print version and favor the rebus argument because the directional clues have no "-" or numbers. Linda G has a good comparison.
The print version clues end at 109 across and 102 down.

potagiere 5:05 PM  

Very clever and enjoyable puzzle. I got the theme quickly and found the clues just hard enough. Except for NTuple? Gads!
Now... off to read Eleanora!

Beth in CT 5:09 PM  

Maybe I'm the only one who encountered this problem, but even though I understood the theme early on for some reason it was not obvious that for the "up" and "left" answers I needed to spell the words backwards, so it resulted in a lot of confusion.

BTW, I agree that Rex is usually sooo adamant about symmetry in theme answers and it seems odd that here there werew no comments about the assymetry.

But I love your write-ups, Rex, and who am I to pass judgement. I am so grateful for this forum. It is so hard to meet other people who are so into crosswords (outside of my family). Thanks.


Michael 5:11 PM  

I was speeding along, when I ran into problems with the theme. I kept writing "up" or "down" into squares (not "left" or "right" for some reason) and then was puzzled by the extra letters. Even when I figured the theme out, i still had 4-5 blank letters/mistakes. (I though mathematically about cross product, for example). This was a rare week when I found the Saturday relatively easy and the Sunday relatively hard, making them of approximately equal difficulty for me. But I can see that was not at all the case for most of you,

beth in ct 5:16 PM  

um . . . I "meant" (superfluous quotations intended) there were no comments about the asymmetry

Chris 5:59 PM  


Hair is considered to be part of the uniform, so tackling by the hair is fair game. It seems silly that many players value style over safety, but so it goes.

miriam b 8:57 PM  

TWO LEFT FEET made me laugh, because it reminded me of the mockumentary Best in Show. The character played by Eugene Levy actually has two left feet, which makes for some hilarious dialog and situations.

That's a very funny movie in general. Two snippets I recall offhand:

A married couple, both uptight lawyers, reminisce about the first time their eyes met. They both happened to be sitting in Starbucks - TWO Starbucks, across the street from each other.

Another scene: Two gay men are showing one of their dogs at the competition, but the other dog is at home. One of the men feels sorry for that dog and phones her in order to raise her spirits by singing her the last verse of Barbara Allen.

I've never been to a dog show, but I have been to cat shows (Duke City Cat Fanciers Show in Albuquerque, when we lived there many years ago. One of our cats, Macavity, won Best Shorthaired Household Pet one year, despite his having tried to take the judge apart.

Which reminds me, Rex, I wish you really had been interviewed by Cat Fancy. Anyone who gives a cat nicknames like Hosni Mubarak and Zubin Mehta is a closet cat fancier, deny it as he may.

About to not watch the Superbowl. I think Meet the Fockers is on.

Orange 10:24 PM  

Miriam, I recently saw a TV documentary about ferret shows. Some people were clawed or bitten by ferrets, with one bleeding from a nose wound. And the judges dispensed more ribbons than there were ferrets competing!

(Sorry for the off-topicality, Rex. But ferrets! Ferrets attacking and winning prize ribbons!)

Catherine K 3:46 AM  

Hey, I really am from Calgary! I'm on the grid! This, plus Stephen Harper from Alberta last week? I think I'm about to SWOON!

Anonymous 2:20 PM  

Ehud Olmert anagrams to The Mud Role, which doesn't sound like fun, or The Rum Dole, which does.

jpChris 3:32 PM  

Hi Rex,

This is waaaay off topic, but, I had a good laugh when you blogged, "84D: Setting for "Driving Miss Daisy" (Atlanta) - interesting city. It's also been clued as [Bailiwick of TV's Matlock]."

Matlock, Murder She Wrote, and who knows how many other shows, were filmed right here in the Los Angeles area: specifically; North Hollywood, Burbank, Simi Valley, Glendale, Malibu, etc., etc.

I always chuckle when I see shows\films that are supposed to be in other states or countries and I can identify stores, streets and shops that are right around the corner from me.

Just an off-topic FYI.

Monsieur Le Shunk 1:26 AM  

Matt, you've got to be the biggest narcissistic, self-congratulatory dweeb-dork in the world. Tone down the me's, myself's, and I's. How many friends did you say you have? The answer is inversely proportional to the number of times you kissed the mirror as an adolescent...

Pepe Le Pew 1:36 AM  

Monsieur Le Shunk: I believe you meant "Rex" and not "Matt" in your comment posted before.

Oui, Rex, you could be a little less "looky Mommy, looky Mommy!" in your postings and stick to the task at hand.

Rex Parker 6:53 AM  

Looky mommy, some of my readers are complete assholes!

He meant "Matt," not "Rex," dumbass.

If you don't like the blog, well, I believe you know what you can do ...


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