SATURDAY Sep. 20, 2008-Joe Krozel (Founder of the Foundation for Florida's Future / Bursts open, as legume seedpods / Politico Hutchinson and others)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

I like the shapes the black squares make - looks like some kind of small, rudimentary robot with four legs that's about to walk off the grid, stage left. Beyond that, I didn't care much for this puzzle. It's got a couple "K"s and, let's see, a "J" way up there, but otherwise, it's a pretty unscrabbly puzzle. Lots of ordinary letters and lots of yawner words. I think of grids on a scale from Scrabbly to Wheel-of-Fortuney (RLSTNE), and this one skews heavily toward the latter end of the spectrum. The biggest problem is that this is the Odd Jobbiest puzzle I've seen in a while. Made-up -ER words Everywhere, and then a few more -ER words that aren't nouns but that heighten the overall suffocating "-ER" effect.

  • 14A: They might be weaving (speeders)
  • 36D: Participants in a kids' game (seekers)
  • 7D: Ballerina, often (leaper)
  • 12A: Drama queen (emoter) - ouch
  • 30D: One signing off (approver) - OUCH "I'm the Decider!" "I'm a Uniter, not a Divider." Do you see why my ears hurt? I mean, even if you love that guy, it has to hurt, at least a little bit, to hear him talk.
And I left KEENER and SCEPTER off that list (49A: Comparatively shrewd + 37A: Bit of regalia). Add to the Odd Jobbiness a plethora of plurals; the worst of which, to my eyes and ears, is ASAS - 11D: Politico Hutchinson and others. When I was done with the puzzle I scanned the grid, saw ASAS, and dared myself to figure out the clue. I was somehow completely blinded to the possibility of a plural name. Was it an abbrev? A partial? The phrase I MEAN IT is very in-the-language, but I MEANT IT (2D: "That wasn't a joke!")? Not so much. Then there are the nearly duplicate phrases SHIP IN (14D: Send from abroad) and CART IN (38D: Deliver by truck), which collectively made me want to BASH IN (18A: Break by hitting) my computer screen out of frustration at the tedium (OK, that's an exaggeration - I just wanted to work BASH IN into that sentence). ALIENEES (25D: Heirs, legally) has been added to DECOCT and REUNE on my "Unwelcome Words" list (even though I got it almost instantly, from its presence in prior puzzles - which also happened, more strangely, with DEHISCES: 5D: Bursts open, as legume seedpods). Two superlative adjectives: DRYEST (10D: Least exciting) and PRICIEST (48A: Setting one back the most) ... OK, I'm done with the bad.

Here's what I liked. The first word I put in the grid, madcappily, was BETCHA (16A: "You _____!"). Why this was my first instinct, I don't know. But it gave me the "B" right where I needed it to get the delightful (letter-wise) JEB BUSH (1D: Founder of the Foundation for Florida's Future). Great clue on JEB, btw. I also really like both clue and answer at 42A: Separator of light and dark (tan line). My first two thoughts: GOD and LAUNDRESS. The clue on NEUTRINO (31D: It's free of charge) has probably been used before, but I still like it. The word ANORAK is always alright by me (45A: Snow-covered cover-up). The GLINDA quote is hilarious in its potential offensiveness (6A: "Only bad witches are ugly" speaker). Beauty = good, children. Remember that.

  • 17A: Asian range, with "the" (Himalaya) - "Give me an 'S'!," he DEMANDED (29D: Said while pounding the fist, say).
  • 22A: Something taken before swinging (stance) - baseball. Also taken before not swinging.
  • 26A: Loafer attachment (tassel) - am I the only one who thinks these look stupid?
  • 35A: Sports equipment wired for scoring (epees) - do puzzles long enough and you'll learn all kinds of fascinating stuff about EPEES.
  • 43A: "Les Mains Sales" playwright, 1948 (Sartre) - hot on the heels of yesterday's "No Exit," we get "Dirty Hands." Mid-century French playwright - who else was it going to be?
  • 44A: Delivered by a third person, perhaps (narrated) - yeah, OK. Something about this doesn't sit right with me, but I'm too tired to figure out what.
  • 15D: Blouse coverer (pinafore) - here, we have the Odd Job in the clue. PINAFORE is a pretty answer.
  • 39D: Lucia's brother in "Lucia di Lammermoor" (Enrico) - some Italian guy's name, gotcha.
  • 41D: Singer of the 1991 hit "Wicked Game" (Isaak) - this was first released in 1989 and I remember it very well from 1990, possibly because of its use in David Lynch's "Wild at Heart" (1990). David Lynch's work was, pop culturally, one of the few things about my college years that wasn't horrible.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


mexicangirl 9:03 AM  

I'll give you an "s" for the Himalaya mountains. No "s" for a range, though.
Have a great weekend!

joho 9:11 AM  

Rex, your write up is entertaining and right on as usual.

When I first saw the grid I thought I'd be in for the long haul, but, sadly, no. Just as yesterday's puzzle was too easy so was today's.

I haven't much to say about it other than the only time I wore a PINAFORE it was over an Eloise dress, not a blouse.

And, yes, definitely an "S" on HIMALAYAS.

Maybe Sunday will be the hardest puzzle this week?

jannieb 9:25 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jannieb 9:30 AM  

Needed lots of coffee to solve this. The NW and SE corners fell easily. Glinda was a gimme. Got Ann Richardson mixed up with Asa Hutchinson so that corner was stymied for too long. And after the Sierra/s discussion - oh never mind. Never see red ants in the house - just those pesky little black ones.

Also got hung up for too long in the SW with "endorses" and "serene" neither of which was working. Wanted SPA not NAP for refreshment - it seemed to belong with tan line (who thought laundry here?).

Not a lot to love here, but an awesome grid!

Crosscan 9:30 AM  

Well I liked this one. Not a three-letter word to be seen.

Some nice clues for SPEEDERS, STANCE, ADVICE and CREDIT.


Only one huh - DEHISCES.

Good job, Joe!

Sam 9:31 AM  

I like a Saturday puzzle that lasts longer than a cup of coffee.

Now I've got to start on the "honeydews" -- or is it "honey-do's"? Now there's a good idea for a Saturday answer.

hereinfranklin 9:32 AM  

I really, really wanted "VIAGRA" to be the answer to "It's taken before swinging." :)

Ladel 9:50 AM  


prefer two-toned, tasseled, penny loafers myself.

bill from fl 10:07 AM  

It's not a good day when your crossword is bracketed by JEB BUSH and ASA Hutchinson. For long time, I had KAY Hutchinson, which was just as bad.

blues2u 10:40 AM  

SPAS, ADES, NAPS just wouldn't come. SERENE and TASS-LE caused issues too. Other than that, one of my fastest Saturday solves.

Spot on write-up as usual, Rex.

dk 10:41 AM  

I dub (with my SCEPTER) this puzzle revenge of @mexicangirl. I laughed out loud as I completed HIMALAYA without an s. Imagine my joy and second round of laughter when I saw her post: numero uno.

My lovely wife (still angry over the house falling on her sister) grabed the pen and filled in husband as the common household pest and then attacked me with her winged monkeys when I suggested that it did not actually fit.

I was more of a Clarks Wallabee and Converse Hightops (black for formal wear) geek, my dad had TASSELS on his shoes. They say the nut does not fall far from the tree.

Off to exercise as my TANLINE has grown. They say marriage broadens one, now I know what they mean.

I could go on about the relative ease of this puzzle but I would be an EMOTER dontchaknow YOUBETCHA.

@mexicangirl... this is your time. :)

Twangster 10:50 AM  

I liked this because it was a Saturday and I was able to solve it without cheating.

Kept coming up with answers for 2-down that had the wrong number of letters: NOKIDDING, FORREAL, IMSERIOUS, SERIOUSLY, TRUEDAT...

john in nc 10:56 AM  

When I think of regalia, I think of that stuff professors have to wear at official events. I'm going to insist that my wife carry a SCEPTER at the next graduation ceremony (along with her TASSEL).

JIVED works for 1A, leading to my next vacation spot, VOTSWANA. I think they wear ANORAKs there.

evil doug 11:08 AM  

Bring back the teenagers. This has been the lamest, least challenging Friday-Saturday combo I can remember.

C'mon, Will; you must have something in your Saturday quiver worthier of expending my ink---and time---and $1.50....


Ulrich 11:09 AM  

I refused to believe that HIMALAYA could be called for--after what we've been through. That held me up in the NE. It was DEHISCES in the NW--never seen it or missed the discussion; the I is still not filled b/c it looks so strange. BOTSWANA was nice, though--had a wonderful time there 2 years ago. Agree totally with Rex re. tassles.

I'm instinctively leery of puzzles that separate into almost independent quarters b/c I know I may not get a foothold in any one of them from words extending into it from other sections; i.e. each is basically a mini-puzzle in itself. Given that, I was pleasantly surprised that I could do this w/o googling.

@dk: LOL, and I did laugh out loud!

jae 11:23 AM  

I liked this more than Rex, although I did balk at HIMALAYA. I also tried ANOUNCER for 30d and EMPOWERS but overall fairly easy for a Sat. for me. Only DEHISCES and ALIENEES were completely unknown but very gettable from the crosses.

chefbea1 11:34 AM  

Couldn't believe Himalaya either!!

thought laundry for separator of light and dark

@rex my husband recently bought a pair of loafers with tassels. they were very comfortable but he didnt like the he cut them off. They are now his favorite shoes.

I'm off to William Sonoma to see if I can find a dehiscer. I hate bursting open seedpods by hand

foodie 11:36 AM  

I know Rex is totally right about too many "ER"s and such. But it was amazing for me how I could guess at them, use them to work backwards and essentially unravel a whole puzzle, even when I started off knowing next to nothing. I too had SERENE for PLACID, I had ADES for NAPS, I misspelled TASSEL as TASSLE, but still managed it all in very decent time and no googling.

So, being as superficial as BAD=UGLY, I say for Saturday puzzles: DOABLE=LOVELY (i.e. makes me feel not-so-stupid).

Janie 11:39 AM  

i first encountered "dehisce" in fred piscop's 10/08/06 nyt sunday puzzle entitled "turnabout is fair play" -- and remember that it sparked a lot of conversation on the nyt forum (i believe this was just pre-rex). not that that helped me any today... anyway -- ya might wanna check it out!



jannieb 11:41 AM  

Sidebar: I saw on Emily's site that she's decided to stop doing a daily puzzle drawing. I feel like our xworld is greatly diminished by this sad turn of events.

Rex Parker 11:46 AM  

I'll have something to say about Emily's decision to stop her daily xword drawings tomorrow. Things aren't so sad. If everything goes according to plan, you will see crossword-inspired art from her again some day...


ArtLvr 12:09 PM  

Yes, Rex has some very cogent points, but I ended up more with crosscanand twangster and foodie -- I needed lots of time to straighten out my detours but finally finished, IFORGOT how! I probably should have started at the bottom as I usually do, but was satisfied with Joe's windmill shape anyway...

[Bit of regalia] for SCEPTER was deceptive, as it has to be much heavier than "a bit", etc. But when I came upon the comment "Only bad witches are ugly" I thought Aha, Oz! though GLINDA should have added a warning about those wearing lots of lipstick and consorting with witch-hunters!


middleagedman 12:10 PM  

I know my standards aren't as exacting as Rex's, but wouldn't call SPEEDERS or SEEKERS Odd Jobs, they don't seem forced to me. Also plurals don't bother me much (or third person present verbs of which there were also several.)

Also, while I would have rated this as "Easy-Medium" for a Friday, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Partially just from seeing DEHISCES, a word I'm fond of and one of the gimmes (for me) in every quadrant. Ironically, GLINDA the biggest gimme of all actually slowed me down while I double-checked that I was actually doing today's puzzle.

Remember when I said my standards were less exacting than Rex's? I MEANT IT!

alanrichard 12:25 PM  

I agree - this and Friday's were way too easy. I went NE, SE, SW and SE and was done before my mom was out of the beauty parlor! (Which means it took about 15-20 minutes).
The clues were clever but contexturally this was really easy.

middleagedman 12:26 PM  


Uncreative repetitiveness, or just a mini-theme? Albeit of the DRYEST sort.

Wade 12:49 PM  

"GlInda"? What is she, from Dallas? Only Dallas parents play the "Let's give our daughter a regular name but change the letters so she'll be unique!" game. Left me with "edling."

I had GAME NINE instead of GEM STONE for a long time. The NE was overall kind of tough for me (because of "Glinda." Good grief.)

I've never seen a red ant in anybody's house. Y'all must call them something different. Down here red ants are noble, patient, industrious, respected outdoor creatures--food for horny toads and objects of fascination to nine-year-old boys with magnifying glasses, who like to train the sunbeam through the lens and focus it on the ant to watch the ant suddently disappear in a pungent puff of smoke. My childhood is redolent with the scent of burnt red ants.

steve l 12:50 PM  

Didn't anyone notice DRYEST spelled with a Y? Shouldn't that be a VAR.? I learned that -er and -est after "consonant + y" changed the Y to an I. But nouns like clothes DRYER were spelled with the Y--perhaps the reason for the confusion. Also, is "The HIMALAYA" in-the-language? Yes, it's the other day's discussion in reverse, but we never say "The Rocky" or "The Appalachian," so does "HIMALAYA" mean something like SIERRA in, let's say, Nepalese?

Shamik 1:00 PM  

Despite the following initial wrong stabs, this puzzle was my fastest time for a correct Saturday puzzle. No medium here.


I consider ANORAK one of the more crosswordese 6 letter words there is. Some can call it stale. I call it an old fried.


Only time I've ever used DEHISCES is when talking about sewn up wounds. Seed pods sounds nicer.

PhillySolver 1:18 PM  

HIMALAYA is Sanskrit meaning House of Snow. Sierra Nevada means Range of Fallen Snow. Andes means chocolate mint :-)

miriam b 1:52 PM  

@wade: The red ants I encountered while living in Albuquerque were fearsome.

I had small red ants - clearly a different animal - in my Long Island kitchen this week. They shunned the food but seemed interested in the sink drain. After a few days, they vanished as mysteriously as they had appeared. I also had fruit flies for a short while, but they too departed. BTW, they were not interested in my improvised fruit fly motel, which is surprising, as in past years th8s device has been very effective in trapping them. Maybe the flies are evolving in some bizarre way. It doesn't bear thinking about.

When I see DEHISCES, I think of witch hazel, which shoots its seeds out via a spring-like structure. I Googled (post-puzzle) and discovered that botanists define various types of dehiscence, all less dramatic than in the case of witch hazel.

As for the ear - let's not go there.

mac 1:57 PM  

I agree with @Foodie up until the remark about "a very decent time"; I did NOT do it in a very decent time. Even walked away, and drove away, twice, and still stayed stuck in the NE. Never heard of Glinda, and didn't trust "patents", erased it. It's a weird thing, when I look at the finished puzzle, the answers are nothing special, but somehow the clues killed me today.

I didn't think a synod was a district, but a council.

Enrico and Lucia are actually Scottish Henry and Lucy.

Anonymous 2:19 PM  

I agree with everyone about the solving pleasure of this one. I wish puzzlers/editors would start thinking about the solvers for a change instead of how many long words they can stack on top of each other.

markus 2:46 PM  

My two cents: saying HimalayaS is much like saying THE Ukraine... it annoys me. Meh, what do I know? I'm not a correcter worder userer all the timer. Just a crossworder puzzler solver enjoyer.

Do dehiscers exist? If so, I really want one now for my kitchen, although I'd never use but I'd have one!

fikink 3:05 PM  

@hereinfranklin, have to admit my thinking went there, too.
@twangster, I like TRUEDAT, hope to see it on a puzzle

true - our recent discussion gave me HIMALAYA straight out making me think that future answers somehow sneak into previous discussions via the unconscious.

Rex, yes, my ears hurt, too, and the understudy is already grating. Nice write-up!

steve l 3:14 PM  

@miriam b--Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a melon.

chefbea1 3:16 PM  

@markus lol I'm an agree-er
Let me know if you find that dehiscer. Never made it to williams sonoma to look.

fergus 3:33 PM  

I can see Rex's point about the aesthetic appeal of this puzzle, but the solving for me was a fine symphony in four movements, moving clockwise around the grid starting in the 3 to 6 quadrant. The PINAFORE NEAR TO not next to GEMSTONE finished off that slightly balky corner, and presto, I'm done. HIMALAYA was too obvious so I put in AMU DARYA, thinking that there could be a range alongside the river. Had I LOST IT in as a Lame excuse, and was considering PROMOTES as a possibility for Prompts, but otherwise there wasn't a whole lot of alternatives or misdirection with this one. Even the two letter Clue, By, didn't seem to wander off anywhere.

My image of STANCE was a golfer, but that's because the Ryder Cup is on now.

Orange 3:42 PM  

Rex, last night I Googled "odd jobs" rex to link to your cruciverbal coinage (having found today's odd-jobbers much less objectionable than some past ones). Guess what? That late-2006 post on a Wolfe puzzle shows that Joe Krozel used the same grid! With a grid with a super-low word count (58), you're going to see more -ER, -S, -EST, -ED answers, but Joe's puzzle had a lot of good stuff to balance them out. Compare the two puzzles and you'll see what a nice job Joe did with the grid constraints.

Bill from NJ 5:20 PM  

I saw this puzzle as a giant X with four discrete sections that I solved independently of one another, moving from the NW into the SE, both of which fell rather quickly, and finding myself bogged down in both the NE and SW.

I had only GLINDA in the NE and ENRICO in the SW with only two ways to enter into each of those two sections (through TASSEL and REDANT). I had LIMBER at 7D which prevented me from seeing HIMALAYA for the longest time. I finally sussed out GEMSTONE from just the G and E. I had to piece together LEAPER to get the corner to fall. I had never heard of the HIMALYAS referred to in that way but what else could it be.

I had SERENE at first at 40D but the CN combination of letters didn't seem likely to fly at 48A and, since I happened to have been married to a Lutheran girl a long time ago, I managed to see SYNODS and that was the beginning of the end for this puzzle.

I thought the structure of this puzzle made it a skosh more difficult than Friday's to approach but not necessarily to solve

foodie 6:37 PM  

@wade, your childhood memories of ants reminded me of mine. I never thought to fry them (not as a imaginative as you), but I spent hours not only watching them but trying to see if I could influence them by placing different little tidbits of food near and far from their path. Based on long periods of observation, I decided that some colonies were smarter than others. I was surprised when my mother didn't seem to care about this startling discovery. I never thought this was the beginning of a scientific career, but was very pleased when I discovered many years later the work of E.O. Wilson called "Ants". These lowly creatures inspired him to develop Sociobiolgy as a field. Among other things, he said of ants: " "Karl Marx was right, socialism works, it is just that he had the wrong species". BTW, his later book, called Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge" (1998) is a really interesting attempt at integrating the entire range of human intellectual endeavors...

@miriam b, what does your fruit fly motel entail? Inquiring minds want to know...

kevin der 6:53 PM  

when you have a grid with large near-square blocks of empty space, you have to use words that end in common suffixes. none of the -ER words are at all unnatural to me. a SPEEDER is not only a driver (and you hear this word used frequently) but also an actual vehicle both in real life and science fiction.

i really liked the clue for PINAFORE, which i'd only heard of from the opera.

record time saturday finish for me at 17:15. thanks joe and will!

Rex Parker 7:11 PM  

OK, since this has come up twice now, let me be clear. Not every -ER word was bad in and of itself; it's the sheer number that's the real problem. Yes, SPEEDER is a real word.

If this type of grid necessitates what KDer says it does, i.e. common suffixes aplenty, then I hope never to see it again. What Is The Point?


Scott 7:11 PM  

I had the best wrong answer I have had in a long time in this puzzle. After throwing in BOTSWANA, I tossed in VIAGRA for 22-Across (Something taken before swinging). I knew it was wrong but I couldn't help myself.

andrea carla michaels 8:03 PM  

@Kevin D-
You of course would like things that end in ER. :)
I'm gonna have to go with Rex on the "What is the point"?
ie better more black squares, harder puzzle...
tho it was so gettable, made me feel smart.
First time thru I had but ISAAK and various ERs.
Love Chris Isaak. Always used to see him around SF in the 80s with different Asian women on his arm.
Great music, total hottie.
Bummed I was blonde.

Michael 8:05 PM  

All the -er and -s and -ed clues helped me a lot and I finished this puzzle very (too) quickly for a Saturday. I kept wanting to write "rodent" instead of red ant and shared others' puzzlement about "Himalaya" in the singular (though eventually concluded that it was ok).

Orange 8:23 PM  

Andrea, I don't like it when people have a specific "type" that happens to correspond to a specific race. It comes off as creepy to me.

Andrea and Rex, yeah, I do enjoy higher-word-count themelesses the most. You can get a lot juicier stuff into the grid with a 68- to 72-worder, for sure, and include more answers with juicy cluing possibilities. That said, if it's gonna be a 58-worder, better one like this than one with a bunch of trumped-up words and obscurities in it.

Joon 8:25 PM  

what is The Point? well, some of us think puzzles with huge open areas are cool. and i, for one, thought this was a very enjoyable solve. the cluing, in particular, was excellent--just what i want from a saturday. i didn't even really notice the odd jobs except for APPROVER, which grated.

archaeoprof 8:41 PM  

Count me among the few who liked this puzzle. Six, seven, and eight-letters answers all over the place. Really made me think. I asked my wife, a biology professor, how legumes disperse their seeds, and she immediately said, "They dehisce, of course."

Crosscan 8:52 PM  

A puzzle with this level of cluing, no 3 letter words and no -er, -est and the like can quickly be unsolvable.

billy 9:00 PM  

well, he doesn't fit here, but it could always be CAMUS.

Joon 9:08 PM  

... or GENET, or COCTEAU, or ANOUILH (gotta love the crazy -LH combination on that one). all big names, but none of them fit. of course, "dirty hands" is actually one of the better-known SARTRE works, i.e. it's one of the few i could have named off the top of my head.

mac 11:06 PM  

@Andrea: I saw Chris Isaak in Madrid some years ago, checking into a hotel, but the young Asian woman seemed to be his assistant/manager. No arm- or handholding was observed.

P.S. I first had cardigan instead of pinafore, and I like that particular word, too.

Bill from NJ 11:42 PM  

I liked the way Fergus put it - a symphony in four movements. I treated it just that way, solving the movements one at a time as there were so few entrees into the individual movements.

foodie 11:44 PM  

Dirty hands... it's so Sartre. Camus was loftier.

If you google dehiscer, you get 10 hits, and the first one is, guess what: Chefbea's statement on this blog-- "I'm off to William Sonoma to see if I can find a dehiscer"! The other hits are truly bizarre and not in English. There are a number of hits for "dehisce". So, Chef Bea, you coined a word, and it has found its way into google. But don't expect to buy one soon...

Badir 11:49 PM  

From my own experience, to disagree with Rex's rating, this was the hardest _Times_ or _Sun_ puzzle in months! The last time I couldn't get down to at most ten squares on a puzzle was May. But this morning, I filled in the NW and SE quickly and then spent almost an hour spinning my wheels, completely unable to finish. I got my wife to help me get the SW, and then I had to google a couple of things to get the NE. Part of it is that I felt some of the clues were too vague to pin down a specific answer. And I rejected the singular HIMALAYA early on! (Plus, I forgot that I could respell my "DRIEST".) I didn't really like the clue for PATENTS--I think of them as quite different from trademarks, so that was another correct answer I dismissed. I guess that was part of my problem then: I kept decided that the correct answer wouldn't work and rejected it. Sigh.

acme 12:09 AM  

You would totally find me creepy then...everyone of the men in my life have been practically interchangeable...all Mediterranean, dark hair, interesting noses, either Jewish or Italian.
(Didn't even notice till my oldest friend Andre (who had seen quite a few come and go over the years) mistook a picture of a current (Italian) love for someone I had dated back in the 80's (who was Jewish and American)!
After total surprise and many denials on my part, I dug out a pic of the old beau, and put them side by side and they were, um, virtually indistinguishable...
so I had to admit I very much had a type
(It has saved me time in some ways! I've learned a lot from the past about things to avoid... I simply make new mistakes!)

I don't think it's up to us to dislike other folks for having a "type", most people do...
They even have a type of puzzle they like to solve! ;)

KarmaSartre 12:42 AM  

If memory serves, Anthony Edwards and George Clooney used to be ERers.

Craig K 3:23 AM  

Rex, your comments on this puzzle remind of a relatively recent NY Times forum post by one of the Nancy's there (I forget which one, sorry). In the post, she said that she hoped that when Jim Horne began blogging on the NY Times site, he would no longer the unflattering caricature of himself on his current blog. Well, she's certainly entitled to dislike the picture, but it turns out that the picture in question is a Picasso self-portrait. In the eyes of many, including myself, it is actually quite artistic and enjoyable in its own right. Now how do you like them apples?

Rex, you're certainly entitled to your opinion of this puzzle, and I doubt I'll change it. Nonetheless, here's my opinion of it. As I am a solver who enjoys a good ultra-hard crunchy themeless, you might expect me to have disliked this puzzle, but the opposite is true: though my time on it may be a personal record for a Saturday, I absolutely loved it. The cluing was smooth and entertaining, and the structure of the grid provided a good balance between head-scratching and rapid in-filling.

As a constructor, I was flabbergasted: This puzzle is a 58-word construction where there wasn't a single word I would hesitate to use in a puzzle of my own. (All of the the -ER words are perfectly natural to my ear - even APPROVER. And there's not a RE- word in the bunch.)

I should also mention that this is also a puzzle with some honest-to-goodness fresh vocabulary (JEBBUSH, TANLINE, and IFORGOT), and a puzzle with no obvious crutches anywhere in the fill. It takes an amazing amount of skill to do something this difficult (construct a 58-worder) and make it look this easy.

(To put this feat into perspective for you: the lowest word count I've ever achieved in my years constructing 15x grids was 62 words, and the puzzle had obvious crutches, as well as flaws that would have made the puzzle unpublishable, and I'd like to think I've established myself as having decent constructing chops.)

Now don't get me wrong - I don't want you to stop offering constructive criticism where it is deserved (e.g. NATICK/NCWYETH). But I do think you're out to lunch on this one.

Rex Parker 7:52 AM  


I don't know what all the preamble was about, exactly, but in praising this puzzle, and calling me "out to lunch," you have highlighted a way of thinking about puzzles that I find peculiar to (or at least common among) certain constructors. They admire the feat of construction. Many in recent weeks (incl. JKroz) have come here and posted comments that contain the phrase "As a constructor..." I once had a conversation with a constructor (frequently published) who claimed not to care at all what the solver's experience was like - he made puzzles for his own amusement. Little technical feats. I find this aesthetic ... well, not one. Sometimes constructors appear to lose sight of the fact that millions of people solve the puzzle for fun. Fun. This puzzle was "fun" only for a. constructors who like to sit around and compare white square stats, and b. solvers who (as comments here demonstrate) were able to complete it because all the -ERs made it easy. Feeling of accomplishment! While I respect the latter feeling more than the former, I don't think either has much to do with whether a puzzle is any good. Puzzle geeks who sit around and swap white square stories with each other have their place in the world, I'm sure; I just wish they'd publish puzzles less often. My favorite constructors seem not to give a rat's ass about technical feats - they tend to put their emphasis on fabulous, creative, memorable fill.

You make good puzzles, Craig, and so does Joe. This one was not one, and I have every reason in the world to think so. Since I know you, I won't take the "out to lunch" comment too personally. But I'll say this right now - I find it amusing that some constructors are out there hypothesizing that my becoming a test solver has something to do with Will trying to "buy votes" for his puzzles, while others continue to see me as overly critical and wrong-headed and happily pull the "as a constructor" card every chance they get and then set out to school me on some finer point of construction that has Jack to do with whether the puzzle was enjoyable or not.

If you look back in my archives to almost exactly a year ago, you will witness a similar (though higher-magnitude) flare-up from puzzle insiders complaining at length about how my criticism is unfair and who do I think I am etc. So history repeats itself.

When I publish a puzzle (it'll happen eventually, I suppose, though given the pay I'm not terribly interested) I won't magically become more knowledgeable about puzzles overnight. And I certainly won't be using the phrase "as a constructor" like some kind of sad calling card.

[I'll just keep using the phrase "as a test-solver" ... hey, I just zinged myself].


PS thank you for validating the concept of the "NATICK Principle" (TM)

Bill from NJ 8:25 AM  

@craig k-

I,too, didn't understand your point about the Picasso self-portrait Jim H uses as his avator.

It seemed like you were building up a straw man to knock down . . . why?

Craig K 3:21 PM  

The intended point of my pre(r)amble was this: while there are many ways to look at something like a painting or a puzzle, sometimes an informed perspective may be enough to change, if not the sentiment about the painting/puzzle, then at least the understanding of it.

Let me be clear that it is not my typical habit to analyze a given puzzle's technical feats or flaws. I don't generally count the number of entries in a given puzzle unless I think it might be a record-setter of some sort. I certainly don't check for pangrammicity, and I usually only care about "scrabbly letters" in the context of whether they are used in entries that make the fill for more jazzy. (JAB and JAVA? well... not so much.) The closest I generally get is noticing when a constructor has made a minor gaffe like using a pair of entries which resemble each other a little too closely.

You have every right to dislike this puzzle, if you so choose, and even the fact that you were expecting a tiger and got a pussycat is sufficient to justify this dislike.

However, I have every right to disagree with and/or dislike your stated reasons for doing so.

Here's what I dislike about your stated reasons for disliking this puzzle:

* You disliked the low number of high scrabble point letters. The number of high-scrabble point letters has a very indirect relationship with the quality of the puzzle. Also, the Boisvert puzzle from the day before wasn't much scrabblier. Not to mention *mumble* *mumble* little technical feats *mumble* *mumble*.

* You claimed there were lots of of "yawner" words. I didn't notice any more yawner words in this puzzle than in an ordinary themeless puzzle. Take Friday's Boisvert, for example: it has, in five consecutive across entries, ITIS, APET, TONAL, CAT, and UTERO. Even the yawniest entry in the Krozel puzzle (ASAS or maybe RANEE) is better than three of the five of those: ITIS, APET, and UTERO.

* You claimed that there were made-up -ER words eveywhere. None of the -ER words you cited struck me as made up. Not a single one. Also, only two of the crossed at the -ER, so this flaw (if it is one) is distributed and diluted rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. (Is this really much more of a flaw or much worse of a compromise than stacking ETA on RES on SRS just to allow TOASTERS to sit beside ANTEATER to sit beside LATEPASS in the Boisvert was?)

Anyway... all three of these grounds for disliking the puzzle are technical grounds. Am I now forbidden to responding to criticisms made on technical grounds because I have the technical expertise of a constructor, and respond as a solver only (as in the first part of my original comment)? Or am I merely forbidden to cite my constructor status when discussing technical points?

Rex Parker 3:44 PM  

Dude, you're forbidden nothing. Just watch the "out to lunch" stuff. That, coupled with the "as a constructor" line, just came off condescending to me. I'm sure you've noticed that people (all kinds) disagree with me every day.


foodie 3:59 PM  

@craig k, it's been very interesting to read your discussion with Rex. As a third party, who by the way found this puzzle to be really enjoyable to solve, I find that I agree with both of you. How is that possible? Because I think you are talking about somewhat different things.

As a regular reader of Rex's blog, I feel I have a sense of the perspective he brings to it, and it is a personal one. He does not claim otherwise and he encourages his bloggers to say "in my opinion" and state whatever their perspective is. So, when I read his comments, I understand that if he said something is "a yawner", it's from his point of view, not based on some statistics. I don't know your perspective (I'm sorry since I don't know your full name and cannot figure out more about your contributions), but it seems to me that you base your points on closely argued evidence (mathematician? Lawyer?) As a scientist who has many friends who are humanists, I certainly understand the value of both styles, but they are not always compatible.

I hope that the constructors read both Rex's blog, which offers a unique, fresh and very individual perspective, and the comments of the other solvers. We often don't agree with him (for instance today, he liked the puzzle much more than I did). The constructors can then get a sense of the majority response to the puzzle.

I always appreciate hearing from constructors, and some have become regulars on this blog. It has greatly increased the depth of my appreciation of puzzles, as have Rex's comments not only as a solver but as a tester. Thank you all.

Doc John 9:36 PM  

ANORAK is a derisive term to Brits. As described to me, it sort of means "geek".
It comes about because it seems that all the geeky trainspotter types in Britain wear anoraks.

Other than that, I pretty much agree with Rex's review of the puzzle. Except for TAN LINE. The tan line doesn't separate light from dark, it IS the light. It really separates dark from dark.

Oh yeah, one other thing- wounds may also DEHISCE. Yuck!

Anonymous 12:09 AM  


The majority of solvers don't give a damn if a grid has 58 words or 68words or 78 words. They like clever clues and clever themes.
They want to be entertained.

acme 2:26 AM  

I just got two puzzles rejected (not from the NYT but for a book) bec they had 40 and 42 black squares, respectively and the spec sheet stated only 38.
(As with everything, I thought they'd make an exception if the theme was strong enough...but, alas, no)
They like the themes so are giving me the chance to tweak (ie start from scratch) :(
Just for the record, I HATE the whole black square limit thing.

I mention this as a solver/constructor! No matter how much I want to entertain, there are all these strict rules to learn/adhere to. Blecch.

I'm glad to hear that some folks do get more out of it once they are made aware of all the rules.
I agree it's a bit like Art History.
eg I understand little about art in churches. But my sister (who was an Art History major)pointed out small things, like the Virgin Mary is always depicted in Blue...after that, it somehow deepened my awareness and appreciation.

This may be stating the obvious
(but it's Sunday night and I'm pooped) but Rex and folks like you have really deepened my awareness of what people think about, expect, like, hate, etc. and I think it makes any constructor/solver who even takes a glance much better all around.

So thankyous all around!

Joe Krozel 10:29 AM  

Hi Rex:
I thought your criticism of my puzzle was fair as it was the same criticism leveled against the Robert H. Wolfe puzzle of Dec. 1 2007 -- which served as my prototype. (Hmmmm... if I had done my homework back then, I might have filled it differently).

One other thing, though... The last time I used the "As a constructor" phrase on your blog (July 16, 2008)it was to politely acknowledge to a critic that I was very much taking the viewpoint of solvers into account. So, please don't count me among those who discount the role of the solving experience when I construct. I may not always succeed at it, but it's really my top priority.

By the way, Orange has started up an adjunct blog with a "Constructors' Corner," and I'll let Kevin McCann at the Cruciverb website know that this might be the best place for constructors to comment... if only to shout out their Kudos to their fellow constructors.

Waxy in Montreal 5:31 PM  

Way late but had (14A) SPIELERS for SPEEDERS (They might be weaving) and (47A) NOTICE for ADVICE (It's typically easier to give than take) for the longest time...

Eventually solved all 4 quadrants but it took the better part of the weekend.

And no Sarah Palin comments on the blog about one of her fav expressions - YOU BETCHA (16A)? Maybe Sept. 20 was too early...

blue_tadpole 3:32 PM  

It's 6 weeks later, so maybe no one will read this. Anyway, Rex, I agreed with most of your comments on this puzzle. However, beauty = good is not how you should interpret the Glinda quote. It's good = beauty. And that makes all the difference in the world! Thanks for your blog. It's where I always go when I'm stuck.

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