TUESDAY, Dec. 23, 2008 - Joe Krozel (Arizona locale famous for its red rocks / "Boom" preceder in song / Game with matchsticks)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: rotational symmetry - rotate the puzzle 180 degrees and see the letters all in the same place (well, you have to turn them right-side up again, if you literally rotate it, but you get the idea)

Nearly ever crossword puzzle grid has rotational symmetry with respect to the black and white squares. Today, it has rotational symmetry with respect to fill.

I wonder if anyone else was thinking, about halfway through the solving experience, "Why am I doing a crappy themeless puzzle on a Tuesday?" I confess that I had very much the same thought when I was done - even as I was beginning to give Mr. Shortz feedback on the puzzle, I didn't see the "theme" (too distracted by bad fill to have gone looking for it yet). Then I saw it. And oh yes, it definitely explains the horrible fill. It explains TARARA (15A: "Boom" preceder, in song) and LAMINA (38A: Thin layer) and the plural VALS (41D: Actor Kilmer and others) and plural DELIAS (48A: Screenwriter Ephron and others) and RETRAP (18A: Snare again) and RETAR and REMAN and REMIT and REPAID, etc. In the end, it's yet another "Look what I DID! (64A)" puzzle, where we are meant to admire the constructor, not enjoy ourselves while solving. Why not build a crossword museum and hang the completed grid on the wall? Then everyone can ooh and aah, and we can bypass the agony of having to fill the thing out ourselves, under the mistaken assumption that it might be entertaining.

No theme answers, so that's one less thing I have to write about this puzzle. There's an upside.

Oh, and crossing ONs = :(

[SPIT ON (25A: Show utter disrespect for) x/w ON AN (26D: _____ even keel)]

EDILE (54D: Ancient Roman magistrate) and NIM (66A: Game with matchsticks) are Tuesday answers in no known universe; and here ... they intersect ... [cough]

Take out the "WOF" letters ("Wheel of Fortune," i.e. RLSTN and E), and you don't have much left. Here's what the "WOF"-less grid looks like:


Only four consonants besides RLSTN in the whole grid. And not a single "U." That's what a concept like this forces you into. Compromise after compromise after compromise. All for what? In this case, a golf clap. That's all I got.

[Someone just suggested to me that using only 13 letters was part of the gimmick - half the alphabet for a puzzle you need only complete halfway ... I hope that is not true. I hope the 13-letter thing is coincidence, because now all I can think is how good the puzzle might have been if the constructor hadn't put the @#$#ing shackles on.]

Rest:

  • 1A: A Turner (Ted) - tough, as IKE and NAT work just fine.
  • 17A: Actress Conn (Didi) - I remember the name, but can't remember why I remember ... o my god, she's "Beauty School Dropout!"



  • 50A: Policy of many hotel shuttles (no tips) - this, I liked. Inventive, accurate.
  • 67A: Biblical landing site (Ararat) - I like the Moses clue over the Noah clue here in the SW. Very ... Patriarchal.
  • 72A: Badge flasher: Abbr. (det.) - as in "detective." My favorites: in literature, Philip Marlowe. On TV ... guess. You'll Never guess. Well, you might.
  • 4D: Arizona locale famous for its red rocks (Sedona) - had SONORA
  • 38D: City in California or New Jersey (Lodi) - lots of trouble here, as I was convinced the puzzle had an error. I had (understandably) PATINA instead of LAMINA at 38A, and so this was PODI ... I was convinced that PATINA was supposed to be LATINA, and that the clue just hadn't been changed. And of course, in a normal Tuesday puzzle, LAMINA would have been changed to LATINA. But here, that would have screwed the precious symmetry.




  • 58D: Backside, slangily (prat) - I only just noticed this .... what is this? What Is This? Just looked it up. British. More often an insult for a stupid person. Man, at this point, I don't even care. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWord

PS This blog turned up yesterday in promotional material (under "Press") for the movie "I.O.U.S.A." yesterday. The movie title was an answer in Sunday's puzzle, and I mentioned it in my write-up. I said that the title was 80% vowels and would surely show up again. Apparently, that's quotable. I also suggested that Patrick Creadon made the movie with the sole purpose of creating a new, enduring crossword answer. Funny, the promotional material didn't quote that. Patrick is a nice guy (someone introduced him to me at last year's tournament), and it's cool to see him have non-crossword-related success.

PPS The answer to "Who's my favorite TV detective?":

135 comments:

Crosscan 8:11 AM  

Ah, Rex! This was an awesome puzzle.

A magic a-ha moment, which becomes a wow! after a lot of what-the-heck-is-the-theme solving.

Many solvers don't notice the grid symmetry. Show them this puzzle and they will never forget it.

Keep pushing the envelope, Joe. I love it.

Re SEDONA - On May 17, I wrote in this space: "Went to SEDONA, which is certainly crossword-worthy." I just missed that SEDONA is backwards-ANODES.

Crosscan - Nacssorc

Anonymous 8:12 AM  

Thank you for letting me know why I suffered through the worst puzzle I've ever seen in the NYT. It wasn't worth it.

Rex Parker 8:16 AM  

Ah, Comment 1 and Comment 2. I love you guys. You've pretty much said it all.

rp

evil doug 8:25 AM  

In 24 years as an airline pilot and living in hotels nearly as much as in our house, I never rode in a van where there was a "no tips" policy.

And why should there be? Give the customer the option. Such a policy only screws the people who earn the least. If the service is rude or the ride harrowing, withhold; if the ride is timely, safe and courteous, help the driver out.

evil

Cheryl 8:28 AM  

Of course, today was the day I thought I would try it using down clues only, for a more challenging early week solve.

I had an embarrassingly sparse grid when I broke down and started looking at the across clues.

Finished feeling just meh about the whole thing. It didn't even click that there was no theme or about the fill symmetry until I read the blog. It's neat, but not enough to make it a fun solve for me.

I haven't been around here long enough to instinctively know who Rex's favourite TV detective is but am curious. Anyone know? Rex?

Greene 8:57 AM  

To borrow a phrase from drama critic Walter Kerr: "I didn't like the show, but I did admire it." Frankly, I'm sorry-grateful.

dk 9:05 AM  

@cheryl, my guess for Rex's fav DET is Broadrick Crawford from Highway Patrol.

Comment 1 & 2 sounds like Dr. Suess characters and we of course know that @crosscan lives in Whoville.

Never got the theme and reading about it here makes my little gray cells hurt.

Deep into learning how to find people lost in the "wilderness." Given the winter storms I suggest you all carry a few ways to start a fire with you in your car. Dryer lint is great tinder and you may want to carry one of those fire starter "bricks.". If your car goes in the ditch stay with or by the car and if you can build a fire (outside of the car and away from any leaking gas). Also put a whistle in your glove compartment. Ok that is your public safety tip for the day.

Stuck in LODI again

Glitch 9:06 AM  

agree with the comments so far, it was just a puzzle to slog through.

On PRAT --- I connected this with a slapstick's *prat fall* --- the cause of Jerry Lewis' current back problems.

Tony from Charm City 9:13 AM  

I remember DIDI Conn more for her role on "Benson" than I do "Grease".

I'm also sick of seeing DAR clued as "Patriotic Org." What's wrong with "Stuntman Robinson" once in a while?

Latte 9:24 AM  

@Evil -- I think the implication with No Tips is that tipping is optional (not required). The shuttle driver doesn't expect a tip, but ain't gonna turn one down.

I actually enjoyed this one prolly because I hadn't written down more than about 8 answers when I figured it out. By chance, I started in the middle section and got Nov and Von (and then Slav and Vals). For some reason, that symmetry caught my eye.

Certainly, there were a lot of liberties taken to achieve, what is likely, one of the most difficult puzzles for a constructor.

Maybe its me, but of late, it seems that there is some unwritten goal of constructors to one-up each other. A few weeks ago, we had puzzles with diagonal answers and boxes of vowels, etc. And now this. Are constructors just getting bored of doing normal puzzles anymore?

Betsy 9:32 AM  

I didn't see the theme at all. I admire the cleverness, but...on a Tuesday?!? Don't make my brain hurt this early in the week.

Anonymous 9:35 AM  

It must be Christmas -- the Grinch is on the loose!

Shamik 9:36 AM  

It's early for me, so didn't catch that the puzzle was themeless. Also didn't catch the construction 'til I got to the blog.

Brilliant construction as far as I'm concerned. There is a lot of "art" out there that is unenjoyable. Going out on a limb here. Does anyone truly ENJOY Rushdie or Eco? Does anyone really ENJOY Yoko Ono? Ok...so Yoko isn't brilliant. But think of your favorite "WTF" musician, artist, author, playwright that is lauded by the artsy press. Some may call them brilliant, yet not enjoyable.

No mis-starts. Too rainy to go to Sedona and have to make date nut bread and antipasto for tomorrow evening.

treedweller 9:44 AM  

That NIM/EDILE crossing definitely seemed above Tue. level to me. The I was a guess and my last letter in the grid. It was a moderately confident guess. Didn't figure there was a game called "Nam", NOM was already in there, and that left three vowels. E and U just didn't seem right, so I got the I. Still feels like luck that it was right.

It is impressive that the symmetry is there, but is it worth NOSIDE? the plethora of RE-s? I wonder. Maybe if I'd caught the theme early (or at all) I'd have liked it more. I just don't think so.

I did like learning that DIAPER is REPAID backwards, and that PRAT is slang for rear (I only knew it as a British putdown--thank you, Monty Python). But it's small consolation.

norm 9:44 AM  

Very cute puzzle. Glad to see my old friends ELIDE and EDILE again. That was the point where I went, what ... the heck is going on here, and saw the pattern.

Alex 9:50 AM  

On the bright side, if you noticed the construction theme early you only had to do half of the puzzle.

On the not bright side, I never noticed the construction theme.

I too have never been on a hotel (or airport) shuttle that had a no tips policy, at least not one that was conveyed to the passengers.

hazel 9:55 AM  

I thought that this puzzle was genuinely fantastic - I'll admit that some of the fill seemed a bit strange to me, and i did notice there were a lot of re- and -er words.... But, I had no idea of the scale of the feat until reading Jim Horne's blog (I did the puzzle in the middle of the night and Rex hadn't posted yet).

Sometimes, the whole is just better than the parts, and we parts should give up our "individual solving experiences" every once in a while to applaud a truly amazing whole.

Sacrilege, I know - but 'tis the season....

hazel

p.s. please also see Jim's column for what I thought was a very interesting interview with the constructor.

http://wordplay.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/22/framing/#more-163

joho 9:59 AM  

Did I find this a dull, dissatisfying solve and was I amazed at Mr. Krozel's feat of construction: yes.

Today's comments are already more entertaining than the puzzle. I guess I'm in the camp that wants an interesting, engaging solve for me rather than my applause for the constructor's never-before-done grid. Does that make me selfish? Oh, by the way, I love the definition for "golf clap!"

There is an homage to ACME at 52A which is nice.

I'm looking forward to finding some fun tomorrow.

George in Little Compton 10:14 AM  

Rex, fine commentary, I caught on immediately . . it's half a puzzle. Once you get the trick, you simply fill in the other half.

Tedious, nonsense words. Not a crossword at all, just a "Cross Letters" today

. . this idea is a re-tread. Same mirror puzzle was made years ago, a guy posted his mirror puzzle on the old NYT discussion group. It's weird that the NYT considers this pushing the envelope . . . it's old stuff

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

Terrific puzzle, once you figured out the trick!

Yes, there's a nice interview on the Wordplay blog today with the constructor. Rex, how come you don't list its link on the side?

Sam

Matthew 10:24 AM  

Wow.

I'm sure constructing this puzzle took years off of Joe Krozel's life, on top of adding a good half hour of pain to mine. Was it really worth it, Joe??

fikink 10:29 AM  

My thoughts doing the puzzle:
I quibble with DENIM being a shade of blue ("Note how Vermeer inflects her eyes with the denim in the scarf"); wanted NAT for the Turner; love the word ELIDE and have no idea why; wanted A SON for (know well).
"AMO, amas, amat, amamus" - guess what we listened to last night, greene! (with those Meyer toddies, chefbea - mahhhvelous!)
SPIT ON doesn't pass my breakfast test this morning (or are we still trying to learn to spell SPITOON?)
Wanted PANS for criticizes.
NAMER - Yo! Andrea!

and on it went until I read you today, Rex.

OH, MON Dieu (et mon droit!)

Mr. Cleverpants! I would not have seen the theme without you, Rex (because I wouldn't have looked at this puzzle that long)

Rex Parker 10:46 AM  

I should have mentioned that my friend Angela (PuzzleGirl) is filling in for fellow crossword blogger Orange this week. Angela will be filling in for me sporadically over the holidays. She's smart and funny and silently corrects many of my grammatical / typing errors, god love her.

RP

Vega 10:48 AM  

WOW! It's crazy reading the comments here because I just totally loved this puzzle. Well, granted, I didn't love it when I was doing it, but all was forgiven when I got the theme. It's just awesome. I just keep looking over the grid and marveling.

@Shamik, since you ask, I loooove Salman Rushdie, just love reading him and think he's one of the most entertaining storytellers alive. (Yoko Ono, not so much.) Which could go a long way toward explaining why some of us loved this puzzle and some of us didn't.

I don't know about Rex's, but my favorite TV DET. is Columbo. I could watch those over and over again. In fact, I do.

-Vega

PuzzleGirl 10:55 AM  

@Rex: As you were writing such nice things about me I was typing a brilliant comment that was subsequently lost in the Black Hole of the Internet. So here we go again:

First of all, you nailed it. I was impressed with the idea but getting through it was a real slog. While solving I was sure that the theme would turn out to have something to do with all the RE- words. Ugh. You can imagine with PuzzleHusband had to say about this one. Poor guy.

@Latte: I don't get how "the implication with No Tips is that tipping is optional (not required)." Isn't the implication of tipping itself that tipping is optional? To me, "No Tips" means that tipping is not allowed. And, yes, I always tip the shuttle driver.

Finally, while I can appreciate the admiration for the various TV detectives expressed so far, there is no better TV detective than Bobby Simone. Says PuzzleGirl.

Crosscan 10:56 AM  

Welcome to Whoville, Vega. Look out for all the grinches.

It is TUESDAY people. Boring old Tuesday has been spiced up, and everybody is wondering where the bland went.

Columbo was part of a great rotating series of detectives. McMillan and Wife, McCloud and one other?

jeff in chicago 11:00 AM  

@Alex: It's a "bright side" to only get half a puzzle?

Clever concept. Dull fill. Agree with treedweller: All those -ERs. Is this going to one of those weeks where the days are mixed up? Harder than normal Monday. Easier than normal Tuesday.

As for Rex's favorite detective, I think he likes either Jim Rockford or Fish (from "Barney Miller").

Rex Parker 11:12 AM  

Yes, I want bland. Please, more bland puzzles. That is *exactly* what I'm saying.

The real Grinch here is the puzzle. "Here's a miserable experience for you - Merry Christmas!"

The Whos want Andrea back on early-week duty.

rp

Rex Parker 11:13 AM  

PS the answer is James Scott Rockford.

Crosscan 11:19 AM  

I think you are in Mudville, not Whoville.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land a puzzle was done right;
The symmetry is beloved, and Rex's comments are so bright,
And somewhere Will is laughing, and somewhere bloggers shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville— mighty Krozel has struck out.

Anonymous 11:19 AM  

Hmmm...I did have a lot of fun, especially after putting in a P instead of the other letter I had for "treated disrespectfully"...

Ulrich 11:20 AM  

Count me among those who really enjoyed doing the puzzle: I caught on to the theme about halfway through and, as others have noticed, the rest then filled itself automatically and cleaned up some initial missteps, like PATINA or SERB (much closer tied to the Balkans than your run-of-the-mill slav), in the process.

I stated, self-righteously, some days ago that the fact that something is difficult doesn't automatically make it worth the effort. Why am I not applying this principle here, given that I can see the point of the complainers? It's b/c I consider the idea of applying symmetry not only to the black squares, but also to the fill truly inspired, and once I saw that, I was hooked and couldn't let go until it was finished. I'm not trying to convince anybody--it comes down to taste in the end--just wanted to make the case.

@evil: Yes, I also have NEVER seen a "no tips" sign in a shuttle. What I HAVE seen are "tips are appreciated" signs.

Alex 11:31 AM  

@jeff in chicago: Yes, it is a bright side if the puzzle itself isn't all that fun.

On the issue of construction difficulty over pleasure I think something that bears remembering is that most people don't do the puzzle and then immediately come here (or to one of the other blogs) to talk about it. Look how many people here have posted that they didn't realize the construction feat until it was pointed out to them.

Now think of the tens of thousands of people who did the crossword this morning, didn't notice, and just moved on with their day. All they get out of a puzzle that is crappy fill in pursuit of amazing construction is the crappy fill.

My view is that if a trick or theme is going to require a lot of compromise on the fill then it should be pretty clear that there even is a theme or trick.

My favorite TV detective is the guy who Quincy always solved cases for. No matter that Quincy was always right, every single time, this guy never just went with it when Quincy's nose went a tingling. That kind of cluelessness is endearing.

jeff in chicago 11:46 AM  

Rex: Rockford was a complete shot-in-the-dark guess. Have you mentioned him before and I had that info tucked away? I did like Rockford Files, but Banacek was my presonal favorite. I can recall watching with my dad and we would struggle to figure out each week's trick.

Teresa 11:52 AM  

It took me 2 tries to get the theme. I noticed the limited number of letters in the grid and remembered Patrick Merrell's "left hand keypad letters" puzzle. I thought that maybe the letters in used were part of a word or phrase. But before I could get very far along on that goose chase, I saw Von and Nov. (And I was very thankful that I didn't have to slog through the rest of that awful fill!) But I did enjoy the symmetry ... a lot, in fact.

Teresa

Rex Parker 11:53 AM  

@Ulrich and Alex,

Thanks for your comments. Thoughtful and cogent.

@xcan - thanks for the poem. The fact that "K" is the symbol for strikeout makes it all the more apt. Your poetry ... it's got layers, and I'm not talking mere LAMINAS or PATINAS. Could use more LATINAS, maybe. But what couldn't?

rp

Andy 11:56 AM  

In a word, "BRILLIANT!" I mean both Joe AND Rex, because without Rex's comment I never would have figured out what's going on here.

Ladel 12:07 PM  

When I was a student at Brooklyn Technical HS in the mid 50's one of my teachers was fond of saying: "be kind to your "A" students because they will be back as your peers, and be even kinder to your "C" students because they will build your houses." And I've also heard that them that can, does, and them that can't teaches. Yes, the puzzle was at best half a puzzle, if you got it, but all we had to do was solve it, the construction was artful...try on the moccasins, see how they fit.

steve l 12:08 PM  

I for one thought that this puzzle was FANTASTIC, AMAZING, BEYOND DESCRIPTION. Maybe that's where I am at this point in my experience and solving ability--I can really appreciate the cleverness of this puzzle, and not care what the person who can't recognize it for what it is thinks. I also don't care how many RE's and ER's it has, or whether it contains more than 13 letters of the alphabet. When I first noticed the gimmick, I just stepped back and said WOW! Not your run-of-the-mill rebus (as if HO running down a puzzle twenty-one times is innovative) or black squares that spell out letters like LIES or C's or anything like that. A whole puzzle that can be folded corner to corner like a napkin and each letter sits upon the same letter. It's just cool. Every word is a legitimate word. No stretching. NO SIDE--no problem. "Do you want fries, mashed, baked, or rice with that?" "No side." Well done, in my opinion.

obertb 12:09 PM  

Hmm...not much to add. I thought the fill was lame, Tuesday or no, but didn't see the rotational symmetry thing until reading Rex. It's a great feat of construction, I'm sure, but not much fun as a puzzle. Even less fun, I should think, if you saw the trick early on.

I did begin to suspect that something was up, though, when I came across EDILE. Thought maybe Maleska had been reincarnated.

hazel 12:10 PM  

@alex - who died and made you king of fun? (not good at the subtleties of emoticons so please know this isn't meant to be as harsh as it sounds). But, just because you and some others here think the fill is crappy doesn't mean the 1000s of other crossworders agree. As I mentioned, I didn't immediately get the scale of symmetry in this puzzle - and i didn't hate the puzzle. I just noted that it took me a bit longer than normal, and some of the fill seemed a bit strange. Still, I enjoyed myself even before i found out the trick.

As a reminder, I'm cancer girl - so my concept of an entertaining diversion may be different than most.

Rex Parker 12:14 PM  

@steve l - that's some good gushing. I appreciate when an opposing opinion is expressed is such clear, forceful, positive terms.

@Ladel, I would tell you where you can put your cloying, pseudo-folksy wisdom, but I've got the holiday spirit so ... I'll just say, on behalf of teachers everywhere (me, my wife, many of my friends): thanks. Now tell me: what do people who can't do *OR* teach do?

rp

Rex Parker 12:21 PM  

@hazel,

Hey, go easy on Alex. He's simply wondering about those not represented on this blog, and it seems a fair thing to wonder. You have to admit that if you hadn't seen the gimmick, you probably wouldn't have enjoyed this puzzle very much.

Anyway, I'm thrilled you read the blog and comment, and hope you continue to do so often. I think (no - I know) that many of my readers are "cancer girls" (and "guys"). You aren't alone there. By a longshot.

rp

Nebraska Doug 12:21 PM  

I thought this was one of the hardest Tuesday puzzles that I can remember, full of non-Tuesday answers.

Harleypeyton 12:24 PM  

Couple things. First, this puzzle was hard enuf -- Edile??? Nim???? -- that I was momentarily convinced I'd missed a couple days and it was Thursday.

Also? Jim Rockford is not a detective, he's a P.I. Hence, no badge.

I'm guessing KOJACK.

ArtLvr 12:27 PM  

I thought it was a neat puzzle, getting the theme after wondering why Ephron wasn't Nora...

∑;)

Harleypeyton 12:29 PM  

Oops. Sorry, I missed the previous reveal. But I'll stand by the P.I./Detective distinction, particularly when it comes to the badge flashing. Rockford had a license. Which his pal at the LAPD, Dennis Becker -- a detective, btw -- was always threatening to pull.

Rex Parker 12:30 PM  

Private investigator:

"A person privately hired to do investigative or detective work. Also called private detective, private eye."

But yes, no badge flashing for Jim.

rp

Jane Doh 12:33 PM  

This puzzle bumped the Dec. 10 vowel clot puzzle out of first place on my list of ugh-liest NYT puzzles of 2008. Mostly boring, unimaginative words no matter which way you look at them. 86 words is painful on any day, and having to use that many to accomplish the dubious task this "theme" seeks to perform just adds to the "so what" aspect. V. sorry to see that the Times crowd has become so disinterested in their solvers.

--JD

mac 12:37 PM  

Mariska Hargitay.

I felt the puzzle was very drab for a Joe Krozel, but, sort of doing it on the road, I never looked at it closely enough to figure out the trick. Thank you Rex, now I appreciate it more. For all the solvers who don't go to your site or one of the others, it might have been nice if it had had a cryptic title to give them half a chance to figure it out.

@dk:I'm going to take your advice and make a kit for the car.

Rex Parker 12:38 PM  

Interesting usage note @ answers.com:

USAGE NOTE In traditional usage, "disinterested" can only mean “having no stake in an outcome,” as in "Since the judge stands to profit from the sale of the company, she cannot be considered a disinterested party in the dispute." This usage was acceptable to 97 percent of the Usage Panel in our 2001 survey. But despite critical disapproval, "disinterested" has come to be widely used by many educated writers to mean “uninterested” or “having lost interest,” as in "Since she discovered skiing, she is disinterested in her schoolwork." Oddly enough, “not interested” is the oldest sense of the word, going back to the 17th century. This sense became outmoded in the 18th century but underwent a revival in the first quarter of the early 20th. Despite its resuscitation, this usage is widely considered an error. In our 2001 survey, 88 percent of the Usage Panel rejected the sentence It is difficult to imagine an approach better designed to prevent disinterested students from developing any intellectual maturity. This is not a significantly different proportion from the 89 percent who disapproved of a similar usage in 1988.

Steve In CA 12:50 PM  

I was kind of surprised to read today's blog and discover so much displeasure with this puzzle. I think it is an outstanding accomplishment. After completing it, I kept looking over it and marveling at everything! This must have taken ages to construct. I have a small stack of "special" puzzles that I save - about six in the past year. This one is a keeper.

Steve in CA 12:55 PM  

Oh, and according to Jack Black in School of Rock, "Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, teach gym."

Ladel 1:03 PM  

@Rex

Now that I've got your attention...it was during a problem solving exercise in advance algebra that my teacher encouraged me to create one of the problems I was so smug and critical about after solving. He provided a basic learning experience that taught me how much more one has to know to enter the world of creation as opposed to just critical solving.

jeff in chicago 1:09 PM  

ooooh...what mac said! forget about Banacek. What was I thinking?? Mariska Hargitay is my favorite detective. (I guess that would be Olivia Benson, but know you have me thinking of Mariska.)

chefbea 1:10 PM  

What a great puzzle!!! I had almost finished and wondered why there was no theme. Then I noticed timer and remit and checked the whole puzzle. I loved it.

my favorite detective...Monk of course

@fikink glad you are enjoying the meyer lemons

Peter 1:23 PM  

Normally when constructing a puzzle there is going to be some less than desirable fill in order to accommodate theme answers, a low word count, or an excellent nearby word. There's no magic number, but usually there aren't more than five or six in a high quality puzzle.

While I admire the feat accomplished here, I count about twenty five words that would only appear in a "traditional" puzzle unless there was no other alternative.

Bob Kerfuffle 1:23 PM  

REX quotes 38D: City in California (Lodi), but in my paper version of the puzzle the clue is 38D: City in California or New Jersey. With that extra bit of information, that's a gimme!

(I may not love New Jersey, but I do live here.)

("May not" leaves open the possibility that I do.)

Sandy Davenport 1:34 PM  

Ladel
I don't really buy your argument that only the people who create stuff are allowed to critique it. Critical review encourages conversation and understanding about both process and product, and can help make everything better.
Rex has indeed tried to construct puzzles and he's talked here about how hard that is. My feeling is that just because something is hard, it doesn't mean we have to accept 2nd rate work.
As for this puzzle - I never saw the theme at all and just ended up like one of Alex's thousands of solvers who tossed the paper aside with a shrug and moved on to the next task in the day. Which, incidentally, involved constructing a lesson plan with clear learning objectives, varied activities for different learning styles and levels, fun, group work, individual work, assessment, links to state learning standards, a literacy component... Teachers don't "do" indeed!
Sandy

Rex Parker 1:49 PM  

Bob,

I just screwed up and didn't put the whole clue in. I'll fix that now, thanks.

But just bec. something's in NJ doesn't make it a gimme for everyone. I'm way more familiar with the CA "LODI" than I am with the NJ version. And today it wasn't a question of not knowing LODI, but a problem with my having (solidly, if erroneously) PATINA where LAMINA was supposed to go.

rp

rp

JoefromMtVernon 2:03 PM  

If I wanted art, I'd go to a museum. This was ugly FOR A TUESDAY. Too much gook (edile, tarara, delias) and too many 3 letter words. This one is a Dali; I prefer Italian Masters (who share their names with certain turtles).

I guess TA is teacher assistant? I kept thinking teacher aide, so the clue and answer seemed to break some sort of crossword rule.

So, if you got the gimmick, it doesn't become how fast did you do the puzzle but how fast you filled the puzzle.

Sorry for the criticism, puzzles should be fun and not a chore...

obertb 2:06 PM  

I now realize that I kept reading the clue for PRAT as BackSLIDE rather than backSIDE. Not that it would have made any difference--never heard of PRAT. It isn't even listed in my Webster's 10th Collegiate, although PRATFALL is: "a fall on the buttocks" and by extension "a humiliating mishap or blunder."

Don't know why Rex would choose PATINA over LAMINA for Thin layer, unless it was the "thin" part. Of the two, LAMINA is clearly the better answer for layer.

And a shout-out to my apparent state-mate, Nebraska Doug.

60-some comments and counting. A record for a Tuesday?

fergus 2:09 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
fergus 2:15 PM  

Symmetry be damned. For 25 Across I decided to leave the grid with SHIT ON.


Real English people should be consulted, but the Clue for PRAT is only valid in the loosest of derisive connections.

rafaelthatmf 2:18 PM  

I have stated previously that I believe constructors should create puzzles for the enjoyment of solvers and not for chest pounding material for the next constructor’s conclave. While I never fully grasped the ‘theme’ I knew something had to justify all horrid fill which I think made up about 80% of the puzzle. Tough to create? No doubt. Tough to enjoy while solving? Abso effen lutely! I couldn’t agree more with who ever said hang it in a museum if you want it considered art – and in this case you could even pull a Le Bateau and not get it wrong.
I like Jack Handy’s quote about walking a mile in a persons shoes before you say anything bad about them because then you are a mile away and you have their shoes!

Rex Parker 2:23 PM  

@obertb,

I submit that you are wrong about LAMINA being "clearly the better answer" for [Thin layer]. Once again ... dictionaries! (they're like magic)

LAMINA - n. a thin plate, sheet, or layer

PATINA - n. A thin greenish layer, usually basic copper sulfate, that forms on copper or copper alloys, such as bronze, as a result of corrosion.

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

Oh yeah - I always wondered if the 'those who can do..." saw got to teachers. I wonder no longer.
Plus the whole player/coach thing kinda shoots holes in that saying right?
Not trying to butter up teachers. I file them in a category similar to farmers: not enough rain, too much rain, rain at the wrong time... (Okay I guess I'll get it from farmers and teachers now)

rafaelthatmf 2:26 PM  

Anon @ 2:22 was rafaelthatmf - a Freudian slip by forgetting my sobriquet?

fergus 2:40 PM  

Rex, your comments about 'disinterested' remind me of how I first got drawn into this pettifogging crowd. Crosscan's rhyme shows me why I remain. Shamik's observations of Art echo mine, and the teachers' softball team at school is Those That Can't.

Ulrich 3:09 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kurtis 3:18 PM  

I was really impressed by the palindromic quality, and while I did think the fill was weird, the "aha" moment for me more than made up for it.

Anonymous 3:25 PM  

I think this was the first time I've ever looked to see who the constructor was, as in who designed this piece of crap, and how did it get into the Times? When I saw it was Krozel I was shocked. Not enough to either finish the puzzle or look for anything special.

Remarkable feat of construction? Sure. Do I care? No

Anonymous 3:25 PM  

I think this was the first time I've ever looked to see who the constructor was, as in who designed this piece of crap, and how did it get into the Times? When I saw it was Krozel I was shocked. Not enough to either finish the puzzle or look for anything special.

Remarkable feat of construction? Sure. Do I care? No

Anonymous 3:25 PM  

Positive:
Novel symmetry theme.

Negatives:
86 words
45 blocks
Bad fill, very bad fill.

Result: Meh.

A puzzle is supposed to give SOME satisfaction to the solver - I think Mr. Shortz has handed the key to his kingdom to Mr. Krozel (too many bad puzzles - that vowel puzzle was of a similar ilk, but at least had some cool fill in the SE).

JimG

easylob 3:30 PM  

@ ULRICH

Was your post removed by you or by Rex? (The author of the post or the author of the blog?) I'm not familiar with the rules (only 3 posts? nothing mean-spirited? ???)

PlantieBea 3:30 PM  

I totally missed the theme of this puzzle. In fact, I came here to gripe about some of the bizarre answers. Thank goodness for Rex's blog which shed light on the mystery. Count me in as one who would have tossed this puzzle, thinking it just wasn't fun. I do appreciate the symmetry, now that I know it exists.

Ulrich 3:38 PM  

@easylob: I removed the post. I realized after posting it that I was arguing with people the likes of which I would not associate with in real life--no need to go into details.

green mantis 3:44 PM  

Robert Goren, Criminal Intent, but Olivia is right up there.

I just left "shit" there too, Fergus.

This puzzle is a reason for joy, because it means I have gone through the ugliest, most-soul crushing experience of my life, and now all things by virtue of their measure against this dark pit of horror will be beautiful, make sense, and fill me with peace.

Anonymous 3:49 PM  

There are lots of reasons to like crossword puzzles. One of them could be (and is for me) to marvel at the skill, artfulness, and creativity of the construction. Why not a gimmick every once in a while? Not every day, of course, but I'll sacrifice one of my same old Tuesdays for today's puzzle. Or sacrifice one Friday to see if someone could really make a puzzle with only 18 black squares, or a Monday shaped like a dollar bill. Of course, in these cases, we want the fill to be lively, legitimate, and as unforced as possible (and I bet so do the constructors), but I can tolerate a little compromise for the sake of something unique. Not every day, but every so often.

It's surprising how few people here got the theme. One would think that the oddness of the grid (no long answers) and of the fill (all the RE- answers, for example) would cause suspicion. I wonder: Did people look and not find it, or just robotically fill the grid without curiosity?

Thats my $.02

sam 3:56 PM  

@Anon 3:49 - Well said. I really like it when the Times mixes it up from time to time. Sometimes the Times crossword seems sort of stuffy and elitist with its strict "rules" so it's fun when they lighten up! I love the quirky puzzles!

obertb 4:00 PM  

@Rex

When we make things which consist of layers we laminate. Car windshields and countertops come to mind. They are laminates (the noun). True, one can patinate, too, as when adding a greenish hue to copper with chemicals. There is no noun form of patinate. But by far, I think, the more common word for layering is laminating, so one might be more (clearly) drawn to lamina = layer than to patina = layer.

The etymologies of the two words are interesting, as well. Patina comes from the Latin "paten," a plate or shallow dish, and lamina from Latin for THIN plate. Well, pretty close there, but the puzzle clue in question was THIN LAYER.

So we're splitting hairs here, but I too use dictionaries (not magic ones, though) and mine (MW 10th Collegiate and 2nd Unabridged) never use the word "layer" in their definitions of patina, but use it a couple of times in the def. of lamina.

Doug 4:02 PM  

Whew, would you all please go back to work--70 comments on Tuesday is hard slogging.... In all seriousness, it's nice to see so many new names of people who read the blog but don't normally have time to comment.

If I figured out the theme early on it would have been far more enjoyable. I got stuck at about 3/4 and then got ticked off. I read the article from Joe Krozel that was referenced earlier (thank you, and here it is again http://wordplay.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/22/framing/#more-163) and I agree with the constructor: From time to time, trying something different is worth the compromise. Every week? No. But every 2-3 months, sure, why not?

Fav TV detective/P.I.: Hard to say. As an 11-year old I would have voted for Jill Munroe. But as I aged and became more sophisticated, Det. Phil Fish was my man, along with Steve McGarrett, Theo Kojak, Phil Columbo and dare I say Tony Baretta. College was Frank Furillo and David Addison. Now, Gil Grissom.

chefbea 4:06 PM  

@anon 3:49 and Sam I agree!!! I guess I'm in the minority of liking the puzzle. As I said before I thought it was great - and how anyone can construct a puzzle like this one is beyond me.

Going out to dinner tonight -think maybe I'll have just sides

fikink 4:12 PM  

@obertb and Rex: not knowing the theme, I solved the debate by initially putting VENEER for layer (of course, I spose that's because, as noted, I was thinking about Vermeer)
@greenmantis, Robert Goren definitely!

SCOTUS Addict 4:16 PM  

Charlie Crews!

Isn't anyone watching "Life"? It's the best police procedural on TV right now.

Charlie Crews (Damien Lewis) is just returned to his job with LAPD after spending the last seven or so years in Pelican Bay State Prison (California's Supermax) on a wrongful murder conviction. His settlement with LAPD included big bucks and reinstatement to LAPD with promotion to detective. His personal quirks have to do with the Zen approaches he used to keep himself sane in prison, the fact that he is ignorant of the technological developments occurring during his incarceration, and his new big bucks lifestyle.

Doesn't hurt that Damien Lewis is major eye candy, ladies or that his partner is major eye candy for the gents.

Episodes revolve around a present day whodunit, and Crews' ongoing efforts to discover who framed him for the earlier murder.

Link to the show's site:

here

Re: the puzzle, I'm in the "pro" camp. But really, can't we all just get along?

Dan 4:35 PM  

Fascinating discussion! Ditto to what Mr. or Ms. 3:49 said. But on the other hand, there was a lot of crappy fill. I've thought on more than one occasion (and have posted here) that Will will bend too much in order to set a record, but for some reason I wasn't at all annoyed with this puzzle. Though I do wonder if it would be possible to use this constraint and come up with better fill (no offense, Joe!)...

Commenter "harleypeyton"... could that be the Harley Peyton who was a writer for Twin Peaks? If so, awesome.

Hey San Franciscans! I'm in town for a week, can I buy anyone a beer or a latke? Email via profile.

Anonymous 4:40 PM  

I've bee sitting on the fence all day while checking back to see the interesting comments.
Tuesdays are usually boring anyway. While it was a slog to get through I finally concede that it was a piece of construction art.
@hazel - are we to cut you extra slack because of a zodiac sign or a disease? Either way I'm not buying it.

Comment 2 4:44 PM  

I wonder if there was some way to clue in solvers to the theme - maybe some rotationally symmetric circles so that there was some reason to think clues were linked together. Noticing the theme partway through would have let me admire the construction while solving(which is all there is to admire here).

hazel 4:45 PM  

This blog has been so fascinating today that I decided to tally up the fers and agins.

The vehemence of the agins makes you think they're clearly in the majority, but in fact they aren't. I counted 19 puzzle likers, 13 haters, 9 with mixed feelings, and a bunch of tangential and/or random comments that i couldn't quickly interpret. The haters appear to hate the puzzle more than the likers like it - so they leave a bigger impression - I think this says something, but I'm not sure what.

Rex Parker 4:52 PM  

I'm happy so many people (or some, at least) liked the puzzle, but would those of you who liked it please stop implying that the rest of us want ordinary, uninventive puzzles. That's nonsense.

I lavished praise on the Dollar Bill puzzle (Blindauer, who used to suffer, IMO, from the same "Look What I DID" syndrome, until his insane talent took him to a whole new level). Why did I like the dollar puzzle? - because it was a blast to solve. Inventive, unusual ... a construction feat, sure, but one that lets *us*, the solvers, in on the joy.

This whole "boring Tuesday v. pushing the envelope Tuesday" is a false opposition if I ever saw one. Nobody is advocating for boring / ordinary puzzles.

I liked the "Lies" puzzle that Joe K and Will were responsible for a while back. That puzzle felt entertaining. This one - not. At least not for a good chunk of us.

rp

meotch 4:57 PM  

@ Doug

Thanks for the wordplay blog link. Very enlightening. I hope people will read it.

~meotch (aka anon 3:49)
(I've commented here a handful of times under this name but left it out by accident earlier.)

Jim in Chicago 5:00 PM  

I stand in awe of the work it must have taken to construct this, but then remind myself that not all things are worth the effort!

I did notice a distinctly French bent to this puzzle we have:

ILE for Seine Sight
TES for Parisian Possessive
NOM for Monique ou Dominque (I despise this clue, BTW)
ETAT for Coup d'____
MON for ____Dieu!
and a bit further afield
RENE for Descartes....
and
DENIM for Shade of Blue (so named since it was from NIMES.
and
"vis-a-vis" used in another clue.

JoefromMtVernon 5:02 PM  

@Hazel: Maybe we're getting our frustrations out in order to enjoy the holidays.

Perhaps we can find a dictionary listing of lamina that could mean "thin skined"?

What would Lisa Simpson say about today's puzzle?

Joe

edith b 5:09 PM  

I like puzzles that stretch the envelope from time to time but there is something hit or miss about those efforts.

I didn't care for the "vowel cluster " puzzle but I did like the LIES one. I didn't see the gimmick on this one until I went to Jim H's blog but I had a tickle at the back of my mind at TARARA and ARARAT but that was all.

IMOO, keep experimenting - I'm sure a concensus will form.

Two Ponies 5:14 PM  

Wow, what a day on the blog.
About halfway through I smelled a rat and I'm ashamed at how long it took for my "aha" moment to appear.
For awhile I was thinking a French theme as someone else noted.
After reading this extended discussion I think a Tuesday was the perfect time to throw this one our way.
This must have been a terror to construct. I wish Joe would chime in and tell us the tale behind this marvelous stinker.

fergus 5:20 PM  

Indeed very French for a lot of the fill ...

Crime fiction is a taste I've never acquired, unless one could include The Sopranos in that category. In that case, the bumbling Agent Harris becomes my favorite detective. That may also be because he shows up in Jack-in-the-Box commercials.

So many of us have such different predilections that I am pleased when I lose the critical faculty, and can perhaps nobly refrain from passing judgment.

Ladel 5:25 PM  

@Sandy Davenport

Well put, and I accept the criticism, I just felt that RP went a little too far today in deconstructing what must have been a very difficult puzzle to create. Remember it was my teacher who opened my eyes to how difficult intellectual constructing can be. And surely there are many great critics out there who don't have the talent to construct, their talent rests with their ability to analyze. Teach on, there remains much good work to yet accomplish.

Crosscan 5:35 PM  

My favorite detective, in literature, TV or movies, is Batman. He would have noticed the symmetry right away.

Ulrich 5:39 PM  
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Ulrich 5:42 PM  

@rex: fair enough.

But let me point out that "enjoyment" vs. "intellectual appreciation" is also a false opposition (I'm not addressing Rex here). To repeat myself: I enjoyed the puzzle--its symmetry played right into my architect's love of geometry.

Rex Parker 5:45 PM  

@Ladel,

Thank you for the very kind reply to my wife, and my apologies for being a little snippy earlier. I love to see this kind of energy in the Comments section - I guess when people get a little worked up, some feather-ruffling is inevitable. All things considered, today's exchanges are pretty mild. I just think about what today's contentious conversation would look like if this were your run-o-the-mill news/political blog ...


rp

meotch 5:51 PM  

@Rex
I was aware of how much you liked the dollar bill puzzle when I commented earlier. It's part of why I included it in my defense of today's puzzle.

I didn't mean any negativity toward the people who disliked the puzzle, and didn't mean to imply that they only like ordinary puzzles. I myself didn't necessarily love it. I winced and groaned quite a bit. But I appreciated it and found it worth publishing. And worth defending.

Maybe I'm surprised at how many people disliked it. Or by how much they disliked it. So I ask this: If we were to assume for argument's sake that the quality of the fill was as good as it could have been for this theme, would the people who disliked the puzzle rather it had not been published at all?

~meotch (aka anon 3:49)

Mark S 6:02 PM  

Rex, this blog should be retitled, "Rex Parker Tells the Truth About The New York Times Puzzle." thank you for setting it straight on today's odd puzzle. it was sloppy and inelegant

ArtLvr 6:20 PM  

SO -- Happy Holidays again, all -- Enjoy the odd PRAT and never mind the less amusing fill... Did anyone, on seeing clue "Turner", think of LANA? Good thing that answer didn't fit as to number of squares allotted -- it would have fit the theme though!

Ho ho ho...

∑;)

ArtLvr 6:21 PM  

SO -- Happy Holidays again, all -- Enjoy the odd PRAT and never mind the less amusing fill... Did anyone, on seeing clue "Turner", think of LANA? Good thing that answer didn't fit as to number of squares allotted -- it would have fit the theme though!

Ho ho ho...

∑;)

treedweller 6:22 PM  

Maybe it's unnecessary, but I will say this: I am impressed by the construction of this puzzle. I admire the skill of Kozel. I just did not enjoy the solving very much. As I said, I did not see the theme until I came here. I do not mean to imply there should not be efforts of this type in the puzzle. As many comments here have shown, some people really enjoy this sort of thing. And I have no problem with that--to each his own. I'm glad to see new frontiers in puzzling.

But, as it happens, I personally did not much enjoy this one. I hope WS continues to push the boundaries nevertheless.

Catherine K 6:32 PM  

Hey, I'm just happy when I can solve a whole puzzle! I was able to solve all of this one, but didn't see the theme until I got to the blog. It simply increased my
joy! Maybe it's the season; good will to all and all that.

I loved Crosscan's poem, and I really enjoy it when Rex pops in with lots of comments.

A happy day for me. On to Wednesday!

evil doug 6:51 PM  

@Scotus addict: You are correct about "Life". Danni is fine, also. But I fear the low ratings will doom our fave.

The best teachers are those who did before they taught. I'm surrounded by many PhD's who are brilliant and capable colleagues. I have only a master's, but I can also weave tales reflecting 30 years of real-world experience---and my students seem to genuinely appreciate practical applications of knowledge.

When I was a student pilot, we called instructors who had no operational experience "plowbacks", because they'd gone straight from being students to checking out as teachers. The instructor pilots whose brains we wanted to pick had been fighter/bomber/transport pilots in the real Air Force, and they could impart worldly wisdom on top of their teaching skills.

Evil

Doc John 6:58 PM  

I wasn't thrilled with the fill (way too much forced stuff) but I do have to congratulate the constructor. (I had no idea about the theme until I came here and had "nam" instead of NIM.) As a budding puzzle constructor myself, I know how hard it is to get everything to fit. (Maybe I shouldn't have picked a Friday-level one to be my first one, though!)

TARARA? Did anyone else think of "chick-a"?

OMA was a good one, though. I kept trying to fit in itis or osis.

fergus 7:00 PM  
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fergus 7:08 PM  

Rex, I have known great editors at magazines, and could figure out their craft, but now that I see what you're doing in this instantaneous realm I would count you in on their behalf.

PIX 7:10 PM  

If nothing else, this puzzle reminds me why I enjoy this blog so much. Without it I would not have gotten the theme and would have just thought it was a very strange, boring puzzle. Also now that I understand the theme I still can't figure out if I should be impressed by Joe Krozel or mad for spending so much time on such a strange puzzle. It's nice to see that I am not the only one with these mixed emotions.

joho 7:37 PM  

This has been a fantastic Tuesday at the Rex spot!

Anonymous 8:03 PM  

Good day indeed. Rex, do you have data on your blog traffic? I'm curious if you know which days received the most comments. For better or for worse, I want to work those puzzles!

chefbea 8:37 PM  

114 comments and counting!!! what a fun day

3 and out

Simon 8:48 PM  

Dear Rex,

I often check this blog for early puzzle results and don't often read the comments. I did today.

You are a dink.

Keep up the good work though. I appreciate your dedication.

love,

Simon

jae 8:58 PM  

I am one of those who was irritated while solving (kept wondering how this got in the NYT) and impressed when I gazed upon the finished product and saw the theme. If I were offered a vote it would be to keep it in, i.e. the aha experience and respect for the construction effort more than offset the irritation. That said, my bride was more impressed with Sun.'s HOs than with this one.

I was doing this a bit slower than my average Tues. when I hit a wall in SE (you know the crossing) and had to actually stop solving and think, unusual for Tues.

Rockford is way up there for me also. I often wondered, to who ever would listen, if John D. MacDonald had anything to do with the series as there were a number of similarities between Rockford and Travis McGee.

Its been my experience that people who have never taught have no idea how hard it is to do it well. (Disclaimer: my daughter is an elementary school teacher).

===Dan 9:11 PM  

There are lots of possible attributes that make me enjoy or admire a puzzle, but I don't expect to see all of them every day. I don't dwell on what a puzzle doesn't do, when what it does is so remarkable.

I can appreciate the fact that some solvers did not enjoy solving today's puzzle, but I can't appreciate words like "crap" and "ugly" in the context of any work that reflects great creativity and tremendous effort. Tomorrow's another day. I won't share what I _do_ feel about such posts.

(I'm withholding judgment on the detective until 2010 when Edward Norton will play Lionel Essrog from "Motherless Brooklyn.")

Rob 9:15 PM  

Rex's place is a relief. As recommended, I read the Wordplay interview, and i understand that the Mother Blog will hype its own. but today's writeup reads like a humorless parody. Do those guys always take themselves so seriously?

. . one guy calls the other a genius. (zzzzzz) The constructor is hailed as an innovator, pushing the envelope. (zzzzzz) (Someone posted on Cruciverb today about an old Janus puzzle with the same mirroring scheme . . oops)

And then they roll out the editor who blesses the puzzle as good, it's an experiment. (zzzzzz . . )

I like that Rex isn't fooled by the self-congratulatory, humorless oversharing. yeah, today was a good day at Rex's . .

Anonymous 9:23 PM  

@ Rob:

Awesome negativity toward other posters. You are right. We are all totally bored. (zzzzz.)

sillygoose 9:34 PM  

I wasn't super thrilled with today's puzzle (edile/nim), especially not when compared to yesterday's lovely one, but I will say this:

It is very nice to have such a wide variety in the early week experience. For those of us (I just sort of assume there are others besides me and Dad) who can only solve in the Sun-Thurs range of difficulty, we often miss out on apparently thrilling puzzles, things of beauty. I personally enjoy the wider 'menu' of puzzles early week, even if I don't truly love each and every solve.

Steve L 10:00 PM  

I'm guessing that many of the people who didn't like the puzzle didn't realize the gimmick until they got here--or to Jim's or Angela's write-ups on the other blogs. I said earlier that I really liked this one, but that liking was directly tied to the AHA moment I had BEFORE I finished the puzzle. I worked roughly from top to bottom, so I was easily two-thirds to three-quarters done when it hit me. Yes, it was a slog up to that point. But since I don't aspire to speed solving, I didn't just automatically copy words backward. On the other hand, I did keep looking back to marvel at it.
As for the newbies who don't read the blogs and who discarded the puzzle without learning the gimmick, too bad. So they might have thought that it was a boring puzzle. How many people who don't understand football were sitting with people who do on Sunday and didn't get what was so compelling about that night's Giants-Panthers game? I tell people, learn the game, understand it well, and you'll find it much more interesting. Same with the puzzles. If they didn't get it, their loss. But if they stay with puzzles a few more years and then, an equally unusual puzzle comes along, they'll be ready to appreciate it. In fact, I think the big lift in this puzzle is precisely that once you get the gimmick, the "crappy fill" that the haters refer to suddenly elevates to a different level, to a point where it is a single stroke in a larger masterpiece. Sometimes the fun is in the finished product. Sometimes, people think I love mowing the lawn, and comment upon that. I respond that what I love is to look at my newly mowed lawn. Sometimes the result is worth the slog. And with 10:00 approaching, it's time to get on to what will almost inevitably be a less interesting puzzle.

fergus 10:33 PM  

Not a bad coda.

Victor in Rochester 10:33 PM  

It seems that many confuse admiration for completing a difficult task with enjoyment. If Sisyphus ever got the stone to the top, we'd admire it, but would he or anyone else have had any fun? Why do we do crosswords? Who are they published for, and why? So we can admire a convoluted task completed? I slogged through this, never saw the theme until I came here (a hint in the title or somewhere would have been nice), and now I admire it. I still would rather not have done it, and wish I had quit.

Anonymous 10:59 PM  

I think it's me, but just to make sure: didn't anyone find the answer for 47A "Tenon" was a stretch for the correct word, "Tendon" ???

Anonymous

PuzzleGirl 11:00 PM  

@anon 10:59: Merriam-Webster online says a tenon is "a projecting member in a piece of wood or other material for insertion into a mortise to make a joint."

fikink 11:21 PM  

@Victor, your comments on today's puzzle brought to mind a cartoon wherein Sisyphus, stone in front of him, was at the penultimate point in his ascent and at the bottom of the other side of the peak one could observe ten bowling pins.

Free Lunch 12:15 AM  

I've been watching "Life," too, and while I like the characters and their chemistry, I wish it had better story writers.

They can't seem to figure out what to do with his partner aside from make her act inexplicably. (Her preposterously written fall from the wagon is the most recent example.) Same goes for the new boss. "I know! Let's hook them up!"

And can't a show get green-lighted anymore without some mysterious back-story whose plodding revelation can't possibly be sustained over the life of the series? "Burn Notice" and "Dirty Sexy Money" have the same short-sighted problem. Every time the Life writers substitute their inability to fill an hour-long episode with peeks into this irritating back story, I fast forward.

BTW, my vote: this puzzle was no fun to solve.

(Geez, listen to me. Bah humbug!)

andrea carla michaels 2:49 AM  

Of course I had a schizophrenic construction/solver reaction to this puzzle, but I had to ask myself, (myselves?)
"Why couldn't Will have turned to JoeK and say "What a great idea! Work on it more, with four letter words, fewer black squares, less icky fill and then resubmit it"?"

As Rex pointed out, it's totally possible to be creative AND fun to solve
(look at what Patrick Blindauer creates, or Merl or Francis Heaney or a dozen others)

When I saw JoeK's name I tried to figure out the rationale for what seemed to be an atrocious puzzle, knowing there must be a saving grace...
Only 13 letters? Was it Hawaiian? Why no BCFGHJKQUWXZY?
Was one side of the keyboard involved? Did it mean something that there was no U?
(Can't spell FUN without a U!)
Did the letters he DID use
ADEILMNOPRSTV spell out a secret message for Christmas?

I admit, it took me longer to figure out the theme than to do the puzzle.

My post-solve AHA moment was ARARAT/TARARA.

But did it excuse TID, TES, ENER, SPITON, RETAR, OMA, NOSIDE, DELIAS
(She's not Tuesday famous, much less thinking there are TWO Delias lurking about!) etc.

(at least he had NAMER!) :)

I had a similar idea a few weeks ago: what if all the words could be a word going both ways and you gave both definitions...
or did a separate set of clues on the right side of the puzzle
(it was inspired by that puzzle where the words in every other line went the other way + Israeli beau)

So I set out to make a list of all the words that you could read in either direction...not palindromes, just words like EVIL/LIVE but the majority were three letter words and what I would deem "yucky" fill.

Plus I couldn't figure out how to make the Downs work, and gave up.

So I admire JoeK for not only taking chances, but figuring out how to make it work.

Maybe this is constructor envy, but since he gets a puzzle in practically weekly, why do some of them feel half-baked?

(I understand from JimH's blog that JoeK finally admitted it was Will that provided the LIES in the clues, but without that touch, what was there?!)

If Will is the Lennon to JoeK's McCartney, why not have pushed JoeK to construction feats that would have been fun to solve?

(It reminds me of that joke, Paul marries a one-legged hooker and John is STILL the interesting one!)

In my heart of hearts, I think, (with a little help from his friends), he could have had it both ways.

DrGreene 3:09 AM  

What a polarizing puzzle!

There seems to be a dramatic symmetry in the responses to the puzzle, as well as in the puzzle itself.

For me, it was orgasmic. The big moment came after typing in NOV VON and noticing the turning mirror in the room. I had filled in just enough for the rest to be infused with double meaning and mystery. I'll never forget it.

For others, it was forgettable, unsatisfying work. Empty and meaningless fill. Forcing dry, inelegant words awkwardly into boxes. Looking down at the puzzle, the big moment was mistimed, if it happened at all. The puzzle was work rather than pleasure.

Cathodes and anodes, yin and yang, indeed.

Bravo!

michael 10:34 AM  

Well, I seem to have broken my record for denseness. I did this puzzle late last night after a plane trip and didn't note that (1) it was themeless; (2)used only half the letters of the alphabet; (3) and was symmetrical in a novel and impressive way. I just thought it was a run of the mill-puzzle and didn't check the blog.

Then I did Wednesday's puzzle early (I'm on vacation like many other people) and saw that Rex made a comment about half the letters in the alphabet being released. What was that about, I wondered. Then I checked the blog for Tuesday and was enlightened by the comments and awed by the construction.

As you can see, I fall on the side of those whose admiration for the construction feat outweighs complaints about the fill.

william e emba 11:38 AM  

I noticed the theme about halfway through the puzzle, and then filled the rest out rather quickly. As a result, I simply did not notice that there was so much crappy fill. So I enjoyed the puzzle very much, and upon reading the comments, learned I probably was not supposed to like it that much. Oh well.

Pretty much all mathematicians consider NIM to be a gimme, by the way. There's a binary notation strategy for perfect play that you learn about in popular books at a young age. And then there's Conway's whole theory of NIMbers and more that turns child's play into advanced research. Way cool.

Brendan 12:51 PM  

I gotta say if I'd never done a crossword before in my life, I might have been impressed by this puzzle.

Joe 2:50 PM  

WAS slightly annoying.
Couldn't finish east and southeast due to mentioned quirks and "rotational symmetry."
If you're going to create a puzzle like this, it should come with a few words of warning at the top, like "Stick with it" or "There IS a theme" or "TURN THE PUZZLE UPSIDE DOWN."

Sharon 4:14 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle and found it a bit easier than usual. I didn't begin to see the theme. It would have been nice to have a title to clue us in. Once I learned about it I thought "Oh, fun". Did not find the fill crappy or sappy or anything not to be happy about.

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