TUESDAY, Sep. 15 2009 — Whacked old style / Singer who funded New York's Strawberry Fields memorial / Spherical home in tree / Rocker Stefani

Tuesday, September 15, 2009



Constructor: Fran and Lou Sabin

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: THINGS WITH WINGS (38A: What the answers to all the asterisked clues are)

Word of the Day: AGITA (13D: Antsy feeling)Agita: Heartburn, acid indigestion, an upset stomach or, by extension, a general feeling of upset. The word is Italian-American slang derived from the Italian "agitare" meaning "to agitate." (MedicineNet.com)

Note on the puzzle:

HALF-CENTURY PUZZLEMAKERS' WEEK

All the daily crosswords this week, Monday through Saturday, are by puzzlemakers who have been contributing to The Times for more than 50 years. Lou Sabin, of Milltown, N.J., sold his first puzzle to The Times in 1950. He now constructs crosswords with his wife, Fran. Altogether Lou has had more than 150 puzzles in the paper.
-----

That's two days in a row that the puzzle has felt strange — harder than usual and (today especially) frankly old-fashioned. What I like about today is the insane grid structure / theme answer placement. Very original for a Tuesday. It's also what makes the puzzle somewhat harder to maneuver through. Pairing 11-letter theme answers with 11-letter non-theme answers = highly unusual Tuesday move (actually, highly unusual generally). Found the theme in general really sub-par, and that dull middle phrase did nothing to help me solve (though I can see how it might have given some folks at least a little nudge toward RAF INSIGNIA). What makes the puzzle feel old-fashioned is not just the quantity, but the quality of the crosswordese. Will Shortz had managed to pretty much kill "ORA pro nobis" (11A), and we were all grateful. We still see IDEATE from time to time, but no one likes it. Joanne DRU (27A: Joanne of "Red River") was big 50 years ago, sort of. Ditto ANDRES Segovia (DRU over SEGOVIA was my last stand in this puzzle) (31A: Guitarist Segovia). The crosswordese goes on and on from there, but there are additional problems like ... more than one OGDEN? General rule: if you Have to, it's OK to pluralize reasonably common names. But if there is really only one famous person that goes with a name, pluralizing it is a Bad Idea. A WEE? That's a pretty bad partial (20A: _____ bit (slightly)). That N/NW area had two abbrevs., an AWEE, a BAAED and an ULEE in it. Yuck. Lastly, ORIOLE'S NEST (11D: Spherical home in a tree) felt made up (in a way that CROW'S NEST wouldn't have) and SHIPSIDE (40D: Pier, during loading or unloading) is not a term I know at all. I still finished in reasonable, if slightly longish, Tuesday time (4:10). Overall, unusual/good was slighly outweighed by old-fashioned/bad today.

Theme answers:

  • 1A: *One attracted to a flame (moth)
  • 17A: *Bygone $20 gold coin (Double Eagle) — would've liked a golf clue here. "BYGONE ..." is a dangerous way to begin a theme answer and only emphasizes the issue of oldness (even more than the puzzle note) (see also, "Old," as in 49D: Old "You press the button, we do the rest" sloganeer (Kodak))
  • 58A: *President's ride (Air Force One)
  • 69A: *Pest you might slap (gnat)
  • 12D: *Mark on a Brit. military pilot's uniform (RAF insignia)
  • 24D: *Nocturnal singer (nightingale) — frequently misspell this "NIGHTENGALE"
Bullets:

  • 66A: Rocker Stefani (Gwen) — saw her in the audience of the U.S. Open final yesterday.
  • 2D: Singer who funded New York's Strawberry Fields memorial (Ono) — have not seen said memorial. New / interesting clue for this ultra-common crossword name.


  • 4D: Book after Philemon: Abbr. (Heb.) — needed all the crosses. Not the most common biblical book abbr.
  • 23D: Whacked, old-style (smote) — Love it, but it was kind of hard to put together quickly off the initial "S" (wanted SLAIN, but that's not very "old" ... again with the "OLD"!)
  • 22D: Karel Capek play ("R.U.R.") — "Rossum's Universal Robots"; by coincidence, I wrote about this play yesterday at the L.A. Crossword Confidential blog yesterday.
  • 46D: Shock's partner (awe) — saw the OLIVER STONE (see yesterday's puzzle) film "W." this past weekend and was underwhelmed (except for Josh Brolin's performance, which was most excellent). The phrase "shock and AWE" comes up in it, not surprisingly (it's about the guy who was president before Obama, in case you haven't heard of it).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

76 comments:

Anonymous 8:10 AM  

Easy Tuesday puzzle, no hang ups. Almost put in take a joke until I saw the Tin Tin clue. Overall good solve Golfballman

Crosscan 8:20 AM  

Actually, Paul McCartney would be more appropriate for THINGS WITH WINGS.

NIGHTENGALE was my initial spelling. Thanks for telling everybody. Despite that, I was faster than you. Tell everybody.

Unusual, good puzzle.

Karen from the Cape 8:22 AM  

For me, teen week skewed easy, and quintenarian week is skewing hard. You know, I prefer the harder skew. There didn't seem to be any bad crosses, which has been my problem lately with some other puzzles. The theme was okay, I liked the rhyming nature of the central answer.
A friend of mine had an oriole's nest outside her bedroom, and watched the mother raise the baby birds. A valid answer, I've seen oriole nests noted before for their architecture/engineering.

MikeM 8:25 AM  

Yes, Rex. It seemed old-fashioned. But in a good way I think. Seems like some of the newer gimmes like Dr DRE have gotten a little stale. Got both DRU and ANDRES on the crosses. And had CREATE instead of IDEATE for a nanosecond. All in all very refreshing and made my bus ride this morning most enjoyable. Thanks to Lou and Fran.
MikeM

Brendan Emmett Quigley 8:53 AM  

Two things that bother me: entries the same length or longer than theme entries and starred clues. If you have to look for the theme, maybe you shouldn't be doing Times puzzles.

That said, ORIOLE'S NEST and ENLISTED MEN were boss.

joho 8:59 AM  

Perhaps in the end it didn't sing like a NIGHTINGALE, but it definitely flies as a solid Tuesday puzzle. I enjoyed it.

Thank you Fran and Lou!

Leslie 9:05 AM  

@BEQ: I love learning more about the tacit rules/understandings of crossword construction, e.g. the idea that other answers shouldn't be longer than the theme answers.

Now that you mention it, you're right--that's something you don't usually see. It doesn't mess up the answers or keep me from working the puzzle, but yeah, it's normally Not Done. Hmm.

@Rex: Don't mind "ora pro nobis" at all, but there does seem to be a whole lotta Ulee goin' on lately.

Overall, though, a nice chewy little bagel of a puzzle. Thanks, Lou and Fran.

JannieB 9:05 AM  

I'm enjoying this week - the puzzles skew a little older but I find them much more challenging and interesting than the normal early week stuff. And to be fair, both entries have had their share of current cultural references along with the "old" entries.

I hope when I reach my 80's/90's that my mind is this agile!

Anonymous 9:13 AM  

Rex and BEQ...
I'm still trying to reconcile ENLISTEDMEN and RAFINSIGNIA as possible theme answers that just forgot to get stars...
I guess have to go find out what a RAF insignia looks like. And maybe some enlisted men wear their hair like Farrah did..

dk 9:14 AM  

Again, another fine juxtaposition of old and new.

Tangential wing themes you may not have noticed

ULEE raised THINGSWITHWINGS

Ogden Nash once wrote --
Oh, if I only had the wings of a bird
Instead of being confined on Madison Avenue I could soar in a jiffy to Second or Third.

Brits OGLE birds

MOTH, PLANES and a GNAT have wings.

ULNA is often cited as a clue to our avian ancestry.

I am sure there are more but I clogged my AORTAS with scotch eggs and ALE at our local pub last night and my ability to IDEATE......

Thank you Fran and Lou.

XMAN 9:15 AM  

For some arcane, insane reason, I've found both puzzles to be easy. For example, I got THINGSWITHWINGS off the G. Oddly, the only hitch came when I couldn't remember what plane presidents ride in; I thought it would be something grandiose, not the functional AIRFORCEONE.

But, above all, I had a good time, thanks to Fran and Lou.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:17 AM  

When I see "Antsy feeling, five letters, starts with "A"", my first thought is ANGST. Didn't put it in, though.

Decent Tuesday puzzle, though I agree SHIPSIDE is quite a stretch.

SethG 9:19 AM  

I really hope we never get a [Phil follower] clue for EMON.

It seemed weird to have winged things that weren't theme entries, like PLANES or ORIOLES. And it's not hard to find examples of SUBARUs or ENLISTED MEN with wings, either. And what Crosscan said.

ONCE and TWICE, a boggleable SINGLE and DOUBLE. And almost ThRICE. We've seen BAAED before, and it's still just as baaad. Surprised 67A wasn't [With 67A, puzzle sensation that's sweeping the nation]. And I would have liked a [Poet Nash and city near SLC] clue for OGDENS.

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle. Good stuff!

Jim in Chicago 9:26 AM  

As I was solving this I kept asking myself "would I think this was old fashioned if I didn't know the age of the constructor". And the answer is ultimately "yes". Too many clues qualified with "old" and others that would have been current 30 years ago.

I would have marked this "easy" as I buzzed through the whole thing until I completely crashed in the NE, where my downfall was putting in HORNETSnest and AGNST (Yes, I know its actually ANGST).

Glitch 9:37 AM  

Same as @XMAN, I've found both puzzles so far this week on the easy side.

With the "star" hint, and general fill however, I would have swapped Monday and Tuesday.

.../Glitch

Tim Smith 9:37 AM  

After some apprehension when a special week was announced, I am quite enjoying these puzzles.

My first impression is always of awe! Imagine making puzzles for 50+ years! I only hope that I am in a position to solve puzzles decades from now.

And if there is a lot of "old"-ness in the puzzle, I think it is appropriate and in a way, cute.

We have too little respect for age, so live with it for one week, will ya? And while at it, do appreciate the amazing streak these constructors have had.

edith b 9:47 AM  

This was like a time warp for me, took me back twenty years or so. Crosswordese old style doesn't offend me any more than new style crosswordese.

It's funny that you could find Andres Segovia, Joanne Dru and Kodak cameras in a puzzle twenty years ago and here they all are today.

ArtLvr 10:00 AM  

Nice and easy... I had a slight nit with the clue for ULNA: adding an A in front of "wrist-elbow connector" would be better since there are two.

I do like the word ADROIT, implying that right-handed is the naturally skillful mode for all. How many children were forced to switch hands long ago if they were born favoring the left? Not done so much these days...

I'm looking forward to more from the older pros!

∑;)

Elaine2 10:07 AM  

A very fun puzzle, and I found it pretty easy. Andres Segovia as "crosswordese?" Some who is "widely regarded as one of the most important figures of the classical guitar in the beginning and mid 20th century"? (wikipedia) Not in my book.

I'm not a huge theme fan in general, and this was better than many!

You go, Fran and Lou! Hope for many more puzzles from you.

PlantieBea 10:07 AM  

This was a tad easier than Monday's puzzle, but it seemed A WEE bit harder than the typical Tuesday. Had to write over A JOKE and almost entered the too short ADEPT for ADROIT. My favorite answers were ORIOLE'S NEST and AGITA (thanks for the explanation, RP). I'm enjoying this week's slant towards the old fashioned puzzle-- but I'm fearful of what the late week puzzles will bring.

Susan 10:12 AM  

Love WHACKED, old-style. My favorite clue in a long time.

icculus 10:22 AM  

A good puzzle - I didn't mind the datedness. I would have preferred a little more variety in the theme entries: Paul McCartney, theatre backstage, spicy chicken pieces, etc.

I've had a good run on the puzzles the past couple weeks. I might be getting better at this! (Is there a more sure way to jinx it so that tomorrow becomes utterly insolvable for me?)

Ulrich 10:23 AM  

This was really easy for me, with the few answers I didn't know coming through crosses by themselves.

Given that I also found yesterday's puzzle easier than some, I think the age thing may be playing a role--we have to see how things pan out during the week.

And I have absolutely nothing, repeat nothing, against this week's selection principle as long as the quality of the puzzles isn't compromised rel. to other weeks--it adds another dimension of interest for me. At our end of the bargain, we should be neither patronizing nor condescending, which we haven't been.

And finally, I don't give a hoot about "rules" somebody has in his head about the rel. length of theme answers or the function of starred clues. If the range of interesting themes is extended by allowing theme answers that are shorter than other answers, with the resulting need for using stars to indicate those theme answers, so be it.

My beef with today's theme, then, is that, as others have noticed, winged things are not restricted to theme answers, and that weakens the theme for me. But I did enjoy the ease with which I sailed through this--it's the exception for me, not the norm as it is for others.

Oscar 10:25 AM  

RAFINSIGNIA is a made-up phrase, and repeats AIRFORCE besides.

THINGSWITHWINGS has a nice ring to it, tho.

Ulrich 10:26 AM  

...forgot to add another attraction of today's puzzle: the unusual shape of the grid and how the theme answers weave through it.

ktrav 10:27 AM  

I stopped by today hoping that yesterday’s review was not really going to typify the week, and was disappointed to find that it apparently does. Please Rex, we already know that anything that falls outside your interest area is “obscure” and that includes anything not experienced in your lifetime. So while disappointed, I can’t say I’m surprised that this week would get snarky reviews.

Of course there’s a double standard when it comes to male sports figures—as opposed to, God forbid, jazz musicians. Mr. OTT ended his career before I was born; never heard of him, still don’t care, know how to put him in the puzzle but would rather not. Segovia was a master, and even George Shearing might ring a bell for anyone who tunes in to a jazz station very often. Nice break from OTT/DRE and friends. Sorry to be a wet blanket, but these constructors don’t deserve such condescension.

fergus 10:34 AM  

As SFMan put it on Saturday, "One man's PROSIT in another man's AGITA."

That's more clever upon reflection, even if it were just a circumstantial comment.

Two Ponies 10:35 AM  

I think it is very cool that these folks are still making puzzles. Do crosswords keep our brains young and adroit? Let's hope so.
I don't mind the old-ish clues/answers as it seems I was paying attention to my grandparents and parents when I was growing up. I have a much better chance of getting Dru than Dre. Although we have Gwen Stefani to add a MOD touch.
Where do they say Prosit as a toast? Am I missing something obvious?
That and agita were the two clues I circled thinking they might be points of discussion.

Hobbyist 10:36 AM  

Hear, hear. I second ktrav.

PurpleGuy 10:40 AM  

Easy puzzle for a Tuesday.Under 4 for me !
Liked the cluing and feelof the puzzle. Must be an age thing.

Did anyone else notice the DOUBLE EAGLE coin doesn't have literal wings,whereas the other theme answers do ? Just sayin'.

Thank you Fran and Lou. Hope we see more puzzles from you.

fikink 10:56 AM  

@TwoPonies, my parents and grandparents used to say "Prosit!" to each other; all were German.
@Crosscan, @icculus, nice clue suggestions.
@Rex, I spared the FIL your thoughts today.
He and I both enjoyed the puzzle; ironically, he found his experience "refreshing" - I imagine what was refreshing was that the puzzle did not call for leetspeak and trips to the urban dictionary.

Clark 10:57 AM  

I am liking this week so far. The fact that some word might have been worn out in an earlier puzzle era that I missed doesn't matter much to me. And I want to put in a plug for IDEATE. There is such a wide variety of activities that fall under the name 'thinking', the more words we have to describe these, the better. Sometimes the word IDEATE is just the one you need for what you are trying to say. Why shouldn't it show up in crosswords?

Denise 11:15 AM  

Loved seeing "LENNON LIVE" -- any day you want to put him in, I'm happy. Strawberry Fields is a lovely and sweet place in Central Park.

I enjoyed the puzzle. But, I am an old-fashioned girl.

retired_chemist 11:34 AM  

Nice puzzle. Easy for a geezer. Agree with Ulrich on the age thing possibly making a difference. Better time on today's than on Monday's.

enigma 11:39 AM  

Rex, I think you will enjoy this week (and other theme weeks like it) much more if you change how you look at them. Instead of evaluating and commenting on puzzles like you normally would (i.e. by asking and answering the question "how do I feel about this puzzle given that it's in the NYT"), evaluate and comment on them by asking and answering the modified question "how do I feel about this puzzle given that it's in the NYT *during this special week*?". I agree these aren't normal puzzles, but no one said they would be. Yes, they will be old-fashioned -- duh, they're made by people who have been making puzzles for the better part of a century. Now let's get over that and critique these puzzles in this new, temporary context.

jeff in chicago 11:47 AM  

ORIOLESNEST and (some) ENLISTEDMEN are sooooo close to being theme-related I'll gladly accept this breaking of "the rules." And while I appreciate ktrav's comments, Rex has never claimed that his blog reflects the universe's feelings about the puzzle, just his own. As in all things, he gets to like what he likes and we get to like what we like.

Fave clue today: One of Captain Ahab's legs

Charles Bogle 12:14 PM  

Agree w dk, ulrich, two ponies et al...a nice juxtaposition of old and new. Haven't researcxhed PROSIT as a "toast". RP, any take on that? Liked byplay of TWICE/TRICE. As w yesterday's puzzle by a seasoned pro, this one is most pleasantly largely devoid of the too-commonplace hackneyed fill we tend to see early week....given a choice I would prefer somewhat archaic (or arcane) to hackneyed. Congratulations Fran and Lou Sabin and don't stop now!

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

I thought you weren't going to rag on the old dudes?

Noam D. Elkies 12:38 PM  

Count me among those who enjoyed this puzzle. Lou Sabin had already been constructing for sixteen years when I was born (heck, he started within a few years of the births of 8D:ANG Lee, Bonnie 28D:RAITT, and Stephen 59D:REA), but most of the names in this puzzle still feel a lot more familiar than what most constructors resort to these days. There's still 6D:ULEE for those who need their daily fix of post-1993 crosswordese.

I can't relate to many of the other complaints either. 7D:BAAED — given that BAA is a verb, how else could you form the past tense? I actually laughed when I saw that resolution to the ?AA?? that 15A and 17A gave for 7D. 11A:ORA — has other clues, and xwordinfo.com shows several other approaches, but "pro nobis" is still quite common, and no worse than the others (the main alternatives are the Italian hour, Latin or anatomical mouths, and partials for man...mouse and boy...girl). 53A:OGDENS — better that clue than "North and South cities in Utah" ;-) (The -S could also be clued as a possessive ending.) And happily 17A:DOUBLEEAGLE couldn't get a g*lf clue because then it would have no wings!

The "two things" that bother BEQ should cancel each other out: the stars are needed because two of the theme entries are stacked with non-theme entries of equal length, and two others (1A:MOTH, 69A:GNAT) are so short that a speed-solver might not even notice them. (The stars also help to clue 38A.)

A bit of a pity about the missed opportunity for linking 42A:ETS with 37D:PSATS. I thought that cluing the Educational Testing Service might be too hard for a Tuesday, but xwordinfo.com even finds a Monday occurs of the "S.A.T. org." clue (15 January 2001).

Looking forward to the rest of the week's puzzles,
NDE

Ulrich 12:41 PM  

@Charles Bogle: As fikink mentioned, "Prosit" is a common toast in German, often shortend to "Prost". It's actually Latin, meaning "may it benefit (you)".

chefwen 1:09 PM  

Sped through this puzzle with no problems, guess my age is showing. Thought it was easier than yesterdays but I found both enjoyable. Fell into the nightEngale trap and had buy before OWN, fixed that when 'ol GWEN showed up.

Dave 1:09 PM  

from the "new words" list in my grandmother's 1934 webster's dictionary, the word "robot": R.U.R.

Doug 1:24 PM  

Okay guys and gals. Enough nitpicking. If you were alive when the puzzle constructors sold their first puzzle to The Times, it was easy.

Did anyone besides me notice that MOTH started the puzzle and GNAT ended it? A nice touch, I thought.

Campesite 1:25 PM  

I'm sort of digging these puzzles, as they are a little more difficult than usual. I wouldn't want to see this much crosswordese in the grid regularly, but I like this week's stunt. These puzzles remind me of when I first moved to NYC, and got hooked on crosswords on my long and stinky subway rides.
--Mark

mac 1:46 PM  

I completely agree with Noam. Isn't it possible the Sabins deliberately put in some "old" clues to celebrate this week? If they have been making puzzles for this many years, I'm sure they have stayed with the times and contemporary language more than most people would have.

@dk: love scotch eggs for my tea...

Anonymous 2:11 PM  

"Red River" is my all-time favorite Western. Loved seeing it used in a clue! I felt the last two days have been fairly easy, but since I am 51, and my parents were a bit older when I was born, many things that can be considered "old" are easily within my grasp. It's usually a pleasant trip down memory lane.

Stan 2:30 PM  

"Red River" is extremely famous (as anyone in Film Studies could tell you).

Anyway, I feel there's room in our puzzles for both DRU and APU.

dk 2:51 PM  

I love the posts where you are asking Rex to change his point of view, beware he may get a case of AGITA and run you down with his SUBARU.

@doug, MOTH/GNAT another wing theme, great catch.

And, the shape of the grid (thank you @Ulrich for prompting a second look) has a certain winglyness to it... of course I used to look at Rorschach cards for a living.

Last but not least:

MOTH/flame: dk/Acme :):)

retired_chemist 3:00 PM  

A ramble prompted by Stan 2:30 -

DRU, APU, FLU, EMU, STU, SOU, CLU (Gulager), PIU (Italian for more) - constructors have lots of alternatives for ??U to avoid NO U (turn), which recently appeared but is notoriously ugly. Even not counting the (cheap-shot) collegiate stuff: NYU, TCU, OSU, SMU, FIU, ORU.....

Glitch 3:08 PM  

Find myself agreeing with both Mac and Noam (unusual in itself) that we're dealing with "seasoned" not necessarily "senior" constructors.

Solo and collectively they have had about 30 puzzles (7 Sunday) published in the Shortz era (post 1993, when credits began).

Also note, this is not an "old timer's" retrospect, the authors continue to publish elsewhere on what appears to be a regular basis. That alone, should indicate keeping up with the times.

Now, I don't know if Will specifically commissioned this one, nor how much editing was done, but it's fun (for lack of a better word) to realize the authors have been constructing almost as long as I've been solving.

So that's my perspective (rant?) on this week's theme, and will limit any further comments to the puzzle of the day.

.../Glitch

[I was hoping Rex had reviewed a previous Sabins puzzle, but their last NYT puzzle (5/11/05) was about 6 months before Rex started his blog -- darn].

sanfranman59 3:15 PM  

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)

Tue 8:06, 8:24, 0.96, 45%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:29, 4:22, 1.03, 63%, Medium-Challenging

Two Ponies 4:17 PM  

@ fikink, Thanks for the insight to Prosit. Puzzlemate will love it as he has been exploring his German roots lately.

I have been doing some "archive" puzzle books from the NYT and have noticed how very dry the clues are. The puzzles we enjoy today are so much more playful. Some of the long time solvers and constructors might lend some insight. Is it due to the editors or are puzzles evolving on their own?

Stan 4:29 PM  

@retired_chemist:

Also, there's GNU. NU (Yiddish for 'sooooo?') is only two letters...

Charles Bogle 4:44 PM  

@ulrich, @flkink...thanks for explaining PROSIT. It's certainly a lot better-sounding than "bottom's up" or "cheers"; just hope someone will have a clue what I'm saying!

mac 4:47 PM  

@Glitch: would you explain "(unusual in itself)", please?;-)

fikink 4:48 PM  

@Two Ponies
@Ulrich
Now that I think about it, Ulrich, you are right. They all used to say "Prost!" when they lifted their glasses.

They all used to SING:

"Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, Gemütlichkeit"
(especially at The Treffpunkt in Chicago)

Anonymous 5:16 PM  

@ dk, You are a shameless flirt. Your wife makes you blueberry pancakes in the wilderness and this is the thanks she gets?

retired_chemist 5:16 PM  

@ Stan - Good GNUs. Nice. One more and I quit: TRU (Tony Award winning role for Robert Morse)

Stan 5:25 PM  

@ret_chem:

Excellent, and very crossword-worthy.

Three and ou(t)

Glitch 5:58 PM  

@mac

Three peas in a pod we're not ;)

.../Glitch

mac 6:12 PM  

@Glitch: that would be a crowd...

treedweller 7:28 PM  

I have more to say about the conversation than the puzzle (which is actually pretty common on a Tuesday). To me, it makes more sense for Rex to critique the puzzles as if they are no different from any given day. To treat them different because they are made by an old guy (or a young gal) is more patronizing than to say "You go, girl!" to an older constructor because she stuck it out so long. I say rate the puzzle before knowing the author.

As to this one, I liked it okay. I think it is too hard for a Tuesday (and yesterday was too hard for a Monday). But I would prefer to make all Mon/Tu puzzles harder. Given the current structure, I think these were good, clean puzzles that were worth the effort. Today, I especially liked the varying length and placement of theme answers (some note the change from norm as a bad thing; I like shaking things up.) Thanks to WS and the constructors for some nice diversions. I look forward to the rest of the week.

joho 8:26 PM  

@Treedweller ... I agree with you. What's the point of telling us how old the constructor is? What possible difference does it make in how the puzzle make it's mark on us?

Why should we celebrate a 20 year old's week any differently from an 80 year old's week?

Either you've got it or you don't.

It's interesting to me that I loved the young bucks week (I don't believe any women were represented) and I love this week so far with the old folks. Give me a break, they are young at heart for sure.

Either you know how to create a puzzle or you don't. Your age doesn't haven't anything to do with it.

Crossword puzzling is ageless for those who create them and for those who solve them.

Glitch 8:36 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glitch 8:43 PM  

@mac

but "2 out of 3 ain't bad".
(Meatloaf: Bat out of Hell)


.../Glitch

Sfingi 8:51 PM  

Hard for the young'uns, easy for the oldstress/geezress/ogress. Which proves (to me) the content does have an influence on the outcome. But, I'm senior, not seasoned. The idea is to keep the mind agile.

I'm all for using more German and Italian clues and fewer French! Prosit is actually Latin, an influence in the medieval university towns. Even some German names got the Latin treatment, with an -ius at the end.

foodie 9:07 PM  

These last two days have brought me an insight-- my chronological age notwithstanding, I'm immature puzzlewise...meaning these puzzles skew harder, not easier for me (isn't that a positive spin on it :) It may be because I started doing puzzles recently or because I didn't live here for the first couple of decades. Regardless, while I admired them they felt a bit less "familiar", and reminded me of when I first started solving a couple of years ago.

It just goes to show that our solving skills are highly specialized and shaped by the exposure to a particular style of construction. The extreme of that is trying to do a British puzzle.

@TwoPonies: "Do crosswords keep our brains young and adroit?" Absolutely! There is specific evidence to this effect : ) But there is also evidence for exercise and dancing contributing to healthy aging. My own view is that anything that keeps you active and brings you joy is great for your brain. And that would include the kidding around and social exchange on this blog. Brain fertilizer!

Noam D. Elkies 9:45 PM  

Forgot to mention: anybody else try "tended" for 30A:MINDED? Fortunately 23D:SMOTE and 24D:NIGHTINGALE were not too hard...

Thanks to my new peapod-mates(?) Mac and Glitch for your support!

NDE

enigma 10:48 PM  

@joho: The theme weeks aren't about "either you've got it or you don't". These people have all "got it" -- if they didn't they wouldn't be published in the NYT. No, the theme weeks are about showcasing the almost-always-anonymous constructors who make this whole crossword thing possible. There are real people behind these crosswords and it's very rare that we get a chance to see them. You must admit there is tons of variation from puzzle to puzzle, and this variation is mostly caused by the variation between the people who create them. Theme weeks also give us a chance to witness the differences in people being reflected in the differences between the puzzles they create. And it is as interesting to compare and contrast the variation between theme weeks as it is to compare the variation between puzzles in the same theme week.

Roger 11:08 PM  

The NYT blog ran a Q and A interview with a rookie constructor on Sunday. Where are the Q and A interviews with these half-century authors, who've paid their dues? I'd rather see these older puzzlers published throughout the year, and treated with respect, as regular contributors,whose ages are irrelevant. The discussion has become age-centric, which is unfortunate.

The NYT doesn't have similar "old folks weeks" for their columnists or reporters. This obsession with age (teens, half-century) seems to be a Crossword Dept. obsession only.

sanfranman59 11:44 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 8:16, 7:00, 1.18, 92%, Challenging
Tue 8:11, 8:25, 0.97, 46%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:14, 3:43, 1.14, 83%, Challenging
Tue 4:20, 4:21, 0.99, 53%, Medium

XMAN 12:25 AM  

sanfranman: I am addicted to your tune,
I whistle night and noon.

andrea ono michaels 1:48 AM  

It's interesting that folks don't necessarily like entries that are similar to the theme answers but not actual theme answers...
Normally I worry about that...

yet when Ashish added lots of water/sea images to our fishing puzzle last week, folks seemed to like the "milieu" it created (tho I fought against it initially, wrongly...)

(Wait, is "wrongly" a word?)

so I would think folks would love that the whole thing was wingy!

I'm still on the fence if this strengthens a theme or dilutes it.

I do think it's fair to talk about the ages, sex, backgrounds of the constructors bec it DOES influence the tone of a puzzle...we are not computers (tho, it does seem to be heading that way with the compiler stuff...) so it's fair game to say "this skews old"...it says as much about the solver as the constructor.

It has shown there has been a deification of young boys or youth in general...but what else is new?

SO in that spirit, pls flirt on, dk, it makes THIS old lady happy!
(Old flame?)
and it's very Euro...

@anon 5:16pm
I'm sure Mrs dk is very secure in her pancake-ness!

@Rex
That was fascinating seeing that clip of John/Yoko...made it easier to appreciate a bit more what she brought to her collaborations with John...
(tho I think there were better clues for her than "Singer"!!!)

@Crosscan
Right on about the Paul McCartney line!!!!!!!!!!

chefbea 7:21 AM  

finally got my puzzle sometime during the night!!!! Just did it now with my wed morning coffee. Will buy the dead tree edition today

Waxy in Montreal 10:38 AM  

Well, if 60 is the new 40, then 90 must be approximately the new 65 so many of these senior constructors should be with us for years to come. And to that I say "great", the puzzles over the past two days have been among the best ever Monday & Tuesday challenges. To those who carp about content coming from before their prime, please remember that history did not begin with your birth.

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