Ancient Spartan magistrate — THURSDAY, Aug. 27 2009 — Japanese butler in Auntie Mame / Metallic shade in Sheffield

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Constructor: Derek Bowman

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: A PATTERN — circled squares form inverted "pyramid" with seven rows. First row contains word PATTERN, and subsequent rows lose one letter at a time, spelling new words each time, until the final row, which contains the single circled square "A." Further, the word in each row provides the clue for an answer in the grid; thus seven different clues read [First row], [Second row], etc.

Word of the Day: EPHOR (2A: Ancient Spartan magistrate) n., pl. -ors or -o·ri (-ə-rī').

One of a body of five elected magistrates exercising a supervisory power over the kings of Sparta.

[Latin ephorus, from Greek ephoros, from ephorān, to oversee : ep-, epi-, epi- + horān, to see.]


Fussy puzzles always leave me lukewarm. This is a fine piece of construction, but I didn't enjoy solving it. A pretty good gauge of my enjoyment level is how succinctly the theme can be explained. Now, it's a faulty gauge, because "Breeds of Dog," for example, is succinct, but apt to suck as a theme. But in general, elegance means simplicity. Brilliant simplicity = ideal. Today's puzzle combines two theme types (both of them on Brendan Emmett Quigley's list of "10 Bull@#$! Themes," a must-read), and makes something ambitious and novel out of them. Thus, not bull@#$!. You've got your "assorted circled letters spell out a word" theme (Bull@#$! Theme #4) combined with your "theme clues are words made from a single original word, which sheds one letter at a time as we move from theme clue to theme clue" (Bull@#$! Theme #6b). Puzzle manages to pull off both theme types while also maintaining geometrical precision with the circles. Impressive. Just not a joy to solve. There is nothing, thematically, holding the puzzle together. Clues, answers ... have nothing in common, meaning-wise. The puzzle is all about shape, all about letter placement. Letters as objects, not components of words whose meanings are important. That kills things a bit for me. Then there's the fact that the theme clues are [First row], [Second row], etc. This seems wrong. [First row OF CIRCLES] is what you mean. There are 15 rows in the puzzle. So I admire the creativity and ambition here, but the puzzle wasn't my cup. It happens. No big deal.

The Rows:

  • PATTERN — 52A: First row (design)
  • PATTER — 51D: Second row (spiel)
  • PATER — 43D: Third or sixth row (dad)
  • PATE — 64A: Fourth row (head)
  • PAT — 4D: Fifth row (dab)
  • PA — 43D: Third or sixth row (dad)
  • A — 61D: Seventh row (one)

Once again, NW was a total bear for me. Moccasins have BEADs (1A: Moccasin adornment)? I thought they were just simple slip-on shoes, relatively unadorned. There must be a native American type that is more pimped out. Thought I was dealing with a rebus for a moment at the Peck clue, trying to get ATTICUS to fit in 17A: Literary lead role for Gregory Peck in 1956 (Ahab). And EPHOR is a word I'm sure I've seen before, but I couldn't remember it (2D: Ancient Spartan magistrate). Still looks alien to me. (Btw, sort of, why have I never seen EEPHUS in the puzzle? It's a valid answer, a baseball answer, and those two "E"s have to be good for something.).

Early attempts at understanding the circled squares were not great. Noticed the "P"s descending down the left of the triangle, and then the "A"s on the next "row," etc. and tried predicting where letters would be that way — with much failure. Once I'd convinced myself there was no rebus, and that the "row" clues would just come to me eventually, I got far enough in to the grid to figure out what I was dealing with, and it all came together fairly nicely. This is a good example of the difficulty coming not from the clues/answers, per se, but from the gimmick. Get the gimmick, get the puzzle.


  • 13A: With 14-Across, Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam have each won this several times (LPGA / TITLE) — clue confused me. LPGA TITLE is not a single thing. It's any tournament on the tour. The "this" in the clue made me think the answer would be an event, not an event type. I had LADY in the first part and TOURS in the second at different points in my attempts to solve this.
  • 29A: New York's _____ Institute (art school) (Pratt) — I know this place from watching too much "Project Runway" over the years. PRATT and PRATTLE in same grid is mildly unfortunate.
  • 33A: C7H5N3O6 (TNT) — whatever you say. Got it all from crosses.
  • 46A: Stereo component (preamp) — ??? ... Preamplifier: n. An electronic circuit or device that detects and strengthens weak signals, as from a radio receiver, for subsequent, more powerful amplification stages.
  • 7D: Japanese butler in "Auntie Mame" (Ito) — never seen this clue for ITO before. Judge ITO's heyday is long gone, I guess.
  • 8D: Mickey Mouse's puppy pal (Pluto) — uh ... yeah, I guess he *is* a "puppy." Weird. Puppies aren't usually as big as their owners.

  • 9D: Shipping magnate Onassis (Ari) — shouldn't something cue the short form of his name? I mean, I can see that ARISTOTLE doesn't fit, but still, aren't there rules about this sort of thing?
  • 33D: Gene Roddenberry-inspired sci-fi series ("Andromeda") — couldn't tell you a single thing about it.
  • 34D: Metallic shade, in Sheffield (steel grey) — "Sheffield" because a. it alliterates with "shade," and b. because "GREY" with an "E" is British, though I can never remember the US/UK distinction there.
  • 53D: Classic Broadway musical with the song "Alice Blue Gown" ("Irene") — so classic I forgot to hear about it.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

PS PuzzleGirl's excellent, extended write-up of this past weekend's "Lollapuzzoola 2" tournament in Queens can be found here.


joho 9:00 AM  

Rex, your write-up is right on my wave length today.

I admire the construction of this puzzle immensely ... it seems Mr. Bowman would have to go into some kind of zen state to pull it off. But the solving experience wasn't that much fun.

My word of the day was also EPHOR.

I balked at PLUTO, he can't possibly be a puppy!

PREAMP was a stretch.

It was also too easy for a Thursday in my book.

Salmon 9:02 AM  

Re 34D, There is a more significant third reason for using Sheffield in the clue. It's England's Pittsburgh, the country's historic STEEL center. Knives were stamped "Sheffield steel" as a selling point.

Thomas 9:08 AM  

Just remember that the English spell it with an E, and the Americans spell it with an A.

(Hey, there's another cluing possibility for the desperate favorite "AN E": [What a grey day in London has that one in New York doesn't]. What, I didn't say it would be a GOOD clue.)

JannieB 9:16 AM  

Birthday greetings to Crosscan! Too bad no Expos showed up in the puzzle.

I had a nice AHA moment when I figured out the "row" clues - otherwise, I don't much like circles. Overall, I didn't love it, but didn't hate it either. No worse than a medium for me.

Elaine 9:16 AM  

I admit I found this puzzle easy, not challenging (even medium-challenging.)

I have a postcard of Seneca beadwork on moccasins--planning to steal the motif for a quilt--and the decoration is stunning. Beads quickly replaced dyed porcupine quills (which eventually soften and spoil) and thus were valuable trade goods.

Except for putting GOOFY instead of PLUTO at first, plus "Run SHORT of"--everything went into this puzzle in a trice. I did not even start looking at the incomprehensible-seeming "ROW" clues until I had much of the puzzle solved, at which point I was able to write out the word tower. (I agree-- weird to have the rows misnumbered.)

The cluing was very simple, although I thought of "Star Trek" and even "Twilight Zone" (duh) before getting ANDROMEDA on crosses. Has anyone seen this?

I was disappointed to have it completed so quickly. Must have MORE drug to start my day!

Blue Stater 9:17 AM  

To my great surprise, I got the theme answers from the crosses, notwithstanding the plethora of Naticks in this mess. The TimesReader version never gives you the circles or other artificial devices (maybe because they agree with me that artificial devices are out of bounds in a crossword puzzle as opposed to a word game), making the solution that much more (unrewardingly and uninterestingly) difficult. Sigh.

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

Excellent critique Rex.

This kind of forced gimmicky puzzle belongs in Games Magazine and not the New York Times.

Elaine 9:34 AM  

Okay--re PREAMP:

I went downstairs to my non-puzzler audiophile EE hubby, and said, "Stereo component." Immediately, he responded, "Preamp."
This is a man with elaborate every room...who has built/wired/repaired components ...and whom I credit with my own immediate thought when I put PREAMP in place.

For what it's worth!

Glitch 9:34 AM  

Preamp: about half way between the Edison Talking Machine and the iPod, your turntable connected to your preamp (which had all the knobs), your preamp connected to your amp (no knobs), your amp connected to your speakers --- and you danced all around.

Andromeda: Produced (2000 - 2005) by Roddenberry's widow out of Star Trek leftovers, syndicated first in US on WGN (!), later SiFi channel.


PlantieBea 9:36 AM  

I'm with Rex on this one--puzzle to admire but not so enjoyable to solve. I had to go back and circle the circles which were too hard to see, and number their rows. Only then did the pattern and the second puzzle in the puzzle become clear.

I liked Mont BLANC--remember a trip in a gondola to view this beauty. And my husband likes MB pens.

capesunset105 9:48 AM  

Dissension among the ranks. I enjoyed solving it. It was certainly easier than most Thursday puzzles, however, and i rely on that shift to more difficult puzzles that Thursday usually delivers, prepping me for the invariable struggle of Friday puzzles followed by the out-and-out spirit-killing misery of Saturday puzzles.

dk 9:54 AM  

I was given a Mont BLANC pen as an award for something and lost it within days. The two other times I have owned/been awarded expensive pens resulted in a loss, seemingly within days thus (sorry for the PRATTLE), no pen over $3.50 can be found in the desk of dk.

Not being a dog person I often recoil when large slobbering mutts are called puppy, thus PLUTO (the non-planet, which would have been better clueing IMHO) makes sense to me.

As a part of the radio whatever merit badge (mentioned yesterday) I built a PREAMP. I still use it although now the audio feed is an iPod Nano with an impressive array of speakers. My neighbors cringe when I work in my garage. Anyone want a 1976 Vespa Rally 200cc fast and fully restored, while Hendrix blared in the background, scooter... click the little picture

I kinda liked the game in this puzzle.

Is April of August the CRUELEST month?

fikink 9:54 AM  

More straightforward clue-fill for a Thursday, but I did like the double-whammy of a two-step solve.

@Rex, are those geese s'pose to be in Vee formation?

When audiophiles took pride in their wall full of components, they purchased their amps and PREAMPS separately. The FIL still has his old Crowns.

@Andrea, just now got to your birthday puzzle. It was Zelightful!

Norm 9:55 AM  

Cute puzzle. Have to disagree with Rex about, e.g., FIRST ROW as opposed to FIRST ROW OF CIRCLES. Heck, it's Thursday: you're supposed to have to think. I had fun with this one. The disappearing letter theme became apparent early on, so I went down the bottom and tried to guess which letters would be in the circles before checking the clues.

XMAN 9:56 AM  

This was easy--even without getting the theme and the seemingly disjointed second puzzle. After reading the blog, I concur with the overall cleverness of construction.

(The NW almmost had me again, but I saw DAB and evaded the trip-up.

PurpleGuy 9:57 AM  

I agree with Blue Stater and Anonymous9;31-easy solve,impressive construction,but not fun to solve and left me feeling "meh!"

I agree with Rex's writeup. Wasn'tsure at first where the numbered "rows" started. In bowling, the one pin is in front. I know, I'm workinmg overtime again !

@PlantieBea - also enjoyed seeing Mont BLANC in the puzzle. Remember seeing it when I was in Switzerland for a month on Lac LeMan.

Blackhawk 10:00 AM  

Must disagree with Rex here again. Enjoyment of the solving experience does not come just from the answering of the individual clues but from the finish as well.

I wasn't enjoying the puzzle much at first because it seemed way too easy for a Thursday. Seemed more like Monday or Tuesday. But I realized that this must be because there was something special going on that was not going to be evident until the end.

As it turned out, those first/second row clues turned out to be the gimmick, and then we were required to see the new words made in the circles and relate them back. By the end, the main feeling over the way the past 4 minutes of my life had been spent was of awe of the puzzlemaker's skill rather than the unhappiness over the slack cluing.

So bravo to the constructor and a razz to the blogger. Much of the cluing was too easy for Thursday, but it was clever enough at the end to be worthwhile.

Lestat 10:10 AM  

A Thursday with no googles (for me) can't be a medium-challenging , must be easy or easy-medium.

Crosscan 10:14 AM  

I liked this puzzle. It was multi-levelled and fun.

Many August babies are LEOS but not this one.

E-PHOR sounds like a Battleship call.

No Expos but constructor Derek Bowman is Canadian and Mickey Mouse and Pluto showed up for this Disney fan. Pluto was originally known as Pluto the Pup and is 79 years old.

The first person that says "Would have been harder without the circles" get their face pushed into the vitual birthday cake.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:18 AM  

Absolutely brilliant construction!

The first thing I noticed was that the circles were not at all random but perfectly regularly placed. I thought that would soften the inevitable complaints, as it did.

If we can't have a rebus on Thursday, I'll take a puzzle this good any time. (True confession: I had to get EPHOR and ITO from crosses.)

Ulrich 10:20 AM  

@blackhawk et al.: I'm more in your camp on this one than in Rex's.

I also liked that in a puzzle dominated by dads, Eero's father got a shout-out.

And ever since I learned that Fred Astaire was born Frederick Austerlitz, I can't look at him w/o grinning.

@CC: Happy birthday--you seem to be in your usual fine form today!

william 10:25 AM  

pattern comment:

if the first row has "pattern" and we drop the last letter in each subsequent row, i expected the seventh row to be "p" (and not "a") since the dropped letter is from the end of the previous word


ArtLvr 10:27 AM  

Did anyone try Edile before EPHOR? Oh well, the rest was fairly easy -- I agreed with Rex, it was creative but not lots of fun. I don't like having to jump back and forth or up and down unless two words make a special phrase, like Sacred Cow!

I have an ancient souvenir of Mont Blanc, a wooden music box with scenic inlay on the top. It reminds me I can never remember the difference between marquetry and parquetry...


joho 10:30 AM  

I stand corrected about PREAMP being a stretch.

@Crosscan ... this puzzle would've been harder without the circles.
Happy Birthday!

ArtLvr 10:32 AM  

@ CrossCan -- Happy B-Day with virtual cake and candles, non-Leo!

Crosscan 10:34 AM  

@joho - SPLAT!

Thumbs up 10:34 AM  

I believe my groan was audible when I first opened the puzzle, as I generally detest puzzles with circles. However, this one worked for my. All the positive attributes of the puzzle that Rex pointed out, for me, overcame all the negative attributes that he similarly pointed out. Was my cup.

Preamps were an absolute must in analog days if you were an audio-snob, as was I. Amplifying the signal from a turntable to the extent that you could blast on highly inefficient speakers in the '60s, '70s really required two phases, one deft (the preamp) and one muscled (the amp). Digital music has obviated all of that.

Jim in Chicago 10:44 AM  

I liked this puzzle.

The first circle/answer combination I got was "A"/ONE, which I got from the crosses. Can't say it helped much with the theme, but the DAB/PAT combo sealed it for me.

I puzzled quite awhile in the NE, since I also wasn't totally thrilled with ARI, but I guess he commonly goes by that name so no abbreviation indicator in needed - sort of like Thomas/Tom. What threw me was the "I", which gave ICED for "Clinched" instead of the much more commonly used ACED.

For the Sheffield answer I instantly wrote in steelBLUE, which threw me for a bit.

I HATE the word PROSY. Please. Can we strike that off our list and never see it again?

Can someone exlain why ENRANT is the answer for Straying??

XMAN 10:44 AM  

Hey, Crosscan!

You say it's your birthday?
That's good enough for me.

Anonymous 10:46 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
joho 10:48 AM  

YECHH! Somebody hand me a towel!

archaeoprof 10:48 AM  

@ArtLvr: yes, "edile" was the first thing that came to my mind for 2D. Got EPHOR only from the crosses.

@Rex: as a Red Sox fan, of course you already know the story about what Ted Williams did with Rip Sewell's eephus pitch in the 1946 AllStar game. All the more reason why "eephus" belongs in a puzzle!

HudsonHawk 10:49 AM  

Liked this one, but not blown away, either. Happy birthday, CrossCan!

Rex, the cluing and answers are a bit clunky, but 13/14A are referring to the LPGA Championship, the second major tournament of the year. Lopez and Sorenstam each won the tournament TITLE three times.

When I think of PRE-AMP, I envision the triple stack, which also included the amp and the tuner.

@Jim in Chicago, try ERRANT.

joho 10:50 AM  

@Jim in Chicago ... it's ERRANT.

Jim in Chicago 10:53 AM  


Welcome to the Blog! You'll soon be an addict like the rest of us.

I don't think you were exactly supposed to work from PATTERN. the gimmick (unless I'm missing something) is just that each successive line drops a letter from, and that you're then supposed to match up each word to use it as the clue for the other entries. Sometimes we try to make things too hard!

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

Were there actual circles on the page? I was doing the crossword on Times Reader and it didn't show anything.

Anonymous 10:55 AM  


Thanks for the welcome. Seems like a friendly crew here.

Does everybody here do the x-word as soon as they wake up?

I'm more of a subway puzzler.



Anonymous 10:56 AM  

This is one of those days I thank God for Rex. (Megalomaniac me really does believe God relies on what I think of a pseudonymous blogger.) Without Rex I would never have figured out the theme -- not worth the time to chase down those little circles.

Thank you Rex. If I weren't unemployed, I might make a contribution.

Here's a gift for all you constructors out there. Instead of the tired old 'alphabet run' or 'alphabet trio', NOP could be clued (more challengingly and more imaginatively) as the acronym for the computer instruction No Operation. Every computer I worked on has had a NOP instruction (sensibly pronounced "no op") Sometimes it's just convenient to have the computer do nothing for a small slice of time.

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

Anyone else put HIP instead of HEP? I didn't bother parsing the across clue there passed the word "suffix" and that was my undoing.

Jim in Chicago 11:02 AM  


Yes, there were circles in the printed edition, and if they were missing in the online version I can see how anyone would be totally mystified.

To your question, I begin the puzzle over my morning coffee, and generally have about 15 minutes before I leave for the bus/train to work. On Monday, Tuesday and sometimes Wednesday I finish the puzzle before I leave the house. On Wednesday (if not already finished) and Thursday I generally get it finished on the commute of about 20 minutes. On Friday, it usually sits with a smattering of things filled in until lunchtime. On Saturday I sort of noodle around with it all day as I have time - and I find that letting Saturday sit for awhile generally leads to another burst of answers that weren't coming to me earlier.

Chorister 11:03 AM  

My preamp, amp, and tuner have been sitting on my LR floor for about a year while I get up the nerve to part with them. Oddly, son has the turntable because he thinks vinyl sounds "warmer" than CDs.

I thought everyone would complain about how easy the puzzle was. I didn't mind the gimmick, but I did mind that it was dead easy and I didn't NEED the gimmick.

@Rex, et al: puppies aren't usually owned by mice either.

capesunset105 11:08 AM  

@r_neg: i do the puzzle on my commute to work as well....55mph in the right lane, pencil & paper. my definition of living dangerously.

poc 11:09 AM  

Unlike the majority, I thought this was both clever and enjoyable. Perhaps not up to Thursday standards of difficulty, but the lack of a "unifying theme" (as regards fill) means very little to me as long as the clueing is good.

dk 11:10 AM  

Happy Birthday Crosscan.

imsdave 11:47 AM  

Nice construction, so so puzzle. After AFOUL, ATRAP, ADIP, ASEA, I half expected the clue for 17A to be One Canadien.

Happy birthday Crosscan

jae 11:48 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 11:50 AM  

For the record, pre-amps are just really cool!

Microphone pre-amps give you such better sound, headphone preamps are essential for old-school Grado-type cans. Pre-amps are also essential for guitar amplification.

Whoever invented these ruled!

ileen 11:52 AM  

@anon - I always put H_P and wait to see if the center is I or E, but usually if it has anything to do with jazz, it's HEP.

For once I think I thought a puzzle was easier than Rex did. My solving time was under 16:00, a new low for me for a Thursday. I didn't pick up on what the circles meant for a fair bit of time and the only row answers I had complete were from getting the other direction.

obertb 11:52 AM  

I finished the NW before knowing anything about the theme(s). That made 4D Fifth Row [DAB] a total WTF? But I just left it in a figured that maybe it would become clear later, which it did.

I enjoyed solving this one, but is was easy for a Thursday.

jae 11:53 AM  

I'm with the easy but clever/fun contingent. Something different for a Thurs. that worked for me.

Feliz cumpleanos (picture a tilde over the n) Crosscan, from SoCal.

retired_chemist 12:00 PM  

Happy birthday, Crosscan! Slept in today, resting my aching back/hip. MRI this afternoon. So, I missed the SPLAT that otherwise would have been mine.

Found it medium and quite enjoyable. It is rare that a theme helps me solve a puzzle, but this one did. Overall fresher fill than several recent puzzles.

Eephus/efes <= Hebrew "nothing?" Any etymological relation to Ephesus? From Wikipedia:

"Ephesus (Ancient Greek Ἔφεσος, Turkish Efes) was an ancient Greek city on the west coast of Anatolia, near present day Selçuk, Izmir province, Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek period."

Did the ancients regard Ephesus as a nothing place, like the boondocks? Or, perhaps the pitch was invented by as Ephesian pitcher in the Ionian League....

Doug 12:17 PM  

Totally agree with the analysis. The theme confused me even after I finished. Unlike Rex, I started in the northwest and most of it came easily until the southeast, which had me flummoxed all morning. Didn't know the other Saarinen (EERO is so common in X-words). Had ETTE instead of ENNE and didn't get DESIGN either. Oh well, easy except for the above.

Susan 12:25 PM  

I liked this one, didn't find it very hard. I think it must be my fastest Thursday time.

The circle theme reminded me of a backwards game of ghost, although it wasn't quite because you weren't removing the last letter each time. Still, thought it was clever in a good way.

@Rex, baseball clues are bad enough, please don't encourage more obscure ones! Eephus, indeed!

Susan 12:29 PM  

Does the announcer in the eephus clip actually say, "Holy Cadelca!" What the heck is that? Is that going to be in Xwords next?

PuzzleGirl 12:30 PM  

I really enjoyed this one. With no circles I think I would have torn my hair out. Or at least thrown it aside with a "WTF" when I finished it.

Welcome, r-neg. If you want to get better at crossword puzzles, you've come to the right place! (Oh, and some of us are actually so nerdy that we can hardly wait for the puzzle to come out at 10:00 the previous night.)

Happy birthday, Crosscan! In Canada, do you celebrate on the actual day or is it like Thanksgiving? ;-)

jeff in chicago 12:33 PM  

As circle puzzles go I liked this one. The circles weren't random letters within a word. They were in a specific shape. And they were spread over one, two, three and even four other words. I will applaud that effort. Interesting that the four longest words in the puzzle include only two letters in the theme.

I just recently say Peck's "Moby Dick" for the first time. It plods a bit (but's Moby frikkin' Dick!), but I was impressed with the finale. Considering when this film was made, that battle with the whale is impressive visually.

still_learnin 12:37 PM  

I liked this puzzle... tho I didn't figure out the theme until I was nearly finished. The cluing was easier than most Thursdays.

BTW, I think PREAMP is fair, even if it's never been used in a Simpsons episode.

FWIW, a preamp doesn't just "amplify" a signal, its purpose is to change the "type" of signal. You might have a device that creates a signal based on current flow, while your amp wants its input to be a signal based on voltage. The preamp changes the current signal into a voltage signal.

Greene 12:41 PM  

Like others I admired the construction (a great deal actually), enjoyed the solve, and thought the whole affair a bit easy for Thursday. This would have made a swell Wednesday puzzle.

Had kind of a show-biz feel to it what with references to RENE Russo, Gregory Peck (an excellent AHAB by the way), the ASTAIRES, Cole Porter, Martha RAYE, Auntie Mame (I'm not particularly proud that ITO was an instant gimmie for me), Mickey Mouse and PLUTO, Gene Roddenberry and ANDROMEDA, and Irene. Maybe this should have been published in the LAT?

@Rex: Wow, that "Alice Blue Gown" clip was terrible. The 1940 Hollywood version of Irene is the usual schlock job which appropriates a famous title, eviscerates its soul, and renders it devoid of any trace of warmth, charm, or wit. God, no wonder so many people hate musicals.

Karen from the Cape 12:54 PM  

I liked having the clues for the circles hidden inside the puzzle. It worked for me. But it was rather easy for a Thursday. The only word I didn't really know was EPHOR.

ANDROMEDA starred Kevin Sorbo, aka Hercules. Standard syndicated space opera, nothing much special about it. I was actually trying to remember the name of the Roddenberry series with the alien embassy on Earth, where the androgynous aliens were played by actresses with digitally altered voices, but that was Earth: Final Conflict (which had a great first season and then went downhill). Gene Roddenberry died in 1991, about ten years before Andromeda came to air.

BEAD was the first answer I put in the puzzle. I got TNT off the _NT, and felt an aha with that. I ran through the Stand By Me scene in my head trying to decide between Goofy and PLUTO, and ended up with the right one.

r_neg, I do the crossword online the night before, at 10 pm. I'm not in the fastest crowd, but I like to be in the first crowd.

foodie 1:00 PM  

I agree with Rex...

(@dk, since you're studying the impact of his views on our responses, I wanted to mention that I said more or less the same thing on Orange's blog last night-- albeit less eloquently-- just making sure your data are accurately interpreted :)

Bottom line: Great construction but not great fun to solve. My take on why: too many short answers, not enough long ones.. I think I counted 78 answers (is that a lot?), but the longest is an 8-mer. So, it's hard to get a fun turn of phrase out of those.

Also, if you're not someone who solves systematically, the clues at the bottom (1st row, 2nd row) are confusing. Luckily it was not hard and there was a good aha moment when one figures out the gimmick.

So, congratulations to Mr. Bowman on a very creative concept with excellent execution, even if it was not to everyone's taste.

william e emba 1:01 PM  

Here's a triangular stack for your viewing pleasure.

Z.J. Mugildny 1:12 PM  

I thought this puzzle was both creative and enjoyable. Just nicely done, overall.

Clark 1:19 PM  

Like it. I’m not a big fan of circles, but here, as others have noted, they are placed in a pattern that imposes some discipline on the constructor. I got thrown off by putting DAD for DAB, counting rows from the bottom, until I realized that 43D had to be DAD. Ambiguity of row, and of whether to count from top or bottom, call me crazy: I like it.

@retired_chemist. Ephesus was hardly a nothing place. It was the location of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of Artemis, which was destroyed by fire on the night that Alexander the Great was born.

@Elaine -- Thank you for “dyed porcupine quills.” That's a fabulous reality.

Just yesterday I was reading the obituary of a famous old mountaineer, and that got me looking at maps of Mont Blanc which I climbed with a couple of friends circa 1980. We took four days, walking the whole route. No trains or cable cars.

Happy Birthday @Crosscan. Always love that Hoser humor.

Doc John 1:36 PM  

I give the theme a B minus. Did anyone else put in ABCDEF for [First row]? (As in the first row of a telephone keypad.)

Was anyone else bothered by the presence of PRATT and PRATTLE in the same puzzle?

TNT- triNITROtoluene. Hence the N3 in the chemical formula. Plus, it was only three letters; what else could it have been? DNA/RNA has a varying chemical formula, depending on the amount of base pairs.

Happy Birthday Crosscan!

Crosscan 1:59 PM  

@PuzzleGirl: Our birthday lasts until we can cut our way out of the igloo.

@Everyone else: Thanks for the Happys.

Sari Abraham 2:47 PM  

The Design school used on Project Runway is actually Parson's, not Pratt, but if it helped get the clue-that's what matters!!

Ulrich 3:15 PM  

@ret_chem. and Clark: And don't forget St. Paul's letter to the Ephesiotes--no, make that Ephesans: Ephesus had an important early Christian congregation. The amphitheater where Paul preached during his visit can be seen to the present day, and the cobble-stoned main drag he must have walked is also well-preserved.

mac 3:31 PM  

Happy Birthday CrossCan!

I'm repeating Greene's first paragraph. I marked the circles in ink and now it looks beautiful.

Ephor was a new word for me but came through the crosses, although I immediately thought: Atticus! Loved that film and book.

I only had a little struggle in the California section. Prosy sounds strange, like prosy and poesy? The pre-amp actually saved the day, what with a audio-video-nut in the house. When I put down the steel grey I actually stopped and thought: isn't it gray in GB?

On my way to the Dutch reading group annual picnic at the beach. My contribution, Chefbea: chilled minted peasoup, spicy little meatballs in tomatosauce, and a bottle of red wine.

Tomorrow I'm off to Vermont to a wedding in a summer camp, not sure if I will have the time to check in. Enjoy this weekend!

Anne 3:45 PM  

I liked it a lot - it was fun and interesting. As usual for me, I ignored the circles and focused on getting through the puzzle. But at some point, I decided to think about the theme and realized I should have done that earlier.

@CrossCan - Happy Birthday!

@Clark - I also took the gondola car to the top (or almost anyway) of Mont Blanc and saw people making their way up the mountain. Very impressive.

Victor in Rochester 3:47 PM  

Enjoyable puzzle, easy for Thursday, and I not only admired the construction but enjoyed it.

Way way back in the early days of stereo, Dyna sold kits of components (everything had tubes, no transistors). I remember building a PAS-3 PREAMP and a Stereo-70 amplifier from their kits. Sounded pretty good as I remember. It was very early stereo, and many recordings had extremely exaggerated stereo; the preamp had a control which brought the left and right closer together.

A moccasin, to my knowledge, is a specific kind of soft shoe construction where the sides and the sole are all made of one piece of leather. Native American moccasins were often decorated with BEADS.

The ruins at Ephesus are awesome!

PhillySolver 4:06 PM  

@cc Pluto is 560 years old in dog years! He must have known Hector as a pup.

Even if from Ephesus, a Greek pitcher is a EWER.

I thought it clever that there was a PATTERN to the puzzle.

I'm in Michigan visiting grandchildren. Hi to foodie and parshutr and others. The 70 degree weather is fabulous.

Anonymous 4:08 PM  

Perhaps you can allow a puppy to be as big as its owner when the owner is A MOUSE!

Rex Parker 4:18 PM  

Never said PRATT was "the design school on 'Project Runway,'" just that the show helped me get it. Many of the contestants have studied at PRATT.


Clark 4:31 PM  

@Anne -- You most likely took the cable car from Chamonix up to the Aiguille du Midi, which is an impressive pinnacle of rock that tops out at 3842 m. The summit is at 4807 m., about 5 km. to the SSW, though it doesn't seem that far off because the whole thing is so massive. You can definitely see climbers on the mountain from there. What a beautiful spot.

Aviatrix 4:33 PM  

I admit that I took the time to figure out what molecule was represented by C7H5N3O6. That particular notation says nothing about chemical structure so it's a bit like solving a jumble. More than six carbons but hardly any hydrogens, probably a benzene ring, let's make the extra carbon a methyl group, but I'll use up all the hydrogens making that a toluene. Whoa too many oxygens for an acid, but oh three nitrogens and enough oxygens for three nitro groups, haha trinitrotoluene, I should have just guessed that anyway. Just as you might enjoy combing through your knowledge banks for "goddess with a goat" or "pulp author named for a fruit?" I enjoy the puzzle within a puzzle of deducing the chemical structure.

I jokingly popped ALLOFTHEM into 33D and the proximity of the correct letters actually helped with one cross.

Yes, you can buy non-beaded moccasins, but the beads are stereotypical to me.

Elaine 4:42 PM  

Just got home...checked the Comments...YAY, glad to see PREAMP clue has been legitimized. JoHo, very gracious capitulation.

LOL, though: I read about someone's receiving Mont Blanc as a gift! Really? Isn't that like stock in Brooklyn Bridge? until...duh...realized I wrote with such a fountain pen for many years. When *I* wrote in *MY* answer, it was The Mountain!!!
And now, if I have to write anything much by hand, I feel quite put upon.

Paul 4:43 PM  

well puppies aren't usually as big as their owners, but how many mice have dog pets? Or pets at all?

PlantieBea 4:53 PM  

"cable car from Chamonix up to the Aiguille du Midi, which is an impressive pinnacle of rock that tops out at 3842 m."

@Clark: This is exactly what we did with our kids nine years ago. We got lucky with a beautiful, sunny June day. Even so, we brought ski parkas to wear at the top of the lookout because it was so chilly. We saw hikers and skiers. Glad we got to see alpine glaciers, too. Soon they'll be gone or at least much diminished.

chefwen 5:01 PM  

Happy Birthday Crosscan.

My Minnetonka Moccasins, which are off of my feet only when sleeping, have the Thunderbird (not the car) design on them in beads. I've been wearing them most of my life. Get new ones every time I visit the MIL.

Was trying to get the puzzle done before a friend showed up for dinner last night which proved to be not a problem. Probably my fastest Thursday ever. Thought it was a skosh easy but I enjoyed every minute of it. I loved the theme and thought it was incredibly clever.

Only write-over was STEEL GREY over slate grey.

@Orange - There's that RENE wench again, stealing your husband's name.

Thanks for a super puzzle Mr. Bowman.

chefbea 5:12 PM  

very late. Just got home and did the puzzle which I didn't understand until I wrote down all the circled letters and saw the pyramid.

Time to start dinner. Will read all the comments later.

Scott 5:18 PM  

Shouldn't the clue for TNT be C6H2(CH3)(NO2)3? Eventually picked up on the three nitrate groups, after quite a while.

Elaine 6:25 PM  

In defense of beads:

Various Native American groups made their own beads from found materials (such as shell), so this was a common decorative item. Shells will eventually bleach out; quills will soften and spoil over time. Thus, the advent of a more durable material was welcomed.

Let's not throw the decorative baby out with the "stereotype" bathwater. I think it is interesting that throughout history, there has been a personal and cultural impulse to embellish items that would be perfectly serviceable in plain form. Simply, we like making things interesting, pretty, or additionally meaningful. Is there any more warmth in a quilt I've made versus a factory blanket; possibly not--even certainly not--but which one is more likely to be treasured? to delight the eye? to enhance the warmth?

Trade beads were embraced because they held their colors so well and were much more uniform in size; they were a part of artisans' work before Europeans introduced their glass products, so I think it's perhaps unfair to paint them as "stereotypical." Beads were a traditional embellishment, then and now.

I am sure I could have said this more succinctly were I not so tired... but a visit to a museum might elevate beadwork in a viewer's estimation.

fergus 6:52 PM  

Glad that Rex didn't like it much. I thought it worse than that.

Anonymous 6:55 PM  

It seems as if the only person to call them stereotypical was just saying they're canonical. But to be honest, I really do not care.

Stan 7:34 PM  

Feel that PRATT should have been clued as "school from which @stan got his Library Science degree."

Just kidding. It's very famous for art and industrial design...

Stan 9:30 PM  

I liked "Andromeda" -- no "Firefly" but watchable and amiably goofy.

edith b 9:50 PM  

For a change I had a legitimate AHA moment with this puzzle. I had the same concerns as Foodie with this puzzle and, of course, she expressed them far better than I would have so, Foodie, I salute you.

In the early days of going to baseball games with my husband, a pitcher threw an Eephus pitch which my husband explained to me. Every time I see reference to Eephus, I think of those early days with my husband.

JC66 10:05 PM  

@william said...
pattern comment:

"if the first row has "pattern" and we drop the last letter in each subsequent row, i expected the seventh row to be "p" (and not "a") since the dropped letter is from the end of the previous word"

It's not always the last letter that's dropped.


@Rex Parker said...
"Never said PRATT was "the design school on 'Project Runway,'" just that the show helped me get it. Many of the contestants have studied at PRATT."

IMHO, Rex's infrequent FU's are marginally more frequent than his inability to admit them.

Happy Birthday CrossCan (Loved Puzzle Gir''s bon mot).

sanfranman59 10:28 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:18, 6:58, 0.90, 26%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:22, 8:31, 0.98, 50%, Medium
Wed 10:46, 12:27, 0.86, 16%, Easy
Thu 13:55, 18:23, 0.76, 6%, Easy (very)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:25, 3:42, 0.92, 29%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:13, 4:23, 0.96, 46%, Medium
Wed 5:11, 6:04, 0.86, 18%, Easy
Thu 7:02, 8:55, 0.79, 13%, Easy

Pretty easy week so far. I'm expecting to do lots of cheating on Friday and Saturday.

foodie 10:41 PM  

Rex, you watch Project Runway? How cool is that! I'd have thought the overlap between my TV menu and yours was minimal (e.g. the Daily Show). But I keep discovering these hidden facets of yours!

@ Philly, how long are you in Michigan? If you're coming anywhere near Ann Arbor, please let me know! I'd love to meet you. You'd be my second Rexite in person, Andrea being the first. We've had the most fabulous summer.

@edith b, thank you!!!!

foodie 10:43 PM  

I mean we've had the most fabulous summer in Michigan this year (not Andrea and me : ) Long day...

Robin 11:47 PM  

OK,count me among the nerds who wait for the next day's puzzle at 10 PM...Thursday was suprisingly easy...did it in pencil expecting the worst, which was entirely unnecessary, as I finished it in about 5 minutes....made my day when Rex rated it medium-challenging...that almost never happens to me...but Friday is here and I've filled in about 5 answers in the SE, beyond that, I'm completely lost

Singer 1:11 PM  

Comment from syndication land:
I actually liked this puzzle. Thursday is gimmick day, so even though it was really easy, it was a Thursday puzzle. I was confused by the "row" clues for a while - okay put them on the back burner and watch some of them come from crosses, and I usually ignore themes anyway. I was stuck on the SW, so decided to look at the circles. I wrote out the letter pyramid, and by then had most of the letters. The PATTERN was immediately evident and I was able to fill in the remaining circles and answer the "row" clues (had two circles and three "row" clues unfilled. That blew open the SW and all was well. The "row" clues reference the word pyramid - I thought that was obvious once I wrote it out. Whole thing took about 5 or 6 minutes - pretty darn short for a Thursday, but a satisfying "aha" moment when I got the double theme.

Naomi 4:06 PM  

Also from syndication land:

On a first run through had 'woofer" for 46a, and "ette" for 67a - those were my only write overs - and I'm really surprised that no one who's old school mentioned "woofer"!

Singer 6:11 PM  

@Naomi, woofer is a good guess. I already had ****mp when I read the clue, so it was obviously some kind of amp, and PREAMP was the only thing that worked. I also started with "ette" instead of "enne". I had one other write-over: "flub" for SLIP. That is an unusually low number of write-overs for Thursday.

Anonymous 7:52 AM  

I was surprised to see the answer had the letters of an upright pyramid circled in the same pattern. Is this a typo? Or do these letters form an anogram or cryptogram?

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