Saturday, November 1, 2008

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: TWO-WAY STREETS (35A: Many thoroughfares ... or what this puzzle's Across answers consist of? -> STEERTS YAW OWT) - Across answers run forwards and backwards on alternate lines

This is an architectural feat that deserves respect. Not only do you have the alternating back and forth Across answers, you also have not one or two but THREE theme-related answers: the one mentioned in the theme description above, plus 17A: Detours (alternate routes) and 55A: Possible result of an appeal (reverse decision). Superb. If it weren't for the backwardness of half the Across answers, this puzzle would have been on the easy side, but given the gimmick, I had to jack the difficulty level Way up. Once you tumble to the theme, the puzzle is very doable, but even savvy solvers probably had some trouble. I know that when I have complete and utter breakdown, as I did in the first minutes of solving this puzzle, then the puzzle is probably a rebus ... but I couldn't make that work. I had a few moments where I was frustrated because I felt I knew the answer, but it wasn't working ... it was only after the third or so time this happened - with DIA, aka AID (52A: Square on un calendario) - that I finally realized what was up.

The original clue on PEPSI was [Slice maker] (to my mind a much much easier clue than the current 20A: Its slogan was once "More bounce to the ounce"), and so I confidently wrote in PEPSI ... which was confirmed by EARP (5D: Marshal played by Fonda, Costner and Lancaster) - damned central "P" stays put when you reverse the word! So I was stuck there. I had patches of the grid filled in ... but the patch wouldn't bloom. RERAN / NEWEL was an early signal that I failed to pick up on. I knew they must both be true, and yet they couldn't be ... Anyway, as I say, reversed DIA saved the DIA and after much slogging around I was finally able to blaze to the finish.

• 14A: High-altitude home (eirea)
• 15A: Motel freebie (eci)
• 16A: Take on (tpoda)

• 20A: Its slogan was once "More bounce to the ounce" (ispeP)
• 21A: Espouse (dew) - as in "Mountain Dew," which is also made by ispeP
• 22A: Panama, e.g. (tah)

• 28A: Onetime ring master (ilA) - tsetaerG ehT
• 29A: Some blemishes (straw)
• 30A: Showed again (narer)

• 42A: Aid in avoiding the draft? (fracs) - excellent eulc
• 45A: Mass communication? (nitaL)
• 47A: Word Cup cry (!elo)

• 51A: Stowe girl (avE)
• 52A: Square on un calendario (aid)
• 53A: Cousin of a hyacinth (pilut)

• 60A: Rhone feeder (eresI)
• 61A: Rio producer (aiK)
• 62A: Crackerjack (tpeda)
Not much in the way of obscurity. I have absolutely no idea who BEA Lillie is (1D: Comic actress _____ Lillie), though it seems she was once a stage and screen actress of some renown, associated with Noel Coward and Cole Porter. She won a Tony, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and, best of all, from my perspective, she was also known as "Lady Peel," which is officially the best stripper name ever.

Others:

• 6A: Gun-cleaning aid (rod) - very necessary, this one. A big help when it came to figuring out that I had ICE the wrong way around
• 9A: Indian honorific (sahib) - I used the word AMAH in conversation tonight. I'm just sayin'...
• 25A: Calyx component (sepal) - crosswordtastic, this word. Pays to do these things habitually.
• 27A: Beret holder (tĂȘte) - ugh, "holder"
• 39A: Illegal match play? (arson) - ah, the cheeky ARSON clue. A crossword standard. I like this one.
• 50A: Sailboat stopper (calm) - "slower" or "staller" would have sat better with me.
• 63A: Spring Air competitor (Serta) - I believe we've had this very clue/answer pair in recent months
• 65A: City in North Rhine-Westphalia (Essen) - one of the crosswordiest place names in the book
• 2D: Start of many rappers' stage names (Lil) - let's take, oh, I don't know, LIL' Wayne:

• 4D: Predecessor of Thornburgh in the cabinet (Meese) - my first guess off the "M" in BLAME (1A: It's often laid on someone else), but non-reversed PEPSI intervened ...
• 6D: Person who's combining (reaper) - interesting use of "combining"
• 10D: Seller of Squishees on "The Simpsons" (Apu) - gimme gimme gimme; voiced by the amazing Hank Azaria:

• 11D: Like Venus vis-a-vis Mercury (hotter) - well, Venus is the goddess of love, so of course she's HOTTER than whoever this Mercury chick is
• 18D: Cranes constructing homes, e.g. (nesters) - ouch. I have a friend whose name kind of sounds like this.
• 23D: "Le _____" (Jules Massenet opera) ("Cid") - wonder what it sounds like:

• 41D: CD follower (ROM) - please tell me you did not enter "EFG."
• 46D: Seat of Shawnee County (Topeka) - TOPEKA is a great city name, and, fill-wise, one of the most exciting entries in the grid (last time TOPEKA and "exciting" were used in same sentence? 1978 - Van Halen was in town)
• 50D: Canine features (cusps) - it's a tooth thing
• 52D: High-culture strains (aria) - cute way to dress up this most banal of crossword answers
• 58D: Stanzaic salute (ode) - ditto
• 59D: Staple of Indian cuisine (nan) - if only you could have tied this to APU somehow, I would have been soooo impressed. Instead: just impressed.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Congratulations to my daughter, who yesterday won the Thomas Jefferson Elementary third-grade spelling bee. Take that, MARSHMALLOW! I gotta start teaching her to trash talk. The best part of her recounting of the story was when she said "I kept telling myself, 'I'm going to win this!'" She didn't get anything for winning, though; no certificate, no trophy, nothing - I told her to go back to school on Monday and demand some hardware (kidding).

Doc John

Couldn't sleep so I thought I'd take a stab at the puzzle.

This was a great puzzle. I really had a rough go at it until I finally figured out the theme. (Dammit! Why won't TONE DEAF cross KIA?) After getting the theme I thought it was cute. Then I got to REVERSED DECISION and that cemented it as one of the best I've done this year. Fantastic construction (I had a feeling something was up when I saw all those lone black squares), great cluing and very little crossword-ese (as Rex already mentioned). Way to go, Mr. Willing!

BTW, Venus is hotter than Mercury because of its high CO₂ level, which as we all know by now, holds in the heat.

imsdave

I had this one as an easy. Got BEA and EARP and was puzzled by why AERIE wouldn't work. Then to the NE with APU and IDEATE allowing me to confidently fill in APODT which I didn't notice until I saw BT starting 13D. The gimmick revealed, the rest of the puzzle was Wednesday/Thursday level.

Very nice construction though. Off to the golf course (hopefully, not for the last time - sigh).

susan

This one had me googling all over the place even when (I thought) I knew the answer. So an answer like "BEA" should have been filled in by the crosses, but Aerie just wouldn't work--until I figured the trick. And what else could it be besides "reran." I think my AHA! clue was Pepsi, but again only after I googled the slogan and scratched my head in puzzlement for quite a while.

My favorite clue was "aid in avoiding the draft?" And my last fill in was tulip. That one just wouldn't come to me. Even though I finally got the trick, I just couldn't get the rhythm of which answers were backwards.

Very enjoyable puzzle for all of its frustration. One of my favorites--now that it is done.

susan

Hey, and congrats to the kid! That spelling skill will come in handy as a (future?) crossword solver. And I say, go for the hardware! lol

archaeoprof

The "aha!" moment came when 3D had to be ARTIFACT and 28A had to be ALI. But it still took time for the theme to dawn. Severely and profoundly cool puzzle.

@Rex: congratulations to your daughter! But maybe no hardware is ok. By the time my kids got to high school, they had way too much of that.

evil doug

My kid was a spelling bee wizard. But he also played football and baseball and Nintendo, and it quickly became clear he wouldn't advance past the regional finals unless he studied like it was the New York bar exam. I was kind of glad he eased up and went back to enjoying what was, for him, a normal life.

A high percentage of those kids who work their way to the Scripps National Spelling Bee seem so one-dimensional and painfully focused, that (even as I congratulate them for their obvious smarts) I worry about them on the playgrounds of America---both as participants in athletic efforts or as potential victims of bullying creeps at recess....

After a weak week, finally we get a puzzle worth its salt. While the individual clues weren't terribly rough, the solving time was padded with deciding which answers ran east and which went west. I'll call it "Do What You Like" by the brilliant but short-lived Blind Faith, played twice: 15:18x2=30:36. A pleasant confection, worth the buck-fifty.

Evil

Rex Parker

Thankfully, with years of karate under her belt, my daughter will be able to flatten any playground bully (and any douchebag who makes insinuations about how one-dimensional or abnormal she is).

And "smarts" has crap to do with spelling.

rp

Sam.

My "aha" was forcing Pepsi and Meese to intersect.... there HAD to be a way.

All said, though, I didn't tumble to the symmetry of each line right away, and approached most of the rest of the grid as two-way possibilities until quite late.

My brain hurts, but this was fun in about 40 minutes.

twangster

I really shot myself in the foot with this one. I got ALTERNATE ROUTES quickly and saw that PEPSI and HAT were backwards, so I assumed every other word was backwards, not every other line. I circled every other word and started filling them in ... this worked for a while so I was wedded to it. Finally figured it out, but needed some googles along the way.

Ditto on the congrats to your gal. I was a state capital man myself--ran the table in fifth grade by beating out Darrell Sloan on Michigan.

I flunked nearly every puzzle this week, including Monday, but nailed this one in no time. My only setbacks were for some reason choosing ONE-way street instead of two-way and going with Tin-Eared instead of Tone-Deaf, the latter being a pretty brilliant mistake, if you ask me. Cool puzzle, but like all rebuses, when you get the joke you may as well stop there.

chefbea1

thought it was going to be an easy puzzle/. Of course got Bea right away and blame and artifact. Took awhile to figure out the theme - Saturday's arent suppose to be themed!!.

Can someone please explain 7 down 10/: why is that the abbr. of october?

jannieb

@chefbea - when you write a date - say 10/31/08 that 10/ is for October. That said, it was the last section to fall for me.

I confess to one google - slogan for pepsi - then it started to fall into place. After studying the grid for a few minutes, I finally glommed onto the ess-curves in the puzzle. To my mind, one of the most creative constructs of the year. And one of the most satisfying to solve. Well done!

Crosscan

Great puzzle. The clues seemed easy, but the crossings t'ndid tnaw ot krow. I needed the theme answers to erugif ti tuo. How could Ali be wrong? Ole? Hat?

From the 35A clue, I was trying to determine what was common with every single Across answer - first I thought they all had an "a" in them.

ovarB!

nacssorC

treedweller

I found this one pretty easy. Considering how badly I've done lately on all puzzles and how seldom I've done well on Saturdays, I casually started entering Downs and wasn't very distressed to be missing a lot of Acrosses. I finally got the theme on NEWEL/NARER and it was academic from there. Like chefbea1, I resisted at first because Sats. are not supposed to have a theme, but it quickly became undeniable.

RAFER and ERESI both gave me pause (never heard of either), but the crosses confirmed them and I was surprisingly confident of a successful result when I submitted. I am happy to report my confidence was justified, and I will bask in my high ranking (for me) on the Fastest list until this evening. It will soothe me somewhat for my various missteps this week.

evil doug

From the Scripps site:

"The Consolidated Word List is a compilation of over 100 Scripps National Spelling Bee word lists dating as far back as 1950. It appears below in four sections totaling 794 pages. It is FREE. There are 23,413 unique words. Parts of speech, language origins, pronunciations, definitions, and sentences are provided for 10,139 (43%) of these words."

Smarts not required? Get real.

And try reading my posts instead of your tiresome habit of reading phantom words into them. I didn't disparage your daughter's accomplishment or "insinuate" anything about her---unlike your own unfortunate "douchebag" comment---but tried to share our own family's experience in the wonderful world of spelling bees.

Be careful with your typical hyperbolic overreactions, or we'll have to go into administrative mode again.

treedweller

@evil
Carefully reading posts is a TEERTSYAWOWT. I don't see anything in Rex's post that says you disapraged his kid. You said Bee winners were likely to be bullied; he pointed out that she should be able to protect herself. The "douchebag" comment was directed at theoretical bullies, not you. So please take the bickering and bravado to another site.

chefbea1

@janieb thanx for clearing that up for me

Anonymous

http://www.spellingsociety.org/journals/j20/recent.php

Conclusion from the scientific journals including the above...there is little relationship between spelling ability and being smart. In the article's words..."there is no significant relationship between correct spelling and intelligence."

/miguel

John in CT

I'm not a fan of gimmicks. I just flat out didn't like this puzzle. I guess I'm vanilla. I do like sprinkles, but you can keep your chocolate swirl.

Orange

You can't be truly dimwitted and manage to be an ace speller, but you can be brilliant and yet not a good speller. It pains me terribly to say this, but excellent spelling (or standardized-test taking, or crossword speed-solving) is not solid proof of utter intellectual superiority over those with misspellings, lower SAT scores, or more leisurely crossword paces.

You know, Rex, the one time I won a spelling bee, in high school, I got a trophy and a \$1,000 scholarship. So put those skinflints at Thomas Jefferson Elementary on notice: They need to find a corporate sponsor for spelling bees.

P.S. Loved this puzzle!

P.P.S. The Virtual Thesaurus Spelling Bee is fun if you like spelling tests.

jae

Very clever and enjoyable. Pretty easy once you catch on which came for me with the theme clue (35a). After getting that one the EARP/MEESE/PEPSI/AERIE problem was instantly resolved and the rest of the puzzle went fairly quickly.

@janieb & chefbeal OCT was also the last section to fall for me as it took a while for the 10/ OCT connection to dawn.

I was going to chime in on the spelling-smarts issue but miguel covered it nicely.

joho

@evil doug: my brother is brilliant and a terrible speller.

I do not remember ever being stumped like this. Even with ELO and AVE and many others that I got, I never did slap my knee with that aha moment.

I gave up and came here to be enlightened. At which point I zipped through the blanks in the puzzle faster than the Roadrunner on speed.

Congratulations Donald K. Willing! You broke me today to win my most sincere admiration.

Margaret

I did the puzzle last night. It took me over an hour but I was ridiculously proud of myself when I figured out the gimmick. For too long a time I thought the "More bounce" sloganee might be Aspen!

I'm not only staying out of the spelling vs. smarts debate but am going to try to change the subject to neologism. On the heels of Rex's Amah/Sahib comment, here's my candidate for a new term.

Coincicross -- the phenomenon of randomly stumbling across a word just before or after it has been in the puzzle.

Edith B

This puzzle was an offbeat combination of Challenging/Easy as finding the gimmick seems to be more than half the battle. And figuring out the gimmick was also more than half the battle so there was something gestalt going on here, probably misusing GESTALT but liking the word.

I liked the way Orange presented the dichotomy of spelling vis-a-vis intelligence, hopefully puting an end to the Great Evil Doug vs Rex Dispute, where insinuation was the key.

I spent a lot of time in the NW trying to figure out what the bleeding hell was going on at the EIREA/MEESE cross but it was at 20A:ISPEP where I had my personal AHA! moment at roughly the 20 minute mark and swarmed all over the North down into Fly-over country before stalling at ONEWAYSTREET ( I am too old to have to deal with this backwards in the post).

Suffice it to say, I picked it up down in Florida Keys and worked northward to where I had stalled, being very happy that REVERSEDECISION was running the right direction, fixing my one way to two way in North Carolina on my way to a successful end to this puzzle.

I found this enterprise to be little too exhausting for my taste and and am way too tired to go back and check my spelling. Sorry

HudsonHawk

Diabolical puzzle. I loved it. Like many of you, the KIA/TONE DEAF and EARP/AERIE crossings were the breakthrough moments for me. But it took me awhile to get there.

Greene

Well...I was going to say that if spelling ability is not associated with smarts, then I must be about the smartest person on the planet, 'cause I can't spell for crap...and I won a spelling bee when I was in junior high school to boot! Of course, after being slapped around by this puzzle for an hour or two all delusions of smarts were handily quashed.

I can be amazingly dense and literal about these crossword puzzles and I persistently attempt to force square pegs into exceedingly round holes. I did finally stumble onto the theme and absolutely loved the puzzle when completed, but I'm so black and blue I feel like Rex's daughter has applied a Karate chop or two to my solar plexus.

I'll bet Bear Lillie couldn't spell either, and she was a comic genius.

@evil: I know I shouldn't ask, but what in blazes is "administrative mode?" Can't we all just get along?

Garymac

I thought this was extremely easy for a Saturday. The gimmick for me was immediately apparent as BLAME for 1A was obvious as were all of 1D through 5D resulting in EIREA for 14A. That led to ISPEP for 20A and it was mostly easy from there. It was easy to forget which way you were going though. I caught myself filling in WED instead of DEW and HAT instead of TAH which made for all kinds of problems with the crossing Down answers until I saw what I had done. Kind of fun, but more like a Thursday puzzle.

Sandy

For me, her spelling win wasn't about smarts, so much as her ability to focus. She said that each time her turn came "I cleared my mind." What I got from the SpellBound documentary was that a competitive spelling bee is like a sport, in that you learn discipline, focus, self-control, work ethic, and that losing can be a learning/character building experience.

Vega

My first post but have loved reading the blog for months now. Thanks, Rex and all, for increasing my crossword enjoyment exponentially (don't know if I used that word right). You all need to never, never stop posting because you crack me up besides being so dang smart.

Here's the kind of solver I am: not bad Monday through Thursday and Sunday, lucky if I can get through Friday without a google (or five), and Saturday, forget it. I either give up in despair or just google the bejeezus out of it. So how smug I feel that I completed today's puzzle in less than an hour, and completely on my own! ssergorP!

The nesting cranes clue reminded me of the sandhill cranes that are migrating through southwest Washington state (USA) these days. Charming primordial graceless beauty.

-Vega

Noam D. Elkies

Re:x's "This is an architectural feat that deserves respect" -- moreover, each of the reversed words has odd length, so there's always a central letter like that P in ISPEP:A02 (sorry) that can be entered correctly without tipping off the solver. All the more so for the central theme entry's STREETS which is almost palindromic.

NDE

PuzzleGirl

Getting ready for bed last night, PuzzleHusband said, as is his custom, "Need any help with the puzzle?" And I gave him my typical-for-a-Friday-night answer: "Honey. Seriously. It's a Saturday puzzle." Well, he basically made me bet him that he couldn't get three or four answers in his first pass through. I thought it was a safe bet. So I'm reading out the clues to him. He gets BLAME. He gets ROD. Passes on SAHIB. And then I read "High-altitude home" and remark "Oh man! Why did I bet you when this is obviously the easiest Saturday puzzle ever?" Well, it didn't quite work out that way now, did it? I Could Not figure out why AERIE wouldn't work. Anyway, PH got his three or four and went to sleep, leaving me to the rest of the puzzle. I think I'll print it out for him today and see if Mr. Smarty Pants can finish it on his own.

Had CHEERIOS for WHEATIES at first. Love the clue for REACT ("Not keep a poker face"). And love the APU clip.

I think this was our Thursday puzzle for this week. (Since we sure didn't get it on Thursday.)

Congrats to Sahra! I love spelling!

Oh, and Margaret: Love "coincicross"!

fikink

Fun puzzle.
PEPSI was my way in.
Agree that "slower" is a better clue for CALM, for the stopper by sailing standards is DEADCALM ( which also is an interesting introduction to the acting ability of Nicole Kidman).
COMBINING is an AVERAGEJOE verb out in these parts.
And, oh yes, BEA was my looper.
@vega, pics of the sandhill cranes, please!
@puzzlegirll, love your Cheerios for WHEATIES

IowainDeborah

kevin der

this is the kind of brilliant theme that makes me wish i'd thought of it first. it was clear this puzzle had a gimmick, due to 35-across, so the theme wasn't unexpected. i think i caught onto it when i put OLE into 47-across, knew it had to be ROM coming down since EDF didn't fit whether OLE is backwards or not. i also initially thought that every other across answer was backwards, so it took a little while to track that down. the SW corner was tougher than it should have been, until the F from FRACS makes FLARES obvious.

my one grip is is the RAFER / NEWEL crossing. i guessed right, but it easily could have gone another way. both are obscure and look strange.

aunthattie

I really wanted to hate this puzzle when I realized that some of the answers were backward, but the longer I worked at it the better I liked it--extremely clever and fun to do.
@Rex--Hooray to the good speller--I am a terrific speller (proofread professionally) but ONLY when I can write it down or see it written--spelling into the air is quite beyond me. Can't do anagrams, either--what it says is ALL I see.

Doc John

For those complaining of the obscurity of RAFER Johnson, he was the one who lit the Olympic torch at the 1984 LA games.
Speaking of torch lighters in the puzzle, Muhammad ALI also had that honor in 1996.

JeanSp

Did anyone else put in PCT for OCT? I didn't notice that it would have to be /10 if it were short for percent. Oh well.

Jean

Anonymous

A brilliant puzzle, but I spoiled it for myself.

The most recent time I had tried to access JimH's new NYT Wordplay site, it was not functioning. So today I went to look at the Freshness Factor for yesterday's Toilette (used twice before as it turns out).

I did know that Jim can no longer post the answer to a puzzle the same day it appears, so I went to the Wordplay site (for the first time) to read a bit. To my horror, although the answer to today's puzzle wasn't there, there was a discussion of it. I read Jim's words: "For the second time this week, the crossword is from a new constructor. Since I don’t want to say too much about the puzzle, I’ll talk about the author instead.

Let me explain. This is a special crossword. It appears on a Saturday, but it’s not as hard as you might think."

There I stopped, but it was too late. I had tasted the apple, drunk the Kool-Aid, whatever.

When I started the puzzle, 1A and 1D were gimmes, and everything else fell in to place all too easily. I repeat my sentiment of a few days ago: Knowing in advance that a puzzle is "special" kills it.

Well, OK, for 26D Member of the carrot family, I had PARS and, thinking of the top half of the carrot, filled in LEY, only later being guided by the crosses to the correct NIP.

Bob Kerfuffle

fergus

This very entertaining puzzle seemed like a shout-out to those in-the-know, and like a bunch of inside jokes for loyal solvers. I would imagine that people who haven't been been around, so to speak, would get tied up completely, while old hands recognized the secret handshake, and breezed through. The number of standard gimmes (almost as if they were in quotation marks) gave the puzzle away, though this made me feel seasoned, rather than jaded. The 35A hint annoyed me at first, because, well, to me it's sort of like explaining a joke. It took a little while to see the consistency on each horizontal, and while that legitimized the 35A hint, I still thought the hint worse than superfluous.

Little glitches were GEE instead of NAN -- I'm sure Sarha would penalize me for that -- and suspecting that Venus and Mercury had some mythical comparison ending in __THER.

I hope this post doesn't sound too smug, especially to other long-time solvers who may have stumbled today, but I just felt like the devotees were being thanked and rewarded through this Donald Willing offering that probably included a few more winks and nudges than the ones I noticed.

steve in boston

I knew that "10/:" would be so freakin' obvious once I saw the answer, but I couldn't for the life of me figure it out. Kept trying to squeeze in NUM for numerator or something.

Congrats to the champion speller! My elementary school used to bus in nursing home residents to compete in spelling bees against the students. I took down a wheelchair-bound old lady (who had "never missed a word in all her years") with SOUVENIR. Ouch.

foodie

I totally agree with edith b's statement: "This puzzle was an offbeat combination of Challenging/Easy". It really was that and even though I figured out the reversal trick somewhere along the way with EIREA, I did not know the extent of it, and it took time to unfold. Obviously, it was not every Across Answer, and yet the clue to 35A "or what this puzzle's Across answers consist of?" implied a consistency for all the across answers. So, to me what made it special is the unfolding of the solution.

Both superb construction and great sense of satisfaction upon solving.
If we're allowed, I nominate this for the Oryx Award!

Anonymous

Wow, what a long, strange keew it's been -- I LOVED this diabolical puzzle, for me the best Saturday ever... Thank you, Will Shortz and Donald K. Willing!

foodie

PS. Congratulations, Rex. What an accomplished little person you've got-- spelling bee winner, compass purchaser, karate doer (?), avid reader. It may be that doing well in the spelling bee does not fully correlate with intelligence, but the conclusion that she's very smart is what we might call "overdetermined".

@evil doug, given you're a pilot, I imagine you would know about signal detection theory? I find it useful in thinking about communication between people, and why sometimes it can go awry. One issue is how easy it is to discriminate the signal from the noise. The first time I read your comment about how a puzzle "should be" solved, I simply couldn't tell what was humor, what was serious, what was a personal opinion, what was meant to tease, etc... So, my hypothesis is that you like to keep the signal/noise ratio a little close because it's entertaining to see how it gets interpreted. Is it anywhere near correct? Is that the evil in evil doug?

Mike the Wino

Like most others, once I "got it", I loved this puzzle. Took awhile, but well worth the jaunt.

@aunthattie, being a professional proofreader, do you cringe when you see the occasional intentionally misspelled word in these comments? At least they almost have to be intentional, right? I mean, the blogger software has a built-in spell checker, and crossword constructors and solvers in general seem to be articulate (and would pretty much have to be good spellers). I was just wondering how you see it.

When I read other blogs, I often want to hurl at how poorly people spell and how bad their grammar is. I know for myself that I will, on occasion, end a sentence with a dangling participle or some other horror, but at least I'm aware of the possibility. It just seems like folks on other blogs either don't give a rip, or they really are just that bad with the language.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, hooray for Rex's daughter, because good spelling is one stepping stone to a better life. It shows a person cares about how they are viewed by others, I think.

Michael

What's with a theme on a Saturday? The theme made the puzzle Sunday-level for me -- easy for a Saturday.

I did look at eirea for a long time trying to figure out what was going on.

Orange

Foodie, thanks for the reminder to save a copy of this puzzle in my Oryx "for your consideration" files.

Edith B

@mike the wino-

I like using the occasional misspelling for effect and for adding a little spice to my postings. What's wrong with that?

And I like using a little creative grammar, if you will, for much the same reason.

Does that make some kind of statement about me? I'm ashamed to admit I lie about my age from time to time, as I look a lot younger than my true age.

fikink

Could someone explain to me the seemingly rampant misuse of an apostrophe to make a word plural instead of possessive, e.g., " two horse's" for "two horses"? I see it everywhere.

Ulrich

@mark the wino: Whenever someone complains about sentence-ending participles, I quote Churchill (according to some, one of the great stylists of the 20th century): "This is the kind of pedantry up with which I will not put."

As to the puzzle: I'm with the incredibly-dense crowd--was ready to give up and come to Rex for enlightenment, when finally AIK and AID miraculously reversed themselves. I agree with NDE: the middle letter that stays in place greatly contributed to my pain and suffering (tried to write at least one sentence ending on a participle, just for the hell of it, but nothing came to mind.

evil doug

@foodie,

Why, there's really NO evil in Evil Doug. I think that label came from the other Doug who was afraid his identity might become entangled in mine. Can't blame him....

Don't know anything about signal detection theory. But I do know something about communication. In my experience, prejudice---from innocently trying to guess the punchline of a joke before the speaker has a chance to say it, to subconsciously or maliciously twisting the speaker's/writer's words---is a primary cause of interference of the intended message.

I do like humor, and satire that edges close enough to the precipice to induce just the type of confusion/curiosity that you mention---a la my piece on doing crosswords---does appeal to me.

I get curious too. Why did my comment on "smarts" engender so much discussion, when Rex's use of "douchebag"---clearly aimed at me, at least obliquely, based on his exaggerated use of my previous comment---was totally ignored by the regulars here?

Ah, well. I come primarily for the solution, and I like to check the discussion for cogent or intriguing topics amid the sycophantic goose-steppers. Occasionally I engage in earnest; and occasionally the host's outright and unnecessary meanness---and his obvious distaste for contrary views---leads me to jump in for the fun of it. Up to you to decide which is which.

Or ask. If Rex went to the trouble of inquiring instead of presuming the worst (and then some), we'd get along famously.

Good Doug

PuzzleGirl

Just a reminder for people who haven't been here long: listing your grammar and punctuation pet peeves is generally frowned upon. The answer to the question of why someone says or writes something incorrectly is usually pretty simple: They don't know it's incorrect. End of story.

fikink

@puzzlegirl, I am not listing a pet peeve - and, perhaps you were not directing your comment at me - I am asking a sincere question about something I have run across in my years of reading and editing. I started noticing this around 1998 when I was reading the writing of new J school graduates and have noticed it has not abated. (My little brother, 9 years my junior, does this apostrophe-plural thing often.) I think its occurrence is probably statistically significant.
I wish someone would explain to me how it became so prevalent.

Cheryl

@fikink
I highly recommend a book by Lynne Truss called "Eats, Shoots & Leaves". She humourously addresses apostrophes, commas, semicolons and how to cope in a world where people don't know how to use them.

I just started attempting the Thursday-Friday-Saturday triumvirate this past summer and this was my first Saturday puzzle that I finished in one sitting without assistance so it was a milestone for me. And immensely fun.

Reverse decision took a while to come because I thought the first word was "reversed" and I wanted to put "verdict" with it before I had anything else in that corner filled in. Fortunately I had the sense to wait for corroboration from the crosses and eventually sussed it.

Ulrich

@puzzlegirl: Not to me it ain't. There is an important difference between colloquial and formal speech, and different posters handle this differently when they write comments--I for one write how I would talk to a friend who knows that I know what a split infinitive and a sentence-ending participle is, but would look at me strangely when I would talk as I write in my published papers.

As to spell-checkers: I don't have one in my comment window, and I will certainly not use a word processor to first (split infinitive) formulate my thoughts, then run the whole thing through a spell checker, and then copy and paste it into the comment box--are you kidding me? This is supposed to be fun, not a contest for the most error-free utterance.

andrea carla michaels

@JeanSP

Yes, I put in PCT for a while and NEVER got OCT, bec I had the gun cleaning thing as RAG and was convinced that the motel had free HBO (or OBH) in this case!

Got the theme immediately bec of AERIE...and thought super super cool, esp with the 3 themes!

Hopefully I won't get shot for saying this, but what would have made the puzzle even better for me is if the backwards words could have been words in their own right bec many of them were: AVE, AID, STRAW, ELO. (Even PILUT was but one letter off).

So it would have been neater if either ALL of them could have been defined forwards or backwards
(anyone want to collaborate with me on this idea? Myles? Kevin? Patrick?)
or NONE of them...
but having SOME of them made this one step (for me) from tcefrep.

Is that too anal?

Speaking of which,

@Mike the Wino
while Ulrich highmindedly quotes Winston Churchill, I'm more likely to simply repeat the punchline of the old joke, "Where's the library at, asshole!"

@Rex
Congrats to that adorable daughter (has she seen "Spellbound"? That is one of my favorite documentaries of ALL times)

As for "Spelling vs Smarts", but I think it DOES take both, plus the fortune of not being born dyslexic...

Perhaps Sahra got her "spelling smarts" from having to continually correct folks on the spelling of her name!

Yes, better no prize, no certificate, no nothin'. It will better prepare her for the life of a writer/blogger/constructor!

Ulrich

@Ooops: Wherever I was talking about participles, I meant of course prepositions--I have this thing about confusing words that start with similar letters--long story, not important here.

chefbea1

I hate all this bickering aka gnirekcib.. lets just get back to talking about BEETS

jannieb

@Ulrich - Winston's sentence ends in a preposition, not a participle.

Mike the Wino

@Edith B--

Please don't get me wrong, I often intentionally misspell some words when I comment here, or at least use made up ones like "musta" or "hafta", etc. (I was going to say "wanna" and "gonna", but they ARE real words!) I was just asking aunthattie, who is a pro proofreader, if it caused any adverse reaction when she (?) see's it. I'm not sure if I'm saying this right, but it's kinda like asking any other professional if it bothers them when they see or hear something that flies in the face of what they know.

So absolutely not does that make some kind of statement about you, or anyone else here.

@PuzzleGirl, thank you, I didn't know that, but I didn't think I was peeving. What I see here is eloquence. It's on other sites, like (as an example) the one that the members of the labor union I belong to post on a lot, where I see comments that are so poorly written that they do more to sabotage the case they're trying to make instead of gaining support for it. I mean, outsiders see some of those comments, and they have to be asking themselves, "These are the people building the planes in which we fly? Scary!" I guess it's a peeve after all...I know the people I work with are smart. They have to be in order to put these complex machines together, and keep them in the air. An occasional misspelling or grammar error is perfectly understandable. It's just that some of those comments make the posters look like idiots, and I know they're not.

I don't know, you're probably right. We've already decided "smarts" doesn't necessarily equate to good spelling. I guess I just need to get over it.

dk

Rex, may I hire your daughter to fill in some squares for me? And, have her watch the Bad Seed and she will know what to do about the medal.

Hard hard puzzle. Put it down for the day and just got it.

@chefbea1, parsnips are the new beet. "roasted" them in a clay pot (tandora (sp?)) with currents and garlic. Yum city.

Hi Andrea: Miss me?

Edith B

@mike the wino-

I'm brand new here and I absolutely did not intend to put you on the spot.

You were sweet to write what you did but I didn't feel motivated to comment out of anger.

Are we cool, as the kids say?

Mike the Wino

@Ulrich,

You are absolutely right, this is supposed to be fun! That's why I keep reading this blog...the wit and wisdom of the folks here make my puzzling experience so much better. It would be really dull without all the humor!

Cheers all!

Mike the Wino

@Edith B--

Sorry I posted my last comment before reading yours. I didn't take you to be putting me on the spot at all! That's the problem with commenting on blogs, email, etc.; nuances and intent can be lost. We were never uncool! ;>}

Vega

@fikink, alas, we didn't take any of our own photos of the sandhill cranes but here's a link:

http://ridgefieldbirds.com/TheRefuge/Birds/ridgefield_NWR_sandhill_crane.html

-Vega

Orange

My favorite posts at Language Log, a group blog written by a passel of linguists, are the ones that provide ample justification for splitting infinitives, ending a sentence with a preposition, using "they" as a gender-neutral third person singular, and so on. (Really. For centuries, excellent writers in the canon have been doing these things. It's OK. The meaning is completely clear, and isn't that the point of writing? To convey meaning?)

Anyway. The latest post is by Geoff Nunberg, writing about deliberate use of "ain't" among people who certainly know it's at variance with proper usage—people like Obama and McCain, Bush and Cheney, a prestigious university's dean. This is the same sort of usage Mike the Wino was talking about. I do it in my blog, too, using words like "gonna" when the vibe calls for it.

fergus

Andrea, I also thought it would be extra cool to have the STRAW example be a dominant trick, but I don't see how that could have been done along each horizontal. That is what I was looking for, but the constructor's choice was perfectly acceptable too.

Evil Doug, when you mention sycophantic, you lose some credibility.

PG -- I disagree with you; there is a significant faction that does like to fuss over grammar and punctuation, if only to tease out a more exacting meaning.

And since I've posted a shameful it's or they're when I meant an other form, I'm pretty lenient when it comes to common posting impropriety, as long as a clear sentiment is conveyed.

Sorry, Rex to see that I have probably spelled your child's name wrongly yet again.

Doc John

@ cheryl- you're lucky- I once mentioned "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" here and got my head bitten off!

alanrichard

This was one of the eassiest saturday's I can remember. A few times a year a saturday puzzle has a theme - and this was one of them. I finished the NW in a few seconds. Once I saw AERIE backwards, the rest was a giveaway.
This was fun and a great idea but the real challenge to a Saturday puzzle is that the is no theme.
I would have liked this better on a Thursday or Friday.

steve l

My take on good spelling and grammar: Writing carefully doesn't necessarily mean that you're smarter than anyone else, but it does mean you are careful and considerate of your readers. Sometimes, for example, in the comments sections that follow various AOL features, the writings are so misspelled, so full of poor grammar, misused words and profanity that they are virtually unreadable as well as counterproductive to their arguments (in other words, the reader would think the author to be an idiot, so what is the value of his opinion?) When reading the comments made at this site, however, the participants are mostly civil, well-spoken, and generally error-free (unless it's clearly intentional; I have deliberately used "coupla" recently for effect). It's a pleasure to be a participant among such an articulate group of people. As a teacher myself, I find that trying to get youngsters to understand this is often an uphill, or altogether a losing battle.

Mike the Wino

@steve l,

Thank you! That is what I was trying to say.

foodie

When I first came to the US and met the man who became my husband, I noticed he often wore a casual blue shirt which was faded and ripped. I guessed it was his favorite and I felt bad that it was falling apart. One day, I decided to surprise him, snuck* it to my dorm room and repaired it as best I could. He had this look of total dismay when he saw it, and patiently explained to me that the rips made a statement. Hmmm...those weird Americans, I thought.

I soon began to realize that my spoken English was too perfect. People would comment on it, and while they intended it to be nice, it made me feel so foreign. I had to work on losing that. I learned that in the US, there's this little inversion that takes place near the edge of perfection to prevent it from becoming a form of pressure. Don't overdress, don't look too pulled together, don't speak too perfectly, or you'll seems fake (or foreign). So, it's actually fun for me to notice how all the accomplished people here choose to sound a bit less so...

fergus

If we could only figure out all the sociological implications that every gesture and each semiotic act might indicate, then we would know truly what anyone meant.

Dropping that notion, I do like all shades of meaning, and the pretense that we might be on to something, because deep down I don't really care about about finding the truth.

ArtLvr

End of a long day, and I just want to say that I enjoyed the unusual puzzle especially because it was a different kind of challenge! Even when I understood what I was looking for, I found it a bit hard to think backwards in alternating lines... but it was a hint of genius for the constructor to remind us to think "outside the box"...

Like acme, I liked the theme words which spelled a real word backwards, like WARTS/STRAW, but saw that the idea throughout would be less rewarding! Now to change the clocks.....

∑;)

SoWal Beach Bum

boustrophedon--that's a word worth learning to spell

Anonymous

at the risk of getting an earful, this solution was the type i was thinking of when i inquired as to the reason of speed solving - and oddly i don't see anyone heralding a record time on this one yet i see many who were appreciative of the necessary need to proceed with deliberation at to be approaching a speed bump on the highway

frankD

Forrest Harlow

I refuse to google or use the dictionary,so it took til today to finally get this one. I too found that artifact and ali were the safe-crackers.
I crossword everyday as a songwriting stimulus.Same job really,hunt for the right words!

Forrest Harlow

Foodie brings up a topic which fascinates me ,clothing and identity.I am a singer-sonwriter and I refuse to play the flannel shirt equals humility and entertainers must be humble game.Jimi Hendrix was perhaps the most humble man I have EVER met, and he was no slouch in the wardrobe department.Know this foodie:Re.Clothing- Americans are obsessed with what other people think of them (just can't let go of highschool peer pressure worries,I guess)
so when they run into someone who won't play the game their conclusion is that this person must be crazy or crying for attention.Entertainers who don't want attention or don't want you to think they do are an just plain posers!
The whining about bad spelling and grammar is SO annoying folks. Yes,language is a dying art but the whining about commas is going too far!Oh NO! I must use spellcheck or strangers will think I am stupid!What shirt shall I wear today?Does it look STUPID?
Loosen up and have fun people.Life is too short to waste time checking for typing mistakes!

Palm Springs Pete

@Rex: Congrats on daughter's achievement.

I was fortunate to get the theme almost immediately from APU and IDEATE by noticing ADOPT suspiciously worked backwards then saw RERAN and AERIE. That caused me to look at the theme clue and thought, AHA you sneaky devil.
From there, it was a breeze and at 10 minutes resulted in my fastest solving time for a Saturday puzzle.
Much fun, today. Kudos to Mr. Willing for a fresh and creative theme.

Old Al

Reminds me of a puzzle I ran across a number of years ago. The definitions were plainly headed ACROSS and UP. But who reads those two words? They're there in every puzzle and we KNOW what they say. The puzzle ran on April 1.

Waxy in Montreal

:retal skeew 5

.K dlanoD ,sknahT

docruth

NEWEL post, obscure? Not to me! I listened obsessively to my parents' 60's comedy recordings. In a Mike Nichols-Elaine May sketch where he was a man without a dime trying desperately to make a pay phone call, she was the annoyingly insensitive operator refusing to be helpful. (pay phone? dime? never mind) So she had to confirm the spelling of his name, KAPLAN: "That is Kaplan? That is K, as in knife? A, as in Aardvark? P, as in pneumonia? L, as in Luscious? A, as in Aardvark, Again? N, as in Newel post, Kaplan?" I'll never forget.

Anonymous

EARP (5D: Marshal played by Fonda, Costner and Lancaster)

Why not Kurt Russell? He was the best in my opinion.

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