WEDNESDAY, Apr. 29, 2009 - B Silk (Early MP3-sharing web site / Camp Swampy dog / Theater for niche audiences / Prayer wheel user)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "NINE to FIVE" word ladder - starred clues are all part of a word ladder that starts with NINE and moves down the grid (changing one letter at a time) to end at FIVE. Theme tied together with central, grid-spanning answer, STANDARD WORK DAY (38A: Hint to the word ladder in the answers to the starred clues)

Word of the Day: SESSILE - adj.

  1. Botany. Stalkless and attached directly at the base: sessile leaves.
  2. Zoology. Permanently attached or fixed; not free-moving: a sessile barnacle.

[Latin sessilis, low, of sitting, from sessus, past participle of sedēre, to sit.] (

I usually like Barry Silk puzzles, but not this one. As you know, I'm always immediately put off by a 1A that requires that I look elsewhere in the grid, especially when I go look there and there is no way to know what I'm looking at. Word ladders in general are ho-hum as concepts to me. You have to do something fantastic to make it worth while. And this one? Meh. I got your word ladder right here: NINE FINE FIVE. The end. The only semi-interesting thing about this word ladder is the stacked parts - TINE over TONE, FORE over FIRE - which require a whole bunch of (occasionally inventive) double letters in the Downs. The biggest problem for me with this puzzle concept is STANDARD WORK DAY. First of all, NINE to FIVE isn't very STANDARD anymore. Second, STANDARD WORK DAY is a dead, dull phrase. I had nearly all of the letters and still had no idea what I was looking at. "Hey, is it "STANDARD WORD DAY" today?" Thought it might be some kind of self-referential CROSSWORD thing for a while. I had to endure SESSILE (29A: Permanently attached, in zoology) and HEXOSE (51D: Simple sugar) for ... what? A very basic word ladder and this phrase? No thanks.

Hey, you know what else fits in the slot occupied by STANDARD WORK DAY?


Love her:

["I set out to get you with a fine-toothed comb..."???]

Theme answers:

  • 1A: *Start of a 38-Across (nine)
  • 15A: *Small part of a spork (tine)
  • 18A: *Musical quality (tone)
  • 22A: *Made tracks (tore)
  • 35A: *Teed off (sore)
  • 44A: *Put into piles (sort)
  • 56A: *Locale in a western (fort)
  • 64A: *It may precede a stroke (fore) - cute
  • 67A: *Ax (fire)
  • 71A: *End of a 38-Across (five)
Here's some more stuff that irked me a little. SCENE V = arbitrary. Could have been I or V or X, and there's nothing even to suggest which one. (50D: Part of an act, perhaps). While it's true that some men's hair is PARTED, there is nothing particularly manly about the part (33D: Like some men's hair). There are parts in some women's hair too. ART HOUSE + ARTY = one too many ARTs for my taste (40D: Theater for niche audiences + 28D: Pseudo-cultured). On the other hand, I really liked the unexpected noun cluing of EMPTY (16A: Recyclable item), and the somehow-made-it-work cluing on NO MAN'S (3D: Kind of land). My biggest "???" moment came at 12D: "The Way of Perfection" writer (St. Teresa). I studied the Middle Ages in grad school and I didn't know this. The title sounds Chinese to me (the way = tao), but then again the title also sounded like a contemporary self-help book.


  • 17A: Prayer wheel user (lama) - I wrote in SUFI. I was ... on the right continent at least.
  • 27A: Good name for an investment adviser? (Ira) - recycled clue. Old joke. Next.
  • 32A: Early MP3-sharing Web site (Napster) - a big, infamous name about a decade ago when people were worried that file-sharing would kill the music industry. The uproar all seems kind of quaint now.
  • 45A: Canal site (isthmus) - my first thought when "canal" is used in xword clues is always EAR.
  • 47A: Showing irritation (peevish) - ironically, one of the few things I liked today.
  • 53A: Toxic pollutant (PCB) - I always want this to be PFC. Maybe because I'm mashing PCB up in my head with CFCs = Chlorofluorocarbons?
  • 65A: Rat Pack nickname (Dino) - that came easily
  • 63A: Crossword maker or editor, at times (cluer) - true enough
  • 36D: Wynn and Harris (Eds) - better than cluing it as an abbrev. for "editors," I think.
  • 10D: Survivalist's stockpile (ammo) - I had CANS
  • 9D: Orkin victim (pest) - I like how the clue makes "Orkin" sound like a serial killer.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Barry 8:02 AM  

@Rex: Your observation that "NINE FINE FIVE" is a more direct word ladder occurred to me as well. However, that wouldn't have made for much of a puzzle :-) When I got the idea for this puzzle, I wanted to make sure that each letter of the word changed at least one time in word ladder, so that required a ten step ladder rather than the usual eight steps found in most daily size puzzles. This puzzle turned out to be much harder to construct than most of my themeless puzzles, given all the constraints.

Anonymous 8:04 AM  

...I would suggest that all the musicians out there that aren't getting paid for their work would hardly consider the Napster uproar "quaint"....

Crosscan 8:16 AM  

Also odd was SCENE V crossing FIVE - a 55 crossing.

HEXOSE/ILEX was an unknown crossing.

Ok puzzle. No strong feelings for or against.

dk 8:20 AM  

I like any puzzle with SMITE or smote.

This puzzle is a technical marvels. As a novice constructor I enjoy unique patterns and in this case how Barry made the clues work.

I would have liked more work related themes as the inclusion of FIRE, PERIOD (as in rest period) and IRA made me smile given the STANDARDWORKDAY theme. That said I could not have done it.

SESSILE was the I am so smart word of the day. I also remember (from Zoology) that Rhinoceroses sweat through their earlobes in case you were wondering why they twirl their ears. I can't understand why Rex accuses me of rambling and making little sense in my posts he can be so PEEVISH at times.... like 9-5 24/7 :)

dk 8:21 AM  

that would be marvel not marvels... sigh.

HudsonHawk 8:25 AM  

I hate to be the Crossword Curmudgeon, but I have to agree with Rex on the word ladder. One additional objection: a golfer would never yell "Fore!" prior to hitting the ball. Hated that clue.

ArtLvr 8:28 AM  

I liked Barry's puzzle, if not as meaty as some. It's fun to see rarer words like SESSILE, SCOFFS, ST TERESA, TEST-FLEW and Fighting ILLINI (not Irish). The theme words are short but fill includes 8-stacks in the NE and SW, plus 6-stacks in the NW and SE. Also note that the cluing of Doo-WOP cleverly avoids an ethnic slur...

PEEVISH probably is pertinent to the surprise shrinking of the GOP minority in the US Senate. Wow!

chefbea 8:35 AM  

had the end instead of period so that tied me up a bit.

other than that the puzzle was as smooth as Silk!!!

toothdoc 9:13 AM  

HudsonHawk - you have never golfed with me, cuz I yell "fore" before every shot since I have no clue where it will go :)

Also, briefly considered "Alien" for 63A.

Finally, one thing I love about this blog is getting to hear from the constructors. Thanks for being the 1st to comment and taking the criticism well. I know I couldn't do what you do.

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

Natick - a town in eastern Massachusetts, population 32,170. In the Native American tongue from which it is derived, it means "place of hills". They made shoes in Natick , supplying boots for Yankee troops in the Civil War. H. Harwood & Sons factory in Natick was the first factory in the world to manufacture baseballs. There are five main historical communities in Natick: Natick Center, South Natick, North Natick, East Natick, and West Natick.

I hope you all enjoyed that brief history of Natick. I know Natick, as I have driven by it many times on my sojourns to New Hampshire and Maine on the Mass pike. I was not Naticked by this puzzle due to that.

Another meaning of Natick.

I did this puzzle at a crossword puzzle tournament this past weekend. I'm not a speed solver, and have learned from my ACPT experience to be accurate(see footnote). I finished all of this puzzle (except one square) in about 8 minutes - I found the word ladder very helpful by the way, and then stared at the ILE-/HE-OSE combo.

Now I am sure that many on this erudite assembly of solvers knew ILEX, but I DID NOT!.

The moral of this rambling post is that it does indeed confirm the Natick Principle. Even with this mistake, I got to the championship round, as I'm guessing that the 25% rule held true here.

Nice puzzle other than that.

Footnote - I'll have a brief description of my solving experience in the final tomorrow.


PhillySolver 9:39 AM  

It took awhile for me and in the end I made it through because of the word ladder. I think that makes it a clever puzzle. A few missteps which made it work like a dialed down Saturday puzzle. Thanks Barry.

hazel 9:44 AM  

very fun puzzle. i like a word ladder puzzle - they're still rare (and therefore amazing) to me. Plus there were lots of words I don't see that often - galore, peevish (which is kind of how Rex sounded), scoffs, isthmus. All in all, I thought it was a great puzzle - very Wednesday-worthy.

fikink 9:44 AM  

Ditto dk on SMITE. Great word, as were ISTHMUS,
PEEVISH, NOMANS, DOLCE, and GALORE. I thought ILEX has long been crossword fare, yes?

Also, dk, your rhino factoid reminded me of my little brother running in the house one day saying, "Deb! Did you know camels hum?"

"No, really?"

"Yes, but only when they are lying down."

Shall we commence to begin a ramblers' blog?

treedweller 9:45 AM  

As a budding arborist, the first Latin binomial of a holly I learned was Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria, which gets its name from the fact that it has been used as an emetic. That sort of thing sticks with you, especially if you happen to work with a guy named Alex. Without that fact, I am fairly sure I never would have known ILEX.

I had similar thoughts to Rex's, in that I wondered how ART made it in twice and I considered Sufi for LAMA, but I'm feeling less PEEVISH about it. I thought the puzzle was a little harder than expected, but still a reasonable Wed. That's good, IMO. But I did enjoy Rex's alternate word ladder.

@Rex re:PCB--maybe you were mixing up PCB and KFC, which I'd rate at least as toxic a substance as CFCs.

Orange 9:50 AM  

@treedweller: You ain't kidding. Last weekend, I saw an ambulance pull up in front of a KFC, siren blaring and lights flashing. (Though I hear the new KFC grilled chicken is less greasy and lower in sodium than the classic fried.)

treedweller 9:57 AM  

I'm not sure why I decided to make this "Bag on KFC Day", but here's a pretty hilarious take from Patton Oswalt (WARNING: LANGUAGE NSFW).

addie loggins 10:06 AM  

My initial three thoughts:
1) one says FORE after hitting a golf ball, not before;
2) I didn't know ILEX/HEXOSE, which was my only mistake in the puzzle;
3) I'm not a big fan of ladders.

So, basically y'all have it covered.

I did, however, like SMITE, PEEVISH, ILLINI, and GALORE. Overall, it was a good Wednesday for me; I definitely did not have the negative reaction Rex did -- the benefit of being less of a connoisseur (at least as of today).


Denise 10:08 AM  

I learned recently that "The Good Earth" is out of print, so I hope that libraries are taking good care of their copies. "OLAN" shows up often enough that it seems to be one of those things "everybody knows." Not without the book . . .

I went to bed having left the phrase "Standard Word Day," and really wondering. Aha -- just before I fell asleep, I got it.

I saw "FIVE" at the end and then went backwards through the ladder.

So so puzzle. Thank goodness we get a new one today.

jae 10:16 AM  

I liked this one. Word ladders are still fairly novel for me and this one was fun to solve. What I'm wondering is, did Will choose this one to mark the opening of Dolly Parton's "Nine to Five" Broadway musical tomorrow? Barry?

joho 10:25 AM  

I definitely appreciated this puzzle more than Rex.

I liked the theme NINE to FIVE and, while that may not be the STANDARDWORKDAY anymore, it's definitely a common term that's also a song.

SESSILE is definitely the word of the day for me, too.

FORE as used here is just plain wrong. Can you imagine everybody yelling FORE before every shot they take? Golf courses would be really loud.

mexgirl 10:37 AM  

I thought the puzzle was challenging enough and had some fun fill.
I only need help with something: how's EMPTY a recyclable item? I've been thinking of every possible alternative and still I'm puzzled. If anyone care to explain, I'll be deeply thankful.

Frieda 10:40 AM  

I agree, @Hazel and @PhillySolver--enjoyed this puzzle, a fine Wednesday and the word ladder helped sort out TORE.

STAND AND DELIVER fit in the long across, too, a performance that might have begun with a LINE at 1a. Hazard of worrying (at all) over a 1a like that till...later in the DAY.

Anonymous 10:46 AM  

@Treedweller - I thought the point of an emetic was that things wouldn't stick with you. On you maybe, but not with you.

@Mexgirl - An EMPTY beer can is recyclable, a full one is not. We recycle only the empties.

pednsg 10:48 AM  

Been a while since I've done a word ladder - I must say that I find them refreshing, for no specific reason.

I'm going to have to google and find out just what a prayer wheel is - got it from the crosses (pun intended). Never heard of one - I'm picturing a game show on a network that I don't watch...

Have you all heard of Bergen Evans? The other night when I was doing one of the puzzles, I commented out loud that I'd never heard the word "aquiline," to which my wife (who can't understand why I like these puzzles) replied, "That was one of our Bergen Evans words from school." Throughout high school, they were given lists of words to learn in order to improve vocabulary. I just finished reading the Wikipedia entry on this man I never knew existed. I'm guessing that Rex (and maybe most of you) have long been familiar with him!

Kelly 10:50 AM  

i learned "illini" the hard way last month. at a conference, i accidentally ended up at a uiuc alumni reception (which i am not). thanks to many glasses of free alumni wine, i felt pretty confident in my guess that they were called the buccaneers and after lots of confused/annoyed looks and one very funny conversation, i finally realized they weren't the buccaneers after all, but the "fighting illini"..? but it ended well - i.e. nobody tried to throw me out, and i'm a better puzzle solver for it! good ol' illini...

chefbea 10:52 AM  

@mexgirl an empty is recyclable as in empty can or bottle. You recycle yours empties. Does that help?

XMAN 10:53 AM  

@mexgirl: Empty as in "empty bottle of beer," which you bring back for a deposit and which is then recycled, e.g.

I had to Google 5D and 12D, to my shame: This is a Wednesday!

DINO could have been clued as "Flintstone pet," or "Pet in a stone age cartoon."

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

It's an elegant and satisfying puzzle. I loved it (maybe novices have more fun). And while I could never have come up with "hexose", "ilex" was vaguely familiar in the sense that the final x sounded better than any of the alternatives, so the crossing seemed fair.

Also thanks for the Dolly Parton duet!

-Abu Owlfish

retired_chemist 11:02 AM  

Smooth as Silk. I was beeten to it by chefbea. ☺ Oh, similes are so yesterday (9A - PASSE).

A nice Wednesday puzzle with more of a fun twist to it than Mr. Silk’s usual late week themeless ones. Odd gimmes: SESSILE, HEXOSE (Hey, I’m a chemist), and ILEX. The HEXOSE/ILEX is an obvious Natick for many, and it’s nice to be on the right side of town. Other gimmes: OLAN, DOLCE, and DINO. NAPSTER was also a gimme, probably for nearly all of us.

Time would have been MUCH better had I seen that there was a word ladder earlier. It’s like a themeless Thursday puzzle in difficulty if you don’t see that. One should take 10 seconds to scan the clues for such an insight, since reading the clue for 38A would have been a BIG help – but I didn’t see it until way late in the game. ☹

Missed 67A in my first look at the ladder; hadn’t filled in 38A yet, so I put 78A as FIRE. C’mon: SCENE R (50D) – NOT! A quick recheck found FIRE @ 67A, fixed the error (SCENE V). NINE to FIVE then gave me 38A, which along with much of the mid-Atlantic had been SNAFUed by SHS instead of STK @ 34D. Dyslexically read my 12D partial as STERE?? instead of STTERE?? so was looking, obviously unsuccessfully, for a single surname there. ☹

BTW is STK a standard abbreviation for stock? New to me. If Treasury Bonds were abbreviated TBN, the conflation TBN STK would sound delicious. Maybe with BTS.

Think Barry is going to give us a Monday and a Tuesday anytime soon? Would that be hitting for the cycle for him?

Two Ponies 11:04 AM  

Count me as one who really enjoyed this one. Thanks Barry both for the puzzle and for dropping by to comment.
This was a nice meaty Wed. with unusual fill. The X was the last letter to fall. Thinking of dextrose helped me on some intuitive level I guess.
Three of my four dogs proved to be average according to Ulrich's dog IQ test. The fourth one would not touch the napkin but I don't think it's because she is stupid. She is especially aware of what belongs to us and a napkin would be off-limits. Or no mans land.

archaeoprof 11:06 AM  

ILEX/HEXOSE was my Natick nemesis today. But otherwise a strong Wed puzzle, with ISTHMUS, SCOFFS, STTERESA, and (best of all for this UofI grad) ILLINI. Hail to the Chief!

Jim in Chicago 11:12 AM  

I crashed and burned in the NW.

My problems began with I put in
LOWEST for "at minimum" at 1D.

This left me with 1A being LINE, which worked with the word ladder, although left me puzzled about how NINE fit in with FI*E, and equally confused when I got the V for FIVE.

Only when I filled in the entire answer to 38A did I realize that 1A had to be NINE. This left me with NOWEST for 1D, which makes no sense, but I had no clue about either "prayer wheel user" or "permanently attached" were, so WAMA and TESSILE sort of made sense, but of course "NOWEST" didn't. At that point I just opened up Rex to figure out where I'd gone wrong.

I've never heard of HEXOSE or ILEX but guessed at the X based on my knowledge of DEXTROSE.

PIX 11:13 AM  

@ Barry Silk: i found the the puzzle fun and enjoyable but mostly i want to say i admire your courage in so quickly posting a response after what Rex said about the puzzle.

@51D: chemistry most sugars end in "ose"; a sugar with six ("hex") carbons is a hexose...(vs eg a five carbon sugar is a pentose)..."simple" means the carbons are arranged in one cyclic ring (as opposed to a non-simple sugar such as table sugar-sucrose-which has two rings of carbon atoms) End of organic chem class for today.

retired_chemist 11:14 AM  

FYI re HEXOSE - -OSE ends all simple sugars and the most common ones have six carbon atoms. Hence HEX-

PENTOSEs, TETROSEs, and two TRIOSEs do exist.

Anne 11:16 AM  

Olan is one of my favorite characters and I was so glad to see her name today. I am going to reread "The Good Earth." I'm amazed it's out of print.

And I have never heard of Bergen Evans; I'm going to read about him. Thanks.

As for the puzzle, I found it irritating for many of the reasons described by Rex. But I laughed at his Dolly Parton comment; I would have preferred that.

Crosscan 11:18 AM  

Is it overlapping response day? Did someone just ask that?

PuzzleGirl 11:19 AM  

I kinda like word ladders so wasn't at all annoyed with this one. Although Rex's shortened version is hilarious.

@treedweller: I don't think I've ever seen that guy and now I'll probably spend all day watching his clips. So thanks? I guess?

Had to go through the alphabet at the ILEX/HEXOSE cross and, like others it seems, just decided that the X sounded best. Hope I can remember it for next time.

Anonymous 11:29 AM  

I've been doing the puzzle for many years and still got stumped by the ILEX/HEXOSE cross.
"Me no likee" - Michael Scott or Dwight Shrute.

- Tom in Pittsburgh

PIX 11:32 AM  

@9A: Most people dont realize the phrase "so last year/month" was made poplular by Buffy the Vampire Slayer. "The popularization of this usage may have begun with ''Buffy the Vampire Slayer'' in 1992, when Buffy pointed to a new jacket and was told: ''Please! That's so five minutes ago.''
William Safire
On Language
(available on Times web site; i don't know how to make a link)

Billy 11:37 AM  

Like Jae, I assume that the timing of this puzzle is set to coincide with the highly anticipated (in the NY theater world, anyway) opening tomorrow night of the Broadway Musical version of the movie 9 to 5, for which Ms. Parton has written the score. Early buzz is very positive.

Meanwhile, I thought this puzzle was particularly tough for a wednesday (starting with the lack of a foothold at 1A). So would it have been a stretch to run it tomorrow as a thursday?

Or is this whole thing just a coincidence?

Alan 12:00 PM  

Spelled nesson wrong.Otherwise a medium puzzle.Had leg for log. Pure carelessness.

jeff in chicago 12:06 PM  

I'm giving this one just a little more than a "meh." Just didn't work for me. 2 ARTS,'s all been mentioned.

Dolly Parton was on Letterman last night. She always seems so genuine. Would love to meet her.

@treedweller: That clip was very funny!

@imsdave: Way to go. Always fun to sit there staring at one empty square, eh?

OLAN makes me think of Olan Mills, the "portrait" studio. I use the quote marks because they do some cheesy work. Which brings me to this web site. Despite the name of the blog, it's completely tame. And funny. If you check it out, I highly recommend you look in the archives at the 3/3/09 and 3/4/09 pics. Priceless.

Chris Kern 12:09 PM  

The problem with NAPSTER is that Napster was a program, not a web site. I was very hesitant in writing in NAPSTER because although I assumed the constructor and editor simply did not know the terminology difference, I've gotten burned by such assumptions in the past.

Pete M 12:22 PM  

Two comments:

1) I can't be the only one who went with SEA for "Word after red or dead". Am I?

2) You should know HEXOSE. It's a sugar that's sweeter than QUADROSE, but not nearly as sweet as HEPTOSE or OCTOSE. ;)

- Pete

chefbea 12:30 PM  

@pete m me too. I had sea at first

Greene 12:36 PM  

@Denise & Anne: Never fear. "The Good Earth" is still available at ($6.99 for the paperback). I have always loved that book.

Excellent puzzle today, well pitched for a Wednesday. Got a little hung up in the SE with ILEX (new word for me), but HEXOSE set me straight. I can still remember learning the hexose-monophosphate shunt in biochem as an undergrad. Ah, good times.

obertb 12:42 PM  

I worked thru this one in something like 25 min, no googling, so to me it seemed easy/medium; as for ILEX/HEXOSE cross--what else could it have been? What other than X would have been a better guess?

I really didn't get the "theme" until I was finished and had time to go back and look at all of the starred clues.

@Rex: Jeez, what a hissy fit.

@Treedweller: To each his own, but despite the fact that I generally like Patton Oswald, I found his KFC rant lame. First off, from the look of him I can believe that he really does eat KFC from a bowl. And why all the f-words? Does that make it funnier?

Around here we refer to KFC as "Kentucky Fried Rat."

mccoll 12:51 PM  

I liked this puzzle but it wasn't particularly hard for a Wednesday and I had no googles or errors. I had one inspired guess with ILEX not being up on the Latin for Holly. Over-all I thought it was medium.
Prayer wheels are used by Buddhists as a substitute for reciting all the prayers. The prayers are carved on the wheel or put inside on rolls of paper. I have one about 9 inches high, but some are huge, 20 feet or more, and it takes several people to turn them.

IAgreeWithSomeThings 12:53 PM  

@Rex - Yeah, what oberb said, what a hissy fit. If you don't like word ladders, why don't you do something like start a blog about crosswords, addressing what you like and don't like about them? Same for 1A clues which give you no more information than that it is a N-letter word? Why don't you do that?

Campesite 1:03 PM  

The comments here indicate to me that the X crossing at ILEX/HEXOSE was either at least a Friday or Saturday level crossing, or a science violation of the Natick Principle. That said, I never moan about pop culture references crossing one another because I can usually sort them out, so getting tripped up by Hexose is fair game.

PlantieBea 1:05 PM  

I enjoyed doing this puzzle and liked the word ladder. I got bogged down briefly with OLAN and NEESON--did not remember it was he (Neeson) who had that role. I liked the plant references. We have several ilex species here, including the vomitoria referenced above by Treedweller. Sessile leaves are not uncommon in plant ID. My favorite answers of the day were SMITE, SINEW, PEEVISH, and ISTHMUS.

Thanks for your comments Rex and Barry Silk--always enjoy seeing the many sides of the puzzle.

andrea carla michaels 1:08 PM  

Pete M
I had SEA for the longest time...

Almost everyone in LA was stumped by ILEX/HEXOSE, but probably not chemists...or Scrabble players!!!
(Plug #658)
I originally put in IXIA...both ILEX and IXIA are HUGE Scrabble words, bec if there is LEX on the board you can put an F or an I as a front "hook" (FLEX, ILEX, tho not PLEX) and then
ILEX can even be turned into SILEX!

That said, I had fighting IRISH and didn't even care at first that it didn't fit!
I just left the last letter blank bec I had put in SCENE? and left that blank too...

Didn't have time to do/fully realize there was a ladder, you didn't need it to solve, so
Rex's "NINE FINE FIVE. End of story." made me laugh out loud,
so I am really glad Barry chimed in as well and so early.

(You have to realize for a lot of constructors, myself included, now that there are crossword blogs,
anticipating Rex and Orange are like waiting at Sardi's for the reviews to pour in and if it's good be able to celebrate and if it's bad, claim we don't read reviews anyway!)

The ladder only helped when in the end I was looking at FIIE and suspected that 'just' might be wrong!

Thanks for pointing out that V, tho seemingly arbitrary actually crossed with the word FIVE. Neat!!

When I was complaining SCENE? could have been I or X (or S for that matter), my friend Paul (or was it Eric?) pointed out that most Shakespearean Acts have five scenes. Is that true?

Orkin victim I mistook as some sort of Sci-Fi character like an ORT so I put in EWOK, which fit, bec then you could have recyclable be WASTE...
I learned the hard way that it's VERY hard to undo FIVE incorrect letters under time pressure!

@Fikink, dk
Obviously count me in for a ramblers blog!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'd give it a name that was, like, 83 sentences long! ;)

Speaking of which, since the ramblers blog has yet to become a reality, what to do with those thoughts?
I finally had a chance to put down my take about the fabulous LA tourney and have turned them in to a Professor in Upstate New York, so let's see what he does with them!

retired_chemist 1:11 PM  

@ ACME - welcome to the Morning Show. I usually see your posts after ten PM.

ANdy 1:22 PM  

I never know what to expect from Rex. I loved this puzzle. And the fact that theme entries are SYMMETRICAL, come on, that's got to count for something, Rex.

Somehow managed to guess Hexose/Ilex but I bit it on OESTE/COS.

Thanks Barry and Rex!

Bob Kerfuffle 1:27 PM  

Thanks to jae and Billy for pointing out that "Nine to Five" will be opening as a Broadway musical this week. Living in the New York metro area, I was aware of that also, and as I worked my way rather haphazardly around the grid, before I caught on (Silly me, I was at first confusing "word ladder" with "step quote"!), I had the AY at the end of 38A and thought it might have BROADWAY at the end of a phrase.

I liked this puzzle, and ones like it in which, pace Rex, you can't just plunge ahead starting at 1 A. In some way that evens the contest between tortoises like me and the hares who do the puzzle in three minutes flat.

If I were looking for nits to pick, I would ask if 25 A, Cord unit, is really a LOG. A cord is defined in terms of volume (4x4x8 feet, if memory serves), and the contents of a cord are usually split wood rather than raw logs. But that's a tiny nit at best.

edith b 1:35 PM  

I managed to sidestep The Natick because ILEX is so Maleska and sugars usually end in "ose", as mentioned. I do appreciate it when old Eugene rears his head and is a help.

Re KFC- I think I avoid KFC because the last few times I was in there all I saw behind the counter were teenagers - no ADULTS in sight. I know I sound like an old lady but no worthwhile purpose is served by unsupervised kids combined with food.

PS I agree with Joho about word ladders.

Tony from Charm City 1:36 PM  

Not much else I can say, even about the FORE clue. Nearly everything here mirrors my exact thoughts, though I am no golfer.

I agree with Andy. I didn't feel like I had to look elsewhere as I was completing the puzzle, specially once I had the STA and KDAY in place for 38A

choochoo62 1:38 PM  

As the word "standard" can refer to a song that has retained popularity over time, "standard work day" is perfectly and subtly suited to the theme. Nine to Five is both a "standard" and a "work day".

Jane Doh 1:48 PM  

Feeling PEEVISH. Sorry to say I find the idea of making a word ladder out of two four-letter words that have two of their four letters in common kind of bogus. STANDARD WORK WEEK seems uninspired. The left and right sides of the grid are only connected by the D of EDS and SWW. NO MANS is awkward as a partial phrase and another NO one entry away with NO LESS. ART HOUSE/ARTY. Some stretchy clues. Sigh.


Karen 1:50 PM  

Imsdave, congrats on your getting to the championships!

I found the word ladder fairly early and was able to place several unconnected words (and unlike Rex I immediately thought of STANDARD WORKDAY). I was surprised to not only get the 'correct' message when I solved it, but I was also the first one! *happy dance*

I know ILEX because there is a holly reservation near me, and I like to read tags.

treedweller, I thought you were pointing to this song by Patty Larkin, that I think of when I drive past a KFC.

hazel 1:56 PM  

@IAgreewithSomethings - you're sounding a bit peevish too. Relax. Its a puzzle. And a guy commenting on a puzzle and bunch of people commenting on the guy and the puzzle and each other. Its a community, entertainment. A puzzle.

Eeyore 1:59 PM  

@Pete M I also had sea, but worse than that I had CRUEL for 63A for a while....

retired_chemist 2:29 PM  

@ Eeyore - CRUEL CLUER sounds like a nice entry for an anagram theme.

acme 2:38 PM  

@retired chemist
and you could add in filthy LUCRE

Sam 2:39 PM  

@ acme:

If Orkin could find a way to eliminate Ewoks too then its positive contribution to society would never be in question!

mexgirl 2:43 PM  

Thank you all for clearing the matter of the EMPTY/RECYCLABLE.
I have to remember that in English, almost every word can be a noun! (or is it EVERY word...?)

Keep away from big crowds! (since the whole swine-flu scare, one can't be cautious enough)

jau 2:50 PM  

I'm with Rex about this being annoying today. Plus, it didn't seem up to generally accepted NYT rules and standards. Too many clues were either too cutesy (investment adviser name) or too esoteric (holly's botanical name). Also, amusing though they may be, words that are not words (cf 63A) should have a hint in the clue (sic). Also, what I refer to as african-antelope clues (botanical, zoological, medical, whatever) drive me nuts and NYT puzzles usually restrain themselves to only one or two. And two arts? C'mon. And since 9-5 isn't a "standard work day" and hasn't been in ages, it made you think you were on the wrong track from the get-go since, gee, a modern and hip cruciverbalist wouldn't be so passé (cf 9A), would he?! But it is all just fun and learning fodder for another time, right?...!

fikink 2:56 PM  

andrea, retired chemist, and don't forget the brand-name moisturizer, CUREL ;)
Well, if TYSON is allowed...

retired_chemist 2:58 PM  

@ fikink - If we continue we each may get an ULCER.

fergus 2:59 PM  

I can't be as harsh as Rex in criticizing this puzzle, yet I seemed to share most his observations during my perturbed struggle. Simply because I had such difficulty in filling this in, it would be (well, why not) PEEVISH (not PEED OFF) to complain.

Ulrich 3:21 PM  

I always take the longer route between point A and B if it's more scenic, which means I belong to the sizable minority who really liked this puzzle. Perhaps one reason is that word ladders are relatively new to me--heard of them first during the 2008 ACPT tournament, where I got completely stumped by one puzzle where you had to know what they were. So, today I felt I was in the know, which made me feel good.

@two ponies: I buy your story more than my wife's explanation for our dog's poor performance: "she had a difficult childhood".

@jae: Could you send me an e-mail? I want to get a message to you.

chefwen 3:24 PM  

Am I the only one who broils in the oven and not on the range, I didn't fill that in for the longest time because it's just wrong. Almost as wrong as yelling FORE before a stroke, one should only yell that when they mean it.

Knew ILEX but only got HEXOSE when PEEVISH fell into place.

Blue Stater 3:38 PM  

I have found the last two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, just insanely difficult for this early in the week (and, as to today's, even for Saturday). I'm thinking that the right answer for 63A under the WS regime would be DECEIVER.

No fun. Grrr.

Anonymous 3:42 PM  

I only yell "FORE" after a bad stroke. golfballman

Anonymous 3:57 PM  

The clue says range SETTING, not where you do the broiling. When you turn on the range you can choose BROIL on the dial. Then you put your meat into the oven.

fergus 4:05 PM  

The restraint among the ILLINI is admirable compared to yesterday's tetchy Berkeley crowd, though the designation could be construed as considerably more offensive.


Upon further review, I would like to offer Mr. Silk some compliments on a puzzle that was really quite artful (which I don't mean sarcastically), in spite the solving spell annoyance.

Some puzzles you're over and done with; this one sort of drew you back in.

Anonymous 4:11 PM  

Rex -- I think you are getting too cranky lately.

There is nothing wrong w/ this puzzle. There is nothing wrong with having to figure out the 1A clue by some other non-clued clue. It's fun. It's different.

I like this puzzle. It was a modest but interesting challenge and I salute the constructor for taking on the difficulty of creating it.

chefbea 4:36 PM  

@chefwen I too broil in the oven but the knobs (or buttons) for setting are on the range itself

edith b 4:38 PM  

@I agree etc-

This blog is Rex's and reflects his feelings and attitudes about the NYT puzzle. He is certainly opinionated but most of us who disagree with his observations do so in this Comments section without being snippy.

I often disagree with his conclusions and say so but I do it with respect because of the forum that he has set up here.

I agree wholeheartedly with Hazel.

Sundance 4:54 PM  

I had FORT and then the clue for the next word ladder was:

"It may precede a stroke"

and I knew I had to change one letter. I could only think to change to O to an A. Hey -- I'm not doctor, but maybe that happens.

Daniel Myers 4:55 PM  

@Andrea Carla Michaels & Rex - Most Shakesperian plays have Five Acts. The # of Scenes within the Acts vary. The "perhaps" is actually very useful here, Rex. One knows it has to be a single Roman numeral and the perhaps rules out "I"(There HAS to be at least one Scene!) while any experience w/ plays makes "X" highly unlikely. So, "V", naturally!

ILikeSomeThings 4:56 PM  

@Edith B ????????. Think sarcasm, addressing someone saying he's having a hissy fit for saying what he does and doesn't like about a puzzle in his blog.

Mike 5:22 PM  

Shouldn't Dean Martin's nickname be spelled Deno? Dino sounds like it should be the prefix of saur.

Chip Hilton 5:24 PM  

I'm here to defend the FORE clue. Say you're on the tee of a par four and there's a golfer standing in the rough, 200 yards out, between your fairway and his adjacent fairway. You want to hit and he's definitely in range. It's golf etiquette to yell "Fore!" before hitting your drive to make him aware that he's in a dangerous place.

I've done it and heard it done.

chefwen 5:45 PM  

My range is on the opposite side of the kitchen from my ovens, so sorry, I just didn't think that through.

retired_chemist 6:17 PM  

@ Mike - it is indeed spelled "Dino," and it is your call whether it is because that spelling produces the desired pronunciation in Italian (Dee'no) or because of the link with saur. Deno would be with a short e.

fergus 6:24 PM  

Mr. Chip, I'm skeptical of your etiquette. Your driving distance is not what I question, your patience is. Why not wait a minute or two more and not have any avoidable tremulous thoughts on your backswing?

foodie 6:27 PM  

May be you all can help me here. I'm thinking that jet lag has fried my brain. I thought word ladders would have a systematic progression, changing the first then the second, then the third letter, etc. So, NINE, TINE, TONE, TORE fulfill this requirement. But then I would have expected the last letter of TORE to change, eg to TORT, then cycle back to say SORT or FORT...etc. I cannot see a pattern beyond the first few... Am I missing a pattern or expecting too much from a ladder?

@Jim in Chicago: I made exactly the same mistake and went through the same thought process. You should worry...

fergus 6:30 PM  

Ooops, sorry Rex; I just breached the bounds of relevant Commentary. I do know your standards.

Anonymous 6:33 PM  

If this was a Friday the ["Fighting" athletes] would be references that horrible looking movie that is coming out soon with BOXERS. How lazy to just call a movie "Fighting". They always throw in something referencing something that no one under 25 cares about.
Isn't the Fighting ILLINI insensitive anyway?

fergus 6:34 PM  

... yet as Ms. Foodie observes, there's an art to word ladders, and then there's a pedestrian construction.

Cross-posts as Cross-can noted may be in the air today.

Anonymous 6:47 PM  

Thought I was cleaver working backward and forward with the few words of the ladder I had in the middle and convinced myself
that 1A was LINE and 71A WIRE as in starting line and finish wire. Took a while to realize that it wasn't going to hold up. I liked the puzzle.


Ulrich 6:51 PM  

@foodie: Your system works well if one looks at a food ladder in toto--it makes it elegant. But there is a drawback to it when the ladder is part of a puzzle b/c one can always predict which letter is going to change--the less elegant ladder keeps people guessing (it happened to me today) in the same way in which rebus squares that do not adhere to a puzzle's symmetry make the puzzle harder--and less elegant or tightly constructed. It's a trade-off AFAIC, and I, personally, would like to see both possibilities appear in puzzles.

fergus 7:55 PM  

... to read Ulrich guiding Foodie in finer points of English usage amazes me, gives me hope, and yet lets me down by the recognition that a monolinguistic culture, despite the prevalence of Spanish in our midst, remains in the dark.

hazel 8:32 PM  

@Ilikesomethings - i for one got the sarcasm so I'm sure everyone else did too - that's why I was telling you to relax!! your post seemed a little mean-spirited to me. maybe i misinterpreted. either way, relaxing is a good thing!

HudsonHawk 8:45 PM  

@Chip, if he's truly in range and in danger, you don't hit (as fergus pointed out). And proper etiquette on his part would say that if he's that close to your fairway, he would wait for you to tee off anyway before putting himself in harm's way.

If you yell Fore! at a golfer, his response is to duck and cover because there's a ball coming right into his kitchen. To do so before you swing is to make him look foolish for hitting the deck when nothing has happened. In your example, most golfers use hand signals or acknowledge in some manner that it's OK to hit away. Sort of like waving a group up on a par 3.

Tigger 8:56 PM  

Hi All: My first post so, "fore!"

I've been a "dead tree" syndicated solver for a few years, but after recently being directed to Rex's blog by Google, I went ahead and subscribed to the Premium Crosswords package.

Wow! what a fantastic community you've got here!

For(e) two of my best shots in today's round, "ilex" was a gimme putt, due to 35 years of conventional crossword doing, and "fore!" I've used prior to shots on rare occasions when appropriate. This was an easy chip on a well laid out course.

My lone bogey came when I hit a worm-burner and lost the "o" of "oeste" somewhere in the trees.

Thanks, Barry, for a most enjoyable round!


ArtLvr 9:10 PM  

@ Mike -- You probably know that many people in the worlds of stage and film take a professional name different from the one given them at birth? "Dean Martin" was originally DINO to his famiily... Wikipedia reveals:

"Dean Martin (born Dino Paul Crocetti; June 7, 1917 – December 25, 1995) was an American singer, film actor and comedian of Italian descent."


Glitch 9:20 PM  

Wow, this will make the 99th comment of the day (or better).

And it fits in with the relevence of most of the others!


chefbea 9:42 PM  

Welcome Tigger!!

michael 9:48 PM  

Why would anyone yell fore before hitting a golf shot? If you might hit someone, shouldn't you wait? I know that I am not the first here to mention it, but it seems so obvious that I must be missing something about golf etiquette. Would Tiger Woods yell fore if Phil Mickelson was on the green and Tiger was on the fairway? Or would he wait until Phil putted out?

edith b 9:50 PM  


I got the sarcasm all right - just found it a little over the top is all. I guess you found me a little over the top too.

I try not to comment on comments as it always gets me in trouble. I think I'll give it up entirely.

Ulrich 10:11 PM  

@fergus: Thanks. But I have to stress that it would be totally presumptuous on my part if I tried to guide foodie in anything.

fergus 10:34 PM  

While I know that both of you are fluent in several languages and know English in and out, I was curious whether you thought that a foreign perspective gave you any advantage along the obvious handicap?

fergus 10:46 PM  

... leaving out "with" was unintentional. One of the best prepositions in the language. As close to a straight mapping with "avec" yet I'm not sure about "mit"?

Tigger 11:15 PM  


ty for the welcome!

dk 11:28 PM  

I am teeing up Thursday: Fore! Said Slamming Sammy Snarkly.

@Acme, compared to you my rambles are a walk in the park...;)

Anonymous 12:53 AM  

I thought you said "fore" after the stroke? Don't you have to swing first to know you need to say it?

Anonymous 4:48 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle and its extended word ladder. It helped me out in quite a few areas and I always like it when figuring out the theme helps me solve other sections of the puzzle.

I also learned a few things, like sessile, and ilex and illini, and yet my lack of knowledge didn't keep me from completing the puzzle, for once!

My doggie-child has a higher IQ for pepperoni slices than for regular fare. Is this a whole other level of intelligence? :-)


kathy d. 6:05 AM  

I liked this puzzle a lot.

However, duh, I didn't realize it was a word ladder although I got the nine, standard work day, and realize five was in the SE corner.

But that's why I come to this website.

Enjoyed the puzzle analysis ala Rex and then the comments.

Liked the Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers duet. Had never seen it before.

Kathy D.

foodie 8:12 AM  

@ulrich, of course you're right! It makes a lot of sense to have it be rather unpredictable. The sequence at the beginning threw me, but mostly, I really wasn't sure whether ladder had a particular definition implying a sequence. Actually, I did the Sunday puzzle late and realized that not knowing where the rebus sits did add to the difficulty and the fun.

@ulrich and fergus, I'm delighted to be guided by ulrich and by my real/virtual friends and colleagues on this blog. That's why I ask questions: ) It's one of the joys of being in this community and actually of being a scientist-- the opportunity to learn from smart people.

Banjo Grrl 11:12 AM  

Just finished the Wed. puzzle and made all the same mistakes Jim in Chicago did. Sigh...Also got hung up on "Doo-" wanting it to be "Doo-dah" having just taught someone "Camptown Races" on the fiddle. Still, I did better than usual for a Wednesday! And loved the Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers clip!

Fancyschmancy 12:00 AM  

I had Onan for Olan, oops! Probably the only time I'll see Onan for a while. Hated this puzzle. Really.

Waxy in Montreal 9:47 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Waxy in Montreal 9:49 PM  

Even FIVE weeks later a great concept for a Wednesday - except the aFOREmentioned quibbles concerning the ILEX-HEXTOSE nattick, the inaccurate "fore" clue and DINO being a real name rather than a nickname, all of which diminish the overall experience. Maybe I'm just being PEEVISH...

Anonymous 4:45 PM  

33D - Like some men's hair: parted. After my husband started going bald, he quipped that he had parted with most of his hair. This answer worked for me.
Anonymous in Alberta

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