Rum vodka orange juice drink / SUN 1-30-11 / Foppish courtier Hamlet / Much-wanted toon in Toontown / High-tech officer in film / Phalanx's weaknesses

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Constructor: Kevin Der and Jessica A. Hui

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: "Circle of Life" — Rebus puzzle with all twelve animals of the CHINESE ZODIAC (which has a TWELVE-YEAR CYCLE) arranged symmetrically throughout the grid (41D: Collection of animals featured in this puzzle)


Word of the Day: Den HAAG (110A: Den ___, Nederland) —

The Hague [...] is the third largest city in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam, with a population of 485,818 (as of May 31, 2009) (population of agglomeration: 1,011,459) and an area of approximately 100 km². It is located in the west of the country, in the province of South Holland, of which it is also the provincial capital. Along with Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and Almere, The Hague is part of the Randstad metropolitan area that totals 6,659,300 inhabitants. (wikipedia)
• • •

Ingenious. Maddening — because of general toughness and odd answers and a RAFT of not-great short fill — but ingenious. Why is the RAFT Finnish, by the way (19D: Finnish transport?)? Do RAFTs have fins? I don't get the joke [Update: Oh, Huck Finn. Huh. All right]. Anyway, this puzzle is remarkably ambitious on an architectural level. I didn't know the NYT was doing 23x23 puzzles anymore. Also, I was told that rebus answers couldn't be more than 4 letters in length because it was unreasonable to expect solvers to be able to write long answers in the squares—at least that was the reason given for the rejection of a rebus puzzle I once submitted. I suppose you could draw the animals, but ... really? Did you do that? No, you didn't. Perhaps special dispensation was given to this puzzle because it's just so damned creative and daring. At any rate, I kept simply writing in the first letter of the animal involved, and then forgetting that that letter was supposed to stand for a whole animal (this kept me from instantly getting [TIGER] WOODS, for example: "TWOOD-? TWOODY? Was there a golfer named TWOODY?"). The marquee answer today is, of course, "CROUCHING [TIGER], HIDDEN [DRAGON]" (91D: With 88-Down, 2000 Ang Lee film) — just brilliant. Must have been just about the first thing in the grid (after the central crossers).

Theme answers:
  • BRASS [MONKEY] (1A: Rum, vodka and orange juice drink) / [MONKEY]ING AROUND
  • RED [ROOSTER] / [ROOSTER] TAILS (10D: Wakes thrown up behind speedboats)


  • [DOG]EAR / [DOG]OODERS
  • PORKY [PIG] / SEA [PIG]
  • DEMOC[RAT] / ROOM [RAT]ES
  • F[OX]ILY / T[OX]INS
  • CROUCHING [TIGER] / [TIGER] WOODS
  • [RABBIT], RUN / ROGER [RABBIT] (114D: Much-wanted toon in Toontown)
  • PEN[DRAGON] / HIDDEN [DRAGON]
  • [SNAKE] SKINS / [SNAKE] PIT
  • [HORSE]POWER / ON [HORSE]BACK
  • IN F[RAM]E / BIG[RAM]S
NW was rough, with a random pope (17A: Pope after Marinus I—pope after who(m)?) and the weird BIGRAMS (1D: Two-letter combinations) and the weirdly indefinite-article-including ANE (3D: Most common draw in Scrabble). Did not like the clue on SNAKE SKINS (95A: Cobra products)—a cobra is a snake. Cobras do not produce SNAKE SKINS, except in the Redundant World of Redundancy. They produce cobra skins, or just skins. Never seen MUESLIS pluralized before, but why not (12D: Cereal mixes)? Love the double-breakfast moment with MUESLIS and GRANOLA (73D: Breakfast in a bar). Had noooo idea that Den HAAG was just Dutch for The Hague. Also had no idea who this RADO guy was (81D: "Hair" co-writer James). I know what a sea cow is, but a SEA PIG? News to me. My favorite non-theme answer is SALARY CAP (140A: Topic at an owners/players meeting), and I now have "Hey, JUDE" stuck firmly in my head (60D: Revelation comes after it).


Bullets:
  • 49A: So-called "Heart of Texas" (WACO) — Makes me think of Branch Davidians and Dr Pepper.
  • 111A: Ubangi tributary (UELE) — only word I know (besides the preposterous UEY and Bob UECKER) that starts "UE-"; very much worth committing to memory.
  • 112A: Phalanx weaknesses (GAPS) — Very weird clue for GAPS. Also, my brain kept processing "Phalanx" as "Larynx"...
  • 139A: "The Lovely Bones" composer, 2009 (ENO) — I did not know that. Add this clue to the seemingly endless list of ways to clue Brian ENO.
  • 11D: Revealing 1970s wear (HOT PANTS) — great answer. Maybe better than SALARY CAP. I like that they are called "PANTS" even though they are shorts. Very short shorts.

  • 18D: 1962 action film set in Jamaica ("DR. NO") — I really should see this movie. Is it possible that it's the most popular film title in all Crossworld?
  • 36D: Hotelier Hilton (CONRAD) — if you attend the Crosswords L.A. Tournament at Loyola-Marymount University in May, you will compete inside a building named after this guy (if I remember correctly).
  • 55D: Foppish courtier in "Hamlet" (OSRIC) — Ooh, "foppish." Good word. I don't remember foppishness in "Hamlet." It's been a while.
  • 65D: 1985 John Malkovich drama ("ELENI") — would give "DR. NO" a run for its money if it were somewhat more famous (and thus more desirable as a crossword answer).
  • 74D: High-tech officer in film (ROBOCOP) — For some reason, I don't like "in" in this clue. Want "of." Or "of movie fame," or something like that. "ROBOCOP" poses no threat to "DR. NO"'s supremacy.

SYNDICATED READERS (those doing the puzzle on 2/6)listen up!=>Matt Gaffney is running a special crossword contest from his (very popular) website—here's the message he sent me a couple days ago:
I'm running a special month here at MGWCC ("Matt Gaffney's Weekly Crossword Contest") called "Literary February." Four book-themed puzzles, and *every* solver who answers the four February metapuzzles correctly wins a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set.

http://www.crosswordcontest.blogspot.com/
Matt's a fantastic constructor and his metapuzzles add an extra bit of fun to the solving experience. Get in on the action. You'll be glad you did.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

94 comments:

The Corgi of Mystery 12:12 AM  

Rex: RAFT is a Huck Finn-ish transport ;)

nanpilla 12:28 AM  

Wow - filled in SEA COW and never even looked at the cross.(Porky cow, really!) I know there is no cow on the Zodiac, but it was the first thing I filled in, and stupidly never looked back once I got the theme. A couple of times, I meant to look for the pig, and then would forget about it.

Now that I have looked at pictures of the sea pig, I may never get to sleep!

Off to feed the sea cows in Key Largo tomorrow. Hope they are back in the marina after all the cold weather last month.

This was a fun, challenging puzzle. Lots more bite than the usual Sunday. Thanks for two good work-outs this weekend, Kevin, and Jessica, too.

syndy 12:40 AM  

Loads of Fun! Had to make a list to see which two animals I was missing -had ten okay then I need a RAM and what else ?finally saw i needed a Fox down in the corner and almost went with that-wait a minute there is no fox in the chinese zodiac AHSO!!OX some ugly fill but what the heck! Its chinese new year! what year is it? I'll ggogle it.

Ulrich 12:42 AM  

@Corgi: Thx--you answered the remaining question I had. BTW There's no Injun Joe to kick around anymore as far as I'm told--what is he called now? Native-American Joe?

Puzzle was designed to last exactly until the last flame went out in our fire place, where we relaxed after yet another day spent mostly pitching snow from roofs and trying to break ice on the driveway.

Got the theme from ROOSTER and peeking ahead and then dutifully wrote in the margin the animals that I remembered from paper place mats in Chinese restaurants, to be checked off as I encountered them in the grid--forget the monkey, though--duh. Now, if I had remembered the proper sequence, too...

I'm a snake BTW, which is more appealing than it sounds from what I remember the place mat said--something like talented, but aloof--fits me to a tee:-)

syndy 12:43 AM  

Happy Year of the Rabbit everyone!

Anonymous 12:53 AM  

The most common Scrabble draw seemed weird... shouldn't it be AEI?

kirble 1:02 AM  

@anonymous, re: AEI/ANE

I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be read as "an E."


And, Rex, I figured that SNAKE SKINS was meant in terms of the pelt (does the word apply here?) of a snake. Like what you use to make snake-skin boots.

woof 1:15 AM  
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woof 1:16 AM  
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Noam D. Elkies 1:23 AM  

Yes, a neato idea that more than justifies some of the necessary compromises — especially when there's so much other good stuff in the grid. The 23x23 grid too is justified by the theme: 21x21 wouldn't leave enough room for the tiger of 91D to crouch far enough from the central 77A:12_YEAR_CYCLE. (It may seem like the initial C of "crouching" could miraculously coincide with the C of CYCLE, but the symmetrically placed 6D:[MONKEY]ING_AROUND scotches that idea.)

Evidently "dead-tree" solvers aren't the only ones who have trouble accommodating so many letters in a rebus square: the xwordinfo grid needs several extra-wide columns to accommodate HORSE/SNAKE, MONKEY/RABBIT, and especially ROOSTER...

NDE

SNelson 1:41 AM  

After several hours, my dad and I actually knocked this one out, which surprised me, considering how Sunday's puzzle usually goes for me. However, I had a problem with the SW, as I mistakenly jumped at "pres" over PREZ, which led to "sun" as source of enlightenment, rather than ZEN. Clever trick, I think. And it turns out, "einu" (failed attempt at eine) is actually the icelandic dative. I suppose Zimmerman isn't really Icelandic, though.
Overall, I thought there was a nice mix of references, movies, lit., geography, etc. Thanks to Kevin and Jessica for a solid challenge.

chefwen 2:00 AM  

I saw Kevin G. Der at the top and cringed remembering the sound thrashing he gave to me on Friday. Thought to self "maybe Jessica can tame him down" NOT. Thank God I had nothing too important to do today because that's about how much time it took me to get through this one, although it sure was fun. I had so many write-overs it was ridiculous.

Dear Old Dad called me bunny as I was growing up and this is the year of the rabbit which is my year, so I am expecting great things. Let's start with the Pack winning the Superbowl.

Rube 2:47 AM  

Got the rebus concept almost immediately with[Rooster]TAILS. (RED[Rooster] sounded plausible). Unfortunately started to look for Hen, Chicken, or Egg as this was the "Circle of Life". PORKY[Pig] broke me of that.

Thx to @Corgi for the RAFT explanation, and thx to @Kirble for the "an E" explanation.

Screwed up the SW by leaving suN in and never catching ENO. That guy is something else. Aiport music and probably a lot more I don't know.

It took a long time to see BIG[Ram]S and INF[RAM]E... wanted INFocus and BIGoS, (a Czech stew).

Oh well, a good puzzle with marvelous theme. Just checked and the zodiac signs are all in order, clockwise! Very impressive.

jae 3:09 AM  

Interesting how puzzle difficulty can be so subjective. Yesterday's was on the tough side for me but this one I had at easy-medium. This was an ambitious/impressive grid but I had very few hang ups. I was iffy about ICS and tried HORSE for 6d at first, and oh I also had MESSKIT for while, but the rest went pretty smoothly. Great puzzle guys!

Anonymous 3:13 AM  

great concept and puzz but unfortunately blemished for me by having "fox" in the FOXILY answer... why put an unrelated animal in the puzzle? besides that, really enjoyable

Dennis Earle 7:24 AM  

19D "Raft" Reference: A "shout-out" to Thor Heyerdahl: Kon-Tiki was the RAFT used by Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl in his 1947 expedition across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands.

monkistan 8:07 AM  

no matter how many versions of the song that I own, for some reason I put robin instead of rooster. I'd actually love to hear howlin' wolf singing about a little red robin.

Anonymous 8:08 AM  

Agree w/ jae -- after I finished I told myself, "Rex I'd going to rate this ease-medium. When I came here and saw Challenging I thought "no way!" I consider this EINE red (rooster) letter day to have out-done Rex!

christelb_devlin 8:35 AM  

My silliest initial error - KATE for London tourist attraction.

Good puzzle, although I didn't get RAM and OX.

The Bard 8:42 AM  

Hamlet > Act V, scene II

OSRIC: The king, sir, hath laid, that in a dozen passes
between yourself and him, he shall not exceed you
three hits: he hath laid on twelve for nine; and it
would come to immediate trial, if your lordship
would vouchsafe the answer.

HAMLET: How if I answer 'no'?

OSRIC: I mean, my lord, the opposition of your person in trial.

HAMLET: Sir, I will walk here in the hall: if it please his
majesty, 'tis the breathing time of day with me; let
the foils be brought, the gentleman willing, and the
king hold his purpose, I will win for him an I can;
if not, I will gain nothing but my shame and the odd hits.

OSRIC: Shall I re-deliver you e'en so?

HAMLET: To this effect, sir; after what flourish your nature will.

OSRIC: I commend my duty to your lordship.

HAMLET: Yours, yours.

[Exit OSRIC]

He does well to commend it himself; there are no
tongues else for's turn.

HORATIO: This lapwing runs away with the shell on his head.

HAMLET: He did comply with his dug, before he sucked it.
Thus has he--and many more of the same bevy that I
know the dressy age dotes on--only got the tune of
the time and outward habit of encounter; a kind of
yesty collection, which carries them through and
through the most fond and winnowed opinions; and do
but blow them to their trial, the bubbles are out.

Gut von Fraidykat 8:51 AM  

Julius Caesar > Act III, scene I

CASCA: Speak, hands for me!

[CASCA first, then the other Conspirators and
BRUTUS stab CAESAR]

CAESAR: Et tu, Brute! Then fall, Caesar.

Dan 9:22 AM  

Had to google to get OX. I just could not come up with either cross.

They should do a remake of Dr. No with an opening theme by Brian Eno and... hmm... Ione Skye as the Bond Girl?

JenCT 9:31 AM  

SOO glad Rex rated this Challenging, because I DNF.

Still don't get BIGRAMS - anyone?

Had ANISETTES instead of AMARETTOS. Very impressive construction.

Finally back to puzzling after the hospitalization/seeming recovery/re-hospitalization and eventual passing of my Mom, who was my puzzle partner for years.

r.r. davies 9:32 AM  

Isn't Jude biblical rather than pop? The Epistle to Jude precedes the Book of Revelation in the New Testament..
"Hey Jude" is backed by "RevolUtion"...
R.D.
London

Smitty 9:54 AM  

@nanpilla - me too, and I ended up with leftover animals and a bunch of wrong answers.
I went blank at ____ tails even though I live in thunderboat country along with Miss Budweiser
WHALE Tails are an outboard motor device that prevents cavitation. FISH tails? Once stuck on the piscatorial I couldn't make the leap to avian until I looked up the remaining zodiac animals.
Also got stuck on HORSEing around, even though the spelling was wrong.
Very rewarding and surprising Sunday puzzle - But glad Rex rated it Challenging.

jackj 10:11 AM  

Kevin and Jessica have given us a puzzle which surely belongs in everyone's Crossword Hall of Fame.

Conomist 10:21 AM  

Wow.

(as has already been said....but really, wow.)

Most impressive about this grid is not just that the animals are arranged symmetrically, but that they're IN ORDER!

I'm floored.

Also, damned OSRIC.

mac 10:45 AM  

Fantastic puzzle, and has any other constructor ever have two puzzles published in the NYT so close together?

I had some bad starts, of course, like monokini at 11D, brass bull for the drink/tomfoolery, but the hardest answers both started with f: frame and foxily. Even started to doubt the gimme Siva.

@JenCT: so sorry, and welcome back.

The name Zimmermann always brings me right to Bob Dylan.

Geometricus 10:57 AM  

I must have enjoyed it more than I thought I did because when I finally finished [squeezing all those animals into my little iPod] the timer said 1 hour 26 minutes. I was really surprised I spent that long, and when I saw this morning Rex had rated it Challenging, I'm guessing that his rating is based mostly on time taken not so much on the cluing which seemed Thursday-level like it's supposed to be. It's just a big-ass puzzle, lots of volume.

Hand up for trouble in the SW with PREZ et al...also for HORSEING AROUND at first. In the end I could not remember RAM or MONKEY or ROOSTER (kept wanting to write cockTAIL) so I had to google a picture of the thing. I did enjoy it however. Thanks Kevin & Jessica!

Greene 11:00 AM  

Absolutely ingenious puzzle on which I spent far too much time this morning before claiming victory. Part of my problem was putting in the wrong animals before I realized it was a CHINESE ZODIAC puzzle. Thus, 6D was HORS(E)ING AROUND for far too long. What's a BRASS HORS(E)? Beats me. I too had RED ROBIN instead of RED ROOSTER. Again, didn't know if ROBIN TAILS could be wakes, but I suppose they could. And so on. Anyway, to me RED ROOSTER is a terrific restaurant on Lennox Avenue in Harlem. Those going to ACPT should check this place out if you happen to come across the river.

Once I got the ZODIAC idea, the errors became clear and everything got fixed. Of course, now I'm behind on all the other work I have to get done today, but it was a super fun and challenging puzzle. Thanks, Kevin and Jessica!

Orange 11:19 AM  

@JenCT: Parse BIGRAMS as bi-grams, bi = 2 and gram = letter. Compare to pangram = all letters.

@Rex: If a cobra molts multiple times in its life, perhaps you could say it produces snake skins in the plural?

SethG 11:51 AM  

I never had your problem forgetting what the single letter stood for, because in each case I got both crosses when I filled in the sign.

What bothered me was that sometimes the animals were the animals, sometimes not. For example, the snakes in SNAKE SKINS and SNAKE PIT are, well, snakes, while BI-GRAMS and IN FRAME just incorporate the ram. It's too much to expect a rooster in an embedded letters theme, but it was annoying. Still, yup, creative, daring, difficult Sunday.

I grew up thinking I was an Ox, but found out a few years ago that I'm a Rat. Damned inaccurate menu dates...

Barbara 11:59 AM  

I finally looked up the Chinese zodiac when I was stuck in the NW, knew I was missing just one animal - the first one I googled had a GOAT instead of the RAM. That didn't help at all!

mac 12:06 PM  

I'm having dinner in Den Haag on Feb. 8. It's a very pretty town., with lovely suburbs on the coast. Being used to NY, it always strikes me that buildings in Dutch towns are so low, highrises are outside the center.

syndy 12:23 PM  

I thoughtof the Kontiki at first but after all Heyrdahl was Norwegian not Finnish-so huck makes more sense #&out

Shamik 12:24 PM  

3 wrong squares in the 37+ minutes it took for this puzzle, a scone and coffee. A good Sunday morning. Wish it could have been a completion. Figured with that many squares, my chances of being 100% were diminished. Still enjoyable. My downfall was primarily the NW where I drank a CROSSMONKEY. Figured that's what I'd be after drinking too many vodka/rum/orange juices.

ArtLvr 12:27 PM  

Mind-boggling achievement, and also VEXATIOUS! I sussed out everything except the MONKEY, where I was trying to put in Grasshopper -- and now I've learned another drink...

Many thanks not only to the authors, but to Will as well for letting us have this oversized masterpiece!

∑;)

p.s. Welcome back, JenCT, and much sympathy on your recent loss.

r.alphbunker 12:30 PM  

@JenCT
The crossword puzzle was something my mother and I could do together. I still have the puzzle she was working on when she died.

@Dan
And Stephen Rea could be James Bond.

This was a challenging puzzle for me. Like @jae I had [HORSE]INGAROUND which of course was wrong because of the EI but the rebus made it hard to see it. And it was particularly painful on the iPhone to erase a rebus after all the work it took to enter it! Had to look up the 12 signs to get OX, RAM and MONKEY and even then it took a while to see where they went. BIGRAMS was especially difficult because I know them by the term DIGRAPH.

The experience today, brought to mind Henry V's speech:
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother

archaeoprof 12:31 PM  

What everyone else said!

Favorite cross: democRAT/roomRATes.

Go Egypt!

Eli 12:32 PM  

About "Ingenious. Maddening — ... Why is the RAFT Finnish, by the way (19D: Finnish transport?".
I Googled "rafts in finland" and learned that there's a long tradition of rafting, raft-building competitions, etc.
Eli Nadel
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

sheesh 12:52 PM  

@Eli

Re; "Finnish Raft", check out the comments above, it's been mentioned several time.

If that's too much work, just check out todaqy's very first comment.

Plutonium 12:53 PM  

Found this puzzle quite brilliant and very challenging. Before I "got it", I had Grasshopper for Brass Monkey (don't drink much) and even when I got monkey, I didn't get brass, so NE corner remained my downfall. Also took me most of the morning!

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

A day made for those of us who do the puzzle on the iPad. Rebus heaven!

Lindsay 1:43 PM  

Didn't the USPS issue a Chinese New Year stamp a few years back that featured a goat???? At any rate, not knowing what animals I was looking for slowed me down.

Ended up in the NW thinking I needed a goat and a cat, when in fact I needed a RAM and a MONKEY. Which I eventually figured out.

quilter1 1:58 PM  

Horsed around with this and got all the animals but one before leaving for church, feeling the HOLIEST. I startled my husband by exclaiming, "I know there is a RAT in here!" Also had anisettes and put in RAFT without knowing why it was right, but that's OK. Finished and felt good.

Stan 2:02 PM  

Congrats on this tour de force puzzle!

JC66 2:40 PM  

Great puzzle.

Maybe I was fortunate to eat at Chinese restaurants whose menus didn't have the zodiac animals (or I just didn't notice). Anyway, I realized early on it was an animal rebus, but didn't know/care which specific animals to look for. I think this may have made the solve a little easier for me.

@JenCT

My condolences.

joho 3:12 PM  

Like @jae, @Smitty, @Geometricus & @Greene I wrote in HORSE at first only to malapop later when I got HORSEPOWER.

I absolutely LOVED this puzzle. The best Sunday in a Chinese zodiac.

I had trouble seeing OX and finished with RAT (had to be a RAT in there) and finally RAM.

I was blown away by CROUCHINGTIGER/HIDDENDRAGON! PENDRAGON was cool, too.

Wow.

Thank you Kevin and Jessica ... you have created a masterpiece!

(@JenCT, I am so sorry for your loss.)

chefbea 3:57 PM  

Too tough for me. DNF. Had horsing around and no idea what vodka drink had horse in it's name.
Had red hen and hen tails

Gave up and came here to see the correct answers

JenCT sorry for your loss

Anonymous 4:09 PM  

Filled out most of the blanks without help and had pockets of blanks left that I could not make any sense of. So I missed out on the theme completely until I came here to read what Rex has to say.
I remained clueless even after coming up with HORSE POWER in 45D, TIGER WOODS in 145A and DEMOCRAT in 100A. I simply could not fit the answers into the blanks.
No aha moment for me and not much satisfaction for missing out on the theme. I agree that the puzzle was very difficult and very clever.

joeyshapiro 4:28 PM  

sea pig? come on!

JenCT 5:37 PM  

Thanks for all the condolences, everyone. It's been a rough few months.

My Mom is the only reason I ever even attempted an NYT puzzle; I'm glad I was able to bring her to see the ACPT two years ago.

Hope to be at the next ACPT myself.

Steve J 5:45 PM  

I had a very mixed reaction to this. The theme itself was really brilliant, and while Seth G's right about inconsistency in its application, I found the timeliness and thoroughness of it really enjoyable.

But as spectacular as the theme was, a lot of the non-theme fill was spectacularly awful. And since it took me a little while to finally get the theme (although I suspected a rebus for a while, at 144A Updike novel), my initial impression was formed by really dodgy stuff like LIENEE and opting for the random Roman numeral at 35A (which struck me as lazy, as it would have been easy to construct a clue around the pretty common abbreviation for medial collateral ligament - or maybe it's common only in the circles of those of us who have gotten way too familiar with knee anatomy thanks to injuring one). Later stuff to be uncovered like BIGRAMS and VEXATIOUS didn't help.

But I think on balance I admire the good stuff in this one more than fret the bad stuff. The theme really is that impressive.

Steve J 5:49 PM  

@r.r. davies: Yes, "Hey Jude" is pop and the epistle is biblical. I'm pretty sure Rex's comment is that the name "Jude" triggered the song in his head.

As far as "Hey Jude" being backed by the Revolution: I'm pretty sure Prince's band didn't play that one. ;-)

Moonchild 6:50 PM  

I had a Chinese friend once. I showed her my new shoes from China that had printed on the insole a picture of three ovine creatures, the English phrase "Three goats", and some Chinese characters. I asked her what the Chinese script said and, without looking at the English writing said "Three sheep." When I showed her the "goats" she shrugged and said "Same thing." I found that a real cultural/language eye-opener.
Love the Finnish raft discussion.
I hope Kevin drops by to tell us who is correct. If it's Huck Finn then that is an amazing clue.

Andy 7:11 PM  

I think 60 minuti is 1 ore not 1 ora. So the creator of the puzzle should have salery cap not salary cap.

Isabella di Pesto 7:44 PM  

Worst puzzle ever. Hated it. It seemed as though the crafters of this puzzle didn't want it to be solved. Too many too clever by half clues and answers. Not enjoyable at all.

SethG 7:47 PM  

I think 120 minuti is 2 ore, but 60 minuti is 1 ora. I think KANGAROO STEREOS (or STEROID) would be fine in an embedded letters theme, and I should have picked a different example.

fergus 8:13 PM  

Mac -- there were those two Manny Nssowsky puzzles, the Golf HOLEs, but I that had to be special case of the same constructor two days in a row.

The symmetry definitely helped in cracking this one.

Peter 8:45 PM  

78 Down is wrong. One who holds a mortgage (on someone else's property) is the LIENOR, not the lienee.

Anonymous 8:59 PM  

I hold a mortgage. On my property. Citibank is the lienor, I am the lienee.

Betsy 10:24 PM  

Go hey fa choi!

Octavian 10:29 PM  

Great puzzle. Hard for a Sunday, but fair. Symmetry helped me figure out where the animals were cloaked. Loved the "hidden" tiger most of all.

@Isabella -- I think it's necessary that the puzzle be harder than normal because once you figure out where the animals have to be the exercise would turn out too easy.

Seems to me that once Will determines the theme is relatively easy, he amps up the cluing to give longtime solvers more of a workout. So in an hard Sunday, "Greens Fee" might be, "Salad cost at 19th hole?" whereas on an easier day it might be "Golf charge."

Jim 11:42 PM  

Hmm. Good. Failed on RAM, SNAKE and OX but got almost literally everything around them. Never studied my Chinese placemats enough to know which I was missing. Wasn't stick-to-it-ive enough today to persevere.

BTW, how many five-letter synonyms for 'Old saw' are there? Let's see...MAXIM, adage...with closely related axiom, credo...and I know I'm missing one or two. I hate those clues. I always invariably guess wrong at first.

Sparky 11:57 PM  

Found most of the animals but DNF. Holes in SE and NW. Had TIGER. Liked PenDRAGON. The symmetry helpful. When I found one I looked at the opposite spot for another. Had to leave for lunch date and never got back on track. @Linsay, the USPS did stamps on all the animals in the Chinese Zodiac. I was hoping for a rebus so this was a good ride for me. Tomorrow should be a treat for all of us. (I think.)

@JenCT. So sorry for your loss.

Octavian 12:03 AM  

Attention future constructors: Turns out that most ancient civilizations had some sort of barnyard zodiac obsession.

So count forward until everyone forgets about this one, 2013?, and start preparing for the Mayan Zodiac sunday crossword. It has 13 phases instead of 12.

Moon 1- Bat
Moon 2-Scorpion
Moon 3-Deer
Moon 4-Owl
Moon 5-Peacock
Moon 6-Lizard
Moon 7- Monkey
Moon 8-Hawk
Moon 9-Jaguar
Moon 10-Dog
Moon 11-Serpent
Moon 12-Rabbit
Moon 13-Turtle

Jess Sayin 12:14 AM  

You know, Samaritans are not specifically known as do-gooders as a people. There was one who was particularly so, at least as the story goes, but not Samiritans as a rule.

aleph1=c? 3:03 AM  

I'm new at crosswords, so this whole "rebus" thing really threw me off. I took a long time to figure out what was going on here. Started with, then fixed MESS kIt and PREs. Ended up with RABBIT gUN. Don't know a TYg from a TYR.

I skip M-W 5:39 AM  

Great puzzle, which I messed up w/dross monkey, making most common scrabble draw "one" as in number of points. Digram sounds better to me than bigram, since di is a Greek prefix and bi a Latin one, and gram is from Greek.admittedly i wouldn't be likely to order a dross monkey, but a brass monkey doesn't sound much more palatable.

@JenCt condolences. a friend's mother died yesterday at 99 and was playing scrabble until a couple of weeks ago.

efrex 10:24 AM  

Fergus:

To give credit where it's due: the two "Golf Hole" puzzles were by Mike Nothnagel, not Manny Nosowsky.

DNF, but had fun getting beat. Der is a tough constructor, and enough obscure fill meant that I messed up longer answers. Got 10/12 animals, though: not bad for a tough rebus puzzle for me.

deerfencer 10:42 AM  

Bit of a slog getting started and seemed to take me forever to get the theme, but in the end the puzzle was fun and worth it all.

Dazzling technical feat, just wish the cluing had been a bit more creative--the three cobra clues especially bugged me.

@JenCT: Sorry for your loss. Almost lost mine a year ago until they pulled almost 50 gall stones out of her after an initial misdiagnosis.

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

I was having trouble with the sign in the Northwest corner (row 3, square 4) and Googled chinesezodiac.com which listed my missing clue as "goat." No way I could make that work. Then I found the correct answer is "ram" which solved the puzzle for me.

Why the discrepancy?

smoss11 12:16 PM  

I thought this puzzle was brilliant. Not only is the zodiac in order, not only are the answers completely symmetrical within the grid but they are all placed in answers at the boarders of the puzzle. I agree with comments about the use of the animal versus the letters of the animal creating inconsistency but I think it is a nit given the incredible genus it took to create this puzzle. Amazing!!!

MikeM 12:33 PM  

Hated this puzzle. Couldnt crack alot of it. This was the first Sunday ever I tried on AcrossLite, normally I do the hard copy. Not that that would have helped. "ANE"? I had ESS and sunk from there

Sarah 5:01 PM  

CROUCHING [TIGER] and HIDDEN [DRAGON] immediately revealed the key to me, but BIG[RAM]S still mystifies me. What does it mean? It doesn't help that I too was looking for "goat," which of course wasn't there.

nurturing 5:40 PM  

Gorgeous puzzle! Thank you! Took longer than usual, but the satisfaction level - wow!

gmcanon 9:34 PM  

Twenty-plus years ago while on business in one of the great tourist cities in the world, Amsterdam, I departed said traveler's and art lover's paradise to get on a train to go see Den Haag because I was such a nerd that looking at buildings like the World Court appealed to me. To think that decades later that would win me one "fill-in-the-blank-free" card. Who knew?

The buildings were lovely, and of course sticking my toe in the North Sea held an odd appeal. But really...

Anonymous 10:48 PM  

poor puzzle

potagiere 10:56 PM  

Hated it. Took two days, as you can tell. Called upon the husband, Google, dictionary, bible, Rex. Quit, more or less, when I cheated and still didn't understand the answers. Just too damn hard.

Anonymous 12:15 PM  

No ram, but does have a goat. WTF?

http://www.chinesezodiac.com/ lists:

Rat
Ox
Tiger
Rabbit
Dragon
Snake
Horse
Goat
Monkey
Rooster
Dog
Pig

Georgia 9:59 AM  

Looked up "bigrams:" Bigrams or digrams are groups of two written letters, two syllables, or two words, and are very commonly used as the basis for simple statistical analysis of text. They are used in one of the most successful language models for speech recognition.[

Stephen 8:49 AM  

A huge load of fun. Did not finish on Sunday, but could not put it down. Last night at 1am I cleaned up everything but the SUN (source of enlightenment). I guess I was blinded by the light
of god and truth and right
that was splattered all over this puzzle. Many thanks.

Anonymous 5:34 PM  

For MikeM re: "This was the first Sunday ever I tried on AcrossLite, normally I do the hard copy. Not that that would have helped."

I love AcrossLite for the rebus puzzles, because it allows you to enter multiple letters in a box. Select "Edit" then "Insert" then "Multiple Letters". I love it!

jane 10:44 AM  

I loved this puzzle. Always like that AHA I get when I realize the puzzle theme. Once I did, things went quickly. Loved the answer "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." There were a few that were hard for me. "Centaur" isn't in the Chinese zodiac. Then realized "Rabbit" was and got the Updike title. I too had hors(e)ing around for the longest time, but I knew it had to go with "Mountie" as well. One of the cleverest puzzles I've done in a while.

Cary in Boulder 3:36 PM  

I enjoyed this a lot, although I would have gotten that it was a rebus a lot sooner if I hadn't entered ELKO as the town in Nevada, giving me EED_ to work with. I mention this cuz for 30 years I have produced a blues radio show as my alter ego, the Red Rooster. So I was damned if I knew what the heck the constructors were getting at. SNAKE SKINS finally made the light go on.

After several hours I finally admitted defeat in the DelMarva Peninsula, where DEMOCRATS, GRR, GAPS, etc., had me BUFFALOED.

Anonymous 10:28 PM  

writing from SyndiLand -

Loved this puzzle! I really enjoy the puzzles that make me think and scratch my head and maybe even mutter a swear word under my breath on occasion. Really fun!

Sundays are usually just lengthy slogs without excessive difficulty but this one was so well constructed and full of fun clues that it was total enjoyment!

A tip of the cheesehead to Kevin and Jessica!
Terry

Marc 12:05 AM  

I have mixed feelings about rebus puzzles, but this was a good one. Relatively easy, except that I technically DNF because I never figured out FRAME/BIGRAM. (And what is a bigram, anyway?

I was looking for goat, and trying to fit it into that spot, but it obviously wouldn't fit, so I finally gave up.

Other than that --- and finally substituting MONKEYING around for HORSEING around --- it went fairly smoothly.

As with most rebus puzzles, I started off with mild irritation and wound up finding it enjoyable.

LIENEE is a groaner, however. (I had LIENER for quite a while, which is just as bad.) Lien holder is really the common expression; this is strictly crossword-ese IMO.

A good one for post-Super Bowl activity.

Anonymous 1:22 AM  

My newspaper had 1D as 'Two-leter combinations'. I looked up leter and get definition as a misspelling of liter. So I thought must be bi-gRAMs, unit of measure. But some posters here refer to letter. So mine was mispelling of letter? Someone else had explanation for the unit of measure. I can't find any reference for the language definition. So I'll go with the unit of measure.

Anonymous 1:27 AM  

Ooops! Now I find the language definition. So guess newspaper goofed.

G. Stewart B. 1:31 AM  

My Feng Shui encyclopedia lists no ram, but it mentions Goat in the zodiac many times. As a result, finished all but the NW corner. Without such a blatant error, it would have rated very high for me.

Dena 2:19 PM  

The cobra products really stumped me. I know plumbers use a Cobra auger and my daughter drives a fast car with a Cobra radar detector, so I was a long time thinking of cobra as a snake.
I have to do the puzzle in short time spaces so here I am, nearly a week late finishing!

Keltica 11:17 AM  

My weekend centers around the NY Times puzzle, and this is one of the best I've seen. Simply brilliant, but vexatious at times.

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

In the US military it is a MESSKIT, never a MESSTIN. Maybe in the British Army, but not here.

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

Bi-gram is not in my dictionary.

I was also disappointed to find out there is no Year of the Cat.

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