Cube-hopping character in 1980s arcade game / TUE 3-8-11 / Soaks as flax / Our planet to Berliner / Old TWA hiree / Kid-lit elephant

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Constructor: Paul Hunsberger

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: WEST (69A: The half of the keyboard on which all of this puzzle's answers can be typed)


Word of the Day: Q-BERT (8D: Cube-hopping character in a 1980s arcade game) —

Q*bert (pronounced /ˈkjuːbərt/) is an arcade video game developed and published by Gottlieb in 1982. It is a platform game that features two-dimensional (2D) graphics. The object is to change the color of every cube in a pyramid by making the on-screen character jump on top of the cube while avoiding obstacles and enemies. Players use a joystick to control the character. // The game was conceived by Warren Davis and Jeff Lee. Lee designed the titular character based on childhood influences and gave Q*bert a large nose that shoots projectiles. His original idea involved traversing a pyramid to shoot enemies, but Davis removed the shooting game mechanic to simplify gameplay. Q*bert was developed under the project name Cubes, but was briefly named Snots And Boogers and @!#?@!? during development. // Q*bert was well received in arcades and by critics, who praised the graphics, gameplay and main character. The success resulted in sequels and use of the character's likeness in merchandising, such as appearances on lunch boxes, toys, and an animated television show. The game has since been ported to numerous platforms. (wikipedia)

• • •

This was pretty dreadful. It's a stunt puzzle that offers no joy for the solver. None. What joy is there in this kind of fill? Am I supposed to clap at the end that you've restricted yourself to half the alphabet (when that half includes RSTEA)? The resulting fill is of limited interest, at best, and repulsive at worst. Junky abbrevs. like SERV and BRAZ and STRS, ugh. At least four "A"-containing partials ... or rather, two *crossing* pairs of such partials (ARAW w/ ARAT, SETSA w/ ATASTE), something called a TREATER, RETS (!) (64D: Soaks, as flax), the crosswordesey ERBE and ERDE (43A: Our planet, to a Berliner). To say I'm AVERSE to this kind of joyless concoction is an understatement. The long answers are decent enough (esp. STEWARDESS10D: Old TWA hiree—and STARGAZERS30D: Astronomers ... or daydreamers), but ... no. This fish should've been thrown back.


  • Wife: "Is 69A WEST?"
  • Me: "Yes."
  • Wife: "But what if your keyboard's not oriented that way?"
  • Me: "The direction is relative to you."
  • Wife, indignantly: "Directions aren't related to you, they're related to the globe. LEFT or RIGHT I'd buy, but not WEST."
  • Me (to myself): "Weird. That didn't bother me ..."


Theme answers:
  • All of them
At least the puzzle made the effort to contain all available letters ... so I guess it's *kind* of a pangram? TADA?! (16A: "And ... there you have it!").

See you tomorrow,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. my friend made this grid this morning in about an hour. I told him it didn't have the magic word, "WEST," so ... fail! Still...

west_siiiide

106 comments:

lit.doc 12:37 AM  

I approached this one as typing practice. Still took 7:32, a chunk of which was spent spotting a CFS moment--cassaBas, as it turns out. Thou shalt check thy crosses. And someday I shall break the six minute barrier on an early-week puzzle. [Cue flying pigs.]

Does Mr. Happy Pencil's no-show = a Check All cheat, d'ya think, even though you can't prevent it?

Duly entered the first-approximation LEFT for the theme reveal, thought BFD (but in crude language), and just kept keying. By the time I looked at 69A again, it was fixed.

Being a (relative) newbie, I'm a big fan of Monday-Tuesday puzzles that are accessible to the recently puzzle-curious. But those as-yet uncalloused minds shouldn't have to see such crossword ugliness.

chefwen 12:44 AM  

I didn't hate this as much as Rex did, but I have a hard time hating any puzzle, except the ones that kick my REAR to hell and back. Felt this one was as easy as Mondays, if not more so.

Only had one write over at 55D TAXER over BABAR because I put in BABAR in the wrong frickin column, jeez louise, hate when I do that.

Never heard of Q*BERT but that name sure beats the heck out of Snots & Boogers. Good thinking in changing that one.

Righty 12:44 AM  

You know what can make this puzzle even worse? How about when you've got not left hand! Thanks so much Will. I do ok with my right hand and with my hook, but it's ever so pleasant to spend my 10 minutes of relaxation each night being reminded that I've got a friggin hook on my left arm.

lit.doc 12:45 AM  

Full disclosure: my displeasure with this theme was aggravated, coincidentally, by having this very day done an old NYT midweek whose joyless slog of a theme was "top row/middle row/bottom row" of a QUERTY keyboard.

lit.doc 12:48 AM  

See what I mean about needing typing practice?

Alexander Portnoy 1:03 AM  

This one-handed puzzle only gave pleasure to the constructor.

Anonymous 1:11 AM  

This puzzle gave me as much joy as having my urologist give me a prostate exam this morning. Fortunately he only used 1 finger, not his whole hand....

Robin 1:20 AM  

Exacerbate on a Tuesday? Really? Actually, the best part of the puzzle, IMO (and no, I didn't start off with "IMO," b/c that just isn't done.)

Not any uglier than yesterday's, again IMO, but just now read yesterday's comments, and what is up with ACME? Has she gone missing? I hope she's in a movie or something exciting. We need her on Mon & Tue more than any other days!

Octavian 2:12 AM  

Great puzzle -- lots of fun to see a creative feat. No problem w/ the funky fill, which appeared necessary to accomplish the goal.

Anyone who does not appreciate an effort like this is a joyless bore. (Not that there's anything wrong w/ that.)

Rube 2:27 AM  

Tend to agree withRex on this puzzle except that the four 10 letter answers are all quite good.

Had a few writeovers, TADA/TAtA, FER/FoR, and AReET/ARRET. (Actually thought it was "arete", but never took French.) This Pop culture cahllenged guy didn't know ERBE, of course. Have been watching SNL recently, but may have to subscribe to People. (Cue @lit.doc's flying pigs.)

Any puzzle with EATAT is below par IMO.

SethG 2:34 AM  

What Sandy said. I particularly admire how the entire center section includes only A/E/S/T.

davko 3:02 AM  

An easy, joyless affair -- and yet, I still managed to bungle the ARRET (53D)/ Kathryn ERBE (65A) cross. I guess that's what happens when you don't speak French or watch formulaic weekly television shows.

"Old TWA hiree" (10D) had a whiff of redundancy, since the airline went out of business about the same time the term "stewardess" went out of vogue. But I suppose plain "TWA hiree" would have implied the airline had restructured under Chapter 11 or something. No such luck for these folks, probably due to that unsolved Flight 800 crash over NYC.

Anonymous 3:09 AM  

"Any puzzle with EATAT is below par IMO."

Seriously, why? It's an in-the-language phrase.

andrea cassavas michaels 3:26 AM  

@robin
i'm here i'm here...doing a little treading water myself but promise to be back more fully soon and am touched by folks even noticing i'm gone...but i've been off the grid for a bit...
(hmmm, i guess pun intended?)
EXACERBATE is impressive but sounds dirty.

CoolPapaD 3:31 AM  

Wow - tough crowd! I'm with Octavian - I enjoyed it, and thought it was clever in its originality. Constructing any puzzle seems to be challenging enough, and to do so while restricting oneself to half the keyboard, IMO, is terrific. In keeping with the theme, I cannot give two thumbs up, but will gladly give my left thumb up twice!

easylob 3:34 AM  

@Andrea
Nice to have you back!
I liked this puzzle...but of course I'm left-handed!

Greene 4:00 AM  

Meh. The only joy for me was seeing Q*BERT in the puzzle. I had totally forgotten about him. Some 30 years ago I was completely unbeatable at that game, could play the thing for hours and rack up scores in the millions. Now I do crosswords, but not nearly as well.

@andrea: glad to see you're still out there. Take heart and hurry back soon. We're all thinking of you.

DJG 4:32 AM  

Rex's wife hit the nail on the head. There is no such thing as the west half of a keyboard.

This puzzle shouldn't have been published.

Gil.I.Pollas 4:44 AM  

Could not sleep. Didn't like this crossword. Agree with Sandy. So glad ACME is back. Good night.

foodie 6:44 AM  

I could sleep. Otherwise, I agree with Gil.I.Pollas...

christelb_devlin 7:35 AM  

I'm left handed. And I was indeed amused.

Evgeny 7:41 AM  

If directions aren't related to you, but rather related to the globe... well then there's no such thing as the west half of a crossword puzzle either. And that never seems to bother anyone. How often are phrases like "had trouble in the NW today" to be found...everywhere?

joho 7:43 AM  

Wow, a puzzle that's just an H,I,J,K,L,M,N,O,P,U and a Y short of a pangram!

I had many of same thoughts regarding abbreviations and partials as did @Rex.

@andrea cassava michaels: EXACERBATE! Very funny. It is so good to have you back. This blog just isn't the same without you.

Matthew G. 7:51 AM  

Oh, irony. I usually solve on my iPhone or on AcrossLite, but today I printed it out and solved on paper. I might have enjoyed it a little more if I'd twigged to the theme from left-handed typing. As it was, I was only thinking in the back of my mind that I hadn't spotted a theme, when I suddenly filled in LEFT, and soon corrected it to west.

Anyhow, very easy puzzle. I finished it in the same time as Monday's and just shy of my Tuesday record, and that's even though I did Monday's on AcrossLite and this on paper. I didn't love this one, but I also didn't hate it as much as Rex did, mainly because the longish answers were good and I liked much of the cluing.

efrex 8:23 AM  

Naturally, using the cluing the LEFT side of the keyboard instead of the WEST side would be self-defeating, but I'm with those who didn't care for this as a theme. Enough interesting long fill for a Tuesday, and if it were left as a themeless, I'd be okay. If I were solving this online, I'd probably appreciate it more, but puzzles should be contstructed for all the solvers to appreciate.

Anonymous 8:31 AM  

I fought west, too but couldn't figure out why anyone would need to know a play's caft. Oh well, it's a riddle.

I like that we are continuing with 80s comedy classics. Yesterday it was Back to School and now Fletch.

There's also a Carnival theme going: Krewe of Muses made it in yesterday and Krewe d'Etat today...

I guess I'm becoming a regular because when I saw Qbert, I thought, "Oh Rex is gonna tell us more that one!" Thanks for the blog, sir!

Can we put a moratorium on err? Its appearance in back to back puzzles suggests we should turn a few more pages in the dictionary.

Overall enjoyable though.

Happy Mardi Gras to all!

Anonymous 8:33 AM  

It is quite a feat to construct a publishable puzzle let alone one one that uses only the left side of a standard keyboard. And that was my downfall. I think of LEFT and not of WEST when it comes to keyboard orientation. So I had LEFT in 69A. Simply could not imagine WEST. And that's why I did not finish. Otherwise a typical Tuesday puzzle that I should have finished in about my typical time of 12-13 minutes.

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

Whoops, I erred and left "about" out two comments above. I vow to proof read so that I don't blunder, drop the ball, or goof in the future.

Calm Down 8:46 AM  

I have to chuckle at the vehemence of some of the reaction to the theme. For me, I just like filling in the answers and don't much take notice of themes, so this puzzle was fine for me. Even made me laugh when I actually put in LEFT for 69A before putting my brain in gear. But a some seem to like and appreciate this type of thing, we ought to let them have their day too without being too harsh about the puzzle.

Wanted to construct this response using only the "west" side of the keyboard, but gave up pretty quickly.

mmorgan 8:48 AM  

Didn't *hate* it... but I sure didn't like it (except for EXACERBATE -- same reasoning as @Acme -- who I'm just delighted to see here).

Onan 8:57 AM  

In Tuesday fashion, I sped through this and didn't really notice it being so much worse than any number of other puzzles. Still, I can think of more enjoyable ways to entertain myself for 7 minutes with one hand.

Rex Parker 9:08 AM  

God bless you all for the masturbation jokes. I like this puzzle so much more now.

David L 9:10 AM  

The stunt here was kind of pointless, but then isn't that true of most such stunts? Or, he said, waxing philosophical, of crossword puzzles themselves? But we do them nonetheless... I thought this was Mondayish and unobjectionable for an early week puzzle.

I kind of subliminally noticed that I was moving faster on this one, because my left hand was putting in all the letters while my right hand stayed with the mouse. So I had a little aha moment at WEST (which is perfectly OK, for the reasons Evgeny gives, and also to anyone who plays bridge).

I thought GER at 48A was a bit silly when the clue to 43A gives you the answer anyway.

Howard B 9:11 AM  

OK, I did not hate this puzzle. It was interesting, OK, not my favorite - I agree on the restrictive fill, but the theme fit well with my ham-fisted typing skills, as I didn't have to move around the keyboard too much.

Plus, the classic video game unexpectedly smooshed in the grid had me smiling. Hey, you take your joy where you can find it :). I've seen worse syndicated puzzles.

My West-side-only typing review:
Defects grafted w crazed abbrs rated a D. Gets a C grade after added QBert extra.

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

Here's hoping for a complimentary EAST tomorrow. :-)

Bob Kerfuffle 9:46 AM  

I was going to ask if a puzzle made from only the east side of the keyboard would be more interesting (and I still think it might), but Rex's friend seems to have shown that it was possible to make a more interesting puzzle just from the west side.

@chefwen - Personally, I don't count (or report) it as a write-over if I put an answer in the wrong space and then catch my error. I'm sure we all do it.

chefbea 9:47 AM  

Welcome back Andrea.

Agree with Rex and most everyone else. Not a fun puzzle. Knew Rets from the olden days.

Tobias Duncan 9:56 AM  

So nice to see our beloved Andrea back.
Horrible confession: when I was younger(but not quite young enough to excuse this)I used to think it was pronounced exasterbate.This sad situation was exacerbated by the fact that I was quite fond of the word and used it often.As you can imagine, no one made a peep.


Liked this one.Fastest Tuesday ever for me and I also felt it was a nice nod to online solvers.

The Friend 9:57 AM  

The hour included the time it took to remove all the east letters from the word list. I have never had a puzzle published.

jesser 9:59 AM  

I had a lucky guess where 53D crosses 65A. I didn't hate this, and I liked the long answers. The theme? Is it really a theme? I mean, I get it, but...

@Acme: Hope to have you back at full strength soon! Thanks for letting us know you're TREADing WATER in a merciless world.

Coutonc! (There's a honky tonk joke in there somewhere, but it eludes me...) -- jesser

DBGeezer 10:34 AM  

I don't understand all the hoo haw about left and west.
I have several west-handed friends.

Also IMO, since the locations on the grid are invariably referred to as points on the compass, why the fuss about the keyboard?

Anonymous 10:39 AM  

I agree, a dreadful puzzle and boring. And by the way, the letter b is typed with the right hand, therefore "east".

Cruxlogger 10:40 AM  

This had zero calories -- as satisfying as eating rice puff cakes.

archaeoprof 10:40 AM  

I loved this puzzle.

Why? Because here at the college where I teach, we're all delirious this morning. Our basketball team is in the NCAA tournament.

So I'd like _any_ puzzle today.

@Andrea Cassavas: we're all thinking of you!

Anonymous 10:40 AM  

Since I was doing this on paper, I didn't notice the theme until I got to 69A. Was wondering why there were so many "ers" in the puzzle (cber, dragster, treater, stargazer, as well as the non-human tater, tatter, tread water, deer and ger. Did I miss any?)
However, for a classier take on this theme, see Notepad note for Patrick Merrell's Thurs. Dec. 15, 2005 (as pointed out by Deb Amlen on Wordplay.)

CA Prof 10:42 AM  

Your friend's puzzle is lame, too. It's easy to steal a theme idea and make another puzzle in an hour. your friend needs to get a life

Two Ponies 10:43 AM  

Being a paper and pen solver probably made my experience different from the keyboard crowd.
I hear people here complain when a puzzle doesn't quite work well for the AcrossLite crowd so this one seems tailor-made for them finally. I smelled a rat about three lines down. I got the stunt soon afterward and dutifully filled in the rest.
I liked the Friend's grid better.
Welcome back Andrea. You were missed.

JenCT 10:43 AM  

@Anonymous 10:39 - the letter b is typed with the left hand, not the right (typing medal award-winner here - my distinguished high school achievement).

Rex Parker 10:45 AM  

Best part about CA Prof's comment is "too."

Sparky 10:49 AM  

Found this easy as I realized I had to think of only half the letters. But did pause at WEST. Maps, grids, bridge tables have orientations. My hands are on the keyboard. Just saying.

Have always like Kathryn ERBE's name. She should meet Anthony Zerbe.

@Andrea Acme. So glad you are back.

retired_chemist 11:07 AM  

Meh. Didn't like it, didn't hate it. 2.5 minutes faster than yesterday and a typical Monday time for me, so my call is easy. I solve on a keyboard but type so spastically that I wouldn’t ever notice this theme.

Only writeover: URUG => BRAZ (57A). Did not see QBERT until I came here. Never heard of it before.

JaxInL.A. 11:08 AM  

Hooray! Not only did I have my fastest Tuesday ever (like @Tobias), but 
--@acme has weighed in and even gave us a giggle (peace and light on you, alav hashalom)
--all you (discreetly raunchy) Rexicans made an otherwise serviceable puzzle really funny, and 
--Rex's musical commentary that this puzzle blows now also has a second meaning.

What more can I ask? 

Jo C. 11:09 AM  

Another day where my eccentric use of the Dvorak keyboard layout trips me up...though I figured it out easily enough. I can forgive a lot in this puzzle because it includes QBert. I spent a lot of quarters on that thing, back in the day.

JaxInL.A. 11:39 AM  

@anon 8:31, regular? Then it's time to get a blogger account (or at least start using a handle) so that we can begin to distinguish you from the other anonymi. 

@Sparky, I have been a huge Antony Zerbe fan ever since the 70s when I saw him do an amazing Richard III at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre.  Most people know him (if at all) as either the lunatic leader in The Omega Man, or as Councillor Hamann in Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions. Your comment made me look him up and I found this great quote: "I've never really been serious about my villainy. I don't have a master plan. I suppose my philosophy is: Every villain has a mother. For every cold-blooded killer on your screen, there's a little old lady somewhere who calls him 'sonny.' "

Zerbe is a cool combo of letters. Is he too obscure to use in a puzzle now?

diane 11:44 AM  

Fastest Tuesday for me too - 7 minutes off my average T (16) and 1 minute shorter than my average Monday.

Didn't hate it; didn't have time. Was happy to breeze through it. Thought some of the fill was lame till I got the theme. At first I thought it was going to be TREAxxx (TREAD WATER ; TREATER).

@Matthew G (or anyone) - My iPhone app doesn't allow me access to AcrossLite. Do you find it easier/faster in AcrossLite? (so many typos on the iPhone ...)

Anonymous 11:49 AM  

Clue for STEWARDESS (10D) suggests the term is from "back then". As far as I know, the women employed in that capacity still go by that title. Am I old-fashioned?

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

With all the nitpicking on WEST usage, no mention that "half the keyboard", while literally accurate, allows for 15 letters (15/26=~58%). Serious mitigation of stunt value, IMO.

Kendall 12:00 PM  

@efrex I agree completely that puzzles should be made for all solvers to enjoy. The theme wasn't obvious when solving on the printed version. I got it when the answer was -EST, though. As for the rest of the fill, I liked the longer answers but not so much on any of the shorter ones.

I don't understand those of you that "like this puzzle because you're left handed." Anyone who can proficiently use a keyboard is not hindered by only having one dominant hand. I'm right-handed and can type just as easily on either half. There are in fact studies to show it doesn't matter.

Noam D. Elkies 12:11 PM  

Only recently did I notice the connection between 66A:EXACERBATE and the ACERB that's hiding in plain sight in the middle of the word.

As for the puzzle — yes it's a stunt but I enjoy this kind of stunt more than having every single Across be a *$!&ing name like happened some Tuesdays ago. BTW it's not a record: Matt Gaffney once constructed a 15x15 puzzle using only the nine letters of NOSFERATU!

NDE

male nurse 12:12 PM  

Flight attendant

Entrap Vapor 12:34 PM  

I always wondered what the "most mediocre" crossword puzzle would be like. Now I know!

Masked and Anonymous and Right-Handed 12:41 PM  

no uuuuu. uhuh. no no no. non-OK. loopy. kooky. poopy. junky. pony up my uuuuu! (yup. i'm non-lol)

ANON B 12:44 PM  

@Lit.doc at 12:37 AM

What is a CFS moment and how
does it relate to "cassavas"?

What is BFD if it is printable?

Sorry if the answer appears
above. I don't have the patience
to read all the comments.

Anonymous 12:49 PM  

I'm with your wife. As I sit at my computer I'm facing south, so I was typing only on the east side of my keyboard for this puzzle. That bugged me a little. But otherwise I thought it was kind of fun. I could hold my coffee cup in my right hand and not put it down while I did the puzzle.

ANONYMOUS 12:53 PM  

HI NATE. YOU DON'T LIKE THE F WORD, SO WE CAN'T ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS.

Gil.I.Pollas 1:10 PM  

@Tobias Duncan
EXASTERBATE - I'm still laughing.
I remember I had to get up in class and tell everyone where I wanted to go after graduation. I proudly and very loudly said AMBURST.

lit.doc 1:17 PM  

@ANON B 12:44, I made up CFS syndrome to avoid having to type "can't f***ing spell" all the time. Personal affliction/joke.

And BFD meant exactly what it usually means. I added the parenthetical comment as an ironic intensifier.

All in good fun, and thank you for asking.

ANON B 1:21 PM  

@ANONYMOUS at 12:53

I figured that's what "F" means
but I still can't figure it out.
Is there a cleaned up meaning?
I'm tired of all these text
message abbreviations. I think
most of them are unnecessary.
What is the purpose of IMO or
IMHO? If you state it, it's your
opinion and I doubt that it is
ever humble.
You have probably guessed that
I'm not a teen-ager.

Anonymous 1:35 PM  

@Nate - B = Big, F = [] as a gerund, D = Deal.

Nathaniel 1:41 PM  

The Dallas Morning News publishes a puzzle called the Daily Commuter which is usually easier than most Monday NY Times puzzles. Today's puzzle would have been better suited to being published there. Nick Charles Dog for 1d is a pretty good clue that the puzzle will be less than challenging.

jackj 2:13 PM  

Perhaps the puzzle would have gained some respect if the clues had all been from the "West" side, too. (Nah, it was so lame as to be unsalvageable).

As it is, the only plusses were the four 10 letter answers and a nice reminder of an old friend, BABAR.

Masked and Anonymous II 2:44 PM  

@The Friend: Nice alternate puz. When I hold the cursor over your grid, I get a real weird pop-up msg, which includes the word "west" that 44 thought the grid was missin'. Har.

a drea car a c ae s 3:05 PM  

Thank you for the welcome back! :)

Re: puzzle: I feel for @Masked and Anonymous and still laughing @ONAN...but it's still a fairly cool idea!

The repetition is necessary tho I guess a bit ugly, but it must be really hard not to get to work with IOU (and sometimes Y).

If I had to type up a criticism using only one side of the keyboard, (say the right side) I would be without my beloved "!!!"

Altho saying WEST was a bit freaky, and I agree with @Sandy but it's almost forgivable bec Paul H couldn't use an L, so in a way, that's a clever "reveal".

That said, (right) hand up for paper-solver here so while solving, the freshness of the idea was lost...
The icky fill rose to the top, (particularly all the five letter partials with "A ___" that Rex pointed out) and hurt what really is a genuinely neat idea when you think about it.

Anonymous 3:07 PM  

"I'm tired of all these text
message abbreviations."

OMFG. Get hip Skeezix. LMFAO u OBX.

ANON B 3:15 PM  

To ,REX

In Re my remarks at 1:21 and
thje back and forth between
me and ANONYMOUS and lit.doc,
especially the parting shot by
ANONYMOUS at 3:07.
I would like your opinion

sanfranman59 3:43 PM  

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

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

Tue 7:09, 8:54, 0.80, 2%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Tue 3:45, 4:34, 0.82, 3%, Easy

Welcome back, Andrea. Blog regulars have been sending many warm thoughts your way.

Sfingi 3:55 PM  

Thought it was easy. Some nice words, such as BABAR, CASSAVAS, DRAGSTER, STEWARDESS, QBERT, STARGAZER. STARGAZER is the name of my sister's toy dog.

But unimpressed with the theme, and did not like the abbrevs. STRS. and BRAZ.
Also, ERDE, ERBE, awfully close - don't know if I like it or not.

Rex's conversation reminded me of some science I've been reading about how words help you organize the world - but not in the logical positivist's way, in which words must reflect true reality.
There's a tribe which uses only true E-W, N-S to organize their world. They don't think as we do in L-R in reference to one's own body. If you turn them around, unlike me, they don't get lost.

@Anon B - If 'ol Sfingi can get over it, you can get over it.

@Anon1145 - yes; they use neither STEWARDESS nor steward nae mair. They are now flight attendants. But I haven't been on a plane since 9-11. They still wear skirts, but I don't.

Two Ponies 4:05 PM  

Nate, You might as well ask the world to stop turning. I'm not sure this is the forum to lodge a complaint. Besides, BFD has been around since Hector was a pup.

What's left? 4:13 PM  

The comments I find more amusing than the *west is wrong* is that, for *dead treers*, somehow *the freshness of the idea was lost*.

Just plain silly, on so many levels.

P>G>

syndy 4:13 PM  

Since I only type with one finger (right pointer) It took a while to notice the curious derth of letters used.Must agree with remarkable amounts of ugly fill yet somehow this villian was still someones sonny!Think of it as an extra theme!I did feel miffed when 67 down didn't help me spell 66 across! IMO anonymice gettin a little rambuctious!

R. McGeddon 4:27 PM  

I think it's a little inconsistent to say that WEST is illegitimate when we routinely refer to the parts of the grid as north, south, east and west no matter which direction we're solving in.

@ACME, welcome back!!!

ANON B 4:34 PM  

I've been around since Hector was a pup. I have used BFD in all its
verbal beauty, but not in its
initialized form.
I still anticipate Rex's comments icluding his opinion
of the use of profanity even
in acronyms in this blog.

COIXT RECORDS 4:37 PM  

Cool theme. You ask where the joy is, but I immediately found joy when I discovered that the theme answers were ALL the answers. Maybe this makes me easily amused, but so be it.
Anyone pointed out that there is an article on being left-handed in today's Science Times? Congruency rules.

chefwen 5:08 PM  

@Two Ponies - Since Hector was a pup, that was a new one for me and yes I did LOL. I'll have to remember that.

capcha - motivei, what I will need for Fri & Sat.

Victor in Rochester 5:21 PM  

Fascinating article in the January Scientific American on language begins with the description of a society in which the language uses compass points for all spatial relationships, even indoors. Comparable to the way we speak of crosswords with compass points.

The article starts:

"I am standing next to a five-year old girl in pormpuraaw, a small Aboriginal community on the western edge of Cape York in northern Australia. When I ask her to point north, she points precisely and without hesitation. My compass says she is right. Later, back in a lecture hall at Stanford University, I make the same request of an audience of distinguished scholars—winners of science medals and genius prizes. Some of them have come to this very room to hear lectures for more than 40 years. I ask them to close their eyes (so they don’t cheat) and point north. Many refuse; they do not know the answer. Those who do point take a while to think about it and then aim in all possible directions. I have repeated this exercise at Harvard and Princeton and in Moscow, London and Beijing, always with the same results.

A five-year-old in one culture can do something with ease that eminent scientists in other cultures struggle with. This is a big difference in cognitive ability. What could explain it? The surprising answer, it turns out, may be language."

Victor in Rochester 5:25 PM  

Pardon: February issue.

CoffeeLvr 5:28 PM  

Come on, ANON B, have you not been listening to Rex's music links?

My second (adoptive) father worked for TWA. I remember announcing at four or five years of age that I wanted to be a STEWARDESS when I grew up. I was promptly informed that I did NOT, that they were just waitresses in the sky. As this was in the very late Fifties, I like to think I was being encouraged to have a "real" career even then. And I did, too.

Hey, Rex, I took my canine girl to PetCo for a bath yesterday. (In contrast to my feline girl.) Now it is raining (beats snow and/or ice!) and I am challenged to keep her out of the mud.

dk 5:46 PM  

muddah flocker!

I move to an apartment, I change my NYT delivery, it never shows up -- then finally just to do the puzzle (aka my life) I go on line and what do I get.

A * (1 star) wonder.

Now I know (significant to .001) Tuesday is the most hated of all puzzles. But I spent at least a minute trying to figure out what half of qwerty is... to get WEST.

A small aside: The Sonny Rollins Way Out West album is great.

Don't get me wrong I am not AVERSE to EXACERBATion, but come on. Change BRAZ to RAZZ and I am in.

Ok, in the words on Ana (Bambi's aunt) if you can't say anything nice... DRAGSTER was cool. Reminded me of Moon Mullins, model car kits and Testers (the champagne of tubed glue).

I am reaching out to Andrea next to find out whats what.

Rex, please note I was once a CA prof two.

TADA 4 now.

d(now living in a converted hospital and hope I am on the psych ward)k

Sparky 5:57 PM  

Thanks @JaxinLA. I've liked Zerbe since I saw him destroyed in a TV Mission Impossible and I realized those MI Squad people are horrible. Zerbe great in a puzzle. He'd aid in a pnangram.

mac 6:14 PM  

It was a cute feat to me, which I didn't discover until the reveal (thought there were a lot of a's and e's, but I do the puzzle in the paper), but it was incredibly easy. No stops whatsoever.

Laughed at the stewardess clue; would have been even funnier with Pan Am in it.

Bottom line: it's only Tuesday, and they didn't mess up my Thursday.

Anonymous 8:35 PM  

If we go by the way a keyboard is constructed instead of which hand formally types the letter, the b should have been thrown out. It's a bit unfair that the creator was able to use 5/7 of the bottom row's letters.
But that would leave out BBQS, QBERT, BRAZ and others.

michael 8:49 PM  

After finishing this, my first thought was "maybe more fun for the constructor than for the solver." But I was unprepared for the venom on this site. No more or less interesting to me than the average Tuesday. I was wondering what had happened to all the vowels except for "a" and "e."

Anonymous 9:24 PM  

It's not like the constructor decided on standard finger configurations. The B is typed with the left hand.

See here, for example.

Stop being silly 9:53 PM  

The clue is "... half of the keyboard..." not half of the letter keys. Hands and fingers are NOT mentioned.

The keyboard on this laptop includes a numeric kepad, and is 15" wide.

The 7.5" runs through the K key.

The keyboard for my desktop is proportionally about the same.

Not counting the keypad (but why not), the split runs through the U.

The fact that only the LPO and maybe UJNM are in the east half doesn't change anything except for making the "B" key argument moot.

Sfingi 10:50 PM  

@Victor - that's what I'm talking about. Fascinating.

Anonymous 11:38 PM  

You could've selected Kool Moe Dee's Wild Wild West, but Kurtis Blow can never be called a poor choice. :)

sanfranman59 1:46 AM  

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 6:55, 6:55, 1.00, 53%, Medium
Tue 7:15, 8:55, 0.81, 4%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:41, 0.96, 34%, Easy-Medium
Tue 3:42, 4:34, 0.81, 2%, Easy

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

I'm not smart like you guys. why is "eatat" the answer to "trouble no end" ?

Bob Kerfuffle 3:56 PM  

@Anonymous, 11:11 AM - Because if something EATS AT you, like a mortgage you can no longer afford or an unhappy personal relationship, it troubles you no end.

Anonymous 7:00 PM  

thanks - I don't think I would ever have made that connection. I guess a clue like "gnaw on" is more my speed.

tim 1:21 PM  

I always do the NYT crossword with a pen, so I didn't know what was going on with the theme until **well** into the solve, after the east was filled and WEST finally appeared.

Generally agree with the negative comments -- especially since I'm still struggling to complete end of week puzzles. I need Monday and Tuesday to have some zing!! QBERT was a nice throw back (mentioned it to my son, even) and it's interesting that any three syllable phrase ending with BATE in it seems mildly dirty these days.

Pippin 3:16 PM  

Like Tim, I also do this with a pen and as I am in Western Canada, I am hours behind most of you. I am new to this game and love the comments. Laughed out loud at Masked and Anonymous - loopy and poopy indeed!
Am always thrilled to finish as I am also in the MTW class and still struggle with anything later in the week, but I keep trying.

Dirigonzo 4:22 PM  

It was nice, even 5 weeks after the fact, to see @acme back.

Any puzzle that prompts Rex to post an Adele video is OK with me.

NotalwaysrightBill 5:14 PM  

Right-handed syndi-late paper solver and EXACERBATEr.

Thanks @ACME for bringing to my conscious mind the reason why I've loved saying EXACERBATE my entire life. I, for one, miss you coming here and kicking the walls down.

However, I'm still trying to discover a euphemism that fits on either one side of a QWERKY keyboard OR the other. BEAT the MEAT doesn't, nor POUND the PUD, FLOG the FROG, MOB the MUPPET, not even CUFF the CARROT--none of my favorites anyway. Perhaps one of the female EXACERBATions will, though DIDDLE definitely doesn't. Afraid that DRAGSTERS are on their own here.

Seems sort of Kiplingesque:

"For there is neither east nor west
Nor border nor breed nor birth
When ya really want to SQUEEZE ONE OFF (RUB ONE OUT for da ladies)
And there ain't no willing partner right handy." Close enough.

Puzzle in no wise a waste of time: why, just check out them CASSAVAS!

Gil.I.Pollas 8:13 PM  

@notalwaysrightBill
Are you a closet stand-up?

NotalwaysrightBill 11:23 PM  

@Gil. . .

Thought everyone is. No? Want I should to do dour now instead?

captcha: "idavitiv":
____ if idaknowd ihadta

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