Bullet train type — THURSDAY, Jul. 23 2009 — Neurotic cartoon character / Milo's canine pal / She-foxes / K2 locale

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Constructors: Gary & Stephen Kennedy

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: "WHO LET THE DOGS OUT" (7D: Hit song from 2000 ... and a hint to 10 symmetrically arranged Across answers) — 10 different answers have the word "DOG" in them somewhere, but for each one, you have to take the "DOG" out in order to fit the answer in the grid.

Word of the Day: MAGLEV (20A: Bullet train type)Maglev, or magnetic levitation, is a system of transportation that suspends, guides and propels vehicles, predominantly trains, using magnetic levitation from a very large number of magnets for lift and propulsion. This method has the potential to be faster, quieter and smoother than wheeled mass transit systems. The technology has the potential to exceed 6,400 km/h (4,000 mi/h) if deployed in an evacuated tunnel.[1] If not deployed in an evacuated tube the power needed for levitation is usually not a particularly large percentage and most of the power needed is used to overcome air drag, as with any other high speed train. (wikipedia)

Haven't disliked a puzzle this much in a while. Just miserable to solve. I had the main theme answer, "WHO LET THE DOGS OUT," very early, and still couldn't figure out what the hell was going on for a while. There are so many problems here. First, the song. One of the worst, most painful ear worms you can possibly give someone. Second, the lyrics, which undermine the intentions of this puzzle.

See? There are dogs in the song, just as there are dogs in the video. You can hear them. They bark. They also pant. People are asking "WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?" not because the dogs have been abducted or have magically disappeared, but because they are *running amok*. Roaming packs, in the streets, up to no good. Dogs Everywhere. So, in making DOGs invisible, this puzzle theme runs directly against the spirit of the song. Further, there are at least two dogs in this damned puzzle, so the puzzle is a lie. A self-contradiction. If there are no dogs, then tell !@#$ing REN and @!#@ing OTIS to get the @#$# off my lawn (17A: Neurotic cartoon character + 31A: Milo's canine pal). Even further still, there are dogs in the clues. Look, either the dogs are out, or they're not. You can't say they're out and then put "pups" or even "animal" in the clues. Well, you can, but it's crap. I get that "DOG" is being interpreted as a letter string today. I just don't like it. AT ALL (69A: One bit).

Further, the cluing overall was just off. Everywhere I turned, tortured stuff like 4D: With "the" and 32-Across, describing an old Matryoshka doll (made in / [the] / U.S.S.R.). This may be my most hated clue of all time. Any time you have to supply a mid-phrase word in your cute tie-in attempt, your cute tie-in is a failure and you need to try something else. "With 'the' and some other answer" is ugly and confusing. The fact that I have never heard of the doll in question didn't help my enjoyment level. Staying in Russia, some Russian guy name Alexander who popularized a chess opening? I'll take your word for it. Crosses were fair enough. I thought the mysterious Russian crap was continuing in the bullet train I'd never heard of, but as you can see from the above description, MAGLEV is short for "magnetic levitation." Leaving the absurd Russian stuff behind, let's take a clue like 45D: Sitcom with the character B.J. ("Reba"). That is a non-clue. That is a horrible, unimaginative, nothing clue. About a quarter step better than if the clue had read [Sitcom with a character named Susan]. "B.J." isn't terribly unusual or distinctive. [Kraft Foods drink] for TANG? Again, what? Do ... something. Make it distinctive. Interesting. Relevant. This puzzle feels like a bad imitation of a clever Thursday puzzle.

Theme answers:

  • 1A: Show-off (hot dog)
  • 9A: U.S. Marine (devil dog)
  • 15A: Leader of the pack (alpha dog)
  • 34A: Animal control officer (dog catcher)
  • 36A: Folded corner (dog ear)
  • 46A: G.I.'s ID (dog tag)
  • 47A: Person who raises and sells pups (dog breeder)
  • 70A: One falling into good fortune (lucky dog)
  • 72A: Old sailor (salty dog)
  • 74A: Cutthroat (dog eat dog)

Here's what I liked: VISCERA (25A: Innards) and KASHMIR (23D: K2 locale) and OPEN UP! (60A: Cry that may accompany pounding).


  • 49A: City containing a country (Rome) — contains Vatican City, the smallest country in the world.
  • 73A: Animal in a lodge (otter) — ???? Acc. to wikipedia, "The collective nouns for otters are bevy, family, lodge or romp." Is this common knowledge? I've spent many a day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium looking at the otters, yet somehow missed this bit of information.
  • 11D: She-foxes (vixens) — this word is good. I feel like there was a hair band from the 80s with the name "VIXEN" ... oh yeah. Bingo. [best youtube comment seen while searching for this video: "I'm gay, and there are only 5 women I would go straight for: REBA McEntire, and the ladies in Vixen."]

  • 21D: Super Bowl of 2023 (LVII) — mmm, arbitrary future events.
  • 37D: With 48-Down, for example, south of the border (por / ejemplo) — more cross-referencing confusion. Thought "for example" was a cue, not the meat of the clue.
  • 54D: Feature of a pleasant summer day (zephyr) — I'm reading an epic Osamu Tezuka comic from the late 60s called "Swallowing the Earth." The hero/villain is a woman named "Zephyrus." Super-disturbing and highly recommended. Hard to go wrong with Tezuka.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Crosscan 8:32 AM  

But did you like it, Rex?

What's really odd about the MADE IN...USSR clue is both parts could have been clued independently with ease, so there was no reason to go all Matryoshka on us.

Its a 15x16, so more to love, or not.

So-so for me. I know MAGLEV and PETROV.

Anonymous 8:34 AM  

finished the puzzle without ever getting the theme, thanks for the explanation. 74A had me head scratching for a minute.

Dough 8:35 AM  

I overall agree with you @Rex, but I like the idea of removing the dogs, using that song to tie it together. I first heard the dogs song at a Phillies game and I guess it works perfectly in that venue. I enjoyed the clue for ROME. The "Made in [the] USSR" business is a pip — cautionary tale for others to avoid! After I worked through most of the puzzle, I did like the kicker last clue, requiring two stray dogs for DOG EAT DOG. The puzzle was ambitious, if somewhat wobbly. But I enjoyed it.

JannieB 8:35 AM  

I solved the whole damn thing and never figured out what to do with the dogs. I kept looking for breed names hidden in clues. Doh! I realized some of the fill seemed at odds with the clues (hot, ear, etc) but kept on solving and never had that head slapping moment until I read Orange's write-up.

The whole thing just felt odd.

ArtLvr 8:38 AM  

Loved your take, Rex -- very amusing! But I also enjoyed the puzzle, found it clever and neat for a Thursday....


chefbea 8:38 AM  

Worst puzzle ever IMO

Got who let the dogs out but never saw that dogs were missing in the answers!!!

Wanted Elk for animal in a lodge.

And no food to discuss today

Kukstis 8:38 AM  

Also need to cry foul at 50d: if those Girl Scout cookies are "SAMOAS," you probably don't want to eat them. The Girl Scouts changed the name of those ones last year. They're now called Caramel Delights, and thankfully they're still delicious. (I bought 6 boxes from my 7th grade students this past winter.)

Anonymous 8:38 AM  


Kukstis 8:47 AM  

Actually, further research shows that there hasn't been a name change, you've just moved to an area where the name is different. I guess some districts are more OK than others with the risk of offending Samoans, and hence the cookie name varies state to state. Weird!

dk 9:02 AM  

what @jannieb said + my random firings

My high school chess club got me Petrov.

Devil Dogs are/were some Twinkee (sp?) -like pastry... I thought. Who knew Marines have a tasty creme filling???

Otters do not live in whatever this puzzle said.

EXACTA brought back memories of Vernon Downs (outside of Syracuse) with parents circa 196x. I think my horse is still running.

I have not had a TV for EONs so my only BJ was on MASH and forget about Star Trek after season one.

Gotta look up ZEPHYR to find the relationship to a summer day.

I do not hate this puzzle. MADE IN USSR and MAGL EV prompted a visceral reaction, but hey it is Thursday.

chefbea 9:19 AM  

Oh - forgot Samoas is the one food today

@DK my husband is a Marine... never heard of devil dog. Wanted to put in Grunt.

nanpilla 9:20 AM  

In additional to really clunky clueing, I was bothered that the dog EAT dog wasn't symmetrical with anything else. They made a big deal about the answers being symmetrical, and in the other cases, where the word dog was removed was symmetrical. But then came EAT and blew the whole thing. Kept trying to figure out DOG HOT DOG. I did like the MEOWS right across the top!
@crosscan - didn't even notice that it was a 15 by 16. Good catch.

Stephen 9:22 AM  

We thought MADEIN needed a paired answer, since it's a six-letter partial. (Or maybe it's not?)

However, we didn't think "MADEIN the USSR" needed a "the." That was a late addition.

Matryoshka dolls are Russian nesting dolls.

John 9:24 AM  

@Chefbea, the puzzle was ssooooo bad that it put you off your food??? That's BAD!

The puzzle kept me running around trhe grid for 40+ minutes. Never got the theme. Solved it, but no real satisfaction involved.

Blue Stater 9:27 AM  

Worst evah, in a crowded field.

dk 9:27 AM  

Hey kids! Today is National Old Joke Day

What hangs at a mans thigh and wants to poke the hole it's often poked before?

A Key.

According to the "Internet" knower of all things. This joke is from 10 AD. And I know @Orange will want to send it back :):)

Rex this is related to the puzzle because of the 2 hole NOSE fill ;0

Brendan Emmett Quigley 9:30 AM  

Coming soon to a crossword page near you, themes built around such hits as Terry Jacks' "Seasons in the Sun," Gerardo's "Rico Suave," C. W. McCall's "Convoy," Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy," Creed's "With Arms Wide Open," Christopher Cross's "Sailing," Billy Ray Cyrus's "Achy Breaky Heart," Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" and more!

joho 9:30 AM  

I have never been so confused while solving a puzzle. I was going to say I didn't understand the answers SALTY, EAT and HOT because they didn't make any sense. Well, they didn't until Rex explained the absent dog. I got WHOLETTHEDOGSOUT and still was clueless. In fact, I went searching for "symmetrically arranged" dog names in the grid and discovered only two: REN and OTIS. Oh, and ROV ER (Parts of PETROV and ERIN ... talk about convoluted!!!).

Was not fun for me, I did not LIKE it.

David 9:35 AM  

I think the symmetry sort of shows up if you highlight each missing-dog answer in the puzzle itself. That's what I take from "10 symmetrically arranged Across answers." Just a thought...

Thomas 9:36 AM  

Speaking of least favorite clues, I've been compiling a list of the worst entries I've found in Matt Ginsberg's clue database. (Tremendously useful, but also full of things that probably never should have been in a puzzle and definitely don't need to be in mine.)

The difference is that MADE IN and USSR are both fine on their own, until you try to crazy half-bastard stitch them together. But these non-words are obvious acts of fill desperation.

There's the bullshit fill-in-the-blank: [V_____ (May 8, 1945] for EDAY.

Two bullshit variants: [Recent Vice President: Var.] for AGNU, and ["Dig": Var.] for GROC.

And I don't even know what this is, but it's bullshit: [Probably a word in some language] for OMTAD. I spent the longest time trying to figure out if that was clever in some way I didn't understand, but no, it looks like just another way of saying [Five random letters].

Of course, none of these was ever used more than once, and not within the last twenty-five years, and only one of them in the NYT. I have no doubt Will would eviscerate any of these entries. But can you imagine the sort of stuff that must come across his desk?

I have a friend who recently tried his hand at making an 11x11. He'd been solving a lot of puzzles, and he figured he could make one of his own, why not. But he very quickly discovered that it was a lot easier to let him use random assemblages of letters like BPN, clued as [Bromide producer's network?]. His worst entry was so awful it became a thing of surreal beauty: [It's better than badxnn] for, naturally enough, GOODXNN.

Anyway, off to work on my new puzzle. The theme is "possible Scrabble racks." Wish me luck!

Orange 9:39 AM  

Loved your grumble-post, Rex! And you know I'm not always a fan of the grumbles. It made me laugh.

I was OK with this puzzle, but then I was drunk when I solved/blogged it.

The only B.J. TV show I can accept is B.J. and the Bear, starring Greg Evigan and a simian in a truck.

HudsonHawk 9:39 AM  

@BEQ, don't be cruel!

My first entry was MASH for 45D. Definitely a misdirection clue that I didn't really care for. I also must echo nanpilla's sentiment on the Dog EAT Dog symmetry. Ick.

Glitch 9:41 AM  

Technically (and nit wise), since dogs is plural in the song, *dog EAT dog* is the only answer that truly fits ;)

This adds to a sub theme of consistant inconsistancy.

Otherwise, what Rex said.


fikink 9:43 AM  

I agree.
Not a good time.
Kinda like driving a really fine car on a gravel road. ugh.

PurpleGuy 9:46 AM  

Agree with Chefbea and nanpilla-
worst NYT puzzle I've done in 40 years! MEH!!!
74across is definitely NOT symmetrical.
PLEASE, bring back my Thursday,and the food !

kbkb 9:48 AM  

Tough to love this puzzle. Considering the Moon landing puzzle was a little late this week, maybe this is some sort of belated reference to (famous dog lover) Michael Vick getting sprung earlier this week.

Ruth 9:49 AM  

@Thomas: can't wait for that puzzle. LOL

retired_chemist 9:49 AM  

Very nice 16X15. Easy-medium. No serious trouble anyplace, but it needed thought all over the puzzle. As usual, didn’t see the theme until I was checking – then it made sense why 1A HOT was a show-off, 74A EAT was cutthroat, etc.

As is becoming popular, we have ETON with an obscure clue, easily guessable by those who speak fluent crosswordese. ETON, ELON, UCONN, HOYA, IONA, and a few others I can’t recall for the nonce are taught at Crossword College in Educational Institutions 101. Just no more CAL. U. please. Ever.

PurpleGuy 9:50 AM  

Or scraping fingernails across a chalkboard!

archaeoprof 9:55 AM  

Totally agree with Rex et alia on this one. It's been a long time since a puzzle was this flat. Just glad it's over. Bring on Friday!

Vincent L. 9:57 AM  

To make things worse, some of missing-dog words didn't strictly need the dog.

ALPHA is leader of the pack of alphabet letters. I also thought TAG was a full answer to "G.I.'s ID," CATCHER was a full, if crappy, answer to "Animal control officer," and BREEDER was a full answer to "Person who raises and sells pups."

Of course, HOT and EAT made no sense, but I didn't see 10 clues that begged for the theme, and that made it harder to make sense of the theme.

Anonymous 9:57 AM  

Liked the puzzle, hated the blog...

VaBeach puzzer 10:03 AM  

I thought this puzzle was the cat's MEOWS -- challenging, different. Por ejemplo, I loved the POR EJEMPLO cluing. My brain was in morning mode, and I didn't get the HOT DOG or DOG EAT DOG but I should have -- very clever for the dog days of summer.

PurpleGuy 10:05 AM  

Used to have a T-shirt that read:
Auntie Em-
Hate you,
Hate Kansas,
Taking the dog.


Thanks, Rex,for a great writeup. Really made me laugh. Especially after ranting at the puzzle.

retired_chemist 10:09 AM  

@ Vincent L - I think the BREEDER and CATCHER clues were crappy only if dog is excluded. DOG CATCHER and DOG BREEDER are OK answers. As you say, without the DOG the answers are still kinda answers but also kinda crappy.

Crosscan 10:10 AM  

Come on, guys. There's a difference between a witty grumble-post and this worst puzzle ever stuff. It's not like the theme answers are NIP, SCRATCH FEVER, BALLOU and you're saying but those are cats, not dogs!

I was considering SEASONS IN THE SUN as a theme answer for a potential puzzle. Further proof that on the coolness scale, this Canadian accountant is the anti-BEQ.

John from CT 10:13 AM  

As is often the case, I agree with Rex. Yecchhhh.

Question, can anyone please explain the clue/answer

Pricey fabric = LAME?

fikink 10:14 AM  

@retired chemist, 9:49AM - Don't forget COE.

retired_chemist 10:17 AM  

@ John - LAMÉ is the fabric.

Susan 10:29 AM  

I also totally didn't get the theme until Rex explained it!

I liked the Por Ejemplo clue. It tricked me in a good way.

Pleased to find that other people found it difficult, too!

retired_chemist 10:31 AM  

@ fikink - I wonder if there is a LONE chem prof at ELON that teaches about the ENOL. Maybe the lit prof (Prof. LEON?) has Scott Turow's ONE L on his/her reading list.

foodie 10:33 AM  

Rex, LOL. You are good for my soul, because I was feeling like such an idiot last night...

Now, in the spirit of constructive feedback, as I've been on the receiving ends of critiques that can sting...

First, I want to congratulate the constructors on a clever idea. It is sooo much better than the add-a-letter! And having the hint clue straight down the middle in the vertical when all the theme answers are symmetrically placed across is very elegant.

But given that this was quite unusual as a theme, I personally feel that two things went wrong:

a) the convoluted cluing that Rex so loves, along with some pretty unusual or unknown answers (PETROV). I feel from a design standpoint that a strong theme deserves to occupy the foreground, and the rest be like an elegant frame, strong but not too ornate... Otherwise, it feels cluttered, the elements fighting each other. And the puzzle feels like a thursday-saturday hybrid, leading to frustration.

b) exactly what @Vincent said. To pull off an unusual concept, every single one of the incomplete clues should feel like it's off kilter without DOG. Then the solver wouldn't need to hunt around to even know where the theme answers are.

my two cents...

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

This is why I love this blog. Before I started reading Rex I never realized how truly awful so many of the NYT puzzles are, or that even most of the best ones have lots of total crap in them. What has been happening here? Puzzles used to be great. Why have they so completely gone downhill? Rex is right, this one was painful.

joho 10:39 AM  

@Foodie ... you are too good.

I just put in colored dots where the word dog should appear and connected them only to find that they didn't create a Schnauzer!

Anonymous 10:40 AM  

If they had just made a 16x16, changed 17d to WHOLE[F]THEDOGSOUT with an appropriately modified clue, I'd have bought it.

Norm 10:43 AM  

Total thumbs down. I might have appreciated the theme more had the cluing not been so off-putting.

Ulrich 10:46 AM  

I'm shaking my head in wonder--clearly, I live on a different planet from the rest of you b/c I do not understand the animus this puzzle has created. Yes, the clues are sometimes painfully tortured, and it took me forever to guess my way through the NW corner, but come on, if you guessed the gimmick half-way through, you could have fun finding the missing dogs, or learn something: I never knew there were salty dogs or devil dogs.

And I do not share Rex's beef about the song title--7D is a title and, at the same time, a hint to the theme--I took these meanings as being independent (but must admit, an OR instead of an AND used as link would have made that clearer). The plural is OK b/c there are 10 (actually 11) dogs missing across the answers--I'm just saying...

Parshutr 10:48 AM  

This one was SOOO bad. I made one incorrect fill and closed without saving. Sparing myself all the misery and, as Thomas noted, bullshit.
And LAME (avec accent aigu) is a fabric, it also (without the accent) is a fair description of this monstrosity of a puzzle.
But the worst, possibly capital offense, is reminding me of Spiro Agnew by misspelling his name.

Anonymous 10:49 AM  


And sings 'NOEL' on Christmas Eve.

Complaints about symmetry seem to miss the point. As David said earlier, the answers that need dog(s) to complete the phrases do conform to crossword symmetry.

Put me down for having MASH from the B.J. clue, but it eventually all worked out.


Anonymous 10:51 AM  

Haven't disliked a blog this much in a while.

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

Hey, for all of you people who hate crossword puzzles so much, QUIT doing them! I LIKE crosswords, this one included!

Two Ponies 10:56 AM  

I was rather shocked to read Rex's write-up and most of the reactions to this one. I had fun solving it and looking for the missing dogs.
Oh, there were a few awkward clues (like arms runner) but I liked this one fine.
Loved zephyr.
26D a shout-out to our friend Mac?
Lascaux paintings had me going for a bit until I remembered it was a place and not a person. Before that I had cafe art and Petrof.
Those French cave dwellers created some of my favorite images. I am always amazed at the grace of the animals depicted there. Talk about pre-pre-pre-impressionism.

Anne 10:58 AM  

How cool - I'm back just in time for BEQ to list all my favorite songs.

As I've said before, I don't look for much logic in my puzzles. I want something fresh and clever and a bit difficult. I think this fit the bill quite nicely. As I've also said before, I go around the theme as much as possible. I knew something wasn't quite right as I was solving, but I kept moving until I was done and then thought about the theme.

I did look up maglev in the dictionary because I couldn't believe it was right, and I didn't get ATM (20 places) until just now.

And of course, I'm kidding about those songs.

PlantieBea 11:03 AM  

Like foodie, I appreciate what the constructor was trying to do and liked that it was not a rebus or an add-a-letter puzzle. But, like foodie and Vincent, felt the dog cluing for answers that didn't need the dog were a disappointment.

I didn't see all of the missing dogs until I came here. I just didn't get EAT and HOT when I finished. Plus, I started HAM and MET LEV for the NW corner, too. Argh. Not the worst, but not the best Thursday for me.

Glitch 11:06 AM  

Interesting than today the Anons are split just about the same as as *those who are named* ;)


edith b 11:18 AM  


Was the AGNU (Var.) actually in a NYT puzzle? Hard to believe Will Shortz would let that one fly.

Like many others, I solved this puzzle without a clue as to what the theme was. I guess, as a group, we are better solvers than meta-solvers.

MAGLEV broke this one open for me as I had just read an article about Magnetic Levitation.

I'm ashamed I couldn't decipher the theme from WHOLETTHEDOGSOUT. It seems obvious in retrospect. I remember how tickled my granddaughter Tatiana was when that song came out.

Jim Weed 11:19 AM  

thanks rp for the REBA quote on youtube. love it.

question: i assumed that if the clue used initials such as 9a and 46a ("U.S. Marine" and "G.I.'s ID"), that suggested the answer would also have initials. but they didn't (DEVIL, TAG). is my assumption off?


Anonymous 11:20 AM  

I just wanted to thank Rex for the explanation of the theme. My belief is that any theme should be obvious by the time I finish the puzzle. I have little patience to stare at a puzzle to figure out the theme once the puzzle is done.

I would never ever have figured out this theme without your blog entry.

Thank you, Rex.

Aaron Riccio 11:36 AM  

Meh. I thought it was a good Thursday puzzle, with a theme I hadn't seen yet. Agreed, MADEIN/the/USSR was lame. But POR EJEMPLO was cleverly clued (deliberately tricky, almost like a cryptic), and clues like "Ready to serve" and answers like SATIRIC were just fine with me.

Rex Parker 11:44 AM  


Et tu? Where is the slavish deference I demanded of you when you were my student?


JC66 11:45 AM  

Since the "dogs were out" I treated this puzzle as a rebus and put them back in. Anyone else do this?


Loved your write up.

Einstein 11:53 AM  

@anonymous at 11:20: It may be time for you to accept that there are a lot of people out there who are smarter than you

XMAN 11:55 AM  

Venom, angst, mystification, humor, camaraderie--who could ask for anything more from this blog?

The puzzle itself was a fairly smooth ride--except for the blowout in the NW. Alas!

jeff in chicago 11:55 AM  

Ugh...Just ugh...

@Thomas: Very funny!

ArtLvr 11:58 AM  

The ones that revealed all for me were (dog)EAR and (dog)TAG -- as I could immediately visualize a taboo tab or Folded Corner (of a page) and TAG was just too general for the specific clue G.I.'s ID.

Likewise, Old sailor was a Salt -- but SALTY needed the noun, and DEVIL didn't fit Marine alone either. Brilliant, IMHO. PET ROV(er) was a bonus, and POACH could have been dognapping a pooch?

I remember puzzles with an extra square to be added outside the box here and there, and even one where a whole line was invisible... This was along those lines, with rebus squares missing, and I still think it's terrific! Thanks, Kennedys...


poc 12:01 PM  

Didn't like this one much, but I thought it more Medium than Challenging, especially for a Thursday. I also didn't get the theme until Rex explained it, i.e. the theme was no help in solving the puzzle. IOW a dud theme.

I second the remarks on MADEIN(the)USSR. Awful and unnecessary.

A better Thursday answer for 31A would have been TOCK (as in The Phanthom Tollbooth).

POR EJEMPLO was amusing though. Spanish clues are easy for me, but this one was slightly tricksy, which is a good thing. (Some day a bright constructor is going to realize that not all countries south of the border speak Spanish, and then where will we be?)

Anonymous 12:05 PM  


I usually know when you are going to hate a puzzle. I hoped I would be wrong this time -- but it was not to be.

I enjoyed this puzzle immensely. I especially loved the tiny grand finale, [DOG]EAT[DOG]. Challenging, to be sure, but witty!


OhioGeek 12:06 PM  

Wasn't sure how I felt about the puzzle until I hit on DEVIL for U.S. Marine. Reminded me of a great Clint Eastwood movie, "Heartbreak Ridge." The phrase Devil Dog (along with lots of expletives) comes up often. See the movie - it's a hoot. Thanks RP for the write-up!

imsdave 12:07 PM  

@orange - all I could think of was B.J. Hunnicut from M.A.S.H Re: the puzzle:

ArtLvr 12:12 PM  

p.s. I happen to have a set of nesting wooden male dolls painted in uniforms and fierce moustaches. They were made in Russia, pre-USSR -- and I'm told they represent Boyars: a Russian aristocratic order next in rank below the ruling princes until its abolition by Peter the Great. Expect to see the word in a crossword one day, if not Matryoshka!


Denise 12:12 PM  

I was AT SEA, and CLUEless doing this puzzle, which I finished with an error somewhere.

Both my father and my brother were Marines, and, although my father was a DEVIL, my brother wasn't and I never heard of DEVIL DOG except for the chocolate treat.

LAME is a material made of silver or gold threads, which makes it pricy (and heavy).

I just kind of filled in this puzzle, and never looked for the "symmetrical dogs."

But, then, I'm not a dog person.

Thomas 12:12 PM  


Only EDAY came from a NYT puzzle, and that was in 1976. The other three came from "other sources," whatever that means, and all from 1984.

hazel 12:12 PM  

I'm with Crosscan. Worst puzzle ever seems a bit - harsh? incredible? huh? Does anyone really keep a mental list of all the puzzles they've hated - and then plant this one right at the top? In my own opinion, you should probably let that go - hanging on to a list of crap you hate seems counterproductive. 5 cents please.

That being said, I too found the puzzle a bit baffling - didn't understand some of the answers until I came here. Liked the concept (after the fact), but like many, found the execution a bit lacking. Moving on.

Swedish-sounding Doug 12:18 PM  

Worst puzzle ever? Really? I enjoyed this one! I didn't understand 1-Across and a couple of other clues, but once I filled in the song, it all made perfect sense. My biggest complaint was that mess of a "Matryoshka doll" clue, but overall I thought this was a fun Thursday.

George NYC 12:21 PM  

This could have been a great puzzle but for its horrendous South East. Following clever clues and answers in the North (ALPHA dog, OVINE, VISCERA, dog CATCHER, PETROV, MODEL A) we get OPENUP “Cry that may accompany pounding” (that’s a command or an order, not a “cry”); “Get a JOB (an expression that is really dated, especially in this economy); OTTER “Animal in a lodge” (I associate otters with many things but not this); ZEPHYRS “Feature of a pleasant summer day” (We’re re-reading The Odyssey!); dog PELT “Stone e.g.” (WTF?); POR EJEMPLO (bad enough without being split in two). ATMs = 20 places (not 20s places? Who gets a 20 at an ATM?). All of these strained entries ruin what might have been a really nice theme,

but really, what is going on here? IMO, recent NYT puzzles have too often become victims of complicated themes that mostly don’t enhance the solving fun. Some of this could be helped by better editing. It’s summertime, but I have noted that this blog has been duller than usual (except for today!), which I think reflects lower interest due to a drop in puzzle quality.

Campesite 12:25 PM  

This puzzle fell quickly for me, mainly because that damn song is fresh in my head as the recent Laker victory parade coverage re-played Mark Madsen's awfully goofy a capella version from a championship celebration several years ago.

denise 12:42 PM  

I meant to say, BJ was the boy in ROSEANNE, but there weren't enough spaces.

Dan 12:46 PM  

As someone who's read every post in the history of this site, I've never been so surprised by the editorial (and commentarial) take! I actually read it the first time thinking Rex was trying some crazy meta experiment to see how many commenters would agree with a clearly incorrect opinion... :)

Not to say it's a tour de force puzzle, which it's clearly not, because of the compromises forced by the theme. But I think it's a brilliant, original, Thursday-perfect theme.

One point in the Kennedys' (and Shortz's) defense... did anyone notice the massive word count? 85 words is 7 more than the standard max of 78, and 9-11 more than a typical Thursday. Add that to the supersized grid, and you're forced to have significantly shorter -- and less interesting -- clues.

treedweller 12:49 PM  

@Orange I actually spent several seconds trying to figure out how the answer to the BJ clue could be "Bear." Should have thought to try MASH, but didn't. I avoid Reba like the plague.

I finally got everything filled in, but never understood the theme. Like others, I noticed a few that were more or less right without the dogs, and a couple that seemed off but not enough to dwell on. A couple more I got from crosses and never even read the clues. At the end, I scanned the puzzle looking for dogs, didn't find any, and went to bed. Maybe if I had been fresher I'd have figured it out, but I suppose I am no smarter than anon. 11:20 (per @Einstein).

In the end, I find I am in the minority of those who do not have strong feelings about this one--not that great, but not that bad.

treedweller 12:52 PM  

That was DJ on Roseanne.

Karen from the Cape 12:52 PM  

I didn't get the dogs out theme until after I finished, and I think I spent a minute staring at EAT and trying to figure out how it related to cutthroat, since you can't eat once your throat has been cut. Overall I liked it, I bounced around through the different parts of the puzzle, not breezing through but not getting stuck either.
Did anyone else try to put INSIDES for innards?

Anonymous 1:17 PM  

Kinda proud of myself I finished this one as there was so much I really didnt know but somehow got it done. There is only one BJ sitcom character in my mind and that of course is Honeycut from MASH. Thought that was a gimme... but no...
20s place? I thought was cool. PETROV never heard of , MAGLEV... what the heck.
I was lucky in the fact that the ONLY song from 2000 came to mind was WLTDO. And I only remember that because during the 2000 World Series between the Mets and the Yanks anytime the Mets did something remotely good like get a walk my obnoxious cousins howled "WHO LET THE DOGS OUT..." in my face as I was the lone Yankee fan that night

still_learnin 1:20 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle. When I finished I had some "issues", but that was because I still hadn't figured out the theme. I knew some of my answers weren't quite right, but couldn't put my finger on what was wrong.

Thanks, Rex, for your splainin' it to me. My favorite words: VISCERA, VIXENS and MAGLEV. Overall, I'd say the puzzle is just about right for a Thursday.

Jeff 1:22 PM  

My first thought after 20 minutes of slogging through this... um... interesting... puzzle was, "Rex Parker is going to Hate this puzzle (note capital H)". The one saving grace: who doesn't enjoy VIXENS in the morning?

Bob Kerfuffle 1:35 PM  

Fun puzzle for me. I really strained over HOT in the far NW, but as soon as 7D became obvious (very soon), all made sense.

One write-over, had SMORES before SAMOAS.

Sorry, @Jeff, but although I had VIXENS correctly, I had to look it up in the dictionary after finishing to satisfy myself that it is an acceptable plural. It is, but it still doesn't look right to me.

Mike Blaha 1:59 PM  

Believe it or not, there is an American Order of OTTERs, so that's where "lodge" comes from - as in "fraternal organization"

dk 2:02 PM  

Slavish Deference! Rex I am going to learn to play the guitar so I can start a band with that name.

@Dan, while not yet statistically significant Rex's "mood" does influence the postings for both the named and anon comments. I use the text analyzer from SPSS and have coded a vocabulary of negative and positive words. I compare the polarity of the comments and posts. Within the posts I also look at regulars (you know who you are) and anons as subgroups. As someone noted anecdotally there is no difference within the comment group.

Roughly 90 some percent of Rex's commentaries are positive or neutral. I do not have a large enough sample of negative posts, but the trending is good.

When it is to late you will learn your life is controlled by this blog and the moods of our master.

d (slavishly deferential) k

(Why you may ask? My work/research is behavior profiling and group decision making. This is a great group as it is anonymous, varied, growing and intelligent... except for Karen from the Cape who filled insides instead of VISCERA:):))

It is a zephyrus day here in Mpls.

chefbea 2:12 PM  

Went to my toddler grand daughter's "gym" class this morning and guess what song was playing when I arrived??? Couldn't believe it and started laughing. Had to explain to my daughter and all the other mothers what was so funny. Is there a name for that??

chefwen 2:17 PM  

I'm with Ulrich and Two Ponies, got the theme with SALTY dogs and had a great time finding all the other missing pooches. As for all the grumbling about missing food, we could all EAT some POACHed, SALTY OTTER with DEVIL dogs for dessert.

Husband helped with MAGLEV, but other than that made it Monday through Thursday Google free. Happy dance coming up!!

Z.J. Mugildny 2:30 PM  

I loved this puzzle! Getting the theme almost instantly (I had ALPHA and then got the song off of WHO and put it together) probably helped. I thought it was very clever. Also, it was a very nice touch to say there were 10 symmetric theme answers, but not say exactly where they are. It added an element of searching without being completely willy-nilly.

Solid work in my opinion.

Glitch 2:31 PM  

I have always considered the puzzle and this blog a "learning experience".

Now I see some have taken this to another level.

Between Sanfranman & dk I'll now be wondering if my posts reflect finding the cheese or getting another banana pellet ;))


mac 2:36 PM  

I did this puzzle on the way to NY, and I enjoyed most of it, getting fatally stuck by ham instead of hot in the NW. There was plenty to like without the theme, like made in confirming viscera, ulna and its clue, vixen(s), (looks odd to me too with the s), por ejemplo and regales. Oddly enough I got that song and Reba almost immediately, although I know neither of them well. I have to admit that I feel pretty stupid for not trying harder to figure out the theme, sothat I would have gotten the "hot" in the NW and "eat" in the SE.....

P.S. @Orange: look at that, another oct.... version!

Jim Weed 2:46 PM  

@chefbea--yes, synchronicity. jung wrote a lot about how there may be meaning embedded in occurrences that don't have a causal link.

Clark 2:58 PM  

I really liked this puzzle. I didn't get the name of the song until close to the end, and it was only late in the game that I realized that it was a missing DOG that was making some of the clues seem weird. I don't like puzzles that feel like a routine, quick filling in of the blanks. I like a puzzle that puzzles me and makes me think, and this one delivered.

OTTER lodge sounds right to me. Otters, beavers, and muskrats were our neighbors in the UP of Michigan. What do you dissenters call the place that otters call home?

Two Ponies 3:02 PM  

I came back to reread the posts and do a tally of sorts on this very polarizing puzzle.
So far 22 thumbs down
16 thumbs up
13 soso
What I did not realize was that at 9:22 Stephen Kennedy posted a short note. Thanks for dropping by. I hope you aren't too put off by what you read here. Some of us loved it.
I am still surprised at the Viscreal reaction and really astonished at how few caught the theme. As someone said earlier, you must have known something was afoot with ear and tag.
Are the Kennedys brothers or a father/son team?

Stephen 3:27 PM  

@Two Ponies:

Thanks. I can handle the occasional Internet flameup.

I've attempted to distill the comments on my blog.

We are father and son. I'm the son.

Peter 3:29 PM  

I'm really enjoying the anonymous hater comments that (I suspect) are friends of the constructors or possibly the constructors themselves. Chin up ol' boys!

And Rex, loved the writeup! Had me laughing all the way through.

Noam D. Elkies 3:31 PM  

Surprised to find myself liking a puzzle with this theme so much more than the incurably K9-loving Rex. Maybe he just likes playing the matic mudgeon :-) Rex, were you really in such a bad mood that you'd foist that video on us after declaring it "one of the worst, most painful ear worms you can possibly give someone"? Happily I didn't know anything of the pop song beyond a vague awareness of its existence, so was not distracted by the incongruity that so vexed Rex.

Also happy to finally see a chess-themed clue, and even one that took me a while to figure out (since I didn't know the given name of the 2...Nf6 Petrov and at first could only think of Alekhine). TAL used to be standard crosswordese but I don't think I've seen that clue in years.

20A:MAGLEV, 25A:VISCERA, 48D:EJEMPLO, and especially 54D:ZEPHYR were nice to see too. I guess MAGLEV also joins 19A:LEXUS and 38A:MODELA (and perhaps 31A:OTIS, as in elevator) in a subsidiary transportation theme.

Hm, the SW looks like Math Corner with SEMI+AXES as well as OCTAL, though only OCTAL got a math clue.

@poc: For south-of-the-border languages other than Spanish, we've seen the occasional Portuguese word, as well as the perennial INCA.


Two Ponies 3:35 PM  

Of course I meant visceral (must learn to type).
Thanks for the info Stephen, I'm off to check out your blog.

Crosscan 3:43 PM  

@dk: If I understand you, the greater Rex's reaction varies from his normal reaction, the greater by some exponential factor is the reaction by his commenters.

So if the RRI (Rex Rant Index) is high, the ERC (Extreme Reaction by Commenters) will be even higher.

Ruth 3:44 PM  

I always worry about the poor constructors and how they'll feel if they check in on a spate of negative reviews. I assume most everyone has thick enough skin to accept the negatives as lively discussion and not an assault on their worth as human beings. Since it seems to be coming down to a vote today, I'll weigh in to say I liked this just fine, thought theme was clever and different from what we've been seeing lately. I think I've seen the spelling "matreschka" for those nesting dolls but who knows, with a transliteraton. Thanks, Kennedys.

poc 3:52 PM  

@Noam D. Elkes: I know some Portugese has appeared occasionally, and INCA is part of the lexicon, but I doubt whether either has been clued using "south of the border".

Off-topic, but it's fun to ask which city is further West, New York or Santiago. The answer surprises most people, since South America is really South-East America.

Anonymous 4:22 PM  

Awesome song, awesome puzzle.

Shamik 4:41 PM  

Like many, didn't get the theme 'til Rex's blog. Saw REN and OTIS and then started wondering if ALPHA and LUCKY were names of other dogs.

As for the cutthroat EAT, I always feel like a cutthroat will EAT you alive. Awkward theme today, but stil for some reason, I liked the puzzle. A ZEPHYR sounds so pleasant right now in Arizona monsoon season. Not a dust storm, but a lovely cooling ZEPHYR. Or am I just being SATIRIC? X-words are good: EXACTA and VIXENS.

As for food, guess we don't eat OTTER.

@dk: You ARE pulling our leg(s) when you say you use a text analyzer on the blog, right?

Kathleen O'Connor 4:42 PM  

I still don't see how the 10 Across answers are particularly symmetrically arranged. Can anyone give insights?


Carolyn Mustopa 4:59 PM  

I also thought this was one of the worst puzzles ever. Ugh!

Anonymous 5:00 PM  

Was I the only one who was looking for "dog" in "cry after pounding?"?

I cannot understand how anyone can feel they have finished this puzzle and not have the theme. Do you just fill in letters regardless.

Personally loved it but then I do not nit-pick about the art of construction.

Tigger 5:05 PM  

@dk: Prior to retirement, I too sponsored the chess club at the Secondary School where I worked as a youth and family counsellor. I'm afraid the Petrov Opening escaped me, as well.

Easiest Thursday puzzle ever for me.

Thank you Stephen, for a fun solving experience.

I very seldom pay attention to the themes, unless I get stuck and need the help; after reading the blog posts, I do go back and look at them and most often fully appreciate the ingenuity of construction.

The Kashmir entry reminded me of my two weeks in a houseboat on Dal Lake, Srinagar back in '70. What a beautiful area.

Glitch 5:11 PM  


Not to worry, if you check Stephen's blog* as he suggests, you'll see negative comments here had little impact. Plus most other blogs were positive.

But in general, comments, much like borscht (discussed the other day) need to be taken with a grain of salt (at least).


[*@Orange --- I'll drink to that]

foodie 5:11 PM  

@Stephen, this might break some record in terms of comments on Rex's blog. May be it feels like being on the 10 worst dressed list, but that is a distinction! Nothing worse than beige... beige puzzle, beige commentary, beige discussion. You're somewhere near Orange & Purple. Congratulations!

@shamik, you know what they say-- you are who you EAT.

@DK, I am so glad you are doing this! I was literally thinking as I was reading the comments-- someone should study this phenomenon, the contagiousness of Rex's opinion, and here you were a couple of posts later! And as @Crosscan remarked, one of the variables is intensity regardless of direction. It's really interesting about humans and other creatures-- expressing a strong emotion gives permission to others to do the same... And then there is the issue of who's influential and how they affect opinion. If Rex were a food critic, he'd be getting the best seat in the best restaurants.

Two Ponies 5:12 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
joho 5:14 PM  

To the Kennedys ... we're at over a 100 comments already and it's only 5 p.m. ... you should be very proud of yourselves for creating such a controversial puzzle and such lively conversation!

It's interesting to me that posts by other constructors are leaning toward the positive ... I'll be interested to hear what ACME has to say.

Irfan 5:15 PM  

Im certain Gary and Stephen Kennedy killed the Taco Bell Dog.


abnorma 5:25 PM  

I was compelled to add this:
Add me to those who enjoyed it. I love the Chili Peppers. If it's Thursday and I had no difficulty solving, then it's a thumbs up for me. I guess I have a low bar. :)

PIX 5:27 PM  

I know it's late but if the polls haven't closed yet I would like to vote with a definite thumbs up. Eventually figured out the song name and had great fun looking for the dog clues. ( I happen to agree that the song is terrible but that has nothing to do with liking the puzzle; the song was well known and therefore a reasonable clue.)Not all clues were suitable for the X-word hall of fame, but so what...interesting idea, nicely done.

LL 5:33 PM  

Well, I thought this was a wonderful puzzle, & I've never met either of the constructors. I had fun doing this puzzle & that's what I care about most when solving. I thought this one was much better than Wednesday's "Sloppy Joes" which just rearranged the letters in JOE. Many clues were clever & the answers make perfect sense once you understand the theme.
I can understand that some might not have liked it as much as I did, but I find the animosity hard to accept.
Thanks, Kennedys, for the fun.

mac 6:05 PM  

Who put that nasty Seasons in the Sun worm in my ear???

andrea vixen michaels 6:22 PM  

wow, another Kennedy assassination!

I'm STILL laughing at rex's comments, 115 comments later!

And @Crosscan, "no reason to go all Matroyshka on us" might etch a permanent smile on my face for the rest of my life!!!!! Better than Botox!

you don't have to, but take a peek at my comments yesterday about why rearranging the letters of JOE is so much more than meet the eye!

But you have a point.
I think the original concept of leaving out the word DOG, ten times plus, in addition to that long fabulous song title going down the center, got lost in the execution, maybe, dare I say, in the editing!
Yet a very nice idea.
Should have definitely left out REN, MILO, MEOWS, might have muddied it a bit...along with some icky cluing that I think might have been mentioned...but I think they got carried away in sort of a fun way...
(maybe the Kennedys thought 'Let's make everything sort of doggy-style!"
I actually thought "I wonder if they had had a doggie named LUCKY or SALTY" and I mis-read K2 as K9 and POACH as POOCH)

the boy on "Roseanne" was DJ...not BJ
and not to start another thread, but HE was the worst child actor, ever!

(Wouldn't that be funny if his real name was Kennedy? And he had grown up to write this puzzle? And had a secretary named Lincoln?!)

Oh LAME (accent)!!!!!!!! I had LACE...no wonder I couldn't figure out what ROCE was, even tho I carefully checked each crossing...
how LAME of me!

I liked OPENUP and learned MAGLEV
(which seems more like a chess master than Petrov...I was a child chessplayer and I had never heard of him...but gettable)

Speaking of gettable, GET ___! Now THAT's a lame (with an accent) clue...

I'm with you on HAM

Bleedover: ONE(A) again!!!!!!!!!!!
and ALEPH/ALPHA, sort of.

Super-looking forward to BEQ's puzzles with those songs...suggestion approved!

Lulu 6:28 PM  

I couldn't do this without you, Rex. Maglev killed me...I'm not a "Star Trek" fan...Who knew that a US Marine was a DEVIL DOG?

fikink 6:38 PM  

@andrea, don't forget GET A HAIRCUT.

Doc John 6:49 PM  

I'll give this one a partial thumbs up mostly because I found it pretty challenging (although the split USSR answers really left a bad taste). I also didn't realize that the answers like HOT and EAT weren't supposed to stand alone but just happened to work with DOG until I came here. CATCHER, BREEDER, even DEVIL and TAG seemed good enough as answers on their own. I figured that I'd come here to find out how EAT was cutthroat.

And a shout out to Andrea- I saw your Dinner: Impossible episode last night thanks to my DirecTV iPhone app. You were beautiful and charming and it looks like you had a fun and interesting time. Obviously, the producers liked you more than the other guy who was helping, too.

Anonymous 6:52 PM  

As of now, this will be comment 121!

@Clark said...
I really liked this puzzle. ... I don't like puzzles that feel like a routine, quick filling in of the blanks. I like a puzzle that puzzles me and makes me think, and this one delivered.


I'll bet that most of those who hated this puzzle are speed-solvers. No wonder they hated this one -- thought (after confusion) definitely required.

Count me among the likers. Until I caught on, I just marked the unquestionable answers that made no sense at all (HOT, DEVIL). I missed ALPHA and CATCHER, then "got it" at EAR, and the song confirmed it. "Dog EAT dog" was my last to understand, and a pleasant unexpected kicker.

BTW, has anybody but me wondered how a character in any sitcom since 1998 can be named BJ? Thanks, President Clinton.


joho 7:13 PM  

@Lurker0 ... I'm not a speed solver and I didn't LIKE this puzzle. I didn't hate it either.
I did have "thought after confusion" and still didn't like it. So, don't go making generalizations about speed solvers!

I totally appreciate what the Kennedys created, but I still think there's too much off to make this an excellent puzzle. Actually, it's seems to me that they bit off more than they can chew .. to keep the doggy theme going. Arf!

Anonymous 7:25 PM  


The symmetry is 180-degree rotational, not bilateral. If you turn the grid upside down it will look the same.


chefbea 7:44 PM  

@lurker0 lol

deerfencer 7:58 PM  

I got the theme fairly early and slaved away at most of the fills but couldn't for the life of me get the answer to the Spanish clue.

And "20 places" for ATMS is just a stinker.

I'll second the blogger who compared this puzzle to driving on (soft) gravel--squishy, vague, and a bit discomforting.

Blackhawk 8:00 PM  

Once again, Rex, you are way too harsh on an innovative puzzle.

As a visiting assistant professor of English, I recognize that you like things just the way that they always were, because your job is to analyze material that is frozen in time. Every year you can make the same witty observations to freshmen and get the same laughs at your punchlines. But the fact is that time marches on and it's cool to see innovation and progress in the language and word games, not just in science and consumer goods.

I applaud the way the constructors twisted the crossword concept by depending on words that did not exist in the grid to make the grid work. That was a fun invention, making the puzzle a classic, amusing Thursday stretch.

Did not like all of the execution (denoting a "the" for Made in USSR was lame because "Made in USSR" would have been acceptable) but all in all the puzzle provided a great opportunity to think, react, imagine and discover. Bravo to the constructors.

PS, professor: You are using the word 'crap' a lot. I am sure you can come up with more colorful and less adolescent language to describe your unhappiness. You seem to believe it makes you "edgy" but in fact it comes off as an off-putting mix of puerile and imperious.

George NYC 8:12 PM  

You're a jerk.
Or are you a visiting assistant professor of English? I can't tell from your bad syntax.
If your comments are to be believed, you have spent many years observing Rex "making the same witty comments to freshmen." Have you graduated to sophomore yet?
PS: You're full of crap.

Blackhawk 8:51 PM  

George NYC: Hey you're another witty one. Boy this blog is just filled with them.

Usually the commenters are actually a lot more fun to read than our blog host, the commuter college visiting assistant professor of English. But you're obviously not one of them.

I just hope our host takes some constructive criticism to heart. He's such a humorless drone when it comes to inventive grids.

We need to encourage constructors to do awesome work like this, because it makes solving so much more fun. Calling this a terrible puzzle is a disservice to us all.

Two Ponies 9:02 PM  

Hmmm, You don't write very well for an English prof.
Not necessary to make personal attacks on our beloved host.
And up until now we were having such a fun and lively discussion.
Do us all a favor and delete yourself.

Anonymous 9:11 PM  

Open note to Will Shortz:

Don't listen to this guy.

Not all puzzles should be geared to the tastes and talents of speed solvers, who have neither the time nor the inclination to savor and enjoy brilliance and artistry.


Glitch 9:12 PM  

Commenters snarking at other commenters is always the stupidest form of commentary.

Rex Parker 4/03/09

Anonymous 9:17 PM  

Completely agree on brilliant and artistic puzzles.
Disagree on snide remarks.
Shame on you.
Go away.
Squeek the anonymous

Raul 9:17 PM  

@Blackhawk - Doggone it, here you go barking up the wrong tree again. You don't have to hound our host with your stray comments.

Ulrich 9:23 PM  

@BlackHawk: You write: "As a visiting assistant professor of English, I recognize ..." In other words, YOU are the visiting English professor and like things just as they always were--but then, the rest of your comments makes no sense b/c I've no idea whom you are talking to/about--yourself, Rex, some other "you"?

I always found that sloppy syntax is a sign of sloppy thinking...

edith b 9:30 PM  


Rex's intention has always been to give his informed opinion on the puzzle at hand. We may not agree with that opinion but it is definitely honest and certainly his own.

Your intention seems to be as deliberately insulting as possible. And to your host at that.

I agree with George NYC. I've never doubted Rex's honesty or sincerity. I do, however, doubt yours and think there is little constructive criticism in your remarks.

Anonymous 9:33 PM  

Hey, everybody, just ignore Blackhawk and then he won't exist.

Blackhawk 9:35 PM  

Ulrich, you're right. My syntax was not the best there.

OK, just for clarification. The visiting assistant professor of English is our blog host. He teaches at a commuter college in New York. No disrespect meant to any other professors, commuters, colleges, or New York in general.

And with that I will bid you all adieu. See you on Sunday.

retired_chemist 9:48 PM  

@ Blackhawk -

I agree with edith b and GeorgeNYC. Rex has his opinions and I feel free to express disagreement when I do disagree with them. Nothing personal ever enters. On the contrary, I do not see you able to disagree without making ad hominem arguments.

You have some valid points that will probably not be accepted because nobody wants to wade through the vitriol which interlaces them. If you feel so strongly that Rex does a disservice, I challenge you to set up a competing blog to express your own views. There you can provide the commentary antithetical to Rex's that you think important for constructors and editors to see. Perhaps you will attract a set of commenters and constructors as Rex has, or perhaps not. At least you will have the opportunity there to try to be constructive.

But I doubt I would visit....

Anonymous 10:09 PM  

brilliant puzzle. Kennedy family should be proud. My wife was taking the dog for a walk tonight and started singing the song. Talk about Synchronicity. I said "whoa... Let me show you this puzzle..." She is not into the crossword world at all, but I walked her through the whole thing and she was stymied, just amazed, how someone could actually construct such a thing. Geometrically correct, witty, etc. Great job.. Mike

foodie 10:25 PM  

I kept hoping that Sanfranman would give us some stats, because I wondered whether on average people found this more difficult to solve. But since he hasn't I took a peak myself, and tried to use his approach (I think).

Today's top 100 had a median of 8'54".
The overall median for all who solved (554 people) was 18'17".

How does that compare? I looked at July 2 data from Sanfranman, at which point he had about 4 weeks of tracking. Approximate Thursday numbers averaged for the 4 weeks were ~8' for the top 100 solvers and ~16'30" for the population as a whole. So, this was slightly harder but not dramatically so.

@Sanfranman, I hope I didn't screw this up: )

@Blackhawk, I think you're secretly trying to make sure that the count for today's comments is a record!

I'm confused about the connotation of VIXEN when applied to human females. I thought it meant someone who was a flirt, but the definitions I see are much more negative. What's with that?

BTW, I still have that Dinner Impossible episode starring Andrea Vixen Michaels on my DVR. I've threatened people with death if they accidentally erase. If there is a genius out there who can tell me how to save it in some other format, you'll have my undying gratitude.

michael 10:31 PM  

I missed the theme and didn't get the nw and se corners -- all really unusual for me for a Thursday. I'm a chess player and I still had to work a bit for Petrov, after seeing that Alekhine and Petroff (alternate spelling) didn't fit.

With all that, I don't understand the dislike of this puzzle. The theme was clever, the clues fair (well,I'm not sure about Petrov), and if I didn't get the theme or complete the puzzle, that's just my lack of sharpness today and/or the cleverness of the constructors.

j-vt 11:11 PM  

Also, tort is not an injury in the law. It is a wrong that results in an injury. There are many injuries that are not the result of any wrongdoing. These are not torts, and have nothing to do with torts.

Lisa in Kingston 11:28 PM  

Who let the dogs out?
Apparently it was Gary & Stephen Kennedy!
Lots of growling here, today.
I had no problem with today's theme, the dogs were -out- in each of the 10 clues. Ok, so there were some dogs in other clues that were not part of the theme--dogs will be dogs, after all! Nitpicking into the nuances of the video of the Baha Men song is just silly, IMOO. Baha Men Video nuances...ouch.

Stan 11:29 PM  

I'm on the cranky side today (no disrespect to those who enjoyed this puzzle).

re: @Blackhawk -- I have already fought (and pretty much died) on that hill. Best to ignore, IMO. Rex can handle...

JC66 11:36 PM  


If you have a VCR hooked up to the same TV that your
DVR is connected to, I think you can just play the program and hit REC on the VCR and it will record it onto the tape.

Bill from NJ 11:42 PM  

I don't believe that people like George NYC and retired chemist and Ulrich and edith are being snarky at all: They, and all the others who defended Rex, were simply responding to attacks that were over the top and demanded response.

Don't feed the Troll is good advice generally but, damn it, sometimes you just have to address the distasteful.

Stan 11:46 PM  


I know exactly what you're saying about the DVRed episode. But it can be done. Involves plugging a VCR into your DVR outputs. I will post more (off-topic) info when I figure out how to do this myself.

PuzzleGirl 11:53 PM  

Didn't like this puzzle much for all the reasons Rex pointed out. But mostly for the one brought up by commenters: that some of the answers really needed and DOG and some didn't. I don't even think LUCKY needs DOG for the clue to work.

Also about the symmetry. I think the first person who talked about EAT not being symmetrical meant that it's the only answer that needs DOG twice to make sense. If the symmetrical answer (1A) had also needed DOG twice to make sense, that would have been better. That's what I thought too.

I gave up on the NW when HAM wouldn't work for HOT and I finally just decided it was too late and I had spent enough time on it. Maybe if I'd done the puzzle earlier in the day I would have liked it more. Who knows? It's all so subjective.

mac 12:01 AM  

I think I'm the 150th commenter!
This was quite a puzzle day. Let's relax and get ready for the FRIDAY!

andrea tosh.o michaels 12:07 AM  

@foodie! I'll send you a dvd of it for godssake, no murdering necessary! :)
and you must know that ALL words applied to women end up being negative eventually :(
Now back to Gatesgate...
Damn, where's my dog?

You know what? re-read rex's blog after all this and then say it's not dead on!

XMAN 12:12 AM  

Whoa, Blackhawk! What you say has some truth to it--but we are all fallible and faulty. The point is, Rex puts it out there every day, which puts him in the category of artist. Thus, he is at one and the same time a creator and a receptor--sometimes of the excess of vitriol called ambition.

XMAN 12:20 AM  

@Blackhawk: I don't agree withnthe voices calling for your evaporation or evanescence. I think you are capable of development, able to join your voice, if not in praise (I, in fact, do not treat Rex as a paragon of
wisdom), at least in the raucous concord that this blog invites.

guero 12:23 AM  

Where's PAVLOV?

Seriously, I didn't mind the puzzle. But if you're going to come up with all these "dogs" and then there are 2 Russian words (OK, only one, but I also thought it was two), doesn't one of them have to be Pavlov?

I thought most of it was Ok, but then again, I speak Spanish and the theme didn't bother me. The SE corner was well nigh impossible, however

guero 12:24 AM  

Actually, I just realized there were 2 Russian clues, not counting Maglev. A shame.

sillygoose 1:17 AM  

I liked this puzzle better in the morning, when I was able to complete the NW and grasp the theme. It wasn't perfect but it made me think hard, and I always appreciate puzzle innovation that doesn't fall on Friday/Saturday. Even so, I didn't find all the dogs, and I agree with the people who think that some of the answers needed the dog, and others worked just fine without it, and that took away from the overall impression of the puzzle. I didn't have a problem with the clues - bad partials and fill in the blanks are better than baseball clues IMO. ;-)

mac 8:07 AM  

I took Andrea's advise and reread Rex's write-up - she has a point!

Had to laugh about the 2023 Super Bowl: I actually figured it out because we still have some cocktail napkins around from our last Super Bowl Party!

Anonymous 10:19 AM  

I have no idea who the Kennedys are, but I REALLY enjoyed this puzzle!

HudsonHawk 11:01 AM  

@Blackhawk, who commutes to Binghamton? People that couldn't get into Scranton?

Kellyg 1:54 PM  

Got the theme before I finished the puzzle and it helped. Otherwise, for the most part, I liked it.

Amelie 12:45 PM  

Count me among those who liked the puzzle -- thought it was kind of clever...

And someone mentioned one of my all-time favorite movies, "Cat Ballou" ;-)

Singer 12:01 PM  

I am amazed at the dislike shown for this puzzle. I thought it was (mostly) clever, and certainly required a certain twisted look at things. I got the missing dog angle fairly early and actually got the song title from that, rather than the other way around. Pop music isn't my thing, and I have never heard the song before, so no issues with whether the dogs are gone or are simply out and about. The answers have geometric symmetry, and that is all that was promised in the clue. Grammatic symmetry would be a bonus, but isn't necessary. The only slightly annoying clue for me was the MADE IN (the) USSR one, but it was gettable with crosses. The ATM clue was twisted, but that is what Thursday puzzles are supposed to be about, along with gimmicks. I was surprised to see Rex rank it as challenging - I got it fairly quickly for a Thursday, although accuracy rather than speed is my goal. I like to fill in ink with no writeovers if possible and did this with only one (had pinch for poach at first). I think this was a very nice puzzle. Not the best ever, but far and away not the worst either.

Anonymous 3:26 PM  

I'm with Rex:


There is a bar near my house called The Otter Lodge, so I had some help.

Never got the trick. Was wondering why US Marines were called devils, or why cutthroat was eat.

syndakate 4:55 PM  

I liked the puzzle. I've never seen one where a word was excluded like that. I kept looking for a rebus. Still don't see how so many people solved it without ever catching on to the theme.

Waxy in Montreal 7:28 PM  

Count me in as one of those people who found this a great puzzle in that the theme was original, the level of difficulty certainly was Thursday Challenging - yet a solution was possible without resorting to Google. Thanks Kennedys for a fun effort.

BTW, additional syncronicity possibly exists at the syndicate level in that the Kennedy puzzle appears in the same paper in which many of us are reading extensively about the life & times of Ted Kennedy, who died yesterday...

Christina 8:47 PM  

I got the answers filled but could not figure out the dog connection! I thought it might have been for dogs' names like Rover but I got stumped until finally went to your page to see what the dog thing was all about!

Jan C, 10:05 PM  

Count me as one who didn't see the "missing" dogs until I got here. I filled in the right answers because of crossing fill, but was puzzled, bemused, and confused. It would have helped if I remembered today was Thursday, not Wednesday.

Carl La Fong 10:56 PM  

38 across, Model A Fords were built from 28-31. 27s were Model Ts. To the poster that said her husband was a Marine and that he had never heard the term "Devil Dogs", I find that inconceivable. The term is almost as well known as "Semper FI".

Anonymous 3:39 PM  

I've never posted before, but often read Rex's column when I'm tearing my hair out about a puzzle. I knew what the nesting dolls were, and got the central song, but solved all but the lefthand corner w/out getting the
idea about the dogs le(f)t out items. Thank you, Rex,for echoing my frustration, and, as always, giving the solutions

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