Alladin's kleptomaniac sidekick / SUN 5-16-10 / Medieval chest / Carpenter's standard / Photographer Richard / 3,281 ft.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Constructor: Matt Ginsberg

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "DOUBLE CROSSERS" — theme answers have a special "square" that's divided into four quadrants. I was going to sum up, but there is too much. Let me just show you.
Each theme answer crosses one of those squares with four letters in it. The answer is to be read with both the first two letters and the second two letters. (Note that the "first two" going down will be the two on the left, and the "first two" going across will be the two on the top.) So one of these answers is to be read as SCOTS PLOTS, and the other as SPEARS CLEARS. With apologies for my handwriting:

Word of the Day: PELEE (98D: Volcano that devastated Martinique in 1902) —

Mount Pelée (pronounced /pəˈleɪ/; French: Montagne Pelée "Bald Mountain") is an active volcano on the northern tip of the French overseas department of Martinique in the Lesser Antilles island arc of the Caribbean.

The volcano is now famous for its eruption in 1902 and the destruction that resulted, now dubbed the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century. The eruption killed about 30,121 people. Most deaths came from the city of Saint-Pierre, at that time the largest city in Martinique, due to its pyroclastic flows.

Pyroclastic flows completely destroyed St. Pierre, Martinique, a town of 30,000 people, following the eruption of Mont Pelée in 1902. The eruption left only two survivors in the direct path of the volcano: Louis-Auguste Cyparis survived because he was in a poorly ventilated, dungeon-like jail cell; Léon Compère-Léandre, living on the edge of the city, escaped with severe burns. The event marked the only major volcanic disaster in the history of France and its overseas territories.(wikipedia)

• • •
Matt Ginsberg is a very creative man, and this theme is an amazing concept.

SethG here, finishing out the weekend while Rex is away. This will be a short~ish write-up, and will not be as funny as Wade's or Ben's were. Next time.

A side effect of a rebus (and I'd consider this to be one) is that any entry that contains a theme square automatically becomes an theme entry. With just 10 special squares here there are a full 20 theme entries. (And with each theme entry essentially being read twice, there's a huge amount of theme material.) It's hard to keep the fill pristine when there're so many constraints, but that's much more excusable when it's because something new and interesting is being done. Here, something new and interesting was done. There is some yuckiness, but, on the whole, though, A+ for originality and creativity.

Theme answers:
  • 1A: *Winning dad in a race (FASTER FATHER)
  • 6A: *Like Enron (IN THE RED IN THE END)
  • 20A: *Whispers heard during an in-class test (CHEATER CHATTER) This seems like it's a play on "chitter-chatter", but I think it's a coincidence. "Chitter-chatter", I've just learned, is not in the dictionary.
  • 43A: *Serving tray left next to the frying pan (SPATTER PLATTER)Serving tray? This phrase makes no sense. If the purpose is to catch the flying oil droplets, it's not a serving tray.
  • 58A: *Revival meeting (CONVERSION CONVENTION)This was one of the ones where I had to rely on the cross to see in which order the words would go.
  • 73A: *"You're not that sorry!" (CONTRITION CONTENTION) — Didn't I just type this?
  • 80A: *One who apprentices woodworkers (STAINER TRAINER)Are people who stain considered woodworkers? I guess woodworkers stain, but if I met a professional stainer who claimed to be a woodworker I'd think he was putting on airs. And, well, stain.
  • 90A: *Bozo, for one (KIDDIE KIDDER)In this puzzle, I think some of the shortest/simplest answers were the best. It's got accuracy, it's got K's, it's got a nice ring to it, it certainly sounds better than CONTRITION CONTENTION.
  • 105A: *Singer Britney succeeds at the high jump (SPEARS CLEARS)I won't play any Britney for you, and she clears by cleanly jumping over the bar.
  • 117A: *Just one or two pups, say (LITTLE LITTER)Another of my favorites.
  • 3D: *Edberg enjoying a sports match (STEFAN THE FAN)

    I could very easily go on for pages and pages about Stefan Edberg. He was my idol growing up. I'll just tell one story: on September 25, 1992, I sat across the aisle from his wife while watching the Courier/Kulti match in the Davis Cup semifinals. Then I sat courtside (actually, closer), near the net, to watch him lose to Agassi. I left the match with his water bottle. I had Stefan Edberg's water bottle. I had Stefan Edberg's Water Bottle! In June, 1993, my "friend" threw it out while helping me move.
  • 11D: *Knock again (RETRY ENTRY)That thing I said about the shorter ones being better? It wasn't always true.
  • 14D: *Nectarine grove (PEACH PATCH)A nectarine is a peach? Who knew? (Probably, those of you who knew that a grove is a patch.)
  • 26D: *Stupid show from a cable TV giant (TIME WARNER TIME WASTER)Okay, this one is probably actually the best of all.
  • 43D: *Orthodontist, at times (SPACER PLACER)
  • 68D: *Oven, at times (COOKIE COOKER)Again with the K's. Me likey.
  • 74D: *Small-claims court (RESTITUTION INSTITUTION)Okay, this one is probably actually the worst of all.
  • 80D: *Lorry in a ditch (STUCK TRUCK) Not the best or the worst, but my actual favorite.
  • 97D: *Vlasic employee (PICKLE PICKER)Another simple winner.
  • 105D: *Where Robert Burns and kin are buried (SCOTS PLOTS)
One unfortunate side effect of the difficulty of finding appropriate theme answers is that in seven of the ten special theme squares the upper-right and lower-left letters are the same. The effect is that both the across and the down wind up using the same sequence in their pairs of words. So STuck TRuck, for example, appears with STainer TRainer. Not a big deal, but it turns the quadrant of letters into a sort of simpler rebus than it could be.

  • 94A: Speed (CELERITY) — (With celerity) was a clue some other time I subbed here. Someone asked why I posted the picture I did.
  • 49A: Aladdin's kleptomaniac sidekick (ABU) — Trickiest spot in the puzzle was where this crossed 38D: Brother of Rebekah (LABAN). Some of you will have guessed other letters here. If I were writing the puzzle, I think I'd have used a C instead of the B.
  • 66A: Medieval chest (ARCA) — Learned it in crosswords. I had ORCA from the crosses, until I changed 51D: Slips (ERRATA) from ERRORS. Tee hee, I made an ERRORS error. Okay, you're right, that's lame.
  • 61D: Strikingly, as in a dress (FIT TO KILL) — Did MG make this up? I think MG made this up. One can dress to kill or impress, or be fit to be square, serve, or be tied, or a view might be to a kill, but I've never heard this.
  • 78D: Tries to impress, as in conversation (NAME DROPS) — I started out with DROPS NAMES.
  • 75D: 1981 Mel Gibson Film (GALLIPOLI)
Okay, that's probably enough. Anything more you can hash out in the comments, and Rex will be back tomorrow.

And now your Tweets of the Week — puzzle chatter from the Twitterverse...
  • @sethics Covering for Rex Parker 2day. Haven't been following all week to find potentially interesting crossword tweets. Tried searching, too many.
Signed, SethG, Royal Vizier of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Bob Kerfuffle 7:58 AM  

SethG - Great write-up! Not funny? Ha ha, the pictures are LOL.

Not much to say about this fantastic puzzle that hasn't already been said by SethG or at Wordplay and Diary of a Crossword Fiend, where a world war rages!

My pen on paper solve was great fun, with just two write-overs: ERRORS before ERRATA, and OUTFRONT before OUTAHEAD.

Anonymous 8:06 AM  

Who is the woman whose photo is just above the Tina Turner video in today's write-up? Thanks

Wade 8:33 AM  

Bravo, Seth. I almost never do the Sunday puzzles, on account of hating them, but I did this one so I could play along at home today, and I was thanking my lucky stars that I didn't have to blog about it. I couldn't have explained the theme or talked coherently about it, which you apparently are able to do. (And yeah, who is that hot chick with Woody Allen?)

I did admire this puzzle and found it tolerable, as Sundays go. Enjoy is too strong a word, and that's not MG's fault--Sundays are just too big. I spend too much time trying to find the clue I'm looking for, and the glare on the magazine and the small squares and glossy, ink-smearing paper . . . . Anyway, if you want much more entertaining griping from shut-ins about this puzzle, see the Wordplay blog.

JenCT 8:42 AM  

Really liked this, although DNF - want to get out in the garden before it gets too hot.

Agree that TIMEWARNERTIMEWASTER was the best answer. CELERITY????

Boo on FITTOKILL - Dressed to Kill, I've heard before, but not Fit.

JenCT 8:43 AM  

BTW, enjoyed the write-up, SethG!

joho 8:48 AM  

@anon 8:06 and @Wade, of course you're kidding, that's our own gorgeous Andrea Carla Michaels! Love that photo!

Also loved this puzzles. It's just what a Sunday should be. But I have to admit I was confused when some anwers worked with 3 letters in the squares and others with 4. Thank you @Seth for explaining that in such a concise fashion. Great write-up!

Matt Ginsberg, you're a genius!

Wade 9:06 AM  

And I don't get the picture of the rhubarb next to CELERITY either.

ArtLvr 9:20 AM  

Gee, I agree with Seth G... Sunday puzzles are usually too long. However, this Ginsberg gimmick had its good moments, like the cute little litter. I'm glad I had a newspaper version to do this one!

The Brit-style crossword that downloads if you're a NYT online subscriber was a nice surprise also. I'll try finishing it this evening -- A perfect spring day outside means I can't linger indoors, especially with strawberry plants needing straw underneath! Happy Sunday to all...


imsdave 9:21 AM  

Split Decisions has always been my favorite second Sunday puzzle. Combining it with a standard crossword is brilliant. This is a work of art. Thank you Mr. Ginsberg!

Seth, I suspect many substitute bloggers would have collapsed in fear when they saw they had to deal with a PDF today - well done sir.

Captcha works for my signoff today:

I've "gonispha" as I can go.

Happy Sunday all.

boomerslant 9:46 AM  

Thank you Rex ! This one had me baffled!

DB Geezer 10:08 AM  

How are NINES diamond complements? I put RINGS in and the SE corner got lost. Also I made ERRORS

DBGeezer 10:12 AM  

@Wade, 9:06, That's celery, not rhubarb. I guess you need more CELERITY in floral recognition.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:14 AM  

@DB Geezer - A complement is defined as the full number or quantity. As in "the Mudville nine" from Casey at the Bat, NINES are the complements of baseball teams.

Craig Richard Nelson 10:14 AM  

Have you read the comments on the NYT puzzle blog? good lord! I'm so happy to find that Rex and his followers still have their wits about them. Wonderful puzzle!

Wade 10:18 AM  

DB Geezer, that would explain why everybody hates my desserts, I guess.

Ulrich 10:18 AM  

I join the chorus of praise--most enjoyable Sunday I've seen in a while. It took me some time to figure out how to put the four letters into the cross square to make the reading of the variant answers come out right down and across, but once I figured that out, all was peaches.

I'm with Dave on the type: To me, it's not a rebus, but a descendant of the split decision species, several steps higher up on the ladder of evolution: (a) you have to guess also what goes into the splits; (b) the alternative answers, taken together, make some sense; and (c) it works horizontally and vertically for the same splits--pure ingenuity. I don't have enough hats to lift to acknowledge this feat.

HudsonHawk 10:23 AM  

I'm with imsdave and Ulrich--I love the Split Decisions puzzles, so this was pretty amazing.

I guess I will venture over to the Wordplay blog just to see the aftermath of the train wreck. I'm glad I am a dead tree solver, as I'm not sure how this grid would work in AcrossLite.

Mmm, Celery Pie!

Occasional Visitor 10:23 AM  

A nectarine is a peach cross.
Rhubarb has RED stems and large, leathery leaves, and it's an early Spring item.
And I think people are madder on the WordPlay blog because it's THE NYT's blog, so they are complaining to someone they perhaps believe able to 'do something about it.' Don't act so superior-- Rex and his followers have been known to rant on, themselves.

Apium graveolens 10:30 AM  

@Wade, 10:18 AM - They make Celery soda, don't they?

JC66 10:33 AM  


You're a pistol. See what you've stared. Please keep hangin out with us.

Martin 10:56 AM  


Nectarines aren't crosses -- they are a variety of peach. One gene mutation, which occurs naturally now and then, removes the fuzz.

Usually the mutation will only affect one branch, which can be propagated by grafting. That's why there are white nectarines, yellow nectarines, freestone nectarines, cling nectarines, etc. Peach people are always on the lookout for spontaneous nectarine appearance.

I'm amazed that this place is polite today while Wordplay is Fox News.

chefbea 10:57 AM  

Toughest Sunday puzzle ever and I usually like them. Not today. Got little litter and pickel pickler first so knew what I was suppose to do but to no avail. Actually I made some bread and butter pickles last week. yummm

Van55 11:02 AM  

Loved every minute of solving this one. Excellent!

Ben 11:12 AM  

What @Martin said about peaches and nectarines, I was totally going to say that.

Like @Wade I usually don't look at the Sunday puzzle, but I wanted to round out my Rex Weekend by reading SethG's writeup. Nice job, SethG.

Hats off to Matt Ginsberg for the ingenuity he showed in this puzzle. I feel bad for Matt that after months of constructing, editing and waiting for this puzzle to appear, he woke up to the torches and pitchforks of disgruntled solvers on the Wordplay blog. Not everyone was so upset, Matt.

FYI, for the Saturday solvers who are here today, I caught up on sleep yesterday after my late-night Rex blogging marathon, but I responded to many people's comments at the end of the day, down at the bottom of the comments section.

Tinbeni 11:23 AM  

This puzzle made me SEETHE ...
with joy.

Seth G. Great Job. I especially liked the way you did the little grid to explain the "Double Crossers."

OK, as a former Big-8 acct. my completed grid looks more like it was printed.
My solve has little to do with CELERITY.
The morning Bloody Mary does have that celery.

Great FUN.
Off, to see the ranting nabobs of negativism.

DBGeezer 11:34 AM  

@Occasional visitor, 10:23, In the east, rhubarb does indeed have red stems, but last week in the farmers' market in Santa Barbara, CA, one seller laughed as my wife was rummaging through the rhubarb looking for red stems, "You must be from the East. Here in California, rhubarb has green stems." And what do you know? They tasted just as good!

David L 11:42 AM  

I liked this puzzle ... eventually. I had several of the theme answers filled in before I figured out what the trick was. And the ingenuity of the construction was undermined by some dubious cluing: SPATTER PLATTER makes no sense to me (it would be a SPATTERED PLATTER if it were left next to the frying pan). And KIL for kilometer -- well, that's just made up, isn't it?

Also, what is TRUELEVEL supposed to mean? The tool is a LEVEL or a SPIRITLEVEL if you want to be fancy...

quasions: what I felt about some of the fill in this one...

Martin 11:45 AM  

Rhubarb comes in red-stemmed and green-stemmed varieties, either of which can be grown anywhere. Farmers and some home gardeners prefer the faster-growing green, but consumers prefer the red. Since the green leaves are toxic, people mistakenly believe that green stems are also poisonous.

My own feeling is that the perfect color match between the rhubarb and strawberries in a compote is a clear sign from G-d. I made a batch last week. Warm over ice cream it's one of the great spring treats. Who can be bothered baking?

@David L,

True level is what you get with a sprit level, as opposed to, say, parallel to the floor.

David L 11:56 AM  

@Martin -- thanks -- although I've done a goodly amount of leveling in my time and I've never heard that phrase. Then again, I've mostly lived in old houses where no one would dream of thinking that 'parallel to the floor' meant anything close to level...

syndy 11:56 AM  

I liked the idea fine just not the expression-sorry "cookie cooker "crossing "kiddie kidder"??? really!!And the clues? No joy in mudville here just a big GACK from bill the cat!!!

Bugs 11:57 AM  

What's all the RHUBARB about ?

Noam D. Elkies 12:06 PM  

Yes, a brilliant puzzle, challenging for a Sunday but well worth it. Matt Ginsberg shares SethG's slight misgivings about repeated letters in theme squares like ST/TH, but reports that there were so few possibilities to make this demanding theme work at all that he had no choice.

I thought the order in 58A:CONVE[RS/NT]ION was unambiguous. Yes, its partner TIMEWA[RN/ST]ER is the best of the lot, but I even liked 74D:[RE/IN]STITUTION.

Lots of longish, often stacked, non-theme words too. I wonder about 99A:TOLUENES, though: does the plural make sense? remembers only one prior case, back in 1997. (The singular appears five times, and I might have expected more with that letter pattern.)

More-or-less funny crosses: 88D/97A:TROD/PROD; 4D/18A:(AR)EGO; and 36A:YAMMERER crossing 37D:RANON.

@C.R.Nelson: Indeed the NYTimes blog is full of the run-on yammering of Paying Customers™. They have a legitimate beef, but it's not the constructor's or even the editor's fault; crossword creativity shouldn't be circumscribed by AcrossLite's capabilities. Anyway this one should have been possible to accommodate: I solve on paper, but from what I've seen you can enter four letters in a square and they form a 2x2 array, which should have worked exactly for the double-cross squares.

Yes, 94A:CELERITY is legit, cf. "accelerate". From Latin celeritas which is the source of c for the speed of light, as in E = mc². So one might see this as completing an Einstein trifecta with the clues for 40D:DODOS and 86A:ULM.


Norm 12:13 PM  

Five stars! Utterly fantastic!

The Bard 12:13 PM  

MACBETH: Throw physic to the dogs; I'll none of it.
Come, put mine armour on; give me my staff.
Seyton, send out. Doctor, the thanes fly from me.
Come, sir, dispatch. If thou couldst, doctor, cast
The water of my land, find her disease,
And purge it to a sound and pristine health,
I would applaud thee to the very echo,
That should applaud again.--Pull't off, I say.--
What rhubarb, cyme, or what purgative drug,
Would scour these English hence? Hear'st thou of them?

Anonymous 12:17 PM  

This one has moved me to seriously consider adding Will Shortz to my list of "people I wouldn't cry over if they suddenly dropped dead" for publishing this one on a Sunday.

Sunday's puzzle (to me)is for ez-breezy, take your time and leisurely enjoy solving over coffee and danish. Not deciphering asinine rebuses. Kiddie Kidder?

Anonymous 12:21 PM  

I'm surprised at all the love showered on this puzzle. The idea is definitely original and some of the fill is borderline cute. I can even go for 'splatter platter' as an interesting bit of word play. But 'Spears clears has nothing to recommend it. And completing the rest of the puzzle was just an exercise in tedium.

Anonymous 12:25 PM  

mmmmmmmm rhubarb pie!

Glitch 12:31 PM  

I feel like I've gone to my favorite sushi bar and been served a hamburger (albeit a well made one).


archaeoprof 12:32 PM  

I share the love for this puzzle. DNF, but it doesn't bother me.

Didn't know Joe SPANO had joined NCIS. Only watch it in reruns on cable. Remember him from Hill Street.

Final exams start tomorrow. I'll enforce the TIMELIMIT and hope I don't hear any CHEATER/CHATTER.

PuzzleNut 12:35 PM  

Took me a while to get the idea of the double crosses, and the fill was tougher than a usual Sunday. Once the concept fell, so did the rsst of the puzzle.
Can't disagree with Seth's favorite theme answers, but as an ex-Enronite, I loved INTHERED INTHEEND. I thought Enron was a great company in many respects and am always a little peeved at its infamy in crosswords, but this answer made me smile.

Martin 12:37 PM  


"Toluenes" has no chemical meaning as clued (as opposed to, say, "xylenes," which can refer to its three isomers).

But the online MW11C accepts the construction because it makes sense in industrial contexts (like this clue). "Testing the purity of various toluenes" is a valid shorthand for "testing the purity of toluene from various manufacturers."

Van55 12:41 PM  

The sh*tstorm at Wordplay is quite incredible to me. Do some people have no life beyond AcrossLite?

I prefer to solve on paper, myself, and the puzzle was easy enough to find in PDA format.

SethG 1:04 PM  

They make soda out of a lot of things. I assume kohlrabi is a German word for a celery/rhubarb cross. But what color is broccoli rabe?

Images and videos I passed up include this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, and this one. Oh, and this one.

My hand is still cramped.

jae 1:33 PM  

Yes, the theme was very clever/intriguing. But, this was a bit of a slog for me. Perhaps I was more in the mood for something breezier. This one seemed like a lot of work. Oh, and I too always print out the Wed.-Sun. puzzle so PDF was fine with me.

Crosscan 1:33 PM  

I know I'm out of town but is this Bizarro World I ended up in?

Rex is away, the Wordplay blog is the mean one, and I am forced to improvise to do a puzzle. Shocking!

Here's a tip for the printerless like me: Use Acrosslite version and a scrap piece of - what did grandpa call it? oh yeah - paper for the miniboxes, and enjoy.

Off to look for Woody Allen and the unknown lady.

Masked and Anonymous 1:38 PM  

Figured out the window pane (window pain?) squares PDQ, so had a pretty good time (PGT?) with this puz. Thumbs up! Only things standing between me and the prized all-correct puz bonus were:
1. LA?AN crossing A?U. Aw, man, I guessed "p". Thought maybe Shortz was tired of the old "Kwikimart worker" clues for APU. So no bonus here.
2. DIE? crossing ?OLUENES. Forgot I'd left this blank, so kinda pulled an Al Sanders there. So no bonus times two.
Congrats to all the subs for old44 this week. Thumbs way on up there for your efforts.

XwordJunkie 1:40 PM  

@Anon at 12:17 - you are such a dork. You wouldn't cry if one of the most creative editors of puzzles dropped dead? Why bother coming to this website if you have to make such personal attacks? Moron!

@Rex: I know you are away, but I am not sure you should tolerate such hate posts. [And you can remove mine for my personal attack on Anon as well! :-)]

chaos1 1:43 PM  

Great posts all. I'm fairly new around here, although I have been on the NY Times blog for quite a while. I love you guys. You're all a bit more " Earthy " and I'm not a big fan of political correctness.

Obviously, there are other Times bloggers here also, but with different screen names. I recognize most of them by their input and style.

Thanks joho, vis-a-vis clearing up the inquiries as to the mystery lady with Woody Allen. OMG! I've often heard mention of Andrea Carla Michaels, but I had no idea that she was the quintessential Sine Qua Non of feminine pulchritude. What a hottie !

I'm with Anonymous @ 12:21 PM on this puzzle. I'm a purist, and I don't brook gimmickry. See my post on the Times blog under Chaos130, if you really care about my opinion.

I think I'll probably be posting here more often in the future. Have a great Sunday all !

jae 2:19 PM  

Oh, and making the ERRORS misstep really added to the sloginess of the solve. It took forever to sort out that section.

John 2:21 PM  

A great clue for 97D would have been PETER PIPER. Now HE was THE Pickle Picker!
For me the puzzle was quite a bit of work. Had to work down to LITTLE LITTER before I tumbled to what was going on, so there was no fun for the longest time. But overall, the experience wasn't a total loss.

Tinbeni 2:24 PM  

I really enjoyed the clips, especially "this one"

Now about that Stefan Edberg Water Bottle, your friend did you a favor.

Had it been a FULL 1.75L Avatar bottle, I could understand, but it held water ...

“I never drink water because of the disgusting things that fish do in it.” W.C. Fields

mac 2:51 PM  

Fantastic puzzle, too big as all Sunday puzzles are, but ingenious! Some of the answers were a little tortuous, some hilarious.

I'm on the side of the red stemmed rhubarb, especially with strawberries, no crust necessary. @Martin: after so many of your posts I need to eat or cook or both!

@The Bard: you are the best. As is @SethG! Incredible how you explained this puzzle so clearly!

I guess I'm going to check out that warzone.

PIX 2:52 PM  

So I drive to Jones Beach, read the Times and then realize there is no magazine I drive back and buy a new copy of the Times with a magazine section...I drive back to the beach and spend hours doing the puzzle...and it was all worth it...magnificent puzzle...brilliant piece of construction.

Agree with those who have noted that as clued (99A) the use of the plural toluenes is incorrect. Toluene is a very specific substance (methylbenzen) so the clue should read "solvent" not "solvents" what...great puzzle.

George NYC 3:12 PM  

So Andrea was with Woody before Mia? Awesome.

tkitlin 3:48 PM  

I haven't done a puzzle with pen and paper in ages. I thought it was great fun. (So what made the folks over on the wordplay blog go all meanyface?) Not knowing ARCA or TOLUENES got me rattled. Couldn't come up with FIT TO KILL (an expression I have heard, together with the word 'dressed'), RESTITUTION INSTITUTION, CONTRITION CONTENTION, and immediate environs until I slept on it. But in the light of morning it all came together.

Excellent puzzle, and write up.

Masked and Anonymous Part Deux 3:53 PM  

Holy Wordplay! Just took a rare lurk at that blog. They ain'ta blowin' sunshine up the crossword's skirt over there today!

Couldn't they have fixed all this mess by showin' a free picture of the actual newspaper grid online and then just allowing a wildcard character for some of the online puz squares? Just accept any old bilge typed in the square, for the weirdo squares. If everything else is OK, give 'em a pass. Then solvers can finish and move on to a blog lurk to address any lingerin' doubts. I mean, I'm not Geek Squad material, but they gotta do somethin'.

Agree with the Wordplay lynch mob crowd, in the sense that the tech support for this puz took a nappy-poo. Gotta go thumbs down on that same crowd, when they howl for no new ideas to stretch the envelope, tho.

chefwen 4:22 PM  

Loved this one, took me a long time and I did end up with a couple of holes but, all in all, a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Having to print it out on two pieces of paper slowed the process, but the clues and the grid was easier on the old eyeballs, didn't have to squint at all.

Off to read the "angry people" @wordplay.

Falconer 4:41 PM  

Fantastic puzzle -- challenging but fair, interesting, amusing, inventive. Everything you want to see in in the Sunday grid. And even the most of the tired old fill had fresh clues, e.g. Orr, NDak, Ante, TseTses and Sgt. Nice going, Matt, that was fun.

Clark 4:43 PM  

Hey, who turned me into 'tkitlin'? Yikes!

edith b 5:01 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
edith b 5:08 PM  

Very generally speaking, I don't care much for 21x21 puzzles, finding those that are 15x15 to be about ideal size.

I did enjoy this one due to the gimmick even though it was more of a slog than usual. I kind of enjoy puzzles with gimmicks ala Joe Krozol, for instance.

My captcha is pessoluf, something I found this puzzle to be, more pessoluf than usual, in my opinion.

Say, where has Joe Krozol been anyway?

Anonymous 5:15 PM  

Am I the only person that thought it was awkward having to work the puzzle on two pieces of paper? And it really wasn't possible to do the puzzle without a printer. Not everyone gets the Times delivered or even has a place to buy it.

Philip Sandifer 5:27 PM  

The 7/3 balance of quad-squares is, for me, a real problem - I got FASTERFATHER and STEFANTHEFAN, then confirmed (in my mind) the way the crosses worked with STAINERTRAINER and STUCKTRUCK, then PICKLEPICKER and LITTLELITTER. As a result, having now seen three that worked the same way, I crashed out hard on SPEARSCLEARS because it didn't follow the seemingly set up rules. And when I figured it out, I was just pissed off.

chefbea 5:30 PM  

Read some of the angry spots on word play. Had to quit to start dinner..Beer Butt chicken on the grill and roasted you know what along with some sauted kale.


Steve J 6:02 PM  

Holy crap. Just looked at Wordplay. I was mildly irked by having to go to the PDF, too (I vastly prefer solving on computer), and I shared the irritation of the fellow iPhone solver, since that subscription didn't allow access to the PDF on NYT. So I had to pay for a new monthly subscription. Been considering switching over to solving on my laptop rather than my phone anyway, so it worked out.

And the puzzle itself did, too. I'm often not a fan of gimmick puzzles, but I liked this, even with a DNF. It was an interesting concept, executed well most of the way through. I wouldn't want to do puzzles like this all the time, but I liked this as a diversion.

@Martin, since you typical have some background or explanation on particular clues/answers and the test/verification process, I'm curious about how KIL made it through. The only abbreviation for kilometer I've ever seen is km, and some minutes of searching online seems to confirm that that's the only abbreviation anyone's ever seen. I couldn't find a single example of that being an abbreviation for kilometer (which would make sense, as every unit of measure in metric has a kilo-something, and KIL would be horribly ambiguous as a result).

Matt 6:08 PM  

How wonderful to see a discussion that seems to focus mostly on the puzzle (for better or worse, although I'm obviously pleased that this one seems to be mostly better) as opposed to the fury I encountered on Wordplay! I'm glad people mostly seem to have liked this one; as far as KIL goes, I was stuck. It appears to be legitimate ( cites Random House), but I agree that it's ugly on a good day.

As always, thanks for the feedback!

The Bard 6:30 PM  

Antony and Cleopatra > Act III, scene VII

CLEOPATRA: Celerity is never more admired
Than by the negligent.

MARK ANTONY: A good rebuke,
Which might have well becomed the best of men,
To taunt at slackness. Canidius, we
Will fight with him by sea.

Anonymous 6:38 PM  

The negligent also really admire rhubarb.

Martin 6:40 PM  

The last time this was discussed it was noted that "kil" is an older abbreviation for kilometer. In fact, I recall seeing it on old road markers in France. The RHUD is WS's primary dictionary authority, so being in it pretty much seals the deal if an entry is needed in a pinch.

I don't have any special "say" about clues unless I catch a clear factual error (very rare because the pros do such a good job), but there are some clues that I won't bother griping about, and "in the RHUD" is one class of such clues.

Anonymous 6:47 PM  

Why does the Random House Dictionary use alphabetical order?

Steve J 7:29 PM  

Thanks, @Martin. I can live with citing an authoritative source. Still find it odd that there appear to be no examples out there other than inclusion in the dictionary; it's a pity that they don't publish citations leading to the word's inclusion (or do they? I don't have a copy of the RHUD), because I'd be surprised if it's been in actual usage in American English over the last hundred-some years.

babslesley 7:58 PM  

I truly disliked this one. Ruined my Sunday evening.

PIX 8:09 PM was a great puzzle...if the computer people haven't figured out how to do puzzles on computers yet, that's their problem...the computer geeks need to improve their computers...the intelligent puzzle creators-like you-do not need to dumb down their puzzles just to make it fit on someone's computer...maybe someday, but not yet...the Times is still primarily a newspaper, not a website...great puzzle...

Ulrich 9:35 PM  

To me, putting a label on something and then argue from the label--its negative or positive connotation--is no substitute for a real argument. This is addressed to all who think this puzzle involved some "gimmick"--if the feat of construction needed to pull this one off is a "gimmick", give me a gimmick every day of the week. A gimmick, to me, is some gratuitous add-on needed to give interest to something that doesn't deserve it otherwise. The "split decision" concept underlying this puzzle is far from being a gimmick in that sense--it's what makes the puzzle what it is--IT DEFINES IT. You may not like it, that's OK, but don't try to avoid an argument by throwing labels around.

I'm convinced that when Michelangelo painted the last prophet in the Sistine chapel, where he abandoned the conventional straight-on look known for centuries and substitued a "look from below", as if Daniel were really sitting on the edge high up and had to be viewed with the forshortening this created, other painters, especially painters who didn't have the skill to replicate the feat, considered this a "gimmick". Well, all of Baroque ceiling painting derives from this "gimmick".

Now, I'm not saying that constructing an xword puzzle is as demanding as painting Biblical stories on a ceiling in Rome--of course not. But what I'm saying is that (a) constructing an xword puzzle is an art, if a "minor" one; and (b) any art form survives by innovation. Some innovations may be gimmicks, but some are not, and the latter ones are the ones that make following a particular form worth the effort--if I get the same old same old every day, I lose interest pretty soon.

Ulrich 9:38 PM  

...on second thought, the foreshortened prophet in question may not be Daniel--e-mail me if you want to know--I'll look him up...

olderbutnosmarter 9:44 PM  

The phrase is actually "dressed fit to kill" which has been around at least as long as I have. Google it.

Anonymous 9:50 PM  

Ulrich, I think it was Judas, double-crossed with Jesus.

CoolPapaD 9:53 PM  

Hard - had several errors / errata.
Am I the only one who thought 8D referred to the group with Karen and Richard? I had TRUE LOVER, which totally messed me up!

Fun, entertaining, and I vastly loved not having to use magnification to see the squares!

CaseAceFos 11:56 PM  

Matt Ginsberg, "you dirty rotten, double crossing, rat fink!" Words to the effect Jimmy Cagney, no doubt would've used to describe your Sunday "Boat Rocker"...once again, HIS, not mine! :-)

fikink 12:07 AM  

Well, I had fun with it/wrestled with it/swore at it and finished it. And the fact that I had to download the PDF allowed me to end my day doing a crossword puzzle soaking in the tub.
(I never take my laptop near water.)
So, thank you, Matt, for a most pleasant end to my day. Dare I ruin such goodness with a perusal of the squabbling at Wordplay? I think not.

andrea carla mia-chaels 4:36 AM  

ohmygod, just decided to check in @1:30am while I play back the 3 hour "Survivor" finale!

Shall I kiss you or kill you?
That pic, @chaos1 et al, you will be disappointed to learn is from 1975 when I was 15 years old...
It's a looooooong story and unfortunately, one that i will never live down (at least not on this blog or any time NAMEDROPS is in the puzzle!).

I am now 50...FIFTY! Which makes Woody, um... almost 80? It's been a long interesting ride. Let me just say that I'm not writing this from a penthouse on the Upper East Side.

Bravo, Matt!

andrea carla mia-chaels 5:19 AM  

hysterical...tho I don't know whether to kiss you or kill you!

um...thank you, 35 years later! That pic is circa 1975, I was all of 15. Woody was 40+.
Please feel free to do the math.

Suffice to say, I am writing this @2am from my rent-controlled apt in my beloved San Francisco, not from a penthouse on the Upper East Side.
(and all pics of me are clothed!)

Bravo, Matt. You're a genius!

SethG 8:19 AM  

Who, me? I just thought you were dressed strikingly...

donkos 8:28 PM  

The only thing more addicting than doing the puzzle is reading Rex's commentary afterwards.

I like to gues what clue inspired a puzzle - would like to believe that "Time Warner Time Waster" was the inspiration behind this one.

Tim 4:52 PM  

"Split Decisions" is one of my favorite alternative puzzles, but for some reason this one didn't do it for me. I figured out the drill pretty quickly, but the theme answers were kind of boring, so I didn't bother to finish. A cool experiment, just didn't work for me.

Sandra 9:22 PM  

I got conversion convention, not contrition contention!

Sandra 9:24 PM  

oops disregard the above

Anonymous 9:34 PM  

...from syndication land...
While toluene is a singular compound, there are methyl-, dimethyl-, nitro-, chloro-, and who knows what other types of toluene that could all be potential additives...

Better living through chemistry?!?

Anonymous 12:00 AM  

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms says "fit to kill" is an expression of the mid-1800s. I'm fairly confident that's the last time it was used with any regularity. Why not clue it with the equally obscure but infinitely more fun B-movie, Fit to Kill?

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