## Monday, November 15, 2010

Constructor: Emily L. Lilly

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Edible pairs — four pairs of cross-referenced clues are common pairs of foods:

• BURGER & FRIES
• ICE CREAM & CAKE
• MEAT & POTATOES
• FRANKS & LATKE*

Word of the Day: NOVATO (59A: City north of San Francisco) —
Novato (pronounced /nəˈvɑːtoʊ/ nǝ-VAH-toh) is a city located in the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, in northern Marin County. Novato is located about 10 miles (16 km) north-northwest of San Rafael, at an elevation of 30 feet above sea level (nine meters). As of 2009, the State of California estimated the city population to be about 52,737.Novato is about 30 miles (48 km) north of San Francisco on U.S. 101. (wikipedia)
• • •

Such a weird solving experience—the puzzle felt Really hard (for a Monday), so much so that I was expecting to be something like a full minute off my avg time. Between the non-clues and the cross-referencing on the theme answers, on the one hand, and some odd answers (NOVATO! HALVAS (45D: Mideast confections)! ARFARF?—those are barks, plural, not "bark"), I felt like I was in horrible form for a Monday. But then I finished and looked at my time. 3:15!? That's basically my average. Then I went to the NYT site and noticed that, at that moment, I would have been #1 on the leader board (this Never happens, and my time has since been well eclipsed). So I must have Torched parts of the puzzle, and then fell back to average because of the unusual (Relative!) toughness. Love the idea for the theme, love that all the pairs are edible, and Really love that theme answers are rotationally symmetrical. I'd give a puzzle leeway to break that rule on a theme like this, but ... I don't have to.

• 2D: Becomes inoperable, maybe, as an old machine (RUSTS) — that is an insanely complex clue for such a simple answer. I thought for sure the answer would be something quite technical. Why else write such a strangely precise clue. Also, rusting doesn't necessarily make something inoperable. You should have seen my last car.
• 24A: Disputed region between Pakistan and India (KASHMIR) — this answer just looks classy to me, for some reason. Adds some international flair to an otherwise pretty American-themed puzzle.
• 42A: Calls from Rocky (YOS) — amusing, if somewhat tortured. I'd have gone TRAP / POS (preferring a solid abbr. to a ridiculous plural)
• 9D: Gomorrah's sister city (SODOM) — is that the biblical term!? "Sister city?" Most U.S. cities, I'm guessing, have "sister cities," and I doubt that they imagine their relationships as analogous to that of S&G. Just learned that my city's sister cities, acc. to Sister Cities International (yes, that's a thing) are
• 50D: Hanukkah treat (LATKE) — Had this as LATKA, who, I believe, was a character on "Taxi"
Wife just walked in and said that ROMANO for ASIAGO (17A: Italian cheese that's often grated) really stalled her in the NW. Also, that the "O" at NOVATO / EROSE (51D: Irregularly edged) was a Natick for her. EROSE is a word I know well ... but only from doing so many damned crosswords.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*yes, I'm kidding

Tobias Duncan

Took me forever for a monday , really felt like a tuesday for me.I dislike the whole "with blah blah across" thing so was bugged right off the bat. Printed out a bunch of copies for my friends at the coffee shop.I have been dragging them into my addiction with some success lately. This does not seem like a good beginner puzzle and I had assured them Monday would be easy.We will see how they do.

chefwen

Did the same thing that Sandy did with Romano before ASIAGO. And messed up in the southeast with renter before LESSEE. Other than those two little foibles, it was a pretty clean solve.

Got the theme with what I would like to do at dinner, start off with dessert (ICE CREAM and CAKE) before anything else. Someday, I will do just that.

retired_chemist

Agree with med. challenging.

Interesting theme, but seems un-Mondayish in difficulty, cf. the cross-referencing in particular. NOVATO I knew, but you pretty much have to have lived in the Bay Area to get it.

Not sure an ASIAGO BURGER would be to my taste, nor a LATKE with FRANKS and BEANS. Ditto Sandy on ROMANO for ASIAGO. Add in HALVAS, DELI, SLOE, HAMS, TRAY (clued as a food tray), and SALAD and you have clear evidence that Ms.Lilly was hungry when she constructed this.

Anyway it was fun. Thanks, Ms. Lilly.

andrea ironic michaels

@Tobias
This would be a terrible example for a Monday for newbies, but perfect as a Tuesday...
Between the trickiness of having to figure out what the cross-references referred to, words like HALVAS, ASIAGO, LATKE, NOVATO (I live here and barely know that!) not to mention ARFARF, ASS, KEANE, ABASE, EROSE, "Xanadu" grp., etc and your friends at the coffee shop will never speak to you again!

That said, as a puzzle, it's wonderful, but as a Monday, you will confuse a lot of folks!

I was with @Sandy on Romano.
Speaking of Sandy...ARFARF!

Basically I agree with everything @Rex said...and I know folks gets annoyed with "This is the wrong day of the week..." discussions, but seriously, nothing about this says Monday TO ME.

That said, I'd better get to work, bec it must mean Will needs easy puzzles!

I did love that all the crosses were food related and there was total atmosphere foodie-wise with the theme answers plus the infamous ASIAGO, DELI, TRAY (which is why perhaps they didn't do TRAp), HAMS, LATKE, HALVAS, SALAD.

I imagine it is better to do this puzzle on a full stomach!

One quibble: is smitten = INLOVE? To me smitten is more in like, or a crush. Back me up, gals?

retired_chemist

Re latkes: to see some noted academics (and others) at play, check out The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate.

Anonymous

Rex combines latkes and beans. What is a better-known combination is FRANKS and beans.

fikink

BEANS and LATKE - you are hilarious!

fikink

er...FRANKS and LATKE
either way, you are a very funny fellow!

Clark

I know NOVATO from the drive from my sister's to my mom and dad's. But I still wasn't sure about the last letter.

Roxie's basic bark is an ARFARF, so that came easy. ARF seems like a half bark to me.

Those better be all beef FRANKS with your LATKEs, buster.

JaxInL.A.

@ACME, I applaud your impulse to submit more Monday puzzles! Not only do I love your work, but you are literally right about the shortage.

A while back I dipped into the Wordplay blog on the NYT site. (Wish I had time to read that one regularly, too, but since this is stolen time for me I can only be devoted to one blog and I really like you guys.)  (BTW, there is a link to the Wordplay blog at the right of Rex's commentary for anyone who hasn't noticed.)

At Wordplay I saw the very illuminating series by Patrick Merrell called "A Day With Will Shortz.". It's easy to find if you scroll down the blog a fair way and look on the right side for the box section that says Other Links. It's the first thing, right under the heading A Few Favorites.

Anyway, Mr. Merrell arrives at Will's house and sees stacks of puzzle submissions, sorted by day of the week.  PM observes:

"The tallest stack was the themeless puzzles, about a one-year supply. The smallest pile represented those slated for Monday. Rich Norris, the crossword editor for The Los Angeles Times, faces the same situation; not many constructors write good, easy puzzles."

So have at it, girl!

JaxInL.A.

Just want to reiterate that today @Shamik and @Sparky go in for surgery on knee and lung respectively, if memory serves. I believe that prayers and good intentions matter in these circumstances, so I hope we can each take a moment to wish them well. Wouldn't know either one from Adam if s/he kicked me in the shins in person, but a virtual community can have as much power as a physical one, so here's to health and healing all around. Amen.

Evgeny

when writing in KASHMIR i was hoping to come here and see a Led Zeppelin youtube link or at least a picture of wasps in fancy sweaters... oh well.

the (hilarious) franks and latke joke helps to find out who reads the write-ups and who doesn't. Thanks, @anon 12:57

KooKooKaChoo

40A and 46A (In love and alarmed).

Really enjoyed this puzzle, but also upset that I DNF on a Monday (novato/erose cross). Glad I came here to find out this was no Monday.

(Good luck to all w/ surgeries. Thinking of you.)

efrex

Made a lucky educated stab at the NOVATO/EROSE cross. Very weird to have a difficult Monday puzzle right after an easy Sunday (for me, anyway: very rarely do I finish a Sunday in a single sitting).

Between the relative obscurities, the crossword-ese (ESS, INRE, ESSE), and the theme crossings, definitely not a puzzle for the first-timer.

Got a big chuckle out of the the "Has makings of a hero" clue for DELI.

Because I keep kosher, keep the ASIAGO off of my BURGER, please, but feel free to throw some more BEANS next to my LATKES.

Why am I so hungry all of a sudden?

joho

I really liked this puzzle, the theme is fresh and the grid is filled with more tasty tidbits. I do agree with @andrea ironic michaels, however, that this is not a Monday level solve.

Great job, Emily L. Lilly. For once I can really say that your puzzle was meaty!

My best wishes go out to @Shamik and @Sparky.

fikink

We are all thinking of you two, @Shamik and @Sparky. We'll be here when you get back. Stay strong.
(and thanks for the reminder @Jax.)
~d

mac

Great puzzle, but tough for a Monday, I agree. Love the cheeseburger in the NW, and the vegetarian alternative in the SE.

@Jax: I join you in wishing our friends the best.

dk

FRANKS and LATKE is the sequel to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Agree with Rex and smitten with Andrea.

Loved the puzzle fill. Very fresh not grated and stale like the ASIAGO in my fridge.

It seems that Ella, Axel Rose and ELO will live on forever in x-word land... well as Meatloaf would sing 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

*** (3 Stars) Rock and roll Emily.

mmorgan

I really liked this -- lots of lively and fresh fill. When I did it (last night) I kept asking myself if it was really a Monday. Not surprised so many others had the same response. Took me forever to finish the NW -- kept looking for Bangers and Mash, but it just didn't work. Had the second ARF but couldn't being myself to believe there were two of them. And I did not correctly guess the O in the unfortunate NOVATO/EROSE cross. (Never heard of Nevato and why is EROSE the answer to that clue??)

Despite my much-longer-than-usual Monday time and that little glitch, I really enjoyed this puzzle, Well done, Ms. Lilly!!

Look Up Guy

Making it's 45th appearance (3 in the last year):

Definitions of erose on the Web:

•having an irregularly notched or toothed margin as though gnawed
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

•Irregularly toothed, eroded or 'chewed'
www.msu.edu/~linnellw/gloss.htm

•(ee-ROHS) -- A leaf tip that appears to have a torn margin or looks like an insect had chewed on it, eg, Vanda tricolor.
www.lincolnorchidsociety.org/glossary/slpts.html

Jim

A day after my first error-free Sunday, this. No fewer than three problem areas: the one not mentioned by anyone else yet was in the W. ROO and OLLA on a Monday? Who...is...ROO? Oh right, as in kanga- Just got that. Dammit. Oh well. I can think of at least five Pooh characters better-known than him. If that was the only thing keeping me from finishing today, I'd be more upset.

But my indignation is reserved for NOVARTIS, I mean NOVATO. Yet another reason to hate California. Say what you want about Natick, first it's been around for 300 years. Second, it's fully inferrable with any four letters. Not true here. 50,000 people? Well, it's probably only in that gerrymandered, crazy California way. The same way Houston is the 3rd most populous city in the country. Which is to say, in no conventional way.

I did enjoy the rest of the puzzle, though I always thought of a LATKE kind of like a somosa...which would hardly be a 'treat'. Guess I'm mistaken.

Leaving for the Ohio Star Ball tomorrow! First BIG competition. Need all the luck I can get!

chefbea

What a great puzzle. I savored every morsel of it.

Loved all the extra food related items. Was like a big cafeteria...grab a tray and help yourself to all the goodies.

Found it very easy even tho I never heard of Novato

jesser

Yes, Andrea! Please! Construct! This did not feel a bit Mondayish, especially down in Florida, where the V in NOVATO was a total guess, and I'm pretty amazed it was correct.

Only writeover was the common romAnO/ASIAGO goof.

Back to Saturday for a moment. I haven't read the blog, so this was probably covered, but it stuck in my craw all damn weekend.

POOL and SNOOKER are not the same game with different names on either side of The Pond. POOL isn't even a game; it's a trademarked synonym for pocket billiards, which encompasses a great range of games, most notably 8-ball and 9-ball. It could also include SNOOKER, although SNOOKER is played on a table designed specifically for that game, and the balls and pockets are smaller.

To say, "I'm going to play SNOOKER" is very specific. To say, "I'm going to play POOL" is to invite a lot of questions about what game (or games) you're going to play. (3-ball and Stymie are great games for the gamblers in the house.)

There. That bugged me all weekend. It's off my chest now. I apologize if it's a redundant rant from Saturday.

I have a whole other rant about the way SHARK was clued yesterday, but I'm going to have to do work now, so I'll spare you that one. You can thank me later.

Manons! (Clearly a baseball term) -- jesser

Tinbeni

Maybe it was a "wave-length" thingy but I thought this was a perfect Monday offering.

Plus the themes were my kinda foods along with that DELI SALAD & SLOE gin.
(Avatar is still the King).

Mini-farm-theme? That pig's OINK and the ASS?

Being a perpetual SLOTH, I finally (at 7:15 am this morning) wrapped up that Moscow Consulting job. Really enjoyed doing the NYT before 6PM.
SOOOO I'm "Retired" ... again!!!
Jeez, these are fun but they cut into my commenting here in Rexville. Then, last week I had 2 offers from company's that want me work upwards of full-time.
My slothness will probably prevail.

A "toast" to all at Sunset.

Lindsay

Hated this one. Solved ASS to ESS and ROIS to ODES and everything in between. Coast to coast to coast to coast and not one theme answer. Just empty corners with self-referential clues. Why is the entire theme banished to the margins like a bratty child in time out?

On an unrelated note, being neither Jewish nor mideastern nor Californian had a tough time in the SE, with an error at the Halvas/Novato cross. I went with "g". Isn't "no gato" Spanish? Sort of? A little embarrassing on a Monday.

*eurge = internet porn

CaseAce

I must say, Emily, with all those L's in your name,including your middle initial,you certainly gave us an L of a time, especially since it was on a usually mundane Monday!

PlantieBea

Mmmm...I'm smitten with this food puzzle, and hungry to boot. No writeovers for me, but my husband, unfamiliar with NORA ROBERTS, looked up and asked if the NE was really going to provide ICE CREAM and COKE.

Sending positive thoughts for Sparky and Shamik.

Bob Kerfuffle

Very good if unusually difficult for a Monday.

I always thought 45 D should be HALVAHS, probably influenced by the brand name Joyva Halvah. (The only Google reference I looked at (after completing the puzzle) says, "Halvah or halwa is a Middle Eastern confection usually made from sesame seed paste (tahini) and sugar. Halvah can include pieces of nuts like pistachios or almonds, whole sesame seeds, bits of chocolate or dried fruits Seasonings for halvah can include spices like cinnamon or cardamom." But of coursed transliterations are notoriously fluid.

@jesser - If I want to know in a few seconds if anyone has commented on a particular word (say "pool") without reading 80 - 100 comments, I use the Find function. Saves an apology. :>)

Darryl

The HALVAS/NOVATO cross left a bad taste in my mouth, just as the one and only taste of Halvah I had as a teenager - someone gave me a bar of it once and it tested the limits of my politeness not to spit it out in front of him. Wiki gives me the impression that HALVA is the desert of choice, with huge social and cultural importance, wherever a foot of the Ottoman Empire ever trod. This makes me wonder about how it can be possible that I love the cuisine of the middle and far east yet hate their deserts with such a passion.
PS I just made three edits to my post that Strunk and White suggested, greatly enhancing the readability. Take that Pullman!

mac

@Bob Kerfuffle: find where, Bob?

Find Function

@Mac - It's usually hiding under Edit.

Shamik

Having to have nothing to eat after midnight and then seeing all the food in the puzzle wasn't helpful. And no, it didn't say Monday to me, unless it was a medium-challenging Monday.

Where did the leader board go? The leaderboard on the NYT site disappeared for me when we could get Mr. Happy Pencil immediately. Any hints on where on the page or what it might be called or what I'm missing?

Good puzzle, though more fit for a Tuesday.

agmen=farmers, of course

DB Geezer

Were any of you that did the second Sunday puzzle impressed with the anagram of the speech? A very cool puzzle.

Matthew G.

Wow. That was exceptionally hard for a Monday, primarily because of the SE. I didn't know HALVAS or EROSE, and although I am usually pretty good at geography I wasn't familiar with NOVATO, California. Also slowed myself down for a long time with rEntEr instead of LESSEE.

Compounding all of that was that I resisted FRANKS and BEANS as a combo even after I started to see the words appearing. Stupid, I know, but I had never thought of those two food items as a pair. After finishing the puzzle I reflected and realized I've probably been to a hundred barbecues where the two were both served, but somehow I never really picked up on the notion that they are considered a "traditional" pairing.

So the SE took up about half of my total solving time. But I really loved the puzzle -- a challenging solve on a Monday is a good thing.

Bob Kerfuffle

Thank you, Find Function, for your quick response!

@mac - on my iMac, I just hit "Command/F" and a little dialog box opens on the bottom of the screen. I can't be sure how it works on other machines, but going to Edit should do it.

Tobias Duncan

Hey Mac, give control F a try

Shamik

Thanks everyone for the Control-F hint!

Van55

Totally unfair for a Monday puzzle. If that's due to lack of adequate demand I guess it's understandable.

I detested the cross referential theme with non-clues.

NOVATO is probably unknown to 90% of us.

ROMANO is a far more familiar grated Italian cheese than ASIAGO.

I'm guessing that anyone who decided to begin trying to solve the NYT puzzles today gave up in disgust. I really, really disliked this one even though I finished it.

PuzzleNut

Definitely tough for a Monday, but that's a good thing in my book. Not a fan of the cross-referenced clues, but these were better than most. Had to guess at the HAVLAS/NOVARA cross, but it definitely felt correct.
Just bought a book of puzzles by four Patricks. I love a good challenge and they've got some doozies in there.

Two Ponies

Arf Arf! Oink! Somebody get into the kitchen and start breakfast.
I'm starving.
This took a lot more brain power than most Mondays.
The NW had to be abandoned for a bit to sort out that cheese mess.
Then the SE had me going too. Having latke and halva(h) in the same corner was brutal. My knowledge of food from that part of the world is obviously lacking.
@ Andrea, I agree about smitten. More like puppy love.

Anonymous

I've heard of "undo" as a menu command (30D), but never "redo" -- or is that a Mac thing??

Chef

62 across and 49 down match each other. Latkes may be food but they don't mix with pork franks.

Van55

On the other hand, I count only 14 proper nouns in this one.

archaeoprof

Agree that this felt more like a Tuesday, and a very good Tuesday at that.

@Andrea Ironic et al: puppy love sure is real to puppies!

imsdave

I loved this theme - innovative and appropriately difficult for an early week puzzle.

I agree with BobK on the halvah spelling, and that NOVATO was pretty iffy for a Monday. The end justified the means for me.

My prayers go out to @Shamik and @Sparky.

Stan

Fun food! I agree about the difficulty -- wife had to tell me that my ROMANO was wrong before I could finish. Maybe 2D should have been clued OXIDIZES to make things easier.

Best wishes to @Shamik and @Sparky.

PlantieBea

RE: Recent GPS discussion

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40138522/ns/health-mental_health/

Anonymous

Franks and Latke?????

You ARE kidding!!!

mac

Thanks everybody, both Control F and edit work! What a good trick.

chefbea

Thanks for the control F. what a good thing to know.

Good luck shamik and sparky

mitchs

Speaking of food, today I was sufficiently emboldened - by ChefBea's and other's defense of Brussels sprouts - to order them.

Bacon + onions + Brussels sprouts is really pretty good!

SethG

Yo, folks!

WORSE for ABASE because of ROMANO. So ARF ARF was tough, and the NW took over half my solving time. No problem with NOVATO or HALVAS, and I learned EROSE from one of those airline crosswords we've blogged about.

The ICE CREAM/CAKE cross-reference annoyed me until I realized that was the theme. I liked the theme, and especially it's edibles consistency.

Mmmm, Bacon

@Mitchs - Maybe Bacon + onions + Brussels sprouts is pretty good, but not as good as Bacon + onions, which in turn is not as good as Bacon

ArtLvr

Please, those who CAN -- do the CS puzzle today? You'll find some edible tidbits there too, and it's much more amusing!

∑;)

Nighthawk

I agree with @RP and others about the much tougher for a Monday double blanks for theme clues. Finally got the theme with the ICECREAM/CAKE cross.

EROSE eluded me, even tho I know, somehow, NOVATO (but had to dig for it). Perhaps it was frustration from the NW and SE stickiness I had.
Agree with others, I thought it was HALVAh. Thought 65A was rEntEr for a while until the NFL cross at 59D. Was thinking, at first, not Romano, but Reggio instead of Parmesan, but had AGgiEs for 4D which also stymied me for a long while from putting in ASIAGO

Once I finally sorted it all out, EROSE was my last fill in.

I decided I really did like the theme, and over all puzzle, despite the mid-week-ness of it.

But did not like some of the fill like: ESS, ESSE, LESSEE. Thought STENOS were the pads, not the people, who would be STENOgS, perhaps, so minor nit there. Really liked other fill though, like: KASHMIR, AEROSOL, and IRONIC.

On balance, liked the chewiness of the puzzle, but was surprised, once I bit into it, that it didn't go down a little more smoothly.

jesser

@ Bob Kerfuffle: THANK YOU for that little trick. I was able to go back to Saturday and see that my rant was not made by anyone. I love learning new computer tricks!

jesser

nate

Who are Shamik and Sparky?

Rube

I guess it's all a matter of experience. Thought this was a normal Monday puzz. Spent 10 years hard time in NYC so HALVA(h)S and LATKE were gimmes, (although I've never eaten either). Live in Marin County so NOVATO was a gimme. Have done enough crosswords to know that a 3 letter word for "Xanadu" grp was either Emo or ELO, (have no idea who "Xanadu" are and wonder why the abbreviation of grp.).

EROSE is a fairly common in crosswords having appeared earlier this year and last Summer. I might add that the latin root has something to do with being gnawed unevenly and is similar to erode, which, you may recall, appeared recently in the NYT as erodent, which @Rex parsed as e-rodent and some wag envisioned as a "mechanical capybara". (See also "The Big Bang Theory" of a few weeks ago.

Regarding NOVATO, it is the location of Costco and Target, the only "big box" general merchandise stores in Marin. Good local tax revenue.

Around our house the term is "weanies and beanies".

Had REGS as 1st entry so ASIAGO went right in. Like @Nighthawk, debated AGgiES or AGATES, but waited for crosses. Only writeover was ESSE/ESrE, (unforgiveable mashup with etre).

Good puzzle. Minimum pop culture.

Frances

@ Anonymous 10:51

REDO (on a Mac) lets you undo an UNDO.

Joe

NW and SE corners were bleech, to use a word from Mad Magazine.

Marbles, anyone? I don't think so. Maybe in 1930.

And after all that tsuris this puzzle caused me--oy, I don't want to kvetch but I needed a nosh.

Nate

I'm new to this site. What do the light gray and dark gray letters in 47D "ADORE" signify?

FAQ

@Nate - We love newcomers here, the more the merrier. For Newcomer questions, please click on the FAQ button at the very top of Rex's blog, ("Just above the X" marks the spot.)

quilter1

Had to dash off to jury duty this a.m. (not selected today) so late commenting. Must be my age, except for NOVATO I knew lots of what puzzled others. EROSE is a good ole xword word, so useful. Also liked all the foods and theme. I, too, disliked halva after one bite. Ice cream and cake however....

sanfranman59

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

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

Tue 8:13, 6:56, 1.18, 89%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:31, 3:42, 1.22, 91%, Challenging

Since I regularly venture to NOVATO for my job and knew both of the troublesome crosswordese crosses (EROSE and HALVAS) in the SE, I didn't get Naticked on this one. While I can certainly sympathize with those who did, @Jim's hatred of everything California seems a bit harsh. Novato's a lovely little town and the area is rich in Native American (Coastal Miwok) and Mexican history that goes back much further than 300 years (also, I'm not sure what gerrymandering has to do with anything in this context). We're really not so hateful out here Jim.

chefbea

@artlvr What is the CS puzzle?

Bigfoot Wallace

@Jim, what is the actual city that should be in Houston's place on the list of most populous US cities (which is 4th, not 3rd, according to all the lists I've seen)? It shows to have a population of more than a half a million more than the next one on the list, Phoenix. What did Houston do to cheat Phoenix out of its rightful place on the list?

sparkydog77

Challenging despite the fact that the upper left grid was my Achilles heel for the whole puzzle. There were some very odd things, as Rex stated, starting with "ARFARF" a stretch by any standards. I've also never heard of NOVATO and have never come across EROSE either before. But I did like the edible crossover words and felt like it was a great way to start the week.

sparkydog77

My first part was cut off for some reason: I'm not sure I'm understanding the difficulty classification system here, Rex. I've seen some Fridays and Saturdays in recent weeks that you've listed as "Easy," and have only been able to fill in about 15 boxes. LOL. Now, today I see Medium-Challenging and I have to scratch my head. I only had trouble in the upper left ARFARF box but I guess some of us have difficulties on certain days with certain kinds of puzzles.

FAQ

@sparkydog77 - We love newcomers here, the more the merrier. For Newcomer questions, please click on the FAQ button at the very top of Rex's blog, ("Just above the X" marks the spot.)

Jim

sanfranman & bigfoot:

It's not hatred--not really. Just snarkiness. My point was this: raw population numbers just aren't a reasonable statistic to use in the south, midwest and west (with obvious exceptions of BIG cities therein: Chicago, Miami, LA, SF, Seattle, etc.). So any comparisons to Natick (which, btw, has a larger population density than Novato) based on populations are intrinsically faulty.

I know Houston got some schmutz on it, too, but again, my commentary speaks only to the fact that towns like these hardly qualify as 'cities' in the way Easterners would define it. Houston being 4th ranked is silly, given how big it is.

For instance, see below some population density statistics of a handful of places around the country. I think they make my point. My home town, Worcester (it's in MA for those who don't know) has a larger population density than Houston or Phoenix. Ouch!

Not that I have any love for Natick, those rich snobs. I always preferred the Auburn mall myself.

City Population Area Pop Density
Houston 2,300,000 579 3,972
Cleveland 431,639 77.6 5,562
Novato 54,000 27.7 1,949
Natick 31,975 15.1 2,118
Worcester 182,882 37.6 4,864
Boston 645,169 48.43 13,322
New York 8,391,881 304.8 27,532
Phoenix 1,601,587 518.8 3,087

You don't want to know where I am right now

@Jim, as of right now, my bathroom has a higher population density that any of those cities you just listed.

Bigfoot Wallace

"Houston being 4th ranked is silly, given how big it is."

Sorry, I just don't get it. "How Easterners define cities" isn't one of the criteria for population statistics, I'd wager.

retired_chemist

@ You don't want to know -

Ha ha.

a 10 ft X 10 ft bathroom is about 1/250,000 of a square mile. Any 10X10 area with a person in it has a population density about 250,000 people per square mile.

If Clark brings Roxie in then it has a pupulation density of the same number. Pix of Roxie please!

It must be 5 o'clock somewhere.

captcha - baker. Appropriate for such a food-oriented puzzle.

Anonymous

After that rant by Anon yesterday I have nothing to say and nothing to add to what I didn't say....

Anonymous

I'd bet a lot that Bigfoot Wallace can't name the biggest city in the US, by area.

It's this.

Stan

@Jim--

You are obviously a good Massachusetts boy, like myself. But for the life of me I cannot quite follow your argument here. Is Houston not a city? Is it smaller than Worcester? (I don't think so.) Let's not try to compete with Texas, except on the playing field.

Novato from Natick

Never heard of the "Auburn mall", what's its population density?

P>G>

Martin

For Jim it seems it's all about the schmutz.

Houston barely makes the top 10 dirtiest cities in the US. Its water took it out of contention (only 11 cities of the biggest 50 had cleaner water) but third worst for toxics is worth an honorable mention.

andrea no no novato michaels

Where is @foodie to ring in about Halva and, um, foodieness?!

Anonymous

So my wife sees how much fun I’m giving doing the puzzles and decides she’ll start with the Mondays because I tell her they’re the easy ones. I always finish Mondays and usually they’re no more than a shot of Irish in a cup of black coffee. So today I did the damn thing thinking it’s just another Monday. And arf arf is easy because the f is a gimme, woof won’t fit and that’s always what Sandy said in Little Orphan Annie. Next come the first theme words and the clues are really cool, like something down with what’s it across and visa versa. Lots of help there. Right. Oh yes, I forgot about that Romano cheese that turned out to be some ugly sounding piece of crap. But it gets better and I practically whiz through the rest and figure out the theme and with that able to complete the NE corner. Except there’s that SW corner and some California city that begins with NO and has a T. Being the pathetic linguist I am I get none of the crosses and finally give up for the first time I can ever remember on a Monday and look at a California map. Thank goodness the clue says San Francisco cause I would still be sipping Napa Valley red looking for the obscure crossroad. So I’m done and not particularly pleased with myself when my beginner wife says she wants me to print her out today’s puzzle. Sure, dear, enjoy....

Sfingi

I didn't get the NW because - what the heck is ASIAGO? I had romAnO. Looked up ASIAGO - it's way North. No one had to escape the North to come to America. Spare me.

@Jim - I'll bet it's a CA thing. They mix up ethnic things there and don't even know it. Ginsberg's Irish Pub, indeed.

Now, LATKEs and HALVAS, and hamantashen, I know.

Also, never heard of NOVATO. The rest was easy and obvious.

These corner squares could be separated off the puzzle into little puzzles by themselves. Isn't that a weakness? They're connected by a thread.

John

@you dont want to know where I am right now, In a bathroom I take it your counting the Cockroach population... That must be dense as hell!

The Original FAQ

@FAQ, 5:23 PM - LOL, LOL!!! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and direct copying is divine! (For the record, at 5:23 PM, I, The Original FAQ, was in a movie theater watching "Fair Game", the true story of Valerie Plame, very well made and very disturbing.)

@Anonymous, 6:46 PM - So you're saying, like, we can bet that Sarah Palin will get the REALLY BIG city Presidential vote in 2012?

sanfranman59

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 8:19, 6:57, 1.20, 99%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:18, 3:42, 1.16, 95%, Challenging

Definitely one of the tougher Monday puzzles. These median solve times rank 2nd and 5th out of 73 Mondays in my database. Only Allen Parrish's 7/29/2009 puzzle had a higher All Solvers median.

Waxy in Montreal

From the syndicate - confidently entered AGGIES instead of AGATES for 4D providing ASIGGO cheese for 17A and STEIS for my editors' marks at 20A. Hey - both sounded legit to me so am hereby declaring a personal Nattick in the NW.

CAPTCHA today = cackoro which prefaced with "old" probably describes me well. The Old Cackoro - yeah, sorta like the sound of that.

NotalwaysrightBill

Syndicated paper solver.

Harder to answer cross-referenced clues until the theme is figured out; then a different kind of AHA may sometimes happen, but they sure can be annoying until.

Otherwise a pretty clean puzzle (better check the OILPANS after all those BEANS and FRANKS though).

Only wrong space-fill: had NOVAdO and LAdKE (pretty close to the right pronuciation of LATKE anyway). The Spanish-to-English translation of NOVATO is "novice" or "rookie." Sounds like a funny place name compared to the past participle of "novar" (STE trans.="to renew" or TO CREATE SOMETHING NOVEL), which is what I had, NOVAdO="renewed" or MADE SOMETHING NOVEL. Anyway, not knowing the town of NOVATO, CA itself, I like my guess.

Interesting the commentary about what makes a "big city" and what doesn't. Lots of people in some of the non-Eastern big cities have what I call "Pinocchio syndrome": "we want to be a REAL city" (meaning to be like New York or Boston or Chicago or San Francisco I suppose), instead of letting the community define itself in its own terms. But populations are what they are, insofar as they're undisputed. How would "Easterners define" continue-to-lose-seats-in-the-House-of-Representatives-to-the-Sun-Belt? I grew up in Phoenix. Big cowtown, sure; but now it's a BIIIGGGG cowtown. And gettin' bigger. That fact just ain't goin' away no matter how you define things.

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