Asian goatlike animal - THURSDAY, May 14 2009 - DJ Kahn (Elf costume add-ons, maybe / Wings, zoologically / Island in the Arcipelago Toscano)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: SCRAMBLES (21D: What all the answers on this puzzle's 37-Across are to each other) on the PERIMETER (37A)

Word of the Day: SEROW (34A: Asian goatlike animal) - The serows are six species of medium-sized goat-like or antelope-like mammals of the genus Capricornis. All six species of serow were until recently also classified under Naemorhedus, which now only contains the gorals. They live in central or eastern Asia.

  • * The Japanese Serow, Capricornis crispus, is found on the islands of Honshū, Kyūshū, and Shikoku.
  • * The Taiwan Serow, Capricornis swinhoei, is native to Taiwan.
  • * The Mainland Serow, Capricornis sumatraensis, the largest of the six species, inhabits areas from Nepal to the Gansu province of China to Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula.
  • * The Chinese Serow, Capricornis milneedwardsii
  • * The Red Serow, Capricornis rubidus
  • * The Himalayan Serow, Capricornis thar
Looking forward to seeing GORAL in my puzzle some time soon...

Well, I sure can't complain about boring fill today, though some of the words (UNBRAVE and INSANER, most notably - 68A: Cowardly + 12D: More cracked) made me wince a bit. But that's the price you pay for an ambitious and thoughtful puzzle, and for the most part I thought this one was a success. I have no real idea how difficult it was, as I did it immediately upon waking, and experience tells me that that is not my optimal solving window. I just can't work up any speed 5 minutes after getting out of bed. So I poked and plodded my way through it (pre-coffee!). The SEROW / DROP SET (24D: Weight training unit) crossing felt like an unpleasant aftertaste of TRURO / NUBBY from yesterday, but that "O" really and truly couldn't have been anything else, so no complaints. Again, I don't have as much problems with answers that are iffy or reaching or overly obscure if if if they are there in support of something great, or at least daring.

I was thrown more by easiness than toughness at first. I looked at 1A: Shindigs and thought "PARTIES" and then immediately thought "No way, too obvious." But then I got PIRATES easily, which confirmed the "P," and yet I still didn't actually write in "PARTIES" until I had four or so confirming crosses. Considered ENACT for EMOTE (6D: Make a big scene?), but other than that, NW went down easily. From there, I tried the center, but no luck at first, for somewhat obvious reasons - it's an enclosed system: crossing answers that are self-referential. So went around to the various corners, knocking them out one at a time. The key to my eventually opening up the middle was ABBA. ABBA -> JIBE -> JADE (35A: Official gemstone of Alaska) -> IDEA, 1, 2, 3, 4. Nothing very tough or very exciting about the rest of the grid. Just solid Thursdayness all around.

Theme answers:

  • 1A: Shindigs (PARTIES)
  • 8A: Elf costume add-ons, maybe (EARTIPS) - guh-roan
  • 14D: Cruise, say (SEA TRIP)
  • 47D: More sallow (PASTIER)
  • 70A: Foreign currency unit (PIASTER) - love this word, not sure why
  • 69A: Trudge (TRAIPSE) - also a great word; cool that you can make a one-syllable word out of these seven letters
  • 40D: "The one-l lama," to Ogden Nash (A PRIEST) - well, that's inspired
  • 1D: 1979 World Series champs (PIRATES) - this was their unofficial theme song:


  • 18A: Game with four jokers (canasta) - we used to play this on long trips up the (west) coast in the summer when I was a kid. I've completely forgotten how to play.
  • 25A: Abbr. often repeated redundantly (etc.) - just yesterday I was giving one of my ex-students / friends grief for having "etc. etc." in a draft of one of her final papers.
  • 43A: "_____ Gold," 1992 album that has sold 28 million copies worldwide ("Abba") - one of those copies was sold to me.
  • 50A: Loy of old Hollywood (Myrna) - gimme! She played Nora in the "Thin Man" movie series (i.e. she knew ASTA)
  • 67A: Sequestering, legally speaking (seizing) - that's a really weird clue for such a common word. I guess that was the point - keep people guessing on a Thursday.
  • 2D: Literally, "daughter of the wind" (anemone) - as seven-letter words go, this one's reasonably common, which is not surprising, given all the vowels.
  • 5D: Plus and minus items (ions) - I had I-NS and was not sure what the answer was. "Are there pluses and minuses at INNS?" Not until I unraveled IN A ROMP (15A: Overwhelmingly) did the only finally slide in there.
  • 9D: Wings, zoologically (alae) - olde skoole crosswordese
  • 27D: Fish-eating raptors (ospreys) - great word. Nice to give ERN/E a day off from puzzle raptoring.
  • 38D: Not the most authoritative journalism source (rag) - very good clue for this ordinary word
  • 55D: Rial spender (Omani) - it's OMANI week here at the NYT. . . . for the record, a PIASTER spender is an Egyptian, Lebanese, Sudanese, or Syrian.
  • 61D: Island in the Arcipelago Toscano (Elba) - I wonder if that's anywhere near The Lonely Island (warning, MASSIVE amounts of profanity ahead - do not play if you are apt to be offended by this rap video *parody*)

  • 64D: Weapon first designed in 1950 (Uzi) - for an allegedly liberal puzzle, the NYT is sure into this gun

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


fikink 8:24 AM  

Interesting puzzle with fresh fill and some clever clueing. However, its premise is faulty.
The words at the perimeter are ANAGRAMS of each other. They are not merely a scrambling of component parts.
SCRAMBLE connotes DISorder, or a lack of order; anagrams denote REorder. In my mind, these are essentially different actions, which is why the language has different words for them.
Case in point, try UNscrambling an egg.
And how does one SCRAMBLE into a foxhole in an orderly manner?

Greene 8:25 AM  

I thought this was an awesome puzzle. At first I had SCRABBLEY for 21D, but when other answers didn't look at all Scrabbley I took it out. The theme came pretty quickly after that.

I agree with Rex that some of the fill was worthy of a wince or two, but well worth it for the anagrams.

Never heard of a SEROW, but fortunately pretty easy to get with the crosses. I'll have to add that to my list of weird puzzle animals.

dk 8:29 AM  

The fact that the edges are all anagrams is good enough for me. Agree that UNBRAVE may be lilylivered fill but what the heck.

LOL fill for me was having SCRAMBLEs and stuck thinking of layers as plys or something like that. I said unchanged is stays the same to my self many times until an alignment of IONS produced an IDEA... perhaps THESAME is the fill, then thinking who ever heard of a layer named HENS... ahh well. There is a psychological term for this and I believe it is moron.

Happy to read that Rex is letting go of a certain town on the Cape... not.

Ben 8:39 AM  

Scramble, anagram, whatever. It worked.

Ben 8:43 AM  

p.s. Rex, love that you bring recent pop culture such as "Begin the Begin" and The Lonely Island to an ongoing conversation about crossword puzzles.

foodie 8:48 AM  

I actually found this easy/medium for Thursday, but I did have to un-knot the middle. It helped me get "A PRIEST" in the southwest.

I grew up spending PIASTERS, which are the small change for the primary monetary unit in Syria, the Lira. But while one says "Layra" when speaking Arabic, one never says PIASTER (there is not even a "P" sound in Arabic-- some "beoble" cannot make it when speaking English). The French call it Piaster, the Syrian and Lebanese say Qorsh. So, Lira is Italian, Piaster is French, Qorsh is thought to derive from the German Groschen-- no wonder the Middle East is a mess.

Anonymous 9:04 AM  

Loved this puzzle!

Just perfect amount of challenge for my limited brain, and when the theme finally showed.... happiness.

(I had SHAFT instead of STRIP... which delayed things for a bit)

SethG 9:08 AM  

Straight solvin, yo. Next we'll see SILK PAJAMA.

ALIENEE is at least as ugly as UNBRAVE. Though it's actually a word. This site has some EAR TIPS on clearance!

I was Family. And the third best part about being a Pittsburgher in '79 were the commercials for the Pittsburgh Diesel Institute. I've mentioned them before. "Is that your big RIG sitting out there?" "Yeah, yeah it is." Sick.

Anne 9:11 AM  

I loved this. I started with olde skoole (love that too) alae and worked the middle section, had scrabbles for awhile, and the rest was filling in the blanks. Got Serow with fill, never heard of it before. Do not think unbrave is a word but what the heck, this is a great puzzle.

My dictionary says anemone is the windflower because it opens only when the wind blows. I have anemomes and I did not know that.

Also, I found a site - - which has a link to a bunch of printable puzzles. I really like the Wall Street Journal one.

Chorister 9:11 AM  

I had almost the whole top done before I sorted out SCRABBLES(!) from SCRAMBLES. Glad I did because I needed the theme to untangle the bottom corners.

Never heard of serow but the initial s had me thinking along satyr lines which was not helpful.

Thought SEATRIP was awkward but once I got the theme it was okay.

Just like with other languages, there are 12 months in a Spanish language calendar. I'm getting tired of January over and over. This puzzle gets a pass because of the theme, but otherwise I'm entering it in the Stamp Out This Answer Campaign.

jeff in chicago 9:23 AM  

Cruised through this one. Just happened to know the right stuff. Liked the misdirection in "Layers" and "Sweets." Also the dueling "big trucks." Myrna Loy is a great reference.

I'm impressed with the constructions. 69 theme squares. 8 anagrams of 7 letters. Most of the theme not in the "traditional" places. David Kahn often takes his themes one step further. I liked this a lot.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 9:42 AM  

One thing I've always liked about David's puzzles is that the theme entries always cross each other somewhere. That's frigging tough to pull off and he does it with such effortless grace. Bravo.

I once dated a lawyer who kindly told me nobody uses the term ALIENEE or ALIENOR any more. But man, they really help some of those wide-open corners, no?

joho 9:59 AM  

Wow, I loved this puzzle.

I had everything but the middle and got stuck. I had MAC/HALO then MAC/AURA before the light finally went off in my head to get RIG/IDEA. It was MAC/COP before RIG/GET. Once I solved the center section the PERIMETER became clear and so clever I couldn't stand it!

Thank you David J. Kahn for the best puzzle this week!

bookmark 10:19 AM  

My word of the day: SEROW. Never seen it before. Thanks for the additional info, Rex.

I was in Elba this time last year, accessed by a ferry from a port in Tuscany. Napoleon was in exile there in 1814-15, before his last exile and death on St. Helena. His town and summer residences there are quite interesting. The island is nothing like the rest of Tuscany. Very lush and Caribbean-like.

I really enjoyed this puzzle. Had a slow beginning, but after getting PERIMETER, it became easier.

PlantieBea 10:26 AM  

Fun puzzle, an easy medium Thursday for me. I got stuck in the SW with SECURED for INSURED for a while, didn't know SEIZING, but it all worrked out quickly once I got MOURNER. I liked the anagram puzzle around the puzzle and the mostly excellent fill.

Ulrich 10:26 AM  

The first thing I saw was the grid: Almost no black squares on the perimeter, and the pattern looked first like circled wagons attacked by Indians on all sides and then, when I looked at it on the BIAS, like a 6-legged spider.

And then I saw the Pirates--I moved to Pgh in 1981, but everybody was still talking about that annus mirabilis (not in these words, tho!), when the Stillers also won the Super Bowl and the Pitt Panthers with Danny Marino were National Champions (SethG: Correct me if I'm wrong here). Then I caught on to the theme--but needed also a detour via SCRABBLsomething, after I figured out that ANAGRAMS wouldn't fit. All in all, my enthusiasm for the puzzle grew as I was solving it, and I took the couple of awkward answers in stride.

I agree, for once, the best puzzle so far this week-- and beyond.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

I wanted to like this, as Kahn is one of my favorites, but if you have to make up answers to make an anagram theme work, find a new theme. EARTIPS and APRIEST are heinous, and my dictionary does not support SCRAMBLE as a noun with that meaning.

Sorry, but this one was a disappointment.

-O. the G.

retrired_chemist 10:37 AM  

Terrific puzzle. I too got the entire perimeter before the center, so I had no benefit from the theme except to confirm that the oddity @ 8A, EARTIPS, was correct. Lots of fun stuff - Agree with Ulrich it's one of the best this year.

Absolutely nothing to quibble about. Congratulations, Mr. Kahn!

Crosscan 10:43 AM  

1979. The Year the Expos first became a great team. 95 wins, 2.1 million fans, Youppi!'s first appearance...what could spoil that?

Only the stupid Pittsburgh PIrates with stupid Willie Stargell and that stupid song...but it has been 30 years, so who remembers?

Great puzzle, other than that one stupid clue.

Two Ponies 11:05 AM  

What a great puzzle. I was having trouble in the NW until I got the theme. I love it when the theme helps with the solving.
Myrna and ospreys were my starting points.
Someone yesterday was grousing about "a pop" as an answer and here it is again as a clue.
I thought of Mac for the truck but I think it's spelled Mack.
I've lived in the Mojave Desert for 9 years and have never seen a rattler.
Wonderful puzzle Mr. Kahn.

jae 11:15 AM  

Delightful and very clever! I tried SCARBBLES at first also and the center was the last to fall. I'm with Rex on the rating, this seemed tougher than the average Thurs. with more than a couple of Fri./Sat. level clue/answers. NW was pretty tricky, especially if, like Rex, you dismissed PARTIES as too obvious and also had to get 1d from partial crosses.

XMAN 11:32 AM  

I got the middle last. Never heard of a DROPSET before, and it doesn't sound like much fun. Had to gurgle for ELBA, ABBA, APRIEST (shame), JADE.

ArtLvr 11:37 AM  

An anagram-lover's delight! A new word SEROW, and another to watch for, Goral! Gorgeous...

I especially enjoyed the extra tidbits from Rex and Foodie, plus Bookmark's note on Elba, and others! A great Thursday, and many thanks to Mr. Kahn.


Doc John 11:55 AM  

The center was the last to fall for me, too. I had PE-----ER and just had to think how something like that would fit with the puzzle. Finally, I somehow came up with PERIMETER and after anagram wouldn't fit, got SCRAMBLES. That gave me ABBA and the rest fell. Whew! Was starting to have doubts there for a minute. Also glad I waited until later to add the E in ANEMONE. Due to the clue, I felt certain it was some woman's name and would end in A or Y.
I also was a little bothered by some of the strange fill but also was willing to give it up because of the nature of the puzzle.
One little nitpick, though- the word SET appears in both an answer and a clue. Isn't that a no-no?

Ulrich 11:57 AM  

@foodie: Forgot to thank for the "Groschen" tidbit, which has been filed away in my brain under "noteworthy trivia". The Threepenny Opera is called in German Die Dreigroschenoper, which is more accurately translated as Threedime Opera. BTW With the advent of the euro and its subdivision into cents, Groschen has disappeared from everyday speech.

HudsonHawk 11:57 AM  

Sorry Ulrich, no national championship for Pitt in the Marino era. They were number 2 in 1980 behind Georgia in both final polls (AP and UPI). In 1981, they finished number 2 in the UPI and number 4 in the AP. Clemson was number 1 in both. Pitt did win it all in 1976, though.

I liked this puzzle. The SW was somewhat interesting, as I wanted CONCUSSION for the "Result of butting heads?", but it wouldn't fit. And with APRI__T filled in for 40D, I couldn't understand how APRICOT would be the one-l lama.

Eric 12:09 PM  

"A" lienee and "A" priest had me puzzled on this one. Otherwise agree that once you got going (Northeast > Southeast > Southwest and finally the Northwest was the order of the day for me as I couldn't get the center and work outwards. I thought the theme was great but didn't get it until I was over halfway done.

Anonymous 12:16 PM  

APRIEST would have bothered me if the Odgen Nash poem hadn't been presented here at least three times.
This struck me as one of the those rare occasions where a construction feat actually worked as a solving pleasure, UNBRAVE aside.

Anonymous 12:35 PM  

Well, they can't all be gems.

Campesite 12:41 PM  

With that letter combination, I'm rather surprised SEROW is not in the grid very often.
After a few ho-hum puzzles, this was a very solid effort. TEN theme answers, eight of them anagrams and two 9 letter answers crossing right at the center. Great, smooth puzzle.

Karen 12:45 PM  

I agree it's medium-challenging. Like so many others I had trouble breaking into the center...I wanted 37A to be Outer Layer or Outside. RIG, GET, and GEL all went in and out about three times each, and I tried MICA as Alaska's gemstone. Getting the anagram theme halfway through helped me with the baseball clue.

Chorister, if it makes you feel better I had ABRIL as the Spanish month for a while.

Noam D. Elkies 1:04 PM  

Took me too long to figure out what was going on, but the result more than justifies such means as 34A:SEROW and 68A:UNBRAVE. What fun, bravo, kudos, &c. &c.


chefbea 1:20 PM  

Took me forever to figure out the theme. Got serow from the crosses but then looked it up to see if it was such a word. Figured it would be the word of the day.

For today's meal: a fruit salad with apples and oranges, maybe some beans and a nice arrangement of anemones in the center of the table

Bob Kerfuffle 1:30 PM  

Bravo, David J. Kahn! Brilliant puzzle.

As so often, we all have different approaches. For me, the NW was the last to fall, since the Pirates and anything else baseball is unknown to me, and somehow I thought 2 D wanted a girl's name.

Ulrich said it already, but I too noticed the spider or bug-like appearance of the grid.

@Eric- are you having a bit of wordplay, or are you serious? "ALIENEE" is one legitimate word, but I can see how you could parse it as two words.

George NYC 1:33 PM  

@REX Thanks for that YACHT video! :)

mexgirl 1:36 PM  

Enero, marzo, abril, junio, julio (not capitalized in Spanish) have all 5 letters. How about giving it a little extra something there, such as when they say "vacation time in France"?

Other than that, raise your hand if you liked this puzzle very much indeed! (and my hand is way up)

Anonymous 1:40 PM  

@Crosscan - "We Are FAmily" who could forget that song, ouch it HAS been 30 years. BTW "stupid" Willie Stargell was steroid free and a class act.

Crosscan 1:49 PM  

@anon 1:40 - One definition of stupid is exasperating as in annoying greatly.

I was not using it any other sense; for example, not in the sense of being too dumb to understand what is going on.

hazel 1:53 PM  

I never did figure out the theme until I actually filled in the last letter, which was only resolved through a bit of staring. I did solve the puzzle very quickly (unusual for me on Thurs.) so didn't realize the extent of my own ignorance until the end! Very nice puzzle to solve and also reflect back on.

@Foodie - thanks very much for your comments on solving the other night. I think they're actually applicable to more than just solving crosswords, and are some good rules to live by, generally - including stopping to smell the strawberries! I'm fixing to put some up this afternoon.

Jano 2:07 PM  

Maybe some don't know this poem and so don't appreciate the "a priest" entry.
The Lama

The one-l lama,
He's a priest.
The two-l llama,
He's a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
There isn't any
Three-l lllama.*

-- Ogden Nash
(to which Nash appended the footnote
*The author's attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as a three-alarmer. Pooh.)

Anon 12:16 2:28 PM  

Make that 4 times

JannieB 3:22 PM  

I feel so stupid. Solved the puzzle, then started looking for the scrambles. Saw the vertical pairs on each of the sides, then the two on the top and bottom. Several embarrassing minutes later I realized all 8 words used the same 7 letters. It's a wonder I can remember my own name some times.

This week has definitely started looking up!

chefwen 3:47 PM  

Loved, loved, and loved this puzzle. Got the theme later on in the solving process, but it did help me with PIASTER. Wasn't overly fond of INSANER and UNBRAVE, but the rest of the puzzle was so enjoyable, I will let it go.

andrea lama michaels 4:05 PM  

@Jannie B
Don't feel bad! I never even solved the middle!
I spend my life, practically, playing Scrabble and altho I had EARTIPS< APRIEST< PIASTER etc I never made the connection!!!!

I didn't know PIRATES, had ---ATES and thought SENATES, as in Senators... (Are they even a team still?) and SHREW for the animal so the top corner remained unsolved...
sad but true.

At least I can appreciate the puzzle retroactively thru this blog!

foodie 4:06 PM  

@ Anonymous, 9:04 am, you said
"Just perfect amount of challenge for my limited brain, and when the theme finally showed.... happiness."
I was deeelighted to see how you put this. I've been thinking about happiness lately, from a neurobiological perspective (there is a lot of work on the brain biology of stress, anxiety and depression and a lot less known about the biology of happiness). My own view is that it is not peace and quiet,or perfect harmony, it is exactly what you said.. There are molecules that change, cells that wake up, connections that get made, but it takes just the right dose of challenge!

If others have different definitions, I'd love to hear them. Let's see, the puzzle has IDEA, AMNESIA, MOURNER, INSANER, even EMOTE-- all of which are neuroscience and mental health related!

@arlvr, thank you! after I posted this morning it I thought to myself-- who's going to care?

@ulrich, thank you too! my turn to be honored...

@Hazel, I agree : )

Clark 4:19 PM  

@Eric et al -- [Warning: geekish note (but nothing about yachts):] There is such a thing as a LIENEE (as has been observed above), but it wouldn't make sense to clue him or her or it as a property receiver. At the moment the lien arises, the lienee actually loses an interest in the property (viz., the right to remain the owner of the property should the lien be foreclosed by the lienor). The ALIENEE, on the other hand, receives whatever property is alienated. Alienee is not a word that I have encountered before, at least not that I remember. But it is an inferable word, following as it does the -r/-ee pattern of so many legal words.
And in any case I would forgive greater constructing sins that this (if sin it be) in return for such a great puzzle.

archaeoprof 4:26 PM  

I'm with Joho: this is the best puzzle of the week so far.

BTW, didn't subsequent events reveal that there was a lot of coke (not the kind you drink) in the 1979 Pirates clubhouse?

Z.J. Mugildny 4:51 PM  

Excellent puzzle!

And Speaking of Scrabble, this one was perfect for the Scrabble player. The AEIPRST rack is a fairly common one (the variant spelling PIASTRE being the only valid play from these letters not used in the puzzle) and then there was RETINOL and ALIENEE (5 vowel bingo), two other common plays, to boot.

joho 5:06 PM  

@Two Ponies ... of course, it's Mack!

@Foodie ...I hope you can figure out what causes happiness. I do agree with you that's it's not peace & quiet. I think it's meeting challenges and winning. You can win by figuring out a puzzle or running the fastest mile. Or you win by totally connecting with a movie's storyline or your lover. Or you can win by letting somebody else win. I guess my definition of happiness is winning. Is that shallow?

Anonymous 5:07 PM  

It took me awhile, but I trudged through this one pretty steadily - except the center. I had to break down to look up "jade". After that the rest fell like dominos. Aside from "unbrave" and "dropset", I enjoyed this one.
Thanks to Jano for including Nash's poem - I had forgotten the whole thing.

bookmark 5:18 PM  

@Jano: Thanks for the Ogden Nash poem.

@foodie: You might be interested in the June ATLANTIC issue cover story: "What Makes Us Happy?" by Joshua Wolf Shenk, the results of a 72-year Harvard study led by George Vaillant.

mac 5:33 PM  

Great puzzle, great write-up and interesting discussions in the comments section - I'm happy!

I knew Anemone as wind flower, but since I started out looking for a girl's name, I put an A at the end, which looked pretty good on Serow. It got fixed.

@chefBea: where did you get those beans? From gas up? You could also roast an osprey, grill a STRIP steak and I've been told that a rattler tastes like chicken.

Hope the LAT is as good!

Two Ponies 5:38 PM  

@ foodie I seem to feel happiness on different levels but as a detail-oriented person I am happy and relaxed (not the same thing, I know) when all of my ducks are in a row. Then the book in my hand, the dog in my lap, or the man in my arms has all of my attention. Once an avid rock climber, the pleasure was the extreme focus the sport requires. Life's details both large and small were completely swept away while I faced the challenge in front of me. Perhaps joho is onto something.
As a generally "glass half full" type of person I might over-simplify by saying happiness is the lack of unhappiness.

retired_chemist 5:47 PM  

@ZJM -

RATPIES - possible albeit unconventional and undesirable fare.

SIRETAP - listening in on your father.

PEARIST - one who thinks fruit should stage a coup. Reminiscent of the hilarious Monty Python skit about how to defend yourself when attacked by a man with a banana.

PARIEST - describes the golf hole with the highest percentage of par scores.

ARPIEST - describes the best imitator of Jean Arp.

PlantieBea 5:48 PM  

"You could also roast an osprey"

@ Mac: Ahhhh! What a terrible thought. We see plenty of ospreys daily--beautiful, once threatened birds who've managed to make a comeback. People who mess with ospreys here are in big trouble!

mac 6:05 PM  

@PlantieBea: I know and of course I agree. I'm feeding the deer apples and the birds seed every day! Just fooling around with the food quest.

edith b 6:08 PM  

I generally solve the puzzle without the theme,then go theme-hunting. So the combination of a respected constructor and answers like UNBRAVE and INSANER made me suspicious.

I knew Kahn was too good to resort to those kind of clues unless he was forced to by circumstance and, of course, he was.

I was impressed there were so few compromises that had to be made to work this one out.

motorhead 6:11 PM  

food people, why do you leave out hens, tea, rinds, runts, or serow?

for us car people, today was just as exciting with rig and semi, a rag from a garage, gas up, drove at and the ford edge and saturn ions!!!

chefbea 6:12 PM  

@mac the beans were soy beans...edemame yummm

fikink 6:12 PM  

Okay, I think I've figured it out. Please tell me if I am right - Is David Kahn referring to the word puzzles called Scrambles that are carried in most newspapers? Is that what I am missing?

Anonymous 6:21 PM  

Maybe EARTIPS would have been more acceptable if clued via Spock instead of elves. :-)

chefbea 6:45 PM  

@fikink I think you mean jumble...I was thinking that as well

hazel 7:02 PM  

@Foodie - thanks for posing yet another interesting subject to think about!! Almost nothing makes me happier than to walk with my dog to the mailbox each day. Every day she just radiates joy and happiness - every day dashing around sniffing pouncing. To see her so happy is positively contagious.

Re: challenge or winning, I'm no longer nearly as competitive as I used to be, and I know I'm much happier as a result. Overcoming challenges definitely leaves me satisfied, though, which is likely a component of happiness. And guaranteed, if I ever get to a point where there is no evidence of disease in my body (big big challenge), I will be both satisfied and happy!!

As with so many of the other big questions, I look to the Tao de Ching (Stephen Mitchell translation), and find this passage pertinent....

"Fame or integrity: which is more important?
Money or happiness: which is more valuable?
Success or failure: which is more destructive?

If you look to others for fulfillment,
you will never truly be fulfilled.
If your happiness depends on money,
you will never be happy with yourself.

Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you."

I think my dog, who is a rescue dog, is able to rejoice every day with the way things are, and it does seem at times like the whole world belongs to her. And for some reason that makes me happy. Oh, and solving a really clever crossword puzzle, that makes me happy too.

fikink 7:02 PM  

@chefbea, yes that is what I was thinking! Thank you.

I know I am appearing very dense but I do not understand how these anagrams are "Scrambles." How is that a noun? The closest definition I find is "a disordered mixture of things," so the only thing I could think of is that it is a product/game of some sort. (The problem I have, obviously, is with the clue.)

p.s. @foodie, happiness to me is learning.

Bill from NJ 8:03 PM  


As an athlete in my youth who has been struck by a debilitating disease later in life, the concept of "change" takes on a whole different meaning to me. I try to stay on top of things but in a wholly different way then before.

I am reminded of a wheelchair basketball player in the midst of a game: Is the challenge really that different than the one that person faced in the past?

I still compete in the crossworld on every level except time.

joho 8:16 PM  

@hazel ... what a lovely comment.

Three and out.

Glitch 8:35 PM  

I like to post early in the day, when the comments generally relate directly to the puzzle.

By noonish the "issue of the day" has usually been determined. I may still chime in.

Evenings (EST) things might become more philosophical/ metaphysical / political /cooking related (Rex admits he allows further off topic late in the day).

Was away most of the day, and in reading ALL the posts (always, before I allow myself to add), make notes for pithy comments and bon mots, delete as things are covered, then consider responses.

Today is one of those day where what I wanted to add would only detract.

NYT Puzzle blog in the morning, something else by night.

Rex, I hope you don't mind.


clark 8:44 PM  

@fikink -- my dictionary agrees with what you say about the meanings of anagram and scramble. One of the most interesting things to me about this blog is seeing how different we all are in the way we expect puzzles to behave. It just seemed to me that 'anagram' or some form thereof was not going to work, so it had to be something else. Then, I suppose, it occurred to me that -- in order to try figuring out what the three words were that I was having trouble getting (EARTIPS, SEAPTRIP, AND PIASTER) -- what I was doing with the set of 7 letters was scrambling them and then trying to find the new words. So it occurred to me that one might call them scrambles of each other. And it fit. Not that it was 'correct', but it was the solution.

Most of you regular posters no doubt have vastly more puzzling experience than I do. I just mean this as a simple honest question. Isn't it one of the things that makes puzzling interesting that the right answer might be SCRAMBLES even though it doesn't quite fit the definitions in the dictionary? Or, another way to ask this: Isn't part of what makes this interesting, challenging, fun -- that the rules of puzzle construction aren't precisely determined (or most of them aren't, anyway)? That means that I always have to be open for the unexpected, and I like that.

Glitch 8:50 PM  




Jano 9:41 PM  

Cryptic clues for words that are to be anagrammed are indicated by all sorts of signal words that may only vaguely mean 'anagram.'
Scramble is one of the clearer ones!

Ulrich 9:41 PM  

@Glitch: You added something, willy-nilly: A very concise description of what I consider exemplary commenter behavior, which starts with reading what has been said so far and then takes it from there--I wish I were that organized all the time...

fikink 9:42 PM  

@Clark, thank you for your thoughtful reply.

I guess there is a certain "legitimacy" I require of a puzzle. There is always a correct answer in crossword puzzles, by definition; if there is a play on words or a fractured expression, there have to be legitimate words in the language, a known saying to pun, or an expression which has some currency.

I cannot find the word SCRAMBLES defined as something that is the result of mixing up the components of one entity to create another (or a like definition). Thus, it finally dawned on me that maybe SCRAMBLES is the element of a game or a product in the culture of which I was unaware. Chef Bea set me straight that I was thinking of the word game, Jumble.

The only person who appears to agree with me is O. the G. (Otto the Great?) at 10:32 AM today.

Maybe I don't understand the rules of Crosswords. After all, there was a time I never saw a word preceded by an article (a, an, the) as an answer in puzzles. Now it seems to be common.

So my question remains, is SCRAMBLE a legitimate word for ANAGRAM and if it is, where do I find a citation?

And I, too, am not trying to be a smart-ass. I really don't know how or in what circles the word SCRAMBLES is used in this way.

(It is kind of like my previous conversation with Rex about the word, HAYING. He called it nutso and made-up until he heard from that part of the culture where the word has currency.)

fikink 9:45 PM  

@Jano, I understand that in Cryptic crossword puzzles, but not in this type. Maybe the whole genre is changing.

michael 9:47 PM  

I liked this puzzle, figured out the theme quickly, and still was stuck in the middle for way too long. I kept waning to write in "anagrams" even though none of the crosses worked and it was the wrong number of letters. Like another commenter, I seem to remember scrambles as a puzzle-type though maybe I am thinking of jumbles.

I just assumed that serow had to be right, though I've never heard of it. And I'm with Mexgirl about "enero" -- surely constructors could use some other five letter spanish months.

Clark 10:10 PM  

@fikink --

I like the idea that a word can be used in a new way, and be understood the first time it is so used even though there is no citation anywhere. "Trieste is no Vienna." Whoever said that first could be understood even though they were using 'Vienna' in a new way. ('Vienna' is the name of a particular city, but it is used in the sentence as the name of a class. The example comes from the philosopher Frege.) But just how far one can stretch a word is gonna be a judgment call. It makes sense that different folks have different senses about this. Thanks for your thoughts.

Three and out.

Glitch 10:32 PM  


I'd comment on your "problem" with SCRAMBLES, but as Rex warned:

"Commenters snarking at other commenters is always the stupidest form of commentary. 4/3/09"


3/out night night, see you in the morning.

fikink 10:36 PM  

@Clark, I understand what you are saying! Thanks so much for taking the time!

@Glitch, if you want to say something snarky to me, you can always email me. I'm always interested to know when I am being foolish.


fergus 10:43 PM  

Well, I got stuck trying to extract an anagram out of the horizontal cross to SCRABBLES or SCRAMBLES.

foodie 11:07 PM  

@fikink, I don't think you're being foolish. It sees to me that a lot of people had some sort of hesitation in that spot before they solved it. I did as well. But after the fact, I took the noun SCRAMBLE in the same sense as "an egg scramble" which simply means the product of scrambling. And I took scrambling as a general conceptual category meaning to disrupt an existing order. The process of mixing can be random or chaotic but the outcome need not be. So, if you took a computer and randomly scrambled 7 letters, you could have over 5000 outcomes, bu a small subset of those are outomes that are meaningful words -- which we would call anagrams. If you buy that, then there is a lack of specificity in the usage of the word but not out and out inaccuracy, and we see a lot of that in crossword clues (and this was essentially a clue built within the puzzle)... Does this help or seem off-point?

@joho, bookmark,fikink, hazel, Bill from NJ, two ponies and mac (tangenetially : ), thank you all for responding to my off-topic question about happiness! These were such thoughtful and stimulating answers! Clearly, I was being too unidimensional and I will consider what you said very seriously. It is remarkable to me (in a good way) that none of the answers said something outer-oriented-- a mate, a child, a job... The locus was clearly within oneself. If I do write something half intelligent on the topic, I will let you know. And Rex, thank you for not zapping my comment and giving room for these thought-provoking responses. I truly appreciate it!

Lennon&McCartney 11:14 PM  

@Foodie - Happiness is a warm UZI

mac 11:27 PM  

@Clark: that was a wise comment, and after that an even wiser one. Thank you for taking the time.

Bob Kerfuffle 7:13 AM  

FWIW, has anyone noticed that in his Sunday puzzle on NPR's Weekend Edition, Will Shortz never uses the word "anagram"? He always says "re-arrange the letters". You would almost think he considers "anagram" to be a copyrighted term.

And reading these comments, I am moved to gently point out that constructors do not use "enero" because they enjoy January in Mexico. It's just the letters, folks.

Stan 11:40 AM  

This puzzle was right at the outer edge of difficulty for me, which meant I got stuck several times -- needed to solve the middle, go back to the PERIMETER, then fill in the rest (guessing right at DROP SET/SEROW). All's well that ends well...

DROP SET was new to me, but looking it up I see it's not only a real term but quite famous among body-builders (you exhaust a muscle, then drop the amount of weight and exhaust it again, etc.)

The blog discussion was impressive.

xwd_fiend 6:31 AM  

I'm intrigued by the discussion about the validity of "scramble". In the UK, one of the most (in)famous cryptic clues of all time is "Gegs (9,4)" for SCRAMBLED EGGS. Unfair for obvious reasons but invented in the early days and a 50/50 bet with "HIJKLMNO (5)" for a "favourite cryptic clue" nomination.

My smallest dictionary has "to make or become jumbled or muddled" for scramble, and the leap to the necessary noun meaning is there as "an act of scrambling". ( (based on Websters Collegiate) says much the same). So unless anyone's saying that "jumbled or muddled" isn't an accurate description of an anagram, the dictionary evidence seems to be there.

But my real point was going to be that in xwds the careful consultation of dictionaries is for the writer and editor. The solver should at least at first be using his/her brain!

If HIJKLMNO was new to anyone, the answer is WATER from H2O = "H to O". Also unsound by modern standards.

Anonymous 3:41 PM  

Apparently this bothered no one but me----ENSURE means "to make certain", not "to make safe". I had no other qualms with this fine puzzle.

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