THURSDAY, Jul. 30 2009 — Jiltee of myth / Voltaic cell meas / Royal son of comics / Kowtower / Actress Williams of the 1960s-'70s

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Constructor: Ashish Vengsarkar

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: FOUR-LETTER WORDS (16A: Profanities (and a hint to this puzzle's anomalies))
— 8 theme answers are represented in the grid by a strings of identical letters; those strings, when read aloud as plural letters, are homophones of the desired answers, e.g. 1A: Facility = EEEE (i.e. Es, or "ease")

Word of the Day: EDY Williams (55D: Actress Williams of the 1960s-'70s)

Throughout the 1960s, Williams appeared in several television series and film including roles in The Beverly Hillbillies, Batman, Adam-12, Lost in Space, The Naked Kiss, and the Sonny & Cher film, Good Times.

In 1970, she appeared as Ashley St. Ives in Russ Meyer's first mainstream film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, followed by his second mainstream film The Seven Minutes (1971). Meyers and Williams married in 1970, shortly after the release of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. (wikipedia)


Short write-up this morning as I have a dentist appointment to get to.

Fantastically inventive puzzle this morning from Ashish Vengsarkar. Perfect Thursday fare: wordplay gimmick plus double thematic layer (letter string answers and two regular, grid-spanning 15-ltr answers). I was going to rate this puzzle "Medium," but then I watched my wife get Nowhere on it last night and figured that it might be hard for some to find / understand the gimmick. Once you get the trick, the puzzle is very tractable — all those letter-string answers (since they're symmetrical) go down very easy. I picked the gimmick up pretty early, after trying EASE at 1A. This gave me EERIEST (4D: Like H.P. Lovecraft among all popular writers?), but the other stuff wasn't working, and I was pretty sure 2D: Abbr. in a help-wanted ad was EEO (or EOE or something like that). Then I saw the 12A clue, [Jiltee of myth], and knew immediately that it was MEDEA (I feel like this exact clue was used very recently ...). This made EDU easy (3D: E-mail ending), and there I had a ridiculous number of Es in 1A. Es ... EASE. Of course. And I was off. Got IIII (19A: Peer group?) without understanding how it was right ("Am 'I' my own peer???? Oh, 'peer' as in look with your EYES ... got it"). The rest were less befuddling.

Theme answers:

  • 1A: Facility (EEEE) — "ease"
  • 8A: Signals (QQQQ) — "cues" (consecutive Qs, wow)
  • 19A: Peer group? (IIII) — "eyes"
  • 20A: Razz (TTTT) - "tease"
  • 47A: Garden sights (BBBB) — "bees"
  • 49A: Is behind (OOOO) — "owes"
  • 61A: "Man oh man!" (GGGG) — "jeez!"
  • 63A: Hip (YYYY) — "wise"
  • 51A: Record holders? (and a punny hint to this puzzle's anomalies) (repeat offenders) — you can have a "record" after only one offense, so I didn't like this clue so much)

Last letter I filled in was the "A" in ABT (45D: Dance grp. at the Met). Never seen that in the puzzle, though I could infer its meaning, I think. Let me guess: American Ballet Theater? ... well, yes, but ugh, they spell THEATRE the stupid British way ("stupid" only when used in America by Americans). Never see today's ALI clue, but that was inferrable as well (13D: Iranian supreme leader _____ Khamenei). EDY and RUY (neighbors!) were both new to me. Chess names, again? Is this a trend? If so, reverse it, please (56D: _____ Lopez (chess opening)). Or at least counterbalance it with things only a comic book fan would know. Seems only fair ... to me. Though, come to think of it, there is probably a lot of nerd overlap with chess players and comic book fans. Hang on, I'll draw a Venn diagram...


  • 14A: Yamaha offering, in brief (ATV) — all-terrain vehicle
  • 34A: Alley of Moo (Oop) — "of Moo"? Did not know that.
  • 40A: Blood, e.g. (gangster) — edgy! It's strange how GANGSTER does not evoke Crips and Bloods or any of the street gangs in "The Warriors" for me (those are "gang members"). It evokes the mob. Or Dillinger. But of course gang members are GANGSTERS. Not sure why the disconnect.
  • 1D: Voltaic cell meas. (EMF) — Can never remember what EMF stands for -> electromotive force.
  • 6D: Part of a 2005 SBC merger (ATT) — that's AT ampersand T.
  • 24D: Royal son of comics (Arn) — good ol' ARN. Where's your mom, ALETA? Haven't seen her much these days.
  • 29D: Kowtower (toady) — love the word TOADY. The word "kowtower" ... looks alien.
  • 36D: Starts of some sporting events (face-offs) — loved it. Also loved the inventive ONE TO TEN (32A: Scale range) and the bouncy JIGGLE (33A: Do what Jell-O does).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Brendan Emmett Quigley 8:12 AM  

A+ puzzle. Well constructed too. REPEAT OFFENDERS is the only part I wasn't totally in love with, but seeing as Ashish probably wanted to get another 15 in there and with all that thematic material surrounding it in the first place, his choices were slim. Nice job.

FWIW the Ruy Lopez is probably the most common chess opening.

Anonymous 8:23 AM  

5 across is killing me. Why does a clock face indicating 11 equal May on a calendar? Do not get it.

Crosscan 8:23 AM  

Put me right in the middle of that chess playing comic book fan circle. Does that make me a nerd? I'll just add that I did an old puzzle this week and got my fastest time ever. The theme of the puzzle (honest) was 3 answers with the clue (QUOTING) "Nerd identifier".

This great puzzle did have DROIDS, ARN and Alley OOP. Took a while for me to get the trick; smooth sailing thereafter.

fikink 8:35 AM  

Dynamite puzzle! Finished it without having parsed the homophones, but used the theme to enter the letter strings. This puzzle has everything - good fill, good clues, good theme, tricky wordplay. Thanks, Ashish, nice job!

@ anonymous, 8:23, I think the arrow is pointing to the 5 for 5 Across. May is the 5th month on a calendar.

HudsonHawk 8:43 AM  

Great puzzle, Ashish! I was glad to see the medium-challenging rating, as this was a longer-than-usual Thursday for me, even after I figured out the FOUR LETTER gimmick.

Loved ONE TO TEN and EIGHTHS. That five consonant string had me scratching my head for a second (not that I'm a numbers guy or anything).

Anonymous 8:50 AM  

Thanks fikink. Must be a typo in the IHT. An arrow certainly makes more sense than a tiny clock.

Denise 8:56 AM  

I struggled and fought with this puzzle. I started to do it "against the clock" but gave up after probably 45 minutes. I had the middle but none of the extremities.

So, I went to the Across Lite version and started over. After about 15 more minutes, I got one of the "?" answers, and then it was easy. Of course, using Across Lite, I could Google, which I did -- for about six answers (chess, names, physics).

In the end, I really got a kick out of this --

I had put in & taken out EASE and OWES & JURY -- I am as thick as a board some days.

PlantieBea 9:01 AM  

Great puzzle. I didn't think I would get it, even when I was staring at OOOO, but rolled with the themed answers that were appearing until GGGG made sense. Geez! I'm happy I stuck it out without cheating. Loved SAUCY, DROIDS, JANE DOE, GNATS (not sure ours buzz), JIGGLE, and more. The fill seemed fresh!

Thanks Ashish Vengsarkar for this excellent Thursday brain twister.

PhillySolver 9:08 AM  

@Denise, I got a kick out of this one, the seat of the pants.
I join Madame Rex in struggling through and I will blame it on previous experiences with Ashish's puzzles. I was psyched out going in to it. Nevertheless, it was enjoyable and I had fun with the CDB book we discussed here some months ago and should have caught on quicker. The clues were mostly weekend level and that hid the letter strings for awhile. I could not make myself enter two Qs in a row. Well done Ashish.

Ulrich 9:43 AM  

A stunt puzzle, and I mean this in the most positive sense--unexpected and stunning. Took me much too long to discover the theme, but once I got it, it helped in filling out the corners. Very pretty grid, too!

The QQQQs were the last to go in. As I contemplated possibilities, I discovered some others, like

PPPP (!)
XXXX (groan)

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

Thought I had a handle on this from 19A 'IIII', but I parsed it as a kid's slang for someone wearing glasses (four-eyes), so I was then trying to put 'for', or 'four', in front of the other consecutive letter strings, which was not helpful. Finally got the real gimmick from the B's.

Definitely a challenge for me, as I can usually finish my dead tree edition in about half my 40-min train ride, except on Fridays. I usually have time to breeze through the rest of the paper, scanning headlines, looking at book and movie reviews, etc., and generally making an effort to convince myself that I don't spend $2 every weekday for just the puzzle and the sports section.

I had to come back to the puzzle again after putting it down, and then things became clearer. Loved all the misdirects and trickiness, esp. ANCESTORS, REARS, ICEBERG ONETOTEN and GETSTHERE.

Anyone else fall into the 'obi' trap? I thought that was a gimme for 'Geisha's accessory', and it wasn't until I accepted that it had to be somethings starting with an 'F' that the whole Southeast tumbled like a house of cards.


Steve 9:53 AM  

Outstanding puzzle. What a hoot to finally figuring out what was going on after a long struggle!

My biggest slowdown was having SEATS instead of REARS, and OINKS instead of SINGS. This gave me GANKSTET, which, for the longest time I figured was some sort of anagram or something!

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

I really enjoyed this one. It was not easy getting started, but I clued in with YYYY.

The -re endings in words like theatre and centre indicate words taken from French. The original French pronunciation justifies the -re spelling.

Norm 10:06 AM  

Cute puzzle, although I thoroughly disliked 40A. Dealing with the mayhem caused by such every day makes me displeased to see the terms enter into pop culture in any way, shape, or form.

Anonymous 10:13 AM  

Interesting that "Jane Doe" appears in the Times on the same day that there's a front-page story about someone named John Doe.

Kevin Der 10:20 AM  

really enjoyed this, though it was tough (about 3x normal thursday time). QQQQ was fantastic.

chefbea 10:22 AM  

What a great puzzle. wanted bees or bbbb for buzzers.
Had oinks for a while and didn't understand the clock=may thing either.

Razz and tease again.

can someone ste for division of office bldg?

Frances 10:24 AM  

Lots of misdirection to fall for, even after recognizing the repeating-four-letter theme. The Middle Atlantic section stumped me for the longest time, anchored by the conviction that 36A had to be OBI. Also wanted ILK for 37A ("like") and NEUTRON for 26D ("nuclear unit"). "Cans" made me think of firing an employee and I wanted SET UP for "Do what Jell-o does". What finally broke it open was erasing OBI and just staring at the (much-erased) blank spaces. Time: well over an hour, but NO GOOGLES!

Susan 10:29 AM  

This one was an owie for me. It took me what seemed like forever to get any purchase at all.

@Ulrich QQQQ was last for me, too.
@fikink Thanks, I didn't understand the 5A either.
@chefbea I'm with you. STE?

PlantieBea 10:36 AM  

STE is an abbreviation for SUITE, perhaps?

Anonymous 10:36 AM  

Before I'd worked out the theme, I read 'Peer group' as 'Pier Group' and decided that 4 I's worked as in 4 I Beams (construction piers).

Sometimes you don't lose even when you should.

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

Great puzzle. In addition to all that's been said, it's also nice that no other words besides the theme answers are 4 letters long.

Two Ponies 10:55 AM  

Wow, what a puzzle!
Way to go Ashish!
@ Ulrich, I love "stunt puzzle." I did the same thing at the Q's after rejecting P's and C's. I really wanted them to be in there somewhere as that would have completed all of the alphabet homophones I could think of.
I loved the fill today and was so proud I remembered Arn (known only to me from xwords).
Gotta love a puzzle that makes my brain JIGGLE.

edith b 11:08 AM  

Puzzled out the theme at the YYYYs by way of RUY EDY and was off and running. Filled in the FOURLETTERWORDS in one fell swoop. Took me longer than usual as I solved in fits and spurts. Had problems with ANCESTORS GANGSTER FAN.

I never can define FEY but, like porn, I know it when I see it. I sort of define the word as androgynous without the homosexual subcontext- if that makes any sense.

PuzzleGirl 11:08 AM  

Really awesome puzzle. Love it, love it, love it. Raising my hand for OINKS and OBI.

There's a website out there somewhere that keeps a list of all the actors who have played more than one character on various episodes of Law & Order. It's called "Repeat Offenders."

XMAN 11:12 AM  

Whew! First pass, second pass--next to nothing, and what there was was 50% wrong. Gad! But I stuck to it--out of sheer cussedness--and finished with the Qs.

Stupendous puzzle, AV!

Anonymous 11:13 AM  

Brilliant puzzle!!!! I really enjoyed solving this one.

chefwen 11:16 AM  

Had the same experience as everyone else so far, I must have put the puzzle down about 10 times last night in frustration but kept picking it up with determination. Finally got the clue with EEEE and the rest finally fell into place. Fun when it was done but a nail biter to get through.

Hobbyist 11:18 AM  

I knew only obi at the outset but finally stepped out of that noose and it turned out to be an ingenious and solvable puzzle minus Googles.

Vincent L. 11:20 AM  

Loved it. I thought peer group (IIII) referred to AYES, as in the House of Lords (British peers) voting....

Noam D. Elkies 11:21 AM  

Last week 2...Nf6, this week 2...Nc6 3 Bb5 (Petrov and 56D:RUY respectively). Fortunately I know much more of chess than comix, so 63A:YYYY was my entree into this clever puzzle. I still had to get rid of the sly false trail "fly" for 57D:SLY. (Also OBI, but luckily not OINKS.)

Thanks to PlantieBea for the explanation of 44A:STE. Now can somebody explain "offenders" in 51A? "Repeat" I understand, but I can't connect "offenders", "off enders", or "of fenders" to the theme.

Now XQQQQ me as I must go,

jeff in chicago 11:23 AM  

No time to chat, so just -- EXCELLENT!

nanpilla 11:25 AM  

Started by filling in OBI and LAM, so you can guess that this one took me a while. But it eventually fell and the effort was well worth it! But at almost half an hour, it was much more of a Friday level of difficulty for me.
Hadn't noticed that there were no other 4 letter answers, good catch, @anonymous 10:50!

foodie 11:30 AM  

Though this one bruised me I nominate it for an ORYX...

That's saying a lot!

fikink 11:32 AM  

@Edeebee, I get "fey" and "Jejune' confused; I think because I learned them at about the same time - from a Woody Allen movie, if I recall (Sleeper?) Didn't you give us "stunt puzzle" the other day?

Never know where I hear these things, except for Natick, of course. Mr. Fikink just asked me to put "canned air" on the Wal-Mart list - apparently it is something he uses to clean his keyboard. (After that Dom DeLuis/Johnny Carson clip, I'm not sure what is going through men's minds.)
Thanks, Rex.

@nde, xqqqs, lol!

@foodie, I second the nomination.

retired_chemist 11:35 AM  

Wow! Another SUPER puzzle from Ashish. Took me way too long but it was splendid fun. The theme was fascinating and it really was helpful in solving the puzzle - IMO a proper criterion for a theme, particularly a late week (i.e. Thursday).

Blew 61A for a while, even though I should have known it HAD to be a 4 identical letter sequence – GEEZ!

Never heard of H. P. Lovecraft – who knew he was EERIEST? Fun deciding between MEGATON and gigaton at 26D – also ICEBERG vs. ice floe @ 39D. Learned what PERGOLAS are. 33A JIGGLE started as quiver. Wanted SIMON @ 60A, but knew RUY Lopez @ 56D which made it ABDUL (RANDY got no respect ☹ ).

Had GNP @ 40D for the health supplement chain. When I got ARCED @ 45A to correct it I smiled – if you’ve ever bought stuff there, you know the GNP is about what they must gross a year.

EMF (1D) was a gimme for me, and surely a bunch of others too, but I bet EMF = WTF for lots of us. Was my guess for Rex’s WOTD.

Not sure Blood (a gang member) is a good clue for GANGSTER. What Rex said. Feels a bit off, because I think of gangsters as entrenched organized crime and gangs like the Bloods as youngsters more involved with petty street crimes.

Thanks, Ashish!

ArtLvr 11:43 AM  

It took quite a while, even when I tumbled to the trick... All kinds of missteps -- Aliens for DROIDS, Sassy for SAUCY, Wiggle for JIGGLE, wrong prince in the comics, even a Gig for RIG -- before my meandering finally GETS THERE! No googles.

@ edithB --Talk about delayed arrivals... My lovely grandmother was known as FEY in her last years. On our returning from the store, for example, she asked if the meter man had finished in the basement, but there was no one there. He arrived only a few minutes later, and when we asked him, he said no, he hadn't been by earlier! She was blind by that point, couldn't have seen him out on the street... I do prefer this original telepathic or second-sighted definition of FEY over others implying gay.

Anyway, kudos to Ashish! Great fun.


poc 11:56 AM  

A clever and amusing puzzle all round. Just a few quibbles:

1) CWT (hundredweight) is 112 pounds in the Imperial system. This stumped me for a long time.

2) I've never heard of GNC, I don't know what RTS are and I'm not sure about STE.

However they were all gettable on crosses so I did finish it w/o Google. I liked the tricky clueing too :-)

mccoll 11:57 AM  

GGGG and OMG!! Even WTF! Managed to get it without googles. It took 50 minutes or so but I finished breakfast as well.It was hard to get traction on this little beauty but ANCESTORS gave me FACEOFFS then REFS and FEM and REPEAT OFFENDERS jumped out at me. EDY RUY and SLY confirmed the repeat aspect and the Aha! moment occurred. What a great puzzle, especially for a Thursday. Thanks Ashish, Rex and, of course, everyone else.

Nebraska Doug 11:59 AM  

Tough but fun puzzle, took way longer than a normal Thursay for me, even after discovering the gimmick. Fell for the "OBI" trap. More Kudos for Ashish.

Elaine 12:26 PM  

This one totally defeated me--I was even removing things that turned out to be right. Medea, Abdul, Jiggle, cut it, cwt, arced, ref....and I never tumbled to the trick despite having guessed the right answers (which wouldn't fit, of course.) Phooey! Guess I do not belong at the ACWT after all!

Ruth 12:45 PM  

@poc: RTS is Right Tackles. (I'm pretty sure) Linemen come up as crud fill a lot--(R or L)Guards, (R or L) Tackles are the ones I've seen most. Stupid football.

Henry Shapiro 12:48 PM  

"Rex Parker" has never played chess with even the slightest amount of seriousness or he would have known Ruy Lopez, as it is, as already noted, the most famous of chess openings. In fact, it was the first clue I got.

JannieB 1:02 PM  

Saw the byline and was hoping for a great puzzle - and was not disappointed at all - really one of the best of the year.

Took me forever to suss out the gimmick and even then it wasn't an easy solve. Thank God for symmetry or I'd still be plugging away. I kept at it and finished in good time for a Saturday (oops!).

I was also in the obi/oink camp for too long.

Rex- funny how your comment re the "nerd overlap" is adjacent to your Dorkfest award - now that's symmetry!

Bob Kerfuffle 1:16 PM  

Brilliant puzzle!

Must admit, as with others, QQQQ was my last major fill, and I only got it by running the alphabet.

edith b 1:18 PM  


I did mention "stunt puzzle" last week and took a mild beating from our host for doing so, too.

I couldn't tell from your post whether you agreed with me about the stunt puzzle or not.

Anonymous 1:36 PM  

@Anon 10.13
I noticed the John Doe story too and actually read it before doing the puzzle (a rarity). Once in awhile there is an eerie synchronicity you come across while doing the hard copy that is missed solving online.

Bill from NJ 1:38 PM  


I had the same idea about the Crips and Bloods as you: rival street gangs - just a bunch of young thugs. Unfortunately, they are significantly more organized than that and rival the Mafia and the Columbians and Russians in their scope.

@ ArtLvr-

I also thought FEY meant what edithb said but I do seem to remember the "second sight" definition you denoted.

OhioGeek 1:52 PM  

@Noam D. Elkies - all I can figure out is that FOUR LETTER WORDS are offensive - thus the tie in to REPEAT (four letters repeated) and OFFENDERS. Whatcha think?

LOVED this puzzle!! I started it at 4:00 this morning (couldn't sleep) and gave up at 6:00. Came back to it over lunch, the IIIIs finally fell when *nothing* else would work for the crosses. The greatest AHA moment! Fell quickly after that.

TOADY is a great word. In my uber-corporate environs I encounter many.

Fantastic write-up today, Rex!

still_learnin 2:01 PM  

Great Puzzle! You really had to UUUU your brain for this one.

QQQQ was my last fill also. I wanted Listing instead of QUOTING and Per (period) instead of QTR.

One minor quibble.. I don't consider INERT to be a synonym for sluggish.

Thank you, Ashish!

joho 2:27 PM  

Bravo, Ashish! A tour de force.

I wonder why so many of us got the QQQQ last? You gotta love those QQQQ!

@foodie @fikink ... I third the nomination!

retired_chemist 2:51 PM  

@ Bill from NJ - thanks for the info re the gangs, disappointing as it is. My memory was from West Side Story, pretty much.

Blue Stater 2:59 PM  

Sorry (but not reluctant) to be in a minority of one, but I Did Not Like This Puzzle One Bit. The combination of the trick, a great many excruciatingly thin clue-answer connections (yes, CWT = hundredweight = 100 pounds, in my MWID-3 dictionary, but I've never seen it in real life with any other than the traditional meaning, 112 pounds; INERT means motionless, and only at the extreme margin "Sluggish," etc.), and the Natick in the SE made this one just impossible and no fun. I've said this many times before to no avail, but I'm strongly of the view that this sort of exercise isn't a crossword puzzle at all, but a word game, and as such belongs in Games magazine and not in a general-circulation newspaper.

Glitch 3:00 PM  


I had the same feeling, then found:

Inert: unable to move or act; inanimate; sluggish or lethargic; ...


I agree with @Bill from NJ, the Bloods are more than a "street gang", drug trafficking and murder some of their activities. I would have preferred a clue other than Blood.

@Anon 8:23 & 8:50

The left arrow vr clock problem also occured a few weeks ago, notably in the IHT.

It was suspected that the arrow appeared as a clock due to a difference in "encoding", perhaps Western European vr the US convention. This could even be a setting on your computer (you didn't mention your location).


Ashish 3:13 PM  

Always great to hear the solving process, so thanks for all the comments. I was expecting more complaints and groans given the twisted nature of the gimmick, but I guess Thursdays have become fair game for such trickery!

Creating the grid with just the right number of four letter words (and the two 15-letter theme hints) took most of the time. I did try for 10 four letter words, but the fill got unwieldy.

The Q’s went in first – I had to find a stable spot for them. Got lucky to find the fill under them (albeit at the expense of the dreaded abbreviations).

The E’s were placed at 1A so one could enter EASE and still get 1D and 4D with the wrong answer. My original clues for 2D and 3D were a little more deceptive: 2D was some convoluted reference to Title VII of the Civil Rights act (which Will rightly changed) and 3D was clued “Prof.’s address”, hoping to trap the solver into entering SIR (from the S of EASE) instead of EDU. The two new clues eased things a bit in the NW corner (but this puzzle was originally submitted as a themed Saturday - and Will changed < 15 clues).

In hindsight, I would have liked to eliminate some of the plurals (25, if you count all the theme answers), but doesn’t sound like you were bothered by them. Maybe I can claim the record for the maximum number of plurals then?

Need to start working on the next puzzle … the feedback definitely helps in molding the next one, so keep these comments coming.

- Ashish

bookmark 3:20 PM  

Loved this puzzle! I felt so smart after I finally figured it out.

My last fill was TTTT. After I underlined the other 7 answers and realized that symmetry called for another 4 letter fill in that particular spot, it all came together.

I, too, had OBI for FAN.

Doc John 3:21 PM  

I guess I was in the same boat as everyone else today. I had a bear of a time doing it (even after figuring out the theme) but still enjoyed it very much. None of the fill was very strained and that's saying a lot in a puzzle like this. And I don't mind that it was game-like in its crossword-ness. Remember, Will S is a games fan so this is about what I would expect from him.

@ Ashish- care to explain which (or neither) of the explanations for IIII is the correct one?

QQQQ- reference the discussion of queues that took place some days ago. Also, QQQQ could be read 4Q or "four cue" or "fork you" (see where I'm heading with this?).

Ashish 3:31 PM  

@Doc John:

What I was thinking:

Peer group = Those who "peer" = Eyes = IIII.

But, if after getting IIII, you think it's the House of Lords, that's perfectly fine! :-)

retired_chemist 3:35 PM  

@ Ashish - I spent about 20 unsuccessful minutes looking for your e-mail address to congratulate you directly last night. First time I ever wanted to do that...

poc 3:59 PM  

@Ruth: thanks for Right Tackles. Still means absolutely nothing but I'll try to remember it.

@Ashish: now that you mention it, I do consider plurals to be a bit of a cop-out but I guess I'm so used to them they don't raise my hackles like they used to.

mac 4:11 PM  

Put me in the obi, sassy and lam group...

I had a hard time; started at the bottom and had the oooo first of the theme answers. I gradually worked my way up, being helped by the symmetry to know where the 4-letter answers had to be, but then filled in "bleep repetition" for 16A. Tried to work with these letters waaaay too long! Erased the latter part because it suddenly occurred to me it was too similar to "repeat ...." Medea helped me to fix that corner, and the rest came bit by little bit.

What a beauty, Ashish, and thanks for sharing the process with us!

Ulrich 4:38 PM  

@still_learnin: I missed the UUUUs--thx

@Blue Stater: "to no avail" is a pretty apt motto for any minority of one. "Get used to it" may be a little more upbeat, though--just sayin'

andrea !!!! Michaels 4:44 PM  


Anonymous 4:48 PM  

Since it comes up so often when a constructor is forced to use a lot of abbreviations, maybe this will help the sports-challenged solver.

There are five offensive linemen, a center, (who hikes the ball to the quarterback), with a guard and then a tackle, on each side.



Most of the time the answer will be RTS, less often LTS.

Defensive line is usually defensive ends, and defensive tackles, which line up this way:


Perhaps 2 'pictures' will make it easier to remember.

RT (just my initials)

treedweller 4:54 PM  

I started this morning before leaving the office and did not have time to get very far, but somehow I got IIII in there (wondering, can they get away with that?). Came back to it after work and soon had EEEE, then the rest fell pretty quickly. Until the NE. Even going through the alphabet, I could not see QQQQ. When I heard it in my head, I could only imagine "queues" and finally had to google for QID. The only ID I ever remember is T.

My other hangups were kickOFFS instead of FACEOFFS, then trying to come up with an O___OFFS to work with obi. And I didn't get DOE for awhile (had "owes" for OOOO) so I was waffling between JIGGLE and wiggle.

All day I was wondering who the people in the tree would turn out to be. I'm always disappointed when it turns out to be *that* kind of tree.

Lots of fun--I wish I had been able to do it in one sitting.

andrea FAN michaels 5:05 PM  

...and now for some "constructive" criticism...

Didja see that they were in each corner and perfectly parallel within the grid? Didja see that there were puns within puns in the two 15 letter clues, explanations?
8 entries PLUS two across the grid entries???

this was the opposite of a ZZZZ !!!!!

Hey, Saucy Ashish, what are you, an X short of a pangram?
(I know, no KZ lazy, fey, inert bastard)

If I had one SNEER, it wouldn't be the plurals (thank god for plurals!!!) it would be for the MEGATON of abbrevs:
EMP, EEO, EDU, ATT, QID, QTR, RTS, SSE, IMS, STE, ENG, CWT, RTS, GNC, ABT...I mean, that's a lot...
but, really, you leave me breathless!
(@ashish, imagine the screaming matches we would have had had we collaborated...well, my screaming, your giggling!)

Y, Y, Y are you so great????

on a scale of ONETOTEN, I'd say 100. You gots the GOODS.

Scrabble lesson:
EMF was removed from being acceptable, as the letters were each pronounced, and there's really no "emf").

I had a lot of fun thinking about all the folks who were jilted in Mythology, whether it was ECHO or Orpheus, or all those gals who turned into trees and what not...
But, yes, Medea sort of takes the cake.

My first entry was WIGGLE.
And one malapop, I considered ANCESTOR for "Blood" fits!

Anyway, total KOWTOW in as non-TOADY way as I can muster.

Doc John 5:17 PM  

I forgot to mention in my earlier post: when I had obi in place of FAN, I was considering O Canadas as the [Starts of some sporting events]. Hey, at least I got the sport right!

fergus 5:29 PM  

Haven't read anything, but this is the first time in years that I've been completely fucked-up by a puzzle. Congratulations Ashish.

sanfranman59 6:03 PM  

This one was a major struggle for me, but ultimately satisfying when I solved it without cheating. Very early on, I was aware that something was up with the theme, but it took the longest time for me to figure out what it was. Then the puzzle fell like dominoes. I was surprised to see Rex give it just a medium-challenging rating and then, only because his wife had a hard time with it.

It seems I was not alone with the struggle. So far, the median solve time for the top 100 (13:18) and all solvers (27:40) are way above their previous Thursday averages (8:17 and 17:20, respectively). Those numbers put today's puzzle more in line with a Friday. In fact, relative to the average for the day of the week, this puzzle is by far the most difficult in the 8 weeks I've been tracking times (I haven't been tracking Sundays). And, by the way, Monday's puzzle is 3rd in terms of relative difficulty. On the other hand, yesterday's puzzle was one of the easiest (42 out of 46 in relative difficulty).

PurpleGuy 6:03 PM  

@BlueStater- totally agree with you. This puzzle left me meh ! Probably why I haven't commented before this.

@DocJohn-I,too, had entered O Canadas. Some coincedence.

my only quibble is with the clue for JWALKING.
That is crossing a street illegally, or in-between crosswalks. Not a stroll.
I don't JWALK when I stroll !

@andrea, etal- ismn't the correct term malaprop ?
what is this "malapop" business ?

PurpleGuy 6:08 PM  

Disregard my qibble about JWALKING.
That was in the LATpuzzle today.
Sorry !

Irfan 6:14 PM  

I loved it. Im ok with repeat offenders... maybe it should have been clue "Record holders, e.g.".

Medea just made me think of Tyler Perry, and thats not satisfying.

JannieB 6:18 PM  

@PurpleGuy - "malapop" is a word coined right here on this blog to describe the experience of trying to put a word into the grid somewhere that turns out to be incorrect, only to have that same word be the correct fill elsewhere in the grid.

The other blog words are "re-right" describing the experience of writing in an answer, erasing it because the crosses don't seem to work, then re-entering it because it was the crosses that were wrong.

There is also Natick (see Rex's side bar) and a move afoot to gain acceptance for Olaf (see Crosscan's entries of a few days ago) to describe a clue that has extraneous information that no one would know to clue an all too familiar word - I'm guessing the source is to add info to a Norwegian King clue when we all "know" it's going to be Olaf.

Andre-a sly michaels 6:25 PM  

a malapop is when someone posts a quibble about a puzzle at the wrong site! ;)

By the way, I think it's really interesting you pointed out the way they spell "Theatre" for the American Ballet Theatre! I've never noticed it before, and it IS sort of pretentious, given that it's specifically for an American Ballet!
What IS up with that???
Then again, "Ballet" is French...pronounced the French way
(attention, @sethg!)
so maybe they are being sort of international about it all!
(They've been headline news this week with the layoffs there, so that was probably good for the John Doe readers out there).

PS I challenge you to a game of on line chess...
I'm white!
um...Pawn to King four...

PurpleGuy 6:32 PM  

@Andre-aSly - you are SO right. Thanks :)

@JanieB- thanks for the explanation. I remembered it as soon as I read it. The others I was familiar with.
Still rtelatively new to commenting on this blog. I've been following much longer.

Thanks, all, for putting up,with me.
I'd love to have you all over for cocktails and dinner.
Yeah, I do love to cook !

jewel 6:55 PM  

Loved the puzzle, but have a minor quibble. American Ballet Theater does not perform at the Met [assuming we're talking about the Metropolitan Opera], they have their own dancers. I have seen ABT at Avery Fisher Hall and Brooklyn Academy of Music and probably other venues--just not the Met.

andrea emf michaels 7:03 PM  

not to quibble (quibbel?) with a quibble but I think the ABT has been at the Met the last two months...
and for once it was a MET that didn't refer to baseball!

Love a guy who can stand...corrected!
whoo hoo! cocktails and dinner at Purple Guy's! I think Rex has about 12,000+ readers, so you might consider potluck!

Stan 7:08 PM  

Nothing to add, but totally on board with the positive responses.

And thanks to Rex for upping the difficulty a little. Like Sandy, I had some "Slough of Despond" moments.

Kudos to Ashish for this extremely hip puzzle!

PurpleGuy 7:28 PM  

@andrea emf -
potluck, shmotluck ! When you've cooked for 1,200 what's 12,000 ????? ;)

michael 7:29 PM  

I really liked this puzzle and did not find it particularly hard. But then I know a lot about chess and a reasonable amount about comic books and of course do crossword puzzles...

fergus 7:31 PM  

I'm so off topic but I just watched a video of Leonard Cohen singing Suzanne, with subtitles in Dutch. Mac, and maybe Andrea, will have some idea of what I'm talking about.

Norm 7:31 PM  

@retired_chemist & Bill from NJ: bloods and crips are not "young thugs" or "youngsters ... involved with petty street crimes." they are sociopaths and murderers who would kill you as soon as look at you. people who will shoot someone for wearing the wrong color shirt or failing to give an adequate answer to the question, "do you bang?" or "where are you from?" make gangsters look good, imo.

chefbea 8:04 PM  

@purple guy and Andrea. I'll bring the beets to the pot luck dinner. What happened to the wine guy? Haven't heard from him in a long time

jewel 8:05 PM  

I take "no ABT at the Met" back. moved away from NYC 5 years ago. Should have googled "ABT Met" before I opened my big mouth. Sorry 'bout that!

Two Ponies 8:48 PM  

Yeah, What happened to Dave the Wino? He can bring the refreshments.
Thanks for coming by Ashish. A real home run and this gets my vote for puzzle of the year.

terry 9:01 PM  

Sorry, Ashish, but I'm joining Blue Stater to become the second person saying I truly hated this crossword. Terrible clues, obscure clues. Ruined my Thursday. I truly hated this crossword - or did I say that already?

Orange 9:16 PM  

I can't believe Andrea called Ashish a "lazy, fey, inert bastard." That's what I always call Rex! (That's a joke, kids.)

Here's the thing about stunt puzzles: They're almost like sushi, where they're an acquired taste and some people love them beyond reason while others are simply irked. Except sometimes the chef gets inventive and the "sushi" is made out of chocolate, raspberries, and puff pastry, and suddenly an avowed sushi hater says "Wow, this is the sort of sushi I could get used to!" I only love the chocolate/raspberry stunt puzzles. A stunt puzzle that doesn't have delightful fill and clues just irks me. Patrick Merrell, whose work used to appear quite often in the NYT, made the chocolate type of stunt puzzles that could blow me away. Matt Ginsberg makes chocolate puzzles. Patrick Blindauer and Francis Heaney also have the chocolate gift for stunt puzzles. I want more of those!

At least 90% of Americans are not and never have been serious chess players and do not know chess lingo. Cross RUY with an obscure entry and you'd have yourself a genuine Natick moment.

PIX 9:25 PM  

Great puzzle, but certainly a challenging for me.

I've never really thought about it until now, but members of gangs such as the Bloods are simply not called gangsters. They are always called gang members or such. "Gangsters" just never is used to refer to members of gangs such as the Bloods. Even in the movie The Warriors that Rex showed in his write-up, they do not use the word gangster but always gangs or gang members. Gangster refers to a different type of criminal.

Glitch 9:45 PM  

As @Orange sez,

"At least 90% of Americans are not and never have been serious chess players and do not know chess lingo."

Add major sports and The Simpsons, stir in a bit of NASCAR and opera, and you're beginning to define me
(tho a long way to go :-))

Yet, (to inspire the nubies), I'm batting 92% on completions, with no pattern. Recently, I'm as likely to mess up an Mon/Tue as a Fri/Sat --- go figure.


PS: @Pix --- agree, interesting tho to google "define: gangster"

Susan 9:58 PM  

They are certainly called gangsters, as in "gangsta rap." That was my favorite clue of this puzzle.

foodie 10:27 PM  

I just watched that Johnny Carson tape that Rex posted (I'm surprised there has not been more discussion about it--another measure of the greatness of the chocolate sushi today)

I was at UCLA in the 70's and hot pants were all over campus. And many coeds had forgone bras. One of my professors could look out of his window, and see this fountain where students would hang out especially on hot days, get wet to cool off, and then lie around it to dry off. He was trying to quit smoking and would pop life savers continuously. It's a miracle I got any guidance on that thesis...

fikink 10:34 PM  

You choose your words carefully and I take "stunt puzzle" in the way in which Ulrich did: "in the most positive sense--unexpected and stunning."
It is certainly apt today! After all, a stunt is not necessarily a "prank."

@PurpleGuy, you had me since you appreciated Betty Botter some months ago...and yesterday's BFD :)

Btw, it's "Mike the Wino," - Come out and play, Mike!

@foodie, can you believe we put up with that crap?!

Ulrich 10:50 PM  

@orange: this is the first time that I see you hedging your bets--come clean: You didn't like the puzzle, right?

I'm an architect, and I know that there are two fundamentally different ways of judging a building: You look to see if there are preconceived notions of "good" design met or violated, or you try to understand, if none of your preconceived notions apply, if there is another inherent logic that, if different, is nevertheless intriguing in its own right (The obvious example from painting is the initial reaction to the impressionists: people who expected to see the Virgin Mary or the Emperor on Horseback could not deal with haystacks).

It took me a while to realize that the construction of crossword puzzles is indeed an art form (as opposed to some routine hobby some people engage in instead of fixing the engine of their car). And with this, my way of looking at puzzles has completely changed. I now try to look at each puzzle based on its own inherent logic--is there one? is it interesting in its own right? is is followed consistently and with aplomb? In other words, I look at xword puzzles--mutatis mutandis--as I would look at an arch. design. You may ask, so what? The answer: Things get much more interesting b/c you look at the world as it is, not simply as something to hold up against some preconceived categories.

mac 11:11 PM  

@RT: thank you so much for that information. Now would you look back at your post? Doesn't it look boring? You really think we are going to remember that?

@Doc John: that was so funny, your O Canada!

@fergus: I used to listen to Leonard Cohen songs and liked him a lot. He was quite popular in Holland. My father printed out all his lyrics, that's the part he liked. A very popular, multi-talented Dutch artist, Herman van Veen, sang Suzanne in Dutch, a beautiful translation and great rendition. It made the song know all over our little country.
Talking about oldish musicians, Don MacLean is in concert in Westport, CT next week! When our son was little, we traveled to Holland, and in the line to the plan he reached over in his stroller to tap on a guitar case. It was Don MacLean's, he was right in front of us, on his way to Amsterdam for a 48-hour non-stop American music festival.
I had seen him in concert in Amsterdam once before, and to my amazement and delight, I had a seat on a little stand right on the stage in the CONCERTGEBOUW!

fergus 11:30 PM  

So many cool commenters have come and gone. Those thick-skinned, like me, still abide, but I do wish that some others hadn't fallen by the wayside.

Talking as a two-year Rex veteran, which is Jurraisic in this form of communication, I hope that others who who have gone off might check in at some point.

Stan 11:34 PM  

@Ulrich: Wonderful comment. I think you have just coherently explained Modernism to the blogosphere.

fergus 11:42 PM  


that Amsterdam venue blew me away. Paul McCartney brought it into play when I was a youth. I am not surprised that LC translates well. Maybe very well into Dutch, since the English starts out as first-rate and he was sorta talking French at the same time.

HudsonHawk 1:00 AM  

@chefbea, with apologies to Mike the Wino, today's constructor is my favorite wine guy. I might have to bring a cherished bottle to Ashish at ACPT for today's puzzle.

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

Anyone else have this problem: I got the inner theme answers (IIII, TTTT, BBBB, and OOOO) and figured the theme was done, so -- even though I *knew* 1A had to be "EASE," I couldn't turn the corner on EEEE, so missed the four corners. (Agghh!!!) Too bad, too, because I thought I had completed my first Thursday puzzle ever. Neophyte puzzler....

Great sense of satisfaction, just figuring out the theme (albeit, just in the inner theme answers).

What a bummer the Herald misprinted the arrow for a clock in 5A. That's got to be frustrating, since it was relatively simple as clued in the printed Times. (Even though I first had DAY instead of MAY.)

GREAT puzzle. This is the kind of mind-bender a crossword should be.

acme 7:41 PM  

just to make it an even 100...
I woke up this morning thinking,
"Wait a minute, JILTEE is not a word!"
(Well, at least it is not acceptable in Scrabble...)

XMAN 8:01 PM  

But the common coin in crossword games (at least postings on this blog) seems to be coinage.

Singer 12:46 PM  

This is from syndication land - I did the puzzle in the Portland Oregonian and the clue for A5 had the arrow pointing right to "What" instead of left to "5". The clue made absolutely no sense. I guessed "day" and was stuck there until I realized that "datinee" had to be "Matinee". Lots of trouble - I had "ease", knew that "tease" had to be right, but couldn't fit it into four letters, had Y--Y for hip, and couldn't see it. Lots of write overs today. Once the theme came clear, though, it fell in a hurry. Great puzzle.

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

Just read all the comments in Syndication Land. Am I the only one who had MUSICALS for 5D for a long time? (This is also a test to see if anyone reads the comments five weeks after they appear to most of you.)

Mike 2:22 PM  

@Anonymous 1:32 If you're still there, yes, there are solvers who read the comments in syndication. I've been following this blog for a long time. For unknown reasons, a community of syndicated commenters has never developed. As for the puzzle-it was challenging and satisfying.

Al 3:28 PM  

Ahhhh, I was also very confused by 5 Across. My local paper (San Diego Union Tribune) also printed the arrow pointing to the right, away from the number 5. Even after I finished it, I still had to come to answer the eternal question: WTF?

Singer 5:36 PM  

WTF? indeed. Rex is almost always good for answers to that eternal question. I ended up with May because of crosses, although as I said I initially had day, and that slowed down the answer to 5D for a long time. It wasn't until the theme popped out and things really started coming together that I got that fixed. The "M" in May and matinee was the last letter to fall.

I am with you, anonymous 1:32. I have been reading this blog for some time, and have entered comments for about the last three weeks off and on. I have occasionally gotten replies, but no often. It would be nice to have a little more dialog about the puzzle from syndication land, although more often than not the NYT readers and on-line solvers have covered most of the bases. Every now and then there is an unturned stone, though.

Rex Parker 5:42 PM  

I strongly support the idea of syndicated solvers commenting more. If I knew how to delete all comments in an efficient manner, I would, just so you all could have a blank slate. At any rate, you outnumber same-day solvers by a good margin.

And I get every comment sent to me as email.


Singer 5:46 PM  

Rex, it would be kind of cool to have a syndication land forum 5 weeks later. If we all could start from scratch without all the real time folk's comments we would have more of an active forum because we wouldn't be reinventing the wheel. I have no idea how to set something like that up - perhaps someone out there who's smarter than me can give you some advice on how to make that work. You might get a little crazy seeing two completely unrelated sets of comments coming into your email box, though.

Anonymous 6:57 PM  

When I finished the puzzle, my first thought was, what will Rex have to say about this? Because you go soft on constructors you know personally and because Ashish has been known to comment on this blog, I knew this puzzle would get good reviews. Did you do the same puzzle as I did??? Where's the honesty?
EMF, EEO, EDU all in a row. QTR, QID,QTS not to mention CWT all in the NE. That's what you'd normally call tortured fill. There were so many plurals that I thought that was a mini-theme. Yes, I enjoyed solving this one, but for me it was not deserving of such high praise. Let's keep it real.

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