Butter knife of golf / SUN 11-28-10 / R&B funk trio with 1990 hit Feels Good / Chu legendary Confucian sage / Cry of self-pride / NBAer Smits

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Constructor: Jeremy Newton

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: THE TREE-LIGHTING CEREMONY at ROCKEFELLER CENTER — theme answers related to the ceremony, plus a rebus using "ON" squares to create the outline of a tree

Word of the Day: RAJIV Gandhi (96A: One of the Gandhis) —

Rajiv Ratna Gandhi (Kashmiri/Hindi: राजीव गांधी; 20 August 1944 – 21 May 1991) was the 7th Prime Minister of India, serving from October 1984 to December 1989. He took office after his mother's assassination on Oct-31-1984, later he himself was assassinated in May-1991. He became the youngest Prime Minister of India when he took office at the age of 40. He was the elder son of Indira Gandhi and Feroze Gandhi. (wikipedia)
• • •

I loved this puzzle. Yes, there were a lot of wobbly answers — ASSESS AS, ON THE ICE, REMOP, etc. — but the bulk of the fill was really inventive and imaginative, and it was all in the service of a truly beautiful rebus + draw a picture + holiday theme. The lights on the tree come ON! That is pretty sweet. I don't know why there's a light on the trunk, but whatever — this oversized grid is a real piece of work. Haven't admired a Sunday puzzle this much in a while. Reminds me of Liz Gorski's good stuff. A+.

As you can see if you look at your grid — especially if you have, as I have, marked all the ONs with yellow Hi-liter — the entire NW is devoid of rebus squares, so I was deeeeep into the puzzle before I realized there was a rebus component. I mean, I had THE WEDNESDAY / AFTER THANKSGIVING without having any idea what the hell was so important about that day. The Wednesday after Black Friday? Pink Wednesday? What the hell? Still blind to the rebus, I went poking around the north, trying to figure out what someone might call Judge Judy, when the AV(ON) (10D: Cosmetics giant) / ALL (ON) RED (24A: Roulette bet) intersection revealed the trick to me. Moved down a little and I was in some very dense ON territory. Noticed quickly that the rebus squares were forming some kind of triangle, and that the "ON" squares had mirror symmetry (which helped a lot). Took me a while to get TREE-LIGHTING CEREMONY, only because I'm not familiar with it (I know only the ceremony related to the tree at the White House) and I didn't know if it had specific name. Once I got the rebus trick, the puzzle wasn't *that* hard, but locating and writing in the ONs slowed me down enough that my time was well above average (true of the top solvers at the NYT site, too). Thus, "Challenging."

By far my favorite part of the grid was the bottom of the tree. I literally said "wow," stopped solving and drew a big circle around it with a smiley face inside. I think the answer that did it for me was T[ON]Y T[ON]I T[ON]É (R&B funk trio with the 1990 hit "Feels Good") — this is surely the best use to which their name has ever been put. Brilliant. Throw in the recently relaunched CONAN (110A: Big name in late-night), whom I love, and the very fresh and spot-on colloquialism "YAY ME!" (116A: Cry of self-pride) and this section just glows. Former TONY TONI TONÉ member Raphael Saadiq is an accomplished solo artist now. Love his album. Also, his name is crossword awesome. Hope he becomes more famous.

Theme answers:
  • 3D: With 5-Down, when 148-Across traditionally takes place (THE WEDNESDAY / AFTER THANKSGIVING)
  • 15D: Where 148-Across takes place (ROCKEFELLER CENTER)
  • 17D: Traditional centerpiece of 148-Across (NORWAY SPRUCE)
  • 148A: Annual Manhattan event (represented symbolically in this puzzle) (TREE-LIGHTING CEREMONY)
  • 8A: Home of Hells Gate State Park (IDAHO) — Wow, that place must really suck.
  • 31A: N.B.A.'er Smits, a k a the Dunkin' Dutchman (RIK) — I watched basketball when RIK was in his heyday, so this was a piece of cake. He has one of those funny "K" names, like DIK Browne or ZAK whatshisname ... Ringo's son ... Starkey!
  • 46A: Snack food with a Harvest Cheddar flavor (SUN CHIPS) — famous for having a biodegradable bag that was discontinued because it was "too loud." SUN CHIPS are packaged to make you feel that you are not doing what you are in fact doing: eating junk food.
  • 50A: "Butter knife" of golf (ONE IRON) — I assumed this was some dude. Some dude nicknamed "Butter knife." John Daly?
  • 59A: Escapee from a witch in a Grimm tale (GRETEL) — HANSEL also fits, so you're lucky if you solve this from the front instead of the back.
  • 62A: It may be put down on a roll (ABSENCE) — a great, tough clue.
  • 82A: Mythological triad (GRACES) — there are several such triads, or at least one other (FATES), but they didn't fit.
  • 84A: Creatures known to lick their own eyeballs (GECKOS) — How do you not love a clue like that?
  • 115A: When repeated, an old sitcom farewell (NANU) — always hard to see TV from my formative years called "old."
  • 127A: Trattoria topper (PESTO) — wanted PASTA, but then realized that would be what's being topped, not the topper.
  • 18D: "Diary of a Madman" author (GOGOL) — Me: ".... ? .... ? .... OZZY?"

  • 48D: Movie co. behind "Wordplay" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" (IFC) — Independent Film Channel. Nice semi-self-referential clue there...
  • 58D: Magnetic disruption in space (ION STORM) — surprised at how quickly I got this and how confidently I entered it, considering my dearth of knowledge about astrology. [wink]
  • 60D: 1960s girl group, with "the" (RONETTES) — Ronnie Spector! Wall of Sound! Cool...

  • 80D: Chu ___ (legendary Confucian sage) (HSI) — Uh ... OK, if Chu say so ...
  • 92D: Echo producer (CANYON) — Right in the heart of that beautiful bottom-of-the-tree section. Had an aha moment with this one.
And now your Tweets of the Week(s), puzzle chatter from the Twitterverse:
  • @ I'm killing the sunday nyt crossword. KILLIN IT. however if I finish soon the rest of my work day is going to be really boring.
  • @ There's alwyz somethin poppin off on the 196! This old lady KNOWS she should be holdin on to the bar instead she wants to do crosswords!
  • @ Damn. No pen. Will Shortz you're being rescheduled and I'm sorry.
  • @ NYT Xword might be the saving grace of my afternoon. #Saturdaylibrarian
  • @ @MySecretLife01 If you arm wrestle, can beat me and then do the Times crossword quickly I am in
  • @ So entranced by the crossword that I missed my stop and ended up in Brixton. Damn you, 12-down.
  • @ One of my commenters just called me sweetie. #TheCreepyOne
  • @ Its not #Thanksgiving unless Dad asks me to spell answers to #NYTimes crossword puzzle. Justifies my entire college career to spell "parade"
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Doug 12:32 AM  

In addition to being a great puzzle, the factoid on the start date of the ceremony is interesting. Somehow I never think of this tree as having an ON SWITCH, but of course it must. Wouldn't that be a cool job that gives a real sense of power? No pun intended!

I also like how there's a little tree base between 128-129A.

Anonymous 1:13 AM  

Let's just say that this was a real bitch for those of us who do the puzzle on our iPhones/computers/screens of choice.

Anonymous 1:26 AM  

The elite of character and sagacity use pen and paper.

jae 3:14 AM  

Impressive and a tad on the tough side. I'm with Rex on this one, I really liked it. Had pretty much Rex's experience getting the rebus.
22A, great clue/answer! Plus, the brilliant 121a in the middle. My failing eyesight read the clue as 1960 at first (I'm due for cataract surgery soon) so I worked around it until I read it right on the second try.

Steve J 4:14 AM  

The thing with gimmick puzzles like this is, if you like the gimmick, you probably like the puzzle. If you're underwhelmed by the gimmick, you're probably not terribly fond of the puzzle.

I'm in the latter camp. Whee, a bunch of ON rebuses shaped like a tree. Led to some awfully clunky fill and clues. For me, this was a long, unsatisfying slog. But I can easily see how, if one likes the pictogram that results, this would be a great puzzle.

Although, I do have to admit that TONYTONITONE was indeed brilliant.

Evgeny 6:34 AM  

- "this video is not available in your country"
- "this video contains content from sony music entertainment. it is not available in your country"

damn youtube won't give me the full write-up experience. poor me, stuck with just The Ronettes and the "contains content" abomination.

awesome puzzle, though! sirens would be a mythological triad that fits 82a, if one happened to get there without crosses.

Bob Kerfuffle 7:29 AM  

[What the Heck! Who is this Polyanna masquerading as our beloved Rex?]

As I slogged through this grid which looks like it was created with a shotgun blast, I came across 126 A, Is worth doing, and thought, very possibly not. I caught on to the rebus early enough (because it is, as Rex noted, limited to the center of the grid) that I entered every rebus ON in red pen, thinking I would be rewarded at the end. But with all those black squares, the pattern was barely visible. Filling each rebus square with a green magic marker helped a bit.

I hadn't noticed, but thanks to Orange for pointing out that this is a 23 x 23 puzz, rather than the usual Sunday 21 x 21, but the extra size only added to the slog for me.

I usually give many points to impressive construction, which this surely is, but, I'm sorry, I just didn't enjoy it.

Two write-overs: 105 D, Sarcastic sort, went from COMIC to CYNIC; and 29 A, Quick flight, went from HOP to LEG to LAM.

imsdave 7:32 AM  

Got the theme and the rebus right off the bat making it more of an easy-medium for me. This is pure genious. Yes, there are some clunkers in the grid, but think about constructing a puzzle of this size with no ON words except the rebus answers in that shape! I'll close with one word:


Jim 7:49 AM  

Fun puzzle. Impressive construction, indeed. However, I never bothered 'lighting' the tree or even trying to find one...

I was too obsessed w trying to figure out how Mr Newton can justify treating some ONs normally (see CONAN, -CEREMONY, and TOOSOON) and the rest compressed into one ON square. What's the story? Either its a rebus or it isn't, right? I would think it's incumbent on the constructor to steer clear of any ONs that would mess up his lovely tree.

I did find the theme nice, wholesome, timely and otherwise well done. Congrats Mr Newton.

Anonymous 8:00 AM  

The tree-lighting takes place in Rockefeller Center on November 30th this year, which is a Tuesday. Oops!

imsdave 8:01 AM  

@Jim - Thanks. I missed those other ON's. Takes a little bit away, but I'll stick with my prior assessment.

mmorgan 8:10 AM  

Given the long answers for 3 and 5D that were clued on 148A, I immediately headed for the bottom to start. I first thought it was going to be about The Macy's Thanksgiving Parade (what, are we going to have advertising floats all over the puzzle?), but that clearly wasn't it. The bottom did fall, which made most (MOST! NOT ALL!!!) of the rest quite easy -- especially once I got the ON-pattern. (First had ATIMER for 125D, which sounded bizarre but perhaps a bit poetic. Then had ABUDGET for 123D and my suspicions were roused. But IRONIST and ONTHEICE lit things up for me, so to speak.)

But the Great Upper Middle took a lot of time. Despite my many decades of playing golf, I've never heard of a "butter knife" (50A) but was just thrilled to figure out ONE IRON. (Fore!!) Each one of the others with ONs at the top (e.g., ONION) emerged with sweat and pleasure. Quite VISCERAL and never a moment TOO SOON.

Also, I first had INCAGES for INCARGO at 26A, and RAJId at 96A -- and HANSEL for GRETEL (yikes!) -- and these held me up for a while too. Could not LET IT BE.

Loved TEARDROP. ASSESSAS... not so much.


Overall, terrific construction with lots of different levels going on all at once. The pyramid of the design matched the feeling of my solving experience exactly -- lots of stuff came very quickly at first and then tapered off, so that the less there was left to fill, the longer it took -- and those later, tougher answers were sheer pleasure when they finally did fall. YAYME!!

I'm not in the least into holidays or their trees, but thank you Mr. Newton for a truly delightful and impressive puzzle.

pauer 8:22 AM  

Amazing. Having the idea is one thing, but getting it to work out is quite another. Another tour de force, Jeremy. Congrats.

BTW, avoiding ON elsewhere in the grid would've been next to impossible, I imagine, considering how common those two letters are. Some people are never satisfied!

Guess this may be the last 23x23 we'll see, since the NYT has stopped accepting them.

PlantieBea 8:54 AM  

Wow, I loved this puzzle too. Themed entries, a rebus, and a shape that wasn't too complicated for the grid. My only complaint is that the expanded grid made my clues and puzzle numbers difficult to see.

I finally got the rebus at EMOTIONAL; most of the other ON switches were easy to find because of the pattern. Somehow, though, I missed the last one in the bottom corner, so my last entry in the whole puzzle was ON SWITCHES/OBLONG which lit the whole thing. Brilliant, Jeremy Newton!

PlantieBea 8:59 AM  

P.S. Rex, great videos of Raphael Saadiq. I didn't know his music, but I'm going to look for more. Thanks for the introduction.

Anonymous 9:02 AM  

I pretty much got everything except I got messed up at the base of the tree. I had NIL for NONE and TOILS for TRIES, so I thought the ON was in 142A, which left me with ENTONOED as a strange form of input.

OldCarFudd 9:33 AM  

Put me in the "Did Not Like" column. Yes, I appreciate the art of the construction. But I cussed a blue streak doing this damn thing. I started in the NW and worked down the West coast. While I saw the long theme answers fairly soon, I didn't intersect any rebus answers until I got to the bottom and started stumbling and bumbling my way my way across the South. Then I figured out that some "on"s were doubled up, but not all of them. Conan, for instance. I don't think of strife as a quarrel, but as the atmosphere around quarreling people, and never as a plural. I think pets travel AS cargo, not IN cargo (in the cargo bay, maybe). Of course, by the time I finished, I realized what the "on"s were doing, and how clever the arrangement really was, but by then it was too late to have any fun solving the thing.

I do the puz on paper and in ink. I always photo it so my wife can do it, too. When she got to 82A, mythological triad, she said: "I assume they don't mean Larry, Curly and Moe."

The diagramless was fairly easy. If you've never tried one, this would be a good one to cut your teeth on.

Jim 9:44 AM  


To quote another 80s sitcom tagline: 'Ayyy...sit on it'.

It's not a question of being 'satisfied'... (I enjoyed the puzzle very much). It speaks to the integrity of the construction.

Since I didn't see the development of the tree, the treatment of ON throughout the puzzle seemed capricious; quite troublesome and unnecessarily so, let me tell you.

As to avoiding ONs otherwise being 'impossible', maybe...maybe not. But that doesn't mean my criticism isn't legitimate.

Rex Parker 9:58 AM  


"Since I didn't see the development of the tree..."

That's your problem. Don't criticize the puzzle for your problem.

Patrick Blindauer (pauer) has made a bajillion puzzles and so has *some* idea what he's talking about—thus your questioning whether "ON" could have been avoided Entirely (outside the tree) (in a 23x23 puzzle!!) is a bit absurd.

Find me a grid without "ON" in it somewhere. Good luck. Happy hunting.

You're free to hate this puzzle (I can think of and have heard some interesting flak), but the "ON" criticism you put forth is not, in fact, legitimate.


SethG 10:06 AM  

Hell's is not Hells, and National ≠ State, but my first answer was KENYA. Then I changed it to IDAHO, filled in ISLA and OREO, then SEVER, then AV(ON), then DEL M(ON)TE. So I got the rebus pretty early in my solve. And even though the tree was symmetric, I never thought to use that fact as I solved. Yay me.

It took me two seconds longer than the Saturday did, and my time of less than 2X Orange seems relatively quick. I solved it on an airplane. I'm a Jew in the Midwest.

mitchs 10:23 AM  

Figured something was up just looking at the blank grid. But it was LONG time before the rebus registered. It wasn't until EMOTIONAL/ONASPREE that it finally clicked.

I'm enjoying this one a lot more in retrospect than I did during the solve. Looks like it's prompting a lively blog today.

Re Idaho: If you want to be transported into a very surreal environment without benefit of mind-altering drugs - try driving through Idaho (can't remember exact route) alone in the middle of the night in a '73 VW squareback. I was flat out SCARED. It's literally "other-wordly".

Skua 10:29 AM  

My first thought was Astoria for Hells Gate and when it wouldn't fit, I started thinking Rebus. A thought that came in handy later.

Hell Gate (no "s") is a narrow tidal strait in the East River in New York City. There is a Hell Gate Bridge.

The name "Hell Gate" is a corruption of the Dutch phrase Hellegat, which could mean either "hell's gate" or "bright gate/passage."

Jim 10:29 AM  

3 and out early today, but, Rex,I'm not sure why it's necessary to pull rank on me. My initial question was a legitimate inquiry as to the rules governing rebus puzzles )I'm still learning the purported rules governing these things).

If you or Mr Blindauer had simply said 'Look, in general, you're right, but with a word as common as ON, it'll never happen', then fair enough. But instead, while I shared my difficulty in squaring this puzzle, I was told I was kvetching for its own sake. Not accurate.

I have tremendous admiration for those among you who can create a puzzle even half as brilliant as this one.

Anonymous 10:43 AM  

Wonderful puzzle; one of the best Sundays in many a moon.

No problem for the puzzle that the Rockefeller Center tree lighting is on a Tuesday this year but someone needs to alert the Center staff that their ceremony is on the wrong day!

AndreaJRouda 10:46 AM  

Got it all, but how does ABSENCE mean "it may be put down on a roll?"

HELP, WE ARE GOING NUTS trying to understand this.!!!

mitchs 10:51 AM  

@AndreaJ in a roll call, your absence may be noted, or "put down"

Former Student 10:51 AM  

@AnreaJRouda - As when the teacher calls the roll and enters your absence or presence.

Captcha - relents!

PlantieBea 10:52 AM  

@AndreaJRouda: Think of a roll call where one's presence or absence may be marked

ArtLvr 10:52 AM  

Stupendous! Genius! No complaints about the non-rebus fill like CONAN and CEREMONY. The rebus symmetry evident from the top part of the Tree helped to speed up the rest of my solving, thank goodness, and the totality had quite an impact.

"on THE BUTT on" stands out in the finished product, and the image of GECKOS licking their own eyeballs will remain indelibly imprinted somewhere in my brain. WOW.

However, a funny thing happened at the end -- I got a Mr Happy Pencil to indicate A-OK, then came here to find out that one error was overlooked: it was the rebus at the end of CANYON, where I'd written CANYO. Maybe I thought there might be an Echo car made by a company similar to Camry, except Camry is an auto made by Toyota. HUE NU?

Hearty congrats to Jeremy Newton -- and here's a nomination for Puzzle of the Month, if not Year!


glimmerglass 10:54 AM  

In an account of roll call, your absence may be recorded.
I'm with Rex on this one. Didn't catch on to the rebus until very late -- ONSET --, which cleared up a lot of earlier frustration. Didn't see the tree until I'd finished the puzzle -- just thought the rebus was excessively random.
Hard but satisfying to finish.

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

Loved the puzzle even though there was a lack of symmetry and I never heard of Tony et al. Kinda like a twofer -- a seasonal theme covering both Thanksgiving and Christmas on the same weekend that marks one and the (commercial) beginning of the other and a special rebus that outlines a fir tree -- the kind decorated for Rockefeller Center. Anyone who has been there when the lights go on knows what a special moment it is - even though it is one humongus mob scene. How does it get any better? It gets better because today I will be sitting on about the 50 yard line 20 rows up from the field watching Da Bears take on the Mike Vick's Eagles....

PS. Damn! Burnt the bacon reading the spat between Jim and Rex....

DB Geezer 11:08 AM  

@REX, this is a question rather than a quibble. Twice you called 148a TREE-LIGHTING CEREMONY. Should it not have been THE TREE-LIGHTING CEREMONY ?

AndreaJRouda 11:09 AM  

Thanks to all those who answered my query; I can now resume my regular life already underway.

Lindsay 11:12 AM  

@ArtLvr -- No No No -- POTY was Flag Day!

Pythia 11:15 AM  

Impressive effort and super-satisfying solving experience, especially once the ON gimmick became apparent. Figured it out early enough and jumped down to the punchline at the bottom, then got the 3D & 5D message. Had to laugh, as this year the lighting is on Tuesday (all who work near Rock Center know the date). W. & Cohorts clearly caught this and handled the aberration nicely by adding "traditionally" to the clue.

Nice all around.

quilter1 11:34 AM  

Finished before church but agree it was challenging and awhile before I caught ON. Surprised I knew ION STORM, probably from Star Trek. Have a great Sunday.

chefbea 11:35 AM  

Great puzzle and found the rebus with avon. Then when I got tree lighting the rest was fairly easy.

Loves shed thing...kept trying to think of different tools.

AndreaJRouda 11:42 AM  


Anonymous 11:48 AM  

The lighted "bottom of the tree' is the famous and popular statue of Prometheus, above which the tree is sited. Just loved this puzzle!

Mel Ott 12:11 PM  

The TREE LIGHTING CEREMONY is a really big deal for a lot of folks in and around NY. When heading home at the end of the workday via Metro North I was always amazed at the number of people getting off the incoming trains to stand in the cold and watch the event.

@Skua: NY's Hell Gate is one of the most treacherous pieces of water on the East Coast because of ferocious tidal currents. Broke down there 2 summers ago - scary! Thank you FDNY!

Anonymous 12:41 PM  

While I loved this puzzle, I loved the exchange between Jim and Rex/Pauer even more. Jim is apparently troubled that the rebus wasn’t used throughout the entire grid even though it was only intended to outline a fir tree (which apparently Jim did not grasp). Forget about making ON a rebus throughout the entire grid would be meaningless and forget about ON had a special purpose in this grid to symbolize the switch that turns on all those lights on the tree which the rebus outlined. What is truly impressive in that exchange is that another constructor of accomplishment would take the time to comment and then try to assist another struggling blogger. Perhaps not knowing who Pauer is, Jim did not take the help kindly but suggested he should “sit on it.” Now, I can’t tell whether Jim intended to use ON in his retort as a pun to press his point or was merely suggesting to Pauer that he keep his thoughts to himself. Jim still insisted that for the rebus to be within the rules (whatever that means) it should be throughout the entire grid, which in this case would mean there could be no other word with the letters ON, since going the other direction would destroy the integrity of the purpose of the rebus (of course, since Jim didn’t get the rebus in the first place, he didn’t know that). Aha! Rex had had enough and chimed in with the obvious, Jim admittedly just didn’t get it and that was his shortcoming not Mr. Newton’s. Apparently, still not getting it, Jim countered with his third (and last) blog: “But that doesn't mean my criticism isn't legitimate.” Well, Jim, speaking for myself and all those others like me who believe in Santa Claus, I’m afraid it does....

David L 12:44 PM  

Hmm, I didn't care for this one so much. Clever construction, yes, but so much short fill that I found it an unsatisfying slog, as Mr. Kerfuffle remarked above. Is ONAUCTION really a phrase? Does anyone refer to quarrels as STRIFES? And don't reflux and EBB mean the opposite (ebb = recede, reflux = flow back, ie return to where it once was)?

OK, I'm being a bit quibbly but somehow this puzzled inspired me to quibble...

Matthew G. 12:59 PM  

I feel _so_ bad for not enjoying this one. I can tell that it took genius-level constructing skill to make, and it gets a massive E for effort, but I cannot honestly say that I had fun solving it. I do agree with Rex that it's cool to watch the lights on the tree come "ON," but ... I cannot agree with him that the fill was lively or interesting, and was actually stunned when he called it so. I thought the fill was stale and even having solved far fewer puzzles in my time than Rex I thought most of it was familiar and plodding.

I guess this was two puzzles in one. A gorgeous gooey center in the middle of a bland dish. I think I did enjoy the middle of the grid (which I did last), but by then I had already nearly stopped out of sheer boredom with the outer fill.

The only thing that makes this one challenging is the number of words. The actual clues were never that clever.

I'm sorry. I fully appreciate the view that this is a great puzzle, but it wasn't fun for me.

deerfencer 1:19 PM  

I'm with Mr. Kerfuffle--and apparently the minority--in disliking this one in the end.

Got most of the long theme answers before even coming across the rebus, which may have been part of the problem as the remaining fill was slog-heavy with some very weak answers, e.g.

Never having heard of the absurdly named
TONYTONITONE didn't help. (Gotta love the fact that their first album was named "Who?" though--my sentiments exactly.) My wife felt the same way about the puzzle and abandoned it in disgust.

Will admit to liking some of the more clever fill and found the surfeit of S's
in the AASESSESAS/SAYSSO cross amusing.

Sidenote: This year's NYC tree came from
a private property in a town (Mahopac NY) very close to me. Scouting the perfect Norway Spruce appears to be a year round occupation for some lucky soul who literally goes knocking on doors to beg when he finds a suitable candidate. The powers that be then fertilize the tree before cutting, I suppose to maximize the color. A crane hooked up to the trunk fairly high up keeps the tree from toppling when cut. The monster is then laid on a huge flatbed truck for transport down to Rockefeller Center.

Rex Parker 1:26 PM  

Wow, I think ON THE BUTTON and (esp.) "TOO SOON?" are two of the best answers in the grid. SOFT COLOR, on the other hand ... I choose to pretend it's not there :)


James 1:34 PM  

Agree with Jim-this was confusing, due to the extra ONs outside rebus theme.The non-repeating technique is possible and has been done before.This ET rebus used no extra ET's in the grid. It's not impossible (and ET is a common letter combo)


Rex Parker 1:41 PM  


Good point, but:

1. It's Gorski. She's a genius.
2. Hers is a 21x21, not 23x23, so easier to keep a certain 2-letter combo out
3. I'm not sure "ET" is as common as "ON" in xword grids. I just went to the day after the Gorski puzzle (random grid). No "ET"s. At least 3 "ON"s. I'm just saying that the commonness of "E" and "T" doesn't tell us a lot about the commonness of "ET" (esp. vis-a-vis "ON").

Thanks for the input

Bob Kerfuffle 1:42 PM  

Despite my stated dissatisfaction with this puzzle, and despite the fact that a few brave souls have just posted their agreement with my opinion, I just noticed the Xwd Info posting of the completed grid, and must say it is definitely worth a look!

merlbaby 1:45 PM  

i have to disagree about the extraneous ONs. from a solver's pov it doesn't really matter -- your enjoyment of the puzzle is testament to the puzzle's high quality -- but from my pov it is definitely a flaw. there are four non-rebus ONs in the puzzle, all but one of which are easily avoided -- and when i say easily avoided, i mean just that. i'm guessing that it might not have occurred to the constructor to consider this, but it should definitely be on any constructor's radar. on paula gamache's great arm/leg puzzle of a few months ago (a puzzle i enjoyed enormously, by the way) there was one extraneous ARM, in MALLARME, that was not a rebus answer. it shouldn't mar the solving experience for anyone, but from a construction standpoint it has to be considered a thematic blemish. in THE TREE-LIGHTING CEREMONY, the word CEREMONY contains an ON, and that is the only tough-to-avoid one, but even that one could have been bypassed by using a simpler answer like THE TREE LIGHTING or some such.

in rebuses, i think constructors should be thinking "every time such-and-such occurs in the puzzle it has to be written into a single square," not "every time such-and-such occurs it has to be written into a single square -- except sometimes." same goes for drop-a-letter themes. if the puzzle's title is "no laughing matter," where all the HOs have to be dropped from the theme answers, then an answer like ME FOR THE HOLIDAYS is flawed because it still contains a HO. (insert snickering here.)

but again, this is a construction thing, and i don't even expect most constructors to agree with me. but it's a rule i've always gone by and it's never kept me from finding and using good theme answers. i also think it's fairer to the solver -- it helps them know exactly what's going on and what to expect. with no fudging.


Rex Parker 1:52 PM  

[Violating my own 3-and-out policy]

Yay, merl.

Thanks for chiming in. For me, the fact that the "ON"s made a clear pattern was part of why I didn't care about (or even notice, frankly) the "extra" ONs. If it were a standard rebus, with fairly randomly placed rebus squares (as the ARM/LEG puzzle was), I might have squawked (though I didn't squawk then, now that I review it).

Your perfectionism is inspiring. Thanks for dropping by.


SueI 1:54 PM  

I liked this puzzle - a cute theme and challenging enough to keep me busy for a while! The best part? My mother, and crossword pal/rival said it was "too hard" and had to "seriously cheat" in order to finish. Yay Me!

Anonymous 2:11 PM  

It puzzles [groan] me that more people are concerned about the rebus than the lack of grid symmetry of the puzzle. It seems to me that both are governed by the same rules -- The Will Shortz Rules. He is a benevolent dictator when it comes to these puzzles and I suspect he wouldn't have published this one if he didn't approve it (and maybe even think both were needed to support the theme). I don't know and don't care how hard it would have been to not have any other words with ON (tho CEREMONY knda makes that moot), we would still be left with a lack of symmetry to create the tree. So solvers either accept that or not. I'm sure others will write MORE ON this subject but when one complainer even answers her own complaint in the same blog how much more is there? Perhaps if Mr. Newton had included the Grinch in today's puzzle everyone would be happy (3ao)....

Anonymous 2:17 PM  

my lack of enjoyment may be the way i solved...did some fill and quickly realized the long theme fills, then figured it would have a tree shape. but i had some head scratching part words and due to the fact that i'm a newbie didn't know what was going on! finally realized the on's so then went over the puzzle and put in the on's which was a robotic way to finish. so it lacked cohesive fun for me.

D_Blackwell 2:24 PM  

The effort is impressive; the result, not so much.

The extra ONs are minor flaws. They don't ruin the puzzle, but there is a point deduction.

I liked seeing the 23x.

Thought it was hysterical when Anon-8:00 pointed out that the tree was lit on Tuesday. I don't think that manipulating the clue makes it look less stupid once you know. That really shouldn't be the most enjoyable part of the puzzle - but it is.

Do you owe Jim some feedback 2:41 PM  

"You're free to hate this puzzle (I can think of and have heard some interesting flak), but the "ON" criticism you put forth is not, in fact, legitimate."


"Yay, merl."

"Thanks for chiming in. For me, the fact that the "ON"s made a clear pattern was part of why I didn't care about (or even notice, frankly) the "extra" ONs. If it were a standard rebus, with fairly randomly placed rebus squares (as the ARM/LEG puzzle was), I might have squawked (though I didn't squawk then, now that I review it)."

Your perfectionism is inspiring. Thanks for dropping by.

Mama Amy 2:45 PM  

Rex-I am still trying to get past you not being familiar with the tree lighting in Rockefeller Center...Where in NY is Confluence?

Anyway...I loved the puzzle, the unexpected rebus, the picture, the seasonal appropriateness...I could go ON and ON...

Rex Parker 2:48 PM  

I'm looking at a lot of grids, and in every case (so far... an admittedly small lot), "ON" beats "ET" in terms of letter combo frequency. This is relevant to nothing except the fact that it seems mildly counterintuitive, as "E" and "T" are 1 and 2 for letter frequency in English.

archaeoprof 2:51 PM  

Loved it. Very timely, and it included a reference to country music!

@Rex: no Patsy Cline video? :(

PuzzleNut 2:53 PM  

Shocked to see all the praise, especially from Rex. @BobK said it well - just seemed like a long slog to me. Also didn't notice the extra large grid, but my first impression was an awful lot of short fill. Found the rebus and symmetry fairly early on as I was skiping all over the place (which must be more difficult to do solving online). That cleared up some of the clunkiness, but I just was not on the same wavelength as this puzzle. I love a clever misdirect, but it seemed like my usual reaction to many answers was, "OK, I guess that could be right".
A beautifully constructed puzzle, no doubt, but no joy in solving.

jnewt 3:08 PM  

Hi Rex and readers of Rex. It's Jeremy, the constructor of today's puzzle.

@Merl and others not happy with the non-rebus ON entries: Totally agree. Just last week the extra ONs jumped out at me, and as a fellow perfectionist constructor, it hurt a little bit. I knew it was still a worthy puzzle, but I've vowed since to be more cautious in future rebus-style endeavors. Even though CONAN looks at home there in his old Rockefeller stomping grounds.

Let it be known, we constructors are listening, and we strive to be better. Props to Merl and others for keepin' us hONest - I mean, fair.

Happy T-Day weekend!

Van55 3:14 PM  

@Rex: "Patrick Blindauer (pauer) has made a bajillion puzzles and so has *some* idea what he's talking about—thus your questioning whether "ON" could have been avoided Entirely (outside the tree) (in a 23x23 puzzle!!) is a bit absurd."

Can you say "non sequitur?" The conclusion doesn't necessarily follow the premise.

Like you, however, I didn't even notice the non-rebus "ON"s nor was I bothered by them.

On the whole, the puzzle was brilliant, IMO. That said, the compass direction between random cities (NNE) still rankles me as does the "Capital of Iceland" cluing LONGI trick.

Didn't know IFC at all, so the F in IFC/AFRAID was my last entry.

Noam D. Elkies 3:26 PM  

As a NYC refugee I quickly figured out what was going on with the five theme entries (3/5D, 15/17D, 148A), so even though it took me longer to catch ON as far as the rebus goes (which I first did at 85D:C[ON]_MAN/89A:BIG_[ON], after going with "big I" instead of 44D:L[ON]G_I), I still finished in 23 minutes, which is fast for me especially for a 23*23 puzzle. I can see how it would be Challenging to one not familiar with this NYC tradition. The grid shape helped (yes it is symmetric, but with respect to a vertical mirror rather than the usual central reflection): the tree outline was sort of visible from the start. The pattern of the rebus squares helped even more. I wish that the star triple-rebus entry at 121A were a real word or phrase, rather than yet another random ba(n)d name I've never heard of before; but at least it was clued as a trio so there was a bit of confirmation. Had to come here to see that 50A was [ON]E_IR[ON] and not a Greek name (as in “oneirocritic”).

I wondered too about the non-rebus ON sequences, but figured that since one of them was in a theme entry (the "ceremony" at the end of 148A) the constructor decided it wasn't worth the extra effort to banish the other ONs. [BTW: interesting that ON should be more common than ET per Rex's observtation, but not too surprising since successive letters are not independent events; e.g. TH and SH must be much more common than one would expect from the frequencies of their component letters.]

Enjoy the rest of the four-day weekend and the blinking xwordinfo lights,

Van55 3:28 PM  

By the way, I counted 50 proper names in today's oversized Sunday grid. That's nearly 30% of the answers, for what (if anything) that's worth.

merlbaby 3:42 PM  

geez, i haven't heard anyone yet rebut the contention by anonymous that the grid is not symmetrical. it most certainly is symmetrical -- it has left-right symmetry, which has long been accepted in puzzles. will has approved countless left-right puzzles at the times. in the puzzle biz we even call it "christmas tree symmetry," which could not be more appropriate. --mr

mitchs 3:53 PM  

Wow, what day on this blog! Two legendary constructors, Rex and Jeremy all chiming in. I didn't notice the additional ONs during the solve.

Merle's take was, of course, fascinating. But if the only reason for never using the rebus combo elsewhere in the puzzle is to avoid confusion - then I agree w/Rex that the specific placement of the ONs in this grid creates an exception to the rule.

@Jim, maybe Rex lashed a bit, but so did you.

Evgeny 4:00 PM  

thanks, @merlbaby, reading between anon 2:11's and your comments I was doubting my geometrical sanity. Of course it's symmetrical.

D_Blackwell 4:09 PM  

". . .for never using the rebus combo elsewhere in the puzzle is to avoid confusion. . ."

On the other hand, when it happens we are supposed to be smart enough to figure this stuff out. Those easily confused might try switching to Word Searches instead.

I like the left/right symmetry fine, and I would not be immediately possessed to complain if symmetry was ignored sometimes. It's a long-standing-convention/tradition/somewhat-arbitrary-contrivance, not an immutable law.

pauer 4:19 PM  

"Can't clowns and pirates all just get along?" - The State

Good to know you notice (and care about) such things, Merl; now if you'd only be so strict about partials! :) I kid because I love.

And FWIW, I think the non-symmetry comment may have been referring to ONSWITCH not having a symmetrically opposite theme answer.

Stan 4:26 PM  

I thought this was good-but-not-great. But I notice when people do think a puzzle is great they almost always have something interesting to say. So, good blog today on both sides.

My general feeling about a rebus is this: Ideally, it's not just a way to pack a word into one square. For example, if the rebus is TREE (or a picture of a tree), STREET would be a better answer than OAK TREE. Here you have many examples of both. But here you also have a rebus serving the greater cause of a very witty Christmas tree design, so it really doesn't matter.

Overall, thumbs up!

jgovern 4:51 PM  

In golf, the one iron is so thin and has such a small surface it is sometimes whimsically compared to a butter knife.

JaxInL.A. 4:59 PM  

I loved this puzzle, love the discussion, and feel a bit Star-struck by our celebrity appearances here.  I got a thrill when i realized that @merlbaby was Merl Reagle, possibly my favorite constructor ever.  I did not know that @pauer was Mr. Blindauer, either.  Did I miss the posts by @Orange, and did @ACME comment yet? August company here, and thanks to you all.    

I thought this was a positively athletic feat of construction and after three days of tough DNF efforts, I was relieved to complete this with no help. For me it had plenty of those fun "aha" moments that we all love.  Like @mmorgan, i started at the bottom and worked my way up, but i liked it better than he did.  Thanks very much, Mr. Newton!!!   

How totally cool would it be for the NYT to go the extra mile and give a treat to the thousands of electronic solvers by adding a bit of code to the puzzle so that the ONs in a puzzle like this lit up or changed color on completion of the puzzle?  I know I'm dreaming here, but I'm also making a serious suggestion for the future.  Paper solvers have features that don't get translated to ones and zeroes, and Mr. Happy Pencil greets some successful solvers (though not in the iPad software, unfortunately), so we already have slightly different solving experiences.  Why not take this to the next level with things like lighting up a puzz like this?  

Lead time between submission and publication seems long enough to do some coding, since it only affects the grid and not the clues, which might change in the editing process.  I'm just saying...

Steve J 5:24 PM  

@JaxInLA: Did you see the link Bob Kerfuffle posted to xwordinfo showing the completed grid? Not exactly what you're looking for, since it obviously doesn't happen within the solving app, but pretty cool nonetheless.

The conversation today has been fascinating. What's been particularly interesting is that, even though I'm one of the handful of people who didn't like this one, the things that people have picked up on - the non-rebus use of ON and the lack of theme symmetry - were things that didn't bother me at all. Normally that kind of miss with a rebus would bother me, but given the purpose the rebus served in this puzzle, it made absolute sense that the other ONs weren't rebused (to make up a word). Yes, it would have been best to avoid them, but it doesn't detract from what the constructor was doing. In my opinion.

For me, it was simply a matter of fill quality. There's always a tradeoff between fill quality and construction feats when something ambitious like this is attempted, but as I mentioned in my first post, the payoff wasn't enough for me. But I absolutely get why those who responded to the payoff loved this puzzle. And their response, to me, illustrates how the construction flaws weren't significant enough to detract from what the constructor was doing.

Btw, thanks to Merl, Patrick and Jeremy for commenting. Just one of the many reasons the conversation has been fascinating to read.

JaxInL.A. 5:32 PM  

@Steve J, thanks. I did miss that. And they even make it blink! Further encouraging me to think that the puzzle software should allow such coding without huge adjustments. Thanks for pointing that out.

joho 5:33 PM  

Well, I can't wait to watch THETREELIGHTINGCEREMONY on Tuesday! I wish I could actually be there as I have so many times in the past.

I loved the puzzle and all the comments on both sides, especially those by merlbaby, pauer and the man in the shining spotlight, Jeremy Newton.

Stellar Sunday! I am getting in the mood for Christmas ... thank you!

D_Blackwell 5:42 PM  

"Further encouraging me to think that the puzzle software should allow such coding without huge adjustments."

The time should be now. As much as he has done, I've still been disappointed that Gaffney hasn't been the one to really raise the bar to clearly mark the differences in the latest and biggest wave of modern crosswords. Or BEQ. It's people like this that I look to. NYT can't even manage PDFs for moderately out-of-the-box stuff.

Ulrich 5:47 PM  

@merlbaby: NDE refuted the non-symmetry charge before you.

Anyway, the only question left for me is this: Why does the NYT no longer accept 23x23 grids?

Jim 5:53 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim 5:56 PM  

A gentleman would let this all be but, alas, I am not a gentleman.

This started because, while making a somewhat rudimentary and, I thought, modest criticism of an otherwise delightful puzzle, a well-known constructor and our dear leader, instead of answering my critique and question, high-handed me.

Consequently, I'm glad there were those willing (and able) to do the same to them. I think Mr Reagle and Mr Newton posted because no one who knows better had yet acknowledged my point. Thanks to them both for doing so; I have my answer (the best constructors care about rebus integrity--got it!).

P.S. Of course, you're right Mr. Reagle. Four, not three, exceptions.

Ulrich 6:01 PM  

@Jim: I don't think a gentlemen has to be a wuzz (sp?) or hold the other cheek (unless he is a Christian, of course!)

Addendum to the rebus question: Not only did the grid most certainly have symmetry, but, as Rex has pointed out, the rebus squares obey that symmetry, which made solving for me much, much easier: As soon as you find one of the squares, you immediately can fill in another. Plus, the symmetry and the general distribution of black squares suggested "Christmas tree" to me from the outset and prepared me to discover the theme early on...

Rex Parker 6:11 PM  


To quote a wise and in no way needlessly inflammatory man: "Sit on it."


Nate 6:12 PM  

1)I had never heard the term "rebus
puzzle" until today. I thought a rebus was when a picture, not a word, took the place of a word or words in a sentence not as part of a larger word.

2)I don't see any rebus words outside the tree. Someone referred
to one being contained in ceremony.
But the "o" and the"n" are in separate boxes

Will someone please explain and in

plain English?

ceremony. I don't follow. The "on"
is not in one box.

Will someone please staighten me out and do it in plain English.

Rex Parker 6:17 PM  

Hi Nate,

The ONs are where you see them (they make the outline of the tree). People are referring to the fact that there are several "ON"s that are in the grid normally (with each letter in its own box), with some suggesting this is a flaw in construction (i.e. a rebus should not have its elements replicated in the grid writ large).

"Rebus" is the xword word for a puzzle where multiple letters appear in a single box. Sometimes the letters make up drawable words (i.e. ARM, LEG, etc.), which is probably why "rebus" originally got used to describe the phenomenon of multi-letter squares.

Hope that helps some.

Arthur 6:23 PM  

@Nate - The entire argument is about having every instance of ON being placed in one box as a rebus. In this puzzle, wherever they constitute part of the tree, they are placed in one box as a rebus. In other occasions, as in CEREMONY, they are not, hence the discussion.

This all reminds me of the 'Enry 'Iggins / Liza Doolittle puzzle of some months ago. Someone pointed out that the puzzle would have been perfect if the two extraneous H's had been removed from the puzzle, it was simply excellent as it was.

Having no extraneous ONs in the puzzle would clearly have been an artistic improvement, as it is it is one damned fine puzzle.

mmorgan 7:25 PM  

@JaxInL.A.: Sorry if you somehow got the impression I didn't like the puzzle very much. I called it "terrific," "delightful" and "impressive" (among other things). I did carp a bit (just a smidge) about ASSESSAS, but that was very, very minor, and the only unpleasant groan I experienced in the whole kit and kaboodle (except maybe for SOFTCOLOR, the last answer I filled in).

But working it from the bottom up (as you and I did) had some intriguing consequences. For one thing, it made it completely clear where the rapidly decreasing and enveloping ONs were going to be -- so the idea of looking for them elsewhere in the puzzle was irrelevant. I do agree in the abstract with those who felt that the inclusion of any ON anywhere else in the puzzle was some kind of deficiency, but once I saw the ON rebus, they didn't exist anywhere else for me.

I also very much appreciate (and enjoyed) Jeremy's post.

To me, @Jim's raising the question of those errant ONs was legitimate; but his "sit on it" snipe to @pauer was perceived as snarky and unnecessary and inappropriate, and I believe that -- not the original question itself -- was that generated the backlash. @RPs final response to @Jim notwithstanding (and it may have been his point exactly), there's no need for internal snarking (new verb) here when there are so many other amazing things going on.

@Arthur just said it best -- "as it is it is one damned fine puzzle." It was almost like Sondheim -- it got better as I got deeper into it -- and it was one of the most enjoyable solving experiences I've had in a very, very long time.

Interesting blog day, too! Thanks for providing this forum, @Rex, even with its occasional uncomfortable bumps and chortles.

Rex Parker 7:40 PM  


What you said. And thanks.

Nate 7:42 PM  

I originally looked for something
like Rex's column on a Friday or a Saturday if I couldn't finish it.
then I started to read the the comments. But I think I'm going to
stop. I really don't care how many angels can dance on the head of a

Thanks to those who explained the
rebus thing to me and managed to
do it in my native language.

ttv 8:01 PM  

That's amazing Rex, sometimes I wonder if I could rather get through on it.

Anonymous 8:39 PM  

This is my 4th but only to thank those who educated me about symmetry (which I always thought of as 4-sided in NYT puzzles). While I cannot take credit for the asymmetry suggested by Pauer I will say that when I saw the ON in AVON I stated looking for the OFF but eventually realized we were only talking about turning the lights ON. (For whatever reason I expected the ONs to be in a Chitmas tree shape so I had no problem finding the ONs. Thx to Mr. Newton for his explanation but it is what is is and it is one damn fine puzzle!

PS. It did get better. Da Bears won in one fun football game to attend....

Anonymous 8:41 PM  

This is my 4th but only to thank those who educated me about symmetry (which I always thought of as 4-sided in NYT puzzles). While I cannot take credit for the asymmetry suggested by Pauer I will say that when I saw the ON in AVON I stated looking for the OFF but eventually realized we were only talking about turning the lights ON. (For whatever reason I expected the ONs to be in a Chitmas tree shape so I had no problem finding the ONs. Thx to Mr. Newton for his explanation but it is what is is and it is one damn fine puzzle!

PS. It did get better. Da Bears won in one fun football game to attend....

r.alphbunker 9:13 PM  

Fascinating puzzle and commentary today.

@iPhone users
If you are using the Standalone app you can enter multiple letters in a square as follows:
1. Tap the square so it turns yellow
2. Hold your finger on the square so the magnifying loupe appears.
3. With a finger on the other hand, tap somewhere on the black circumference of the loupe.

I agree that coloring rebus squares one they are entered correctly would be a good feature.

Pythia 9:17 PM  

Hmm. Home after traveling. Interesting, lively discussion of pros and cons, high expectations, successes and fails. And symmetry!

Mini-parallel on FB with the comment: "See, this is why I no longer comment on any puzzle blogs ... anyone who mentions a legitimate problem with a puzzle that some people like just get reamed for it." Looking for the reamer ... appears to be the host.

To MR, I would only suggest that one man's mortal sin is another man's foot fault. Self-editing entails a different religion and belief system. Accommodations are made everywhere, depending on the circumstances and degree of difficulty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

To the host, I would suggest that you missed the flaw in ARM and LEG because you were too busy cathecting on the slightly ridiculous, the recherché, and absurd proper nouns.

J. and W., still like this puzzle lots, and will think of it Tuesday when I watch the tree-lighting event at Rock Center. Come on down to see it!

DannyBurk 9:30 PM  

Jebus, not sure whether the puz or the blog was more entertaining today . . .

I am impelled to comment even though it is late.

Puzzle . . . absolutely brilliant! Was wondering if Gorski is taking on apprenticeships. I for one worked the tree from bottom to top, saw the extrenious ON in CEREMONY but ignored as it as irrelevant. Noticed Fey crossing the Rock entry, and also noticed that an ONSWITCH may be triggered ONATIMER.

Was really nice to hear from some of the best in the game, although I was a bit taken aback at the negative comments today! It is going on MY wall of fame for sure.

Hmmm, Evelyn The Modified Dog just came on my iPod . . . How apropos.

Arf she said ;-)


Puffin 10:31 PM  

I thought it was kinda cool that there was a three-box space in the grid for a name from rock, the last letter was "O", and yet the correct answer *isn't* "ENO". And, as if to stress the point, "ENO" himself shows up elsewhere in the grid.

That got me thinking about regrouping the letters in "Bono" so that the "B" and "O" were in the same box, which made me think it would be fun to have a puzzle with a lot of instances of "BO" (as in Bo Jackson) in a box, with a baseball answer (such as "bottom of the 9th") going down and a football answer (such as "bootleg") going across.

So, my question: is it fifteen years too late to do a puzzle like that? (Also, does anyo9ne with a long memory recall seeing Bo get that treatment already?)

Anonymous 4:03 PM  

Did anyone notice that the puzzle called for Rockefeller Center to be misspelled? You had to fill in RockeRfeller Center.

And the tree was lit on Tuesday this year. Although the clue said "Traditional" it was still a little confusing.

Anonymous 4:17 PM  

And you're talking about...what?

BobbyF 12:59 PM  

While this puzzle was very taxing, I left myself a long rope time-wise and kept hacking away -- and never cheated. Two two-bit entries, "fey" and "sel", my only misses.

Anonymous 4:40 PM  

I loved loved loved this puzzle, even though putting cycle for dip instead of nacho, and cages for pet travel instead of cargo, led me down a few detours. The o/n did not need to be exclusively in the rebus. The tree was wonderful. Did not see it for ages. I also started with the Thanksgiving Day Parade idea.

Dirigonzo 2:19 PM  

I'm a syndicated solver who loved the puzzle but love this blog even more. When I read @rp's comments I was certain that when I got to the end I would find them signed by a guest host, but NO! @BobK said it best: "[What the Heck! Who is this Polyanna masquerading as our beloved Rex?]" I was glad to see Rex come back at 9:58 to kick a little butt, and then things got really interesting - I learned a lot about the intricacies of puzzle construction and I hope it will help me be a better (and more appreciative)solver. Thanks to everybody who took part.

Anonymous 3:33 PM  

I had only two letters missing, and one wrong fill, with no Google help—YAY ME!

But— NUS?? (118A)

Anonymous 4:14 PM  

Stombled ONto the ON thing very quickly, having started with the 2-line clue amid many one-liners at 110d, which I knew to be CYYOUNG. CONAN and LAS were next, followed by RIBCAGE. It seemed sure that 92d would have to be CANYON--but there wasn't enough room! More head-scratching (Will, you keep this up and you'll have my scalp opened!), and I finally just scrunched (somebody use that great word in a puzzle!) 'em in there together. Then I took an overall look at the grid--and its title--
and suspected the truth. Biggest hangup: trying to fit Mike WEIR's name into 50a. But at last, the final light bulb came, uh, ON.

Boardbtr 4:17 PM  

Couldn't hold my interest enough to attempt to finish.

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

@kateyule - Nu is the greek letter preceding xi.

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