MONDAY, Mar. 31, 2008 - Jeff Armstrong (Actor and rockabilly crooner Chris)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Relative difficulty: Eeeeeasy

THEME: AIR (36A: Word that can precede each half of the answer to each of the eight starred clues)

This was my fastest puzzle completion time ever, twenty seconds faster than my previous record. I have no idea what just happened. When I finished and saw the timer at 2:48, I think I jumped out of my chair and did a little dance. I don't really remember. About midway through solving, I just had this gut feeling that I was going to break 3 if I didn't completely stall out on an answer, and though I tripped and hesitated and typoed a few times, I finally did it. First time ever. Exhilarating. I know this was easier than most Mondays, but, I mean, I've never even done a Monday Newsday puzzle, let alone an NYT, in under 3, so even if we agree that this is the easiest puzzle that has ever existed since the dawn of time, I'm still thrilled.

How did this happen?

  1. All of the theme answers came instantly, for no good reason. Didn't need to know the theme - the phrases just leaped forth.
  2. Guessed OAFISH (5D: Like a lout) off just the "O," CRONE (6D: Hag) off just the "C," and virtually every other initial guess proved correct. For speed, I like to run consecutive Downs - 1, 2, 3, 4, for instance, or 25, 26, 27. The clues are all nicely grouped together, whereas if you try to solve all the Acrosses in a given section, your eye has to bounce around a lot trying to find the numbers. This may seem a trivial matter, but when speed counts, it is not.
  3. I did not spaz out the way I often do when I'm racing. I typed fairly deliberately. Quickly, but methodically. After it took me about five passes to type OCTET correctly (5A: Group of eight musicians), I settled down and made few if any typing errors from there on out.
  4. I survived a horrid NE, where I did not get PLOT (10A: Underhanded plan) at first pass, and then had a true blank-out moment where 22A: Quenched (slaked) meets 19D: Scratch on a diamond, e.g. (flaw). I could not figure out what the latter clue was going for at all, and I had written in SOAKED, in desperation, for the former. Thankfully, FOAW was obviously wrong, so I didn't leave it behind but fixed it immediately.
  5. I managed to avoid my late-game fumbling. Ended in the SW where 47, 48, and 49D went down bam bam bam.
Theme answers:

  • 18A: *Sci-fi barrier (force field)
  • 20A: *Newspaper article lead-in (dateline) - it's back! Twice in a week. Weird.
  • 28A: *When the curtain goes up (show time)
  • 41A: *Wrestling move that puts an arm around someone's neck (headlock)
  • 50A: *Secret communication location (mail drop) - this was the toughest one for me, as I wasn't quite sure what was so "secret" about a place you DROP MAIL, but ... it sounded right, so I went with it.
  • 54A: *Mars Pathfinder, for one (space craft)
  • 4D: *Diamond game (baseball)
  • 37D: *Indy 500 venue (speedway) - this really really spoils an otherwise FLAWless theme - let's see if you can guess why...

What else is there? Good question:

  • 1A: Sea creature that sidles (crab) - perfect clue
  • 14A: Greeting in Granada (hola) - hesitated once because I read "Granada" as "Canada," then hesitated again as I blanked on where the hell Granada was.
  • 24A: Martial artist Jackie (Chan) - I highly recommend "Rumble in the Bronx," which I have very fond memories of seeing in the Mall of America with my bestest grad-school-era friends.
  • 46A: Corduroy ridge (wale) - something about this word has always bugged me. WAIL, WHALE, those are good words. WALE is some kind of abomination. Why did a [Corduroy ridge] ever need its own name? And it's a bit creepy to give the corduroy ridge the name WALE when its primary definition is "a mark on the skin, as by a whip; a weal or welt." Further, with WEAL already there, why did anyone need WALE? And WEAL is weird because it also means "prosperity" and "happiness," or "welfare" (e.g. "common weal"). That's one sadomasochistic word circle they got going there at Merriam-Webster or whoever makes this @#$# up.
  • 58A: Western flick, in old lingo (oater) - did you really need "in old lingo?" You know OATER, or you don't know OATER. "In old lingo" isn't helping anyone.
  • 61A: One of a reporter's five W's (where) - along with WHO, WHAT, WHEN, and WHY ... not sure what happened to HOW.
  • 2D: Capital of Italia (Roma) - at least the answer wasn't EURO, ugh.
  • 28D: Move with one's tail between one's legs (slink) - my dog will do this when she thinks she is in trouble or when she is told to go "out of the kitchen" (an actual command).
  • 29D: Actor and rockabilly crooner Chris (Isaak) - I just like this clue, which feels ... decadent, somehow. I mean "rockabilly" and "crooner?" That's some fancy cluin'.
  • 30D: Three-card hustle (Monte) - always makes me think of MONTY Hall, who, as you can see, spells his name differently.
  • 42D: Business that may have gone boom then bust in the '90s (dot com) - cool phrase, and like CRAB before it, instantly gettable.
  • 46D: Eucharist disk (wafer) - something about "disk" feels a little too casual. It's not a frisbee (is it?).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Eli Barrieau 10:12 PM  

Well, I can read you at school now, but I can't comment still (perhaps that's for the best), so I'll tip my cap to you now.

Very easy, but a 2:48 is downright Orangeish. Congrats.

I have a request that you work in a picture of Steven Seagal every day. I feel confident that you can make it relevant.

As for Jackie Chan, I'm a fan of Drunken Master II.

Ulrich 10:45 PM  

Wow, it's not even 11PM and we're already talking about tomorrow's puzzle? I guess the reason is that it is really easy, but, and that is my point, it's also beautiful--with all the theme answers symmetrically arranged, none of them forced, all of them helpful once you got the theme, and the common word smack in the middle. Wonderful construction, Mr. Armstrong!

Morgan 11:09 PM  

Agreed, super easy. I also set my personal best time, a much more modest 4:24. So after our differing opinions about Sunday, we agree on Monday.

SethG 11:09 PM  

Easy, but enjoyable.

I felt sluggish for some reason, kept floundering for answers I knew, trying to remember that word, but not too frustrating and _still_ was only 9 seconds slower than my record.

Even with the asymmetric word lengths on just one of the theme clues, which probably accounted for those 9 seconds...

SteveB 11:17 PM  

I understand my limits now, compared with the top solvers like Rex. I agree that this was the easiest puzzle ever. I was entering answers in Across Lite as fast as I saw the clues, had hardly any hesitation anywhere, and yet my time was a pretty pokey 5:27. How do you get below 3? I don't know that I can move my fingers that fast! I guess you have to know a lot of the answers without looking at the clues. I'll have to try the consecutive down clues method.

patdugg 11:26 PM  


I give up. Why do you think the [Indy 500 venue] clue for SPEEDWAY spoiled the theme? Makes sense to me.


John Reid 11:31 PM  

Rex, well done on beating the 3 minute mark! I've never managed that on a New York Times puzzle; even the Mondays always seem just that little bit hard enough in places to slow me down a little. I finished off today's in 3:43 which was good, but I felt the whole way through that it was pretty easy and I maybe could have come away with a faster time if I'd pushed myself. (I've managed times under 3 minutes now and again on the early-in-the-week Newsday puzzle, but those ones almost always feel REALLY easy, and I'm ready for that ahead of time going in so I'm always trying to speed through them just to see what kind of time I can get away with. It also depends on how accurate my typing may or may not be on any given day...)

I have the same line of thinking as sethg above; SPEEDWAY is the only one of all those thematic entries that *doesn't* get split into two equal-length parts in order to form the 'air----' phrases.

ds 11:44 PM  

Assuming it was a real question, the reason for not including the "how" in a "reporter's five W's" is that it doesn't begin with a W (although it does have a W at the end!) - of course, I suspect you knew that anyway and were just teasing us.

The trouble for me in trying to go fast is that I tend to make mistakes - in this case, spelling ISAAK with a C at the end, and since all the answers fell so quickly, never going back to check the crosses.

On the other hand, I never worried about WALE since I got it completely from the crosses and only saw it when you pointed it out.

Thanks for posting this at night - It gives those of us who work the puzzles in the evening a chance to respond earlier.

jae 11:59 PM  

Very easy for me also, but I still need to work on typing skills in Across Lite. I thought this was a fine/fun well executed Mon. puzzle. No missteps for me, just slow(er) typing.

PhillySolver 12:14 AM  

The puzzle was easy and fun. I was twice the master's speed, but no real issues. When I finished I was most inspired by Jackie Chan so although there are a number of tributes out there, here is one that shows the choreography and includes scenes from some of the movies mentioned above...Enjoy
Jackie Chan

arb 12:16 AM  

A mail drop (An address or place at which a nonresident person receives mail, often of a secret nature) is used by spies, along with cutouts, one time pads and other Tricks O' the Trade, to foil agents such as those of SMERSH, KAOS and Dr. Evil.

One drops mail in a mailbox. Mail Boxes, Etc., and others, are mail drops.

Bill from NJ 6:35 AM  

Finished this puzzle in 3:23 in Across Lite.

Started at 1A, finished the NW at DATELINE, moved into the SE, up the East Coast, across the North, skipped into Northern California, down the West Coast into the SW, moved into the Midlands where AIR was the last to fall.

This, to me, is the most elegant way to solve, finishing in the middle.

I may take your advice, Rex, and switch to the all-downs-method for more speed.

However, speed for me is out of the question for latter-week puzzles as I have to grind these out and my speed drops considerably.

I may do a Friday in 25 minutes, which is good for me, but is not competitive in any way.

Curiously, it is only the Monday thru Wednesday puzzles where I can go for speed and feel competitive.

ArtLvr 6:46 AM  

Wow -- So many early birds! Yes, I saw the one asymmetric answer, but no matter -- the double air headings were all very clever!

Thanks to Fragments Of J.R. (unless Phillysolver found a better twist?)


treedweller 7:32 AM  

I only just figured out what an "air date" was while reading the other comments. My best guess last night was that it was analogous to "air guitar". And that's really just dining out alone.

But even as I struggled to understand how that answer fit the theme, I enjoyed this one, in my plodding-along-well-over-five-minutes kind of way. Man, before I came here, I thought I was fast on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Rex Parker 7:36 AM  

To be clear, I don't do "all Downs." I just tend to work sections by sequential Downs if at all possible.

Basically, I tend to look at clues whose answers I have partially filled in already, upping my odds that looking over at a clue will result in instant success. That said, I tend not to look at clues where I have all but one square, because the value of moving my eyes to the clue and back to the answer (assuming I get it) is so low (just one letter). So in addition to working consecutive Downs when I can, I tend to work answers where I have letters in place already, but, preferably, multiple letters missing as well. I almost never look at a long theme clue until I have multiple letters in place at the back or front end - otherwise, it tends to be wasted effort.

I hope some of this makes sense. I'm just a B Division solver, so I'm sure some A Division folks can refine the speed discussion a great deal.


Rex Parker 7:45 AM  

@treedweller, you Are fast. There is no reason to use me or other even faster folks as a barometer. At this point, speed is a pointless obsession for me. A good obsession for a solver would be "Finish A Saturday Without Googling." That's a benchmark to be proud of. Speed is fun, because you can measure it somewhat objectively, but it has little to do with actual solving skill (i.e. both a 2-minute solver and an 8-minute solver basically Owned / Pwn3d that puzzle) and virtually nothing to do with wisdom or intelligence.


Anonymous 8:17 AM  

I solved this Monday in 30:12. Why? I had the entire puzzle completed in under 6 minutes but the solve-against-the-clock response was telling me it was incorrect. Spent 20 minutes to discover that in my haste to solve this pretty easy puzzle, I'd hit the "0" instead of the "O" in 23-across. Doh!

Anonymous 9:12 AM  

Neither "SAUCY" nor "AIR" wanted to come to me, so the "A" was the last letter to fall, and I had to figure out all the "AIR" combinations after I'd completely finished. Weird.

Rex, "Out of the Kitchen" is a standard command in our household, too, along with "Go See Your Dad."

And I couldn't have filled in this puzzle in 2:48 if someone had been dictating the answers! Way to go!

Bill from NJ 10:00 AM  

@ Rex-

I am in awe - but not envious - of faster solvers than myself. I am always looking for insight into solving techniques of the better solvers than me.

FWIW, I am amazed at the sheer number of non-native English speakers who patronize this blog and how well they do on the puzzles.

My hat is off to them.

Anonymous 10:11 AM  

The only thing that slowed me down even slightly was the fact that I misspelled ISAAK as "ISAAC." That stopped "MEEKER" from leaping into my mind, as I had "M__CER." Then when I got the crosses I had to puzzle over that word before realizing the C needed to be changed to a K. Not a huge delay, but it probably kept me from setting my personal record (not nearly in the 2:48 range, though).

Rikki 10:38 AM  

Happy Monday and congrats to Rex for besting his best. I spent a lovely Sunday catching up on puzzles and this blog. It's getting to be time-consuming to read a week's worth of blog with over a hundred comments on some days. Fun week of puzzles, though, and some classic blog moments had me laughing out loud (what causes temporary blindness/teargas because masturbation wouldn't fit) or shaking my head (Steely Dan sucks?).

Today's puzzle was fast and easy, but beautifully constructed and perfect for a Monday. Thanks, JA.

@Doc John...sorry I missed the concert. Didn't see your note until yesterday. Hope it was great and please mention upcoming events. The tuba, eh?

Ulrich 10:50 AM  

We had a discussion about speed a while ago and although I do not want to rehash it, I want to put in a word for those like me who do not go for speed--just to provide moral support to those similarly inclined. I have no problem with people who go for speed--all power to them: They know what they want.

And so do I: I like to savor a puzzle, particularly the easy ones b/c I don't have to worry about being able to solve them. Like today's, I had the theme when I got "air" half-way through, so instead of rushing ahead, I took the time to check all the theme answers I already had, even googled "air date" to see if that's a legit phrase. In other words, I deliberately dawdled and enjoyed myself doing it.

Again, I'm not saying that either method is better--suum cuique.

Orange 10:58 AM  

Here's what Tyler Hinman said for the hoi polloi in Parade magazine yesterday:

"I start with 1 Across, but I’m quick to move on if I don’t know it. Then I fill in clues where I already have letters placed, ideally first letters."

I think Tyler and the other top solvers pretty much all tackle an easy 1-Across by zipping through the first Down clues, as Rex described. It's always a good idea to check at least some of the crossing clues when a section is filled in that way—sometimes the fill is completely plausible but doesn't match up with the clues, so if you're training yourself for the ACPT, get in the habit of checking those crossings.

Anonymous 11:08 AM  

Orange, could you please translate what you and Tyler are saying? I don't understand what he or you are saying.

PuzzleGirl 11:10 AM  

Congrats on your new record. I, on the other hand, solved this puzzle in Exactly the amount of time I expect to spend on a Monday. Dang!

Song in my head today: "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing."

Margaret 11:13 AM  

Also very easy but very satisfying -- especially as the A in air was the last thing to fall. I felt like I ripped through it but it still took me 8 minutes. (gotta work on those Across Lite skills.)

Now that I'm doing the puzzle every day, I'm amazed at the number of coincidences: Indy appearing yesterday and today, dateline twice in a week, then today we had both Capital of Italy and pre-Euro money in the same puzzle, right after yesterday's stinker of a clue (that I could NOT figure out!) Maybe Mr. Shortz is playing with us?

BT 11:36 AM  

11:08 anonymous -

Their "strategy" is to answer 1-across. If they get it, then they immediately switch to 1 down - or any down clues which now have the first letters filled in from solving 1 across.

From a Game Theory standpoint, if you solve 1 across, your likelihood of solving 1 down is much better than that of solving (e.g.) 6 across, since you have the first letter of 1 down already filled in. In turn your likelihood of solving subsequent clues goes up, since you already have some letters filled in.

By maximizing the likelihood of solving a clue upon first viewing, you are improving your speed/time.

Noam D. Elkies 11:49 AM  

As I was saying yesterday about "Italian capital" and Mon/Tues puzzles... though even today the answer wasn't quite ROME and the other kind of "capital" appeared in the 43D clue and entry.

Yes, a nice and easy Monday puzzle -- it took me as long as 4:20 on paper, but I'm a C-bottom dweller. I was all set to [mild profanity] about yet another 4D:BASEBALL-themed puzzle (18A:.....FIELD, 20A:....LINE, and "diamond" in the 19D clue), but happily b*seball is only incidental to this puzzle.

Is Chris 29D:ISAAK really Monday material? Whatever -- that's what the "no unches" rule is for.

Steven Seagal, of all people? I'd have thought that in aikido something like a headlock would appear only in a "how to defend against..." context. I see that the picture's in the first page of Google Images hits for "headlock".


dk 11:54 AM  

Reading the Rune Stones of this puzzle reveal a classic Monday morning conflict: arise, slake; lulls, spate; wake, splash; paltry, teem and then add Chris Isaak...

Major snow fall here in the land of the big Mall.

Fun, fast puzzle for me outside of spelling MEEKER incorrectly: Speed Kills

Jim on the left coast 12:22 PM  

It's a good thing I didn't find the theme until it fell at the end from crosses because I never would have gotten "airdate". It seems other bloggers had the same issue. Could someone please explain?

Ulrich 12:32 PM  

@jim: This is what I found:
scheduled date of a broadcast.

Joon 12:44 PM  

hey rex, i'm with you. easiest (or at least fastest) monday ever. my first time under 3 minutes, too, clocking in at 2:58. and a surprisingly large part of that was trying to figure out how the heck to fit PLIABLE into 10D instead of PLIANT. everything else just fell like dominoes, including chris ISAAK (who, along with ISAK dinesen, is grade-A crossword material for when you really need to sneak that K in there and the usual spelling just won't do). also needed a little bit of luck--going for speed, i filled in ARISE instead of AWAKE off of just the first A (and not only turned out to be right, but was in position to instafill WAKE later on in the SE).

i agree that the WAFER clue isn't exactly the most elegant. "Eucharistic host" might have been a bit more solemn. but i also think that frisbee types prefer to call their equipment of choice a disc rather than a disk.

noam, i'm pleased to see the return of your profanity-laced commentary. and you can't really complain about all those baseball clues--it's finally opening day (for most teams)! and there was the pleasant chess clue for MATE.

i'm only just now looking at the grid, but boy, there seem to be a Lot of cheater squares for a NYT grid. i guess just four, but having them clumped in the middle like that makes the puzzle look a little unbalanced. i suppose two of them are necessary for the central theme entry AIR.

some nice unusual double-letter fill in this grid: ISAAK, TODD, and LLAMA all have doubles where you wouldn't expect. i especially liked the corner with LLAMA, LULLs, and BASEBALL all meeting with L's to spare.

PhillySolver 12:46 PM  

I am fine with the proper definition of air date our friend Ulrich provided, however, I like the ideas that come into your head when you don't know it...
airdate like air ball when the guy doesn't show up,
airdate like air head, when he shows up but he is an empty suit,
airdate like you pretend you are eating a middle eastern delicacy like airguitar,
airdate like airplane where you fly to some place for a rendevous,
airdate like a musical interlude.

I hope this doesn't seem OAFISH.

mac 12:57 PM  

Very nice and quick Monday puzzle; this time I tried for speed and amazed myself. Normally I try to make the early week puzzles last longer a la Ulrich.
Thanks for the tip about abutting down clues, Rex; I'm reading all kinds of tricks like that from Oranges book.
I have one small gripe: when I am referred to Roma, the capital should be called Lira.

mac 1:00 PM  

Is Lire the plural of Lira? Duh...

Jim in Chicago 1:05 PM  

Just back from a short trip and today was my first puzzle since last Tuesday.

I liked the crossing of CRAB and CHAD, since the very thought of hanging chads makes me crabby.

Ladel 1:18 PM  


my favorite crab clue is: "fiddler on the reef." You are right about absolute or relative speed, nothing more than cocktail talk. The gold standard remains the unassisted hockey goal, and the unassisted Saturday puzzle. Easy as this puzzle was I remain in awe of the constructor who was able to reduce it to such fearsome elegance.

Ashish 1:21 PM  

RP - That's a milestone, congrats!

I must say you fast-solvers are corrupting me - a proud slow-solver (until now), I have now started timing myself (at least for Mon-Thu; The Fri-Sat beasts take me hours and multiple sittings).

I just broke the 4 minute barrier for a Monday on this delightful puzzle.

And I completely missed the fact that the air prefix applied to both parts of the theme answers (until I read the blogs)!

Makes me wonder if I should revert to my slow sloth-like existence :-)


Ashish 1:21 PM  

RP - That's a milestone, congrats!

I must say you fast-solvers are corrupting me - a proud slow-solver (until now), I have now started timing myself (at least for Mon-Thu; The Fri-Sat beasts take me hours and multiple sittings).

I just broke the 4 minute barrier for a Monday on this delightful puzzle.

And I completely missed the fact that the air prefix applied to both parts of the theme answers (until I read the blogs)!

Makes me wonder if I should revert to my slow sloth-like existence :-)


Shamik 1:36 PM  

Found your website recently and love it. Nothing but good comments.

Why "wale?" You need this word to describe corduroy because different corduroys have different widths, ie., wide wale, narrow wale, etc. : )

miriam b 2:14 PM  

Agreed - very very easy, but elegant. I switched quickly from SASSY to SAUCY but hit no other speedbumps.

Doc John 3:37 PM  

I agree with Rex's assessment of today's puzzle, even if it did take me almost 7 minutes. (Monday's the only day I time myself.) Not only were the answers gimmes but they were handed on a sliver platter due to redundant cluing. The only thing easier would be if they had been filled in already (but how fun would that be?). But it was an enjoyable puzzle overall. Had "weaker" instead of MEEKER so my grid wasn't pristine. :(

AIR TIME- the holy grail for a coaster enthusiast. That is when the rider is rendered weightless (or nearly so) at the top of a hill (or in the back seat while descending certain steep drops).

Speaking of AIR- it's the name of an early (2002) "flying" coaster at Alton Towers in England.

@ Rikki- sorry you missed the concert; it would have been nice to meet you. Although there were a couple low points, overall it was a success, particularly "Rhapsody in Blue". Yes, I play the tuba but may play trombone for our next concert as we had 3 tubas but only 2 trombones for the past concert. Our next concert is July 26 at the Mississippi Room but we're also at the Organ Pavilion at Balboa Park at 6PM on July 16th (and that one's free). BTW, if any San Diegans play a wind instrument, you are more than welcome to join us, no audition required! Rex, I promise not to "harp" on this any more. If anyone is interested, I can be contacted via my blogger profile.

andreacarlamichaels 3:40 PM  

first, congratulations on the new record, rex!!!!!!!!!!

Like Ashish, I had never thought about speed till I saw the film...
for today's puzzle, speed made me miss that AIR worked for BOTH parts of each my haste, I thought it only applied to the first part...
so really Armstrong had 16 theme answers!!!!!!!!!!!! That really is amazing and leaves me gasping for AIR!

Plus since I had SASSY for SAUCY for about half a minute, I didn't get to the AIR part till almost the last clue!

well, well, well done, both on construction and solving times and then being able to take a step back and really look at the puzzle.

Once you pointed out that AIR fit for both front and back, I had to reread and realized I didn't know AIRLOCK till just looking it up now!
Very Get SMART!

ronathan 3:57 PM  

Rex, let me add my congrats to the chorus. A new record is definitely something to be proud of.

I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but since I have traditionally done crosswords on the actual printed newspaper page I have found that my times have gone DOWN considerable since I started doing them on the computer. I've only recently (within the last couple of months) been trying out AcrossLite, and I am finding it to be very cumbersome as compared to the old fashioned paper-and-pencil method (and it's not as if I am computer illiterate; I'm 29 and having been using computers since I was 6).

Maybe it's just me, but I like having all the clues laid out in front of me at one time. It helps me answer clues if I can also think about the crosses at the same time. Am I the only one who is having problems making the transition from paper to computer? Does anyone have any tips (besides what has already been mentioned) to make the transition a little easier?

ronathan :-)

ronathan 3:57 PM  

Rex, let me add my congrats to the chorus. A new record is definitely something to be proud of.

I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but since I have traditionally done crosswords on the actual printed newspaper page I have found that my times have gone DOWN considerable since I started doing them on the computer. I've only recently (within the last couple of months) been trying out AcrossLite, and I am finding it to be very cumbersome as compared to the old fashioned paper-and-pencil method (and it's not as if I am computer illiterate; I'm 29 and having been using computers since I was 6).

Maybe it's just me, but I like having all the clues laid out in front of me at one time. It helps me answer clues if I can also think about the crosses at the same time. Am I the only one who is having problems making the transition from paper to computer? Does anyone have any tips (besides what has already been mentioned) to make the transition a little easier?

ronathan :-)

Orange 4:04 PM  

Shamik: Well, if the word wale had never been applied to corduroy, we could call 'em wide-ridge and skinny-ridge corduroy pants...

emjo 4:14 PM  

i was a little disappointed with the easiness here. it was not challenging enough to distract me from the guy next to me flossing his teeth on the subway. OAFISH indeed.

Doc John 4:18 PM  

@ Orange- someone had to say it: "R-r-r-ruffles have r-r-r-ridges!"

Doc John 4:18 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
miriam b 4:39 PM  

@emjo: You've reminded me of the time I saw a guy flossing his teeth while driving. He must have been either on his way to the dentist or to keep a heavy date. Either way, everyone gave him a wide berth.

andreacarlamichaels 4:51 PM  

since there was a little speedbump for some yesterday with SLUTSKAYA/ERIK and today with ISAAC/ISAAK, may I throw in one of my little namedropping stories?

I agree ISAAK might be a tad hard for a Monday, but here in SF, we used to see Chris IsaaK regularly performing in the Haight in the early 80's and if you were lucky, you'd run into that actor/rockabilly crooner/gorgeous man on the street (shorter than you'd think and always with a different fabulous Asian woman on his arm).

As for the LIRA/LIRE/ROME/ROMA thing, (perhaps Orange covers this in her book which is getting many shoutouts today and which I forgot to pick up at the ACPT) if the clue says "Italia" it will most probably be ROMA as a tipoff that you are saying it in that language; but if it just says "capital of Italy" it could easily be either ROME or EURO.

And the easy way, altho not 100%, to pluralize in italiano is that masculine words ending in "o" become "i" (like libro/libri or gatto/gatti) and feminine "a" becomes "e" (as in donna/donne or pasta/paste...and in this case, lira/lire).

ciao for niao!

Big Lefty 5:17 PM  

Easy, yes. I took my time, said hi to the kids, scratched an itch. Speediness is for the younger crowd, like Rex. ;) A good puzzle.

Joon 5:25 PM  


here's one tip i've found to be helpful when using across lite. make the window big, but make the clues panel small. use most of the window for the grid (and click ENTIRE so that you can see all of it without scrolling). then, don't look at the clue panel. just look at the highlighted clue above the grid, and process the clues one at a time. this is really only a good idea for very easy puzzles, where you stand a good chance to get any given answer right away from looking at the clue without needing many crosses. for tough puzzles, of course, you'll need to do the usual technique of scrolling through the clues until you find a place to begin.

the other thing that can really help your time is use the keyboard shortcuts, NOT the mouse, to move around the grid. if you really understand what the arrow keys, shift-arrow keys, enter, and shift-enter do, you'll be able to move around the grid much faster so that you can spend every precious second solving rather than moving. (sadly, i've found that shift-enter doesn't do what i want on the macintosh version of across lite, so i'm reliant on shift-arrow keys when i'm using a mac.) also, knowing the behavior of the cursor when an answer is partially filled is key. across lite will generally skip over filled squares to the next unfilled square in the entry as you type, even if that means skipping back to the beginning; however, if an entry is already totally filled (even with wrong letters), it won't skip back to the beginning of a word when you get to the end. home/end works the way you want it to on a PC; many macs don't even have home/end, but fn-left/right do the job.

one big exception is that i use the mouse when i see a clue like "See 43-down." then i click on 43-down in the clues panel (not the grid, it takes too long to find it there) and the highlighted entry jumps to 43-down.

i don't use the applet any more, but i'm pretty sure many of these things are not true of the applet. (...which is basically why i don't use it any more.)

chefbea1 5:49 PM  

Worked all day today and never had a chance to do the puzzle. Will now read what everyone had to say about it

Mike 5:56 PM  

I stared doing the early week puzzles on the computer to save trees, this naturally led to watching my time. I usuall just use the enter key to rapidly move through the questions instead of trying to navigate across and down (which slows me down}, and I will check the crosses as I go by looking at them in the clue list, but I do not fill them in untill they come up in sequence. I do this two times and then use the mouse to finish up. I find using the right button to change between across and down to be helpful.

I usually find the down answers easier ( they are usually shorter and cross the longer theme answers} and wonder if starting with the downs woud be faster? I haven't tried that, but on end of the week puzzles that I work on paper I will usually jump to the down's if I am not getting the first acrosses.

I like today's comments on how everyone tries to get faster.

mike 6:02 PM  


Airtime is a phrase used among windsurfers and kiteboards to refer to the part of the day spent in the air from launcing jumps.

"How was your session? It was great I got a lot of airtime out there."

It can also be used to describe the amount of time during one jump.

"She got a lot of air time on that backloop"

Blue 6:07 PM  

thanks bt,

that's a perfect explanation.

mac 6:13 PM  

- thanks for the Italian plural info.
- I saw Chris Isaaks in a Madrid hotel lobby about 15 years ago - with an attractive Asian woman!
- I bought Orange's book at Barnes and Noble.

mac 6:13 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ellen 6:17 PM  

Accuracy is more important than speed. I read ALL the clues, always. But I encourage all the speed demons to not read clues and not check crossings. :0

This puzzle took me 3:50 on paper. I'll never win a sprinting contest (indeed, Adam Cohen beat me at David Kahn's talk last week).

scriberpat 7:29 PM  

2 comments RE: yesterday's Comments:

@anonymous 3:43 (profphil?) re: the Rx sign on prescriptions and drugstores:

the Rx sign evolved out of the symbol for the planet Jupiter.

@sobeling 1:33 and @eliezering 1:38
re: why is SEA the answer to MAIN in 118D:

main= obsolete: of or relating to a broad expanse (as the sea)

Leon 7:34 PM  

To the the Baseball entries, I would add HOLY COW a favorite expression of Yankee broadcaster and Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto. RIP Scooter.

ArtLvr 8:24 PM  

re MAIN = SEA, see old nursery rhyme/song:

"Sailing, sailing, over the bounding main.
For many a stormy wind shall blow
E'er Jack comes home again."


Orange 8:33 PM  

I saw Carrot Top in a hotel elevator once. He was not with a fabulous woman of any type.

arb 8:53 PM  

In 1984, while working the Los Angeles Olympics for ABC News, I shared an elevator ride at the Sheraton Universal with a fabulous woman, Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Gos.

(I'd have preferred Jane Wiedlin, though we didn't talk about that.)

miriam b 10:18 PM  


Then there's this by Alfred Noyes:

"We're out to seek a Realm of Gold Beyond the Spanish Main."

The Spanish Main was in fact the coastline of Spanish possessions around the Caribbean, and the term ultimately came to denote the seaways in the area.

Jim in NYC 10:26 PM  

I shared Rex's blank-out moment on 22A Quenched (SLAKED). What came to me was not the answer, but the image of Radar O'Reilly, ecstatic after his encounter with the tall blonde nurse. Then it took me a couple more minutes to remember his actual malapropism in that scene: "I've just been slaked!"

Jeff A. 1:03 PM  

Belated thanks to everyone for all the nice comments on my puzzle! As Orange pointed out on her blog, it was my NYT debut. Alas, I got busy this week and neglected to check whether this was the Monday my puzzle would appear, so I didn't even know this was the week until I got my paycheck in yesterday's mail! So, apologies for my tardy post.

When I was constructing this puzzle, I don't remember giving much notice to the fact that SPEEDWAY was the only thematic entry that didn't divide into halves of equal lengths -- but to be honest, I'm kind of glad that I didn't, since it was tough enough to squeeze in all those theme entries as it was! I tried really, REALLY hard not to include any "cheater squares", especially the ones after SLAT and before HUNT. But, once I realized that I could cram the grid with 16-divided-by-2 AIR words, a clean fill just would not materialize without the cheaters. Thankfully, their inclusion only had me at 38 black squares, the standard NYT max.

FYI, Patrick Berry's "Crossword Puzzle for Dummies" (which includes both dozens of great puzzles to solve and fantastic how-to chapters for would-be constructors) planted the seed in my brain to try to make a "both halves can follow" [or precede] type of puzzle. (I forget what Patrick's main theme word was in his puzzle of this type ...) When I eventually stumbled onto AIR as a possibility, I made an enormous list of every word that could legitimately follow it, and then went through each of those one by one to see which of the others it could be paired with. In other words, the sort of activity only an anal-retentive word-nerd would find enjoyable! :)

I had originally clued this puzzle with more of a Tuesday appearance in mind. Despite the MEEKER crossing which made it seem fair, the Chris ISAAK entry (which was key to making the SE section work) did feel more Tuesday-ish to me, since he's a not-quite-superstar despite his good looks and dreamy falsetto. Will thought otherwise, though, so I think he gets most of the credit for easing up on the cluing enough to contribute to the speedy times so many folks turned in. That said, many of my clues did appear intact, including the Chris ISAAK one, but I'm 95% sure the WAFER clue is Will's. (I'd check, but my original files aren't accessible at the moment.)

Anyway, I'm thrilled so many people enjoyed the puzzle. Thanks again for all the nice words -- you made my day!

Aviatrix 10:14 PM  

I don't even have this puzzle, but the cheetah caught my eye so I read the blog entry. I want to second the awed, "I couldn't have filled in this puzzle in 2:48 if someone had been dictating the answers!"

My goal though is not for speed, it's to fill in the whole grid, with neat precise, same-sized letters, with a big thick no-cheating pen, and to get the whole thing in a single pass through the clues. By my rules it's cheating to look ahead in the list of clues. I play it like solitaire, dealing myself one clue at a time and I can't go back until I've got to the bottom.

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