Scottish castle for British royals / MON 7-12-10 / Upright inscribed stone tablets / Flower also known as cranesbill / Sir Geraint's wife in Arthurian

Monday, July 12, 2010

Constructor: Freddie Cheng

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "What A DEAL!" (52D: "What ___!" (possible response to 20-, 29-, 46- and 56-Across))

Word of the Day: KIOWA (36A: Midwest tribe) —

The Kiowa (pronounced /ˈkaɪ.ɵwə/) are a nation of American Indians who migrated from the Northern Plains to their present location in Southwestern Oklahoma. They are a federally recognized tribe, the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, with over 11,500 members.
• • •

So I was away this weekend, on a roadtrip to beautiful, sunny Toronto. Red Sox had a series against the Blue Jays— my friend Matt and I go on a roadtrip (nearly) every year, and this year's lucky city was Toronto, where I hadn't been since late 1997. Confirmed my initial impressions—one of the most beautiful cities in North America. One of my five favorite cities on the continent, easily. Vibrant, beautiful, user-friendly, clean, chock full o' interesting restaurants and bars and markets. Stayed at The Rex (for real), a wee hotel on top of a night club of the same name. Saw a gorgeous night game at whatever they're calling the (not) SkyDome now. Something centre. I had to look it up—Rogers Centre. Night game was about the most perfect weather, and the Sox pummeled the Jays (which was fun for a few innings and then was kind of dull; but the weather, my god...). Next day was blazing and we were in the sun for the first couple innings. Also, we were in the outfield (second deck, first row). Also, Sox lost. It happens. Pitching was just terrible all around, but ours was terribler. It was like watching someone bleed to death; a run or two every inning, NO 1-2-3 innings. Just horrid. We appear to have won the rubber game today (why is it called that?), so that's good. Also, congratulations SPAIN! On the drive home, we kept trying desperately to get reception of ESPN Radio—not easy in many parts of western New York. Lucky enough to hear the lone goal. Oh, one last thing about Toronto. If you are there, and you are going to eat out, go to PAESE (King Street, short walking distance from CN Tower and Rogers Centre). One of the best meals I've ever had anywhere ever. Ever. Everything I tasted was stellar. Total gamble (it's only two months old, and I picked it based primarily on external appearance) that paid off. Go there. You could tell them Rex sent you, but they'll have no idea what that means. Just go.

This puzzle ... made me wish I was still on vacation. I hate to say this, but it is one of the worst NYT puzzles I've done in a Long time. I'll start with KIOWA/LEADY, a crossing so ugly, so hateful, that the puzzle should have been taken out back and shot based on this feature alone. LEADY (28D: Like many old water pipes)!? I see that it's a word. So are lots of things. Holy mackerel. Never heard of KIOWA (or I did and then forgot) (36A: Midwest tribe)—they're quite small (numbers-wise, not height-wise); fine fill, but not typical Monday fare. But LEADY is the real culprit here. Jeez louise. I actually stopped mid-solve to look these words up. LEADY ... LEADY ... I am going to have a hard time forgetting that gem. This is a 78-worder (the max) and there are a whopping 43 black squares!!!! That should have made the grid (comparatively) Very easy to fill. Thus, why am I enduring abominations like LEADY? And TANTALUM (50A: Element with the symbol Ta)? Anyone who likes this answer should ... well, have his head checked, first of all, but also, should know that it's not here by choice. No one chooses TANTALUM, esp. on a Monday. It's here because of desperation. It also spawns BIMODAL? God, the fill just creaks and moans and begs to be put out of its misery (44D: Having two methods).

Then there's the fact that the theme is weak on several levels. First, TRIPLE followed by THREE should equal a "3" theme ... but then ... no. Weak. Second, the theme-revealer is a *partial*!? Really? At a bare minimum, put WHATADEAL in the middle of your grid. Your theme coverage is not exactly dense. Come on. Lastly, what kind of idiot exclaims "What A DEAL!" at the offer of FREE REFILLS? FREE REFILLS are so common that there's no way you exclaim "What A DEAL!" in any way that is non-ironic. Same with NO MONEY DOWN—those are cheap ploys, not deals. THREE FOR ONE is the only one that might make you say such a thing, and even then, it really depends on what you're getting. Plus, TWO FOR ONE, sure, THREE FOR ONE?—that seems Far less common. GERANIUM (38D: Flower also known as a cranesbill) and BALMORAL (24A: Scottish castle for British royals) are pretty. Sorry I can't be NICER (19A: More courteous)—well, I could be NICER, but then I'd be lying.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Special offer at an airline Web site (TRIPLE MILES)
  • 29A: Special offer at a supermarket (THREE FOR ONE)
  • 46A: Special offer at a diner (FREE REFILLS)
  • 56A: Special offer at a car dealership (NO MONEY DOWN)
  • 8D: Upright, inscribed stone tablets (STELAE) — if you are (still?) feeling like defending this puzzle's fill, I give you this answer as my Exhibit ... what are we up to now? F? G?
  • 64A: Sir Geraint's wife, in Arthurian legend (ENID) — possibly the most famous Arthurian character, xword-wise. Also a city in OK.
  • 9D: TV western that ran for 20 seasons ("GUNSMOKE") — Couldn't begin to tell you the difference between this and "Bonanza." One of them featured Michael Landon, post-teenage werewolf and pre-Pa on the prairie.
  • 69A: Campbell who sang "Rhinestone Cowboy" (GLEN) — Love him. Love old(er) country in general. Would've gone with "Wichita Lineman," but this (later) song is possibly better known to a general audience (?). Here's a third song:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Rube 12:17 AM  

So, I'm first to comment. Well, this puzzle does not deserve any comments. LEADY! Ridiculous.

PurpleGuy 12:23 AM  

Not much to say about this one. Agree with Rex's write up and @Rube above.
LEADY is really pulling from the bottom of the barrel.Never heard of TANTALUM.

Let's hope for a better puzzle tomorrow.

George NYC 12:23 AM  

Man, you said it. I thought I was stuck on the tarmac at Newark airport, reduced to doing the United Airlines Connections crossword, my head still aching from the (not free) smoked turkey "sandwich." LEADY is a word I have never heard spoken, or seen written for that matter, until today. When I got BIMODAL I just decided to pack it in. Life is short.

I was recently in Toronto, en route to Vancouver (by train) and had a very early dinner in the restaurant atop the CN tower. Only when I had been seated did the restaurant start to rotate. What a deal!

Tobias 12:38 AM  

Kiowa seemed like an odd thing to not have heard of until you mentioned Gunsmoke and Bonanza as shows you did not know well. I definitely know Kiowa from westerns.I can remember a thick Texas accent "... he was half Kiowa and half..." they may not have been much historically, but Hollywood sure did like the ring of the name.

Tobias 12:39 AM  

Oh and "Leady" was horrifying

Steve J 12:48 AM  

Didn't quite hate this that much, but it wasn't great. Although, I absolutely agree on LEADY. Yes, it's a word. It means "lead-like"; so, we have "lead-like" clued as "Like many old water pipes." One, old water pipes weren't like lead: they were actual lead. Two, if one's going to forgive the first point, you've still got a lot of "like" redundancy going on here.

Also thought the theme was going to have something to do with threes (would have loved to see a "treble" in there somewhere; I've never quite figured out when "treble" is used instead of "triple," but it's a nice variant, and would be especially good in a crossword themed on threes).

Not much point in going on. There are other parts I wasn't fond of as well. Maybe I did dislike this one as much.

CoolPapaD 1:27 AM  

Your pic, and choice of Glen Campbell songs, is a bit disturbing. Not long after I moved to Phoenix, the Rhinestone(d) Cowboy got pulled over here for an extreme DUI - he apparently assaulted a cop after his arrest. His mug shot reminded me of Nick Nolte's infamous pic - very sad.

Didn't hate this one - LEADY may have sucked, but was easily get-able. I had to guess at the A in BALMORAL, as I had no idea what this or STELAE were. Other than that, it seemed pretty okay.

And with that, I bid you ..... tantalum!

chefwen 1:39 AM  

@dk - May I be the first to wish you a very happy birthday!!! Exclamation points stolen from your heartthrob!!!

Leady??? no, no, no. I had leaky in first but SAk did not work. Another write over was STELAE OVER STELes. Originally from the Midwest where Indian names run rampant, but have never heard of the KIOWA tribe. TANTALUM, another HUH? Other than those few foibles, puzzle fairly easy.

Robin 1:47 AM  

Yuck. And what Rex said. ACME, I challenge you to find something cheerful about this puzzle. "The OBESE RABBI developed an ULCER after bidding ADIEU to ANWAR?"

CaseAce 1:53 AM  

Gadzooks! You less than noble things! Know you not the one and only true meaning of LEADY? Why it's theatre jargon and a contraction of "Leading Lady!" Why would groundlings such as yourselves be privy to this inside info, familiar only to those of us that have trod the boards during the course of their outstanding careers performing beneath the greasepaint? Be gone with you!
Exit Stage Right

andrea not fuming michaels 2:55 AM  

I accept your challenge!

But first, I imagine, I need to wish my bloglove @DK a Happy Birthday...but then again he's prob off celebrating with his lovely wife, so screw that!

Here's the thing, altho I agree with 90% of what @rex said, I did find the theme rather POPPY
(by the way, I discovered the hard way today that there are at least three flowers that fit P---Y (PeonY, PoseY, PoppY))

Speaking of flowers, GERANIUM is a very classy non-theme entry...tho again odd, that TANTALUM doesn't end in -IUM but GERANIUM does!
Very tantalizing...

Here's the thing...@rex is right, it should have been TWOFORONE (but that is the wrong number of letters, which resulted in the TRIPLE/THREE thing and thus begging for a third third.
Treble, Trey, Threesome (hey, dk!)

And yes, he's right that the reveal should have been a non-partial...but I thing that could have been salvaged by
making the clue "Such ___!"

I mean "Such a deal!" is so much more fun, and so much more Jewish and so much Non-Cheng, I suspect!

That said, since there were FOUR theme answers PLUS the reveal, I think you have to cut some slack.

Prob the difficult fill was meant initially for a Tuesday (tho there is no excuse for LEADY/TANTALUM/BIMODAL/STELAE, KIOWA on a Monday) However, let's assume Mr. Cheng made it intending for mid-week, as most newish constructors do...but bec of the high word count and all the black squares, Will must have re-jiggered it as a Monday and thus you get this BIMODAL Monday grid/theme, Tues/Wed fill.

My other guess is that maybe the original crossing may indeed have been LEAKY/SAK and it was changed bec SAK was too hard and since LEADY WAS a word...
(My landlord, the Evil Mr. Fong, manages to provide faucets that are BOTH LEAKY and LEADY...)

The REAL question is, why wasn't 5D ACME?!

I also had a mini-malapop in that I put in ERROR for GAFFE (how ironic) only to correct myself when I was 13D was ERR.

So, @Robin, does that make the whole thing more palatable? Believe me, I'm not looking for something to like, it's how I genuinely felt before I read @rex's write up!)
I liked the theme, but felt it was rife with consistency problems, all of which @rex laid out perfectly.

So where does that leave us?

I think bottom line is that there is a dearth of good Mondays out there and I need to get back to work! Tho my last two were semi-scorched in this very same blog!

Aaron Riccio 4:07 AM  

I hate criticizing constructors; after all, they're making puzzles, I'm just solving them. I will say this in the creator's defense, though: bad as some of the fill was, the crosses still helped me go through more-or-less smoothly for a Monday. But LEADY--especially since I had RUSTY to begin with--hurt. At least the other tricky ones I *knew* I didn't know off the bat.a

foodie 6:53 AM  

I love this blog. I truly do. Just read Rex then Andrea. Where else would you laugh out loud while getting a world class education in a unique art form?

As I was solving this last night, a whole scenario was going through my mind anticipating what Rex will hate most and how hilarious he is when he hates something. And how Andrea will manage to be generous while maintaining her high standards and making us laugh at the same time-- no mean feat. And I love the combination of Rex's point about the coffee refills being no big DEAL and Andrea's suggestion of "Such A DEAL"!

I love this blog.

Anonymous 6:53 AM  

Whoa. Rex, we're sorry you had to leave Toronto and come back home, but don't take it out on a first-time constructor, eh?

ACME--c'mon. You know darn well you can't get opium from a peony! And it's 'posy,' which is a generic term for a bloom, not a flower name. Parker Posey--was that who you were thinking of?

This was an Easy puzzle, not really deserving of much more commentary.

Greene 7:29 AM  

Agree with Rex 100%. I have nothing kind to say about this puzzle at all. It really does not belong in the NYT and I'm very surprised Will published it. Just ugh!

I realize I'm taking a dump on the constructor here and I'm very sorry I didn't like your puzzle Freddy. By all means, please try again. But listen to what Rex is saying. Every point he makes is painful, but true. If you follow his advice you will be a better constructor and we will all rejoice at your next creation.

fikink 7:37 AM  

Seems it's all been said.

Happy Birthday, @dk...time to start counting backward.

@Rex, nice Tantalus glyph. Thanks!

Bob Kerfuffle 7:37 AM  

As did chefwen, I had STELES before STELAE.

No big deal.

fikink 7:47 AM  

Oh, @Rex, and "Stellae!!!!!" was good, too. LOL!

Seems this puzzle went over like a LEADY balloon.

imsdave 8:00 AM  

After writing in LEADY, I erased ROOST and LEADY, stared at it for 10 seconds and wrote in ROONE and LEASE. Erased (K)IOWA, SAD, and TRY - played with it for a minute and got (K)EANE, RUR, and SLY.

Really lazy.

Grouchy Dave

Anonymous 8:25 AM  

Wow. Maybe we should take the constructor out and shoot him! He clearly doesn't deserve to breath the same air as we superior beings...
Oh, I thought it was "Let's all be extra harsh day".

Lighten up people, Jeesh!

(Congrats on your first NYT puzzle, Freddie. Great work!)

Anonymous 8:25 AM  

this puzzle was less worse than last saturday's. at least with all the odd monday words, they were all reasonably solvable.

joho 8:26 AM  

I have absolutely nothing to add except: Happy Birthday, dk!!!!!

David L 8:51 AM  

Well, I didn't think it was that bad -- apart from LEADY, of course. Didn't mind TANTALUM, seeing as I'm a science kind of guy, but for that reason objected to the definition of BIMODAL, which in nerdspeak is most often a mathematical term describing a statistical distribution with two peaks. I suppose if you called a plumber to deal with your LEADY pipes, and he said we can either seal them to prevent the lead from leaching into the water or just replace them altogether, then you might say your plumber has a BIMODAL attitude to old pipes...

chefbea 8:56 AM  

I agree with y'all ( I live in the south now). Didn't like the puzzle.

Happy Birthday DK from the busy one

Cathyat40 8:59 AM  

I found the puzzle easy. Agree that a "triple" theme was expected after the first two theme answers.

Really, I was okay with the puzzle until LEADY.

Anonymous 9:10 AM  

I grew up in a small Texas town and there was a resort nearby called Lake Kiowa, thus a gimme for me. As an aside, I am currently reading a book by SC Gwynne called "Empire of the Summer
Moon." Great read. It tells all about the Comanches in particular and the Plains tribes in general. Kiowas, Tonkawas (who loved their Comanche bar-b-qued) Apaches, Cheyenne... The tale of Cynthia Ann Parker (mother of the last great Comanche warchief Quanah Parker) is riveting.

jesser 9:53 AM  

@Chefwen: Get out of my head! Those were MY comments!

I do not believe I could ever construct a puzzle, so Freddie Cheng gets a tip of my hat for having done so, but LEADY is the biggest GAFFE I've run across in a long time. I'm sure that after reading the blog, he and Will will retire it, or put it in a centrifuge with some TANTALUM and see if it explodes.

Did anyone catch last night's live concert from the Gulf of Mexico by Jimmy Buffett and Friends? Man, that was cool. I wish I'd have been there. Or in Toronto with Rex. But I was here in Las Cruces with a good zin and the concert on TV and desert rain falling outside, so I'm good.

Happy Monday, amigos!

Chrows! (How else are you gonna arrange all those CHs?) -- jesser

Chief Two Hatchet 10:07 AM  

The Kiawa "migrated" from the northern plains to southen Oklahoma? Is it really "migrating" if you're being herded by the fifth calvary with Henrys pointed at you?

nanpilla 10:13 AM  

@imsdave - SO much better than LEADY. I have filled your words into my grid, and it looks much better.

Was also expecting a theme of threes. Heck, if you can have BIMODAL, why not tricamerals? Or treble clefs?

Stan 10:15 AM  

Aw, c'mon the theme per se wasn't so bad (it is Monday). Some nice words too: CUSP, POPPY, FUMING, TWINE....

Parts needing improvement have been well-covered.

Perry White: "Olsen, this is terrible! You've buried the most important details in the third paragraph! Learn to write a more LEADY story!"

Nancy in PA 10:17 AM  

I liked seeing TANTALUM in the puzzle--it's the "tan" in Coltan. Think Congo, cell phones, wars...very newsworthy. Also liked ADO crossing ADIEU and the clue for RABBI. Lighten up, everybody!

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

Can't believe I was reading about tantalum in a Slate article on the periodic table not 20 minutes before it popped up in today's puzzle. It's going to be a good day.

ArtLvr 10:40 AM  

Mondays are usuallly too blah for me, so I was glad to see fill that was innovative! As someone noted over at Amy's, if you want three threes you can pretend FREE REFILLS is said Fuddishly... LOL

Congrats to Freddie Cheng on the NYT debut, and don't let A good DEAL of criticism discourage you.

Have a happy B-day, dk!


Two Ponies 10:43 AM  

This was more interesting than most Monday puzzles.
Stelae crossing Balmoral crossing leady was pretty rough for a Monday.
I also like ado/adieu together as well as Ali/Sonny.
I can't imagine why a geranium would be called a cranesbill but it added some interest to the clues.
Rex is correct from a construction point of view but I didn't mind so much as a solver.
Happy birthday dk!
@ mac, Sorry the Dutch lost. It was that damned octopus' fault!

Parshutr 10:53 AM  

Thought it was easy but boring (of course, I filled in LEAKY and never checked the acrosses, having filled in ANWAR and ROOSTS.

Van55 10:53 AM  

I agree that this was a harder than usual Monday with a few questionable entries. Still, it was a fair test and a lot more interesting to me than one with a ton of three letter abbreviations as answers. Unlike many of you, I didn't hate it.

poc 10:56 AM  

LEADY is just awful and BIMODAL doesn't mean what the setter seems to think it means. Apart from that, I thought it was a typical Monday. Can't understand the Medium-Challenging rating.

Zeke 11:08 AM  

I make a good part of my living as a statistician, and a good part of that screaming at clients that you have to look at the actual distribution of your response variables, that you can't take one which clearly has a bimodal distribution and apply statistics to it which are based on the assumption that the data is normally distributed. This makes BIMODAL mean exactly one thing to me, and that one thing doesn't agree with the cluing.
All this being said, BIMODAL's definition isn't limited, apparently, to what I think of it as meaning. Heiffer International has a bimodal functionality, providing immediate relief as well as long term, sustainable self sufficiency. Cargo containers have bimodal functionaliy, either rail or truck.

mitchs 11:09 AM  

@Rex: The term "rubber game" is probably borrowed from the card game Bridge. In classic Bridge, (not "Duplicate", wherein all teams play the same hands) the best of three games is called a "rubber". So, if the the third game is necessary, it's a "rubber" game.

Now, WHY the best of three in Bridge is called a rubber is beyond me...Yo, Martin?

deerfencer 11:30 AM  

If this a first-time offering from Mr. Cheng, methinks Will Shortz deserves the lion's share of the grief here for his poor editing.

Sorry, but this puzzle should have never seen the light of day in its present form--least of all in the NY Times.

Martin 11:39 AM  

Rubber in baseball indeed comes from rubber in bridge. Unfortunately, it's "origin unknown" in bridge.

"Leady" is in the M-W Collegiate 11. I accept appearance in a dictionary is no reason not to lynch a word that one doesn't use, or a puzzle it appears in, but the interesting question is why the M-W editors believe "leady" belongs in a heavily abridged desk dictionary. You won't find many words we're used to in that edition. No "orale" or "edile" or "stere." But "leady" is less obscure than any of those according to these word mavens. I thought this fact was worth the price of admission of "leady."

"Tantalum" has been mentioned here as the reason cellphones are killing millions in Africa.

archaeoprof 11:40 AM  

My archaeo-heart went pitter-pat when I saw the correct plural for the term "stele", i.e., STELAE.

@Rex: yes, old country is the best. Three chords and the truth!

@ACME: please do bring us another of your Monday gems asap.

Happy birthday, dk! (does dk live in NY? That would be dkny...)

Nhart1954 11:54 AM  

@ deerfencer,

This is an editing problem and Mr. Shortz probably does deserve most of the heat. I agree about LEADY but didn't think KIOWA and TANTALUM were bad.

HudsonHawk 12:05 PM  

Everything about the puzzle's already been said, so I will just give a shout out to the wonderful Jimmy Webb with a wiki citation:

Jimmy Layne Webb (born August 15, 1946 in Elk City, Oklahoma) is an American songwriter. His compositions include "Up, Up and Away", "By the Time I Get to Phoenix", "Wichita Lineman", "Galveston" and "MacArthur Park"...According to BMI, his song "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" was the third most performed song in the fifty years between 1940 to 1990. He is the only artist to have ever received Grammy Awards for music, lyrics, and orchestration.

D_Blackwell 12:10 PM  

Well, I congratulate Freddie Cheng on his debut NYT puzzle. A better man than I.

I have STELAE as the fill entry of the day. Almost a record time for me, and would have been, but got hung up on accepting LEADY and TANTALUM. Both were obviously correct, so it's on me for being slow to accept.

For reasons mentioned, I would not have built a puzzle around the theme entries selected, but choose to enjoy the puzzle rather than the flogging.

Masked and Anonymous 12:19 PM  

Happy B-day, @dk. Keep 'em comin'.

Thumbs up on Toronto, @44. Great town. Neato ballpark, too, as I recall. Big, but intimate feelin'. Superb write-up, BTW; you sound refreshed. And Go Twins!

ENID was in both LAT and NYT puz to-day. What are the odds? (1 in 20. I've verified the formula with 3 mathematicians so far. QED, almost.) Suspect common words like ENID could tend to make odds even lower, but that gets kinda complicated.

Oh, yeah...the puz. Well, it was kinda entertainin', actually. (Unlike a lot of MonPuz's.) Coulda been worse: coulda had TANTALUMY, or somethin'. Look on the bright side, T-Rex.

Not that LEADY's gonna appear in multiple crosswords on the same day too often. But it's been in the NYT before, one time wielded by the great great David Kahn. So cut Freddie a darn break, Rex-o-Sabe. Had his 4 U's. Only, thing, Freddie, yer puz sure wore a lot of black ink offa my printer cartridge.

PuzzleNut 12:22 PM  

Disagree with most of the negativity on this one. Sure, the theme and reveal could have been a little better, but c'mon.
Had rustY at first before any crosses and slowly changed one letter at a time. Never looked back at the ugly LEADY, so I was not as disgusted as others. Isn't TRS a computer brand? That crossing LEADS would be an improvement. All you constructors could probably find oodles of ways to fix LEADY.
The definition of BIMAODAL could have been better, but the word is great (lots of statistics classes for me). KIOWA is perfectly fine in my book.

Martin 12:31 PM  

BTW, "bimodal" means exactly what the constructor and editor think it means. It has many meanings, just as "mode" has many meanings.

Peter 12:49 PM  

I actually didn't think LEADY was all that terrible. It's at least inferable, kind of like those entries that are just verbs with -ER attached to their ends. Of course, this doesn't make it good by any means...

I'm willing to be lenient though, since this is a first-time constructor. Make no mistake, in a vacuum this is a sub-par puzzle, but it's not a bad first time effort.

One small piece of advice, in a puzzle with 4x11 theme entries, it's generally easier to arrange them in a spiral pattern, ala this JCREW puzzle from a year or so ago:

The major benefit? No fill entry has to cross or slide between two theme answers (always the hardest part of filling a themed grid). I'm guessing this is how BALMORAL and TANTALUM came about. They are both legitimate entries, but I didn't care for either. Myself, I'd like to see more GUNSMOKE-esque entries, and I think there's more than ample opportunities to place them.

CaseAce 12:52 PM  

Freddie, not to fret, my friend, You're catching entirely too much flak on the blogs this day, however, in MHO, you will soon Ka-Cheng, somewhere down the road!

Zen-ophobe 1:00 PM  

Under the heading of "get a grip," even if you didn't like it, even if you hated it, it's only a crossword puzzle.

Congrats, Freddie, and hope the roast doesn't spoil your excitement at having your first puzzle published in the Times.

Clark 1:11 PM  

Happy Birthday dk.

Congratulations, Freddie Cheng, on your first NYT puzzle, may there be many more.

I did the puzzle very quickly, which always leaves me unsure of what I just consumed, like eating a dessert too fast to taste anything. I did not have the strong negative reaction many here had.

But, I did not like LEADY any more than anyone else and I am wondering why. Usually, when a word is unfamiliar but formed regularly from a common word [eg, noun + 'y' = adj] everybody moans and complains but I find it ok, interesting, even very cool. So I don't know why I don't like the word LEADY. Ordinarily I would not not like it. Now that I've said all that, I kinda like it. Finding a completely legitimate word that everybody hates. Yes!

I just went full circle on that -- what's that about? Something about the optimism of the midwesterner? Who knows. @foodie I thought of you when A-squared appeared the other day. I stopped at a traffic light by that stadium once many years ago just after a game. The crowd swarmed around the car, front back and over. We just had to wait for the flood to pass. It's a good thing they won the game.

andrea cobra michaels 1:38 PM  

How does everyone know it's his first puzzle?
Well, now he's probably a SAD SAK so now 28D makes sense.

@ANonymous 6:53 am
I know! As soon as I thought of "Wizard of Oz" in the POPPY field I was fine...
and I thought I was mispelling POSEY, but if you google it, it still seems to be spelled both ways...

Forgot to mention that I love the STELLA pic!!!

My dad wrote a book in the 70s (for the layperson) called ULCERS (Which he wanted to title "Anger in Anger Out") and he used to make us carry it around on the bus and such for grass roots marketing, as if we were reading it...VERY embarrassing.
ULCERS in big RED letters.

As the father of three daughters, no sons, he also used to joke that women don't get ULCERs, they give them!

Wow, thanks! Looks like lunch is on me!

PIX 1:42 PM  

a BIMODAL locomotive can run on diesel fuel or electricity; the LIRR uses them. Commonly used word in my house (my wife works for the LIRR.)

An ugly puzzle for a Monday.

archaeoprof 1:56 PM  

@Andrea Cobra Michaels: Posey/Posy recalls a tender moment. The best dog I ever had was a sheepdog mix named Posey, but my kids always spelled it Posy. When she was 14 we had to have her put down, and I asked the vet to prepare two certificates, one with each spelling!

grouchonyy 2:06 PM  

Well, Rex. There's at least one thing Yankees' fans and Bosox fans can agree on, Toronto. My wife and I went to Toronto for a Yankees series, and were blown away by Toronto as a city. It's truly world class. The ballpark, other than the great location, is the least of it.

mitchs 2:32 PM  

BTW, my big problem with the old water pipe clue was that I kept looking for some form of "RESIN" to fit.

mac 2:48 PM  

What match? Nah, congratulations, Spain.

I stumbled over leady as well, had lead and didn't want the ÿ. Don't ask why there's an umlaut, I'm using a computer in Holland.

Otherwise I needed more crosses than I normally do on Mondays, but it all fell into place.

Happy birthday, dk!

Wade 2:57 PM  

I'm pretty certain I've seen every episode of "Bonanza" and every post-Chester "Gunsmoke" ever made. I used to watch "Bonanza" every afternoon at 4 with my grandpa ("Time for Cartwrights!") My favorite episode is the one where Little Joe gets in a fight with the bad guy and Hoss comes and whoops some ass. Actually that was every single episode of "Bonanza" ever made.

"Kiowa" isn't pronounced like "Iowa" where I grew up--it's pronounced "Ki-away." Actually we also pronounced Iowa like that.

"Wichita Lineman" may be the most haunting song ever written and is certainly the most haunting song ever written about a telephone repairman. REM does a beautiful version of it.

sanfranman59 3:21 PM  

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

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

Mon 7:25, 6:56, 1.07, 78%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:12, 3:42, 1.14, 93%, Challenging

Steve J 4:05 PM  

Happy birthday, dk.

Looking at this again with a night of sleep between the puzzle and me, and a lot of people's comments, I see a little more to appreciate than I did last night. Stuff like BIMODAL (and, yes, it does mean exactly what is clued, in addition to other things) and BALMORAL are nice. I'd like to see GAFFE in puzzles more often than the overused ERR.

The comments on editing do make me wonder how much the many issues that have been noted come down to editing as opposed to the original construction. That could potentially explain some of the clunkiness that exists. It could also explain how some un-Monday fill made it into a Monday puzzle. Short of Freddie or Will chiming in (and, given today's roasting, I'm guessing the odds of that are low), we'll never know. But it does give me something new to consider when I form an impression about a puzzle.

Regarding whether this is a debut: I don't know if it is or not, but I've always found it odd when people suggest that a puzzle should be evaluated differently because it's a debut. This is the New York Times crossword, which is considered by most to be the top level of American crosswords. Would we expect people to not point out the poor pitching of a AAA prospect who gives up 8 runs in 2 innings in his Major League debut? Sure, we wouldn't say his career's over based on his first outing, but we wouldn't pretend he did anything but stink up the joint just because it was his first big-league game.

As it was, I think Freddie had a rough outing, got hit hard, but he showed a promising curveball. A little more practice, and he should get an opportunity to get another start.

Anonymous 4:32 PM  

Just wanted to say that I'm glad you had a good time here in Toronto - this city gets called many good things, but "beautiful" is rarely among them. I will follow your restaurant recommendation next chance I get - this is truly a great eating city.

Michael Ehling 4:56 PM  

Thank you for your kind words about Toronto, our fair city. Come back any time. We can point you to more great restaurants.

Sfingi 5:35 PM  

This is about the easiest puzzle I've ever done.
I liked it. I love bargains.

A RABBI walks into a bar with a talking dog named Posy. He wants to have the dog put down because the dog won't shut up. Yakety yak - TANTALUM this and KIOWA that. But do they really have death certificates for dogs?

It had two mini-minis - blunder (GAFFE, ERR) and depressed (LOW, SAD).

Never heard of CRANESBILL, but yet another name for geranium is pelargonium.

BIMODAL refers also to a probability curve which, rather than being a bell, has 2 humps. The example I always use of natural phenomenon that would have produced a BIMODAL curve, would be the death rates 100 years ago. One hump would occur around 2 yrs., another around 50. Today it's not a bell either; it's skewed way to the right, around 78. With all of our unnatural corrections, our death curve is no longer "natural."

I didn't like LEADY, but I cetainly got it. On my old house, the plumber (name based on the Greek for lead - plumbum, but who was no bum) showed me how the lead pipes get narrow as a pin, rather than rusty.
TANTALUM, 73, very stable, used in capacitors and in the AL extraction process. So not uncommon. I better get my head checked. But then, I love the story of aluminum so much, what can I say.

Wanted CRT rather than FCC, so that's cute.

ENID showed up at the "other" puzzle, today.

I've never seen SANYO or BALMORAL in a puzzle. Good for Freddie.

Anxiety causing ULCER is an old theory. They now check you for a specific germ. My 2 ulcers, 30 years apart, were just structural. I expect the next at age 90. I hope I've caused a few.

@Wade - Thanx for pronunciation of KIOWA.

@Mac - did anyone paint their houses orange? Buy an orange vuvuzela?

Love Toronto - the women dress like 5th Ave., and the subways are spotless.

Somebody tell me the difference between American IDOL and America's got talent? Until recently, I actually thought they were the same thing.

A POPPY can be a posey. When pluralized, just add S. If you put on airs, you could be posy (posier, posiest), but a plural would require changing Y to IE and adding the S. Either way, the O in posey is long because it is followed by one consonant.

@Freddie - These guys are brutal, today. I'd rather do your puzzle than the one I did Sunday week, or last Saturday, which made me feel like an idiot.
It's like running for office, or singing at La Scala. They'll pick the flesh off you. But it means you're good enough to debut! And look at all the salon you've created!

Martin 6:04 PM  


Geranos is Greek for "crane," and pelargos for "stork." The flowers commonly called "geraniums" are really pelargoniums. True geraniums are more delicate. Confusion reigns among the cranesbills and storksbills. But all members of the Geraniaceae have seedpods that are bill-like, so the confusion is understandable.

Citizen Dain 6:39 PM  

To quote foodie, "I love this blog. I truly do. Just read Rex then Andrea. Where else would you laugh out loud while getting a world class education in a unique art form?"

I wanted to point out that rubber game came from bridge, but I saw that there were already 65 comments,and I knew someone in this brainy group would have covered it already.

LEADY was so obtuse and unlikely that I almost tried to squeeze in "WEEDY"... as in, the "water pipe" had been used repeatedly to smoke marijuana... Luckily I thought better of it and got the puzzle right.

Rube 6:57 PM  

@Martin, tx for the Botany/Greek lesson and explanation for the strange nickname for geraniums. There's usually someone in this group who is knowledgable in virtually any field these constructors can come up with.

andrea acHe michaels 7:00 PM  

Just ran into Jonathan Berman, Third place Rookie of the 2010 ACPT.
We both thought they should have worked harder to get the lead-y out of this puzzle ;)

Anonymous 7:24 PM  

Nobody objected to TWINE as defined as bale binder.

My farm youth observation would call for wire to hold a hay bale together. Would any twine be strong enough to hold a cotton bale or some other bale together?

Isn't this as important as the meaning of bimodal?


michael 7:25 PM  

I don't think tantalum belongs in a Monday puzzle. I'd be dubious about it on Saturday. I wondered why a depressed person was "sak" for a bit and like everyone else couldn't quite believe "leady."

CaseAce 7:31 PM  

Everyone seems to know DK and are wishing Him and/or Her a Happy B...Can someone PLEASE spell out this mystery person's name for this poster's elucidation?

Martin 7:44 PM  

"Leady" usually means "like lead in color." Here's a use from 1892 that's cited in the OED. Practically ripped from the headlines.

Actually, with "silvery," "coppery" and "steely" as models, "leady" isn't too weird.

@Anon 7:24,
Papers are baled with twine.

Glitch 8:07 PM  

Despite the umbrage taken over it's inclusion, Leady did not debut today.

LEADY: 3 Appearances

Monday, July 12, 2010 28D "Like many old water pipes" Freddie Cheng

Saturday, March 18, 2000 58A "Dull" Rich Norris

Friday, November 03, 1995 47A "Like many old water pipes" David J. Kahn

Granted, the latter are before most of your time. Old timer's advantage here.

Other than than that, what @SteveJ wrote at 4:05, perhaps the first time I totally agree with him ;)


Steve J 8:11 PM  

@Anon 7:24: when I went on hayrides as a kid, those hay bales were bound with twine. Probably wouldn't want people sitting on wire. Don't know if they still use it today. Haven't been on a hayride for close to 25 years. I don't have any desire to change that in the next 25.

@CaseAce: dk is dk. I believe he's away for a bit, but he posts pretty much daily under that moniker.

acme 8:22 PM  

Damn Krazy

Thanks for the citations!
WOw, a Fri and a Sat 10 and 15 yrs ago respectively, that says it all!

fikink 8:22 PM  

Dudes and Dudettes, bales are used for everything from fodder to insulation around the foundation of an old farmhouse. Any bale worth its saltine is baled with wire. The end.
Joan Deere ;)

p.s.Even thinking of making one large adobe brick!

Anonymous 9:24 PM  

@ Glitch agreed with someone??

Sfingi 9:27 PM  

@Martin - Wow.

@Fkink - beware. I know someone whose trailer burnt totally because he used bales for insulation. Melted his collection of little brass cannon. Make sure the bales are 80% dry (cured). They call it spontaneous combustion but it's caused when the moisture can't escape and molds grow and produce heat. Best to dry inside and wait a couple months, like tobacco.

foodie 10:20 PM  

@Clark, I'm impressed that you know that Ann Arbor is called A-squared by its inhabitants :). It really is amazing to see that stadium filling in and out, given that it can handle almost the entire population of AA.

@Freddie, you know what they say, the opposite of Love is Indifference. No one is indifferent today. Good to cause a stir :)

I'm doing this from the plane. It always gives me such a kick to post from weird places. I'm on my way to SF, where our Lady of the Mondays resides.

HudsonHawk 12:32 AM  

@Martin, "steely" is OK, but I wouldn't be too happy with "silvery" or "coppery" as precedents. As ugly as LEADY.

Doris Day 1:31 AM  


Roy & Rita 12:13 PM  

Everyone is bitching but I did this in four minutes flat which is a record for me as I have just started timing my solutions. I have been doing NYT puzzles since 1980 but never realized how serious RexOFiles take this stuff until I found this site. I really appreciate all the comments and love the site. Tnks, Roy in Italy

luisa massim 10:27 PM  

One of the benefits of being older is to know with absolute clarity the difference between "Gunsmoke" (grittier, more adult) and "Bonanza" (more family-friendly, softer). It's like not knowing that there is a difference between the Beatles and Rolling Stones.

Anonymous 8:22 PM  

Agree with comments by Rex-- KIOWA/LEADY, TANTALUM, BIMODAL, weak theme--ugh. Perhaps Will was on vacation and Tim Parker was guest editor?

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