Industrial time units / SAT 4-17-10 / Shooter who co-created zone system / Shakespearean lament / Mast-to-tackle rope on ship

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Constructor: Tim Croce

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none


Word of the Day: "BORSTAL BOY" (42A: 1970 Tony winner for Best Play) —

Borstal Boy is a play adapted by Frank McMahon from the 1958 autobiographical novel of Irish nationalist Brendan Behan of the same title. The play debuted in 1967 at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, with Frank Grimes as the young Behan. McMahon won a New York Drama Critics' Circle Award in 1970 and Tony Award in 1971 for his adaptation. // The title takes its name from the borstal, a British juvenile jail, at Hollesley Bay. The book was originally banned in Ireland for obscenity. // The story is a recounting of Behan's imprisonment at Hollesley Bay for carrying explosives into the United Kingdom, with intent to cause explosions on a mission for the I.R.A.. A young, idealistic Behan loses his naivete over the three years of his sentence, softening his radical stance and warming to the other prisoners. (wikipedia)
• • •

I disliked this puzzle from the get-go, and that never changed. In fact, it just got worse, culminating in my having to guess at random characters in defunct bad sitcoms and suburbs of cities I didn't know had suburbs in order to put together BORSTAL, a word I had never laid eyes on before today. To start, this puzzle (esp. the top) is dull as ecru paint, with tons of lame short fill (ANE, AMT, NETWT, ATEAM, SEEST, PC LAB, URANO, etc.), alt. spellings (AMEBA, ALINED, APHIS), and ... whatever "O WOE" is (5D: Shakespearean lament). This puzzle has two great answers: POKER FACE (31D: You'll get nothing out of a good one) and GO ASK YOUR MOTHER (51A: Bit of parental diversion). The rest is ordinary-to-bad. OLE OLE is not redeemed by the "?" clue (41D: Reinforced ring support?). It's still just 2xcrosswordese, a bunch of vowels with twin consonants coming along for the ride. Crossword arcana like ATRI makes me wince on a good day, which today was not (50D: Longfellow's bell town). RAVI (32D: First name in raga performance) and REESE and ALTE and APSE and CLEO (35D: Fatally poisoned royal, for short) are hoary old dullards — the fact that all this trite fill was clued in somewhat AMPED up fashion did not help; in fact, it made the solving process more annoying. I had to go through that for this? Not worth it. Difficulty should lead to Revelation, not shrugging or groaning.


[MASK4D: It may be right in front of your eyes]

So I already had "bad" "ugh" "terrible" etc. scribbled in various places on my grid, and *then* I experienced the "BORSTAL BOY" fiasco. Now, I accept that sometimes I just don't know things. Happens all the time. I expect, however, that if you are going to go to a not-currently-very-famous 40-year-old play, containing a word that is highly unusual, you will cross it fairly. That is, with words / places one might know. But IMBRUES, SASHA, and CARY were All Guesses (presented here in increasing order of guessiness). I figured IMBRUES had to be right (38D: Stains), though I don't think I've ever seen it before. Nothing else but "B" would go there, and it made a recognizable word ("BOY"), so OK. But SASHA?? — again, best guess, as the "S" created a more namelike name than any of the other letters of the alphabet. But I resent, and deeply, having the "S" in *&^$ing BORSTAL be the same "S" in the name of a D-list actor from a marginal sitcom that's been defunct for 12 years. That's a ridiculous crossing. And then there's CARY. A Raleigh suburb? Really. I'm supposed to know a Raleigh suburb? It's bad enough I have to know EDINA (Mpls. suburb), but CARY? And yet I would accept this odd, North Carolina CARY, if, again, it Weren't Crossing *&^$ing BORSTAL ("of or related to BORSCHT," I imagined). Maybe the NY-centric test-solvers all thought "Oh, everyone knows 'BORSTAL BOY,' it was the toast of Broadblahblahblah." No. Just, no. So, to reiterate: The problem isn't including "BORSTAL BOY" per se. It's crossing "BORSTAL" (*not an inferrable word*) with absurd obscurity — or, rather, crossing it with familiar names which have *deliberately* been made obscure. CARY could have been CORY for all I knew. I just got lucky. CARY makes me almost like CONY (no mean feat) (49D: Rabbit fur).

Bullets:
  • 1A: Industrial time units (MAN MONTHS) — Who uses these units? I got the "MAN" and when it wasn't "HOURS," I just started with smallest time increment I could think of and worked up 'til I hit "MONTHS."
  • 19A: "Snow Falling on Cedars" star, 1999 (HAWKE) — He was in that? To its credit, this clue is slightly more current than the SASHA clue. The Jamie Lee Curtis remake of "Freaky Friday" (2003) looks downright current next to this stuff (27D: Jamie Lee Curtis's "Freaky Friday" role); and, while I'm on the topic: why go to "Freaky Friday" for TESS? It's not as if that name is memorable to anyone, for any reason. No wonder so many solvers hate "pop culture," generally. This kind of random, tin-ear cluing would make me hate it too.
  • 22A: Shooter who co-created the zone system (ANSEL ADAMS) — the only part of this clue that kind of makes sense to me is "Shooter." Picked it up easily enough from a few crosses. Didn't know ANSEL ADAMS created a fad diet. Interesting.
  • 49A: "Meet John Doe" director, 1941 (CAPRA) — Don't know it, but do know CAPRA, which I got off the (incorrect) APHID ...


  • 7D: Mast-to-tackle rope on a ship (TYE) — had WYE at first, as TYE just seemed too spot-on for a rope name.
  • 14D: ___ Axton, co-composer of "Heartbreak Hotel" (MAE) — Wanted HOYT, then wanted nothing. Turns out, she's HOYT's mother.


  • 29D: Where many students click (PC LAB) — Good clue for tired answer.
  • 47D: Pads (LARDS) — So it's a verb? I had LAIRS.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

118 comments:

Michael Dawson 1:24 AM  

Amen. Worst puzzle in many moons. A real turd.

foodie 1:39 AM  

Re MANMONTH-- I heard a lot about WOMANYEARS in Istanbul, from carpet salesmen! This represents 2 women working full time for 2 years each, they'd say... That's like 4 years.

Since this woman does not have a year to figure this out, I gave up. I was creating a whole new puzzle of my own, with ASCOTTS in lieu of CRAVATS, crossing ONEMINUTE in lieu of DEADAHEAD... (and now I realize that the tie is spelled ASCOT).

But Rex, Thank you Thank you! Your write up was hilarious. From "dull as ecru paint" (?) to *&^$ing BORSTAL! I can't believe I can be smiling after being trashed so badly!

Tinbeni 2:11 AM  

BORSTAL BOY, WTF!
Yup, a guy from Florida is suppose to remember some NY play from 39 years ago?
Natick!

Lets go back to that "VIET" crap fill, of a couple
weeks ago. Please!

OK, IMBRUES ... isn't that what I do with my liver via Scotch? LOL and sipping!
To tell the truth, I use to like the avatar with ice and a
LEMON RIND. I LOVEd IT.
But, hey, I'm not into citrus any more.
Goes back to that Anita Bryant snafu and kidney stone thing I have from a long time ago.

Since I've never been to Raleigh, NC, CARY is more than a bit obscure.
Hell, I live in a county of 500 sq.miles with 23 cities, not to mention the suburbs.
Do you want me to construct and WTF you?
Well that one did!!!
Natick all over it.

I've heard (used) man-hours, but MAN MONTHS?
Another Natick.

AT LEAST I knew CAPRA directed 'Meet John Doe.'

I don't mind a Challenging puzzle on Saturday.
Though I do want an EVEN level playing field.

I do crossword to have FUN ... YOU failed !!!

So it's ONE, TWO, THREE Natick's you're out!
At the Saturday, NYT!

Tim, pat yourself on the back.
You've earned the "Obtuse Puzzle of the Year" award.

syndy 3:11 AM  

All i kept thinking was please let rex hate this at least as much as i do.i did like puppetry because it reminded of a show i saw involving young men manipulating themselves into sail boats and the like(it had to hurt!)what is an aphis and is it related to an aphid? How is manna cuisine from the Fall? eden to exodus is quite a span.bad tim!

Aphididae 3:39 AM  

@Syndy
Manna from heaven, fell from the sky. Fed the people as they wandered in the desert.
And if you believe that, I have a couple of thousand acres in South Florida that you need to invest in.
Trust me, it is not swamp, high and dry.
Ready for development.

Now that APHIS genus name from 1771, broadly aphid, is such common knowledge how could you wonder?
My gang, the arthopods, are coming over to rumble.
We may be small but we hate being 'dissed!'

Andrea Seest Michaels 3:40 AM  

Got the whole top till 40A COMESIN and then the entire bottom half was empty (except the very last word).
NOTHING more.

An hour passed. Still nada.

Finally had to Google CAPRA (had the CA so should have been more patient) and TRENT and CARY and SASHA and ATRI.
(And I just understood SEEST this second)

One bright moment:
Thanks to @Ulrich I got
22D Old Hamburger without blinking.
Less bright moment: having gadgETRY and Agra.

(There's an APSE for that!)

(Ha! I will never get tired of that!)

Didn't get past feeling so stupid and unhappy to actually hate the puzzle...I thought it was me.

WILT.

chris 4:01 AM  

Count me among the haters. This puzzle was total crap from top to bottom, and if some of the clues were simply "A person's name," or "String of letters that make a word," they would've been just as helpful and memorable. Most of the bottom was blank when I said screw it and cheated a bunch. Usually I feel kind of dirty when I do that, but this puzzle was such dogshit that I really didn't care.

Even in its heyday I remember thinking that Step By Step was the weak link of TGIF, and it's not in syndication, as far as I know, so it really shouldn't be in a crossword unless it's cluing Patrick Duffy or Suzanne Summers. I couldn't pick Sasha Mitchell out of a one man (woman?) lineup.

The one thing this puzzle has going for it is that it inspired a great write up. Kudos to Rex.

edith b 6:27 AM  

A lot of hate out there for this puzzle. I had most of the problems facing me that Rex had facing him. I also had to guess a lot of the time. On the other hand, I am a fan of Irish writing from JM Synge to Joyce thru Frank McCourt and am familiar with the work of Brendan Behan.

I am just a retired school teacher with an appetite for reading and, freakishly, a fan of TV and movies who does not hate the things with which she is not familiar. I found this puzzle very flat with very few places to find traction. As is usual for me on Fridays and Saturdays, I began to panic after my first pass thru this puzzle when only patchy spots in the SE and NW were filled in but I persevered, and gradually began to chip away at this puzzle and gaining a toehold in the NW and moved into the MIdlands at which point, my spirits were slightly raised and it began to dawn on me that I could do this. I got BORSTALBOY and SASHA Mitchell, parts of my obsessions with TV and literature.

I spent an hour and a half on this puzzle but had a real sense of accomplishment when I finished.

retired_chemist 7:02 AM  

Congratulations to Edith B. This one simply destroyed me. Even with Google I found it hard.

Count me among the dislikers, for all the reasons Rex gave.

I have no detailed comments.

The Bard 7:07 AM  

Romeo and Juliet > Act IV, scene V

Nurse:
O woe! O woful, woful, woful day!
Most lamentable day, most woful day,
That ever, ever, I did yet behold!
O day! O day! O day! O hateful day!
Never was seen so black a day as this:
O woful day, O woful day!

PanamaRed 7:42 AM  

Had ESCAPIST for ESSAYIST - rings true, as many bloggers are escapists, no?

Had JUSTAHEAD for the longest time, finally saw MADAM, and that corner went down.

Hand up for disliking this one, finished with errors, so I guess that means DNF, right?

On to the spring garage clean-up.

fikink 8:18 AM  

Hand up for "I don't have time for this!"
Gotta take a tractor tire in to be sealed; more mowing than I might have sunlight for; and it is a beautiful day...who needs this aggravation?

Wanted APPLE badly for Fall cuisine.
Gave up.

Enjoyed your critique, Rex.

Parshutr 8:37 AM  

Thanks, Rex, for a terrific writedown of this aborstal of a puzzle.
I started right off at 1a with THERBLIGS, moved across and guessed MADAM, then crashed and burned.
By the way, I'm presuming you're kidding about Adams and the zone system, but if you're not, and for the benefit of those who didn't know, Adams created a system of making black & white negatives with nine zones of transparency, given the light conditions. For very contrasty scenes, overexpose and underdevelop; for very flat scenes, underexpose and overdevelop. You would calculate exposure by using a spot-meter to measure the extremes of brightness, then make the exposure. Works well for large-format, single exposure view cameras, can work pretty well with roll-film cameras, as long as you shoot an entire roll on one scenic condition.
He was trained as a classical pianist, and said "the negative is the score, the print is the performance." Very much a lost art in this age of pixels and Photoshop.

retired_chemist 8:57 AM  

@ fikink - hand up for APPLE. Also JUST AHEAD.

imsdave 9:03 AM  

Hand up for APPLE and JUSTAHEAD.

One hour and fifteen minutes to complete the grid (incorrectly). I had ABREAST for ATLEAST and never went back to check it - the faster I put this puzzle down, the better.

Smitty 9:26 AM  

Thank you Rex, I thought I just woke up grumpy or something.....

ArtLvr 9:38 AM  

@Edith B, congrats on getting this completed!

I gave it enough time to google about five names, my last fill being LEMON RIND for Strip in a bar. The 48a FAIRER had a fair clue as well. Too bad the rest wasn't as cute as those...

@The Bard, echoing well-chosen quotation: O WOE.

∑;(

doshnonf?

dk 9:44 AM  

They wore CRAVATS in Team America... now that was PUPPETRY.

Rex, you ignorant sL*t, everyone knows the zone system is about focal points. Diet? Hah! Although, I will use that joke when next with my photog pals.

Do not have the same, dare I say, hatred opined by others. It was just kind of a bad oatmeal puzzle or as one wag put it -- dull as ...

I knew MANMONTHS from years of consulting. The idea was to get teams of people who did not know or care to know to view the whole picture rather focusing solely on their NICHE. It never worked.

I drive through Edina about twice a week and used to live there. I have been to Cary but can't seem to recall anything about it. Agree that suburb clues are lame. We should stick to something everyone enjoys like neighborhoods in NY boroughs.

This will be another day (present post excepted) where this site is more entertaining than the puzzle. Sorry Tim. Now where did I leave those cranky pants.

* (1 Star) ILOVEDIT-NOT

nanpilla 9:55 AM  

So glad to see this rated challenging. I almost gave up last night, but just kept plugging away, and eventually ( 84 minutes later) finished it. It gave me a sense of accomplishment, but there was no joy, just relief.

Off to ride.

SethG 9:57 AM  

I shrugged, I groaned, I gave up.

Not knowing CONY, ATRI, APHIS, TRENT, _or_ LARDS made it hard to see ATL or CAPRA or get rid of LEMON PEEL. Overall, some good clues for some tough stuff, but just chock full o' stuff I didn't have a clue about, clued obscurely.

There's a famous biz book called "The Mythical Man-Month", which I assume is what (or is the root of what) the clue refers to. It's been around for 35 years, but it's still in print.

bko 10:09 AM  

I'm with Chris- "a five letter word?"; "obscure TV person"; "a word no one has ever heard of; var." would have been just as helpful as the offered clues. I gave up - spent my xword time appreciating Rex, etal., instead.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:22 AM  

What Rex said. Amen, amen!

I inhaled volcanic dust, crashed and burned. After an hour and a half I came to the blog with eleven empty squares and eleven wrong letters!

(But, sorry, age and location, I did put in BORSTAL BOY with only half the letters from crosses.)

Was not helped by having ALIST where ATEAM was supposed to go, and TYKES instead of TIKES. Had APPLE for "Fall cuisine?" (Still think that would have been more clever), and something else: At 29 A, Art of manipulation?, had COQUETRY before PUPPETRY.

Also, ONIONRING fits in the space allotted to LEMONRIND, but doesn't get along well with the crosses.

jesser 10:29 AM  

Jim Croce wrote a song long ago titled "I've Got a Name." I have one, too: Defeated. Or maybe it's Demoralized. One of those.

I was so sure of Hoyt at 14D that I thought a rare Saturday rebus was rearing up for the longest time. Having the totally plausible apple at 10D Did Not Help.

At 42A, I vaguely remembered... something. And so I tentatively wrote in Barstow Boy. Why not? O WOE, let me count the friggin' ways.

At 26A, I had AbrEAST, which seemed OK in that same way that a man in the desert for nine days thinks that drinking buzzard piss might be an OK idea.

At 29A, I wanted chicanery to fit. It would not.

MICTI? (Bangs head against desk until desk is dented and head is bloodied)

And may I say about the SE: IMBRUES? CONY? ATRI? APHIS? LARDS? That's the ugliest taster menu on the planet, right there.

And so, Mr. Tim Croce, I bow to you. And I sentence you to go live in CARY. Forever. Unless you want to come to NM. I'll take you out in the Jeep, far into the desert, where I know the buzzards are plentiful. And then I shall HIE.

Redledi! (I dunno, but it has something to do with how I IMBRUEd my desk) -- jesser

Two Ponies 10:41 AM  

Hey Tim, I have some clues for you.
What street did I grow up on?
What's my mother's middle name?
Name of my dog?
Don't know?
Now you know how I feel.

Van55 11:04 AM  

I have found myself in total disagreement with Rex more often than not over the past few weeks. And I swear I am not contrarian. Today I agree entirely with his review of the puzzle. It has nothing whatsoever to redeem it. Not clever, not fun. Totally joyless. I'll not repeat the scatological references, but I agree with them.

Paul 11:05 AM  

The puzzle was a loser, but the fact that Hoyt Axton's mother wrote Heartbreak Hotel is awesome

Norm 11:06 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Norm 11:06 AM  

BORSTAL BOY was the least of my complaints, since I'd come across the book in college while studying Irish history from the Easter rebellion on, but other than that, what Rex said speaks for me.

r.alphbunker 11:09 AM  

Asked my wife, who is a photographer, who created the zone system. She said ansel adams and fred archer. Both are 10 letters. I went with ansel adams and the rest is history.

I expect that the experience that RP had is typical for me on Saturday puzzles, so I did not find this one objectionable. I just persevere, trying things out until something clicks.

dk 11:19 AM  

@twoponies, LOL - brat!

@r.alpahbunker, thank your wife for me I could not remember Fred Archer.

joho 11:25 AM  

@Rex, one of your best write-ups ever. Too bad that doesn't describe the puzzle.

Chuckled at ANSELADAMS creating the zone diet. Bark and leaves.

I actually would have finished correctly but had hOMESIN. Had the "C" before that but changed it and never went back.

As others have said, no fun at all. Hope we get a clever Sunday to perk up our spirits.

@dk ... I wonder if we were neighbors in Edina???

Anonymous 11:49 AM  

Normally when the Blogger gets into a snit like this, I just sorta grin and go on. Not today, the blogger was dead on target. (Probably could have said it in fewer words, though.)

And the tackiness of some of the comments almost gives me sympathy for the constructor. Can't we show some class?

Anonymous 11:53 AM  

I'm amazed that so many people hated this puzzle. I found it difficult, but fair & entertaining. I didn't know BORSTAL BOY as a play, but have come across BORSTAL numerous times in reading. I didn't know MASHA or SASHA or TIKES, but got them from crosses.
I enjoyed all the misdirection rather than resenting it.

Shamik 12:00 PM  

R-E-X! Rex! REX! REX!!!

Enjoyable write-up after what seems to be a puzzle with a predominant feeling of uck.

After 40:51, I ended up with a BARSTOLBOY/URANA cross which seemed as good as any other entry in that square.

One could ALAS as well as OWOE and MAGDA as easily as MASHA. A signal HOMESIN, ZONESIN and COMESIN. And in many Edens, apparently it's an APPLE. A ROC is almost as good as a MOA if it had been a real bird, of course. STLO, ATLI and finally ATRI?

Too much hokey pokey for me for a puzzle that didn't give smiles when the right words fell in place. Blyecch.

jesser 12:00 PM  

@ Anonymous 11:49 -- I am hopeful that neither you nor Tim Croce viewed my comments as tacky. I am simply wallowing in defeat and offering myself up as a sacrifice to this wickedly difficult puzzle. At the end of the day (or even here at mid-morning), it's still just a crossword puzzle, and we're all just venting. I certainly hope Tim is licking his chops in victory and grinning at the carnage in his wake, realizing that no one here is actually malicious. -- jesser

Van55 12:01 PM  

"I enjoyed all the misdirection rather than resenting it."

Frankly, I found more non-direction than misdirection. That was one of my problems. The clues could of led to almost anything. in many cases. e.g. House Manager....

NCA President 12:05 PM  

every now and then i get toward the end of a puzzle and just think "i really don't care" and begin to fill in the blanks indiscriminately. this was one of those puzzles. who cares?

i would like someone to remind me why P.R. is found in ATL. public relations is found in atlanta? i got nothing.

i wanted APPLE and JUST AHEAD and i refused to put ALINED for the longest time (my mac dictionary does not have that word at all).

this puzzle was too hard for the effort. i groaned way too much, and i LOLd at a previous poster saying the clues might as well been "string of letters put together to make a word." that is so true.

thanks rex for your review...i totally agree.

Rex Parker 12:07 PM  

For the record, I liked Tim Croce's other NYT puzzle. It was yesterday's syndicated puzzle.

JOE PALOOKA / RED SOX NATION

rp

PS "ATL" = ATLantic, as in ocean.

Anonymous 12:09 PM  

NCA President - Puerto Rico is found in the Atlantic.

Hobbyist 12:16 PM  

Cary is a town, not a suburb of Raleigh.
Very hard indeed. I couldn't finish.

Anonymous 12:18 PM  

Interesting that what's obvious to some is so challenging for others. CARY is the fourth city in the N.C. research triangle, I got it right away. (And no, I don't live there!) But still a toughie overall, for the reasons Rex elaborated on.

Tinbeni 12:21 PM  

@Two Ponies
OK, now that I've had some sleep and coffee,
I want to play.
Street ~ Elm?
Mom's Middle name ~ Beth?
Dog ~ Fido?

Wild ass guesses, all.
But more trackion than I got last night.

This seriously ATE AWAY AT my FUN meter.

Danny 12:24 PM  

I was expecting a healthy dose of hate for Sasha/Masha. That's pathetic.

I was lucky enough to know CARY from my time at UNC-Chapel Hill, but also learned from that time that no one goes to a PCLAB any more because most universities mandate students to have laptops. Another outdated clue.

Tim C. 12:26 PM  

jesser --

Having read all these comments, you are precisely correct in your assessment of my feelings of them. "Licking my chops in victory" and "grinning at the carnage" are exactly what I've been doing since comments started pouring in. Not to say that I cannot take criticism. But, I understand that a lot of these are just venting in frustration, not death threats. And that's perfectly fine with me. I created this puzzle hoping that it would be a killer Saturday -- and, apparently, a killer it indeed was.

V. 12:28 PM  

The only moment of satisfaction from today's puzzle experience is today's blistering write-up. Ahhh, thank you.

Lurene 12:29 PM  

Thanks Parshutr for the zone explanation. Thanks Rex for a great read this morning.

Anonymous 12:32 PM  

Couldn't get past:
Fall cuisine - had "apple" (manna is a stretch)
Shakespear lament - had "alas" (poor yorik) - O woe = lame
Had "aphid" - aphis? - a big stretch
Stoles - ostentatious? Why? Had it but bad clue.
Had "Just" instead of dead.
Sasha Mitchell, Cary, NC, Tye, IMBRUES??? Talk about obscure.
Sticking with wrong answers and not knowing obscure trivia really dead ended my solving. I look forward to Saturday. This was a big disappointment.

archaeoprof 12:41 PM  

@Tim C: thanks for speaking up!

This was a grind, to be sure, and maybe that's why it has generated such strong feelings.

I thought "Little Tikes" was spelled with a y: "Little Tykes."

A DNF for me.

PS: where is Ulrich?

masked and Anonymous 12:49 PM  

Yep. JUSTAHEAD, APPLE, APHID...tried 'em all. Also tried BAR STAR BOY. Figured it was a play about some kid that joined up with Chippendales and would "strip in a bar" (so there was some weirdo connection with 56-Across, or somethin'). I mean, pathetic, I know.. but I was just flailin' to keep my head above the loose rabbit do-do.

"Crosswordese" didn't bother me so much; they even saved my bony bacon, a few times. It was just all them nat-ticks that busted my chops. O woe, indeed! Then I fire up the iWhatever to read old #44's write-up, and it was deja vu all over again. Nice rantin' job, 44!

son of dad 1:00 PM  

@Tim C. -

Any constructor can make a puzzle difficult by crossing obscurities with other obscurities. That's the mark of a bad puzzle. You shouldn't be proud of this effort.

Shamik 1:04 PM  

Nuts. I can't even read now. It's CARY instead of CORY? Again URANA/BARSTOLBOY/CORY could work. Phooey on me.

@TimC: You got us Naticked. Nothing personal with the comments. Just didn't like this one. Are you Maleska's long lost son?

dad's other son 1:06 PM  

@Tim C
"I created this puzzle hoping that it would be a killer Saturday -- and, apparently, a killer it indeed was."

So you think it was "a killer?"

How about some another descriptions:
Crap
Excrement
Foolish
Deceitful
Cheap or shoddy material
Miscellaneous % disorganized items
Clutter

Anonymous 1:06 PM  

Mr. Croce certainly has the ability to write a challenging puzzle. I hope he has the ability to write fun ones, too. This complicated puzzle is such detour from his family tradition. His grandpa Jim was a simple man who lived a simple life and wrote simple songs. And look how successful he was! I think Tim should take some inspiration from that when he does his next puzzle.

poc 1:11 PM  

I join the consensus on the general awfulness of this puzzle, but want to make two points:

1) a MANMONTH is not a unit of time. It's a unit of work. The clue is simply wrong. No excuses. This kind of thing makes me see red (like people saying a light-year is a unit of time, when it's actually a unit of distance).

2) Unlike Rex, I had heard of BORSTALBOY, but the book rather than the play. Any Irishman of my generation would have heard of it, but that didn't make the clue any easier.

BTW, for future reference, in the UK a BORSTAL is an institution for young offenders.

jesser 1:14 PM  

Thanks, Tim, for dropping by! And if you ever are in NM, the Jeep ride, sans the stranding, is an open invitation. If you have never smelled the NM desert after a rain, you have not yet lived.

As to my second comment up there, apparently I wasn't speaking for everyone.

Three and out! That desert is a'callin' me, and Wild Hair is lickin' his chops to get moving...

Miss Fleas 1:15 PM  

Tim, you should have done your NYT blog laugh again ("muahahaha!"). I got nowhere with this puzzle; the only entertainment value was in reading the commentary. People who do puzzles want to be challenged, or they wouldn't bother. But... a foothold... a TOEHOLD, even - for those of us who are not Mensa members and have other things to do - would be nice.

obertb 1:16 PM  

Jeez, I don't know.... Hard, but fair enough for a Saturday, with some crap fill. I finished in 45 min--not bad for me on a Saturday--but had to resort to a couple of googles. ANSELADAMS was the only gimmee, never read or seen BORSTALBOY, but it was back there in some crevice of my brain anyway. (I WAS an English major.) Wasn't bothered by CARY, tho I'd never heard of it; CONY I knew, probably from Maleska era, certainly not from knowledge of the habits of rabbits.

Googles notwithstanding, felt some sense of accomplishment upon finishing, so all in all, OK by me.

Rex Parker 1:44 PM  

@Tim C,

If all you are taking away is that people are venting, then you are, very badly, missing the point. Many comments here are too vitriolic, but many criticisms are valid, and you should listen to them. This was a substandard puzzle. People have vented about difficult puzzles before, but never have I seen such unanimity about the below-avg. quality of a puzzle. I know it's hard (it certainly is for me), but you should *listen* to criticism. Chuck what isn't valid, and be thankful for the rest.

rp

mac 1:45 PM  

What a battle that was, and I lost.

Tried to put Ascots in for stoles, had "just ahead" confirmed by 10A DeJay (isn't house some sort of music?), wanted something football related for 3D, and after putting in the lemon rind I contemplated onion ring at least twice.

I've never been to NC, but husbands cousin went to some website, put in all her requirements, and found Cary was the perfect town for her. She moved there and loved it.

I liked puppetry, manna and "go ask your mother", got Ansel Adams with only one cross because we had "shooter" in a puzzle just a few days ago, had abreast instead of at least, and, @Jesser, thanks a lot, you make me realize I had another mistake, Hee instead of Hie. Where do those words come from?

Thank you, Bard.



dencest. Just how I feel.

Lon 1:55 PM  

@Edith B -- thanks for your experience with this puzzle. That accurately describes my typical (and good) Saturday puzzling pattern. My first or second pass, nothing at all. Then slowly each quadrant gives up a couple of answers -- in this case ATEAM, APHI(S)/CAPRA, RAVI, and GNP. From there, like you said, I "chip away" at it. The actual fill content doesn't seem to matter to me, but I do like getting RP's "professional" opinion of puzzle difficulty and quality.

I just noticed MASHA and SASHA, neither of whom I knew.

Martin 2:01 PM  

APHID has appeared 32 times but never on a Saturday. APHIS has appeared five times, including three on Saturday. Ignore history and be sentenced to relive it.

I enjoyed this puzzle a lot.

Clark 2:04 PM  

I would have loved this puzzle if I had been able to do it.

Back in the days before I puzzled, I remember a couple of times trying to do the Saturday NYT puzzle on a long flight. I would work on it and get almost nothing. Sleep a little. Work on it some more and get nowhere. Sleep some more. Etc. It always amazed me that I could fail so completely. Now that I have been doing the puzzle every day for a while I thought those days were behind me. I was wrong.

The only answers I was sure of in the whole bloody grid were CAPRA and RAVI. I had some other stuff, but nothing would connect with it.

Masked and Anonymous 2:23 PM  

@Tim C.--Want you to walk away with this:
As I scan the Across entries in the soft afterglow of a brutal solving experience, nothin' much rings my crud-o-meter except ALINED.
Lookin' at the down stuff, not much that ruffles my feathers. I mean, URANO, MISTI and CONY are out of my wheelhouse, but, shoot, it is a Saturday puz.

So what's most everybody screaming about? Can only speak for me. Might be some of the clues; but hey, again, it's a Sat-puz, man! Might be some of the nat-ticks, which are only nat-ticks if you don't know the words or understand the clues. BORSTALBOY was a big nat-tick generator for me, and also apparently for old #44.

I dunno. For me it was a screamin' tough puz, even for a Saturday. But if I'd just finished starrin' on Broadway in Borstal Boy, I'd probably thought it was pretty standard Saturday fare. So conditional, mild thumbs up.

boxygent -- a cool verification word, for puz solvers.

lit.doc 2:24 PM  

DNF, second day in a row. Half an hour in, had most of north, but only scattered fill across the rest of the grid. Enlisted the aid of google, which helped only a little. At an hour, I caved and came here to finish.

10D APPLE before MANNA and 49D PELT before COAT before CONY (seriously, how many of you have ever seen that one?) are symptomatic of the (w)hole. Far and away my best wrong answer (I think this one’s a real contender a Brilliance in Crossword Incompetency Award) was 51A FRISKY FOR MOTHER.

@syndy, LOL. I’ll wager you spoke for many of us in your fervent hope that Rex’s critique would validate our visceral responses to the puzzle.

@Rex, thanks for the well-informed, arch vitriol, as well as for the heads up re The Adams Diet. Isn’t that the one where you only eat photographs of food?

Tinbeni 2:29 PM  

I kept searching and searching,
then I searched a little more.

The ONE word I could not get,
a tiny 3 letter fill, but it just
would not go in THIS grid.

FUN !!!

I'll look for it on Monday.

Rube 2:36 PM  

As bad as I found some of Friday's clue/answers, today there were more of them and they were even more obtuse. DNF, of course... actually gave up and came here. Life's too short to waste time on a puzzle like this.

Do not like variant spellings like AMEBA, ALINED, and CONY.

Looking back at the puzzle, most of the Acrosses look reasonable. It's the Downs that are horrible.

Maybe the LAT has something better.

Martin 2:45 PM  

APHIS, which has appeared five times, is an "alt. spelling" despite what the dictionary says (as is AMEBA, which has all but displaced "amoeba" in American English). But PC LAB, which has also appeared five times is both "lame short fill" and "tired."

Don't get me wrong: subjective is good but it's not always the Universal Truth.

Allan 2:48 PM  

Most of the time, the Th, Fr, Sa puzzles are tough but fun and fair. This was a rare failure.

Glad I found this site and lots of company feeling as I do about today's puzzle. I gave up and, instead of waiting 'til Monday for the answers, and Googled for answers.

Jimmy 3:07 PM  

Gee I guess I'm in a very small minority, I LIKE a Saturday puzzle that kicks my butt for a good hour but finally yields a solution without the need to Google (heresy).

It seems to me that we have had several tougher-than-usual Friday and Saturday offerings so far this year and that is a good thing.

Rex Parker 3:34 PM  

@Martin,

You'd be a whole lot easier to take seriously if you ever *didn't* like a puzzle. Your saying "I liked it" is like your saying "the sky is blue." Yeah, we know.

Anonymous 3:39 PM  

So much bitching about a *CHALLENGING* SATURDAY puzzle! What's wrong with a challenge on a Saturday? I'm with the "tough but fair" minority.

Why so much animus against the constructor? Do you all think that Will Shortz and his team of reviewers took the day off?

Solving this required a timeout for the two KenKens (easier than expected for a Saturday, BTW) when the entire South was almost empty. Then three write-overs (MISTo -> MISTi; TyKES -> TiKES; APHId -> APHIs). And voilĂ !

Anonymous, because I don't buy into the "I did this; I didn't do that" aspects of most comments in this blog. Who really cares?

Aunt Hattie 3:52 PM  

Put me down for liking this one--as Jimmy said, Saturday should be obscure and off beat, and if it defeated you, so what? Who would not like puppetry? Or Go ask your mother? And re Cary, NC--we know it here in NY as an acronym for Containment Area for Relocating Yankees.

Amy 4:01 PM  

Glad others hated this one. After 20 minutes of staring at the clues, I realized this one was never going to happen. At least I minimized the amount of time I spent on it.

joho 4:06 PM  

@Amy ... great avatar!

Amy 4:17 PM  

Thanks! Those are my sweeties!

chefwen 4:24 PM  

@jesser - Have you ever thought of doing stand up at your LOCAL? I think you would be a natural.

re. puzzle, about a dozen Googles and much time invested, I almost got it done but ended up with about 10 holes down south. A big DNF in this camp.

Looking forward to Sunday!

michael 4:36 PM  

I found this just impossible. Even after all sorts of googling, I couldn't come close to finishing. This was harder from me than the (in)famous Klahn puzzle of a while back. At least I admired the Klahn puzzle and thought maybe I should have finished it. This one was just obscurity after obscurity and even after seeing the answers there was no feeling that I should have gotten it.

"manmonths" ? (something I did manage to get)

My biggest objection might be "borstal boy" but there are lot of contenders.

chris 4:48 PM  

I want to reiterate what Poc said. Mantime is a measure of work, not time. Man power * time = work. Sloppy cluing on that one.

fergus 4:52 PM  

When I play Scrabble I don't really care about the score. I would much rather come up with something droll or otherwise entertaining. This puzzle lacked any of that quality -- it seemed only to be interested in racking up the highest score.

Not the best analogy, but a seconding of Rex's note to Tim C.

Elaine 5:01 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle
Hey, I put in COQUETRY as well! And it was a better answer than ole PUPPETRY, too. (sniffle)

Hand up for APPLE, APHID, TYKES, and (sigh) DNF on top of FAIL (on account of the TEN GOOGLES.) Tim Croce wanted to create a killer, and he did it.

So, Tim, you must have heard that a gray-haired, bespectacled old lady crushed that Joe Palooka puzzle like a grape and vowed to avenge yourself. Congrats- you ran me over with your Humvee of a puzzle. I'm flat as a flitter, as we colorful old folks say.

The Corgi of Mystery 5:13 PM  

I have to agree with the general sentiment -- this was both a killer and none too satisfying. I don't think this has been mentioned yet, but up in the NE I had __D__ for [House manager) and happily plonked in CUDDY, thinking that at least one reference was along my wavelength. Sadly, it was not to be.

PuzzleGirl 6:25 PM  

Ugh.

edith b 6:29 PM  

@Lon-

Thanks for your kind words. I have friends in Alcoholics Anonymous who speak of sharing their "experience, strength and hope" with one another and that is what I try to do.

If I manage to convey along the way my like or dislike for the puzzle, that is not so much my intent.

I don't think I could compete with Our Host on that score anyway as he pretty much provides first-rate criticism in every write-up (or writedown as Parshuter so humorously put it) and I only succeed at what I attempt to do only a small percentage of the time.

Anonymous 6:42 PM  

After a long spell of too easy, silly theme puzzles, this was a welcome change. Sure, it was difficult, but NYTimes readers are alleged to be well-educated, and there's always Google or Wikipedia for the rest of you. It took me about 40 minutes to do the whole puzzle, and I had to look up a couple of clues, but I did enjoy the challenge.

sanfranman59 6:51 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 6:44, 6:55, 0.97, 48%, Medium
Tue 6:40, 8:49, 0.76, 7%, Easy
Wed 12:50, 11:52, 1.08, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 19:25, 19:37, 0.99, 52%, Medium
Fri 24:52, 26:27, 0.94, 36%, Easy-Medium
Sat 40:48, 30:50, 1.32, 97%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:34, 3:40, 0.97, 48%, Medium
Tue 3:32, 4:30, 0.79, 11%, Easy
Wed 6:05, 5:49, 1.05, 70%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 8:49, 9:23, 0.94, 36%, Easy-Medium
Fri 12:06, 12:50, 0.94, 38%, Easy-Medium
Sat 25:35, 17:36, 1.45, 98%, Challenging

By this measure, today's was the second most challenging Saturday puzzle for both groups of solvers of the 38 I've tracked since last June. Only Bob Klahn's mind-number of last November 7 ranks higher. There were only 256 online solvers (also the second fewest on a Saturday to Klahn's puzzle). Tim Croce is also the proud constructor of one of the tougher Friday puzzles in my spreadsheet (3/12/2010).

Miss Fleas 7:15 PM  

From Anonymous: "NYTimes readers are alleged to be well-educated, and there's always Google or Wikipedia for the rest of you." Ouch! I'd remain anonymous, too, if that were my comment.

Two Ponies 7:37 PM  

I'm very glad that Tim C. chimed in but I find his attitude a bit off-putting. This is a prime example of a constructor making a puzzle for his own agenda with no regard for the enjoyment of his audience. Perhaps if I ever write a puzzle that gets published I will change my feelings.
I am never shy to admit when I am beaten but this puzzle nearly required me to be a mind reader.
I truly admire edith b. and the few others who were able to trudge through this.
@ Tinbeni, Your guesses were all wrong but, as this puzzle illustrates, it really doesn't matter. They could have been right and how would it have made a difference?
It is sometimes difficult to resist one's critical remarks in the face of the constructor but not this time. Cleverness and even cuteness can be admired but obscurity for its own sake is some low form of humor that I do not appreciate. Smirk all you want Tim. It does not increase my esteem.

chefbea 7:43 PM  

Too busy today to do the puzzle. Wonder if Mac is still in Ct. waiting to go to Holland.

not so busy 7:56 PM  

@chefbea - maybe if you checked out the comments, you'd find out?

Randy 8:21 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim C. 8:35 PM  

Two Ponies --

Read my last comment on the Wordplay blog for explanation if you think I'm smirking, or if you think I'm unreceptive, or something else. A lot of these comments I did find helpful. I'm sorry if you take my attitude as supercilious. I do, however stand by my stance that those who did not offer constructive criticism were just venting.

Randy 8:36 PM  

Been doing the NYT crosswords so long I usually don't have to Google, but even that proved challenging on this one, e.g.: assumed *Three Sisters* was the Chekhov play; Googled for the names: Maria, Irina, Olga; knew 19A had to be HAWKE after Googling that, so WTF? Found another *Three Sisters*: early Jane Austen story, w/ sisters Sophy, Mary, Georgina. Wrote in Sophy, but still stuck in NW, so finally gave up and came here for answers. MASHA? WTF?? Back to Google and -- Chekhov after all: Masha was Maria's nickname! Looking on the bright side, my Saturday was great except for this puzzle.

childintime 8:46 PM  

One of the worst puzzles I've ever done, and I've been doing them for almost forty years. Amounted to little more than guessing on most clues, since everything was obscure and inference was next-to-impossible.

My biggest problem was having Radha for the Mitchell clue (certainly a far more well-known actress), which still allowed "fairer", "niche" and "pleas", so there was no easy way out.

Another problem was that "abreast" is a semi-plausible answer for "not under", which permits every cross except "Tess" becomes "Bess" and "Alte" becomes "Arte". But since I don't watch teeny-bopper movies and German is not one of the three languages I do speak, I'll blame Croce and Shortz for that one as well.

Can someone please tell me what the hell P.R. has to do with Atl.?!?!? Is that the city, the ocean, what? Is it public relations, pork rind, what? Maybe it means Puzzle Retard and the author lives in Atlanta? I don't know... I probably don't really care anymore.

BTW, Tinbeni, what in hell is a Natick?!? I hope you don't make puzzles.....

Anonymous 9:04 PM  

Well I really did not enjoy this puzzle at all. So I am with the vast majority on that. If Tim C's comments might have preceded the puzzle then I would not have bothered with it at all. Like a black box warning for certain drugs. Even just a circle with the word fun in it slashed would have been a bit better.
By the way, I do not find stoles ostentatious, old fashioned perhaps but not ostentatious. Alined might have been better clued with Like a flared dress or some such rather than use a second secondary spelling (Ameoba and Ameba). Ole Ole Bad Bad

Two Ponies 9:06 PM  

@ Tim C. I did not check the other blog so perhaps I am lacking in pertinent information.
I still stand by the flavor of my first post.

The nickname of Oprah's third grade teacher.
The director of the third film shot in Technicolor.
The theme of Tom Cruise's senior prom.
The only thing missing was some pope or Roman numeral.

Stumped? Tuff sh%t.

dk 9:14 PM  

@joho, I lived on Ridge Road in Edina.

@Tim C, most of my clients have been serial killers, eaters of kidnapped children and the like. All share a profound belief they are right and others were fools or prey. In short, they lack insight... well and maybe a social conscience.

I did not find your puzzle hard, I like your other entries, you seem to be a fine fellow, but this puzzle needs a coat of gesso (favorite barb of late).

There is not an 800 number to call for insight but I bet if you read all of these comments very slowly some would come.

Enough of this -- did you know you can watch the old (1964) Outer Limits shows on Hulu for free. I think this internet thing may have some legs

louisproyect 9:27 PM  

Interesting. I was about 90 percent finished with this stupid puzzle and refused to waste any more time. I googled "mast to tackle rope" and ended up here. I had the same exact frustration and am glad that someone else did the heavy lifting and freed me up to get back to more important stuff, like figuring out where the next capitalist horror show will come from (I used to work for Goldman).

Zeke 10:59 PM  

@DK - All those while you worked for Disney? I always thought those movies were creepy.

jae 11:26 PM  

What Rex said. I slogged at this all day long and still had an error. I guessed E vs. A in BORSTAL. Hard and unpleasant.

jae 11:31 PM  

I meant to add @fikink and r_c--I had APPLE and JUST for far too long.

Wade 11:40 PM  

Dang, I've never felt so alone: I kind of dug the puzzle. I didn't finish, quite--was missing a couple of letters in ATEA_A_AT and just couldn't see them--but the puzzle kept me occupied through most of today while at a boring Cub Scout campout where I had to wait around to sing all the parts to "GItarzan" for a bunch of kids around a campfire. I can do Jane and Tarzan, but the monkey tests my chops.

BORSTAL BOY seems to be the rub. Getting that off the OY was my first big breakthrough, and those little breakthroughs kept coming in a satisfying way. I am surprised that Borstal Boy isn't more well known among this crowd. (Please, no, I am not saying you SHOULD know it. I just thought you would have. It had been on my mental reading list for twenty years and I just got around to it a couple of years ago. The memoir, I mean--I don't know squat about plays unless they're by. . . . Well, I don't know squat about plays. The memoir is brilliant.)

IMBRUES . . . Different story.

Jim Croce's really the constructor's grandfather? I wrote up an appreciation of Croce a few months ago after listening to his home recordings that were released a few years ago, after having not really listened to any of Croce since I was a teen.

Tim C. 11:59 PM  

I wish I were his grandson. Not that I'm disappointed in the grandparents I already have, God bless them. I do suppose I might be old enough to be his grandson, being in my mid-20s. However, I keep meaning to do the actual research into this, but the theory is that he is indeed related to my family. I do have great respect for his music, too, as quite a few of his classic tunes are in my music collection. "Operator" and "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song" are two of my overall favorite songs of that era.

zardoz 11:49 AM  

I think its time to move on.Let's just call this one constructors:1, solvers:0. But wait 'til next year. As someone who actually saw "Borstal Boy" on Broadway back in the day, but didn't stay with the puzzle long enough to get it I can only muse on what is exactly fair game for constructors. I have a stack of puzzles from the forties and fifties and the cultural and political common knowledge is ever shifting. Isn't that what Will Shortz is all about? How much hip-hop and how much New Deal? Though this puzzle was not fun there is definitely too much whining. But then everyone loves a fine whine.

Rex Parker 12:01 PM  

Got news for you — everyone *has* moved on. It's Sunday.

rp

zardoz 2:59 PM  

Not in the Aleutians.

Anonymous 7:30 PM  

This was terrible...couldn't get past "lemon peel" and little "tykes". Rex tell me that was tongue in cheek with the Zone thing? His exposure compensation in photography is pretty well known as the Zone system.

william e emba 11:34 AM  

I had to overnight this puzzle twice (it's Monday AM now). I liked it.

Yes, I figured out BORSTAL BOY from just a few letters--did not know it was a play, but it was a very famous Brendan Behan memoir, so I guessed and merely took a ridiculously long time to fill out FA--ER to FAIRER. Whenever the puzzle relies on real literature and not pop culture, I call that a win.

On the other hand, I refused to believe it was ANSEL ADAMS until I had every cross. Shooter, yes, but "zone system"? I couldn't guess that. I assumed it was ANSON EDAMS or some other famous basketball player back in the day I never heard of. Heck, I even had "wane" instead of "WILT" for quite awhile for the "flag" clue.

Some mistakes that slowed me down dreadfully were "stones" instead of STOLES for the ostentatious accessories, and SET ONE'S OWN PA"th". That "t" in "path" suggested "rst" for "first string?" Ooh, I always like that, clever way to hide crap fill. So that gave me "pADre", then "MADre", for the house manager. Eventually I realized it must be an English word, got MADAM and finished in an instant, only two days late.

Anonymous 12:15 PM  

I nailed yesterday's puzzle but this one, un-do-able ! The only bright spot was coming here and reading Chris' remark about not being able to pick Sasha Mitchell out of a one-man line up! That just made me laugh myself silly !!! Thanks Chris, I needed that after this brutal beating.

jmc19

ClutterMom 9:28 AM  

Hello, everyone. ClutterMom checking in on Tuesday after finally FINALLY finishing this one via the old slowly-chipping-away-at-it method. The nice thing about taking so long to finish is that, by the time you're done, you've forgotten how miffed you were at the words CONY and APHIS (filled in on Saturday after double-checking the dictionary). Rather, I am feeling a nice sense of having conquered the mountain, be it ever so ugly at times (ALINED, AMEBA: ugh). I think BORSTAL BOY sounds like a good play.

Pete M 12:39 PM  

I really wanted 58A to be ASSCLOWNS, current company excepted of course. :)

Jameeka 1:16 PM  

Thanks for the laughs after a brutal puzzle....

Leisha 2:44 PM  

I'm not good at puzzling anyway, so can't judge difficulty. But I Googled TWENTY clues on this one, which is much higher than my under-ten average. When I Googled, I got some wrong answers, too: JIB or TOP for what turned out to be TYE. I'm over being angry or feeling stupid because I can't fly through puzzles like many posters here; I like learning stuff, so no resentment from the Northwest corner of the country (where this is today's puzzle).

MaryPatOregon 4:43 PM  

@Leisha: I'm from Bend, OR, so 5 weeks later and Northwest.
I also DNF this extremely difficult puzzle. Even after heavy Googling, I could not break through the obscure clues/answers. This was easily the most challenging puzzle I've ever attempted (and failed) to finish.

Robert 1:26 AM  

I like puzzles that make me laugh, think, go ooohh, learn something, feel accomplishment. This puzzle makes me seriously consider another type of diversion, addiction, whatever. Tim, you're fired!
From syndication land five weeks and about thirty answers short. Thanks Rex for the site.

j-brisby 6:12 AM  

You should have known Borstal Boy, as it was in another NYT puzzle just a month or so ago.

I'm sure of it. I just wish I could find it, because it's a perfect example of this odd phenomenon I've noticed of unusual words appearing twice in short order. Most surprising example I've ever come across was when the word 'treeline' appeared in two crosswords, in two different newspapers, in the same week. I've got a file full of these things, and hope to one day write an article about it. If you come across other examples, I'd love to know about it.

Miss Fleas 2:18 PM  

Have never seen Borstal Boy before, and I do the puzzle every day. Even if I'm wrong, somebody else would have remembered.

Anonymous 8:25 PM  

I don't beat myself up over having to Google things like "director of 1942 movie XXX" or "suburb of YYY" or "best batting average of 1953" - these things are just too obscure to take seriously. Some people remember things like that, others don't. So if I have to Google a few, I'm OK and don't count it as a cheat. What I DO like is a puzzle where the clues are clever, and the answers are obscured by the clues, not dreadfully obscure in themselves. I also HATE alternative spellings. Good grief, if you can't find a way to use APHID, then find another set of crosses. This just seems like lazy puzzling (maybe with the assistance of software), without any craftsmanship.

Anonymous 12:11 AM  

Late in getting to this puzzle and a great way to spend the first night of my MD weekend. After 50 yrs of doing puzzles in three languages it was the first time I went through the whole thing not sure if anything I put in on first impulse was right. On second reading the first I got was the P.R. is in it. Being born in the vicinity of P.R. knew ATL had to be correct; cravats was the second foothold.And I was a student in NY when Borstal Boy came out. But Masha and Man months trumped me and that's how I ended up here. I never thought a difficult puzzle could bring out such vitriolic criticism and and show the narrow way we can look at words and clues. I loved the OLE OLE having been to many rings, and that's what I give Mr. Croce for his awareness of different worlds. You stretched mine tonight.

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