## Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Constructor: Patrick McIntyre

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: COIN FLIPS (32A: Starts of some games ... and of the answers to 16-, 22-, 48- and 56-Across?) — theme answers all begin with some rearrangement of the letters C, O, I, and N

Word of the Day: Machmeters (29D: What machmeters measure => AIR SPEED) — A machmeter is an aircraft pitot-static system flight instrument that shows the ratio of the true airspeed to the speed of sound, a dimensionless quantity called Mach number. This is shown on a Machmeter as a decimal fraction. An aircraft flying at the speed of sound is flying at a Mach number of one, expressed as Mach 1. (wikipedia)
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This took me nearly as long as a normal Friday puzzle, not because any of the answers are so hard (a few are, but no more than usual), but because the cluing seemed either vague or just off in a Lot of places. How is a YAPPER a 18A: Gossip? A YAPPER is someone who won't shut the @#\$# up. I have no idea what he's saying, he's just bugging the hell out of me. EXPELS = 9D: Runs out? How? If you run someone out OF town, I guess you are expelling him. But then you'd need the "of." Is FEST even a word any more? (8A: Themed events). Can't imagine its ever being anything but a suffix. Oh, and COIN FLIPS? Where is the flipping? (A: nowhere). Unless you are prepared to start every theme answer with NIOC- (or YNNEP-, EMID-, etc.), then you should not give your puzzle this title. Too bad COIN SCRAMBLE is not a term. The grid looks just fine — ORIFICE (23D: Opening) and SYNOPSIS (15D: TV Guide info) and NICOTINE are all nice, unusual answers. But the botched theme concept and the iffy cluing made this less than entertaining for me.

• 16A: Ingredient in some gum (NICOtine)
• 22A: Oscar Wilde or Bill Maher, for example (ICONoclast)
• 48A: Like some passes (INCOmplete)
• 56A: Cedar and hemlock (CONIfers)

Tons of error potential in today's puzzle. I think I fell into most of the lurking traps, including JUST A SEC for WAIT A SEC (44A: "Hold on!"), A TEAR for A ROLL (47A: Hot, after "on"), and TREAD for TROMP (49D: Step heavily (on)). They all involve the word "on" in some way. Evil little word, "on." Also had (Wade will like this) OWENS for O'NEIL (20D: Buck _____ first black coach in Major League Baseball (Cubs, 1962)).

Clue that actually made me say "F@#@ you" out loud: 58A: Mathematician Post or Artin (Emil). Seriously, go to hell. Quit trying to cover up your lousy reverse-citrus crosswordese with smug dorkness. AMINES was going to be my Word of the Day (46D: Organic compounds with nitrogen), but the definition is so boring and forgettable that I abandoned it. See identical clue, word for word, here. I'm sure I've seen UGO before, clued this same way (13A: Actor Tognazzi of "La Cage aux Folles"). That's a desperation name for sure. And never really listened to Genesis before the late 70s (i.e. B.C., Before Collins became frontman), so "Back IN NYC" (also a desperate entry, frankly) was unknown to me (6D: "Back _____" (1974 Genesis song)).

Bullets:

• 14A: Seaside raptor (erne) — see "raptor," think ERN(E). Usually right.
• 15A: Allen Iverson's teammates till '06 (Sixers) — I *guess* the "till" is s'posed to tip you to the slangness of SIXERS. Or maybe it's the jaunty "'06" abbrev. that the kids are using these days to signify the year. Who can tell?
• 28A: Sister who's won the U.S. Open three times (Serena) — how she makes time for her duties as a nun, I don't know.
• 51A: Mambo king Puente (Tito) — my favorite TITO.
• 1D: Hackneyed movie endings (sunsets) — well, it's hackneyed to ride off into them, sure.
• 5D: Small African antelope (oribi) — haven't seen the ELAND or ORYX in a while, but the ORIBI is engaged in some kind of P.R. campaign (actually, I think I've seen him twice this summer ... just seems like a lot).
• 54D: Like Clark Kent's manner (mild) — thought this ended in an "S" for a while, back when I thought the column in question in 61A: Kind of column was ONES (it's OP-ED).
• 55D: Third year in the reign of Edward the Elder (CMI) — who can forget? (A: everyone).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Anonymous

I thought this one would be easy when I got the bottom left corner immediately, but couldn't even quite finish the top right (yappers? really?).

Gotta say I really disliked the mathematician clue, not because it was obscure and math-related (I usually appreciate those), but because I'm more familiar with mathematician Michael Artin, son of Emil. Tried "Mike" for a short time before finally getting "Emil" from crosses.

Anonymous

Agreed -- this was a fairly crappy puzzle. Runs out? I knew it had to be EXPELS, but was very reluctant to put it in. Throws out, maybe. Overall, just no fun and a bad way to end the day.

foodie

Rex, I agree. The cluing was imprecise in a way that was not clever, just irritatingly confusing. Runs out should either be Runs Off or Throws Out... And Flip is close to scramble but not exactly... You can scramble an egg or you can flip it to make it, say, over easy-- two very different outcomes! We had a whole thing about scrambles before. But Flip?

And with all due respect to Bill Maher, it was odd to see him paired with Oscar Wilde...

ArtLvr

Ah Rex, your comments mostly rang more of a bell with me than usual, although I didn't mind COIN-FLIPS for scrambles after I corrected 16A from Licorice to NICOTINE... That made things clearer.

Bright spots, besides ORIFICE, ICONOCLAST, and SYNOPSIS: a BANDAID rather than a Stopgap, ONSETS instead of Starts, DWI as Bad Record, and FLOSSES! Also good: Please STAND BY!

I did think of Bullets for 1D, as Hackneyed movie endings (heh heh). A Noir IDEE, but the grandkids were revisting all the gory stuff in "Peter Pan" at dinner TONITE...

Then we watched the meteor showers, on A ROLL. Whee.

∑;)

Anonymous

Kind of a mean review.

SuperBowl

I thought the ICONOCLAST clue was maybe a plug for the show on the Sundance Channel, which features Bill Maher.

pednsg

Rex - I just donated to the site for the first time. PLEASE use the money to treat your ears to "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway," the 1974 double concept album by Genesis that contains Back in N.Y.C. While I have nothing against Phil Collins, every one of the the Peter Gabriel albums is spectacular, and, IMHO, far better than anything Phil did as frontman. OK - enough YAPPING...

That said, I found the puzzle a bit confused for the same "coin flip" reason, but once I understood the theme, I was able to finish the NW by getting NICOTINE gum (which I chewed for nearly 3 years before quitting). I ended up SORT OF liking the puzzle by the time I finished!

chefwen

I won the war but it wasn't without a battle. Another liquid paper mess. Finished the upper left rather quickly but soon came to a abrupt halt. A lot of staring and thinking "that can't be right" but later than sooner it all come together. Last fill was ICONOCLAST, still don't know what that means. Google to follow! Tried Yentel var. of yentl, but that, of course, did not work. Remembered UGO from a couple of days ago, and yeah, did my stint on the NICOTINE gum before Delta discontinued smoking on international flights and I thought "there isn't enough nicotine gum in the world to get me to Europe, I QUIT!!!!" and I did. A much happier person for it.

Greene

OK, so maybe this wasn't the best Thursday puzzle we've seen, but at least I was solving in Across-Lite again and off the applet. For that, I'm grateful.

I actually enjoyed the puzzle and my solving time was even better than Wednesday, but I freely confess I just messed up yesterday's puzzle all over the place.

I ran into a spot of difficulty in the SW of this puzzle because I stubbornly held on to JUST A SEC. Once I pulled it out, things fell into place pretty quickly.

@Foodie: Trying to find a connection between Oscar Wilde and Bill Maher was challenging indeed. I felt like I was playing a game of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon."

And finally, how's this for a FIASCO? The upcoming Broadway production of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark with a score by Bono & The Edge and direction by Julie Taymor is dead in the water. Seems the producers of the \$45 million dollar (yes, that's right -- \$45 million) production ran out of money! So everybody's out of a job, the Hilton Theatre (gutted to accomodate Ms. Taymor's stage design) sits empty, and all advance ticket sale holders appear to be left holding the bag (well...along with the investors, which include Marvel Comics). But hey, it's only a play folks.

nanpilla

My daughter is looking for a job in PR, do you think the oryx or eland are hiring?
The puzzle definitely had some wierd cluing - took longer than a usual Thursday for me.

Karen from the Cape

I wish AMINES was the word of the day, I keep confusing it with AMIDES.

From answers.com: iconoclast=1. One who attacks and seeks to overthrow traditional or popular ideas or institutions. 2. One who destroys sacred religious images.

As long as I'm there, AMINE=Any of a group of organic compounds of nitrogen, such as ethylamine, C2H5NH2, that may be considered ammonia derivatives in which one or more hydrogen atoms have been replaced by a hydrocarbon radical.
AMIDE=1. An organic compound, such as acetamide, containing the CONH2 radical. 2. A compound with a metal replacing hydrogen in ammonia, such as sodium amide, NaNH2.

As I thought, it's a radical difference.

chefbea

Got coin flips right away and then forgot about it. Never went back to see what they were til I got here.

Emil oped had me for a while. Had ones for kind of column.

fikink

ICONOCLAST is so overused these days - everyone claims to be one - it would have been refreshing to see something clued around Constantine, or just the origin of the word.
But with EXPEL and YAPPER, it wasn't apparent that much time was taken to think through the cluing.

joho

At first I thought @Rex was still tired and cranky when writing his review but I ended up agreeing with him. And isn't the term COINtoss? But, more than the flipping problem it was the cluing that really AGITATEd me.

I did like ICONOCLAST, FIASCO, CONIFERS, SYNOPSIS, ORIFICE and NICOTINE.

@dk ...I think the carryover word today is ICONOCLAST from your post yesterday, no?

Before this site I used to think almost every puzzle was clever in some way, now I can see when one really doesn't work on more than one level.

treedweller

@chefwen
I hope you won't take this the wrong way, but every time I see you make a reference to liquid papering your puzzle, I find it hilarious. The disposable nature of the medium makes it seem a bit ridiculous to work so hard to touch up mistakes (not that there's anything wrong with that), and the fact that I've gone whole hog to the dark side of speed solving makes me wonder what I'd do while I waited for the stuff to dry. It's just a great mental image to me. Never stop doing that.

Oh, the puzzle. I agree it was harder than the usual Thursday. I had a few sticky points that slowed me down (I sheepishly admit to trying "niners" for SIXERS, for example). The COINFLIPS answer/clue did not suggest anagramming, so I spent some time trying to figure out what "coin flip nicotine" meant. Finally got it after I had most of the theme answers. I was pleased to see SERENA Williams in there. Bonus points for CONIFERS (though I prefer deciduous trees, personally).

JannieB

I thought this was pretty easy for a Thursday. I caught onto the theme but it didn't really help with the solve. I agree that the NE corner is dreadful (yapper,expels) and wastes the use of fiasco and synopsis which look great in the grid. I never have liked the word orifice - it's just icky.

joho

@chefwen & @treedweller ... I use Bic Wite-Out ... goes on dry so you can make a correction instantly.

dk

@joho, right you are: An iconoclast is someone who performs iconoclasm — destruction of religious symbols, or, by extension, established dogma or conventions. Thus the relationship between Wilde and Maher.

(whoops, sorry @Karen from the cape repeated what you posted)

I am ok with YAPPER (shut your yap is a common phrase from the childhood of dk), having STANDup instead of STANDBY clogged my puzzle ORIFICEs. I was never a big Genesis fan so INNYC came as the only logical response which in turn gave me ORIBI.

Thus while some of this puzzle was a struggle my only problem was jumping to conclusions (e.g. expire and standup).

We TROMP on to Friday.

Orange

I liked the theme, with the start of the word/start of the game tie-in in the COIN FLIPS clue. And I really liked the Fridayish grid, with those grand swaths of white space and longer fill in the corners.

If one must go reverse citrus, EGNARO is the way to go.

dk

People make mistakes in the puzzle fill? What is that like? :)

When I am not sure I write it my answer next to the clue. Hold over from some test taking skills course taken as a FROSH (bw: before Woodstock).

Can we have Lou Bega (taking nothing away from TITO) as the Mambo crown prince some time?

Dough

Found the puzzle harder than usual. It's got a good fill, but the clueing was Palin ... sounds good but ain't right. I lost my coffee over @Rex on this line: "58A: Mathematician Post or Artin (Emil). Seriously, go to hell. Quit trying to cover up your lousy reverse-citrus crosswordese with smug dorkness." Give this man a Pulitzer!

chefbea

@chefwen and treedweller I use the papermate erasable pen

Anonymous

now i gotta find my velvet underground CD's

frankD

SethG

Emil was a gimme.

I understood and used the theme, IIS is the world's second most popular web server, and I solve on a computer but keep a Zebra F-301 nearby in case I need to make notes.

Um ya ya.

hazel

I found this puzzle to be in every way - (cluing, time to complete, gimmick, etc.) - an average puzzle. While a couple of the words may not have been perfectly clued, I thought they were very gettable - so OK by me. I guess that means I prefer the slightly off over the incredibly vague.

As to the word FEST, its still in use in Atlanta Georgia. I'm in fact headed this weekend to the FOLKFEST which purports to be the "world's largest folk art show & sale." Not sure how the sponsors quantify that stat, but I will say that the selection of folk art every year is pretty freaking huge.

PlantieBea

Amen to the return of the 10 PM Across Lite puzzle. Even if I don't do it at night, I like to have it printed for an AM solve.

This puzzle had some good answers, but I couldn't agree more about the cluing which seemed a beat or two off the mark with missing articles or stray prepositions. I ended with a two letter error in the SE with CFO, FOIL, and TROOP. I had to rewrite the gossip corner three times over YAMMER and YACKER before I got YAPPER.

My favorite answers, regardless of cluing, included CANINE, CONIFERS, SYNOPSIS, NICOTINE, ST. OLAF, and FIASCO.

foodie

Upon refection, and reading the definitions you all provided, I feel that the cluing of ICONOCLAST is much cleverer than I had given it credit. The juxtaposition is unusual, which may be is the point... Sometimes it takes a while to appreciate the twists of other people's mentations.

Speaking of which, I like the use of "Palin" by @Dough : )

@Greene, we saw "Million Dollar Quartet" last night at the Apollo in Chicago. Wondered if you've ever seen it and what you thought? I love that early history of Rock...Great fun!

COIXT RECORDS

"Smug Dorkness" should be the tagline of this entire blog. ;)

Anne

Rex is smoking today and I laughed out loud a couple of times, i.e. Edward the Elder.

I agree the cluing is vague or off but ultimately it was doable so I was fine with it. And I'm not as demanding in terms of the theme as Rex so I thought that was okay, too.

I also saw Tognazzi somewhere recently and couldn't believe he showed up again. Of course, I couldn't remember his name.

fikink

@COIXT RECORDS, it's just an iteration of "Dorkness Rising"

Two Ponies

Very forgettable puzzle.
If the clue for the theme had been coin toss instead of flip it would have made more sense.
@ pednsg - I'm with you 100% regarding Genesis and their pre-PC work.
Not only did we have St. Olaf but we had an Olaf in 55D! I really hate those sort of clues. I see "year" and "reign" together and just wait for the C,D,V,L,I,and M's to show themselves. Boring.

Ulrich

Again, I don't understand the ire this puzzle generated--coin flip was clued with a ?, which I took to mean "hint" rather than "theme", and I used it to my advantage in the bottom half. Besides, all of the flipped-coin words are very good fill. Some clues were off, though--can't deny that. My only real hold-up was square 36--had to start the run-through-the-alphabet routine to get the D--duh!...

And Fest is a perfectly fine German noun, thank you very much!

Anonymous

I enjoyed it. Let's see...hmmm...we do puzzles for fun. Yeah, that's it! Fun!

Do I detect a pattern here? If Rex "knows" the constructor, he doesn't trash the puzzle. Maybe "Anger Management" counselling is in order here.

Denise

It's funny how a word gets into your head when your solving, and it won't get out -- I had F--T and still thought it should be GALA! The mind is a fascinating thing.

Last night, I listened to the rain, and thought about how many August meteor showers I have missed.

Crosscan

Third year in the reign of Edward the Elder got me. I knew the first year, but how are you supposed to figure out the third year? Anyone good with numbers?

XMAN

Call this a mere slog and you understate. It is a slog through the fog in a bog. (Did I leave anything out?)

Aside from the many overwrites in the (shall we say 'difficult?') NE, I had the amusing 'stomp' for TROMP before I stumbled on REMOTES.

Aaron Riccio

My big mistake was putting in STOPGAP instead of BANDAID. Didn't have a problem with EXPELS or YAPPER (or FEST)--they're awkward, but I like being asked to reroute my mind. "Yapper" is slang for a gossip; you don't *need* the "of" to get to expels. And FESTS is certainly no more obscure than ONEIL and UGO. But, hey, I'm happy to extend the puzzlemaker some leeway, especially with terms like ROIL and ICONOCLAST.

Rex Parker

@Aaron,

I like this thing you do where you play the contrarian — it's cute — but you need to provide evidence on the EXPELS issue. Just saying it's OK doesn't make it so. Evidence = swap "runs out" for "expels" in a sentence and not have the result jar my dental work loose.

I believe in you. Use The Force.

rp

fikink

@Aaron,

According to the urban dictionary, a YAPPER is also
"A marijuana blunt laced with crack cocaine,"
but I depend on BEQ for that part of my education.

(btw, "blunt" is a type of cigar-roll)

mccoll

It was more fun to read the posts than to do the puzzle. This one was fairly easy, actually, even for a carbon-based solver. I used a pencil with an eraser on the end of it. Works fine.
Many games - football and American football - are started with the flip of a coin. So what's the problem.
Foodie - With all due respect to Oscar Wilde, it was odd to see him paired with Bill Maher. Let's check back in fifty years. I like Maher and he is an iconoclast, but he's not in Oscar Wilde's class.
I give PM credit; reversing all those COIN words is a bit of a trick. Loved Rex's rant, but could jet lag and acerbic comments be related? I think the term is "dorkiness" mind you. Good stuff!
Poor Sarah Palin. She reminds me of those inflatable clown punching bags that you knock down and they come right back up for more wearing the same smile.

HudsonHawk

Not my favorite puzzle, but not horrible either. Struggled with the SW, largely because I wanted DHS for 36A, rather than DBL.

Speaking of baseball, the best thing about this puzzle was the shout out to Buck O'NEIL. Wonderfully nice man and fantastic story teller. Sadly, he was passed up for the Hall of Fame when they inducted a group of Negro League players in 2006, while Buck was still alive. He was finally honored posthumously last year.

jeff in chicago

I have no problem with the theme, but agree with Rex on just about everything else. UGO? Ugh. EMIL? Please.

Do we have a record for fill ending with I? CMI, DWI, ORIBI, ROI

@pednsg: I was a huge Genesis fan until Collins took over. The Gabriel albums are so much better, IMO.

@Greene: Are you surprised about the "Spiderman" news? I couldn't imagine how Bono, Edge and Taymor could save this horrible (again, IMO) concept, this FIASCO in the making. I found myself thinking the makers of "Carrie" could finally say: Hey...at least we weren't as bad as "Spiderman"!!!! (New book title: "Not Since Spiderman.")

retired_chemist

A fun puzzle. Medium. No idea about the theme until I hit the blogs. Would have been little help in solving anyway.

Several writeovers, most interesting being FIR TREES instead of CONIFERS @ 56A.

If I understand what an Olaf is, 40A ST OLAF is not one. 901 AD (CMI, 55D) must have been a really nothing year to have earned a clue like that. I take that as @Crosscan’s point.

Several answers were unexpected and thus the clues were amusing: 16A NICOTINE; 53A REMOTES, 8D FIASCO, 43D FLOSSES. Personal note: I brush first, then floss. Doesn’t everybody?

The imperfections in cluing noted by others didn’t bother me today.

Hobbyist

I never noticed the theme but wouldn't you have to flip letters instead of tossing them in order to achieve the desired result?
An ok puzzle and do hope, as anon. pointed out that this crowd isn't favoring the popular puzzle setters. Maybe the setters' names could be withheld until the answers are revealed the next day. People could guess at the perpetrator??? A bit of suspense.
Just a thought.

Anonymous

He was expelled.
He was run out.

He was expelled FROM town.
He was run out OF town.

He expels his enemies.
He runs his enemies out.

Anybody lose any fillings?

In fairness to all, it does seem that RUNS OUT OF would have been a better clue, and just as misdirective.

Free OnLine Dictionary lists "yap" as informal British for "gossip," so by extension yapper=gossip--if you're British, anyway. Does seem like a stretch in U.S. English.

Two Ponies

@ r_c, I simply meant that 55D was an Olaf and we had the man himself as an answer in the same puzzle.
I should just stop trying to be clever.

capesunset105

I tried really hard to jam "this Batman" into the three spaces allotted for "riddle me_____"

One FEST i can get behind is the Hudson Valley RibFEST on this weekend. now that is some good CHOW/EATS.

I labored more in the NW corner than in giving birth to two 9 pound babies.

Theme was of no help in solving and I call it a coin toss in regard to sporting events, not a coin flip. You flip a coin to make a decision you are otherwise incapable of making. Like whether to have another plate of ribs or not.

Crosscan

An OLAF is a clue which can be answered just from the first part, and has extra unnecessary info.

55D is not an OLAF, as no one (ie 99% of solvers) can answer it. It can be clued as Random Roman Numeral - Wait For Crossings.

Greene

@Jeff in Chicago: Surprised? No. Disappointed? Well, yes. I was genuinely interested to see what Bono and The Edge would come up with by way of a score. Any theatre piece featuring Taymor's work is automatically of interest to me, although word on the street is that her profligate ways are mostly responsible for the death of Spidey. Love the the new book title.

@Foodie: No, I have not seen Million Dollar Quartet, but my wife dropped into a performance during a recent trip to Chicago and she loved it. I've got a recording of the show and I've seen some internet video. Looks like great fun.

Anonymous

Feeling a little testy here.

I really liked the puzzle, done in the NYTimes itself with a pencil and no googles (my personal triumph for late week puzzles). Anyone who doesn't do it online never gets a comment read anyway--last one was 12 hours ago.

Two Ponies

@ crosscan, Got it, thanks.

retired_chemist

@ Two Ponies - sorry. My comment on ST OLAF was not meant to imply that you thought it was an Olaf. Just independently amused that ST OLAF was notone. A

Mike

OK, not that hard for me afer I cleaned up REisSuED to REPOSTED; TRaMP to TROMP; and finally STANDup to STANDBY. I got COIN_____ fairly early and thought for a sec we were in store for a heads/tail rebus. Once I discovered what NICOTINE had in common with INCOMPLETE I rounded third and headed for home.

Never thought I'ds see Bill Maher and Oscar Wilde in the same clue.

I am not the fastest solver in the world, but I really had no stoppages on this one; just forged ahead. It is personal preferance, but I liken it to eating a good meal - does it make it taste any better if you eat it as fast as you can?

Z.J. Mugildny

Now that's a flip.

This actually is a very cool, wide-open grid with great fill. It's a shame the theme and clues are so poor.

ArtLvr
This comment has been removed by the author.
JeffW from VA

I kinda liked the theme - cottoned on to it immediately and finished the puzzle in record time.

Wonder how many of the clues we are complaining about came from the constructor? My suspicion is that many of these clues were "made hard" to accommodate a Thursday level difficulty.

Also, if these hard clues were from the editor, I don't think we should blame the constructor for it!

ArtLvr

Sad note: the death of expert guitarist Les Paul was just reported -- I'd mentioned him here recently as the inventor with wife Mary Ford of multi-track recording, with echo chambers blending their two guitars and voices into sizeable ensembles. Their exuberant style included very close harmonies and incredibly fast pickiing, as well as humorous ditties and more sentimental ballads. One of their original hits was "Tiger Rag", which seems to be available on youtube...RIP

∑;)

Noam D. Elkies

"flip" doesn't bother me, perhaps because much more tenuous anagram indicators are common in cryptic crosswords (and indeed "anagram" originally meant "read backwards" if I remember right).

And as for for Emil, as long we have to put up with a constant stream of ordinary words like "isn't" clued via random "hit" songs of three generations ago, or element 26 via some g*lfer I've never heard of and have no reason to give a whit about, there's no reason for the occasional major 20th-century mathematician to provoke a f@#@-letter imprecation...

NDE

Bob Kerfuffle

When I was a sophomore in high School, I used the word ROIL in an essay. The teacher circled it in red, saying she didn't think it was word. I had to show her in the dictionary that it was and that I had used it correctly. I don't think she did crossword puzzles.

Doc John

The COIN FLIP theme didn't bother me so much. I viewed it more as a guideline than a rule, especially since I got CONIFER before getting COIN FLIPS. Strange fill like YAPPERS notwithstanding, I just thought the puzzle was hard.

@chefwen- when I solved on paper, I used the correction tape instead of the liquid. Fast and easy. Plus, you can use it multiple times in the same square!

@greene- I'm sorry to hear about Spidey. I just love Julie Taymor and would see pretty much anything she does. Are Howard and I the only ones who didn't let the actors' singing ruin Across the Universe for us?

Joseph

First ever AcrossLite attempt. You waste much less time looking for clues, which is cool. But, the paper travels better (I can't do it in 8 minutes, OK?), and the sense of accomplishment of filling in the paper is so much higher. And then there is that little clock with the beady eyes on AcrossLite, staring at me, mocking me, heckling me ... stopping at 99:59. (If you laughed when you read that, then you know it's happened to you, and you shouldn't be laughing.) :)

So, having solved CONIFERS and INCOMPLETE, I made the stupid mistake of thinking the four theme answers began with CO-, IN-, FL-, and IP-. Get it? Not very clever of me, but that was my mind working.

At least would have liked the 4 theme answers to begin with C, O, I and N. Instead, there were two Cs, one I, and one N. O got the short stick on that one; maybe it lost the coin flip.

Rex, notwithstanding your clever wordsmithing noted above, should a crossword clue really make you curse out loud?

Anyway, I don't see why that clue would make you cringe any more than an African antelope. I mean, come on, unless you've been doing these for a while (and I have not), then who the hell knows the name of an African antelope?

I didn't know ROIL either, but at least it's something I can incorporate into my vocabulary.

nanpilla

My daughter is looking for a job in PR, do you think the oryx or eland are hiring?
The puzzle definitely had some wierd cluing - took longer than a usual Thursday for me.

retired_chemist

@ Joseph - been there @ 99:59 SO often. I thought your theme was interesting and feasible albeit untraditional.

@ nanpilla 2:01 and 7:38 - déjà vu all over again?

JannieB

I used to use white out to correct my puzzle, but it was a bitch to get off the screen (Sorry - couldn't resist an old blonde joke!)

archaeoprof

Bill Maher is like Oscar Wilde in the same way that I am like Alex Rodriguez. We both played baseball. He in the major leagues, I in little league.

still_learnin

I went tearing through this puzzle and filled in about half the squares before hitting a brick wall. Made the same mistakes as Mike, and then some. ICONOCLAST and FIASCO finally broke the log jam. I got the theme long before I finished the puzzle -- always a bad sign for me -- but it didn't help a bit.

Crosswordese question: Are there any "___ is for ____" books that haven't been written? (I IS FOR Innocent, A is for Alibi, G is for Gumshoe, etc.) Just wondering.

des

I am surprised by everyone's appreciation of SYNOPSIS. I never did get it because the clue of TV Guide Info implies an abbreviation or at least a shortening of some phrase. Not having the Y from YAPPERS (just couldn't make that leap), it never fell.

It is also surprising which direction our mind can go - for me an early mistake was WAITAMIN (until the SEC came into view).

I was one of those who didn't mind COINFLIPS - that is actually a more accurate description of what you do to make that initial choice (RATHER than simply toss it in the air).

Anonymous

No one else seems to share my pet peeve -- use of Roman numerals. That alone irritated me with this puzzle, but the clue for CMI was even worse.

That said, I found the puzzle about medium in difficulty overall.

Ulrich

I'm reading with mounting perplexity about attempts to erase answers on paper. I'm using an old-fashioned no. 2 pencil with an eraser at the end, and both work just fine. If your problems stem from the fact that you are using ink, my suggestion is switch to pencil.

At first I was appalled at seeing Maher called an iconoclast--Has right-wing ideology so much become the norm and established wisdom that any form of liberal critique is now considered iconoclastic? But then I remembered his piece against religion, and I said, OK--he certainly smashes icons, metaphorically speaking, there...

sanfranman59

Thursday midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

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

Thu 16:39, 18:34, 0.90, 21%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 8:15, 8:54, 0.93, 31%, Easy-Medium

Mike

@Ulrich - See I like using a pen. I find that I am much less prone to error. I guess what I am saying is that I do not fill anything in until I am reasonable certain it is correct, otherwise there is a real mess. If I think I have an answer I just put it in my head, kind of get a cross or two and if it meshes in it goes. Also, I always hated the pencil on the glossy Sunday

william e emba

While I appreciated the EMIL Post and EMIL Artin gimme, I am surprised to see them at all, let alone before Saturday.

I had DUSTED instead of MISTED, so for awhile I was looking at CDI as part of Edward the Elder's reign. Naturally, the first thing I tried as a fix was MDI, ruining CANINES and my pretty good time until I convinced myself that was a Henry VII year.

EXPELS as is can be synonymous with "runs out", so long as you don't name from whence.

I thought UGO Tognazzi was standard crosswordese. Certain La Cage Aux Folles is a modern classic. If you haven't seen it, you really really want to.
All in all, a medium-easy puzzle.

SethG

The Guardian called Bill Maher an iconoclast in its review of Religulous. The New York Times called him that before the movie was made.

And Disco Duck on a popular MP3 player is iDees, and Phil Collins was in Band Aid.

chefwen

@Treedweller - I'm glad that I amuse you. I use Liquid Paper cuz I want my puzzles lookin' purdy. Not a speed solver so drying time is not a problem, just move on to other fill. Tried the tape, didn't like it, kept curling up on me and didn't seem to come out of the applicator consistantly. My husband would say "it's probably user error".

@Jannie B - Have seen that joke but it still made me laugh.

The remnants of Felicia have finally hit the island and it's raining like NUTS!!

joho

@Ulrich, I'm with @Mike ... there's nothing like the flow of ink on paper, boldly filling in all those empty white squares. Pencil just doesn't do it for me.

@chefwen ... that's funny about "user error." Seriously, I think you should give the tape another try!

NYTAnonimo

"Seriously, go to hell. Quit trying to cover up your lousy reverse-citrus crosswordese with smug dorkness."

I liked the puzzle but not this comment-thought it crossed the line of civility.

retired_chemist

Independent of civility, now that it has appeared several times, will somebody please make sense out of reverse-citrus for me? Is it just reversing LIME to get EMIL?

PIX

"Clue that actually made me say "F@#@ you" out loud: 58A: Mathematician Post or Artin (Emil). Seriously, go to hell. Quit trying to cover up your lousy reverse-citrus crosswordese with smug dorkness."

Let's try and stay calm; we are talking about a cross word puzzle clue here...Fine, you didn't know it (and either did I) so now I know something about some relatively oscure mathematicians. That's not all that different from knowing about a Genesis song or about Buck Oneil...unless you have decided that baseball and rock trivia are OK but science/math trivia is not allowed.

PIX

"oscure" = obscure

Anonymous

I liked the puzzle and at the end looked back and enjoyed every bit other than the previously villified arbitrary Roman numeral date.

I may be alone in loving the misdirection of gossip. I first considered it as a verb; then I briefly considered it as the noun briefly tracing in RUMOUR; finally, I had the a-ha moment of treating gossip as an informal synecdoche for one who spreads rumors.

I liked the colloquial YAPPER, WAIT A SEC, TONITE, BAND-AID balancing the stuffier ROIL, CONIFERS, SEPTATE.

Veronica

wonder why PM/WS didn't make the simple change of LISTED for MISTED. A year in the papacy of St Pius I would be much less random.

Anonymous

FYI, commenter Dr. Elkies is a rather high profile mathematician, not to mention EMIL Artin is his academic great grandfather (mine too, and half the world thanks to John Tate).

chefwen

@Ulrich - My eyes are not good enough for pencil.

@Joho - I'll give the tape another shot; maybe my condescending (but funny) husband can show me how to do it correctly.

joho

@chefwen ... I couldn't live without it, especially as the week gets tougher towards the end. Why, my Saturday puzzle always looks perfect ... if you don't peel back the Wite-Out.

3 and out ...happy evening everybody.

dk

@jannie b, I am going to try to make all my mistakes in the same place and that way I will not waste the whiteout. My solving time should improve now that I do not have to band aid myself after the razor blade slips.

d (blonde) k

p.s. Sorry to hear about Les Paul. My favorite guitar was a black Les Paul Studio. Sold it on ebay about 5 years ago and still rue that day.

p.p.s. LOL as I code botched (as in botched theme) and iffy (as in iffy cluing) as negatives on the old SPSS Text Analyzer. These codes and the @#\$# ones will ensure a visit from the data police. When Rex puts on his cranky pants watch out.

Anonymous

Rex has other pants?

edith b

This was one of those puzzles where I found it necessary to just "fill in the grid" rather than spend a lot of time trying to figure out what the theme represented. On that basis, I found the puzzle a Medium in difficulty although, as other have pointed out, the cluing WAS a little off. But just concentrating on solving it made the whole enterprise a little easier.

And while everyone has the right to snark at Rex when they feel he is out of line, I sure am getting tired of seeing all this disappoval from people whos sign themselves in as Anonymous. Use a name even if it is only a screen name as I and many others do.

Denise

In December 2009, "U is for Undertow" will be out (Sue Grafton). So, U/V/W/X/Y/Z. Then what?

As for the person who felt left out because he or she came late to the discussion, let me just say that I look at the blog at least twice. So, I see the late posters as well as the early ones.

sanfranman59

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 6:30, 6:59, 0.93, 33%, Easy-Medium
Tue 9:34, 8:35, 1.11, 83%, Challenging
Wed 14:01, 12:41, 1.10, 79%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 16:49, 18:35, 0.90, 24%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:43, 0.95, 43%, Medium
Tue 4:49, 4:25, 1.09, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:54, 6:11, 1.12, 84%, Challenging
Thu 8:04, 8:53, 0.91, 24%, Easy-Medium

Anonymous

ok puzzle that I didn't find especially difficult. Rex's smug dorkness comment was over-the-top, but it is his blog. I don't understand why obscure chess and math clues are out-of-bounds, while obscure 80s pop culture clues are just fine.

I agree with the commentator who remarked that smug dorkness does show up on this blog from time to time.

Ben

I agree with Rex. EXPELS, YAPPER, a bunch of things were just wrong. Bill Maher isn't really an Iconoclast, just a comedian. And a flip should be a reverse.

Dave Bob says not today, son.

Aviatrix

I almost feel like I shouldn't comment today, as Rex seems to be in such a foul mood, but while he is a far better solver than I am, the crosswords still aren't intended to cater to his specialties.

Why are mathematicians and chemistry poor fill while baseball and fine arts are fair game? Are crossword puzzles supposed to be only for arts and sports geeks with no room for the science majors to construct or solve? Amines are as basic to chemistry as strikes are to baseball. Perhaps you've heard of amino acids, the basic building blocks of life?

Aviatrix
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Aviatrix
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Aviatrix

And I'm hereby banned from posting on this blog until I stop doing that multipost thing. It doesn't happen to me on anyone else's blog.

Tigger

Enjoyed the puzzle. Took less than half the time of most Thursdays.

I normally don't pay much attention to the themes, but this one helped get "iconoclast."

andrea eenie michaels

Way late to the party...and now too tired to read absolutely everything, but may I tell Patrick McIntyre I loved the COIN flip and think that's totally legit?
maybe toss would have been better but flip is such a cool word...
and such long entries all over the puzzle! How do you do that???!

Stumbling blocks:
FETES for FESTS which is the same word, really...AMIDES for AMINES and I thought the word was spelled EENY.

@crosscan
Alas poor OLAF, it's never going to be understood...but you did get ST OLAF in the puzzle. WOuldn't that have been funny if that had been an OLAF itself?
"Minnesota college blah blah blah"
(I always heard it as ST OLAFS...)
and shouldn't it have been MN college to let you know it's ST not Saint?
(fingers crossed no one already said all this!)

Liked the puzzle, felt very male again:
DBL, TDS, ONEIL, TTOPS with a big ORIFICE running down the middle...
(altho maybe that's more female!)

ohmygod it's 3 am...

Aaron Riccio

Don't not call me a contrarian, Rex! But to put my mouth where my foot was, the definition of RUN OUT (in Merriam-Webster) is:

4 : to cause to leave by force or coercion : expel

Granted, there are certain definitions that are loose and which we wouldn't normally hear in conversation these days. But I can get from RUNS OUT to EXPELS.

Can't wait to start going to tournaments in the NYC area!

Whitney

Happy Thursday! I really liked this puzzle (mostly because I finished with minimal googling - 15A, 6D, 10D, 20D). Plus it was easy to find on the back page of the classifieds. Hey you know what else the Oregonian does that bugs me? It doesn't give the name of the creator. It only says "Edited by Will Shortz". Dumb.

My funniest moment was reading the clue for 17D How many writers work. I read it as a question and my first thought was "Not very many" and then my boyfriend added "Drunk" which I thought would be a very legit answer.

I made a few mistakes that were easily corrected (I just write over my mistakes in pen, makes it sloppy but also kind of romantic, no?). I had RTS for TDS (there was a slight underlying football theme here wasn't there?), REPEATED for REPOSTED and DUSTED for MISTED. Cheers!

PS Am using my real name today. Can't think of a clever user name.

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