Harry Shearer's program on public radio / SUN 1-23-11 / One of Sean Combs's aliases / Last-second bidder on eBay / Oscar snubber of 1972

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Constructor: Chris A. McGlothlin

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "LETTER OPENERS" — 26 different starred clues each start with a different letter of the alphabet, from "A-ONE" to "Z AXIS"

Word of the Day: R-VALUE (6A: *Insulation measure) —

The R-value is a measure of thermal resistance used in the building and construction industry. Under uniform conditions it is the ratio of the temperature difference across an insulator and the heat flux (heat transfer per unit area, \dot Q_A) through it or  R = \Delta T/\dot Q_A.The R-value being discussed is the unit thermal resistance. This is used for a unit value of any particular material. It is expressed as the thickness of the material divided by the thermal conductivity. For the thermal resistance of an entire section of material, instead of the unit resistance, divide the unit thermal resistance by the area of the material. For example, if you have the unit thermal resistance of a wall, divide by the cross-sectional area of the depth of the wall to compute the thermal resistance. The unit thermal conductance of a material is denoted as C and is the reciprocal of the unit thermal resistance. This can also be called the unit surface conductance and denoted by h. The bigger the number, the better the building insulation's effectiveness. R-value is the reciprocal of U-value.
• • •
First thing I noticed was the unusual and very cool-looking grid. The next thing I noticed was the almost complete lack of long answers. Hmmm. Theme was very, very, very easy to gather. It's ambitious (26 theme answers)—but there were a few problems. First, the lack of long answers makes for a somewhat dull grid. There's no humor, no tricks, no ... just not much of anything except the relentless revelation of letter-answers, which are very varied in quality / interestingness. Y CHROMOSOME is fantastic, as is its clue (116A: *Women just don't get it). But R VALUE? S TYPE? They're valid entries, but figuring them out is not entertaining. You know they're coming, eventually, but there's no aha moment, no surprise. Once you gather the theme (quickly), then it's mainly just a matter of plodding through grid. So theme-wise, I wasn't very intrigued. Strangely, though, I thought the non-theme fill was quite great in many places. NO DRAMA! IN DRAG! "LE SHOW!" (77D: Harry Shearer's program on public radio) Very daring. BENAZIR and SEQUOIA, also nice. My favorite answer, for reasons I don't quite understand, was LUMP SUM. Don't recall ever seeing it in a puzzle before. Fresh, and perfectly clued—the one moment in the puzzle (besides Y CHROMOSOME) that really did give me the aha I was craving. Sure, there's a PROSY here and a TERNE there and a HE'D somewhere else, but otherwise the fill was mostly nice. So theme gets not-so-high marks from me, but grid shape and fill definitely get a thumbs-up.

Theme answers:
  • A-ONE
  • DDAY
  • ESTREETBAND (26A: *The Boss's backers)
  • GMAN
  • IPOD
  • J-LO (88A: *4x platinum album of 2001)
  • K-TEL
  • L BAR
  • M DASH
  • NSYNC (42D: *Group with the 2000 #1 hit "It's Gonna Be Me")
  • O-RING
  • Q-TIP
  • R VALUE (?)
  • S-TYPE
  • T-TOP
  • U-HAUL
  • V SIX
  • W TWO (...)
  • X-RAY
  • Z AXIS
Did this one on paper in my dining room with my wife and our friend Donna. They were busy doing other stuff, so I'd just call out clues and we proceeded that way. Most clues were easy to get on the first pass. I didn't even have to say how many letters or what crosses there were much of the time. I see a total of four write-overs in the grid. First, Donna said COMIXES and I wrote it in without thinking about whether it was a word or not—real answer was ADMIXES (46D: Mingles (with)). Then I didn't read the clue thoroughly and wrote in IDEA instead of IDÉE at 103A: Light bulb over one's tête? Next, I wrote in SHARD for SHRED (106D: Bit). Lastly, and most scarily, I had MENA at 101A: Actress Sofer instead of RENA at first. I think I got her confused with MENA Suvari (another actress whose first name lands her in the grid from time to time). Luckily, I had heard of ARCO and so could change the "M" to "R." But that cross felt a teensy bit dangerous.

  • 24A: Oscar snubber of 1972 (BRANDO) — my partners didn't know it, but this was a gimme for me. Didn't he send a Native American woman in his place ...? I was three, so I don't remember. Ah, here it is: Sacheen Littlefeather. Youtube won't let me embed it, but you can see her (non-) acceptance speech here.
  • 65A: ___ Mode, female character in "The Incredibles" (EDNA) — did not know this. Seems like a clue meant to toughen the puzzle up, at least a tiny bit (still, easily inferrable from a couple crosses).
  • 89A: Maurice of Nixon's cabinet (STANS) — I know I've seen him in puzzles before, but I'm not sure how I'm ever going to remember that completely improbable last name.
  • 122A: Last-second bidder on eBay (SNIPER) — I have been a SNIPER, though I didn't know there was a name for it until I did this puzzle.
  • 40D: Repeated cry in Buster Poindexter's "Hot Hot Hot" (OLE!) — Me: "... HOT?" Then I remembered the opening OLE OLE OLE OLE part.
  • 58D: 1909 Physics Nobelist for work in wireless telegraphy (MARCONI) — tip of my tongue. Said three different wrong answers out loud before I hit the right one. Sadly, I had to go to Starship to get the right answer...
["MARCONI plays the mamba ...?"]
  • 111D: Lead/tin alloy (TERNE) — one of those words I've never seen anywhere but crosswords, and even then, only once (before today)
  • 87D: ___ Trench (earth's deepest depression) (MARIANAS) — I thought the actual trench was MARIANA. MARIANAS TRENCH appears to be a punk/EMO band from Vancouver...

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Dusty Collyer 12:31 AM  

PAZ killed me. I so wanted it to be PAX. I know now it was wrong, but checking over, I admit it, I had to cheat. I usually can find where the hinky spots are but this took some doing. I'd say at least a Medium for me.

ArtLvr 12:43 AM  

@ mac, Happy Birthday a few minutes late! I liked the alphabet puzzle today, especially clued with Women don't get it-- the Y CHROMOSOME! Of course, there are the rare cases of mosaicism and also rare cases where a Y is present but not expressed. Those may lead to human female form even if generally not fertile. (A nit, I know.) CDC took a moment, though, as I wanted NIH or FDA possibly being concerned with the flu....

I also like the chess King's protector, BISHOP, and the eBay SNIPER -- which I often was myself in years past, before the rules were greatly changed and the anonymity of bidders set in. Better before!

Like Rex, I got a great kick out of the LUMP SUM, quite fresh. I'm also a big fan of C-SPAN, so kudos to Chris McGlothin. Is this a debut?


Steve J 12:44 AM  

Definitely easy (one of my quicker Sundays). Definitely not enjoyable, so I'm glad it was quick.

Every Sunday's going to have some bad stuff by virtue of its sheer size. This one had some particularly awful stuff (PROSY, TERNE, ADMIXES, the two NNN NNN clues). But then there really wasn't much of anything good to offset it. Agreed that the clue for YCHROMOSOME was really good, but otherwise there was nothing the elicited so much as a chuckle. Made for a (mercifully short) slog overall for me.

The theme's moderately impressive in that I've heard of all of the resulting terms (even if I had a hard time remembering a couple), but I was disappointed with the theme revealer. This puzzle does not go A to Z; it covers all of those letters in random order. I'm sure constructing a puzzle that covered all of the initial letters in alphabetical order to match the order of the clues would have been exponentially harder and quite possibly even impossible, but to me the reveal (which I got before I got more than one or two of the theme answers) set up an expectation the puzzle could not fulfill.

jae 12:46 AM  

Easy for me too. Caught the theme early and realized at the end that I was missing a Z. XAXIS to ZAXIS fixed the problem. The RENA area was tricky for me too as BREAMS was new to me. I liked this one. Clever theme!

ArtLvr 12:47 AM  

p.s. NO-DRAMA Obama is probably a first in the NYT puzzle too? At least it's hard to call that a perjorative, thank goodness!


r.alphbunker 12:55 AM  

My first entry was CRING which had to be changed later but it got me the theme and I was intrigued by the possibility of 26 theme answers and a pangram that was an integral part of the theme and not just the constructor flexing his/her muscles. By the time I got to the revealer I was fairly certain that the constructor was going to pull this off. The last letter entered was the P of PDIDDY which I got by a process of elimination. Like the movie Dr Zhivago, the puzzle was long but worth the effort.

Noam D. Elkies 1:00 AM  

It's another pangram!

With all the neat stuff in this puzzle, who cares if there are only two entries as long as 11 letters?

It would have been nice if the 26 theme answers were paired symmetrically; it seems the constructor (a first-timer and a retired choral director, according to the NYTimes blog) deciding it wasn't worth the effort after already putting in a number of such pairs (the ORE clues near the top match CPY, and there are matched stacks of 5-letter theme clues for NU and SF). But it's a small point.

Apropos "choral director", I was at a choral concert yesterday and one of my friends there recited the same 52D:MUSIC quote.

To the nice clues listed by Rex, add the consecutive "N N N" clues for 42/45A, and while I'm at it also 22A:~ ~ ~ .

Yes, xwordinfo.com finds no previous instance of 92D:NO_DRAMA, even though it could have been clued pre-Obama as the Japanese artform (NOH_DRAMA is not recorded either). 57A:LUMP_SUM, on the other hand, did appear once before, as the central theme entry in an [UM] rebus.

Besides 52D:MUSIC, I get a couple of math entries, 23D:SECANT and the theme's 64D:Z_AXIS (I'm not counting the Roman numeral 78A:640). BTW ZAXES appeared once as a plural of "z-axis" (thanks to BEQ), and never as the plural of "zax" (no, it's not "zaxen").

51D:THEMED is clued as "like some amusement parks" — to which one might add "and most crossword puzzles".

Apropos "—", 52A:M_DASH may be a bit suspect, since it's usually written "em dash", though indeed "em" just means "the width of an M".

NDE [captcha = frantic; is there something I need to know?...]

The Bard 1:30 AM  

Twelfth Night > Act I, scene I

DUKE ORSINO: If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more:
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou,
That, notwithstanding thy capacity
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soe'er,
But falls into abatement and low price,
Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical.

Romeo and Juliet > Act II, scene II

[Enter ROMEO]

ROMEO: He jests at scars that never felt a wound.

[JULIET appears above at a window]

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
It is my lady, O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks yet she says nothing: what of that?
Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold, 'tis not to me she speaks:
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!

JULIET: Ay me!

ROMEO: She speaks:
O, speak again, bright angel! for thou art
As glorious to this night, being o'er my head
As is a winged messenger of heaven
Unto the white-upturned wondering eyes
Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him
When he bestrides the lazy-pacing clouds
And sails upon the bosom of the air.

JULIET: O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.

chefwen 2:18 AM  

Super easy Sunday puzzle, husband was a tad bit put out that I did not need his input, maybe next week.

Only write over was at 25A NOSTRIL over ear lobe. Oops another at 124A with AERIES over cabins.

All in all a fun puzzle but over before I was ready for it to be over. I do love to drag them out as long as I can.

Smitty 8:17 AM  

Dropping 20 pounds in the middle of winter can drive a person to become obsessed with R-value and start dressing in fashions by Owens-Corning.....which make you look 40 pounds heavier.

Rex Parker 8:40 AM  

If you enjoy insane, creative, rule-breaking puzzles, you really should check out Merl Reagle's offering at the Washington Post today. Solve online or print it out from here.


Leslie 9:20 AM  

If you enjoy insane, creative, rule-breaking puzzles, you really should check out Merl Reagle's offering at the Washington Post today. Thanks for the tip!

Liked the puzzle. Thought "lackluster" was a misleading clue for PROSY, though. I always thought PROSY meant "wordy," which isn't necessarily the same as "lackluster."

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

@MAC - Happy Birthday - better late than never.

What I noticed about Rex's writeup today is how gentle he was. Is this a new gentler and kinder Rex? I thought maybe Rex would look at this theme analogous to a Pangram, which he seems to loathe.

After finishing the NW corner I was ready to comment and, after finishing, the rest was pretty much as forecast by the NW.

I think the puzzle succeeds or loses on the freshness and originality of the theme answers foremost because of the challenge of starting each with a different letter in the alphabet. I have a couple of quibbles (J LO seems different and would have like Q SCHOOL over the ordinary Q-TIP) but overall I think it succeeds with some interesting theme answers. And the rest of the fill is strong as Rex suggests.

Congrats to Mr. McGlothlin on his first NYT puzzle!

mitchs 10:29 AM  

Thanks for the pointer, Rex. Is the WAPO available in Across Lite anywhere?

TimJim 10:35 AM  

The quality of the theme is 90% of what compels me to finish a Sunday puzzle. Either it's a bit of a challenge to figure out or it's entertaining enough to make me want to find the answers. This was neither. Oh , well . On to the cryptic!

chefbea 10:35 AM  

Didn't think this was that easy..like most of you. Thought the letters should have been in order.

Got bored and DNF

imsdave 10:38 AM  

@mac - I am a churl for missing your birthday. Mea culpa. Best belated wishes.

As to the puzzle, a nice construction feat. Kinda with our host on the solving experience. Some nice new fill, but generally not that exciting. TERNE was undeniable via the solid crosses, but totally unknown to me. "Knew" it was PAZ instead of PAX from a Picasso painting, if that makes any sense.

Where's Doug at LACC?

Happy Sunday all.

Captcha - AJAX (well, actually COMET - but I thought I'd spice it up as a crossword clue component).

CoolPapaD 11:02 AM  

As usual, I really enjoyed this, and can find nothing to complain about - it was a wonderful puzzle. Once I realized the theme, I counted the number of * in the clues, and was a bit dismayed to find only 22 (full disclosure: I flunked second semester freshman calculus in '83), so I was pleasantly surprised when I realized he pulled it off!

Clear favorite was the Y CHROMOSOME!

merlbaby 11:04 AM  

merl here -- just wanted to thank rex for the plug on my washington post puzz. i think you just need flash to run it -- no special download is necessary -- but if you're worried about it, just print it out. thanks!

Lindsay 11:05 AM  

Blah. I habitually highlight theme answers before I start to solve, except today the theme was so obvious I just filled in most of the asterisked answers as I went along with the highlighter. Uh, OK. On to the prosy fill.

Slight problem in the SW, where I originally had the Marinara Trench crossing a mangled spelling of Benazir Bhutto.

@ArtLver --- I totally agree with you about anonymity on Ebay! I am interested in regional history, but don't care to bid against friends or non-profits. Therefore, I'm not bidding much now that I can't tell if I'm just driving up the price the local archive will have to pay.

chefbea 11:34 AM  

@Merlbaby.- Am doing your puzzle now. A lot more fun than NYT

Rex Parker 11:36 AM  

To clear up some apparent confusion—

When you try to make your puzzle a pangram simply to amuse yourself, and in doing so introduce crappier fill than you might have otherwise, then your pangram is pointless. Self-destructive. These are the pangrams I don't like.

On the other hand—when, by virtue of the nature of your theme, your puzzle cannot but be a pangram ... that's a completely different animal. The point is not the pangram per se, but what you have to do to get it. It's worth zero to me to have an extraneous-to-the-theme pangram. Today, though, the pangram is inherent. Plus, it's a Sunday, and it's pretty easy to get all 26 letters in a 21x21 grid without breaking your puzzle's back.

I saw someone the other day say that I "hate short fill." This is also a mistaken claim. Lots of short fill *tends* to lead to lots of dull / boring / bad fill. Careful work on the part of the constructor, however, can combat this tendency and produce a lovely, smooth grid.

To sum up—in 15x15s, pangrams for pangrams' sakes are *usually* a bad idea. And short fill, not inherently bad (just often so).

Thank you,

Stan 11:38 AM  

I'm just as glad the theme was not symmetrical or strictly -A-Z, since I think the fill is more unforced this way.

I like the word CAJOLE for some reason (sometimes clued with "Wheedle," another word I like). SNIPER was new to me and good to learn. There is even sniping software now, making it pretty impossible to get a good deal on eBay for those who don't have it.

foodie 11:39 AM  

Oh, that little thing?
The Y CHROMOSOME, that is?
Don't miss it a bit :)

(Definitely my favorite clue/answer of the day!)

Happy Belated Birthday, @Mac! SAGGY again, today, but NOT YOU. That turkey dealy.

JaxInL.A. 11:40 AM  

Harry Shearer's LE SHOW originates here in in So.Cal at the public radio station where I met my husband. I think that his mix of eclectic music, sardonic comedy and politico-cultural commentary would appeal to this crowd. He is a great Sunday listen You can find the show on podcast at KCRW.com or at NPR.org/podcast or on iTunes.

Apropos of public radio and the constructor's profession, this weekend's A Prairie Home Companion joke show had lots of jokes about choir directors and members. I'm a long-time choir singer but I don't remember hearing choir jokes before. They were funny.

Happy birthday, @Mac!

Puzzle had a nice mix of old and young clues. CLEM and EDNA are easily 50 years apart. Jenny LIND (wildly popular 100 years ago) crosses the E STREET BAND! BRANDO at the top and P DIDDY at the bottom.

Could not remember Jake's brother for the life of me. ELmore? ELroy? HTG for ELWOOD.

Gotta go. Good luck to everyone's football teams today.

treedweller 11:44 AM  

I was psyched to see Rex's comment about a great Reagle puzzle. Somewhat less so to immediately see a spoiler for same.

Finished this one in the SE. Just too many unknowns--RENA, DIANE, ASSISSI, TERNE--plus a rather obscure clue for POPPA and I couldn't convince myself SNIPER was right. I knew it was C-something, but I couldn't think of any possibilities except clip or clamp.

I agree that ATOz promised something that was not delivered, and that MDASH should be em dash. I must add that it is W-2, not WTWO. I'll grant a little license since this had to be tough to fill, but I can't go higher than 2.5 stars.

Rex Parker 11:52 AM  

@treedwelle, What spoiler?

chaos1 12:00 PM  

PAZ got me too. I proofed the grid one time, before I hit reveal. I was just too lazy to look for the mistake.

Put BRANDO in immediately, because I vividly recalled Sacheen Littlefeather. She looked good at the Academy Awards, but she looked a lot better in the October 1973 issue of Playboy. After reading Rex's comments, I decided to go into my library and dig that copy out. I have every Playboy dating back to 1963. I found her, and she still looks good, even after 37 years. Lol.

Matthew G. 12:09 PM  

I liked this one. I winced when I saw the grid, because I detest Sunday grids with lots of short answers (since PuzzleGirl admitted it when filling in for Rex a few weeks ago, I've realized that I, too, often find 21x21s to be much more puzzle than I want in a sitting). But the fill and cluing were both very solid, so this held my interest more than some recent Sundays have.

I got the theme immediately from the title and 26A (E STREET BAND). I then looked for the symmetrical long(ish) answer to that one, and saw 116A. I saw Y CHROMOSOME right away and filled it in with a chortle, and so I was favorably disposed toward the puzzle after having made only two entries in the grid. Nothing else was quite as good as Y CHROMOSOME, but there was a lot to like and I was already in a good mood. Finished in one of my best Sunday times.

SEQUOIA is the shortest word in the English language to contain all five vowels.

Rex appears to be correct that the clue for MARIANAS is an error. This threw me off briefly during the solve as well, and I can't find any references to the trench that contain an "S" at the end of the word.

Love that NO DRAMA made it into the grid. My favorite nickname for a man whose most impressive skill is his ability to remain unperturbed despite being the subject of more lunatic-fringe animosity than any president in modern history. I honestly don't know how he gets up every day and brushes it off, but I'm glad he does.

treedweller 12:19 PM  

Oh, I see now that was not a spoiler. Never mind --Emily Litella

Shamik 12:20 PM  

@mac: Belated happy birthday!!!

This puzzle was one of the simplest, most boring Sunday puzzles in recent and long-term memory.

Go Jets!

Matthew G. 12:50 PM  

Yeah, one look at Merl's WaPo puzzle today and you realize everything Rex said about it is obvious. For example, it has one- and two-letter answers. No spoilers in saying that one's a rule-breaker.

Just did it now and loved it. Thanks, Merl! I have to say, though, that I have never heard anyone use the expression that is the answer clued by "If that don't beat all!" It returns a small handful of Google hits, so I guess it's real, but wow. Talk about obscure.

You are absolutely right that the person named in the tower deserved the recognition received. Great puzzle.

mexgirl 1:35 PM  

Rex, I can't believe you don't know Edna Mode, from The Incredibles!! (probably my kid's favorite Pixar). She is one of the best characters in the movie, by far; also adding to its value the fact that she's voiced by the director himself.
Just go and watch it with your daughter. You won't regret it.

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

A real grunt work but did all of it without Google or human help. Just a few blank squares in the NE corner left at the end. So according to my somewhat loose standards this is a "finished" puzzle for me.
Discovered early on the theme. Had PAX instead of PAZ until I filled X-RAY. Agree with Rex that best clues were Y-CHROMOSOME and LUMP SUM.
I found myself bored midway through the puzzle and in the end did not enjoy the puzzle. I got I-POD but I have no idea how this related to the clue in 34A.

Steve J 2:12 PM  

@Anon 1:34

One of the iPod models is known as the iPod Touch.

Re: MARIANAS. I did find some examples of the trench being referred to that way, rather than the band. Not "correct," but it seems to be a fairly common variant (and I wonder if historically that's what it was called). IMO, the clue should have indicated that it was looking for a variant.

Anonymous 2:17 PM  

@Matthew G. said...


Rex appears to be correct that the clue for MARIANAS is an error. This threw me off briefly during the solve as well, and I can't find any references to the trench that contain an "S" at the end of the word.


Did you try at all?

The Google says:

"marianas trench" About 418,000 results

"mariana trench" About 166,000 results

However, the Wiki for "Marianas_Trench" redirects to "Mariana_Trench" so go figure...


GO BEARS!!! (Da' other kind; DIL's family lives in Chitown and are great fans.)

Lurking Larry the (Cal) Bear

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

BTW, MARIANAS Trench was the WOTD in this blog on May 4, 2010, where the whole thing was hashed out. I guess even @Rex forgot. :-)

Da' Bear

Stan 2:33 PM  

Luvved the Washington Post puzzle. Keep pushing the envelope, Merl!

hazel 2:39 PM  

I remembered the Mariana vs. Marianas debate Larry linked to, and thats saying something as my chemo-addled brain is really a sieve. Maybe the geology connection partially explains it.

Either way, this puzzle was very ho hum for me - but if the letters had actually been in order, it would have been much worse, in my opinion. It was already too easy.

I am ready for some football.

Eric Halsey 2:41 PM  

The theme of this one was easy to figure. Given the puzzle title and the clue (*Gasket type) for 17A (ORING) I knew from the beginning what to look for. I MEAN since the Challenger disaster, what other kind of gasket is there?

For 38A Swindle, slangily (BURN) I thought perhaps "Dwindle or swindle" would have been a snappier clue. Dwindling as in what the capitalization of a tech startup with a given "burn rate" does.

I stumbled for a while on King protector (BISHOP). A bishop in chess is not particularly a king protector - it's more an aggressive piece, isn't it? So for a while I had CASTLE which would have been a nice double-entendre: CASTLing in chess and CASTLE as a stone defensive structure.

One thing about the theme: the constructor showed admirable restraint in only using initial letters for the theme when they were "just letters" and not anything else. Thus the initialisms/pronoun in 28A (ATV), 48D (SSE), 110D (IMEAN) were not smuggled in as "letter openers." Good job.

Finally, on a hunch, I started "connecting the dots" from A to Z. After creating a rat's nest of ZIGs and zags all over the grid, I gave up at about J. There's nothing there!


mitchs 2:49 PM  

@Mr. Reagle...loved it! Hey Will! Check it out, WaPo is cutting the edge. Are you gonna stand for that?

Seriously, this kind of meta, ala Matt Gaffney's weekly, might liven up Sunday's puz, IMHO.

syndy 3:23 PM  

despite a few fresh answers this puzzle was so easy it drew more winces than smiles by a long shot! final answer -lackluster captha-surfolog!

Anonymous 3:46 PM  

@Rex: This was definitely a kinder-gentler-critique. I was extremely disappointed by several factors (some of which you mention) -

1) lack of symmetry in theme answers,
2) letter openers not in order,
3) multiple acronyms/initialisms which should have been avoided (ATV, SSE, CDC) + A REST + A TO (the puzzle doesn't really go from A TO Z because of 2) above).

But what galled me more was the fact that there were 148 words (when 140 is the limit), 89 blocks (my god! mid-70s is normal, 80 painful), and 16 (SIXTEEN) cheater squares which create the UGLY blobs all over the grid!

You were too easy on this one Rex.


Stephen 4:12 PM  

At the first sight of the second clue, and the asterisk there, and the title, I had the theme. This was one pop-out day. The theme was perhaps lacking the usual puns and humour, but it was a long-acting theme that showed up in 27 answers and provided a huge backbone to the puzzle. Original too. And also the first bona fide reason for a pangram that I have ever seen. Echo Rex's comments at 11:36am. Hurrah for the pangram, for once!

I got YCHROMOSOME instantly on first sight. Yes, cute! That obscure deflective ingenious contorted clue pointed me straight at the answer. What's wrong here?

BISHOP works only because one of them is sitting beside the king. Otherwise, this clue was off. The only "piece" known as a protector of kings is the crowd of pawns.

The other cluing problem was bit==SHRED. It seems to me there is a tense problem in there.
I would not have gotten CHURRO without all the crosses (nor PROSY) so SHRED was the last entry for me. Resisted it even after it was clearly the only thing left.

Stephen 4:18 PM  

OK. That bit finally hit me... a SHRED of insight has arrived. Withdraw final comment.

miriam b 4:40 PM  

@Stephen: In the bit => SHRED instance, "bit" is not a verb. but a noun, as in a bit, or SHRED of evidence.

When we lived in Albuquerque many años ago we were charmed by the fact that soap operas were called CHURROS in reference, I think, to the fact that the plots were continuously extruded like CHURROS being piped into hot fat by means of a churrera (sort of a syringe). I've often wondered whether this term for soap operas was peculiar to the Albuquerque area.

Darn, I'm getting hungry.

Jon88 5:15 PM  

I guess I'm out of step. Today's xwd disappointed me on many levels. Curious that no one else is bothered by C-SPAN being the only abbreviation among the themers. Also, while M DASH might have acquired existence by popularity, you won't find it in Random House Unabridged, Webster's 3rd, Chambers, Collins or the OED -- they recognize only EM DASH.

mac 5:42 PM  

I have to agree with a lot of the criticism and Rex's write-up, but there were definitely some fun and fresh clues and answers. The Sunday puzzle is just too big....

I'm printing out Merle Baby's puzzle to do during the Jets game NOT! We're having a mini-super bowl here, there was practically a stampede at the Supermarket! Any reason to continue celebrating for me!
Thanks for the congratulations!

Sparky 7:10 PM  

Happy Birthday @Mac. Sorry, Bears fans. Now the Jets are on here. Husband eviction to neighbor at nine when Masterpiece comes on.

Oh, the puzzle. Got it with ESTREETBAND and title. Missed on PAx, BReAMS. The fish eluded me. Hole over at 42,43,44D so DNF. Didn't see NUS and I thought it was kLEM. It was kind of a slog. Picked up and put down during the day. MDASH suspect to me too.

Sela Ward on cover of Parade and in CSI, NY. So I'll know who she is next time she turns up in a puzzle.

Looking forward to a good week.

PlantieBea 7:31 PM  

Somehow I managed to finish this during the Packer/Bear Game. The puzzle, not so challenging for me and very straight forward, provided a calming counterpoint to the game. Go Packers! As for others, my favorite answer was Y CHROMOSOME. Had to write over EAR LOBE with NOSTRIL.

Captcha today is fiestu: personalized birthday party greetings for Mac!

nurturing 7:32 PM  

I loved the puzzle. So there!

Anonymous 7:42 PM  

94D W TWO bugged me since is is a W-2. Have never seen it spelled out.

Anonymous 8:58 PM  

Easy, but any puzzle that includes ESTREETBAND is OK in my book

Brad Fallon 9:11 PM  

Hah! Very nice puzzle indeed! Was laughing when it came to Edna from "The Incredibles", the Y chromosome was very nice!!

french aj 3:20 AM  

Can someone please explain the 1 across clue in this puzzle "Yo, she was Adrian"???

TimJim 10:44 AM  

Talia Shire played Sylvester Stallone's (he says "Yo" a lot) girlfriend in "Rocky." I don't remember her character's name, but I'm guessing it was Adrian.

Anonymous 10:30 PM  

OK, I must be the only thick one out there. N N N = ENS makes sense, but N N N = NUS? What am I missing here?

Stephen 10:45 PM  

N is not only the upper case Latin letter en, it is also the upper case Greek letter nu.

Anonymous 2:54 PM  

Ahh, of course. Something in the back of my head was saying that. I simply wasn't listening!

BobbyF 7:09 PM  

I did not find this easy at all, mostly because I tend to be blindsided by crossword themes, this one no less. I know I’m in trouble when I reach for my white-out. I tended to see more than one possibility for a number of the clues. For example, in place of LBAR, how about LBOW, which struck me as being more persuasive. For marathoner’s need I immediately hit upon BANDANA in place of the, seemingly, too obvious STAMINA. On the plus side, YCHROMOSOME was ingenious. Unfortunately, I spelled it YCHROMOSONE. Twas a bad night at black rock…

Cary in Boulder 3:26 PM  

N N N and SECANT twice in one week helped me get a couple I'd have never known otherwise. Guess I must be learning by repetition, however slowly.

Like Rex I must have translated the "tete" in 103A on the fly, because IDEA ended up leaving me with a hole at 114. Had CSPAR, which I figured was some kind of exterior home covering, x'd with TERRE, as good a guess as any. Nanki- was SAN, then SEN, then PEI before POO arrived. Eventually also got PROSY but with a big WTF. Not the best clue there.

Still to finish a Sunday on paper before lunch, even with a few misses, is a big deal.

captcha: BRASTRIP. I'll leave that one for my wife.

Anonymous 1:52 AM  

Greetings from SyndiLand!

funny Zhivago coincidence: today (30 Jan) TCM aired Dr Zhivago whilst I was working the puzzle.

well, it made me chuckle anyways!

UncleRancid 1:38 PM  

I could not for the life of me get 85A: .–

I do the Dead Tree version and there was a bit of smutch in the pulp where the "." was so I couldn't make heads or tails out of what "–" was.

COM? COM? WTH??? What does " – " have to do with COM?

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